Last week I wrote about how pornography works. This week we look at how to reverse its effects from a biblical perspective.
How to Reverse the Effects of Pornography: A Biblical Perspective
As helpful as it is to understand the physiological process of how pornography works, God gave us His Word to correct and instruct us on any matter, let alone the topic of sexual sin (cf. 2 Tim 3:16–17), and beyond this, Scripture has a great deal to say about the topic of sexual sin. This is not to say that it would not be useful to some degree to do physiological studies that would yield suggestions for battling porn. It is to say, however, that God’s Word already explicitly addresses the matter of how to handle sexual sin, so why would we run elsewhere first for answers?
What follows below is a brief look at the greater biblical means of reversing the effects of porn. It would certainly help to give a detailed examining of many texts on the topic of sexual sin, but for the sake of brevity, these texts must be assumed within the broader framework of what follows below.1
The work of God in salvation begins a definitive work in us whereby we progress in our sanctification and thus desire all sin, porn included, less and less over time. We must avail ourselves to God’s many means of grace so that we increase in our affection for Him and thereby diminish our desire for porn. What follows are a few points to explain these thoughts more fully.
Repent of sin and Believe in the Gospel
Seeking and deriving pleasure from pornography is sin. As with any sin, one must understand Jesus Christ as fully God and man who lived a perfect life and sinlessly died for the sin of all mankind (Rom 5:8–10; 2 Cor 5:20–21), including sin that involves pornography. All those who repent of their sin and place their faith in Christ find forgiveness and cleansing in Him (1 John 1:8–9).
Die to sin and live to God in Christ Jesus
The work of salvation includes having died to our former way of life and being no longer dominated by the power of sin (Rom 6:5–6). The reign of sin in our lives has been definitively breached and broken. At the point of salvation and thereafter, we progressively put away what remains of sin and live unto righteousness by the power of the Spirit (Rom 6:6; 8:13; Gal 5:16–26).2 We will certainly do so because God continues His work in us until Christ’s return (Phil 1:6). As we grow in our affection for God, our desire for pornography will diminish.
Put the Pornography Away
“Sexual immorality, impurity, passion”—it is these things that we must “put to death” immediately (Col 3:5). To actively sin through pornography while claiming to have fellowship with God is to walk in darkness, lie, and not practice the truth (1 John 1:6). Along with our salvation, we must get rid of your porn. Throw out your magazines and videos, clear your internet favorites, and get rid of all your pornography, whatever form it may be.
Lead Yourself Not into Temptation
Not only must we get rid of our porn, but we must also put up checks and balances that keep us from engaging in this sin again. Just as we are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” so also we must “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:14). It is not sin or legalism to do what it takes to keep yourself from sinning again. Get a filter for the internet on every device, have an accountability partner, and do whatever it takes to keep yourself away from porn.
Equip Yourself with God’s Word
We have all we need for “life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Pet 1:3). This knowledge of God is found in His Word and comes to us through personal study and preaching. It is through Scripture that we may be “equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16–17). Memorizing and meditating upon Scriptures immediately applicable to pornography are particularly helpful activities that will equip you to do battle against your sin. As David said, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:11).
Change Yourself through the Church
The ministry of the saints to one another grows us toward a “mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13; cf. 4:11–16). The church and its individual members spur one another to love and good works (Heb 10:24–25) and provide an accountability to one another that brings about admonition and discipline when necessary (Matt 18:15–18; Rom 15:14). Our interaction with one another pushes us away from sins like engaging in porn, and the saints and the assembly admonish us to stop such sin if present.
Intentionally Renew Your Mind
In whatever you do with the time that would have been given to pornography, “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col 3:17), and “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). Since you have previously given yourself to sensuality through pornography to some degree, you should likely be all the more mindful to do things that intentionally renew your mind unto righteousness and holiness in order to diminish the effects of your previous habit (cf. Eph 4:17–24). Such renewal could be through listening to sermons, reading Christian literature, or meditating directly on Scripture.
Perhaps we could tread lightly and suggest that salvation and progressive sanctification undo the physiological effects of pornography over time. The satisfaction one knows from salvation and its fruit and whatever concurrent dopamine release there may be along the way may just leave pathways created by iFosB that help to motivate righteous habits in time. Meditation upon one’s redemption and its practical outworking may give a joy whereby the brain says, “This feels good; let’s remember how to get back there.” Perhaps the former pornographer finds himself eventually thirsting not for porn but for God because his joy in Him is so much more fulfilling than what he once received from porn. Could this not be so?
Whatever the exact physiological description of the joy of our salvation may be, as we have seen, we can actively choose by God’s power to abstain from sexual sin. We find our joy in Christ, and though we struggle to put away what remains of our sexual sin, whether involving pornography or something else, we do so with the hope that all our spiritually destructive cravings will one day be changed and we will no longer want porn again. Our “Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ . . . will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil 3:20–21), and “we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). May we strive to be now what we shall be then, like our Savior Jesus Christ, with no addiction to porn, and living for the glory of God.
- For further study, however, see Tim Challies, Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn (Adelphi, MD: Cruciform, 2010); Erwin Lutzer, Winning the Inner War: How to Say No to a Stubborn Habit (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2002); and Edward T. Welch, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave : Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2001). [↩]
- For a theology of definitive and progressive sanctification, see Anthony A. Hoekema, “The Reformed Perspective,” 59–90, in Five Views on Sanctification (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987); John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1955), 141–50. [↩]