You’re helping a friend work through his porn addiction. Where do you begin? What is your starting point? To identify his most significant problem, where would you look? Would you start with what the struggler is viewing? What about the social effect? How about modesty? When you address the porn problem, are you more inclined to begin the discussion with the prevalent, pervasive, cultural, immodesty issues?
You may want to read:
- How to Work Through a Porn Addiction
- Three Ways to Overcome Sin and Temptation
- Men Are Tempted to Lust, Women Are Tempted to Be Lusted After
Granted, being immodest must be part of the discussion. It is wise to walk our wives and daughters through how to dress modestly. It is prudent to teach them how to help guard the hearts of their male friends by dressing appropriately. But the way they dress, or my other questions, should not be the starting point with the pornography discussion.
Out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).
Jesus did not began talking about behavioral sins like porn by addressing the behavior. His starting point was the heart. Jesus tied the conduct (externals) to the core (internal). In this verse, He placed the genesis of our sin problems in the heart rather than on the lip.
A man’s struggle with pornography does not begin in his culture, but with his mind. Paul appealed to us to make sure we “renew the spirit of our minds” before we put on a new behavior (Ephesians. 4:22-24).
If you do not first address the physical sin issue at the level of the mind, you will set yourself up for the genuine possibility of that sin reappearing. If you do not put the ax to the root of the tree, there will be sprigs, then limbs, and possibly full-blown branches reappearing.
And along with the ongoing, recurring behavioral sin problem of porn, there will be the possibility of compounded frustration, anger, hopelessness, and even less faith to attack the behavioral pornography problem in the future.
Knowing this truth brings hope. If a man believed the root of his porn problem was in his culture, he would set himself up as a potential victim of the society, which would give external forces control of him. He would be at the mercy of his culture, always reacting to how women dress or not dress. He would spend his energy, time, and focus guarding the wrong door.
There is no question that he should guard the “cultural door,” but that is not his starting point or initial focus. There is no hope in being a victim. But if a man believed his wicked heart was the main problem, there would be hope because he could apply God’s grace, repent of his sin, and live in the good of God’s gospel.
Repenting from the heart is a position of strength against the battle with lust. There is no hope otherwise: he can’t repent of his culture. He can’t make worldly women dress the way he thinks is right, but he can repent of the sin in his heart.
The Mark Grant Series:
- How to Think about a Porn Addiction, Pt. 1
- How to Break Free from a Porn Addiction, Pt. 2
- How to Resist Porn on a Daily Basis, Pt. 3
A Pandemic Problem
There most certainly is a physical attraction for men regarding the opposite sex. God made a man with a desire for a woman. And in a biblical sense, there should be an attraction in a man’s heart for the opposite sex.
I’m not downplaying or ignoring the temptations that come with immodest women and physical attraction. I’m not saying she has no responsibility in the matter. But what I hope you to see is that if you are experiencing lust, the source of that desire does not begin with the opposite sex.
I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28).
In my years of counseling, the overwhelming external sin issue among men has been pornography. And it rarely matters what their reason is for seeking counsel. If they come with marriage issues, financial problems, kid problems, depression, anger, alcohol, bitterness, or any other problem, it is not unusual that there is the complicating problem of porn.
Porn is pandemic in our Christian culture, partly due to the ubiquitous expansion of the Internet. Underlying this temptation is we live in a world of weary, frustrated, insecure, and angry men whose minds are lured by lustful thinking.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire (James 1:14).
Porn is a private way of bringing temporary pleasure to oneself. Typically, it is despairing men looking for an escape from the pressures of life. And porn is a practical way to “get away for a break today,” if only for a few minutes.
The Daniel Berger Series
- Everybody Is an Addict, But There Is Hope, Pt. 1
- Addiction Defined Is a Worship Disorder, Pt. 2
- There Is Only One Right and Perfect Addiction, Pt. 3
The Theater of the Mind
Though there is gratification in the behavioral experience of porn, it goes much deeper than the physical benefit of instant gratification. Porn is a private theater for the mind. Porn is motivating! It is where the insecure and frustrated man can be king for a day, in his mind. The porn addict is in control when he enters his porn-world, which is usually a far cry from the lack of control he has in his real world.
For example, he can make cyber ladies meet his desires. It is the one place in his life where he is in total control. He controls their speech, their thoughts, and, particularly, their thoughts about him.
He twists the script in such a way to find affirmation, applause, and appreciation. The scriptwriter enjoys his “one-man show.” In a real-world where things don’t turn out as positive and where people don’t necessarily like him, the ladies of the Internet do enjoy him. In the theater of his mind, they fawn all over him. There is not only instant pleasure, but there is an immediate victory.
- He feels good, physically.
- He feels victorious, spiritually.
These feelings last for a few minutes, just before he re-enters the real world where he lives with marital disappointment, disruptive kids, an overbearing boss, an unforgiving world, and a host of other problems that he can’t control. Porn becomes his quickie, self-reliant escape. Like the pot smoker of the ’60s, he takes a little trip, only to return to a hopeless world.
The Controller Is Controlled
His continual foray into the cyberporn world creates another problem. It is like a drug. It’s addictive. Once upon a time in the theater of the mind, the addict was in control. He used to decide when and where he was going to take his little escape adventure. But after several such experiences with lust, his heart began to have a “mind of its own.”
That which he used to control now controls him. He becomes an addict, and his addiction has its roots twisted around his heart. There was a time when he determined when he wanted his fix, but now the “fix” beckons him. It calls, knocks, and crouches at the door, waiting to pounce. It blitzes his mind and overpowers him.
His wife runs an errand to the store, and the temptation overtakes him. It comes before she’s out the door, so he waits until she leaves. Now it’s his time! Maybe he has downtime in his frantic, un-affirming world. He feels the heat rising in his mind. The computer is calling him; the girls want him. He gives in because he’s not in control any longer.
He did it again. “But this is the last time,” he says.
Porn Negates the Gospel
Porn-addictive-thinking is void of the gospel, the person and work of Christ. Jesus died to save people from themselves, which was God’s grandest expression of love to any of us. Someone had to satisfy our sin debt, and Christ was the one who volunteered.
Yielding to porn negates this powerful truth. A man’s porn pursuit begins when the gospel no longer satisfies him. He wants something else, something more. Living in God’s pleasure is not enough.
The gospel is God’s most explicit message of His affection, love, care, and concern for us. When we think about the cross of Christ, there is a reminder of how there is no length God wouldn’t go to rescue our perishing souls.
Because the death of Christ is an infinite expression of His great love, when rightly applied to your life, there is a lessening need to make yourself feel better about yourself through man-centered methods, like porn. The gospel shrinks our cravings for man-centered affections, love, and affirmation. Christ becomes the “escape” for the gospelized individual.
- Do you want to change your reality? Fling yourself on the cross.
- Do you feel alone? Live in the daily realities of the cross.
- Do you feel isolated? Abide hard by the cross of Christ.
The cross is your escape. Living in the good of the gospel is your victory. This worldview must be your starting point. Remind yourself daily of what Christ did for you, how He went through death to save you (Hebrews 2:14-15). If your world is challenging and the temptation for a brief respite amid the chaos is strong, let me suggest another way.
It’s Christ. Preach the gospel to yourself today. Right now! Ask your friends to push you toward Adam’s tree. Memorize Philippians 2:5-11. Study this text. Learn of your Savior and what He did for you. Express gratitude for His great affection for you. Learn it. Live it. Enjoy it.
While there is no magic or silver bullet in the Philippians text, the idea conveyed there can be life-changing. The problem with the person addicted to porn is that something other than Christ is drawing his affections.
The person addicted to porn has a worship disorder, to where his affections are under the control of something else other than Christ. He will find the solution for such a problem in Philippians 2:5-11, as well as other texts.
While that text is made up of words, the idea of the passage is life-changing. You must have the mind of Christ, not the thoughts of the world. Start in the heart to find the cure, and begin at this instant.
The heart cure is reminding yourself no matter how challenging your situation is, God loves you. He cares for you. “How do you know that?” That’s easy: the cross of Christ informs your thinking here.
When I actively remind myself of what He did for me, I know I’m not alone. God is for me, not against me. This perspective is gospel-informed thinking that will affect your behavior.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things (Romans 8:31-32)?
Call to Action
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:1-2).
- As you repent of your self-focused heart cravings by informing your mind about the realities of the gospel, as understood by the Word of God, there is another way you can keep from going at this alone. Increase external accountability in your life.
- Covenant Eyes is a competent and non-cumbersome software program that allows another friend to have a report of all your Internet traffic for the week. With Covenant Eyes, you can fight the natural battle of being wooed to your computer to take a peek.
- Let others help you. Let them fulfill the law of Christ. Allow someone into your secret world of porn addiction. Once you do that, the battle is well on the way to defeat. God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).
- I urge you to go to your local church. Talk to a trusted friend in the context of your local body. Let them into your world. Ask for their help. It would be their joy to come alongside you to help you walk through the entangling web of porn addiction.
- Finally, there are many articles embedded in this piece. Take your time; click on those resources, and plan for a long-term study. It would be helpful for you to do similarly with my book, Change Me–The Ultimate Life-Change Handbook.