by Jim Vander Spek
Like many who have trouble with sexual purity issues, I sought out help from Christian Counselors and Christian Recovery groups in the past. Unfortunately, they did not help me in the way that I needed help.
I am convinced that counselors and recovery groups would do a better job if they would:
1. Zero in on the sin of lust. Instead of focusing on “acting out” behaviors like illicit affairs, pornography use and masturbation, they should focus on the sin of lust. This was the way Jesus addressed the problem. Without overcoming lust, any effort aimed at adjusting observable behaviors will fall short of the mark and will not lead to peace with God. Unfortunately most Christians and the ones they look to for help do not properly understand lustor provide tools for overcoming it.
2. Be cautious in promoting the goal of “sexual sobriety.” Sobriety is easy to define when it comes to alcohol but problematic when applied to lust.
3. Provide hope. Overcoming lust is a concrete, achievable goal for every Christian. The Bible makes clear that evil desires war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11). This is not new. Nevertheless, many assume that “addiction” to lust is something permanent and that those struggling are helpless for one reason or another. When we do not confront such defeatism with the good news that Jesus came to set captives free, we join forces with the enemy.
One of my articles fleshes out these ideas in much more detail.
A reader named Matthew, who is a member of Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) and a self-described sexaholic, ran across this article and graciously took time to write me and to challenge my thinking. He is a long-time Christian who had let lust and sexual sin ensnare him and thoroughly mess up his life—a common story.
Over a series of months and many emails, Matthew shared his story and introduced me to SA. His purpose was to explain how this twelve step group had helped him in a way that was thoroughly Christian and fully in sync with Christian practice, unlike the ones I had been exposed to.
Matthew allowed me to post our email exchange online. You can read it all here. His defense of SA is passionate and compelling. He is winning his battle with lust.
4 Things I Learned About SA:
1. SA refuses to condone any sex outside of a monogamous traditional married relationship, in keeping with Christian teaching.
2. SA sets strict goals for sexual behavior. They call this “sexual sobriety,” a term coined by SA.
3. Beyond sexual sobriety, a central goal of SA is to seek “progressive victory over lust.” This key distinction is what really encourages me. “Progressive victory” is what the Christian life is all about. It is what Paul described as putting off the old man and putting on the new—an ongoing process for those who are in Christ.
4. Many who become a part of SA approach it as believers and obtain help in becoming free from sexual sin and in gaining victory over lust.
While reviewing this post before I submitted it, Matthew reported that through SA and his Christian faith he is experiencing what he describes as a miraculous delivery from lust, having gone over nine months without masturbating. Previously he could not white knuckle two days without giving in.
I do not know enough to fully endorse SA, but Matthew and I agree on this:
If you are looking to a counselor or generic recovery group for help with lust, be careful. Beware of those who seek only to adjust your behavior. Lust is a heart issue—all of your nasty behavior is just a symptom.
My hope and prayer is that Christian counselors, pastors, teachers, parents and all others who are in a position to influence others about this subject will drive home the point that lust can and must be overcome instead of focusing on outward behavior. In Christ there is victory (1 Corinthians 15:57).
Jim Vander Spek is a writer who blogs at overcoming-lust.com