Editors note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers think through what holiness is, and how to reflect the holiness of God through Christ in a sinful world.
Christians have been called out of darkness and into Light. As such they are to put off the flesh and put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14). As a result of being placed in Christ through the finished work of Christ—God calls His people to put to death sin and pursue purity. While our culture encourages men to be passive—God calls them to run the race towards Him (1 Corinthians 9:24-26).
In my teen years to early twenties I struggled with pornography. As soon as I came to see the cosmic treason I was committing, I turned away from pornography and to Jesus. At that moment, I realized that Jesus makes all things new, including my purity and thoughts. While I was formerly impure, I no longer have to live in that impurity. Impurity defined me in my past, but it doesn’t define my life now. The gospel wipes away the record of my sin, but I must deal with the consequences of it. In this post, we will consider three ways to pursue purity by the grace of God.
When I came to see that my impurity was at its root idolatry, I came to see my sexual sin as an act that violated God’s law. I was engaging in this activity for my own benefit because I didn’t treasure the perfection of God’s holiness. By recognizing sexual sin as idolatry, we see the nature of this sin. This sin not only diminishes the beauty of the opposite sex, but also the glory of God.
I minister to men week in and week out at my local church. I also receive emails from men the world over about their problems with pornography. I know, however, from my studies on sexual sin that women also struggle. The sexual addict lives in a world where shame and guilt reign supreme instead of the supremacy of Christ. The gospel is good news for all people, especially for those living with the weight of sexual sin. Jesus took on our shame and guilt, and there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). This is good news for the addict because they don’t have to continue the vicious cycle of feeling guilt and shame—but instead turn away from sexual sin and to Jesus, who wipes away the record of their sin against Him with His shed blood.
Purity Software and Accountability
J.C. Ryle said, “The true Christian hates sin, flees from it, fights against it, considers it his greatest plague.” In order to guard myself against sexual sin, I protect myself by using Covenant Eyes. I not only utilize the software, but also have content filtering. The content filtering blocks any attempt to look at anything impure (or negatively rated). This stops me in my tracks and causes me to think twice about looking at anything impure since my accountability team will be able to see anything I view.
Christians have been transferred from the Kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. This means we’re no longer controlled by sin; instead, we are upheld by the Master, Jesus Christ. Your hearts of stone are replaced with a new heart, with new desires, new affections,a new identity in Christ, and the message and purpose of the gospel.
All of this means that you and I can pursue purity with 100% dedication and carefree abandon. Corrie Ten Boom said, “Jesus takes your sin, past, present and future, dumps it in the ocean and puts up a sign that reads ‘No Fishing Allowed.'” God calls Christians to purity – to live in the freedom of our new identity. No matter what has transpired in the past, the Lord can and does make all things new.
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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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