9 Ways to Fight the Temptation of Pornography

My earlier post “7 Negative Effects of Porn” concentrated on the harmful psychological and sociological effects of pornography, and this post will focus on a biblical and grace-centered way to resist the temptation to view porn. Primarily this post is aimed at men, but I hope that there is some help here for the growing number of women who are addicted to porn and I hope that more Christian women will write on this hidden issue.

  1. Fight lustful images with the knowledge of God’s written Word. Images are unbelievably powerful, but God has made the universe through his word and the explosive power of his word trumps the alluring power of an image. God didn’t give us a picture-Bible, but revealed himself through words and sentences to be read and heard. The longest chapter in the Bible shows that the way a young man keeps his way pure is through knowing God’s word (Ps. 119:9, 11). Therefore the firecracker of pornographic images is no match for the napalm of God’s spoken and written word.
  2. Realize that viewing porn unleashes insatiable craving but kills genuine satisfaction. Leering at naked women online incites yearnings for more and more naked women, yet never gives ultimate satisfaction.  On the other hand, the body of one’s wife is a garden of pleasures that leads to holy satisfaction. The book of Proverbs gives the wisdom of a father to son: “Let [your wife’s] breasts satisfy you at all times”(5:18, 19). The body and breasts of your wife contain an intoxicating influence that no other body and breasts can bring. If you don’t think they are satisfying or intoxicating, the problem isn’t her, but the fact that you settle for inferior and ultimately unsatisfying cravings. Why settle for cheap wine when your wife is a fine vintage.
  3. Treat all women who are not your wife like sisters and mothers (1 Ti. 5:2). Look into the eyes of your mom or sister and recognize that the centerfold you gazed at last night probably has a heartbroken family member that loves her. Unless a further sexual deviancy has developed within you, the thought of your daughter or mother being a centerfold should appall you and jolt you out of the objectification of women and back into the reality of treating all women as created in the image of God.
  4. Sever the sources of temptation to view porn. When discussing the adulterous sin of lust, Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Mt. 5:29). In doing so he prescribes a radical violence toward that which leads you to sin. Jesus knew that amputating your hand doesn’t kill lustful desire, after all he said sin starts in the heart (Mt. 15:19), but his call does mean that you need to get drastic on non-sins that may lead to sin. For some of you this will mean disconnecting the Internet for a period of time or only accessing it in public places, for others this may mean an extended media fast of all kinds. You fill-in-the-blank. Remember, though legalism is never a means to sanctification, the call to holiness and following Jesus demands radical steps.
  5. Think about the eternal result of lust. As Jesus’ words indicated above, at on one level, his answer to how to fight lust is: fight it or risk going to hell. God’s wrath is coming for all kinds of sin and one of them is sexual sin (Col 3:5-6). Therefore since purity is of eternal importance, don’t give up in the fight for it. This is only one of the ways to fight this particular sin, but it is not the most significant way. The primary way to repent is through seeing God’s magnificent kindness and undeserved grace in Jesus (Ro. 2:4), but this does not mean we that we ignore the other biblical incentives of repentance in light of God’s future terrible wrath. Grace is the best motivator, but it is not the only one.
  6. Enjoy the pleasures of purity more than the pleasures of porn. Eighteenth-century preacher Thomas Chalmers, in his classic sermon “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”, demonstrated how the greatest power in killing a sinful desire is not just by harping on the sinful desire but on replacing it with a new and greater holy desire. The promise of experiencing sinful lustful pleasures at almost any moment via your Internet connection is hard to argue with, unless you replace it with a superior pleasure, then it becomes easy. Jesus said it is the pure in heart that will see God (Mt. 5:8), and the Psalmist tells us that in the presence of God are infinite pleasures (Ps. 16:11). In view of this reality, the desire to see God who gives eternal pleasure far outweighs temporal lustful desire. It’s insane to settle for a mud puddle of pleasure when you have an ocean of pleasure awaiting you in the presence of the Triune God.
  7. Avoid accountability groups and link up with believers radically focused on encouraging one another in the Gospel of grace. Accountability groups kill, but gospel-driven community gives life. Well, maybe this is a bit of an overstatement against accountability groups, but the point is that often accountability groups turn into focusing on sin rather than experiencing the gospel of grace. Men’s groups I’ve been apart of in the past tend to focus more on the experiences of failure the week before not the event of God’s grace in the death and resurrection of Christ 2,000 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, Christian relationships should engage in confession of sin (Ja. 5:16), but they are also meant for encouragement in grace. The author of the Hebrews reveals that the key to not being hardened to the deceitfulness of sin is daily encouragement not an excessive concentration on sin (Heb. 3:13). The use of accountability software between brothers to keep one away from online pornography is helpful, but grace-oriented encouragement between brothers is best.
  8. Stare at Jesus not at porn. Trying harder and harder to stop looking at porn isn’t the way to stop looking at porn; you must look somewhere else, namely, the person of Jesus Christ. Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:18 writes, “And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” True inward change comes from beholding Jesus not from not looking at porn. As it has been said, what you behold you become, or as biblical theologian Greg Beale puts it, you become what you worship. Look at porn and become a person controlled by lust and idolatry or look at Jesus and become a glorious and whole human being that reflects the beauty and glory of God.
  9. Fight as a son of God who has been freed to walk in purity. As a Christian the key to fighting lustful temptation (and any temptation for that matter) is by knowing who you are not by evaluating what you have done. Becoming a son of God is not dependent upon your not looking at porn, but upon being united to Jesus by faith and the result of the Spirit of God’s work in your heart (Ro. 8:3-4, 14). No longer are you defined by your entanglements with porn, but by your connection to the person and work Jesus. Jesus was crucified for your lust, and he has made you objectively pure in him. Therefore you can work from a place of purity as covered in the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21), not toward a place of purity to earn righteousness. Kill the urge to view porn because you are a son of God who is dead to sin and free to walk in purity (Ro. 6:1-14). Pornography is no longer your master—God is your father who radically loves you (1 Jn. 3:1) and Jesus is your sin-bearer who is not ashamed to call you, with all your inordinate lusts, “brother”  (Heb 2:11). So, fight the temptation of pornography, to paraphrase John Piper, as a victor not a victim.
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22 thoughts on “9 Ways to Fight the Temptation of Pornography

  1. I was much younger than both of my brothers and I believe their involvement in pornography led them to molest me when I was seven. Although they were both old enough to know better they were 12 & 14 and I don’t think they knew how to handle the sexual stimulation they received when viewing pornography. Due to the molestation it was difficult for me to establish sexual boundaries as a teen. Afterall, molestation by someone you love makes it difficult not to relate sexual feelings with love.

  2. I am saddened to hear that Betsy. I’d encourage you to read a book on this issue by my friend Justin Holcomb. He and his wife wrote a book called *Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for the Victims of Sexual Assault* that could be helpful to you. There is hope and healing in the gospel. If you don’t have it already check the book out, and, more importantly, find a pastor or counselor who loves Jesus who can walk you through this heartbreaking issue.

    Book link: http://www.amazon.com/Rid-My-Disgrace-Healing-Victims/dp/1433515989

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  8. BJ,

    How does #5 work in the life of a believer? You mention that we must fight lust “or risk going to hell.” That cannot mean that a Christian’s salvation is dependent on his ability to refrain from lust. After all, one could give up pornography altogether but continue to lust, just as one can avoid physical adultery but continue to lust. I don’t know of any person who can honestly say that he has eliminated all lust from his life. How much lust will turn the “risk” of hell into reality?

    Isn’t the answer that any lust merits God’s wrath, just as any sin does? But Christ has fulfilled the law through his sinless life and taken on that wrath through the cross, so the debt of our sin has been paid in full and His righteousness is credited to us when we repent and place our faith in Him. Therefore there is no condemation for those who are in Jesus. I thought the whole point of the gospel message and its promise of freedom is that we are no longer walking around with the sword of God’s wrath hanging above us. Attempting to do good and avoid sin in the hope of avoiding hell is legalism, just as surely as if our motivation was to somehow earn God’s favor, right?

    Or is your point that because lust is deserving of God’s wrath, that should motivate us to hate it as much as God hates it — because our increasing desire in Christ should be to love what He loves and hate what He hates? Or are you saying that a pattern of unrepentant lust is an indication that someone has not been regenerated?

    I appreciate your article very much. Just trying to understand.

    Jeff

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  10. Thanks for sharing this, to me lust is one of the hardest sins to fight due to the temptation, my greatest weakness that held me down was choosing to *wait* until later to fight it and continue with the sinful pleasures anyways..if anyone else is having the same problem and reading this i’d like to encourage you to fight it *now* because waiting until its eventually too late is exactly what lucifer wants,have confidence in yourself and try your very best with the help of God and you’ll do amazing

  11. I’ve struggled with lust for a while and I think the root of the thing is that I thought of sex outside of marriage as a desirable thing. That’s where the battle is won or lost. The only way to stop lusting is to simply believe God when he says that sex outside of marriage isn’t a good or satisfying experience.

  12. i believe in God but i;m struggling with my desires of the flesh. i know my heavenly Father and my earth Father who passed away 18 years ago are disgusted in the way i have allowed this thing called lust take over my life.
    i know its Lucifer the Devil playing mind games with me. He;s after my soul and i need strength and guidance prayer and love to help me through this, but who can i tell, who can i confide in and ask for help. i can hear you all screaming ask Jesus the son of God to guide you, but i don;t think he wants to be around me who doesn’t obey his and Our Fathers laws.
    I want to say a prayer

    O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the most high, i pray for forgiveness and guidance and the strength to fight the demons called lust. I pray dear lord that you give me the strength to not only turn my head but turn my thoughts and actions away from the lust Satan encourages me to crave. Help me understand my actions and thoughts, help me to be strong and more considerate person, help me to acknowledge the hurt you must feel every time we fall by the way side but understand you are there to pick us up, every time, as long as we call out to you and sincerely repent.
    Don’t forsake me Lord for without you i am nothing but with you i am everything.
    Lord hear my prayer.
    Amen.

  13. Ugh. To be a victor… not hiding secret sins, as a mother and a daugher and member of my church…. this is something difficult to admit and face. I hate the guilt and fear of hell but the burning temptation…. so hard!!! But movibg forward is key and faith in God will be everything.

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