At a recent church meeting of twenty fathers and their preteen sons, the group leader asked which of them had never struggled to stop viewing pornography. Only one man raised his hand. Nearly all had experienced, or were experiencing, a desperate struggle with ensnaring temptations and sins related to viewing pornography. When asked when and where their struggle began, many of the men answered before the age of ten in their homes or in a relative’s or friend’s home.
Some of the men had a plan for establishing a lifestyle of moral purity, but most felt helpless. All of them needed help to prepare their sons to live pure lives.
Incidentally, a similar meeting was taking place between mothers and daughters to discuss issues of media and purity. Regular pornography use among girls and women is rising at an astonishing rate worldwide.
Experts report that secret immorality is a worldwide epidemic, an epidemic relevant to every individual and every home and church. Never has so much damage been done so quickly by something so acceptable and common in society.
Throughout history, families have guarded the physical spaces they inhabit. To invade a home, an intruder had to break through a door or window. Today the doors and windows are wide open. One evil invader in the form of pornography doesn’t have to break in. It’s been invited in. Every godless whim and fantasy is pushed to devices now used to perform a day’s work, to complete a middle schooler’s homework, to submit college applications and exams, for banking and paying bills, booking travel, buying a car, and even for reading the Scriptures.
The battlefield has evolved, but the battle isn’t new. All temptation is “common to man,” and God promises He “will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). The basic problem is our hearts. We don’t need technology to have a fierce struggle with our own desires. After all, we sin, because “each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust” (James 1:14).
Wherever you and your family are in this struggle, you can confidently say with the Psalmist, “My help comes from the Lord, / Who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). God always provides, and He always keeps His promises.
The Power of Shame
The energy that powers sinful compulsions is shame. “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23), and all people struggle with shame. Uninterrupted, shame and isolation create a prison of despair.
Our ultimate need is restoration of perfect fellowship with God. All of us yearn for intimate relationships. We deeply want to be known and accepted, but the fallen world is a disappointing place. Instead of finding loving connections, we all feel the pain of brokenness, rejection, and failure. All kinds of pain, even daily stresses, can lead us to easy, sinful relief.
This is the stress-relief cycle, repeatedly indulging in quick, destructive pleasures or distractions instead of practicing godly disciplines of self-denial, endurance, and dependence on the Lord. For the first time in history, viewing pornography is as accessible as a tap of the finger. Pornography mimics sensations reserved for the most personal act of love and acceptance in marriage. The biochemical rush grows to dominate a person’s mind, replacing not only marital intimacy but all relational bonds.
When addressing compulsive pornography use, maturing believers learn to respond to temptation by engaging in godly fellowship. The cycle of stress followed by sinful relief is replaced by connections of friendship, conversation, and grace. Mature fellowship facilitates intimacy with God and diminishes the power of isolation and shame.
If you have trusted in Christ alone as the Savior from your sins, you are blessed and equipped to live an abundant life to the glory of God. Your simple vision is the gospel itself. You were made to reflect God’s character in the world, to live as light in the darkness, and to draw others to His love. You are forgiven of all your sins, sealed by the Holy Spirt, gifted for service in the church, and destined for eternity in the presence of God.
God’s gifts of love, forgiveness, and grace release us from despair and remind us of the purpose and ongoing work He is doing in His children. God’s grace teaches us “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12). Jesus “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (2:14).
If you have never trusted Jesus Christ, you are powerless to change your heart. No other need compares with your need for salvation by knowing Jesus and realizing that your sins will separate you from God eternally. You cannot save yourself, and no plan you create will satisfy your need of a solution to the sin problem. “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23), and “the wages of sin is death” (6:23). Jesus bore our sins on the cross in our place. Trusting in the suffering and death of Jesus completely satisfies the righteous wrath of God that would come against you. For more about your greatest need, stop reading this article, and go to our topical page, “How to Know God.”
The Holy Spirit lives within all true believers (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13–14), leading each one to understand and apply biblical truth. With the Spirit’s help, we develop deeply held convictions that lead to radical life change. A spiritual conviction is an emotional self-demand, grounded in God’s Word and motivated by love for the Savior. It is a final resolution about who we are and what we will and won’t do.
David expressed conviction when he wrote:
I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.
I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not fasten its grip on me.
A perverse heart shall depart from me;
I will know no evil. (Psalm 101:2–4)
Job revealed conviction when he said:
“I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman.” (Job 31:1 NLT)
Our convictions are energized by the spiritual passions of love for God and outrage about our own sins. We’re overwhelmed with love because of God’s astonishing grace and the sufferings of Christ. We hate our sins because they offend our heavenly Father and harm all those we love. As we turn our attention from stress relief to a lifestyle of thankful worship, we can say with the apostle Paul, “The love of Christ controls us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
Paul reminds us of the uselessness of the sin we’ve left behind. He urges us to live in constant submission to God, which is consistent with our heavenly destiny as God’s people:
Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. (Romans 6:21–22)
Affirm Your Prayers with Action!
We need to quickly chart the path of freedom from pornography for ourselves and our families. But let’s get something straight. Deliverance from sinful habits will not arrive at our doorsteps in a wrapped package. The most common complaint about defeat in sexual sin is this: “I prayed and prayed for years. Why hasn’t God delivered me from this sin!”
Praying for deliverance from sin is a normal response to temptation. However, testimonies of long-term repentance do not include angelic armies confiscating computers and cell phones. Imagine if Abraham received God’s calling to enter the Promised Land and responded, “Yes, God, I’ll pray about it,” but refused to leave his home. Imagine if Jesus prayed about going to the cross but refused to enter Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51 says, “He was determined to go to Jerusalem”— literally, “He fixed his face toward Jerusalem.”)
Prayer is essential, but godly prayers are followed by a plan to persevere. God desires you to trust Him and then repent and obey!
Dismantling the Sin Cycle
Eliminating the menace of unaccountable technology traps is not enough to declare victory. God has designed you for abundant life in Christ. A season of reformation is a time for radically new habits of the heart. Leave Sodom and don’t look back!
Keep a journal of your thoughts and action steps to achieve each of the following goals:
- Remind yourself of your God-given purpose. God loves you and gives you a great mission in life for His glory.
- Set achievable daily goals for Bible reading or Scripture memorization.
- Feed your convictions about holiness and sin by listing biblical principles and practical applications related to spiritual growth. This is not merely a list of don’ts; on the contrary, it is a list of positive goals for personal growth and fulfillment week to week and throughout the years. Include specific decisions about media content that will be allowed in your home and workplace.
- Declare a fast from the sin. By fasting, we bypass temporary pleasure to acknowledge our need for the Lord. We can fast from food, and we can fast from any distraction to our walk with God. Rather than seeking sinful activity, read a Bible passage, call a godly friend, walk and pray, plan useful activity for the rest of the day. We cannot achieve permanent victory all at once. Focus on this moment. Hour by hour, fasting from this sin, we feed the spiritual person and not the flesh. Sowing to the Spirit leads to strength and is the very act of “putting to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). Carefully prepare yourself, so that next time temptation calls out, you remember the great benefits of dignity and a worshipful mind that come from resisting the flesh. Remember the disappointment, shame, and defeat you feel when giving in, and say it out loud: “Enough of that!” As one pastor said, “Temptation is like a telephone. When it rings, you don’t have to pick it up.”
- Rejoice in the power of God and in His mercy. For the believer, God’s mercies “are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22–23). Our Father understands our frailties and weaknesses. Our salvation is secured by the perfection of Christ and the sealing of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13–14). Because of these gifts, determine to resist sin as an act of thanksgiving and worship to God.
- Connect to a mature Christian fellowship. Relational connection and communication are keys to spiritual and emotional wholeness. “Iron sharpens iron, / So one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
- Create a schedule that eliminates idle time. Boredom and unscheduled time can be major stumbling blocks to purity.
Equip children, teens, and college students to thrive in Christian community, minister in society, and live in freedom. This equipping includes instruction about the responsible and accountable use of technology.
Take Control and Stand Firm
For most households, the impact of pornography has already taken a toll or is a looming concern. A rescue and prevention plan is imperative.
Filtering, restricting, and monitoring technology is a daunting task. It requires determination and perseverance. You can be sure, every conscientious person is in the same struggle, but this is a battle worth fighting. The Lord strongly encourages His children:
Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)
If you’re addressing sin issues related to technology, consider living “off the grid” altogether, or only use a “dumb” phone (no Internet access at all). Short of eliminating all Internet-enabled devices from your household, which most find impractical today, the following steps are common instructions for responsible computer and mobile device use:
- Take inventory of every device, computer, tablet, phone, video gaming console, and Internet or Wi-Fi-connected gadget. How does each one access the Internet? Are there hidden browsers embedded in its apps? Most modern games have embedded connections, messaging, and Internet capabilities. Parents or mentors need to access these regularly and search their content.
- Install CovenantEyes on all computers and mobile devices. This affordable application includes accountability software and filtering plus very responsive person-to-person technical help when needed.
- Eliminate privacy by accountability to family and mentors. This is the most effective way to stop deliberately placing temptation before your eyes. Would your browsing habits change if your spouse, your neighbor, or your boss were looking over your shoulder twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week? Privacy is the biggest threat to success. Public accountability changes behavior. Privacy, isolation, and impulse are a breeding ground for shame. Families have no need for privacy on devices. “He who separates himself seeks his own desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom.” (Proverbs 18:1–2)
- Share all social media accounts. Neither husband, wife, nor anyone in the home should have Facebook, Xbox-chat-type gaming, texting, e-mail, or other accounts that are not readily accessible to each other. Likewise, single adults outside the home should practice clear accountability for such accounts with the help of family, friends, or mentors.
- Learn how to set up OpenDNS on your home network, and be sure other Wi-Fi and cellular networks cannot be joined. (Beware, OpenDNS does not filter YouTube or many social media Web sites that are encrypted!) This can seem complicated; however, familiarity with this technical area of modern life is vital for family security.
- Aggressively control all media, because it is too often saturated with inappropriate and sexualized content.
- Move all computers into “public” areas in the workplace and at home, where screens can be seen by others. Secluded offices and bedrooms are inappropriate locations. Better choices are open office spaces, kitchens, or living rooms.
- Using a master password, lock all devices when children and younger teenagers are in the home alone.
- Consider removing computers, gaming consoles, and televisions from the bedrooms of children and teenagers.
- It is recommended that children leave devices with parents at bedtime, rather than taking them to their bedrooms at night.
- When planning sleepovers and playdates with likeminded friends, you may have opportunities to discuss technology concerns. Agree on clear principles for restricting the use of computers, gaming consoles, TVs, and mobile devices in isolated areas or when parents are not present.
- Late-night Internet browsing while alone should be eliminated for children and for adults who struggle with compulsive-use issues.
- Set up parental or third-party controls on all devices, and disable browsers and apps that cannot be monitored.
- Discuss with each family member at home, and with employees at the office, the importance of Internet and social media accountability.
Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1–2)
While the dangers are intense, your family, along with the entire church, plays a role in advancing the kingdom of God against the darkness. Be informed, be vigilant, and act now to eliminate from your life the snare of pornography!
Copyright 2018 by Insight for Living Ministries. All rights reserved worldwide.