Be Radical: How much does your holiness matter to you?
A young man or woman comes to you, admitting their struggle with pornography. Let’s say this person professes to be a believer—someone who is born-again (John 3:3-8) and has the Holy Spirit dwelling in them (Rom. 8:9-11).
A common strategy in fighting against pornography is restricting access. Let me make two contentions:
- If there are no restrictions on their internet, this believer’s open access points need to be shut down and eliminated. Unencumbered open access is dangerous for their soul.
- Maybe he has already narrowed his access. That’s a good step in fighting this problem. But often I encounter believers who are still He confesses that he’s looked at nude pictures on Instagram, or he’s watched an inappropriate video on Youtube. If he’s accessed porn that means he’s got access to pornography somewhere in his life. In this case, he should re-examine if he is being radical enough in his fight against sexual sin. Sin dulls our spiritual senses and makes us do foolish things. Has he grown lazy in maintaining his firewall? Are there cracks in his firewall? Is he taking drastic steps in cutting off his sin?
Contention #1: Open Access Needs to Be Eliminated
Unfettered access to the internet is dangerous for any struggler’s soul. In a weak moment, when there is access, he or she will look at pornography. If they confess to me, I aggressively pursue cutting off their access. It’s healthy and wise to set up roadblocks to unmonitored and unfiltered access.
A believer struggling with pornography demonstrates that he or she can’t handle open access. The desires of their flesh are too strong and their self-control too weak. We take away their freedom to open access to protect them from themselves. But we do it with these three caveats in mind:
- Pride makes them think, “I can handle this.” They are wrong.
- Our over-arching goal is greater maturity in Christ (Col. 1:27-28). With more spiritual maturity, the fruits of the Spirit, like self-discipline, will grow.
Greater maturity in Christ = Greater self-discipline
- Restricting access ALONE is not an adequate strategy. Believers can cut off access to porn, but they still wrestle with fleshly desires, raging inside their hearts. At best, when you restrict access, you put a fortified wall around a sin-crazed heart. That leaves us to pursue the deeper matters of the heart in later conversations.
Contention #2: We Must Take A Radical Approach in Cutting Off Sexual Sin
When I encounter a believer looking at pornography, far too often he hasn’t been radical enough in cutting off his sin. He looks at porn because he has held on to access points, and he has grown too comfortable with his sin to cut it out. Rationalizations, excuses, and a love for his sin makes him hold on.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 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. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (vv. 27-30).
Jesus reminds us about the seventh commandment—do not commit adultery. But he takes it one step further. He’s not just talking about the physical act of adultery. He expands the definition—if a man or woman looks at another with lustful intent in his or her heart, it is as if they too have committed adultery. In Scripture, the term “heart” is used to describe the core of who you are (Prov. 4:23; 20:5; Matt. 15:8, 18-19; Luke 6:45). Lust, coveting, and greed are heart problems. You don’t need to touch a woman in order to commit sin. You merely need to look at her lustfully.
Jesus goes on—if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. Obviously, our Lord uses exaggeration for effect. The point is not to do physical harm to yourself, but Christ communicates how serious sexual sin is. He uses graphic imagery to say—be radical. Don’t take a soft approach to fighting sexual sin. Brutally cut it out of your life.
What if this believer has lied to himself? “Just one last time,” or “Jesus will forgive me,” or “I deserve this.” Lies allow him to make excuses that hold onto access points, which in turn allows him to continue in his sexual sin. Don’t take a soft approach to fighting sexual sin. Brutally cut it out of your life. Click To Tweet
Christ said be radical. Get the believer to measure up his last few months against Jesus’ words. Has he taken drastic measures, or is he making excuses, delaying making adjustments, or continuing to hide? Has she tolerated her sin, coddled it, maybe even welcomed it, and in so doing, continued to give her sin a chance to overrun her life?
If you are a discipler, small group leader, or close friend, coming alongside a Christian who is struggling, do you plead with and exhort him to take a more radical approach? I often say to strugglers, “Be brutal in cutting off access points.”
What is better—for your friend to lose an eye or hand but walk toward heaven, or to run fast towards hell? Christ warns them. Any mention of hell should be scary. If he chooses to indulge his sin, to ignore God’s commands, to disobey and shake his fist at God, then his rebellion and foolishness will lead to death.
Fighting sin is serious business. Don’t let your friend indulge their sin. What drastic steps can he or she take today to cut off access to the pornography? If a Christian confesses looking at porn the previous week, your conversation should revolve around the access point and how to cut it out. Show zero-tolerance towards their sexual sin.
Practical Steps Demonstrating A Radical Approach
Practically speaking, every time the porn struggler falls, I’m vicious in eliminating their access points. Graciously, lovingly, but aggressively exhort your friend to get rid of any and every access point.
Things to consider as you help a believer get rid of their access points.
- Ask about every e-device he or she owns. For example, is there an old phone sitting around that still provides access?
- Ask if they have filter programs, like Covenant Eyes, that could be put on all of their devices? Or can they use a program like Circle, that monitors at the level of the modem every device in the house?
- Get rid of the standard web browsers and rely on a browser that is carefully monitored.
- Use the Restrictions function on your phone, which can cut out the web browser, app store, set time limits, etc. Make sure the restrictions code is known only by an accountability partner. If the believer who is struggling knows the restrictions code, he will remove the restrictions in a moment of weakness and act out.
- Get rid of all apps that have an imbedded browser. There are so many backdoors to internet access and pornographic content. You can view pornography without ever leaving Twitter, or access Safari via Google Maps. And the list goes on. Our sinful nature is very creative!
What’s the principle behind these practical steps? We’re removing control from the struggling believer and giving it to others. Because of their repeated falls into sexual sin, they have shown that they can’t properly steward their freedom of open access. Their carnal desires are too strong and their flesh too weak. So temporarily, we remove their freedom, with the goal of one day in the future restoring it.
The sinful flesh has desires that do battle with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit that dwells in the believer is a warrior Spirit (Gal. 5:16-24). The Spirit kills our carnal desires, gives us wisdom to make better decisions, and helps us to change over the long-haul.
Christ died for our sin, so that we might have life in him (Rom. 6:10-11). Trust that Christ is powerful, and God’s grace is strong. Don’t tolerate the sin anymore. Cut off any access points to pornography today.