Porn Free

PT

Porn Free

Can you remain sexually pure in a smutty world?
From the December 2004 Trumpet Print Edition

Do you want to be free from pornography? If so, you are not alone. But you are in for a bitter battle.

Our culture is saturated in sex. Highly sexualized images and messages are printed, displayed and broadcast incessantly through every form of mass communication. Many people have convinced themselves that there is nothing wrong with this—that it is harmless, even healthy.

Such thinking is deception.

Jesus Christ plainly condemned our pornophilic culture. He called it adultery—a violation of God’s eternal spiritual law: “I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Of course, this applies to lusting after men too. In fact, it would include a lot of sexualized content that isn’t even commonly called pornography; some in the sex industry have devised distinctions intended to make certain types of lust-inducing material seem harmless. Christ disagrees.

With pervasive temptations, by no means is it easy to keep your mind free of lustful thoughts. The Apostle Paul went so far as to call it a life-and-death struggle: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5, New International Version). The Apostle Peter also spoke of it as being a war: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).

What is your attitude toward pornography? Does it match God’s?

Many who look at porn say they don’t feel guilty about it. Their conscience is either uneducated, or it has been seared (Jeremiah 6:15; Ephesians 4:17-19). They need to understand that porn is sin. Last month’s Trumpet cover story showed how it is a major tool that Satan the devil uses to destroy men in particular, and women and children, and families.

Many others acknowledge that porn and public sexuality are destructive and want to steer clear of them. For anyone with any degree of contact with mass media—television, Internet, magazines, newspapers, movies, books—this requires genuine effort. Practically speaking, failing to battle means losing the battle.

How much are you fighting to protect your mind against pornography?

Sadly, many, even with effort, are losing that battle. Porn, and its often-associated immoral sexual habits, can be powerfully addictive. And it can be much harder to overcome than some addictions—and not only because generally the people affected don’t want to give it up: With chemical addictions, you can purge the elements from your bloodstream, but mental images from pornography cannot be erased.

Many are caught in the trap of pornography and want to be free of it. They can see the damage done to themselves and their families—they wish they had more self-control—but they feel unable to free themselves. They are living testimony of the truth contained in 2 Peter 2:19: “[W]hatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved” (Revised Standard Version).

Is this a problem you face?

The First Step

Breaking free from the common sexuality around us, and even the immoral desires within ourselves, can be an enormous challenge. The obvious first step each of us must take is to acknowledge that it is a problem.

Because public sexuality is so pervasive, it is easy to compromise with. We must understand, however, just how damaging compromise can be in this matter.

The Bible makes a powerful comparison between sexual immorality and fire, or hot coals. Permitting yourself a “little” sexual lust is like carrying a “small amount” of fire close to your chest, or walking barefoot on red-hot embers—you will be burned and blistered every time (Proverbs 6:23-29).

The Bible contains a two-part definition of “pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father.” It says a man practicing pure religion is “to keep himself unspotted [or unstained] from the world” (James 1:27). This is a true challenge in a world deeply stained with sexual impurity!

Pure water contains no contaminants; you would not call a glass of water with a “little bit” of mud mixed into it pure water. A pure sexual life includes nothing outside God’s commanded use of sex between a lawfully wedded husband and wife—a relationship God created to be fully satisfying and rewarding sexually.

Pornography is poison; a meal containing a “little bit” of cyanide is not a healthy meal. Compromising with pornographic or lust-inducing material is essentially making the same choice Adam and Eve made in eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—that is, a satanic mixture that is appealing to the senses, but leads to death (Genesis 2:17).

Good and evil is ingrained in our thinking as a society. To take a prime example, the entertainment industry is filled with artistic excellence besmirched by moral depravity. (In many cases, the material most lauded and honored by critics and insiders is actually the most corrupt.)

Can you recognize the extent of the problem? How much of this compromising mindset has affected your own thinking?

Consider a comparison with alcohol. To a recovering alcoholic, even a drop of alcohol can be an unbearable temptation. Likewise, for someone who has allowed pornography to get the better of him, the tiniest dose can inflame a desire for more. The important difference, however, is that a non-addict can consume alcohol moderately with no negative effects, whereas lust is not something that should be indulged, even in moderate amounts.

It is truly a rare individual who is willing to make the effort to distance himself or herself from this way of thinking and strive, even against powerful personal temptation, for true purity.

We live in a media-soaked world. We all need to step back and get perspective on this aspect of our personal lives and rigorously, honestly evaluate our media consumption, specifically its negative effects on us. What are your attitudes, behaviors and habits regarding, in particular, mass-media portrayals of sexuality? Prayerfully confront assumptions and faults in your own thinking. How has porn hurt or hindered you and those around you? Do you truly want to be rid of it? Are you willing to do whatever it takes? If not, why not? How can you overcome that resistance? The more honest your assessment, the more benefit you’ll gain from it.

As Jesus Christ said, purity includes not just law-abiding actions, but also thoughts. As King David prayed, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalms 19:14). 2 Corinthians 10:5 enjoins “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

What we allow ourselves to look at certainly affects what we think about. We must not underestimate the power of mass media on our thinking. To become pure, we must be vigilant gatekeepers for what goes into our minds. That means not creating rationalizations about what we can “handle,” but rather being truthful with ourselves and with God, and seeking to keep ourselves—and our families—as far away from unsuitable material as possible.

In determining what is acceptable media use, we cannot use societal standards to make our decisions. These are in constant flux, with a clear trend toward increasing corruption. God’s unchanging spiritual law must be our only standard.

We want to be able to say, like the Apostle Paul in Acts 24:16, “I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward God and toward men” (rsv).

No Provision for the Flesh

What if you do find yourself drawn toward sexually explicit material?

The most important principle to live by in overcoming such temptations is to stay as far away from the problem as possible. Human nature wants to get as close to the problem as possible. That is a guaranteed path to failure, because, as Christ said, “[T]he spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Shun entertainment with inappropriate sexual content. Strictly avoid movies that contain nudity or lust-inducing sexuality. Before deciding to see a movie, check reviews from moral-based film critics; websites such as ScreenIt.com or MovieGuide.org provide much more comprehensive explanations of possibly objectionable material than the only-vaguely trustworthy mpaa system employed in the United States. Consider cutting out “R” or even “pg-13” rated movies altogether. Often you cannot take the word of mainstream critics, who evaluate only a movie’s aesthetic value, and many of whom are simply perverts. (Popular film critic Roger Ebert, for example, co-wrote X-rated movies in the 1970s.)

Romans 13:14 instructs us to “make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” The Living Bible translates this, “[D]on’t make plans to enjoy evil,” and the New International reads, “[D]o not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” In other words, rid your life of all the temptations you can, and then burn your bridges.

If you have sexually explicit material in your home, get rid of it. Toss out or destroy any indecent magazines, books or videos. If you need to have certain channels blocked from your cable tv service, do so. If you need to get rid of your dvd player or television, do so. If you need to purchase a content filter for your Internet connection, do so. If you need to change isps to a provider that screens out porn, do so. If you need to cut off your Internet access, do so. If you need to get rid of your computer, do so. If you need to, have your phone company block out phone numbers that start with the 900 area code.

Get as far away as necessary, take whatever steps you need, to eliminate the temptation. Christ advocated radical measures where necessary to preserve your spiritual health and well-being. After explaining that simply looking lustfully can constitute adultery, He said, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29).

Are you willing to get radical—to figuratively pluck out your eye?

Have a Battle Plan

Purity requires a battle plan. Examine your life for things you may need to change about your lifestyle. Look for patterns of failure. Think ahead about situations you know will pose a temptation. Know where you are weak and take action in advance to avoid those situations where possible, and remove destructive options where necessary.

Perhaps you get into trouble when you have too much idle time. If so, plan your free time. Stay active. Make sure you are getting regular, vigorous physical exercise. Rather than using those idle moments in the wrong activities, force yourself to get up and go for a run or shoot some basketball. Keep your mind active as well, so it won’t have an opportunity to wander into places it shouldn’t.

Perhaps being alone is a problem for you. If you are going to be traveling alone and you tend to be tempted by a hotel’s adult movies-on-demand, stay only at hotels that enable you to block those capabilities—and do so before you arrive. If necessary, have the hotel staff remove the tv from your room.

At times temptation will still arise—or, in a moment of weakness, you may seek out something you should not. When things begin to go off track, you must have emergency procedures you can immediately follow.

Immediate Action

Understand this: It is not a sin in and of itself to have a tempting thought. The “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2)—Satan the devil—is actually capable of injecting thoughts in our minds.

The sin is allowing ourselves to dwell on that temptation.

That’s why it is important to become skilled at directing our thoughts—to get in the habit of immediately stopping a sinful line of thinking the moment we recognize it. That is realistically the best—and perhaps only—moment you can make a genuine choice to block it. Once you’ve tossed it around mentally a few times, it can be virtually impossible to then get rid of it before it leads to a sinful act. As James wrote, “[E]very man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. [Notice—‘every man’! You are not alone!] Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15).

At the first moment of temptation, you must break that thought before it takes root. Imagine a big red “NO” being written across your mind. Notice the sky. Whistle. Pinch your cheek. Get out your Bible and read a random passage. Go to a private spot and pray. Whatever it takes.

If you find yourself mulling over plans about how you may be able to see a certain book or movie or go to a certain place, you must expunge those thoughts immediately and force yourself to think on something else. The longer you let the wrong thoughts linger, the harder they are to evict and the likelier they are to lead to action.

When you are alone in a place where people don’t know you, it may be easy to take advantage of your anonymity and convince yourself that no one will know if you succumb to lust—but of course, God sees everything. It is to Him that we are most accountable. Put any thoughts to the contrary out of your mind as quickly as possible.

What do you do if you fail?

If you find yourself looking at pornography, stop immediately. The lust is bad enough—but the sin is compounded when we continue to violate our own conscience, carrying on with the wrongful act even after recognizing it as wrong. In such a situation, the moment you realize you are off track, stand up and walk away, throw the magazine down, turn off the computer—do whatever you must to stopwithout delay.

The biblical command is simple: Flee fornication (1 Corinthians 6:18).

That’s right. Don’t wrestle in your mind. Don’t try to be cool, calm and collected. Flee. Physically run—get away from the source of temptation. Often in our battle for purity in the world, if we just get out of the physical environment, the temptation will diminish or disappear. Joseph is an example—when he was propositioned to commit adultery, he ran, leaving his garment in the hand of the adulteress.

If you’re watching tv or a movie and sexual content comes up, immediately change the channel, turn off the tv, walk out of the theater—at the very least for that scene. If someone around you is telling raunchy stories or jokes, walk away or change the conversation. Tell the person you don’t want to hear such things.

If you have failed, you must try to learn from the situation so you don’t repeat it. Trace the lead-up to your decision to view the pornography. Try to discern how you got into it in the first place. Then take the necessary measures to deny yourself that option the next time around.

Eliminating lustful options for yourself is liberating. It may be difficult for a moment, but you will experience tremendous peace of mind when you no longer have to toss back and forth, wrestling with your own thoughts, over some temptation that is still within your reach.

Powerful Help

All of the strategies we have been discussing are essentially tangible, physical means of eliminating or at least minimizing the temptations presented by this world and our own minds. It is worth every effort to keep ourselves clean from pornography. Every time we indulge in it we hurt ourselves and break down our character; every time we take the high ground and avoid it we spare ourselves and our loved ones real pain and anguish.

The trouble is, many people have deep-rooted sexual addictions that cannot be solved by such simplistic methods. They suffer the effects of childhood trauma, deep emotional emptiness, and/or simple entrenched habit. Some have tried countless times to free themselves from the deadly grip of porn and always stumbled and again become ensnared.

The plain truth is, willpower alone will not, in most cases, solve the problem. So often, the spirit is willing—but the flesh is just too weak to produce lasting change! True freedom from pornography and lust cannot come from the “flesh.”

But it can come.

The Bible is filled with promises of spiritual help in overcoming such obstacles!

Read this guarantee in Psalms 119:9-11: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Christ Himself supported this fact in John 8:32: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Notice too this ironclad promise in James 4:7-8: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”

These are promises God makes to His begotten children—those in whom, upon His calling them and their responding in repentance, He has imparted a measure of His Holy Spirit life. He then fulfills these promises through the power of that Spirit. This awesome spiritual power is not available to any but those whom He has called and to whom He has given it upon their repentance.

Perhaps God is convicting you and calling you to repentance—a complete turnaround from a life of sin to a life of overcoming, using the power of God’s Holy Spirit. God wants all people to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), but at this point He is calling only a very few to do so. If you believe you may be one of them, request immediately a free copy of our potent and convicting little booklet Repentance Toward God. It could be the first step toward truly ridding yourself of the evils of pornography and lust, and achieving the true purity God wants in your life!