Defeat Lust & Pornography A man basking in the truth of Romans 8.
Defeat Lust & Pornography 6 minute read

No Condemnation For Porn

Last Updated: January 15, 2024

Many Christians believe two powerful and contradictory lies. On one hand, they tell themselves that watching porn isn’t that bad—it’s a personal decision that doesn’t affect anyone else. On the other hand, they’re terrified of anyone finding out about their porn use, as though it were the most shameful and unforgivable sin ever committed.

 It’s almost funny if you think about it because these two lies should cancel each other out, right? If watching porn isn’t that bad, then there’s nothing to be ashamed of and you shouldn’t try to hide it. On the other hand, if it’s shameful and unforgivable to admit, then there must be something deeply wrong with porn. These lies have power because they are half-truths. Watching porn is a sin. Revealing your struggle won’t end your life, but it does often bring consequences.

 If you’re a Christian struggling with porn, I want to offer you an even more powerful truth from Romans 8:1-2:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

Let’s see what this means for your life and your battle against pornography.

Your struggles aren’t you.

A lot of Christians debate whether the term “addict” is helpful for describing deep bondage to porn. I appreciate the pros and cons of the word. Personally, I use it to describe the neurological and biological factors at work in habitual pornography consumption. But Romans 8 makes one thing clear: For the Christian, “addict”—or “porno,” or “sinner,” or any other descriptor—cannot be your identity. The Christian is in Christ.

For the Christian tempted by porn, no amount of failure can change this fundamental reality: You belong to Jesus. More than that, you are inextricably connected to Jesus. You are in him, and he is in you. When God looks at you, he doesn’t see your struggles—he sees the righteousness of Jesus. Dr. Eddie Capparucci specializes in pornography and sex addiction therapy. He writes about the importance of identity for overcoming a habitual sin like pornography:

[I]nstead of labeling yourself as a porn addict, your new identity could be one of the following:

  • I have an addictive brain.
  • I don’t view porn.
  • I am a child of God.
  • I seek to be an individual with integrity.

This is where it’s easy to slip into one of the lies. Wait, does this mean I’m not taking my sin seriously? Does this mean I’m making excuses? But if we understand what God is telling us here, accepting the promise of “no condemnation” will never minimize our sin. Watching pornography is a truly horrific sin against God, others, and ourselves. But Jesus is greater than our sin. Our guilt cannot overcome his grace.

This leads to the second point.

Confession can’t hurt you.

The number one obstacle that people face to overcoming porn is confessing the struggle to other believers and seeking accountability. There’s no way around this fact: Confessing your sin is hard. For most people it’s scary. It feels shameful. But it’s also a crucial part of dealing with our sin; God doesn’t grant victory over pornography until we bring our struggle out into the open.

This is because victory over sin never means ignoring sin. God didn’t defeat sin by sweeping it under the rug and pretending it never happened. He defeated sin on the cross, through the substitutionary death of Jesus.

1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins.” Of course, this means confessing sin to God, not merely to another person or people. But a genuine confession to God often involves confessing to other people. If we confess watching porn to God but hide our sin from everyone else, it’s doubtful the confession to God is authentic. Genuine confession means no hiding from God or anyone else.

There are often consequences for admitting to a sin struggle with pornography.  And this is reality. But we often believe confessing our sin will somehow be worse than continuing to struggle, and this is a lie. We know that from Romans 8 because it tells us that regardless of what happens when we confess, there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. This means that no matter what happens when we admit to our sin, we stand guiltless before God because of Jesus. Whatever consequences we face they are only temporary, because Jesus bore our sins in his body on the cross and freed us from the punishment we deserved (1 Peter 2:24).

Freedom comes from the Spirit.

In every generation, you can find morality movements—non-Christians who recognize the value of Christian virtues like patience and self-control. Nowadays there are secular websites that promote the benefits of abstaining from porn and masturbation.

However, we should make no mistake that freedom by the Spirit is essentially different from the freedom afforded by sheer self-discipline. This is what Paul means by contrasting “the law of the Spirit of life” with “the law of sin and death.” How is freedom by the Spirit different?

Freedom by the Spirit is freedom to serve Christ.

The self-control gurus of the world teach you to eliminate struggles that get in the way of your goals. They help you live a better life by learning principles like delayed gratification. But fundamentally, it’s still about living as you see fit. Ultimately, this approach still leaves you in bondage to your own desires.

In contrast, freedom by the Spirit is about living as God sees fit. It means submitting yourself to God’s will for your life, even if it doesn’t seem best.

Freedom by the Spirit transforms your desires.

Freedom by the Spirit is not mere subservience, even though it involves submitting to God’s will. How can this be? Because the Spirit actually transforms the desires of your heart, making God’s will your will. When we have the Spirit of Christ, we are part of God’s family, and we take on the family values as our own. In John 15:15-16, Jesus explains to his disciples:

“I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.”

Jesus draws a contrast between a worker who slacks off until the boss shows up and someone who has a vested interest in the work. Those who follow Jesus will want to carry out the family business because it’s their business. And Jesus promises that God will equip them to this so they’ll be fruitful.

Freedom by the Spirit produces fruit.

The freedom we have through the Spirit of God is measured by the fruit of the Spirit. What is this fruit? Galatians 5:22-23 gives a good summary:

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

This fruit is, in one sense, a tangible metric; it’s something we can recognize and use to measure spiritual growth. But in an equally important sense, it’s intangible. We can’t reduce the fruit to a list of things we do or don’t do, because it’s as much about our heart motives and attitudes as it is about our actions.

“Not looking at porn” isn’t one of the fruits. On its own, that’s part of “the law of sin and death.” But avoiding porn is a necessary part of cultivating love, joy, peace, and all the rest. When we say “no” to porn, it demonstrates “the law of the Spirit” at work in our lives. Someone producing this fruit may slip up and fall back into sin for a time, but the Spirit will produce more fruit even in confession and repentance.

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