The Christian Porn Problem
The Church has a porn problem. Two out of three Christian men watch porn monthly. The younger generation watches even more. A national survey was conducted with growing Christian college students who were involved in a campus ministry and considered their faith to be a vital element in their lives. The staggering results showed that nine out of ten watch porn at least occasionally, and more than six out of ten watch porn at least weekly. Never have so many Christian youth consumed so much pornography. They now have access AND privacy. The future leadership of the church is not looking bright.
Porn Wages War Against the Soul
God says in His word, “abstain from fleshly lusts which wages war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). When you indulge in the fleshly lust of pornography (usually coupled with masturbation), you are opening up your soul to spiritual attack. The negative spiritual impact is measurable. Dr. Samuel Perry, a sociology professor at the University of Oklahoma, has done extensive research on the effects of pornography use on a person’s religious commitments. He summarized his conclusions with:
“Any porn use…is associated with declines in religious commitment and behavior (ie. attending services, prayer, etc) and an increase in religious doubts.”1
If someone wanted Christians to be less committed to reading their Bible and praying, but wanted them to doubt more, then they would just need to get them to watch porn. This is what the enemy of our souls is doing.
Porn Is the Enemy’s Weapon
Satan is our spiritual enemy, and he uses porn to wage war against those who want to follow God. It makes Christians less committed to reading their Bible, attending church, and praying. If Satan can’t keep Christians from trusting Christ for salvation, he wants to undercut the work of the gospel in their lives. There are many ways the devil (a name, by the way, which means “accuses falsely”) disrupts the gospel’s power in someone’s life. Among them is the use of pornography, which is nothing short of a full-frontal attack on a person’s identity in Christ. Through porn, the porn user’s experience of the power and beauty of the gospel is muted. Through porn, the believer adopts a shame identity. The enemy keeps believers minimizing and rationalizing their sin instead of repenting.
Almost 90% of growing Christian college students who watch pornography say they experience self hatred as a result. Porn sets a person’s mind on the flesh which is the mindset of an enemy of God.
…For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:5-8).
Sex and Lust in the Bible
The greek word the Bible uses for immorality is the word ‘porneia’ which is where we get our word pornography. God made sex fully enjoyable and uniquely powerful. It is an act intended to bring oneness physically, emotionally and spiritually. A healthy sex life is not only exhilarating and brings oneness, it nourishes the marriage relationship. For those who want to follow the biblical sexual ethic, sex is a gift of God given to be fully enjoyed within marriage. The Bible teaches that any sexual activity outside of marriage is considered sin.
Jesus was clear when He included visual lust in the definition of immorality. He underscores that visual lust is a big deal when He says “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30). He uses exaggeration to emphasize His point that we must get radical in dealing with the sin of lust.
We understand that anytime the Bible talks about immorality it includes watching pornography. So, any passage of scripture referring to lust or immorality includes porn. Here are some passages of scripture that address the lusts of porn directly:
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11).
Porn unleashes a spiritual attack on the soul. The attacks come in many forms; shrinking the appetite for spiritual things or shame spurring self-hatred and becoming a person’s identity.
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral (Hebrews 13:4).
When people choose the immorality of porn there will be consequences because the spouse is dishonored and God judges this sin.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).
Visual lust is adultery and something that Jesus clearly puts in the category as immorality and sin.
Porn is Poisoning the Church
The Church is facing arguably its greatest threat ever for two main reasons.
Multiple studies show that half of pastors struggle with pornography. If a pastor is struggling he won’t be able to provide solutions for his people.
There is shame in any addiction, but this is especially strong for the Christian who struggles with a porn addiction. Even if a church offers a program to help, only those in crisis typically come while others stay away since they don’t know who else will be there. They don’t know who else will witness their disclosure of their embarrassing sin. One expert estimates that less than 10% of Christian men struggling with a porn addiction seek help.
The church must initially address pornography as an equipping issue for everyone. This helps deshame the topic and give hope for a pathway to freedom. Currently, only 7% of pastors say their church has a program or solution to help people with porn.
Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22).
A Weakened Will to Serve
When a shame identity caused by porn settles into a porn user’s life, he naturally pulls back from God and from serving God. Dr. Perry studied over 3000 people for six years to determine how their porn use impacted their service and leadership in their congregation. What he discovered was that if a church-going man never or rarely used porn, there was a one in three chance he would take some type of leadership role in his congregation. If he started using porn on a monthly basis, his odds of service fell to one in ten. If he watched porn on a weekly basis there was a one in twenty probability that he would serve. The conclusion was obvious, the more porn someone watches, the less likely they are to serve in their church.
A former leader shared why he pulled back from ministry:
“A few years ago I stopped taking opportunities to lead groups at church or disciple younger men because of where I am personally with porn. I’d really feel like a worthless hypocrite for teaching some young men about how to study the Bible and share their faith when I’m regularly looking at pornography and masturbating.”
Finding an Identity in Christ
When a person receives Christ, Christ takes their sin and credits them with His righteousness. They are made a part of God’s family. They have a new identity as a child of God. They are a new creation in Christ, they are holy and beloved. Their sin is forgiven and its power is broken.
Each of us has immense worth and value because we were created in the image of God. God demonstrated this by giving His Son to pay for our sins. And so, no matter how mired in porn a person might be, understand this truth: God loves you and paid the price for your freedom. Don’t let the enemy take this truth from you.
God promises us victory in temptation when He says in his word,
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
God promises to provide “the way of escape”. What does victory over temptation and the way of escape look like practically?
Be aware of your triggers. One of the key areas of growth needed to overcome porn is self-awareness. Our program helps you find patterns and realize your unique path to freedom.
- Do you know your physical triggers?
- What are those things that tempt you to lust? Is there a certain thing that precedes you using porn (e.g. browsing sexualized social media)?
- It’s one thing to identify a trigger but have you set up boundaries to remove the trigger? For example, locking up your devices is an important early step (learn how to lock up your iPhone or Android).
Accountability is essential to find freedom, and a small group is the best place to find that. There are fifty-nine “one anothers” in the New Testament, speaking to the fact that we are to love, encourage, pray for, and confess to one another (to name a few). We have realized that to overcome a porn addiction, weekly accountability isn’t enough. That is why we developed a daily check-in tool in our Freedom Fight App, so you can both track and discover patterns of how you’re doing and share that with trusted partners in confidence.
- Who are others you can lock arms with?
- What kind of support helps you move past temptation?
No one gets free on their own. We will be your guide on the tough road ahead.
Finding freedom from a porn addiction requires growth and development in key areas of a person’s life. Practice and progress in these areas enables you to quit porn. This growth is the way of escape that God promises.
Freedom Fight addresses both the Biblical and clinical aspects of recovery. We follow up each lesson with a short study of scripture that underscores the biblical principle in the lesson. In our program we address the six roots that drive a porn addiction. If these roots are not addressed effectively the addiction will always return. The way of escape for each of these roots of addiction to grow and develop in a specific area. You quit porn by outgrowing porn.
Don’t underestimate how God will use the process of freeing you from porn to grow, develop and disciple you as a whole person. The Freedom Fight systematically works through each of these roots, giving a biblical, gospel-centered and clinical approach to recovery.