Against the Tide
Manna 82: Winter




Editor’s note: The message from this column was based on a counselling lecture, addressed to teenagers (around ages 14 to 18) attending the short term students’ theological training course in Singapore.





During one’s adolescence, friends play a very crucial role, and their value systems can influence us. None of us wants to be excluded from our peer group. Hence good habits are easily abandoned when we meet with people who pressure us to abandon our principles, to conform to their lifestyles and practices. While caving in to peer pressure may not always harm us, there are areas where it is absolutely necessary for us to maintain an uncompromising stand and even go against the norms of our peers.


During my teenage years, I had a friend who kept bugging me, “Why can’t you skip church just once?” I thought very hard about how to answer him; I could not use the Bible because he did not even believe in the Bible. But he finally stopped when I told him that it was my principle.  One day, I asked him why he had stopped questioning me. He replied, “Because it’s your principle. Principles must be upheld.”





A clear biblical example of one who stood against the tide and held firmly to his principles is Noah. In his time, “the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose” (Gen 6:2). The sons of God abandoned the principle of marrying in the Lord; they decided to choose wives according to their own ideals, regardless of faith. Imagine living in a world where all your peers—siblings and friends in church—married non-believers. Could you still uphold your principle? Very probably, we would soon conform to popular belief and think that marriage to someone with a different faith is acceptable. Unlike his peers, Noah stood his ground. This must mean that he had married a daughter of God. This is why the Bible describes him as a man who found grace in the eyes of God (Gen 6:8–9).


For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark. (Mt 24:38)


This verse may puzzle us—what is wrong with eating, drinking, and marrying? After all, Noah and his sons also ate, drank, and got married. There is nothing wrong with these activities. However, what was wrong with the people of the world was that they did all of these excessively and exclusive of God; God was not important anymore. When God is no longer our focal point, whatever we do can be a sin, even activities as neutral as eating, drinking and marrying. When we lose sight of God in our life, everyday actions can become distractions that weaken our faith.


Noah was the head of his household. Had he decided to be like the rest of his society, his family would have also ended up like them too. But Noah was different. His persistent determination to walk with God saved his entire household. Our actions impact those around us; we should also follow the path that Noah chose.





As children and teenagers, our decision and actions are often guided by fear of parental reprimand. But what happens when we outgrow our fear of parental rebuke? Would we gradually conform to the behavior of our peers? Consider these examples:


If your friends asked you to forego Sabbath for a day out with them, what would you do?

If all your classmates were cheating in a test, what would you do?

If your boss asked you to help plan the Christmas party for the company, what would you do? (If you don’t make your stand, he will repeat his request every year.)

If your boss asked for volunteers to work on the Sabbath day, what would you do? (If you do not volunteer, he will probably overlook you for promotion.)

If there were no suitable marriage prospects for you in church, what would you do?



Life is about making hard decisions. If our friends manage to persuade us to make a decision contrary to our faith by saying it will be “just once,” our foundation weakens. After that first compromise, we are likely to make a second, a third, and perhaps even more. Standing our ground comes with a price. Noah probably lost many friends. Everyone was eating and drinking, but Noah was the only one who chose to worship God. Noah was the only one who decided he was going to walk with God his entire life.


Besides our peers, time is another form of pressure testing our determination to uphold God’s principles. For example, we may be able to cling tightly to the principle of marriage in the Lord when youth is on our side. But if potential marriage partners in church have decided they are incompatible with you, and the man/woman of your dreams appears, outside of church, and pursues you passionately, what would you do? Some may choose to discard biblical principles because lifelong loneliness is too heavy a price. But it is really a matter of perspective. When we walk in God’s way, we walk with Him. So in reality, we are never alone. 


But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord...Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. (Gen 6:8–9)

Noah found grace in God’s eyes because he stood against the ungodly tide of his days. What are some of the ungodly currents that characterize our modern world?





In the 21st century, pornography appears to be an increasingly acceptable part of life. The production and distribution of pornographic films are lawful in many countries,[1] and have been made more accessible via the Internet. The allure of pornography partly lies in its traditionally forbidden nature. The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil may not have been especially delicious compared to the others, but Eve was attracted to it—it was pleasing to her eyes—because she was not allowed to taste it. Similarly, many are attracted to pornography both by its content and the guilty thrill of accessing it.


According to the Bible, accessing pornographic websites or reading pornographic material is a sin. Sex is good and should only be enjoyed within a marriage. Any sexual activity beyond the scope of marriage is a sin. Although people who watch pornography claim they are only passive viewers, the Bible teaches that if we look at a woman lustfully and fantasize, we have already committed adultery in our heart. Eve’s desires were aroused by looking at the forbidden fruit, and eventually she succumbed to temptation. We must withstand the sinful pleasures offered by pornography.


Pornographic content or advertisements may pop up unsolicited on our computer or mobile screens. When we unintentionally view these, it is not a sin. However, if we make a deliberate decision to continue watching, then that becomes sin.


Do not take this sin lightly and dismiss it just because “everyone is doing it.” Even if we dabble in viewing pornography and experience no adverse effects, it does not mean that we can continue doing so without spiritual consequences. Understand what is at stake here—this is one of the hooks that Satan is using to try to reel you to his side.



Recognize our addiction to pornography


Addiction means we cannot wean ourselves off something. If we find ourselves watching pornography on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, we have become addicted. If we do not feel that we are addicted to it, it may be because we do not think that it is morally wrong, or we brush it off as a naughty but harmless “habit,” or a trivial sin. All these attitudes are dangerous because they prolong our addiction. 


Addicts are often trapped in a vicious circle of guilt and helplessness. For instance, we feel guilty indulging in our pornography habit. So we stop. But we miss the “kick” it gives us so we go back to it, which makes us feel guilty all over again. We are miserable, but we cannot stop sinning—therein lies the devil’s hold over us.


In the wilderness, God provided sustenance for Israel through manna. God did not give them meat because He was training them. But the Israelites and the mixed multitude had an intense craving for meat. Instead of overcoming this and being thankful to God for His providence, they yielded to their lusts, and cried for meat (Num 11:4–35). The final result was death because they incurred the Lord’s anger (Num 11:33). Therefore, if we have an intense craving for pornography (or anything sinful), we must starve it! Yielding to these intense desires will most certainly lead to our spiritual death. Our friends may enjoy pornographic material, and even pass it around. But we must remember Noah—stand against the tide and reject these worldly trending practices.



Box Story: A Biblical Perspective on Pornography


The word “pornography” comes from the Greek word pornia. This is the word used in the Bible for sexual immorality. Watching pornography does not mean we have committed sexual immorality. But Jesus tells us that everything starts from the heart (Mt 5:28). Not guarding our hearts may lead us into the sin of watching pornography or, worse, sexual immorality. And all those who practise the works of the flesh—adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, and so on—cannot enter heaven (Gal 5:19–21). The sanctity of marriage must be preserved; sexual acts outside marriage are not permissible. Looking at the nakedness of another person (who is not married to you) is abominable in the sight of God (Hab 2:15).


Do not be numb to sin!


Some believers—despite much admonition—continue to think there is nothing wrong with watching pornography. Such recalcitrant ignoring of God’s word is an example of willful sinning. And when we sin willfully, there remains no sacrifice for sins (Heb 10:26)!


For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. (Heb 4:2)


The devil prowls and constantly seeks opportunities to devour God’s children (1 Pet 5:8). The serpent spews a flood from his mouth, hoping to sweep away and drown believers (Rev 12:15).  We must, thus, be ever watchful and anxious; overcome this sin of pornography and uphold His principles so that we do not fail God’s exam of obedience.  


Resolve to stop!


Pornography addiction must be stopped. There is no such thing as “trying our best.” Just like people trying to quit smoking or drug abuse, we must go cold turkey, i.e., immediately break the vicious circle by resolving to stop from today. No man can serve two masters. We cannot enter the kingdom of heaven if we continue serving pornography. If we find that we do not have the strength, there are some general principles in the verse below that we can apply in our lives.


Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Tim 2:22)


Flee youthful lusts: Run away. Do not put ourselves in a situation where we are vulnerable. However, although we may have put distance between ourselves and the source of sin, if there is nothing to fill the emptiness that is in us, we will go back to the sin. So the next step is equally important.


Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace: Run towards God. Fill ourselves and our time with something positive. We would not be comfortable watching porn after we have prayed for half an hour or after reading the Bible. Our laziness to undertake consistent spiritual nurture is what endangers and kills us. We have to continually run away from sin and run towards God. We have to fill our lives with healthy and godly pursuits. Only God can fill that emptiness in us. 

With those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart: Run with people who are holy. We may have the best of intentions and strongest resolve, but if we try to keep our resolution by ourselves, we are likely to fail. Spiritual companions can help to warn and keep us from returning to our sin.



Take drastic defense measures


For those who are in the process of wading into this sin, you must immediately activate extreme measures to protect yourself. For instance, if you are watching pornography on your smartphones, replace this with one that can just call and send text messages. If you are watching porn on your personal laptops, give up the laptop or use it only in a public area.


But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Mt 5:28–30)


The Bible says that it is better to enter heaven with our hand chopped off than to lose our soul. If we are unwilling to give it up, we will not be able to stand against the tide of our own desires. There is no way we can stop unless we put our minds to it. This habit of indulging in pornography will be much easier to overcome when we have someone whom we trust watching over us. If we do not feel comfortable telling the preachers or our parents, find friends who can keep tabs on us (and maybe vice versa). Being accountable forces us to be responsible.





In the world today, sexual relations are seen as part and parcel of dating. Sleeping with the person you are attracted to, sleeping with your serious crush, sleeping with different partners, etc.—these are deemed acceptable between consenting adults. But all these are unacceptable for the true Christian. Sexual relations outside marriage is a sin. Youths must stand against this tide and maintain their purity until they marry in the Lord.


The devil is a roaring lion patiently seeking his prey. At the smallest opportunity—when we display the slightest inclination to yield to lust and desire—the devil will pounce. He is the greatest and wiliest opportunist, so we have to be extra careful. Do not overestimate our ability to withstand temptation. Do not think yielding to sexual sin only happens to other people. Do not trust your boyfriend or girlfriend, do not even trust yourself.



Adolescent dating


The sin of Noah’s time was that they married whomever they liked. God destroyed them because of this sin! While this seems unnecessarily harsh in the eyes of modern liberals, God sees much farther than man. He knows the danger that the daughters of men can pose to the sons of God. If you are dating someone outside of church, cut it off as quickly as possible. Non-believers who do not share our faith may not subscribe to the same moral values as ours. Because they are neither guided nor constrained by the word of God, they will do whatever seems right in their own eyes. Once you are emotionally attached to them, you are likely to compromise on the church’s stand regarding sexual purity. In particular, adolescent romantic relationships tend to be emotionally intense and short-lived.[2] So teenagers who are in a relationship with non-believers must cut these off, lest they fall into a situation that they will regret for the rest of their lives.


Dating a church member in our teens is also inappropriate. If we do this, we will be susceptible to the same temptations that dating a non-believer brings. Hence, if we are not yet ready to be married, do not engage in activities—dating, pursuing girlfriend-boyfriend relationships—that provide ample opportunity to sin.



Sexual activities


Teenagers in church often like to ask what the definition of “sex” is. Perhaps the underlying question is “how far” they can go. The Bible does not say what sex constitutes, only that it is when “a man lies with a woman.” The church’s stand is that oral sex and mutual masturbation are also considered sex. If you have engaged in these, then you have no choice but to marry the party with whom you have indulged. Therein lies the danger. If the other person does not want to marry you, then you will have to remain single and celibate for as long as the other person is alive. If the other person wants to marry you but you do not want to, then that is being irresponsible. Worse, if you marry someone else instead, you would have committed adultery, which is a mortal sin.


Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. (1 Cor 6:18)


If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (1 Cor 3:17)


Apostle Paul tells us how seriously God views sinning against our own bodies, because we are His temple. We must thus honor Him by upholding His principle.


Can a man take fire to his bosom,

And his clothes not be burned? (Prov 6:27)


It is often a tendency of youth to explore the limits of our capabilities. Similarly, teenagers like to test the boundaries; they want to see whether they can run all the way to the cliff’s edge, lean over, and try not to fall into the ravine below! However, the reality is that those who lean over once too often fall to their deaths; those who play with fire will burn themselves. An example of such risky behavior is heavy petting. While the couple may claim they “know when to stop,” there may be one occasion where it leads to oral or penetrative sex. Therefore, do not be swayed by arguments that “everybody is doing it.” Do not allow yourself to be emotionally blackmailed into physical intimacy, and do not be afraid of losing the other party. Teenage romances rarely lead to marriages, let alone long-lasting marriages. 



Best Friends Forever?


We must also be careful if we have a best friend of the opposite gender. While there is nothing wrong with communicating with someone of the opposite gender, be aware that one-sided romantic feelings may develop. One person’s platonic care and concern may be misinterpreted by the other. The principle to uphold in this case is that we must not be a stumbling block to our brethren (cf. Lk 17:2). Think twice (or even three or four times) about our actions. For example, if someone of the opposite gender keeps on texting you, do not reply to every message.



Minimum contact, maximum restraint


This is the principle we should be always guided by. We maintain minimum contact because we do not want to give either our carnal desires or the devil an opportunity to work. We exercise maximum restraint because we have seen even ministers of the church fall prey to sexual sin. 


The Bible describes David as a man after the heart of God. He was not lustful. Yet, in his carelessness, he yielded to his desires and committed the egregious sin of sexual immorality. This reminds us that no human is impervious to this sin. Do not think too highly of yourself (Rom 12:3). Never overestimate your strength, never underestimate your weakness.






Your friends may all be dating and enjoying their teenage romances, but as sons and daughters of God, we must stand firm against the tide. Do not worry that the person you like will be taken, or that you will be left on the shelf. God has already prepared someone for us, if His will is for us to be married. There is no need to jump the gun by dating a series of partners, and, worse, lose our spiritual life in the process.


In addition, if you are ready to engage in a serious relationship leading to marriage, always remember that true love waits. No partner who honors God and loves you will force you to indulge in sexual activities, prohibited by the Bible. It is important to God that you stay holy. If your holiness is as important to you as it is to God, you will find a way to stand against the tide.



[1] Source:

[2] Feiring, C. (1999). Other-sex friendship networks and the development of romantic relationships in adolescence. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 28(4), 495–512.

Apr. 06, 2017
True Jesus Church