If the title makes you uncomfortable, now you have a better sense of the provocation in Jesus’s words:
“If your hand or your foot causes you to fall away, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to fall away, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hellfire.”
— Matthew 18:8-9
This admonition is perhaps nowhere more appropriate today than in the virtual onslaught of pornography. No longer reserved for seedy downtown theaters or smuggled magazines from dad’s nightstands, the crack cocaine comes right to our televisions, phones, and tablets. The porn epidemic has reached public health crisis proportions. But even worse than that, according to God’s Word, it jeopardizes our souls.
So what can we learn from Christ’s warnings in Matthew 18 about getting free from porn? At least three things:
1. The sin is “in here.”
Yes, it’s “out there” too, but notice that Jesus does not allow externals to become excuses. Nobody gets to say that (in this instance) pornography “made” them fall. You are not responsible for someone else’s deliberately chosen sin, but nor are they responsible for yours. It’s not the temptation that leads you away—it’s your “foot.” It’s not the sinful vision that leads you away—it’s your “eye.”
Bottom line: Own it. Take responsibility. There may be all kinds of contributing factors to your susceptibility to certain kinds of sin, but you won’t get free from it by blame-shifting or excuse-making. It’s nobody’s fault but yours. The sooner you admit that, the sooner you can be rid of it.
2. The stakes are higher than you think.
I think this is why most folks mired in pornography don’t get free through garden-variety willpower against guilt. They have yet to see the approximate toll the drugs are taking on their lives. It’s usually not until they’ve lost (or nearly lost) everything that they often find the resolve to repent in earnest. So long as the wife keeps “forgiving” without real consequences, so long as it’s held only within the private circles of those who squinch their faces up in sympathy and say they’ll pray, the sin can be managed, and then recycled.
But when the wife says, “That’s it. It’s over,” suddenly they see the toll. What her tears might not have done, her absence does. When the unrepentance bleeds past the private hand-wringers to the pastors or employers who promise actual loss of reputation, income, what-have-you, suddenly you feel the bankruptcy you’ve been engaging in all along. Why wait for those moments?
Bottom line: You have to see where this is going before you get there. Jesus would not use the language of chopping off a hand or plucking out an eye if the habitual indulging of lust was some little ol’ thing you could manage. Free porn will cost you more than you really want to give. The end result of a life devoted to sin is hell. Thus:
3. Repentance must be radical.
If you think cutting off an arm or plucking out an eye seems harsh, consider what Christ says about daily following him: “You must take up your cross.” He’s talking about nothing less than death. To experience life in Christ we are to die to ourselves.
This means at the very least that the offense of the cross must be applied to the offense of your sin, because it died there with him. Get the hammer and nails out. Find a spear. Software filters and accountability groups are fine, but maybe you don’t need a smart phone. Maybe you don’t need a TV in your house. Or a private time or a private room with a computer or laptop.
Maybe you should tell your spouse. Your pastor. Your parents. Somebody “scary.” Why? Because the stakes are high, and repentance must be radical.
And because the gospel is true, no matter the earthly consequences, you can be sure of the spiritual ones. Any pain is worth it that puts us on the path to righteousness. Any pain. Any pain is preferable to the pain of private sin festering to its hellish result. If you can’t manage it, murder it. Don’t fear embarrassment or loss more than God’s wrath. And flee from that into his loving arms. He really is better. His grace really is sufficient. His glory really is more captivating, more satisfying, more delicious than any putrid pixelated delicacies.
You can do whatever it takes, knowing he will not take from you what you most need.
So don’t be afraid to carve your eye out of its socket. The Lord will give you a new one.