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biblical breakdown


Porn Problems

I hope you don't read any of my direction in this post as overly preachy or insensitive. I have been there, and have the scars to show it. I am hoping that my experience, both personally and pastoring others through this, and the resources I gained practically, spiritually, and scripturally might lend a helping hand to others finding themselves still amidst the struggle. I pray you will walk away with fewer scars because of my words shared here. I pray you might join me on the offensive side of the battle, where I am confident we will win, if we fight together and not alone.

Proverbs is a book of wisdom, given by God, that man might live a life of good, not evil. Something this generation needs wisdom on is pornography. Proverbs 5-7 gives a dead on portrayal of the porn struggle, step by step, and provides remarkable wisdom into how to prevail. Sorry for the "p" alliteration...I got carried away. Forget addressing cheating, sex outside of marriage, or divorce; if we take care of porn, we prevent the others at the root of the problem: our nation's men are addicted to pornography - and it's going to destroy everything in their lives. 

6 Practices from Proverbs to Prevent Porn Problems

1. Keep the Commandments

"My son, keep my words, and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," and call insight your intimate friend, to keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words." - Proverbs 7:1-5

Scripture is apparently a magic weapon against sexual temptation, seeing how direct the correlation is in these verses between knowing/applying scripture and staying pure. The idea of "treasuring" God's commandments means they are so carefully and frequently looked over so that we know them by heart, and value meditating on them high above anything else we could be doing with our time or attention.

"My son, keep your father's commandments, and forsake not your mother's teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress." - Proverbs 6:20-24

"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." - Psalms 119:9-11

Isn't this the question on every man's mind that struggles with pornography: "How can I possibly steer clear of this!?" Scripture has an answer: know God's word ("store up your word") and do what it says do ("guard it according to your word"). For scripture to work its magic charm, we must be "doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving [our]selves" (James 1:22). If we want to not be shaken when the storm of temptation comes, we must take Jesus' tip: "Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like the wise man who built his house on the rock" (Matthew 7:24). Plenty of people hear and even know God's word well, but will we apply it? Here is the true dividing line between those on top of this and those underneath it: discipline. 

2. Keep Away...Far, Far Away

"Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house" - Proverbs 5:8

Note here that it does not say "do not go into her bed," or even "do not go into her house:" but rather "do not go near the door of her house." God's strategy for us to defeat sexual temptation is not to flee once we find ourselves in its house, but rather to avoid the house altogether! For that matter, even the street that it is on! See what chapter seven says about keeping your distance:

"For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness. And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait." - Proverbs 7:6-11

You know what the "street near her corner" and the "door of her house" look like for you. Maybe it's Netflix, an app, a website. The first step for a man struggling with pornography (meaning that he has a conviction about it, but has not overcome it) is to identify these "gateways" in their life (the "door" or "street" of her house); they won't look that bad on the surface, and you could cover up for them if you got caught there, and you might even be tricking your own mind into rationalizing why it's ok to be in these gateways. Scripture's strategy is to stay far, far away from even these gateways. Sound too dramatic? Listen to Jesus: "And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell" (Matthew 5:30).  His point is that there is not a response to the causes of sin that can be too violent; cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye is about as violent and self-harming as you can get. So, if it has ever caused you to trip up even a little bit, cut it off and throw it away, forever. Cancel your subscription. Delete the app. Throw away the phone. 

But there are two problems at play here: one is our fault and another is the world's. The truth is, this isn't a fair fight. Right? We do have the responsibility to "not go near the door of her house," but we also see "her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait." Right when we think we have a kicked out every gateway to pornography in our lives - temptation comes to you right where you are! And in this day more than ever. I could type in "cute cuddly bunny" into Google images and probably find Playboy bunnies. I'm walking at the mall with my wife and "ohp! There's Victoria Secret, diverting my eyes away and ohp! Lookie there! A barely clothed woman with candles and lotion around her is the ad for Bath & Body Works..." It can feel defeating. Like fighting an uphill battle with boulders barreling down and pummeling you as you climb. But the awareness of this element is part of the fight. We need not be naive or ignorant as to how common it is. And we need to take an open and vocal approach to the frustrations we have with this: I tell my wife how pissed I am about sexy commercials and have written an email to NY Times letting them know I deleted their app because of the voluptuous Game of War ad I repeatedly had to see at the bottom of my screen (they responded apologetically and promised to make efforts at providing a more family friendly news reading experience). These efforts are both to do our part in eliminating temptation for others, while also cultivating our hearts to become like God's as we love what he loves and hate what he hates (Psalm 97:10).

3. Be Intoxicated with Your Wife's Sexy Body

"Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love." - Psalms 5:15-19

Sex is good. It is actually one of the best and most powerful things in our world - intentionally made so by God. Marriage is crazy business - and the Bible says some wild things about what happens when we get married (two become one...what!?). So what is so magical that happens when we get married that makes it any different than two people who love each other dating? Sex. Yes, there are other things - but sex is the defining trait of what biblical marriage should have that biblical courtship should not.

Sex is not bad, it is powerful.

In the same way that nuclear fission, or a shotgun shell is powerful, sex has the potential for great good or great harm. If nuclear fission happens within the confines of a power plant, it can provide power for thousands. If it is used in a nuclear bomb, it can kill thousands. In the same way, if we smash a shotgun shell with a hammer, it might fire and BBs will fly everywhere, injuring me and anyone around; but if it is put into the confines of a shotgun, I can aim and fire with accuracy at this Thanksgiving Day's turkey dinner. Sex within the confines of a marital covenant is phenomenally powerful at its purpose of uniting two souls.

What makes the marriage covenant such a successful conduit for sex? A covenant is different than a contract. A covenant says "I'm not going anywhere, no matter what." God made a covenant with Abraham regarding the nation that would come from his children, and even though they failed to keep up their end over and over, He always kept up His, and never abandoned them. This type of biblical understanding for what marriage is is radically different than our modern interpretation of it - even within the church. But when there is a true understanding and a true marriage covenant is made, there is remarkable safety and trust that is necessary to share in the powerful, vulnerable, mingling of souls action that sex is. Side note: it is not surprising that so much damage is seen in relationships and individuals that have sex out of the confines of covenantal marriage, because true soul damage has been done (1 Corinthians 6:18). 

With that being said, a real combat to porn is to engage in the life-giving act of sex regularly and with intentional energy to improve your marraige and love your spouse well. There is no harm in enjoying your wife too much or too often - visually or physically. For unmarried men, focus your attention on preparing yourself to be the man you want your wife to have one day. Keep your eyes on working unto the Lord, and one day you will look up and she will be there beside you, running after Him alongside you.

Side note: sex is not about you. If love is not self-seeking (1 Cor. 13:5), then true love making ought not be self-seeking. Our aim in having sex should not be getting our pleasure and intimacy, but rather our focus should be on providing pleasure and intimacy for our partner. Giving is better than receiving (Acts 20:35). That and the golden rule should be enough reasons to convince us to realize that sex is not about us. God-intended sex is not about receiving; it's about giving.

4. Realize that Sexual Sin is Surreptitious Slavery

"The iniquities of the wicked man ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin." - Proverbs - 5:22

"All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life." - Proverbs 7:22-23

"Let not your heart turn aside to her ways: do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng." - Proverbs 7:25-26

In sin we often seek freedom; escape from our current stresses or sadness. But as we know, sin is a liar. We buy into the lie of satisfaction, fulfillment and pleasure over and over, but it always leaves us empty. A fleeting moment, then gone. The truth is sin is a snare, placing our ankles in shackles, chained up to a post. Rather than becoming more free as we continue to sin, the chain becomes shorter, and our radius around the post becomes tighter. Eventually, there is no freedom left; we have locked ourselves back down on the ground, every limb constricted. "How did I get here?" we ask ourselves. Well, the enemy is the father of lies, and his lies don't seem so irrational at first. Take a look at the downward spiral with the man in Proverbs:

"She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, 'I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you. I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home." - Proverbs 7:13-20

"For the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread" - Proverbs 6:26

Do you see the rationale offered? She has offered sacrifices, so she is a good girl, an exception to the others. There is such nice and pleasurable things inside her house - Egyptian linens, perfume -  why not enjoy them? Can you see him taking another step closer as he is offered and believes each subsequent lie? She tells him her husband isn't at home, and won't be until a much later known time. And lastly, it's easy - it barely costs anything. These are all lies we believe as we step through the gateways into pornography. It appears good on the surface, different perhaps, from the other times. It seems good for pleasure, and something inside us does crave those things (sounds familiar from Genesis? "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye...she took some and ate it" [Genesis 3:6]). There is then the rationale that no one will ever know. "My mom won't know, or my wife won't find out" - the plan is perfect. And lastly, its not like it's costing me anything! Just a few minutes. Just a click. Just a short peak or video. Of course we know all of these are lies. It will not relent. The chain will only shorten, and the cost will quickly grow exponentially.  

To turn an apple commercial on its head: What do we have to lose? Only everything. Which leads to my next point:

5. Comprehend the Consequences

"For a man's ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths." - Proverbs 5:21

"Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death." - Proverbs 7:27

We often talk about loving God, and from this love the trust of relationship blooms. However, I have often avoided talking about fearing God, which is a key element if we want to actually obey him. This is necessary if we want real life change, and therefore real world change. I wrote more about this balance of being loved/being commanded by God & loving/obeying God here, but the gist of the idea is this: Jesus said "If you love me, keep my commands" (John 14:15). How often do we rationalize our lack of discipline, and minimize the consequences in our mind as we premeditate our sin? Let's realize the consequence of our actions: the ugly separation that porn puts between us and God, the chief consequence of sexual sin, grieves Him greatly. We can't overlook the value of fearing God, when it comes to wisdom especially, as Proverbs starts out with the thesis statement for its book that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:7).

Going back to the original idea, the best strategy I have found truly is to store up God's word in your heart, and to do what it says to do. Don't miss the second part. I love what Francis Chan says about this American church tendency: "We know an important scripture is 'Go make disciples of all nations'. We say, 'Great! I'll go memorize that verse!" If we don't learn to grow a spine and start making hard choices that go against everything we want; if we don't learn to heed discipline, we are truly going to reap the consequences. As Proverbs says below, the results could be wounds, dishonor, punishment, utter ruin, and death. No good outlooks here. Or do we really think this isn't going to affect us? No, if you play with fire, you get burned:

"Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; none who touches her will go unpunished...He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away." - Proverbs 6:27-35

"At the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, 'How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation...He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray." - Proverbs 5:11-14, 23

Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot) Song About Porn Struggle

"Ghost Machine" from Jon Foreman's new album series The Wonderlands is a remarkable introspective study into the struggle as a whole and the mind of one struggling with pornography. I fully recommend a listen and for you to read the lyrics, as I believe it can be cathartic for wherever you are in the process:

Ghost Machine Lyrics

All hail the siren of our time
I'm possessed when she passes by
She drains the best years of my life
She makes promises
She could never keep

Ain't it a ghost machine
Making a ghost out of me
After all her lies I'm surprised that I still believe
She haunts me with her laughter in my dreams
My ghost machine

Father forgive me cause I know
Exactly how I spread my soul
My idolatry is in the pocket of my coat
I make promises
I could never keep

Ain't it a ghost machine
Ain't she a ghost machine
I'm still haunted by the faces on her screen
I swear she's gonna make a dead man out of me

Do you know yourself?
I heard a voice call out loud
We define ourselves
By the things we can't live without
I deny it, I could quit at any time
But my ghost is a drug
My ghost is a drug
She's in our blood
And I can't give her up

The clock - the altar of our time
The thought - the temple of our mind
Then I've been sprinkling the blood of most my life
On the altars of my ghost machine

Ain't she my enemy
My ancient remedy
The gods of all the empty promises that I believed
She haunts me with her laughter in my dreams
I swear she's gonna make a dead man out of me
My ghost machine

Final Word: Don't Be Discouraged

I have been more direct in this blog, because of how serious I take it. I hope in doing so I have not stirred up emotions of shame or condemnation. I hope it produced godly guilt - which is a good thing. Guilt says "I made a mistake;" Shame says "I am a mistake." Paul puts it best as he is writing to the Corinthians, whom he was writing to to confront many similar issues: "For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it...I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief...[which] produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death" (2 Corinthians 7:8-10). If worldly grief (shame/condemnation) is what you are feeling, ask the Lord for godly grief. If godly grief is what you are feeling, treasure and heed His words. Take them into action. Repent. Confess. Cut what you need to out. And run for the Father. He is there ready for you, saying "Don't turn your eyes from me. My love can't be undone." 

Please email me at if you want to talk.