My thanks to Pastor Dustin Rogers of Heritage Bible Church in Lincoln for the invitation to join the men of his church to hear Dr. Bob Bevington speak. Bob is the author of the book Red Like Blood: Confrontations with Grace (Shepherd Press, 2011), and co-author with Jerry Bridges of two books, The Great Exchange: My Sin for His Righteousness (Crossway, 2007) and The Bookends of the Christian Life (Crossway, 2009).
Bob’s topic for the men was Pornography: Five Applications for Freedom. Here is a summary of his challenge and encouragement to us.
Men are in a battle and the stakes are high.
1 Peter 2:11 states that we are to abstain from passions of the flesh which wage war against our soul. There are many strategies out there given to fight this battle but nearly all of them put us in the middle of the struggle without proper preparation. We need something much bigger and stronger than therapeutic strategies. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 tells us it is divine power which is needed to destroy strongholds.
The path to true freedom requires a sequence of five applications:
1. Apply the true names and call pornography what it is.
First of all Jesus calls it adultery of the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). It is looking with lustful intent upon an image of a woman. In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus says that from within us and from the heart come such things as evil thoughts, sexual immorality, adultery, sensuality which defile a person.
Besides being adultery of the heart, pornography is idol worship which demands a sacrifice (betrayal of your marriage and diminishing your parenting) and breaks fellowship with God (try to think of glorifying God while engaged in a sexual fantasy!)
Lastly pornography must be called sin. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 tells us that it is the will of God that we be sanctified and that we abstain from sexual immorality.
2. Apply the true gospel: The good news that changes everything.
False gospels abound and will not free us from the grip of sin like pornography. The real gospel is a costly gospel for we know the true gospel by the price that was paid (Philippians 2: 6-8).
The true gospel includes “the great exchange” where our sin is transferred to Christ through forgiveness and Christ’s righteousness is transferred to us by justification (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The true gospel preaches union with Christ where genuine faith connects us with Christ and by faith we put our reliance and dependency in Christ as the object of our faith.
The way we can apply the gospel is to have gratitude for the grace that was purchased (2 Corinthians 5: 14-15). We are to also exercise the “expulsive power of a new affection” where we battle the desires of the flesh with the desires of the Spirit and the desire that is strongest will win. When we see the treasures of the gospel and deepen our relationship with God, we can fan the flames of our desire for God (Galatians 5:17)
3. Apply God’s power to enable and deliver.
There are two kinds of power; both are outside of ourselves and both are accessed by faith.
The first one is synergistic power which is when we combine our effort with the enabling power of the Holy Spirit (Colossians 1:29 and Philippians 2:12-13).
The second kind of power is monergistic power which is when the Spirit works completely alone in us and completely independent. The Holy Spirit does it all and we are totally passive recipients (Ezekiel 36:24-29).
4. Apply God-given battle strategies.
It is here that many ministry strategies fail. Dr. Bevington gave us 30 different strategies based upon Scripture and memorization of things to do as strategies in the battle. The difference here compared with what I have seen from other ministries is that this step is undertaken only after you have done steps 1, 2 and 3. Most others want to skip them and jump right into the battle without the proper preparation. The 30 strategies are statements of truth about the battle of the flesh and commitments that need to be made. They represent the synergistic power mentioned above. If you would like these strategies, you can contact Bob via his blog RedLikeBlood.com.
5. Apply all of the above daily and diligently
Bob spoke of his mentor Jerry Bridges who may not have invented the saying but certainly popularized it, “preach the gospel to yourself everyday.” The battle of sin is one we fight every day and as long as we are sinners, we need the gospel.
Bob also recommends the technology accountability ministry of Covenant Eyes which if you go to his website, you can get the first month free by clicking on the banner.
I deeply appreciated Bob’s gospel-centered view on the battle of temptation for his counsel applies to many areas and not just pornography. Two great resources to help in understanding a gospel-centered view of dealing with temptation are to read his book; Bookends of the Christian Life and Russell Moore’s book Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Crossway, 2011).