Overcoming Pornography: Changing Our Behavior, Part 2
One night as a young pastor, I chose to view pornography. I felt terrible. I’d failed my Lord, my wife, my church. I’d been a fool. I caught a horrifying glimpse of what I could easily become. But shame did nothing to deliver me. I had to start thinking—and choosing—differently.
We must realize it is possible to control our behavior and choices no matter how vile or persistent the temptations. I know many men (and some women) who face temptation toward pornography, but they consistently resist both the thoughts and the actions.
The existence of a desire does not justify or necessitate succumbing to that desire. We live in a hedonistic society that tells us desires are meant to be fulfilled. But every desire need not be fulfilled, and indeed, in many cases, should not be. We are not animals blindly compelled by desire. We are human beings, created in God’s image, with the capacity to choose. We are not victims. Every action is a choice. Every sin is a choice. Every right behavior is a choice.
If we feel our desires are so strong that we “must” look at pornography, we should ask ourselves the question, “Would I still do this if someone pointed a gun at my head and promised to fire it if I did?” If the answer is no—and of course it is—it demonstrates that we don’t have to make this choice, but merely that we want to and choose to. (Once we’re in Heaven with Christ there will be no more sin or even temptation. Until then we have to face temptations, but we don’t have to succumb to them.)
We must actively resist and refuse to give in to the evil desires and fantasies that push themselves upon us. “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5). This isn’t impossible. God is not cruel. He never commands us to do something without giving us the power in Christ to obey Him. We can call upon Christ for that power.
It is possible over time to redirect and change our hearts. Jesus said sexual sin begins in the heart—“I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27-28). All evil resides and is cultivated in the heart, and outward behavior is the product of this inner evil. That means that we need a heart transplant, a mind reprogramming, a change in our inner beings.
God says “If any man is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17). If we have truly turned to Christ, truly confessed ours sin and utter unworthiness, truly trusted him to save us from our sins, then we are a new person. In order to live like a new person, we need to meditate on and embrace this new reality. The old habits of sinful thought and action have embedded patterns. To break those habits and establish new patterns we must appeal to and cultivate our new identity in Christ, establishing a new set of habits that reinforce it.