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Mary Crowley's Journey of Faith - Part 2

Guest: Mary Crowley

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April 24, 2024

Fighting Pornography, Man to Man

One of the simplest realities of life today is this: We're in a sexualized culture. As men, we feel this keenly. We men on average have a stronger sex drive than women, and we are oriented visually. This can make us feel like we are sitting ducks for the marketers of brazen sexuality today, and in some ways we are. This is true when you go to the grocery store or the gym, and you confront immodesty at every turn. It's certainly true when you turn on your phone, TV or fire up a content platform, and one sex-fueled show after another is offered to you.

But it's especially true when you consider the specter of pornography. Pornography has so seeped into our culture, our everyday experience, that it's not wrong to conclude that we live in a "pornified culture." By metrics, anywhere from 50-100% of men consume pornography in a month. This is partly because pornography has, as I said, "seeped" into all corners of our digital worlds. In days past, you had to go looking for pornography, and maybe pull a tempting magazine off a shelf. Nowadays, all you have to do is search for something on Instagram and you're faced with images that prove very tempting indeed. Porn is now searching for you.

To fight a culture like this with hearts like ours, you first need to think about this issue rightly. Toward that end, here are four truths about pornography that will clarify matters and help you greatly.

First, our culture lies about sex. Our culture promises us unending happiness through sex. In doing so, it takes what is good and beautiful — both the design of a woman's body and sex itself — and it twists these things, offering them to us for worship. That's what pornography is: It's consumeristic worship. By this, I mean that instead of covenanting with a woman to love her in all the ups and downs of life, a man consuming pornography isolates womanhood as the object of his lusts. Because he uses technology (in many cases) as his outlet, he can use the women on the screen as much as he sees fit. His god is his body and his desires, and so he offers worship and service to his body whenever he sees fit.

A culture promoting pornography to you, and celebrating lust outside of marriage as a great thing, is lying to you. It's selling you happiness in a different form than God intended us to experience it (see Genesis 2:18-25).

Second, a woman is not a vessel of our lusts (even in marriage). In responding to the first truth, we might think to ourselves, "What I really need is a wife — then I can have sex whenever I want, and overcome my lusts!" It is true, gloriously true, that God gives the gift of sex to married couples. This is not a small gift, and the bodily bond between a husband and a wife is a wonderful thing. Further, it is a help and a blessing to have a wife who you can love and enjoy romance with — there's no shame in that.

But we must be very careful here: we must not approach marriage as consumers. Yes, husband and wife must work together romantically, which will often mean that a wife expresses openness to sex more than she herself might desire it. This goes both ways, actually; in Christian marriage, our body is not our own (see 1 Corinthians 7:1-5). But even with a wife committed to blessing her husband in this way, that woman is never a mere vehicle of our lusts. She is a living being, a person made in God's image, and if a Christian, a daughter of God and co-heir in Christ. She is to be approached with love, gentleness, understanding, tenderness, and kindness. Pornography will not teach you how to approach your wife, men; pornography will teach you how to use and lose your wife.

Third, you need to kill lust, not cultivate it. Our culture urges us today to honor our lusts. Our strongest natural desires, in fact, are said to tell us truthfully about who we authentically are. You've heard a variation of this, as we all have: "Follow your heart," says the culture. But Jesus says something very different: He tells us to identify what is sinful in light of God's holiness, and then put that to death. In Matthew 5:29, He gives us these stark words: "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."

This means that we must not nurture our sinful lusts and desires. When we're sexually drawn to someone who is not our wife, even if it's just in our mind, we must repent of that and confess it to God. We need to kill lust, not cultivate it. You may have a pornography habit at this time; sadly, many men do. The Bible is here to help you, but it's not going to give you any assistance in managing your lust. There's no containment strategy for porn; we only have an annihilation strategy (Col. 3:1-18). We put our lusts to death by the Spirit's power — and in so doing, we are free.

Also, there is strength in numbers and prayer. Accountability to your wife and your close friends is a good thing. God has wired us to be in community with believers, and we're called to help each other confront the sins in our lives. Don't let porn remain a secret sin. Confront it, kill it, and remain accountable to your wife and friends.

Fourth, if you have a pornography problem, you're not toxic — you can be redeemed and renewed. We have to be very honest about pornography usage and addiction today. As noted, our digital culture and smartphone saturation means that most of us carry a sin-enabling device in our pocket. In such a context, many men battle lust in a big way. If that is true of you, I want you to hear this: You're not toxic. You're a sinner. A toxic man has no real value, which is what our culture says to men in general today. A sinful man is made in God's image and has real value and worth, but needs the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sin (Hebrew 9:22). If you trust Christ, all your sins will be forgiven — you'll be redeemed and renewed by God's mercy and grace.

From there, you can take all the energy and time and attention you used to give to pornography and your lusts and your flesh, and you can channel it for good. If you're single, you can serve your church, work hard at your job, and be a light in a dark place. If you're married, you can throw yourself into being a good and godly husband. You can stop squandering your days and start loving and investing in your wife and children. You can stop being ruled by the flesh, and instead be ruled by the Spirit (Romans 8:9). This is what God wants for you.

Conclusion

These are tough days for men. But these days which are full of challenges for many of us can also be full of blessings. None of us will be perfect; we all stumble in many ways, and every believer is a work in progress (James 3:2). But the good news about pornography is this: it's not God. It's not all-powerful. You don't need to worship and consume it. When you see just how great God is, and when you understand just how awful sin is, and when you comprehend just how forgiving Christ is, then you're ready to make a change.

That's your next step: live in freedom. Approach your devices wisely and carefully. Don't let yourself be ruled by your lusts; be ruled by God's truth and God's Spirit. Stop investing in women on digital screens; start loving the woman right in front of you, and the kids hugging your legs. And know this: whatever sin is in your past, the grace of God is stronger still. God loves to take the struggling, the flailing, and the hopeless, and turn them into trophies of his love.

We may be in a sexualized culture, but believers are part of something much greater: a Spirit-filled culture. The first gratifies the flesh and leads to destruction; the second lives by the Spirit and is empowered by God to live for His glory.

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