06/13/14

Coping with Our Porn-is-the-Norm Culture

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What would you say if someone came up to you after a church service and said:

  • “Dirty, ugly, shameful, unwanted and unloved are a few of the words I’ve used to describe myself. For twenty years I have lived in the darkness of sexual addiction.”

or

  • “I was a good, Christian boy raised in a good Christian home and community, and my life didn’t look any different from the world and what it promotes sexually. . . . I knew all the Christian doctrines, but in my heart I was helpless to resist, a slave to my desires—for the next 25 years.”

or

  • “After college I “stumbled” across pornography following a broken relationship. . . . After every fall I would be crushed with guilt and shame; I would ask for forgiveness; I would feel better; and then shortly thereafter fall again.”

Could you give these three people any hope and practical help for their struggles with sexual sin? One place you could suggest is Harvest USA. In their Winter 2013 Newsletter, you can read the complete personal stories of the three people quoted above. In that same newsletter, is the Dave White and Nicolas Black article, mentioned in a previous blog post, “Our Porn-is–the-Norm Culture.”

Another helpful resource that I’ve used regularly in Tim Chester’s book, Closing the Window. Chester said that porn is providing the sex education for a generation of young people. It is establishing their expectations for sex and marriage. “We have a generation of young people for whom the call to repentance must include a call to turn from porn.”

Chester gave a helpful, biblically sound definition. Porn “is anything we use for sexual titillation, gratification or escape—whether it was intended for that purpose or not.” So looking at ads or catalogues to stimulate lust, “undressing” someone with your eyes, fantasizing about sex with someone who is not your spouse, are equally pornographic along with sexually explicit material in magazines or movies or on the Internet.

The biblical starting point for this definition of pornography is Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Chester suggested five key ingredients that need to be in place to win the battle with porn:

  1. Abhorrence of porn—a hatred of porn itself (not just the shame it brings) and a longing for change.
  2. Adoration of God—a desire for God, arising from a confidence that he offers more than porn.
  3. Assurance of grace—an assurance that you are loved by God and right with God through faith in the work of Jesus.
  4. Avoidance of temptation—a commitment to do all in your power to avoid temptation, starting with controls on your computer.
  5. Accountability to others—a community of Christians who are holding you accountable and supporting you in your struggle.

John Freeman, the President of Harvest USA, had this to say about Closing the Window: “This is a wonderful resource to add to the arsenal of anyone serious about finding freedom from the power of pornography. . . . It is an excellent pastoral tool to help those dealing with and impacted by the false promises and lies of our porn-is-the-norm culture.”

Several years ago I had a conversation with Tim Geiger, now the Executive Director of Harvest USA, about counseling individuals struggling with sexual sin. I frankly told him of my reluctance to counsel individuals with this issue. The problems were so entrenched. The denial and resistance was so strong. This was coming from someone who has spent most of his counseling career working with addicts and alcoholics. But that reluctance faded away after I read Closing the Window. This is THE resource to read and recommend to individuals struggling with porn.

Do you agree with Tim Chester’s definition of porn?

05/30/14

What Would You Like to Change?

On a retreat once, a woman said she believed God wanted the group to pray for a healing of my right arm. I was born with a birth defect to my right arm. And while I do believe that all things were possible for those who believe, I wasn’t holding out much hope that the prayer would end with me having a restored right arm. But she was sincere and seemed empathetic, so I agreed for the people there to gather around me and pray for my healing.

When the prayers were done, I described the ways I believed God had shaped my through the birth defect. I said that if God offered me the opportunity to have a life where I grew up without the birth defect, but couldn’t guarantee everything else would be the same, I would refuse. Someone commented that it seemed God had already healed me.

Here and there I’ve heard other people give similar testimonies. Once at a conference, I heard a woman say she was grateful she was an alcoholic, because that was how she came to God. Recently I posed the “if God offered you an opportunity” question to someone who is in the midst of some very stressful times. She also said that if God couldn’t guarantee everything else in her life would be same, she would refuse a life change as well.

I don’t see this as Stoic. Rather, I see it as redemptive. God works through the circumstances of our lives for good (Romans 8:28). But are there things in your life that you can change and should change? Anything? And how would you go about it?

Tim Chester has written an incredibly helpful guide to do just that: You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions. Chester said his book alone cannot change someone. But it tries to connect the truth about God with our Monday-morning struggles. “This book points to Jesus and explains how faith in Jesus leads to change.”

He designed the book to be read as you work on a particular concern—your change project. Each chapter has the form of a question that you ask in your change project, with further questions at the end of each chapter to go deeper if you want. So what would you like to change? Why would you like to change? What stops you from changing? Are you ready for a lifetime of daily changing? These are all questions that Chester will ask you as you read his book. There is also additional material on the publisher’s (Inter-Varsity Press) website.

The last chapter cautioned that while sometimes people are dramatically changed, with one area of struggle disappearing almost overnight, that kind of change is rare. Most change is a slow battle. Insight and understanding into the lies and desires behind the sin doesn’t mean the problem is solved. Now you know where the fight is taking place and you know the truth you need to embrace. “But the struggle to believe that truth continues.”

What do you think stops people from making the changes they know they need to make?