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Where do you find encouragement on the journey away from porn?

Last Updated: September 16, 2022

Keith Rose
Keith Rose

Keith Rose holds a Master of Divinity degree and BA in Sacred Music. Keith worked with the Covenant Eyes Member Care Team for 15 years. He has also served as a Bible teacher, pastoral assistant, and music director at his local church. He's now the editor of the Covenant Eyes blog and the author of Allied: Fighting Porn With Accountability, Faith, and Friends. He lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina with his wife Ruby and daughter Winslow.

“I messed up again.”

As an ally for many friends, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that phrase! So what’s the biblical way to encourage someone? More specifically, how do you encourage someone who is battling a sin struggle with pornography?

Earlier this year, we looked at two other key accountability passages. First, Galatians 6:1-4, Careful Burden-Bearing: Instructions for Allies. Second, there’s Why James 5:16 Is More Than a Proof-text for Accountability. Both passages shed light on the biblical teaching about accountability and how that should inform our relationships.

Here we’re tackling another key accountability passage, Hebrews 3:13: “But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.”

Along with Galatians teaching that accountability should be gentle, and the instruction in James 5 about the importance of prayer in accountability, Hebrews 3:13 adds another important aspect of accountability: encouragement.

What is biblical encouragement? Where do you find it?

Encouragement is Christ-focused.

Hebrews 3 begins with the key to the whole passage and the key to Christian accountability: “consider Jesus.” Other translations render this command, “fix your thoughts on Jesus” and “set your focus on Jesus.”

At Covenant Eyes, our mission is to help people quit porn, so we keep our focus pretty narrowly on this goal. But we recognize that Christian accountability has a greater purpose. Christian accountability points people to Jesus.

See our article, Biblical Accountability: What It Is and How to Live It.

How does Hebrews 3 instruct us to focus on Jesus? The author says to consider Moses and the way he led the people of Israel and helped them find fellowship with God. Then, think how much better Jesus is. Jesus did perfectly what Moses did imperfectly. The Bible has many examples like this. 1 Corinthians 10:6 tells us that the stories of the Bible are given as examples to direct our focus toward Christ.

True allies encourage people by pointing them to Jesus. We can do this through Bible stories or by connecting our own life stories to the work of Jesus. Remind our friends that as much as we care for them and support them in their struggles, Jesus cares and supports them more.

Encouragement is about the heart.

In verse 8, the Hebrews writer warns, “Do not harden your hearts.” The main concern here is not a specific sin. It’s not primarily worried about watching porn or any other behavior. Hebrews 3 sounds the alarm about “hard-heartedness.”

Think about the temptation to look at porn. You’re suffering from loneliness, and God hasn’t provided you with a spouse. Or, God has given you a spouse, but you’re struggling in your relationship and feeling sexually unfulfilled.  You know porn is wrong, but your frustration and anger give an excuse to act out. That’s hard-heartedness.

For others, “hard-heartedness” takes a subtler form: shame. Shame tells you that Jesus isn’t enough to redeem you from your sin. Shame tells you that what you’ve done—falling back into porn, for example—puts you beyond His love and grace. It doesn’t seem hard-hearted; you feel weak and broken. But shame actually hardens your heart to the power of the Gospel. Shame tells you God can’t forgive you or that you’re too broken for Him to fix.

Encouragement doesn’t shy away from talking about slip-ups and failures. We don’t say, “It’s OK you looked at porn again, no big deal.” But encouragement is anti-shame also. It doesn’t obsess over mistakes. Instead, it teaches us to look at them squarely and learn from them. Encouragement only focuses on failure to the point of softening the heart.

From then on, it’s about building people up, and reminding them they are loved and forgiven.

Encouragement is ongoing.

I believe the most common reason that accountability relationships fail is consistency. How often does Hebrews 3 say to encourage one another? Not once in a while. Not every Sunday. Every single day.

Why is that so important? Apparently, because hard-heartedness is a constant temptation. More than just a temptation, hard-heartedness is actually our default tendency. Without continual heart-softening measures, we get crusty and callous with time.

Satan is the father of lies, and sin has a million ways of deceiving us. Hebrews 3 warns of the subtlest tricks of the Enemy—making us indifferent, ungrateful, and ultimately turning us into rebels against God.

Encouragement keeps us on track.

When I first used a riding lawn mower, I was given this advice: pick a point at the opposite end of the lawn, and lock your eyes on that. Don’t let your attention wander, and don’t look at the ground in front of you. Otherwise, your lines will zigzag all over the place.

It’s the same way with the journey to overcome porn: focus on Christ. If we keep our vision fixed on Christ, our own struggles and disappointments pale in comparison with His gift to us. Shame melts as we recognize the warmth of God’s love.

Encouragement doesn’t make our challenges, discouragements, or temptations disappear. But it gives a perspective that makes the challenges bearable. It corrects our course and puts us back on the path to victory.