Jim was a good-looking 24-year-old Christian guy ready to get married. He had dated lots of women through the years, but he usually ended the relationship soon after it had begun. He was picky, he said. He always was hoping someone better would be right around the corner, but it seemed he finally had come to a dead end instead. Jim was having a really tough time in his search, and he asked me for help.
As his pastor, I assumed he was being a typical guy. For a long time, I thought he was being patient and wise in waiting for the right woman. Jim and I met often to discuss a variety of related topics. You name it, and we had talked about it. We talked about the most important qualities of being a man or woman of God, Christian dating, God’s plan for his life, etc. Yet there seemed to be no progress, no change and no hope. I was just about ready to give up on Jim until one day—out of the blue—I asked him if there was any porn in his life.
I was not ready for his answer.
Jim said he had been looking at porn for the past 10 years. He had seen thousands of pornographic websites, movies and magazines. His dad would give the magazines to him after he was finished. Sometimes, he and his Dad watched porn movies together when he was a teenager. As a result, Jim wasn’t embarrassed or shy about telling me about this part of his life. It was something his dad did, so he thought it was something most guys do.
Jim didn’t think to tell me about his porn lifestyle as he honestly didn’t see any correlation whatsoever between his past activities and his present attitudes. Naked women, graphic porn and casual sex were visual images that had been indelibly etched and engrained in Jim’s brain.
We soon started making some progress in solving his problem. It was much deeper than we first realized, and we had to do some serious surgery. It was not a quick fix. Why? Because a picture really is worth a thousand words! I automatically was losing by competing with a lot of powerful pictures! We both realized a bandage would not fix Jim.
I began to show Jim how porn deeply affected how he viewed women, marriage, sex, ministry and God. He began to understand how he never would be content with only one woman in life as long as he compared her body to others. He began to see the real reason why he might be picky and single—forever. He became thankful that God prevented him from marrying a woman whose heart he probably would break.
We went through the Book of Ruth to see how Boaz treated Ruth with respect and integrity. We examined the life of Solomon, beginning with wisdom and ending in lust (1 Kings 3—11). The wisest man who ever lived had a lot to say about men’s weakness for women (
It took time, but Jim had spiritual victory over this sexual addiction. Jim was transformed by the renewing of his mind and his memories. That’s the same message I hope we preach: There is no temptation or addiction that is too great for God to overcome—no, not one.
I never will forget the lesson I learned from Jim. I always ask people now about the possibility of porn. Yes, they act shocked; but that’s OK. It never will be disclosed unless it’s requested. I now ask boys, girls, teens, collegians, men, women, fathers, mothers and grandparents about it. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you get to the root of a wide variety of emotional, relational, sexual and marital issues when you probe about porn.
When it comes to preaching about porn, you have one of three choices: ignore, abhor or restore. Most pastors will do only the first two. Rarely is restoration, hope, forgiveness and transformation mentioned! You probably never were taught in college or seminary how to do this.
Most pastors never have been educated about how to preach delicately about difficult topics such as pornography, rape, molestation, fornication, abortion or homosexuality. It’s completely lacking in the curricula of most seminaries. We’ve allowed the world to believe there are secular solutions to sexual wounds and addictions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is the One who came to set the prisoners free.
You might think people in your church are way beyond and immune to the temptation of pornography. Most church leaders will ignore this topic. When they do mention it, they’re usually quite loud and vehement in their public condemnation of pornography. After church, they’ll get pats on their backs congratulating them for such a fine and long overdue sermon.
May I ask you: Would you want to come to that preacher for counseling after hearing what he or she just said? Would you expect the preacher to scream at or belittle you once again privately in his or her office as was done from the pulpit on Sunday? What tone do you communicate? That’s what I ask myself about this and all other sexual topics from the pulpit, and it’s a good question to ask yourself!
Do you know how to preach to men (or women) who are addicted to porn? Do you preach in such a way that they would want to come to you for help because they feel you do understand and would not condemn them? Do you communicate condemnation, as well as restoration in your message?
These boys and men need help and hope (as do their wives). They’re in way over their heads; some of them know it and some don’t. As their preacher and pastor, you are the one who is most able to help. This is our expertise!
Any and every activity in life can be addictive; we are very weak. God talks often about the subtle, deceitful, enslaving and progressive nature of any and all types of sin, including sexual sin. Romans 1 is instrumental in reminding us that sinners always will be tempted to worship the creature instead of the Creator, which is what porn essentially does.
As pastors, we should be the least surprised and the most merciful of people who have found themselves in bondage to this kind of sin. If there is anyone who should have understanding toward those who have a temptation or addiction to anything, it should be the student of God’s Word! We should not be shocked by porn or any sin that so easily can entangle us.
If anybody should be viewed as approachable by those who struggle with pornography, it should be us. God consistently and frequently tells us how easy it is to be overcome by sexual temptation, images and activities (
God knows how easy it is for fallen sinners to become addicted to porn. He especially describes the struggle we will have as part of the sinful nature we inherited from Adam and Eve who were originally tempted by their eyes and the desire to possess what they saw with their eyes (
Here are key topics that will help you in your public and private ministry:
Pornography and Women
Porn presents females as weak and helpless, submissive and sex-craved objects who can’t wait to be violated or manipulated. Porn portrays women as objects who like to be tricked or forced into unwanted sexual aggression and that their initial response of no really means yes. Women often are viewed as adult toys to tinker with, abuse and discard. As a result, men tell their wives they’re not as sexy, willing or pretty enough for them. Many women believe this lie.
Women need to know this is not true and that they are not inadequate. Women must be trained not to allow their husbands to shift blame to them for how they feel and do. Women involved with men who are involved with porn must begin to get their dignity from what God says, not their husbands.
Men must be trained in how to communicate with women rather than conquering them. They must adopt a new mindset that all females are created equally as they are, in the image of the almighty God (
Men need to see that women are spiritual creatures meant to be used by God in mighty ways, not to be used by men in physical ways.
Pornography and Sex
In pornography, sex exists without love. It is just raw and ritualistic intercourse—not spiritual, only physical. There is no tenderness or gentleness. There are no consequences and no children. There’s no giving, only getting. The man’s pleasure and how he performs are all that’s important. Orgasm is the only and ultimate goal.
Along the way, normal sexual relations with one’s wife become boring to porn addicts. The magazines and movies are more creative and outrageous. The types of sexual positions that can be achieved are much more ingenious and numerous. Sexual activity becomes more bizarre and painful to the woman as men attempt to duplicate and recreate what they see.
A man wants to do things that are not natural or easy for his wife. He begins to think all women really want sex to be quite rough, forceful, mechanical, sadistic and selfish. Sexual partners and practices are definitely not mutually agreed upon by the husband and wife, as Scripture teaches they should be. These men have sex with a centerfold, not their wives.
Sometimes they need literally to bring in a magazine or show a movie in order to be satisfied. No matter how humiliating or painful it is to his wife, his orgasm is all that matters. These men are trapped, and soon their wives are imprisoned by their husbands’ desires.
I have counseled numerous women whose husbands are immersed in porn, and I hear their heartaches as they think they are second-best. They have been told something is wrong with them as they aren’t able or willing to do what he wants to do or what he saw on the Internet, in the movies or magazines. She’s told she is frigid and cold in bed and that she’s not woman enough. There are millions of American women and wives who are affected by pornography and believe they’re flawed, abnormal, odd and inferior. They desperately need God’s grace and healing, also. Once again, the best place to find healing is in God’s Word.
Pornography and Marriage
Because the wife can’t produce or perform as the other women he has seen, the man feels entitled and compelled to go elsewhere. Sexual desire ultimately takes precedence over marital vows. Adultery is common for porn addicts in the quest for the ultimate sex partner. The wife can’t produce the goods he wants, so he goes on the prowl for delivery. Her body is not as curvy or flexible, her breasts are not as ample, her taste for sexual adventure is not as wild, and her mouth is not as willing. The list continues.
After he has exhausted his wife with all the possible sexual practices, he then goes after different sexual partners. An enslaved man is never content, never satisfied. He is not enthusiastic about the wife of his youth anymore; she alone no longer satisfies him (
Here are some scriptural stories with actual sermon wording that you can use as you minister wisely to all the victims of porn.
The Story of Achan (Josh. 6—7)
No one would have suspected Achan of privately sinning against the Lord. He was a member of the congregation of Israel, a fine upstanding citizen and an excellent soldier. No one suspected him of this sin; He blended in with the rest.
However, God singled him out; He knew what Achan did and what he hid. It was something he was not supposed to have, and that’s why he hid it. Maybe his family knew, but we’re not told for sure. Achan had a secret he thought no one knew about, but he was wrong.
God knew. He always knows.
Achan got caught; and when he did, he confessed with the simplest of words: I saw, I wanted, I took, and I hid.
These same words and his same story can be repeated every day in church. I’m talking today about pornography, girlie magazines, adult movies, videos, chat lines, bookstores, computers, pictures and websites.
Many men today are like Achan—caught up in the same kind of story. They see and want something or someone they cannot or should not have, but it doesn’t end there. Some want it so badly that they take—rape or molest—in order to have what they saw on the computer, in a movie or in a magazine. What Achan saw was not enough; he felt he had to take and hide what he’d done. Men, you know where you’ve hidden your secretes. As was the case with Achan, you think no one knows; but God does. God knows everything about you, even your computer files.
Achan’s whole family was affected (see v. 25). Maybe you don’t see what your habit has done to your family or yourself, but your wife probably knows. She pays the price by being told how inferior or inadequate she is, and that’s not fair. You’re spending money that could be used for the kids.
It was too late for Achan, but it’s not too late for you. Come clean now; confess your secret before your world comes crashing in as it did with him.
Women: If you know your men are hiding something such as this, speak with them first; if they don’t listen, seek pastoral counseling. Don’t allow your whole house to suffer; you’ve suffered enough.
The Story of King Herod (
Herod had a weakness, and it was women. We know he had a woman who did not belong to him because John the Baptist reminded him of her, but one woman was not enough. Herod had a party and, of course, women were there. This time, the daughter of Herodias was the one who got Herod’s attention.
She danced. The Greek word used in this case implies a very sensual and suggestive type of dance. Herod lusted for this dancing centerfold and said he would give anything in return. King Herod turned into a little boy. What he saw, he wanted. He would give away anything to get it—to get her. He was hooked and became a slave instead of a king. He would do whatever she wanted as long as he could look and lust. He gave away someone’s life as a result and was willing to give away half his kingdom.
This is a picture of a person who becase a slave to his passions and pornography. There are many men similar to King Herod. Women dance in their heads, and beautiful bodies remain in their brains from the magazines or movies. Just as Herod, they become enslaved to a lifestyle of lusting and will give away anything: money, time, innocence, career—and marriage.
A lot of innocent people get hurt, too. They pay dearly for the sins of their fathers—for the private viewing habits of their kings, husbands, fathers. John the Baptist was punished unfairly in this case. Today, a multitude of others suffer unfairly. Women, wives, children, sons and daughters suffer for a man who is consumed with dancing and forbidden women.
The news headlines might not tell you the man who molested a child had pictures of children in magazines or on his computer files. You’ll never hear that a rapist imitated his behavior from movies he downloaded from the Internet. How many John the Baptists do we have in America today as a result of pornography? Maybe you’ve been hurt or victimized because of a man’s lust. You identify with John the Baptist in this text, and I hurt for you. Please know you can talk with me or another Christian counselor to help you deal with this struggle.
Maybe you identify with King Herod instead. You know you’ve gone too far and made promises or done things you wish you could take back. You still have time; it’s not too late for you to give it all up and ask Jesus to give you the self-control you need. He can change you and forgive you.
The Repentance of New Believers at Ephesus (
What a wonderful day at Ephesus as the community watched the public burning of books and scrolls. What a relief it must have been to be rid of these materials that caused so much headache and heartache.
These people really were converted. They became new creatures in Christ. They began to obey His commands and change their lifestyles. They didn’t keep their books and scrolls stashed at home; they knew they had to destroy them. If they kept them, they would have been tempted to return to them. So they burned their bridges behind them by burning these scrolls. What a pleasing aroma that ascended to God in heaven that day.
The same needs to happen today. Some books need to be burned. How so? Some of your magazines, videos, DVDs and movies need to be eliminated. You know exactly which ones they are, don’t you? Are you willing to destroy the things that are destroying you? Are you willing to confess and turn to the One who can free you from this bondage?
You might think of all the money you’ll waste by destroying this media; Scripture says the value of these scrolls and books was about 50,000 drachmas. A drachma was a silver coin worth about a day’s wages. There’s 365 days in a year, so our calculators add up to 137 years of money that was burned as a love gift to the Lord! You may not know how much money you’ve spent on porn sites or print material, but it doesn’t matter because your walk with the Lord is worth so much more, isn’t it?
You also need to purge them from your mind and memory. That won’t happen overnight, just as these believers didn’t forget their years of having their books; but you have got to make a start, and God will honor that act of obedience. See verse 20, where the fire of the Holy Spirit descended when the fire from these evil scrolls ascended. Isn’t that what you really want? Isn’t that what you really need to do? Let’s make that promise to God right now that you’ll take the first step as they did.
The Story of Samson (
Samson had roving eyes; he loved to look. His eyes finally rested on a woman who would be his undoing in due time. Delilah—a name we associate with beauty and treachery. Men who have roving eyes often will find their own Delilah, and they will have the same result that happened here.
Delilah was out to trap Samson. She used her body and then her brain. It worked. Samson was captivated by Delilah. Day by day, he slowly lost all self-control and finally lsot his strength. Only when it was too late did he realize he could not set himself free. His strength and his Lord left him.
Many men today are similar to Samson. Their roving eyes are not satisfied, and they love to look. The name of their centerfold may not be Delilah, but it might as well be. As with Samson, they slowly have lost their self-control and strength to fight temptation. Websites, magazines and movies are not enough; they must have more. As with Samson, they’re now in bondage and can’t set themselves free from the lifestyle of lust that laughs at them, just as the Philistines ridiculed Samson in this story.
However, God didn’t give up on Samson. The story wasn’t over when his strength was. God rescued him and did a mighty work in and through him. He wants to rescue you and give you back the kind of strength Samson once had. God can deliver you from the power that binds you, no matter how long you’ve been in chains! Pornography does not have to have the final say in your life, and God has given us this example of Samson to give you a warning and hope. God will strengthen you again as He did with Samson.
The Story of Moabite Women Seducing Men (
In this story, we see men within the people of Israel engaging in sexual immorality with pagan Moabite women. The women invited the men, and they went hook, line and sinker. Instead of remaining with their wives, they went after other women. In fact, one man brought a woman to his family and into his home. His name was Zimri. Her name was Cozbi.
I see this story happening thousands of years later with men in our churches. They are bringing women into their homes. Pagan women seduced them, and these former men of God are bringing them into their own homes and hiding her wherever a magazine, DVD or video might fit. They try to hide them deep inside their computers. Yes, they bring them into their homes through computers, TVs and DVD players. As the family who ended up seeing the adultery of their father in Numbers 25, the children stumble upon these magazines, websites and movies; they end up seeing these unknown pagan Cozbis Dad has brought home.
Men bring in Moabite women, and thereby the curse of God. They forget these women who appeared in their videos are Moabites, pagans and enemies as verse 18 says. Have you hidden these women in your home? What do you watch on TV late at night? God knows about the Penthouse and Playboy women in your life. Are you so infatuated by them that you bow down and worship the goddess of lust they represent? Who is your hidden Cozbi? Where is she? Might you be a Zimri, right now?
Instead, you should be a Phinehas! He was not seduced or tricked by those women. He stood strong. He was mad and did something about this plague. He didn’t sit around complaining as many Christians do about pornography. How can you be a Phinehas? Start at home. Clean out your house; get rid of the magazines or movies; cancel the cable programming that shows Moabite women. Maybe you need to tell your spouse, father or friend about the dangers of bringing those women into your home. God approved of what Phinehas did, and He will approve of your courage. Get help for your son, boyfriend, father, husband, yourself—or whomever you know who ruining his or her life through porn.
Dr. Sam Serio is the founder and director of Ministry of Mending, a professional resource in Atlanta for church leaders who minister to those who are sexually wounded or addicted. For more than 20 years, he has specialized in helping pastors preach more effectively about sexual issues. This article was taken from his upcoming book Delicate Preaching on Difficult Topics. Check out MinistryOfMending.com, a professional resource for church leaders who want to deeply minister to women and men who are sexually wounded or addicted.