When I was a young Christian I had a real struggle with the concept of Original Sin and the fact that infants are born sinners. I could not understand how a tiny baby could sin. I really wrestled with this, until it dawned on me what sin is. Sin is selfishness/self-centeredness. What is more self-centered and self-involved than a baby or small child! At first, his whole world consists of himself–his needs, his desires, his comfort. As he grows his attention slowly shifts outward to include Mother, then Father, then siblings and, in time, the larger community. A small child must be taught to consider the needs and desires of others. When this does not happen, the child is considered spoiled and selfish, and he is!

A person who indulges in pornography is feeding a very selfish part of himself. He begins to build up an idealized lover who is able to discern his every wish and immediately fulfill it. He does not even have to express his desires since this lover resides in his own mind, and, therefore, knows his thoughts as soon as he thinks them. As these fantasies are repeated and enlarged, the person becomes more and more dissatisfied and disassociated from the reality of daily life. The fantasy lover becomes more real and more to be desired than the nitty gritty of dealing with a real, live, flesh-and-blood person who has needs and desires of her own. The idealized lover can be molded physically to any specification, and will know what to do and when without any instruction. No flesh-and-blood person can possibly measure up to this idea of perfection. Personally, I do not know any woman or man who would want to try. Each person wants to be loved just as they are; and, when they are, they are set free to change. I have found that the imperfections can become very endearing, when they are not constantly compared with some unreachable ideal.

In a loving, committed relationship, each party thinks more about how to build up and give pleasure to the other than about himself. In pornography and masturbation (self-gratification), the total focus is on self. There is no thought or consideration for the needs or desires of another. Many people say that there is nothing wrong with this type of activity since it hurts no one. This is a lie! Not only does it hurt the wife or husband by pushing them out of relationship, but it hurts the one indulging by causing him to become more and more self-involved, instead of less so as maturity requires. Yielding to this temptation of pornography leads to impure thoughts, which can lead to self-gratification, which sometimes leads to other impure thoughts, which lead to terrible decisions, not the least of which are affairs, divorces, abuse of spouse, etc.

A person who has spent time in pornographic fantasies and masturbation has set up pleasure pathways that are similar to those exploited by illicit drug use. We all want to experience pleasure and avoid pain. That makes it very hard to understand that in this case pleasure is “bad” and going through the pain is the only way to maturity and relationship.

The thing about masturbation is, it not only degrades the person, but it is a direct reflection on the relationship with the spouse (if married). Masturbation does not just come “out of nowhere.” The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” is a very true statement. When a man (or woman) allows the images of pornography to “dwell in our hearts,” those images are multiplied many times over with staggering and long-lasting effects.

A friend of mine wrote:

There have been times, over the years, when I know for a fact that the enemy has “dredged up” some old image from my past and “presented it to me,” either in the waking hours of the day or in dreams. How I “resist those images” determines how I will walk in the matter. Honestly…sometimes I have been successful…sometimes not so successful. But such is the life of a man who has allowed those images into his life to begin with.

There were times, as a young man, when the carelessness of what I allowed into my eyes and heart would “dog me” for years, until I learned how to allow the Lord, by His Spirit and through the cleansing of His Word, to heal me and cleanse me. Even today, I do try not to allow an “intrusive image” to penetrate my eyes and pierce my heart, for that is what it does, if I allow it. To the world that may sound silly or “prudish,” but I don’t care. I know the weakness(es) of my own heart. When my wife and I watch TV, she knows when I’m changing the channel for reasons other than “channel-surfing.” She even helps me…when I “forget.” And I do not consider it “harping.” I consider it “helping.” As you no doubt know, commercials are especially “intrusive.” Many commercials go beyond “cute” and frivolous, and they enter into sensual and seductive. I find some commercials to be more of a “threat” to me, as a Christian man, than I do some movies or TV shows. But, of course, one must also be careful of what TV show to partake.

What leads a person to pornography in the first place? There has to be a root, or a seed, or a first impulse to “lean” that way. As my friend has looked at this (in his own struggles, and in his own way), ANYTHING can lead a man first even to consider pornography. With “anything” being the most basic of insecurities…low self-worth, fear of (or even real) rejection, fear of (or even real) failure, and who knows what else. Man, before Christ, is a most unstable creation. Even after Christ, man is still in need of great help, as we renew the old man, putting away the things of the flesh. And, even though this sounds over-simplified, I believe the enemy knows each man’s weaknesses well, hitting us either where we least expect it or are least prepared.

As in any other activity, the first step to overcoming is to see that the activity is destructive, to see and label it for what it is–SIN. As long as you feel “there is nothing really wrong with it,” or “I’m not hurting anyone,” you will never overcome. You have to reach the point of realizing you are “hopeless and helpless” without God’s intervention. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (KJV). But that is just the beginning. As soon as you realize that a thought or image is stimulating you to lustful, lascivious imaginings, STOP! Confess your inability to control your own thoughts, and ask the Holy Spirit to grow in you the fruit of self-control. Then begin to exercise what self-control you do have so it can grow, and bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5b.

I have long pondered how to say this. It seems like such a simplistic answer to a very complex problem. Then I was reminded, Jesus is simplicity and truth. He meets us at our point of need. He delivers us from all our problems, not by eliminating the problem, but by helping us climb on top of it so that we can look up to him for the answer. When we are willing to face the truth of our situation, whatever it may be, then he will meet us there and deliver us from all unrighteousness.

Not everyone is susceptible to pornography, and what constitutes pornography is a very individual matter. Anything that provokes thoughts of lust, or devalues and demeans another should be avoided. Christians are not exempt from pornographic thoughts and activities. In fact, we are probably harder pressed than non-Christians, because we truly desire to live lives pleasing to God. Some people are instantly and completely delivered from besetting sins. I wish it were always that easy, but most of us have to slog through one step at a time, overcoming “line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:” (Isaiah 28:10) progressively yielding more of ourselves to God’s control. Sexuality is a God-given gift to perpetuate the human race. Rightly used, it forms a strong bond between a man and a woman, and equips them to raise children prepared for the challenges of life.

“If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on thing above, not on things on the earth…. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:1-2, 5.

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication [sex before marriage]: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel [body] in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence [evil desires/indwelling sin]” 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5.

March 13, 2000