temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he
will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,
he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”1
Nelson Searcy tells of a study that was conducted about the best tasting ice
cream. Members of the control group were blindfolded and given all kinds of
vanilla ice cream to taste—quality brand ice cream, gourmet ice cream, homemade
ice cream, cheap ice cream and everything in between.
It didn’t matter if it was gourmet, brand name, or homemade ice cream,
“The number one determining factor was the percentage of fat in the ice
cream. In other words, the more fat that was in the ice cream, the more
people liked it.”
As Searcy stated, “Now, isn’t that one of the ironies of life? Why can’t
fried chicken, which happens to be my favorite food, be as good for you as an
apple? I have never heard a doctor say—’A fried chicken leg a day will
keep the doctor away.’ The reason they say that is because if you had
fried chicken every morning for breakfast, it would probably keep the doctor
nearby because your cholesterol would shoot up. I guess I’ll have to
settle for apples.”2
And who doesn’t like a good fatty ice cream? As a kid we even used to pour pure
cream over our ice cream. Yum! Yum! We had no idea how unhealthy that was.
Temptation, too, can have an overpowering attraction and appeal. It can look
fabulous and at first taste very inviting—but in the long run its effects are
deadly. It reminds me of an extremely beautiful fish that is found on the Great
Barrier Reef in Australia. It’s only very small but its sting is incredibly
painful. It needs to be avoided at all cost. Same with sin. Regardless how
attractive it appears, its end result is deadly so it needs to be avoided at
all costs. As Searcy said, “When we give in to temptation, we always
regret it because in the long run we always give up something greater for
instant gratification right now.”3
Suggested Prayer: “Dear God, please help me to remember that while sin’s
temptation can be very appealing, it always pays self-destructive dividends.
Through Your Spirit please give me the strength to resist the lures of the evil
one—and the good sense to always depend on You and not try to fight it in my
own strength. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in
Jesus’s name, amen.”
5 SIMPLE (BUT ESSENTIAL) REASONS TO STOP WATCHING PORN TODAY
He sat there, broken and exposed
like never before.
“I didn’t think it would end like
this. I didn’t think it would go so far.” He whispered the words through tears
and gritted teeth.
I had worked with people
suffering from pornography addiction very closely for the past three years, but
I hadn’t seen this level of loss. A marriage destroyed. A family severed. A
high level career in shambles. A man at the brink of giving up on life.
I broke the silence. “What? What
wouldn’t go so far?”
“Pornography.” He looked me
square in the eyes. “Porn just grabbed a hold of me and wouldn’t let go. It
consumed my life.”
This man’s story is like many
men’s stories. Porn has a way of sinking its talons deep into our lives and not
letting go. Many people don’t think that porn will have a negative effect on
their life. They don’t know the full ramifications or the incredibly adverse
effects that continued exposure to pornography can have. That is, until it goes
So, whether you are just getting
started or find yourself stuck in the quick sand of pornography, let me give
you five straightforward but essential reasons to quit today.
1. Better Relationships
Did you know that there is a 300%
increase in divorce for homes where one or more people in the relationship
regularly look at pornography?¹
In Scripture, Jesus says, “Everyone
who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with
her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28).
There is a connection with those
we ‘lust after’ that will get in the way of our relationship
every time. Our eyes and attention are called to be in one direction, but porn
has a way of diverting our attention in many different directions.
Giving up porn will remove the
massive barrier standing in front of our relationships and focus our attention
2. Free Space in
Porn happens to be fantastic at
forming new, long-lasting pathways in the brain. Over time, these images or
videos become burned into the brain, taking up space. These memories can turn
into objectification of the people you see every day, repeating these images in
your mind over and over again.
As these images or videos
increase, so does the space that is stored up in our minds. There is an acronym
often used to describe the effect that these images have on our mind and our
daily interactions. It’s FOE. It stand for “fantasy,” “objectification,” and
Porn will increase the amount of
FOEs that we face each day.
Quitting porn, however, will free
up space in your mind that can be used for good, not objectification.
3. Better Sex
Some of you are wondering why I
didn’t start with this one!
Did you know that porn can cause erectile dysfunction in men?
That’s right, no more erections! In fact, psychiatry professor Norman Doidge
reported in his book The Brain That Changes Itself that
removal of internet pornography use reversed impotence and sexual arousal
problems in his patients.
I am reminded of the words of
Jesus when he said, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came
that they may have life and life abundantly” (John 10:10).
Isn’t it just like the devil to
entice us to see all the sexually explicit things that we want, and then have
the ability to enjoy sexual activity with another stripped away? You deserve to
have great sex and that starts with taking the pornography out of your life.
4. Less Stress
Watching porn has a natural way
of increasing stress and releasing cortisol (a steroid hormone) into your
system. However, think about the stress you feel every time someone is on your
computer, looking at your Netflix queue, or asking to borrow your phone. That
stress would be completely lifted off by quitting porn. There will no longer be
that fear or shame of “being caught.”
I heard a saying the other day
that went like this: “The best gift you can give yourself is the gift of a
How true this is! I have been on
both sides of the coin. I have had that fear and stress controlling me, and
I’ve also been on the side of a clean conscience. There is no question as to
where I’d rather be. I’m grateful for less stress.
5. Living in Integrity
Integrity has been described as
“living with the lights on” or “acting the same in front of people as you do
when no one is watching.” Some would describe this as living with
authenticity—being true to YOU. By quitting porn, many begin to live in truth and
I have never found someone who
said, “Watching porn is helping me become my best self!” In fact, the reaction
from everyone I’ve talked to has been quite the opposite. Pornography has
caused them to live outside of their values, keeping secrets and lying to those
they love the most. When you live in integrity, you are able to be the same
person no matter where you find yourself.
One of my favorite conversations
can be found in the book Alice in Wonderland, written by Lewis
Carroll. There is a scene where Alice is lost. She is trying to figure out
where to go, but there are all of these signs pointing in different directions.
As she is trying to make the right choice, the Cheshire Cat shows up.
Their conversation goes like
Alice: “Would you tell me,
please, which way I ought to go from here?”
The Cheshire Cat: “That depends a
good deal on where you want to get to.”
Alice: “I don’t much care where.”
The Cheshire Cat: “Then it
doesn’t much matter which way you go.”
Alice: “… So long as I get somewhere.”
The Cheshire Cat: “Oh, you’re
sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”
For some reading this article,
you’ve walked long enough. This is your moment. Change is sitting right in
front of you, but you will have to take that first step. You will have to make
the decision of where you “want to get to.” Is it a life free from porn? Is it
a place of honesty and integrity? Is it living authentically?
Beth was my ex-stepmother, but “mother” was still a part of her title. Could I share a home with her?
Beth and I first lived under the same roof in 1982, when I was 13. My father, who was 47 at the time, invited Beth, then 23, to spend the summer in the Maine lake house he and I had fixed up the summer before. I refused to leave my room the night she arrived.
Without laying eyes on her, I knew she would be another of Dad’s interchangeable “little chickies” as he called them — the skinny, busty former students he liked to date.
The next morning, I was eating Honey Nut Cheerios when I heard her coming down the stairs. My father had already retreated to his desk upstairs, purportedly to work on a lecture on Puritan literature, but mostly to take hits from a hidden bottle of vodka.
I planned to freeze Beth out of existence with my thoughts — a superpower every gay boy needed in the 80s. But instead of making awkward chitchat, Beth just smiled, picked up her copy of “Crime and Punishment,” and ate her own Cheerios in silence.
When done, she asked if I liked the book I was reading — stories by John Cheever. Dad asked such questions only to hear his own opinion. Beth was actually curious to know mine. She was making me like her before I had the chance to hate her.
Soon on sunny afternoons, Beth and I lay on the dock together, tanning and lightening our hair with lemon juice, as one did in the 80s. Neither mentioned a shared lust for a neighbor — a combination seminarian and jock — who joined us for a swim from time to time.
Dad and Beth married the following September. By May, two semesters later, my father’s tantrums had driven her away. Amazingly, he never once had an ill word to say about Beth. And this was a man who in five minutes could convince you Gandhi was a narcissist and Jesus a sociopath.
He did have bad things to say about his first wife, my mother. And she gave him reasons. Beneath her charms lay inchoate storms of hurt and aggression. As Dad was leaving her for the last time — I was 12, a year before Dad met Beth — she told him she was going to take me to “Luna,” a recent Bertolucci film. A terrible look came over his face, not rage this time but horror.
After he left, I was too terrified to look at the art house flyer taped to the fridge. My mother never did take me to see the movie, but a few years later, “Luna” returned for a Bertolucci retrospective. This time I did read the flyer and wished I hadn’t. “Luna,” it turned out, was “the story of the incestuous relationship between a mother and her teenage son.”
To be clear, my mother had never acted on the themes of the film, but she craved an emotional closeness that was too much for a son to give.
At 17, I went as far away as I could, first to college in California and then on to a journalistic career I kept undercutting with debt-fueled geographic cures that never worked for long — not Los Angeles, not Paris, not even Rio de Janeiro.
At first, Beth and I stayed in touch, but like me, she kept moving. She married again, had a daughter, divorced and, as a social worker/actress, constantly chased cheap New York City rents. By around 1995, the handwritten phone numbers in our respective address books were no longer valid.
When Dad died in 2005, the vodka finally having wiped out his liver, my sister tracked down Beth’s email and cc’d me. I was living in Rio, where I thought I’d found both happiness and a mate for life. Right away, Beth and I were yakking the way we had on the dock. Soon, I was visiting her for weeks at a time, ostensibly to work on a screenplay but mostly just to be together.
In 2013, a Supreme Court decision legalized same-sex marriage, enabling my Brazilian husband, 14 years my junior, to immigrate to the United States as my spouse. We moved to Upper Manhattan — two blocks from Beth. The Brazilian complained that she and I analyzed movies to death. We both thought, but we live to analyze movies to death.
One afternoon, I left him on the couch playing video games and texting bar plans that I no longer wanted to be part of. I walked to Beth’s, where she and I talked about substantive things — books, movies, joys, griefs. On the way back, I realized I wasn’t just bored at home. I was also lonely.
It was the Brazilian who left in the end. Beth comforted me as neither of my parents nor the Brazilian could have — she was patient, protective but never pitying, sure of my strength.
Suddenly, she and I were both single and struggling to pay Manhattan rents. Why shouldn’t she move into my extra bedroom? I hesitated, ostensibly because of her clutter problem. I once left some junk mail on her coffee table, only to find it in the same place when I returned six months later. When I threw it away, she was actually a little sad. I, by contrast, strove for the modernist austerity of the homes I wrote about for architecture magazines, and threw away not only clutter but even things I actually needed.
However, clutter was just cover for a deeper fear. By living with my father’s former wife, would the incestuous waves, at last, pull me under?
In 2010, Mom learned that her gut discomfort was stage-four colon cancer. “Forgive me …,” she said nine months later, from her hospice bed. Whether because of the pain, the morphine, or her own hesitation, she couldn’t name the thing to be forgiven. “For … for … well, you know,” she said.
I had found peace with my dying mother, but was still haunted by her earlier avatar — the Medea willing to psychically drown her son. Beth was my ex-stepmother, but “mother” was still a part of her title. Could I really share a home with her?
Then when I was 47, I lost my biggest freelance client. My finances were in free fall. Two months later, Beth, by then 57, moved in. I gave her the master bedroom and the two largest closets. In return, she ceded all aesthetic control of common spaces.
The clutter problem turned out to be only a minor annoyance. When her things piled up, I placed them on her bed while she was out.
The Mommy issues took longer. I would share details of my own peccadilloes, but plugged my ears and hummed when Beth did the same. “So you can talk about sex and I can’t?” she asked. “I guess that’s another one of your double standards, sweetie.”
Like aversion therapy, this controlled exposure has had marvelously curative effects. Now, Beth can get as graphic as she wants, and it is fine — at least tolerable. And gradually I have come to see my mother as a charming, cultured woman who, in 1980s Baltimore, kept up with Italian cinema.
Beth and I still analyze movies to death, but now from the comfort of the sectional couch I bought with the Brazilian. I am still regrouping for my next foray into love and marriage, but most days that question seems moot.
I’m still learning that a happy home is constructed not with Modernist furnishings but emotional safety — a language that, after nearly four decades, Beth is still teaching me to speak.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24 NKJV
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to love open, honest, and authentic people—and how difficult it is to even like defensive, dishonest people who are living in denial?
A good definition of denial has been called Truth Decay. In the long run denial can be extremely destructive to one’s physical, mental and spiritual health—and also destructive to relationships, and to the emotional and spiritual health of families and societies.
True, as children many of us were forced to build defenses around our feelings in order to survive. However, as adults we need to rid ourselves of unhealthy defenses in order to fully live and fully love—that is, to live productive lives and develop healthy, lasting and loving relationships. As long as I live behind a mask—no matter how attractive that mask may appear—I can never feel loved because my mask is not me. Only real people can get close to others and experience intimacy and real love.
Furthermore, the more dishonest I am with my inner self (my true feelings and motives), the more I will distort all other truth—including God’s truth—to make it match my perception of reality, and use it to justify my behavior. Ultimately I end up unhappily believing my own lies.
So where do we begin to overcome the problem of denial, which may very well be the most destructive personal and societal problem we have?
First, let’s call denial what it is. It’s SIN—and a destructive sin at that. Remember, it’s just as big a sin to lie to myself as it is to lie to anyone else. We can call poison by any name we like, but poison is still poison. Same goes for sin. We can call it freedom of choice, misspeak, or by any other fancy name to give it a sugar coating and make it sound attractive, but that makes it all the more deceptive and dangerous.
Second, confession. Remember that we change the world one person at a time. The first person to start with is myself. I need to realize that I can be as guilty of the sin of denial as anyone else and come to God with a genuine and humble heart asking him to “search my heart” and reveal to me, no matter how painful it may be, any areas in my life where I may be in denial and to confront me with the truth about myself.
Third, realize that without access to the truth there is no healing or recovery of individuals or societies, and there is no freedom but self-deceptive bondage. As Jesus said, only the truth sets people free (see John 8:32). It is not without good reason that God “desires truth in our innermost being.”
Fourth, accept the fact that pain was the way into denial and pain is the way out of it. As they say in AA, “It’s not the truth that hurts us but letting go of the lies.” Indeed, facing one’s truth can be painful but incredibly freeing and ultimately fulfilling. I say painful because it usually takes painful experiences to break through our self-defeating defenses.
Finally, the pursuit of truth needs to be a life-long journey. It is a journey that leads to fully living and fully loving—and ultimately to life everlasting. Lies are of the devil and ultimately lead to hell here on earth and in the life to come.
“Dear God, in the
words of the psalmist, ‘Search me . . . and know my heart. Try me, and know my
anxieties. And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way
everlasting.’ No matter what the cost, please deliver me from the sin of
denial. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus’
Covenant Eyes users might think, “What does this mean for my struggle with porn? How should we approach this diagnosis?” These are important questions that I want to help you think thoroughly about.
What Is Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder?
If you care to read the official definition for CSBD, here it is. These types of definitions can be technical, but they’re important to understand:
“Compulsive sexual behavior disorder is characterized by a persistent pattern of failure to control intense repetitive sexual impulses or urges, resulting in repetitive sexual behavior over an extended period (e.g., six months or more) that causes marked distress or impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”
What are the implications of this that we can clearly affirm?
There are good expressions of sexual behavior and bad expressions of sexual behavior. The ICD would say healthy and unhealthy. Christians would add holy and unholy. Healthiness and holiness are not competing concepts, and both should be considered important in this conversation.
Sexual behavior has the propensity to be ensnaring and can disrupt many areas of life. This is aligned with the Christian view that sin has a predatory intent to destroy people’s lives.
For a habit to become enslaving, an extended period of repetition is required. This is common sense.
Pornography is not a victimless activity; many people are negatively affected. This counters one of the most common lies in our culture about the innocence of viewing pornography.
There is hope for change. The entire point of placing diagnoses in the ICD is that these diagnoses represent experiences for which some degree of freedom or relief is possible.
Why Was CSBD Included as a Diagnosis?
While it may get a little nerdy, to evaluate the inclusion of CSBD in this diagnostic structure we also need to consider why this diagnosis was added.
“Although this category resembles that of substance dependence, it is included in the ICD‐11 impulse control disorders section in recognition of the lack of definitive information on whether the processes involved in the development and maintenance of the disorder are equivalent to those observed in substance use disorders and behavioral addictions. Its inclusion in the ICD‐11 will help to address unmet needs of treatment seeking patients, as well as possibly reducing the shame and guilt that distressed individuals associate with seeking help.”
So to summarize:
Researchers are unsure if CSBD has the same physiological features as substance dependence. Uncertainty on this point is why they don’t use the more common label of sexual addiction to describe this experience.
A large number of people struggle with compulsive sexual behavior. Diagnoses are included in the ICD when it becomes common enough that clinicians see an increase in prevalence for an experience.
The official diagnosis makes it easier for these individuals to be reimbursed for counseling. Insurance companies require a diagnostic code to reimburse for services, which made it difficult for individuals to receive counseling. Adding a diagnosis to the ICD is as much about third party reimbursement as it about discovering something new.
It allows for better research on compulsive sexual behavior. Research helps us to differentiate speculation from empirically verifiable approaches to working with a given life struggle. This kind of research should enrich both professional and lay-based care strategies.
Does This New Recognition Present Any Concerns?
Sexual behavioral can get out of control. When it does, lots of people are affected, and WHO wants insurance companies to reimburse for counseling. If we want people to be free from destructive sexual behavior, this all seems fine. But are there any reasons to be cautious with this new label?
When a pattern of behavior receives a diagnostic label, it often creates an external locus of control. Diagnostic labels lead us to think something is happening to us rather than being done by us. There is some concern that this label could reinforce a sense of passivity towards change and a lack of ownership for one’s choices.
The moral nature of the activity can be lost with a label. Too often we fail to realize that something can be both unhealthy and immoral. We treat it as an either-or instead of a both-and. There is some concern that this diagnostic label could distract from the role of repentance in change.
Also, we often assume the remedy for a diagnosis will be medicinal. Again, this doesn’t need to be either-or. The remedy for diabetes involves both insulin and exercise. If there is a medicine that can help with impulse control, we should be happy. But regardless, the fruit of the Spirit known as “self-control” will be required in both taking the medicine as prescribed and other behavioral choices towards righteous living.
How Should We Approach This New Diagnosis?
The answer to this question will vary from person to person. Diagnostic labels are a tool. Any tool can be used for good purposes. In contrast, any tool can also be used for destructive purposes. The problem with tools is usually not with the tool, but with how a given individual utilizes that tool.
If you serve as an ally for someone who comes across this new diagnosis, affirm the following:
Your friend is not alone in their struggle. This can help alleviate some of the stigma associated with sexual sin.
Sexual activity has an enslaving tendency. If someone fights a bear and loses, we don’t call them weak. It’s the nature of the bear to be stronger. When someone engages sexual sin and becomes enslaved, it doesn’t mean they’re uniquely weak. It means it’s the nature of this activity to be enslaving.
Even secular health experts (meaning, those without the bias of Christian morals) want individuals enslaved to sexual activity to have access to help in the pursuit of freedom. Appealing to secular experts helps reveal the frustration point, “I only need to change because I’m a Christian and God’s hung up about sex,”which is not true.
If you serve as an ally for someone who comes across this new diagnosis, caution the following:
Your choices matter. A label can explain why change is hard; it is not a reason to quit trying.
Abstinence and repentance are not the same thing. A secular counselor would just want you to stop engaging in self-destructive behavior (abstinence). God invites you to a restored relationship with Him (repentance).
No amount of science will make change easy. But the work is worth it. If there is anything we can learn from science to make our efforts at change more effective, we will. But just like science has taught us a great deal about dieting, those advances in science haven’t made losing weight easy. Peer support and wise choices are still the central elements to change. So, let’s keep going together.
If you are interested in history of diagnostics, I would recommend Allen Frances’ book Saving Normal. Dr. Frances is a psychiatrist who loves his profession but is concerned about overmedicating normal physical struggles. Here is a brief excerpt from his book and few reflections to whet your appetite to read more.
10 WAYS YOUR KIDS COULD SEE PORN WITHOUT YOU KNOWING
“Are you excited for school to start?!”
As a kid, I would dread that question. I never wanted summer to end! Of course, now that I’m a parent, I find myself asking that question.
For a kid, back-to-school is about the buzzing excitement of a new adventure. It’s shopping for new clothes and school supplies, seeing friends again after a long summer apart, and getting to know new teachers, classrooms, and subjects.
For the parents, it’s the longed-for reality of a quiet house and the return of a regular schedule. Our days are spent on work routines, chores, or errands, while our kids are out-of-sight-out-of-mind. Our evening schedules fill up with activities and the pace of life increases. In all the commotion of a new school year, it’s easy to overlook some of the basic precautions we would (and should) normally take to keep our kids safe.
As you prepare your child to head back to school, here are ten potential “danger zones” where your kids could encounter mature or inappropriate content.
It’s the second most popular search engine after Google and one of the easiest ways for our kids to consume content such as video game walk-throughs, music videos, and movie trailers. But, the platform also contains a boatload of content that you may consider inappropriate for your children.
Some of the biggest dangers on YouTube are the suggested videos displayed after each video view. Clicking from one enticing video to the next can become a downhill slide from innocent to explicit content..
Kids love Instagram. In fact, some of them practically live there, documenting and sharing each moment of their lives with their group of friends. The image-based nature of the platform appeals to young people, but that nature combined with a lack of oversight on the part of Instagram can result in easily accessible porn.
This is another social media platform that kids spend a lot of time on. The large number of photo filters make it fun to share pictures and videos with friends. Unfortunately, this platform also hosts a volume of adult content, and there is very little enforcement by Snapchat to keep underage users from seeing it.
The “instant picture” feature of Snapchat can also be dangerous for young children. When a picture is sent or received, it can only be viewed for up to ten seconds; then, it disappears forever. This makes it easy to send inappropriate pictures and videos without the fear of being caught.
4. Google Images
Searching Google for images and videos can be a quick, convenient way to research a topic for school or entertainment. But, it’s important to remember that the search results can (and often will) contain mature content when Google SafeSearch has not been activated.
This is another way that kids might encounter the “rabbit hole” effect, where clicking on one enticing image reveals a list of other suggested images, which can become increasingly graphic in nature.
5. Personal Devices
Many kids have their own phones and tablets. It can be a great way to stay connected with your child and a fun source of entertainment for them.
However, it’s important for parents to remember that it’s our job to teach our children how to behave in a healthy, responsible manner, and that includes the use of their personal devices. Take the time to research and set up the available parental controls on your kid’s device. Also, using Screen Accountability software can promote honest, grace-filled conversations with our kids about how they use their devices.
When their devices are properly protected, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes from knowing your kids are safe, and they can feel free to have fun without you hovering over their shoulder.
6. School Laptops or Tablets
Many schools now offer students the opportunity to take home a school device, such as a laptop or iPad. It’s a great way to make sure all students have access to technology. Schools tend to lock these devices down so that students aren’t able to abuse them, but if you’re a parent, you know that kids can be resourceful. It’s always a good idea to have a basic understanding of the protections in place on your child’s school device.
7. Library Computers
Public libraries are a great way for people with limited internet access to get online for free. Most schools will also have a computer lab available for students to do research online. These are public places, but that doesn’t always stop a determined young person from searching out inappropriate content.
8. Your Devices
Do your kids know the password to access your phone, tablet, or laptop? Do you allow them to use your devices unsupervised?
If your kids are using your devices, you should consider implementing the same protections you would use on their devices. Otherwise, lock them out. They can still pick up your phone in a emergency and dial 911 without unlocking it.
9. A Friend’s House
It’s a basic rule of parenting that most of us do instinctively: know who your kids’ friends are and know their parents.
But, have you considered asking those parents how they are protecting their kids’ devices? Are the kids left unsupervised with their devices? Do they have their phone or laptop in their bedroom behind closed doors?
10. A Friend’s Device
You can’t be everywhere at once. No parent can. Maybe you trust the level of supervision at your child’s friend’s house, but what about at school? Or at the mall?
It’s a good idea to talk to your kids about using their friend’s devices and let them know you still expect responsible behavior, even when you’re not there to see it.
So, what can you do?
With the ease of access to media of all kinds via internet-connected devices, it can be overwhelming as a parent to try and keep up. Here are a few suggestions to help you keep your kids a little safer.
Pay attention. Know where your kids are, who they are spending time with, and what they are doing together. Just knowing you’re paying attention can often dissuade kids from acting out when they’re tempted.
Have conversations. Be a sounding board for your kids. Listen more than you talk. Let them know they can come to you with any problem, and they won’t be judged or condemned. Talk openly about things like pornography and why it can be so enticing and harmful. It’s important to maintain your authority, but you can do so in a way that encourages open communication and trust rather than secrecy.
Use technology to your advantage. Tech is often the problem, but it can also be the solution. Screen Accountability and Filtering software, such as Covenant Eyes, can help facilitate conversations with your child about how to use their devices safely and avoid online temptations. That’s the goal, after all: teach them how to stay safe.
Back-to-school is a good time to remind ourselves that our aim is not to put our kids in cages, but to raise them up into healthy, responsible adults who know how to navigate this digital world with integrity.
I’ve heard it said that the Bible doesn’t mention premarital sex
as a sin. There are major implications to this on two levels. One, there is the
simple and important question of knowing what is a sin and what isn’t. Two, and
more importantly, if it is a sin (and why) has huge ramifications on God’s
overall design for sex and how men are to view women and vice versa.
If you type “premarital sex” or “sex before marriage” into your
English Bible concordance, nothing is going to come up. If you search for
“adultery,” a married person having sex with someone who is not their spouse,
you’ll get all kinds of occurrences. So I suppose this is where some get the
idea that maybe sex is okay up until you get married, then you’re locked into
that one person from thereafter.
If you’re used to reading the King James Version, you’ll note
that it often uses the word fornication, which means sex-before-marriage. The
NIV and other translations swap this out for the term sexual immorality, which
is quite vague and does not give the surface indication that
sex-before-marriage is a sin.
The Greek word used in the original New Testament text for
fornication or sexual immorality is porneia (Matthew
5:32, 15:19, 19:9; Mark 7:21; John 8:41; Acts 15:20, 15:29, 21:25; 1
Corinthians 5:1, 6:13, 6:18, 7:2; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19;
Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Revelation 2:21; 9:21;
14:8; 17:2; 17:4; 18:3; 19:2). Porneia is
a separate Greek word from adultery, so we know it doesn’t mean the exact same
thing. Hence, it makes some sense why the KJV translators would use the word
We also know that porneia brings
about children outside of wedlock (John 8:41), so it is sex. Porneia is also
the word used to describe the acts of the great prostitute in Revelation 17,
and is the root for the word prostitute itself (1 Corinthians 6:15). These uses
are a pretty open-and-shut case that porneia means
But porneia can also be done
by a married person (Matthew 5:32; 19:19). A man sleeping with his mother or
step-mother is considered a type of porneia (1 Corinthians 5:1).
So from these two examples, we see that porneia doesn’t
exclusively mean sex-before-marriage. It’s safe to say that adultery is the sin
of when a married person has sex with someone who is not their spouse. And
that porneia (KJV: fornication, NIV: sexual immorality) is the sin
of any type of sex outside of marriage, which would obviously include
sex-before-marriage, as well as prostitution and adultery.
More Than A Rulebook
anything that goes against God’s design for sex. And it’s crucial that we get
back to the point about God’s design. While there is value in analyzing the
text to determine what is a sin and what isn’t, it has the feeling of etching
out a rule book for the sake of a rule book. Like telling a teenager not to
have sex before marriage, “because it’s bad,” without giving any further
explanation. To approach any of God’s commands in this way doesn’t do justice
to why a loving God would give them to us in the first place, nor do they
provide much intrinsic motivation to follow them. We must always go back to the
design, which thankfully Scripture does with crystal clarity on the matter of
God’s design for sex is laid out in the
creation blueprint of Genesis 2:24: That is why a man leaves his father and
mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Some will say that this verse is only
referring to marriage—that when a man and woman become married, they become one
flesh. The apostle Paul disagrees. In 1 Corinthians 6:16, Paul says that anyone
who has sex with a prostitute has become one flesh with her. You become one
flesh with someone when you have sex with them.
This is why premarital sex is a sin. It’s also
why so many find their hearts so broken and battered.
What “one flesh” means is that a whole person
accepts all that makes someone else a human. It’s like taking a yellow piece of
Play-Doh and mixing it together with a piece of blue Play-Doh. What happens?
You get green Play-Doh, never able to distinguish or remove the yellow from the
blue again. One flesh is not just about body parts, it’s about one’s entire
being. It’s why we say the vows we say at a wedding…for better or worse…for
richer or poorer…in sickness and in health. No matter what comes our way, I
have accepted you and will protect you and be here for you. All of you. Not
just the good parts. But also the annoying parts. The things I’d like to
change. The weaknesses. The quirks. All of that becoming one with all of that
in me, for a lifetime. That’s the environment God designed sex to create
between two people. It coincidentally is also the perfect environment for
Sex was designed by God to be a part of the
greatest self-sacrificing relationship possible. The byproduct of
one-flesh-marital-sex was to be a strong society where children are loved and
married adults are accepted and protected by their spouses. Sin has turned sex
into an act of selfishness. The consequences on our society couldn’t be any
clearer. This of course doesn’t end with premarital sex. Once sex becomes
selfish, people are simply objects to be consumed. This objectification
provides the booming demand for pornography, a sex-addicted Hollywood, and
If you do the math, you can’t have multiple
one fleshes with people. That’s why premarital sex does such damage to our
souls, and to our society. You are sharing intimacy that can’t hold its own
weight. You are doing a trust fall with no one to catch you. Sin and our
culture have taught us sex is about us and getting our desires met. God’s word
tells us sex is about a lifelong commitment of accepting and supporting all of
someone else. No matter how unpopular it gets, God’s word will remain our guide
for finding true life and true freedom in understanding how we are to view sex,
ourselves, and the men and women we share this world with.
No sex in heaven? Many might ask what the other options are at this point!
One of the reasons this news shocks us is because we view sex and heaven selfishly. Culturally, sex has become a selfish act of consumption. And our view of heaven is typically a place of self-centered utopia. We picture beaches and paradise and all the pleasure for ourselves that we can dream of, often not with much thought about God being around at all. This me-centered paradise is a great match for lots of sex for all of eternity. In fact, several of the main world religions promise this (maybe a clue that those religions were made up by a man? But I digress…)
But thank goodness that’s not what heaven, or sex, is meant to be according to the Bible.
Sex is a one-flesh relationship that bonds a man and a woman together in every way possible. It’s why this one-flesh relationship can only function healthily within marriage. The one-flesh bond includes full acceptance and commitment to all a person is, not simply their body parts (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6, 1 Corinthians 6:15-16). You are one flesh, at all times, in all ways, which can’t be undone.
This sounds pretty amazing, and deep, and night-and-day different from what our culture calls “sex” today. But there’s more. This sex and this one flesh don’t exist for their own end. They aren’t the destination, they are simply another sign post. A sign post pointing to where?
What Sex Really Points To
After giving a treatise on marriage and sex, Ephesians 5 concludes with the following:
“’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).
Heyo! The whole time Paul was talking about husbands and wives and marriage and sex in Ephesians 5, it says here he was actually talking about Jesus and us! Marriage and sex are metaphors for the relationship we have with Jesus.
What is a metaphor? It is a sign post. It points to the real thing. It’s something tangible we can look at in order to understand something else. It’s a symbol we can learn from in order to understand and experience the real thing.
The real thing is the one-flesh relationship Jesus desires to have with each of us. It’s the relationship he has with those who call themselves Christians. It’s a relationship of intimate love and acceptance and support and trust, where Jesus is the groom and we are the bride. Earthly marriage and sex are symbols that can help point us toward the real thing.
This is why there is no sex in heaven. You don’t need sign posts when you’ve arrived at the destination!
It’d be like driving to Disney World and parking the car at the green highway sign with the white text of “DISNEY WORLD” and the white arrow pointing to the off ramp. Imagine parking your car there, taking a selfie with the family, and then driving home, telling everyone you’d been to Disney World!
The destination is always better than the sign post.
Heaven Is Not a Perpetual Fast
Some might disagree! But the reason for the disagreement is because we’ve been worshiping the sign post for far too long and we simply don’t have the full experience of the real thing yet. In talking of the perspective that heaven would be a “perpetual fast” from sex in the minds of some, C.S. Lewis had this to say:
“…or else of a perpetual fast. As regards the fast, I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure, should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer no, he might regard absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their carnal raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it.
We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it.”
A boy can’t understand if you try to tell him sex is the highest bodily pleasure, because he is convinced chocolate is and isn’t ready to understand sex. We can’t understand that pure intimacy with God in his direct presence is what makes heaven, Heaven, not that it’s some me-centered place where we eat Bons Bons on the beach, while watching Netflix, and of course, having sex. Nor can we fully grasp that intimacy with God is better than sex, both now and for all eternity. But the truth remains, which we are exhorted to believe and live by.
This is fantastic news. We worship sex on earth, but it’s also our place of deepest longing and brokenness. A single person feels unloved because they don’t have a sexual partner. A married person goes to pornography, an affair, or fantasy, because the sexual partner they do have isn’t satisfying them.
The Answer to Our Longing for Sex
The answer to our longing for sex is not sex! It’s intimacy with Jesus. We get to experience this intimacy on earth. This unconditional love where God adopts us as his sons and daughters and is well-pleased with us and we are fully accepted into his arms because of what Jesus did on the cross for us. But imagine this experience in a fully direct, physical way. Wow! That is heaven.
This gives us reason to not worship sex and it also reminds us we don’t need sex. Whether we experience the sign post or not is somewhat irrelevant. What is relevant is that we take God at his word that the destination will be much better, attuning all of our navigational tools toward that destination, not any metaphor, imitation, or sign post along the way.
THE APOSTLE PAUL: HIS SECRET TO FIGHTING SEXUAL SIN
Hugh Hefner didn’t invent sexual sin. It is a problem that has been around since our ancestors walked east of Eden, and it will be around until the new Jerusalem descends upon us. The good news is that the Bible promises that we can experience foretastes of that coming freedom in the here and now. But how?
The Apostle Paul commands the Christians at Colossae, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). But how do we do this? If we rip this verse away from the letter, we’re likely to apply it the wrong way, so we need to look closely to understand what Paul is talking about.
1. Fighting Sexual Sin Is Not About “Do More,
philosophy was circulating in the church at Colossae that was championing asceticism:
if you want to remain pure, then separate yourself from the
pleasures of the body that are so often a source of temptation. This philosophy
said if you really want the fullness of divine life within you, then insulate your
But Paul delivers a
crushing blow to this philosophy:
If with Christ you died
to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the
world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not
touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to
human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in
promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they
are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)
No value. That
is Paul’s verdict on asceticism. It simply doesn’t work. Yes, there is a grain
of truth in the philosophy—all popular philosophies contain at least some wisdom
in them. If you are tempted to sin sexually then it makes sense to get away
from sexual temptations. This will keep sin at bay—but ultimately the flesh
This false philosophy is
still circulating in the church today. When the best advice we can give
people is better Internet filters, cold showers, more hours in prayer, and
trying harder, we have given into this philosophy that Paul says is of no
This false philosophy
either totally underestimates the power of sin, or it sets the benchmark of
holiness too low. It either doesn’t get just how ingrained sexual sin is
in us, or it thinks that merely getting rid of outward, blatant sexual sin
is the goal. Neither is accurate.
2. Fighting Sexual Sin Starts with a New Identity
Paul offers his readers
another approach to fighting sin, and it starts with these core identity
“With Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world” (2:20)
“You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (3:3)
“You have been raised with Christ” (3:1)
“You were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (2:12)
“You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self” (3:9-10)
“The riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27)
This is where a lot of
modern readers check out. “Don’t give me these abstract theological ideas. I
need something practical,” they think. But for Paul, there was nothing more
practical, nothing more life-changing, than these ideas.
We are united to the
risen Christ by faith. His resurrection life flows in our veins now. The Spirit
of the living Christ lives inside us, so we no longer belong to this world
and the rules it plays by—we belong to Christ and the age to come. In
order to have the power to fight lust, we first have to understand this: we no longer belong to sin. We
belong to God who has accepted us and forgiven us, not because we purified
ourselves first, but because we are united by faith to the Pure One, Jesus
In order to fight lust,
we must understand that we no longer belong to lust.
3. Fighting Sexual Sin Continues by Kindling New
Knowing we are united to
the living Christ, Paul writes, “Seek the things that are above, where Christ
is, seated at the right hand of God.Set your minds on things
that are above, not on things that are on earth” (3:1-2). The terms Paul
uses here mean to center one’s interests,
focus, and passions on something—to savor something. Now
that God has united us to the risen Christ, we savor that
reality, and this kindles new desires in us that displace a desire for sin.
What are these “things”
above that we should savor?
First, we are to savor Christ himself. This is one of the reasons why Paul spills a lot of ink in this letter describing who Christ is. He is the beloved Son of God (1:13), the image of the invisible God (1:15), creator and sustainer of all things (1:16-17), the one whose blood reconciles us to the Father (1:20), the firstborn from the dead (1:18), and the one seated at God’s right hand (3:1). In him all the riches of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (2:3). The fullness of deity dwells in Him (1:19; 2:9).
Second, we are to savor our new position before God. Christ is seated at God’s right hand and we are seated with Him (Ephesians 2:6). To be seated at a ruler’s right hand meant to be in the position of greatest authority, honor, and delight. Because Christ is in us, we share in the favor He has with the Father.
Third, we are to savor the hope that someday we will see and experience these realities. Someday, Christ Himself will appear and we will appear with Him in glory (1:4). It is our destiny to be like the holy, pure Son of God. Someday our eyes will see the one who died for us and rose again, the one who is God in the flesh, and God will honor us as his royal children before every creature, every human soul, every angelic being in the universe.
How does this practically
help us to fight sexual sin? The reason why sexual sin can have such a
grip on us is because of its power to define us and what is most
valuable, how sexual pleasure makes us feel about ourselves. Sexual
fantasy, pornography, or pursuing illicit sex makes us feel desired; it makes
us feel valued and validated; it gives us a refuge; it gives us connection; it
can even make us feel powerful. This is why setting our affections on things
above is so important: it gives us a new center to our lives and gives us a
completely new sense of value—not based in our worthiness but based on the love
God has for Christ that overflows to us.
4. Fighting Sexual Sin Is About Fighting For Our
Finally we come to
Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in
you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness,
which is idolatry.”
Paul here is not
endorsing asceticism—something he has already refuted. Asceticism is
about fighting to get rid of something we think is unholy, but
mortifying sin is about fighting for the new affections that
God is giving to us.
We can construct helpful boundaries
in our lives that keeps sexual sin out of reach, but we should do so standing
on our identity as God’s beloved children, standing satisfied in Christ and
God’s love. When sexual temptation comes knocking, we can say to it, “No, sin.
That’s not who I am anymore. You do not define what life is to me anymore. You
do not define me anymore. Christ is in me. I am a child of the king, and one
day the whole world will know it.”
5. Fighting Sexual Sin Is Sustained by Relationships that
Remind Us of Our New Identity
“Let the word of Christ
dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts
to God” (Colossians 3:16).
This is the essence of
real accountability in the body of Christ. Yes, accountability involves
confessing our temptations, sins, and the state of our heart, but it also
involves godly encouragement. Accountability is not just about someone
calling you out on your sin, but someone calling you up to
the person you already are in Christ. Accountability is about
surrounding yourself with the kind of Christian friendships that teach and
admonish you, that inspire thankfulness, and that help us unpack all the
wisdom contained in the great mystery that Paul called “Christ in us, the hope
of glory” (1:27).
Accountability is like
stoking the embers of the fire. It does not add energy to the embers. It only
exposes those embers to the air so new reactions can happen. When we engage
in the disciplines of confession, encouragement, and mutual
prayer we expose our souls again to the life-changing gospel,
and God’s power is released again and again.
The “Lust Trap” can reel you in anytime, anywhere. Its strong pull brings you in like a sci-fi tractor beam. The graphic imagery of Proverbs 7 describes it like an ox going to slaughter, a deer walking into a noose, or a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.
Most of us can relate to these metaphors. One moment you are minding your own business, the next you are caught up in an insidious trap, too late to be able to do anything about it.
The Lust Trap is a web of lies. Lies that we believe. Lies that make promises that never deliver.
Lie: This man or woman will make me feel whole and valuable.
The biggest lie that men and women fall into with the Lust Trap is thinking they will find wholeness and a lasting feeling of value from their lust. We typically think of full-blown affairs as the end result of chasing this lie. You think this person will make you feel whole and valuable, so you leave everything else and make your dream a reality.
But upon closer inspection, the dream, the pornography, lustful gazes, and mental fantasies all spring from the same breeding ground.
Try to zoom out from yourself for a moment. Picture the last situation you were in when you got sucked in by lust and observe yourself from an out-of-body sort of perspective. What is going on in your soul? What is going on in your deepest desires?
Some will argue that there are no deeper desires. They just desire the body parts and the physical feeling that lust brings. But I can almost guarantee that your lust, whether it was pornography or just a mental thought, was related to seduction. He or she had a seductive look, a suggestive pose or manner about them. Or, that’s what you were wishing for or picturing when you gazed upon this person.
If body parts are the engine of lust, then seduction and suggestion are the gas and oil.
The driving desire behind almost all fantasies is the desire to be desired—the want to be wanted.
We have a gaping hole in our soul that spews out feelings of inadequacy, failure, rejection, and so on. This hole was put there by our dads, our moms, the guys and girls we liked who rejected us, abusers, ex-husbands or wives, and any litany of harsh words and messages throughout life.
Some of this hole is there as the automatic byproduct of living in a culture that constantly exposes us to the top .01% of “beautiful” people in advertisements, movies, music, and television, and then tells us that we are failures if we don’t look exactly like them (and of course, if you buy the product they’re advertising, you will become just like them).
The hole in every person’s soul is unique from the next, but we all have it. And we all seek to fill it up. There are many ways to try to fill up this hole that are not sexual, but they all share a common characteristic: we need to prove our value.
Money, your job, your reputation, your popularity, your accomplishments, your family, your possessions, your physiological feeling of comfort, and your latest three posts on Facebook all make excellent attempts to fill the value-void we carry around.
I am valuable!
I am important!
None of it is ever enough.
Life becomes a constant sprint on the hamster wheel of trying to prove these things.
While drugs give a high feeling that numbs the pain, sex gives a high feeling that includes human embrace and acceptance, something no drug can offer. It’s no wonder we chase sex with such abandon. But we all know the harsh reality: the brief feeling of value and acceptance that sex gives us quickly fades away, just like the high from a drug.
There are two options at this point. You can either do more and stronger drugs, or you can reject the lie and embrace the truth. I beg you to choose the latter.
Truth: I am whole and valuable as God’s beloved son or daughter.
When you feel the Lust Trap pulling you in, identify what it is you are really after. It’s not the temporary hit of endorphins, it’s the deeper state of wholeness, acceptance, approval, value, comfort, etc. (add your own words that fit you best).
Saying “no” to lust isn’t enough; we have to say “yes” to something else. We can’t just stop the tractor beam. We have to turn and run into the arms of someone else.
That someone else is Jesus. And I don’t mean the Sunday school, pixie dust Jesus, or even the Jesus that merely gets you into heaven. Not that’s a small thing, but it really only scratches the surface of all we have in Jesus and the healing he longs to bring to our day-to-day aching, lonely, distracted souls.
If you have put your faith in Jesus, Romans 8:15-17 tells you that you are a child, a son or daughter, of God. It also tells you that you are an heir of God and a co-heir with Christ. What Jesus gets from the Father, you get. Romans 8:4 and Colossians 1:22 tell you that when God sees you, he sees perfection, because of what Jesus accomplished on your behalf.
He doesn’t say, “You don’t measure up.” He says, “I love you so much, and I am so pleased with you.” The Father spoke to Jesus in Matthew 3:16-17 and said, “This is my son, whom I love, whom I am so pleased with.”
Because Jesus paid for your sins on the cross, making you a new creation, you are now a co-heir with Jesus. You get these same words from our same Father. You are my son. You are my daughter. Who I love. Who I am so pleased with.
This is what the Father thinks of you. Any other voices you hear are lies.
This is our healing truth. This is the embrace we run to when the Lust Trap comes knocking. This is real, compared to what the Lust Trap can only cheaply imitate.
Your healing wholeness is found in knowing these truths and reminding yourself of them over and over again. Write them down over and over again. Pray them over and over again. Read them in Scripture over and over again. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak them into your heart over and over again.
This wholeness is also found in being in community with others who affirm this truth about who you are. People who accept you and love you as a beloved son or daughter, the way the Father sees you. Not as someone mired by shame who doesn’t measure up. God designed the Church to be his hands and feet, his very body on earth (1 Corinthians 12).
I’m not going to tell you that church small groups are perfect, but they are a starting point. Look at the brothers and sisters in Christ that God has put into your life and pray and ask God which ones you can go deeper with. Then take the risk and go deeper.
The Lust Trap is a never-ending spigot of lies, and thankfully our God is a never-ending fountain of truth. Reorient your whole life around running toward him and his truth.