Temperatures climb. Daylight extends. Kids finish school. Families take vacations. And you might even roll up the sleeves as you mow the lawn to work on that tan. Ahh, summertime.
Before living in Pennsylvania, I pastored at a church in Tucson, Arizona. We would often joke that Tucson had only two seasons: hot and hotter. Our first Christmas there we took a picture holding an outdoor thermometer. It said 72. In Tucson we could work on our tans all year long. Yet even in the American Southwest, the change of seasons brought rest. With summer came the change of pace in ministry and the chance to recharge, read an extra book or two, and maybe even cut out early on an occasional Friday.
But some things shouldn’t change with the seasons. Our vigilance to pursue purity and joy in the gospel should never take a vacation. The famous Puritan pastor John Owen wrote, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you. . . . There is no safety against it but in constant warfare” (The Mortification of Sin, Crossway edition, pp. 50, 52).
In other words, as pastors and ministry leaders — for all the relaxing changes during summertime — we must remember to encourage each other and the people we shepherd to not take a break from fighting against lust.
Struggle Against, Not With
This gets to the heart of the issue. Too many men and women in our churches have a struggle with lust and pornography. And that’s the problem. We shouldn’t have a struggle with lust but a struggle against it. There’s a huge difference.
To “struggle with porn” is often a euphemism for being passive, almost victim-like in the struggle. But to struggle against sexual sin is to be proactive. It means sounding the bugle and marshaling the troops. It means combating your sin. And more importantly, to struggle against lust means you know there is something — indeed many things — worth fighting for.
A few years ago if someone had asked me, “What does it look like to struggle against pornography?” I’m not sure I would have had an answer. I’ve wanted a resource that would help Christians, in the words of the apostle Paul, “put to death . . . sexual immorality” and to “walk by the Spirit, and . . . not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Col 3:5; Gal 5:16). Handing someone John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin, while perhaps the most readable of his works, is still not very readable to the average guy in my church.
So I started writing a book to help men struggle against sexual sin. Well, at first the goal wasn’t to author a book at all. The idea was just to create a booklet, something I could hand out during counseling and discipleship meetings. Yet the booklet kept growing and growing. During the writing process more than a few times the guys at our church office teased me about it. “Benjamin,” they’d ask, “how’s your pornography book going?” “It’s not a pornography book,” I’d respond. “It’s a book to help men struggle against it.”
The main reason I wrote the book, though, was not because I was frustrated with the men in my church. I was frustrated with myself as a pastor. I knew many struggled with pornography, yet in discipleship and counseling meetings I didn’t think I had much to offer. That’s what set me on the journey.
4 Things to Consider
Clarity came to me when I noticed men floundering in sexual sin often missed something in one or more of four different areas.
1. THERE ARE BELIEFS.
Do we actually believe sexual sin is sin? Some don’t. That’s a problem. And do we have a proper understanding of the gospel, how we’re saved through grace by faith, not our personal purity? It’s difficult to fight well when you don’t believe well.
2. THERE IS CROSS-TRAINING.
Sometimes it’s not the direct assault of lust that trips a man up. Sometimes deficiencies in character predispose him to struggle with porn. For example, pornography is inherently flattering. Cross-training your character to cultivate humility helps win the war.
3. THERE IS THE NITTY-GRITTY OF THE STRUGGLE.
The nitty-gritty includes the typical conversations about accountability (is anyone helping the person fight the war?) and access (how is the person generally getting porn and are proper guardrails in place?).
4. THERE IS CHRISTIAN HOPE.
It’s very possible — in fact, I’ve seen it happen several times — where a man is so consumed with fighting sexual sin and all the ups and downs that go with it, that he loses sight of the bright future we have in Christ. Maintaining hope in God is vital to persevering.
There are several good books to help men struggle against sexual sin. But if you’re looking for a new go-to resource for men in your church, I’d love you to consider my book, Struggle Against Porn: 29 Diagnostic Tests for Your Head and Heart. It’s difficult to know why some books connect with people in ways others do not. Perhaps this book could be the very resource you or someone in your church needs this summer.