Pornography may be one of the most dangerous things in the world facing the modern church. While it is enjoyed in private by a shocking number of people, it is not a struggle for a disturbed few. It is a challenge for people globally, and many church-going Christians are especially stuck in the crushing grip of pornography (and other sexual sins).
People who regularly view pornography feel many harmful effects. One of which is feeling like it might not be that big of a deal – we rationalize our sin and make it smaller than it really is. Others feel trapped in the complex maze of how we got here and how to get out – we are increasingly confused and wonder if we’ll ever be free. Others feel alone – we think we’re the only ones and that talking about the struggle will mean being ostracized by others, even our faith family.
We want to change all of that. We want to see people liberated from their struggle with pornography. We want to see people awake to the dangerous effects it has on our own souls and societies at large. And we want to see people stepping into freedom in Christ. To get to freedom, we must first admit how common the struggle is and how corrosive it is on our society as a whole.
Pornography Is More Common Than You Think
The research is overwhelming. It doesn’t take more than 30 minutes of google clicks to reveal the sickening reality of porn usage in the world today. The following is a summary of some of our most recent findings:
- 40 million people regularly access pornographic material online.
- Every second of the day, approximately 30,000 people are viewing porn.
- 35% of all internet downloads are pornographic, and 25% of all internet searches are pornography related.
- 11 of the top 300 most popular internet sites in the world are pornography sites, and the top ranking site is more popular than eBay, MSN, and Netflix.
- Pornography is a $97 billion global industry.
- One-third of porn users are women.
And while we might like to convince ourselves this is primarily an adult issue:
- Per a university study, 93% of boys and 62% of girls saw porn as adolescents.
- The average age of first exposure to adult material is now 11 years old.
- 64% of young people between the ages of 13 and 24 seek porn weekly.
And while we don’t want to be alarmists:
- One of the top 2 porn sites reported over 60% of its traffic comes through smartphones.
Have we got your attention yet? The fall has profoundly affected our hearts’ passions. When God rejected Cain’s offering but accepted Able’s, Cain was angry. God responded, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Pornography isn’t crouching at the door. We have given it the key and invited it to move its stuff into our place.
Pornography Is More Corrosive Than You Think
Pornography is a cancer. It has a mysterious beginning and a deadly end. In his book, Sexual Detox, author and pastor Tim Challies says, “Porn works its way into your heart in seed form and then seeks to grow as large as possible and take over as much of you as it can.” This brings to mind Galatians 6:7-9, where Paul warns that we will reap what we sow. The unfortunate truth about the use of pornography is, like all sin, it never just affects you. It seeks to distort the truth of God, by giving us just enough of the truth to satisfy our fallen conscious but twist or question it to cater to our primary problem- our own selfish desire. And this is why we must be diligent to fight. Getting to the end of pornography and actually fighting against it first begins with awareness. This section traces out a few ways that pornography is corrupting everything from our souls to society.
THE INDIVIDUAL AND PORNOGRAPHY
Pornography is addictive. More and more neuroscientific research is continuing to map the biological substrate of this addiction. Users of pornography cannot help but become more and more desensitized to sexual sin and often seek stronger and more perverse forms. As this habit increases, greater sexual permissiveness is the usual result. Pornography use does not yield individuals who are focused on loving God and neighbor but focused on viewing other people as soulless creatures who are to be subjected for personal gain.
MARRIAGES AND PORNOGRAPHY
A married man who is involved in pornography feels less satisfied in sexual relations with his wife and ultimately less satisfied with her emotionally. Husbands report loving their spouses less after long periods of looking at (and desiring) women depicted in pornography. The wives of pornography users tend to carry deep psychological wounds and commonly report feelings of betrayal, loss, mistrust, and anger. Research shows that porn consumption makes you 300% more likely to engage in an extramarital affair. The emotional distance fostered by pornography can often be just as damaging to the relationship as real-life infidelity. It dehumanizes others in the eyes of the viewer. You quit seeing people as fellow image bearers of God and begin seeing them as objects to fulfill your own fantasy and pleasure.
CHILDREN AND PORNOGRAPHY
A parent’s use of pornography can wreck the lives of families, especially children. Viewing pornography not only desensitizes the viewer to relationships but kills the warmth of affectionate family life, which is the natural social space for children to grow and to flourish. Pornography is especially dangerous in the lives of adolescents when they are becoming aware of their bodies and how to maintain physical disciplines. The eventual fruits that flow from pornographic roots are increased loneliness, social awkwardness, anger, shame, and sexual activity outside of marriage. Not only that, but a recent article in Esquire (which we don’t advocate you view) reveals that the pornography industry’s current fastest growing trend is incest.
SOCIETY AND PORNOGRAPHY
Nearly two-thirds of United States high school students have had sexual intercourse by grade twelve. Of those who are sexually active in high school, 70% are girls and 55% are boys. Both groups report that they view their sexual activity as a mistake and should have waited until marriage. These trends are sourced in a common problem: the increased sexualization of contemporary society. The traditional taboos of a well-intentioned American ideal are long gone and the restraining effect of a shame culture is now all but absent. At the core of these problems is a heart increasingly confused, crazed, and curious.
These few references to the corrosive effects of pornography are heartbreaking. Looking at our Western culture gives no reason to believe that these trends are going to slow or reverse. In the midst of these problems, we face a missionary issue: What does it mean for us to be salt and light in this world of darkness and decay? The answer is not found in burdening people with shame or demanding people to comply with a new version of moral conformity. Instead, we need a better vision. The key to diverting our eyes from pornographic images is Jesus Christ.
Conclusion: See Jesus Christ and Live
God does not call us to anything without first doing that for us Himself. He created us for Himself and for sexual enjoyment in marriage. He tells us that His Word is true and His ways will lead us to joy. What we need most in our battle with pornography is not a list of do’s and don’ts, but a relationship with Jesus Christ. Seeing Jesus and understanding what is available through a relationship with Him is all the resource we need to fight the battle of pornographic sins.
Jesus died as a sinless and celibate 33-year-old man. Jesus never sinned during His teenage years. Jesus never looked at a woman with lust. Only Jesus completely fulfilled God’s design for gender. Jesus knows how to live for God, and He lives to help us embody our God-given gender for His glory and the good of our neighbor. Jesus does not call us to flee sexual sins without a clear way out. Jesus Himself first blazed the trail of sexual purity for us and now He lives as our great High Priest of mercy.
Jesus is full of truth and love when it comes to the issue of our sexual sin. Upon His entrance into the world, the author of John explains, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus was full of grace and truth. Jesus welcomed sinners and tax collectors. He had compassion on hungry people. He condemned self-righteous hypocrites. He talked about hell more than heaven. He taught a stricter law than Moses. He perfectly obeyed the law, and He shows grace to the law-breakers. He gives everything to us and demands everything from us. He died for us and then demanded that we die to ourselves for Him. Jesus is incredibly loving and truthful.
In the face of our struggle with pornography, we need to hear Jesus invite us to Himself: “Come to me, everyone who is weary and worn out, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We need to be reminded that God does not demand us to clean ourselves up before coming to Him – we need to hear Him inviting us to Himself here, now, today. We need to hear about his love for wayward children who squander their inheritance through a morally rebellious life. We can come home to the arms of the Father (Luke 15:20).
We need to create a culture of talking about the problem. Our Savior promised: “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). We need to know what the saying really means: “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the Son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’” (John 8:34-36). Jesus can free us from our struggles and addictions if we will come to Him and confess our sins to Him. When we say that we ought to talk about our struggles, we mean find a safe place of accountability (in the church community) where you can openly confess and repent, and be asked the hard questions. We have a promise that Jesus has conquered sin, so let’s believe it and gather as those who know the Savior.
We fight sin by treasuring Jesus above all other things. The Bible is clear that we live to God by killing what is earthly in us (Colossians 3:5). How do we kill sin? If sin is treasuring anything more than God, then killing sin means treasuring God above that sin. The Spirit helps us treasure Jesus as we confess our sin, listen to biblical teaching, meditate on Scripture, and cry out to God in prayer. Those who overcome are those who believe in God (1 John 5:5).
Frankly, fighting sin may mean doing something you see as radical. If your smartphone is the tool that gives you easy access to the portal of pornography, get rid of it. For the sake of your soul, see holiness as more important than being connected. A person infatuated with starting fires doesn’t overcome that temptation by keeping a book of matches or a lighter in his pocket.
We are not okay, we need rescue, we need redemption, we need Jesus. Jesus saves both the adulteress and the idolater, the sexually impure and the sexually proud, and the self-righteous and immoral alike. Only Jesus can give us a new identity, and a new life.
You are not alone. The greatest resource we can recommend to you is Jesus Christ. Turn to Him. Turn to Him even now in the midst of your failings as His follower and ask Him for help. After turning to Jesus, turn to His community. Confess your struggle to a brother or sister in Christ and let someone enter into your situation with you. Then turn to your church family as a whole – become deeply involved in a Life Group here at Providence where we are all fighting our sins together.
In addition to these three means of grace – Jesus, friendships, and community – we want to point out three especially helpful resources. While 1 in 4 clicks on the internet is related to pornographic viewing, the internet has a lot of positive resources to offer as well. These three articles are a great place to start.
How Not To Fight Pornography Article by David Briones, Professor at Reformation Bible College
How To Slay The Dragon Of Pornography Article by counselor and author Ed Welch
How To Deal With The Guilt Of Sexual Failure For The Glory Of Christ And His Global Cause Conference address at Passion by John Piper