This week's Bible Study - February 1, 2015
Ready When Pornography Controls
Pornography. With that one word, some people will want to shut this lesson down and go back to what they were doing. Statistics say that a large percentage of people have been involved in this (in some capacity), even within the church. This is probably one of the reasons why many people would rather not talk about it. It has sadly touched many lives at one point or another, and it always brings shame. You've likely seen one of the videos in which dogs had gotten into a trash can while the owner was away. In one of those videos, the 'human' is questioning the dogs about which one did it. Two dogs just look at the camera, but the third dog, with a large head surrounded by the kitchen trash can lid wants to go hide. I think many of us can relate to this dog, when we have been involved in sin and are found out.
One of the problems with pornography is how it has expanded over time and has become more and more accessible. Pornography and all sorts of sexually deviant sins have existed in one form or another since the dawn of time. In fact, there were pagan temples that included sex in the 'worship', in some of the New Testament city churches. I haven't heard of that extreme in our culture, although I wouldn't be surprised to hear that it happens somewhere in the US. Pornography has always been available in one form or another, but it sure seems that you used to have to go out of your way to find it. There were magazines hidden on magazine racks in the back of some stores and other seedy stores that only creepy people appeared to frequent (although I feel sure there were more). Even though it existed in the past, most people hid their involvement due to the social stigma attached to it. However, more recently, with the advent of the internet and personal computers and smart phones, free instant access abounds to almost anything. It's not just pictures and videos, as there have been books that became best sellers based on all sorts of illicit sex. Other books entwine pornography into the story so much that it seems that it is a common occurrence, and should be accepted. In the past couple few years, I have heard a commercial for an 'establishment' that has been played on many radio stations, which ended up with 'it's only sex'. Certainly you can see the push to make this more mainstream, in almost all forms of media, even prime time TV. It is amazing to think of how we become desensitized to all sorts of things in many areas of life. Berkley and I have friends that were missionaries to Central America. They were going to have some 'local' friends over and watch a movie and they were concerned about the language that might be used (as that was a really big deal to their friends). They picked a movie that they thought they remembered as clean in language and after starting to watch it, they realized that it was replete with foul language to which they had become desensitized. Don't you think this might be a problem that extends to pornography and other sins that are so prevalent today? It's like the world is saying "what's the big deal?"
What is the big deal? As believers, we KNOW that pornography is wrong, despite what the world tells us. Unfortunately, when anyone gets caught up in it, you will rarely hear them share this with others as a prayer request. I have heard it a couple of times in small groups of men (only after I got to know these men very, very well), but even then, it only has shown up when someone says that they 'used to' have a problem with it. Nobody wants to share their 'seedy' issues, especially when they know what they are doing is wrong. Sin in all forms tends to push us towards lying. Whenever you feel that you have to hide your sin, it will begin to cause isolation from others. While sin in general causes shame, pornography tends to cause more shame as it points to a deep integrity issue and spills over into other parts of a life. Many relationships are destroyed or at least greatly harmed by pornography. We might like to think that this only impacts a certain age group, but unfortunately, this impacts even very young people. Some would like to say it is only that men who are impacted, but it has impact on all different types of people, regardless of who they are or how old they are. The impact extends to families of those who may have become addicted. There is also a great impact on those who have gotten involved in the industry. Pornography has caused so many problems in our society today, yet it has become more and more prevalent. What stance should we as believers take?
If you think of all of the ways that we go to show our love for the Lord, it is obvious that we truly desire to praise our Lord. Many of us are involved with other believers in Bible Studies, listen to Christian radio, attend church regularly and spend personal time in prayer, Bible Study and seeking God. We acknowledge that God is holy, although we don't truly understand the meaning of holiness. If we did, the presence of any sin in our lives would prove to be quite the distraction. As stated before, we can easily become desensitized to sin and its impact on our lives. Even non believers generally desire to live clean lives and avoid many types of impropriety.
We are told to be careful to conduct the affairs of our house with a blameless life. It is important to realize that this will never happen by accident. There are certainly times when we are more careful in how we live and what we do. If we know that we are going to be driving in hazardous conditions, we more closely watch our speed and are much more conservative. If we have injured a limb, we often will be careful that we don't rely upon that limb for what we need to do. Similarly, we must conduct the rest of our lives in a way that is cautious.
Will we ever truly be blameless? None of us will achieve perfection and we will all deal with sin in our lives. If we could be careful and avoid all sin, we lose the need for Jesus Christ. In some way, we are seen as blameless by God, because of the actions of Jesus Christ. But, that doesn't let us off of the hook from being careful and seeking to avoid sin in our lives. Problems intensify when we allow sin to continue in our lives as if it is not a problem. Are we being careful to be blameless?
These verses are very prescriptive of intent. As previously stated, if we go with the flow, we will find ourselves further and further from where God intended us to be. My guess is that many of us know that if you allow sin to fester in your life, it continues to grow and grow and grow. Verse 3 says that "I will not look with approval on anything that is vile". You've probably heard it said that silence is tacit approval. How many things in our lives would it look as if we were giving approval to if others were able to watch us all the time? When a person engages in pornography, they are giving personal approval. Outwardly, they may take a stand against it, but inwardly they are accepting. There are some things that you cannot control, but when you sit with the intent to allow yourself to be infected you are allowing a problem to grab hold of you (and eventually rule in your life). The verse continues to say that "I will hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it". One of the problems that we have with sin is that while we may dislike it, we don't seem to hate it. Until you can see from God's perspective, you may think that it does no damage to you. What would it take for you to hate this sin? If we could see the impact it has on our families, our relationships and our jobs, would that cause us to make different decisions?
One of the things that can help us is to regard the people with which we associate. If you allow yourself to drift to where 'your' crowd takes you, are you approaching God or are you drifting away? The writer of this passage says that "I will have nothing to do with what is evil". Again, we often find ourselves toeing the line, thinking that we are in control of the situation. Don't play with evil and allow its tentacles to grab hold of you.
While the lesson is about pornography, there is also something to be said about slander, which is another sin that destroys. How many times have you seen a person's character and reputation destroyed by someone else that just wants to cause harm? Often, we listen to people talk about others in ways that we know is not uplifting, but we stand and let someone else's reputation get murdered. The people that slander others are often trying to put themselves on a pedestal while they intentionally trash someone else. They may use the excuse "but it's true" as they share sordid details about another person, but even that is not a valid excuse for slander. Have you ever wondered how you would feel if the very worst day and very worst sin of your life was what people remembered about you? We remember (for ourselves) that God restores us and makes all things new. However, when slander is involved and a heart is proud, we are not to tolerate this behavior. Have you ever neglected to stand up when another person's reputation is being trashed?
We also need to think about the people that are being destroyed by pornography. While I am sure that there are some people that freely sign up for and participate in this industry, there is also the impact of those who are pulled into it out of their own free will. Some of them may be runaways, or others who have been brought into sex trafficking. There are victims of pornography that are not only those who have become addicted and their families, but also many of the people involved directly in the industry, with no visible way to get out.
As opposed to being drawn to the things that drag our society down, our eyes should be on the faithful in the land. Where are your eyes focused? Are you seeking good and uplifting material? The internet is full of so many things that can be helpful and beneficial to our lives. The wealth of information that can be found from a Google search overwhelms the sets of encyclopedias that my family used to have. There is good that can be found online, but it is so easy to get lured into areas that we know are harmful. We need to make it clear that we will not participate with those who practice deceit or those who speak falsely.
In this last verse, we read of the need to create healthy habits. Every morning we need to be willing to put to silence all of the wicked in the land. How important is it to get a good start each day? While it may be important to get a good breakfast before you start your day, it is much more important to determine your mindset. It is as if we are headed out to a war of minds when we begin our day. If you listen to the radio, you may be tempted through the lyrics in a song. If you are around a computer during the day, even in the course of doing your normal work, you may encounter advertisements that lure you. If you are not focused at the start of the day, you will find that you are more likely to go off track.
An example that is often referred to in Scripture is in regard to David and Bathsheba. Much of the Psalms were written by David, as a result of what had transpired and his subsequent changed heart. David was guilty of a form of pornography that set things into motion. 2 Samuel 12:2-3 says "One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her." An argument could be made that David shouldn't have been on the roof of his palace and even if that wasn't a problem, he shouldn't have seen Bathsheba bathing, and even if he did, he shouldn't have kept looking and allowed the cycle of sin to be kicked into gear. Often, problems with pornography have to do with a person being in the wrong place and then once they are there, they have a tendency to stay there, which is the beginning of addictive behavior. As it becomes addicting, a person will find themselves returning over and over again.
Are you allowing 'places' in your life where this sin can take root? Are you figuratively following David's example, up on the roof, where you shouldn't be? There are stopgaps that you can create that can help you avoid behavior that you want to stay away from. Also, it is important that you identify temptations that are prone to make you stumble, and avoid them. Unfortunately, these temptations do not have the same impact on everybody, so it is important that you know where to draw the line to keep yourself from being pulled into sin.
Any sin can cause problems, but a sin in this area will create a whirlpool that drags you down. It will make you want to avoid others, which will soon impact your relationships with even those closest to you. The problem with addiction is that there is never enough. When you are addicted, you have lost control. It might be in this area - pornography, or with alcohol or behavior or anything. As stated earlier, people tend to keep these addictive habits to themselves, especially when they see it is a problem in their lives.
If you have an addiction, the first step to overcoming it is to admit that you are out of control. Too often, we feel great sorrow for what we have done, but we don't take steps to change our behavior and end up turning back to that very thing that we wanted to avoid. We need to learn to see sin from God's perspective and truly desire to change. This lesson tells us to be careful to live a blameless life. Every morning, start out seeking God's direction. Decide that you will not have any part of nor will you tolerate addictive behavior.
One last note and that is one of hope. David was known and remembered as a man after God's own heart. If you just looked at his experience with Bathsheba and her husband, leading him to both adultery and murder, along with other sordid behavior, how could that ever be? If you have a sordid past or even if you are involved in things now, realize that God can restore. You cannot remove consequences for your behavior, but you can surely impact the future by taking care of the problems that you face. On a side note, there is something that needs to be said to those who are hurt by this sin. This doesn't have to be the end of a relationship, but the way in which you handle your hurt may well be a determining factor. As the lesson stated, slander is to be avoided and not tolerated. The words that we let out of our mouths and poison others are very hard to take back. You never know who is hearing what you are saying and where that will go next. We know how people like to hear juicy gossip. In effect, by slandering a loved one, you are causing potential irreparable damage to a reputation, even when your loved one is able to overcome the power of addictions such as these. None of us want the worst part of our lives to be the things that are remembered, but if we are in the habit of sharing the worst things that our loved ones have done, we are effectively making that the case for them.
Avoid the lure of pornography. Avoid the lure of wanting to demean others who have been caught up in all types of sins. Let us encourage one another to live godly lives and let us share examples of our loved ones that are uplifting and give praise to God.