The Challenge Facing Every Man/Program 3

By: Steve Arterburn, Shannon Ethridge, Fred Stoeker; ©2007
Okay, so maybe you don’t really have a desire to follow God in regard to your sexuality. Why is it important to take that step to living the way God wants you to live?



Today on the John Ankerberg show, Steve Arterburn, Shannon Etheridge, and Fred Stoeker, three best-selling authors whose books have sold in the millions…

Dr. John Ankerberg: They are addressing the problems, the sexual challenges that young men, young women, married men, married women are facing. And we are going to get to all four categories along the way. Fred started out with the dream of finding a girl, getting married, and having a family. But it didn’t end up that way.

Fred Stoeker: What happened was that the first girl I went to bed with was one I knew I was going to marry. The next one was with someone I thought I was going to marry. The one after that was a friend that I thought I could learn to love. It wasn’t long before I had the dates memorized when the pornography magazines would come in to the campus drugstore. And I would be there when the doors opened on those dates so I could be the first one to see Gallery Magazine or Playboy of the month.

Dr. Steve Arterburn: Sex in marriage has gone down instead of up because Hugh Hefner who taught us as young men, hey this is just something that you ought to do, even if you’re a Christian you ought to do it. He lied. It doesn’t make you more of a man, it takes your manhood away.

Stoeker: …and the worst part about it was that it was starting to affect every area of my life. —… I couldn’t give myself 100% to her because I knew if she found out about some of these she might even leave me, I had no idea.

Shannon Etheridge: Most women feel very grossed out by the whole concept that men are capable of doing this. And that’s where the whole men are pigs thing comes from. And we get on our high horse going, well we are not like that, we are better than men are. Well women fail to understand that it is true that men do give love to get sex, women give sex to get love.

Arterburn: Well, a lot of guys think that I can do all these things and when I get married and I eat the wedding cake it will all change and I’ll become this wonderful faithful loving man and I will never look at pornography I will never want to have an unfaithful moment, but that is a myth. … You don’t eat wedding cake and become a man of character. What you are doing now as a young single guy you will do as a married man, it doesn’t fix it.

Stoeker: But as I saw what I had become there was only one thing left to do and that was the bow my head and I just said, Lord, I am ready to work with you if you are ready to work with me. I had no other answer.

Arterburn: Fred had done something that nobody else had done. He had actually put together something that brought hope, and that was, he made sense of it all, took his life, shared it and at the end developed a way that every person could have victory if they would do some very simple things.

Announcer: Join us today for this special edition of the John Ankerberg show to learn how to secure victory in sexual purity.

Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We are talking with three wonderful guests, fun loving people, that have a lot to share with us in terms of the sexual challenges that are facing young men, young women, married men and married women. And we are still talking about “Every Young Man’s Battle.” And, Fred, let’s review for some of the folks that might have missed the first two programs; there are things that seem to come naturally to guys and we get confused and we start making decisions that actually affect us all through our life. What are some of the stories that guys have told you, besides your own story, of the bad decisions they have made along the way?
Stoeker: Well, our minds… a lot of times we think our minds are just wild and free and there is no way we can control what we are thinking. And the real issue is, can we do that or can we not? Well, the Bible talks about the fact, in 2 Corinthians 5:10, that we can take thoughts captive, and so we know it is actually possible. But most of us have grown up and have never tried it. And if you don’t learn to control your thoughts that will take you, again, out of relationship with your wife, out of relationship with God, out of relationships with the people around you, because it breaks down how you’re connecting. Now, let me give you an example. In my own life when I was first married and our marriage wasn’t going so well at first, I used to think a lot about an old girl friend I had that was someone that I did get along with, that my family did get along with, and I would think, “I wonder what life would be like with her as opposed to, you know, with Brenda. And I wonder what sex would be like.” And so what would happen is, I would have this divided mind just, I wasn’t really 100% connected to Brenda and I was still reaching back. So that is one form of disconnection and separation. But when it comes to men in their sexuality, we get this kind of email a lot where a wife will write to us and say, “You know, I sometimes am having sex with my husband and he just seems so far away, his mind seems far away. It doesn’t seem like he is all fully there.” Well, what’s generally happening is, he has look at porn, he has been lusting after an old girl friend and he is, essentially in his mind, laying her face and her breasts over his wife’s face and breasts, and he is actually having sex with this other person, but using his wife as some form of interactive warm doll that he is using to kind of get off with. And you know, the fact is that whether it is something more small in a sense, me just thinking about an old girl friend, or whether we are laying on our wives and actually using other images and fantasies in our mind to have sex, that kind of disconnection truly breaks down intimacy. Wives sense it even though they don’t know what is going on. And I guarantee you, you are not having the kind of intimacy connection with your wife that you otherwise could.
Ankerberg: Let me ask you one key question here, and that is, the guys that are listening, we are talking about building a defense that will help you make the right decisions that will affect your life positively all along the line. Some guys say, “I just don’t want to.” What brought you to the point of saying, “I want to”? I mean you had the illustration, you know, if I have to eat gravel, if I have to… whatever I have to do, God, I am sick and tired of myself and these things that I have built up and I am trapped, I don’t feel like I can get out of this. What brought you to the point where you said, “Okay, what is it, God, that you want me to do?”
Stoeker: Well, for me you know I mentioned earlier that part of it was the price I was paying with my wife, where I knew I wasn’t making that connection. It was also that the sexual sin was taking me away from my connection with God. I would come to church on Sunday’s, I would look around and see other men making clearly more connection with God than I was, and I wasn’t able to. I had earlier in my Christian life, but the more I stayed stuck in this, and the more I said no to God, and said I want to stay like this; I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, it seemed to form a deeper wider gulf between us. And, of course, with my son, as I mentioned, I looked in his face and, I mean, I knew I was going to basically give him the gift of these chains if I didn’t learn how to take care of it. Now, there are other reasons for young men to understand this. I mean, if you are not married yet, you may not even be thinking about your two year old toddler that is going to come along. You might not be thinking about your wife at all. You might be saying, “Yeah, I really like this.” But the fact of the matter is, I got an email from a guy here not too long ago, and he described something which I have kind of begun to call porn creep. And what he said was that he was looking at porn a lot and, you know, having sex with girls like I was. And he said the wildest thing happened. He found this girl that wanted to spend a weekend with him away at a real nice resort. And so they went for a weekend of just wild, you know, unending sex for the whole weekend. And at the end of the weekend she said to him, “Man, you were way great, you were just fantastic.” And he had done everything that he had seen in the porn shows with this girl and knew that he should have felt real great. But he said,” All I felt was empty; because all it was was just reenacting what I had seen.” And what we know from this addictive path is that once you become addicted, there comes a point where you need more and more in order to get excited. And there actually comes a point where your ability to pass intimacy in sexuality actually gets damaged. And you are having trouble passing intimacy and all you are focused on is the intensity of it. Well, the trouble with that is that I can get a lot of intensity with my own hand, because my hand is connected to my arms, connected to my brain, and when I need a certain thing done, I can do it. But no woman is going to be able to do that for you. And so what happens then is when you are with a real woman, this porn creep has taken over. She is not connected to your brain, and when you want something, she cannot quite get you there; and you are in a position where you cannot get the intensity that you wish you could, and it becomes a flop. And once we take our focus off the intimacy aspect of sex and put it on the intensity aspect, it breaks down our sexuality, breaks down our ability to really connect with women. And that is what young men need to worry about, because I hear that all the time, you know, “Why can’t I make this connection? Why is this happening?” Well, it is because of the porn and running around with the girls who you are not really committed to long term. You have changed your focus to intensity, and it is breaking you down.
Ankerberg: One other thing you said in the book, even as Christians, the fact is that because you had this split mind, you loved the Lord, but the fact is you fudged in terms of what He was laying down, standards. You said, “That’s too difficult for me to do. I just can’t control my eyes, I just can’t control my thoughts. In fact, I don’t even want to. I like the way I am doing things.” You said that as you went along, you felt dead inside, and you felt a distance from God even though you were a Christian. Talk about that.
Stoeker: Well, there are so many distances I felt. I felt distance from God because I had told Him 100 times that I would stop and then I wouldn’t. And I got to the point that I couldn’t even look at Him in the eye anymore in prayer. It just felt horrible. And you know, I felt disconnected, like I said, from my wife. I felt disconnected from myself; you know, I wasn’t who I said I was. You know, I was just having a conversation with my 15- year-old son just the other day, and of course he is right in the middle of all of this. He is 15 and growing up in a public school, all those girls around just like we said. But, you know, I was talking to him. I said – we are going through a book on leadership, and I am bringing in these other principles to help him understand – and I said, “Son, you know, manhood is hearing the Word of God and keeping it. That is how God sees manhood. Leadership is being the same in private as you are in public. I mean, you cannot be a great leader unless you are the same in private as you are in public, because you don’t feel character, you don’t feel heroic, you don’t feel like a man.” And so we have been talking essentially about that. And I guess I would say the best thing that has happened in my life, besides getting closer to God and my wife, is that I feel so much more like a man now, because I have control over my sexuality; it does not control me. And like I have been teaching my son, you know anybody, anybody, can run around with girls and do whatever you want along those lines, but eventually you are going to feel disconnected from who you are, because you say you are a Christian, but you just seem like one because you are going to church; you are not being one. And until you start being a Christian and being a man, standing up and doing the things you say that you are, you never are going to feel comfortable with yourself.
Ankerberg: Steve?
Arterburn: Well, you were saying, what do you say to the guy that doesn’t want to change? And I’d say I would be really worried. Maybe you think that you have become all that you can be as a man and in connecting with a woman; and that isn’t true. We are never done. But also I would be worried that I am a sex addict and that I am not really seeing the reality of my situation. And I don’t realize that, you know, I am lying to myself. The Psalmist said, “God, keep me from lying to myself.” And if you look at your relationships, you might find that they are driven by a sexual addiction, not driven by a true love and appreciation for other people. And if that is the case, maybe it is time that you get some help, not just trying to be a better man, but really try and stop this addiction.
Ankerberg: Alright, we are going to take a break. And when we come back we are going to talk about the eyes. We still need to talk about the mind; the mind is very crafty. I mean, after you cut the eyes off, your mind still has an imagination. It can create fantasies and it is hard to forget the stuff that you have seen and done. So we are going to talk about, how do you set up a defense for your own mind? And then we are going to talk about the heart. So stick we us, we will be right back.

Ankerberg: Alright, we are back, and we are talking with Stephen Arterburn and Shannon Ethridge and Fred Stoeker. And, Steve, at this point we want to come to the fact, if we are setting up a defense to guard our lives, basically, you have got to take in a couple of areas. One is your eyes, we have talked about that. Now we want to get to the mind. Our mind can do things on its own apart from the eyes. Then we want to get to our heart. Start us off. What is this thing that you call the wild mustang mind?
Arterburn: Well, let me mention one other thing before that. I used to smoke, and I would pray for God to take this addiction from me. And then one day I, after quitting smoking 200 times, I decided I was going to do something different: not only would I not smoke, but I would never ever pick up a package of cigarettes again. So what I was saying is, these fingers will never touch a package of cigarettes, and I said that these fingers would never touch a cigarette. So it wasn’t just I wasn’t going to smoke, I wasn’t going to touch anything that had anything to do with tobacco. And shortly after I made that commitment, a guy, a package of cigarettes fell out of his pocket and he left them in my car. And I went into the house and I got ice tongs and put them in the trash. Well, what I had done was I had put up two barriers before the final barrier of smoking. So it really changed everything, and it was the final stopping of smoking. Well, if you apply that same kind of concept here, if you don’t want to be lustful or be controlled by sexual lust, or be unfaithful to your wife, or lack integrity, then you need several perimeters to help you, and several barriers. Well, one is this eye barrier that we say, bounce your eyes: do like you would see in an old 1940’s movie, if a woman’s blouse fell down, a man would look away as a gentleman, it was a natural thing. So we get back to that. But when it comes to the mind, we are like mustangs. Your mind is a mustang mind, and you have a corral. And it is like there is this mustang in this corral. Whatever gets in the corral with the real mustang horse, that horse, is programmed to have sex with it, and it’s just going to do that. That is just what’s going to happen. And we are the same way. As men, whatever we let into the corral, we are going to have a sexual experience with that. And so what we have to do is we have to open that gate and walk whatever it is we have let in that corral out. We also have to slam that corral and take captive every thought and not let it in the corral. For instance, you might see somebody at work and immediately start to sexualize them and fantasize about them. But I think for me it is important, walk them out of that corral. And you can do that by realizing, hey, this is a person that probably has body odor, and is messy at home, and probably is a pack rat, and collects things, and has kids that scream. And so you start to humanize people rather than let them live in the fantasy world. And it helps you take captive any of those thoughts. And the other thing is, there is only one way to be in control of your thoughts when it comes to a tempting relationship or someone that you might get in trouble with, and that is to not be around that person; to run from that temptation, to get them out of your mind, and for you to remove yourself from proximity with them. That is how we can start to build, and then we can move into the heart and protect ourselves there. But you go from the eyes to the mind. And you have a clean mind, a clear mind that isn’t allowing the old girl friends to come back in, the images from the world, or whatever it is that you have come obsessed over in your lustful nature.
Ankerberg: Shannon, you had some thoughts on this.
Ethridge: Yeah, one of the most common emails that we get is from people who say, “You know, I’ve stop looking at pornography, but how do I ever get the images that I looked at decades ago out of my mind?” And like Fred was saying, that is just emblazoned on your brain. And unfortunately, that is one of the consequences of sin. However, you can reframe that; and when those thoughts come into your mind, you can look at that as a spiritual marker in your life of, “Oh, my gosh! Look at what I allowed myself to take into my mind way back then! Praise God I don’t have to do that anymore.” And that way you can feel as if that is a stepping stone rather than a stumbling block in your life.
Ankerberg: Fred, we talked about the fact in your book you have got the mind you say if you put the guard points up it becomes like a customs office where you come into another country. Talk about that, what does that mean?
Stoeker: Well, you know, a customs office for the United States is meant to keep dangerous things out of the United States: people, seeds whatever it might be. And the whole idea behind that whole customs area of the mind is that, you know, we can’t allow, just like Steve was saying, we can’t allow those images, we can’t allow those people, close enough to us where we might fall for them. We might do something with them that will break down the dreams that we have been hoping to have in the rest of our lives. So, you know, I think that, you know, one of the things Shannon said is to look back on that and see that as a marker. But one of the things that I have found that the mind actually does do is that it actually begins to work in your favor over time as this customs agent. You would have a… it’s kind of like it forms a new matrix. I mean, up until I made the decision to quit thinking about these things, my mind knew that it was perfectly acceptable to think about that old girl friend anytime I wanted to. And if my mind wanted to go that direction it would. But the thing I found is that, as I put those disciplines into place, now thoughts of her never come up in my head. As a matter of fact, even those images that Shannon was talking about, over time stop coming up, because my mind knows these aren’t acceptable and it begins to police itself. That was one of the biggest surprises I found in this process. You know, guys will say, “Look this is impossible, this can’t work.” But there are a lot of aspects to this that you have never experienced yet as a young man because you have never tried. But a lot of these surprising things happen, like the mind begins to work for you. What a shock!
Ankerberg: Steve, you talked about, you have got to have some encouragement; you have got to have somebody that’s a cheerleader on your behalf. And you say go to scripture and put some of these thoughts that will inspire you when you have got a decision to make. Talk about that.
Arterburn: Well, you know it’s great if you could get into the Bible. I have found God to be really smart, and He has got these things in there that help us. He wants us to be in control of our bodies. He wants our body to be a temple. He wants us to sacrifice things of our body for Him. So you have this spiritual motivation to do this. But you also, as men, you know men become men in the presence of men. And a lot of times we go to the female image, or to a woman, to feel like a man. But you do that in the company of other men. And so you need to bring other guys around you. Maybe it’s a Bible Study, maybe it’s a support group, maybe it’s an accountability group, or maybe it is a sexual addiction recovery program. But you need other guys that are going the same direction you are to encourage you and drag you along with them and them with you. If you will do that, you will find so much of this really is doable. And not only is it doable, but it gives you this whole other level of connection with God, with women, with yourself, with men. And you finally understand what this word relationship means, and you come to live this fulfilled life. You know, Satan wants to destroy everything we have, and God wants to give us a fulfilled life. And if you have any inkling you are missing that fulfilled life, you ought to look at this particular area and see if you can’t do some work there.
Ankerberg: Fred, you talked about wondering what in the world is it to make a covenant with God about your eyes? And what were the key verses on mind, eyes and your heart that you put into your head that helped you along the way?
Stoeker: Well, the key verse that kind of tripped the trigger and made me decide that, hey this is possible, was Job 31:1 where Job said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.” Now one of the best things about that verse is what happened actually a few chapters earlier, where the Bible referred to Job as, you know, a blameless man. But the phrase that he was a man, that word was very critical to me, because it allowed me to know, okay, this is possible to guard the eyes like that. So that was critical. Another one was in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, where it says that we are to “flee from sexual immorality,” and that “our body is not our own”. And in fact, there is no verse that is more powerful than that one for me, because what that taught me was I don’t,… not only should I not do these things, but I don’t even have a right to think about doing them; because if my body is not my own, and Christ came, He owns me now, I am His. And so when it comes time to say… there was a hotel once where I found a Playboy magazine somebody had left on top of the ice machine. I saw that Playboy magazine. Now in my earlier days I would have said to myself, “Hm, should I look at that or should I not?” But now I just looked and said, “I don’t have the right to look at that.” So I just kept walking. It takes the whole decision-making process out of it, because you just know, “I don’t have a right; I am his.” And so that’s how these verses help transform our minds and the way we look at it.
Ankerberg: We have got a minute left. You have got a chapter about, what is your decision? What are you going to do, okay? Kind of drive that home right now for guys that are listening.
Arterburn: Well, anybody can pray, anybody can think, but it takes courage for you to say I am going to do something different. And I think that, when we go from feeling arrogant entitlement to whatever we want to do, to humbly saying, but wait, what is best for me to do? We are willing to open up to another person. And if you have any courage and willingness, pick up a phone and call somebody and say, “I need to do something about the character inside of me. I want to be a better man.” And meet with that counselor, pastor or friend whatever it is. Don’t just try harder, don’t let your tombstone say, “He had good intentions,” let it say “that was a man of character.” You can be that man.
Ankerberg: Shannon, we are going to your side of the tracks. We have talked about the young guys; we want to talk about the young ladies. And there is a kind of this myth; well, the girls don’t really have the same kind of problems. Talk about that and where we are going next week.
Ethridge: We are going to look at several different myths that women have in their mind and to kind of take them down a few notches and then give them a little bit of a spiritual spanking in that we can’t throw a stone at men, we have to look at our own issues. And what we are doing to set them up to fail, and what are we doing that is causing us to fail in our own pursuit of integrity both sexual and emotional.
Ankerberg: Folks you won’t want to miss this, so I hope that you will join us next week.

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