Missions and Masturbation
John Piper says we shouldn't let guilt over sexual sin derail our ministry.

There is no need to reiterate the statistics on sexual immorality among clergy. We all know them. And we also know that addiction to pornography is at epidemic levels even within the church. But do we know how many gifted young leaders never answer their call into ministry because of the guilt they feel over past sexual sins?

John Piper has written an article for Christianity Today addressing this problem. He says:

?so many young people are being lost to the cause of Christ's mission because they are not taught how to deal with the guilt of sexual failure. The problem is not just how not to fail. The problem is how to deal with failure so that it doesn't sweep away your whole life into wasted mediocrity with no impact for Christ. The great tragedy is not masturbation or fornication or pornography. The tragedy is that Satan uses guilt from these failures to strip you of every radical dream you ever had or might have. In their place, he gives you a happy, safe, secure, American life of superficial pleasures, until you die in your lakeside rocking chair.

It's no surprise that Dr. Piper's prescription for overcoming a guilty conscience is a heavy dose of Reformed theology. "Take two doctrines and call me in the morning," seems to be his answer:

With this passionately embraced theology - the magnificent doctrines of substitutionary atonement and justification by faith (even if you don't remember the names) - you can conquer the Devil tomorrow morning when he lies to you about your hopelessness.

Agree or disagree with Piper's solution, the problem he is addressing is important. As our culture becomes increasingly sexually charged Christians will need the tools to not only fight temptation but also the means to recover from failure. When facing an epidemic preventative medicine alone isn't enough.

Similarly, how do we help young people find balance when many gage the health of their relationship with Christ on a single issue - their sexual purity? A friend working at a Christian college has noticed this trend in recent years. Incoming freshmen are the first generation to have grown up since grade school with internet access. Many have been exposed to massive quantities of pornography since their pre-pubescent years. By age eighteen some young men are already sexual addicts. But many others have been formed to measure their spirituality based solely on their sexual self-control. When a single issue carries so much weight the guilt of failure can overwhelm.

Is Piper right? Are we at risk of losing a generation of Christian leaders not because of sexual failure but because they haven't been taught to fight the aftershock of guilt? And is embracing a passionate theology of justification and atonement the solution? I encourage you to read Piper's entire article here, and post your thoughts below.

October 30, 2007

Displaying 1–10 of 35 comments


November 15, 2007  9:38pm

I think it helps to look at this as we would any other sin that "easily entangles" us. We must separate our "position" which is "heavenly" and "in Christ", never to change from our "condition" (our progressive sanctification). In other words we are becoming in this life what we already "are" as seen by God, by His Spirit, through knowing His Word. We must first know - then grow. In Romans 6 we are "dead" to sin and by faith we "reckon" or "consider" it so. As the Holy Spirit applies this truth as we take it by faith, we find (after many failures-ala Romans 7) we begin to become dead to the power of sin and "alive to God." This takes time as our will becomes conformed to Christ's, but hang in there–it is not a formula, but a life changing principle. Eventually we will find the freedom of Romans 8. Our complete victory is beyond the grave, but God's grace is all we nned to get us there. Blessings!

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November 14, 2007  3:03pm

I think the saving truth of God's word is what will set us free from sexual immorality. Acknowledging our sins to God is key, and next sincere repentance. The problem is there are a lot of people admitting their wrong, but they are not willing to turn away from the thing that's wrong. Recognizing that our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked is crucial–and nobody knows are heart but God. So what do we do? Rely on God's grace and power to cleanse us from all hidden secrets. We ask Him to examine us, try us, and prove us so we can know ourselves and what areas in our hearts require cleansing. The Bible offers compassionate remedies for those of us who fall short of the glory of God. The problem is that either we don't accept and follow the prescriptions God has offered or we don't know what He's offering as a remedy to sin and struggle. When we struggle, only the Holy Spirit can help steer us to the root of the sin that is in our hearts and manifested by our fleshly deeds. The Holy Spirit is the power of God working in us. So, if any one of us "pursues" sin, we'll sin. It's a matter of how we govern our minds and how we choose. By God's grace and through Jesus Christ who strengthens us, all of us can choose to do what's right, if we really "wanted" to.

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November 12, 2007  6:09pm

And so, dear brothers and sisters,I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. And stop masturbating!

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November 09, 2007  12:57pm

Jay, As you can see, there are a variety of opinions about the morality of masturbation. We know that the Jesus taught that lust is akin to adultery, and this is supported by biological/physchological research, where we know that much of the brain doesn't distinguish between a thing imagined and a thing experienced. So undressing someone in your mind is biologically no different than actually doing it. We also believe that we are to be servants of Christ, not enslaved to anything else, and I believe that includes addictive and compulsive behaviors. I think these things are RELEVANT to the issue of masturbation (am I lusting and is it compulsive?) but not determinative as to the morality of it. If all this seems like a pretty tough standard, well, welcome to Grace. The whole point is that we can't try to live by a law, we have to live in the freedom of Christ's forgiveness and trusting in the power of the Spirit within us.

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November 09, 2007  1:55am

I'm (very) new to Christianity, so this might very well be a silly question, but does the Bible actually address masturbation? I'm fully on board with the idea that sex should wait until marriage, but asking me to wait until marriage to have sex AND not to masturbate? well that just seems down right cruel. I realize I'm being a bit humorous here, but seriously, if you (insert euphuism) a couple of times a week to relieve some tension, I really don't think that's going to keep you out of heaven....at least I hope not, heh. But like I said, this is all mostly new to me, so I speak with exactly no authority on the subject.

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November 08, 2007  2:38pm

I have found all these comments interesting. I didn't glean from Piper's article that he was only talking about the doctrines, but the Who the doctrines deal with. The Christian life is not a religious set of do's and don't's. It is about the greatest relationship a human can ever have- an intimate, soul regenerating, love with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It seems to me that the guilt & shame come from the emphasis on the individual actions. It can be crippling, especially when all one hears about is the sinfulness of impurity. Purity isn't about abstinence- entirely. It is about living a life of worship. EVERY action and thought must be taken captive, and judged, based on its effectiveness in the spiritual life. Is looking at pornography or reading a "soft-porn" novel beneficial to me or my spiritual growth? Is this an act of worship? Does this meet the Biblical ordinance to "pray without ceasing"? If not, then get rid of it! If you can't do it on your own, find someone to help! Hmm... I wonder what our local churches be like if we took gossip into captivity?

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kelvin N

November 08, 2007  6:27am

I feel that our generation needs a word on purity, it has to be preached also the church needs to acknowledge that we strugling with imorality.we teach so much on dreams, visions and being the best which is good,But our God has called us to live a holy and pure life so that we can be used for we are vessels in his hands, yes we might fall but having the courage to get up takes the hand of God and his knowledge

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PJ Titus

November 07, 2007  11:45am

i'm wondering if the problem isn't inherrant in defining things as success and victory. is masturbation a defeat? if that is so, then what is a victory? not masturbating? if looking at pornography is a defeat, then is not viewing pornography a victory? if so then how do you celebrate victories? is there a better way than swapping success for failure and vice versa?

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November 06, 2007  9:09pm

I write as a woman whose husband had an affair with a work colleage, and he is now an ordained minister. Forgiveness is hard- but it is what we are called to do- and it does wipe the slate clean. I could have walked aways and he would have lost his ministry and I have every 'legal' right to walk away from our marriage biblically. That doesn't make it right- We either believe that Jesus' forgiveness is total and walks into every area of our lives or we don't. Yes- he needs accountability- and he has- but Jesus forgives him- and so must I- and so must the church. I think he stands to be a better pastor with a powerful story of grace and freedom in the face of Christ- and we hope our story of healing will show others that in the kingdom of God- we walk free

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November 06, 2007  9:02pm

This is all very well but how does an adult who has been on their own for many years deal with the urges that come over them without mastibating? They are natural urges that would not in my case be taken up anyother way, sex outside of marriage is a big no. I don't look at porn or anything to bring the urges on but it happens occasionaly and I'm a women. Any suggestions, am I such a horrible sinner that I can't go into ministry or hope for a beautiful marriage one day despite being divorced?

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