Thursday, June 10, 2021

Anti-Porn Is Not Enough

Anti-Porn Is Not Enough

I grew up in what some might call “purity culture.” One year, my youth group participated in a “True Love Waits” rally, where we paraded our purity cards, glued to large poster boards, across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I championed NBA star A.C. Green, a devout Christian and professed virgin. I owned a 14-carat gold purity ring with the words “true love waits” inscribed on it. I think I asked my parents to buy it for me. Many of my friends read I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

Purity was elevated to great heights, often accompanied by warnings of pregnancy, STDs, and lifelong guilt. In my memory, the bottom line seemed to be “Don’t have sex!” I got that message loud and clear.

Today, as a happily married man (and pastor) with five children, I wouldn’t want to perpetuate the same type of youth-group culture I experienced, with the same emphases and proportions (at least as I remember them). But don’t get me wrong: I believe followers of Jesus should take purity more seriously, not less.

Whatever might have been imbalanced with “purity culture” in some eyes and memories, we shouldn’t throw out purity, as if it were the problem. Holiness is not the issue. Sexual fidelity is not destructive. Truly Christian ethics are not an obstacle to overcome. Instead, the biblical teaching on marriage and sexual intimacy is a gift. It is the good design of God for our everlasting good. The good fruits of purity, holiness, and fidelity spring from the wells of God’s word as we listen to, obey, and enjoy him. An emphasis on purity goes awry whenever it becomes more about purity than about God.

Purity in a Pornographic Age

We are living in an increasingly pornographic age. The widespread accessibility of porn and the ability to be seemingly incognito leads to private addiction, marital destruction, and sexual abuse, all of it driving the horrific industry of sex trafficking. We know that pornography is damaging marriages, children, and churches. Statistics and anecdotes reveal the devastation. The connection with sexual exploitation and sex slavery is increasingly clear. The harm done to one’s community and spiritual life, while often subtle initially, is immeasurable over time.

And our society cheers us on in the gluttonous satisfaction of lust. Sexual immorality is repackaged as self-expression, liberation, and sexual enlightenment. Pornography is “normal,” and holiness is old-fashioned or even legalistic. Unfortunately, as prevalent as this poison is, pornography still isn’t talked about much in many of our churches. And if it is, the advice often boils down to Bob Newhart’s infamous advice: “Stop it!” But we will not make headway in holiness by just being anti-porn. Similarly, the pursuit of purity apart from God becomes an empty goal. What we need is to be overcome by a superior satisfaction in God.

Power to Be Pure

Despite what Satan has whispered, over and over again, sex is not the pinnacle of human life. The most complete, perfect, and happy man that ever walked the face of the earth never had sex. You were made for God. Your body, your mind, your desires, and your affections were made, first and foremost, to know, love, delight in, and praise God. You were not made to be simply anti-porn or pro-purity; you were made to know God, enjoy God, and please God in all that you do. You were made to do all that you do, whether you eat or drink or have sex with your spouse, for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

So, what can break the temptation for illicit sexual sin? A superior pleasure. John Piper writes,

Christian Hedonism asserts that the most effective way to kill our own sin is by the power of a superior pleasure. No one sins out of duty. We sin because it is more pleasant or less painful than the way of righteousness. So, bondage to sin is broken by a stronger attraction — a more compelling joy. (“The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”)

To break the lure of premarital sex or the bait of pornographic images, we feast our eyes, mind, heart, and soul on a deeper, more satisfying, and infinitely better Joy.

Don’t get me wrong. Within the covenant promises of marriage, sex is amazing. It is wonderful and powerful. It is guilt-free and intoxicating. It is a good gift from God. But it is not ultimate. Marriage helps put that in perspective. A good marriage is not all about good sex. A good marriage requires work, intentionality, and cultivation. Sex is a physical culmination and expression of a fuller, more comprehensive (and costly!) intimacy. And sex outside of marriage, while it may have the veneer of gratification, does not provide lasting, soul-satisfying pleasure. In fact, the temporary pleasure will fade, and the consequences, both natural and spiritual, will remain and grow.

Five Paths to Purity

So, how does one cultivate the expulsive power of a superior affection? Here are a few modest suggestions from my own experience battling lust and pastoring others in their fight.

First, delight in God’s word. The first Psalm tells us, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1–2). Delight yourself in this Book. Commit this Psalm to memory. Strive to be like the tree “planted by streams of water” (Psalm 1:3). Don’t you want a heart that yields its fruit in season, with leaves that will not wither? Ask God to make you a Psalm 1 man or woman, and then spend the rest of your life digging for treasure in the Bible.

Second, meditate on Matthew 5:8. Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Don’t you want to be like Moses on Mount Sinai, who says, “Please show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18)? Don’t you want to be increasingly transformed from one degree of glory to another as you behold the glory of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18)? Don’t you want to look into the face of God on that final day and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23)? If God is our greatest treasure, our pearl of great price, then blood-bought, Spirit-filled purity will be a beloved friend, not a cruel oppressor.

Third, keep your eye on the prize. Train your heart, mind, and body to obtain the prize. As with all things worth doing, pursuing purity is not easy. It does not come naturally to fallen men and women; instead, sin does. The apostle Paul writes,

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24–27)

Exercise a holy discipline to magnify Christ. Run or live or fight so that you may obtain the prize: the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t merely run to avoid temptation; run to see and experience more of him.

Fourth, enlist the help of friends. Find a few friends who will not coddle your sin, friends who will not join your pity party after another fall, friends who will not excuse your failures. Find friends who love God, walk by faith, rest on grace, and fight the fight of faith — who relentlessly declare the gospel to you and who call you to live in line with that gospel (Galatians 5:25; Philippians 1:27). Find friends who will point you back to God. Find friends who are pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness in every area of life (1 Timothy 6:11).

Last, keep going and don’t give up. Holiness, purity, fidelity, and godliness are not easy to come by. Indulging is easy; resisting temptation is hard. When it is hard for you, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:3–4). Partake of the amazing and unmerited grace of Jesus, and then utilize that grace to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel. That last part — the walking — will require steadfastness, perseverance, and endurance that we do not have in our own strength. But we have received the Spirit to empower us for purity.

Emblems of His Grace

So, wherever you are in your journey to purity, pursue Christ. If you are trusting in Christ, you are not primarily an addict, you are not damaged goods, you are not ruined, you are not always going to be this way, you are not the sum of your sexual experiences, and you are not the sum of the sexual images you have taken in. You are a child of God. You are his beloved. You are an emblem of grace. And you have been ransomed by the precious blood of Christ so that you would know him, love him, delight in him, and walk in all his ways.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and let your life, including your sex life, increasingly reveal the beauty, majesty, and praiseworthiness of Jesus Christ.



from Desiring God http://rss.desiringgod.org/link/10732/14537076/anti-porn-is-not-enough
via DG