The phone rings. On the other end of the line is someone who has just had to deal with a congregation that has been racked with a case of pornography-involving their own preacher! The preacher who is speaking tells me a sad story of how his friend in the ministry has just lost his congregation over the discovery of the fact that he has been engaging in pornographic activities for some years. How it came about is that his own teenage son found some materials that he had stashed away in a closet, and began indulging himself as well. Not content with that, he invited a couple of his friends to join him in this activity. One of them-an elder's son-told his parents, and then, well . . . you can imagine the outcome! Today the preacher is looking for a job outside of the church.

"What a deplorable situation," you say. "How could a preacher-of all people-become involved?" Be careful. There isn't a Christian anywhere who is immune to any sin in the Book. Just thank God for His grace if you haven't been tempted, or have had the strength to resist if you have. It could happen to you, to your husband or wife, to your child or to your preacher.

"But how do people become attracted to this sinful lifestyle and what can be done to prevent it?"

There are many reasons why pornography may get a hold on someone, but we must keep in mind none of these reasons is a valid excuse. There is never an occasion for becoming a part of the porn scene. A believer may always resist sin if he is only willing to do so. So, in the end, to indulge in pornography is a choice that is made where one might have made the opposite one. Pornography is not an addiction, it is not something that overwhelms one so that he is helpless to resist, it is not a legitimate way in which to release sexual tensions or anything else. It is sin. And it can be construed as nothing else.

Jesus said,

You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that whosoever looks at a woman with the intention of desiring her already has committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28).

These words say it all. It is vain to excuse one's self with the claim, "I didn't commit adultery; I was only viewing something pornographic on the internet." The idea is clearly at odds with the Lord Jesus Who looks beyond external action to the thoughts of the heart.* He said, unmistakably, that in God's sight the thoughts of sexual intercourse with another are considered adultery-even if one has not outwardly engaged in the act. Clearly, then, pornography is sin; there is no legitimate reason for indulging one's self in it.

One of the insidious facts about adultery of the heart is that a person thinks that he can "get away" with it. While we might talk at length about all of the ill-effects that pornography has upon relationships between husbands and wives, and young people thinking of marriage, that is not really the main point. The real tragedy is that one cannot get away from it because God-"to Whom we must give an account" (see footnote below) knows. He sees, He cares, He judges. It is because one's relationship with Him suffers that pornography must be resisted by every Christian.

"OK, I recognize that it is sin. But what if someone has indulged in pornography and it has a strong hold upon him? How can he be rescued from it?"

That, of course, is a serious question, the answer to which is not difficult. The hard part is to pry him away from it and help him to keep away. But the grace of God can solve both of those problems-if one will only genuinely avail himself of it. Here is what the Bible has to say about freeing one's self from sin:

So too you must count yourselves to be dead to sin, but living for God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, don't let sin reign in your mortal body, with the result that you obey its desires (Romans 6:11-12).

Paul is saying that the Christian has been "crucified with Christ," a fact that frees him from the hold of sin upon him. Sin is no longer his master. He can never say that he "can't" help himself. God says otherwise. He can resist sin, no longer obey its desires and live "for God in Christ Jesus." These desires are not stronger than the power of God which has set him free from them. It is possible for him to put off his old lifestyle in which he lived for sinful pleasure and , instead, live "for God in Christ Jesus."

So, so far, we have seen two things. 1. Pornography is sin. 2. Every believer** is capable of putting off the sin of pornography and living for God instead. Until a person comes to the conviction that both of these facts are true of him, he will probably not change (and if he does, it will be for the wrong reasons). At any rate, in order to honor God-which must be the true motivation behind the change-he must recognize both of these facts as truth. If he does not believe that the use of pornographic materials is sin, he is not likely to get serious enough about changing. Until he is convinced that he is able to break the hold of sin in his life, he is likely to give up when the temptation to fall back into it grows strong.

So, as a help to those who are interested in giving up the sinful lifestyle of pornographic adultery understand that the basic biblical dynamic is available to them. It is simply this: one must replace old sinful ways with new biblical ones. Paul put it in terms of "putting off the old person" that one used to be before coming to faith in Christ and "putting on the new person" that he is now that he has done do (see Ephesians 4:22-24 and Colossians 3:4,9-10).

What is to replace pornography? Wholesome knowledge, attitudes, and practices in relationship to the opposite sex and toward marriage, of course. This may take some study of what the Scriptures have to say about the matter. And it will involve building a lifestyle that furthers these. It may even be wise to consult a pastor who can provide biblical counseling about these matters. The first thing he will ask you is if you have destroyed the pornographic materials that you possess. If you haven't, you must do so immediately. Obviously, these could be replaced easily, so you will be helped to deal with the temptation to do so. Moreover, the counselor will direct you to begin building defenses against sinning as you have in the past. Jesus insisted that if one's right eye, hand, or foot cause him to sin, he must "cut it off and throw it away (Matthew 5:29-30). He was not speaking literally. He meant to remove all temptations to fall into sin again. Your counselor will help you to examine what these are and how to deal with them. Finally, you must spend time getting your thoughts in line so as to dwell on "whatever is true, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute" (Philippians 4:8). You must, as Paul says, "Focus your thinking on these things" (Philippians 4:8).

Christian, what are you doing watching pornographic materials? You know better; you know what God teaches. Repent of your sin against God and begin putting it off for the future. No excuse for failure to do so is valid; none will be accepted by God. He has provided all you need to overcome this wickedness. Today is the day to do so!

* Cf. also Hebrews 4:12-13 where we are informed that "God's Word is alive and active, . . . penetrating deeply enough to cut open soul and spirit and joints and marrow; it can judge the desires and thoughts of the heart. Before Him no creature can hide, but all are laid open to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give an account."

** There is no such promise to the unbeliever. Rather, he is still under the dominion of sin. If, however, he puts his faith in Jesus Christ as the One Who died for guilty sinners like him, believing also that God raised Him from the dead, he may be saved. Then, he may begin to experience the freeing power of God in his life.

Jay E Adams

Institute for Nouthetic Studies

100 White Meadow Ct
Simpsonville, SC 29681

(864) 399-9583




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