I grew up in a home where the Internet was not present until I was in college. Even then, I accessed it on occasion and through the infamous dial-up speed from a rather large desktop Hewlett Packard. The constant high speed connection that we expect in the home today wasn’t an option when I was a boy (I sound like my parents talking about walking uphill to and from school). In many ways, I’m thankful for that. As a pastor, I’ve had to counsel many people who have experienced the horrible effects of pornography and sexting through the use of the Internet. In our post-sexual culture that’s saturated with sexual immorality, the Internet is like a super highway to sin.
Pornography: The Old Sin
Pornography is not a new sin. It has been around for a long time. The word pornography comes from two Greek words πορνεία (sexual immorality, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.) and γράφω (to write, with reference to the form of the letters, to draw up in writing, compose). Discoveries of rock art and chiseled imagery have been unearthed for years depicting erotic scenes of what we would today classify as pornography. Although the industry has a dark history where it was outlawed and looked down upon, today it’s a welcomed and celebrated expressive (and let’s not forget profitable) industry.
The numbers related to pornography are staggering. Consider the fact that the industry earns over $13 billion dollars each year in America alone.  When the Internet boom happened, the pornography industry placed a saddle on the Internet and has been increasing in profitability each year. What was once a black covered magazine on the locked adult rack in the local service station has turned into an easy access Internet based push button industry. It has never been easier to access and hide pornography use than it is in our present culture. 68% of young adult men and 18% of women use porn at least once every week. 
With this easy access, the users have increased dramatically and the ages have decreased. 51% of male and 32% of female students first viewed porn before their teenage years (12 and younger).  The startling reality is that many teenagers see pornography for the first time at an extremely young age by accident. The trap was set for them and then they find themselves going back out of curiosity and eventually they find themselves hooked. This practice of ongoing porn use leads to a variety of other problems that are merely a natural result of pornography.
Pornography: The Related Issues
Violence Against Women: When investigators work on domestic violence cases and even murder cases, they often find an interesting similarity that links these cases together – pornography. While these studies are controversial and often lack sufficient evidence, the facts remain – a large percentage of men who abuse women, rape, and murder are frequent users of pornography. The use of pornography turns women into cheap objects to be used for pornographic fantasies and it cheapens the God ordained purpose of sex. This often leads to violence and abuse on women. 
Abuse of Sex: God ordained marriage between one man and one woman from the very beginning of His creation (Genesis 2:18-25). God blessed the marriage bed and desires it to be undefiled (Hebrews 13:4). However, the pornography industry redirects the use of sex and abuses the God ordained purpose. Pornography celebrates and furthers the cause of orgies, adultery, lust, and homosexuality. Everything that God designed sex to be, the pornography industry alters, changes, and avoids God’s original design. In fact, the pornography industry cheapens sex and turns it into a consumer product rather than a God ordained gift.
Pollution of the Mind: As Christians, we’re to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). Unfortunately, pictures and images that we place in our mind today will stick around for a very long time. In fact, it’s likely that the human mind (like a super computer) stores these images for the duration of our lives and they can be called upon and accessed by another image or event that triggers that image from our memory bank. Part of loving God with our mind is to preserve it and love our spouse with a healthy mind devoted to her in love and sexual intimacy. The practice of pornography makes this impossible. What’s terrifying is that a previous porn addiction can make the pursuit of holiness extremely difficult even if the you have had victory over the addiction for years. We must learn to be good stewards of our mind and think on things that are pure (Philippians 4:8-9).
Insufficient Fulfillment: Technology (print or web) can never replace the God ordained one flesh union that sex fulfills between a husband and a wife (Genesis 2:21-23). Just like FaceTime or Skype conversations with my family is not enough, I long for their embrace upon my return from a ministry related trip, pornographic images cannot substitute the God ordained desire of a man and woman to be joined together in a covenantal union as we see from the beginning with the progenitors of the human race – Adam and Eve.
In the end, we must view human sexuality through the lens of the God ordained purpose that He instituted from the beginning. To alter God’s design in any way is to pervert the blessings of God. Pornography is a trap and one that we must avoid in order to honor God, protect our marriage (present or future), preserve our mind, and respect the opposite sex. Pornography may be legal, but it’s a violent crime against God and your own body. Don’t forget that you’re the target of sexual traps in our culture. Read Proverbs 7 and consider the traps of adultery and how similar they are to the traps of pornography (a lustful form of adultery).
If you’re a man trapped by the lies of the pornographic industry and you need help, I would encourage you to read Tim Challies’ book – Sexual Detox and Finally Free by Heath Lambert. Additionally, you can find resources online at Focus on the Family, Desiring God, and Grace to You. Additionally, Joe Carter’s article at TGC, “9 Things You Should Know About Pornography And The Brain” is a worthy read. If you’re a Christian, I recommend these resources, but I also urge you to seek counsel among your pastors within your church. These men are given to you as a gift from God and they watch for your soul. Allow them into your life. This is God’s intended means of help for your soul.
1. Covenant Eyes
4. National Online Center on Violence Against Women
This January, Christians from all around the United States (and beyond) will gather for the G3 Conference, a theology conference focused on a specific theological issue each year. This upcoming year the theme will be the doctrine of the Trinity. You should consider registering and reserving a seat for you and your friends.
Can hipster Christianity save churches from decline? That’s the title and a valid question that needs to be asked in our confused culture. Brett McCraken writes, “Many don’t want the church to be like a sceney bar or a stylish boutique. They want the church to be the church: an institution that embraces awkward people, confronts sin, transforms lives, subverts the sovereignty of self, serves others and provides meaning more substantial than the ephemera of fickle fads.”
When God Calls You Into New Territory. Gavin Ortland talks with Voddie Baucham about his upcoming move to Zambia. You can see more at LaunchTheMove.com.
SCOTUS: Too Much and Too Little. Rosaria Butterfield writes, “And like others of my ilk, I know that sexual orientation is an invented category of personhood. Indeed, even from the old feminist perspective that I sported back in the day, I knew that sexual orientation as an identity was a category mistake.”
This past week my family and I had the privilege to spend a week on the beach in North Carolina – a special place we’ve been visiting for many years. As you know, when you sit on the beach and play in the sand with your children, you often notice other people around you and what they’re doing. My children usually end up playing with random children around us building sand castles and splashing in the water.
If you’ve kept up with the news, you’re aware that this year has been a unique season on the North Carolina coast with several shark attacks. In fact, as I watched the water and ventured out with my children to ride waves with them, I couldn’t help but notice that people were not venturing out nearly as far as they normally do in the water. After playing in the water for a while, I took my seat in the shade. I noticed that one father followed his children out into the water and stood about ankle deep with his hands on his hips and watched every move his children made in the ocean surf. As he stood there watching, I glanced to my left and noticed that he was standing a few yards from a lifeguard stand where a professional lifeguard was standing on his post, but he continued to stand there for the duration of the time that his children were in the water.
That scene made me think about the spiritual duty of a father. Although a child may be under the direct care of teachers and pastors in the life of the church, the one who is to take the lead in protecting and caring for that child spiritually is the father. A perpetual problem in the church is the mindset that many families have on the beach. They view the protection of the children as the job of the lifeguard on the stand, so they sit under the umbrella with a book while their children play in the water. In many ways, parents are consistently guilty of that same mindset spiritually. Unfortunately, many fathers believe it’s the duty of the youth pastor, children’s minister, and Sunday school teachers to disciple their children through the gospel. Like that father I saw standing ankle deep watching over his children merely yards from an occupied lifeguard stand – we as fathers need to do the same with our children spiritually.
Family worship may seem like a strange concept to many who have never practiced it, but as Matthew Henry once wrote, “Here the Reformation must begin.” Take time each week, each evening when possible, to read the Bible, pray, and sing with your family. Have you ever watched teenagers sneer at church life and worship as if it’s strange and uncool? Perhaps it’s strange because what they see the church doing is never practiced in the home. Voddie Baucham, in his excellent book, Family Driven Faith, shares that 70-88% of all students walk away from the faith of their parents by the end of their freshman year of college. If sharks swimming in the water will cause parents to focus more on their children while playing on the beach, shouldn’t we care about the massive numbers of children who are walking away from the church after they graduate? What’s more dangerous – sharks in the water or sharks in our culture?
With a flamboyant agenda, the culture is interested in discipling your child with a secular worldview. Are you prepared to do battle? Are you standing guard? Are you seeking to practice in the home what the church practices together in order to normalize worship in the life of your family? Take time to consider the high calling of the father and mother as the prime influencers in the lives of your children. Deuteronomy 6 gives us the key responsibilities regarding family discipleship. The children of Israel were commanded to teach their children the Word of God and to instruct them regarding the redemptive history and purposes of God. As believers positioned on the other side of the cross, we must do the same thing. God has redeemed us, not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and spot (1 Peter 1:19). When your children ask you about the lamb imagery, you can take them back to the Exodus and explain the whole scene that was a foreshadow of Jesus as the Savior of the world.
Don Whitney – Family Worship: In the Bible, in History & in Your Home
Joel Beeke – Family Worship
Yesterday, I had the privilege of continuing our series in Mark’s gospel. I preached from Mark 7:1-23. The overarching point of this passage is focused on the danger of shallow legalistic religion. The Jews of Jesus’ day, especially the Pharisees, spent much time focusing on the externals of man-made religious rules as opposed to the pure undefiled Word of God. Jesus confronts this issue as the Pharisees confronted Him regarding the disciples’ lack of washing before they ate their food, which was a complete violation of the tradition of the elders.
What exactly is legalism? Legalism can be defined as man-made additives to the formula of grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone for the remission of sin. Legalism is when we seek to please God by our works rather than by faith in the work of His Son. That’s exactly what the Pharisees were guilty of doing in Jesus’ day. They added to the Word of God and elevated their own rules and regulations above the authority of Scripture.
Jesus called them hypocrites and quoted Isaiah 29:13 in response to their shallow legalistic religion. They thought they had caught Jesus in a trap. However, Jesus turned the table on these self-righteous hypocrites. The Jews exchanged the pure Word of God for man’s empty rules. They were focused on washing their hands and their utensils while neglecting their bulging heart of hidden sin.
Jesus pointed out the reality of human depravity. It’s not about what enters the body that defiles a person. A person is defiled by what is inside. The heart of man is deceitful. Jeremiah said the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Too often people focus on the outward rules for cleansing while neglecting the internal condition of the heart. Legalism is often appealing, but it’s a deep ditch and a dangerous trap.
It’s important for us to get this right. The difference between legalism and genuine Christianity is heaven and hell. We don’t want to lead churches and children to embrace rules that will make them outwardly moral and inwardly corrupt. That’s why Jesus pointed out their commitment to their rules and condemned them for how they elevated it above God’s law. Charles Spurgeon once said:
We declare, upon Scriptural authority, that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, and so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful, supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will ever be constrained towards Christ.
Until Christ changes us, we will be inclined to fix our problem through man-made formulas, rules, regulations, and all of this is merely skin deep. Sinful man requires a heart transplant, a spiritual resurrection, and all of this is what Jesus termed as being “born again.”
It may seem that washing pots and scrubbing hands in the Pharisaical legalistic manner is completely disconnected from a proper application to our present culture, but we must look a bit closer. How many people do you know who are debating over the use of the King James Version verses other modern English translations? Can a person get a tattoo or not? Is it alright for women to wear pants? Can we watch television? Is wine permissible? What about Facebook and the Internet, are they redeemable? The fact is, we must be careful of elevating man’s rules over God’s Word.
As we read these verses in Mark’s gospel, we should be warned of the danger of loose living as well. Grace is not a license to enjoy the world’s pleasures. As a child of God, we are the servants of God (literally slaves). We have been bought with the blood of Christ and have an obligation to obey His commandments. He demands holiness. Before we run down the road of sinful living with our grace card in our hand, we must consider what the Word of God has to say about a life that brings glory to God.
At the end of the day – it’s not about rules and regulations. It’s about God’s Word. Moralism and external cleanliness is not the answer. What does God’s Word say? Before you embrace a dead and lifeless legalistic religion, open God’s Word and embrace a grave conquering Savior named Jesus!
Isaiah 40:8 – “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”
Growing in grace involves taking in good spiritual food. I was recently talking with a new convert about his study habits and he was describing how he had ran across some strange websites in his attempt to start his walk with Christ.
Just like our physical bodies require good food to maintain a healthy lifestyle, the same thing is true regarding our soul. We must be wise in what we read, who we listen to preach the Bible, and how we use our time.
If you’re like me, I often hear a sermon, but fail to taken in all of the truth presented in the moment of proclamation. That’s why I’m grateful for technology and the ability to go back and listen to sermons after the conference ends or on Monday after the message was preached the previous day. A good sermon is worth listening to more than once.
Below is a sermon by Voddie Baucham that I heard in a past G3 Conference that I wanted to hear again. It’s also one that I would like to pass along to you as well. Enjoy!
When this post publishes, I will be on the beach with my family for our annual week long beach party vacation. We enjoy many things while on vacation such as food, swimming, waves, sand castle building, kayaking, and a host of other activities. However, one thing that I’ve found time to do on vacation while sitting on the beach and enjoying the sun, sand, and surf is to focus on prayer.
Several years ago, while walking on the beach, I discovered a mailbox on a remote section of the beach with letters to God inside. Apparently, locals and tourists frequent this mailbox in the early hours of the morning and leave notes to God. I couldn’t help myself. I read several letters on paper and scribbled on seashells. As I read these letters, it became apparent that people desire a personal connection with God – the One who created the massive ocean that’s merely feet away.
One thing that Christians do very well is neglect prayer. We are good about church attendance, singing, and other noticeable aspects of the Christian life, but since prayer is private and intimate, we often neglect it. If you’re like me, even as a pastor it’s easy to crowd out prayer in the busy seasons of life.
Prayer is our direct vein of communication that we have from the dust of earth to the throne of heaven, and we still neglect it. The early church was characterized by prayer. That’s apparent from Acts. In fact, James, the half brother of Jesus and author of the epistle of James in the New Testament was known as “Camel Knees” by many of his friends because he spent so much time on his knees praying. It was Martyn Lloyd-Jones who once said, “Man is at his greatest and highest when on his knees he comes face to face to God.”
Consider the following:
- We have access to the throne of God by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 4:16).
- Jesus has given us specific directions regarding prayer (Matthew 6:5-13).
- Jesus often was seen going up on the mountain to get alone with the Father.
- Confession of sin is necessary for ongoing sanctification (1 John 1:9).
- Many of the Psalms are prayers to God from a heart of distress and a heart of joy.
- Private prayer and intimate time with the Lord is commanded (Matthew 6:5-6).
- We are to pray for one another (James 5:16).
- Pray for your pastors (Hebrews 13:17-18).
James Montgomery Boice abandoned his optimism that he was known for on one occasion when he told his congregation:
I believe that not one prayer in a hundred of those that fill our churches on a Sunday morning is actually made to Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are made to men or to the praying one himself, and that includes the prayers of preachers as well as those of the members of the congregation. 
When it comes time to load the van for your annual trip to your family’s “happy place” this summer, it may be a good idea to spend some time thinking, pondering, reflecting, and planning your prayer life. I find that driving long distances helps me think. Upon arrival, take time to walk on the sand early in the morning as the sun rises and talk to God. Those intimate moments will often spark a more committed prayer life upon your return home. If we neglect something in life, we must labor to make sure it isn’t prayer.
 R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 150.