8 Reasons You Must Flee Pornography (Part 1)
My parents took proper measures to protect us from pornography. But eventually the evil found me. One boy from school kept magazines hidden in his room and showed me at a sleepover. Another boy played baseball with me, and his mother purchased such material for her sons since “boys will be boys” (her words). I wasn’t a Christian yet, but I wondered, “Why does the material I know is evil, feel so good?”
Then came high school and various avenues of internet access. What was supposed to be a tool for communication became, for me, an avenue to gratify the flesh. I was hooked, but the pleasure was ever fleeting. At age 17 God saved me. When he saved me from sin, he also saved me from indulging in pornography. I have known that freedom since.
The battle with my flesh still rages, of course. But the Lord granted deliverance in this area of sexual purity and helps me pursue means that, I pray, guard my purity and foster greater affection for Christ. So I write knowing my own vulnerability to sin. Indeed, the following reasons remain part of my own arsenal in the fight against lust and sexual immorality. I share them to equip you in the same fight. Part two will come soon, where I develop eight ways to fight sexual temptation. Until then please consider these seriously, especially those of you who may be looking at and thinking about porn. Some of my comments are geared toward men, but much of this post also applies to women.
The Scriptures offer more reasons to flee pornography than what I’ve written below. In fact, several good resources expound multiple motivations from Scripture for combating sexual immorality.[i] A few others expose how pornography actually rewires the brain[ii] and fuels sex slavery.[iii] But the reasons I offer below stem from 1 Corinthians 5-7 only. With that said, here are six reasons to flee pornography.
Reason #1. Indulging in pornography will exclude you from inheriting the kingdom of God.
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:9-10). Viewing pornography is one expression of sexually immoral behavior. Viewing pornography is also adultery (Matt 5:28). Those who view pornography habitually without repentance[iv] will be excluded from the kingdom of God, punished in the lake of fire.[v]
Yes, Christians sin (1 John 1:8). But for those who truly belong to Christ, the lifestyle of habitual, unrepentant immorality is now over: “and such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” Those saved by Christ also live for Christ’s kingdom, of which sexual immorality has no welcome. Choosing otherwise proves that one’s citizenship is not in heaven.
Reason #2. Indulging in pornography involves you in the Satanic and makes you more vulnerable to Satan’s attack.
“Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Cor 7:5). The Bible celebrates sexual intimacy within the context of marriage.[vi] Paul applies that truth to spouses who are apparently depriving one another of sexual intimacy. One goal is to protect the couples from Satan’s temptations because of their lack of self-control.
Such counsel highlights that Satan will employ sexual temptation to deceive spouses, destroy marriages, and defile God’s good gift. Pornography is but one weapon in Satan’s arsenal. Knowing their lack of self-control, Satan lures men and women with counterfeit intimacy and immediate gratification in pornography. That doesn’t mean those yielding to pornography are helpless victims. No, whoever yields to pornography deliberately chooses to follow the Satanic.
It’s no surprise the church must deliver those who persist in sexual immorality over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh in hopes that their spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord (1 Cor 5:5).[vii] Sexual immorality belongs to Satan’s dark domain; it must find no home in the church, Christ’s kingdom on earth.
Reason #3. Indulging in pornography rejects Christ’s lordship over our physical body in this age and in the age to come.
“The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Cor 6:13b-14).
Adopting a pagan view of the body, some of the Corinthian believers try to justify their sexual immorality like so: if God will destroy the physical body, then what I do with it in this life doesn’t really matter (1 Cor 6:13a).[viii] Paul refutes this pagan way of thinking. Instead, he shows that the body is meant for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body. He then associates both realities in the bodily resurrection of Jesus which ensures the future bodily resurrection of his people. Therefore, every use of the body in this age must display the lordship of Jesus, including how we use our minds, how we use our eyes, and what we do with our sexual organs. Our body is for Christ.
Reason #4. Indulging in pornography betrays the spiritual union we share with Christ, our covenant husband.
“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Cor 6:15-17).
Every true believer shares a spiritual union with Christ comparable to the covenantal bond in marriage.[ix] To participate in sexual immorality—whether physical sex with a prostitute or virtual sex in pornography—strikes at the heart of our covenantal bond to Christ. Unthinkably, it attempts to wed the impure with the pure. Stated differently, flee pornography because Christ’s enduring, covenant intimacy far surpasses what you’re attempting to fabricate online.
Reason #5. Indulging in pornography betrays your spouse, if married. If single, indulging in pornography warps the one-flesh union by affirming sexual activity outside the God-ordained context of marriage.
“The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Cor 7:3-4).
Earlier Paul highlights the impure union with a prostitute (1 Cor 6:16). Outside the covenant bond of marriage sexual intimacy is immoral. But within marriage sexual intimacy is good, beneficial. Within marriage both husband and wife offer their bodies to please one another. Pornography not only rips sex from the marriage context; those who indulge in it use their bodies to serve themselves instead of their spouse.
Reason #6. Indulging in pornography defiles your physical body, which God made the temple of the Holy Spirit.
“Flee from sexual immorality. ‘Every sin a person commits is outside the body,’[x] but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1 Cor 6:19).
In the Old Testament, the temple was God’s holy dwelling place. All within and all who entered God’s dwelling had to be holy. Nothing unholy could enter God’s presence. When we believe in Jesus, our body becomes God’s holy dwelling. You are God’s temple. To indulge in pornography is to defile God’s dwelling, to bring the unholy into the presence of the Most Holy.
Reason #7. Indulging in pornography does not glorify God with your body, denying his gracious purchase of our whole person in Christ.
“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:19b-20). Christian, your body does not belong to you ultimately. You may not do with it as you please. Your body belongs to God, not only because he created you but because he purchased you at the cost of his only Son. Christ’s purchase is one that delivers our persons from slavery to sin, in order to glorify God. Glorifying God with your body occurs when our internal adoration of God leads us to use our bodies as designed by God. Indulging in pornography not only fails to adore God; it uses the eyes, the mind, the hands, the organs, etc., in ways God disapproves.
Reason #8. Indulging in pornography not only jeopardizes your own purity, but also threatens the purity of the church.
When people are in sin, one of the biggest lies they believe is that their sin has no consequences beyond them. Wrong. Moving from an individual immersed in sexual immorality to the community, Paul asks, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Cor 5:6). Pornography may be viewed privately, but its effect on others in the church (not to mention one’s family!) is disastrous.
Knowing they don’t have any moral ground to speak, people indulging in pornography will not confront immorality in others. They will treat other sins lightly. They will not love their wives as Christ loved the church. They will disqualify themselves from serving the body in certain capacities. They compromise the integrity of the church’s witness to the world. They objectify women and grow in their lusts toward other sisters. They fuel the sex industry, which others in the church are fighting to stop. Their discernment between good and evil fades.
Hence, Paul’s instruction is to “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5:7-8).
[i]See especially Heath Lambert, Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013). Lambert offers eight means of grace to fight the use of pornography, including sorrow, accountability, radical measures, confession, your spouse (or your singleness), humility, gratitude, and a dynamic relationship with Jesus. Another good resource is John Piper’s chapter, “Faith in Future Grace vs. Lust,” in Future Grace (Minneapolis: Desiring God, 1995), 329-39. After an initial outline of the eight reasons developed here, I then came across and read Andy Naselli, “Seven Reasons You Should Not Indulge in Pornography,” Themelios 41.3 (2016): 473-83. I was pleased to find us drawing the same conclusions, though he draws from other texts beyond 1 Corinthians 5-7. I commend his article as well: http://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/article/seven-reasons-you-should-not-indulge-in-pornography.
[ii]On how pornography alters the brain physiologically, see William M. Struthers, Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (Downers Grove: IVP, 2009); Morgan Bennett, “The New Narcotic,” The Witherspoon Institute, October 9, 2013, http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/10/10846/. Bennett highlights that “brain research confirms the critical fact that pornography is a drug delivery system that has a distinct and powerful effect upon the human brain and nervous system.”
[iii]On how pornography fuels sex slavery, see the study by David Platt, “A War on Women: The Gospel and Sex Slavery” in Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Persecution, Abortion, Orphans, and Pornography (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2015), 107-29; Andy Naselli, “When You Indulge in Pornography, You Participate in Sex Slavery,” JBMW 20:2 (2015): 23-29.
[iv]Since so many misconstrue repentance and lie to themselves about doing it, I find it necessary to clarify repentance here. At the core is the idea of an internal “180” toward God and away from those things causing estrangement from God. Repentance is not merely feeling guilty about sin. Nor is it merely saying “I’m sorry” for wrongdoing. Nor is it merely saying “No” to evil thoughts, desires, and deeds. Nor is it merely forsaking sins that frustrate you most. Central to repentance is a return to relationship with the Lord himself. Holy behavior is certainly part of repentance, as are verbal confessions. But beneath external changes must be an internal affection for the true God who reveals himself in Jesus Christ.
[v]The same truth appears elsewhere: “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure…has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph 5:5-6); “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev 21:8). Jesus implies that people who indulge in sexual immorality will go to hell: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matt 5:27-30);
[vi]E.g., Gen 2:24-25; Prov 5:15-19; Song 1-8.
[vii]In addition to the observations in Reason #2, Gentile culture was known for its infatuation with idolatry and sexual immorality (e.g., Acts 13:15; 15:20; 1 Cor 8-10; 1 Thess 1:9; 4:3; Rev 2:14, 20). Paul characterizes this Gentile culture as under the power of Satan (Acts 26:18).
[viii]Unlike the ESV, the NET extends the quotation to include “God will destroy both one and the other” as part of a Corinthian slogan: “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything. ‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food—and God will destroy both one and the other.’” Paul then responds to that slogan in vv. 13a-14. According to 1 Corinthians 15:12, some of them question a bodily resurrection from the dead; and this further supports the interpretation I have offered above.
[ix]Cf. Eph 5:31-32. Also, in 2 Corinthians 11:2 we find this statement: “For I feel a divine jealousy for you [i.e., the church in Corinth], since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” Clearly, Paul thought of the church as sharing in the covenant of marriage to Christ.
[x]Adding the word “other” and not marking a Corinthian slogan, the ESV renders verse 18 like so: “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (also NIV, NASB). Read this way, Paul argues in v. 18b that sexual sins are worse in that they involve a bodily union unlike other sins committed in the body (see esp. v. 16b). However, the NET and CSB offer a translation without “other” (as in the Greek), and that consists with the Corinthian slogans in vv. 12-13. Read this way, Paul confronts the erroneous notion that all sin is outside the body. To the contrary, sexual immorality in particular is sin against the body. In context, it is sin against the body since the body is for the Lord’s glory (vv. 13, 20), the body is united to the Lord (v. 15), the body becomes one-flesh with a prostitute (v. 16), and the body is the temple of the Spirit. For a concise discussion, see Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 260-63.