When it comes to the topic of pornography and/or sexual sin, there are a growing number of helpful resources that address the issue from a variety of angles. What is needed, however, are more books—not less—that address this topic, for the simple fact that this is one of the greatest issues facing the Church today. The problem of addiction to pornography and/or sexual sin is not going away, but is instead growing rapidly. This is a battle I personally know well, as I’m one of the men who has overcome an addiction to pornography. The pornography addict (as I’ve said before and will say again) lives in a world where guilt and shame reign supreme instead of Jesus. Truly men (and now even women) who live in pornography-addition, live in darkness instead of in the light. This is why John Freeman, the President of Harvest USA—a ministry dedicated to speaking to these issues—wrote his book, Hide or Seek When Men Get Real with God about Sex.
Hide or Seek has ten chapters organized around one central idea—that is to help his readers understand the lie of pornography and the hope of the gospel. To this end, he thoroughly examines the epidemic of porn in Chapter One. In chapters 2-4 he explores life as a God-hater, idol-maker, and game player—emphasizing why living a double life won’t meet our greatest need for Jesus. In Chapter Five, Freeman moves to explain why we (as men) need to live a life of integrity. From there (in chapter six) he talks about how to “come out of the darkness and into the light”, and continues into chapter seven by explaining how we are to live in the “banquet room”. Chapter eight takes a very helpful look at dealing with the dark desires that come up as a result of sexual sin. Chapter nine helps readers to come out of living in a world where guilt and shame reign supreme, and helps them to begin to breathe in the fresh air of the gospel. The book concludes with a clear call to know Jesus and be known within the local church.
Reading Hide or Seek was a true joy, primarily because this book is so drenched in the Bible. The author doesn’t assume anything about the readers understanding of the meaning of theological words, but helpfully explains what each of the terms mean, with a heart to help his reader grow in knowledge of the Word of God. Additionally, the author writes as a practitioner. Since pornography affects the identity of the person—people need to understand that this is a topic that they should speak about, but can’t speak too authoritatively unless they have truly wrestled with it. That isn’t to suggest that people who’ve never had an addiction to pornography, or been affected by witnessing someone they know struggle in its grasp, can’t speak to these issues. I believe that those who haven’t struggled can be a great blessing and help to people who have overcome an addiction to pornography, as they learn how to live a pure life that honors and glorifies the Lord. Yet, this is what the author does so well—he combines his many years of experience as a practitioner with his understanding of the Bible to highlight what the Word of God teaches and illuminate the hope that Jesus provides in His finished work.
At my local church, I serve in a variety of ministries—including as a leader of the Men’s Ministry. I also lead the Men’s Evening Bible Study on Wednesdays. I’ve heard the stories of how many men (not only in my local church, but also outside of it) have wrestled with an addiction to pornography, and have either overcome it or are currently struggling with it. Like John Freeman, I know well this struggle. It is one of the most terrible issues that Christians must speak out about. This book will help ministry leaders to think properly about sexual sin, and to help the people of God to come out of the shadows and into the light of God’s presence. I highly recommend this book and believe it will help both the struggling individual and the disciple to understand, not only the issue of sexual sin, but the hope that the gospel of Jesus provides to sinners and saints alike.
Buy the book at Hide or Seek: When Men Get Real with God About Sex, WTS books, or from New Growth Press.
Title: Hide or Seek: When Men Get Real with God about Sex
Author: John Freeman
Publish: New Growth Press (2014)
I received this book for free from New Growth Press for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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Recently a new survey commissioned by a nonprofit organization called Proven Men Ministries and conducted by the Barna Group took a national representative sample of 388 self-identified Christian adult men. The statistics are alarming and paint a picture of the serious problem that is addiction to pornography.
The statistics for Christian men between 18 and 30 years old are particularly striking:
- 77 percent look at pornography at least monthly.
- 36 percent view pornography on a daily basis.
- 32 percent admit being addicted to pornography (and another 12 percent think they may be).
The statistics for middle-aged Christian men (ages 31 to 49) are no less disturbing:
- 77 percent looked at pornography while at work in the past three months.
- 64 percent view pornography at least monthly.
- 18 percent admit being addicted to pornography (and another 8 percent think they may be).
Even married Christian men are falling prey to pornography and extramarital sexual affairs at alarming rates:
- 55 percent look at pornography at least monthly.
- 35 percent had an extramarital sexual affair while married.[i]
These statistics are alarming; in fact they can be downright discouraging. The porn addict lives in a world where they go through a cycle of feeling sorry for what they did, but never coming to see the horror and complete depravity of what they have done. The statistics, as I stated earlier, paint a disturbing picture. They demonstrate that we need to help porn addicts understand the seriousness of their sin, the nature of true biblical repentance, and turning away from sexual sin to Jesus Christ.
The great Puritan author, Thomas Watson, once said there are six ingredients for true repentance. The first is sight of sin, whereby a person comes to himself (Luke 15:17) and clearly views his lifestyle as sinful. If we fail to see our own sin, we rarely, if ever, are motivated to repent. The second ingredient for true repentance is sorrow for sin (Psalm 38:18). We need to feel the nails of the cross in our souls as we sin. Repentance includes both godly grief and holy agony (2 Corinthians 7:10). The fruit of repentance is revealed in genuine, anguishing sorrow over the offense itself, not just the consequences of it. Sorrow for sin is seen in the ongoing righteous actions it produces. True repentance lingers in the soul and not just on the lips.
The third ingredient is confession of sin. The humble sinner voluntarily passes judgment on himself as he sincerely admits to the specific sins of his heart. We must not relent of our confession until all of it is freely and fully admitted. We must pluck up any hidden root of sin within us. “Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit” (Deuteronomy 28:19).
The fourth ingredient for true repentance is shame for sin. The color of repentance is blushing red. Repentance causes a holy bashfulness. Ezra 9:6 says, “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens”. The repenting prodigal was so ashamed of his sin that he did not feel he deserved to be a son anymore (Luke 15:21). Sin makes us shamefully naked and deformed in God’s eyes and puts Christ to shame, the One who took the scorn of the cross on Himself.
The fifth ingredient in repentance is hatred of sin. We must hate our sin to the core. We hate sin more deeply when we love Jesus more fully. Repentance begins in the love of God and ends in the hatred of sin. True repentance loathes sin.
Finally, the sixth ingredient of repentance is the turning away from sin and returning to the Lord with all your heart (Joel 2:12). This turning from sin implies a notable change, “performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20). “Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols and turn away your faces from all your abominations” (Ezekiel 14:6). We are called to turn away from all our abominations, not just the obvious ones or the ones that create friction in others. The goal of repentance is not to manufacture peace among others with perfunctory repentance, but rather to turn to God wholly and completely. This repentance most importantly is not just a turning away from sin. It also necessarily involves a turning in “repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Here is the joy that is found in repentance. “It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance” (Romans 2:4). We rejoice that Christ has done so much for us and continues to do for us.
By understanding the seriousness of sin and biblical repentance, we can come to understand that there is hope and freedom for the captives. Jesus came to set the captives free. While we live in a world that is full of bad news, in the midst of the bad news of our sin there is hope and healing from sexual sin. In the midst of your struggle look to the beauty of Jesus in the cross. Gaze at the wonder of the cross.
Look to Jesus—He is the cure for sexual brokenness. Jesus is in the business of setting the captives free through His finished work. No matter your sexual history, Jesus alone can make you pure again. Turn to Him, and trust in Him. He is all you need.
In conclusion, I urge you to heed the words of J.C. Ryle who wrote, “Look at the cross, think of the cross, meditate on the cross, and then go and set your affections on the world if you can. I believe that holiness is nowhere learned so well as on Calvary. I believe you cannot look much at the cross without feeling your will sanctified, and your tastes made more spiritual. As the sun gazed upon makes everything else look dark and dim, so does the cross darken the false splendor of this world. As honey tasted makes all other things seem to have no taste at all, so does the cross seen by faith take all the sweetness out of the pleasures of the world. Keep on every day steadily looking at the cross of Christ, and you will soon say of the world, as the poet does—
Its pleasures now no longer please,
No more content afford;
Far from my heart be joys like these,
Now I have seen the Lord.
As by the light of opening day
The stars are all concealed,
So earthly pleasures fade away
When Jesus is revealed.”[ii]
[i] For more on these statistics please go to http://www.provenmen.org/2014pornsurvey and www.covenanteyes.com/pornstats/
[ii] J.C. Ryle, The Cross of Christ, accessed January 5th, 2015. http://www.gracegems.org/23/Ryle_cross.htm
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The purpose of this series is to help singles think through how to be single in the church, those who are married but don’t have kids to continue to pursue each other and those who are married to excel at parenting by the grace of God.
This material was originally written by Daniel Henderson at – strategicrenewal.com and adapted by Dr. Dave Earley at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary
Forty powerful reasons to avoid pornography
- I enjoy the pleasure of a love relationship with God.
- I fulfill my true identity as a child of God.
- I experience God’s provision of empowering grace.
- I enjoy my spiritual freedom to its fullest.
- I avoid a life pattern of deception.
- I cultivate a soft and sensitive conscience.
- I turn away from the solicitation of harlots in my heart.
- I refuse the temptation of idolatry.
- I prove to be a faithful steward of my money.
- I prove to be a faithful steward of my time.
- I abstain from any promotion and support of the pornography industry.
- I preserve God’s gift of loving sexual expression for its intended purpose.
- I protect the purity and power of my God-given imagination.
- I develop disciplined character.
- I guard the integrity of my Christian testimony.
- I promote health and harmony in the body of Christ.
- I cultivate a stronger resistance to future interpersonal sexual sin.
- I nurture the proper biblical view of the sanctity of womanhood.
- I relate to women as equals and persons of ultimate worth.
- I learn to live in reality rather than fantasy.
- I steer clear of unnecessary personal guilt and shame.
- I steer clear of unnecessary personal guilt and shame.
- I cultivate a lifestyle of contentment and satisfaction.
- I experience the blessing of living as a servant.
- I learn the relational skills of authentic intimacy.
- I avoid future mental, emotional, and spiritual scars on my life.
- I experience the joy of the Christian life.
- I learn to deal with the causes of my problems rather than treating symptoms.
- I prevent potential temptations for others in my sphere of influence.
- I honor the trust and prayer support of those who have invested in my spiritual life.
If I Am Married
- I avoid adultery in my heart.
- I encourage my wife’s trust.
- I honor my vow of marital purity and faithfulness.
- I keep my marriage union pure from fantasies of other women.
- I communicate acceptance and honor toward my wife.
- I avoid the pathway that could easily result in infidelity.
If I Have Children
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- I minimize the risk of my children being exposed to pornography.
- I model strong and genuine moral values for my children.
- I avoid embarrassing and embittering my children.
- I encourage all of the above positive qualities in their lives.
If you embrace these 10 myths about lust, you will find no remedy for your lust. Instead, you will dive into a “black hole” of sin. Embrace the truth; reject these 10 myths about lust:
1. “I lust because I’m human.” No, you lust because you’re a sinner.
2. “I lust because others dress immodestly.” No, you lust because your wicked heart enjoys the immodesty of others.
3. “I lust because I’m not married.” No, you lust because you love sex more than God.
4. “I lust because I desire marriage.” No, you lust because you desire sexual immorality. Desiring sexual immorality is the opposite of desiring marriage. A desire for marriage is a desire for sexual morality within marriage.
5. “I lust because I cannot help it.” No, you lust because you willfully choose sin over holiness. You’ve developed a lustful habit. Repent and turn to Christ habitually. Live out the holiness He requires until new holy habits are formed.
6. “I lust because my spouse is not as interested in sex as I am.” No, you lust because you desire sex more than you desire God.
7. “I lust because my spouse does not appreciate me.” No, you lust because you believe God is too small to meet your needs abundantly.
8. “I lust because I believe God’s image-bearers are beautiful.” No, you lust because you reject God’s creation (Gen. 1:26-27). Those who lust objectify God’s image bearers, reducing His divine image to a mere object of immoral non-consensual one-sided sexual gratification.
9. “I lust because sexuality is pervasive in my godless culture.” No, you lust because you want to be like your godless culture.
10. “If I fulfill my lusts, they will go away.” No, the remedy for lustful desires is for you to deny yourself (starve your lust), pick up your cross, and follow Christ (Luke 9:23).
The only answer for a lustful heart is constant repentance and faith in Christ. We must believe God rather than man, whether “man” is everyone else or ourselves. God is more beautiful and more valuable than fulfilling our lustful desires. If you embrace and meditate on His beauty, all sin will appear ugly and detestable.
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A group of guys are sitting at a table arguing about who won the 1984 World Series MVP. If the year was 1994 then the argument would go on until somebody got home and looked up in their copy of Sports Almanac. Today the argument will last only as long as it takes for someone to grab their iPhone and consult the mighty Google machine.
You want to know something, then you Google it. It’s your God-given right to have this information and it is at your finger tips. We are an information-saturated culture. I’d almost argue that many of us are addicted to information. We can’t let questions go unanswered anymore. Willie Hernandez must be known.
Knowledge is a good thing. There is nothing innately wrong with someone settling an argument by Googling the 1984 World Series MVP. In fact it can be quite helpful.
The problem is when we believe knowledge is a right. And it becomes a big problem when that foolish belief collides with our sex-crazed culture.
Many young men are introduced to pornography out of curiosity. They simply want to know what those forbidden parts look like. And then that curiosity gets more pointed. They want to know what certain celebrities look like naked. It never satisfies.
It’s not only young men that I have been caught in this snare. It’s trapped many good and seemingly faithful men. They don’t begin on a quest to view porn for sexual pleasure. It’s a quest to view forbidden images for the sake of knowledge. But those images aren’t just innocent facts like who won the 1984 World Series MVP. They are flaming darts meant to cause you to wind up like a gutted deer hanging from a tree.
Brothers, don’t believe the lie the enemy is whispering in your ear. You aren’t doing research. You aren’t merely on a quest for knowledge. You are on a prideful jaunt into the land of the forbidden. You think that it is your right to see what ought not be seen by your eyes. It is not. This information is not yours to hold. This is sin.
Your thirst for knowledge wasn’t meant to be satisfied. Your thirst for knowledge was meant to be spent on the eternal–ever filling but never complete. You can’t just Google the answer. There is no “argument over” when it comes to beholding the infinitely beautiful God. It is in the Person of Christ that you and I ought to direct our gaze and our desire to know and behold and worship.
Don’t waste such a beautiful gift on inferior joys than come to a climax. Spend this gift—this thirst—on the bottomless joy of God in Christ.
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My sophomore year in high school, I was approached by a number of people who told me that no matter what I wanted, whether it was drugs or pornography, I could have it whenever I wanted. At this time, I was a youth leader not only at church but also at my high school leading a bible study. Even though I became a believer when I was four and started to sense God’s call to pastoral ministry as early as age six, I was still very immature in my faith at this time and not very knowledgeable about Christianity. As time wore on, I became very depressed as I witnessed the painful divorce of my parents, and I caved into pornography. It was a slow slide into pornography for me, but once it began, it was incredibly addictive. While no one knew of my struggle in high school, I hid in shame as I regularly watched pornography and lived a double life. It was not until my freshmen year in college, when I was asked to be on staff at a church, that I confessed my sin of pornography to the pastor. He responded by saying that I should step down immediately from all leadership responsibilities.
While this event transpired over ten years ago, I have often reflected on how God has led me by the Spirit in the process of progressive sanctification and on what He has taught me. This reflection leads me to write this article on what purity looks like in the home, in the church,
in the workplace, and on the internet. As we go through this topic, I want you to understand that I am not just giving you steps on how to move past this on your own, but rather grounding everything I am saying in the Word of God. I believe the only way to overcome an addiction to pornography is to recognize that it is idolatry, and as such, needs to be repented of. Once you have repented of this addiction, you need to recalibrate your heart and mind with the gospel by reading, studying, and meditating on the Word of God both individually and corporately.
As we move through this very frank discussion, understand that I do so not because I have arrived at complete purity in any way, but rather I write on this topic because, I am deeply burdened for the men and women of all generations in and outside the Church. With that as a background, let’s now focus on understanding how the holiness of God relates to purity.
Dr. R.C. Sproul in his classic book The Holiness of God states the importance of purity is because Christians are called saints. He explains, “The saints of Scripture were called saints not because they were already pure but because they were people who were set apart and called to purity. The word holy has the same two meanings when applied to people as it has when it is applied to God. We recall that when the word holy is used to describe God, it not only calls attention to that sense in which he is different or apart from us, but it also calls attention to His absolute purity. But we are not God; we are not transcendent; we are certainly not pure.”[i] Dr. Sproul further elaborates on holiness noting, “True transformation comes by gaining a new understanding of God, ourselves, and the world. What we are after ultimately is to be conformed to the image of Christ.”[ii]
The Bible promotes purity in five ways: (1) it purifies (1 Peter 2:1; John 17:17). (2) It gets to the source of the problem (Hebrews 4:12-13); (3) it is our source of equipping (2 Timothy 3:16-17); (4) it promotes approval (2 Timothy 2:15); (5) it illuminates the way (Psalms 119:105). There are five common myths about pornography: (1) people think, it’s just harmless fun. (“I’m not hurting anyone.”); (2) it only affects me; (3) I can control it; (4) Prayer will rid me of it. (“Breaking free is God’s responsibility, not mine.”); (5) I will never again be clean enough to be used by God.
Undergirding my points about purity in the home, in the church and the workplace are six biblically based points that are grounded in the fact Christians have been set apart by a holy God, and are to reflect the holiness of God in the world (1 Peter 1:13-25).
(1) Whether you are single or married, go public with your desire to grow in the grace of God. For many years, I lived in shame and guilt because rather than coming into the Light and having my sin exposed, I purposefully kept it hidden. Pornography fosters a lifestyle of secrets and deception. The process of restoration begins with full disclosure. If you are struggling with an addiction to pornography, you must see it as a sin and admit your love affair with this idolatrous behavior. To minimize this behavior is to embrace several of the myths about porn, namely that it is harmless, that it only affects you, and that you can control it. The problem as Dr. Bryan Chapell rightly describes it, is a “misunderstanding of how God continues to view us after we have received the grace that justifies us.”[iii]
(2) Going public involves confession to God and family members. The Lord will forgive and cleanse you of all sin and unrighteousness (1 John 1:9-10). Confessing your sin to family members and friends is important for you to have a source of encouragement and accountability. Going public also means telling several other godly Christians such as your pastor who can come alongside of you to serve as an accountability partner.
(3) Become proactive in addressing this issue in your life. Pornography is an insidious disease that spreads when we are quiet about it. Being quiet about your sin will not help you overcome its hold. If you want to be freed from pornography, it will require hard work by the grace of God. Become proactive by intentionally seeking out others and installing software such as Covenant Eyes on your phone, laptop, or other devices you use to access the internet. Realize that such protection is to help you protect your own heart, but in order to deal with the heart issues underlying this issue, you need to see your sin for what it is—cosmic treason against an infinitely holy God. Only by seeing your sin in this way can you look to the Savior and find Him to be utterly sufficient to forgive you for your sin. You may overcome an addiction to pornography, but if you do not see the horror of your sin you will never look to the Savior and find Him to be utterly sufficient to forgive you and wash away your sin. In other words, if you do not look to Jesus for forgiveness, you will look to yourself or other things to fill the void of your addiction to pornography. Covenant Eyes and other software are great tools for filtering out pornographic images on your internet devices; however, the only absolute solution to the heart issue of lust is the gospel. If what I am saying here describes you, than you need to be in the Word of God, in prayer, and in fellowship in a local church. If the addiction is severe, I recommend seeking assistance from a professional Christian counselor for additional help beyond that provided by the local church.
(4) Run to Jesus. The apostle Paul implores the believers in Corinth to “flee immorality” and Timothy to flee youthful desires (1 Cor. 6:18 and 2 Tim 6:18). This advice runs contrary to the common belief that maturity is associated with being able to resist greater sexual temptation in one’s own power. Paul suggests that mature people know when to run. No person subjected to pornography remains unaffected. Run to Jesus!
(5) Get serious about living the Bible. The Apostle Peter asserts that a person who is actively adding goodness (moral excellence), knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love to their life will “never fall” (2 Peter 1:5-11). The person addicted to pornography has quit adding these qualities to their life.
(6) God expects us to be involved in the pursuit of purity. The Apostle Paul stresses this point in 2 Timothy 2:20-21. We have the choice of being a “vessel” for either noble or ignoble purposes. Impurity is only a permanent state and pattern when we choose for it to be so. The process of moving from one state to the other involves obedience to the truth. When we begin obeying the truth, we engage the power of the Holy Spirit to give us success. Over time and with a lot of hard work, prayer, and accountability, those struggling with porn can become pure again. When you discover what pleases God, you will flee from immorality. If you are single, the way you view women will change as you are freed from sexual immorality. If you are married, you will begin to learn to find your spouse as your standard for beauty. Whether you are single or married, as you are freed from sexual immorality, you will begin by the grace of God to conform to the biblical design God has established for your own good so that you can grow in His grace to be an agent of His grace to a watching world. Dr. Bryan Chappell’s comments are helpful in this regard: “God looks at us though we were as holy as his own Son, and treats us lovingly despite our many perfections.”[iv]
The Holiness and Forgiveness of God
What does purity look like in the home, in the Church, in the workplace, and on the internet? It looks like the principles above grounded in the reality that our holiness is not so much a matter of what we achieve as it is the grace our God provides. Grace is God’s willingness to look at us from the perspective that sees His holy Son in our place. God sees our faults and frailties reflected in the mirrors of our lives. Still, He chooses to look at those who trust in His mercy through the lens that features the holiness of His own child rather than our filthy rags. As a consequence He loves and treasures us as much as if we had never sinned.
As we grow in our understanding, of the holiness of God, we will in turn grow in the grace of God by casting aside sexual immorality, along with its filthiness. We will also commit to turning our eyes to Jesus, the One who sees all, knows all, and under whose gaze everyone lives under. It is only through this lens that you will be able to be pure. Whatever we do, say, and set our eyes upon must be that which glorifies God. We must come to understand that the God whose gaze we live under sees all and knows all, and this fundamentally changes the way we approach porn by causing us to see it as a violation of His holiness. In turn, this changes our response towards this sin from one of living in deception to that of a commitment to living in the light of God’s love. Such a shift in direction will result in being honest about our struggles, repenting of our impurity, and committing, by the grace of God, to be men and women of integrity who have like Job made a “covenant with my eyes” (Job 31:1) to not look on anything that would distract us from the face of Christ. It is only when we are truly satisfied in Jesus that we will turn away from sin, instead, focusing our gaze on Jesus. May we be as Joseph was with Potiphar in Genesis 39:6-23 and be men of godly integrity. It is only then that we will see pornography as an abomination to God, whereupon, we will flee from it by committing our lives to the kind of scrutiny that they are already under now as we live under the gaze of our Sovereign God.
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This post first appeared as a two part series at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood here and here.
[i] R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Illinois, Tyndale, 1998), 191-192.
[iii] Bryan Chapell, Holiness by Grace Delighting in the Joy That Is Our Strength (Wheaton, Crossway, 2001), 9.