Mailbag XVI

by Ed Urzi

Yes, it’s time once again to take a look into The Doctor’s mailbag to answer the questions asked by you, the esteemed members of the online youth community.

Now The Doctor has received e-mail on many different topics but our subject this time centers on the important question of Christian youth, sex and the Internet. Before we get into this question and answer, The Doctor first wishes to say that he has edited out the exact nature of the online activity that this person was taking part in. It’s enough to say that this person was participating in some conduct of a sexual nature on the Internet that was clearly wrong for a Godly young man or woman to be involved in.

Part of this person’s message said this…

"... I've been (doing something sexually inappropriate) on the internet. I feel so horrible when I do it - I keep letting God down - I always pray to him that I will never do it again then 1 week later the thought comes to my head and I pray right then that God will take the thought out of my head but then I end up doing it anyway - I keep letting God down and I'm so depressed about it

Well to start, The Doctor thinks that you’ve done something really good by taking the first step and admitting that this is an issue that you have to deal with. People who struggle with similar things often take the wrong approach by trying to explain away their actions or pretend that a problem doesn’t really exist. Those choices aren’t helpful and they’re certainly not pleasing to God. The Doctor is glad that you’ve chosen a better way.

Now before we continue, we should understand that Bible clearly says that sexual activity outside of or before marriage is always wrong (See Leviticus 18:20, Acts 15:20, and 1 Thessalonians 4:3 for more on that). You should also remember that people who engage in online sexual activity are using those images, videos, words or other media simply for their own satisfaction. The Bible uses the term “lust” to describe this kind of activity and it occurs whenever people use others to meet their own personal needs.

This is important because the Scriptures speak very disapprovingly of lustful actions and attitudes (see 1 Peter 4:3). The Bible teaches that lust is wrong because it is opposed to what real love is all about. You see, the difference between love and lust is that love involves giving and putting the needs of others first (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7), while lust involves selfishness and getting your own needs met (see Colossians 3:5 and 1 Thessalonians 4:4-5). Because God is love (1 John 4:8), He can’t support any kind of action or activity that involves lust- that’s what makes it bad.

So what’s God’s attitude towards Christians who find themselves in a situation like this- a situation where a they have committed the same sin over and over even though they really didn’t want to. Well, while it’s true that God does not excuse sinful behavior, it’s important to remember that God is also very, very patient and merciful with anyone who really wants to live the kind of life that honors Him.

The person who really wants to be pleasing to God but keeps making mistakes in the same area should know that God still remains compassionate, slow to get angry, and overflowing in love and faithfulness (see Psalm 86:15). In fact, Psalm 103:13-14 tells us something important about God’s attitude towards people who want to honor Him but are having trouble overcoming sinful habits…

“…His mercy toward those who fear and honor him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west. He is like a father to us, tender and sympathetic to those who reverence him. For he knows we are but dust.”

Now let’s be very clear on something: it is definitely not OK to keep on doing things that are wrong. However, you should also keep in mind that struggling with a particular sin is not the same as being stubbornly disobedient and God will help those who truly want to do what is pleasing to Him.

Of course, knowing and doing what is right are two different things, aren’t they? Would it surprise you to learn that even the great apostle Paul struggled with this issue? Here is some of what Paul himself had to say on this subject in the Bible…

“I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to– what I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience proves that I agree with these laws I am breaking. But I can’t help myself because I’m no longer doing it. It is sin inside me that is stronger than I am that makes me do these evil things.

“I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn I can’t make myself do right. I want to but I can’t. When I want to do good, I don’t; and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. Now if I am doing what I don’t want to, it is plain where the trouble is: sin still has me in its evil grasp. It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong” (Romans 7:15-21).

Like the Apostle Paul, The Doctor is not aware of any real Christian who doesn’t wrestle with the need to overcome repeated sinful behaviors in their life. Again, this is not an excuse for doing wrong but simply to illustrate that every Christian has to battle against that inner desire to do things that they know are wrong. You should be encouraged to know that even the great Apostle Paul had times when he knew what was right but did what was wrong.

But while Paul was familiar with this struggle, the good news is that he also recognized the way out. In his first letter to the Corinthian church he tells us what it is…

“But remember this– the wrong desires that come into your life aren’t anything new and different. Many others have faced exactly the same problems before you. And no temptation is irresistible. You can trust God to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it, for he has promised this and will do what he says. He will show you how to escape temptation’s power so that you can bear up patiently against it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

The Doctor believes that God wants to help anyone who truly wants to overcome the temptation to get involved in sexually inappropriate things online. Of course, overcoming these things may not be easy but then few things worth having are, right? So here are a few ideas that can help you escape temptation in this area …

1) Pray

“Always be joyful. Always keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

If you are not having a regular conversation with God about the areas where you need help then you should definitely start. And if you’re already doing this then keep it up. Ask God to give you the desire to do those things that honor Him in every area of your life. Have an ongoing conversation with God each day and make it your business to pray relentlessly and continually about those areas where you may be falling short.

Don’t get upset if things seem to be taking a lot of time- just keep at it. Remember that “…God is at work within you, helping you want to obey him, and then helping you do what he wants” (Philippians 2:13).

2) Read Your Bible Every Day

“Remember what Christ taught, and let his words enrich your lives and make you wise…”(Colossians 3:16a).

Reading a portion of the Bible each day will not only help you feel closer to God but it will also help you overcome sinful behaviors in your life. Psalm 119:11 tells us, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (NIV). Before you start reading, ask God to help you to understand his Word and ask Him to help you to apply it in your everyday life. Then set aside a time to read a portion of the Scriptures every day.

3) Talk It Over

“Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

If you are struggling in this area, talk things over with someone who can listen and help you. Such a person might be a Pastor, Youth Pastor or other mature church leader who can pray for you and help you do what’s right. If you don’t feel that you have anyone that you can speak with about this subject then send The Doctor some mail and we’ll talk.

4) Take Some Practical Steps

“A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them. The simpleton never looks and suffers the consequences” (Proverbs 27:12)

Think about those times when you are tempted to get online and do something sexually inappropriate and then stay away from the phone or laptop during those times. Another idea is to move your computer to a higher-traffic area of your home if possible. This would work because you are much less likely to do things that you shouldn’t be doing online if there are others nearby.

In fact, it might even be a good idea to temporarily uninstall any program or app that can be used for sexually inappropriate activities online. This may sound like radical step but remember what Jesus once said…

 “If your hand does wrong, cut it off. Better live forever with one hand than be thrown into the unquenchable fires of hell with two! If your foot carries you toward evil, cut it off! Better be lame and live forever than have two feet that carry you to hell. And if your eye is sinful, gouge it out. Better enter the Kingdom of God half blind than have two eyes and see the fires of hell” (Mark 9:43-47)

A wise person knows that there may be times when you just have to “cut off” those things that are causing you to do things that don’t honor God.

5) Don’t Wait- Deal With It Now!

“But flee youthful lusts, and follow after righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22 ASV)

Finally, if you’ve been involved in something sexually inappropriate online then you should consider that God may be giving you some time and space to repent, or “turn back” from what you’ve been doing. Romans 2:4 explains it like this…

“Can’t you see that (God) has been waiting all this time without punishing you, to give you time to turn from your sin? His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.”

Of course, people sometimes do things that they know are wrong but when God doesn’t punish them right away, they may think, “It’s not a big deal, God doesn’t care; I’m getting away with it.” The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes talks about this kind of attitude when it says, “Because God does not punish sinners instantly, people feel it is safe to do wrong” (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

If you feel this way then you should know it’s a definite mistake to think that God doesn’t see what you are doing or that He doesn’t care. See, just because God has not acted in a situation doesn’t mean that He can’t or won’t act. Remember that choices have consequences. If you decide to continue doing things that are not good for you (like  engaging in sexually immoral online activity) then you can count on God to eventually bring His correction into your life as a consequence.

God has all kinds of ways of getting your attention and some of those ways may not be very pleasant. Like any good, loving parent, God won’t let you continue to do something that will hurt you. Deal with the situation now and don’t let these words of Numbers 32:23 be said of you…

“But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the LORD; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out” (NIV).

You don’t have to be involved with sexually inappropriate activity online- you’re better than that. Wait for God to take care of those physical and emotional needs in your life and put these words from Ephesians 4:1 into practice…

“…live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (NIV)..


Do you have a question for The Doctor? Just send it to the email address above- you’ll get a personal reply and you just might see it answered here.