Masturbation: What’s going on?

Why didn’t God bring up masturbation in the bible?  I came to Christ in 1971.  I came to Christ as a teen as I was struggling with a constant habit of masturbating.  Nobody knew that, because nobody would talk about it in those days, so I kept it to myself.But as a young Christian I was told there was such a thing as a “concordance” and you could look up all the words that were in the Bible!  I got all excited and when no one was around I looked under the letter “M.”  I thought, as I found not a single reference to the act:  “Looks like God’s not going to talk about it, either!”

That experience left a big question mark in my heart.  Is masturbation right or wrong?  All I knew was that I couldn’t stop.  I tell people that before I came to Christ I thought a man ought to be able to go to bed and go to sleep without having to masturbate first.  The first time I acted out after I became a Christian I thought, “It’s back!  It didn’t go away like you were hoping.”  That reality was devastating.  But God’s silence on the subject made it more of an inward battle than it really had to be.  Even if all it was is a habit I can’t stop doing, I need to be able to talk to people about it.  Can we talk?

Around fifteen years ago I went to a “Promise Keepers” meeting and the theme was worship.  God spoke to my heart that weekend and said “Bob, you are not worshiping me and you know it.”  Worship had become a mere formality in my life.  I had a check list in my mind and as long as we read the Scriptures, prayed, sang good old hymns and had a theologically sound sermon I assumed worship happened.  But that was just going through the motions.  It was far from what God had in mind about worshipping him.

A few months after the conference, I started dealing seriously with my sexual struggle.  It was then that God reminded me about what true worship really was.  Worship is about giving all of you, all of your heart, to something.  Worship has to do with what you are living for. It was then that I realized that even though I was not truly worshipping God, I was worshipping something.  I learned that my continual movement toward masturbation and pornography was an act of idolatry (false worship).

This discovery helped crystallize what repentance should be about.  Now I knew what I had to turn from—and where I had to turn to.  I had to be honest with what was going on in my heart.  When life becomes confusing or boring or scary or whatever, masturbation and pornography was a place of escape, adventure, pleasure and in a word, life for me.  I needed it, like an addict needs his addiction. I had to be honest with my fantasies and my preference for them rather than waiting on God.

It hit me.  I didn’t have to know whether masturbation was right or wrong.  All I had to know is that what I was doing was wrong because the nature of what I was doing had to do with actively shutting God out of my thoughts and inviting in thoughts that, for the moment, seemed to calm me down and give me a break in life that I desperately needed.

God didn’t bring up masturbation in the Scriptures, but He did say we were supposed to bring every thought captive to Christ Jesus.  And bringing my thoughts captive to the idea that my heart truly is an idol factory helps me be honest with the thoughts that go through my head.  It seems there is still a desperation in my heart to try and make things work out my way and I do need to repent from that.

Where are your inner thoughts leading you?  Do you find that in times of stress, confusion, boredom, loneliness or fear that you turn to find relief in pornography and masturbation?  If so, see your behavior as flowing from your heart, a heart that is living for and consumed by a need for comfort and relief and not a life that is growing in dependence upon God and the things He delights in.  Repentance is very practical and relevant when we see it from that angle.

Harvest USA
About The Author
Bob Heywood has been on staff with HARVEST USA since July 2004. For years Bob struggled with using pornography, something he was not aware was having an effect on him, his wife, or his church. He has a wonderful testimony of sanctification and reconciliation by the hand of the Lord. Bob has worked with youth, served as a volunteer leader with HARVEST USA for a number of years, and is an elder at Pilgrim Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. At HARVEST USA he now works with the Discovery Biblical support group for men struggling with sexual sin. He also does one-on-one discipleship as well as presents seminars and leads in training individuals to be small group facilitators.

8 Comments:


  • By Tom Cefai 22 Feb 2011

    Thanks Bob,
    Your insight came in at perfect timing. You brought great clarity to the taboo subject of masturbation.

    I love you all at Harvest USA. You all are doing a tremendous work. May God mightily bless you all and may you have what you need to be the awesome Ministers of Christ that is so desperately needed.

    Tom

  • By monroe99 22 Feb 2011

    Thank you for the insight, Bob. I had decades of obsession with masturbation, pornography, and sexual fantasy. I’d never really thought of it in terms of denying God the chance to tend to my needs. I now realize that I was creating the sexual tension and arousal within me that I then decided could only be satisfied by my action. You’ve introduced the word worship into my thought process about all this. I like that. I had just been blogging about even in my sexual relations, I had essentially made an idol of my sex organ, something for my mate and I to worship.

    All of my obsessions and compulsions in this area seem to come from a need for an ego boost, a way to fill the void where I don’t feel adequate or worthy. I now know that my activity did not met these needs, but made them worse. Pornography and masturbation are objectifying, dehumanizing, and soul-denying. It’s all about self-satisfaction, but the satisfaction from seeking God’s heart truly beats anything humans can do for themselves.

  • By Brian Jenkin 19 Jun 2011

    I also grew up in a church, (I chose to get baptized at 14), and proceeded to struggle from that point on with lustful desires and then from the age of 20, masturbation and then porn. Ironically enough, it was at the age of 20 that I left the church, only to return after 18 years last year. Upon reconnecting with God a year or so ago, I woke up to my sin and worship of sex and it’s destructive nature and addictive quality.

    For about 18 years, I used to objectify women constantly, lusting after them secretly, and choosing one to take home in my thoughts that evening each day. All the while, I was a ‘normal’ functioning, respectable participant of life, educated and somewhat talented at my work. I had great relationships with women, actually even better than with men. But I always chose less physically attractive women (to me) to be my friends; I guess I’d have struggled keeping my thoughts in order enough otherwise and it would have driven me mad.

    Last year, I started a relationship with a wonderful and beautiful woman that God gave me, (through knowing her I found truth in my heart again, and she discovered God for herself and got baptized a few months ago), and we have opened up sexuality and lust as a whole conversation and seeing that it ought to be about worship of God. Basically, we realized that life with God is about worshipping Him in all things we do and praising Him for all He provides. It’s about celebrating each aspect of ourselves with Him. He made us just as we are, and “it was very good”; Genesis 1:31.

    So after a year of developing understanding and conviction through bringing my struggle to Him, I find myself in a much clearer place. All the old porn has gone, I’m in covenant with my eyes and I find that I objectify women a lot less. It still crawls over me from time to time, trying to ensnare me, but I bring it to Him. I’ve had what feels like some real success, spotted with what I would describe as a weekly failure. About every 7 days, the urge in my body is too much, although over time, it’s softened. But still it’s there, and guess what, God designed me that way.

    So why?

    It occurs to me as a bit odd that we give thanks for the food He provides us with, but forget to thank Him for the body chemistry and processes that allow it to be utilized by the body and then excreted. If you’ve ever gone for a few days or a week without the process of excreting waste, you’ll know as I do that it’s truly something to praise God for! But we don’t, do we? He made us to poop, yet we somehow think it’s not a worthy thing to praise Him for. What I’m getting at is that there is nothing about our bodies that God is grossed out by or wants to turn away from and not see happen. It is neither dirty, vile or private what our bodies are capable of, before God, it’s simply a necessary function, it’s His design, and “it (is) very good!”. We are the ones who make it disgusting with our language and the way we think about it.

    We don’t seek to stop eating because it’s vile coming out the other end. We only seek to control our eating if we have a worship problem with food. Nor do we cut out food altogether if we have a worship problem with food, we simply seek to take every thought captive and honor God with our food eating activities.

    As I’ve come to a place of giving up my worship of sex and sexuality, I’m faced with two dilemmas. One, why does my body still have these urges (just like it has the urge to eat), and two, are they going to come up again as sinful desire (not including of God) when we get married next year, inside of the marriage covenant? See, the issue is not following the rules, the issue is the heart that is not worshipping God with the activity itself!

    So hear is my question that nobody seems to be talking about, and yet I guarantee for most of us, men and women, is the struggle, the undermining, sharp jabbing spike in our bowels that constantly pokes at us and brings us to failure. Is suppressing or ignoring this urge healthy, is it righteous (or self righteous), and is it even working? It seems to me that God wouldn’t have put it there and He wouldn’t have made sex a joyous and health giving thing to do if He intended us to crush it and try to extinguish it. So, while I’m absolutely on board with cutting out lust, cutting out porn, cutting out immoral sexual activity, cutting out the wandering eye and transforming my experience of sex from being a vice and an idol to being something that glorifies Him and brings praise to His name, I’m not sure that it means cutting out masturbation any more than it means cutting out sex after marriage…..

    Seems like a conflicting thought, no?! The Bible encourages us to ‘bring every thought into captivity’, not to ‘stop having thoughts’. Has anyone else ever tried re-patterning your relationship to sex by bringing those thoughts (and urges) under captivity and by doing it with Him at the center, rather than having visual images of the physical body at the center? Have you tried praying to Him throughout your sexual expression, asking Him to release you from the bondage of lust, and inviting Him to own your experience of sex? To transform your mind and make sex something that reminds you of Him, not the flesh? To cry out in your heart for Him to be the source of sex for you? To praise Him for the urges He has given you, and that He made you this way? To praise Him for the experience of sex, and for being a physical creature that can have such an experience? To praise Him for the ability to reproduce, and asking Him for the readiness to accept that role as a parent when it comes? Have you tried making sex an experience that is His to share with you, not one for you to take and keep for yourself and use in a disrespectful way that abuses everything He designed us to be. Is it necessary to cut out masturbation, or is it simply something to reprogram, transform and master in the honor of Him and His generosity to us? Something to worship Him with truly, and a practice to take into marriage so that He is still at the head of our lives, even into that new chapter?

    It’s never been about what we do; that only serves to make Christ’s sacrifice worthless and has us become religious! It’s always been about transforming our hearts so that we share all of our human experience with Him and do it in a way that glorifies and honors Him. There is nothing I can do that impresses God, why would I think that my not masturbating would? That’s not what He has asked. He simply wants to be put in His correct place, to be respected and loved, and that should be the foundation of any thoughts I have about any topic, not “How can I be good enough for God”! That is a deadening, impossible, sinful and very religious conversation to have, and the biggest lie Satan ever spoke to the Christian. We need to repent of that way of thinking in general, and this topic seems to be one that has no freedom in it and one that Satan has a stranglehold over. If we can’t talk freely, we are in sin. Let’s include God in sex, He designed it!

    I’ve been trying out this mindset of worshipping Him because of it and enjoying it freely, with Him as the source. I embrace it sparingly, and with reverence, but I look forward to sharing it with Him when my body is ready. And I never do it as a response to any lust that occurs on a given day, and I stop if lust or visual imagery creeps in, asking Him for it’s removal. This is what my heart has told me about the parameters so far. It’s been a liberating experience and one that has actually brought me closer to Him, particularly in moments of weakness and temptation. He is sanctifying my spirit by having sex be something that is between He and I. I feel like I’m cheating on Him when my thoughts wander, and He is worthy of staying true to. He is in my sexual conversation constantly, helping me, because I’ve invited Him into the experience, rather than holding out like it’s mine, my cross to bear and too personal or dirty for Him. He is owning it for me and calling me into purity in my relationships and giving me an ‘easy yoke’ as a result. He provides what I need and promises more when I’m married, and that love and generosity holds me. He is all I need; I actually don’t have to struggle any more!

    I hope this adds to your thoughts in a way that calls you forward in every part of your walk with God. I truly invite ideas, feedback and correction if you have a considered insight from the heart of God to share with me. Thanks for helping me to think this through by allowing a listening, and responding. I’d love to know your thoughts.

    Sincerely,
    Brian

    • Bob Heywood
      By Bob Heywood 23 Jun 2011

      Brian—

      I praise God for his good work in your life in bringing you out of so many years of bondage! And I absolutely affirm that God wants us to celebrate sex! I love that he included Song of Songs in the Bible and Christians should read that book not as allegory but as a celebration of righteous sexuality. But here’s the thing: we are to celebrate our sexuality according to his design. I appreciate your wrestling with this issue and your invitation to give feedback or correction. I am concerned with some of your conclusions…

      First, you make a connection between food and sex. Here’s the thing: while sex is a drive, food is an actual need. You will die shortly if you don’t eat. Nobody ever died because they didn’t have an orgasm.

      Second, you seem to pull apart the idea of worshipping God and our behavior. The Bible anticipates real life change, behavioral transformation. At the Great Commission, Jesus told his disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Putting him in the “correct place” means he is my King (the meaning of “Christ”) and I am called to obey. This is not dead religiosity or a satanic lie – it is the call of Christ. There is a huge difference between expecting my “good” behavior to earn God’s favor and obeying because I am compelled by the love of Christ (see 2 Cor 5:14-15).

      Third, how we steward our sexuality creates a distinction between Christians and pagans (see Eph 4:17-19 and 1 Thess 4:1-8). Christians control their own vessel in holiness and honor (many scholars make the case that Paul is referring specifically to our genitals with the Greek word skeuos). Again, in this God is saying that sex is glorious, but that Christians are marked by the ability to control their urges for his glory rather than being ruled by them.

      Finally, the only “how to” passage about sexual practice in marriage is 1 Cor 7:1-5. What do we find? God intends sex to be about giving to our spouse, not taking. No surprise – his design is the exact opposite of the world’s message. Sex is rooted in relationship and it is about selflessly serving another. This is God’s glorious design for great sex. Masturbation violates this design on both fronts – it rips sex out of its relational context and rather than serving our spouse it is self-serving. Really it is a snapshot of selfishness incarnate – “what matters most in this moment is that I experience the greatest pleasure I possibly can.” Radically not how Jesus lived. Further, even apart from lustful thoughts, this practice will not prepare you to be a loving, giving husband when you marry next year.

      And by God’s grace it is possible to live chastely, Brian. I say this humbly from personal experience. Jesus called my wife Home over a year and a half ago and he has enabled me to wait on him and live without an orgasm. It’s not easy, but by his power it is doable. And it absolutely makes me cry out to him, draw near to him and find in him peace and contentment. “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Ps 27:13-14)

      Blessings,
      Dave White

  • By Benjamin Okulski 29 Aug 2011

    Bob, I am looking forward to meeting with you soon.
    Regarding masturbation, one must not forget Leviticus 15:15-18 (such a practical book, Leviticus!)

    — Benjamin Okulski

  • By Luke 22 Oct 2012

    @benjamin. Just to respond to your post about Leviticus, I have to admit I get a little agitated when people point to this in reference to not masturbating. There are many laws that God laid out for His people that we most definetly DO NOT follow today, yet we point at others as ones we need to follow. To paraphrase, obviously…God said to stone your children if they disobey. Does anyone do that today? God said to burn the bedding if your wife’s menstrual blood touches it for it is unclean. No one does that, we wash them.

    My point is, I guess, that I am a struggling christian. I always here the pios talk about sex and scripture quoted for the “dos and donts” yet, right next to those lines are other l was that christians say, oh, well, that is not relevant TODAY!.

    I mean I am sure everyone on here has a house, clothes, a TV, a computer and such. Didn’t Jesus say to shed all possessions and follow Him? That the Lord will provide your needs? Are any of you posting here from an internet cafe because you sold all your possessions and are simply wandering the streets preaching the words of Jesus? Probably not. Yet, it is pointed out how masturbation draws you from God. What about your TV? All those shows you watch are times not spent helping the poor, feeding your neighbor or preaching to a stranger?

    Anyway, I am not trying to blame or point fingers but I am at such a loss in my faith. i believe in Jesus and the gift of life and I believe in the Lord. I try to do right by my neighbor and honestly believe all this is from Him. Yet, I’m also horny all the time and I bed women. I dont use them but I have friends who, well, we enjoy sex together. Is that really “wrong”? Is that any more wrong than dropping 500 bucks on a computer at Best Buy, or a washing machine instead of buying food and giving it to your food bank? I don’t think so. If you really look at your life and count the things you have that could be sold or given away, or all the time you spend fishing, playing sports, driving, vacations, and see how much time is not being given to Him, then the last thing you would worry about is the whole sex thing. God made our bodies and the chemicals that give us a sex drive. He did not make HDTVs, prfessional baseball or stuft crust pizza.

    I dont know. This world sucks. Every single day is a struggle to try and comprehend how I can justify buying 5 dollar espresso at starbucks, a 50 dollar shit at the mall for work or a car to not ahve to walk all the while there is massive suffering in the world yet still say I am a christian. I think Jesus is seriously not happy with all of us or just knows we are truly that stupid a creature.

  • By Caroline 28 Mar 2013

    Luke, if you are still following this blog, listen up! Your are missing the point entirely.
    First, most of the sex “rules” come from the new testament. Sex has rules because it is SACRED and is a mirror of Christs relationship with his church. Also it is powerful. Power to both create and destroy life.

    Check out Romans chapter 12 : the original 12 step plan for over coming habitual sin.

    Sexual sin, like no other, pushes us so far from God that we think he has abandoned us! Not so. We are merely deaf and blind to HIM.

    Also, sexual sin is progressively perverse and will lead to grosser and grosser behavior and finally unto death. Do the research.

    I hear what you say about this world being hard, so true. But, we are not left here ALONE. He has given us His Word, His Spirit, and His People.

  • By Jessica 16 Apr 2013

    Thank you great article.!! It is very much needed!!

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