Tim Challies linked to a blog post from The Urban Gospel Mission called The Porn Gateways. It was an interesting post, and the comments were even more interesting.
The author talks about social media as functioning as a gateway to pornography. He noted what it was like to watch some young men on FB as they intensely looked at the pictures of female friends. I’m not so sure it is a gateway as an acceptable (we mistakenly think) substitute. There is nothing wrong with looking at pictures of a classmate or peer from youth group. It is how you look at them. He was hitting on the lust that is stirred up. There are plenty of substitutes people can use to avoid the stigma of porn. But they are used the same way someone uses porn.
Part of what he encouraged young men to do was to flee those evil desires of youth. If they were using social media or ads in that way, they should avoid the social media or places where tempting ads were found.
The comments were interesting. Among them were things like this:
- Social media isn’t the problem. That’s like blaming a woman because a man leers at here.
- That solution is just try harder, it isn’t the gospel.
- Preaching the gospel to yourself is insufficient and misleading.
He didn’t say that social media was the problem. He said that some people misuse it. There is a difference. He notes that at first he thought “It’s only Facebook”. But soon he realized the intensity found in the stares and scans. More was going on than “wow, looks like she had a great time”. If the girl was in the room, his buddies would have hit him for being a jerk. But since it is a picture, …
“What is the difference between looking at a Sports Illustrated swimsuit magazine or going through Suzie’s spring break Panama City Beach photo album? There is none. The problem of the sin is the heart, not the action. And if we are honest, our struggle with lust has nothing to do with the action or dress of the girl, but with the posture of our hearts.”
The take away I had was “don’t deceive yourself just because it isn’t pornographic.” Men need to remember (and some women too) that lust is lust whether you stir it up by porn, the SI Swimsuit issue, or staring at pics on Facebook. The blame does not fall to the person who put up the pictures or Facebook. The blame falls on the person who uses it illegitimately.
Fleeing the evil desires of youth is not “try harder” but biblical wisdom. It is not intended to be all you do, but how to respond to temptation. Yes, address the idolatry of your heart with gospel promises and warnings. But if you are tempting circumstances, leave them! Don’t feed them by waiting until you have the best motives. Run for your spiritual life, so to speak.
I’m a “preach the gospel to yourself” guy. I’ve read plenty of them like Jack Miller, Jerry Bridges, John Owen and William Gurnall. In his Christian in Complete Armor, a book on about spiritual warfare which is really the fight to obey, Gurnall talks about needing “a fresh draft of God’s love each day.” Where does that come from? The gospel! It is not opposed to mortifying sin. It is actually essential to mortifying sin. I’ll get there.
Jerry Bridges can in no way be accused of being an antinomian. If you think preaching the gospel to yourself leads to moral laxity, then read The Discipline of Grace, The Transforming Power of the Gospel (this book has some great quotes from Owen on the necessity of preaching the gospel to yourself as a part of sanctification) and some of his other books.
In The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, Walter Marshall explains the connection. It is only when we are assured of our justification that we pursue sanctification rightly and make any real progress in sanctification. We proceed from faith in Christ. We live out our new identity in Christ. Our union with Christ begins to transform our lives. But if you aren’t living as a justified person, you are trying to earn your justification and merely sinning more. For whatever is not from faith is sin.
Fighting lust requires a full-orbed approach. Flee the occasion of lust. Preach the gospel to yourself. Identify the heart idols and apply the greater sufficiency of Christ to them. Put that sin to death in the power of the Spirit. Recognize it is in keeping with the old man in Adam, not the new man in Christ. Tell yourself it robs you of real life.