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We started a 3-week series called Prep, a series of TED talks. You know, Theology, Equipping, Discipleship! Today, we heard from Jonathan Pokluda talking about pornography, John Elmore talking about addiction, and Rick Smith talking about the surprises of life.
The Tree of Salvation and How to End on the Right Branch
How the Bible Preps Us for the Return, the Rapture and the Rupture: Setting Our Heart Not the Date
How the Bible Preps Us for THAT Day
How the Bible Preps Us for Loneliness
How the Bible Preps Us for Failure
How the Bible Preps Us for Doubt
How the Bible Preps Us for the Future
How the Bible Preps Us for Spiritual Warfare
How the Bible Preps Us for Perseverance
How the Bible Preps Us for Surprises
How the Bible Preps Us for Pornography and Lust
How the Bible Preps Us for Addictions
We start a new series this morning called Prep. That's short for prepare. It's going to feel like you're drinking from a fire hose. Here's why. If you hear something you're interested in, we have all sorts of equipping classes. We have something here almost every single night for you to come and be equipped more with us, so I hope that as you hear something today it's just a teaser.
Also let me say this. There will be some adult content this morning. I'm about to pray in a minute. That would be a great time to leave if you have a child here and you're uncomfortable with that. I said that in the 9:00 a.m. service, and then I dropped the O word and there was this mass exodus down the aisle. So consider that a heads up. I don't want you to be upset with us. We will cover some adult content today. You guys are asking, "What's the O word?" You're about to find out.
The way this went about is we shared in staff prayer about something we had shared at a student retreat, and Todd heard some of the messages and graciously said, "Hey, you guys should share that on Sunday to equip our body." So that's where we're headed as we start this new series this morning: Prep. If you're here as a guest with us, the next three weeks will look a little different, a little abnormal, as if there was a normal around here. We are going to do our own TED talks, what we call Theology, Equipping, and Discipleship. Let me pray.
Father, I do pray that you would speak through my friends and myself this morning. As we open your Word and drench our friends with information, I pray that your Spirit would plant in their hearts the things they need to hold on to, the things that are most relevant to their lives and where they are. We love you. We thank you for this opportunity. Would you speak to us now? In Christ's name, amen.
September 25, 2004, was among the greatest days of my life. I was there on Baylor's campus at Truett Seminary. There was this guy in this suit up front, and I was there in my tux. The back doors swung open at Truett Seminary displaying this woman more beautiful than Cinderella, and I just thought, "Man, there is my prize." As she came down the aisle, everything turned blurry as I began to cry and just think about the excitement of all that was about to happen.
We stood up there and said some crazy things to one another. We made promises to each other that the world would say were crazy. We said, "For rich or poor, sickness and in health, until death do us part. I'm going to love you forever and ever and ever." We were brand new Christians, new to the faith. I read Ephesians 5 to her and said, "I'm going to love you as Christ loved the church." She read 1 John to me and talked about how she was going to love me with her entire life.
Then he said, "You may kiss your bride." I was so excited to do that. Then we walked down that aisle, and we got to the foyer of Truett Seminary, and I held her in my arms and said this prayer: "God, thank you so much for allowing me to escape the consequences of my sin." Specifically, I was referring to my sexual sin, and more specifically than that, I was referring to the thousands of images of naked women on my computer, women I had given myself to time and time again. I was addicted to pornography.
I thought that since I had made it to this day the Lord in his grace had allowed me to escape the consequences of that addiction. I'd later find out that was a very naïve prayer. So this morning for the next few minutes, I'm going to talk to you about pornography. To define it for you, it's obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like. Biblically defined, pornography is you fantasizing about anyone you are not married to; you thinking explicitly on anyone you are not married to.
This includes social media, Instagram, hashtag chasing, movies, literature, the written word, things like Fifty Shades of Grey. This is all you fantasizing about anyone you are not married to. The reason we need to talk about it is that the average age someone is introduced to porn is 11 years old. Ninety percent of kids between 8 and 18 have viewed porn. Pornography equates to nearly half of all Internet activity. Seventy percent of men in this room have recently viewed porn, and one in three viewers of pornography are women.
If you can grow in your understanding of this, you are better equipped to talk to your kids and your spouse about it. Thinking about pornography theologically, porn is sin without exception. Pornography is sin in every single circumstance, even if your spouse is okay with it. I say that because we live to justify this sin. "Well, it's a creation of God." I called the pastor as a newlywed and said, "Would it be okay if I could convince her to be okay with it and we both looked at it? Would that be all right?" I lived to justify my addiction.
You fantasizing about anyone you are not married to is sin. This is you wondering what color her bra is. This is you wondering what it would be like to be married to him. It's sin. In Matthew 5:28, Jesus says, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." He says the sin begins in the mind and the heart, not the actual action. They're one and the same.
Pornography is destroying your marriage. Long before I had ever met my wife or my potential spouse, pornography had destroyed my marriage. Now we've experienced healing since then, but porn will destroy your marriage long before you even have a prospect. No one in the history of all creation has had a better marriage because of pornography. It hasn't happened. You will not be the first. Let me explain to you why. We'll talk about the science of pornography.
They've recently determined that pornography is addictive. That's stupid. They could have just asked me. They said due to high dopamine levels, some of the highest you can achieve without a substance, it's extremely addictive. Let me hit this home for you. I've done cocaine. I've done ecstasy. I've smoked marijuana. I drank a lot of alcohol for long seasons of my life. Nothing has gripped my heart like pornography.
I would call in sick from work to go home to binge on porn. It owned me. It was eating my lunch, and I'll tell you why. Because of something secular psychiatrists call sex glue. Sex glue is the reality that during sex, your brain bonds your five senses to your surroundings. They say that when you experience sexual climax, otherwise known as orgasm (there it is), your brain creates a synapse or a pathway bonding your five senses to what is around you.
Now consider how beautiful this is. They say, "Hey, this is a recent discovery." God said this in one of the first books of the Bible. In Genesis 2:24, he said, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." They'll be bonded. It was God's invention. God created it. Think about how profound this is, that God made sex. Father, Son, and Spirit talking about, "Hey, here's what we'll do."
The Holy Spirit was probably like, "Hey, you should put the nerve endings there. Make it feel good." Jesus was like, "Yeah, that's a great idea, and let's make it produce something like life, and then we'll make that part and that part and that part fit in that part, and it will be amazing." It was God's incredible invention.
Likewise, he wired into our brains that as her body changes and I can continue to give myself to her, she remains the epitome of attraction to me. As gravity and age and childbearing take their toll on her body and we continue to come together in that act, she remains the epitome of attraction to me. How beautiful is that. This is why God says, "He who sins sexually sins against his own body." This sin is unique. You're rewiring yourself.
We can talk about the side effects of pornography, one being sexual dysfunction. I've met people who cannot experience sexual release without pornography open or playing on the TV, because porn is not an addiction to sex; porn is an addiction to variety. You've rewired your brain not to bond, as it was meant to, to a spouse.
Another side effect of porn is an unnatural appetite. That's why my prayer was so naïve. See, I had no idea how to love and care for a woman as God would have me love and care for her. I had used women, particularly the two-dimensional kind. I didn't know how to care for her. That's why two years into marriage the wheels fell off. The third side effect, maybe the most devastating, is something they're calling life numbness. Also known as depression.
This is where the normal joys of life are not as joyful. You can imagine that if you're driving on a beautiful fall day and the sun is cracking through the leaves and there are the rays and there are all of the colors of fall around you and the birds chirping in the distance and still waters nearby that the normal Christian would take in a deep breath and give glory to God for his incredible creation, but to the porn addict it's simply not porn. Everything seems to fade to gray, and you cannot enjoy it as you were meant to. Hence life numbness.
So if you're here, you may not have asked for a spouse who's addicted to porn, and maybe you found that you have one or maybe you will after this message. What do you do? You need to respond graciously, understanding that you've been forgiven much. You can start with understanding. It's okay to feel hurt, but know that hurt people hurt people, and it's not okay to hurt people.
You can reach out for help. You can begin with prayer. You can ask your spouse, "How do you struggle with sex, and how can I help in that struggle?" Then you can tell them to pursue accountability and help. What does this help look like? What does healing look like? I'm going to give you five things to do to overcome an addiction to pornography. It's the acronym CPRPP. If you're dead in your sin, you need CPRPP.
1._ Confession_. You confess consistently, constantly. Every time the thought comes to your mind, you turn to those you're in community with and say, "Hey, will you pray for me?" You drag it into the light. The Enemy hates to be known. James 5:16 says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." If you pursue or fantasize over an image other than your spouse, you confess it. You drag it to the light, and you are known. "Hey, this is my struggle." You tell someone.
2._ Pray_. You pray very honest prayers. This is the single most practical thing I did in the deepest dark part of my own addiction. I would wake up in the morning. "God, please set me free from this. God, this is where my mind is going to go today. Would you please set me free from this?" I would pray explicit prayers, X-rated prayers to God, because he knew my thoughts and my mind and my heart. I was honest with him constantly as he began to set me free from this struggle. Colossians 4:2 says, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful."
3._ Remove access. This is what people are most reluctant to do, I've learned over time. You take it away. Matthew 5:29 says, "If your right eye causes you to stumble, 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…" Interesting that he says _hand in talking about lust. "…causes you to stumble, 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."
Here are some resources that might help you. You can write these down. Particularly if you have kids I'd encourage you to. Covenant Eyes, an accountability software, or XXX Church. That's xxxchurch.com. Incredible resources there. Accountability software, web filters, and a lot of advice, honestly. You remove access. A guy came up to me once and said, "Hey, my story is similar to yours." It happens every single week of my life. "My story is similar to yours."
"Oh, you're addicted to pornography."
"Yes, I am. Well, I'm struggling with it. I'm struggling well," they've learned to say.
"Cool. How do you access pornography?"
"Uh, through my iPhone."
"Let me ask you a question. Where's your iPhone?"
"Well, it's in my pocket."
"Oh, I thought you were struggling. You're not struggling; you're carrying it around with you. You have a gateway to millions of images of the explicit type right there in your pocket. You're carrying it around with you. You haven't even begun to fight. You haven't even begun to pursue healing. You're carrying it around with you."
He said, "What do you want me to do? Get rid of my phone?" I said, "That or gouge out your eye. It's up to you. You get to choose. If you want to call me a legalist, let's look at the words of Jesus in Matthew, chapter 5."
4._ Pursue your spouse. Or if you're a single friend here, pursue _a spouse. I'm not saying just pursue a spouse instead of getting well from your addiction. Get well from your addiction and then pursue a spouse, but if you are married, then you pursue your spouse. You can ask them this very powerful question. "How do you feel pursued?" Early on in dating Monica, she felt pursued by me leaving voicemails singing Boyz II Men to her and bringing her frozen yogurt.
Today she feels pursued by me taking out the trash and helping with the children. It doesn't have to make sense to me, but I need to do it. I need to know how she feels pursued, and so do you. Not her but your spouse. How does your spouse feel pursued? First Corinthians 7:9 says, "But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion." Your spouse is your outlet for sexual release. Your spouse is your only outlet. It doesn't say, "It's better to masturbate if they cannot control themselves." It says marriage.
5._ Pursue Jesus_. You run hard after Jesus. First Corinthians 6:18 says, "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies."
It says, "Flee from sexual immorality." I will tell you the easiest way to run from something is to run to something. If you are running to Jesus, you are running from sexual immorality. So run hard after Christ. Some of you are overwhelmed with shame right now. You don't know what to do. You feel guilt. That's not of the Holy Spirit. That's of the Enemy, and there is freedom available to you.
They say pornography is an obscene graphic image. I want to show you another one, an obscene graphic image of forgiveness. This is Christ on the cross. Some of you are like, "I can't walk in the light. I can't tell someone of my struggles. I can't display it for the world to see." Do you know it has already been displayed for the world to see at Golgotha?
It sat there on his chest in the form of blood-striped wounds, open wounds, spear into his side, whipped with whips, crown of thorns on his head. That was your pornography displayed to the world, your sexual sin displayed to the world, that he might carry it with him to the grave and come out of the grave without it. People say all the time, "How do you travel the world and speak in front of thousands of people, saying, 'I'm addicted to pornography'?" Here's how: I've been set free! You can be set free too.