"So if the son sets you free you will be free indeed."
Last week I was privileged to spend over 3 days participating in what was definitely one of the best conferences that I've ever attended (#setfree2016). It was put on by Josh McDowell Ministries and everything from the food to the venue to the speakers was top notch. Obviously, however, what was most critical and impactful was the content. The "Set Free Summit" was an international conference with participants from 30 different countries entirely focused on winning the war against pornography and sexual addiction that is destroying marriages and the church in general.
The conference began with David Kinnaman, the president of Barna Research, sharing some of the results of the most comprehensive study ever carried out on the realities of porn. Josh McDowell, after observing the church throughout our nation and seeking God for several years as to what is wrong and why the church has become so ineffective, commissioned and paid Barna to carry out this particular study (The Porn Phenomenon) because he came to believe that it was pornography that was undermining the ministry and spiritual health of the Body of Christ.
His goal with "The Set Free Summit" was to gather the best, brightest, and most committed experts in the fields of brain science and treatment, along with others who work tirelessly in the ministries dedicated to freeing individuals from sexual addiction. I would say beyond a shadow of a doubt that he accomplished this goal.
Some of you may have seen a few of my posts throughout the conference on Twitter or Facebook as I sought to highlight and chronicle the course of our education (Roy Thomassian, who serves the men of our church specifically, was with me) and experience. God was there. He was clearly behind and before those who spoke and His heart was most definitely displayed in all that took place.
There is so much that I could share with you from everything that we tried to drink in, like water from a fire hose. I could share statistics about the pandemic that pornography is in our country and in the Church. Things like what the brain research presented, which shows that pornography viewing creates an emotional attachment in the brain that makes a person experience anything or anyone else as competition and in some ways, the enemy. That porn can transform a spouse into an emotional obstacle. I could share with you other research on the effects long-term use of pornography on the brain which causes the brain to shrink. Pornography is producing erectile dysfunction in young men in their 20s. How's that for a really good reason to not use porn, young men? There is other disturbing research about the immorality of pornography. Barna reports that when teens and young adults in America are asked to rank specific acts on a scale of morality only 32% consider porn immoral. But that's not the most interesting part. 56% of those same teens and young adults consider "not recycling" to be immoral. Did you catch that? That means that 24% more teens and young adults think not recycling is a greater moral problem than viewing pornography. Before you dismiss this as a reality only outside the church remember this statistic: only 1 in 3 Christians who use porn feel any guilt about it.
I could go on and on about the realities. The bottom line is that it's a serious problem inside and outside the Church. It's destroying individuals, families, and our culture. I have no doubt about that. Billions and billions of web pages of porn are being pumped out every year and it's not slowing down. Virtual reality will be available to all within a couple of years and porn producers are already ahead of the curve.
But that's not where I want to focus. We do need to understand and appreciate the gravity of the situation. We need to come to terms with the facts that the vast majority of men and a growing segment of women are at least viewing if not addicted to pornography. We need to be motivated by the gravity of the situation to act. But what are we to do?
We have the only source of hope in turning the tide of this epidemic. The Church has the only alternative powerful enough to provide sufficient resources for people who have now grown up with porn like I grew up with Tom and Jerry. We have Jesus Christ, His Truth, His Spirit, and His Grace. It's the last in this list that I see as the most critical.
Why is the Grace of Jesus so critical to winning this battle? Because without His grace pornography will stay in the shadows, hidden from plain view. And that's exactly where it has been thriving in the Church for too long. It's time for us, as the Body of Christ, to stop treating pornography as the unpardonable sin. It's time for grace to overwhelm shame. It's time for us to stop being naive and intentionally blind to the struggles of our brothers and sisters who need our love and compassion. There were examples given at the conference of churches that immediately remove members who are caught viewing pornography! That's unacceptable. That's not the heart of Christ. Jesus came to save sinners. He came to set captives free. If He did, then so must we, for we are His Body!
I don't know, yet, how we will move forward, as Calvary Wolfeboro, in creating a culture of grace in this particular area more than we already do. But I know that it begins with each and every one of us coming to terms with this and not allowing ourselves to be shocked into inaction anymore. Is pornography a sin? Of course. Is it a sin of greater consequence than others? Yes, for it is a sin against one's own body, like all sexual immorality. But it is not a sin that is outside the realm of God's grace and mercy. It is not a sin that should produce the kind of emotional vitriol and condemnation that I have come to unfortunately expect within the church. If we continue to shun brothers and sisters who struggle with this sin then it will continue to thrive in the darkness of private shame and fear.
Let it come into the light and find grace and mercy from us all. For we are all desperately wicked apart from the grace of God through the Lord Jesus and His death for our sin...ALL of our sin.
It is for freedom that I have been set free,