Hugh Hefner has left an indelible mark on today’s society and many are touting him as an innovator, entrepreneur and revolutionary in the liberation of sexual expression. Yet underneath the accolades, the Hollywood glitz and glamour, the innovations that Hugh Hefner brought has affected millions of men, women, and families.
The business of pornography is a 13 billion dollar industry and because its availability, the numbers of individuals who are consuming it is at an alarming rate. It is estimated that conservatively 70% of American men have viewed pornography in the last month and the rate of women who viewed it is also on the rise. Furthermore, the average age of when a child becomes introduced to porn has dropped to 11 years old. With the introduction at such a young age, and the constant inundation of sexual images not just from pornography but just from media in general, it is no wonder that millions of men and women are now addicted to pornography.
Now for the elephant in the room: there are many men and women in our church pews that are struggling for purity and as churches, we have to talk about it.
Pornography is deadly poison and is unique because it affects both body and soul. Skeptics, who say that viewing pornography is harmless, are woefully ignorant of the research done by many neurological experts, psychiatrists, and psychologists, many of whom are not Bible-thumping Puritans.
The research shows that the spike of the pleasure causing brain chemical dopamine that occurs when consuming porn actually changes the physical matter of the brain. Consequently, this creates new neurological pathways that require pornography to trigger the desired sensation of pleasure. Now the changing and shaping of neurological pathways are present in all forms of addiction, however, what makes pornography so insidious is not only that our society views it as innocuous, but it permanently changes how the brain functions.
For example, think of the brain as a field of tall grass. You walk through it, pushing the grass aside and a path is created. As time goes on, the more you travel on the path; it gets easier to walk and eventually becomes permanent. It is the same when the individual is exposed to pornography and the sexual part of the brain is triggered. Every time porn is viewed the neurological pathways become more and more permanent and then it becomes the solitary route by which all sexual matters are filtered and consumed. In other words, everything concerning intimacy, to the one who views porn, is perceived within the expectation and norms of pornography.
Yet the problem of pornography is deeper than the physical. It affects the soul and if not dealt with will lead to its peril (Matt. 5:29). Pornography, much like all of Satan’s devices, twists what God has wonderfully ordained in the confines of marriage, and produces a false intimacy and a fabricated sense of pleasure, which I will add, will never satisfy completely.
The human heart is a thirsty one and God knows this, which is why there is hope for the one who is struggling with pornography. The invitation that God urges to the one drinking from the broken well of sinful lust is this, “come and drink from me” (Isa. 55:1, Jn. 7:37). In God and His Word, is pleasure for evermore and delight beyond comparison (Ps. 16:11, 119:47).
One of the greatest motivations for purity is not simply because it is the right thing to do rather to not strive for it, you miss out on God. Hebrews 12:14 says “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” and to miss God, who is the source of all goodness, love, joy, and satisfaction is a terrible thing. It is hardly a trade-off to indulge in moments of counterfeit pleasure when God and all that He is are ready to be enjoyed and will satisfy the thirsty soul.
Jesus Christ said in the Beatitudes “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). Happiness, of which deep down everyone is looking for when they view pornographic material, is found in God alone and when purity manifests in the individual, God becomes more and more of an all-satisfying, infinitely precious and glorious delight.
Pornography will never satisfy. It is a poisonous well that many have found themselves drinking from. Yet God offers himself, forgives the sin of lust and trades the lesser joy for the greater, namely the gospel.