Overcoming Sexual Sin
About the Guest
Sexual sin is a pandemic in our culture. Roger Fankhauser, Senior Pastor of Burleson Bible Church, talks about living sexually pure in a sex-saturated world. Fankhauser reminds us that it's possible to live a pure life, but the key is "wanting to." Also important is developing a healthy view of God and sin to overcome temptation.
Sexual sin is a pandemic in our culture. Roger Fankhauser talks about living sexually pure in a sex-saturated world. Fankhauser reminds us that it’s possible to live a pure life, but the key is “wanting to.”
Overcoming Sexual Sin
Bob: Roger Fankhauser is a pastor, who has talked to many men, who are battling with issues of moral purity. Where does he point them when he sits down to talk to them? Here’s Roger.
Roger: I start with letting them know that it’s possible—because we often start with that thinking of: “Sexual sin is too big,” “I can’t help myself,” “The temptation’s too strong,”—so it starts with that idea of “It’s possible to get out of this”; and then, the next step is “Let’s build a healthier view of God.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, November 20th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There is a path to freedom for men who find themselves struggling with issues of moral purity. We’re going to point men to that path today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I think, if sexual sin among men could be classified as a disease, I think the centers for disease control in our country would have to declare a pandemic.
Dennis: No doubt about it, Bob. I think the church ought to be leading the way. When I speak of the church, I’m not talking about the building; I’m talking about those of us who are professed followers of Jesus Christ—need to be salt and light in the culture.
Bob: Well, it’s a sex-saturated culture; and that’s what makes it a challenge for all of us, as men—and for women, as well—although we’re focusing on men today, but women face the same barrage. The temptations are just dangled in front of you, regularly, so you have to have your armor on.
Dennis: Yes; sex-saturated is the subtitle of the book, Stormproof Men. That subtitle reads Sexual Purity for Christian Men in a Sex-Saturated World.
Dr. Roger Fankhauser joins us on FamilyLife Today. Roger, welcome to the broadcast.
Roger: Thank you. I’m excited to be here.
Dennis: Roger is a Texan. We let him in across the border of Arkansas without having to have a passport, but he’s a pastor down there—been married to Debbie since 1974, has three children, seven grandchildren—and has done some remarkable studies around the subject of sexual addiction and what pornography is costing men today.
Bob: And this was all prompted from an assignment you were given in seminary; right?
Roger: Correct; yes. The professor asked us—he said, “If someone came into your office and said, ‘I’m addicted to sex,’ what would you say?” I found a creative way to turn the answer, “I have no idea,” into a five-page paper. [Laughter]
Bob: First of all, I have to say I’m glad that the professor was asking future pastors to answer that question; because these are the practical issues of pastoral ministry.
Dennis: Yes; right.
Bob: Nobody’s coming in and saying: “Is that verb…” “Is that in the past tense or is that in the perfect tense?” But a lot of people—a lot of guys—are owning up to the fact that their marriages are being challenged and threatened. I’m sure, in pastoral ministry, you’ve had a lot of conversations on this subject.
Roger: Yes; it wasn’t long in ministry—I had a young man walk in my office and say: “I’m getting married, and I have a problem with porn. Help me.” It became obvious that I needed to do some work to find out how I could help him. This guy was a very smart guy—he was in medical school—and he said he’s read all the books. There was just something that was missing, and I realized I needed to do some more work. As I dug, I found out there are not many good resources.
Bob: Was this something you had ever struggled with personally?
Roger: Well, I could say, “Yes,” or I could lie. [Laughter]
Bob: I mean, let’s just be honest—all of us face the temptation; right? All of us have been confronted with “Where are we going to go?” I think any parent, who’s raising a son today, has to recognize it’s not naïve to think that, “If your son is 16, he’s probably looked at something he shouldn’t have looked at.”
Roger: Yes; one of my most embarrassing moments, I recall, as a teenager, was my mom decided to do me a favor and clean my room. I went upstairs into my bedroom; and there, on the pillow, was all the magazines that I’d hidden under the bed.
Dennis: And she found them.
Dennis: What’d she say to you?
Roger: Well, this was pretty funny, I think, because my bedroom was upstairs. You had to go down one set of stairs into the living room. There was no way of escape, and I knew Mom and Dad were sitting there. They told me they could hear me come clomping down the stairs, and each step was a little longer before the next step. I opened the door, and they started laughing. I went, “What?!”
I said, “What are you going to do to me?” Mom said: “Nothing. There’s not a thing I could do that would live up to what you’ve imagined on your way down those steps.” [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, you were married early. Your wife was 18 when you married; how old were you?
Roger: I was the ripe age of 19, but I turned 20 the next day.
Dennis: What impact did pornography have on your marriage as you started out your relationship with Debbie?
Roger: I think that it gave me some false ideas of what intimacy would be like within marriage. It was just something that I looked at like, unfortunately, most kids; but it definitely impacted the way that I understood what sex was supposed to be.
Bob: Well, and you stop and think about it—again, this is a culture, where young men are likely to have been exposed—probably, not addicted—but at least, exposed.
That exposure does set thoughts and expectations about what sex is supposed to look like, and that does influence how intimacy works in a marriage relationship.
Dennis: Well, the brain is configured of a series of connections. There’s something that pornography does to the brain—that scientists are finding it kind of burrows in deep and creates channels that can’t easily be ignored as you move into adulthood.
The reason we’re offering these broadcasts today, especially, is because we have a generation of young people—we touched on it—who are seeing pornography at earlier and earlier ages. Roger, what’s the average age you’re seeing in all your research around this?
Roger: The latest I read was the average boy’s exposed to porn the first time at eight—eight years old.
Bob: This is pre-puberty—
Bob: —before hormones—so this is curiosity; but there’s something still that happens in the heart of a boy when he sees that; isn’t there?
Roger: Yes; it starts changing things—and from, very early on, it starts changing. Of course, the earlier you start changing the wiring in the brain, the more hardwired it becomes—the harder it is to deal with later on. It creates a whole problem in the mind of that boy; and obviously, then, in the family; and then, his future wife; and on it goes.
Dennis: And for an eight-year-old boy, who’s sneaking peeks at his friend’s iPhone®, or magazines, or movies—or however he’s consuming it—what would you say to his mom and dad about intersecting his world and having a conversation about it without it being filled with shame and condemnation? You know, it’s interesting how your mom and dad handled it—they laughed.
Dennis: You could have told me any answer; and I think that one shocks me the most—that they handled it and disarmed it like that.
Roger: Yes; but you notice—many years later, I remember it very well. I think they handled it well, but I think parents need to be careful in how they speak about sex. I think they need to make sure that they start talking positively about what it is at a very early age. When our family was growing up—with our kids, we were just very open. We would talk to them, at any age, about just about anything—you know, appropriately.
The other is being very careful that we don’t build shame on top of it; because once we start telling them, “Hey, this is wrong,”—if we belittle them in any way, shape, or form—you start generating that shame, and that pulls them away from you and builds a shell.
Dennis: So, back to the mom and the dad talking to the eight-year-old, how would you suggest a parent engage in a conversation that is both preemptive but positive as well?
Bob: Yes; they just find out there’s something on the internet history, or they’re aware that there’s been exposure.
How do they begin that conversation, and what should it look like?
Roger: Yes; the beginning part is the hardest part. I think, at the very start, I think they need to say: “Hey, we love you very much. What we’re talking about is because we want what’s best for you—not just best right now, but for your whole life—and we want to talk to you about how God has really designed a man and a woman,”—they don’t necessarily need to go into all the ins and outs—and then explain how that is something that they’ll find, and they need to understand that that’s not a healthy view. Not so much built on the, “Hey, you’re wrong,” but on “That’s not a healthy view of how God has designed us to function.”
Dennis: Would you ask them if they’ve seen anything?
Roger: Yes! Yes; we had a number of foster kids. I remember one of the boys asking us one time—he says, “Well, when am I going to get a cell phone?” Our answer was, “Never,” because we’re putting TNT in the hands of kids that don’t know how to use it.
Bob: I remember a conversation with one of my sons. The thing that I’d do over again—that I don’t think I did a good job of in that conversation is—I didn’t say to my son, “Look; this is something I struggle with too.”
Bob: “This is an issue for me just like it’s an issue for you,” and “Let’s hold one another accountable on this.” I was too parental and trying to correct his issue, without making it clear to him—he’s not alone in this issue.
Dennis: Well, it’s important that you model to a young man how to handle failure; because they will fail, more than likely, in this area—initially, more times than they will succeed. Equip them to know, first of all, “This is normal,”—it’s not necessarily approved; you’re not saying, by admitting you did it, that it’s right.
Roger: That’s correct.
Dennis: There’s shame in a man’s life, who admits that to his child or to his wife; but you disarm it, at that point, and give the boy some hope that he’s not alone in it.
Roger: Yes; that’s crucial. I think that’s a pattern in Scripture. When Paul, in
1 Corinthians 10, talks about temptation, he says, “There is no temptation but such as is common to man.” I think there’s that lie that, “I’m the only one that struggles with this.” As parents, we have to be careful that we don’t communicate, “Son, you’re struggling with this; but I”—either “never did,” or “still don’t,”—because the reality is most men—probably all—have struggled with it on some level. They need to know that: “Yes; this is something common. It doesn’t mean it’s right, but it’s common.”
Bob: Let me jump ahead. We’ve been talking about pre-adolescence and adolescence; but as pastor, you’re talking to single guys and married guys who find themselves surprised that this is still a challenge for them; because they all thought, “Once I get married, this will all be cured for me.”
There are four questions that you address—that I thought were really helpful when you sit down with a guy—four crucial questions, and they are: “Do you want to experience purity?” “Is it possible to experience purity?” “What do we think God thinks of us?” “If it’s possible, how in the world do we do this?”
Bob: Starting with the question, “Do you want to experience purity?”—that’s a good starting point; isn’t it?
Roger: Yes; that’s a crucial question; because we can know the right things, and we can know the church answer—and we can know all that stuff—but if there’s no “want to,” it’s not going to succeed very long. We all know stories of people, who have gotten caught, and they have their act together; but deep down, they haven’t really changed that. They end up sliding back into the old lifestyle. And there’s nothing you can do, really, to build that “want to” into somebody other than modeling and showing them it’s worth it. That has to come from the heart.
Bob: So, most guys want to be pure the day after they were impure.
Roger: Yes; right.
Bob: You know what I mean?
Bob: I mean, they wake up the next morning with guilt or with shame; and they go, “Okay; I don’t want to ever do that again,” but late at night—when that temptation overtakes them and they don’t resist—in that moment, what they’re saying is, “I want this more than I want purity.”
How do you deal with that battle when it’s happening at 11 o’ clock at night, when the house is quiet and you’re thinking, “I could click here, and nobody’s going to notice anything”?
Roger: It’s not going to be a “one statement fixes all” thing; it’s something you have to start building into the hearts and just changing the way we think. Oftentimes, you have that initial guilt; because you know you did something wrong; but there’s not that heartfelt guilt, like David when he finally realized, “I’ve sinned against God.”
Roger: You know, that level—it’s not really there, other than just, you know, in the words. Part of it begins with understanding who God is, and understanding the provisions we have, and building in “What am I working towards?” It’s not just, “I’m not going to go to this website,” but I’m building towards something more positive in my life; and it starts there.
I think, on top of that—this is getting—when we get a little farther down, dealing with: “What do you do to deal with failures?”—realizing it’s not a one-time-fixes-all for life. I love the seemingly contradiction of 1 John, where he says: “I write these things so you don’t sin. But when you do…”
Roger: You know, realizing slips aren’t good; but they’re normal. It’s a slow process of changing the perspective on God; changing the perspective of himself—but building into it.
Dennis: I don’t want to move to the solution too quickly;—
Roger: Right; right.
Dennis: —but on the other hand, I know we’re talking to guys, right now, who—they don’t need to be convinced—whether they’re single or married—of the problem.
Roger: Yes; yes.
Dennis: As you’ve talked to men—and you’ve practically put some steps to get out of the trap before them—where do you start?
Roger: I start with letting them know that it’s possible; because we often start with that thinking of: “This is just too big,” “This sexual sin is too big,” “I can’t help myself,” “The temptation’s too strong…”—so it starts with that idea of “It’s possible to get out of this.” Then, the next step is “Let’s build a healthier view of God”; because I’m convinced that, as we have a healthier view of God, then we have a healthier view of what we’re dealing with and how to move forward with it.
Bob: You know, I think that’s so foundational to what we’re talking about here; because I think most guys, when they are tempted or when they fall and feel guilt, they feel shame for their reputation; they feel shame for “I’d be embarrassed if anybody found out”; but most of us don’t think, “I’ve just sinned against God.”
Bob: Until we recognize that this is not just something that we’re free to choose or not choose, but this is a decision to rebel against God—His design and His purpose for our lives—until we get to that point, we have not fully appreciated the sobriety of the decision we make when we say, “I’m going to go ahead and click and look.”
Roger: Yes; I think, when we don’t have a high enough view of God, that lowers our expectations, obviously, of what God is like; but it also raises our acceptance of sin, because we don’t see it as all that significant. You know, we see it as something more like, “Oh, I went 75 [mph] in a 70 [zone]”—versus, you know—“I’ve committed capital murder.”
Dennis: You love to teach Bible study methods.
Roger: Yes; I do.
Dennis: That would be a route for a man to become intimately acquainted with who God is.
Dennis: Where should he go and where should he start in the study of Scripture?
Roger: Well, there are two places. One is—I love to tell the story of Isaiah, in
Chapter 6, where he has this incredible experience. I encourage guys: “Take your time. Read this and try to picture this”; because you can read it in just a few seconds. You know, he sees the angels—he hears them crying out, “Holy, holy, holy.” You know, you have the smoke, and the trembling, and all the sensations. The fascinating thing, to me, is Isaiah—without ever being told anything—responds “Woe is me!”
Roger: It’s not because anybody told him: “There’s something wrong with you”; it’s because he saw the greatness of God.
Bob: And when he says, “Woe is me,” he’s not saying, “I’m having a bad day.”
Bob: “Woe is me”—explain what “woe is me” means.
Roger: Well, the idea is, essentially, “I’m cursed; I’m without hope.” As a result of that, the angels bring the coals to him as an act of grace, because he realizes:
“There’s absolutely nothing I can do to fix this. I’m just broken; and apart from God, there’s nothing I can do.”
So that is a very—that’s an easy place to start. Then I also encourage guys—I just do this as a general principle for a lot of people struggling in life—is read through the Psalms slowly, and highlight things that you see about what it says about God, and then periodically summarize those things.
I had a seminary professor that assigned that as a class assignment—we had to go through all 150. You wouldn’t necessarily tell somebody, “Go through all 150 Psalms”; but start there, because that is a very succinct place that—over, and over, and over again—talks about who God is and in so many different ways. You’ll see His holiness, His faithfulness, His love, grace—all those different attributes of God. It’s in bite-size pieces that you can say: “Here’s some place—let’s start here—we can talk about a Psalm and see what you learn about what God is like.”
Dennis: I like your answer. You know, a lot of times, we throw this out to men, “Get to know God better.”
Dennis: The average guy goes, “I’m not a seminary graduate…”
Bob: “How do I do that?”—yes.
Dennis: “How do I accomplish that?”
Dennis: I like where you pointed them. I will also point them—not only to your book, Stormproof Men—but I wrote a little book, where I talked about seven non-negotiables. I just was thinking about it as you were talking about getting to know God. I begin with three of the seven, where I talk about “Seeking God, Not Sin.”
Dennis: Second one is: “Fear God, Not Men”; and third: “Love God, Not the World.”
Well, you start thinking about sexual sin. Seeking God, when sin’s out to get you, will help you have a different destination that you’re looking for in getting to know God. Seek Him—get to know Him.
Fear God: I think that’s one of the reasons why sin has so little consequences [in our minds].
We don’t realize how great and how fearful God really is and that we are accountable to Him.
And then finally—Love God: That’s in response to His love for us—you touched on it. The gospel of Jesus Christ is God stepping out of heaven and loving us so much He’s turned us around—back to face Him and experience that love and, then, begin to reflect that love, back to Him, every day.
Bob: Well, and I think, at the core of what we’ve been talking about here, is: “If you see pornography/sexual sin—if you see these as pragmatic issues that need to be addressed or managed in your life, then you’re always going to be in trouble. If you see these as spiritual issues—as issues of rebellion against God—now, you’re at the beginning place of getting these issues addressed.” That’s what’s at the heart of the book that Roger has written, called Stormproof Men: Sexual Purity for Christian Men in a Sex-Saturated World.
We have copies of Roger’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can order the book, Stormproof Men, by Roger Fankhauser, when you call us at 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, as we talk about this issue, I hope that the guys who are listening today recognize we’re not talking down at you. We’re talking right alongside you on this issue. All of us struggle with all kinds of sin patterns in our lives, and the issue of sexual purity—that’s a big one for men today. But there are issues that guys deal with—other issues that wives and moms deal with as well.
Here, at FamilyLife®, we try to provide practical biblical help and hope for the issues that husbands and wives and moms and dads are facing in their marriage and as they raise the next generation. Our goal, at FamilyLife, is to effectively develop godly marriages and families; because we believe a godly marriage/a godly family can change the world, one home at a time.
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Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about how dads can have good conversations with their sons around the issue of sexuality and pornography to help get their sons ready for the world in which we all live today. I hope you can tune in tomorrow.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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