A Pastor's View on the Pursuit of Purity

"I don’t know what to do! Mary’s left me. She says our marriage is over."

Rob was desperate. His secret sin of pornography had become public in his home. Mary had discovered the Web sites Rob visited on their computer and she confronted him. He confessed to being involved in "harmless voyeurism." Mary knew it was not harmless. She hardly recognized the godly man she once knew.

The change in Rob began to show itself in bed. At first, he would drop hints about wanting Mary to dress more seductively. Later he become overt in his sexual demands. Before discovering the videos and Web sites, Mary had no explanation for the changes she saw in her husband.

After a heated argument, she left him. She was determined to spare her daughters from the nightmare that pornography creates in the lives of its victims. Rob, a Christian and a leader in our church, ended up in our office.

"I don’t know what to do," he lamented as tears streamed down his cheeks.

Unfortunately, Rob represents a growing number of Christian men who struggle with pornography. The fear of being caught visiting an adult bookstore or an X-rated movie used to keep many men from becoming involved in pornography. With the prevalence and easy access of videos and Web sites, men can now indulge their lusts without ever leaving home.

As a pastor, I believe pornography is rapidly becoming the biggest problem faced by Christian men. Even though God never wastes a hurt, many of our hurts are self-inflicted through impurity and immorality.

Conversations with hundreds of men struggling with this malady have convinced me that our only workable solutions are found in the Bible. Moved by Rob’s dilemma, I began a series on what the Bible teaches about avoiding the pitfalls of pornography and remaining pure.

Rob needs to first go public. Pornography fosters a lifestyle of secrets and deception. If Rob has any hope, it begins with full disclosure. He must see pornography as sin and admit his fascination with it. Minimizing this behavior as anything less than sin is a mistake.

Going public involves confession to God and family members. God will forgive and cleanse (I John 1:9-10). Immediate family will become a source of encouragement and accountability. "Going public" means telling several others who can come alongside and be enlisted in the solution.

Rob also needs to become proactive. Men involved in this sin often describe themselves as victims rather than voluntary participants in sinful behavior. They want to be freed from pornography, but expect God or someone else to do the hard work. They pray and then blame God for not removing the problem.

There is no question that a person who's struggling with pornography needs to pray and enlist God’s power. They also need to be involved in taking the medicine that promotes well-being in the life of the Christian: time in the Word and prayer, fellowship in a local church, and ministry involvement. But there is much more they need to do in being proactive.

They need to run. The apostle Paul implores the believers in Corinth to "flee immorality" and Timothy to flee youthful desires (1 Corinthians 6:18 and 2 Timothy 6:18). This advice runs contrary to the common belief that maturity is associated with being able to resist greater sexual temptation. Paul suggests that mature people know when to run. No person subjected to pornography remains unaffected. Run!

Rob needs to get serious about living the Bible. The apostle Peter asserts that a person who is actively adding goodness (moral excellence), knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love to their life will "never fall" (2 Peter 1:5-11). Rob had quit adding these qualities to his life.

God expects us to be involved in the pursuit of purity. This is Paul’s point in 2 Timothy 2:20-21. We have the choice of being a “vessel” for either noble or ignoble purposes. Impurity is only a permanent state and pattern we choose for it to be so. The process of moving from one state to the other involves obedience to the truth. When we begin obeying the truth we know, we engage the power of the Holy Spirit to give us success.

Over time and with a lot of hard work, prayer and accountability, Rob became pure again. He has discovered that when he pleases God, he is free from immorality. Mary and the girls like the new Rob much better. Rob does, too.

Five Ways the Bible Promotes Purity

  1. It purifies (1 Peter 2:1; John 17:17).
  2. It gets to the source of the problem (Hebrews 4:12-13).
  3. It is our source of equipping (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  4. It promotes approval (2 Timothy 2:15).
  5. It illuminates the way (Psalms 119:105).

Five Myths About Pornography

  1. It's just harmless fun. ("I'm not hurting anyone.")
  2. It only affects me.
  3. I can control it.
  4. Prayer will rid me of it. ("Breaking free is God's responsibility, not mine.")
  5. I will never again be clean enough to be used by God.
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