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  #1  
Unread 18th January 2011, 01:35 PM
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How should young men deal with masturbation?

I'm 18, and have been masturbating since puberty at about 12.

I grew up in a Charismatic home, but joined a reformed Church after hearing the true gospel at the age of 17.

I believe that I am a Christian, and that I have been growing in hatred of sin and in love of God. And that he who started a good work in me will complete it.


Throughout my teenage life, masturbation has been a stumbling block for me.
I believe it to be a sin, especially when lustful fantasizing is involved.
And I feel that it is a lack of self-control and a form of incontinence (2 Timothy 3:3).

The only reference I can find in old testament law with regard to the act of masturbation is on ceremonial uncleanliness from seminal emissions. (I forgot the verse)

My habitual masturbation frustrates and discourages me. I keep falling into lust and sin though I try to repent and turn away from it. And there are many times when I neglect prayer or the study of the word, because I feel ashamed of my sin and am at lost on what to do.

I don't know how to control the lusts and passions of my youth, and every day, for most of the day I face temptations at school or at the computer.

I want to keep my body and mind pure, but every few days I fail miserably.

I don't know many older Christian men who I can go to for advice on male sexuality. (And I definitely would not ask other teenagers.)

I need advice on how to exercise self-control over my body and sexuality as a young man.
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  #2  
Unread 18th January 2011, 08:30 PM
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I'm responding primarily because no one else has, and it seems to me that your question deserves an answer. My problem in responding is that I don't see masturbation as a big deal, as long as there are no complicating factors. However I don't want to suggest that you should violate your conscience by doing something that you see as wrong.

religioustolerance quotes Dobson (a well-known conservative Christian) as saying the following. [I warn you that that site is highly liberal, but as far as I know, they don't quote out of context, and there are plenty of other sources with similar quotes]

"It is my opinion that masturbation is not much of an issue with God. It is a normal part of adolescence which involves no one else. It does not cause disease. It does not produce babies, and Jesus did not mention it in the Bible. I'm not telling you to masturbate, and I hope you won't feel the need for it. But if you do, it is my opinion that you should not struggle with guilt over it. Why do I tell you this? Because I deal with so many Christian young people who are torn apart with guilt over masturbation; they want to stop and just can't. I would like to help you avoid that agony."

By complicating factors I mean that it replaces real relationships, or that attitudes towards women that go with it are a problem. Of course I don't know your spiritual situation. You might well have a real problem, but you might also be the kind of person that Dobson was talking about.

The general approach in Jesus' teaching is to get people pointed in the right direction, and expect that from good trees come good fruit, as Jesus put it. My emphasis would be on developing good positive relationships, not on trying to stop behavior that (if there aren't complicating factors) isn't in itself that significant. It can be like the old challenge of not thinking of a pink unicorn for a minute. The more you concentrate on not thinking about something, the harder it is. What's worse, you can end up focusing your prayers on your own thoughts rather than on Christ and serving others. What you want to do is find things that are worth your attention. And that's probably good advice even if you don't agree with my assessment of masturbation.

On the Scriptural question. While there are a few passages (one of which you have identified) that are sometimes quoted, I doubt any is truly relevant. The OT legislation you point out is part of a set focused on maintaining ritual purity. Ritual impurity isn't necessarily sinful, although sometimes it is. E.g. it can come from contact with a dead body even though there are times when it is your duty to bury the dead. Christians don't typically consider this legislation applicable to non-Jews. However if it is done in the course of sexual fantasies, then you need to consider whether Mat 5:27 might apply. But this is more a question of looking at your relationship with women (assuming that's the appropriate sex), and your attitude towards them than trying not to think of specific things.

Note that Jesus wasn't typically a big advocate of "purity" ethics, and in fact this seems to have been associated more with the Pharisees (ancient and modern). That's not to deny that there are people for whom porn and other types of sexual fantasy are a problem. I've read plausible accounts of porn ruining people's relationships with women. I haven't read similar accounts of masturbation, but I could imagine such a situation. But in many cases it's not. I deal with Mat 5:27 in junior high Sunday School (which I teach). My opinion is that Jesus was not speaking of what I'd call stray thoughts, thinking the opposite sex is pretty cool, or even wondering what it would be like. Rather I think he was concerned about an attitude towards women that sees them as sex objects. That's the sense I get of "lust." (The Greek dictionary I'm looking at says it's a strong desire to have something that isn't yours, i.e. not admiring girls but wanting to turn them into an object of your gratification.)
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Unread 18th January 2011, 09:54 PM
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In all honesty, I don't feel qualified to address the subject of masturbation as sin. I think that Jesus was pretty clear about lust being a sin and it being a commandment violation. However, I would point out that sexual attraction is not the same as lust. Sexual attraction is part of our nature, we are supposed to be attracted by our mate - that's how God made us. Lust is the perversion of that attraction that covets what is not ours and desires to use people for our own purposes without the protection of the loving covenant of marriage which God has given to us. But only you really know your situation, I don't want to tell you that you are not sinning. I am just throwing out some cautionary thoughts there.

Like I said, I don't feel qualified to really deal with masturbation as sin, but I did want to address a specific part of your post. I think that some encouragement is in order. The way you describe your struggle is something that only a Christian who is seeking to honor God can understand. The unbeliever cannot share in the same struggle, because they reject God's rule over their lives. They don't battle against their flesh with a renewed mind - your struggle is a sign of the Holy Spirit at work in your heart.

You are in good company - I'm sure you will find the words of the Apostle Paul very familiar:

"For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know what nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin." (Rom. 7:14-25)

The apostle Paul struggled with indwelling sin that discouraged him - but what was the answer to his despair? He says "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Why does he say this? The very next verse tells us why:

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." (Rom. 8:1-2)

Despite your sin, and your struggle (which is a sign of true conversion), there is no condemnation awaiting you because you are in Christ who has taken that sin upon himself. It is crucial to continue to get encouragement in this gospel promise because if you don't take that to heart, then you will neglect God's means of grace. You will neglect prayer and Bible study, but most importantly you will feel unworthy of assembling with God's people for worship. This is the most pernicious threat of all because it is in that covenant assembly where you will be equipped and strengthened to serve God. It is there that you will be fed on the word preached and the word made visible (the Lord's Supper). You must continue to avail yourself of those good gifts which God has given to us weak and needy sinners.

Another thing - don't mistake your weakness for unrepentance. You sound like you are a repentant sinner, which is the only requirement for being part of the body of Christ and for partaking of his Supper. If you were unrepentant, then you would be trying to justify your sin, but as it is you are merely having difficulty consistently carrying out your repentance. But you know what? We are all in the same boat! None of us carry through with our repentance the way we should, that's because we're sinners! Also, the NT term for repentance is metanoia and it first means a change of mind, not a change of behavior. This means that you agree with God that a certain thing is sinful (if it is something that He declares to be sinful), the action is secondary and is a response. You can really understand Paul's statements in Rom. 7 when you take that into account, he agrees with the law that he is sinful but he seems to keep on doing the very thing he hates.

Finally, do not become overly introspective. It is good that you are examining your life, and you should continue to do that, but don't make that your primary focus. Remember that your only assurance is found in Christ, it is found in his objective work on your behalf. Navel-gazing will only lead us into despair because we will never measure up to God's law. None of us can look to God's law and find assurance in our own performance. Look to Christ, the author and finisher of your faith.
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  #4  
Unread 19th January 2011, 01:19 AM
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Thanks for the advice and encouragement Kenrapoza and Hedrick.

I've too often heard liberals use Romans 7 & 8 to justify lawless behavior, and I forget about the Grace of justification through Christ while worrying constantly about the work and fruits of regeneration and sanctification.

I'll try to expound on what I understand about the indwelling of sin and on the Christian's assurance of faith.

Romans 8 also says that while we are free from condemnation in the law through Christ the righteousness of the law will be fulfilled through us.(v4)

And that we are to mortify the deeds of the sinful flesh and not live after the lusts of the flesh. We cannot continue to live in sin and carnality. The carnal mind cannot please God, but if Christ is in us, we have righteousness by his spirit that dwells in us.

"And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."
Rmns 8:10-12

While the Christian is justified through Christ, we are also warned in verse 13: "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live."

If we do not live by the Spirit and put to death our sinful desires, we have no assurance that Christ dwells in us.

I paraphrased from the Heidelberg Catechism:

While we struggle in sin, we believe, that our only comfort in life is that:
We are not our own, but belong to Christ Jesus.
Who has fully satisfied God's wrath for our sins, and has delivered us from the power of sin.
That God preserves us and governs all things through his providence.
And that all things work for the salvation of his saints.
Who are assured of salvation by God's holy spirit.
(Heidelberg Catechism qn 1)

And from Christ's work of salvation for us, we are changed such that:
Our old man is crucified, dead and buried with him,
so that the corrupt inclinations of the flesh no longer reign in us.
But we may offer ourselves unto him as a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
(Heidelberg Catechism qn 43)

The Westminster Standards write the following about the indwelling of sin in the believer and of assurance of salvation:

WLC Question 78: Whence arises the imperfection of sanctification in believers?

Answer: The imperfection of sanctification in believers arises from the remnants of sin abiding in every part of them, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit; whereby they are often foiled with temptations, and fall into many sins, are hindered in all their spiritual services, and their best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.
(Westminster Larger Catechism)

WLC Question 79: May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from the state of grace ?

Answer: True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God, and his decree and covenant to give them perseverance, their inseparable union with Christ, his continual intercession for them, and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

WLC Question 80: Can true believers be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and that they shall persevere therein unto salvation?

Answer: Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavor to walk in all good conscience before him, may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God's promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made, and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God, be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation.

WLC Question 81: Are all true believers at all times assured of their present being in the estate of grace, and that they shall be saved?

Answer: Assurance of grace and salvation not being of the essence of faith, true believers may wait long before they obtain it; and, after the enjoyment thereof, may have it weakened and intermitted, through manifold distempers, sins, temptations, and desertions; yet are they never left without such a presence and support of the Spirit of God as keeps them from sinking into utter despair.

From this I understand that:
The Christian may suffer from many perpetual lusts of the flesh, and be hindered in his walk by many sins and temptations.
But no true Christian will fall away totally and utterly because the Christian is always upheld by the grace, power and help of God.
And we are to work out our faith in fear and trembling, and persevere in the way of righteousness.
Until our faith is firmly established upon God's true promises, and the spirit allows us to discern the ways of God, and allow us to be infallibly assured that we truly belong to God.
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  #5  
Unread 19th January 2011, 08:12 AM
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I am moderately liberal, but I think Christian behavior matters. Jesus was quite clear about the need for obedience. My concern however is for people to maintain a proper perspective on their lives. Masturbation, if it is a problem (and I repeat that, as you have noted, there is no Biblical discussion if it), is not a very serious one unless it's associated with bad approaches to women. My concern is that giving excessive attention to a relatively minor fault can (1) lead you to doubt your salvation, and (2) lead you to ignore things that are more important to God. I.e. you need to ask what you can do to be the most useful servant of Christ. It may well be that this going after this defect will be low on the list, and that you should be spending most of your attention on helping others, spreading the Gospel, etc. My suspicion is that this is a problem that is going to be hard to attack directly, and that finding other things more worthy of your attention may in fact be the most effective way to reduce your interest in masturbation.
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Unread 19th January 2011, 11:42 AM
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Continue to resist these urges by drawing upon prayer and the word of God so that you may sanctify yourself and keep yourself sexually pure.

Apart from a marriage relationship between a man and a woman, God never ever approves of the culmination of sexual oneness—nor does He condone attempts of sexual arousal. We are not animal brutes who are driven by instincts alone. We are moral agents who choose according to our greatest desires at the moment we so choose.

"It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality." (1 Thessalonians 4:3)

Mat. 28:27-30
27 "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

I realize that we all like feeling the sensation of orgasm. The problem arises when we give in to these desires much like animals following their instincts, hormones, etc., never giving any rational thought or self-restraint to these urges. We are not animals, but persons created in the image of God, with minds to think. When we start to pursue our own instant gratification, we begin to condition our minds that spills over into other aspects of our lives. We end up pursuing our own interests, our own good versus being conformed to the will of God and bringing our physical passions under control.

We need to be warned against playing around with sexual fire. Because if you start off with abusing a gift, when it comes to retraining the mind to use it properly, the task is almost hopelessly difficult. For example, how can a mother or father who cannot reserve her or his gift for one's spouse (but must squander it on one's self) face up to teaching their own child self-government?

I am against autosexual behavior on the grounds that it defeats the mutual purposes for which sex was created.

When you have these urges, focus yourself in prayer, fasting, and Scripture.

Meditate on the following:

Colossians 3:1-17:
[1] If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
[2] Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
[3] For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
[4] When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
[5] Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
[6] For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
[7] In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
[8] But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
[9] Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
[10] And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
[11] Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
[12] Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
[13] Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
[14] And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
[15] And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
[16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
[17] And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

AMR
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Unread 19th January 2011, 11:46 AM
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I write to you as an old man, a Christian for about 50 years (now 68), who struggled most of my life since adolescence with masturbation. (Cf. my profile)
Masturbation, although it seems to be something that plagues most males, even evangelical Christian men, did much to ruin my life. It did so because it led inexorably to other sins, such as pornography (which was "mild" when I was a teenager). Then Playboy came along, and Penthouse, which became XXX. But the worst of all, of course, was internet porn, and, even as an older Christian, married, with a family, I became addicted to it, with devastating results for my walk with God and Christian testimony.
I struggled mightily. I read John Owen's Mortification of Sin. I agonized in prayer. Nothing helped. I would have short periods (2-3 weeks) of success, and then back would come the lust with a vengeance.
But here's the thing: I failed because I tried to fix the problem by myself, on my own.
James 5:16 says "Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another that you may be healed."
I disagree with those who say "masturbation is no big deal" if it leads, as it so frequently does, to pornography, unbridled lusts, acting out sexual fantasies, and adultery. And make no mistake: these are sins. You know what our Lord says about adultery in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:27ff). This is a high standard, because he condemns immoral thoughts. If there are men who can masturbate without having immoral thoughts, my hat's off to them; I know I cannot. Also consider what Paul says, for example, in I Cor 7:18: "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body." NIV
There are, thanks be to God, organizations now which offer a lot of help to men with sexual addictions. One is called SA. The one I'm more familiar with, because I have been involved in it, is the Samson Society, which is specifically Christian and was started by a man named Nate Larkin and others from a reformed church in Nashville. They have a web site and hold meetings, frequently at evangelical churches. Nate wrote a book called Samson and the Pirate Monks which I strongly urge you to obtain and read.
If you cannot find a local chapter of the Samson Society, then you should try to find a brother to whom you can confess your sin (especially if it is leading you to porn) and who can hold you accountability. (Sometimes called "accountability partner.")
The sad fact of the matter is that addiction to pornography today is rampant, not just in the world, but in the church, even the evangelical reformed churches. It is a huge problem and is having devastating effects on marriages and households, and keeping men who love the Lord from serving Him as they would want, and as He has called us to do.
I'm sorry that my outlook on this is not as blase as that of some others, but I speak from very said experience. If I have any mission left in life, it is to WARN men of the dangers of sexual addiction, and to ENCOURAGE them to seek help and not try to go it alone as I did.
You are in my prayers.
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Unread 24th February 2011, 09:02 PM
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Flee from it while you are young before it takes control of your life. Learn to hate it. Besides that, make sure you are in a good church with elders there to hold you accountable.
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Unread 21st March 2012, 10:03 AM
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Be realistic.... if you had never masturbated, then it is best NOT TO START.

But since it is already a habit, the most important thing you can do is NOT BLOW IT OUT OF PROPORTION.... because God does not do that.

The advice to focus your attention on OTHER THINGS is very sound... because that is the only way to stop thinking about something

for additional help about coping with guilt, lust and a whole range of other issues in life.... search for "Stephen's Bible Insights" using Google or any other favorite search engine.

I also had this problem... and so does the vast majority of men and boys... eventually I got married and the need for it disappeared.... but it did not stop God's wonderful working in my life.

Do not be discouraged.... satan wants to use this problem to pull you away from God and the Christian life.... stick with God, and eventually the masturbation will not be a problem for you anymore.

Believe this.... and it will become reality.... and when it does.... you will be amazed at how God has worked in your life.
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Unread 21st March 2012, 08:10 PM
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Like any sin, the behavior isn't the focus. The behavior is the fruit of something else within the heart. And, guess what? We don't have to be surprised when we come across something that is influencing us from the heart. God isn't. The chains in your heart is what God will spend your lifetime breaking apart.

Any habitual sin is the result of idolatry, and most of that idolatry is operating sort of "in secret". Our lying hearts will be sneaky about hiding the idols, but they are there. Rather than go on internal witch hunts or focusing on behavior (which is a battle we will lose), I agree with the others here that you can just focus on Christ and the reality of the grace you've been given. If we try to motivate our behavior towards righteousness by setting up rules, filling our minds with "thou shalts", or beating ourselves up, we will fall into the trap where the rebellion in our hearts will kick into high gear: we'll become legalistic and attempt to use it to overcome what the gospel itself must overcome in us.

Confess always without panic. Bring Jesus into it. Claim His righteousness. Brag about His success. Consider what the gospel means to you so often that your heart is spilling gratitude. Claim His righteousness as a Banner that declares you a success. I call this process "getting a gospel washin'".

There isn't a man of God who doesn't struggle all his life with the sometimes sneaky, sometimes obvious idols of the heart. If any of us were to present ourselves as an example of utter Christian victory, we'd be hypocrites. Jesus is our victory. He is yours. The more you run towards that victory, the less your "internal legalistic machine" will re-engage. Legalism is the struggle between self-righteousness and sin that moves you to keep score on what you do. That takes your eyes off of Jesus and off of the heart. That's not the gospel.

In your prayers about this, don't just ask for the power to stop. Ask that God show you what it is in your heart that you are putting over the Pearl of Great Price. Ask God to show you what you are afraid you don't have in Christ that your heart thinks the lust will give you. If the answer isn't obvious, don't dwell on it. Run to Jesus.

Grace to you!
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"Pride is the lie that sustains the illusion that we aren't dependent on God for absolutely everything."
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