Over the past few years, I’ve been in a fortunate position to be able to minister to many men locally and across the United States who are struggling with an addiction to pornography. Pornography is a huge issue inside and outside the Church. In ministering to men, I’ve learned four keys to helping men who struggle with pornography. These are, build a relationship with them, speak the truth in love to them, confront them in love, and preach the gospel to them.
Build a Relationship with them
Chances are only those who know you will open up to you about their addiction to pornography. This has mostly been my experience. As the Lord has expanded my ministry and speaking on this topic He’s opened doors to minister to people I don’t know. This has led to me be more intentional to learn about their histories, why they struggle, and more. Typically these types of opportunities take longer for me to be able to help people than people I know locally. In these types of conversations I want to know what makes them tick, ask about their likes/dislikes, etc. Basically, I’m just trying to engage in polite conversation and build a friendship with the person I’m trying to help.
Speak the Truth in Love
Once you’ve gotten to know the person by learning about their personal history and struggle, now is the time to speak the truth in love to them (Eph. 4:15). This can take many different forms, but it always means being faithful to Jesus by preaching the Word of God.
Let’s use Joe as an example. Joe has a real struggle with pornography. His marriage is in shambles and he has a chronic addiction to pornography. In this situation, I want to help Joe by helping him understand that at the root of his pornography addiction is idolatry. Jesus died for his idolatry and he can be free of it through Him who died in his place for his sin so he could put his sin to death.
Joe needs to understand that his pornography addiction is hurting his wife. When he views pornography Joe has told me he takes off his ring. I asked Joe, “Do you love your wife and seek to honor your vows?” He tells me that he wants to honor his vows but often times feels so overwhelmed with feelings of looking at things he shouldn’t. Often times he’s just so tired of the struggle that he just gives up and stops fighting. Joe needs to understand that in the midst of his struggle is Jesus who is a sympathetic High Priest who lived a perfect sinless life. Joe needs to learn that when he struggles he is not alone; rather Jesus is there with him looking over his shoulder. He can turn to Jesus and trust that He will see him safely out of his struggle.
When ministering to people with sexual addictions we’re dealing in my experience with Christians who know some of the answers. Knowing the right answers isn’t the goal of theology. Yes, it’s a first step but not the ultimate step. We step into godly maturity when we know the right answers and can see how those answers apply to our lives (James 1:22). In this case, Joe needs to see that his knowledge of his sin is affecting his relationship of his wife. Furthermore, Jesus sees his struggle and knows his heart. Joe needs to understand that an omniscient, omnipresent God is his sympathetic sinless High Priest who serves as his advocate before the Father (Hebrews 4:14-16). Yet, Joe doesn’t see this yet which is why we’re going to move to the next step—confronting Joe in love.
Confront in Love
When I meet with Joe again we talk about his struggle. He tells me he’s still struggling a lot. I talk to Joe today about real biblical knowledge and Joe is nodding his head as I’m talking acknowledging what I’m saying. I make the point that real biblical knowledge isn’t in the head it is acknowledging biblical truth in our heads and in our hearts resulting in our lives being impacted by what we believe (James 1:22; 2:14-26). In other words, I emphasize to Joe that believing sound doctrine leads to right living (1 Timothy 4:16).
Joe is slowly starting to realize that he has been what James calls a hearer only and not a doer of the word (James 1:22). As we talk more about this he tells me how sorry he feels. I tell him that this is a good start that he feels sorry for his sin but that feeling sorry is not enough – he needs to turn from sin to Jesus. I explain to him that true repentance isn’t only sorrow over his sin and how it’s affected his relationship not only with God but also with his wife (2 Corinthians 7:10)
As our time ends I encourage Joe that there is real progress being made and that we’ll continue to meet. In addition to this he needs to be honest about his struggle with God, with me, and other men who are around him. I encourage him to get Covenant Eyes accountability and content filtering to block his access to sites that will cause him to stumble. I once again emphasize to him that he doesn’t struggle with temptation alone that Jesus is there and will always provide a way out when he experiences temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). I also tell him when he feels tempted to walk away from the computer. Joe and I plan another session to meet and talk and continue on meeting until he no longer struggles with an addiction to pornography.
There are various stages to confronting in love. First we always speak the truth in love by remaining faithful to the truth of Scripture (Eph. 4:15). Second, we need to understand what the person is saying about their struggle. If we assume what they mean and then speak before we gain understanding, our advice will likely be wrong. This is why asking lots of questions is important. This is also why we should ask clarifying questions after someone we’re working with states something we feel is important. Then we can speak the truth in love. After awhile (perhaps a few sessions) or as you’re feeling led (but please give it time) then confront them.
Your first time confronting them should be very gracious. You should point out what you’ve been talking about and how you don’t see them implementing principles you’ve discussed into their lives. After awhile though it might become obvious they aren’t as serious. It then becomes important to get a little sterner. Throughout this process please be sure you are praying for the person. In fact, you should open and close each session in prayer. Confronting the person isn’t to ridicule and beat them up. Instead, it’s to love them with the love of Jesus and to point out how they are living is contrary to what they say they believe. It’s also important when ministering to people struggling with addictions that there are clear expectations for both parties along with clear boundaries, and to assign some work for them to be working on for your next meeting.
Gospel-Centered Ministry to Those Struggling for Purity
Throughout my conversation with Joe as you can see I’ve emphasized the work of the gospel. Personally I’ve learned through struggling with an addiction to pornography and overcoming this addiction that Jesus is the only way to freedom. Jesus sets the captives free (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18). He is our sympathetic High Priest who serves as our Advocate before the Father. Jesus longs to set the captives free (Hebrews 4:14-16). This is why we need to emphasize who God is, what He expects of His creatures, who Jesus is, and what He has done in His death, burial, and resurrection.
These four ways I’ve looked at in this post are some ways that I hope will expand your tool belt as you have an opportunity to minister to those around you who are struggling with an addiction to pornography. These four tools are one’s that I regular use in my ministry to men who are addicted to pornography. I pray these four tools will be of help to you as you minister to men.
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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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