You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 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 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.
There is a problem in the church that we aren’t talking enough about. A number of men and women in our churches are addicted to a particular sin. Notice that I said they are not just involved with this sin. They are addicted to it. We don’t talk about it much because it’s uncomfortable but I believe that we can no longer afford to sit silently by while our brothers and sisters in Christ stay enslaved to a sin that Christ bought their freedom from. It’s time to talk about pornography, lust and masturbation.
First let’s look at some of the reasons to stay away from pornography, and there are many. 1) A lot of porn depicts crimes against women. Some porn captures actual rapes on camera for perverts to get off on. Other types stage things to make it look like rape when it is not. It is nearly impossible to tell the difference. Many of the women who make porn are beaten and abused and enticed into it with drugs and money. It is a terrible and shameful experience for them that often leaves them with deep emotional scars. When you view porn you become a part of that. 2) It affects your view of sex. It is like a warped sex education class. A study I found noted that a lot of porn had “sexually violent or degrading themes.”* You don’t want that stuff creeping into your sex life. 3) It is highly addictive. This guy named William Struthers is a psychologist who studies behavioral neuro science which means he studies how what we do affects our brains and how addiction he works. He says that “repeated exposure to any stimulus results in neurological circuit making. That is how we learn.” In other words viewing pornography actually rewires the way you think. More than that, viewing porn causes the release of “pleasure hormones” in the male brain. Struther’s explains. “If I take the same dose of a drug over and over and my body begins to tolerate it, I will need to take a higher dose of the drug in order for it to have the same effect that it did with a lower dose the first time.”** Thus, viewing pornography not only becomes addictive for men but like all addictions it tends toward escalation. Men find themselves needing to view not only larger quantities of porn but increasingly depraved forms of pornography in order to maintain the same level of pleasure. It can draw you into watching hard core porn or even cause you to act out your fantasies on women. 4) Here’s the last reason you should stay away from porn: It will destroy your marriage. Many young men think that once they get married their wife will satisfy all their sexual desires and they will no longer need pornography. However, due to the addictive nature of porn, this is seldom the case. A husband’s continued use of pornography can create major self-esteem issues in his wife and continue to harm their marriage even as he is powerless to stop.
I have known many people who have struggled against pornography. Much of our culture has accepted it as natural and mainstream, but Jesus clearly identifies it as lust in the passage above. Jesus’ standard is a challenge to us all. Though not every man I have known struggled against pornography per say, I have only known one man my entire life who claimed to not struggle with lust. The statistics show, however, that this is not just a guy issue. Increasingly women are struggling with both pornography and lust as well. And where you find pornography and lust you almost always find masturbation as well.
Whatever you call it, I want to make clear that masturbation involves lust. It involves thinking sexually about a woman or a man (real or imagined) to whom you are not married. Jesus discusses this in the passage above and declares it to be sin. He makes clear that this is just as sinful as committing the act with that person. Like all sin it separates you from God and hurts your relationship with Him. Certainly God created us to be sexual creatures and we cannot turn that off, but He has given us marriage as an outlet for these sexual desires. Satisfying them outside of those parameters is less than God’s best for us.
What I want to say very clearly is even though some of you are enslaved to pornography and lust and masturbation Jesus can set you free. The Bible teaches that all of us are enslaved to sin prior to Jesus but that in His death and resurrection Jesus has set us free from the power that sin has over us. This includes lust. Are you still going to struggle against it? Yes. But by God’s grace it doesn’t have to have power over you. You don’t have to be enslaved or addicted to it. You can say no and you can be free of its power over you.
I Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it." This verse tells us that we are not alone in our sin, whatever it may be. The temptation you feel is common to everyone. It also tells you that God is faithful. He hasn’t abandoned you. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can say no to. So never tell yourself the lie that you can’t say no. This verse says you can say no. It says that you can withstand the temptation to entertain dirty thoughts or masturbate. It also says that God always prepares an escape route for us. It takes time and you have to learn to walk in the freedom that God has given you, but you can be free. The Bible literally says to FLEE from sexual temptation. (I Corinthians 6:18) And a lot of times, that’s your escape route: Leave! Go far away.
If this is something that you are struggling against today, then I encourage you to claim the freedom that Christ has already won for you at the cross and seek Gods help for walking in it. It will take time and you will fail from time to time. But if you continue to cling to the promises of God and you choose to avoid filling your mind with sexual images and putting yourself in tempting situations, then you can be set free from even these sins.
* Monk-Turner, Elizabeth "Sexual Violence in Pornography: How Prevalent is it?" Gender Issues 17, no. 2 (Spring 1999): 58-67.
**William M. Struthers, Wired for Intimacy. How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009); quoted in Albert Mohler, Hijacking the Brain-How Pornography Works, February 1, 2010, www.albertmohler.com/2010/02/01/hijacking-the-brain-how-pornography-works/