© by Todd A. Sinelli

What if someone came up to you and said they had a problem and wanted some help?

What if you agreed to help that person?

And what if they told you that the problem they had was with pornography? They confessed that they were spending hours on line viewing pornagrpahy. They had purchased pornographic books and movies and they were even considering swinger parties and were fascinated with the idea of wife swapping. Maybe they were not considering the idea of swinger parties but they are out of control in their desire for pornographic material. They informed you that what started out as just looking at Playboy magazines has escalated into a pervasive habit that has seemingly taken them captive to thinking about nothing but women as sex objects.

Would you revoke your response to help them? Would you be disgusted by this confession? Maybe you would wish that whatever pain, angst, or problems they were having were deserved because of this sinful behavior.

Maybe the person is “just” into viewing porn online or “just” has a few x-rated videos. Is this acceptable behavior? More importantly can you offer this person help from the Scriptures? 2 Timothy 3:16 states that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” Is this true? Should we turn to Scripture first? What passages in the Bible would you reference? Would you even label the behavior of looking at pornographic material as sin? Or would you argue that this behavior is natural?

If you are not a born again Christian, this article will probably not make sense to you. The things I am about to discuss are spiritual in nature. The Bible states that “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Corinthians 1:14). You may read this article and deem me a fool as I lean on the statutes of God to explain a major problem in our society today. Or, you may be inspired, encouraged, or possibly convicted of this sin in your life. Either way, it is my prayer and hope that God will use this writing to bring glory to Himself and set many people free from this sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1).

Problem

There is a problem in our world today. The main problem is that many of us “have exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (Rom 1:25). The exchange has been made just like a used car salesman selling a lemon of a car to an unsuspecting customer. We are quickly replacing words in our vocabulary to diminish sin. As a matter of fact, in most social groups sin is no longer called sin. Biblical words are being replaced with more politically correct phrases. Adultery is no longer called adultery but instead it has been replaced with “having an affair.” Homosexuality is no longer called homosexuality but deemed an “alternative lifestyle”. We have become so polluted in our thinking and reasoning that pornography is not seen as fornication or lust. It is not wise to let the world shape our values and thoughts. God has given us instruction through the Bible to take every thought captive and make it obedience to Christ (2 Cor 10:5). Lusting after women and viewing them as mere sexual objects is not what the Bible teaches.

When the Apostle Paul wrote that “they have exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (Rom 1:25), “he was referring to the willful substitution of an immutable truth for a specific falsehood.” The Bible teaches that Christians are to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another; so that you may not do the things you please” (Gal 5:16-17). A person that is choosing to indulge in pornography, masturbation, or lustful endeavors is walking in the flesh. God has given us the power to walk in His Spirit and we are told to “clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and not to think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Rom 13:14).

There is a battle that exists within ourselves. The battle of seeking to please our flesh over God. Your flesh vs. your spirit is the battle. To succeed at winning this fight, we must become dead to our flesh and hunger and thirst after righteousness. OK, how do we fight this fight you ask? The first step involves prayer and recognition of the battle ahead.

Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (John 6:63). It is important to understand Satan can appeal to lust, but he did not create it. It is already in us. The book of James reveals this process from a spiritual perspective:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren (James 1:13-16).

“Solomon said, ‘For the lips of the adulteress drip honey, and smoother than oil is her speech.’ (Pr 5:3) This phrase describes how the devil presents temptation. Honey represents promised fulfillment. The temptation seems irresistible because it is laced with the deception that the act of sin will bring about tremendous pleasure and satisfaction. The smooth oil represents the craftiness of the enemy. He knows when we are at our weakest moment. He does not mind waiting for days or even weeks if it means a greater defeat for the Christian. Paul twice speaks of the ‘schemes of the devil’ (Eph 6:10, 2 Cor 2:11). The demonic forces of hell are fully camouflaged and extremely calculating, they launch the perfect illusion, timing each consecutive attack ‘to steal, and kill, and destroy’ (John 10:10) God’s property.”

I will admit that I was extremely naïve about the seemingly ubiquitous problem of pornography with most men. What is even more shocking is that this problem has entered the church. “A recent survey taken by Promise Keepers revealed that sixty-five percent of the men questioned reported the regular use of pornography.” Pornography seems to be a very common and very hidden sin among men. For some reason this sin seems to go unchecked and unconfessed.

In his book At the Alter of Sexual Idolatry, Steve Gallagher gives three reasons men keep this sin hidden. “First, sexual sin is shameful to admit. In our society, a person can be glorified for being a ‘Don Juan,’ but just about any other sexual behavior that is out of control is looked upon with suspicion and even disdain. . . Secondly, even though our society does not consider fornication or even adultery shameful, these sins are considered big ‘no-no’s’ in the evangelical movement. A woman can have a terrible habit of spreading gossip in the church, a man can be obsessed with his work at the expense of his family, or someone can be extremely critical of those around them, but these, as well as many other sins, are overlooked in the Church. . . Another factor that contributes to a man keeping his sin covered, is that it is fairly easy to live a double life of outward religion and secret sexual sin. Drugs and alcohol affect a person’s ability to function. Most are unable to keep this kind of a habit secret. But with sexual addiction, a man can be a president, a celebrity, even a famous evangelist, and still maintain a façade of responsibility.”

The bottom line is that viewing pornography and lusting after women as sexual objects is sin. I really do not know at what point our society became numb to this. However, as I become more biblically literate, I understand “the more a person becomes involved in sin, the less he sees it. Sin is a hideous disease that destroys a person’s ability to comprehend its existence. It could be compared to a computer virus that has the ability to hide its presence from the user while it systematically destroys the hard drive.” The Bible says, “For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17). “Darkness is the devil’s domain. Those who refuse to come into the light about their sin are choosing to remain in darkness.” What we think about will generate our feelings and then our feelings soon become actions. It is by the grace and mercy of God that men get “caught” in this sin. Shame and exposure can bring this sin into the open to bring restoration.

Getting Help

We have to understand a few biblical concepts to put our finger on conquering this sin through victory in Christ. First, “the root of habitual sexual sin stems from the heart, not the past. One of the great fundamental teachings of the Christian faith is the doctrine of the depravity of man. While man was made in the image of a holy God, his nature became corrupted when he fell into sin in the Garden of Eden. Since that time, there has been no one righteous, ‘no not one’ (Rom 3:10). We are depraved beings who crave that which is appealing to our carnal natures. It is natural to desire that which is sinful and unlawful. The truth is that even people considered ‘good’ are not really so. They are not inherently good as Carl Rogers would have us believe. We, as a fallen race of people, have a natural propensity toward sin and rebellion against our Creator.”

Understand that sin is warring within you and it desires to overtake you, but you must master it (Gen 4:7).

First, as a general rule, it is very important to have strong Christian fellowship in your life. Many people can quote 1 Corinthians 15:33 which says, “bad company corrupts good morals.” However, they leave out the first part of that verse which says, “Do not be deceived: bad company corrupts good morals.” We will become like those we hang around, do not be deceived. Have you ever noticed that you will begin to use the same words and gestures of those you hang around? We are strongly influenced by those we spend time with, the books we read, the things we hear, and by the things we see. Build godly relationships in your life with people that desire to please God by obeying His commandments. A true friend will encourage you to follow the Lord Jesus in all things, especially in regard to purity. Pray that the Lord brings true friends into your life that care about your spiritual vitality as a number one priority.

The Bible says, “ the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel” (Pr 27:9). A real friend is showing love to his brother by rebuking him of his sin and “restoring such a one in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal 6:1). The restoration comes by showing the wayward brother his offense and teaching him about what pleases the Lord (Eph 5:10). Holiness and not even having a hint of sexual immorality in our lives (Eph 5:3) is what the Lord desires. Many men run toward “accountability groups” to get help. “It is helpful to a certain extent to open up with other people about one’s struggle. But there is a biblical principle that is far more powerful in its ability to change lives. What men greatly need is to be discipled.”

God has equipped us to counsel one another from the Scriptures. Romans 15:14 states, “And concerning you, my brethren, I myself am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.” The Lord desires for us to counsel one another from the Scriptures. The word admonish in this passage is from the Greek word “noutheteo” which means: to admonish or warn or to counsel.

Biblical counseling uses God’s Word, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to change desires, thinking, and behavior in people’s lives that are contrary to the Scriptures. The Bible tells us that God’s “divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). Nouthetic counselor Jim Pile from Grace Bible Church in California writes, “biblical counseling seeks the sanctification of the Christian. As pastors, we want our people to look like who? Jesus Christ. With all the theories and models out there—among secular theories and models of psychology—they can’t even agree on what man should look like, but we, as Christians, know that we want people to be like Christ. So, it’s a process of biblical sanctification: for the glory of God, to look at people’s pattern of sin and to help them to discern what to put off—to renew their minds through the Word of God—and what to put on—to replace sinful habits and thinking—so that they’re able, then, to go out and effectively teach others also, what they learn.”

We must realize that we are accountable to God for our sin. It may surprise many to find out that the word “accountability” is not mentioned once in the Bible. Steve Gallagher writes, “The concept is in Scripture, but not in the weak way in which it is currently used today. Instead, the biblical concept is that of being discipled. Listening to good sermons and reading interesting books can be helpful, but what the immature Christian needs most is for a mature saint to take him under his wing, so to speak, and bring godly instruction into his life. The spiritual growth that is necessary for the man who is in the grip of sin will not come about by simply talking with other struggling men, nor will it come by acquiring more head knowledge on the subject. It only comes through true discipleship—Christ-centered discipleship.”

Freedom

I meet people all the time that talk about what they are going to do with their lives. People love to say “someday I will . . . run a marathon . . . write a book . . . travel to Europe . . . learn another language . . . “ Most of these people let talking replace doing. We even have clichés in our society to describe this sort of behavior. We say “talk is . . . cheap” or “actions speak . . . louder than words.”

There seems to be two groups of people in this world: those who are curious and those who are serious. Those who are curious simply talk about what they are going to do and really have no intention of doing anything. For them, talking replaces doing. The second group consists of those who are serious. Those who are serious are doers and their actions speak volumes. I love working with those that are serious and quickly find that they are doers and not mere talkers (James 1:22).

If you are caught in the sin of pornography, you need to get serious and fight to get out. Think about this analogy “of a boxer who is being pummeled in the corner by the other fighter, when suddenly, he has had enough and comes out swinging! This must also happen to you. You must shake off that complacency and come out swinging! Is this not what the Lord was saying through the prophet Joel: turn, fast, weep, mourn, and rend? These are action words which describe someone determined to get what he needs from the Lord. Winning this battle will require this kind of serious commitment.”

Counselors who tell you that you must spend the rest of your life in support groups and in therapy “do not understand the transforming power of a repentant heart. Many of them will never know about repentance because they will not allow themselves to be broken by God.” The power of God works through the power of His Word. Nouthetic counselor Jay Adams talks about the importance of focusing on the Word of God in counseling to teach a person how to change bad habits to godly habits. Adams writes, “The Spirit works through His Word; that is how He works. It is by willing, prayerful, and persistent obedience to the requirements of the Scriptures that godly patterns are developed and come to be a part of us. Using the Bible every day disciplines. Disciplined, biblically structured living is what is needed. Structure alone brings freedom. Discipline brings liberty. People have been brainwashed into thinking the opposite. They think freedom and liberty come only by throwing over structure and discipline.”

Discipleship, not accountability, is what a person needs. “As the person’s mind becomes reprogrammed with Scripture, living by a biblical standard will come easier. The truth of the matter is that a person really only “knows” the Word to the degree that he is living it. Again, that takes time. As the believer immerses himself in biblical teaching, he will find that it is affecting hundreds of decisions he makes throughout the course of a given day.”

Let me give you five steps to obtain victory in this fight against lustful thoughts, pornography, and sexual sin:

Repent of your sins
Godly sorrow will produce repentance (2 Cor 10:7)
Confess to the Lord and to another brother in the Lord (1 John 1:9, James 5:16)
Restructure your life away from sin and toward godliness
Throw away all magazines, movies, and subscriptions (Heb 12:1)
Take different routes to work away from porn stores
Flee sexual immorality every time this desire arises. Physically run away from it if the situation presents itself (1 Cor 6:17-20)
Get discipled by a mature man in the Lord
Contact your church elders or deacons
Ask other Christian brothers who they are being discipled by and ask to be part of their regular meetings
Know God through His Word (Col 3:16)
Meditate on the Scriptures pertaining to purity and taking every thought captive (2 Cor 10:5-6, Ps 1, Matt 5:8, 1 Thes 4:3, Eph 5:3)
Memorize passages to quicken your mind toward what the Lord desires (2 Tim 3:16, John 17:17, Eph 4:17-32)
Pray for the Lord to further shape and mold you into the image of God’s Son (Rom 8:29, John 3:30)
Move from the camp of being curious to being serious. May today be the day you come out fighting like a boxer. Furthermore, let me give you some encouragement and hope in knowing that greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

“Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance (1 Timothy 4:7-9).”

I wish you all the best as you continue to train and grow in godliness and learn to have victory through the power of God in this area of your life.

For further help or assistance, I highly recommend the following books and organizations:

Visit www.purelifeministries.org
National Association of Nouthetic Counselors.
To contact a nouthetic counselor in your area visit www.nanc.org.
Also, Mount Carmel Ministries has a wealth of resources available to help a person have victory in Christ in many areas of their life. Visit: http://www.mtcarmelmin.org/resources/resources.asp

You can also visit the biblical counseling page of littorch.com to learn about intensive counseling options.