Fantasy and Masturbation (lecture transcript)
By Joanne Highley
Much of contemporary society and many leaders in the Church have been persuaded that all people are primarily sexual beings and that they have a right to express themselves sexually. We consider this to be a false teaching about our humanity. We claim that we are primarily spiritual beings and that our sexuality is only a part of us: a God-given desire and ability to relate to the opposite sex in a way that leads to love, marriage and family.
One result of the concept that we are sexual beings is the approval of fantasy and masturbation as acceptable practices for Christians today. We here at L.I.F.E. Ministry have counseled hundreds of people who have had all kinds of emotional and relational difficulties. We want to share with you some of the things that we have discovered in regard to fantasy and masturbation.
We believe that fantasy is the satanic counterfeit for (God's) vision. It is sent to occupy the mind and to keep the person from the vision of what God has for him or her to do in his Kingdom. It is very important that we warn against the damaging effects of fantasy. If we dwell in fantasy, the Devil still holds our minds in unreality and that can harm us. Fantasy is Satan's tool to keep us addicted. He loves for us to escape to a pleasant place of no risk and no responsibility.
Some Christian teachers are beginning to be beguiled about fantasy and masturbation and are teaching that these activities can be positive and not harmful. In the October 2, 1987 issue of Christianity Today, the article entitled "Great Sex: Reclaiming A Christian Sexual Ethic", Tim Stafford writes,
"Fantasy may be involved in wrong desires, but it is also involved in good desires. Thinking about sexuality is one way in which we come to know ourselves sexually. All human interactions have a sexual component of which we are more or less aware, and these make part of the pleasure of living in the goodness of God's creation. We should not condemn sexual fantasies wholesale."
Now this kind of thinking is extremely harmful, we believe (for the following reasons):
(First) - He does not differentiate between thinking about sexual activity and fantasizing about sexual activity or desire. It is one thing if a person is engaged to be married and thinks about the joy of becoming one flesh but does not dwell on that act or live it out in thought. It is quite another to take it to the logical end. We believe that any fantasy about sex is harmful because it involves carrying this thought to the end of the idea of the sexual temptation, or desire, or even if it does not carry the temptation to its logical end, the thoughts are dwelt upon and inflamed. We believe in light of the stimulating aspect of living in today's society, (that) we need to teach the truth about fantasy and keeping our minds pure.
(Second) - Fantasy sets up unreal expectations which could never be lived out in reality. This causes a feeling either of disappointment or of comparison of the unreal with the real. A healthy sexual union that brings total pleasure with one's mate requires an intense concentration both emotionally and physically. Fantasy weakens this ability to concentrate on the moment and on the person we love and diverts the mind from the present experience to comparison with the fantasized experience. And, if the real experience does not measure up to the fantasized experience, then disappointment and even depression can result.
In dealing with fantasy in regard to homosexuality, I believe we need to heed the warnings of Watchman Nee in The Spiritual Man. People have got to know the difference between the full-blown pictures of perverse activities which Satan will drop in our minds to tempt us -- and which need to be cast out -- and the fantasies we take from some seed thought or visual stimuli and create our own scenario of lust in our minds. The former is demonic and causes false guilt. The latter is not demonic and is sin; thus, it must be repented of and turned from. It will seem difficult at first, but choice by an act of the will in keeping with the Word of God has power behind it.
In regard to homosexual or compulsive fantasy, we need to get to the emotional root that drives that fantasy. Sometimes, it is the spirit of rebellion or revenge toward parents. Many times (it is) buried so deeply the person is unaware of it. Through counsel and prayer, it can be uncovered, repented of, and work can be started on honoring our parents.
In other cases, fantasy is used as an escape from responsibility or a harsh home or work situation. Then the person needs to begin to pray for favor on the job or at home, asking God to open hearts to each other's needs and binding out demonic forces. We have had great reports from this kind of prayer. Then as the stress is lifted and the relationships are made stronger, the desire to escape lifts as well. The fantasies are no longer a problem.
Fantasy can be simply because of habit and stimulation. Some of our people have broken fantasy through various kinds of fasts: fasts from food, TV, magazines or other stimuli that would trigger the flesh. We have to learn how to get the flesh under the dominion of the Spirit.
Fantasy can be part of the self-pity package that says, "You deserve it. You have been so hurt and deprived; " or "You will never have a mate; You had better settle for what you can get." But we advocate: "You deserve the best God has for you. Don't settle for crumbs when a banquet table is set." If you do feel sorry for yourself, it is time to make a list of the blessings God has poured out on you and give Him thanks. Self-pity is a trap to keep us warmed up to sin.
Fantasy also takes the place of doing the work that would give the person what he or she truly desires. This is an aspect of not growing up. We want somebody else to do it for us. We want somebody else to do the work. God does not remove our homosexuality or other sexual sin, and when He does not, we get mad and fantasize about what we long for.
The ensuing unreality of isolation is very damaging. Of course, the way to break this fantasy is to thank God in faith that He provides all our needs and remind ourselves that God will not fail us, but He works in ways and on time schedules that are not like ours. We have to realize that our society "programmed" us for instant gratification, and we are all too willing to be programmed. Generally, God does not work through instant change, but through growth.
Many times, fantasy is triggered by money problems or as small a thing as losing one's keys, (or) any situation where the person feels like a failure and longs for Mr. or Miss Right to sweep them out of this situation into a pleasurable place. This is the nature of addiction: escape to a pleasant place. Many times a person upset at misplacing things will go quickly to frustration, guilt, to "Why should I keep living?". Then, fantasy is a pleasant place to avoid it all.
We view fantasy as a waste of precious time which could be used productively, and is often a great detriment, as the lustful pictures become pornographic. We believe there must be prayer to cast out spirits of lust and irresponsibility and to release the pure spirit of holiness and responsibility and self-control.
There is no way to state the damage (that) pornography does to a person. The eyes are the portals to the soul; and pornography is mainlining poison into the mind, emotions, and spirit. It has extremely demonic and compulsive qualities. The pictures are so shocking to the delicate spirit God created that they traumatize the mind and emblazon crude images on the film of the brain. These can be stored there for years, if the person does not turn from them or if no one ministers who knows how to cleanse this filth.
We cannot state how important it is to keep one's eyes off nakedness, sex acts, crude movies, denigration of men or women, and dehumanizing, brutalizing and gory images. Also we should not look at weird or demonic movies. We believe that pictures or humor, that is crude or warped, should be avoided.
Here are some lessons we have learned about helping people get free from pornography:
Confess this as sin and repent. Get someone to be accountable to daily.
Cast out the spirits of lust, perversion, lasciviousness and pornography. Cleanse the person's mind and eyes with the Blood of Jesus through prayer.
Sometimes you will need to go to the apartment or home and pray cleansing. Anoint the doors with oil.
Some will have to get rid of their TV sets and VCRs until they were free. Throw away all magazines, books, records and videos that contain pornographic material.
If images persist in the mind, one way to help is to make a redemptive end to the scene and mentally take everyone in it to Jesus for cleansing and healing.
We have found pornography to be very seriously binding in its power. Some of our men and women have been bound for years and are now completely free through Jesus' power. You have to fight it through, but there is victory.
Masturbation is another activity about which there is controversy in the Church. In the article on sexuality in Christianity Today, one quote was especially convoluted: "Were people able to stop masturbation at will, no one would praise its benefits; but since so many testify that they are unable to stop, the question arises whether it is really wrong." This is, obviously, a sad commentary on the church's ignorance of addiction. If you can't stop, it must be okay? God help us if we teach this!
We want to state that we know this is a damaging activity and one which should be turned from. In this regard, may we say those who work with men and women overcoming homosexuality or other sexual sin must be patient and kind and realize the last thing to go generally is masturbation. It is so accessible, so personal, so shameful to many. However, we must always keep as a goal the total freedom from this bondage. Many of us have been set free completely.
First, let us look at what the sex organs are for. We believe they are created by God for the very pleasurable joining of a man and a woman, in committed marriage into one flesh for the expression of love between two married people plus the added blessing of children. Also, it portrays the great spiritual oneness as taught in John 17, the imperishable seed planted in our spirit in I Peter 1, the bride and the bridegroom as so beautifully taught in Ephesians 5, and the new creation in II Corinthians 5:17.
If we begin to use our sex organs to relieve stress or to release sexual tension or to "explore our own body sexually", as the Christianity Today article suggests, we now have another view of the use of sex organs. We believe this view is dangerous and not what God has for us. We must remember that sex is not the center of life, and we are to reserve the sexual union for marriage.
Those who do not marry should pray for the added grace of self-control and being able to be chaste and pure. We must choose to use sex in the way it was created. We can live our whole lives without sex, but we make it a false god if we relieve stress with it. Also, the sexual desire does subside as we take our authority over it. We can ask God to help us save the sexual experience for marriage, and He will. We should never pray for God to take away our sexuality because we don't know what His plans are for us. Many people have had healing of their wounded emotions and are freed to marry. Moreover, we can ask God for self-control over our sexual desires so we can be pure and chaste, yet complete as persons.
Correct teaching in this area is imperative. Otherwise, we find people calling their wounded emotions which block their normal sexual feelings "the gift of celibacy". Many nuns and priests have entered celibate lives without having their emotional wounds healed.
In that regard, there is another use of masturbation in regard to emotional wounds. We have found that in addictive patterns, there is always the factor of emotions that have been swallowed or shoved down and have formed a cauldron, if you will, an angry area of ungodly feelings which if not resolved, will drive the person toward addictive behavior. Many times, these are feelings that people don't want to face; and masturbation is used as an emotional anesthetic to cause these feelings to be quiet. Then the person does not deal with the feelings that they need to, and repent of the ungodly patterns that they have stored up inside.
So masturbation is not a temporary answer until our real sexual freedom comes. It is a block and snare to sexual freedom and must be turned from, but Christian leaders should not condemn those who are having this problem. It takes time and effort to get the flesh under control. The same sources and helps for fantasy we spoke of are pertinent to masturbation. Fantasy and masturbation generally go hand in hand.
We see today that more and more homosexual sex has become mutual masturbation or phone sex -- masturbating while speaking erotically on the phone -- as AIDS becomes more threatening. It is very dangerous to condone masturbation in this context. In regard to phone sex, I would like to alert people helping others out of homosexuality to the demonic connections involved in all kinds of homosexuality. Phone sex is a giant network of homosexual partners who are, by phone connection, mixing the occult with sex by chanting and/or lighting candles to Satan during masturbation.
Many New Age followers are propagating their religion through this network. We had word of a mass homosexual orgy in a warehouse in Los Angeles with all of the people humming the New Age mantra. Aids patients are advised to use crystals for healing which is very demonic and occult or to be healed through Reiki, a physical healing technique which is occult. Of course, bars and bath houses and gay movie houses are full of demonic connections. We cannot ignore the huge demonic network of homosexual connection. Bodies exchange demonic spirits in sexual linkage. This must be addressed by the Church. We cannot ignore the need for deliverance.
The fact that masturbation is not spoken of specifically by name in the Bible is no license to practice this sexually damaging act. It is sex with yourself, and that was never intended by God. We must work spiritually to possess our own vessel in purity. We feel isolated because of trying to be one flesh with ourselves. That is not the biblical oneness God ordained.
C. S. Lewis has a very insightful quote on masturbation:
"For me, the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite, which in lawful use leads the individual out of himself to complete and correct his own personality in that of another and finally, in children or even grandchildren and turns it back, sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary partners. This harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no real woman can rival. Among those shadowy brides, he is always adored and always the perfect lover. No demand is made on his selfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself. And it is not only the faculty of love, which is thus sterilized and forced back on itself, but also the faculty of the imagination.
The true exercise of imagination in my view is: (a) to help us to understand other people and, (b) to respond to, in some of us, to produce art. But, it also has a bad use: to provide for us, in shadowy form, a substitute for virtues, successes, distinctions, etc., which ought to be sought outside in the real world -- such as picturing all I'd do if I were rich, instead of earning and saving.
Masturbation involves this abuse of imagination in erotic matters which, I think, bad in itself, and thereby encourages a similar abuse of it in all spheres. After all, almost (all of) the main work of life is to come out of ourselves, out of the little dark prison we are born in. Masturbation is to be avoided as all things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison."
In getting free from masturbation, it is vital to remember this aspect of addiction. We are in the spell of whatever we think is more powerful than we are. We keep saying to ourselves, "I can't control this" and then hate ourselves every time we do it, but feel helpless to overcome it -- an emotion from childhood where the person felt trapped and helpless. We have got to start speaking the truth which is: "With God, all things are possible." Now the saying of this Scripture over and over as a protection from masturbation is the wrong use of Scripture. Saying this Scripture and believing that God is helping you and with Him helping, all things are possible, has real power over masturbation; but you still have to fight the flesh. The power of masturbation (works) to isolate, defeat and keep you guilty, and only when you know God is helping you, can you really be free. It's a step of faith that says, "Masturbation is no longer an option" and you look to God, who is the ultimate option.
One young man who had real problems of self-image and receiving God's love thought the yoke God wanted us to take was just a heavy block of wood with one neckhole. When I told him a yoke has two neckholes, and Jesus is in one and he is in the other, his yoke became easier, his burden lighter, and he found rest for his soul.
Now to summarize, may we say (the following):
Masturbation keeps us sexually active on a low level that doesn't satisfy. We are not happy when we are stimulated and not completed sexually. It causes us to seek that completion or at least to think about the completion, which is against God's plan if we are not married.
Masturbation keeps our minds fantasizing lustfully and can influence the way we see people all day long.
Masturbation makes us feel dirty and guilty and, thus, not able to approach God freely.
Masturbation is having sex with yourself. It turns ourselves inward as we become our own sex partner. Sex was made to be shared with our mate and to cause us to go out in love.
Masturbation speaks a false message. All sexual acts speak a message -- either from God or from Satan. This false message is "I can satisfy myself sexually." That is not true. Or, worse yet, "If this is all I'll ever get, I guess I'll settle for this." That says that the Lord will not provide all I need, and that is definitely not true.
If masturbation is used as a way to relieve stress, it becomes an idol. We are meant to go to God with our stresses and cares and cast them all on Him for He cares for us.
Some have termed masturbation "taking matters into our own hands." That is exactly what we do. We do not learn self-control. We do not trust God. We do not go to Him with our stress, and then we take over. The result is another strengthening of the flesh.
There is a demonic aspect of masturbation. We have noticed in counseling that when the protection of the father is removed in a family, or the family is emotionally upset or dysfunctional, the children begin to masturbate very young. We believe this is an attack of Satan. Also, masturbation in the adult brings forth Satanic attack and can develop into serious compulsion.
Masturbation is an emotional anesthetic, to keep all of the ungodly emotions that we have stored up through many, many hurts and years of anger, jealousy, hatred, revenge, guilt, fear -- to keep all those emotions quiet -- when really the healthy thing is to take away the anesthetic, bring up the ungodly emotions, cleanse them out, deal with them through prayer, and be free.
Ways to Be Free
Repent. Turn from the sin by choice. Decide definitely masturbation is wrong. Until you decide this, you will never be able to be free.
Have a prayer partner pray to break the bondage and idolatry of masturbation. Pray to cleanse your hands, mind and sex organs with the Blood of Jesus.
Consecrate yourself to be holy before the Lord, and let Him provide all your needs.
Remember, you do not have a right to have sex. Sex is a part of marriage, and only marriage partners are to become one in this manner. If you are single and not having sex, that is the perfect state for you, ordained by God. It is not punishment or deprivation. It is a blessing not to have sex if you are single.
Throw away anything that connects with masturbation -- visual and manual stimulators.
Masturbation will cause marital problems because it draws us away from depending on each other and pulls us into ourselves. So turn from masturbation even if you are married.
Be patient with yourself if you fail to have victory over masturbation right away. Condemning yourself will lead to giving up and falling again. Getting angry at yourself will bring an emotional "cloud" over your thinking, prevent your hearing from God and applying what you already know.
Of course, getting angry at God will always give a place for Satan to separate or alienate you from God. You really should treat yourself only as the Lord treats you. He recognizes the sin and calls for repentance, but He is full of compassion and mercy. Satan will use anger, guilt and shame to keep you feeling hopeless and separated from God. After all, much of the driving force of masturbation comes from feelings of inadequacy, failure and rejection. So the best reaction is to repent, forgive yourself, encourage yourself in the Lord, and go on. It takes time to change from reacting emotionally to responding rationally.
Now we all know that repentance and confession are both necessary for the Christian, but we'd like to speak about the delineation of the two. In I John 1:9, the Word tells us, "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." What a wonderful promise: that by confessing our sins, we can receive forgiveness and cleansing. But it is very important that we forgive ourselves if God forgives us and that we believe that we are clean if He cleanses us.
In talking about repentance, many people become confused because they know that repentance means turning and going in the opposite direction. But, because they have patterns of the flesh that seem so unchangeable, they wonder why after they have repented they keep doing the same thing over and over again. We believe the explanation is found in Romans 7, where St. Paul speaks about himself in saying, "What I want to do, I do not do and what I don't want to do, that is what I do. But it is not I that sin, but the sin that dwells in my members. Because in my inner man, I want to do what God wants, but in my members, I have the habits of sin." So even after we decide and turn in our hearts, in our attitudes from sin and long to do the will of God, we have to continue to work the habits of sin out in the flesh. This will take watchfulness and diligence, but the product of it is certainly peace and joy and is well worth the effort. Uprooting the reasons for the sin-habit is very effective.
Satan wants to use masturbation to separate us from God. So as we work to be free from this practice, it is important that we see God walking beside us and strengthening us -- instead of our pulling away from Him in shame and discouragement. We might pray, "Oh Lord, you know that you and I both want me to be free of this. I thank you for the strength to say no, and I join in the victory you have already won over this flesh." Titus 2:11-14 tells us:
"The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passion, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good."
In conclusion, let us remind you that fantasy and masturbation are idols, raised up in place of God. The Lord wants us to turn to Him with all of our needs, with all of our stresses, with all of our fears and emotions, with all of our problems in relationships. We contend that as Christians, it is our responsibility to keep our body pure and under the Spirit's control. If that is God's plan, He will provide the strength to do this; and most certainly we see in the Scripture that is His plan. Galatians 5:24 reminds us that we are to crucify the flesh. Romans 6:11-14 tells us to yield the parts of our body as instruments of righteousness to God. Romans 12:1 urges us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. I Corinthians 6: 19 and 20 calls us to honor God with our bodies. These Scriptures are telling us that we must take a firm stand against the flesh if we want victory and that our spirits will flourish and prosper and be more sensitive to God.
Many of us here at L.I.F.E. Ministry have had to fight through the problems of masturbation, fantasy, pornography and homosexual activity. We know that if we give the flesh any little entrance to the idea that it could possibly be all right to do these things, that little by little, it will take over. So we do need to stand firmly against the flesh. We want to encourage you in this matter to keep a positive and cheerful attitude and know that we have a high priest who sympathizes with our weakness and yet calls us very clearly to holiness and righteousness and to have dominion over our appetites so that we may serve Him better and show forth His Kingdom.