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Pastoral

As church leaders we often find ourselves confronted with any of a wide range of pastoral issues where we feel we lack expertise.  The features in this section will give you many suggestions for what you might do (at least until the experts arrive!)

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Internet Porn

[Your Name Here]

Written by Craig Gross.  

You can download the PDF of this resource here. 

Internet pornography, mobile porn: Is someone you know struggling with these?  What can you do to help?

 It was only a few blocks, but the other end of the French Quarter might as well have been miles away. It was spring break in New Orleans, the streets were packed with college-aged partiers, and the debauchery had reached an all-time high. My friend Donald, a minister, and I were stuck among them and needed to get out. Quick.

We had just attended a New Orleans Saints game in the Superdome and had no idea we were going to be stepping in a raucous street party. A few minutes of the madness swirling around us, and both of us knew it was time to leave. Maybe it was because of the city’s history of voodoo; maybe it was because of the half-naked women swirling in silk on the balconies above. Whatever it was, we bolted, or at least we tried.

The packed streets made navigation difficult. People were everywhere. Trying to be forceful enough to negotiate the crowd and courteous enough to avoid starting a riot, Donald and I elbowed our way past revellers partying at fever pitch. It was the last night of finals for many of the university students, and, pass or fail, they wanted to go out celebrating. The smell of beer infused the air, while the street stench from the previous night’s partying added a stale, pungent aroma to the atmosphere.

High above street level, lined along the apartment balconies, women revellers danced, flashing the crowd. Even if a woman was two blocks away, I could hear the crowd’s salacious response when she flashed them. Spontaneous applause and cheers erupted in every direction every few seconds. Vendors were making a killing selling everything from bottles of water to party hats. People snatched up the silliest trinkets as souvenirs, and those famous necklaces made of gaudy beads were constantly selling out. Our best option was to make our way clear of the Quarter and catch one of the cabs emptying partiers onto the already jam-packed streets. Here we were trying toleave downtown; everyone else was trying to get in. Lust does that.

Here in New Orleans, it had drawn a crowd to witness a level of hedonism I didn’t know existed. Standing and waiting for a cab, I was torn as thoughts of these women flooded my mind. Not in a sexual sense; I was thinking about who they were. I thought of my own little girl at home and wondered if any dads knew their little girls were here, dancing. Each of them was once someone’s princess. While one side of me wanted to pray for the lost little girls around me, the other side of me began to fill with lust. I was being drawn in, tempted to stop and stare. The war inside me lasted only a fraction of a second, but the tension lingered. If I’m totally honest, I had been visually captivated. I would like to believe it was more out of curiosity than perversion, but regardless, I was still drawn by it all.

Take Captive Every Thought

This is nothing new; lust is deep-seated in the heart of man. Think Adam, think Noah, David and Paul. Though we waited only a few minutes for a cab, it felt like months. Each second was an hour, and I spent each of those hours engulfed in a war of conscience and conviction, between my commitment to guard my mind and a strong call to take mental snapshots. As Donald and I finally sped away in our cab, I realized I had seen too much. I began to replay images of the women who bartered their modesty and purpose for cheap beads and momentary applause. A spark I should have doused was left unattended, and a fire began to stir, threatening to burn like a wildfire out of control. The cab ducked down a side alley to navigate around a street that was closed, and I sat silent, my conscience seared. My flesh screamed, “Go back!” My spirit was confused. Though I had many unanswered questions, two gripped me the most. What in the world would cause a college-aged woman to strip, dance, and beckon the applause of drunken males for any price? And worse, why was I drawn to it?

Nineteen hundred years ago Paul the apostle wrote these simple words: “Take captive every thought” (2 Cor 10:5). These words are an encouragement to arrest every fleeting thought that may lead you away from Christ’s perfect plan.

All thoughts in themselves aren’t bad. Paul knew this, which is why he tells us to take them captive, to dwell on the good ones, the ones that will lead us closer to Christ, and remove the bad ones, the ones that will lead us closer to sin. We have both kinds of thoughts—it’s what we do with them that counts. So why did Paul instruct us to put every thought in jail? Because he knew the battle of the mind is the root issue, the systemic cause of all moral failures. The mind begins the process of every action we take. The mind produces a thought; the thought develops into an action; the action, repeated over time, becomes a habit. The process is subtle, so you have to ask yourself a third question: Am I willing to arrest the thoughts that are producing an insane magnetism toward unhealthy action?

The problem is this: though we can choose to do the right thing, many times we don’t. Again, consider Paul. He looked out over the people of Rome, a pagan city ruled by tyranny, a place filled with every sexual perversion, and acknowledged his own frailties. Allow me to paraphrase Romans 7:18–19: “The very things I should run away from and have no part of are the things I embrace. And the things I should make a regular part of my life I ignore.” Have you ever felt that way? I have.  Can this process of going in the wrong direction be remedied? Is there hope? Is it possible to continue to choose the right road? Can we change? Is there a way to combat the feeling that failure is inevitable? The answer, in all cases, is yes.

 Remember King David

You remember King David and his moral failure? This part of his story is told in 2 Samuel 11 and 12, and it begins with King David shirking his duty and hanging around the house instead of going out to war with his army. While he’s up on the roof of the palace, he ogles Bathsheba, out bathing on her roof. He’s smitten, has her brought to the palace, commits adultery, and gets her pregnant. But she’s married. His solution? King David has Bathsheba’s husband placed in a vulnerable position so he is killed in battle. Then David can marry Bathsheba on the sly, and they can pretend the kid was conceived in the bonds of holy matrimony. A baby boy is born, and God, displeased with David’s actions, allows the unnamed child to become ill. Seven days later the child dies, and David is heartbroken.

And it all happened because he looked. With a glimpse, he had a thought. The thought became an action. The action became a heartbreaking, twisted tale of sin and seduction. King David shouldn’t have been home in the first place—he should have been leading his army in battle. When he was on the roof, he shouldn’t have gazed at Bathsheba. When he saw her, he shouldn’t have had her brought to the palace. By that point, he’d already made up his mind to give in to his lust. In David’s story we see a progression, and with every step along that progression, he has a chance to take his thoughts captive, to take a stand against his sinful self, to turn around and go the other way. But the farther you let sin guide you, the more difficult it becomes to make the right choices. The most practical advice I’ve found in my years of working in this area is this: take the thought captive. And if you don’t take the first thought captive, take the next one captive. It’s never too late to put your thoughts in jail—ever.

Sometimes it feels like porn use is so all-consuming, so prevalent in our society, there’s no way you can not use it. It feels inevitable, so you might as well cave in. But you can always take a thought captive. Always. The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:13: `No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.` I’ll be blunt. Either you believe the Bible or you don’t. Either you believe God really is going to give you a way out or you think he’s lying to you.

Following are some helpful and practical ways every person should consider in their effort to take the thought captive.

Identify the Level of Addiction

It is crucial to understand the severity of the porn consumption and the depth of the addiction. Even the slightest exposure can prompt a rapid downward spiral. Here is a simple scale we have found to be helpful: 

0- The person has never been exposed to porn and would not know what it is.

1- The person has had brief exposure to some visual stimuli but is unaware of the effects of full nudity.

2- The person has had exposure to full sexual content and is curious about it; when viewed, an internal urge desires more.

3- The person has viewed porn and has a lingering desire for it. If given an opportunity, the person will engage with it.

4- The person thinks about porn, pursues it, hides it, wants it, and consumes it regularly.

5- The person can’t go a day without it.

You may not always be at the same place on the scale. Your interest can fluctuate or accelerate depending on many external and internal factors. Some people take the long road to porn addiction; others have progressed from 0 to a full-fledged 5 in less than seventy-two hours. Once a person is at a 4 or higher, successful, lasting freedom from the addiction will require outside help, from a counsellor, pastor, or accountability partner; sometimes lasting freedom comes only after a humiliating exposure of the sin.

Protect your Computer With Accountability Software

The anonymity and instantaneous nature of the internet makes it the perfect vehicle for both porn producers and users, which means that porn is readily available online. Anyone with access to the internet needs a protective shield such as the X3watch software.  This is free, it works with  PCs, Macs, and iPhones/iPods and iPads, and it gives you the all-important tool of accountability. With a simple online download, X3watch keeps a log of the questionable websites you visit, and if one of those sites has the possibility of questionable content, it records your visit. After two weeks, the software generates a list of those recorded sites of concern and emails it to your accountability partners—the one or two people you have predetermined as safe and strong people who will ask you, “Why was this site visited?” Often just knowing others will see their surfing patterns is enough to keep people from yielding to temptation.

In conjunction with X3, computers can also be loaded with up-to-date filtering software, a great tool to prevent certain pornographic sites from being visited. Filters and X3watch accountability work great together. For example, we at www.x3watch.com offer a free thirty-day trial for the filtering software Safe Eyes. You can get more information on both X3watch and Safe Eyes on our site.

Seek Personal Accountability

In addition to the accountability provided through X3watch, you should give someone permission to ask you at any time the hard questions about your use of pornography. This must be a person you trust, and who, preferably, is also inviting you into his or her world. It should be someone who will not let you off the hook if you admit to using porn. While you need to be open and honest with your spouse, your spouse should not be the only person holding you accountable. Personal accountability has helped many people stay on the path of integrity. Finding the right person is key. It should be a friend, spouse or mentor with whom you can talk about your struggles but someone who will hold you to your commitments. Often as accountability partners learn to trust each other, the comfort level grows and conversations can encompass many aspects of life, not just the problem with porn. This may lead to productive discussions of other problem areas of life.

Avoid Lingering in Lust

When confronted with a seemingly unavoidable situation where you find lust is pounding, try to get out of the environment quickly. When we view women as objects, we give ourselves permission to lust after them. Many are convinced that this is normal, but we know that this is not how God wants us to see women. To acknowledge that women are beautiful creations of God is understandable — but staring at, lingering around, lusting for, and drooling over a woman is demeaning, both to her and to you. Taking steps to avoid lingering in lust will help you avoid all-out failure. Jesus said that if you are lust filled, you are committing adultery in your heart (see Matthew 5:28). If you allow those thoughts to run rampant in your mind, it is only a matter of time before they lead to actions. Instead, guard your eyes - and avoid environments where you will be susceptible to sin.

Develop Wholesome Relationships With Women

When we acknowledge that women are God’s priceless and pure creations, we have a better chance at having wholesome relationships with them. For years, I have challenged men to look at women with pure intent, remembering that a woman may be someone’s wife and is definitely someone’s daughter. If a man has a daughter, he will be more inclined to understand this. Hopefully, for any man, character and compassion will prevail, his heart will be paternal, and a protective instinct will guard his thoughts and intentions toward women. In wholesome relationships with women, men have an agape (or unconditional) love. Rather than looking at each woman with the intent of sexual conquest, stop that objectification short by thinking of the woman in terms of her family or friendship relationships.

Reasons For Hope

But what if you’ve fallen? Is there any way to get back up?

We’ve created some resources to help, like the X3pure program, a thirty-day online recovery program (see www.x3pure.com for more information). We also have two books, one written specifically for men called Pure Eyes: A Man’s Guide to Sexual Integrity, and one for women called Pure Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Integrity.

But recovery begins with acceptance. After his failure with Bathsheba, King David crawled into a private place with God. He wrote out his apology and redirected his life plan. It’s called Psalm 51. In the midst of his despair, David became willing to accept the consequences of his clandestine behaviour, crying out for change that he knew would cost him everything. God listened to him and had mercy on David and Bathsheba. And because of David’s repentant heart, God gave them a second son, named Solomon. From Solomon’s family line, Jesus eventually came. It’s never too late for God to redeem the life of a sinner. There will always be consequences for sin — some of them very rough. But God’s redemption is always worth it.

So where are you in relationship to porn and sexual temptation? Maybe you are like me. You too would have felt tension in New Orleans. Maybe you are like David. Maybe you fantasize about women, and intimacy with your spouse has grown dormant. Maybe you are living as an imposter. Maybe your kids see you one way and you are living another way.

Maybe it is time to change. There is hope. There will always be hope.

 

Craig Gross.

www.xxxchurch.com

© Craig Gross.