George sits in church, unable to focus on the sermon. He’s a mess. The night before, he had encouraged his wife to go to bed without him because “the game wouldn’t be over until really late.”

The truth was, he’d been looking forward all day to checking out some porn sites. While mowing the grass that Saturday morning, he had thought his plan through.

Now, sitting in church, he feels guilt and shame. He’s miserable, exhausted from being up so late—he had lost track of time and didn’t go to bed until after 2 a.m. He’s ready to doze off in the middle of the sermon.

On one level, he hates what he’s done. He looks around and wonders what people would say if they knew, especially since he’s a deacon. He can’t imagine telling his friends—let alone his wife. But even in the midst of his guilt, he knows he enjoyed it. The images continue to swirl in his mind, and he can’t wait to go back. He gets a thrill from porn like nothing else in his life. He could laugh out loud as he compares sitting and listening to a sermon with the adventure and pleasure of the night before. He hates it and he loves it at the same time.

George has been a Christian for a long time and knows how God says he should live. And he wants to live for God, to be a loving husband and father. But the pull of his lust is strong, and he can’t imagine his life without it.

Do you know what it’s like to sit in the church, feeling guilty? Are there behaviors in your life that fill you with shame? Are you living in the tension of doing things you know to be wrong while being incapable of imagining your life without them?

Sexual sin sucks life and vitality from men

Our culture teaches that our masculinity is directly connected to our sexual activity. It celebrates sexual conquest, mocking monogamy in marriage and chastity in singleness.

Sexual sin does not make us more of a man—it emasculates us!

For married men, lust robs you of the ability to love your wife and children. You brought selfish expectations of sex into marriage and have taken matters into your own hands when it failed to satisfy. Because sexual sin is such a source of “life” for you, those you are called to love and cherish, shepherd and protect, become an annoyance. They are reduced to obstacles, keeping you from the pleasures you crave.

In the end, sexual sin sucks life and vitality from us. This is part of what is in view when 1 Corinthians 6 describes sexual sin as against our own body. Perhaps more than any other form of sin, it leaves us utterly drained spiritually.

Further, and in a tragically ironic sense, our pursuit of sexual sin ultimately robs us of our ability to truly enjoy sex, to experience sexual satisfaction. Ephesians 4:18-19 touches on this reality: “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”

The Greek word translated as “greedy”—pleonexia—literally means “a desire to have more.” It is referring to utter insatiability. The NIV translates this as “having a continual lust for more.” When we abandon ourselves to indulging in our sexual pleasure, disregarding God’s calling and the vows we’ve made to spouses, the result is slavery. Like a donkey chasing a carrot on a stick, the harder we strive to experience sexual satisfaction, the more it eludes us—even as our reckless pursuit of sexual contentment takes us into deeper and darker perversions. This is what is in view with “every kind of impurity.” It means that we will meet with the law of diminishing returns. What once satisfied us no longer does, and we need to go further into the mess to experience the same thrill.

Jesus restores our manhood

Jesus’ mission is to make us real men! He wants us to be free from enslaving desire and behaviors. He doesn’t want us to be emasculated men, but “strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Colossians 1:11).

Jesus invites us to joy and contentment as we learn that the Christian life is best characterized, not by what we don’t get to do, but by the abundant life Christ offers us. God wants to give us more, not less. Our flesh, the world, and the enemy would have us believe that God is holding out on us, but these are vicious lies against the God who, in love, both created and redeemed us. Jesus describes this contrast poignantly in John 10:10. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Brothers, God is not holding out on us in calling us out of our sinful behavior and desires—He wants to give us life! He offers to liberate us from our bondage and bring us to sexual sanity.

The irony is, Jesus promises to give us what we’re hoping to find in sexual sin. Sex has become an idol for us, but the reality is that our idols are counterfeits that make huge promises, but always fail to deliver. They promise life, but bring only destruction and loss of what is most valuable. They promise excitement and contentment, but eventually lead to emptiness and despair. In a tragic demonstration of the truth of John 10, sexual sin robs us even of the ability to experience sexual fulfillment; we are left only with a “continual lust for more.” Pursuit of sexual sin leaves us sexually insatiable and unsatisfied, filled with yearning and discontent.

But here’s the rub: Often the Christian life doesn’t fit our expectations. It doesn’t seem like an abundant life. We experience everything from minor disappointments to horrific trauma—even as Christians—that seem to belie the promises offered by Jesus. There are reasons we turn to sexual sin. The challenges of life in a fallen world cause us to question God’s goodness and faithfulness. We’re tempted to live like orphans, taking matters into our own hands and looking for contentment and comfort wherever we can find it.

But Jesus was straight with us. He told us that the Christian life would involve taking up our crosses, denying ourselves, and laying down our lives for His sake and glory. Although some make the declaration, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” this really needs to be qualified. When Jesus invites you to follow Him, He hands you a heavy cross—with splinters—that you’re expected to throw up on your shoulder, carry up a steep hill, and when you get to the top … they’re going to kill you.

But Jesus’ promise to us is that there’s a resurrection on the other side of that death. We are called to deny ourselves because the reward He offers is greater than our desires. He says that if you try to save your life you’ll lose it, but if you lose it for his sake, you’ll find it.

Jesus wants you to experience freedom and joy. He promises you abundant life and—in the midst of the battle against sin—wants you to discover in Him what will truly satisfy your soul. He wants to free you from slavery and show you what it truly means to be a man!

Adapted with permission from Sexual Sanity for Men by David White, Copyright © 2012 by Harvest USA. Published by New Growth Press. All rights reserved.