Character That Counts: Overcoming Pornography
Pornography is a major struggle for men, and those in the church are not excluded. In fact, virtually all of the men I counsel and work with say pornography and lust is their #1 temptation. One of the many problems with pornography is it draws you into a tangled web and exit points are very difficult to find. The pictures burn an image in your mind which aren't easily removed. One look doesn't satisfy and in many cases, it doesn't necessarily get easier once you are married and grow old. One man, who is part of our weekly TGIW Bible study group, approached me several months ago and stated, “Rod, I’m over 60 years old and I’m a dirty old man.” His roots in pornography began when he was a young boy and his conduct revealed a life of secret addictions, including numerous affairs.
I myself have been tempted with pornography. I am ashamed and grieved regarding my sin in this area. My entry into pornography came in my early teen years because of my curiousity about sex. The magazines I began looking at in my teens led to unholy behavior in my 20’s and 30's. I was too cheap and too sneaky to buy the magazines on my own, but I found them and would hide them in secret places to look at during times I was alone. I also discovered pornography on television, and I would regularly engage in watching late night programming and premium channels, leading to masturbation. Hotel rooms were particularly a major problem. In the privacy of my room, I would find myself ogling over girls on television and acting/behaving very inappropriately.
I had seasons of victory, but then I would morally crash as the pull intensified. A major breakthrough in my journey came in 1989 when I got caught in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport by a dear friend who witnessed my near plunge into a rack of pornographic magazines. I realized at that moment if I didn't seek help immediately, my life and ministry would crumble. After this humiliating wake-up call, I began to change dramatically. I intentionally pursued accountable friendships, verbalizing my thoughts and actions. Today, the pulls are still intense and hotel rooms are a temptation, but my accountability partners play a vital role in my victory over pornography.
There are four primary forms of pornography:
- Television – premium channels (including Playboy, HBO, Cinemax, etc.) and network programming.
- Print – magazines and books are plentiful.
- Movies/Videos – if you’ve ever been in a Blockbuster or Hollywood Video you know it is there and “sex sells.”
- Internet – even one innocent click on one website can trigger a response and multiplies the onslaught of other websites through "mouse trapping." Unsubscribing to these sites is virtually impossible. Even the innocent web surfer can discover sexually provocative websites. The statistics tell us 90% of kids between ages 8-16 have been exposed to inappropriate sites on the internet with 45 million kids online everyday.
If the internet had been around prior to 1989, I'm convinced I would have been hooked on pornographic sites. I am pleased to tell you that by the grace of God, I’ve never been on a porn web site and I have absolutely no desire to do so. Like many of you, I get the porn e-mail junk, and I take great joy in zapping this directly to my deleted folder.
Sadly, it is estimated the total porn industry generates revenues of $57 billion annually, with internet pornography representing $10 billion. Pornography is a bigger business than the revenues generated by the NFL, NBA and MLB combined. Over 50% of all monies generated online is dedicated to pornography and over 30% of all spam (advertisement e-mail) is porn related. Internet porn business has increased by 350% in the past year, and there is no sign of a slow down.
One major survey showed people go online to find intimacy, but they will never find intimacy on a computer. Steve Waters said you get cheated twice when you seek intimacy on the internet: (1) The computer images can’t fulfill what you’ve come to get and (2) it sabotages future and current relationships with other people and God – in fact it drives a tremendous wedge between your relationships.
John Ortberg remarked, “We are spiritual beings, and sexuality, like spirituality, lies at the very core of who we are. Both sexuality and spirituality involve extreme intimacy. Both of them involve enormous vulnerability. And that’s why you have to be very careful in them, because tremendous intimacy in spirituality can easily get confused with or blend over or lead into a desire for intimacy sexually. Because they’re both so close to the core of who we are.”
Satan has taken God’s idea of sex, which is reserved for a man and wife who are married, and twisted it a variety of ways so that it is wreaking havoc on men and families. In fact, Satan has never had such a good tool as the internet. There are some things about the internet that make pornography more anonymous, accessible and affordable than ever before. Satan is poised like a “roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8-9) and literally millions of men and their families are suffering because of inappropriate sexual conduct.
The saddening truth is pornography has heavily tempted the Christian community as well. Many times the greater tragedy is Christian men experience even more guilt and shame because they know this behavior is wrong. Yet, few are strong enough to seek help and counsel to overcome their addictions.
The good news is that God has strategies for deliverance from the perils of pornography as noted by Dr. David Jeremiah in his daily radio program "Turning Point" (Broadcast June 4-5, 2003). 1 John 4:4 says, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” Dr. Jeremiah said, "Men, keeping our lives pure isn’t going to be a walk in the park. And if you don’t think I’m talking about you and you don’t think this is a problem, then you are 'more godly than David; stronger than Sampson; and wiser than Solomon.' Each of these three men were tempted sexually and failed in this area."
- Consider what you’re doing:
All forms of pornography are anonymous and faceless. God didn’t create us to have a relationship with a computer, a magazine or a television. Are you willing to destroy your relationships to gratify your own sexual pleasures?
- Consecrate your mind:
Proverbs 23:7—“For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” Keep your hearts pure. Guard and protect your heart. Even by accident you can see things, and they burn a picture in your mind and heart.
- Commit yourself to Bible memory (Phillippians 4:8; Psalm 119:9):
Don’t discount Scripture memory. Didn't Jesus combat Satan in the wilderness with memorized Scripture? What we think about and meditate on is what goes into our memory system. If you find a website that matches Phillippians 4:8 then stay there!! Bring every thought captive. Psalm 119 urges us to keep His Word hidden in our hearts so we might not sin against God.
- Counterattack Satan’s strategy in your life:
Don't put yourself in a precarious situation. Know where the danger is and then make sure you’re ready for it. Bruce Wilkerson suggests a great counterattack is to begin praying for your pastor when you are tempted. This simple suggestion has worked for me in the past.
- Confess your sin to a forgiving God (1 John 1:9):
The God we serve can and will forgive us. A repentant heart will be forgiven. Satan tells you that God won’t forgive. It’s a lie.
- Covenant with a friend to be accountable:
Job 31:1 “I have made a covenant with my eyes.” There are several websites including: www.covenanteyes.com and www.xxxchurch.com to assist people in a covenant relationship by recording a log of all the websites that you visited and the amount of time you spent on each site.
I urge you to commit to a life of sexual purity, putting aside all forms of pornography. For me, the key was accountable relationships which included being honest with myself, God and others. For more information on Character That Counts, please feel free to review our website. We also welcome your input and feedback to these articles. Send us your comments and thoughts via our contact form.