But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Mat 5:28)
I live near a conservative evangelical Bible college and seminary. I visit it maybe three times a week in order to use their library. It is safe to say that it has very strong Lordship leanings, which is par for the course in today’s world.
Recently there was a sign posted in the men’s restroom. It was inviting all the students with a problem with pornography to attend a confidential support group. In this group those attending would be given information on how to break the addiction of this sin.
The person who posted the sign gave a brief history of his experiences with pornography. He had been addicted to it for 10 years. He had tried many ways to break the addiction, but found no help. It even had a devastating impact on his marriage. He was training to enter full-time Christian ministry, but was at the point of changing careers because he did not think a full-time minister should be addicted to pornography. He found the solution and would be giving this information to all those would attended the meetings.
I was a chaplain for over two decades. Being around young men, both believers and unbelievers, I saw first hand the prevalence of pornography in our culture. I met a number of young men who were addicted to it.
There are also a number of studies that show this particular sin is prevalent even among pastors of all stripes and denominations. If that is the case, it wouldn’t be a surprise that twenty something men training for full-time Christian ministry would be facing this problem. It is also not a surprise that similar studies show men in church pews are in the same boat.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus mentions this particular sin of lust. He also mentions others as well. He speaks of divorce and remarriage, sins concerning what we say, not repaying evil for evil, loving you enemy, etc. What is striking about these sins is that often times we do not see them as “that bad.” Maybe it is because they are often ubiquitous. They are so common we become accustomed to them.
As I saw that sign in the men’s restroom I thought of the sad irony of it. Here are men, many of them with a Lordship/Reformed view, who have this problem. They are training to be pastors and Christian missionaries. Their theology is one that if a person “continues” in sin he is really not a Christian. The man who posted the advertisement claimed to have been enslaved to it for over 10 years.
Would that qualify of “continuing” in sin? I would think it would. But there was no indication that he was not a believer. Instead, there was an invitation to come spend time with him so he could tell them how to “experience Jesus” at a more intimate level.
It seems a couple of things are at play here. Perhaps lusting after women through pornography is not seen as “bad” as the actual act of adultery. The teaching of the Lord in the Sermon on the Mount refutes that idea. Or perhaps this man and others think that since they feel bad about what they are doing this indicates the work of the Spirit in their lives even though they continue to commit these sins. If they didn’t feel remorse, only then would it indicate they are not believers.
I think there is a more biblical answer. That answer is that as long as we are in these mortal bodies we are more sinful than we want to admit. Whether we are talking about gossip, lust in our hearts, the anger or hatred we feel towards those who wrong us, or any other sin the New Testament speaks of, it takes a special kind of blindness not to see we have a problem.
I don’t know what answer will be given in these meetings. The Biblical answer is that we are to walk by the power of Spirit to experience life instead of the corruption that the flesh brings into our lives (Romans 8). We will never be free from the influence of the flesh in this life, however. How sad that some see that in their lives but preach a gospel that either denies reality or makes our sins less serious than they really are.
For those of us who understand the Gospel of grace we can be thankful that we know what the Bible says. Our salvation from hell has nothing to do with the presence of sin in our lives—even “continuous” sins. These sins, though small in the world’s eyes, are serious and have an impact on our fellowship with Christ.