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

A Bag of Treats or a River of Delights: A Halloween Parable

In a few weeks children, teenagers, and some adults will adorn super-hero suits, clown wigs, and other silly costumes all for the purpose of having some seasonal fun and gathering a bag full of candy.  Good Christians differ on what to do with this holiday, and without stepping into that firing line, I simply want to take note of the way that Halloween is a dramatic parable of the fleeting pleasures of sin handed out by the houses of this world.

In Hebrews 11, Moses is described as a man of faith because “he considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” (v. 26).  Because he was looking to the reward, he chose to be “mistreated with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (v. 25).  With heaven in view, he sought God’s reward, instead of the treats of this age.

The same was true of Abraham.  Earlier in Hebrews 11, the father of faith is depicted as a man whose hope is set on the city whose architect and builder is God (v. 10).  Scripture says of him and his offspring, “If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (v. 15-16).

In these statements, we see that hope in God’s rewards defines the life of the Christian (Heb 11:6). While we do not yet see our treasure, we believe in the promises of God that Christ has gone away to prepare a place for us (John 14:2; Heb 11:16).  We live in this reality. We say no to the world’s offerings because our hearts are in love with the world to come.

Here is where Halloween provides such a fitting parable.  As trick-or-treaters dress up in search of candy, they hope to collect a sack full of Hershey miniatures and Starburst packets.  On that night, the collection is sweet.  Serious trick-or-treaters know where the best candy is, and they get there early to pull in the full-sized Snickers or Silver Dollar.  Yet, all that is gained on that single night is soon eaten and the costume outdated or outgrown.

The joy of Halloween is as light as cotton candy and as long-lasting as cheap gum.  Contrast this with the joy that comes from the Lord.  Psalm 16:11 says, “In God’s presence is fullness of joy and at your right hand are pleasures evermore.” So too, Psalm 46 describes his dwelling place as possessing “a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns” (v. 4-5).

In terms of our parable, God’s house is the one who doesn’t stop you at the door.  He doesn’t demand a trick.  He doesn’t leave you hungry by giving you an itty-bitty bag of candy-coated chocolate.  Rather, his guests are invited to come and dine with him.  His food is satisfying and cost of admission is free.

But here is the rub.  In order to arrive at his home, the Christian must pass by all the other doors.  He must say “no” to constant offers of SweetTarts, Smarties, and Milk Duds.  Even when hunger sets in, he must keep plodding towards the mansion on the hill, whose invitation to dine with the king is sweeter than the houses in the valley of death.

So how will the Christian make it?  Like Moses and Abraham, he must keep before him the promises of God and the reward at the end.  Christian faith is not meant to be a stoic battle of the will, that says “I will do right, even when I don’t feel like it.”  No.  The Christian faith is much more like a long journey that says I will say “no” to the hospitality of this world, because I have the promise of an outstanding feast with the king ahead (See Isaiah 25:5-9).

To the world, this kind of reasoning sounds unappetizing.  They will say, “Just Trick or Treat!”  But to the Christian who takes God at his word, he becomes like the child who forsakes the city block to travel into the country to find the home he has never seen, but who has promised a Christmas dinner that is more than he could ask or imagine.

This fall, as you see children dressed in costume and pursuing an abundance of sugary treats, whether you partake or not, remember that such is the feasting of the world.  It comes through personal effort; it lasts for only a night; and its fruits fade away within days.  Contrast this with the city of God and the house of our Lord, whose gifts are never so small, never so fleeting, and never so empty… they only take time for them to come to us!

May we like Moses reject the fleeting treats of this world, because we remember that filling our bags with them is the devil’s trick.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

The Goal of Marriage is the Kingdom of God

THE PURSUIT OF PLEASURE IN THE PLEASURE OF ANOTHER

 

Here is a point to ponder.

Darby Livingston, pastor of Come As You Are Fellowship in Union City, OH, comments on 1 Corinthians 7:29, in his book The Pursuit of Pleasure in the Pleasure of Another: A Christian Hedonist Guide to a Happy Marriage (if you are not familiar with the term Christian Hedonism, coined by John Piper, see Pastor John’s explanation here).  Pastor Livingston writes:

 

 

“From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none”  (1 Cor. 7:29)  What does that mean?  Are we supposed to leave our spouses?  NO! [Capital letters mine]… We’re just supposed to be gospel-centered whether single or married.  The gospel isn’t to be used to build better marriages, though sermons and books abound on that topic.  Just the opposite is true.  Marriage is to be used to expand the Kingdom of God through the gospel.  In saying that men with wives should live as though they had none, Paul is saying that the gospel has invaded this evil world and has flipped past priorities on their heads.  Our priority before believing the gospel may have been to build a comfortable little life with our spouse and pray we live long enough to enjoy the fruit of our labor [Ecclesiastes 9:9 does say as much].  Our priority since believing the gospel must be to use every temporal blessing, including marriage, as the means of advancing God’s Kingdom on earth (Darby Livingston, The Pursuit of Pleasure in the Pursuit of Another [USA: Xulon Press, 2007], 124).

In John Piper-esque fashion, Pastor Livingston challenges comfortable Christian marriages, to count the cost, pick up the cross, and carry the gospel.  This is not optional, this is essential.  Overstating his case, Livingston says that “the gospel isn’t to be used to build better marriages.”  Clearly this is not true in and of itself.  The gospel of Jesus Christ does build better marriages.  However, in context his point is dead on!  Good marriages are not the final goal.  The gospel is!  And marriages are to orient themselves around this reality.  As Jesus says with similar hyperbole, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).  In stating his case this way, Pastor Livingston is simply paraphrasing the words of our Lord, and challenging Christian couples to live lives of discipleship.  

Though, I have only read a few chapters of Livingston’s book, I commend it to you as a book that will help you see the glory of God in your marriage and to live radically for the kingdom of God.  If you are a Christian Hedonist, this book is for you; if you are not yet a Christian Hedonist, I would encourage you all the more to check it out.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss