Friday, June 22, 2012

Battle Plan for Lust and Pornography

There are no easy answers in the battle with pornography. There is hardly a man around who is not been exposed to it. Many men have been addicted to it for extended periods of time. It has also become a much bigger problem among females over the last decade. The marriage bed is often compromised because of it. For pastors, it is one of the dominant themes of our ministries. It does not go away.  If it is not being addressed regularly that is not because it is not there, but rather because it is being ignored. 

As a pastor, one the questions I ask the men in my church is, "Are you looking at pornography/sexually provocative materially?"  If they say, "Yes." I pester them until I get a good idea of how much and how often they look at it.  Then I develop with them a plan to fight against it. Pornography and lust die hard deaths, but by the Spirit and the Word, they can die. Here are some of the things I tell the men at my church to do to battle lust and pornography.  There are other things I say and not all of these points are equally effective for all  men. But they do get them going down the right road. They are not in any particular order. 

a.   Memorize verses to renew your mind.  I encourage memorizing two types of verses. First, memorize what I call practical verses, such as II Timothy 2:22, "Flee youthful lusts, etc." Second memorize verses that call to mind the glory of Christ and his work. I call these doctrinal verses.  Anything from Ephesians 1 or 2 would do. These two types of verses remind you of what you are to do and who you serve and have been saved by. 

b.   Pray frequently, especially before entering tempting situations. Prayer reminds you that God exists and will help you and it fixes your mind on the battle ahead. I know for many men the work environment is one of the worst situations, as women often dress immodestly. I would encourage regular prayer before and during the work day. 

c.   Remember that your sins are truly forgiven in Christ. He does not forgive partially. He does not forgive based on you overcoming your sin. He forgives abundantly and completely and frequently. This great truth will keep you from despair as you fight. 

d.   Pornography is about worship. Learning to worship God is a key to overcoming pornography. Worship drives who we are. Sunday worship is one of the greatest tools God uses to drive out our idols. Let the songs, prayers, preaching, and fellowship all reshape you. It is a mystery how all this happens, but if you throw yourself into the Lord’s day and expect him to meet you there, you will be changed.

e.    Pornography is about desire. We must not just fight porn, but we must replace our desires for what is evil with our desires for what is good. We must learn to want what is righteous. This is probably the most difficult of all tasks. We look at porn or lust after women because we want to. We must learn to not want it.

f.     Expect the battle to be long and difficult and remember the battle lies primarily in your heart. When our hearts are loving God then any temptation can be defeated. Do not blame the women or the computer or the culture. They are not the reason you sin. 

g.    Avoid situations that you know will be tempting. Working late with no one around. Going to places where you know immodestly dressed women will be.  Spending hours on the internet unsupervised.  You know the situations where you fall. Find ways to avoid them. 

h.   Remember idleness leads to sin. Use your time wisely and productively and you will avoid a lot tempting circumstances.

i.    Try to diagnose the starting point where lust begins to take control of your heart. Often watching pornography is the last stop on a long path that we started down a while back. It is a lot easier to get off the path early rather than late. This was helpful for me as I fought against porn.  I found that usually when I ended up watching pornography I had allowed an earlier lustful thought to take root in my heart. I then nurtured this thought until it led me to want more. If I drove the thought out early I found that porn was not as great a temptation.

j.    Use the verses you have memorized. It does no good to memorize verses, but not use them.

k.   Keep a high level of accountability, especially as you first begin to battle pornography. Call before going into a tempting situation. I especially encourage calling elders because they can hold you genuinely accountable. They will give you real consequences if you continue to sin. Be completely truthful with those who hold you accountable. They cannot help you if you lie. 

l.     Expect temptation to come and often it will come from odd places. You may decide to avoid running at the gym because of all the women in sports bras. But then you end up standing in line behind a barely clothed woman at Wal-Mart. We must be ready to fight at all times.  A great verse for this is I Peter 5:8, "Be sober, be watchful."  When I struggled with porn, my greatest failures came when I let my guard down. 

k.   Remember the difference between temptation and sin.  Merely seeing a beautiful woman in immodest clothing is not a violation of Matthew 5:28.  Thinking about viewing pornography is not the same as watching it. I will admit at times this line is blurry especially since we are poor judges of our own hearts.  But there is a difference. 

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Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8