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3 Gospel Principles for Battling Porn Addiction

Last Updated: October 12, 2017

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

I can vividly remember the fear that gripped my life a decade ago when I was battling porn addiction. I remember the long nights binging on porn on my computer, tucking myself away in remote corners of a public library to download hardcore videos, driving to porn shops to buy DVDs, calling phone-sex hotlines—my life felt out of control.

I did all of this while professing to be a believer in Christ and while working as a minister of the gospel. The double life was as hypocritical as it was frightening.

Since those days, I’ve spoken to hundreds of individual Christians who have told me similar stories. And the question I’ve asked myself over and over again is this: How is it that so many believers in Christ can be gripped by a sin so powerfully?3 Gospel Principles for Battling Porn Addiction

Going Deeper into the Gospel

It is fair question to ask these people, “Do you believe you are really Christians? If you are so strongly gripped by sin, perhaps this is evidence that you are still a slave to sin. Perhaps you aren’t really born again.”

I say this is a fair question because all Christians—gripped by porn or not—are called to test the authenticity of their faith. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith,” Paul writes (2 Corinthians 13:5). Peter echoes, “Be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election” (2 Peter 1:10).

But regardless of whether you are a pretend-Christian or an authentically saved person battling porn addiction, the way out is the same. For both, the way to overcome the power of sin is through faith in the gospel.

The gospel of Christ is not merely a message we initially believe to be saved from the guilt of sin; it is a message we embrace in order to be saved from the grip of sin.

The Gospel of Costly Grace

Below is a video conversation of three noteworthy church leaders today: D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, and John Piper. Here they talk candidly about how the gospel sets someone free from the grip of pornography (the relevant portion begins at the 6:40 mark).

John Piper’s question is the core of the conversation: How does the biblical gospel help someone ensnared in lust?

They talk about the message of “costly grace”: costly because it cost the Son of God His life, and grace because God’s favor is so freely given to unworthy sinners. They talk about three ways this gospel of costly grace brings about lasting change.

1. The gospel reveals the wrath of God against lust.

John Piper points out Jesus’ words from Matthew 5:27-30. “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” (Matthew 5:29). God detests lust so much, we deserve hellfire for engaging in it.

Christ paid paid an enormous price for our lust, and this should change the way we see our sin: it exposes pornography as something repugnant, something from which we should want to flee.

We can see the ugliness of pornography in many ways. We can see it in the way it pollutes our minds, robs our affections, and exploits others. But looking at the cross, all the ugliness of sin is exposed.

The point is this: the more deeply we internalize the message of the cross, the more we will see the repulsiveness of our sin for what it is. The more we meditate on what Jesus endured on the cross—the curse of God—the more we will loathe our sin. The more we think about the mysterious rift between God the Father and God the Son experienced at the cross—”My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”—the more we will sink under the thought of our sin.

It is then that we we can echo what one theologian wrote, “When we behold the disfigurement of the Son of God, when we find ourselves appalled by His marred appearance, we need to reckon afresh that it is upon ourselves we gaze, for He stood in our place.”

2. The gospel reveals the love of God for sexually broken people.

In the video, Tim Keller rightly says many people rush to the false intimacy of pornography because they hate themselves; they are consoling themselves on a parody of real love. In the fantasy world of porn, men and women are looking for refuge, relationship, and reward.

However, the more the porn-enslaved person embraces the gospel, the more they realize that the very things they are sinfully seeking in pornography are actually found in God. Porn makes false promises that offer to satisfy the soul, but only God delivers true satisfaction. In the face of Christ we meet a God who loves sinners, who welcomes the filthy prodigal sons and daughters home, who promises eternal life with Him.

This is experienced, again, in the gospel of costly grace. The more we meditate on the cross of Christ, we will see God’s ruthless pursuit of reckless sinners—and the more we can be satisfied in that love.

3. The gospel places us into a new community.

D.A. Carson mentions how essential brother-to-brother accountability can be when it comes to pornography.

It is important to note that accountability is not a second-best or a crutch for those who are “really screwed up.” Accountability is not a last resort; is is a lifestyle. Accountability is not an add-on. When God redeemed us, He did not just draw us to Himself; he drew us into a community of faith.

What is accountability? It includes, of course, a regular willingness to confess your sins to another believer (James 5:16), but it is more than this. It is also a willingness to receive gospel-centered encouragement. It is the regular practice of stirring up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25), encouraging each other so sin doesn’t deceive us (Hebrews 3:13), edifying each other (Romans 14:19), and bearing each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

In the video, D.A. Carson recommends those who struggle with porn get Covenant Eyes on all their computers and devices. This is an ideal way to start the process of accountability in our lives around the issue of pornography. Covenant Eyes monitors everywhere you go online, rates every website for adult content, and sends an Internet Accountability Report to the people you choose.

If you need help starting an accountability relationship, after you sign up for Covenant Eyes you can take advantage of all our free resources for you and your Accountability Partner.

  • Comments on: 3 Gospel Principles for Battling Porn Addiction
    1. Alison on

      I am just so impressed with this article and the truth therein. The video with the pastors interview is very encouraging. As the wife of a Christian husband the article rings true as what is needed for healing. Praise the Lord as he draws people to himself and sets them free of this sin.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Thanks, Alison! Glad this was encouraging to you!

      • Louisg on

        I like this article too and I have covenant eyes for myself. My only problem is that my addiction is so severe that I wish the program covered Ubuntu because I can bypass my computer with it. This is my only issue. I’m very desperate and I wish Ubuntu would at least be considered by covenant eyes.

      • Lisa Eldred on

        Unfortunately, at the moment there are no plans for any Linux system, but we do have a thread in our help forum where you can add your vote. The greater the demand, the more likely we are to prioritize it.

      • Katt on

        I thank you for writing this article. It was concise, to he point and filled with ripe knowledge. I was really intrigued by he understanding that the fantasy of pornography is driven by a loathing of self that only God’s love and mercy can penetrate. As the girlfriend of someone entrenched in an addiction to pornography, how can I facilitate, or help provide a conduit for God’s love to reach my boyfriend in a way that will turn his eyes from the porn to The Word and ultimately to God? Are there any resources for me?

      • Kay Bruner on

        Hi Alison,
        I’d say that healthy boundaries are your best bet! It will your boyfriend’s job to do his own work in recovery. If he’s not able to do that work for himself, there’s no way you can do it for him, and it’s good to get that information while you’re still dating, as opposed to several years down the road.
        Peace to you,
        Kay

    2. Josh on

      Thank you for all of what you are doing. Please don’t grow weary of fighting this good fight brother, people like me need you. I am so overwhelmed by how horrible this addiction is and how many people are entrenched in it. This is an epidemic.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        It is epidemic, isn’t it. Good to know we have a God that is bigger than any addiction.

    3. Sean on

      I appreciate this software and your article. As someone who long battled this addiction (27 years), I’ve just begun the journey, in the last 3 months, toward a deeper recovery. While I agree with much of your article, I’d like to add that it’s necessary for someone who’s addicted to get viable, clinical therapy to go along with the spiritual accountability and community. For me, I would find temporary relief in confession/accountability in small groups or campus ministries (in college), but nothing of depth that would keep me walking in victory, recovery, and the light. I would always sink back into my old ways, and the shame would cover everything else. I thought to myself, “I’ll be weighed down by this junk until I die. That’s the only way it’ll ever stop.” It wasn’t until I went to a 4-day clinical intensive (with Christian emphasis) that I discovered the link between trauma and my addiction. This was the first time I’d had my eyes open to the causes of why I went back to this cycle over and over. What I learned is that I was re-living the trauma I had endured, through the addiction of pornography/masturbation, in an unfruitful attempt at resolving it. Once I was able to talk through and process the trauma with a clinical therapist, I understood the foundations of WHY. Now, with the help of continued therapy and a 12-step group, along with Covenant Eyes, I’m finding a lasting relief from the compulsion and obsessiveness I used to battle constantly. The unending drive I couldn’t escape is now at bay and I’m having a mental clarity I haven’t known. There isn’t that “push” anymore to look at porn whenever I had the opportunity to be alone. The isolation is breaking away and it’s amazing to live in the light and actually feel alive for once.

      Reply
      • Luke on

        That sounds so appealing to think of being free. I’ve struggled with these things since I was 12. I don’t know why it keeps such a powerful hold on me, but to have the ability to keep it “at bay” like you say sounds wonderful. I would love to know the foundation of why. I can’t understand the feeling I get when I find myself alone battling tooth and nail to stay strong. It’s emotionally exhausting.

      • Lisa Eldred on

        To re-echo Sean, if you’ve been struggling with porn since 12, you may want to seek out professional counseling. Yes, “with God all things are possible,” and He could remove the temptation just like He could cure the cancer of everyone who prays for its removal, but in His sovereignty God often chooses to do His work through health professionals.

        If you do choose to pursue counseling, make sure you find someone who treats porn as a problem, not “normal, healthy behavior.”

    4. Becky on

      Thank you for sharing all you do! My husband claims to be a Christian but has turned his back on God b/c he was hurt by people in the church. He’s trying to be free of his addiction in his own power only because he’s afraid to lose me. We have a weekly “reporting in” time which he resents & I hate the fact we have to do it. But I need to know where he’s at. He supposedly has men in his 12 step group he accounts to so while he’s been physically sober for a while, mentally and emotionally it’s been rough …………It’s so hard hanging in here hoping praying he will see the truth. I realize there’s nothing more I can do for him but pray. He found a way through twitter to access porn even with covenant eyes so we are now using another filtering system.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hi Becky, I’m glad you’ve found help and support here for your journey. It sounds like you’re pretty familiar with what’s here, but just in case–here’s a post Luke put together recently that’s got some of our top resources that women find helpful. Praying wisdom and peace for you right now, as you go forward. Blessings, Kay

    5. karl leinfelder on

      As of the present I have not been addicted to pornography and in fact really have not be tempted to engage in this self-degrading habit which serves as an aid to the devil. It is from this point of reference that I am asking how is it so easy to be attracted and engaged in it as is the experience of some many people. Is it so difficult to just say no the first time? On the other hand, like habit forming drugs, it is quite easy to understand why once exposed to pornographic literature, it is hard to turn away. I guess that we just have to teach or preach the slogan. Thanks.

      Reply
      • Lisa Eldred on

        Karl, I know of some people whose struggle with porn began when they looked it up out of curiosity to learn what the big deal was. Probably the majority, though, stumbled across porn as kids who knew enough to keep their porn use hidden but didn’t know enough to try to stop. This was true when the main source of porn was magazines, and the Internet has only increased the chances of early exposure. One study found that about 90% of boys and 60% of girls have been exposed to porn by age 18. That was a few years ago; I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the numbers are much higher now.

        Really, one big key to preventing addiction is for parents to protect and prepare their kids for pornography, because they will face the temptation. In fact, that’s why we created family accounts; we don’t want cost to be a barrier for families to protect themselves

    6. Christian Valentine on

      It really has been hard for me to stop I always feel so guilty to claim that I’m a born again Christian but with this cloud of addiction hanging over my life making me feel unworthy of God’s Grace, mercy and forgiveness but this article has really enlightened me in a sense that there is help out there and that I’m not alone thank you

      Reply
    7. christine K on

      Hey thanks for the article. Am also having issues with porn and would have loved to have convenant eyes but I can’t afford it. Thanks for da encouragement

      Reply
      • Chris McKenna on

        Hi Christine – please contact one of our customer service reps so that you can explain your situation. The number is: 877.479.1119 within US or 989.720.8000 outside US

    8. poet on

      Does covenant eyes work on mobile handsets

      Reply
    9. Pete on

      I struggle with porn and don’t know what to do. I believe that I am not a genuine believer because I’m addicted to it. I am not looking for justification. Just help. Genuine help. Filters do not work. I need real salvation from this temptation. I’m always thinking about women and wanting to have relations with them. I’m married and I’m a fraud. Please help.

      Reply
    10. Daniel on

      I was considering accountability software for a while even got some other options. But as a computer specialist, there are way to many options for me to work around it. And sin did win for a while.. What finally got me was telling a christian friend i was struggling with sin and needed a watchful eye. The thought of lying to that friend was more powerful then the urge for lust. I couldínt be that kinda hypocrite. That in combination with Gods amazing grace and forgiveness on the cross i am now fighting this battle with the full armor of God. If your struggling with options to go around it (i whont list them) then go find a brother/sister that u truly trust, and tell em the truth. Then u have to lie to that person to keep going on. God will work your consience. Thank you for this article.

      Daniel

      Reply
      • Joe Miller on

        Daniel: I don’t know how to “get around” the software, nor do I want to know. I really want those I am accountable to to know where I’ve been and what I’ve done on the computer and my devices. I loved your comment about the lying issue. I really feel (and I am glad I do) that lying to one of them would be far worse than anything I could do. I just figure that is God knowing how my mind works and He is exploiting that part of it. I hope that doesn’t sound too weird. Every little (though this is big) thing works for me. Thanks.

    11. Anita on

      Really needed this article. This addiction contradicts heavily with my Christian beliefs. Please pray for me.

      Reply
      • Ygal Thasi on

        Be of good courage Anita. Do not give up the fight! I hope accountability partnerships can work for women too.

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