Purity often seems to elude our grasp and be just far enough away where it appears unattainable.
We may struggle with masturbation or viewing pornography, reading romance novels or watching R rated movies, or may have a group of friends that do not understand what it means to follow Christ and they often mock us for our commitment to Him which diminishes making strides toward lasting repentance.
If the saying is true, "You will never influence the world by being like it" and "Sin thrives in secret", one might rightly assume that what we do behind closed doors, in secrecy, without accountability or fellowship and community with like-minded believers, will result in nothing more than a halfhearted commitment to God with our sins of choice at the center; having the desire to please self instead of exalting God through the pursuit of a holy life.
If we are to get a hold on sexual addiction or impure entertainment choices, we must be willing to part ways with these destructive choices and habits. If we lock the doors to keep sin out and yet keep a window open which clearly invites our strongholds to creep up again at our beck and call (only when we are lonely, hungry, tired, and angry of course - note the sarcasm!), we will never walk in lasting freedom. If we flirt with our temptations, while realizing how easily we will fall when allowing compromise to be near, the outcome will be one of fueling our lust.
I'm sure we all realize that we don't only desire to sin if we are lonely, hungry, tired or angry. If given the opportunity, without the fear of what others would think and knowing we wouldn't be caught, most of us would indulge in impurity to our heart's content, as often as possible.
John Owen was correct in stating, "Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, if it has its own way it will go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could, every thought of unbelief would be atheism if allowed to develop. Every rise of lust, if it has its way reaches the height of villainy; it is like the grave that is never satisfied. The deceitfulness of sin is seen in that it is modest in its first proposals but when it prevails it hardens men's hearts, and brings them to ruin."
When you think about it, we should be thankful God's word puts restrictions, so to speak, on certain sexual behavior (such as homosexuality) and that God's design for sex in the context of marriage as the only legitimate time to engage in such acts is even a rule. I use the term rule cautiously, as I do not want to put across that the Bible is a book filled with rules we must obey. It is actually a beautiful history book which contains the ingredients for the best life possible. I have often thought about how people try to remove God from everything and question, "What if everyone in this world actually lived by the Ten Commandments? How much safer and more lovely of a place this world and our relationships with others (and how we see ourselves) would be!"
If we are to escape addiction, we have to get control over our thoughts. We might see someone who is attractive when we are at the store, or notice the Victoria's Secret catalog on the coffee table that arrived in the mail earlier that day, or see a commercial on TV that is totally tempting. We then have the choice to either 1. Bounce our eyes away from the temptation and not allow ourselves the freedom to stare or 2. Look a second longer than we know we should, continue thinking about it, and then fantasize at the memory as we go about our day.
Fantasy will always produce the desire to view porn and masturbate because as Ben Beaghan has written, "At its root, lust is really just making your own porn." If we are "creating" our own porn whenever we fantasize, we will become aroused, our bodies respond to our lustful thoughts, and the natural consequence is wanting sexual release - which will be satisfied by self-gratification or masturbating with the help of porn (It's crazy how viewing porn desensitizes us over time to the degree that we are no longer aroused by intimacy with a real person and may need to recall scenes in porn films or certain fetishes we have seen played out in pornographic films to bring us to the point of having an orgasm.)
We need to get rid of the music, movies, novels, magazines, and saved videos on the laptop or desktop computer that we find ourselves running to when we feel aroused or want to feel good and take our minds off of what brings us stress. This is so crucial. The more we feed our lust, the more it will grow. The more it grows, the more it will demand. The more it demands, the more often we will give in and the greater depths we will reach to achieve the initial response we first experienced when we discovered the world or erotic material to begin with.
Reading the word of God daily (and hourly) is important as well. If we are not consistently filling our minds with the transforming and sanctifying word of God, true and lasting transformation will not be ours because in actuality, the steps listed above will only result in outward obedience (the stopping of certain practices and sins), similar to the Pharisees in Jesus' day who outwardly abstained from a variety of sins, all the while they were like whitewashed tombs - Matthew 23: 27 - "...which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead menâ€™s bones and all uncleanness" and not a true heart change which deals with the underlying issues in our lives that cause us to turn to sin to begin with.
May we agree with Timothy Keller and pursue change in our day to day routines:
"Every one of our sinful actions has a suicidal power on the faculties that put that action forth. When you sin with the mind, that sin shrivels the rationality. When you sin with the heart or the emotions, that sin shrivels the emotions. When you sin with the will, that sin destroys and dissolves your willpower and your self-control. Sin is the suicidal action of the self against itself. Sin destroys freedom because sin is an enslaving power."