Purging Pornography with the Power of a Greater Pleasure

purity

Twice in the last year I’ve had the chance to speak to men’s groups on the subject of pornography. Because the time always restricts how much can be said, I’ve included my notes below to fill in what I left out at the last study.

While I find that many helpful books and articles have been written on the subject of pornography, nothing has been more powerful in pursuing purity than finding a greater pleasure than God himself. Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Indeed, it is this “seeing of God” that both teaches us to say no to ungodliness (Titus 2:11–13) and motivates us to look beyond the flesh to find a greater pleasure in Christ.

Bruce Marshall (not G.K. Chesteron, HT: Justin Taylor) once said: “The man who rings the bell at the brothel, unconsciously does so seeking God.” Only by exposing the hidden longing for God which underlies a man’s foolish dalliance with or morbid addiction to  pornography, can such a man find lasting purity. Only by feasting on God as a greater pleasure can the ongoing return to porneia be broken.

Therefore, I share these notes on “Purging Pornography with the Power of a Greater (Gospel) Pleasure ” They are quite incomplete but the general argument can be followed.

On John’s Piper’s seventieth birthday, I am happy to say this pleasure-seeking approach to purging pornography can be directly connected to the arguments made in Desiring God, The Pleasures of God, The Dangerous Duty of Delightand When I Don’t Desire God

Where would I be without the God-exalting, grace-saturated ministry of John Piper? Very readily, ensnared in a cauldron of my own sin. I bless my Father in heaven for sending Piper’s message of Christian Hedonism, for it is Jesus message to us: ” These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

Today, after working out these truths for more than fifteen years, I would argue that if one struggles with pornography or any other type of intractable sin one of the most liberating things you can do is to glut yourself on God—the very thing Piper shows us how to do from the Word of God. When I was introduced to his books, they helped me immensely. I pray these notes and the Scriptural truths they point to may do the same for you.

Purging Pornography with the Power of a Greater (Gospel) Pleasure

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Practical Counsel for Growing in Grace

discipline“Discipline yourself for godliness.”
— 1 Timothy 4:7 (NASB)–

Recently Donald Whitney, professor of biblical spirituality at Southern Seminary (Louisville, Kentucky) answered a series of questions for Desiring God‘s podcast, Ask Pastor John. Dr. Whitney, who is arguably the foremost authority on evangelical spirituality, has been studying and teaching these materials for over twenty-five years. His book  Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life is a modern classic and an illuminating study for growing in grace.

If you are not familiar with the Bible’s prescribed disciplines for spiritual growth, or you are and have not read his enlightening book, I cannot commend it enough. In the meantime, if you would like a primer on the disciplines or a refresher for why they are so important, take 30 minutes (or 5 seven-minute segments) to listen to his answers to these five questions. (I’ve included a teaser quotation from each interview). Continue reading

Putting the Psalter Together: How the Superscriptions Tell the Story

bibleIn canonical studies on the Psalms (i.e., studies that read the Psalter as one unified book, intentionally arranged to communicate a message of messianic hope), Jim Hamilton has provided a helpful reading of the Psalter by paying attention to the superscriptions of the Psalms. Because this Sunday’s message will depend heavily on the superscription in Psalm 20 (“to/for/about David”), I have asked Jim if I could share a large section of his explanation of the Superscriptions and how they relate to the whole of the Psalms.

The following excerpt is taken from his excellent survey of the Bible, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology. (You can find more about his book here, with ideas for incorporating it into your Bible reading). Continue reading

The Bible in American Public Life: Two Lessons from Mark Noll’s New Book

nollMark Noll’s new book, In the Beginning was the Word: The Bible in American Public Life, 1492–1783is a fascinating look at Scripture role in forming the influencing individuals during the first three centuries of the American Experiment. He opens, “It is no exaggeration to claim the Bible has been—and by far—the single most widely read text, distributed object, and in reference book in all of American history” (1). Because of its central place in the personal, social, and political thought life of America—not to mention its spiritual and religious influence—the Bible has given language and leverage for all kinds of actions in American history.

This is the goal of Noll’s book, to show how self-conscious biblicism translated into the public square. He begins with the Bible’s impact in England and follows it across the Atlantic, showing how the move from British Christendom to American colonialism shaped the way Americans read the Bible. As he has demonstrated in his other books (especially, America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln and The Civil War as Theological Crisis), America’s political crises and military engagements (e.g., the Revolutionary and Civil Wars) deeply shaped America’s reading of the Bible. Continue reading

Getting into the Word: A Sermon on Psalm 19

elfAt the beginning of the year, it only makes sense to turn our attention again to the Scriptures. Over the last week, I’ve written a few posts on getting into the Word (see here and here). Yesterday, I preached on the same topic from Psalm 19: “Getting into the Word.”

Here’s an illustration from that sermon that got left on the cutting room floor. May it encourage you as you read the Word.

Getting into the Word Depends on Craving the Word

By nature I love sweets. When Elf speaks of the four food groups as candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup, I’m all in. Well, except for candy corn. I’ll take chocolate instead.

I remember when I was four going to the coffee station where my mom worked and finding sugar cubes. I would sneak one. Eat it. And return for more.

Thirty years later, I still love sugar. And so do my kids. Who taught them to do that?  No one. As if by genetic predisposition, they have a craving for sugar.

The same thing happens when God regenerates a person. Continue reading

Preparing for the Lord’s Supper: Word-Centered Examination Leads to Spirit-Filled Assurance

light

[This meditation originally posted at our church blog in preparation for the Lord’s Supper].

Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
— Psalm 19:12-14 —

The Lord’s Table presumes that sinners will come and feast at a banqueting table of grace. There are none who approach the Table without sin, but neither are there any who rightly assess their sin. Therefore, we need to ask like David did: “Who can discern his errors?” And in turn, let God speak to us through his Word to find the answer. Assurance to approach the Lord’s Table as the Word of God calls to fresh faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Continue reading

Feeding on the Bible in 2016: An Approach to Bible Reading for Those Who Don’t

bibleThere is a curious condition I have found among many who regularly attend church. I’ll call it personal, spiritual malnutrition. It is the regular pattern of NOT reading the Bible that many in church experience.

I can’t tell you how many times I have sat down with someone who regularly attends church, knows much about the Bible, who expresses love for Jesus and trust in the gospel, but who doesn’t read their Bible. If pressed, they know they should, and often they have tried to read their Bible, but for a variety of reasons, they have not committed to that spiritual discipline.

This is a perilous condition and one that is “curious” because of how central God’s word is in making a Christian.

James 1:18 says, God saves us by his word: “He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” Likewise, 1 Peter 1:23 concurs: “since you have been born again, . . . through the living and abiding word of God.” And Romans 10:17 clarifies the picture that this word-generated life comes through the “hearing of the word.” In other words, anyone who professes to be a Christian must have become such by the Word.

Next, the Scriptures repeatedly speak of God’s Word as life-giving nutriment. Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man does not live by bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (Matthew 4:4). The Bible is not a trifling thing; it is our life, Moses says (Deuteronomy 32:47). What food is to the body, Scripture is to the soul. A newborn infant cannot live apart from his mother’s milk, and neither can the child of God survive without God’s Word.

And yet, there is a whole category of Christians who survive on secondary sources. A weekly sermon, a favorite iPod preacher, a few memorized verses (usually disjointed from context), a popular book or two, hours of Christian radio, and a variety of other Christian-ish props. But no personal Bible reading.

It is to them (and their pastors) I pen this post. Continue reading

With Assurance and Affection: A Primer on How to Read Scripture

bibleWith the final seconds of 2015 ticking down, some bookish people are considering what they will read next year. Those who prize the Bible above all books are considering what reading plan they should adopt in 2016. At our church, we recommend three different reading plans for three different kinds of people (see Ben Purves’s blogpost). I will have more tomorrow on reading plans for those who don’t like to read.

For today, I want to tackle a different question: How will you read the Bible in 2016?  Continue reading

Creation, the Trinity, and the Incarnation: What “God with US” says to “ME and God”

 

manger “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and they shall call his name Immanuel”(which means, God with us).
– Matthew 1:23 –

At Christmas, we remember the Eternal Son of God took on human likeness, so that the people made in his image might be reunited with their Maker. Most often when we consider the birth of Christ, we focus on the historical details—and rightly so. But it is equally appropriate to consider what the Incarnation teaches us about the Trinity and how the Trinity (God’s one-in-threeness) teaches us to reject self-centered individualism in order to live in new covenant community. Continue reading

Communion as a Community Meal

bread

Because there is one bread,
we who are many are one body,
for we all partake of the one bread.
– 1 Corinthians 10:17 –

The Lord’s Supper is a treasury of Christ-remembering, kingdom-anticipating, church-unifying, soul-stirring symbolism. As Jesus said of the bread in Luke 22, “This is my body, which is given for you” (v. 19) and of the fruit of the vine, “This cup . . . is the new covenant in my blood” (v. 20). Laden with spiritual significance, both of these statements are symbolical. The bread represents the body of Christ (and more specifically the death of Jesus); the cup represents the blood of Christ (and more specifically the promise of new covenant pardon). Together they form the two elements Christians “take” and “eat” (Matthew 26:26).

However, these edibles do not exhaust the symbolism of the Lord’s Supper. Far from it, in fact. Consider Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:17. Calling the Corinthians to flee from idolatry (10:13), he cautions them about their practices of eating from the Lord’s table and the demons’ table (v. 20). In this context, he teaches us a twofold lesson about the nature of the Lord’s Supper. Continue reading