June 7, 2015
Pastor Joe Wittwer
The Sex Talks
# 3: Fantasy Sex
Welcome to week three of the Sex Talks. In this five-week series, we’re considering what the Bible has to say about sex. Here’s what we’re covering:
God/sex. A theology of sex.
Safe sex. Sexual boundaries.
Fantasy sex. Lust, porn and masturbation.
Confused sex. Gender and sexual orientation.
Redeemed sex. Putting it all together.
Before we tackle today’s subject, Fantasy Sex, let’s review some important theological foundations.
The Bible says that we were created for good. God created us in His image, male and female. He made us sexual creatures and said it is very good. He made us for relationship with Himself, and with each other. We were made for love and it is very good.
But we’ve been damaged by evil. The first humans declared their independence from God and turned to evil, which damaged them and everything around them. We’re all broken people—physically, emotionally, spiritually and sexually. God intended sex for good, but in our brokenness, we’ve twisted it and made it an idol.
God loves us too much to let the story end there. He sent Jesus so we could be redeemed and restored to better. Through Jesus, God is healing our brokenness, starting with our broken relationship with Him, and then our relationships with each other, including our sexuality.
Jesus came to bring life to full. God wants the very best for you in every area of your life, including your sexuality. When you become a follower of Jesus, you let Him lead. That’s what we mean when we say, “Jesus is Lord.” He is my Leader, my Lord—in all of life. Not just my religious life—all of life. Not just what happens in church, but in my bedroom too. Jesus is Lord of my sex life. If you are a follower of Jesus, He is Lord of your sex life too. Jesus said:
Matthew 7:21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
If you call Him Lord, then do what He says. So what does He say about sexual fantasies? Let’s start with a passage that was in our Bible Reading Plan last Sunday:
Romans 12:1–2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Offer your bodies to God as a living sacrifice. What we do with our bodies matters! Your body belongs to God! What you do with it is an act of worship!
Then notice: “do not conform to the pattern of this world.” J.B. Philips translates it, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould.” When it comes to sex, are you being conformed to this world? Is the world squeezing you into its mould? Are your values and thoughts and behaviors shaped by God, or by the culture?
Rather than conforming, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Change happens as our minds are made new; how does that happen? A regular diet of God’s word will transform your mind! You’ll think differently, have different values, and then live differently. So here’s my challenge to all of you: Don’t conform to the world sexually, but let God transform you from the inside out! Let Him change your mind.
The Big Idea: Your most powerful sexual organ is your brain! Fantasy sex harms you, your relationships, and others. God wants better for you!
What do I mean by fantasy sex? I mean imagining sexual encounters outside of marriage. We’re going to talk about lust, and about the use of pornography as a stimulus to sexual fantasy and masturbation. I’m going to lean on the men—time to step up, men, and deal with this—but ladies, you’re not off the hook either! All of us need to have clean thoughts and a pure heart.
1. The dangers of fantasy sex.
2 Samuel 13:1-15 tells the story of King David’s son, Amnon, who got the hots for his half-sister, Tamar.
2 Samuel 13:2 Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.
Amnon eventually faked an illness, asked Tamar to come to his room to care for him, and he propositioned her there. When she refused, he raped her.
2 Samuel 13:15 Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”
What happened? Amnon’s attraction to Tamar became an obsession—he thought about her all the time; he fantasized having sex with her. He reduced her to a sexual object—she was no longer a person, his sister, and his father’s daughter. She was just the object of his sexual fantasy. Finally, he acted out his fantasy. When she refused, he forced himself on her. And of course, the reality was nothing like the fantasy—it never is, by the way. A fantasy is…a fantasy. It’s not real. Disappointed and angry, he hated her and sent her away in disgrace.
Amnon’s story is revealing; in it you can see some of the most common dangers of sexual fantasy.
Reducing a person to nothing more than a sexual object—this is the opposite of loving our neighbor.
Obsession with our fantasy can lead to acting out in inappropriate ways—this is idolatry.
Reality can’t compete with our fantasies and we’ll always be disappointed.
But Amnon’s story is also different from ours in this way: Amnon didn’t have porn. Amnon didn’t have the internet, or a smartphone, or erotic novels or movies.
Today, most sexual fantasies are fueled by pornography. In the past, you had to go out to get porn: You left your home to buy a magazine or go to an X-rated theater. All that changed in 1991 when the internet began piping porn into our homes, then again in 2006 when high speed internet made it possible to pipe videos into our homes and, with smart phones, into our pockets. It was a huge game changer. Suddenly porn became almost universally accessible, anonymous and addictive.
Internet porn is different and more dangerous than the old Playboy variety. Gary Wilson’s book, Your Brain on Porn, describes the science behind internet porn and explains why it is so highly addictive. He also details some of the overlooked consequences of internet porn addiction, such as ED (erectile dysfunction) in young men. His material is controversial—some scientists question his methods and conclusions—but it makes lots of sense and is gaining traction.
The pictures and scenes in today’s porn defy the imagination. It’s far more than just naked bodies in seductive poses; it’s:
women bound and gagged, raped, whipped and abused;
multiple sexual partners in heterosexual and homosexual poses;
gang rape and torture;
and adults engaging in sexual relationships with small children.
It is awful. What is even more awful is that pornography is defended as harmless, when in fact it is devastating to everyone involved.
Pornography is addicting. People get caught in a cycle of ever-increasing desire for more and more. What gave a thrill yesterday isn’t enough today, so we seek something more erotic and more bizarre. This is related to the reward centers in your brain, and the chemicals your brain produces, such as dopamine. Just like a drug addict needs more and more to get high, porn addicts need more and more graphic images to get their high.
Pornography assaults the dignity of women. It usually depicts them as having an insatiable appetite for sex. The impression is given that if she resists you, she really wants you to overpower her and take her forcibly. Then she will enthusiastically participate and thank you afterwards. This is a lie with disastrous consequences. My friend Gene McConnell speaks on this subject around the world. He says that porn perpetuates the following lies:
Women are less than human: they are “bunnies” or “playmates”.
Women are a sport: men are encouraged to “score”.
Women are property: they are displayed like merchandise.
A woman’s value depends on the attractiveness of her body.
Women like rape.
Porn objectifies women. Gary Anderson, former NFL place kicker, said “You don’t need a scientist to tell you that if you continually look at women being treated like objects that it’s going to negatively affect your attitudes and behavior. You are what you dwell on. It’s as simple as that.”
Pornography undermines the physical relationship in marriage. I have talked with women who wept as they told me that they had little or no physical relationship with their husbands who were addicted to pornography. They couldn’t compete with the models in the magazines, or the fantasies that their husbands manufactured. When you look at porn and masturbate, you are twisting the purpose of sex. God made it for marriage, to be shared in a love relationship. Fantasy sex reduces it to nothing more than a selfish escape. Sex is we: one man, one woman, one flesh. Porn and masturbation is just me: no relationship. Porn addiction can actually make it difficult or impossible to have a real relationship with a real person. You are no longer aroused by your spouse; you are only aroused by porn. For the sake of your marriage, stay away from porn and masturbation.
And perhaps worst of all, pornography has a devastating impact on children. Children fall victim to adults whose use of pornography has awakened in them a twisted interest in the sexual exploitation of children. And children, like women, are the victims of those who film or photograph them for pornographic purposes.
Porn is bad for everyone.
I’ve spent most of my time on internet porn because that’s the big deal—but it’s not the only deal. The book, Fifty Shades of Gray, sold over 100 million copies and became a movie. It is classified as “erotica”—it’s been called “mommy porn” because so many women have read it. So-called “soft-porn” is still porn, and it’s still bad for everyone.
Bottom line: we were made to love God and love people. Fantasy sex will keep you from doing either well.
2. God wants better for you!
Jesus came so that you could have life to the full. He created you as a sexual creature and wants the best for you. Keep that in mind as we read what the Bible says about fantasy sex.
Matthew 5:27–28 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall 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.
Jesus forbids lustful looks. Lustful looks are looking for purpose of sexual fantasizing. It is mentally undressing someone, imagining what they would be like in bed. It is looking in order to desire and acquire. If you do that, God sees and considers it adultery in the heart. Jesus clearly forbids sexual fantasizing—and this includes all use of porn designed to arouse these fantasies.
ILL: Many years ago, I was reading a suspense novel on my day off. It was a good book, a real page-turner, but it had one scene that was sexually explicit, very graphic. It lasted about 3 pages, and I was right in the middle of it, when the phone rang; it was my pastor, calling long distance! I felt my face turn red when he said his name; I thought maybe he knew what I was reading! Needless to say, I didn’t tell him! But I went back to the book, skipped ahead a few pages, and decided that if I ever came upon a scene like that in the future, I would skip ahead, just like I would fast-forward through a scene in a video. To this day, I don’t think it was an accident that he called then; I think God planned it to teach me a valuable lesson. I don’t need that garbage in my mind. Please don’t fill your heart and mind with pornographic images designed to stimulate the very thoughts that Jesus forbids here.
Jesus forbids lustful looking and sexual fantasies. He wants better for you.
Ephesians 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
As Jesus’ followers, we are not to be conformed to the world, but transformed. We are different. Here, Paul says that there should not even be a hint of sexual immorality among us. We have a high standard of sexual integrity—not even a hint of sexual immorality. Pure thoughts, pure life. God wants better for you.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Think about what is true, pure, noble, and right. That pretty much eliminates porn and sexual fantasies. Why is this so important? You are what you think. You’ve heard the saying, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Fill your heart and mind with garbage and it will come out in your actions.
Sow a thought, reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a life.
Your life starts with your thoughts—so “whatever is true, pure, noble and right…think about such things.”
God wants better for you! So what should you do if you’re struggling with fantasy sex.
3. Steps to freedom and health.
I’m going to give you three practical steps to take.
Build a strong relationship with God. First and foremost, build your relationship with God. There is nothing like an authentic daily relationship with God to keep your heart pure! If you could only do one thing, do this: spend time every day with Jesus, and you will be a different person.
Here’s my story. I began looking at porn and masturbating when I was in the sixth grade. I became a Christian when I was 13, and it wasn’t long before I began to feel guilty when I looked at porn and masturbated. I got rid of all the porn (some magazines I had found) but continued to fantasize and masturbate. I talked about it with a buddy who loved the Lord, and we decided to see what the Bible had to say. The Bible says nothing about masturbation; the word is not in the Bible.
If the Bible doesn’t say masturbation is wrong, why did I feel so guilty? Because the Bible clearly calls for purity of heart and thought, and you can’t masturbate without fantasizing—at least, I couldn’t. I recognized that my sin wasn’t one of the flesh, but of the heart, and that the battleground was my mind. That was where the war had to be won.
I conquered my habit by replacing it with a new one. I decided that whenever sexual thoughts came, rather than entertaining them and allowing them to grow into full-blown fantasies of sexual experiences, I would replace them with pure thoughts. So every time a temptation came, I would get out of bed, turn on my lamp, get on my knees by my bed, open my Bible and begin to read and pray. Some nights, I got out of bed several times and spent a lot of time on my knees. But gradually I overcame my habit, and replaced it with a new and beneficial one! I strengthened my relationship with God.
I have continued to do daily PBJ: prayer, reading the Bible, journaling. Jesus has changed me as I’ve spent time with Him each day. More than anything else I’ve done, spending time with Jesus has changed me.
I didn’t just get rid of porn; I got full of Jesus. Jesus used this example:
Matthew 12:43–45 When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.
It’s not enough to get rid of porn. You need to fill the house with God’s presence. If you just get rid of sin and don’t fill up with God, the sin will come back and be worse than ever. Get close to God! Spend time with Jesus! Be filled with the Spirit! The closer you grow to God, the cleaner your heart will become. Get close to the Lord and let Him make you pure.
Ruthlessly eliminate porn and lust.
Matthew 5:29–30 If your right eye causes you to stumble, 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 stumble, 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.
What does Jesus mean? When Jesus talks about gouging out your eye or cutting off your hand if it causes you to sin, He is speaking figuratively. If He meant it literally, most of us would be hamburger in a week!
ILL: Origen, the great church leader of the third century, famously mistook Christ’s meaning here and castrated himself. How many of you men are happy that is not what Jesus meant?
What did He mean? Jesus is saying that you should ruthlessly remove whatever causes you to sin. Deal decisively with anything that trips you up. Cut it off! Paul wrote to Timothy and said, “Flee youthful lusts.” Many times that is exactly what you have to do: flee! Run! Get up and go as fast as you can. Sexual temptation is exceedingly powerful; don’t toy with it! Run!
ILL: If you discovered you had a cancer, what would you do? Cut it out, as quick as possible, before it spreads. You’d be ruthless.
That’s what Jesus is talking about here: when you identify something that causes you to sin, ruthlessly and immediately cut it out of your life.
So first, get rid of porn. All of it. Toss the pictures, magazines and books. Delete the websites and emails. If you need to, put filtering software and accountability software (XXXchurch.com) on your computer and other devices. Or, if you must, get rid of your devices. I know some guys who tossed their smart phones and tablets and computers. You can live without them! Be ruthless. I know others who turned off the internet. Do what you need to do. Block the bad channels on your TV, or if you must, get rid of your cable subscription. Cut it off! Get rid of all porn. Be ruthless.
Establish some wise boundaries. For example, one young man told me that he:
Doesn’t go online when he’s home alone.
Goes to bed at the same time as his wife.
Doesn’t use Instagram’s browse feature.
At our home, TV’s and computers are all in public areas where anyone can see what you’re looking at. Be smart and set some wise boundaries.
Second, get rid of lust. With God’s help, you can win the battle of the mind. Here’s what I do. I expose my thoughts to God. I learned this as a young man.
ILL: I was driving to a Bible study to teach on the love of God. But I was angry with a friend, and as I drove, I fantasized about beating the snot out of him. Suddenly I was aware that Jesus was in the car with me, and I clamped a lid on those thoughts. It was like my mind was a boiling pot of anger, and I put the lid on so Jesus wouldn’t see. I felt like Jesus said, “Take the lid off.” So while I was driving, I physically reached my hand up and “took the lid off” my mind and said, “Look at what I’m thinking Lord.” Immediately, my thoughts changed. The light of His presence drove out the darkness.
I began to apply this practice to other wrong thoughts—not just anger but lust. And I discovered that when I exposed my thoughts to God—when I took the lid off—they went away.
I’ve been doing that ever since. “Take a look at this one, Lord.” Expose your thoughts to God. When you are struggling with sexual fantasies, rather than trying to hide them from God, expose them to Him. The best way to drive out the darkness is just turn on the light. When I invite God to share my thoughts, the light of His presence drives out the darkness. Sin thrives in secrecy. Expose it to God.
Another fantasy extinguisher is to imagine what would happen if you lived out your fantasy: I would dishonor God, hurt my wife and family, lose my ministry and discredit our church. That brings me back to reality in a hurry.
Build a strong relationship with God.
Ruthlessly eliminate porn and lust.
Be accountable—you need help!
Tell someone else. Sin thrives in secrecy. When you remove the secrecy and bring that out into the light with someone else, you’ll have a better chance of overcoming it. If you’re using pornography, tell someone. If you’re struggling with lust, tell someone.
I think everyone—man or woman—could benefit from having an accountability partner. I have a friend and for years we’ve helped each other with this. We’ll ask one another specific questions and we’re committed to honesty.
How are you doing with the mental battle?
Is anyone looking attractive to you? Thinking about anyone?
Have you looked at anything you shouldn’t? Any regrets?
Get an accountability partner and get it out in the open.
For some of you, you need more help than that. You may need to see a counselor and get professional help. Or you may need to join a recovery group. We offer a Sexaholics Anonymous men’s group, a Men’s Final Freedom group, and a Lifeline group for women. Information about those groups are available on our website. Millions of people have found freedom from addiction or compulsion by joining a recovery group.
Friends, there is no shame in admitting that you need help. We all do. I need help. You do too. Don’t be too proud to ask for help and end up staying stuck. Get help!
Here are three steps to freedom:
Build a strong relationship with God.
Ruthlessly eliminate porn and lust.
Be accountable—you need help!
What is your next step? Here is what we’re going to do. You received a Next Step Card when you came in. What is your next step to guard your heart and mind?
Spend time with Jesus in prayer, reading the Bible, and journaling
Talk to a pastor or counselor
Find an accountability partner or group
Set a boundary around a potentially destructive activity
Eliminate known temptations