Porn and the Christian Guy, Part 21 Set Free to Set Free

prison-cell1To be in recovery means that many men have served me. What a joy that those men invested in me and worked for my delight in God! Recently, I have realized that with that profound service they have provided comes a responsibility. I am to give the grace that God has given me to others.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 2 Cor 1:3-6

God has provided comfort to me that I am joyfully obligated to bring to others. I find it fascinating that Paul says, “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation.” I don’t think this simply means righteous suffering, but also suffering for our sins. My affliction which is from my sin can be for the comfort of others.

How liberating is that! Not only is my suffering working out for my joy, but also for the joy of others. I have, in the past, wrongly felt that the only suffering that God could really use was ‘righteous’ suffering from really spiritual people. You know, the Bible Superheroes. This is obviously wrong, but I believed it.

Take, for example, the sin of David with Bathsheba. David suffered terribly for his sin. God killed his son. But then God used that to bring about the birth of Jesus. Talk about redeeming a terrible situation. It doesn’t make the sin less evil. It shows that God is simply that powerful.

What about Paul’s sinful desire to kill the church at Damascus? Talk about evil, his purpose was specifically to stamp out believers in Jesus. Surely God couldn’t redeem that. But Jesus kicks him off his donkey, yells at him, leaves him blind for several days (it took a bit of work to get the message through), and then created the most effective missionary ever. Paul’s sin was used to bring about Paul’s joy and mine.

Now obviously we should not “sin that grace may increase”, that is a special kind of corruption. But I should take comfort in the fact that God can and does use my sins to redeem me. And not just me, he uses my sins to help me be his hand to redeem others.

I am not simply set free to redeem myself. I am not a cul-du-sac of joy. No, I have been set free to help set others free! God doesn’t just let me watch him work. He lets me participate in his work. I am a little boy getting to work with my dad in the garage and “help” him work.

So gentlemen, don’t be content to simply be rescued by Jesus yourself. The deeper joy is being like Jesus and reaching out to others to show them the way. In the context of recovering from porn addiction, don’t be a wall flower. Be active in supporting your brothers who are struggling as well. God has provided special comfort and grace to you. Please don’t keep it to yourself.

-Chip

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Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 20, What if He Won’t Change?

Man using a laptopA recent commenter to the article My Husband is Looking at Porn, What Should I Do asked a very important question. She had tried bringing the problem to her church and it hadn’t helped. She asked, “How on earth does someone (have hope)?” 

I pondered on this for some time. This usually means that I didn’t have a simple answer for her. It also meant that if she asked, there were a hundred women who had the same question. The topic needed to be addressed.

Everything I mention below assumes that you have confronted him about his sin in a gentle and firm way, that you have prayed for him, that you have brought it to your church, and he continues to look at porn. Those are the first steps. But what if those don’t work? It is certainly a complex question so forgive me if my answers don’t apply to your situation. The details matter. I hope to offer some help.

A Brief Theology of Marriage

Biblical marriage is a life-long covenant between a man, a woman, and God. It comes with obligations and benefits. It is meant to somehow present a picture of Jesus and the Church. The connection is so clouded that Paul says “this mystery is profound.” Within that picture, the husband stands in the position of Jesus and is commanded to love and serve his wife in a deeply sacrificial way (see the book of Hosea for even more on that). The wife, in the position of the Church, is to respect her husband and submit to his authority.

The Bible repeatedly refers to a married couple as “one flesh” and Jesus is insistent that God has made it this way. “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” Within that, Jesus does teach that if there is sexual unfaithfulness, divorce is permitted but not required.

One final clarification, despite Jesus’ discussion of lust being adultery (Matt 5:27-28), lust by itself is not a Biblical ground for divorce. The sin in the heart is profoundly evil, but the act of infidelity is the grounds Jesus allowed divorce.

Now, what can a wife do if her husband will NOT stop looking at porn.

Keep Praying

The fact is that God alone can change his heart.

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life–to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. (1Jn 5:16 ESV)

There can be some debate about what a “sin that leads to death” is, but it would be a small category of sins (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, unbelief, etc…). Pornography on its face would not be such a sin.

So we are left with the instruction to pray for our spouse’s sin. Don’t give up. Sometimes God pushes us to the end of ourselves precisely because he can then be given the glory for what he is about to do. You have a Father who loves you and wants to grant your prayers, keep asking him to bring your husband to repentance.

Be Gentle and Firm

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2Ti 2:24-26 ESV)

To correct a husband who is looking at porn and won’t stop, the wife should not be quarrelsome but should be challenging her husband with patient and gentleness. Take note that God is the one responsible to “perhaps” grant them repentance. I love how Paul describes that they “may come to their senses.”

Know that There is Justice for You

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:18-21 ESV)

I have more often heard Christians say, “Don’t get bitter” but then fail to explain why you should not be bitter.

If your husband is not a believer when he dies. He will awaken facing the God of the Universe. He will be accused of every sin he ever committed. The evidence will be certain, overwhelming, and damning. He will look and no one will come to his defense. As he raises his eyes to see the Judge, he sees a deep rage: a profound indignation for every single time he failed to love you. The almighty God of all things will loudly declare to all living things that he is condemned.

He will then be dragged, screaming to a lake of fire. As he stands on the brink of that lake, he will know without a doubt, that he will never escape it. As he falls toward the flaming waters, he feels the dread of his last moments of comfort. The pain of contact will sear him to his bones and as he screams, unable to bear this for even a second, he despairs knowing that it will never, ever end.

I think that is sufficient justice for what he has done to you. God will make sure that every sin is avenged.

If your husband is a believer when he dies, then all of that suffering mentioned above was pour onto Jesus. Jesus was so afraid of this that he begged God for another way. Yet, he loves you and your husband so much, he willingly went to the cross. He endured an eternity of Hell in a few hours. For the only time ever, he was rejected by God. He loves your husband that much.

Your husband was the one who stayed up late looking at porn, Jesus was the one who was declared guilty. Is it fair? Of course not. It speaks to the profound character of God that he would choose to suffer for sinners like us.

If Jesus has taken your husband’s sin away, who are we to say that justice has not been done. It is that same mercy that holds you and I out of Hell as well.

So rest in the fact that justice will be done. At some point, you will look at the depths of Hell or into the eyes of Jesus and say, “that punishment is enough for what he did to me.” Trust God that he is not a wimp but a warrior who will see all of this made right. In that trust, don’t be bitter. Surely God’s justice is so severe that we would have compassion on those who will suffer so much at his hands. God does the justice so that we are free to love.

Have Hope

Back to the original question, how should we have hope? The answer is that our hope can never be in a husband, child, church, or friend. Those are good things, but if we hope in them, we will be stunningly disappointed. No, we hope in a sweet and kind Father who loves us so much. He will never, ever fail us. Your hope is in your true husband, Jesus, who knows what you are going through and has “been tempted in every way.” He loves you. He will set this right.

Some trust in chariots (or husbands) and some in horses (or friends),
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright. (Ps 20:7,8 ESV)

I know this is hard. God never promised that it wouldn’t be. He just promised that it would be worth it.

-Chip

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 17, My Battle Plan

chessIn my recovery group, a recent topic was what our plan is for temptation: our battle plan.

When facing temptation to lust, there are so may opportunities to fail. The consensus was that if you don’t have a plan, you are much more likely to give into temptation when it comes.

Honestly, I sorta kinda might have a semblance of a modicum of a procedure that, when looked at a certain way, could be considered a plan. Now my sorta plan has worked OK, but that makes me think that if I had a real plan, it might work better.

Today, I will make a plan.

I have decided to divide my plan up into the three components of a person: Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual.

The Physical

Sexuality is a physical drive. Like sleep and thirst, it serve a necessary biological function and has a prominent physical dimension. So my plan includes:

  • Get enough sleep. I am much more prone to all temptations when I don’t get enough sleep.
  • Have frequent sex with my wife. God has given a proper and good place for sex to be enjoyed. I should drink deeply from it, then I won’t be as hungry for things I shouldn’t have.
  • Avoid going to places of previous temptation. I should not park in front of a strip club (even though I have never gone into a strip club, I have been tempted). I should also avoid adult stores.
  • It is important what I look at. My eyes should linger on my wife and should look away from other women. I have come to believe that I delight in what I look at. So I need to be careful to look at what is good for my soul.

The Emotional

Pornography does not simply fulfill physical drives, it also tries to satisfy emotional drives (though in the end, it leaves you unsatisfied). It feels empowering to have a woman looking longingly at you, even if it is just a video. So it is important to address the emotional needs.

  • Spend time with my wife. It is important to enjoy the right place for real community. It helps me see how counterfeit the buzz from porn really is.
  • Spend time with God. He is my Father and he loves me. If I believe he loves me, it is much easier to trust him with he says, “Watch Out! This is dangerous.”
  • Write my blog. Helping guys who struggle with porn is very helpful in my own struggles.
  • Have Covenant Eyes on every internet access. Knowing that my accountability partners will call with any questionable site visits is often enough to help me resist temptation in the moment.

The Spiritual

In the end, no sin is a physical act. It starts in my heart and comes out in my actions. So caring for my spiritual needs is essential.

  • I need to regularly pray. Talking with God has an uncanny power to reduce temptation. I think it is because I am enjoying a better pleasure in prayer.
  • I need to regularly read the Bible. God created a book that ” is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” I should pay attention.
  • It is very helpful to me to listen sermons online. there are great preachers out there and it is so good to have the technology that I can listen to them .
  • Regularly attending a recovery group. One of the best ways for me to keep focused on resisting the temptations of pornography is to help other men in their struggle. It is really good for my soul and constantly reminds me what I have left behind.

Now that plan is what I will do before I am tempted, but it really doesn’t address what I will do when I am tempted. Really, when temptation strikes, I will do all of the same things I did to prevent temptation. Leaving a tempting environment, praying, talking with my wife, listening to a sermon; all of these are effective in the moment as well.

So gentleman, I would encourage you to write out your plan. It can help you.

God Bless.

-Chip

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 11, Tastefully Placed Bushes

The Bible is really clear, Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed. This has created a problem for the writers of the children’s picture books. How to be faithful to scripture yet have pictures of the Garden of Eden? So every picture of Adam and Eve has some tastefully placed bushes. Seriously, if there were nude pictures of Adam and Eve, I wouldn’t buy that children’s book no matter how good it was.

So, I am NOT advocating nudity in children’s (or adult’s) books. Far from it, we have enough problems with nudity in this culture to start with. Pro Tip: Do NOT google image Adam and Eve. I had no idea how much Eden porn there is out there. 

But there is a message we could get from our children’s books that we should be aware of. We could come to believe that the naked human body is bad. The feeling that sex and nudity are of themselves dirty or evil.

When God made Adam and Eve, he made a good looking guy and a good looking girl and put them naked in a garden together. He then officiated a wedding between them. Do you think he was upset or irritated out when that they had great sex after that? Absolutely not! God is delighted in great sex. He invented it. Far from being anti-sex, he is more fond of it than you are. God wants you to have sex with your spouse often and for you to deeply enjoy it! I’ve even got a command for it.

The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 1 Corinthians 7:3

Now guys, I know many of you just about got up to quick show your wife that verse. This is one of the coolest commands in the whole Bible. But calm down. If she is reluctant, it is likely because you aren’t loving her well. Figure out how you are trampling her and most women will respond very well to that. She is a sexual creature too. And guess what, the most likely way you are trampling her is with your stupid pornography addiction. I bet you are a lot less attractive when you are checking out other naked women all the time.

But I digress. God is such a fan of sex, He put the whole book of Song of Solomon in the Bible. I think he chuckles at us sometimes because he knows that if he didn’t put it in the Bible, we would condemn it as dangerous erotic literature. You want to see someone squirm, go ask your pastor to do a series on Song of Solomon. For the adventurous among us, Mark Driscoll did do a series called The Peasant Princess that I would highly recommend.

The problem is that we often don’t know quite what to do with sex, so we push it to the side and don’t talk about it. Like food and wind and trees and the sun, sex is a profound sources of joy. Part of the reason that we have such a serious pornography epidemic is because for decades the church’s message has been a a list of don’ts about sex. Don’t look at naked girls. Don’t have sex with her until your married. Don’t have sex with anyone else after your married. Don’t have sex with someone of the same gender.

All of these are true, but painfully incomplete. It’s like giving someone a delicious cheesecake with a large list of rules for how not to eat it. Don’t rub it on your ears. Eat it after the main course. Don’t throw it at the guy across from you. Don’t stick it up your nose. All of these are also true, but what really should have been written on the top of that list is, ENJOY THE CHEESECAKE!

So, I am going to now add a note to the top of the list of sexual rules. Ladies and gentlemen, REALLY ENJOY SEX! God made sex so very good and we should drink very deeply of that joy. Your wife has a great body for you to enjoy. Your husband has muscles for you to enjoy. God rejoices with us in sex. Thank God for a holy, sweet, and delightful way for married people to enjoy each other. He is more prosex than anyone you know. God loves sex and he filled the Bible with key instructions for how it is to be safely and deeply enjoyed!

Well, what are you waiting for? Go romance the husband or wife and get them into bed. Hurry!

-Chip

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 8, Prepared for Battle

A soldier walks into the office of the General. He stands erect and salutes the General.

General: Sit down soldier.

Soldier: Yes, sir.

General: So I understand that your platoon lost a skirmish yesterday. Several men died and many of your barely escaped. How are you feeling?

Soldier: Well, a little shaken up sir. But glad to be alive. 

General: Tell me what happened. 

Soldier: Well sir. we came down into the ravine to take out the surface to air missile sites. It was going well when we were ambushed. We fought as well as we could, but we were overwhelmed and outgunned. 

General: What sort of weapons did the enemy have?

Soldier: Pistols sir. 

General: They beat you with pistols?

Soldier: Yes sir. There were a lot of them. 

General: Weren’t your rifles more than a match for pistols?

Soldier: Oh, I didn’t mention that. We didn’t bring our rifles. You see, it is a long walk and if we didn’t bring the rifles then we didn’t need to bring ammo and the whole walk would be more enjoyable.

General: You went to a battle without guns?

Soldier: Yes sir. Very innovative of us, don’t you think. 

General: Innovative, sounds more like stupid. Even without the guns, what about those tanks I sent. 

Soldier: We decided against taking them. You see, we all prefer the tanks in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The tanks you sent just weren’t the kind we like. 

General (with some irritation): With no tanks, how did the retreat go?

Soldier: Not well sir. We could only run slowly without boots. 

General: You didn’t have boots?!

Soldier: Blisters sir. And most of us prefer flip-flops. Less sweaty feet that way. 

General: How did you survive?

Soldier: Well, Calderazzo did bring a tank and he was able to scare them off. Though I have to say that when that thing fires, it could really cause a headache. 

General: Now you’re complaining about the tank!

Soldier: The one in Call of Duty really is better. 

General: Do you feel like there were any important lessons learned from this battle. 

Soldier: Yes sir. Me and the guys want to ask you for more air support. We really feel like that would help a lot. 

General: Get out of my office!

I think the conversation above is something like how God hears our complaints about giving in to temptation.

“God, how could you make such a tempting world?”

The answer might be to ask: Did you pray? Did you read scripture? Did you find support in other believers? Did you confess you sins? Did you fast?

When the answer to all of the above is No, then you should feel like the soldier who walked into battle without boots, without a gun, and without a clue. God has provided us everything we need to fight this battle. It is because of our foolishness that we turn what should be certain victory into certain defeat. Today, we put down the slingshot and put on our AK-47 and climb into our tank. Victory is not only possible, it can be assured.

Prayer

The strongest weapon you have is always the radio back to base. They’ve got planes with bombs for quick action. Prayer is your radio back to God. Start your day with a check-in. Be real. Tell the General how it is going and what your concerns are. He cares about you. The air support is great because it is there at any moment. Are you in the thick of a battle? God wants to hear about it before, during, and after the fight. He loves you. Give prayer a chance.

Bible Reading

This is a not a Sunday School answer. Do you think that the tank was a pat answer to the General above? Sure it’s the right answer to so many questions, but this is a right answer with a barrel and an armor-piercing shell in it. The Bible is what really fuels and gives your prayer it’s power. Promises like, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” and “but God is faithful and he will provide a way to escape (temptation) so that you are able to bear it.” If you are not reading your Bible, don’t be surprised when you lose.

Confession

And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:15-16

Confess your sins to God and confess the to other believers. This is key to victory. I think many an addict will ask God why he didn’t help more and God will look down at them and ask why they didn’t confess to other believers. Don’t be so spiritual that you think the church is unnecessary. The church is crucial. Go and confess to God and another believer.

Pro Tip: In my article How do I Stop Looking at Porn, I clarify that you MUST confess to your wife but that she should NOT be your ongoing accountability. Please don’t think that telling her alone is enough. It isn’t and you risk crushing her with the responsibility of helping you keep clean. Find someone else. 

Fasting

Hypocrisy Alert: I have never fasted, not even once, in my life. So take what I am about to say as wisdom I have heard from others. Not what I have experienced myself.

Fasting is a good tool for assisting someone to break away from an addiction. I have known men who went on fasts from sex to help them overcome a pornography addiction and they felt it was helpful. I can say that some of the most spiritual people I have known, they fast. If you are struggling in a rut, a fast very well may be the weapon you need to bring to this battle.

Gentlemen, there is grace for us. We have an armory full of joy that is stronger than our temptation. The question is whether we will put it on or walk into battle in flip-flops.

-Chip

Hypocrisy Alert: This article could lead you to believe that I read my bible every morning and pray 16 times daily with a constant deep and indwelling sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence. This is simply not the case. I struggle to read my Bible and I struggle to pray. In this article, I am showing you where the armory is and, many times, I then walk into battle with my flip-flops. 

So What is Pornography?

Justice Potter Stewart

The Supreme Court of the United States has often been assailed with this very challenging question. Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote in an obscenity case in 1964,

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.

Needless to say, the “I know it when I see it” standard has been difficult for lower courts to apply in a constitutionally meaningful way. The current ruling that applies today says that obscenity (which hard-core pornography is a type of) is defined as an image or film that:

  1. The average person, applying local community standards, looking at the work in its entirety, appeals to the prurient interest.
  2. The work must describe or depict, in an obviously offensive way, sexual conduct, or excretory functions.
  3. The work as a whole must lack “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific values”.

Well, they sure cleared that up.

As society grapples with this question and it’s implications on the First Amendment, I have run into cases in the recovery community that asks this question as well. By some definitions, what is seen at the checkout counter is pornography. Should guys in recovery avoid the grocery store?

In my opinion, this simply asks the wrong question. Who cares what I or the Supreme Court think pornography is? We serve a more powerful judge. Jesus never defined pornography, but he did define what the sin in pornography is:

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. 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 5:27-30

The real question we should ask is, what is lust (a question that I will address in a later Porn and the Christian Guy)? What should matter to you is more personal. Does the checkout counter tempt you to lust? What practical things do you need to do to avoid temptation? Is that billboard tempting you?

In today’s sex obsessed society, sexual images are nearly impossible to avoid. It is not enough to avoid them, we must become so in love with our God and our wives that they will lose their power over us. We need to use the greater joy of loving better pleasures than pornography can offer.

So what is pornography? Who cares? Christian, you be faithful to your God and to your wife. We’ll leave the tough questions to the courts.

-Chip