No More Chains: Part Two
Helping Women Find Freedom from Pornography
by Rachel Coyle
In a previous issue of MTL, I tackled a sensitive but vital topic: the truth about women and pornography. This follow-up article presents some basic principles that will help women understand God’s design for growth and change in the life of a Christian. If you think this doesnÕt apply to you, I urge you to continue reading. These principles pertain to every person and any sin you find yourself struggling with, not only a battle with pornography.
God’s Process of Change
We live in an age of instant gratification. This means we are unaccustomed to waiting long for what we want. I am all about getting things done quickly. Life is busy! However, this “microwave mentality” has created some problems in the spiritual realm. For one thing, the word perseverance is terribly lacking in our vocabulary, much less in our lifestyles. But perseverance is a trait that all Christians are to diligently strive for (2 Pet 1:5-8).
Perseverance is an important aspect of progressive sanctification. A basic definition of “progressive sanctification” is the process by which we grow and change to become more like the Lord Jesus Christ. As humans, we want that change to be quick and easy. But God, in His wisdom, knows that it is best for sanctification to be a rather slow process (lasting a lifetime!), requiring a bit of effort on our part—thus the need for perseverance.
Ephesians 4:22-24 describes God’s pattern for progressive sanctification:
“That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (NASB)
Notice the three aspects of sanctification mentioned:
1. Putting off the old self,
2. Being renewed in the spirit of your mind, and
3. Putting on the new self.
Don’t Just Break a Bad Habit
Have you ever had a friend tell you that she has a bad habit that she needs to break? It is a familiar saying, but is it a biblical concept? According to the verses above, sinful habits are not to be broken; they are to be replaced with righteousness. Have you ever been unsuccessful in “breaking” a habit? Perhaps it is because you merely attempted to stop doing one thing without replacing that behavior.
Sandwiched between the instructions to “put off” and “put on” is the command to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” I believe this is a key to victory over sin. Stop to consider the meaning and significance of this verse. Ephesians 4:22-24 is not proposing behavior modification, nor is it suggesting cognitive therapy, because neither will suffice. In order for change to occur, there must be a radical transformation of the mind—one’s thoughts, beliefs, motives, attitudes, and desires. Each is rooted in a womanÕs heart, as discussed in the previous article.
If you have been using any form of pornography, understand that it is not enough to merely stop using pornography. You must also have your mind made “new” again, or radically transformed, by God’s Word. This means you have to compare your thoughts, beliefs, motives, attitudes, and desires to the standard of God’s Word. Ask yourself questions like: “Are my thoughts pure? Are my desires pleasing to God? Do I really believe what God says about HimselfÉand about me? How do I need to change?”
Such self-examination requires that you become a student of the Word of God. Discipline yourself to spend time in the Bible every day, asking God to help you do so for application, not merely for knowledge.
As you renew your mind according to God’s Word, you must start doing something in place of using pornography. Proverbs 28:13 tells us that we are to confess and forsake sin. Have you confessed your sin to God, not just in general terms, but specifically regarding your personal struggle with pornography? After you do so, you are to forsake pornography—turn from it and walk in the opposite direction.
How It Works
When you find yourself using any form of pornography, immediately stop whatever you are doing. Renew your mind according to God’s Word. Then, start doing what is pleasing to God. This may be anything from turning off the computer, changing a TV station, listening to Christian radio, writing a letter, praying for friends, etc. The list goes on! The sin is to be “put off” and righteousness is to be “put on.” This principle is not often taught, but if you study Scripture, you will see it all over the place.
Walk the Way with Hope
“This takes too much work!” some of you may be thinking. It is true that it will take effort and perseverance (there’s that word again!), but this is God’s way. The good news is that you are not in this alone; in fact, God wants you to acknowledge that you need His grace and help in order to change. Do not try to do it on your own strength, but rely on the Lord, asking Him to enable you to do what pleases Him (2 Cor 4:7; Phil 2:13).
Remember that change is a gradual process. It may be somewhat painful to find freedom from bondage to pornography, but the Lord will comfort you as you seek to honor and obey Him in this area (see Ps 103:10-14). Where your sin abounds, God’s grace abounds far more (Rom 5:20). Do not give up, but ask the Lord for His grace and help!
Motivation for Transformation
There is only one sufficient motivation for change: love. Your obedience (or disobedience) is a reflection of your love for the Lord (1 Jn 5:3). We often have selfish motives for wanting to change: fear of consequences, concern for what others might think of us, etc. Such motives will only lead to failure, because when the process becomes challenging we give up! The only motive that will enable us to continue to persevere through the hard work of victory over sin is that we love Jesus Christ and therefore want to please Him (2 Cor 5:14-15).
Living it Out
Here is a project to help you become more aware of GodÕs way of changing us: Create a “New Habits” list, based on Romans 6:12-14. This will be your plan to live in the grace of God and no longer as a slave to the specific sin you are trying to overcome. At the top of the page, write out the sin (i.e.: pornography). Make three columns:
1. Put Off (List actions, thoughts, words, etc. that you recognize need to be put away from you. Be specific. Indicate particular situations which occurred.)
2. Renew My Mind (This column should include Bible references which apply specifically to your situation. Focus on verses indicating what you should be doing, thinking, saying, etc., rather than what you should not do.)
3. Put On (List specific actions that you will do in place of the sinful behavior. Remember, it is not enough to stop doing something, like turning off the computer. Record what you will start doing instead.)
Review this list and add to it daily. Modify your ideas in the “Put On” column as needed. Make it practical and applicable for you.
Rachel Coyle has been teaching and counseling women for more than nine years with a desire to esteem Jesus Christ and His life-changing Word. She has earned a Master of Arts degree in Biblical Counseling from The Master’s College (Santa Clarita, CA) and is also a certified counselor with the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC). She and her husband, who serves in the U.S. Army, and their daughter are currently stationed in Germany.