The Problem of Pornography
Dealing with the problem of pornography is a difficulty that as many as 98% of men deal with on a regular basis. In this article we consider the problem of pornography in a biblical sense. We will show how engaging in everyday spiritual practice will at least give us a fighting chance in holding at bay the problem of pornography whilst understanding that the war within (Rom 7:13-25) continues.
In this article:
- Pornography use is a sin
- Sexual sin as a focus
- All sin leads to death
- The utter relief of holiness
- Are men just “wired that way”?
- Spiritual practice can help some…
The problem of pornography is not new
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.Romans 6:1-4 KJV
Over the years, I have known many men who have spoken to me about their addiction with Porn.
For full disclosure, I write this, acutely aware of my own struggles with this sin. The problem of pornography is common to most, if not all, men. As one man said to me 25 years or more ago (before the internet!), if you say you don’t look at some form of pornography, you are a liar and if you say you do, then you are probably a fool!
I don’t know about that, but I would certainly say that over 95% of men would have some issue of this nature. Some reports state that 98% of men watched porn at least once in the last 6 months. Others state that 70% of men watch porn weekly.
I know of a relative who had a massive stash of “photography” books when I was a boy. Let’s face it, pornography was seriously in your face in ancient times, such as in surviving artefacts from Pompeii and other remnants of the ancient world.
The problem of pornography is not new.
So, this is a sin common to all men and many women too since the world began.
Is Porn an addiction?
There appears to be some evidence that the use of pornography may rewire our brains so that it is difficult to function in a normal sexual way and this can create an addiction to Porn.
Addiction is both biological and psychological in nature. It results in a powerful urge that cannot be resisted. It makes other moral obligations secondary to the urge to act on the addiction. Addiction creates an insatiable urge to get more and more of the addictive thing.
Some of the concepts about battling an addiction, may be useful in considering the problem of pornography.
The Problem of Pornography in Context
It would be hard to argue that the use of pornography is not a sin. James tells us in James 1 that our intents and lusts lead to sin. Fundamentally, to lust after someone is to have committed the sin of adultery already. But for lack of opportunity, you have already indulged your lust.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death. Do not be led astray, my dear brothers and sisters.James 1:13-16 NET
Jesus also comments in the Beatitudes:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘ Do not commit adultery .’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28 NET
Pornography is many sins working together in your heart, including, for example, idolatry in that you seek satisfaction and fulfilment in something that isn’t God.
It is clearly the basis of fornication and adultery in the terms of Matt 5 and is the precursor to actual adultery in James 1.
But let’s put it in context.
Why does Sexual Sin get our focus?
Why does the problem of pornography fill us with particular concern? Is pornography really that bad? Why is it that we focus on sexual sin as particularly worthy of opprobrium?
All sin results in death.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 6:20-23 ESV
Sin places us in a wrong position with God
That’s all sin. Sin is being in a wrong position with God and the payout of sin is that we are dying creatures. Sin places us in opposition to God. Any sin does this. All sin does this. Without exception.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Sin such as murder, sin such as adultery and fornication, sin such as theft, even the sin of disrespect for our parents.
All sin leads to death.
If not for the grace of God, we are dead. What saves us from death is not the avoiding of “major” sins and only doing “minor” sins. What saves us from death is the grace of God accessed through the saving name of Jesus Christ.
We don’t get a leave pass from the consequences of sin because we didn’t murder, commit adultery, fornicate, or steal a car. No one gets away with minor sins like coveting someone else’s car, disrespecting our parents or some other similar thing.
We desperately need the grace of God in Jesus. There are no small or minor sins.
Why is this?
Sin is Rebellion
When we sin, we are guilty of rebellion and disobedience. The act itself doesn’t put us in a wrong position with God so much as the underpinning disobedience. That’s why there are no “grades” of sin. Sins are sins and they all have an underlying motivator of rebellion, pride and disobedience.
Thanks be to God that as His servants, we live in a state of forgiveness. I have discussed this at length in another article.
Without the grace of God, we are dead because we all sin.
John elaborates in his first epistle:
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [When] we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.1 John 1:6-10 ESV
Whatever you do, don’t confuse sin with walking in darkness. Darkness is the lot of those who do not access the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
All Sin leads to Death
So, whether you fall into the problem of pornography or you are disrespectful of your parents, you are dead, but for the grace of God.
But this may cause you to trivialise pornography as no worse than any other sin and therefore ok to fail in. That’s a mistake.
No sin can be taken lightly.
Pornography is harmful to our spiritual purity. I say this not as a prude or in some form of puritanical fervour. Porn damages our sense of purity and peace with God.
The utter relief of Holiness
John Eldredge wrote a book called “The Utter Relief of Holiness”. I was quite drawn to the title of the book because it really resonated deeply inside me. (The book actually didn’t really grab me once I started reading it, but that’s another story).
There is a relief that comes from pursuing spiritual holiness and purity. Of feeling, at least for a time, utterly at peace with God.
Every indulgence in sin detracts from this peace.
That’s why we should pursue purity and holiness. Because we desire peace with God. Opposing God is tiring and depressing. Indulging in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the arrogance of materialism (1 Jn 2:16) makes us feel dirty, less connected to God and saddened, if God matters to us.
In addition, the problem of pornography (in particular) is that it actually hurts people. The performers are often hurt emotionally (sometimes physically) and certainly humiliated at the acts that they engage in for the entertainment of others and often they are exploited. Those who watch, suffer too as we discussed at the beginning of this article. Our spouses can be left feeling hurt and inadequate.
The problem of pornography is that it seriously does damage.
Can you beat the addiction?
Remember that 98% of men engaged in the problem of pornography in the last 6 months. 70% watched porn in the last week.
The problem of pornography is that it is pervasive. Otherwise spiritual men and women fall down in this area all the time.
I think that the only possible path to at least controlling this addiction is to fill your life with other things.
It is too easy to casually indulge the lust of the eyes. I was pretty sneaky about it too.
When a pretty lady walked by, I guess my eyes tended to linger on her. It wasn’t a particularly conscious decision. I am faithful to my wife who I truly adore, but I guess, I was just looking a little longer and allowing myself an indulgence of my eyes.
Men are wired that way?
I could argue that this is how we men are wired, but I am not going to let myself off that easily.
Out for a coffee, and sitting deep in conversation with a mate, I would casually let my eyes wander.
I don’t do that now. I refuse to do that. Job said:
I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?Job 31:1 KJV
For a period of two years, I was able to resist this sin. One day, I was feeling a little self-congratulatory about my success. Within a week, I had fallen.
The fact is that you can’t beat sin. It is impossible. Jesus was the only one who ever did. If you could beat sin, then you would not need the saving work of Jesus. Indeed, there would be no need for grace.
If you could beat sin, then you would not need a relationship with God.
The best we can do is try not to sin and to seek to fill our lives with things that crowd out sin.
The only solution to the problem of pornography, to my sin prone nature is to acknowledge it to God and throw myself on His grace and mercy.
To complement this and to pursue peace with God and purity in my heart, I have a daily spiritual practice.
I start most days with prayer. If I forget, it is likely that I will have a bad day.
I am usually awake around 5am. My alarm is set for 5:30am. Often I wake around 4am but go back to sleep around 4:45am. (don’t you love that!)
I spend at least some time in prayer or at least focussed on God. I am not great at the mental discipline of praying in my head, so generally, my prayer seems a little garbled but I strive to convey concepts to God and open my heart to Him.
Once I get up, 2 out of every 3 days, I head off to the gym. The other 1 day, I go for a long walk with my wife.
Sometimes we talk on those days, other days, I quietly pray.
At the gym, I put my headphones in and listen to either a book reading on Audible or a reading of the bible. I have just finished listening to David Suchet reading the New International Version of the bible. The Old Testament was around 60 hours and the New Testament was around 20 hours (I think). Now I am listening to Max Murcado’s “A Gentle Thunder” which meditates on God’s voice in John’s writings.
When I come back from the gym, and while I am in the shower, I listen to an inspirational video from the “AboveInspiration” channel on YouTube or a sermon by Duncan Heaster on Carelinks Ministry on YouTube. It depends on my mood. Do I want something a bit more cerebral? Duncan’s my go to. Am I looking for something more motivational? “AboveInspiration” is the place to go. Sometimes, I just listen to spiritual music on Spotify. Rivers and Robots, Loud Harp, Will Reagan, Kings Kaleidoscope, Josh Garrels and others.
Now I am set up for the day.
At 10am and 3pm, I do a meditation for a minute.
That’s my everyday practice.
Other Spiritual Practice
I have a friend who tells me that his spiritual practice is to pray his way through Ephesians 6. He asks God to help him put on the armour of the spiritual warrior, every morning.
Others read a few chapters of the bible every morning.
My mother has hand written the entire bible out and made notes about each passage to explain what she thinks it means.
My father engages in discussion every day on a Christian discussion board on line. He is also writing a book exploring aspects of his faith.
Well into their 80s, they are spending every day still engaged in some form of spiritual practice.
You cannot beat sin. You can give yourself the best chance of holding it off, if you engage in an everyday spiritual practice that at least fills your mind and heart with pure things. To go to war with Sin in the terms of Romans 7:13-25 requires that you equip yourself for the fight. Spiritual practice assists you with that.
I reiterate, the only destroyer of sin was Jesus Christ through whom we gain victory through the grace of God.
The problem of pornography won’t go away, but at least we can equip ourselves with armour by our everyday spiritual practice.