At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry

At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry

by Steve Gallagher

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Sexual temptation is undeniably the greatest struggle Christian men face. Here’s a book that digs deep and has the answers men are looking for—the kind that actually work. While other books deal with the subject superficially, Sexual Idolatry goes right to the heart. It draws back the curtain and exposes how sexual sin corrupts the entire man, something


Sexual temptation is undeniably the greatest struggle Christian men face. Here’s a book that digs deep and has the answers men are looking for—the kind that actually work. While other books deal with the subject superficially, Sexual Idolatry goes right to the heart. It draws back the curtain and exposes how sexual sin corrupts the entire man, something Steve Gallagher understands, having lived in the bondage of it for over twelve years. Put an end to the mystery of lust and maximize God’s power in your life with the proven answers that have helped thousands.

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Pure Life Ministries
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Inside the Mind of the Sex Addict


By Steve Gallagher

The time has come for us to delve deeper into the mind of the sexual addict. To do this properly, we must examine once again the terrible yet accurate description of those who had been given over to lasciviousness presented to us in Romans chapter 1. In this section of Scripture, we are given eleven different aspects of the mind of the man in sexual sin. Before we discuss these in detail, let us take a quick glance at the list below.

1. vain in their imaginations; vs. 2
2. a darkened and foolish heart; vs. 21
3. thinking themselves to be wise, in reality foolish; vs. 22
4. trading the glory of God for an image; vs. 23
5. lusts of the heart; vs. 24
6. trading the truth of God for a lie; vs. 25
7. degrading passions; vs. 26
8. burning lust; vs. 27
9. a release of the knowledge of God; vs. 28
11. inner man filled with all manner of wickedness; vss. 29-31

The corruption of the human mind does not necessarily happen in the exact order listed above; however, we will use the order Paul gave as a blueprint.

VAIN IMAGINATIONSP> The imagination is one of the most fascinating and mysterious operations of the human mind. A person can be sitting in a prison cell, for instance, and take himself to any exotic location on the earth with his imagination. Physically he might be in a rat infested, dank, hole; but in his mind he can be sipping iced tea on a beach in Hawaii.

For the man given over to sexual sin, this imaginary life usually revolves around sex. In the world of sexual fantasy everything is always as he imagines it. The girl (or man) in the fantasy is extremely attractive. She acts exactly as he wants, and her only wish is to satisfy his every desire. The girl's features can be changed in an instant. One moment she is a tall blond. A few minutes later she becomes an exotic Oriental. Perhaps later she is a vivacious black girl. The variations are as numerous as the world's female population itself. Not only can the partner be changed instantly, so too, can the scenario. It may be the girl that he saw at the store that day "coming on to him." Later, it is his own personal harem. Again, the possibilities are endless.

In a man's world of imagination, everything is perfect. He does not have to deal with rejection. These dream girls all love him; none refuse to be with him. He never has to deal with impotence or nervousness either; everything goes smoothly. The girl is always flawless. There are no obnoxious odors, menstrual periods, diseases, or lack of interest. She does not act rudely, and she is not critical of him. She is not looking to take advantage of him or get his money. She will be willing to perform any desired sexual act because she lives to serve him. Finally, he does not need to worry about being caught by his wife or arrested by the authorities. In his perfect little dream world, nothing ever goes wrong.

What an ideal escape from the hardships of life! At any moment a man can be off in bed with the most beautiful women in the world. Why would he want to stay in reality where he is forced to deal with problems, difficulties, failures, and disappointments? One reason it is so easy to escape into one's imagination is because there are many painful consequences which accompany a life of sexual sin. The more pain a man must face because of his sin, the more he desires to escape reality by retreating into his secret little world.

Another aspect of the fantasy life is that SELF reigns supreme. In essence, everything revolves around the man's personal desires: i.e. what he wants, what he does not want, the way he likes it, the way he wants everything to go, and so on. When he returns to the world of reality, much to his dismay, he discovers that people are not concerned about him having everything his own way. Hence the dream world strengthens and fortifies a man's selfishness. The more he gives in to fantasy, the more selfish he becomes. As his self-centeredness increases he becomes further entrenched in the fantasy life where everything revolves around him. This creates numerous problems for him at home and in the workplace. Those around him suffer because of his growing self-centeredness. He shows little interest in loved ones, nor does he spend time with them as he should. When he is with them, his selfish nature can be so obnoxious and overbearing that they would prefer not to be around him.

Another devastating effect of the vain imagination is that it hinders God from being able to help him out of his dilemma with sexual addiction. As mentioned earlier, no one wants to step into the real world and deal with their problems and failures when they can choose to be locked safely away in a perfect world. As we will examine later, it is through the hardships of life that God disciplines a man into holiness. Even though correction is one of the sexual addict's greatest needs, the fantasy life makes the process of discipline seem absolutely unbearable. He is so accustomed to having his own way that the slightest crossing of his will seems overwhelming to him.

Bearing the load that comes with a wild, perverted imagination is an enormous burden. The sex addict does not realize the negative effect it has on his daily life. A fresh illustration of this comes to me from a scene I witnessed the other night. We had a wonderful, encouraging Thursday night meeting in the Pure Life chapel. After the meeting, two men, who had been assigned to straighten up the chapel, were stacking chairs. I was still seated on the platform, enjoying the lingering presence of God. One of them was about thirty and grossly overweight. The other was a physically fit young man of about twenty-two. The young man would grab a couple of chairs at a time and, in almost a sprint, energetically whisk them to where they belonged. However, the heavy-set man would pick up a chair with great effort and slowly make his way across the room with it, laboring every step of the way. Such is the case with the man who is bogged down with the weight of sexual sin. Even the smallest tasks that most people can routinely handle become extremely burdensome to him. His poor wife cannot comprehend why her husband is unable to spend a little time with their son. She does not understand this taxing load he is carrying around in life. All of his energy is being exhausted to maintain and to pursue his secret life. It is like a computer with eight megabytes of RAM trying to run a program which requires thirty-two megabytes. The inner strength and capability is simply not available.

Paul describes the imaginations of a man given over to sin as being "vain." They are as empty as the illusive mirages that deceive thirsty souls traveling through the desert, offering no benefit to a man's life. They are utterly worthless. In fact, they are worse. Not only are they devoid of any reality, but they also have the power to deplete a man's soul of anything that is of substance or value. The more a man gives himself over to a perverted thought life, the more his moral character rots from the inside out, leaving a great void inside. The term "light-weight" is often used to describe someone who lacks ability in a particular field of endeavor. And in much the same way, the man who continually succumbs to sexual sin becomes a spiritual "light-weight." Though he may possess a great deal of head knowledge concerning spiritual matters or have some extraordinary gift, there exists no spiritual substance within him. Merlin Carothers says this:

There is something intriguing and mystifying about our ability to imagine things known and unknown. To God, that ability is sacred. He does not want it misused. And that is exactly why evil forces have an intense desire to see that ability misused. Our minds are the battleground; our imaginations are the trophy to be won.

If we use our imaginative power to visualize anything that represents lust or impurity, we are in direct conflict with God's will. Men enjoy using the power of imagination to create a multitude of images that God has forbidden. For example, when a man sees a woman who is attractive to him, he can disrobe her in his mind, bit by bit, until she is completely undressed. He then can use his imagination to feel what it would be like to touch her body. He can continue this mental activity until he has experienced every possible sexual act. He has taken God's special, holy gift and consumed it upon the altar of lust...1


As the man continues to live a great part of his existence in the world of make-believe, lavishing upon himself every kind of pleasure, he soon discovers that fantasies about "normal" sexual activities become less appealing. Now he must search for something a little more perverse to hold his interest. The world of pornography, with all of its sordid stories of perversion, provide ample material from which he can choose from to satisfy his lustful desires. The depth and extent of deviancy in which he can delve into are limitless.

If one were to compare a person's inner workings to a computer, the heart would be the memory, the keyboard would be the senses that bring information into the computer, and the central processing unit would be the mind which completes all of the functions. The whole process begins when the man permits his mind to be flooded with perverted images and scenarios. Over time, the cumulative effects of this invasion take a toll on the man's heart. His memory banks are glutted with warped information. As a result, his infected heart, which is already wicked by nature, has now become even more diseased than in the beginning.

THE PRIDE OF INTELLECT In the following verse Paul exposes the great delusion of the individuals who become immersed in evil, and yet consider themselves to be godly: "Professing to be wise, they became fools." It is interesting how this word wise (sophos) is used in other places in the New Testament: Jesus prayed, "I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes," (Matthew 11:25).

Paul reminded the Corinthian church:

For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?... Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise... (I Corinthians 1:19-20; 25-27)

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, "He is the One who catches the wise in their craftiness"; and again, "The Lord knows the reasonings" of the wise, that they are useless. (I Corinthians 3:18-20)

There is a false wisdom that is outside of the knowledge of God which attracts people who are away from the Lord. It is called human intellectualism, and it is incubated by pride. As we will discuss later, pride and sexual sin are inextricably linked together. I mention it now because it plays such a major role in the process of mental degradation. Jesus thanked the Father that the truths of God were hidden from those who were wise in their own eyes. Only a humble heart can understand the true nature of God. Reading books, hearing sermons, and even studying the Bible for oneself will often only serve to increase a person's mental understanding of what God is like. However, unless he is in the Spirit in which the Word was given, he cannot truly know God. Unfortunately, many Christians, especially those in sexual sin, are mixed up about what it means to know God. They confuse information about Christianity with the heart knowledge of God which only comes to His humble, obedient servant. Hence, Paul writes, "Professing to be wise, they became fools," to explain that the more self-exalting people are in their thinking, the further away from God they become. This is perhaps the reason why an individual involved with something as evil as pornography can actually see himself as being godly.


When Paul said they "exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image..." it seems he was making a direct reference to the temple in Jerusalem which, in Old Testament times, became the dwelling place of the glory of God. When Solomon dedicated the temple, we are told that "...when the priests came from the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD," (I Kings 8:10-11). What a glorious scene it must have been!

However, this all changed in New Testament times. The New Covenant teaches that the inner man is now the temple of God. In fact, Paul said, "Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's," (I Corinthians 6:18-20 KJV). In other words, just as Solomon's temple was filled with God's shekinah glory, so too should one's inside world be a holy place where He is revered, worshipped and loved. It is what Jesus meant when He said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind," (Matthew 22:37).

What happens when this temple becomes defiled with perverted thoughts and images? Paul says in Romans 1:23, "And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things," which alludes to something the Lord showed Ezekiel. He was sitting in Babylon with the captives when the Lord whisked him away to Jerusalem, where many of the people of Israel were still living. This is the account Ezekiel gives when the Lord took him into the temple:

"Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here." So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall round about. And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up. Then said he unto me, "Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, 'The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth.'" (Ezekiel 8:10-12 KJV)

The "chambers" of imagery which Ezekiel saw were simply ancient pornography. This is exactly what Paul was referring to when he said that men had exchanged God's glory for filthy images. When a Christian man introduces pornographic images into the temple of God there is an immediate, internal desecration that occurs. As much as some might attempt to minimize the effects that pornography has on a person's life (there are even some "Christian" psychologists who urge couples to enhance their marriage bed with it), the devastation it imposes on a person's inner life is immeasurable. This is why Paul reasoned with believers, "Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. Let no man deceive himself," (I Corinthians 3:16-18a).


Lust and fantasy are both related to desire, which is the longing after something which appeals to a person. It is an expression of one's will -- the part of one's inner self which dictates one's own inclinations in life. When someone says, "I will give $500 to the orphanage," he is expressing his determination to do what he desires to do; he wants to help that charity. Desire is birthed in a person's will. There is nothing necessarily wrong with yearning for something. Many personal longings are healthy and even pleasing to the Lord. For instance, the Psalmist said, "O LORD, Thou hast heard the desire of the humble; Thou wilt strengthen their heart, Thou wilt incline Thine ear," (Psalm 10:17). David said, "Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart," (Psalm 37:4). Solomon said, "The desire of the righteous is only good..." (Proverbs 11:23) and "...the desire of the righteous will be granted," (Proverbs 10:24).

Desire is one of the drives that God instilled in human beings to help them to function in life. People's wants or desires are as diverse as the number of human beings on the planet. An individual's temperament, background, and environment all contribute to what he may pursue in life. Included in this list are the natural appetites of the human body, which can become warped and/or get out of control, as in the case of sexual addicts. Appetites become corrupted by sin.

Paul spoke of the "lusts of the heart." The Greek term here is epithumia, which means to long after something. Normally, it refers to craving something which is forbidden. Paul said that these lusts are deceitful (Ephesians 4:22), foolish and hurtful (I Timothy 6:9), and can reign over a person's body (Romans 6:12). Peter said that they are unclean (II Peter 2:10) and war against the soul (I Peter 2:11), and James said that they war against one's members (James 4:1) and entice to sin (James 1:14). Jesus warned that to lust after a woman is to commit adultery with her in one's heart, (Matthew 5:28). Of this particular teaching of Jesus, Adam Clarke said the following:

If voluntary and deliberate looks and desires make adulterers and adulteresses, how many persons are there whose whole life is one continued crime! whose eyes being full of adultery, they cannot cease from sin, 2 Peter 2:14. Many would abhor to commit one external act before the eyes of men, in a temple of stone; and yet they are not afraid to commit a multitude of such acts in the temple of their hearts, and in the sight of God!2

Charles Spurgeon simply said, "What a King is ours, who stretches his scepter over the realm of our inward lusts!"3

Paul called them "lusts of the heart." We should take note of the fact that the lust comes from one's heart. Recently, I was speaking at a series of men's meetings in the Boston area on the subject of overcoming the power of lust. After one particular meeting, a curious, yet sincere young man came up to me with a look of bewilderment on his face. "Now, help me to understand this, Brother Gallagher," he said. "How is it that we get rid of the spirit of lust?" I knew right where he was headed. He, like many others, had been taught that lust came from demons which plagued the believer. Although demons do play a role in the bondage of habitual sexual sin, this young man's fundamental understanding was wrong. I asked him to open the Bible in his hand to James 1:14 and to read it to me. He read, "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust."

"Whose lust is it that he is enticed by?" I queried. As I asked the question, a look of utter amazement came across his face.

"It's my own lust, isn't it?" he asked in response to this new revelation. I said to him, "Listen, the devil can dangle a carrot in front of your face, but there is something inside you that actually wants that carrot. You aren't lustful because some demon comes on you. You are lustful because you have within you a desire for what isn't right. Jesus said, 'For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man...' (Matthew 15:19-20). The devil can appeal to that lust, but he did not create it. It's already in us."


When Paul said they "exchanged the truth of God for a lie," he was referring to the willful substitution of an immutable truth for a specific falsehood. But this replacement is no small matter. It involves our fundamental belief about God. The whole essence of God's character is that He "is good and His mercies are forever." That biblical statement, which is repeated countless times throughout the entire Bible, sums up the knowledge of who God is.

Eve possessed the truth about God. She had been in His presence and certainly must have known that He was a good and loving Being. Surely during those wonderful encounters in the garden, she observed His sweet nature and His lowly character. Nevertheless, Satan came to her with an alternative perspective. He suggested the possibility that God had lied to her about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. "He's holding out on you," was the insinuation. "He makes it look like knowing Him is everything there is to life, but it's a lie! You only know the good. There is a whole world of delicious evil that you haven't yet experienced. That's where real satisfaction comes from!"

As is usually the case with the devil, there is an element of truth in what he says. It is true, she had not experienced evil. It was also true, to a certain extent, that there is some satisfaction that comes from sin. The Bible refers to enjoying "...the pleasures of sin for a season..." (Hebrews 11:25). Sin is pleasurable, but only temporarily. The devil failed to mention that suffering, misery, and death are all unavoidable consequences of sin. Consequently, the one who is dedicated to the pursuit of sin has accepted the lie that a relationship with God is not sufficient enough to bring fulfillment. He is convinced that there must be something more to life. Naturally, since sin has taken him away from God, the joy which comes from that closeness is forgotten. Each time the devil dangles the carrot of some tantalizing pleasure in front of the man, he quickly loses any sense of reality of God he might still possess and plunges himself into the sea of sexual fulfillment.

The truth is that God is a good Father who desires only to do good to His children. However, their obedience plays a large part in His ability to fulfill this desire. The one who never repents, never comes into the truth about what God is really like. He never will experience the depth of fulfillment that is generated by a right relationship with Him. Instead, he sentences himself to endure the same merry-go-round over and over again: the promise of satisfaction, the act of sin, the emptiness of the experience, and its subsequent consequences. This is the exchange of the truth about God for a lie.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“This book is foundational, inspirational, and confrontational—just whatyou need!”— Dr. Edwin Louis Cole “Evangelical Christianity is indebted to Steve Gallagher for turning the pain ofhis past into a path toward purity for those in bondage to sexual idolatry.”— Dr. Richard Dobbins, Executive Director, Emerge Ministries

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