The culture that we live in is often rightly described as pornographic. It is not just that pornography exists within our culture. It is worse than that. The culture itself has imbibed a pornographic spirit. Things that are considered normal in terms of standards of dress, decency in conversation, propriety in relationships and so on, are often grossly immoral when compared with a biblical mindset. “Love” has been greatly diminished in it’s practical meaning and the impulses of lust regularly reign supreme.
What are the basics of a biblical mindset? Here is a brief sketch. The Christian loves God because he has been first loved by God. God’s love for the Christian is a loyal love, therefore, the Christian is to respond with a loyal love, emulating the love of God that has been poured out in his own heart (Rom. 5:5). Our ungodly loves have now been crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:1-3). Our love for God must then govern all other loves in our life. Our loves are to be conformed to Christ’s image and our lusts are to be subjected to his Lordship. The Christian is admonished to Christ-like chastity while being renewed by grace with biblical wisdom in the pursuit of holiness. Our motivation to holiness is not legalistic or utilitarian, however. Our motivation is based on awareness that without holiness, no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14), who is our all surpassing object of desire.
But too often, it seems, the lust-driven, devilish sensibilities of the world are being absorbed into the heart, mind and life of the church. Love for God dulls, and soul-numbing lusts fill the vacuum. I see many sad examples of this reality among Christians whether it be in course talking or shamelessly vulgar entertainment or something else. Pornography itself is clearly on the ascent. Not content with the status of harlot, she is rising up as queen of culture. She dominates the societal landscape. An old jeremiad does not seem misplaced in our day:
“Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among the fallen; when I punish them, they shall be over thrown, says the LORD.” (Jer. 8:12)
The consequence of pornography in the lives of individuals, marriages and families is obvious yet truly immeasurable. There is interesting research being done in our day with regard to the psychological and physiological effects of pornographic consumption upon the mind and brain. Justin Taylor recently drew my attention to the following:
Albert Mohler has a helpful overview of William M. Struthers’s book, Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (InterVarsity Press, 2010).
I think that these kinds of studies illustrate the biblical teaching that the effects of sin upon the human being are profoundly holistic, affecting not only mind but matter. For those of you who remember the “Your brain on drugs” commercials from the 1980’s with the picture of the egg frying in the skillet, this book seems to press home a similar reality of the harmful effects of your brain on porn.
Ultimately, with or without scientific research, Scripture warns us that when sin is seated upon the throne of our desires, there are dramatic consequences. It doesn’t like to give up it’s reign. Once you bow the knee to sin for a moment, it doesn’t want to allow you to get up from your groveling position. If you submit your self as a servant of sin, a servant you truly become. So the apostle Paul exhorts, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Rom. 6:12).
Sin is dangerous. Folly seductively says, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he who eats “does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol” (Prov. 9:17, 18). If you are tempted to consume pornography, know that it will in the end consume you. A little sin is too much. If you would not taste-test arsenic samples for fear of the results, don’t nibble around at the table pornography sets for you. The results are guaranteed to be worse. Again, as the apostle Paul says:
“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” (Rom. 6:13)
The prevalence of pornography in our culture simply means that as Christians we must frequently make decisions that are ultimately about the Lordship of Christ. The admonition of Paul is the path of life:
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Rom. 13:14)