Overcome Masturbation

By: Deji Yesufu

Pastoral work is an extremely sensitive one and from time to time you get information from people you counsel that reveals a deep spiritual need that they have that has become something of an albatross to their walk with and work for Christ. Masturbation is the subject that I have in mind here. It is a secret sin, yet I feel it is a widespread challenge among young people in our day. This feeling is mainly intuitive but a deduction one can easily make as one observes the challenge that our days have sprung on us. Everything around us screams sex. From the television to the internet, to billboards, and then this thing, they call reality shows. It appears that women try to outdo each other in how provocatively they can dress.

Then there is the proliferation of X-rated movies. When I was growing up, you had to make some effort to find those movies on the VHS cassette tapes. Now, X-rated movies are everywhere – thanks to the internet. What X-rated movies do to the mind is that they introduce watchers to the grim world of sexual perversion. Those who watch those things will do everything they see. The least watchers will do is masturbate – have sex with themselves. The real challenge with X-rated movies is that the images rarely go away – some people may take those images to the grave. It is the reason why those things are extremely harmful. Now, my essay is directed to believers. People who, in the days when they were in the world, indulged in watching X-rated movies (and may have been sexually active too) and now that they are Christians, they find that the images have not gone, and masturbation is still a secret sin. I pray that God the Holy Spirit will give grace to your heart as you read this, and I trust he will empower you to overcome masturbation and all other sexual sins you may be battling. As I ventured to tackle this subject, one scripture that kept coming to mind is Hebrew 5:1-4:

“For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in thing about God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that, he also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron”.

The picture this scripture is painting for us is that of the Levitical priesthood. It is saying in essence that the people God calls to this ministry are sinners. And that before they offer up sacrifices for the sins of the people, they offer sacrifices for their sins first (Leviticus 16:6). But as they do this, they do it with compassion, realizing that they are partakers of the same grace they are extending to others. When sexual sins are talked about in church, you get the impression the ministers preaching are immune from this problem. If you are not careful, the very thing you have shared in private with your pastor will soon become public news in the congregation. I believe the way God designed it is that those who have battled a sin, and who have found the grace of God to overcome it, are the ones best suited to minister to others battling it. It means that you come to a subject with compassion and grace of heart, and you are patient with others until you see them overcome. Before God, sin is not in grades. A person who may not be besotted by sexual weakness may have anger problems and a history of killing people. All sins are sins, and it is the same sacrifice that is offered that both absolves and cleanses from sin.

Another point of view that must be seen before we look at practically overcoming masturbation is the subject of Christ’s death and sin itself. Christ died for the sinner – of whom I am chief, said Paul the Apostle (1 Timothy 1:15). If an apostle will call himself a sinner, it means God has given you and me freedom to freely associate and identify ourselves with our sins. But the good news is not that we are sinners; the good news is that Christ died for our sins. The challenge with this doctrine is not knowing that Christ died for sins; it is understanding that Christ died for my sins. Paul the Apostle goes further to explain in Romans 4:7-8 that there is a blessedness that comes with the death of Christ for our sins. It is this: that our sins are forgiven; our sins are covered; God will not impute iniquity on his people. My children’s catechism defines justification as “God forgiving sinners and treating them as if they had never sinned”.

R. T. Kendall said that the most controversial statement Martin Luther might have made was when he said to Philip Melanchthon: “…sin lustfully that grace might abound…” The simple-minded will say Luther was encouraging lasciviousness in his followers. No. Melanchthon was a very careful believer, who would not be found with a trace of sin on his conscience. Luther, his pastor, felt Melanchthon was not enjoying the grace of God. So, he explained that until Melanchthon experienced the deepest sin, and found God forgiving him all the same, he would not understand the grace. Nothing paints this better than that publican’s prayer: God be merciful to me a sinner. We preach the cross of Jesus Christ, not because we enjoy being called pastors; we preach the cross because we are the first beneficiaries of God’s mercies. Like Aaron, we applied the sacrifices of Christ’s death to our sins first. True pastoral work is then extending that grace to those who hear us. It is the reason why compassion for sinners is one of the leading attributes of a true pastor.

We now come to practical matters: how does a Christian overcome masturbation? The first thing of course is to hope and pray that God the Holy Spirit has done a true work in the life of the Christian. A Christian who still finds himself masturbating or is involved with any kind of sexual sin must show true contrition. There must be a genuine desire to be rid of the sin. The next thing that must be done is that this person must make the effort to avoid trigger points. It could come in what you see, the movies you watch, some websites you view, some friends you keep, etc. Jesus gives us the example by telling us that if certain things cause us to sin, we must cut ourselves off from them no matter how painful doing it is (Matthew 18:8-9). The effort that you put into separating yourself from your trigger points, will bring you to greater levels of discipline over that sin.

As you labour at doing this, you also want to give yourself means of grace. Go to a church where the word of God is taught. Occupy your mind with godly things – read a good book; indulge in writing an essay; get into theological debates; pursue a good course of helping the needy; etc. Just ensure that your mind is not idle. Sexual sins are a mind thing, and you will realize soon that the moment your mind is occupied doing something, you will have little time fixated on the things that trigger sin in you. As you do all these, I pray that you find a pastor or a spiritually older person whom you can confide in, and who can pray with you and also hold you accountable. All these must be done simultaneously and prayerfully, and you have to be incredibly patient with yourself. It means that when you fail, you consider it a fall; get up, repent, dust yourself, and get back at resisting sin. I also wish to ask that ministers who hold people’s past histories should never bring those things up against them, or share them with others. We must nurse people to spiritual health, not to use their past to hold them to ransom.

As you build yourself up around your sexual discipline, I would like to appeal to our young people to go and get married. Now, there are some sexual desires that both prayer and fasting will not take away. Those desires stem from the fact that we are biological beings, and God created us to procreate. When the urge comes, it has to be fulfilled somehow. It is the reason God designed the institution of marriage. The picture that Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians 7 of marriage is that the man owns the wife’s body, and the wife owns her husband’s body. It means that the day the urge comes, you simply grab the person that God has given to you as a companion and fulfil yourself with them. Some such exercises will yield babies, but most other times they will not. If as a single person, you pursue to overcome masturbation through the disciplines mentioned above, it will die its final death the moment you have your wife or husband through which you find all your sexual satisfaction. It is also the reason why it is a grave sin for a man to deny his wife sex, or the other way around. Hebrew 13:4 calls it “endangering the marriage bed”. A lot of the sexual sins that occur in our day are caused not by the perpetrator themselves but by their spouses. I hear of women using sex as a weapon to punish their husbands. It is a grave evil and those who are doing this should repent. In a Christian marriage, the man owns his wife’s body, and the wife owns her husband’s body. Plain and simple. Masturbations are a secret sin. Yet it is a sin all the same.

Of all theologies in Christendom, reformed theology gives the best biblical perspective on the subject of sin. The holiness folks give you the impression that we earn our salvation via our efforts. Roman Catholics promise that a reverend father is around the corner to absolve you of all sins. Pentecostals have very little space for sin in their theology, as long as the sin is not hindering breakthroughs in your life. Reformed theology, on the other hand, shows that the very thing meant to damn us before God, sin, is the very reason why we are God’s redeemed people. When Paul wrote “…shall we continue in sin that grace might abound…” and then followed it with “God forbid”, we miss the point he was trying to make. He was saying essentially that for the redeemed individual, no sin can damn him or her. Grace covers all known sins. The doctrine of grace, however, should not engender lasciviousness in us; rather it should engender worship. It is when a lifestyle of worship begins to breed holiness in us that our comprehension of grace begins to bear practical fruit. I am saying essentially that sin has its advantage: it can lead you to the grace of repentance and faith. The person one should be sorry for is the person who is unable to see his sin because he has no reason to repent.

If you are caught up in the web of masturbation, or any sexual sin for that matter, you have an advantage: you have the opportunity for contrition, repentance and then faith. This is the message Jesus sought to pass to his audience in Luke 7:36-50 when the harlot came to him with a box of perfume. All the perfect people all around him could not reach the grace of God. It took a harlot to reach it. Jesus explained that he who is forgiven much will love much. Masturbation and all sexual sins are opportunities for you to find much forgiveness, and with this forgiveness grace to live a life that is pleasing to God. The essence of the Christian faith is God saving a sinner and lifting them out of the dregs of a sinful lifestyle into a life of holiness – such holiness that only God’s Holy Spirit engenders in men. When your holiness is wrought by sheer willpower, you will boast and condemn those struggling with sin. When your holiness is given to you through the grace of forgiveness, you have compassion for those still in sin. May God grant that we are all of the latter group. Amen.

Deji Yesufu is the Pastor of Providence Reformed Baptist Church Ibadan. He is the author of HUMANITY.

Posted by Deji Yesufu

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