A poll was taken from the men attending a certain Promise Keepers meeting. One-half of the men admitted that within the past week they had looked at pornography. According to an article on the website Pastors.com, over 9 out of 10 men at a Christian men’s retreat revealed that they had a problem with pornography or fantasy lust although they knew that it was not pleasing to God. Over 500 men were surveyed at the retreat. According to a separate survey taken by the magazine Christianity Today, 40% of the pastors surveyed have visited a pornographic website. Over half acknowledge that they can be tempted by internet pornography. Shockingly, 37% of them are now struggling with pornography.
How can a man overcome this problem?
On a certain occasion, Jesus taught his disciples about things that cause people to sin.
Luke 17:1 Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. 2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 So watch yourselves.
Then Jesus taught that it is within our power to forgive our brother who has sinned against us.
“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
Jesus commands us to do something that is entirely against our human nature. If someone hurts us even once, it is difficult enough to forgive that person even if he repents and asks for forgiveness. We like to remember what he did. It is virtually impossible to forgive that brother seven times in a single day. This would be a mountain that is simply too huge to move. Two thousand years ago, the apostles realized this. They asked Jesus for more faith to move the mountain of unforgiveness into the sea.
Luke 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.
In response to the disciples’ plea for more faith, Jesus spoke of commanding a mulberry tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea. It is of course against the very nature of a mulberry tree that lives only on fresh water to be planted in the sea which contains salt water. But Jesus taught the disciples that it can in fact be done if one had faith as a mustard seed. Elsewhere in Scripture Jesus taught his disciples about this kind of faith.
Matthew 17:20 I tell you the truth, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.
It is clear that the faith to command and move a mulberry tree into the sea is very similar in nature to the faith required to command and move a mountain into the sea. Therefore Jesus is essentially teaching here the same faith which is required when exercising authority to heal the sick or drive out a demon, which forms the context of the above verse from Matthew 17. When with mountain-moving faith we command things under our authority such as infirmities and demons to move, they will obey us. What is it that also obeys us? Our servants obey us. And Jesus goes on to teach us about the relationship between a master and his servant.
Luke 17:7 “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?
Two thousand years during the time of Jesus, a master would not have spoiled or coddled his servant. This is not how a master exerts his authority over his servant. Eventually a spoiled or coddled servant will begin to disobey his master’s orders. Scripture teaches that we have authority over our sinful nature.
Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live…
The apostle Paul teaches that we have authority to put to death our sinful nature by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus when our sinful nature tempts us to sin, we do not coddle it by entertaining its suggestions, but rather treat it harshly as a master would a servant.
Let’s apply this to the problem many men, including pastors and believers, have with pornography and fantasy lust.
We can overcome this temptation by applying Jesus’ teaching. Let’s say you are struggling in this area. When you are checking your email one day, you accidentally type in the wrong address and suddenly you find yourself on a pornographic website. Seemingly irresistible images jump out at you from your screen. Your servant, your sinful nature, picks that very moment to approach you. He says:
“It’s OK, don’t be afraid. Just one look won’t hurt you. It’s the second look that’s bad. Just loooook at her! Stay for a moment…it’s OK. The Lord is merciful and will forgive you if you just confess it to Him later. Remember that He died to bear your sin. But you cannot stop now. Click on that link down there.”
At that very moment, we must know what to do and what to say to our servant. If we invite him to sit down, serve him food and eat with him, we are in trouble. We will fall into the sin of fantasy lust and pornography again. Yes, if we are truly repentant afterwards and ask the Lord to forgive us, indeed He will. But there will be a price to pay for failing to be strict with our sinful nature and to exercise our authority over it. Among other things, we may once again need deliverance from the spirit of pornography. And this time it may be more difficult. Luke 11:26 tells us that when the unclean spirit returns, he brings with him seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and our final condition will be worse than the first.
Instead of coddling our sinful nature when it tries to seduce us, we should immediately rebuke it severely, commanding it authoritatively with mountain-moving (or mulberry tree-moving) faith to be quiet and to leave in Jesus’ name. Our sinful nature will back off, and we can leave that pornographic website and escape from temptation. Each time it tries to tempt us to sin, we must rebuke and resist it in Jesus’ name as we would fight off a home invader.
There are of course other many other ways besides unforgiveness and fantasy lust with which our sinful nature can tempt us to sin. Some are the temptation to anger, greed, covetousness, fornication, adultery, pride, and jealousy. Whatever our sinful nature says to us, we must immediately take authority over it with mountain-moving faith, without any trace of doubt or wavering. Like a servant, it will obey us.