Every Man’s Battle
by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker, with Mike Yorkey
Every man battles with lust. That includes every Christian man. Every Man’s Battle claims to identify the source of our problems and offer practical solutions to men about how to prevent lust in the future. It deals candidly with the problem, tackling issues varying from porn use to watching joggers to masturbation. It offers three “levels” of defense: protecting eyes, mind, and heart. The authors claim that by using this method, any man who is not a sex maniac can conquer lust and never be bothered with it again.
OK. Good stuff first:
The book does offer a lot of good practical advice on how a man can keep himself from temptation. The chapters on dealing with the eyes in particular seem very useful. If I were counseling a man struggling with lust, either in or outside of a marriage, I might use some of the methods here to share some practical advice.
But then, there’s the bad stuff.
First off, this book really biffs with the law. It never lands hard with the law; it calls what men do mistakes and wrong, but it seems to pussyfoot around calling what it is: Lust is evil. It is sin. It is wrong and offensive to God most high and brings his wrath – the same as every sin. But because the book tries to lighten the law, it finds no use for the Gospel. Instead, it’s filled with quotes like this:
“Our only hope is obedience.” (Pg. 59)
“When we’re thieves with our eyes, we’re embezzling sexual gratification from areas that don’t belong to us, from women who aren’t connected to us. In this arena, Jesus, having never looked on a woman with dishonor, is clearly our role model.” (Pg. 72)
“When it comes down to it, God’s definition of real manhood is pretty simple: IT means hearing His Word and doing it. That’s God’s only definition of manhood – a doer of the Word. And God’s definition of a sissy is someone who hears the Word of God and doesn’t do it.” (Pg. 77, emphasis in original)
“And that’s the whole point of sexual purity. It’s not about guarding your eyes and starving your mind. It’s about deepening your connection with God and being forged as a man.” (Pg. 227)
That last quote – do you see what’s wrong with it? Apparently you deepen your relationship with God by what you do, and not by what he has done by dying for you. You don’t deepen your bond with Jesus by reading his Word. You don’t deepen your relationship with God by “growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Nope. According to the authors, we grow only through obedience. Well there’s a phrase for that: False teaching. If your only hope of connection with God is what you do, you have no hope. If your only hope is obedience (as the authors claim in that first quote), you have no hope. Because we are still sinners, our only hope is Jesus. This book’s false teaching will not give you hope. Taken seriously, it can only lead to despair.
But wait! It gets worse! Does the book mention the Gospel at all?
At one point the book goes into great detail talking about Uriah. You remember him? He was the man King David had killed, because David wanted Uriah’s wife – Bathsheba. The authors go into detail about Uriah’s good qualities and how David sinned. They talk about Nathan the prophet confronting David about his sin. But then… they cut short by ONE VERSE from Nathan absolving David of his sins. There is no forgiveness in this book. There is only “work harder, have some tips, you can conquer your lust!”
And if you can’t?
Well, you’re just not good enough.
There’s one point where it looked like we’d finally get some gospel. Let me quote this section for you:
“Remember, the Bible says that God loved us while we were yet sinners. Clearly, loving the unlovely is a foundation of God’s character, and cherishing the unlovely is its bedrock. Since Christ died for the church – the unlovely – and since our marriages should parallel Christ’s relationship to the church, we have no excuse when we don’t cherish our wives. God loved us before we were worthy; we can do nothing less for our wives.” (Pg. 202, emphasis in original)
Did you catch that?
It sounded like they were going to announce the gospel. Christ died for sinners – like us! Like you, even in your lust. You are still loved!
Oh, wait. Oops.
Nope. Christ loved unlovely people, and so should you.
The Gospel is not a club, and yet here, the authors used it that way.
Look, this book has no hope. None at all. It has some good tips… but no gospel. No forgiveness. It doesn’t absolve me of the times I’ve lusted, and instead puts more weight on me. “Obedience is your only hope.” Once again – if that’s true, I have no hope.
Oh, and it gets worse!
This book is the bedrock of a large series of books. I’ve not read any of the other books, but I talked to a friend who has. Apparently one of the later books encourages men to use their wives as methadone – basically, have sex as often as they want with their wives so they stop lusting. Instead of porn, have a wife! Instead of cheating, grab a wife!
It’s true that we are to love each other and recognize that our bodies belong to our spouses.
It is not true that love means, “I get to use you whenever I want.” There’s no love in that.
Now, I didn’t see that taught in this volume, but it’s still disturbing and degrading. The last section of this book talks about cherishing wives, and as practical ways to do that, it gave some nice advice. However, if we end up with, “Use your wife!” – yeah, that’s another strike against this book.
So I’m basically going to sum the book up this way: If you’re a counselor looking for some practical advice on helping a man with lust, there are some things that recommend this book… but I wouldn’t put this into the hands of a layman struggling with lust. It will only either destroy him or turn him into a Pharisee, thinking his sin isn’t that bad. I don’t want to make anyone I counsel fit for hell, so I won’t be handing this book out. Period.
Instead, I want to point them to the law. Lust is wrong. It is evil. And yes, it offends almighty God. The person who lusts is the person who dies, and deservedly so.
But Jesus didn’t lust. He was tempted, just like every man has been. But he really conquered his temptation. He didn’t give in to think about women that way. He didn’t act on lust, because he didn’t have any. And when he died, he suffered for your lust. Period. Your sin is real – but it has been nailed to the cross. You are forgiven.
And now you are not your own. You were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.
Law and Gospel. It’s a thing. And it works. It’s real.
Why not use that, eh?