Is it possible to Lust without Sinning?
We receive many emails from those that want some relief or deliverance from the binding chains of lust. They sometimes ask if lust is a sin, and if so, how bad of one.
What is sin?
The word "sin", in itself means "to miss the mark", like an archer that didn't hit the bulls eye on a target. The Bible says:
"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23
So, what's the standard?
2 Corinthians 4:6 says,
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
To have knowledge of the glory of God, we will only find it in the face of Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us that Jesus Christ "had no sin", "knew no sin", and "did no sin." He is the standard by which God will determine our sinfulness. At any point that we fall short of the perfection of Jesus Christ, we have sinned.
So God holds us accountable for the things that we do, the thoughts that we think, the words that we speak, the attitudes that we express, and the motives that we have. If these come short of how the Lord Jesus Christ would behave in these areas, then we have sinned! I guess you could say that we live, and move, and have our being in sin. :) John Calvin is said to have exclaimed, "No man knoweth a hundreth part of the sin that is in him!" This testimony is true, and yet we spend most of our time trying to excuse our sin, instead of facing up to it, and dealing with it.
Forgiveness and Transformation
The Christian rejoices that his sin is forgiven, and that God now gives him the strength and means, by which sin becomes less and less of a harsh taskmaster, and has less power in his life. He desires that sin will be overcome in all areas of his life, realizing that, though it may have less influence in his life, it will be struggled with for all of this earthly pilgrimage. Only at the resurrection of the just will sin be rooted out of his flesh; until then he can only hope for it to be put out of business.
So is pornography sin? Yes, if it produces lust, evil imaginings (such as sex out of marriage), becomes addictive (by what we are overcome we are slaves to), gives a distorted view of the other gender and proper inter-relationships, or we find that we are looking upon evil, or it is the corruption of that which is natural (perversion-the twisting of the natural to that which is unnatural) [One can determine if something is a perversion by examining whether it is following the way that it was designed to be.] God calls us to purity of thought, and if pornography does not do that, then it is a sin to be avoided.
Males can usually tell that it is not for them to indulge in, because their body's response gives away the nature of its influence on them. Another damaging effect is the images it leaves in your minds, and the fantasizing it produces. We should heed the injunction, "I will look upon no evil thing." The Lord Jesus says that if a man looks upon a woman with lust, it is as if he committed adultery with her (Matthew 5:27-30). Pornography is looking at others with lust, or the desire to get lust, and therefore the Lord Jesus says it would be better to pluck out your eye than to indulge in it!
Is masturbation sin? Though one of the most common of activities, it can be seen to be sin, if we remember the principle of design. Semen is designed to impregnate one's wife. Ejaculation is designed to shoot it on its way. Erections are designed to facilitate the ejaculation. In Leviticus 15 we find that the ejaculation of semen produces "uncleanness." [I don't know why, but I accept the word of the Designer.] And in the New Testament, uncleanness is one of the items that salvation and living for Christ should remove from our lives. (2 Corinthians 12:21; Romans 1:24; 6:19; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 4:19;5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 2 Peter 2:10) Galatians 5:19 says uncleanness is a work of the flesh; Ephesians 5:3 tells it should not be named amongst saints (Christians), and 1 Thess. 4:7 says we should be holy and not unclean. Read the other verses also.
Also, masturbation is usually the means of getting release and relief from pornography and/or fantasizing (sexually), both being sins that lead to this sin. Nocturnal emissions seem to be God's natural means of releasing sexual tension or semen build up, and should not afflict the sensitive conscience, unless it is accompanied by uncontrolled thoughts (even in your dreams!). We need to start accepting responsibility for our actions, our thoughts and our inability to do right, so that we look to God for the solutions to our needs. When you masturbate, do you have control of your thoughts, desires, and bodies? Then call a spade a spade, and admit this is a sin.
Is fantasizing about your future wife, if not accompanied by physical stimulation - a sin? The Bible tells us that not every one is called to be married (Matthew 19 & 1 Corinthians 7), but each of us is called to live for the Lord. So we first need to be aware what the Lord wants for us, and be content with His calling for our lives. If we are called to single service, then we are just distracting ourselves to fantasize. If we are pretty sure that we will go "after the manner of all the earth", then we need to discern the place of faith in God's calling. Faith is seeing what God intends to do and acting in harmony with it. So fantasizing about marriage, if it stays in this realm of faith, can be a means of calling us to prayer and godly commitments to what we will do for our spouses, and in our marriages. But if such fantasizing just produces pining, distraction from living for the Lord, and attempts to manipulate the objects of our desires, then it is sin, and a failure to redeem the time. (And this is all with the assumption of chaste thinking and behaving. Arousal and physical manipulation shows we have gone into sin.)
Is it possible to masturbate without thought/visual stimulation?
Yes. You might get a spontaneous erection for no known reason, and masturbate just to get rid of it. Since it is not following the design principle, and brings uncleanness, and is usually indulged in for the pleasure of the results, we would have to conclude that it also is missing the mark , and is therefore sin. (Unless it is a case of priapism - time, distractions, exercise, cold showers, and just plain thinking about something else usually makes them go away and you don't have to masturbate.) :)
So we see that lust (desire) covers a wide area, and is best to not be indulged in. For like a weed it grows and spreads, and sends down deep roots, so that even if we pull it up, it can usually grow back. And regrettably, when indulged in, we become less sensitive to its damaging effects, and need more of it to get the same titillation. So it becomes like the Hydra of old, cut off one of its heads and two more grow back in its place - it only gets worse. Even someone as mighty in self-control as a Samson, will be overcome by lust!
In Christ, Lawrence Howie