I have heard a lot of theories on how to help men deal with the sins of pornography, masturbation and other expressions of sexual lust. “Just stop it.” “You have to recognize that it’s your parents’ fault for the way they raised you.” “Just change your clothes quickly and do not touch yourself in the process.” “You are just reacting to the unmet needs for love in your life.” Now, all of these have at least some wisdom to them. What is more, they all offer something better than what I did the first time a Christian brother came to me and trusted me by sharing his experience with these struggles. I said “Ew, that’s gross! I can’t believe you do that!” I pray that the Lord has grown me and taught me to be a lot more patient, less judgmental, more encouraging and more helpful than I was that day as a 13-year-old.
In all seriousness, the core help that you as a shepherd offer to a single man is not terribly complex (however challenging it may be in a specific situation). You know that this man is at war with the father of lies who wants him blinded and separated from the love and help of his Lord, and your efforts are going to revolve around bringing light, hope, and compassion into darkness, selfishness, and despair.
In fact, if I could boil down the counselor’s task to one sentence, it would be this: pornography is the evidence that something is wrong between this man and his God, and you have the opportunity to help him figure out what that is and what a change in that relationship looks like. Change in our relationship to God always leads to change in our behavior, emotions, motivation, and life direction.
Putting it another way, your goal in counseling a single man on the issue of pornography—as in all counseling (and all of life really)—is to see change in his heart. In Luke 6:43-45 (Matt. 12:33-37), Jesus compares the human heart to a tree, pointing out that a fig tree always bears figs, a thorn tree thorns. His point is that human beings will always speak and act out of whatever is in their hearts. Jesus actually applies this directly to our sexuality in Matthew 5:27-30, where he says you can commit adultery in your heart even if you don’t with your body. This means that we must never be content to settle for mere behavioral change, and that we will always be seeking to see, expose, listen, consider, and change at the level of motivation, thought and desire—i.e. in the heart. Every change in behavior has a motivation; we need that motivation to be a lover of God with heart, soul, and mind.
Read the rest of J. Alasdair Grove’s chapter in our free e-book, Porn-Free Church: Raising up gospel communities to destroy secret sins.