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Escaping from Porn: The 6 Essential Ingredients of Repentance

Last Updated: June 3, 2015

Dave Jenkins

Dave Jenkins is the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, as well as the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine and the Host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast. Dave received his MAR and M.Div. through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. You can find him on Twitter @DaveJJenkinsFacebook, and at Servants of Grace.

Recently a new survey commissioned by a nonprofit organization called Proven Men Ministries and conducted by the Barna Group took a national representative sample of 388 self-identified Christian adult men. The statistics are alarming and paint a picture of the serious problem that is addiction to pornography.

6 Ingredients of repentance

The statistics for Christian men between 18 and 30 years old are particularly striking:

  • 77% look at pornography at least monthly
  • 36% view pornography on a daily basis
  • 32% admit being addicted to pornography (and another 12% think they may be)

The statistics for middle-aged Christian men (ages 31 to 49) are no less disturbing:

  • 77% looked at pornography while at work in the past three months
  • 64% view pornography at least monthly
  • 18% admit being addicted to pornography (and another 8% think they may be)

Even married Christian men are falling prey to pornography and extramarital sexual affairs at alarming rates:

  • 55% look at pornography at least monthly
  • 35% had an extramarital sexual affair while married

These statistics are alarming; in fact they can be downright discouraging. The porn addict lives in a world where they go through a cycle of feeling sorry for what they did, but never coming to see the horror and complete depravity of what they have done. The statistics, as I stated earlier, paint a disturbing picture. They demonstrate that we need to help porn addicts understand the seriousness of their sin, the nature of true biblical repentance, and turning away from sexual sin to Jesus Christ.

6 Ingredients of Repentance

The great Puritan author, Thomas Watson, once said there are six ingredients for true repentance.

1. The first is sight of sin, whereby a person comes to himself (Luke 15:17) and clearly views his lifestyle as sinful. If we fail to see our own sin, we rarely, if ever, are motivated to repent.

2. The second ingredient for true repentance is sorrow for sin (Psalm 38:18). We need to feel the nails of the cross in our souls as we sin. Repentance includes both godly grief and holy agony (2 Corinthians 7:10). The fruit of repentance is revealed in genuine, anguishing sorrow over the offense itself, not just the consequences of it. Sorrow for sin is seen in the ongoing righteous actions it produces. True repentance lingers in the soul and not just on the lips.

3. The third ingredient is confession of sin. The humble sinner voluntarily passes judgment on himself as he sincerely admits to the specific sins of his heart. We must not relent of our confession until all of it is freely and fully admitted. We must pluck up any hidden root of sin within us. “Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit” (Deuteronomy 28:19).

4. The fourth ingredient for true repentance is shame for sin. The color of repentance is blushing red. Repentance causes a holy bashfulness. Ezra 9:6 says, “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.” The repenting prodigal was so ashamed of his sin that he did not feel he deserved to be a son anymore (Luke 15:21). Sin makes us shamefully naked and deformed in God’s eyes and puts Christ to shame, the One who took the scorn of the cross on Himself.

5. The fifth ingredient in repentance is hatred of sin. We must hate our sin to the core. We hate sin more deeply when we love Jesus more fully. Repentance begins in the love of God and ends in the hatred of sin. True repentance loathes sin.

6. Finally, the sixth ingredient of repentance is the turning away from sin and returning to the Lord with all your heart (Joel 2:12). This turning from sin implies a notable change, “performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20). “Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols and turn away your faces from all your abominations” (Ezekiel 14:6).

We are called to turn away from all our abominations, not just the obvious ones or the ones that create friction in others. The goal of repentance is not to manufacture peace among others with perfunctory repentance, but rather to turn to God wholly and completely. This repentance most importantly is not just a turning away from sin. It also necessarily involves a turning in “repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Here is the joy that is found in repentance. “It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance” (Romans 2:4). We rejoice that Christ has done so much for us and continues to do for us.

By understanding the seriousness of sin and biblical repentance, we can come to understand that there is hope and freedom for the captives. Jesus came to set the captives free. While we live in a world that is full of bad news, in the midst of the bad news of our sin there is hope and healing from sexual sin. Look to Jesus—He is the cure for sexual brokenness. Jesus is in the business of setting the captives free through His finished work. No matter your sexual history, Jesus alone can make you pure again. Turn to Him, and trust in Him. He is all you need.

  • Comments on: Escaping from Porn: The 6 Essential Ingredients of Repentance
    1. Anonymous on

      As much as I would like to agree with this article as a christian male struggling with pornography addiction – I really don’t. In both “sight of sin”, “sorrow for sin” and especially “shame for sin” the main focus are on myself and my own effort – not on Christ. Shame is not a motivation for repentance – it is fuel for the addictive circle, self-blaming and self-hatred… which only leads to more struggle, more effort to “try to turn away from this and towards Christ on my own”.
      The number one ingredient that works for me is “let go and let God”. Self-blaming, shame, struggling is just myself trying to bring an end to the sin in my own life… which I cannot and should not. God has already done that.
      I have to bring myself as a sacrifice for God – not as a addiction- or pornography-free person first..but as the flawed and yet God-loved person I am right now at this very moment… and rest assured that He will provide the necessary healing.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hi Anonymous,

        I think you’re operating from a different definition of shame than the author is. The author is speaking of shame as the natural reaction one ought to have to sin: a sense of one’s failure before persons (those persons can be a community, the church, friends, family, God, and even oneself). It is simply an emotion that corresponds to sin’s relational consequences.

        Others define shame in a more chronic sense: a compulsion to hide based on that sense of failure or uncleanness. This most certainly contributes to the addictive cycle.

        Think of it this way: Shame in the Bible is contrasted with shamelessness: a sin-in-broad-daylight kind of attitude. Seen in this light, shame is the healthy reaction we should have to our own wrongdoing. Shame is that sense of “My sins have harmed others and my standing in their eyes.” If, however, we believe the accompanying lie that shame is somehow unresolvable, then it becomes chronic and unhealthy.

        That kind of chronic shame is, as you said, not a motivation for repentance. God’s kindness is (Romans 2:4).

    2. Thom E. on

      These statistics are biased. It makes no mention of the female side of the situation. For every man, there is a woman providing the porn or wanting the affair. This website is so naive. You use the bible and blame men, but you totally deny what women are doing even though the bible gives account after account of women using sex.

      Also, the last thing we need is to hear from a Puritan writer. Their rigid insanity helped create this situation actually. Make something taboo and it will flourish. They made sex taboo and just look at America in 2015. The results are right before your eyes.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        These statistics aren’t biased. They are merely selected to target a specific readership. The study he cites also does a nice survey of women, which is why we linked to it. I highly recommend you check it out.

        As for us “denying” that women do this too, I recommend you read some of our most trafficked resources for women who struggle with porn. When we write articles that talk about men struggling with porn, this does not mean we are ignorant of the fact that women also use porn. We are just writing to a specific audience.

        As for the idea that we shouldn’t listen to the Puritans because they were all rigidly insane, I would beg to differ. That is a gross over-generalization based on popular conceptions of their beliefs and a few outliers. To blame them for making sexuality taboo ignores a wide variety of cultural factors. Mark Dever has an excellent chapter about the Puritans and sexuality in the book, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ. You can read the whole book online for free (his chapter is chapter 11).

    3. Al on

      I am single. I can tell you right now more married women are cheating that you can imagine. Underage girls are going after older men in droves. Amazing how married men write these articles and yet, they are married and have no clue about what is going on.

      In Christianity, everything is a sin, so basically you must turn away from everything and live in a cave. Also, Christians are such hypocrites. They selectively address sin. Yet, they wont touch the other sins of this world. For example, they drive by a prison and never stop to think that we lock people in cages for some of the stupidest crimes. Our punishments are often so very unmerciful. Yet, the bible belt locks up the most people in the world. Not the country. But the world. The very same Christians will drive by prison industrial plants and not blink an eye at the slave labor being used. Sin? Please. Looking at a pretty woman is not much of a sin I assure you. Locking a person in cage and profiting off them certainly is. Doubt this. Go lock yourself in a cage and see for yourself. Mercy for people. Nah. We wont give that. But don’t you dare look at a naked woman!!! So freaking hypocritical.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        I agree that there are a lot of sins on the part of both sexes, but it is a bit odd to say that Christianity calls “everything” a sin. What does that mean? Jesus didn’t live in a cave, and Christians don’t believe he ever sinned. He had regular interactions with outcasts and notorious sinners of society. He was welcome at their tables. He had good friendships with men and women, rich and poor alike. He was a very active individual in all realms of society, interacting with culture-movers, politicians, religious leaders, and those in abject poverty. He was hardly a cloistered person, and yet Christians believe he was perfect.

        Are Christians hypocrites? I’m sure many are (perhaps most or all of them). I’d be hard pressed to find people (not just Christians) who don’t have hypocritical moments.

        You are correct: looking at a pretty woman is not a sin and unrightfully enslaving or imprisoning people is. (Not sure if you think we think differently, but we don’t.) I’m glad there are Christians and churches all over the world working to end injustices like human trafficking and human slavery (just as Christians worked hard in the 19th century to fight slavery). Our company is attempting to help especially in the area of sex trafficking.

    4. Dale on

      These six ingredients will help me; I need all the help I can get. I’m trusting in God to give me repentance as His gift of faith grows. There’s nothing in me that wants repentance, except for the new heart that God gave/is giving/will give fully later. I don’t know if the points are biblical, one-sided or misguided, but my heart leans towards them, because the new creature I am wants to rise above the old nature in me.

      Reply
    5. Matthew on

      I like the article. In my own experience,for years I used to minimize my sin, including pornography which I struggled with for over 40 years until finally finding freedom. Though I was initially excited about my faith after becoming a Christian in my late 20s, as a result of my ongoing sexual sin, and my refusal to view my sin as it really was, wicked, my Christianity became quite bland and I lost a sense of appreciation for what was accomplished by our Lord Jesus Christ at the cross. After all, if my sin wasn’t really that big of a deal, then what God did at the cross wasnt that big of a deal. However, in the last few years as I have come to see the depth of my sin in the light of of what Jesus did at the cross, my thankfulness for Gods great mercy and forgiveness has increased dramatically and motivated me to seek purity. I also have seen in my own life that the depth of my repentance has been impacted by my understanding of Gods great love and the forgiveness available to me in Jesus Christ. Being settled that God loves me and is not based on my behaviour, has given me the courage to come clean with God about how wicked and evil my behaviour has been. To sum it up, I believe being settled that God loves us no matter what we have done, is essential to true, ongoing repentance. Ironically, i think pseudo repentance or worldly sorrow is fostered by a failure to truly appreciate our Gods great love which He demonstrated at the cross.

      Reply
    6. Anonymous on

      I am a 17 years old boy and i struggled with masturbation and pornography from 11 to 13 or 14.At the age of 14 God worked in my heart and made me realise that what I am doing is bad.By the way I am in  a church where I sing and have activity. People think that I am a good Christian but this year…after 3 yearss!I failed and thinking that I can manage to control myself,I watched videos on youtube that contained pornographic scens. .and then I wanted more and I forgot how God saved me once…and I masturbated again.I dont know how God could forgive  me again..because he got me out from masturbation  and porn once and I failed Him.Plese reply I want advice !Thank you!

      Reply
      • Erick on

        You can be free from pornography and masturbation! There is hope! You can be free! Anonymous, you are familiar with John 8:32, right? If not you will be when I begin to write it out. Jesus said, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” That’s where most of us stop, and believe me I did too! In fact, my life of pornography would last for 25 years before finding freedom. However, most of us also miss the power behind John 8:31, the verse prior to the one that “sets us free.” Listen to this verse and see where you stand with it.

        “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” John 8:31

        Do you see we must abide in his word. We must pursue him in his word. Abiding in his word we become true disciples who come to know the truth that sets us free! Like Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 1:9, “How you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” Both are pursuing the Lord! Both are a turning to the Lord from sin! Turn to the Lord with the same passion you have for sin and watch him transform your passions!

      • joackim on

        Amen same stuff happenned to me

    7. Max on

      I am 41, married, and I feel totally lost in the claws of porn. Seems the most I fight it, the most it traps me.

      Reply
      • Chris McKenna on

        Hello, Max – it is very true that whatever you fight will fight you back. Sin does not give up ground in the space of our sexual desires easily at all. Have you battled alone, or are you throwing the kitchen sink at this? Accountability. Scripture (reading, memorization). Engaging your wife on this. Going to bed at 10pm so that you aren’t online late at night. A firm decision that the cross of Christ is sufficient to overcome anything you are tempted by? It seems you might still believe this sin has power over you. That also means you might underestimate the power of the Cross. One of the greatest lies of the devil is to convince us that God is impotent. You are more than a conqueror! Get into Romans 8 and be strengthened and encouraged. Your God is for you! Rise up and continue fighting – today is a new day.

        Peace, Chris
        Covenant Eyes

    8. Mercy on

      Hi I really need help am a christian and I understand biblical principals of a christian life style,from the time I gave my life to Christ have managed to put away with a lot of my sinful life style but there is one thing it’s very huge,pornography I think have been trapped.I love God and I don’t want to keep hurting him.Please help me

      Reply
      • Chris McKenna on

        Hello, Mercy – I’m sorry that you’re still struggling. What have you tried? Do you believe you can quit? If you don’t believe it’s possible, then it won’t happen. Do you believe that the Cross of Christ that you gave you life to can break even your sin? Or, do you believe that it only works for everyone else’s sin? These are the big questions that you need to ask while getting alone so God can look you in the eye and lovingly answer.

        Best, Chris

    9. Larry on

      Lots of failure. So bad that when I have gotten porn-screening software, if I can’t undo it, I find someone who can. Now 60, I started masturbating preteen. Only promise I can hang on to is from something that Jesus mentioned in his parable of the unjust judge. A woman kept approaching the judge to get justice. He refused her. But, in one last attempt, she prevailed! All about perseverance. God will forgive. I need, with His help, not to give up.

      Reply

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