You Can Have Victory Over Lust and Pornography | World Challenge

You Can Have Victory Over Lust and Pornography

Shame and feeling incomplete or insignificant often leads us to seek out worldly solutions. As we spiral into isolation and harmful patterns of living, we can quickly find ourselves with addictions that we’d never imagined having. No one sets out to become a pornography addict, but many have found themselves caught. Unable to pull away from explicit material, they feel forced to watch as it consumes their thoughts and lives. This week, Gary Wilkerson and Bob Ditmer discuss the deeper injuries to our hearts and souls that can lead to addictions like pornography. They want believers to know that we can find healing that leads to freedom.

Shame and feeling incomplete or insignificant often leads us to seek out worldly solutions. As we spiral into isolation and harmful patterns of living, we can quickly find ourselves with addictions that we’d never imagined having. No one sets out to become a pornography addict, but many have found themselves caught. Unable to pull away from explicit material, they feel forced to watch as it consumes their thoughts and lives. This week, Gary Wilkerson and Bob Ditmer discuss the deeper injuries to our hearts and souls that can lead to addictions like pornography. They want believers to know that we can find healing that leads to freedom.

Bob: Well, Gary, we're going to be talking about a topic today that is uncomfortable and a lot of people don't like to talk about it. Maybe that's part of the problem. It's one that needs to be talked about and that is pornography.

Are there other reasons besides lack of significance that leads to pornography or is that the primary one that you hear when you're pastoring?

Gary: The primary ones that I hear and that most people that really spend their whole careers helping people through this, there's two. The shame which we've spoken about. There's one that's a lot less spoken off and it surprised me when I first started studying this and it's anger. I think the surveys that they took over 3,800 men, they found out that 80% of them when they viewed pornography they looked at- I don't know what to call it, but angry pornography, aggressive, almost abusive, dominance, someone being subservient. They started it out like, "Why is so much of this directed towards--" They realize there's anger here. It's not just-- if you just deal with the lust, you're not dealing with the anger and the anger is still going to be in your heart and therefore you're going to go back to something that tries to-- you get to relieve the anger and play out the anger.

Most men, they're angry and they're lustful, but they are also fearful a little bit. They don't want to lose their jobs, pastors don't want to lose their ministries. Most pastors say, "I don't know anything else to do." They don't want to have an affair. They don't want to see a prostitute, so they feel like this is a safe way to get rid of that anger inside of them. Again, that's dealing with the issue of anger. We're spending so much time hearing sermons about, and reading books about it and even preaching against sin only in the form of repressing it, not in a way of understanding it and seeing why we sin. Where's this anger come from?

Maybe trace it back to a lot of men look at pornography when their wife rejects them from an invitation to intimacy and they'll say, "I can’t believe my wife, she is so mean to me." Then they go down to the basement and look at pornography. There's this track, this anger. "My boss just overlooked me and somebody else got the raise and not me." Most times we don't link it. We're frustrated, we're angry, we don't think and we just want some relief and so we go to pornography. We oftentimes don't trace the connection; shame, anger, fear and some of those other things that we did that. Another one is entitlement.

"I've worked hard." "I've served my family." "I gave overtime at the job." "I tithe and then gave to the missions program." "I've done a lot and even after doing all that, God I've done so much for you and I still feel miserable and I still feel lonely. Forget it, I'm just going to go out and have some fun." Pornography becomes the means by which we escape and there's a sense of entitlement. "I deserve this, I'm giving a whole lot but not getting anything." There's this fake, this false sense of intimacy. I'm getting something from these people that I'm viewing on a screen, that they're giving me something and they're not.

Again, coming into that circle, that cyclical thing, it just intensifies the loneliness, intensifies the lack of intimacy, the shame, and even the anger. "I'm angry." Now you're angry at yourself. You started the day angry at your boss or your wife and now you're angry at yourself for doing that. You're a Christian so you repented so It's going to be three, four more days, you're going to be clean and holy and you're going to feel good about it, but that self-anger will catch up with you after the faux holiness loses its power over you and you're back to your angry self. You got to deal with the root, the anger.

How do you deal with it? How do you deal with these deeper issues of the heart? First of all, is to face them. Again, in the church, we're oftentimes told just to repress them, don't talk about them, just a quick confession, come to the altar and confess it and then never talk about it again, never discuss it with anybody. Don't talk with your wife about it. Don't go to your pastor about it. Don't talk about it the men's group. We're coming to church with very superficial issues. Talking about-- It's always project oriented. We're going to go here, we're going to do this, we're going to build that, we're going to start this or this group's going to start, we're going to do this series, we're going to do this program.

Very little of-- like some guys sitting around on a couch and you're saying, "You're hurting, tell me about it. You're struggling, what is it?" This sense of openness, this sense that God has something more for us. That's the intimacy that we're looking for. It can be a marriage, yes, certainly but it also is in community and without that community-- Community helps anger heal, it helps the sense of not belonging when you're in-- If you're in a superficial community, you won't feel like you belong anyway even if you're in community. It's real community where you do belong and others belong to you that all sudden there's that sense and that's why God created us. He says, "It's not good that we're alone." That's the creation of male and female.

Bob: The church does a lot of-- you've already mentioned talking about what you should not do. Stay away from this, put up these guardrails. Do those actually in your view harm, getting to the root of the problem? I got to be there. I know it's a controversial question because I don't want to be suggesting forget all the guardrails, but do guardrails sometimes keep us from getting to the real problem, which just prolongs the issue.

Gary: Great question, I think it is. I think it gives us a momentarily superficial sense of control without dealing with the roots. It's like mowing your lawn and it had a lot of weeds in it and it looks like grass a little bit because it's had weed, so you go, "Okay. That's acceptable." That's maybe the guardrails we're talking about, is make sure you keep it looking good on the outside. Jesus talked about that cleaning outside of the cup, that's not going to take care of it. It has to be the inside of the cup. That's where the power comes from. There are some really healthy leaders in the church and some really healthy churches that are helping people.

A good friend of mine will be on another podcast. We'll be hearing from him, Nate Larkin has started this thing called the Samson Society. It's a group of men that have gotten together and said, they're so exhausted with the superficial and not dealing with their heart issues, and so tired of dealing with pornography in the secret closet and nobody knowing. They're talking about their drinking problems, their anger problems, their lust problems, their lack of love for their children problem. They're getting together and having these wonderful times of openness and the amount of healing that is taking place in that is phenomenal.

Bob: That's a good example. Are there some things that you think the church should be doing in addition to those? Do you have some suggestions for pastors that may be listening to us today?

Gary: I think this is such a-- the statistics you just-- we talked about it at the beginning of our time together today, would suggest to us without doubt that we in the church need to start being more intentional about dealing with this issue and not dealing with it on a superficial issue and not being afraid of it. There are certain words that's similar to this, you can't even say the word pornography in the church. A pastor can't preach about it. It's seen as a few men that wear cloaked in his jacket and they had some sunglasses and they walk into pornography shops. Maybe it used to be like that, but it's not now. It's so pervasive and so available in every home, on every telephone.

So many teenagers are dealing with this. We're going to have to get honest with it. We're going to have to stop stigmatizing it as, "That sin." It's totally fine for a pastor to be full of arrogance and pride and selfishness and almost applauded like, "Man, he's leading us into great things", but if we talk about pornography, you say, "Oh, that's shameful. that's a secret thing that nobody should talk about." We have to talk about it. We have to have groups. I believe like Samson Society or other ones. Celebrate Recovery is another one Rick Warren started. These things work when you start getting a little more honest.

Wild at Heart type of thing, John Eldredge. He speaks of these issues of men dealing with issues of the heart, the longings, getting to the core. A lot of it starts with self-work. A man's not going to go to a group or a woman are not going to go to a counselor or a pastor unless first, they're doing some self-work. Realizing that they have a problem, that pornography is both a sin and an addiction, and those two things are differentiated, I believe. That sin is the thing that happens. We talked a little bit about that. In pornography, I'm actually in a strange way I'm sinning against the woman who is having to make her living to do something so degrading.

I'm sinning against my wife because the intimacy I give to somebody else, false intimacy is taking away from the intimacy of that. I'm sinning against my children because I'm a man who now has secret shame and undealt with anger and increasing it by looking at pornography, so I'm doing that. I'm sinning against my church, my community, my job, everybody is being negatively affected by my sin and so I have to deal with my sin. God hates that because He sees how much it's hurting the people around me so He rebukes my sin, and He disciplines me for my sin, and rightfully so. Many of us are only dealing with the sin and not the addiction. God cares about the addiction as well.

He hates the sin, but He cares about the addiction. His care for the addiction is to say, "I understand that you're broken-hearted, I understand the woundedness, I understand the cry of your heart for intimacy and longing." It breaks His heart that we're looking for that thing in the wrong places. He wants to deal with the heart of the addict that says "Okay, I want to help you. Not only with the fruit of your sin but the root of your sin, and the woundedness that is driving you to this." You were abandoned as a child and now you're looking for love. Certain types of pornography, they find comes from being sexually abused as a child. That plays out in certain types of pornography as well and heavy addictions. Maybe even a lot of sexual acting out sinfully, it comes from that. Again, you wouldn't excuse the sin. They need to look at the sin but there's a reason maybe for it, not an excuse for it but a driver for it that is from this woundedness. That's where God wants to- He both wants to forgive the sin.

That's usually where we stop, "Forgive me, I shouldn't do it again. I promise I'll never do it again. I'm reading my Bible three times a day now and I'm going to fast." We deal with the sin but we're not actually dealing with the heart addiction. The goodness of God is that he deals with both. I believe, to get more back to your question, it starts with yourself, you're realizing you have a problem. You're realizing it's deeper. You're starting to find out why I'm angry? Why is this lust coming from? Why am I lonely? You're starting to even deal with it not by just putting a Covenant Eyes type-of-thing on your computer, but you're dealing with the heart issue as well.

You can put a block on your computer, and then you get it on your phone or you can go into a store, you're going to find magazines. You're going to find it if it's in your heart. The other things that can be helpful; the accountability partners and the blocks and the people that have access to what you're watching on your computer. Those can tend to be superficial if the man's heart is not dealing with the addictive nature, that he's having and dealing with it. It comes down to being hurt and shamed and wounded. It's easier to, "I don't want to deal with painful things. I want to be happy".

I'll be a lot happier if I just look at some pornography than I am having to spend a day alone with God just saying, "God, My heart is breaking and my heart is hurt. I feel so worthless. I feel so abandon. Then God start asking the questions, "Why do you feel abandoned?" "Lord, it started when I was a little boy." "Can you tell me about it.?" It's like, " Do you remember when my dad started hitting me. Then he was beating my mom and I just ran to the closet." You start remembering these things and it's painful. Again, we need help along this way. That's where I think Christian counseling is important to get some help in this realm, that can really change.

That's what it was for me, even after a good number of years in my mid-30s, I started looking inside the heart, the freedom. There was a change. It wasn't that bootstrapping and like, "I'm going to grit my teeth and not look at pornography and I can make it six months." This one was like, "Man, I'd forgotten that I liked that stuff. I've forgotten to look at it. It's almost nice. If I did become lonely, my default became, "Let me call a few friends and let's go have a nice meal together," or, "Let me call my best friend and tell them like, I'm kind of lonely I'm feeling--" That kind of-- is it nip in the bud?

Bob: Yes. You're nipping it in the bud.

Gary: I was going to say that and it sounded weird, nipping in the bud. You're nipping in the bud there. I can't speak for women but men, not to get too weird, there's a sequence like, a rocket launcher. Once you get to T -3 or whatever, you're going to take off. You're going to go into pornography and masturbation or whatever sexual sin. If you can stop it earlier you like, "I'm starting to feel angry and I'm starting to feel lonely, I'm starting to feel worried about my future, and then community is built for that. You're talking to somebody and then this real intimacy comes into your heart.

Out of that real intimacy comes like, the power of that sin just doesn't have the same kind of power anymore. What Satan has tried to put up as a false view of intimacy, it no longer has the same attraction. It still takes discipline. You could go like, "It's still a little attractive but it's not as powerful."

Bob: We talked about its pervasiveness, how many people it affects. We've talked about how hard it is to get over of, but if I'm hearing you correctly, you're saying you can have victory over it?

Gary: Absolutely.

Bob: Because there are some people out that think, "This is just with me forever. I'm just not going to worry about it anymore."

Gary: Yes. The majority of people, it's not like-- Certain addictions are short-lived. In our work with Teen Challenge at the drug rehab program, not too many people live 30, 40 years as a crystal meth user or a heroin injector. It kills them or even alcohol usually delivers such to that heavy drinker. Those tend to be like, "Man, I'm 30 and I'm still using drugs. I got to get some help." Whereas pornography, you can be 25, 30, 40, 50, 60 years old and nobody wants to wait until you have no testosterone. Nobody wants to wait and to like, "I'm healed." That's when you're 75 and you don't think about sex anymore. No wonder you're healed. That's not what God wants.

He wants us to be healed in our 20s. He wants us to be healed when we first go to it or He wants us to be prepared. Even as the Christian community prepares young people- Now these things are starting at 10, 12 years old. People are getting involved in sexting and all kinds of horrible things. Preparing this next generation to be free from this, from the get-go, they don't need to get free from it later.

Bob: They conquered it early.

Gary: They conquered it early, yes.

Bob: You mentioned a lot of good resources during the program. You mentioned another, Unwanted, is another book that you suggest.

Gary: Unwanted by Jay Stringer? He studied I think, it was about 3,800 men and women. He started finding out the whys and the reasons of this and phenomenal insight into the human heart, into the soul. Him and some others began to- a little more graphic than we could get into today, but he began to ask, "What type of thing do you look at when you look at pornography?" They categorized and they found out angry men look at this. Fearful man look at this. Women who have been abused look at that. It was 99% accurate or something like that. He could actually ask you what happened to your past and tell you what kind of pornography you look at?

He made a link not just generally to pornography, but to the purpose of pornography, what it is that we're actually looking at. Some very interesting studies like, here's one that I found extremely interesting. When Cleveland Cavaliers were playing the Golden State Warriors in game seven of the final, Google Analytics, study both cities and found out that, I think it was, don't quote me on the numbers, but let's say, about 25% drop in views of pornographic sites in both those cities. Golden State wins and that 25% stays low. It only shoots up about 5%. About 5% of men went back to it after the win. What do you happened in Cleveland?

Bob: It shot up.

Gary: It shot up. Not only went back to its normal use but went another 25% above its normal use.

Bob: Disappointment.

Gary: Yes, disappointment, anger.

Bob: Anger.

Gary: Frustration.

Bob: It was an escape from their loss, right?

Gary: Yes. Doesn't that clearly speak that it's not just an issue of wanting something sexual? It's a soul issue, it's a hurt issue? Pornography is not a sexual sin. Pornography is a sin against sex. There's a real difference there because unfortunately, we make sexuality sometimes in the church seem to be a bad thing. That's why we can't say certain kind of words in the church. Can’t even say pornography or masturbation because it's like you can't talk about those things? It just makes it more shameful. The sex is not bad. God created sex and it's meant to be good in the marriage.

To bless that and to speak well of that and to provoke good things out of that but then see this as an anomaly. That's not the norm. It's against, it's not a form of sex. Pornography is not a form of sex. Prostitution or masturbation, that's not a form of sex. It's against sex. It's against what God created it to be. That's why it causes that much more shame and feeling of defeat. Just like the Cleveland Cavaliers when their team was defeated, they went to that. When we feel defeated personally, in relationships, on our job, even spiritually, we feel like we're not living up to God's standards, that can drive us to that thing.

There are certain words in the Bible that are the counters the power of sinning against sex. There are words that we don't think really are the words that would be like what kind of words would set you free? Well, these words that the Bible so covets that we have and even scripture says the Spirit lusts after these things. He wants to use such a powerful word because he knows it's going to be a counter for these false sexual intimacy. These are words like joy. In my counseling, I've never counseled a man or woman came to my office and said, "I've just got so much joy and peace and contentment and I'm just delighted in the Lord. I have really strong relationships.

All that's going good, but I'm struggling with pornography." Never once, it's always been like, "I'm struggling with pornography, why? Well, because I'm miserable, I'm sad, my job has no meaning, there's no purpose in my life." That was another one that Jay Stringer found out that it was like the number one indicator of somebody who would be addicted to pornography. We talked about some of them, anger and things like that.

The number one according to him was purposelessness. That a man who didn't have a sense of purpose even might have had a job, but it's not a job he loves and he's not living for the thing that God created him for, there's going to be a sense of meaninglessness and that will drive you to do that as well. There are all kinds of reasons but it's one thing to say I'm going to stop doing this but it'd be another thing to say I'm going to start increasing this instead of repressing something like stop looking at pornography. How about we impress, increase the sense of, I'm coming to the Lord for joy. I'm coming to the community for life. I'm coming to the family of God for a sense of belonging.

I'm coming to my wife for true intimacy. I'm coming to my husband for real partnership and getting those things. You have the fruit of the Spirit is really what it is, so you have peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, long-suffering.

Bob: All addictions need to be replaced with something else and sadly, it's usually another addiction. Something good has to fill that void.

Gary: That's right. You can see that. The difference in strategy, "I'm going to stop this." "How am I going to stop this?" Or maybe it's, "One day I'm going to start this. I'm going to start being truly intimate with people and truly vulnerable with people." You'll find there's a replacement like the old song, Turn your eyes on Jesus and the things of this world will go strangely dim. Oftentimes our focuses is, "I got to make that dim. It's such a bright light in my life, how do I make that dim?"

Well, that song is so powerful because you're turning your eyes to Jesus and the things of the world will go dim because of the things of Jesus grow light, which is love and community and grace and forgiveness, and self-acceptance. Even that agape of self we've talked about here before.

Notable Quotes from the Podcast

We in the church need to start being more intentional about dealing with this issue and not dealing with it as a superficial issue and not being afraid of it. – Gary Wilkerson

You can't even say the word pornography in the church. A pastor can't preach about it. It's seen as a few men cloaked in their jacket and they have sunglasses on and they walk into pornography shops. Maybe it used to be like that, but it's not now. It's so pervasive and so available in every home, on every telephone. So many teenagers are dealing with this. We're going to have to get honest with it. – Gary Wilkerson

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

About Gary Wilkerson

Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

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