Discussing and Dealing with Pornography
Not along ago I sat with a young married man and he shared with me his ongoing struggle with pornography. He confessed that he believed that he had conquered the temptation, and yet had recently found himself aga
in entangled in the web of illicit sexual fantasy, websites, and thoughts. After our conversation, I was reminded of just how prevalent porn attraction and addiction is in our time, even in the church.
Today, we are evangelizing and disciplining a generation of men who have been inundated with sexually provocative images and have in many instances become numb to sinful sexual practices and inappropriateness. In fact, sexuality is so pervasive that according to one author, “If you don’t address sexuality as part of your evangelism then you’ll either store up problems for future discipleship or you’ll never win people for Christ in the first place.” That’s a strong statement. Yet, it serves to remind us of the ubiquitous nature of unbiblical sexuality in our culture, and how its sinful effects are felt by all. For sure, there can be no true and lasting discipleship today without dealing with the issues of pornography and sexual temptation.
Consequently, recently the men of East Point Church gathered on a Saturday morning to take up this issue. EPC is filled with men on fire for Christ, evangelism, and discipleship. Yet, it is also, like most churches of our size and demographic, filled with men who have been and continue to be negatively affected and hampered by pornography. As we discussed and shared, it became apparent just how prevalent the struggle is and how needful and indispensable are times of challenge and encouragement.
As a run up to our discussion, the men were encouraged to read two articles by David Powlison on Breaking Pornographic Addiction (part one and part two). A few of us also read the free ebook Porn-Free Church: Raising Up Gospel Communities to Destroy Secret Sins. These are just a few resources we found extremely helpful in our discussion and ongoing discipleship and we would recommend.
As we talked, we knew that this was only to be the beginning of conversations. Discipleship is not a one time event. It is the ongoing, intentional, life-on-life realities of the blessed community. We committed to continuing the conversation and to pray with and for each other in this every man’s battle.
We did, however, leave with four takeaway or action points going forward as we seek to spur one another on to faith and good works:
1. Consider the Consequences. Unfortunately, when it comes to sin, we usually don’t seriously and soberly consider the consequences until after we have sinned and are reaping the consequences for our sin. Yet, as God gives us space to hear his word and to consider our ways (Hag. 1:5,7), let us also consider the effects sin, particularly pornography, can and will have on us and those we love. After David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and the resulting deceitful and murderous aftermath, God laid out the consequences of David’s sin, and the terrible effects it would have on his family (2 Sam. 12:10-14). Sin has consequences, even forgiven sin. Let us consider our ways even before the temptation comes, so that when it comes, we may be better able to stand against it.
2. Be Heart-Honest. One of the more difficult things for a man to do is to admit to his weaknesses, especially to other men. Yet, biblically speaking, no man is ever as strong as when he admits to his weaknesses and thus is able to avoid such temptation. For example, if you know that you struggle with alcohol, you should not be hanging out at the local pub or tavern. Likewise, if you know you struggle with sexual temptation and pornography then you shouldn’t be reading Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. You probably should not be attending rated-R movies with sexually explicit warning tags. This is just common sense. People often ask me if I have watched certain popular movies. I have no problem in saying “no, I have not.” I know that watching a man and woman have sex on a larger than life projector screen is not good for my heart and mind. I need to admit that I can’t handle it. Others may be able to navigate that minefield just fine (though I have my suspicions) , but I can’t. But its OK, because I trust that when I am weak, and admit to my weakness, then am I strongest in Christ (2 Cor. 12:10).
3. Walk with the Wise. The Christian life is not designed to be lived in isolation. There are too many one another passages in the Bible for us to ever believe that the lone ranger Christian is a healthy Christian. This is particularly true when it comes to overcoming the temptation of pornography. Pornography tends to be a secret sin. Those Christians who find themselves entangled by pornographic material are not pulling out the material in public or sharing it freely and willingly on their social media. Rather, it is in private that we tend to fall victim to pornography. With sexual sin, secrecy is deadly. Therefore it is important that you walk openly with the wise. Remember, those who stray become easy prey. Instead, walk in the counsel of the wise, stand in the company of the righteous, and sit in the seats of the worshipers (Ps. 1), and find yourself among the people of God in a place full of grace, acceptance, wisdom, and encouragement.
4. Trust in the Truth. The first step in the Christian overcoming sin is the truth that in the gospel of Jesus Christ all your sin is forgiven. The power of sin in the life of the Christian is its ability to enslave with guilt and condemnation. Sin wants to convince us that God tires of forgiving us. Sin wants us to believe that God’s patience eventually runs out as he come to his wit’s end with our sin. Yet, the biblical truth is that our sin, no matter how often or how grievous, is not greater than the grace of God in Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:20). The truth for the Christian struggling with pornography to remember is that “there is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). We must remind each other of the radical forgiveness of the gospel. We must rehearse in our hearts and minds the sufficiency of grace. Confess your sin and know that Christ is able and willing to forgive you of your sin and free you from all condemnation and guilt (1 Jn. 1:9). How many times? As many as you need! It sounds radical, I know. But that’s because it is!