By Neale Davis, M.A., D.Min.
In the last article I mentioned how Christ has set us free from the slavery to sin. In essence he has unshackled our ankles from the giant steel ball. But often we, even as believers, continue to carry that weight around with us unnecessarily. As it pertains to porn it is essential that we release that weight in order to be able to move with agility as we live and lead as men. Porn steals our character, integrity and our ability to experience honesty and transparency in relationships. It’s impossible to navigate life and our role as Christian men while carrying this weight, but the question begs, how do we do that?
As I speak with and counsel men I see more and more how utterly miserable it makes men. Those who have bought the lie of sexual fulfillment through porn always spiral out of control and into slavery. It is a trade of the abundant life Christ died for us to experience, for a stupor and zombie like existence that entangles and ensnares. There is no promise for fulfillment, but is actually a continual, but empty promise for life and fulfillment. Lust never delivers on it’s promises. It just demands more. The isolation it creates is numbing.
When I was growing up it took some effort to look at porn. You had to actually walk into a store and ask for a magazine. The paranoia of such an action would keep most men in line. But now the most raunchy porn is readily available at the click of the mouse. This has proved to be devastating for Christian men and the undoing of many. It is a rare day that I don’t see how destructive this temptation has proven to be. It reminds me of Proverbs 2:16-22 that describe in painful accuracy the effects of choosing immorality. This pursuit will lead you down to death and to the “spirits of the dead.” What a stark difference to what God offers in Christ. He offers abundant life, which is a full and meaningful life. He offers peace, mercy, and grace so extravagant that words fail to communicate the magnificence of this offer.
The hope offered in God’s word is magnificent. There is hope. Let me offer several suggestions in experiencing this freedom, but please keep in mine that making these choices is difficult and must be done in community.
Remove the isolation. In the Lord of the Rings movies we meet the character Gollum who lives a half life of loneliness, lies and delusion. His isolation feeds his slavery to the idea of control. This narrative never works out for Gollum. In fact, it eventually costs him his life. Addiction to porn is usually nourished and coddled in the secret places of our mind and our existence. Seclusion is the soil that best nourished the idol of the flesh and the first step to victory is removing it. It is important to involve people close to you in your struggle. This includes one on one accountability, but it also means taking more steps to include structure in your life. I would recommend software on your computer, like Covenant Eyes, which doesn’t prohibit what sites you visit, but reports them to your accountability partners. However, if you choose partners who don’t typically look at your reports or take them serious, or follow through on tough things they see, then this won’t help. Make sure the people you choose to hold you accountable will confront you if they see red flags in your report. Give them permission to do so.
Realize the connection of lying and porn. There is a direct correlation to lying and the struggle of porn. It begins with lying to yourself about the effect of your decision. “It’s not that big of a deal.” “I can stop anytime.” “Just once won’t hurt.” “It’s a male thing so I can’t help it.” “It’s how God wired me so it must be okay.” These lies come, in part, from the deceptiveness of our own hearts but also flow from the enemy of our souls. Don’t make the mistake of blaming it all on the devil. If you didn’t choose to do this, then you wouldn’t. It is a choice. The lies you believe and think, though, cause you problems and become more complicated the deeper you go into porn. So allow those who are closer to you to ask you the hard questions. Make a commitment to them to be forthright and honest. Don’t lie to your friends or yourself.
Invite others into walk with you. The need for community continues here. It is reasonable to assume that if you follow this step it is highly likely that you will be freed from your struggle. As we grow and mature in our faith we are actually supposed to become more dependent upon one another in a healthy way. “Iron sharpens iron” requires another person. It is in the context of community that we can experience freedom and healthy relationships. They will never be perfect on this side of heaven, but we need people in lives who tell us the truth. And people to whom we can speak the truth. You may be able to manage your sin for a season, but it will take a community to help you overcome your sin for a lifetime. It is worth the risk of vulnerability and honesty.
Be honest with yourself. Sometimes we persuade ourselves with false talk that the problem is not that big. But that is not true. This is a big issue and the Lord wants to free you. Jesus’ intent is to provide you with abundant life. Abundance in that we can anticipate heaven and all of it’s mind boggling benefits, but eternal life begins when you trust Christ. The old things are in the past, Paul says, and we can anticipate new things. We must be honest with how we have compromised ourselves when we give into short term pleasures that lost no longer than a very short season. Look to Christ who is the only one who offers water that will satisfy you consistently forever.
Make your choice before you are tempted. Decide right now who you will text or email about your temptation. Right now. If you make this choose before your temptation then your chances of success are much higher. Don’t let the train leave the station. Otherwise you will find it challenging to stop it. Remember, you have a choice in this matter. When you begin to feel the urge to give in then immediately text your accountability partners and ask them to pray for you and ask you tomorrow (or next week, or in the next hour) what you did. Knowing they will can be the very thing that keeps your mind where it should be.
Go for a run. Generating the right kind of buzz is good for your mind and for your body. You don’t have to commit to training for a marathon, either. If all you can do is take a walk around the block, then do that. The endorphins that exercise generates show the creativity that God has in caring for us. These hormones are the bodies way of protecting us and show how much our designer cares for us. Take advantage of them.
When you are tempted don’t be afraid to flee. When it comes to “youthful lusts” Paul instructs us to actually flee (2 Timothy 2:22). Don’t play with these urges because they can have such subtle control of our hearts. In other areas Paul says to stand firm against the devil and he will flee from you. Not this one. Here he says to turn coat and run. Paul understands the influence and power of lust.
Set your mind on life giving things. I recommend you begin to memorize favorite Scriptures, but don’t just memorize them and then quote them like a mantra. These passages are not meant to be “a rabbit’s foot” in your pocket. Instead, as you quote them have a dialogue with the Lord about them. Ask him to explain them, to help the truth of the to transform you and penetrate your heart. Paul makes suggestions on where to take your anxious thoughts in Philippians 4:9.
Don’t stand in a pool of shame. If you choose to give in to the temptation then you know what will happen. You will feel shame for your decision. God’s Spirit convicts us of sin, but does so in order to lead us out of the mire. He doesn’t want youto get caught up in the muck of shame. So remember that God’s grace is meant for you and his blood has covered you for your brokenness. It always amazes me what Jesus said the woman who was caught in adultery. Remember, she was guilty and that the levitical law does call for stoning (Jesus, as God, was the author of this law). But, since he was the fulfillment of this law, he says to her, “neither will I condemn you.” He extends grace to her first,then he calls her to “go and sin no more.” This same offer extends to you. Grace, and then the call to purity. This love toward you should help you grow out of your lustful slavery and into remarkable freedom.
Though this list is not exhaustible, it is a beginning. This is a battle that you must wage and can win as you move toward Christ. Bring your struggle into the light where Jesus will bring healing.
The freedom you experience as you do is remarkable. Now go ahead. Call some friends and entrust yourself anew to the Lord and to the care of the body. Welcome to freedom. It tastes good.