This culture is obsessed with sex. Even burger ads sometimes use sex to sell their product. Pornography is rampant. Gender confusion rules the day. Some even want laws to let men use the ladies' room. And if you are a pastor and don't agree, they may subpoena your sermons.
Tragically, the church is not immune from sexual problems. Every so often another prominent minister falls publically because of private sexual sin. Dr. Mark Laaser of faithfulandtrue.com says pastors can be vulnerable because of loneliness: "The ministry in whatever denomination or form is sometimes a very lonely profession."
He notes, "Fantasy is the cornerstone of sexual addiction. All sex addicts and all people who get into trouble with adultery, to a certain extent, have problems with fantasy. Fantasy is an attempt by addicts to heal any woundedness of their spirit. So if they're lonely, they're going to find a fantasy that helps them feel a lot less lonely."
Dr. Mark Laaser knows firsthand about sexual addiction and healing. By the grace of God, he overcame a 25-year addiction himself and now counsels people in this realm regularly. At his ministry in Minnesota, they even hold treatment workshops that usually last three intense days.
Sexual sin often loses its grip once the light is shone on it. As has been said, sunlight is the greatest disinfectant. Accountability to a trusted source is a key help. I have interviewed Dr. Laaser a few times for Christian radio and television. Here are some of his insights.
He says: "The physical consequences [of sexual addiction] are profound. Most of us have known people who have lost jobs, careers. We work in our ministry with a number of pastors who have fallen, and that's a terrible thing to happen---when you lose in a way, God's calling on your life."
And there are other losses too: "We've had people who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on sexual activity….We've had men who have actually started robbing banks in order to pay for their prostitution habit. We're seeing a lot of crazy things. People being arrested….People being sued, those kinds of things. And then there's the divorce rate, the broken marriages, broken homes, abandoned children, as a result of sexual addiction. That's all very profound."
He says, "Most sex addicts can trace their addiction back into childhood and adolescence. So it generally starts early and just develops over the course of the life until they are found out."
While leading a secret double life, Dr. Laaser was both a minister and a Christian counselor. When he was "found out" in the mid-1980s, he was fired by the church's trustees. But one of them was a recovering alcoholic who had undergone treatment to deal with his problem, and he noted the similarities between his problem (in recovery) and Dr. Laaser's. So he recommended Laaser to be sent to a treatment facility. It turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.
Laaser tells how it all had begun: "I started looking at pornography at age 11. I got really hooked into that for 25 years following that. That, of course, got progressively worse over time. I mean I needed more and more forms and the volume of that needed to increase in terms of frequency and other kinds of things." He thanks God that he found help before the Internet hit.
He said, "The sex addict will always want more and more of the same thing or more and more of other things to achieve the same effect on their brain. That's the kind of an effect that we call tolerance. Sex addicts build up a tolerance to sex---where they're going to need more excitement, more activity or so forth to have the experience."
He says three myths kept him from seeking help: "The first one was if you professed Christ, God would remove all lust from your heart. The second one was if you go into the ministry, God will prevent you from all sexual temptation. And the third one was that if you get married, and have a regular sexual partner, you'll never have a problem with sexual temptation."
The distortion of sex today is a twisting of God's design. Says Laaser: "God's intention for sexuality is that a man and a woman in marriage should be together in a totally spiritually and emotionally intimate relationship first, and then sexuality is an expression of that….it should be self-sacrificing, and it should be our hearts' intention in marriage to give to our partners."
Keeping connected to Jesus is the key. A former homosexual once told me, "I went to sleep one night and was just praying, 'Lord, I can't do this anymore.' And I closed my eyes and I saw a vision of the cross…and I heard that still small voice again say to me, 'Whenever you get tempted to fall, think about the cross, and everything I've done for you.' And in that moment, there was a healing that took place inside of me." That began his new freedom in Christ.
Dr. Laaser concludes, "My heart is to reach out to those who are as lonely as I was---who are as isolated as I was, who are as hopeless as I was. Our ministry's main mission is to reach out to the sexually broken, so they can find a source of strength and hope." As Jesus said of Himself, "If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed."