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by Jacob Ninan
Many Christian men, and some women, struggle with pornography. Their struggle with porn is harder compared to non-Christians because Christians have the painful knowledge in their heart and mind that what they are doing is wrong. Many of them find that in spite of their repeated confession, ardent prayers and frequent resolutions of quitting they actually seem to be getting more entangled in the trap. But even if it appears at the moment to be totally hopeless, there is hope because Jesus the Son of God has come to seek and save sinners (Lk.19:10). When He sets someone free, he will be free completely (Jn.8:36). The battle can be hard and long, and there may be occasional defeats, but there is victory at the end.
The ground reality
In order to learn how to overcome the addictive desire for pornography it is good to understand how our body and mind work in relation to sexual urges. The sexual urge is one of the strongest desires we have been created with. There is nothing inherently sinful about it, as some Christians tend to believe, because God had designed and blessed man and woman with it even before sin came into the world (Ge.1:28,31). Like everything else God has created, what makes it sinful is its misuse outside the boundaries God has set for us. It is also good to realise that within those boundaries (which are meant to protect us from harm) sexual relationship between a husband and wife is the most intimate and pleasurable expression of love between them.
Man, as a 'leader' and 'initiator' in this area, has stronger sexual instints. The flip side of this is that he also gets excited very fast, usually through sight (and also through touch, proximity and imagination), and he needs a lot of self-control to keep himself in check! Women also get stirred up with sexual instincts, comparatively slowly, especially when there is an exciting romantic or emotional background to it.
When these sexual instincts begin to come alive at the time of puberty, children are actually not psychologically ready to assume the roles of father and mother, and the years of adolescence are meant for acquiring a balanced view of this urge along with moral, social and physical boundaries. But what happens many times is that children look for immediate gratification (as in other areas too) and fail to learn a mature outlook on sex. The excessive levels of provocation that are around them push them to give in to instincts rather than to understanding.
It looks as if the whole world is working against the idea of these teenagers learning self-control. Media pours out provocative material in all possible ways to stimulate and entice people into exploring and experimenting with sexual urges. Peer pressure comes in strongly, urging young people not to be 'odd' but to conform to the crowd. Fashions change fast and even good Christian girls and women are dressing up in ways that are indecent and provocative, showing off skin or shape, not realising how they are exciting some base instincts in the men and boys who see them.
Behind all these open ways in which people get tempted is the surreptitious way of pornography that pours fuel on the burning desires in people's minds. Porn has something 'secretive' about it that offers 'stolen' pleasures (Pr.9:17). With the coming of the internet, pornography in the textual and video form is easily available all over the world. Links to porn sites lurk on many other popular sites, and all it takes to enter the world of porn is just a click. Once it is clicked and excitement builds up, curiosity to know 'what else is available' and the need to have more pleasure drive people deeper into that dark world. Then it is like quicksand, and efforts to scramble out do not usually succeed, and one gets hooked to it more and more strongly till it seems there is no escape.
The way sexual urge works
There are two parts to sexual pleasure, physical and mental. Physical pleasure is because of the touch and the ultimate climax (which is nothing but the release of a chemical 'opiate' into the blood stream ordered by the brain which gives a sudden feeling of wellbeing!). The mental pleasure is associated with the thoughts and imaginations concerning the sexual partner. This is why maximum pleasure is really available only when husband and wife are truly in love with each other and express it in the form of sexual relationship. More than the pleasure that comes from erotic thoughts, true love and attachment for the spouse enhance the enjoyment of the act itself.
When a person is sexually excited by sight, touch, thought, etc., the brain assumes that the person is beginning to get ready for a sexual relationship, and it starts to give instructions to the different parts of the body to get ready by releasing chemicals, increasing blood circulation, breathing harder, etc. What also happens is that when these things take place our ability to analyse things and make balanced decisions is diminished, because the brain has other priorities at this time! That is why once we begin to get excited we can end up doing things we wouldn't have wanted to in the beginning. Sexual desire is like a fire that gets ignited very easily and spreads out of control.
What this teaches us is that clearheaded decisions can only be taken before we get excited! This means that if we 'flirt' with this temptation by lingering on some picture or imagination it can quickly become unmanageable! The best way to protect ourselves is by strengthening ourselves with a fortress of attitudes, values and ideas against sexual impurity and perversion, and then to deal with the first provocation at that stage itself.
The character of porn
The first 'attraction' that internet pornography offers is excitement in privacy and anonymity. It presents itself as something that offers us pleasure without any commitment or 'harm' to others. A lot of porn is also offered 'free of cost' (until one gets hooked and starts paying for greater and greater thrills). Many people ask, "So what's wrong if I have some fun by myself?" The answer is that pornography is wrong in itself, and also it finally gets a person into deeper and deeper bondage until it ruins the whole person. Getting into porn is like eating a chocolate covered cookie with poison inside.
Sexual sin is in a class by itself (1Cor.6:18). Sexual sin, particularly homosexuality, was the reason why God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude.7). Sexual sin was one of the sins God hated most in the heathen nations from whom He wanted to isolate Israel (Lev.18:24,25). Please note that this chapter (Lev.18) talks much about 'uncovering the nakedness', to bring out the fact that such crossing or diffusing of sexual boundaries is something God hates or considers an abomination. Isn't pornography all about uncovering nakedness and sex without boundaries?
Knowing how strong the sexual instinct is for man, Satan has made use of it to corrupt mankind in many different ways. Have you considered how immoral and uncontrolled sexual activities have been a part of practically all pagan religions? Satanic worship which is increasingly becoming common nowadays has a strong element of sex in its rituals. It is not difficult to understand how Satan and his demons are active behind the scenes in manipulating the world of fashion, advertisements, fashion, movies and other media in order to distort people's value systems and to popularise sexual perversions. What used to be done in secret and with a sense of shame is nowadays being done openly and boldly. The Bible mentions about people glorying in what should have caused them shame (Php.3:19).
Pornography is a major tool in Satan's hands. Through it he is dragging people into his world of darkness, making them slaves, and ultimately leaving them miserable and frustrated. There are many blatant lies behind his promise of pleasure. "Nothing will happen (Ge.3:4), and nobody will know" are common bluffs he makes to lure people. People who go seeking for this pleasure never get satisfied or find what they are seeking for. The law of diminishing returns is at work, and the more people experience sex, the less exciting it turns out to be! Another part of the lie is to make people imagine that sexual thrill is the ultimate ecstasy (for which they are willing to take any risk or do anything wrong)! People keep thinking that the next attempt (usually more perverse than the earlier one), or a different partner, will give them the ultimate thrill they are looking for. People go from watching 'soft' porn to hard-core porn and then to more and more perverted and violent forms, looking for the pleasure that always seems to be just ahead of them but never actually within reach!
Pornography promotes unnatural and perverted sex. Since the same level of thrill fails to satisfy for long, people are always looking for greater thrills, and this naturally leads to perversion. Things that would have been unthinkable or which would have caused a sense of revulsion for normal people are made to appear to be acceptable and even 'normal'. We can see how the widespread influence of pornography has affected people's approach to sex, even among Christians.
The results of porn
* It distorts and maligns God's design for sexual relationship. Instead of being an intimate expression of love between husband and wife, it becomes a thing to be sought after in itself.
* Pornography usually results in a habit of masturbation (self-abuse) which in many cases also affects one's self-esteem.
* It perverts sexual relationship into abnormal activities supposedly providing greater thrills. In the process it violates moral values and overlooks social and hygienic considerations. As a result family relationships get broken, social chaos develops and sexually transmitted diseases increase.
* For the one who indulges in pornography, people get reduced to mere sex objects, and thus it affects common social interaction.
* People who read/watch pornography tend to spend long periods of time in isolation. This reduces their social skills and general productivity.
* Those who get into pornography have a great risk of getting addicted to it.
* Ones who get addicted also usually end up spending a lot of money on it.
* When sexual satisfaction is no longer satisfactory from porn, people may move on to physical acts.
* Christians who are into pornography face a strong sense of guilt, and become greatly worried about getting caught.
* Indulgence in pornography will ultimately open the door to demonisation (oppression or control by demons from small to great degrees). Once demons gain access to people's life, many other areas of life may also become vulnerable to Satanic attacks. It's not that Christians can get 'possessed' by demons, but when a Christian opens his life to demonic influence, demons get access to those areas of his life that he has opened up (see, e.g., Ep.4:26,27). Demons study us, identify our weaknesses and attack us when we are most vulnerable (they have no ethics or manners!). They send thought after thought into our mind with great subtlety and deception, and also crowd out our mind from thinking about the warnings of God. If we fall, then they will turn around, accuse us, and try to make us believe that there is no hope for us from God. If we have to battle such enemies, we need to strengthen ourselves in the grace of God in every area of life (Jude.20,21).
How to break free
Satan is not going to easily let go of someone who is about to enter or has already entered into his territory. You can be sure that it is not going to be easy to walk away. Satan may even provide some deceptive lulls in his attack before he comes again in unexpected moments and devious ways. Humility, honesty and a sincere desire to break free are required for anyone who wants to come into freedom.
The first step is to recognise that indulging in pornography is a form of sin that is an abomination in God's eyes (Lev.18:24-26). It is good to believe what God says about it, rather than to believe what we may think about it. Like the forbidden fruit appeared to be attractive to Eve and she couldn't understand why God had forbidden it, pornography may appear to offer 'harmless' thrills, but its end is the same 'death' that God warned Adam and Eve about. If it is clear to our mind that pornography is unacceptable in God's eyes in any form, then we will know that this 'option' is not open to us at all.
Secondly we need to be convinced in our mind that if we indulge in pornography (or any other sin for that matter) it is a wrong choice that we make, and we ourselves are responsible for it. We cannot put the blame on demons, our circumstances or anything else. Temptations may come in different ways, but it is we who decide what we will do with them (See Dealing with temptation). As long as we are waiting for circumstances to become different and we do not take steps to get victory, we will be waiting in vain. We are the ones who need to break free, with God's grace.
Thirdly it is good to think deeply about all the possible consequences of yielding to this temptation, so that we will do our best to keep away from it. Overcoming pornography involves acquiring a new mindset, which hates it, which is repulsed by it and which doesn't want to get anywhere near it.
If we have given in to pornography at any time in our life, it is good (and necessary) to repent and to confess it honestly before God. Then we can get forgiveness and cleansing from it (1Jn.1:9). Believe that Jesus has come to save sinners, and that no amount of sin is beyond His ability to forgive. We should also confess (declare) it orally (to make it clear to demons) that God has forgiven and cleansed us and also that we have renounced all further connections with it. This is also the right time to get rid of any material or items we have that are connected with porn so that they will not become points of temptation for us again.
Identify the usual 'route' this temptation takes, how it starts and proceeds from one step to another. Plan steps that we can take in order to stop the progress of the temptation. As we have noted earlier, the further the temptation develops, the less chances we have to be able to stop it. The best way to deal with this temptation is to change our thoughts to some other subject the minute we recognise this temptation. Trying to deal one by one with all the exciting thoughts that come up with the temptation is not going to work because once we get engaged with the subject it will be difficult to back out. All the building up of fortresses against this temptation is best done at other times, in a safe environment away from temptation.
Since the sexual urge is very strong, any addiction or habit related to pornography is usually beyond human capability to overcome even if one may imagine so in the beginning. Also, if the stage has been reached where demons have obtained access to one's life only God can help one to be delivered. Humbling oneself before God, acknowledging one's need for help, and seeking wholeheartedly for God's help are absolutely essential for one to overcome this bondage. Sometimes it may be required to pray with fasting, pray together with another Christian, and if you suspect oppression by demons, to bind and resist them with the authority in Jesus' name (Lk.9:1;10:17) that has been granted to Christians. If you consider yourself unable to do this on your own, you need to get the help of other Christians with such gifts or maturity.
Getting out of addiction
Pornography and the resulting masturbation are physically and mentally addictive. Therefore if one has become used to the thrills over a period of time, the body and mind are also going to show some 'withdrawal symptoms' when one tries to stop. After a period of abstinence the urge to seek thrills is likely to become very strong, with different types of physical and mental pressures. Demons who watch out for these are also quick to put suggestive ideas into the mind in the direction of pursuing greater thrills. It is necessary at such times to seek out safe places where it will not be possible to indulge these desires, e.g. to be out in the public places, and to occupy one's mind with other interests.
Even if the spirit is willing, the 'flesh' will still be weak (Mt.26:41). We need to 'flee' (run away from) possible situations of temptations (2Ti.2:22), not assuming that we will be able to overcome them (1Co.10:12). In practical terms this means to stay away from situations that can lead to temptation. Some examples are avoiding going near the places that sell porn material, staying away from books, magazines, movies and TV programmes that we know contains possible temptations (Mt.5:28-30), avoiding being alone in places where there are opportunities to watch porn, placing the computer screen in such a way that others can see what you are watching, walking away from the place when you are tempted, and occupying your time with other activities such as talking with others, playing games, reading the Bible and other edifying material. The best way to overcome the weakness for porn is to strengthen yourself in every area of your life with God. When God becomes the main attraction in our life, every other attraction will lose its charm.
It helps if you are able to find an accountability partner with whom you can discuss what is happening, who will help you with confidential prayer and advice.
How to stay free
When the time comes when you realise that you have been free for some time, that is a special time for you to be alert. The chances are that you will be tempted to let down your guard thinking that now you have become strong and you can relax. No, you can't relax. If you think it has been a long time since you last fell, and assume that you have finally been freed from this addiction, please remember that one temptation is all that separates you from a fall. This temptation can come from an unexpected side, at a time you don't expect it, and usually at a time when you are weak--physically, spiritually or emotionally. When you feel safe and strong, you may even assume that just one time should be OK to handle. Just as one drink is enough for an ex-alcoholic to throw him down into bondage again, one decision to play around with porn and have that thrill just for old time's sake can be your tripping up to fall again into the pit. Getting back is not going to be that easy.
Only constant vigil can protect you. Do recognise that one you have been caught in this trap and experienced this bondage, you have inherent weaknesses in this area, and any fanning up of the flames of desire can bring up old patterns and snares. Don't even think of going in that direction.
If you fall again
If you fall after all the determination which you made and the extra carefulness you practised don't think that all is lost and that you can't make it to freedom. That is a lie from the Tempter who wants you to sink deeper into bondage. No. The Saviour can set you free. Acknowledge your failure, recognise the mistakes of thinking and judgment which you made, and make a new beginning in all humility and honesty. OK, it may be hard, but bondage is harder. Think of the advantage you have of having become more aware of how you can fall in the future and how you need to be careful.
One common mistake
Sometimes God steps in and miraculously delivers a man from this sin in such a way that he does not even feel the temptation any more. When we come across such testimonies it is natural for us to expect that God is going to do that for us also. Then we pray and pray and many times nothing seems to change. What we need to realise is that while God does miracles now and then, that is not His normal way of dealing with our sins. It is we who have sinned by yielding to the temptations, and God wants us to gain the victory by saying 'no' to those temptations in the same way. Of course we cannot do this in our own strength, but what God wants us to do is to overcome our temptations with the power that comes from the Holy Spirit (Rom.8:13;Php.2:12,13).
Even if the battle looks impossible to win and you have experienced failure after failure, remember that there is nothing impossible with God, and that when you take up this battle along with Jesus all things become possible for you. God's desire for all of us is that sin should not hold dominion in our life (Ro.6:14). If you seek God honestly and sincerely and hold on without giving up, you too can experience victory.
Psychologists have found a strong connection between addictions of various types and a longing for love. We all have a need to be loved. When our parents shower us with love and affection during the early years of our life, that is how we become stable in our psychological development. If, unfortunately, we have suffered neglect, abandonment or abuse from the parents instead, our need for love remains unfulfilled. It happens often that people who have suffered this lack try to obtain that same feeling from pleasures -- eating, drinking, sex, drugs, etc. If you recognise this in your life, what you can also understand is that the more you know the love of God for you -- unconditional, everlasting, never leaving you, always forgiving, always looking out for your best, etc. -- the less desire you will have for other pleasures that are temporary, unreliable and damaging.
You may also like to read the article on overcoming masturbation. Can't stop myself!
Dealing with temptation
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