Without going into a long dissertation about my ongoing journey with God and working out His purpose for my life, one of the things He has made abundantly clear to me is that part of that purpose is to speak truth to a dying world and a lukewarm church. A world and church that is ignorant of God’s word because we are too busy living in this world instead of preparing for the next. One of the things I’ve learned over the last few years is that when God chooses to use you to function as a mouthpiece for the Body of Christ, a large percentage of people are not going to want to hear what God is asking you to say. But God doesn’t ask me to hang out in my comfort zone, He asks me to be obedient. Therefore it is only in obedience that I address a topic that is so far outside my comfort zone that I have spent two days in prayer asking God to give me His words, because I honestly don’t even know where to start. So, here goes……apparently masturbation is a problem in God’s church. There, I said it, so let’s talk about that.
I’ve seen this topic addressed several times over the last few weeks, wondering to myself why it was being so vehemently called out. Thinking, “Wow. I’m so glad God isn’t placing a burden on me to write about THAT.” Right. There have been other issues dealing with sexuality that God has been increasing a burden upon my spirit to address, but not that one. That is, until I was having a conversation with a dear friend who is on fire for God and has a passion for ministry. God had previously revealed to me that this person had been dealing with a spirit of lust in her life and during our recent conversation the issue of masturbation came up. She said that she had received conflicting information from others in the church in regard to that topic. Some saying it was a sin, some saying it was only natural, so she was still in limbo in her understanding.
The simplest way for me to give a sound, scriptural understanding about this topic is to start by pointing out that the Bible says that the only thing that comes “natural” to human beings is sin. Selfishness, disobedience, rebellion, lust….all these things come naturally to mankind. Scripture says that until we come to Christ, we are spiritually dead because of our natural inclination towards sin, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” (Eph 2:1-3). Read that again, “and were by nature children of wrath.”
The world says that human beings are, by nature, sexual creatures. But the Bible says that human beings are, by nature, sinners who deserve God’s wrath. The Bible says that those who follow their natural instincts like an animal would, are those who are without the Spirit of God, “These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.” (Jude 1:19).
If masturbation can be called anything, it can most definitely be called a “lust of the flesh” and an “indulgence of the desire of the flesh” (Eph 2:3). Scripture teaches us that those who belong to Christ are no longer to be slaves of their fleshly desires, “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal 5:24). The reason a Biblical understanding of masturbation places it under lusts and desires of the flesh is because human sexuality was created for one, single purpose: as a blessing to be shared by those who are married to consummate their spiritual union and to enable them to procreate under God’s blessing through the bond of marriage. That is truth, that is Biblical, that is scriptural, despite the fact that stating such a truth causes an uproar in today’s overly-sexualized society, because we live in a culture that has determined that sex is an inalienable right, to be indulged in upon the whims of our fancy– no blessing of God required.
The Bible may not specifically address masturbation, but it clearly addresses the parameters to which human sexuality is allowed to take place, and that is only within the confines of marriage between a man and a woman. By that definition, that would necessarily NOT include any sexual activity of any type and under any circumstances not within the confines of marriage between a man and a woman. Scripture is abundantly clear: marriage only…man and woman only…that’s it. God leaves no wiggle room, despite our personal objections. The world cannot accept God’s authority on human sexuality because the world says that human beings are simply animals who have become aware of themselves. The world sees God’s clearly defined parameters of human sexuality as archaic and prudish, even sexist, bigoted and foolish. But scripture says, “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Cor 2:14).
The fact that the world has completely and utterly perverted human sexuality and brought it under a classification of “natural instinct”, does not negate nor change the purpose for which God originally created it to serve. Rampant, unbridled human sexuality is nothing new, it is something that the enemy has used for a very long time to destroy lives, to deceive and lead astray, and to put people in spiritual bondage. Scripture says that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10). When we do anything outside of God’s well-defined parameters, we open up a potential foothold to the thief by our sin. Sexual immorality can be likened to fooling around with a Ouija board. Not everyone who does it comes under demonic oppression, but they are most certainly allowing the devil a foothold in their life through their disobedience. The Bible says have nothing to do with such things for a reason. God told Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Gen 4:7).
As believers in Christ, we are no longer slaves to our flesh, “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.” (Eph 4:6,12,13). We offer every part of ourselves to God as an instrument of righteousness through our obedience to Him. We walk in obedience with Him when we do not allow ourselves to participate in things that lay outside of God’s prescribed order and purpose. Masturbation, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, pornography, bestiality, pedophilia, sadomasochism and any type of perverse fetishism lies outside of God’s prescribed order and purpose for human sexuality. That is a Biblical truth that will either convict, or offend. I didn’t make the rules, I’m only explaining them to whoever is able to humble themselves to receive it and grow in their relationship with God and spiritual maturity.
The world tells us one thing, but God tells us another. The world caters to our physical needs and desires and God seeks our spiritual needs and growth. The flesh and the spirit are diametrically opposed. The world says it’s only natural for us to look upon someone with lust, but Jesus said, “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt 5:28). God is serious about obedience, so serious that Jesus said that if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it from you, or your if your hand causes you to stumble, tear it off and throw it from you, “for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” (Matt 5:29,30). That seems so harsh and so intolerant, but we need to understand God’s perspective. God doesn’t want us to expose ourselves to ANYTHING that might lead us into temptation. Masturbation in and of itself may seem simple, natural and unimportant, but the fantasizing and lustful thoughts that go along with it can lead to so much more. And that is besides the fact that masturbation lies outside of God’s purpose for human sexuality, whether you agree with it or not. To say that human beings are mere “sexual creatures”, relegates them to animals. Human beings are not animals. The Bible clearly states that animals were all created according to their own order, prior to human beings. Only human beings were created in God’s image and only human beings did God, “[breathe] into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Gen 2:7).
For those not in a marriage union, coming to terms with God’s ordinances in regard to human sexuality can be extremely difficult. The Bible teaches that the expression of human sexuality may only be enjoyed as a blessing of marriage between a man and a woman. So the most natural question asked by those who are not married is, “What about my blessing? What about my sexuality?” But these are “me” centered questions. Our questions that begin with, “What about my…” are not the answers we should be seeking. Scripture says that God knows what our needs and desires are, but that we should “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt 6:32,33). God assures us that He knows how to rescue us from our trials, but that we are to turn away from fleshly desires and to seek righteousness by submitting ourselves to His ways, “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority.” (2 Pet 2:9,10).
I Googled “Christian masturbation”. Yes, I did that. Hopefully my husband won’t look at my internet search history and wonder why I read about masturbating all day. Among all the articles and advice I read, the most disturbing thing to me was the fact that most of the people addressing this issue did so in such a way as to ease the guilt experienced by those engaging in masturbation. Instead of supporting God and His word, they chose to comfort the flesh of those seeking an answer to their masturbation dilemma. These people who were obviously convicted enough by the Holy Spirit to seek out an answer, to seek out truth, guidance and direction, were, in essence, told to ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit. That is the main problem with the church today. People are seeking comfort, rather than repentance, for what their spirit is convicting them about, and sadly there are droves of people telling them that they should ignore that conviction and continue in their behavior.
The problem with relegating masturbation, or any other manifestation of sexuality that lies outside of God’s purpose, to harmless, natural, personal sexual impulse is that in doing so, we are agreeing with the world that human beings are merely creatures of instinct and this is opposed to what scripture says we are. While I would like nothing more than to be able to say, “Do what you want to do in your own personal time and space”, I can’t, because I wouldn’t be speaking the truth. Speaking truth is the call that God has placed upon my life, it is like a fire in my bones and I have determined that the turmoil I endure by holding it in is far greater than any turmoil I will ever endure for speaking it. And the truth is, we can’t just do whatever we want to do because the Bible says to seek God’s will and submit to it.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:7,8)
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Rom 8:5-10)