The Greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.
— Stephen Hawking —
Why Traditional Approaches Do Not Work
If you have struggled with pornography for some time, tried various approaches to overcome it, and are now reading these words, then you likely have found the other approaches helpful for a time, but not helpful in the long run. Welcome to the club!
If you’re like me, you have tried about everything … intensive prayer, accountability partners, internet filters, “amputation”, bouncing your eyes, taking thoughts captive, and online courses that seek to help us manage these strategies. But here you are still struggling and wondering if there is any hope. Let me assure you, there is hope … great hope. But you must first understand WHY traditional approaches ultimately do not work for most people.
What you and I need in order to overcome temptations is an internal “something” that controls our thoughts and hence our behaviours. All of the prescribed strategies are attempts at external control of lust. Jesus made it clear that evil comes from within and not from without.
Mark 7:14-23 (NIV)
14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’”
17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’?
19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)
20 He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’ ”
Jesus clearly states that all kinds of evil, including the lust that seeks out pornography, comes from within the human heart. The lust is internal.
There is no way we can avoid sexualized visual stimuli in our culture. Thus if our focus is on eliminating outside things, we can never have hope of being free. What we must do is learn how to avoid lust (from within). That is what this website is about.
For now, let’s think about how this applies to the various approaches we have been taught for controlling our lust.
Just pray harder?
You will learn elsewhere on this site that there are certain ideas we have been taught concerning the nature of the human body that seem true. As you explore these you’ll realize that these things that seem like the truth are actually not. In fact, they are lies that hold us in bondage to lust. Satan was defeated at the cross. The only power he holds over us is the power of lies. He is the father of lies. The bondage in our hearts is empowered by these lies and until the lies are broken, no amount of prayer will change anything.
When I tried praying harder I asked God to take away my desire for sex, to remove my attraction to porn, to give me strength to resist temptation, to intervene
so that I would not accidentally view any excessive skin, to draw me closer to Him so I would not have lustful thoughts, and so on.
While I prayed for help, my heart continued to be fueled by the lie I believed was the truth and I never saw much change. It turned out to be my attempt, using the discipline of prayer, to control something that was buried deep in my heart that adamantly resisted change. This was an external attempt that did not deal with the internal problem.
As the scriptures say, “two are better than one” when trying to stand against sin (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Yes, it is good to share your struggle with another person. Exposing our sin to the light can be helpful. However, accountability can only go so far. Accountability does not address the lie that fuels the lust.
I fear losing your approval. I fear having to admit to failure. I fear you might give up on me. And so, based on this fear, I try harder to avoid viewing pornography. I don’t want to have to admit failure, so it supposedly helps me resist.
The Bible teaches us that “the fear of man brings a snare” (Proverbs 29:25). Accountability uses the “fear of man” as an external attempt to deal with an internal problem (the lies that hold bondage rather than the truth that sets free). It ultimately won’t work.
Internet filters are an external attempt to control anything from entering the eye and mind that might stimulate lust. Supposedly by filtering we can’t access pornography, thus we minimize the temptation. But does this external control really address the internal source of lust? The problem remains even though the opportunity is limited.
Even the best filters can’t eliminate every porn site (especially since 260 new porn sites appear daily). Some of us are smart enough to get around filters. Many of us have access to other computers without filters.
As I stated earlier, Jesus addressed this issue in Mark 7. It is not the external input that causes sensuality and lust, but it is the human heart that does. Filters only attempt, by external control, to minimize the opportunities to lust. But what will control the source of lust in the heart of man? That requires a different kind of filter, a filter of truth that sets us free.
One approach often recommended is to create strategies that will minimize the possibility of temptation. These approaches uses the scripture that speaks of plucking out your eye or cutting off your hand if it causes you to sin, (Matthew 5:28-30). Such radical “amputation” is taught as necessary. I’ve heard of amputation tactics of getting rid of the computer, eliminating TV, refusing to look at any magazine or newspaper that might show a little skin, and so on. Be ruthless in eliminating any source of temptation!
A similar strategy recommended is “bouncing your eyes.” Develop the habit of bouncing your eyes away whenever you see anything tempting.
Another strategy is to build fences of protection around you. For example, plan a different travel route in order to avoid tempting places (e.g. news stand, lingerie shop, porn stores, swimming beach, etc.). The idea is to create whatever strategy it takes to avoid the “triggers” of lust.
Do you see the pattern? These are, once again, man-made attempts to externally control what goes into the person. It does nothing to address what lies within and comes out of the person.
Since the lies empower lust, no man-made strategy will ultimately succeed. In fact, concerning an achieved level of success, one author said, “Once you have that in your heart, you better be on guard the rest of your life.” That doesn’t sound like the freedom Jesus promised in John 8:32.
Taking Every Thought Captive
“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 – NASB).
Because Jesus is truth and all that He upholds is truth, we could also say, “taking every thought captive to the obedience of the truth.” This is important in our ongoing walk with Christ. Life is a battle of fighting against the false teaching and values of the world and of Satan.
Unfortunately, in the traditional approach of dealing with pornography this verse is used to bring every thought captive in obedience to “false thinking” (thought to be the will and mind of Christ). We would be appalled to think that we are submitting our thoughts to falsehood, while thinking we are submitting them to Christ. However, that is exactly what we are doing in the traditional approach.
I used this strategy a lot, but it almost wore me out continually quoting 2 Cor. 10:5.
Friend, if you have tried all the traditional approaches to overcoming pornography and you are tired, still attracted, and don’t feel free at the core of your being, then seriously consider the ideas you will find on this website. If you still feel like a slave chained to the enemy it is time to take off those chains with the truth! Discover what are the lies and what is the truth!
— Pastor Bill
Next up: Battling Pornography—What Does Work