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Overcoming Porn Addiction

Series: Technology and the Christian

Ezekiel 20:7–10, “And I said to them, “Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.” But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt. So I led them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness.” 

 

I have not noticed this passage until recently. Exodus does not mention this, but, apparently, Israel worshipped false gods in Egypt. God told them to be rid of their idols, but they refused. Yet, God still rescued Israel from slavery while their eyes continued feasting on the idols of Egypt. It seems this was a common evil that Israel accepted. Now, we wonder how they could have been so blind. Why didn’t someone do something?

 

Generational sins are often like this. Few see how ugly the sin is in their generation. Future generations marvel at the behavior of generations that preceded them. The atrocities committed against Native Americans and Africans by immigrants to North America is one example. In our own day, some of the biggest generational sins relate to abortion, American greed, and porn. We will talk about porn this morning. We will talk about the effects of porn so we can properly address how to overcome addiction to porn.

 

The Pornification of Culture

I’ll explain why I’m showing you these statistics in a moment, but briefly consider these statistics on pornography. These stats are from a survey done by provenmen.org in 2014.

 

Self-Identified Christian Men

Self-Identified Christian Women

97% have viewed porn

87% have viewed pornography

72% view porn at least a few times per year

33% view porn at least a few times per year

64% view porn at least once per month

15% view porn at least once per month

55% married view porn at least once per month

(no parallel statistics were made available)

 

The statistic that troubles me the most is the average age at which people first see porn: about 11 years old. Porn addiction is an epidemic. I don’t say this to shame you but to bring to light what is happening so we know how many people need help.

 

From a spiritual perspective, people need help because this sin can and will destroy our souls and separate us from God. Matthew 5:27–28, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

 

But what amazes me is how some in our culture - absent Christian influence - are recognizing the terrible effects of viewing porn and are trying to leave it behind. Secular studies have extensively documented how brains on porn look like brains on drugs. Imagine what our country would look like if over half the population was drinking water laced with cocaine. Imagine every kid around the age of 11 being subjected to hits of cocaine - without knowing it was a drug or knowing its harmful effects. Just imagine how that would affect those kids and culture at large.

 

I heard a clip from a secular podcast relating porn use to drug use. Dr. Drew Pinsky - a man known as the celebrity rehab doctor - was a guest on the podcast. They didn’t plan on talking about porn, but these Hollywood guys ended up talking about the trauma of young porn exposure. The host spoke of how he was exposed to porn at a young age and how it has affected him. Dr. Drew’s response struck me, “We do know that a young exposure [to porn] can cause sexual compulsions and addictions… It shatters the upper limits of the young brain’s ability to manage and regulate stuff.” They then continued to talk about the widespread “pornification of culture,” called it an epidemic, and discussed how we haven’t even come close to knowing all the ways porn is affecting our society. They concluded by talking about how men on porn are less interested in real women because they are too complicated. Porn is always easy and it never says “no.”

 

I heard a clip from a song by a secular band along this same line of thinking. “And all our girlfriends are long gone, we watch too much internet porn,” (Staring at Stars by Passenger). Lines like this amaze me because these are worldly guys with no Christian or anti-porn agenda. The effects of porn on the culture at large are astounding. For us, through porn we are feasting our eyes on the idols of this world, profaning the name of God in the world, and killing love in many ways. But why is porn so difficult to overcome? 

 

Isolation and the Pornification of the Mind

As Proverbs 6:27–29 teaches, we can’t carry fire next to our chests and not be burned. One of the least talked about and biggest consequences of porn use is deep, soul-crippling isolation. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says “Two are better than one…” We all need deep, intimate connections with others. Real connection and community are so important because they bring us out of isolation and into the real world. Sexuality has a place here. Genesis 2:25, “Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.” A godly sexual relationship can be great in part because there is nakedness with no shame. It can bring us outside of ourselves into connection with our counterpart in an intimate way. We take down our walls and are authentic. There is a subconscious realization that we are accepted and loved on the deepest level by someone who knows us - warts and all. 

 

Porn steals this opportunity. Porn deepens isolation since we are seeking this deep intimate connection with a screen and attempting to fulfill our inner emptiness alone. Porn teaches us to ignores our real psychological and spiritual needs for intimacy in pursuit of an electric biological experience. Porn teaches us sexuality in isolation without any intimacy whatsoever - leaving us empty and ashamed. It promises an electric experience, but we get none of the connection, face to face interaction, intimacy, and acceptance that comes with sexuality as designed by God. Porn leaves us alone and ashamed. This only deepens the isolation and creates a greater thirst for intimacy, which is often fed with more porn and self-gratification.

 

For Christians who actually want to be free from porn, this is a huge unintended consequence. We become double-minded as we live a secret life. There is shame and we fear that someone might discover us.

 

Overcoming Porn Addiction

If you are stuck deep in porn addiction or are struggling with it in other ways, I want you to know that God loves you and we love you. God loves us so much he sent his Son to die for us. Christ was willing to take the sin and shame of porn addiction on himself on the cross. I know how many times you have resolved to end this. I know you feel like you can’t do anything to overcome. But I want us to know this: by God’s power, we can live a life completely free of porn and self-gratification. We are a victims of Satan’s deception, but we are not helpless. We can end this cycle. We must. But a new year’s resolution won’t work against Satan’s forces. We need Jesus, his armor, his people, and a real plan to get free from porn in 2018. Let me help us build a biblical plan as a starting place.

 

1. Admit our sin to ourselves and to God (1 John 1:8-9). “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.” I imagine that most Christians who struggle with porn addiction have done this. But I still hear about “Christian” guys that don’t think their porn addiction is a big deal. They cover up with fig leaves and blame others. Don’t do that. This is self-deception. We may be victims of Satan, but we are responsible and we need to own it. If we confess, God says he will be faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness when we confess. 

 

2. Know we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” We can be saved from what we have done and will do. God doesn’t do this because we are so great, but because he wants to show us how rich his grace is. We don’t help ourselves when we have worldly sorrow that thinks we can only be saved if we are perfect. That leads to death. But we also must not abuse God’s grace by not truly repenting. Grace is meant to free, not enslave us.

 

3. Confess our sins to our spouse (if applicable) and another brother/sister (James 5:16). “Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” 

  • This is a game changer. Confession of sin has unfortunately become conflated with coming to the front at the invitation song. That’s a fine practice, but we can confess sin to one another on a more regular basis without the invitation song. If you are trying to completely beat porn addiction in secret, I bet you are failing. Let me explain why. First, we may be filled with self-pity, but if we aren’t confessing our sin to a couple of people who love us, we haven’t had the opportunity to realize how much sin hurts. We haven’t realized what we’ve been hiding. Second, keeping our sin completely secret and not talking to anyone about it only perpetuates our shame. We prove we are still ashamed of ourselves, and our need for intimacy and connection continues to not be met.
  • I know what you may be thinking. “No, I can’t tell anyone. I’ll double down and get through this.” That’s the old man talking. The old man has to die a painful death of shame if the new man is going to live. Confessing to our spouse and finding someone to keep us accountable is painful, but it’s not slavery. It’s a huge step toward freedom. There is a mysterious power in coming to the light and speaking the truth about ourselves to others. So, find an accountability partner, tell them everything, make a game plan together, and check-in with them regularly to overcome temptations and falls. Be open with your spouse, but I recommend against spouses being accountability partners. If you want to talk more about this, the shepherds, John, and I are available. It is imperative that we get good help. There is destructive help in this area. The shepherds here want to offer being a source of help and guidance here and elsewhere. They want to ensure we know their aim is to help us overcome the problem, not judge us.

 

4. Gouge out your eye and cut off your hand (Matthew 5:29-30). “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” It’s probably not an accident that, in talking about lust, Jesus teaches us to tear out our eye and cut off our hand. We cannot tell ourselves we have everything under control and give ourselves free reign. We need to deal harshly with the source of our sin. Make a plan. When and how do you sin with your eyes and hands the most? Create a plan to not be alone at those times. Be with others. Internet access needs to have filters controlled by our spouse or accountability partner. Our many devices present too many temptations to not have parental controls setup under someone else’s control. We know ourselves and what restrictions we need. Openly communicate that to the one with the passwords. And, parents, if we don’t have parental controls setup, we are letting in a fire that will burn our household down. There are many tools available. The built-in parental controls on devices are restrictive but really good. Covenant eyes is one of the best, K9 is decent and free, Open DNS is a great free filter for all devices on your home network. 

 

5. Praise God and enjoy a fearless life in community with your family - biological and spiritual (Acts 2:46-47; 4:32 ). Acts 2:46–47, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.” Acts 4:32, “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul…” This is an essential part of replacing bad with good. But there is another component. Recovery from any addiction has really dark days. We used to treat our boredom, melancholy, and depression with porn. Now, we have to live through it. We may start to think, “Why am I doing this again?” We have to remember why we are doing this. Picture how your life has been affected by porn. Can we see how it has cut us off from a more meaningful relationship with your spouse, children, and the people here? How it kills security in our relationship with God? How it has distracted us from an all-heart love for God and others? But much of what porn has stolen from us can be restored. Picture your life porn-free. I picture Acts. There is joy. There is a widespread love for God’s word. There is good food with God’s people. There is the opportunity to be one heart and one soul with God’s people and your family. We don’t have to be afraid to be open with people or that someone will discover us. We don’t have to be afraid of death or of Jesus’ coming. We can be free. This is what the kingdom of God is all about. Bringing freedom to captives so they can live a life that is rich with fellowship with God and his people. 

 

Children, you can talk to your parents about this. If or when you see porn, tell your parents. They will not be disappointed in you. They will love you and help you.

 

If we have sinned against our spouse in this way, let’s be compassionate with the pain they feel. Spouses of porn users, the pain and betrayal you feel is real. Know this: you are enough and you are the real deal. What happens on the screen is a fraudulent fantasy, but you are authentic. And, if your spouse confesses to you, you don’t have to act like it doesn’t hurt. Just remember one thing: they may already have a lot of shame, and you can help them overcome it. However, if your spouse is struggling with porn and they are refusing to get real help with it, don’t keep their porn problem a secret. If they are getting real help and still struggling, that is another matter. Give them time and patience. But if they aren’t in an accountability relationship or even trying, tell them they must get help. Recommend the shepherds here. If they don’t get help, call on the elders to help immediately. God can rescue us from our sin, but he will not allow us to willfully remain in it.

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