I know the enticing enslavement of pornography firsthand. I fought and lost, on and off, through high school and college. I clicked on my first pornographic site in the sixth grade when a classmate sent me an email and disguised the link to look like something for a project.
At different times during that next decade of battling my sin, experiencing small victories and often as many defeats, I had the thought that marriage might cure me. In the back of my head, I thought I just needed a wife to satisfy all my sexual desire and impatience. So I allowed myself to dive into relationship after relationship, knowing I hadn’t dealt with the impurity that plagued me.
“Pornography is not a simple guilty pleasure — never harmless, never private, never safe.”
The reality was that no relationship could have ever solved my sexual sin — no relationship, that is, except for knowing Christ. I was looking to girlfriends, and to the hope of a future wife, to fill a craving only God could fill. I was focusing on self-discipline, dating, and marriage, when God was trying to teach me about joy and show me where to find real pleasure.
The Nap That Never Ends
Pornography seems to devour as much (or more) square feet of spiritual ground as any other threat to young Christians today. We need to take this weed more seriously wherever its thorny leaves begin to sprout. However harmless or private it may seem, it is not.
- Pornography blinds us to God (Matthew 5:8). It blurs our eyes to his goodness, truth, and beauty.
- Pornography trains us to treat women as objects, as less than human. It portrays them as possessions to be used and enjoyed, and then thrown away.
- Pornography fuels sex slavery — real people held against their will and raped repeatedly — all over the world, even in the United States, even in your city or the major city near you.
- Pornography belittles real beauty — like the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 31:30) — and replaces it with a cheap and fading imitation.
- Pornography makes sex small and momentary, like a cigarette, instead of massive and lifelong, like it is in marriage.
- Pornography robs us of some of the delight we might have had with our spouse. It keeps us from experiencing and enjoying them and their bodies without a fog of images from our past.
- Pornography quickly bankrupts trust in a relationship. It encourages us to lie and hide from others, to walk in darkness and then build walls around ourselves in the darkness.
- Pornography grossly stunts our maturity, the development of our mind and our gifts — our abilities to understand God and love others.
- Pornography pursues an undergraduate degree in selfishness, training us over and over to focus on ourselves, prefer ourselves, and serve ourselves.
- Pornography keeps us from all kinds of ministry, disqualifying many and demotivating even more.
- Pornography is teaching many children an awful, evil distortion of love and sex even before their parents explain the truth to them.
Pornography is not a simple guilty pleasure. If we continue pleasing ourselves with it, it will take everything from us. Pornography may cost us Christ and everything he died to give us: forgiveness, freedom, life, hope, peace, and joy. Pornography quietly kidnaps millions and leads them to conscious, never-ending agony, away from God and the glory of being found with him. It enslaves men and women, starving them day after day and never feeding them a full meal, until they’re lost and hungry forever.
“Pornography lulls us to sleep. But it’s not sleep. It feels like a short, comfortable nap, but we never wake up.”
Pornography lulls us to sleep. But it’s not sleep; it’s death. It feels like a short, comfortable nap, but we never wake up. And pornography is force-fed to us in our society, pouring out of every pore of our media and technology. The weed has relentlessly spread everywhere, even where it’s unwanted, and it will kill us if we let it.
Nine Ways to Wake Up
One of the lightbulb moments for me in my journey to victory over pornography was realizing that it wasn’t only a self-control issue. The fruit of the Spirit doesn’t work or grow like that. Our broken desires for images or videos suggest all the fruit is rotting, not just self-control. Our fight for purity is not merely a fight for self-control. It’s also a pursuit and expression of love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and joy. When we focus on will-power and self-denial and neglect the rest, we rob ourselves of most of the weapons God has given us for the war.
- Every time we look away from immodesty, we look away in love for our (future) spouse, our (future) children, and the immodest person in front of us, someone made in the image of God.
- When we refuse to experiment with sexual sin, we celebrate our peace with God, bought at infinite cost with the blood of his Son. We refuse to re-crucify him with more rebellion, and choose to rest in the forgiveness and life he purchased for us.
- Not indulging in pornography or any other sexual activity before marriage may be the brightest billboard of patience today. No one in the world expects you not to click, but when you don’t, you quietly tell God (and anyone else who knows) that he and his plan are more than you could have ever dreamed for yourself. Sexual purity is as much or more about patience than it is about self-control, because God wants you to enjoy sex in the best possible way — in the safety and stability of marriage.
- By rejecting pornography’s twisted, corrupted distortion of sex, we trade manipulation and abuse for kindness. Instead of learning to use people for our own desires, we teach the world how to live for the interests of others.
- Pornography has hidden itself in countless fibers of the worldwide web, spreading wickedness into many corners of our world. When we refuse its invitation, we diminish its reach and influence, even just by one. And we give ourselves the opportunity, instead, to be an agent for goodness, to use social media as a channel for an entirely different message. We can fill the web with links to real truth and beauty, to articles, videos, and more that declare the greatness of our God and his love for us.
- No one praises faithfulness to God when it looks like it costs you absolutely nothing. Even when it seems like everyone else your age is diving headlong into the shallow highs of lust, sexual activity, and pornography — and bragging about it — we can live (and wait) dramatically differently. There’s nothing strange or radical about falling in and indulging with the world, watching the sexually explicit movie everyone else is watching, or reading the sexually explicit romance novel all your classmates seem to love. What will stand out is our happy resolve to resist every evil in faithfulness to our King and Friend in heaven.
- Pornography’s sex education encourages forceful manipulation and even brutality. It’s simply not real sex. Real sex — the sex that two people can enjoy for a lifetime without getting bored or offending God — is patient, selfless, and gentle.
- Lastly, the battle for purity is not a battle against your joy — not stealing any real pleasure or happiness from you at all. It’s a battle for your joy, yes in heaven, but even now. You might be trading away a moment of pleasure, but you’re getting an eternity of it in return.
Refuse to Click and Choose More of God
Those who choose to see less today will see more forever. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). There are things we see and indulge in this life that blind us to God. There is nothing more spectacular and satisfying than seeing and enjoying God, but we so quickly and cavalierly trade that experience for a few measly minutes of titillation.
“Those who choose to see less today will see more forever.”
Every time we expose and entertain ourselves with impurity, we’re sacrificing our awareness and knowledge of the highest goodness and fullest majesty and greatest love anyone has ever experienced. And every time we pass on pornography or other sexually stimulating material, we prepare ourselves to see and enjoy more of our greatest Treasure.
Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44). When we refuse to click in pursuit of greater joy in Jesus, we are selling what this world has to offer and buying a priceless treasure filled with true beauty and real happiness.