By Steven Shaw
Disclaimer: If you don’t call Jesus your Lord, this post is not for you.
I’m writing to young men, but all men can benefit from this (in fact, I’m being admonished even as I’m writing it). If you’re reading this and don’t know me, read first my testimony. I’ll explain a little, but my testimony will help you understand where I’m coming from.
My heart goes out to the young men; those I know, and the ones I don’t. We’re not much different from one another. I see hearts filled with good intentions, but habits fueling bad results. I see an epidemic of a lack of self-control. I love you guys and want only purity and holiness for you and the only way that is possible is with Christ’s work on the Cross and through good habits created through the power of the Holy Spirit within you. If you try to make yourself a better man just by your own efforts you will fail. But there is good news: God has given you a gift, if you call Christ Lord, the gift of the Cross and the gift of the Holy Spirit. And having received these gifts, we are instructed through His word to live worthy of the salvation Jesus has afforded us.
In light of this, here are my pleas:
What you do now is shaping your “real” adult life:
The way you act, respond, spend your time, thought pattern, everything you do now will translate to the rest of your life. You are creating habits that will be hard to break. The sin you engage in now will haunt you forever. Not in the way of “feeling guilty” or shame, because Christ has washed that away, but in a sense of real consequences: the more you know about sin: the more you are hardened by it, the more you will accept later, the more you lose your sensitivity to it. And that’s no good.
We want to be like children. In Mark 10:15, Jesus calls us to innocence. Practice that now, not later. The time is now, you are not promised tomorrow. The place God has you right now is your place to grow and edify others. You need to think about your walk with Jesus as much bigger than yourself. You were saved into a family, into His church for which He died. It’s your job and mine to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Why? To build up God’s church “one another”, through our edification.
Don’t let girls control your mind:
Men, I was the worst at this. I’m speaking to you out of “what not to do,” because I have done it. As a young man, I was consumed with girls both in thought and action. Girls are great and a gift from God and one day many of you will be married and you can reap all the wonderful benefits of a relationship honoring to Christ, but for now, get over it. You’re not ready. And I’m talking to all of you. Even if I don’t know you, I’m talking to you. God can and will use any situation for your good and His glory, but there are better situations than others. Girls will only distract you, as you already know they do.
I now understand when Paul says “I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this” (1 Corinthians 7:26-28).
I knew in myself I had to be married. But I get why Paul urges this. I wasn’t ready for my wonderful wife when I met her, but God worked. She had to deal with a lot from me, stuff I wish I didn’t put her through. But God made it work. But if I would have been a man and not a little boy when we met (maturity wise), things could have been so much better. Still, my wife has been the biggest blessing in my life under the Cross. Now God is using our marriage in a bigger way than I ever thought possible.
Not talking porn:
I won’t even mention this false masculinity called pornography. We should be killing sin before it ever gets to that. A man’s imagination is enough to ruin him. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says “Take every thought captive.” Ephesians 6:12 says, “Our war isn’t against the flesh”, right? All of our problems start in the mind. The importance of controlling your thoughts is a priority. “If you lust after a woman, you have already committed adultery in your heart”, Matthew 5:28. We need to take that literally. Don’t blow it off as a metaphor or something to downplay; understand the seriousness of it. Jesus didn’t speak to hear himself talk. Out of love, he continues to plead for us. Not only pleading for us to our heavenly Father, but to us as well. He prayers for us, through us and to us. Christ wants the best for us. And the best is Himself. He has declared us righteous, let’s be what he has already declared us to be. He has given us all we need. We should be completely satisfied in Him.
Be a man, not a pervert:
I’m hitting hard on the lust of men because it’s a controlling problem for every man. If it’s not lust after a woman, it’s lust after power, money, strength, anything distracting you from Jesus. If sexual lust isn’t your main problem then take everything I say and transfer it to your main struggle. I titled this accordingly because the world’s view of a man is actually a perverted little boy with no self-control and only self-seeking. Don’t be seduced by the world’s standards. They can’t even hold to their own moral standard.
But God’s standard is perfect in purity and holiness. A real man looks like sacrificial love. He looks like respect and a humble servant to all. He honors everyone above himself. A real man loves Jesus and trains every day to be more like Him. He will sooner blacken his own eyes than to linger over a beautiful woman. Avert your eyes men. Turn the page, change the channel, get off the computer, cut off your hands and gouge out your eyes if it stops you from sinning. Paul knew the cost of broken fellowship to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:27).
Now, should you actually cut off your hand or gouge out your eye? No, because it’s not the hand or eye that causes you to sin: it’s your mind. That kind of imagery should help us see how serious the prophets and our Lord take sin.
Maybe you need to grow:
If you’re like me, I would read something like this and feel convicted, vow to myself that I would change and feel motivated. The problem is it would be all in my own power and I would fail. Don’t read this, hear a sermon or podcast about this stuff, go home, go to sleep and wake up thinking you’re a clean slate and just go back to your old ways. Listen to God’s call to holiness. See yourself as a saint, because He sees you that way. Act as a saint, because Christ has made you one. And use the power of the Spirit to keep you strong.
The main way we grow in our strength is God’s word. His word, the Bible, has great power. If you haven’t experienced it, you need to. It’s not just a book. You can feel the Spirit in you being fed while you read, learn and grow. When you are walking in the Spirit, your head is clear. The thought of sinning sounds terrible. The very thing you used to revel in now looks like hell. But it’s an everyday refreshing. The second you stop reading, praying, singing, dwelling on, talking about, and gathering with fellow saints, you are heading towards flesh. Set your mind on the things of the Spirit, (Romans 8:5-11). Figure out your way to do that. I pray in the morning for my mind and others, I listen to sermons a lot while I’m driving around all day, I listen to Gospel-centered music, I memorize scripture to dwell on. Am I perfect at this, am I telling you this to brag, so I think I’ve got it figured all out, by no means! I’m clinging to the Cross with all my might through the Holy Spirit’s power every day. And still screw up constantly. But God is patient with me and is growing me every day.
My desire is to help other men and people, in general, to cling as well. The only hope we have it to cling to the Cross of Christ. Cling so hard that you’re bloody from the impact zones. Beat yourself into submission. There is no overdoing your sanctification. There is no measure of “too much”. As John Piper said, “Lust is more dangerous than a nuclear holocaust”. He is correct. Matthew 10:28 says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell”. This life will pass, and soon. The world and everything in it will be destroyed. Worry about your soul and the souls of others that God has placed in your life. That’s what is most important. Remember, we prove our faith in Christ by our actions/good works and fruits. If there are no fruits of the Spirit in your life I’d start making some changes and asking questions.
So what’s next?
This isn’t a five-step program to help you to stop lusting. This is simply me having a heart for God’s people. This is me responding to God’s love, grace, and mercy in my life. This is me knowing the huge difference between living for Christ and living for myself. This is me, who used to live as a slave to my desires, and now learning to submit to Jesus and live as a happy slave to Christ, now knowing the satisfaction, joy and peace, that is, living through the Spirit, knowing Jesus more everyday and experiencing God’s love in my life. There is no other life outside of Christ. You are dead without Jesus – join the living. Submit to his call and be set apart for His good work in your life. Before it’s too late.
Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the bible, read Gospel-saturated books by good authors, read commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology” and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and his glory. Love you all!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.