4 Strategies from Proverbs for Breaking the Grip of Porn

April 30, 2015

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Addictions Pornography
Addiction Series--4 Strategies from Proverbs for Breaking the Grip of Porn

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Luke Gilkerson

Addiction Series--4 Strategies from Proverbs for Breaking the Grip of Porn

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the third of a three-part BCC Grace & Truth blog miniseries on Biblical Counseling and Addictions. In today’s post, Luke Gilkerson, of Covenant Eyes, shares 4 strategies to break the grip of porn. You can read Part One in this series, by Dr. Mark Shaw, at 5 Mentalities of a Porn “Addict.” And you can read Part Two, also by Dr. Shaw, at Addicts: An Unreached People Group?

False Promises

Three thousand years ago, King Solomon stood at the window of his palace at dusk, looking down on the dusty streets of Jerusalem. From his birds-eye view he observed a young man wandering near the well-known street corner—her corner. There she stood, dressed to kill, lips dripping with promises of pleasure. Solomon could overhear her smooth words, her brazen seduction, and he watched as the young fool followed her inside.

With penetrating insight, Solomon then picked up his quill and wrote Proverbs chapter 7, dissecting this man’s lust like a skillful surgeon.

To a man like myself who spent many years hooked on pornography, the relevance and value of this chapter of Scripture cannot be overstated. What makes women like this so attractive to men like me is not just how they look; it is the false promises they state with their words and body language.

At the risk of sounding crass, this woman’s seductive speech reads like an ancient porn script. She knows exactly how to sell him the fantasy he wants. Her words play to this man’s idolatrous desire for escape, his sense of entitlement, his ego, his desire for intimacy, and his craving for the forbidden.

Not much has changed in 3,000 years except the delivery method of her seduction. In Solomon’s day, we found her on the street corner. Today, we find her online.

But Solomon doesn’t leave the reader high and dry. The reason he tells the story so vividly is so we can remember it the next time we find ourselves passing by her street. Solomon offers us four words of wisdom.

1. Think Soberly About the Consequences

“Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death” (Proverbs 7:27).

Solomon here is playing on words: the man thinks he is going to her bedchamber, but really it is a chamber leading to the grave. This harlot runs a halfway house to hell.

Here Solomon is using vivid language to describe the final consequences of lust. We could form a line of people many miles long who could give one testimony after another about how lust started small but led to more costly decisions. “Many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng” (Proverbs 7:26).

If we are to keep our heads on straight in the moment of temptation, we have to consider what we will lose if we start down the dark path of sexual sin. When the woman beckons to us from the other side of the screen, we need to have the sound of the “mighty throng” of her victims ringing in our ears.

2. Repent of Pursuing the Tempting Paths

“Do not stray into her paths” (Proverbs 7:25).

Christian musician Rich Mullins said for several years he found that it was too tempting to not watch the porn movies in hotel rooms, so he made a personal commitment to never travel alone. One night in Amsterdam, famous for its Red Light District, he was in his hotel at night, waiting to hear his friend start snoring so he could be sure he was asleep. He thought, “Maybe it would just be fun to take a walk and be tempted.” He never heard his friend snore that night, and in the early morning hours he finally gave up out of sheer exhaustion.

Let’s be clear: it is not a sin to be tempted, but it is a sin to seek out temptation. Wisdom does not say, “How close can I get to the edge.” Wisdom is grounded in the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 9:10) and the very hatred of evil (Proverbs 8:13). If we want to be free from habitual sexual sin, we have to repent of our desire to flirt with sin. “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14).

In addiction circles this is called “SUDs”: Seemingly Unimportant Decisions—the justifications we tell ourselves to walk close to the edge. “I’m just going to check my e-mail,” or “I’m just going to see who’s online,” or “I’m just checking Facebook.” Deep down, part of us actually hopes to encounter the temptation.

If we are going to break free from the power of habitual lust, we must repent of treating lightly something God despises. We must close all on-ramps to pornography, knowing that to deliberately use the on-ramp, even if you don’t see porn, is itself sinful.

3. Pay Attention to Your Heart

“Let not your heart turn aside to her ways” (Proverbs 7:25).

The heart walks down the path of temptation long before the feet do.

The “heart” is mentioned over 70 times in the book of Proverbs. It is a word that refers to the seat of our appetites, our knowledge, our emotions, anxieties, joys, furies, grudges, passions, plans, motives, inclinations, and choices. The heart is our whole inner person. Above all else, we should guard our inner life, because it is the wellspring of all we say and do (Proverbs 4:23).

What does it mean to guard your heart? For starters, it simply means to notice, training our minds to recognize when the lures of lust start to pull at us. The sooner we notice, the easier it is to turn the ship around.

Second, it means to deliberately cultivate virtues in our hearts that run contrary to the allure of porn. John Owen says this is what it means to walk in the Spirit. The Spirit implants new holy impulses into our hearts, and we keep in step with the Spirit by the “cherishing of a principle of grace that stands in direct opposition” to the sin we hate:

  • Instead of seeking porn as a refuge, make God your refuge (Psalm 91:2).
  • Instead of looking to the quick fix of lustful masturbation, cultivate a deep thirst for the Living Water (Jeremiah 2:13).
  • Instead of the illusory respect offered by pixels on the screen, seek the glory that comes from the only God (John 5:44).
  • Instead of the safe intimacy of solo sex, cultivate genuine intimacy with God and others, knowing God uses every relationship in our lives—even our risky ones—to conform us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).

4. Walk with the Wise

“My son, keep my words…O sons, listen to me” (Proverbs 7:1, 24).

The book of Proverbs is an address from father to son. The words “My son” add a personal touch to the whole book. Proverbs is not just a classroom textbook. It is an extension of Solomon himself to those he loves.

Solomon writes this way because he knows wisdom isn’t merely taught. It’s caught. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise.” God’s path of maturity in the Christian life is the path of discipleship.

In Proverbs 20:5 Solomon begins saying, “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water…” Many times you have no idea what your real motives are, what’s lurking deep within you. Our hearts are like deep water. We cannot see to the bottom. But Solomon finishes the proverb, “…but a man of understanding will draw it out.”

Find “men of understanding” to guide you—wise friends and mentors who can walk alongside you and help you see what you are unable or unwilling to see about yourself. Find those who can probe beneath the surface, men who are learning how to apply the gospel to your specific weaknesses, men who can’t be fooled by your pretenses and love you in spite of them.

I’m reminded of the scene in Rocky V when Rocky is in a street fight with Tommy Gunn. Tommy is merciless, delivering blow after blow, nearly knocking him out. As Rocky is trying to sum up the will to fight back, his mind flashes with scenes of his previous challenges in the boxing ring—the moments when he thought all was lost. Suddenly, in a flashback, he hears the echo of his former trainer, Mickey Goldmill. With a fierce but fatherly crassness, Mickey yells, “Now get up! One more round. I didn’t hear no bell! Get up, because Mickey loves you.”

In my experience working with men and women ensnared by pornography, too few of them have the echo of a fatherly voice in their minds, a voice that imparts to them a strength not their own. To the sexually enslaved, this is the kind of relationship we need: someone who is willing to say to us, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Join the Conversation

What biblical wisdom principles do you glean from this passage in Proverbs 7?

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