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Archive for March 21st, 2013

Toxic

Dear Pastor Edward Caballero,

First of all, we would like to thank you and express our appreciation for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do an interview with The Domain for Truth.  The topic that we would like to venture into is pornography.  We really believe that your pastoral experience and knowledge concerning this issue is invaluable.

As you are already aware, pornography is a great epidemic in the world; and is even penetrating the lives of God’s people.  As a pastor, it is our understanding that you have seen its effects via your surroundings, your discussions with others, and your counseling sessions with those who struggled with this monster.

Since this is an important topic, we believe that you will help shed some invaluable information and insights on this issue so that believers will understand that being set-apart/sanctified in Christ is an imperative for all Christians.  In order to do that, here are some questions below that we think will help contribute to the Christian community.

For those of you who do not know Pastor Caballero, he pastors a church in Southern, CA called Anaheim Community Church.  For more information, please visit the church’s website: http://www.anaheimcommunitychurch.org/

Now, without further interruption, let’s get back to our interview.

1) Is the word pornography composed of any Hebrew or Greek words in the Bible?

Our English word “pornography” comes from the Greek word porneia (also porne, porneuo, and pornos). In many New Testament passages, porneia is defined as fornication or immorality (other forms are defined as fornicator, harlot, whore, and whoremonger).

2) How would you define pornography and what does the Bible say about it?

One contemporary definition of pornography is..

1) writings, pictures, films, etc., designed to stimulate sexual excitement

2) the production of such material sometimes (informal) shortened to porn, porno

(Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003)

Most people, when hearing the word pornography, will think of sexually explicit and perverted material (video, print, photos, etc.). However, our view of pornography (as a nation) is constantly changing (with many now labeling pornography as many things other than perversion).

The Bible however, makes it very clear that pornography (immorality, fornication, and other perverse and immoral acts) is a sin and should be avoided at all costs.

Leviticus 20:14 – ‘If there is a man who marries a woman and her mother, it is immorality; both he and they shall be burned with fire, that there may be no immorality in your midst.”

1 Corinthians 5:1 – “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife.”

1 Corinthians 6:18 – “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.”

2 Corinthians 12:21 – “I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced.”

Galatians 5:19-21 – “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Ephesians 5:3 – “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints…”

Colossians 3:5-6 – “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come…”

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 – “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God…”

Jude 1:7 – “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example, in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”

3) What causes one to pursue pornography?

I believe that at the root of all sin pride is found. When Satan rebelled against God, he did so because he wanted to be equal (if not, superior) to God. All sins are categorized in the Bible as falling into one of three “lusts” (1 John 2:16 – “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”). Pornography is a prideful desire / action that is an expression / manifestation of the “lust of the eyes.”

When a person sees something that they desire (sinfully) and pursues that desire (by whatever means necessary) they are willfully demonstrating a prideful attitude (“I want that and nothing will convince me otherwise”). Pornography is no different. The pursuit of pornography is a prideful act of sin. Though pride is at the root of the pursuit of pornography, there are many other factors that will drive one to pursue pornographic material.

If a husband feels that he is not being satisfied by his wife (sexually, intimately), he may see pornography as a means of fulfilling his perceived void and feelings of disappointment. Likewise, a wife who does not feel fulfilled (loved, cherished, attractive) to and by her husband, may pursue pornography as a means of fulfillment. In both cases, the husband or wife lives out their desires (prideful) through pornography.

This example is not limited to married couples. Many single individuals have a sinful idea of what “love” is and should be and will use pornography as a way to experience those flawed and sinful desires. The vast majority of media outlets – movies, music, magazines, video games, etc. – promote sex (all forms of sex) as natural, fulfilling, an expression of self, and healthy. Any attempt to speak out against sexual impropriety (especially when using the Bible as a source of measure) is quickly viewed as archaic, oppressive, and phobic. It is no wonder that our nation as a whole has become so in love with perverted forms of “love.”

God made men and women both a spiritual and physical being. Included in the physical aspect of being human is a desire for a sexual / intimate relationship. Desiring sex is not in and of itself a sin. However, when Satan and this world system distort the plan that God has determined for a sexual relationship it then becomes sinful (when acted upon by individuals). This is a huge problem when struggling with the sin of pornography. Men and women naturally desire intimate physical relationships and the world is offering a buffet of sexual delicacies.

4) What are some of the effects of pornography that you see in the lives of Christians/counselees?

Many people that I have counseled in this area experience the same effects (guilt, anger, loneliness, marital strife, etc.). Some have even found themselves in legal trouble as they took their private sin and made it public. In our congregation alone, I have seen two marriages crumble because of immoral desires (not simply pornography). Not only does the sin destroy the marriage (spouse and children) but it makes a huge impact (negatively) on the congregation. When members of a local congregation submit to the sin of pornography, the body of Christ suffers.

As part of one united body of Christ, individual sin can quickly become a corporate dilemma. Those who are in ministry and are caught, exposed, and disciplined, will leave a gaping wound in the body. Feelings are hurt; responsibilities are shifted to others (making their already busy ministerial and personal lives even busier and more difficult). Not to mention seeing the ones that you love as brethren in Christ being torn apart because of their prideful desire to pursue sexual perversion.

In the attempt to finding fulfillment, the person who is entrenched in pornography finds the exact opposite. The craving is never fully satisfied; there is always a longing for more. What nicotine is to smokers, pornography is to the sexually perverse.

5) Could you describe a sample of an excellent battle-plan against pornography?

I believe that the Bible teaches that we as Christians are adequately equipped for our lives here on earth (sinful struggles included). Peter said it well, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:2-3).

For the person struggling with sin (pornography), I would suggest the following:

Prayer – This cannot be emphasized enough. Many see prayer as a last resort when it should be a first strike against sin (Luke 22:31-32 – “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”). Jesus prayed for His disciples (cf. John 17) knowing that they would be put to the test. We as Christians must pray for ourselves and others to win the war against sin (though Jesus is victorious over sin, death, and Satan, we as Christians are daily waging war on sin as we strive for our sanctification).

Bible – Read the Bible! It seems like a no-brainer but so many will neglect the Word of God and then scratch their heads and wonder why they are struggling with their physical and spiritual lives. (Psalm 119:9 – “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word.’). Study the Bible regularly. Focus on passages that address your specific areas of temptation. Focus on the Godhead and see why the Bible makes it very clear that man needs God more than God needs man. Develop a healthy diet of the Word and your spiritual vitality will increase.

Fellowship – One of the things that Christians who are struggling with sin will often do is to cut other off / become introverts. In an attempt to deal with their sin in a secret and individual manner, they actually cut off one of the resources that God has provided for the health of every individual member in the church. The New Testament is filled with what are known as “one anothers” (instructions to the church about how to minister to one another). Included in the one anothers are instructions to pray for, weep with, rejoice with, restore, counsel, and bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2 – “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”). Those who neglect being around their brethren are on the way to failure (Hebrews 10:24-25 – “…and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.”). Those in sin need to be accountable to God and their brethren, when a person forsakes fellowship, there is no accountability.

The Holy Spirit – Many Christians have mixed views of the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian (from extreme Charismatics to extreme Cessationists). Unfortunately, a wrong view of the Holy Spirit will be a hindrance to one’s life as a Christian striving to grow in their spiritual walk. Many non-charismatic Christians have done a disservice to the Holy Spirit and themselves by minimizing the role of the Spirit in the life of a Christian. Make no mistake, no Christian can win a war with sin if they do not rely on the power and direction of the Holy Spirit. Paul said, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16). To walk by the Spirit is to pray (ask for strength and protection), study (the Word of God), and apply the truths of Scripture (James 1:22 – “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.’). Only those who rely on the Spirit to intercede for them in prayer and give them understanding and wisdom will successfully resist Satan’s sinful onslaught.

6) Could you describe a faulty battle-plan against pornography?

Yes – Ignore the above plan.

7) For those who are parents, when do you think is the best age to start warning their children about pornography/sexual immorality?

Keep them young and innocent as long as you can. As a father of four children (19, 17. 9 and 3), one of my concerns for them is their purity. As parents, my wife and I would not let our children watch many movies that their friends (in Christian schools I might add) were watching on a regular basis; R-rated movies that had explicit sexual, violent content. This world will do all it can to force them to “grow up” according to its standards, I don’t want to be part of that assault on my Children.

With that said, I think that a parent must exercise discretion when discussing certain issues with their children. It reminds me of the father who was driving his kinder son home from school. His son asked, “Dad, what is sex?” Needless to say, the boy’s father quickly became uncomfortable and wondered how he was going to best give his son “the talk.” After about a 45 minute explanation of the birds and the bees, the father looked into the mirror and saw his son with wide eyes and jaw dropped. “Why did you ask that question son?” said the father. The boy replied, “On my permission slip for next week’s field trip is says ‘sex, M or F.’” Talk about TMI.

Personally, I had a discussion with my boys (the two oldest) around fourth or fifth grade. They were already hearing about questionable things from friends and I wanted to make sure that we as parents set their foundation on Scripture before they were exposed to too much. I gave a very general explanation of men, women, sexuality and God’s plan. I think that I placed more emphasis on God’s plan than anything else. I wanted them to know that there was right and wrong when it came to sex and that there were no grey areas.

Every parent / family has to make this decision based on their child’s social and intellectual level. With that said, I sadly feel that we as parents in 2013 need to have this discussion with our children earlier than previous generations.

8) With the rise of technology and the constant advertisement of sexual context like never before, it is very easy for one’s eyes to wander on immoral content. It can be easily accessed with a click of a mouse or a push of a button on one’s cell phone. How can Christians deal with this problem? Are there any practical tips to deal with this problem?

Watchfulness – To say that pornography is everywhere is an understatement. In years past, people seeking sexual perversion had to travel to the dark side of town and find a seedy joint that is under constant surveillance by the local vice squad; no so today. With our advancements in technology, social embracing of all forms of perversions and the widespread display of unbiblical ideas of sexual relationships on just about every channel from Disney to HBO, is promoting immorality. For those who struggle with pornography, the mentality of watchfulness and pre-emptive strikes must be part of the daily battle. I know a brother in Christ who won’t go to the beach under certain circumstances because he does not want to fall into thoughts of lust; I applaud him for this extreme course of action. A visit to the local beach, seeing what women are wearing (or barely wearing) will justify his concern. A leisurely stroll through the mall can trigger thoughts of lust as there are larger than life posters of women in lingerie plastered along the walkways. Not to mention the ever-present danger of computers, smart-phones and tablets. Pornography is just a swipe of the screen away. Every person will have different situations that trigger their sinful desires. The person who is struggling with pornography must carefully and honestly identify what those “lust triggers” are and avoid them at all costs. If that means a password on a computer that someone else has to enter, so be it. If that mean installing Covenant Eyes on your iPhone and disabling Safari, do it. IMDB is a great tool. Movies are filled with sexual material; make it a practice to check the Parental Guide on IMDB for each movie that you want to see. If the movie has sexual content that will cause you to lust, don’t watch the movie. I can go on and on but hopefully you get the point. Satan is out there and he wants to see Christians fall into sin. Be alert and be ready to resist (1 Peter 5:8 – “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”).

9) Some Christians who overcome this sin, still face thoughts of condemnation from time to time. They feel like a grey cloud is casted upon them. How would you encourage them?

My encouragement to them would be to understand that their worth before God is not contingent upon their earthly successes or failures. Their standing (justification) before God is contingent upon the finished work of Jesus Christ. Christians who struggle with / overcome pornography are not loved more or less by God because of their victories or defeats. They are loved by God because God the Father loves Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ has made provision for all of His people. (Romans 8:1 – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” and 2 Corinthians 5:21 – “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”)

Christians struggling with sin have, in Jesus, someone who knows what they are going through. They can stand before Him knowing that He has “walked in their shoes” and knows what is best for them to live victorious lives. (Hebrews 4:14-16 – “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.”)

I would also encourage them to aggressively continue to wage war against sin. It is easy to fall into the mentality of cheap grace (sinning at will because, after all, Jesus paid the price for my sins). I would remind them that though they are to do their best to resist sin, when they fall (and they will, we all will from time to time), Jesus is their Advocate. (1 John 2:1-2 – “My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins…”)

10) Do you any have concluding thoughts for Christians who are struggling with pornography/sexual immorality right now?

Don’t wait another day to begin to kill your sin. Don’t try to fight the battle on your own. Don’t neglect the Word of God, prayer, fellowship and the work of the Holy Spirit. And, fix your eyes on Jesus and run the race to win (Hebrews 12:1-2, – Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”)

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Appendix

For those of you interested in other resources related to the danger of lust, please see these links:

Sexual Detox

Secret Sex Wars

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