4 minute read

Would You Watch Porn at Church?

Last Updated: January 9, 2020

Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

Would you watch porn in a church building? I wish I could say I was asking merely for shock value, but I’m not.

I was talking with David Blythe, a pastor who regularly travels and speaks on the temptations of pornography. A young man approached him after one of his seminars and spoke about being hired as the new youth pastor of a church. He moved his family across the country and was just settling into his new job. David told me:

He was setting up his office one Monday morning, and he went in to turn on his Internet, and he was having a problem. And he traced it down to a hub in the church that wasn’t giving a signal…in the main sanctuary. And he walked in the sanctuary. Up on the big screen was a pornography movie playing next to, he said, ‘the biggest cross you’d ever see.’ And his senior pastor was in the sound booth watching pornography in the sanctuary of the church.” (Listen to the whole interview here)

The senior pastor eventually lost his job.

In one sense I’m not surprised to hear the story. I know (sadly from personal experience) the more someone sinks into the mire of pornography, the less inhibited they become. The fear of “being caught” gradually lessens. The risks become greater. Hardness of heart settles in, and someone can becomes like the false teachers Peter warned us about: “They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime…They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin” (2 Peter 2:13-14).

Often when I tell this story I often see a visceral response: Watching porn in a church? In God’s house?

While it is sad that someone would use resources set aside for the worship of God in order to satisfy their lusts, there is something even uglier going on. Every time a Christian man or woman intentionally takes pornographic images into their mind, they are defiling God’s house, whether they’re in a church or not.

You Are God’s Temple

Paul gets at this in 1 Corinthians 6:13b-20:

“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. 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. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, 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? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Paul’s theology is astounding considering his Jewish upbringing. He knew how God’s glory had filled the Tabernacle throughout Israel’s wilderness journeys (Exodus 40:34-38). He knew how the light of God’s presence so filled Solomon’s temple the priests couldn’t even enter it (1 Chronicles 7:1-3). He knew how the innermost chamber of the tabernacle was considered the place where God lived (Exodus 25:22; Leviticus 16:2), a place so holy no one but the high priest could enter but once a year, and even then with trepidation.

And yet, if you belong to Christ, your body is now the temple of the Spirit. God made this clear several days after Jesus ascended to heaven. Jesus told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait, for they would be “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). He said the Holy Spirit would come upon them (Acts 1:8). And just like when God’s presence rushed into the temple of stone and timber, the Holy Spirit came in a mighty display of power. The sound of a rushing wind filled the sky above and surrounded the disciples. Tapering flames appeared over each of their heads. Suddenly they all found themselves able to speak in languages they had never learned, and the masses stood bewildered by the sight as they heard the wonders of God.

Glorify God in Your Body

God has made your body His temple. Paul says, just as Christ’s physical body was raised from the dead, so too he will raise our bodies in glory and power when He returns. Though I will be transformed, my physical eyes will behold Him, my mouth will eat at His banquet table, and my ears will hear Him say, “Luke, well done, good and faithful servant.” Until that day I have been anointed by Him, given His Spirit in my heart as a guarantee of this inheritance (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14).

This is the great motivation Paul gives for sexual purity. We have been bought with a price. The grace we received cost Christ everything. He purchased all of us—mind, soul and body—for Himself.

We must consciously honor God with the members of our bodies, with what we see, what we hear, what we say, how we think, and where we go. Each time we sit at a computer and feel the urge to click on something we shouldn’t see, these are the thoughts that need to flood our minds.

Practice the Presence of God

If we are going to avoid the temptation to watch pornography, we need to cultivate a holy sense of God’s presence. We need to do this not just in the moment of intense temptation, but as a lifestyle.

This is not merely something we experience emotionally—although it can deeply impact our emotions—but something we experience by faith. Brother Lawrence’s classic, The Practice of the Presence of God, boils down to one key principle: turn your mundane moments into prayerful dialogue.

  1. First, consume (daily) the promises of God’s company. Remember, Jesus is our Immanuel—God with us. He has promised to be with us and never forsake us.
  2. Second, let your pains be a reminder to pray. In each moment of suffering, train your mind to turn to anxiety into prayer, knowing God is near to listen.
  3. Third, let your pleasures be a reminder to praise. In each moment of joy, train your mind to thank God both in your mind and verbally to others.
  4. Fourth, let your transitions be a trigger. Whether its rising in the morning, driving to work, or moving from one activity to the next, let each transition in your day be a reminder that God is waiting for you in the next moment.

How has seeing yourself as God’s temple changed the way you behave? How does practicing God’s presence help you to find lasting joy when life gets hard?

  • Comments on: Would You Watch Porn at Church?
    1. Tamara on

      Seeing my body as God’s temple is critical to keeping my boundaries! Great blog, thanks for another reminder… Blessings

      Reply
    2. Paul on

      Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

      – Apostle Paul

      Reply
    3. Wesley Mcgranor on

      Is this how Emergents attract pop-culture’s society to church?

      Reply
      • Andrew Harvey on

        No, this is how saints help other saints to be holy.

    4. Struggle on

      God has made our bodies into his temple, a dwelling place to commune with us & teach us. If only people in our world truly understood the magnitude & significance of this. Or rather if people only believed it.
      I know for myself when I wake up in the morning I invite Gods holy spirit to dwell with me, I just need to do better at keeping that up throughout the day.

      Reply
      • Michael P on

        Practicing the little rote prayers of Brother Lawrence are a big help… just need to do it more. And to remember your bodies are temples! Live like it! Easier said than done! Why unceasing prayer is needed throughout the day

    5. JeremiahP on

      Wow. Yeah. I used to feel ashamed about this particular fact, that my body is the temple of God. And, as the article states, I became numb to that fact and gradually gave up on glorifying God in my body, as I was fixated on pleasuring myself. It has only been in the midst of separation from my wife and the possibility of divorce that #’s 1 and 2 above in the Practicing the Presence of God section that this has hit home and become a reality. I need to learn to practice His presence in the midst of the mundane, and when things are going well. I all too easily slip into old patterns if I don’t, so this may be critical to cleaning up the masturbation habit. My counselor says that laziness and self focus are going to cause me to fail every time, so focusing on God and serving others in His name is key. In times where I start to dwell on my own pleasures, I need to get myself out of isolation, pray, call others if needed, and find ways to serve others (wash dishes, pray for others, whatever it takes to get the focus off of me and onto glorifying God).

      Reply
      • Pietro on

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts… I was inspired by your reflection. Really.

    6. BeenThereDoneThat on

      Technically you can’t “practice the presence of God.” You can only work at becoming aware of it. If God is omnipresent, which certain passages in the Bible seem to illustrate metaphorically or literally, then his presence is there. Me practicing it is really just me asking God to help me be aware of it. But here’s the logical question: Is this awareness physical? Is it emotional? Is it mental (thoughts)? Since God obviously doesn’t theophanize much anymore (who among us has had a direct, one on one encounter with flames, angels, resurrected Messiah, etc.), practicing his presence can’t be physical (save in the sense that we try to submit our senses). Since we have to be careful about reading too much into emotions, it must not be that either; though perhaps emotions are a result of God being near (joy, tears, actual ‘holy’ fear, etc). However, emotional responses aren’t very reliable, so I wouldn’t wager too much on them. Since we are always warring in our thoughts and the brain is an incredibly complex organ how can we practice the presence of God with it? One part of my brain can be trying to think about God (concentration) while in the background I’m thinking of something totally different. One part of my thoughts can be wrapped up thinking about whatever (scenery, material things, my old dog that died, a beautiful person of the opposite gender, financial issues, etc) while I’m also trying to just make myself stumble mentally through another verse written by someone who unlike me, if the Bible is to be accepted as literally, historically true, had a direct encounter with an other-wordly being/essence/persona of incredible power, might, holiness, glory, love (and other virtues we ascribe to the concept of ‘God’). So thinking about this a moment, I realize that I can’t, in my own ability, practice the presence. That’s a nice theological absurdity. I can ask God to help me be aware of his nearness, but again, at what level? Thoughts, emotions, physical? If you respond ‘spiritual’ we’re in even more of a quandary. What does that mean? No man knows exactly what ‘spirit’ is. It’s a mystery. One could say, ‘community’ as in the article, a church. But the church is not a building, not a geographical location (which means the author of this article’s premise is misplaced from the beginning). The church (ekklesia) is a gathering of people. So, technically it would be impossible to watch porn, sports, news, movies, in a ‘church’ if you use the definition biblically. Just a thought.

      So, what exactly is the presence of God? Is it his nearness? Again, if he’s omnipresent, you’re never as close as you will be at any moment or any future moment. Is it his manifesting himself? (Fire falling, speaking in tongues, display of gifts in a gathering). Is it a sudden conscious awareness of Someone being there in the room with you or speaking with words that cannot be heard? On another article on this website a responder pointed out that one of the problems in Christianity is that we tend to over-spiritualize things without thinking through logically what we are saying. That is, we don’t really offer practical solutions and end up turning Christianity into sin management. So there ends up being 4 steps to this, 6 ways to that, 3 solutions for why, etc. And we end marginalizing people into categories without getting to know them all that well. (I think I used to do that myself, maybe even worse than the ‘sin’ of indulging in pornography.) The fact is, I can’t be aware of the presence of God unless God reveals himself to me. Even biblically they didn’t know God was with them at times, until he revealed himself (think before Christ and after Christ). So I can’t practice the presence unless God constantly reveals himself. Just reading the Bible isn’t practicing the presence of God. A large majority of God’s “promises” were time specific to certain points in history. Even the gospels/epistles were written with the thought that Christ was coming back in the author’s lifetimes. I’m sure they were both surprised and disappointed to discover they were wrong. So reading about, reading about it, reading about it…it’s the classic friend of Job response to a struggling person, “If you would do more of “A”, then “B” would take care of itself eventually.” Look, I’m rambling a bit, so I’ll close with this…what if God wanted a person to have this struggle? I’m not saying wants a person to sin, but what if God allowed certain individuals among us to burn a little more in the areas of desire to prove, test, and purify? What if God allowed you to fall ten thousand times knowing that each time you would come? I mean think about this: if you didn’t sin, would you even need God? I don’t mean that disrespectfully to God, but it seems logical? Or would it be because you’d automatically, without struggle/questions, know what he wanted/thought in all situations, at every moment, at all times? A young man once wrote a letter to CS Lewis asking help for the struggle of compulsive masturbation and how could God love him if he kept struggling. Lewis responded brilliantly that the struggle was not lust and its physical outworking: the struggle was the fear of not being loved because of constantly failing morally. Lewis proposed that maybe God allows us to fail over and over to teach us the valuable lesson that we can keep coming back and that once we really start grasping the eternal mercy for those of us who seek for God through Christ, the awesome realization of God’s love for us plants the seeds of change in the one little piece of fertile ground in our hearts…and over time, fruits began to be born. Peace.

      Reply
      • Justin S on

        Brother, it’s indeed not easy to experience God’s Presence daily, except in this way: the Eucharist. The Eucharist is Jesus Christ made present and Real in the act of Consecration at Mass. Tolkien made daily reception of the Eucharist a life long habit, one which would benefit us all, especially the addict in recovery.

    7. Andrew on

      thank very much pastor Luke for this wonderful article, i am greatly blessed by the article, especially with the thought “to be remember any time i feel tempted, i should remember that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit”.
      Thank You for sharing

      Reply
    8. Amelia on

      Wow. The part that says “The grace we receive cost Christ everything. He purchased all of us—mind, soul and body—for Himself”, hit me hard.
      I’ve always gone through life looking for someone that would love me like that. Someone that I could belong to. I’ve never heard it put this way before. This changes everything. Thank you for this article!

      Reply

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