This issue has become almost ubiquitous to such a degree that pornography—in terms of spiritual warfare—has been weaponized, including in our churches. Now, when a couple comes in to see me and they say to me: “We just don’t know what’s wrong in our marriage. We just don’t have any intimacy. We don’t have sex with each other anymore. We just feel cold.” I immediately say, “How long has the porn been going on?”
Husband, typically, looks at me, like I’m an Old Testament prophet or a New Age psychic. “How did you know? Are you working for the cable/internet company or something?” It’s because it happens so often and with such regularity, and it always has the same satanic results.
Pornography is uniquely satanic because it drives you toward insatiability. Nobody in the history of the world has said, “OK, I’ve seen my porn.” Porn by definition drives you further, and further, and further from intimacy. Why? Because there is an occultic pull upon you that is driving you toward the kind of mystery and the kind of intimacy that you are designed to find in the one-flesh union, and it severs that away from real life—covenant, flesh and blood love—in such a way that you become numbed over to the joy of sexual intimacy itself.
Pornography is uniquely satanic because it drives you toward insatiability. Nobody in the history of the world has said, “OK, I’ve seen my porn.” Porn by definition drives you further, and further, and further from intimacy.
Pornography lures you in with sexiness; and then, totally eviscerates your capacity for sexual intimacy. Pornography will move in and destroy you because it will start to create you into the kind of person for whom intimacy is simply body parts rubbing together—not one flesh. You will, ultimately, find yourself when you have seen every image you want to see—like Esau, vomiting up the red stuff that he craved so badly.
Pornography has some of you, in this room, enslaved precisely because the satanic powers love to work by helping you to hide your sin.
Maybe, some in this room are called to ministry—you’re able to erase that internet history. You’re able to walk away for a little while. Nobody knows. They don’t want anybody to know, yet. They want to wait. They have time—until you are somebody’s pastor, somebody’s missionary, somebody’s women’s ministry leader, somebody’s counselor, somebody’s church leader—in order to, then, take everything that has been hidden and bring it forward into the light of day so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the family that you have put together, and the life that you have worked so hard for is destroyed.
They’re able to do it by giving you a kind of sham repentance. You feel repentant because, after the pornography episode is over, you feel sick, and self-loathing, and guilty. Everybody feels that way after pornography—Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, secularist, Wiccan—because pornography is sad, and lonely, and pathetic. That is not repentance. Repentance is being driven to the kind of desperation that that man of the tombs was in when he found Jesus and cried out for deliverance because he was being terrorized inside. Some of you are in that exact same place, right now, with whatever is luring you into this deadly and destructive force.
The answer to all of that is—number one, for the wives in this room—or in the case when it’s the other, the husbands in this room—to recognize the truth of what Paul is saying here when he says, “A husband’s body does not belong to himself. A wife’s body does not belong to herself.” Some of you wives, in this room, are suffering silently alone while your husbands are enslaved to porn. You believe you are doing so because you are being a submissive wife. No, no, no, no. The Bible says, “Wives, submit yourselves….” The Bible never tells women to submit to men, generally. It says for a wife to submit herself to her own husband. But the Scripture also says that what a husband is doing sexually with his body is a violation of his wife; and she, the Scripture says, has ownership over his body.
Ladies, if your husband is entrapped in pornography, confront him in his sin. If he refuses to repent and to show you how he is repenting, take it to the pastors of the church. You are not being un-submissive. You are saying to the powers—the authorities that God has put in your life—”Our marriage is in crisis. I love him. I want you to help me to help him.” You, as a joint heir with your husband—following after, going according to his authority—when Satan has gotten him, fight for your man.
Husbands, if your wife is entrapped with some form of sexual fantasy—whether it’s Fifty Shades of Grey or whatever the Christian version of that is these days—if she is pursuing a romantic fantasy or a sexual fantasy—first of all, ask, “What in our marriage is causing her to seek this out elsewhere?” and, then, bring in those who can come into your marriage and deal with the crisis. Why?—because this is not just a relationship issue. This is a spiritual warfare issue, and there are beings who want to work with your passions to destroy you.
There are some of you, in this room today, perhaps, who are vulnerable. There are some of you, in this room—perhaps, even today—who are accusable. The power that Satan has over you is only two-fold. Satan’s power is to take those things that God created for good in your life—including the impulse toward intimacy—and to twist it slightly away from its intended object so that you become more and more entrapped and enslaved, in your own deception, that you are exactly in the situation that the Apostle Paul speaks of with unbelievers, “…following after the Prince of the Power of the Air through the passions of the body and of the mind.” That’s one power.
But the only other power he has is Revelation 12, “…to accuse the brothers.” Some of you are staying in hiding, right now. When you are at the place in your life—where if there is enough of a sense of the urgency of the situation—you can save your life. You can save your ministry. You can save your marriage. You can save your children. You can save your grandchildren; but you are hiding, out of shame and of fear, back there in the bushes, where our prehistoric parents are. But there is a voice that comes through the Word of God as it does in every generation, that asks the same question, “Adam, where are you?” The only way that you will break yourself free from the pull toward immorality is to come out of hiding. “Lord, have mercy upon me, the sinner.”
The only way that the power of Satan can be defeated is, first of all, by recognizing that the goodness that God has given you in that one-flesh union, in your marriage, is to point you to something that is even better news than that. So, the very act of holding that husband, wives—holding that wife, husbands—crying and weeping in repentance together—that very act is a physical picture of what the Apostle Paul says of the church of Colossae when he says all of that legal record of our condemnation—that list of thoughts, and intents, and archived internet histories—has been nailed to His cross, disarming the principalities and powers by making a public display of them.
The only way that you will break yourself free from the pull toward immorality is to come out of hiding. “Lord, have mercy upon me, the sinner.”
If you are in this room as someone who is unclean in hands, or in lips, or in mind, the answer for you is not to stay in hiding. The answer for you is step forward with your brothers and sisters to receive the forgiveness that comes with the blood of Christ, and to receive the power that comes with the Spirit of Christ, and standing with those who are able to bear you up—who are more spiritual—to defeat the power of slavery in your life and, then, defeat the power of accusation by turning and looking into those reptilian eyes and saying:
“You are exactly right. I am a sexually-immoral rebel against God and I deserve to hear nothing from Him but: “Depart from Me, you worker of iniquity. I never knew you.” I am guilty of joining myself—in thought, or in mind, or in deed—to an occult power that is seeking to destroy the image of the Gospel in my life. You are right about that. But my sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought—my sin, not in part, but the whole—is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, oh my soul!” That’s where freedom comes from.
What that means is being a husband and being a wife together. It isn’t just about being romantic partners. It isn’t just about being moms and dads with good family values. It’s about being crucified people, who stand in the power of Christ, and who wrestle demons together. That’s what marriage is. As you wrestle those demons together and you bear each other up through that, you find the kind of joy that comes in being on a mission together—a mission of Gospel truth.
About Dr. Russell Moore
Russell D. Moore is the dean of the School of Theology and senior vice-president for academic administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. The grandson of a Mississippi Baptist preacher, Dr. Moore also serves as a preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church, where he ministers weekly at the congregation’s Fegenbush location.
Dr. Moore writes and speaks frequently on topics ranging from the kingdom of God to the mission of adoption to a theology of country music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and also blogs regularly at Moore to the Point (www.russellmoore.com). He is the author of several books, including The Kingdom of Christ, Adopted for Life, and most recently of Tempted and Tried. Dr. Moore and his wife, Maria, have five sons.
Russell Moore, “Pornography: Poisoning Marital Intimacy,” Moral Purity in Marriage, audio broadcast, 13 February 2013.