Pornography and Purity
We all know there is a sexual revolution occurring in our world. One cannot go out in public or even watch television without seeing some product being sold in the name of sex. Sexual images, sensual movements, and poorly-clade individuals are literally everywhere. The Internet is no exception. One may be looking at totally innocent information on a site and suddenly an illicit picture pops up. Young children receive cell phones (most of which have the Internet) at very early ages and they learn how to use them sometimes better than their parents! This means that children are going to be exposed to pornographic images increasingly at earlier ages. In fact, the average age that boys first encounter pornography on the Internet is 11 years old - and that number is falling ( http://national.deseretnews.com ). Boys are not the only ones affected. The same source reported that more and more girls are increasingly viewing pornography. Some psychologists have suggested that children need to explore their sexuality and that viewing “soft porn” is not harmful to individuals. Unfortunately, many people have this mindset today. In this independent and subjective-truth-believing society, many will argue pornography can help in some situations (such as bring the passion back into a marriage); but God’s Word (objective truth) has something else to say on this topic (John 17:17). Let us explore some scriptural principles on this difficult-to-discuss subject and be honest with ourselves and with our God. The destiny of our souls depends on it!
It might be beneficial to discuss what is meant by pornography, since many today cannot agree upon a definition. The word “pornography” is from two Greek words, “porne” which means “harlot” (where we get our English word “fornication”) and “graphos” meaning “writing”. Webster defines it as, “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.” It is “obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like” ( http://dictionary.reference.com ). “The like” would include anything that promotes or encourages the lustful actions of individuals. Immodestly and provocatively dressed people (including but not limited to magazines, city billboards, TV, or the Internet) are all forms of pornography. Many will call an ad selling jeans with a man and a woman pictured on a bed in the process of undressing each other “soft porn”, but porn is porn. It is sin and God considers all sin to be just that, sin.
The physical and emotional effects of pornography involve not only the user but others as well. Just because this sin can be done in the privacy of one’s home does not mean the only person affected is the one looking at pornography. Involving ourselves in this sin affects our families. Wives, husbands, and children most likely will see the evidence left on the computer or magazines lying around (or hidden). A husband is telling his wife “I’m not satisfied with you,” and a father is teaching his children, “do as I say, not as I do” when he partakes in this sin. A person who has let this sin in their life will have relationship problems. They will struggle with accepting reality when it comes to a real relationship. Our spouses sometimes say negative things or their appearance is lacking, and it is during these times the woman on the screen/magazine (who always looks her best and says sweet things) may allure that person farther from reality and farther from developing a real, God-given relationship with their spouse (or future spouse). An individual may live alone and think, “Who am I hurting if I look at some pictures ever so often?” Besides hurting ourselves (mentally and in our spiritual relationship with God), we are also harming the person we are looking at in a lustful manner. Think about the emphasis God’s Word places on covering up our nakedness and not looking upon other’s nakedness (Genesis 9:22-23; Exodus 28:42; Leviticus 18; Isaiah 47:3; Revelation 3:18). It is shaming that person when we look upon their nakedness. That person was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and as such, deserves respect. We should be turning our eyes away and encouraging people to cover up (by not buying/downloading/viewing pornography and by teaching modesty).
Studies have shown that a person’s mind is altered when taken in by this sin. Viewing pornography affects the brain like a narcotic. The more we see those images, the more we want. Thus, begins the addiction (the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit called “self-control” in Galatians 5:16-25). Even if one turns away from this sin, those images will still be in their minds and they will struggle to forget them for a long time. Furthermore, seeing those images influence the user in his/her real sexual life. Researchers in one study concluded: “The more a user watches a particular media script, the more embedded those codes of behavior become in their worldview and the more likely they are to use those scripts to act upon real life experiences. We argue pornography creates a sexual script that then guides sexual experiences.” ( http://illinoisfamily.org/pornography/research-confirms-pornography-harms )
The more one becomes enamored by the sin of pornography the harder it will be to turn and live a life of purity. Only the pure in heart will see God (Matthew 5:8).
God’s Word is clear where the Christian’s mind should be – “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8). Does it sound like pornography of any kind could be among this list? Over and over again the writers of God’s inspired word record the kind of mind believers are to possess and the kind of information we choose to allow into our life. Job stated, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman” (Job 31:1). David’s problems began when he “saw a woman bathing” and “inquired about the woman” (2 Samuel 11:2-3). Paul, as the greatest contributor to the New Testament, writes continually about the spiritual mindset for which Christians should strive and cultivate (Romans 8:6-7; 13: 13, 14; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 2:1-5; Colossians 3:2; 2 Timothy 1:7). Other inspired writers also stress the necessity to withstand our fleshly desires (James 1:14, 15; 1 Peter 1:13; 2:11; 1 John 2:16, 17). Lustful thoughts, selfish-gratification, and pornography (in any form or fashion) has no place in the Christian’s life.
Our Lord, by His example and His teachings promotes purity in the hearts of believers. “I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). The context within which this is found is in the Sermon on the Mount, which discusses our relationship with God and our fellowman. In verses 21 – 30, Jesus speaks of specific heart matters: murder begins in the heart (Matthew 5:21-26) and adultery begins in the heart (Matthew 5:27-30). Lusting for the bodies of others indicates a heart problem. Jesus emphasizes that Christians should do all they possibly can to get sin out of their lives. It is better to suffer temporarily in this life than for eternity in hell. (Matthew 5:29-30) Oftentimes, we forget that our Lord was fully human. He was a man when He walked on this earth and as such, He was tempted just as men (and women) are today (Hebrews 4:15). He must have seen what the world of His day defined as “beautiful women” while He was on this earth in human flesh. He must have had situations that could have potentially “caught Him off guard” so-to-speak, but He made sure He was always “on guard”. He knew His purpose -and sin had no part in it (John 5:30). As Christians today, we can also remember our purpose (Romans 6:1-7; Colossians 3:17) – No longer to live in sin but to bring glory to our Lord. Jesus wants our hearts, minds, and souls to love Him (Mark 12:30).
What can be done to put a stop to pornography? How can we help ourselves or others who may struggle with this sin? Because this world “lies under the sway of the wicked one”, the battle is going to be a hard one and every Christian is needed to fight (1 John 5:19). Some Biblical truths must be remembered. One of the well-known characteristics of God is His omnipresence (Proverbs 15:3). He sees everything and He is in that dark bedroom/living room/computer room when pornographic images are on display. This should be motivation enough to stop. He wants us to remember our sanctification (set apart) in Him as Christians, and to recall His will for us, “that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust” (1 Thessalonians 4:1-4). God designed sex to be in a scriptural marriage (Hebrews 13:4), and when we look to outside stimuli for sexual pleasure, we are going against God’s Word. It is in the union and commitment of marriage that we can receive sexual pleasure with our spouse, which is a small, though important part of building a healthy, life-long relationship that brings glory to God.
If you or someone you know struggles with pornography, the first step towards healing is the desire to stop. You must want to come out of that sin and be pleasing to God (2 Corinthians 6:17; James 4:8). Next, you need to choose someone who will hold you accountable. If you are married to a faithful Christian, your spouse is the best person to whom you can confess your sins (James 5:16). Otherwise, talk to someone you know who wants the best for you and will do their best to help you. Parents must love and lead their children by monitoring what their children are viewing online. God did not say, “trust your kids” – He said, “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Furthermore, there are many Internet website services that are devoted to helping you filter or stop pornography. Most importantly, you need to pray about this plague in our world and seek God’s help when temptation arises. We all need to remember what kind of God we serve. He is a loving God, who desires our love, but He is also a jealous God, who does not tolerate His children serving others. He is a merciful God, who forgives the penitent sinner, but He is a holy God, who cannot look upon sin and one day will judge this sinful world. May we fight against this evil and remember His words to us in Romans 13:10-14: “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, knowing the time that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”
The Gospel of Christ
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