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Porn and the Hope of Resurrection

Last Updated: April 13, 2022

Lisa Eldred
Lisa Eldred

Lisa Eldred is the Educational Content Strategist at Covenant Eyes, and has 10 years of experience in researching and writing about porn addiction and recovery. She has authored numerous blog posts and ebooks, including More Than Single, Hobbies and Habits, and New Fruit, which was co-authored with Crystal Renaud Day. Her writing about faith and fandoms can be found at Love Thy Nerd.

One early spring day, a little over a week before his own death, Jesus stood at the side of a tomb, weeping. A dear friend had been laid inside several days earlier. The man’s two sisters stood nearby—one grief-fraught but standing firm, the other grieving at his feet. They had sent notice to Jesus as soon as their brother was sick, for they knew what he could do. They had heard of the sick being healed, and even some dead people, like the temple leader Jairus’s daughter, being raised if Jesus got there soon enough—but he didn’t come, and the funeral was over. Even wrapped in linens and anointed with oils, their brother was in their long enough that his corpse would have started to stink.

“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told one sister.

“Yes,” she said. “On the last day, as we all will.”

Jesus smiled at her. She wasn’t wrong, but she had missed the deeper reality of who he was. “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” he said.

He ordered the tomb open. A sickening stench emanated from it. But Jesus called his friend. Instantly the flesh knit back together. The maggots were expelled without a trace. And still wrapped in his funeral linens, the man stood up and walked back into the light of day, foreshadowing how Jesus himself would, not much later, cause his own stopped heart to beat again.1

What the disciples didn’t realize at the time—and what we still struggle to realize today—is that this is what Jesus does. He is in the business of resurrecting dead things.

We mostly think of this the way Martha (and the rest of Jesus’s followers) did—in terms of our dead bodies on the day of the Resurrection, but it can mean so much more. “Look, I am making everything new,” Jesus says in Revelation 21:5, introducing a new Heaven and a new Earth that contains old-Earth specifics like Jerusalem. But this is not just a future reality; Jesus does this daily. We were dead in our sin, Paul writes in Ephesians 2:1-5, but now we are alive in Christ. We are now alive in Christ! This is a present reality!

But for the porn user, it sure may not feel like it. Most of us can feel porn slowly killing us.

But this hope of resurrection applies to the viewer of even the most vile porn, and those trapped in the deepest depths of shame. No matter how many times you’ve tried and failed to quit in the past, you have hope of resurrection—now—in Christ.

In order to experience that reality and truly feel that resurrected life, we need to die to our sin. This is much easier said than done, as you probably well know. Let’s look at a few ways to live this practically.

1. Look your sin full in the face.

The first step to killing our sin is to understand the hurt it has caused. Write out even just one way your continued porn use has caused harm. Maybe you can’t look at people without sexualizing them anymore. Maybe you’re facing separation or a divorce. Particularly consider how it is an eyesore before a pure and perfect God. Dwell in that pain for as long as you can bear it. Let it grieve you! Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 7:10 that “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret.” It’s easy to give lip service to repentance—but by looking at our sin full in the face, we begin to truly desire change.

By the way, this may be a slow process. You may only be able to look at one or two facets of your sin at a time. That’s okay! The same God who is deeply grieved by our sin is also infinitely patient with us, “slow to anger and abounding in faithful love” (Psalm 103:8). He will work in you one step at a time.

2. Repent.

Repentance is more than a lip-service “sorry” before moving on in life. Repentance means a commitment to change—to turning away from the behavior. It is crucial to repent if we want to truly kill sin in our lives; otherwise we’ll just keep going back to it over and over.

It’s almost easy to repent to God. After all, we know he offers forgiveness. But you may need to repent to others as well. For example, if you’re married, you may need to repent to your spouse. Consider confessing your porn use and how it has hurt them, and affirm your commitment to changing your behavior in the future. Remember to take full ownership for your behaviors. It doesn’t matter whether you think your spouse is not as physically attractive as they once were, if you don’t think they are open enough to sex, or any other excuse that shifts the blame (and you definitely should not say these things). You control your behaviors, and your repentance needs to reflect that reality.

If you repent to someone, accept their response with grace. Someone you’ve wounded may not be ready or able to forgive you yet, and even if they forgive you, they still may need to enforce boundaries for their own healing and sense of safety. Follow the boundaries they set, and keep moving forward in your own life. Your repentance should not be conditional on someone’s acceptance of it.

There may be situations where repentance directly to a person is inappropriate (for example, a coworker does not need to know you were lusting secretly after them). If there’s a question, seek advice from an ally or mentor. (Even if you know an apology is appropriate, you may want to run what you’re going to say past someone else first.)

3. Practice spiritual disciplines.

If we want Jesus to resurrect the dead parts of our lives, we need to get into the habit of walking with him. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me,” says Jesus in John 15:5. In other words, resurrection and growth come when you firmly embed your life in Jesus, which we do through finding spiritual community, reading the Bible, and praying.

A lot of people have baggage around these things. Sometimes well-meaning people add things like church attendance or Bible reading as legalistic rules, not means of grace by which God speaks into your life. You are seen and loved, and God delights to meet you where you’re at.

In other words, spiritual disciplines may mean regular church attendance, sacraments like Confession (if you’re Catholic), daily Scripture reading, and lengthy prayer. If that’s where you’re at, great!

They may also mean reading through the Psalms one verse at a time or praying very simple prayers, like “God, I feel tempted. Help me find my way out!” “Church” may mean “praying with your ally” right now. Or maybe all you can convince yourself to do is watch the TV show The Chosen online; while fictionalized and imperfect, it does a good job of portraying Jesus’ love, compassion, and divinity.

Whatever you have as a spiritual discipline, ask yourself whether it’s drawing you closer to Jesus. Maybe it’s time to add something new or change something up that isn’t working for you. Whatever you choose, pray with confidence that God will use it to work resurrection in your own life.

4. Find some help.

You may have noticed some recurring mentions of an ally here. Finding an ally to come alongside you—someone who you can be honest and vulnerable with—is one of the best ways to both put sin to death and to practice the resurrection Jesus is working in you. They can spot patterns of both sin and growth that you may not be able to see, and they can help you brainstorm practical next steps to take as you learn to walk in the light.

New Life Out of Death

Sometimes it can feel like we are buried so deep in our own sin that there’s no way God will resurrect something in our lives. We can’t enjoy sex without porn anymore; we got fired for watching porn on the job; our divorce has already been finalized. “My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out,” writes David in Psalm 40:12 (NLT).

That doesn’t matter to God! “If I make my bed in Sheol”—the grave—“you are there,” David says in Psalm 139:8. Nothing is so dead that God can’t bring new life to it.

Sometimes this may be a direct resurrection—a reconciliation with a friend or family member. Sometimes it may mean bringing in new life to a dead space—you might not reconcile with your spouse, but instead, God may provide new relationships with friends.

Whatever areas are dead in your life, look around in prayer and wonder. God is always making things new—we just need eyes to see it.

1This story is found in John 11:1-44 and is retold with poetic license.

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