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Getting to the Root of the Issue

by Levi on October 3rd, 2012 in Students
Pornography is not primarily a behavior issue; it is a worship issue. Porn and other sexual sins (sin in general) are issues of idolatry, so when we talk about the root of an addiction, we must begin with our makeup at conception and say, each of ourselves, “I was born worshipping.” The question then becomes, “What do I worship?” and the consequence, “Will I acknowledge and repent of my idolatry?”
Harold Best gives us an idea of what it means to worship, “I have worked out a definition for worship that I believe covers every possible human condition. It is this: Worship is the continuous outpouring of all that I am, all that I do and all that I can ever become in light of a chosen or choosing god.” 
In relation to pornography, then, sex becomes a god, an idol that we would pour ourselves into as, functionally, we trust its pleasurable end above and beyond God’s promise to satisfy. 
It seems to me that we do not fully acknowledge or understand the weight of our sin as eternal treason against a God who describes himself as jealous for our worship. While at one time pornography was so taboo that it could not be mentioned aloud, now we talk about it as though the normalcy of the struggle somehow justifies returning to its snares. Or, returning to its snares every so often and comparing the amount of failures I’ve had to the amount of failures he’s had like, “Well, I’m doing okay.” 
We can’t say that the root issue of pornography is its instantaneous availability. The root is not internet access. We can’t say that the root issue of pornography is a lack of accountability. 
The root is idolatry. We must first begin with the fact that we either worship the Creator or idolize the created. 
It is not that we are born with the option to worship, but that we are born worshipping, and are transformed into the likeness of the objects of our worship. The Psalmist described this: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hand, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them” (Ps 115:4-8 ESV). In the same way, pornography begins to shape the lens through which our eyes see (or don’t see) created image-bearers of God, the mind through which we filter (or don’t filter) those images, the mouth through which we speak of those objects, as the overflow of our hearts are spilled out with all of their black-tar contents. 

“What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.” – G.K. Beale


But there is a seed to the root – an even deeper root than worshipping sex or creation. The seed of those things is pride. It is pride that says we know what will please us better than God knows how his creation works. It is that same pride that Satan, the father of lies, whose deceit is old as the ages, turned to as described in Isaiah 14:13-14: “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'”
There is a lie parading about that says holiness is as simple as: “Do this, and don’t do that. Don’t be bad, be good.” I am convinced it is one of Satan’s most destructive tactics. It is opposite the freely given, gospel vaccine we need to reverse our worship distortions. All it does is add another idol for us to pursue – goodness – when we’re busy trying to avoid badness. 
I had some sort of epiphany recently where I realized that just because the visible blossom – the budding flower – of sin (in this case, pornography) has withered away does not mean that it’s root has been, well, uprooted. If you can think of sin as a plant in four parts – seed, root, stem and flower – you see that cutting off the colorful top isn’t the same as uprooting the problem. It is a humbling realization that as soon as you’ve gotten rid of “the big sins” you have their roots to deal with, and the roots are often more difficult to acknowledge once you’ve just gotten to feeling good about yourself after having broken the stem. 
What hope is there if we are all idolaters? “He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen 3:15b). From the moment after the fall of man when humankind began to worship the created, the Creator implemented his plan to crush our idols and reconcile us to himself through Jesus Christ. 
The wages of our idolatry lead to death, and we need the preexisting Word, the eternal Son of God, to defeat it. He does.
We attack the root issue at the cross of Christ. Repent, and rejoice. Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is the hope we have for the death of sin – seed, root, stem and flower – and the rising to new life in Jesus. 
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds of things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also with appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry… Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” – Colossians 3:1-5;15-16
Jesus loves you enough to attack your roots, no matter how painful the uprooting may be. May he be your strength in the fight. May he be your all in all. 


  • Trapper

    Normally, idolatry is looking to another god, another source of help for our needs to be met either in addition to God or instead of the true God. Pornography can be addictive, but I believe it’s a mental addiction similar to craving the wrong foods to eat for our meals. We develop a palate for overly stimulating sexual input and we aren’t designed to be able to handle that. I don’t think most Christians treat their porn usage as an idol; it’s more like binging on alcohol or a smorgasbord. IMO.

    • IveBeenThere

      Anything you put before God is an Idol. People with addictions put the addiction before everything else. Making it an idol.

      • Trapper

        We need to define what it means “before God”. As I would understand it, that means that I would rather have my “idol” than to obey God? Jesus said for example “you can’t serve God and Riches (Mammon), can’t serve two masters. We either will love the one and hate the other, etc. I don’t think a person who is addicted to smoking or drinking coffee is putting their cigarette smoking before God or their family.

        I agree though that God doesn’t want us to have addictions although it is amusing that in the qualifications for elder and deacon, it says that an elder is not to be addicted to wine, but a deacon is not to be addicted to much wine… a little addiction is okay if you’re just a deacon. 🙂

  • very very very good post. Thank you 🙂 If you can just make a capital on all words: “He” and others 🙂

  • Trapper, thanks for your feedback. I would agree with you that pornography and other things can be addictive (I would know, as I was addicted to it for over 10 years). However, just because something is addictive doesn’t always make us passive victims of it. I fed that addiction, actively. “Getting To The Root of the Issue” is more about the inherent intent of the heart towards wickedness than it is about what things are “addictive” or “put before God.” It very well could be smoking or drinking coffee if the Holy Spirit puts one of those things on a man’s conscience. Calvin said that “the heart is an idol factory” – essentially, we create gods out of anything and everything BUT God. It isn’t so much an issue of whether or not Christians realize or think that they treat their porn usage as an idol, it is an issue of the fact that it is one whether they will acknowledge it or not. It is a breaking of the seventh commandment “You shall not commit adultery” (which Jesus came and intensified by redefining as, “looking at a woman with lustful intent”), and the eighth, “you shall not covet,” which is an inevitable breaking of the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me,” as we functionally disobey God, and, in disbelieving his worth as satisfactory, worship our own desires above His. It’s pretty hopeless when I look at it like that, because I’ll never measure up to the law. Praise be to God, though, who is the only one to have perfectly fulfilled the law, powerful to not only break the chains of addiction, but of sin itself, and recalibrate our hearts and seeds and roots and stems and flowers to adore Jesus Christ.

    • Trapper

      I agree that an unsaved person’s heart is wicked, but that a believer is a new creation, old things are done away– yet they still get hooked on porn… like junk food for the mind.

      It doesn’t matter if a person is convicted about smoking or drinking– if they are hooked on it, it’s a fact regardless of their own feelings. I don’t think God regards disobedience or moral weakness as idolatry. If a believer breaks the tenth commandment by coveting, they don’t repent of lying or idolatry. Paul did teach that covetousness is a type of idolatry, agreed. I think he means that if a person is coveting what someone else has, he is in essence rejecting God’s faithfulness as his provider. Paul taught that we are to be content in what we have, yet, we are also to labor with our hand that we might have plenty for ourselves as well as to share with others.

      Desiring to have new possessions isn’t covetousness as long as you earn what you possess. Covetousness is the heart of theft, whether of material property or someone’s wife. Being driven to obtain one’s own goods or wife isn’t covetousness, so being content with what one has doesn’t mean we shouldn’t desire to have good things.

      Jesus expanded the adultery command by including looking at a married woman with the desire to have sex with her. (Don’t read the inaccurate NIV.) We know that he was only talking about married women, first of all, because that’s the only way his statements can make sense. Secondly, adultery in that day could only be committed by having sex with a married woman. So, married women were off limits sexually, therefore, it would be wrong to even think about having sex with them. He absolutely did not teach that its wrong to look at single women in order to desire them sexually. Since neither the Greek or Hebrew have separate words for wife, the English reader who is ignorant of the definition of adultery draws these absurd false teachings from what was a simple teaching about having a heart of adultery.

      The gospel, good news, is that in Christ we have been set free from sin by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ so that we can fulfill the righteousness of the Law. For this reason, we are no longer under condemnation since we are no longer slaves of sin.

  • birdyisback

    You define ‘idol’ so broadly, it no longer has meaning.

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