Mar 30, 2011
neil

The gospel according to porn

Why is it that so many Christians can really know the gospel and delight in the gospel, celebrate the gospel and still fall into sexual sin? Why is it that something like pornography continues to have a power and hold on the Christian life. So much so that one recent study suggested that half of Christian men and a quarter of Christian women struggle with internet pornography.

It seems to me that at least part of the answer is that we don’t look to the gospel to meet our needs as human beings and too easily look to something else. We believe the gospel but we don’t look to the gospel to address our needs for human identity, value, and significance.

Tim Chester in his book Captured by a better vision describes how if we don’t seek our answers in the gospel we will look elsewhere. I call that the gospel according to porn. I want to explore some of the themes and ideas from the book under six headings:

The good news of porn becomes attractive when…

1. Porn says ‘in my world you’re significant’

The fantasy-world of pornography is attractive to people because at least in that world they are not only noticed but they rule! Porn provides a fantasy world in which you’re potent, adored, the centre of attention. Women ‘offer’ themselves to you. That is a very attractive thought to self-centred fallen humanity.

Is that really good news?

Any gospel that put’s you at the centre and through which everyone else exists only to serve you is not good news at all. It’s not only fake reality but a very damaging one! The gospel is the daily lesson of learning not to see yourself as the only one that matters.

God’s gospel also says ‘in my world you’re significant’ but in a true way.

We’re significant because we matter to God. He loves and adores us but not because we are lovely but simply because he has chosen to love us. So we receive God’s love in an undeserved way because of Jesus. The result – God is in his proper place and I am in mine.

2. Porn says ‘in my world you’ll never be lonely’

Porn promises the relationship we seek and the intimacy we crave. In the world of porn I don’t face rejection and I never need feel  lonely.

As Tim Chester comments; Porn offers a safe alternative to intimacy

It seemed like a safe way to be sexually active without getting involved in a real relationship.’

Fearing rejection, we retreat into the fantasy world of porn in which women adore us and offer themselves to us without risk.

God’s gospel is one in which he says ‘in my world you’ll never be lonely’.

Rather than retreating in false intimacy because we cannot risk rejection. The gospel offers us the unconditional acceptance that I crave and need. In a relationship with God that will go on for ever.

I may or may not enjoy the intimacy of marriage and of a sexual union in this life but the gospel promise is that human intimacy even between a husband and a wife is just pointing us ahead to the perfection of an intimacy with God that will continue for ever.

3. Porn says ‘I can make your problems disappear’

Porn for so many is a form of escapism. People leaving their problems far behind as they seek an adrenaline fuelled high. Porn offers to takes you to another place on a legal high.

So when circumstances are too daunting. When you’re facing exams, deadlines, difficulties at home or work the quick fix of porn is the gospel for many.

Is that really good news?

Like any other form of abuse porn creates its own vicious circle. It gives you a brief high but then comes the big low of shame and guilt. And so you repeat it all over again.

God says ‘Do not escape your troubles – know God in your troubles’

Escapism is a failure to come to terms with reality and an unwillingness to face up to life in a fallen world. For the Christian valuable lessons are learnt in the troubles. Lessons that often can’t be learned any other way.

Paul pleaded with the Lord to take away his troubles ‘the thorn in his flesh’ but Jesus said ‘my grace is sufficient’. That is the good news of the gospel.

Paul writes: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5-6)

4. Porn says ‘I am your reward for a good life lived’

For some porn is a form of escapism from the pressures of life but at other times it can function as a reward for endurance.  Maybe the temptation comes from the thought that my hard-work goes unrecognised at home or work or in an even more subtle and perverse way my sacrifice for the gospel goes un-thanked then porn says I can compensate you for your labours or I can reward you for…

We might say ‘I’m giving up stuff for Christ, even the chance to be sexually active as an unmarried Christian man and porn is my compensation.’

God gospel promises a reward for obedience that is a good ultimate and lasting joy

Porn may tempt with a quick fix but it is Christ who promises a true reward when we work hard for him. Yes, we may have to wait for our final reward and it is primarily a future one but the promise of blessing now for those who serve him well is given by Jesus too.

Jesus says:  I tell you the truth, Jesus said to them, no-one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life. (Luke 18:29-30)

Chester comments: The life of obedience is not the bad life or the sad life. It’s the good life. Life with God and for God is the best life you could live. Change is about enjoying the freedom from sin and delight in God that God gives to us through Jesus.

5. Porn says ‘I am the god that always gives you what you want in exactly the way you want it’

The gospel of porn is a call to switch allegiance to a god who is altogether more willing to give us what we want. Why serve a God who does not satisfy your every demand when porn will?

When we turn to the idol of porn Chester notes it ‘can be an expression of anger, revenge, resentment or ingratitude…Porn may even be an act of anger against God, when life hasn’t turned out the way we want.’ It can mean turning to a god who is no god at all out of frustration with our Christian life.

Why go God’s way in life if that involves difficulty and delay? When Satan offers Jesus the kingdoms of this world he is tempting him to take what will one day be rightfully his and grab it now.

God’s gospel says ‘will not God graciously give us all things’

In the gospel of Jesus God has promised us everything we need even if that is not everything that we want. I once heard Tim Keller say in a sermon ‘unless we are willing to let God contradict us haven’t we simply made God in our own image’.

In the gospel of God is a call to recognise and rejoice in the thought that God has withheld no good thing from us for he has given far more than we deserve and he has given us his son.

6. Porn says ‘I can save you from yourself’

All false gospels are attractive because they promise us a new life. A life in which we can be different people. Porn says I can give you significance, intimacy, freedom from worry, reward and success and all with ease.

Porn offers us a way out of a tough life. It offers us heaven on earth. Well at least for a time. The attraction is in the quick fix, instant result.

I just want to feel that I’m OK, I turn to porn instead of God because the gospel doesn’t tell me that I’m OK.’

The biggest lie of all is in this gospel that is no gospel at all. For this gospel of porn is a gospel that takes us far from Christ and from the God who made us and loves us. In choosing this gospel we turn our backs on the only gospel that can save.

God’s gospel says ‘only God can save you from yourself.’

He is the one who atones for our sin and he is the one making us new. His spirit is able to transform us into the likeness of Christ with ever-increasing glory.

Conclusion

Tim Chester comments: Our longing for porn is a version of our longing for God.

And we’ve seen how true that is. It is a substitute gospel that offers to meet my real needs in a completely false way.

How can a young man (or woman) keep his way pure?

The battle with sexual temptation has to be fought in a battle for the gospel. The battle is fought not in accountability partnerships or computer software (valuable as they both are) but fought in the renewing of the mind and in recognizing how when porn seems attractive it does so because it is offering a false gospel that is really no gospel at all.

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