by Gerard Terry
I found a new TV series the other day and have been watching several episodes to relax. The program is rated PG at worst, so I thought it was ok to watch. Although there is no nudity, the content models moral values inconsistent with the standard of Godly living I want for me and my family.
I have been amazed that during the day I unconsciously think of the program, its characters and its fictional small town setting. I daydream of what it would be like to live in that town. Surprisingly, I am even starting to imagine doing some of the immoral things which the characters do – not just in the fictional setting, but in real life, with real people. The show is affecting the way I think.
The Building Blocks of You
I once heard an old saying that you and I are the people we are based on the books we read and the people we meet. To modernize the quote, we become like the people we hang out with. Today, we hang out with our friends, family, authors of books, and producers of videos, TV, music and movie shows. These are the people who influence us and shape who we become.
Regrettably, I often let influencers into my life without first screening them to ensure the message they will be sending is consistent with who I want to become. In other cases, when my conscience tells me (or my wife, who has better instincts) I should not be watching a video or show, I ignore my conscience’s alarm and move forward anyway, certain I can screen out any improper influence. Anxious for some excitement in my sometimes boring life, I allow myself to be influenced and programmed by men and women with opposing values. Looking back, I am only fooling myself if I think I can avoid their influence in shaping who I am.
Defining a New Reality
If you are not yet convinced, consider the fantasies, dreams and thoughts you have. Where do they originate if not from those you interact with? Why else would advertisers pay a million dollars for a 30 second football game ad? Who inspires you to take risks and try new things? Who fuels your thought life? What do you see in your mind when you close your eyes?
What we see portrayed by others becomes our reality. We start to formulate our goals and conduct based on our interactions with others. When these interactions occur with movies and television, we are unconsciously being programmed to adopt their version of what is real and acceptable.
In the powerful world of sexuality, where our brains release chemicals with sexual pleasure, we can quickly learn a false reality. After seeing hundreds or thousands of nude women whose only desire seems to be to please men, we start to think every woman wants us and our body. We eventually think we deserve a woman who will engage in extreme sexual acts. Eventually, we act on these false assumptions, and experience conflict with our wives, or the destruction of an affair, illicit sex or even a sexual crime.
While society is permissive with those who send us these destructive messages, it is unforgiving once we act as programmed. Courts are filled with men caught sending nude images of themselves over the Internet or who met with an underage girl. Men expose themselves to women and are truly surprised to find themselves in handcuffs. I have seen the epidemic of men living this false reality paraded through courts and sex offender treatment centers. They wonder how they could have drifted so far.
Shame and Guilt are Your Friend
I know many anti-porn groups teach that shame and guilt are bad. I disagree. Shame and guilt result from the collision of your true reality (Godly living) and the false reality (worldliness). Working hand in hand with shame and guilt, our conscience is designed to convict us of our ungodly behavior. This God-given emotional / mental cue is trained and strengthened through years of Godly living and Godly influences. Yet, like ignoring a smoke alarm, you can become conditioned to ignore your conscience’s warning and eventually not hear it.
Pornography will quickly dull your conscience, shame and guilt. Continued involvement in this destructive habit is perilous and sure to result in harm to your family, career, and freedom. Only by retraining a Godly conscience can you again hear the warnings of this essential defense mechanism, put in place for your protection.
There is a reason we don’t let our children hang out with kids who do drugs, use profanity or engage in premarital sex. We know that our children will be influenced and eventually fall into these same destructive habits themselves. Isn’t it time that you and I follow our own advice to our kids? What business do men who love their wives and children have hanging out with destructive porn producers, actresses and actors?
Be intentional about what goes into your mind. You are the product of your environment. Make it a good and Godly one.
by Gerard Terry
Was Paul’s Thorn Porn?
I like to think so. It gives my struggles a biblical proportion. And if Paul struggled with pornography or sexual temptation, I would not feel like such an outcast today. Plus, the church would have to preach on the subject once in a while and, like the adulterous woman, I would be forgiven by all. Who could hold porn use against me if Paul was addicted too? It would be a legitimate, mainstream, sin. Let’s look directly at the verse which mentions Paul’s thorn:
In 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9, Paul said:
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
No matter our struggle, each of us wants Paul’s thorn in the flesh to be the same as ours. Maybe that is why scripture does not specify what the thorn was. From overeaters to workaholics, from alcoholics to drug users and porn addicts, we can each identify with Paul’s desire for Jesus to remove our thorns. At times, I helplessly ask myself whether it is possible to beat this thing once and for all.
Origin of the Thorn?
Did Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” come from God? “I was given a thorn in my flesh” seems to imply a giver and a recipient. Maybe it came from Satan, since the verse mentions “a messenger of Satan to torment me.” Regardless, someone gave it to Paul, and it tormented him. I can identify with that. The incessant call and lure of pornography in my life is a constant frustration. At times, I don’t think I can go five minutes without an image on my phone, a billboard or my computer calling my name. I want to break free of this craving. If only God would give me a big, red “easy” button to push to stop the desire – I would push it.
Victory Over Pornography First Involves Surrender
Note how Jesus said strength to handle the thorn will come because His “power is made perfect in weakness.” When I come to the point that my reliance is on God to overcome my thorn, then I will have victory over this sin. Weakness implies a sense of humility. Gone is the pride that I can handle it myself. For victory, I need to welcome the infusion of God’s Holy Spirit to take control of my life. I need to surrender control over myself. Wow! This sounds an awful lot like a Lordship talk.
Paul’s Thorn’s Purpose and Ours
Nowhere in these verses is there a promise of overcoming the thorn, or the sin in our case. That is concerning. Aren’t we assured of victory in Jesus? How we define victory may be related to the purpose of the thorn in our life. Remember this verse from above? “In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh.” I excel in a lot of my undertakings, but in one area I struggle to prevail. Pornography brings me to the end of my abilities.
I think God has me right where he wants me: At a point where I know I cannot overcome my sin apart from Him. This keeps me humble. Yet, I am the first to admit that after a prolonged period of success in this sexual battle, I begin to look down on men still struggling – suggesting to myself that they should just get over it. Pride is like toenail fungus – it keeps coming back (Is this too much information?) It waits beneath the surface until we let our guard down or skip a dose of medicine. Ever lurking, pride is a constant threat to my relationship with God and others.
Pride is a constant theme of the Bible. God opposes the proud (James 4:6). Similar to Paul’s situation, porn and pride have an inverse relationship. When pornography is present in my life, I am humbled by my inability to win the battle. During these times, I am quick to give grace to others in their struggles, no matter what they are. When pornography is absent from my life, pride creeps back in. Just like in Paul’s case, the thorn is present to keep us from becoming conceited.
Consider the Good Purpose Which Pornography May Accomplish in You
We all know pornography destroys families and careers. Can there actually be a positive, God-
given purpose for pornography or other bad habits in our lives? I encourage you to consider the idea. Once you identify this purpose, you should meditate on it. Consider whether there might be another way to address the problem area underlying your purpose. Once you find an alternative solution for your sexual sin’s purpose in your life, you may be in a position to receive an answer to the prayer Paul prayed - for the “Lord to take it away.”
by Gerard Terry
You should know this up front: I am not a theologian. I don’t even know if I spelled the word correctly. But, in reading the Bible, I love present day application. Take the verse Mark 9:47, for example: “And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell...” There is a radical tone underlying this verse, and to the non-theologian (me), it means, take radical steps to avoid sin.
The lust surrounding pornography use is clearly sin and harms us and others in many ways. You and I are both on this website to find help dealing with pornography use. Practical suggestions can make a huge difference. Have you considered implementing radical steps to impede or hinder your path to pornography and lust?
After I told a friend my favorite spot of seclusion to visit porn sites, he asked me why I had not made changes to make it harder to be there. He asked why my monitor was not turned toward the entrance to the room so anyone walking by would see what I was viewing. That simple change impeded my path to porn. For some, taking a different path home from work at night will cloud their desire to stop at a porn shop. Recently, I stopped watching Netflix at night in order to avoid the temptation to watch inappropriate videos. Other men have their wives control the password on their home computer.
At a restaurant with a friend for lunch, I asked if he had seen the gorgeous, short-shorts wearing beauty who came in a few minutes earlier. He replied, “yes I did, that is why my glasses are off sitting on the table.” I then took mine off and the temptation to gawk at her faded.
The Anti-Porn Agent
Sometimes, filling our minds and time with positive influences is a good anti-porn agent. In the car, I listen to the Daily Audio Bible podcast every day. Guess what I don’t think about during this time? Plus, I am on my fourth year of listening to the host read through the entire Bible.
We all know how porn hurts our wives. Why not invest in playing games with your wife rather than watching TV or surfing the internet? When my wife and I play Mastermind, Backgammon, shoot some pool, or go for a walk, I invest in our relationship and I avoid porn. Time spent with my wife builds up our marriage while porn tears it down.
Don’t literally pluck out your eye. Instead, make radical changes to install obstacles to porn use. Fill your time with relationship-building activities with your friends and spouse. Let’s not look back after the next thirty days and regret wasted time spent on the man we wish we were not. Instead, start today to build the man you want to be.
by Jonathan Daugherty
“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Heb. 12:4
My life really isn’t hard. I generally get to wake up when I want to. I grab a cup of coffee and have dozens of choices about what kinds of creamers or sugars I might add. I hop into my car, drive to my office or a client appointment, and go about my day. I’m not forced to denounce my faith or engage in activities that clearly defy God’s Word. And yet, I have moments and seasons in which I think this thing called “life” is unbearable. It’s sad, really.
Before you think that I am minimizing the struggles we do face in America or shaming those who get panicky when their “check engine” light comes on, let me assure you I am not saying these are not real burdens. But when we open our lives to the light of Scripture, we find some really convicting and revealing truth regarding our inner battle with sin and obedience to God. I would guess that a majority of my American friends reading this post have never “shed blood” in their struggle against sin. And that’s OK. But God has a whole other view of the intensity by which we should resist sin.
In my comfortable life it can be easy to become just as comfortable with the sinful temptations that surround me each day. Temptations such as laziness, greed, selfishness, slander, gossip, unkindness, lust, and the list goes on (probably fairly similar to your list…). But God doesn’t want me to be “comfortable” with such things. He wants me (and you), in obedience to Him, to RESIST these influences, even to the point of shedding my blood.
It is just as easy for me to become comfortable with only the commands God gives that I like or feel confident accomplishing.
“Pray for one another.” Got it. I can do that (or at least say I'll do it).
“Give.” Okay, a little more difficult, but I can still do that (even on a full-time minister’s salary).
“Love your enemies.” Ouch! Are you sure about that one?
“Turn the other cheek.” Hold on a second.
As the commands cut into my comfort, I am left with a choice: obey or give in to sin.
You may be thinking, “Wait just a minute, Jonathan. Isn’t that a little dramatic, saying our only choice in responding to God’s commands is to obey or sin?!” It may sound overly dramatic, but it is still true. On any point in which God instructs us to do something and we choose not to do it, we are disobeying and therefore sinning against God. I know it’s an uncomfortable thought, mostly because I know I can disobey in such ways multiple times a day. But if we don’t embrace the truth, we cannot be changed by it.
What sins are crouching at your door, enticing you to ignore the good and loving commands of the Savior? Don’t be afraid to let the Sword of the Spirit, God’s Word, pierce your heart so that you might become better at resisting sin. Jesus set the example of “resisting to the point of shedding blood.” May we be willing to follow His lead…