Desire can be both good and bad, but it’s the object of that desire and the motivation that makes all the difference.
Our human desires will drive us to lust, but God still wants us to desire him. In this episode of Man Talk, Vince Miller is joined by Irving Woolf, professional counselor with Hopewell Counseling and founder of Purity Platoon a men’s purity ministry which has helped thousands of men find victory over sexual sin. Today we hear Irv’s as he helps us understand fleshly desire and lust and what to do about them.
Vince: This is Resolute, and Man Talk. I’m Vince Miller, your founder, and host. And today we’re discussing the topic of sexual addiction and lust.
Gentlemen, welcome to Man Talk, by Resolute. If this is your first time tuning in, well thank you for joining us. Here at Man Talk, we discuss every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 15 minute topics relevant to Christian men. This is because, at Resolute, it is our mission to disciple and develop men to lead. So never forget, if you’re looking for content for a men’s group or a men’s ministry – then you need to go to our website today, at beresolute.org.
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Well, I am very excited to introduce to you, my good friend, Irving Woolf. Who is the President and Founder of Hopewell Counseling, based in Maple Grove, Minnesota. Irv has served in church ministry as a Pastor. And founded his own men’s ministry, entitled, “Purity Platoon,” which has helped thousands of men battle for purity in their lives. Today Irv counsels with men on a regular basis. So Irv, welcome to the show.
Irv: Thanks, Vince. Thanks for having me on, it’s really a privilege.
Vince: Oh, it’s my privilege. And I’m sure it’s a lot of those guys out there that are struggling through sexual compulsions and addictions in their life. That they’re looking for wisdom. I know that, and I know Irv, you’ve learned some things over the years that would greatly help these men. So today, we want to talk about lust.
Last time we talked a little bit about unbelief and our desire to control in our life, and how we have built up beliefs over years and thinking that we can actually handle these issues on our own privately, right? Last time we talked about how we can move that belief from belief in us, to belief in God. And demonstrated – I hope – for guys, how unbelief is prohibiting us from really seeing the spiritual change in our life.
Today I want to talk about lust. And this is a big topic, Irv. Lust is the challenge, right? We live in a world that’s full of lust. Help us to understand, at least have a preliminary understanding of what we’re talking about here. What is lust?
Irv: Yeah, that’s a great question. Well, Jesus talked about it a little bit in Matthew 5. As I recall that, he said, “You’ve heard it said, ‘Thou shall not commit adultery. But I say to every man that lusts after a woman, has already committed adultery with her in his heart.'” So it’s a heart issue. Lust is all about the heart. And yeah, eyes are involved in lust. Because we see things, and we want things, and we basically snack on the beauty of women. And we might lust after them. That’s very different than loving them.
Vince: Yeah, how is that different? Because I think that’s an important differentiator. How is lust different from looking at a woman and loving her?
Irv: Yeah, lust is very self-centered. It’s selfish in its motivation. Lust is very much focused on my needs and what I want, and how I want to get satisfied. Love – on the other hand, is very other-centered. It’s all about you, it’s all about your needs. Me meeting your needs. And it’s very sacrificial. Lust is very narcissistic, and tends to be all about me and meeting my needs and building up my image and doing it my way.
And so men will view pornography and want to inflict that on their wives. So they come back to their wife, and they say, “Man, I looked on this website – and this woman did this thing with this man, I want you to do that with me.” And that’s all about me. It’s not about her. She may come away feeling dirty, used, abused. But that’s okay, as long as it’s meeting my needs.
Vince: Yeah, that – you know what? That is an excellent description. Because it helps guys to understand what’s really happening in our mind, right?
Vince: Really happening in our heart. And I think you’re – you’re spot on with Jesus. Jesus was always pushing us to really understand our sin at a deeper level, the core of the issue. And I think what I hear you saying is, “Lust has far more to do with the human heart than necessarily just our appendages behaving a certain way.”
Vince: Or us – our eyes bouncing and looking away at something. We don’t even have to look at a woman to lust after a woman, right?
Irv: Yeah, yeah. We can look at images. In fact, we’ve got images stored in our brains. We’ve got like this little – this little corridor with images and pictures and videos on the walls. And we just take a little memory walk. And I’ve had guys in platoons who – they go away to fantasy land for half an hour at a time, and just check out and review all the images that they’ve looked at over the years.
Vince: That is so true. Because lust is so powerfully visual for a man, isn’t it?
Vince: Like I can remember the first piece of pornography I ever looked at – still today. Here I am, sat – I’m 46 years old. I remember an image from when I was a teenager, in my mind – isn’t that–?
Irv: Wow, wow.
Vince: It’s powerful, isn’t it?
Vince: And I bet if you asked any guy out there, the power of that image burned on our mind because of how it is glued to our brain sexually, right? How it’s just glued to our brain. Is powerful in how it leads our heart. And I think a lot of guys out there struggle with how to untwist those entangled things that become meshed in their mind and their heart, Irv.
Irv: Yeah. Well in time, those images gradually do fade until after years you can’t remember them anymore. But – again, for most men – there’s something called epinephrine, that’s been secreted in our brains. And epinephrine – the way Doctor Dobson describes it – epinephrine is a trauma released, a chemical hormone in the brain. And what epinephrine does, is – when we see a trauma like somebody going through a windshield or somebody being killed on the battlefield – our brain secretes epinephrine, which coats the brain and stores that image in long-term memory. So here we are, 10 years later, we can still remember that guy going through the windshield.
Irv: And yet, we don’t have any trauma connected with having breakfast a couple of days ago – we can’t even remember what we ate. We don’t remember that we had oatmeal, or we don’t remember those kinds of things. Because epinephrine wasn’t secreted. But pornography has the unique aspect that it shocks us. It creates not only troughs in the brain that we can talk about, but it also secretes epinephrine. Which means the images go into long-term memory.
Irv: Which means you don’t get them out easily.
Irv: So the way you counter that – you can’t get rid of the ruts that those have created, the fissures in the brain. But what you can do is create new ruts, new fissures. So that the neural pathways are changed. And that’s why you memorize scripture.
Irv: That’s why you want to hide the Word in your heart. That’s why you want to read it daily.
Irv: And feast on it.
Vince: Yeah. That’s really good. And that is – you’re helping, I think – guys today, Irv – untangle what has been tangled in their brain, right? We just have this big hairball of issues and problems, right? It’s tangled up in our brain, and they’re a compilation of images and issues. And we have to begin to untangle them. But at the same time, you’re saying, “This is the point of memorizing scripture, gentlemen. Is that we want to build some new ruts that burn into our mind some new behavior patterns.”
Vince: And I believe that lust is both a positive thing and a negative thing. We can desire things that are – have negative outputs in our life. And we can desire things that have positive outputs in our life. Is that true, Irv?
Irv: Yeah, there’s a choice. Nobody’s twisting your arm, nobody’s making you. It’s what – what psychologists call mindfulness.
Irv: Mindfulness is when you think of something, and then you think of what will be the outcome before you do anything? And so you think about something. You think to yourself, “What will happen if I click on this particular website?”
Irv: And rather than allowing your feelings to dictate what you will do, you practice mindfulness, and you say, “What will be the outcome?” Because there’s a pretty good likelihood at some point my wife is going to find that website that I just clicked on.
Irv: If nothing else, “God will see what I’m doing, and God will know that I clicked on this website.” And the long run is – it’s going to take me to a dry well, with no water in it. And I’m going to wind up being completely famished and dehydrated when I get all done. I won’t have the satisfaction I’m looking for. It’s not going to do one blessed thing for me.
Vince: Yeah, that’s really good. And you’re talking about mindfulness. It’s – essentially, I’m hearing you say – we’ve got to think these things through. We’ve got to think about the outcome on the other side. “I choose to do this, and it fills my life with a bunch of negative ruts that lead to really me trying to control my life, control my intimacy, objectifying women,” all these kinds of things. It leads to all kinds of negative outputs, right? That lead to the fire of hell, basically.
Vince: And we have to allow our mind to go to the place where we think these things all the way through. And often what I’ve told guys, Irv – is the beginning of untangling these things is at that moment that we begin to experience that lust. – we make a decision that we made a long time ago, to choose to do something to change in that moment. To make a choice, empowered by the Holy Spirit of course, right?
Vince: But we start making choices that lead down a new path. So that when we experience that trigger moment, that we may want to do some sort of inappropriate lustful thing in our mind, in our heart, on the computer, with a woman – whatever it might be. That we make an advanced decision to not do that, by doing it – doing something else.
Vince: And that’s called mindfulness, right?
Irv: It is mindfulness. I think about Joseph. Remember Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife?
Vince: Oh yeah, sure, yeah.
Irv: And she’s making a play, he’s been rejecting her, rejecting her, rejecting her.
Irv: Her husband and the house is pretty clean, nobody’s around, nobody’s there. Nobody will know.
Irv: That’s one of the big things the devil appeals to, is, “No one will know.” And that’s a total lie. In any case, Potiphar’s Wife makes a grab at him. And he runs for his life and leaves her with his robe. And yeah, there are negative consequences, but the sovereignty of God is still in charge, and Joseph winds up being elevated to Pharaoh’s right-hand man. But you have to make a choice. You can’t – like he said, “If I do this – I not only sin against your husband, I sin against God.”
Irv: And I won’t do that.
Vince: Yeah, that is remarkable. Because you have to believe – you have to believe that Joseph understood that that moment was going to come, right? That moment was going to come. And then what he did, was he chose to run. And yeah, she grabbed his cloak and used it as evidence against him. But I gotta tell you, I gotta tell you that if we can just make those advance decisions regardless of the consequences, that on the other side of it there’s blessing to come, right?
Irv: Yeah there is.
Vince: Because we choose to live in the character of God. Irv, as we begin to close our show today, I just want to reach for the verse that you remembered – you mentioned earlier, Matthew 5:28. It says, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Guys, those are words to remember. it’s not just about the acts that you engage in or the behavior. Or it’s not about getting caught. That isn’t when sin is wrong, right? Sin is not wrong when we get caught.
I think Irv has pointed us to some great words today. That when you look at a woman or anything lustfully, and you objectify that thing for your own selfish purposes, you have taken something godly and something beautiful, and you’ve turned it – you’ve turned yourself into God. Wanting to control that issue, that moment, the thing – and what you’ve done there in your heart is wrong. Hang onto those words, and rebuild them. God is God. You are not. So thanks for being with us again today.
And that’s the show, thanks for listening. As we close today, I want to remind you of a couple of things. First, if you want to connect with Irv, you can do so at Hopewell Counseling. There are links on this podcast if you’d like to connect directly to him.
Also, as we close, I want to remind you that we have great content for your men’s groups. Excellent small group videos and participant handbooks that will empower the men of your church to lead. Check it all out at beresolute.org/free-trial. That’s free dash trial. And yes, I will see to it that you get a free trial and a Resolute Men’s study guide to go with it.
So, guys, I hope you enjoyed this episode of Man Talk, but please know that the time that we spent together today is worthless, unless you choose to act on it. So do something today – by getting off the bench, and into the game. And I’ll see you right back here next time on another edition of Man Talk.