11 Sep 2015
In part 1 of this post, we offered some beginning steps for combatting our initial reactions to our children’s sexual sin.
Where can we go after that?
- Talk to Your Child
Galatians 6:1 provides the alternative to freaking out or ignoring your child’s sexual sin: restoration. It reads, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”
In our lives, what has restored our trust in and devotion to God? At times, strong rebukes snapped us out of our unbelief and folly. But most often it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
Here’s a scenario of a parent gently confronting a son caught looking at porn. However, don’t think that girls aren’t tempted to look at porn! The overwhelming majority of teen girls have seen porn, and many of them are being drawn into habitual usage.
Reaffirm your love and God’s love.
Son, I love you, and I’m so sorry that sexual temptation hit you so hard. I want to help you.
God loves you when you are weak and tempted. He loves you when you are deceived and think sexual sin will give you what you want. He loves you even when you are going in the wrong direction.
Ask good questions that go for the heart, not merely behavior.
Whether your child has been caught using porn or has confessed on his own, ask him questions not only about his porn usage, but about what drove him to look at it.
Seek to find out what circumstances tend to trigger his desire to look at porn.
Son, what was going on just before you began searching for porn? When do you feel most tempted? What do you think about what you have been seeing?
Help your child understand that when he chooses to sin, that sin is an idol in which his heart is trusting. What do you think you’re getting out of porn? What can it give you that God can’t?
Help your child think through how this sin affects others, himself, and his relationship with God.
Pornography teaches radical self-centeredness, and your child needs instruction about how his behavior is never just about himself.
Son, a lot of people say that porn does not hurt anyone. What do you think? How might looking at porn affect the way you relate to real girls? If you get married, how might it impact your relationship with your future wife? How does porn affect the way you view God?
After using porn, how does it make you feel about yourself? What is God telling you about yourself?
Empathize from your own experience.
You are tempted to believe that this sexual sin is what you need. I know how easy it is to find pleasure in doing something I shouldn’t be doing. Everyone’s a sinner; our hearts are bent in that direction. But God is what our hearts need, so I want to help you trust Him and enjoy His love.
Point him to the nature of God and the gospel.
The Lord wants us to come to Him in prayer and faith when we feel most confused, tempted, dirty, and broken. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” God loves us so much that he won’t leave us stuck in sins. He wants to forgive us. God will help you with sexual temptations as He has helped me.
- Set Safeguards
When your kids struggle sexually, you need to set safeguards. We strongly recommend that you use internet filters like OpenDNS and accountability software like Covenant Eyes. See our minibook, iSnooping on Your Kid: Parenting in an Internet World. But you also need safeguards for situations and relationships in which your child is tempted. This may mean you don’t allow your child to be alone with certain friends or attend certain events.
- Pray with Your Child
Close this gentle confrontation by praying with your child. We need God’s help, and our kids need to hear us express that the only possibility for following Christ with our sexuality is His power, not us trying to do better. Be sure to end on a note of faith and hope, praying that the Spirit would produce godly fruit such as self-control and love for others.
- Keep Checking In
An episode of acting out sexually shows our children’s struggles with persistent temptations. If we never bring up the struggle again, we leave them vulnerable to another temptation: to act like this was a one-time slip-up, that everything is okay now, and that they have it all under control. We know from our own struggles that sanctification doesn’t work like that. Therefore, we can be sure that our teens’ struggles with sexuality will not easily diminish. Be faithful to regularly check in, ask questions, and pray with your child. And always point them to Christ, the Good Shepherd who loves all his struggling sheep.
11 Sep 2015
Accountability relationships are great when they work. But have you had any failed accountability relationships and wondered why they didn’t work? Are you in one right now that doesn’t seem helpful? Try asking some of these questions.
Have we been honest?
The idea of confessing sexual sin floods us with fear and shame, making us want to hide in darkness. But part of the beauty of an accountability relationship is the freedom to bring sin into the light with another Christian. Because we have been saved by Christ, we don’t need to hide our struggles. We are safe in Him, no matter what.
Think through reasons why you may not have been honest. Have you been too concerned about what your friend will think of you? Have you been unwilling to make the sacrifices needed to change? Talk with your friend or group about your struggle to be honest and suggest some changes to get the discussion going.
Have we been meeting too sporadically?
If you don’t know when you’re going to talk to your accountability partner or group, it is easy to lose sight of your goals. Meeting regularly ensures that you will help each other look to Christ in your struggles and be honest with God. Think of meeting regularly like charging your phone. If you don’t charge it regularly, you’ll miss calls and text messages and be annoyed that you can’t use it. Similarly, we need to recharge regularly by gaining encouragement from each other. Ask what might be getting in the way of meeting more regularly. How can you keep in better contact with your accountability partner?
Do we have a specific plan for our accountability relationship?
Maybe your meetings have become sporadic because you haven’t made specific requests for your relationship. Times over coffee can quickly become purposeless. Instead, be clear about your plan.
What are your hopes for the relationship? Some could be, “I want you to keep me accountable for my sexual sin,” or “I’m tempted most on Saturday nights. Could you call me then so we could pray together?” If you were friends with your dentist, you wouldn’t want to go for a check-up and just chat away the time without having your teeth checked. Similarly, when you are meeting for accountability, make sure to have some sort of plan. Pray, read a passage of Scripture, share failures and victories, probe and ask questions, share goals, then pray again.
Have we prayed and read the Bible together?
It is easy to skip reading Scripture and praying when you’re pressed for time. Maybe you began by praying and reading faithfully, but it has just fallen by the wayside. If so, ask yourself why prayer and Scripture haven’t been central to your relationship. If you feel pressed for time in your meetings, schedule longer sessions. Or if you just forget to pray and read, make it a priority to do these first.
If we meet with our accountability partners and do not pray or read Scripture, we are not taking advantage of the power of the Holy Spirit in our relationship. We gain great strength in joining others in prayer and hearing someone else lift up our burdens to God. We are helpless without God working in us, and we must call on Him in times of need.
Have we gone deeper?
You’ve been honest with each other about what you’ve done. But have you explored the reasons behind your sin? Are you too focused on what happened without asking why?
Behind every sin is a whole host of desires for things like relief, comfort, love, and acceptance. These desires come from beliefs about God and ourselves like, “God doesn’t give me what I really need, but porn can.” Noticing these desires and beliefs will help you move beyond just the outward behavior to the inner motives.
Have we talked about Christ?
Not only is it important to go beyond the surface level of our behavior, but we must also point each other to Christ. Do you remind each other of Christ’s work on the cross and His forgiveness? Do you encourage each other to cultivate a desire to honor and love Christ? Often our motivation to get rid of sin can be more about relieving our discomfort and shame rather than loving and obeying God. We serve a God who cares about our hearts and about our love for Him. We must actively cultivate a desire to honor and love Christ in all that we do.
Even if you’ve experienced difficulty and failure in your accountability relationships, keep pursuing them. While it takes a lot of time and effort, your relationships will produce the fruit of walking in the light. Through your friendship, you will be able to help each other look to Christ and walk in obedience.