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Early in life, I made a commitment to avoid the "party" lifestyle. I had seen alcohol destroy my parents' marriage and, years later, take my father's life. I knew other kids were getting wasted on weekends, but I refused to join them. In fact, I vowed to never take a drink as long as I lived. I had witnessed its destructive power and wanted no part of it. But while I had a grip on one potential problem, another was strengthening its grip on me.

When I was about 10 years old, I was exposed to pornographic magazines at a friend's house. To this day, I can still visualize some of those images. Throughout my young adult and college years, I ran across similar material. It was never an obsession. Still, I allowed it into my thought life now and then. And it stuck.

I married Renna when I was 23. I thought I had my lust under control, reasoning, "God has blessed me with a beautiful wife. Surely I won't slip back into the ways of my youth. I don't need that stuff anymore." That was true for the first few years. Then I started allowing things to creep into my life that didn't belong there. Not pornography. Just "normal" television shows, movies, magazine articles, comedians and music that pushed the limits of decency. Their standards were low. I should have filtered them out, but instead I relaxed my own standards in order to enjoy them. Pretty soon I was recalling the pornographic images I had seen years ago, and as much as I hate to admit it, wanted to see them again.

My relationship with Renna seemed strong, but I could sense this area of lust making me vulnerable to temptation. In 1998, after eight years of marriage, I realized I had a problem. God let me see myself as I really was, a man crumbling under the weight of inappropriate desires. I knew I had to ask Him to turn my life around or I'd eventually commit adultery and destroy my family. After 19 years in the Lord, the result was a total rededication to Christ.

As you and I speak to our kids, we need to challenge them to dedicate every area of their lives to Jesus. Starting now. They may feel morally strong on various fronts, but they mustn't let down their guard. Have them search their hearts. Help them identify potential snares. Even "mild" lust can lead down a dark path and hinder spiritual growth. Invite your kids to be totally honest with you about their spiritual struggles. Ensure that teens feel safe and loved. Pray with and for them.

Guys in particular need to know that lust is the most common temptation among men. Explain why we should hold each other accountable. We should encourage our sons to embrace Psalm 101:3 and put on blinders that will protect their eyes. Address the cop-out, "Hey, we're just guys; that's how we're made." That's a lazy, ignorant and dangerous approach to sexuality—a powder keg waiting for a careless spark.

I only wish someone had urged me to establish a filtering system during my teen years so that I might have grown more discerning into adulthood. That was my biggest mistake. And it began to take its toll on my walk with God. Maybe you can relate. If you're not sure how to broach this subject with young people, it could be because you're battling with it yourself. There's hope. God rescued me from a series of bad choices. I'm eternally grateful, and confident He will do the same for whoever asks Him. Repentance. Discipline. Accountability. Those are the keys.

I pray that God will use my testimony to draw people out of this trap and into His arms. I wrote a song for my album A Different Man that talks about this struggle. It's called "Sinner's Prayer." One line says, "Where I've been, I tell you, you don't want to be. Images I've fought to leave behind, through it all there is one thing I can see. A stronger hand is lifting me on high." Let it lift you, too … and the hurting young people who need to know the more excellent way.

Published February 2000

Striking at the Heart of Lust
Is Your Teen Keeping Strange Company?
Purity: Looking for Moral Loopholes