Your Elders recently received the following note:

There has been something on my heart for a while, and I haven’t been sure about the best way to address it- so I will submit it to you and trust that the Lord will lead you to handle it as it should be handled.

Today at work, an email went out that stirred me to write you. It was an email regarding appropriate dress for the workplace. We have a handful of ladies around the office who tend to dress rather inappropriately- and it can create a tough work environment sometimes. Ladies can feel embarrassed and undervalued in the presence of these women, and I would guess the men here at the office either find themselves uncomfortable or distracted. The email did not go into detail about why certain manners of dress are inappropriate- it was pretty obvious. Around the office, we need to treat each other with respect and professionalism.

Even more should the concept of respect apply within the fellowship of believers. I have worked with groups of young women in the past and made it a point to address the issue of modesty within them.  My teaching has focused on the practical – what to avoid – but also on the deeper issues of the heart behind why they should avoid it.  I occasionally had to pull a girl or two aside and remind them of how important it is to help our Brothers in Christ stay pure in a sexually saturated culture.

However, the dress issue has not been confined to the youth group; I have noticed a number of adult women in the Body who tend to dress inappropriately from time to time.

I believe that there are two possible motives in the hearts of the Sisters I’ve noticed dressing this way. One motive is that the outfit was selected for its fashion appeal and flattering design. The other, and I believe the more prominent motive, is that the wearer is an extremely busy woman, most likely a mother, and the blouse with the V-neckline was most easily accessible in the busy course of her morning.

In either case, we ladies must be challenged about this. We must remember that if we are doing our job as a church, we are going to be surrounded by people who are at different stages in their walk with the Lord. A father of four may think nothing of the V-neckline. But the odds are that someone at the church will find himself struggling against it or lead into lust by it. This battle is everywhere for our men and boys. The Body of Christ should be a respite from this fight, not another battle ground.

Are we women were too busy or too concerned with our appearance to come along side our fathers, brothers and sons to help provide a safe place for them to relax and just enjoy the fellowship of believers? Maybe we just haven’t thought of it that way. Maybe it’s time to start.

What a blessed woman!  Her note reflects grace, practicality, and a deep love for her brothers and sisters.  About 9 minutes after receiving her note via email, another arrived from Focus on the Family.  The introduction is as follows:

American girls are increasingly being fed a steady diet of products and images that pressure them to be sexy. From clothing to cartoons, choreography to commercials, the emphasis on sexuality undercuts parents’ efforts to instill purity in their daughters.

The article goes on to describe the fashion trends that our daughters find themselves surrounded by these days and encourages parents in ways to keep their daughters safe.  If you would like to read the rest of the article, the link is here: Sexy Too Soon.

This morning I checked out the new Resurgence web site and saw that they posted (on Thursday) a great article titled Why What You Wear Matters.  Check it out – it’s good, short, practical read.

It is certainly coincidental that all these crossed my path around the same time.  Can I share just a little more?

On Tuesday I had to fire a man (“Frank”) at work.  In short, we determined that Frank was posting his former boss’ phone number on various bathroom walls and (most despicably) on a wall in a “viewing booth” in an adult bookstore.  She was receiving lewd calls at all hours of the day/night.  It got really bad when her 11-year-old daughter was propositioned by one caller.

When I confronted Frank, he lied about his involvement, saying he does not go to adult bookstores.  And why would we not believe him?  Frank is an associate pastor at his church, after all.  He is well known as being a kind, prayerful, and compassionate man.  Sadly, when confronted with irrefutable proof, Frank admitted that he frequents the bookstore where his former boss’ number was posted.

In the note that we received, the writer said, “A father of four may thing nothing of the V neckline.”  That is my only point of disagreement with her.  Yes, a particular father of 4 might not, but I believe most men have eyes like magnets that easily find & lock on to an attractive, sexy woman.  Even in church.  Maybe especially at church.  A godly woman exudes something attractive that is not physical, but draws men in nonetheless.

You may consider this semi-confessional.  I do not find myself leering at women in church (often), but I would rather be completely honest than create a false image that causes others to suspect me impossible of sins such as Frank’s.  Frank is in bondage, and he didn’t get there by asking brothers to pray for him.  I struggle here.  I suspect most of us do.

At work, where the struggle is strongest, and where we have many attractive women who know they are attractive, and use their appearance to manipulate men, I have written on my whiteboard a very short statement: “he does not know that it will cost him his life.” You will recognize it as part of Proverbs 7:23.  I was looking at it yesterday, not long after a woman left my office; a woman whose shirt buttons strained to contain her…(yes, I noticed)

I will not repeat the oft-stated point that men are visual creatures.  Got it.  Agreed.  But something in our culture is changing.  A lot of recent research is finding that women are becoming trapped in addiction to pornography.  It might not surprise you that upwards of 70% of men are looking at porn online, but are you shocked that research shows that around a third of those visiting pornographic web sites are women?

The implication here is simply this: women can do us a favor by covering up.  But guys, we gotta help our sisters too.  I’m not actually sure here what women would find sexy in a guy…it’s apparently not the same thing we see in them.  But ask your wife if you look appropriate for church.  My wife tells me to button one more button from time to time.  If you are not married, ask a trusted female friend with a male friend present.

[Tim Callies finishes his series on pornography and its effects.  I have always welcomed comments to the blog, but in this case I want to do something a little different.  Let me encourage you to go to the last post in this series on Challies’ blog (click here to get there) and post your own comments to Tim.  He reads all the comments on his blog and may respond to you.]

This is the final entry in a series of articles about sex and, in particular, about sexual detoxification. First I wrote about Pornifying the Marriage Bed, then about Breaking Free and A Theology of Sex. The fourth article dealt with Detoxification. The series was written specifically to target young men—those who are newly married or nearly married or who will, like most of us, be married at some time. I chose this narrow focus because this was the kind of person who triggered the series in my mind and because I felt a narrow focus would be more valuable in the end. That means that, though there were some principles in the series that might benefit any reader, there was a lot that I could not say. For example, I had little to say to singles or to the wives whose husbands may be sinning against them.

One immediate effect of the series is that I can see that a lot of Christian men are just awful leaders in their homes. Their wives truly want husbands who will lead them and yet the men have either abdicated leadership or have abused it by leading their wives into sin. Many of the problems exposed through the Sexual Detox series go back to nonexistent or poor or just plain horrible leadership. Therefore I hope to address leadership in a series targeted to husbands (and future husbands) which will address the necessity of being strong, godly leaders.

I will also try to speak to singles in at least one article. Or perhaps I’ll find someone who would be able to do that. In either case, I received a lot of questions about sex and the single.

Finally, as emails came in, I asked Aileen to help me reply to many of the ones that came from women (both for sake of propriety and to benefit from her wisdom). She and I are preparing an article or two that will focus on women, responding to many of the questions and concerns that arose.

For now, I want to offer a final word—a final challenge and encouragement—to the young men who were the target of this series.

Sexual Detox 5: Freedom

My Path
I know your struggles because not too many years ago they were my struggles. It was not long ago that I was a young man, fighting (and sometimes not fighting) against lust and pornography and all the rest. There was a time when it wooed me and drew me and sought to captivate me. And yet today I can say that pornography does not interest me in the least. God delivered me from the desire to indulge. I can understand your struggles and also assure you that it is possible to find freedom.

There were a handful of Scripture passages that were foundational to my understanding of sex when I was young and considering marriage and when I was young and newly married. They were instrumental in my determination not to succumb to the allure of pornography.

The first of these is one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible. Proverbs 5:18-19 says, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” I love the sweetness of this passage. It calls a man to always find joy and satisfaction and intimacy in the wife God has given him. It calls him to recall the delight he had in the days when he and his bride were newly married and to live out of that delight. He has no right to go elsewhere, no right to “drink from another cistern,” to use Solomon’s terminology. And why would he ever want to? The verse both celebrates the gift of sex and the exclusivity of it.

If you are married, God has provided for you the wife of your youth. You are to be intoxicated in her love and not with the body or the heart of another woman or endless series of women. If you are not yet married, then God may well have that woman for you. Every time you look at pornography, every time you give in to lust, you are diminishing your ability to be intoxicated in her love, to find your joy and satisfaction in her.

Just a few verses later in that same passage come these sobering words. “For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.” Men who refuse to be intoxicated in the love of their wives, men who find delight in the bodies (or images of the bodies) of other women, are committing acts of great folly. This is not foolishness that is akin to silliness, but folly that puts a man in mortal danger. It is a moral foolishness that leads to spiritual death. Their foolishness, their lack of discipline, their lack of concern for their sin, leads them to the paths of death. There are consequences to your sin. When you sin before marriage you bring into marriage all kinds of baggage—all kinds of sexual history that impacts you and your relationship to your wife.

You may be eighteen or twenty and thinking that the occasional look at pornography right now, images to fuel your masturbation, will have no consequences. You are wrong. Even now as you do those things you are sinning against God and against your wife or future wife. You are piling up sin that will make it more difficult for you to be an effective leader and an effective lover. You are thumbing your nose at God’s grace.

Another verse, and a bit of a strange one, I know, is Genesis 26:8. This is the story of Isaac and Abimelech. You remember that Isaac, like his father before him, traveled through a strange land and feared for his life. As a coward he denied his wife rather than risk his life. But then Abimelech looked out of a window and “saw Isaac laughing with Rebekah his wife.” That word laughing is obviously a difficult one to translate and versions of the Bible render it quite differently. When I was young I read a commentary that said, rightly, that it could be translated as sporting. Abimelech looked out of his window and saw Isaac and Rebekah doing something that made him realize that they were clearly not brother and sister; yet he also knew Isaac’s character well enough not to accuse him of anything immoral. Isaac and Rebekah were sporting, they were playing, flirting, undoubtedly just enjoying young love (though perhaps in an inappropriate setting). Somehow that captured a kind of freedom and innocence that I wanted to have with my wife. A freedom and openness that I knew we could not have if we were sinning sexually against one another.

The third verse was 1 Peter 3:7 which commands, “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” Here I realized that my relationship with my wife had huge spiritual importance. If I am not showing honor to my wife, my own prayers (not hers!) will be hindered. As the leader of my home I need to keep growing spiritually and in order to do this I need to be faithful in prayer. I can only do this, I learned, if I treat my wife as she deserves to be treated. Were I to give in to lust and porn and all other kind of sexual sin, I would be devastating my family. I would not be the only one to suffer. How could I bring that kind of pain and devastation upon the people I love most?

The final passage was 1 Timothy 5:1,2 which reads “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.” I saw here the connection between the women of pornography and God’s command that I treat all young women as sisters. How could I do that if I was leering at them on the screen? And how could I leer at anonymous young women on the screen and then assume that I’d be able to then turn off that lust and treat other young women in my life as sisters? Giving in to lust in one area would impact every area. God commanded me to see young women not as sexual objects but as sisters. I had to treat them in all purity, in my heart, in my mind, in my life.

These verses, though they may be a bit of an eclectic collection, challenged me deeply and reset my mind. I memorized them, pondered them, called them to mind and lived by them. And any desire to pursue lust melted away. I know it was a work of God because he worked through his Word, just as he says he will. In its place he gave me a great (and still-growing) love for her and increased joy and satisfaction in my relationship for her. I would not want it any other way.

Conclusion
My encouragement to you is to find a biblical basis for purity, a biblical basis for avoiding pornography. Some men can turn away from pornography by an act of the will. Some can do it by constructing walls of legalism and forcing themselves to live within those boundaries. But it is best, I’m convinced, to find freedom through the Word of God. We need to fight sin with God’s truth; we need to replace the lies we want to believe with what God says is true. Perhaps some of the verses that God used in my life will help you; perhaps he will help you find others. But in any case, go the Bible and find there both the foundation for purity and the wisdom that can help you moment-by-moment.

The saddest emails I have received in the past few days came from women who are older than you are and perhaps even old enough to be your mother. They told tales of utter devastation—of husbands who got into pornography when they were young and who never cared to give it up. And here they are, all these years later, still damaging themselves and their wives and families. The choices they made as young men threaten to tear apart their families today. The women, the one God calls these men to be intoxicated in for all of their lives, live with gaping holes in their hearts, longing for their husbands to step in and fill them up. Could this be your wife some day?

The fact is, God does not give young men free passes when it comes to sin; he does not allow you to run wild for a time and just “get away with it.” Sin carries with it consequences whether you sin at eighteen or eighty. Turn from your sin today. Pursue freedom. Pursue Christ.

[By Tim Challies.  This series is pretty awesome.]

This is the third article in a series targeted specifically at young men but applying, I am learning, to all of us. So far I have written about Pornifying the Marriage Bed and about Breaking Free.

Sexual Detox 2

What did God create first: hunger or food? Did God make man hungry and then invent food to fill the need? Or did God first invent food and then give man an appetite which would motivate him, drive him, to pursue that good gift? Where you or I might invent a need before the ability to meet it, God sees the end before the beginning. He creates good gifts and only then does he create a need for them; he does not create a need for which there is no fulfillment. My topic today is sex and I want to offer a brief theology of sex and of sexual desire. I want to help you see why God created sex, why he created sexual desire, and why he has given sexual desire in unequal measure.

Sex
God gives us sex because it has unique power in drawing a husband to his wife and a wife to her husband. He knows this because he is the one who invented it! He made it so that it is far more than the sum of its parts. We could describe sex in terms of… (more…)

[The second in the series of articles by Tim Challies.]

This is the second entry in a series dealing with sex and, in particular, challenging young men with the notion that their consumption of pornography has so shaped their perception of sex that they need to detox if they are going to be suitable husbands to their wives. In the first part of the series I wrote about Pornifying the Marriage Bed. I had intended to move to a Theology of Sex but based on feedback from yesterday’s article, I wanted to first share what I’ve written today. This is, I suppose, a kind of parenthetical article in the midst of the series.

Breaking Free

When I meet a young man today, I pretty much assume that he is into pornography or at least that at one time he has been. It is sad but true. The sheer accessibility of pornography almost guarantees that every young man will find it; and once it has been tasted, it is difficult not to indulge. I know that the issue of pornography is spoken about so often in Christian circles that it is in danger of becoming cliche. But it is… (more…)

[Tim Challies knocks one out of the park.]

This week I am going to devote most of the articles on this site to the topic of sex. I want to speak especially to young men, those who are teenagers or dating or engaged or newly married. However, I do hope that anyone can read and enjoy the series, even if the teen years are far behind you. I want to talk to young men as an older man. I would like to think that I’m in a sweet spot between young and old—where I am young enough to remember the troubles and travails of youth but old enough to bring a measure of maturity. I want to be forthright with you and yet I also want to be discreet; I often think we, as Christians, talk entirely too much about sex and in too much detail. You may accuse me of the former simply because I’ve written this series but I hope to remain innocent of the second.

marriagebed.jpg

I often thank God that I grew up in the years before the internet was in every home; I’m not sure that I would have handled it very well. It’s not like I’m ancient, either, but… (more…)

[The next few posts come from a tract called Ten Disciplines of a Godly Man.  The question among us shouldn’t be whether we want to be Godly Men, but rather how can we be more Godly as men.]

Sensuality is the biggest obstacle to godliness among Christian men. The fall of King David should not only instruct us but scare the sensuality right out of us! Fill yourself with God’s Word—memorize passages like 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, Job 31:1, Proverbs 6:27, Ephesians 5:3-7, and 2 Timothy 2:22. Find someone who will help you keep your soul faithful to God.

A pure mind is impossible if you mindlessly watch TV and movies or visit pornographic web sites (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7). Develop the divine awareness that sustained Joseph: “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).

[Interested in adding this book to your library?  Head over to Christianbook.com where you can pick it up for less than $9 (plus shipping).]

I just finished listening to a podcast of one of Mark Driscoll’s sermons from the 8 Witnesses series. This one is pretty jarring.  I recommend that you take the time to watch or listen to it. Check out the website to watch or listen.