Fighting Porn Addiction with Grudem’s Systematic Theology


Audio Transcript

Pastor John we have a question from a 17-year-old young man in London, who writes: “I have been in bondage to pornography for a few years now. How do I even begin to break free from this?” Speak to a young man who feels the bondage of pornography and who has been struggling with this for years. What would you say to him?

Well, first, I want to be clear that this issue — and my answer to it — is not just for males. Increasingly women are entangled, sometimes for different reasons than men, in pornography. So I don’t want to fit just men in here, although that is usually the way we are thinking about it.

How I address a particular man or woman will depend on what I know about them — whether they are a believer, whether they are walking with the Lord, whether they are really fighting in biblical ways. So I am just going to assume in my answer that the person I am talking to is a Christian and trusts Jesus and believes the Bible. Here are a few things that young man might consider.

Foundations for Fighting

The first thing you need to establish is that getting right with God precedes getting our pornography issues fixed. That is, justification precedes, and is the foundation for, sanctification. The only sin that we can defeat is a forgiven sin. That is the way I like to say it.

If you get that backward and start saying, “Ok, I have got to fix this sin. I have got to kill this sin, or I can’t get right with God,” that is backwards. That is the opposite of Christianity. Christ died for and justified the ungodly. And therefore, we start there. So I would want to encourage them: “Trust him. Trust him for his cleansing and his forgiveness on the basis of faith alone.”

The second thing I would say is that great things are at stake here. Don’t play fast and loose. I would say, “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” (Matthew 5:29). In other words, Jesus says we are dealing with really serious issues here.

Third, I would plead with that person that they are going to lose their enjoyment of God if they continually prefer the enjoyment of pornography. Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). And I know from my own experience, the times when I give way to any kind of sensuality, my capacities for spiritual delights in God diminishes, and I know that the tradeoff is always lousy. So for the sake of greater joy in a greater pleasure, we fight against temptation.

Upgrade Your Firepower

The fourth thing I would say is from 1 Thessalonians 4:4–5. There, Paul says that God’s will is that “each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.” Now the implication of that statement, — “in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God” — is that knowing God has a powerful effect on subduing passions.

So here is what I would say. When they have been working at this for a long time, I say, “You know, I don’t really know how deep or strong your knowledge of God is, so here is my assignment to you to help you overcome pornography. Get a copy of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology and read it cover to cover over the next six months. And then come and we will talk again about your problem with pornography.

Here’s my reasoning. I think Satan is bringing his attacks against us, and we are using our little pea-shooter, Sunday school level knowledge of God to try to defeat Satan’s attack. There are such vast, deep, glorious, beautiful, strong, wonderful things about God, and when you are grasped by them, there is a powerful effect of making sensuality less attractive in your life. In other words, studying theology is kind of an indirect way of undermining the powerful effects of sexual temptation.

Some Practical Steps

Practically, I would say get a copy of John Owen’s Mortification of Sin. It is an old, 80-page book that teaches us how to fight sin. In my book, Future Grace there is a chapter on lust and how I go about fighting it.

Online at Desiring God we have this little thing I wrote called "ANTHEM" — A, avoid; N, say no; T, turn your mind and heart; H, hold a beautiful vision of Jesus in your mind until it triumphs over the other sensual vision; E, enjoy him; and M, move on. I unpack each of those as really practical steps.

And I wrote that not as some theoretical proposal of how to fight temptation. I wrote it because in the backyard one day I was pushing my lawn mower, after my wife had just told me the night before that some people were fooling around behind our garage. And as I passed by pushing my lawn mower, my mind immediately created that scene and became lustful at that moment. And I had to fight back just to get this thing out of my head.

I have tasted what these guys are dealing with, and we are in this together, so these are my best efforts so far to try to put forward concrete, practical, biblical steps to defeat this monster.