It’s no secret that before I surrendered my life to Christ, I consumed a lot of porn. Even a year or so afterward. Never did I imagine I’d go from wanting free porn to desiring “porn free”. Until Jesus. Today, 14 years clean (by grace), I rely on Him to daily tear down and fend off images in my mind that I wish I could “unthink” and I meet with men regularly to talk them off the ledge of porn addiction. If you struggle with it or just haven’t made up your mind yet that it’s not healthy for you, let me start here:
I’m not here to judge you. AND… I want better for you, even if you don’t see porn free as “better”.
Porn’s far more accessible and how it’s defined is far more a “Grey” area than ever. It’s headed for the big screen again. So, I’m back after a long blogging absence to point to a few matters of great cultural significance that must be examined through a biblical worldview. After all, we’re all discipled by something.
God calls us to train ourselves in righteousness. A boss may teach us to walk in their footsteps so we can take over the division or organization when they retire. In both cases, it’s got a name: grooming. Grooming is a strategic training process implemented by degrees. Just ask any judge who’s had to preside over a pedophelia trial. Perpetrators groom their victims. Of any story we must ask: “for what is the author grooming the audience?” Love? Or, a new version of love?
What Is Love?
Porn is not love. But, love is under attack: we love tacos, Coca-Cola, that smartphone, those shoes. We love… too easily and out of a weak definition. In embracing the cheapened, modern usage of “love”, we lose the value of love. Speaking of “value”, if you typed Command-H and replaced every instance of the word “love” in your Bible with the word “value”, do you realize how little meaning would be lost?
“God so valued the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)”
Love is not an emotion and it’s not an event. It’s an expression of value. I stole my working definition of love straight from Voddie Baucham – “Love is an act of the will, accompanied by emotion, which leads to action on behalf of its object.” We love tacos, Coke, that phone, and those shoes because of what they do for us. But, that’s not God’s way: “God loved… [so]… God gave”. Love – true, crazy, sacrificial agape love – is about what we can do for others, not what we get from them.
Baby, Don’t Hurt Me… No More
Naturally, you can understand my outrage regarding the worldwide popularity and excitement surrounding the 50 Shades book and upcoming movie release, right? When we reduce love down to merely a highly sexual relationship, the participants become a commodity (especially when expressed through bondage and sadomasochism ala FSoG) and we miss out on God’s design for love. The economic reality is that every time we “vote” for a book or a movie like this one – and every dollar is a vote – we tell the people who created it “We approve! Make more!” What gets rewarded gets repeated (see article below for the “inside” scoop on “9 Things You Should Know…”). Why are we participating in it… investing in it… rewarding it?
What’s worse, this story is shaping what we believe is “OK” to be on the shelf, on the screen, in our hearts… And, in so doing, it promotes the rape myth and the culture of objectification and enslavement that Jesus came to free us from. In God’s economy, we are not objects. We are the image bearers of our Creator. Let’s not relegate others to any lesser status… God has better in mind for all of us… a clean slate…
Now, What You Came Here For:
Today, I want to share with you two three excellent articles on the Fifty Shades topic, again from a biblical worldview. Also, a supplemental article on the neurology behind pornography. Last, a little from Paul David Tripp on what love is all about from God’s point of view. I hope you are edified, perhaps corrected, and encouraged by them and pass them on to those who God impresses on your hearts.
My son, Jezreel, walking in my sneakers. Who’s walking in your footsteps? Watch your step…
This week, Jesse Whitfield is opening a discussion for men who dare show up at ONETH1NG, about “Battle Scars”. As these unique men carry on the next installment of a discussion series called “The War Within”, light has been shined on the fact that this is a weak point in a man’s armor and he dare not let his guard down in that area. As guys have opened up, many of us have come to grips with the ugly truth about porn – most guys have a past, a past they’d like to see stay exactly there. More sobering, regardless of the fact that we are new creations in Christ, as the Metallica song goes “the memory remains”.
Many of the men have walked away from these discussions wildly encouraged by the power realized in them through the Holy Spirit and deeply edified by the knowledge that not only has “no temptation seized [them] but that which is common to man”, but also that God provides a “way out” and “battle buddies” who can help them to win every skirmish and ambush they face. Great news – this week, Jesse will talk about what to do with the pernicious memories that remain and maintaining moral purity at the core of a pornified culture that baits us to the edge. But, is this the end or just a means to an end?
Wives’ note: you want your husband to be here. You need him to be here for the sake of his victory in this battle, your marriage’s longevity, and your sacred honor. Shy of that, you’re wise to encourage him to stay in close, regular contact with guys who can lock arms with him and watch his back and blind spot.
“Practical life application” is a major buzzword among churches and Christians who strive to be “relevant”. This discussion has been, by that definition, very relevant. But, one of the dangers that necessarily creeps in when that brand of Christianity stays “in the zone” for too long is an overemphasis on personal performance, rather than a focus on the sufficiency of Christ. That is, too much time spent on what the Christian does at the expense of what the Christ has done. Worse, when it stops at “my behavior” instead of “testimony of God’s work in my life to and for others” it falls far short of the reason Christ suffered and died for us all.
As the setup goes for this week’s ONETH1NG: “What is at stake when we allow our past to creep into our present/future?” Further – who’s future is at stake? What is the impact of porn being so “normalized” in our culture on the next generation? Who is God discipling through your obedience?
I hope you get a chance to join our discussion or join in at ONE TH1NG or with Seasons of Life as we walk with men and women just like you to “realign lives with the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Jesus Christ.”
As you read this, you’re either thinking – “Okay, Holy Roller, come down off your high horse and quit being so judgmental.” or “Amen!” Alright, there’s a secret society of you that are also responding “Yeah, that’s right… [followed by] I hope he’s not talking about me because if people knew what I do when no one’s around…” If you’re in that third category I pray that this post prompts you to action, because you are afraid. You are a coward.
Some Love for my Fellow Cowards
Today, I’m typing this as a guy who – by the grace of God alone – celebrates 10 years of sobriety from pornography this fall. “Sobriety”, because I was hooked. “Sobriety”, because all of my best efforts to turn away from consuming my Consumer failed. “Sobriety” because I nearly crashed my car a few times because I was daydreaming about when I would get my next “fix”.
Only when I acknowledged my own depravity and separateness from God, embraced my Savior and received the gift of the Holy Spirit could I set down The Ring of Great Power that had become so prrrrrecious to me, yet weighed me down, drained my resources, and delivered nothing but a momentary high followed by a “continual lust for more (Eph. 4.19)”. This was clearly a supernatural occurrence.
His-story No More Mys-stery
To illustrate my point on cowardice, allow me to refer to the guy who helped me wrap my head around my own cowardice. Casey Sanders has been a discipler of men for nearly 15 years now. He’s been married for over 25 years to the same woman. But, he hasn’t always been faithful to her. Years ago, he obeyed scripture and went public with his “habit” after confessing to his wife that he’d spent a decade watching porn in hotel rooms while away on business trips. Scripture teaches “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them (Eph. 5.11).”
“Coming out” about porn was cathartic obedience and evidence of true repentance, but only the beginning of the journey. As he told his story to the guys from Men Step Up Gwinett:
“As I traveled and made watching raunchy movies and self gratification my habit, I believed that what I was doing was not as bad as other guys who were actually sleeping with women outside of marriage. At times, I even thought my actions were a safeguard from doing something physical with someone else.”
When he finally made this confession to his wife, it led to a much longer interrogation, where out of repentance, he answered with full honesty for the first time.
“She kept asking and I kept answering. At one point she said, ‘I wish you had gone ahead and had a physical affair. What you did was Coward’s Adultery!’ ” Moral of the story: the measure of a man’s bravery is the price he’s willing to pay for the things his heart is set on.
Count the Cost, Measure the Man
As he told me the story, I could argue with him no more than he argued with her that night. If I were really brave, I’d have pursued a real, live woman that would consent to sex at the cost of romance and perhaps even commitment. If I were brave and godly, I’d have pursued a real, godly woman that would consent to sex only at the cost of a lifetime covenant of marriage as God details it and commands it in His word. Instead, I jumped over far lower hurdles that demanded little bravery, boldness, and self-sacrifice than obedience would require [and reward].
Over the years, I’ve been greatly encouraged by God Himself [via the Holy Spirit], truth from His word, and the testimonies of repentant and bold men who have shared the trials God has brought them through on the battlefield of lust. This Friday morning (6:30AM sharp), my friend Michael Leahy will very briefly share his story [at ONE TH1NG, at the Cabernet Steakhouse on Windward and GA-400] with about 100 men with the bravest of hearts who are willing to think out loud about the truth and lies surrounding “The War Within”.
I’ve also posted regarding my interview with Michael here on our blog today. I also encourage you, as you explore this issue to watch Andy Stanley’s second message in the “New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating” series, linked in that article. Bottom line, we all give our lives to something. It’s time we start doing the difficult stuff instead of settling for the easy fixes. God rewards obedience. Sometimes in the earthly realm, but more importantly in eternity. Consider what price you’re willing to pay as you “take up [your] cross and follow [Him]”.
Michael Leahy’s story is easily Googleable (look, I invented a new form of the verb “Google”). Look it up or watch some of these clips on Vimeo. I won’t go far into his story for purposes of brevity. The short version is this: because of his addiction to pornography decades ago, he lost his job as a very successful software sales exec, his marriage, the respect (and relationship with, for a time) of his kids. Today, he stands as a man restored by God, often on a stage in front of hundreds, if not thousands, of college students, many of which come out to see veteran porn actor Ron Jeremy debate with him.
He has been featured on 20/20, The View, Fox, Good Morning America, and a whole lot of college campuses, which his ministry “Bravehearts” spends a lot of time and attention raising the awareness of students to the dangers presented by the initial, short term, and even long term use of porn. I’m grateful to know Michael and to call him a friend. I had an opportunity to talk with Michael about my past addiction to porn several years ago when I was only a few years “clean and sober” of it. If you’ve watched his material at any of his events, you may even see his interview with me. Today, I want to return the favor, because if I’ve been meeting with you for discipleship or you’ve been meeting with my wife, Michael has had an indirect impact on our conversation(s). Tomorrow morning (Friday, 02.03.2012) he will give a 20 minute opener to about 100 men as a setup for “microgroup” discussion about porn, lust, and the truth of God’s word. Men will have an opportunity to explore deeply challenging questions and confront clear-cut truths of scripture. “…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8.32)” Pray many of these men walk away even more free.
Andy Stanley on Porn
I had a chance to catch up with Michael this summer as local pastor Andy Stanley was presenting a series called “New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating”. While it wasn’t a deep exegesis of scripture, Andy does have a way of really “teasing out” the practical applications of the truth of God’s word. For this reason, I recommend the series (specifically, part 2 – “Gentlemen’s Club”) as a great teaching aid when it comes to biblical worldview regarding lust, porn, and what God has to say about the current hyper-sexualized climate of our culture.
While Andy is well known for his ability to simplify the complex, Michael, too brought porn down to the simplest terms. “I start out with just the basic dictionary definition for porn: ‘Any material created for the purpose of arousing you sexually’.” From there, he states, “But, when expanded, that means photo, video, writing, sexting, chat, conversation, and what I wore to school today. It can also mean the conversation with the girl in line in front of me at Starbuck’s – am I being suggestive in my innuendos just feeling her out to see what she’ll say?”
So, What’s the Problem. I’m Just Looking…
Almost every problem we face in this world can be traced back to a lie we once believed. “But, when you’re exposed to porn, especially repeatedly, you’re learning a new belief system”, says Leahy. Pornography is a discipleship – you’re being taught that sex is a commodity, “dehumanizes men – that men are just to be pleased, women are just for pleasure, and, it’s all about getting off”.
For years, prior to my acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior I heard the term “dehumanizing” and denied it tooth and nail. You may have just completely tuned out when I said that term, too. If you did, I respect your choice, but I have a question for you that Michael shared with me in our interview:
“[When you watch pornography] you are not holding a woman in awe for anything more than her sexuality. When’s the last time you did that for something other than her sexuality, Mother Theresa?” – Michael Leahy
When the answer is “no” it’s bold evidence of dehumanization – reducing a person to something far less than their humanity. Does porn encourage you to consider the needs of the performer(s)? Does it spur you on to “love them as Christ loved the church and laid himself down for her to make her holy”? Are we tracking?
If you’re living with porn as your secret or you think it’s okay, my first question is “do you love Jesus and trust Him as your Lord and Savior” or are you counting on the popular belief that without Jesus you’ll get into heaven because you’re “good enough and God should just let you in or it’s unfair”. If you answered “a) Lord & Savior” then you’ve got a different question to wrestle with – “How are you dealing with the voice of the Holy Spirit when he tells you to leave the porn alone?” Second question: “what men are walking close enough to you to help you when you ignore the voice of the Spirit of God that is in you?” Call Michael. Call me. Call my wife.
Get discipled in the truth. Yesterday.
If you’re not a “Lord and Savior” guy, watch Andy’s series (especially part 2) for an understanding of what God has to say about women, their worth, and how He views them and then read the book of John, the book of Romans, confess Christ as your Lord, receive the Holy Spirit, and live by His power. Without His power I, too, would still have hooks deep in my life from pornography. Praise God for freedom in Christ.
I have met with no less than two dozen men who have gotten honest with me about the impact of pornography in their lives. It. Is. Devastating. Sneaky, but devastating. Andy Stanley hits it on the head in one of his messages and I hope this truth sinks in like an anchor in your discipleship of the people around you:
“Every time you sit down and entertain yourself with pictures of naked women, you’re at school. And, in this particular school you’re learning three very important lessons:
1. A real body isn’t good enough.
2. One body isn’t good enough.
3. Your wife’s body isn’t good enough.”
– Andy Stanley
Michael Leahy and Bravehearts Ministries works closely with one of the largest evangelistic college ministries in the country and shared with me some of the most difficult reality slapping I’d heard in a long time. I asked him “how did porn impact your ability to function in your spiritual gifts?” Leahy: “One of the most noticed things about people who struggle with that sin is forgiving themselves. You beat yourself up because you sinned against you. For me, it had a huge impact and barrier to my relationship w/ God. The average rational human being knows when they’re doing right & wrong, and the strength of my recovery is in direct proportion to my intimacy to God. I’m susceptible to sexual temptation when I’m out of fellowship w Him. That’s what sexual sin does. I literally remember praying to God with a gun in my mouth – ‘teach me how to pray again’.
[More poignantly,] porn keeps totally qualified leaders on the sidelines [in college ministry]. The dirty little secret of college ministry is that 80-90% of guys who apply for staff or go on mission trips are disqualified because of this issue. If you were an HR mgr and you had to disqualify 80-90% of your workforce that you want to promote, how big a problem would that be? The top 10 ministries (groups of hundreds of students) have evaporated in a year because these guys witnesses has been so badly damaged by porn. Is it a ministry of Christ followers or a Christian club of “friends with benefits”? [It can make us] impotent in our power for God.
So, think about it. Talk about it. Pray about it. And, listen/obey the Spirit of God. Then decide “what (more importantly who) do you want to give your life to?” Anyone can find something worth living for. Are you willing to find something worth dying for? Would that someone be willing to die for you?
Dr. Albert Mohler recently made one of my favorite new statements in his article on the controversy surrounding MTV’s Skins.
David Carr… suggests, plausibly enough, that MTV executives did not “set out to make child pornography,” but they clearly did not set out not to make child pornography, either.
I’ve always enjoyed Dennis Prager’s maxim – “Clarity is more important than agreement.” Dr. Mohler makes his point without disagreeing. Rather, he clarifies the argument – just because you didn’t mean to do something doesn’t mean you didn’t do it. There’s a drunk driving ad from Australia where a guy in a bloodied shirt walks through an accident scene pointing to a victim being loaded into an ambulance – “See, he’s only a little hurt. She’s only a little grief stricken. She’s only a little dead… I was only a little over the limit.”
Sin is sin. Amen? I don’t know that I even buy Carr’s premise – MTV has always sought to push the limits. Offering something that can easily pass as child porn is merely a logical extreme of the path they’ve been on for the past 30 years.
It’s easy to poo-poo MTV and ride them just because… well, they’re MTV. I’m not going to claim I’m not glued to “Celebrity Rehab” or “Sober House”. Heck, I’m in the counseling/reform/healing business. Nor am I going to knock MTV for pushing the limits of what’s acceptable on TV. That’s too easy a target. What this whole controversy does do, however, is highlight the veracity of Paul’s argument in Romans 1 when he talks about how the gateway to depravity is when our “foolish hearts [are] darkened” as a result of us denying thanks and honor to God. From that point in the chapter, it’s a downward spiral of depravity whereby God hands the depraved over to their own depravity.
Don’t get up on your soapbox yet. Remember who you were before Jesus blinded you with the truth? I do. Hooked on porn, cussing like a sailor, living for me and my agenda. Wish I could say all of that’s changed – at least I’ve been delivered from porn and only cuss on “special” occasions… I didn’t mean to live for my agenda…
There it is again.
Let’s be honest about this – MTV doesn’t need our prayer any less than those of us who create the demand by watching these shows. Can we get serious about praying for real, sincere revival in America? If nobody watches it, it doesn’t stay on the air. The solution is spiritual. The Solution has a name. And, He is interceding for us now.