SOURCE: Rick Thomas/Counseling Solutions
Where would you look to locate the primary problem with pornography? In our culture?
Are you tempted to initially react to the sensual realities of our culture? You should react! You should be concerned! But when you address the porn problem, are you more inclined to begin the discussion with the prevalent, pervasive, cultural, immodesty issues?
Granted it should be part of the discussion. Certainly it is right to walk our wives and daughters through how to dress modestly. It is wise to teach them how to help guard the hearts of their male friends, by dressing in an appropriate manner. However, the way they dress should not be the starting point in the pornography discussion.
Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:45
Jesus began the discussion regarding behavioral sins like porn, not with the behavior, but with the heart. In the quote above, Jesus tied the behavior (tongue/speech) to the heart. He placed the source or the genesis of our sin problems in the heart rather than on the lips.
Matters of the heart
A man’s struggle with pornography does not begin in his culture, but in his mind. Paul appealed to us to make sure we “renew the spirit of our minds” before we put on a new behavior (Ephesians. 4:22-24).
If we do not first attack our physical sin issues at the level of our minds, we will set ourselves up for the very real possibility of that sin reappearing. If we do not put the axe to the root of the tree then there will be sprigs, then limbs, and possibly full-blown branches reappearing.
And along with the ongoing, recurring behavioral sin problem of porn, there will be the real possibility of compounded frustration, anger, hopelessness, and even less faith to attack the behavioral pornography problem.
Responding to sin primarily at the level of the behavior will not ultimately work and will lead a person toward despair. All sin, including pornography, must be rooted out where it began. Find the source and you have positioned yourself for God’s empowering grace to extract the sin.
Pornography begins in the heart. Awareness of this truth brings hope. If a man believed the root of his porn problem was in his culture, then he would set himself up as a potential victim of his culture and possibly controlled by his culture.
He would be at the mercy of his culture. He would be a victim, always reacting to his culture-how women dressed or not dressed. His energy, time, and focus would be spent guarding the wrong door.
Granted, porn in our world should be guarded, but that’s not the main door. There is no hope in being a victim. However, if a man believed his wicked heart was the main problem, then there would be hope because he could apply God’s grace, repent of his sin, and live in the good of God’s Gospel.
At that point he would be positioned for strength in the battle against lust. He can’t repent of his culture. He can’t make the women of our world dress the way he thinks is right, but he can repent of the sin in his heart.
The real issue
Porn is not primarily about breasts and bottoms. There most certainly is a physical attraction for men regarding the opposite sex. God made us to desire women and in a biblical sense we should be attracted to the opposite sex. However, because of original sin, what was intended as love can easily darken to lust.
I’m not downplaying or ignoring the temptations that come with immodest women and physical attraction. I’m not saying she has no responsibility in the matter. However, what I want you to see is that if you are experiencing lust, then the source of your lust does not begin with the lady’s breasts or backside.
It begins in your heart. If you are lusting after another woman, then you need to address what is going on in your heart first.
I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:28 (ESV)
In my years of counseling, the overwhelming external sin issue among men has been pornography. It rarely matters what their reason is for seeking counsel.
If they come with marriage issues, financial problems, kid problems, depression, anger, alcohol, bitterness, or any other problem it is not unusual there is the complicating problem of porn.
Porn is pandemic in our Christian culture.
Part of the reason it is so prevalent is due to the ubiquitous expansion of the Internet. But the primary reason for porn addiction is because we live in a world of weary, frustrated, insecure, and angry men who slip into pornography because it is easy for the mind to be lured away.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. – James 1:14 (ESV)
It is a private way of bringing temporary pleasure to oneself. Typically, it is despairing men looking for an escape and porn is a practical way to get away for a few minutes.
The theater of the mind
Though there is gratification in the behavioral experience of porn, it does go much deeper than the external benefit and instant gratification. Porn not only finds its source in the mind, but there is pleasure to be found there as well.
Porn is a private theater for the mind. Porn is motivating! It is where the insecure and frustrated man can be king for a day–in his own mind. The porn addict is in control when he enters his porn world, which is usually a far cry from the lack of control he has in his real world.
He can make the cyber ladies meet his desires. It is the one place in his life where he is in total control. He controls their speech. He controls their thoughts, particularly their thoughts about him. He controls their actions. He controls their responses to him.
He twists the script in such a way to be affirmed, applauded, and appreciated. The script writer enjoys his one-man show and when he is satisfied he closes the act with a brief moment of physical gratification.
In a real world where things don’t turn out as positive and where people don’t necessarily like him, the ladies of the Internet do like him–in the theater of his mind, where they fawn all over him. There is not only instant pleasure, but there is instant victory.
- He wins.
- He’s good.
And he feels good about himself–for a few minutes, just before he re-enters the real world where he lives with marital disappointment, disruptive kids, an over-bearing boss, an unforgiving world, and a host of other problems he can’t seem to control.
Porn becomes his quickie, self-made escape. Like the pot smoker of the 60′s–he takes a little trip, only to return to a hopeless world.
The controller is controlled
His continual foray into the cyber porn world creates another problem too. It is like a drug. It’s addictive.
Once upon a time in the theater of the mind, the addict was in control. He used to decide when he was going on his little escape adventure. But after several such adventures of lust, his heart began to have a “mind of its own.”
That which he used to control now controls him. He is now an addict and his addiction has its roots twisted around his heart.
There was a time when he determined when he wanted his fix, but now the fix wants him. It calls. It knocks. It crouches at the door, waiting to pounce. It blitzes his mind and overpowers him.
His wife runs an errand to the store. The temptation overtakes him. It comes before she’s out the door. He waits. She leaves. Now it’s his time!
Maybe he has some downtime in his frenetic, un-affirming world and he feels the heat rising in his mind. He’s being allured to the computer. The girls are calling. They want him. He gives in. It’s got him! He did it again, but this is the last time, he says.
Porn negates the Gospel
Porn-addictive-thinking is void of the Gospel. The Gospel is Jesus Christ going to His death in order to save people from themselves. This is God’s grandest expression of love and affection for any of us. Our sin needed to be satisfied and the satisfaction came when Christ paid the debt.
Yielding to porn negates this truth. A man’s porn pursuit begins when the Gospel no longer satisfies. He wants something else, something more. Living in God’s pleasure is not enough.
The Gospel is God’s clearest message of His affection, love, care, and concern for us. When we think about the cross of Christ, we are reminded there is no length God wouldn’t go in order to rescue our perishing souls.
Because the death of Christ is an infinite expression of His great love, if the Gospel is rightly applied to your life, then there is a lessening need to make yourself feel better about yourself through man-centered methods, like porn. The Gospel shrinks our cravings for man-centered affections, love, and affirmation.
Christ becomes the “escape” for the Gospelized man or woman.
- Do you want to change your reality? Fling yourself on the cross.
- Do you feel alone? Live in the daily realities of the cross.
- Do you feel isolated? Abide hard by the cross of Christ.
The cross is your escape. Living in the good of the Gospel is your victory. This must be your starting point. Remind yourself daily of what Christ did for you, how He went through death to save you (Hebrews 2:14-15). If your world is challenging and you are tempted to find a brief respite in the midst of the chaos, then let me suggest a respite.
It’s Christ. Preach the Gospel to yourself today. Right now! Ask your friends to push you toward Adam’s tree. Memorize Philippians 2:5-11. Study this text. Learn of your Savior and what He did for you. Express gratitude for His great affection for you. Learn it. Live it. Enjoy it.
While there is no magic or silver bullet in the Philippians text, the idea conveyed in that text can be life-changing. The problem with the person addicted to porn is his affections are drawn away from Christ.
The person addicted to porn has a worship disorder, to where his affections are under the control of someone else other than Christ. The solution for such a person is found in Philippians 2:5-11 as well as other texts.
While that text is made up of words, the idea of the text is life-changing. We must have the mind of Christ, not the mind of this world. Begin the heart cure at this moment.
The heart cure is reminding yourself no matter how difficult your situation is, God loves you. He cares for you. “How do you know that?” That’s easy. The cross of Christ informs your thinking here.
When I am reminded of what He did for me then I know I’m not alone. God is for me, not against me. This is Gospel-informed thinking that will have an effect on your behavior.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:31-32 (ESV)
Don’t fight the fight alone
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. –Galatians 6:1-2
As you repent of your self-focused heart cravings by informing your mind of the realities of the Gospel, as understood by the Word of God, another way you can keep from going at this alone is by adding external accountability into your life.
I have recommended through the years Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes is a very capable and non-cumbersome software program that allows another friend to have a report of all your Internet traffic for the week.
With Covenant Eyes you can fight the very real battle of being wooed to your computer to take a peek. Let others help you. Let others fulfill the law of Christ. Allow another person into your secret world of porn addiction. Once you do that then the battle is well on the way to defeat.
God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).
Lastly, I exhort you to go to your local church. Talk to a trusted friend in the context of your local church. Let them into your world. Ask for their help. It would be their joy to come alongside you to help you walk through the entangling web of porn addiction.