It was over twenty-five years ago. I was still in seminary. A professor told my class of seminary students that one out of every three of us sitting in that room would be released from ministry because of allegations brought against us for violating the seventh commandment. He added, “And if you don’t think it can happen to you, you will be one of the first ones to go.”
I was reminded of what my seminary professor had said by an illustration that Rev. Hank Van der Woerd used in one of his sermons. He said that pornography is so readily available that even in church a person can find a pornographic picture faster than you can find “Take Time to Be Holy” in the Psalter Hymnal. Six seconds. That’s all it takes for you to have a woman dancing in front of you on your iPhone.
It all starts innocently enough. Look anything up on YouTube, innocent as it may be. After that video is finished, a dozen or more additional videos pop up that are based on the same topic. It becomes a little bit like Dutch Bingo—it only takes three or four moves and a video pops up that seeks to stimulate you sexually.
In my ministry I have dealt with people who were addicted to pornography. It started easily enough for them. Just pick up a magazine—not to look at the pictures—but for the articles. I remember years ago when that excuse was actually used. One of the most religious presidents in the United States, Jimmy Carter, did an interview for Playboy Magazine. It legitimized it. Suddenly, Christians were buying the magazine. Oh, not for the pictures, but for the interview. Still, as long as you have the magazine, why not look at the pictures?
How many Christians subscribe to Sports Illustrated? It comes out with a swimsuit issue every year. Many of them will argue that that’s not pornography. Isn’t it? You will never be able to convince me that readers of Sports Illustrated look at those women in swimsuits and ask, “Hmm, I wonder what kind of material that bathing suit is made out of,” or “I wonder if it comes in blue. I think I’ll buy one for my daughter for when she goes to the local pool.”
We make light of this, but what is happening is something very sinful. It is called lust. Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). But, you say, that’s got nothing to do with you. That’s wonderful! Shall we ask as a computer expert to come to your house to check out your computer to see where you have been? How closely are you guarding where your children have been on the computer? How closely do you guard the sites your grandchildren visit when they come to your house?
Here’s a challenge for parents who read this article: Take your son’s laptop, iPhone, iPad, or whatever gadget he is using and push the little button on it that says “YouTube.” From there check out the button that says “history.” It will tell you what he has been looking at. Invasion of privacy? Not at all. It is called your responsibility as a parent. If his history has great hockey shots or trailers for the next Lord of the Rings movie—good for him. If it has lewd and suggestive material—it’s about time you found out what he was watching. And he has had his iPhone for more than six months and his history says “no videos,” that means he is watching something he doesn’t want you to find. He has erased it.
The Bible and Lust
When God created male and female, He gave them the capacity to multiply. Scripture tells us that God evaluated all he made as very good. In Song of Solomon, Solomon speaks of the pleasures of sexual intimacy between the husband and his wife. We can and should praise God for the gift of sexual intimacy as God intended it to be in marriage.
Can we be attracted to it, however, before God intends for us to experience it? Many young people who do not have their driver’s licenses are already attracted to a certain vehicle that they want. That vehicle—the Dodge Ram Truck, the Corvette, or whatever vehicle they want—seems to be everywhere you look. It’s like the time you bought a new red car. Suddenly there seemed to be red cars everywhere.
So it is with pornography. When young boys “come of age,” suddenly girls become more attractive. And scantily clad, even naked girls, can be found everywhere. It is not only on the Internet. It’s at the checkout counter at the local grocery store. Almost every TV show is filled with sexual innuendo or sexually charged dialogue and scenes. Over ninety per cent of all the sex on television is based on lust and sex outside of marriage. Even if you find a nice, family-focused program or a game show or sporting event, the advertising will seek to entice you with sexual stimuli.
In spite of this, we are shocked when we read that over half of all teenage girls from age fourteen to nineteen are sexually active. The number of “friends with benefits” is ever on the increase. Want some startling statistics?
One fourth of all new HIV cases occur in people who are under age 21.
Ten percent of children lose their virginity before they are thirteen years old.
Two out of every three teenagers are sexually active by the end of high school.
One fourth of all sexually active teens have a sexually transmitted disease.
Sixteen per cent of high school students in grade 10 have had four or more sexual partners.
You need to understand, parents, that because we live in a highly sexually charged culture, our children are becoming curious about sex at a much earlier age than when you were younger.
Some studies reveal that the average age of exposure to Internet pornography is now age five. You might wonder why the pornography industry would care about children. Ask the tobacco industry. Ask the alcohol industry. Why do they want people to smoke their first cigarette or take their first drink? The answer is simple—so they will take their second, and then their third, and on and on until it becomes a lifestyle. And then they are hooked, caught in Satan’s snare.
That’s the way it is with pornography. Experts will tell you that the pornography industry fully understands that looking at pornography can become addictive. If children are exposed early enough, and often enough, they will see nothing wrong with it. Then, when they are older, they will spend money on pornography.
You may argue that on the Internet it is free. There are, in fact, all kinds of things on the Internet that you can view for free. But, in the long run, nothing in this life is free. The pornography business is a billion-dollar business. It didn’t get that way because it gives it all away. It may start out “free,” but that is just the hook. Sin has a way of taking over. You look at a pornographic image out of curiosity; maybe you are exposed to porn on the internet entirely by accident, but one look leads to another.
Eventually, what excited you at first no longer works for you. Take, for example, that swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated. It doesn’t take long before those pictures no longer satisfy. So you buy some soft core porn. When that no longer satisfies, you move on to hard core porn. You find yourself spending more and more of your time looking at pornography.
Sin doesn’t stop there. After that there are two avenues you can take, and you will probably take both. You start acting out on your addiction by visiting strip joints, working your way ever closer to the exotic dancers. Soon the pictures that do satisfy you are of girls who are younger and younger.
Recently our local newspaper reported on two separate incidents where men were arrested for child pornography. I can guarantee you they did not start their addiction that way. It probably started years earlier with something much simpler. Ted Bundy did not just one day decide to be a rapist-murderer. In interviews he fully admitted it all started by looking at pornography. Jeffrey Dahmer did not say, “When I grow up I want to rape, kill, and eat little boys.”
A Look at Lust
We are going back to the days of the Pharisees. They taught that the seventh commandment extended no further than the actual act of adultery. If sin was in the heart and it went no further than that, then God would not be able to hear it or see it. He would not hold a person accountable for it.
There are all kinds of people today who honestly think that the only way they can break the seventh commandment is by actually committing adultery—that is, having a physical affair of some sort. They do all kinds of unfaithful and unloving things—never actually committing adultery—but destroying their marriage just the same. And they think they are perfectly innocent.
Jesus said, “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has committed adultery in his heart (Matthew 5:28). I am sure that there are some of you single men who read this who are quick to say, “Well, that’s not me. I’m innocent. I can’t be unfaithful to my wife because I don’t have a wife.” You can still be just as guilty. That woman you look at on YouTube is not your wife. That woman in that magazine is not your wife. You are being unfaithful to your future wife by some of the actions that you are doing today.
You cannot be satisfied with trying to figure out how far you can go before you have gone too far. Too many Christians act like bugs around the bug zapper. We are attracted to the false light. We want to see how close they can get that light instead of the true light We work ourselves closer and closer, until all of a sudden “ZZZT”—we are fried, and it is too late.
We are called, as Christians, to be like Christ. It is Christ who taught us that not only is adultery wrong but so also are the impure thoughts that fill our minds. In other words, the Technicolor R-rated reruns that play in our mind are wrong. When you walk into a certain movie, rent a certain DVD, browse certain sites on the Internet, and you know full well how it will affect you, you are committing adultery. When you turn on the television and continue to watch lewd and suggestive programs, pick up questionable magazines, or linger too long over sections of the Sears and Roebuck catalog that shows pictures of nothing you are ever going to buy, you are committing adultery in your mind. It is not only looking at someone until you lust after her, but also looking for someone or something to lust after.
The Bible tells us of Samson, an incredibly strong judge, who had a weakness for women. As you read about the life of Samson, you will notice that every time he goes astray, running off with some Philistine woman, the Word of God points out that it was the eyes of Samson that led him into sin.
Judges 14:1 “And Samson saw a young Philistine woman.”
14:8 “he turned aside to look . . .”
16:1 “One day Samson went to Gaza and saw a prostitute.”
Not until his eyes are finally plucked out does Samson look to the Lord. David was a man after God’s own heart, but he gave that heart to Bathsheba, and it led to adultery and murder. In both the case of David and that of Samson, their eyes became so filled with lust that they could not keep themselves away from sin. These men are not exceptions to the rule. They point out that even the strongest among us can so easily fall into this trap.
Flee from Lust
As Christians we have to make a covenant with our eyes that their pleasure comes not from the allurements of the world but from beholding the light of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 12:2 encourages us to fix our eyes on Jesus. Learn to bounce your eyes; look the other way; starve your eyes. You need to make a pact that your eyes will not fasten themselves to anything impure. Don’t let them focus on things that will bring evil desires or imaginations to your mind.
How do you do that? Jesus offers us some very sobering advice that takes us back to Samson. He says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matt. 5:29–30).
To say the least, it is a rather severe operation that Jesus prescribes for the prevention of fleshly lust. When Jesus suggests that we pluck out our eye or cut off our arm, He warns us that we are to have control over our bodies. You cannot let your body and your fleshly desires control you. Guard your heart.
So what should we do? Should we run to the desert to escape? Perhaps we should run to two separate deserts—men to one and women to another. We need to recognize that there may well be times when we simply have to run away from temptation. That is not the whole answer, but that certainly is part of it. Paul’s advice to new converts was, “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18). To a new pastor he wrote, “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.” (2 Tim. 2:22). In other words, follow the pattern set by Joseph, who fled from Potiphar’s wife, and not the pattern of David, who couldn’t keep his eyes off of Bathsheba. Why should you flee? Because there is something about the sexual instinct that it operates apart from reason or logic. It is an emotional drive that forgets all about reason. It will operate against every logical brain cell you have.
Think about it. You are confronted with a sexually stimulating situation. Instead of shutting it out of your mind and fleeing from it, you feed those thoughts by looking at pictures of some person you do not know and cannot touch. How does that help? That’s like being really, really hungry and looking at pictures of a prime rib dinner. It is not going to satisfy you. It never will. It will only make you crave more.
The writer of Proverbs wrote, “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished” (Prov. 6:27–29). Neither you nor anyone else is 100 percent immune or 100 percent able to resist or avoid sexual temptations. Put a guard on your eyes. Watch what you watch. No matter how entertaining you might find it, keep away from it.
Solutions for Lust
But you can’t always run away from it, can you? As I noted earlier, it’s everywhere. So how do we keep ourselves pure? We need a strong motive for purity because we are constantly bombarded with sexuality every day. Does fear motivate you? Fear can be a good motive at times, but fear of what? Losing an eye? Losing an arm? Maybe fear of getting caught? That may work at times, but in the heat of passion it will let you down. When you are home all alone—just you and that magazine or just you and the Internet—it is not going to work. Fear of hell? That might be a motive to keep you pure, but it is bad theology, and sooner or later you will convince yourself that God will forgive you just this once.
The Psalmist wrote, “Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word” (Ps. 119:37). How many times have you prayed that prayer? Rather than seeking those things that will corrupt the body and destroy your soul, seek after God.
Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of heaven, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). What things? The fruit of the Spirit. And which fruit of the Spirit do you need when these temptations come? Self-control. Walking with the Spirit and in the fruits of the Spirit will be as effective as plucking out your eye or cutting off your arm because your walking in the Spirit is the destruction of the old man within you.
When you really get down to it, the strongest motive for purity in body and soul is the love you have for Jesus Christ. Our aim should not be to see how close we can get to the world but to see how best we can serve and honor God who sent His Son to die for us so that we can have the forgiveness of our sins. We need to put our love for Christ into action with a healthy spirit of purity, showing God how much we love Him. By doing that, we will develop a spirit of reverence—reverence to God who has shown us His wonderful plan for sexuality inside the marriage bond, reverence for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, and reverence for ourselves because we are temples of God.
Release from Lust
And finally, for those who are caught in the pornography trap, I want you to know it is not too late to get out. The purpose of these three articles is to help you. God is able to pick you up and put you back on the road that brings glory to His name. No matter how far you have fallen, there is help available. You need to reconnect with Jesus Christ. It is not the love of the world that you need; it is the love of God. If you want to be released from the bondage of pornography, you need to turn to Jesus Christ for the wonderful gift of forgiveness and for the gift of moral strength.
When you confess your sins, you can know that you are forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ. When you acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Master and Lord of your life, He is there to face your temptations with you. He is there to give you an escape route so that you can say no to sin and yes to a life of purity. With the love of Christ in your life, either as a married man, a single teen, or a young adult, your life can be one that is filled with a true love, joy, and happiness based on following your Redeemer and your King.
Rev. Wybren H. Oord is the co-pastor of the Trinity United Reformed Church in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, and the editor of The Outlook.