Stumbling in Sin
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Deepak RejuDeepak Reju, MDiv, PhD, serves as the pastor of biblical counseling and families at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) in Washington, DC, as well as president for the board of directors of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. He is the author of several books and articles, including Great Kings of the Bible, The Pastor and Counseling, and On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church. Deepak and his wife Sarah have five children.
Is purity difficult for you? Pastor Deepak Reju wants you to know there’s hope. At the root of sexual struggle is a heart that’s at war with God.
Stumbling in Sin
Bob: Deepak Reju is a pastor and a biblical counselor in Washington, DC. Among other things, he works with men who struggle with pornography. He has found, over time, that a lot of these men are in a persistent state of hopelessness.
Deepak: Most of them are at a point, having struggled with this for a while, that they're beginning to believe the lie that “God really won't change this.” That makes the future bleak and feeds into everything the evil one wants to do. As a liar and a deceiver, he wants you to get in that bad position of believing: “God can't change this.” And if he's got you right there, then you're trapped in a cycle that's going to be really hard to get out of it.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, January 27th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You’ll find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Pornography is a stubborn sin to uproot; but as we'll hear from Deepak Reju today, we must never lose hope in God's power to transform us. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. You know, what we're going to be talking about today is something that I think is at epidemic
proportions. I think to myself, Dave—I think there are three groups of guys I think of when I think of the subject of pornography:
I think of some guys I've met, who have said, “This has not been a particularly hard struggle for me.” They've been able to avert their eyes and this has just not been a challenge for them.
I think of other guys, who would say, “This has been an ongoing battle that I lose more often than I win. I've tried and I've prayed, and I don't know how to get out of it.”
And then I think of guys who would say, “This was a struggle, but I found a path out and was able to get free from this.”
Of course, our hope is that those guys, who are in a perpetual battle, can hear some things this week that would cause them to say: “Okay, I can find the way out from here. With God's help, I can be free from this besetting issue in my life.”
Dave: I do think, Bob, you're right—there's, at least, those three categories. I've talked to guys, and this isn't just a man's struggle.
Ann: That's what I was going to say, too.
Dave: It's female as well. I think the first category—those who have never struggled—is small and rare. I'm smiling, because I can remember one guy that told me that; and it's true. I know him; and it's like, “This has not been a struggle.” But most guys I talk to—when they're honest, will say that this has been a real battle.
Bob: There's a book that came out years ago called, Every Man's Battle. I think most guys can say, “Yes, it's something that I've been challenged with.”
Ann: I think, as parents, too, this is something that we need help with for our kids: “How do we talk to them?” “How do we help them?” “Do we enter into that, even as a mom, with our sons and daughters?” I'm glad we're going to get some help today.
Bob: I am, too. We've got a friend who's joining us to help us through this. Deepak Reju joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back.
Deepak: Glad to be back.
Bob: Deepak is a counselor, on the pastoral staff at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. The last time you were here, we talked about a book you'd written called Why Smart Women Settle, all about why women get into relationships, where they settle for less than what God has intended for them. If listeners didn't get a change to hear that, you can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and there's a link to those programs.
Dave: Just in case anybody's wondering, that's not a book about my wife. [Laughter] She did not settle; she is smart.
Ann: I didn't. I did not settle; you're right!
Deepak: It's an important clarification right there. [Laughter]
Bob: Deepak has also written a devotional guide for—I was going to say for guys—but men and women have been using this devotional guide. It's called Pornography: Fighting for Purity.
Am I overstating the case to call it an epidemic in our culture?
Deepak: No, not at all. If I can begin to count the number of guys who can say they have been pure and haven't had this as part of their struggle, I can count it on one hand at this point.
The battle now is to see if the kids that are growing up underneath us—who are surrounded by the internet and every form of technology—it's going to be even worse for them; because my youngest kids grow up doing—they do this hand motion—
Bob: —the swiping.
Deepak: —because this is a part of the culture that they live in.
Deepak: I'm concerned for my boys and my girls: “Is it possible to let them grow up and not be infected by this epidemic?”
Bob: Is this a 21st century issue? Or has pornography been a challenge—I'm trying to think—I've heard statements like there were hieroglyphics that were pornographic—hieroglyphics.
Dave: You've heard that?
Bob: I have heard that.
Bob: That cave drawings included pornography or sexual depictions in cave drawings. Is this something that's been around forever?
Deepak: Well, in a sense, that sexual sin has been around forever; this is a new version of it—the 21st century version of it. But as we'll talk about, the same underlying issues—the heart that's at war for either a love for God or a love for the sexual desire is the same fundamental heart that, thousands of years ago, was wrestling with the desire for things that it shouldn't be desiring.
Dave: And back in the day—I mean, I'm sort of dating myself—you think about sexual temptation: in my generation, you had to go look for it. If any man wanted to look at a naked woman in print, it wasn't accessible in your hand in a phone—
Dave: —right? And so you really have to intentionally go, “I've got to go buy a magazine or go get something.” Today—I remember saying to my son, who's 33, when he was probably 15/maybe 14—7th/8th grade—what’s that?—13/14 years old—I’ll never forget this; I said to him: “Hey, does anybody on your wrestling team ever struggle with pornography?” He goes, “Yeah.” I go, “Like how many guys?” “Every guy.” I go, “How often?” “Every day.”
I go, “What are you talking about?” “Every day in our locker room, guys are looking at things on the internet,”—15 years ago—and that shocked me. I was like, “Everybody every day?” “Yes.” It was a common experience for him to sit in a locker room and see images right there. You talk about temptation—there it is. We're in a new day. And it isn't just outside the church; right? It's in the church as well?
Deepak: Oh, yes; and I'm operating as a pastor, who is dealing with men in my congregation and women in my congregation. It's interesting—because the way I ran into this unexpectedly—I do the counseling role, so I hear the confessions of sexual sin all the time. But on our children's ministry application, there's a question about whether the volunteer has struggled with pornography in the last three years. That's brought the people, who hadn't confessed to us, forward, in a process of opening up.
I don't just screen them anymore; I take an opportunity to open up that part of their life and spend an extra/however long it takes to step in and help men, and now women, think through the issue. If I look at numbers, it's not surprising that anywhere from one-third to a half of the men are, right now, struggling with it in a difficult way; and you add in women also.
You deal with the men, who have to stand now as examples to us—so the leaders/the godly older men, who are pure—and are helping those younger generations understand what purity even looks like.
Bob: Is it different for men and women?—what guys are attracted to different than what women are attracted to?
Deepak: Yes, I mean, in the sense that the fundamental nature—the difference between men and women—men are very visual by nature, and we live in a very visual culture. Women aren't as visual as men, but they still have lustful desires. Sex for a woman is, for example, an integrated whole; it's not just the bedroom. There are ways in which lust and desires can go astray for a woman that integrate into all of her life compared to a man. He just needs to look at an image on the side of the screen and his whole body is lighting up. There are fundamental differences between men and women that factor into this that we need to take into account as we're beginning to minister.
In standing up in a pulpit on Sundays, I'm conscious of the fact that I can't just be saying these kinds of things to men in the church; because it brings a double ounce of shame to the women, who are sitting there struggling, too, if I just say, “This is a men's issue.”
Dave: So, walk us through this conversation if you're having somebody apply for the children's ministry and you see this on their application. You're going to step into that—talk us through; what do you say?
Deepak: I'll reach out to them and say, “I want to set up a time to talk through the thing that you marked off on your application.” Interestingly, there's a couple of different categories of things that will happen. The ones, who were lazy about their sin—now that they know a pastor's going to be calling next week—suddenly, find a vigilance to start dealing with some things they didn't before.
It's interesting how many conversations begin with, “Hey, I just need you to know I didn't get Covenant Eyes; but I finally went out and got it,” or “I hadn't had accountability, but I asked my small group leader whether he'd be accountable.” I'm like, “Okay, great.” If I'm a human means to help them to start taking their sin more seriously—and not be lazy or passive about it—then that's wonderful. That's a first start, and that's a reminder to all of us to not be passive about this issue.
If you know somebody that's struggling, you need to talk to them. You need to be willing to step into their life and say some of the things I'll say, like: “I love you, and I want to help you with this. You don't have to fight this on your own.” The number of people, who are isolated and just need a conversation partner, even, to begin this conversation.
I'm going to start with—a lot of people who are struggling with this are, not only overwhelmed by this sin, oftentimes, they're weary because they've been battling with this, not just weeks and months, but for some of them it's been years. I'm dealing with folks who got caught up with this in elementary school or junior high, and they're coming to me as 20- or 30-year-olds. We're talking a decade/a decade-and-a-half—two decades the battle has been going on.
At that point, you're struggling with your assurance; you've given up that God can change you; you're just a weary soldier in the battle. You need—not only strategies in understanding how to fight the sin, how to block access, how to get good accountability—you just need some hope and encouragement to persevere/to just begin to fight.
Dave: I can remember, as a dad of three sons, my first thought was, “You know, they may make it through teenage years—in high school and college—without ever seeing porn.” That was my first thought. Then it hit me: “When they hit about 12 or 13, that's probably not possible in this day and age.” Again, I'm not saying it is; but I just had this thought: “It's probably not possible.” This is a world now, where they are probably—even if they're not looking, intentionally—
Ann: —accidentally, they could be exposed.
Dave: It could happen; but then one day, we find porn on our computer. By the way, a computer that we had in the basement, in the corner—dumb idea, mom and dad!
Ann: Well, this was dial up; you know, it was really slow. We didn't even think about that, at that point.
Dave: We should have never had a computer that was accessible down there in a sort of private area of our house. After this, we moved it. There we were, and I find this porn. I bring Ann in and I go, “Look what I found on the computer.”
Of course, her first question is, “What are you looking at?” And I'm like: “No, no, no. This isn't me.” So it's one of our three sons. Our oldest was 13, maybe. Ended up sitting down with our oldest—and he's given us permission to share this story—he said, “Yeah, that was me.”
I remember, as we sat down to talk about this, I'd thought about this day for years probably—like: “What will it be like if this ever happens?”; and here it was. I thought I'd be maybe angry. I thought I'd be maybe, “Okay, I've got to teach him how to win this battle.”
I found myself in tears. I remember looking at CJ and saying: “I'm crying because I've lost this battle at times, and I know the struggle you just stepped into. It's not going to end tomorrow. This could be a lifetime battle, and I feel your pain,”—and at the same time, saying—“I will walk with you as a father/son.”
Now, it's 15/16 years later. But there I was—and you're sitting down with people all the time—that's their struggle: it could be lifetime; they're weary. I was weary; he was weary. You know what I'm saying? So, you just coached us really on what to do, as a parent or as a fellow soldier, beside somebody to walk with them.
Here's the thing I didn't hear you say—you didn't say anything about shame.
Deepak: Well, yes.
Dave: You don't bring any of that; do you?
Deepak: No; well, what I don't want in that first conversation—I don't want condemnation; I don't want anger; I don't want to add guilt on top of them—because they're already wrestling with guilt, and shame, and condemnation. I don't need to pile on top of what they're already wrestling with.
I bring it back to that first meeting—I want them to walk away with some sense of hope that God can actually change this. Most of them are at a point, having struggled with this for a while, that they're beginning to believe the lie that: “God really won't change this.” That makes the future bleak, and that feeds into everything the evil one wants to do. As a liar and a deceiver, he wants you to get into that bad position of believing: “God can't change this”; and if he's got you right there, then you're trapped in a cycle that's just going to be really hard to get out of.
I want to give them a little bit of hope. I want to communicate: “I love you. You're not alone, and God can do something about this. So, we're going to begin, together, to fight through this.”
Bob: Deepak, you said that guys are already feeling the guilt and the shame. There are some guys who have rationalized that away.
Bob: I'm thinking about guys, who have come to me at times and said: “I'm going to be deployed for six months, away from my wife. Is it okay for me, as a way to try to manage my emotions and energy, to look at porn and self-satisfy, just so that I'm okay for six months? Or do I just have to grit my teeth and grit it out? Or is it okay if I look at pictures of her?” What are your thoughts on that?
Deepak: My answer is: “No,” “No,” and “No.” Participating in immoral behavior in order to satisfy your lustful desires, even in the most awkward of circumstances, is never justified. Holiness is our goal, no matter what our context is. It doesn't matter if I'm on a ship a thousand miles from my wife, or I'm trapped in a cave in the middle of nowhere, or I'm on a five-day trip away from my wife—holiness continues to be my goal every single moment.
Bob: What if I pursue my wife and she keeps rejecting me?
Deepak: Then you need to come to my office and we can talk about your marriage; okay? [Laughter]
Bob: You don't solve that by saying, “Well, I'll just look at porn.”
Deepak: No; there's no excuse you can give me to permit you to participate in that immoral behavior. That's just never allowed in the kingdom of God. I do not want to use any form of pornography, because it's objectifying other men and women. If you actually get behind what pornography is—it is abuse to vulnerable women, oftentimes, who are in horrible positions, that have to sell their bodies; in even some cases, for survival.
If I'm permitting myself to take advantage of these other people—so lust is not just disordered desires; it's not just my desires gone awry—it's my disordered desires that are taking advantage and using other people. That's what pornography fundamentally is: “I'm using an image-bearer for my own satisfaction, that doesn't belong to me.” If you just frame it that way: “Why would I ever permit that into my marriage? Why would I ever do that when God's intention is for a husband and a wife to find full satisfaction in each other?” That's the boundary that God traces around the marriage.
Bob: We want to help men and women find the path out, and that's what our focus is going to be as we continue this; but I've met two groups of people that are struggling with the issue of pornography. One group is that group that has an occasional lapse, where they stumble periodically. There's another group, though, where it's a daily compulsion—sometimes, hours a day, looking at pornography—they're in a deep well. Is the path out different for one group than it is for the other?
Deepak: Yes, it is. I'll give a couple of basic ingredients, as we thing about it. Access is key to the whole issue, although it's not the only part of the issue. For the person who is overrun by it—they're looking at it, not every once in a while, but multiple times a day—my first question is: “What are your access points?” and “How are we just going to completely shut it down?”
If they keep coming back and they keep looking at it, it shows me that they have access
points that they are permitting themselves to continue to hold onto so that they can participate in the sin. This is where we get into Matthew, Chapter 5. Jesus talks about cutting off your arm, gouging out your eye; He's talking about being radical with our sin. He's not condoning any kind of passivity.
I will talk through the access points, and I will be brutal as a friend—like, “How are we going to shut this down?”
Bob: Like, “You can't have a smart phone anymore”?
Deepak: No. Interestingly, I used to be in this position of “Dumb down your phone if we
need to.” But then, we gave our oldest son a dumbed-down phone; and the very next month, our data escalated. My wife's like, “What's going on?” We went online; figured it out.
He found a way, through this cheap, dumbed-down phone, to look at videos of cars. [Laughter] As he's going to bed, he's pulling up these race car videos and blowing out our data nonetheless. [Laughter] I thought: “Oh my goodness. I've got to stop telling guys and gals to stop dumbing down their phones, because now—
Bob: —“they'll find a way around it.”
Deepak: Now, even the dumbest of phones has some kind of video access.
Dave: If you want to find it, you'll figure out a way.
Deepak: Yes; with an internet world, you can find access points, no matter where you are.
Dave: That access thing is a huge part of—it isn't the only—and you're going to tell us more—but I know—it's interesting—people think about the NFL and players, and they only hear negatives. Here's something people probably never think happens on a NFL road trip. Thirty-three seasons with the [Detroit] Lions—we check into a hotel; we each get our own room, so you’re going up to your room. I had several guys that were Christians on the team—that we want to win this battle.
You can watch porn on a TV in your hotel room if you order a movie; but there's a way—you go in and you hit “99,” and it disables all order movies; right? So, we check into the hotel; and one of the players would come to my room and go, “99; you're done.” I'd go into his room, “99; you're done.” There's a sense in that minute—I know I felt this: “Aaah; no battle—battle's gone.” You know what I’m saying? Not that there aren’t any struggles; but it was just like, “There's no access—not going to happen.” Who hears that about the NFL? These guys are really that committed to saying, “No access and accountability.” That's a big deal.
Deepak: It is a big deal. If I give you a word picture—if somebody walked into an emergency room, and they're profusely bleeding, and the triage nurse says: “Why don't you sit and wait in the lobby?” and “We'll get to you in about 30 minutes.” Then you think, “Well, this woman needs to be fired.”
Well, the same thing—if somebody's looking at it several times a day, all week, for months, I need to find ways to help them cut off the access right away. That's my first order of priority. But then we know, not just for him—but for the other person who's struggling—there are deeper heart issues. This is not just behavioral. There's desire for escape; there is the boredom of pietistic lifestyle; there's a desire for more adventure; there is disappointment in God; there's anger at your spouse and with the life that God has dealt you. There are deeper heart issues that are motivating us to go ahead and look and find ways to fulfill those desires.
Bob: And that's what we want to dive into this week—is to try to identify: “What are those triggers? What's the sin behind the sin? What's the issue that is fueling the lust in your life?” It's what you address in the 31-day devotional you've written, called Pornography: Fighting for Purity. And this, as we said, is for both men and women.
We've got copies of it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order the devotional from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy. Again, the title of the devotional is [Pornography:] Fighting for Purity by Deepak Reju. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order, or order by calling 1-800-358-6329—that's 1-800-”F” as is family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Again, go online—FamilyLifeToday.com. Look for the “Love that Lasts” marriage health assessment. If you find you are weak in certain areas, we're going to provide you with articles and resources that can help strengthen your marriage in each of these five critical areas. Our website, again, is FamilyLifeToday.com. Look for the “Love that Lasts” marriage health assessment.
We hope you can join us back tomorrow. Deepak Reju is going to be here again. We're going to continue to talk about how husbands and wives can come together as allies to deal with the issue of pornography in a marriage. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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