Prepared for Battle
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Deepak Reju reminds us that our identities are in Christ, and not in our sexuality. Are you going to worship Christ, or the images on a screen? It’s a battle you can’t afford to lose.
Prepared for Battle
Bob: The human desire for physical intimacy is a natural desire. But as pastor and counselor, Deepak Reju, says, that desire becomes disordered when we seek to fulfill it outside of the bonds of marriage.
Deepak: That’s what pornography fundamentally is. I’m using an image-bearer for my own satisfaction, that doesn’t belong to me. Why would I ever permit that into my marriage, when God’s intention is for a husband and a wife to find full satisfaction in each other?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, January 28th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. What do we do, as men or women, when we have a disordered desire?—a desire for sexual fulfillment outside of marriage in one way or another. We’re going to talk about that with Deepak Reju today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re talking this week about what we’ve already described as “every man’s battle”; and increasingly, a battle for many women. Have you been surprised, Ann, that more and more women are saying, “This is an issue for me”?
Ann: I’m hearing that more and more. Over the years, I’ve been astounded of how many are confessing that/how many women are needing accountability. I think it’s because of the accessibility and because of the pressure a lot of girls are feeling in school—even with sexting, of sending of pictures, all different kinds of things can spur that on. Sometimes, I feel like women fall into it because of peer pressure.
Bob: I’ve got to confess—we were watching one of these Hallmark kind of movies; okay? You know what I mean?
Ann: Are you embarrassed and ashamed about that?
Dave: Aw, that’s a good thing; that sounds like a romantic night.
Ann: You’re getting in touch with your feeling side.
Bob: Here’s the thing—she hates them; I love them.
Dave: You love them?
Bob: I kind of like—yes, this is cheesy romance, but I—[Laughter]
Dave: Ann’s pointing at me.
Bob: Do you like them, too?
Dave: I like them, and I cry at every one.
Ann: He likes romantic comedies.
Deepak: Wait, now; hold on. I’m the one who cries; and my girls are sitting there, going, “Dad, why are you crying?” [Laughter]
Ann: This is Dave, too!
Bob: Mary Ann is just rolling her eyes, going, “This is so stupid!” I go, “I know. Isn’t it kind of fun?” [Laughter] She’s like, “No; it’s stupid!”
We’re watching one of these movies. At this one point in the movie, the guy, who’s been working out in the garden—the girlfriend goes into the house—and he takes off his shirt; right? He’s ripped; he’s got abs and all of that. She walks out and she looks at him—it’s like, “Oh, my,”—that’s what she says. [Laughter] I watched that scene.
Dave: You’re saying, “Mary Ann, why don’t you say that to me when I take off my shirt?” [Laughter]
Bob: Because I don’t have a six pack; I have a keg. [Laughter]
I look at that, and I think, “Are we conditioning women to respond to a guy’s physique, or are women naturally…?” I think of the Song of Solomon; and I guess the wife in the Song of Solomon—she talked about—
Dave: Well, we’ve got a woman here we could ask!
Bob: Do you think you’re conditioned to feel that way about a man’s body, or do you think it’s natural for a woman to feel that way?
Ann: I think the thing that’s happening today in our culture is boys are feeling the pressure to look a certain way now. I think that’s because our society and culture has focused on so much of the physical that girls—I would say, “Yes, I think we’ve conditioned them to kind of…”; but we have an expert who can tell us about this!
Bob: We do. Let me introduce him.
Dave: You don’t have to introduce me. [Laughter] Oh! Oh, it’s not me!
Bob: It’s the other expert we have. [Laughter] Deepak Reju joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Deepak, welcome back.
Deepak: Glad to be back.
Bob: Deepak is on the counseling staff at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. He’s an author and a counselor and has written a 31-day devotional for men and women on the subject of pornography, [Pornography:] Fighting for Purity.
What are your thoughts about women being attracted to male bodies? Is it culturally conditioned, or is it a part of how God made them?
Deepak: Well, you read Song of Solomon; of course, they are attracted to the man that God has given them; that’s part of the fundamental nature of marriage.
In an over-sexualized, over-visualized culture, we’re conditioning young girls from a very young age. They begin to think: “This is what is supposed to be attractive,” or “This is what I’m supposed to look like,” or “This is what men are going to expect out of me.” The expectations start pressing in on your life that make you more than what, sometimes, what God intends.
Ann: That’s exactly what I experienced. Some of my first memories were those of collecting pornography for my cousins. All of the cousins lived together; there were 12 of us. I was number 10 in line. Most of the older ones were older boys, and some of the uncles had pornography. They would cheer the little girls if we would go and collect it and give it to them.
Ann: For me, think about how that messes with your brain: “This is what is appealing. I get rewarded by giving this to them,”—but also—“This is what a man is looking for.”
Deepak: The tragedy is that’s training you as a little girl.
Ann: Exactly—at three years old.
Deepak: It’s training you from the very beginning of what is right and good/what is wrong and bad.
Ann: “This is where I find my value as a woman—to please a man and to also look a certain way.” Those were some hard shackles to pull off over the years.
Deepak: They show up at our church. We have to begin the process of teaching them the Word and reorienting them so that they understand: “Your identity is fundamentally in Christ and not in another man.”
Bob: That’s where you start as you try to walk people on a journey toward freedom—you start with the issue of identity.
Deepak: I do. As someone struggling with sexual sin walks in my door, they’re overwhelmed with this sin. I want to begin by talking to them about how this sin now defines them. It’s not just weeks or months; some of these dear folks are struggling for years—they’re weary and tired. They don’t see how God can change them. This has become their identity—a sexual sinner has become fundamentally who they are.
That’s the place where we want to say, “You’re, first and foremost, a child of God.” That has been overtaken by the fact that: “I commit sexual sin, and this is my life.”
Dave: I find it interesting that you wrote a 31-day devotional—never seen this—to help men and women with the struggle of pornography. Tell me this: “Why a devotional? Why 31 days?” I’ve seen books on it; I’ve talked to counselors here on our broadcast—but a devotional—what’s the thought behind that?
Like Bob said, “Let’s walk through this sort of step over the next month that a man or woman could go through”; but why a devotional?
Deepak: First of all, there’s tons of very good books out there that are helping to address this issue in chapter form, giving you topical content. But life comes through the Word. I want to start with Scripture and help us see, from the Word, how it applies to my specific life. I want to build a bridge from God’s Word, and build it into the nooks and crannies of a struggler’s life.
Dave: You start with “The War for Your Soul.” Is this a soul issue?
Deepak: It is a soul issue, because sexual sin is not just a battle of your behavior; it’s a battle between who you’re going to actually worship—what your fundamental allegiance is. The evil one wants you to worship him, to let lust take over your life, to turn your back on God, to desire the things of the world—rather than let your deepest affections and joys be in Christ.
I’m fighting to help people understand what purity looks like because I think, fundamentally, a fight for pornography is a worship disorder.
Dave: You say that right at the beginning, and that jumps off the page. Define that; what do you mean a worship [disorder]?
Deepak: One of the fundamental questions of our life is where our allegiances are: “Is it for God, or is it for anything or everything else?” I want to begin to orient the person—like: “If my life has been oriented around sex, and lust, and my desires, I am headed in the wrong direction. I have, in many cases, turned my back on God,” or “I’m calling myself a Christian—showing up at church—and yet, I have let this sin overtake my life. I have lost my distaste for this sin and lost what is the sweet taste of a Savior.” I want to orient them/re-orient them toward that fundamental allegiance, which is for the Lord alone.
Bob: So, if this is a soul issue, and if our soul is at stake, are you saying that: “If I continue to look at porn, occasionally or regularly, I am doing harm to myself. I am hurting my soul”?
Deepak: Every time I take a moment to look at pornography—whether it’s just even
15 seconds or I’m spending hours in it—I’m training my heart for desires that do not belong to me—that shouldn’t be a part of my life/that God doesn’t want in my life. I am training myself; I am re-orienting my affections for things that should not be in my own life. I am re-orienting my affections for the things that God says do not belong to me. That becomes a battle between you and the Lord.
Dave: Ann and I were flying to do a Weekend to Remember®, several years ago, walking through the airport. I see a Time magazine, right there on the rack; and it says, “Porn.” It has the big—what do you call the circle with the “X” in it?
Bob: Yes; the “No—the—
Dave: Is there a name for that?
Bob: I don’t think there’s a name for it.
Dave: You know, a big circle over it: [meaning] “Don’t do this,” “Porn.”
I’m like, “What in the world?!—Time magazine?” I pick it up; I ended up buying it. It was so interesting because it was scientists and researchers interviewing young men and women, 20-year-olds, saying, “You’ve grown up in a porn world, where it’s right there if you want it, accessible digitally.” They interviewed these young men and women—had nothing to do with the church or Christianity—they were just saying, “What has been your experience?” These young men and women are saying, “Stay away from this!”
They’re [article author] going into the neuropathways and things it does to your brain. These were men—and I was like, “This is the first time you’ve heard the secular world saying what the Christian world has said: ‘Stay away from it, because it’s morally wrong.’” This was not a moral argument; this was, “This will mess your brain up.”
I was like: “Wow! Isn’t this interesting?”—what you’re saying—“that this is beyond the physical; this is soulish in nature. This isn’t God saying this; this is our bodies, going, ‘Don’t mess with this.’”
Deepak: We retrain ourselves for things that God never intended. My life begins to grow to look more and more like the proverbial fool, who is overwhelmed by sexual sin, and is running to it now because “That’s what my desires are.”
Ann: You’re saying that this becomes a way of escape. It really is a deeper issue; we’ve trained ourselves and our bodies to escape into this form.
Going through the devotional—is that what you’re seeing? Is this a new kind of training?—of changing the neurological pathways in our brain to focus on God and not go to the places of hiding that are doing damage to our souls?
Deepak: I don’t know that I’m a specialist in regards to training someone’s neurology/re-orienting their biology; but what we do know is that, as I participate in pornography, it rewrites my pathways/my neurological pathways—how my brain functions/how my body reacts.
What I believe is that redemption, actually, can re-write all that; the gospel is not beyond that. What God does intend is: through redemption—and redemption is not just knowing one simple fact from the Bible—redemption is a wholehearted transformation that involves repentance and faith, but a change of an entire lifestyle. As my heart changes, my whole life changes. It includes God redeeming that biology/neurology that has been changed by pornography and helping me learn how to live in a pure way that may have not felt possible when I was in the middle of it.
Dave: How do you go from understanding: “This is deeper; it’s a war of my soul. This isn’t my identity; I’m a child of God,”—on day three, you are talking about something that sounds very important—walking by the Spirit. What’s that role?
Deepak: A couple of different things: one, in our individualistic, self-oriented society, we’re so set up with” “doing my own thing”—accomplishing my own agenda, getting through the day on my own.
In Galatians, Chapter 5, we think about there’s a war between the flesh and the Spirit. It’s so easy to give into the desires of the flesh rather than the desires of the Spirit that are at war with one another. If the Spirit is in me—and it is if I’ve trusted in Christ—the Spirit is doing good work in me. I want to actually get behind what the Spirit’s doing, follow in the desires that the Lord has given me. Just like a soldier, who screams out, “Step, step, step,” I want to actually get in line with what I know the Spirit’s already doing in my life.
That’s a part of, you know, everything from faith, moves me in a new direction. First, I have to believe that God can change me and that His Son is there—that He died for me—believe that the gospel’s true for my life. Once I begin to believe that, obedience—falling in step with the Spirit/beginning to make choices—becomes a fundamental part of being able to follow what the Spirit is already beginning to do in my life.
Bob: I would love to think—I guess we all would—that there’s some thing you can believe or do that’s the magic bullet in all of this.
Deepak: No; not at all.
Bob: But you’d love to think that: “If I could convince you this is true, or get you to start doing these behaviors, we can fix your problem.” You’ve been at this long enough with enough different people to know it’s a highly individual issue, and there’s not one solution that fits everybody.
Deepak: No; if somebody had just looked at it one or two times—there’s not enough momentum in their life that it’s so deeply engrained—that I think we can get in and help them turn around fairly quickly.
Most people I’m dealing with have been embedded in pornography for a long time. If you think of a cruise liner, and the momentum a cruise liner has, you don’t quickly turn a cruise liner around 180 degrees and head in the other direction. A cruise liner needs a long turn; that’s a part of the work. We get in there: we show them that we love them. We start walking through things—like access, and heart issues, and understanding what it means to be part of community, to be deep in the Word, to actually be open and vulnerable with others—to do all of these things. That’s a part of some of the ingredients that begin to help us turn that ship.
We also have to persevere over the long haul. I have guys, who came to me years ago, struggling with this. What you see is a trajectory. It never looks like a straight trajectory up through the other end of the chart. It more looks like the stock market: you’ve got some days, where we’re fighting/ we’re learning how to fight; and then, “Oh, no! Look at this!—we’re plummeting!” Another day: “Actually, we’re doing pretty well here”; then, “Oh! We’re falling again.”
But I know Philippians 1:6: God will finish what He began; He will complete what He began in me in that sanctification. I know the end of the story; but we need to be able to persevere in the long haul/over that long turn until we get to the end of that trajectory and even beyond that. Our goal is purity over the course of years.
Dave: Is this devotional personal?
Deepak: I struggled before marriage, but I didn’t struggle to the deepest extent that I think some of the guys are because I grew up in a different generation. I grew up in a generation that this wasn’t the forefront issue, where I wasn’t raised up on the internet. I stumbled in it in ways as a single man and looked at it in ways where, by God’s grace, I had people around me, who were deep into my life, that could quickly guide me and help me not make this an ingrained battle.
Dave: What do you say to the wife—and I know it goes both ways—but you just talked about the stock market—when you have some losses; you win. We talk to so many wives, whose husbands are on that battle; and they don’t know what to do when their husband struggles, even if it’s once in six months.
Ann: And the wife feels weary from the whole thing, too.
Deepak: Let’s wind it back just a little bit to say—this is something that needs to be talked about in the dating process. There needs to be an honesty about struggles, especially sexual sin struggles—not in graphic detail—but it shouldn’t be something that’s discovered, suddenly, in marriage.
Ann: We’ve had those conversations, where the couple will say, “I have struggled; but when I get married, I won’t struggle.” The fiancée/the woman is saying, “Yes, that will be better then.” Their hope is in that.
Deepak: Their hope is that marriage will be some kind of panacea/some paradise that, actually, is never promised to make this go away. Then, you get into marriage. Some people won’t like this; but I’ll say it: “We will slow a guy down, if he’s struggling with pornography, and tell him: ‘You need to deal with this issue before taking responsibility for another person. Why would I commend you to be shepherding another person’s soul if you’re not doing due diligence for your own soul, when it comes to sexual sin?’”
Then they’ll pull out 1 Corinthians 7:9: “Well, I’m burning. I mean, how do I solve this issue if I’m burning?” Deal with holiness first; don’t run to that verse as some kind of excuse to get into dating and marriage.
But then we get into marriage, and a wife discovers this, whether she knew it before or it re-emerges in marriage. The most common word I get is “betrayal” from the wife because it is the most/one of, if not the most, precious commodity in marriage—is to keep your marriage bed pure and to actually be vulnerable. Taking your clothes off and exposing yourself fully to someone else is the most vulnerable thing you could ever do. That’s a precious part of marriage that we don’t want to handle carelessly.
The wife is devastated. The mistake is to zoom in on the husband and try and fix him and not shepherd the wife through the betrayal, and the disappointment, and the anger, and the confusion that she’s going to experience.
Ann: How do you shepherd her? What does that look like?
Deepak: The easy thing to do in marriage is to get distracted by staring at your spouse and making this an issue between “you and me.” Whereas, any problem we’re dealing with—not just sexual sin but any sin we’re dealing with—our eyes have to look up first. Her hope has to be in the Lord, that He can change this and that He can deal with the war in her own heart, rather than what we’re all prone to do—like rush to number one, for example: “Fix our husbands.”
Or number two: an even greater temptation is for the wife to suddenly become a cop: “I need to police my husband in this issue. I need to have full access to everything. I need to get down on his case if he looks at anything remotely bad.” Often, that’s done out of fear that: “This is going to re-emerge again in our marriage.” I need to help her own heart, because her own heart has temptations in the middle of this war in the midst of their marriage.
I’ll help them work through issues with their marriage. First and foremost, I need to orient their heart towards God in the midst of this sin, sometimes, exploding on their marriage.
Bob: Is she free if her husband’s looking at porn? Can she remove herself from the marriage? Can she say, “Adultery is happening in my marriage, and I am free to divorce”?
Deepak: There are a lot of people who are saying right now that this is the equivalent to adultery. I’m not in that camp—I wouldn’t say that this is adultery—but I’m not going to reduce it to a simple rule, because pornography is never isolated by itself. There’s often so many other things within marriage that we need to look at. This is often a symptom of much larger issues that are going on within the marriage.
Bob: There’s a whole lot more for us to think about as we consider the impact that pornography has on a marriage relationship and how we deal with it in the context of marriage. We’re going to do that on tomorrow’s program.
I want to point our listeners to the 31-day devotional that you have written that can be used by men or women/husbands or wives—maybe read through it together, as husband and wife, as a part of your strategy for dealing with this issue. The book is called Pornography: Fighting for Purity. It’s a 31-day devotional on this subject written by our guest today, Deepak Reju.
Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, for more information on how you can get a copy of the book; or call us at 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com; and the number to call to order the book, Pornography: Fighting for Purity, is 1-800-FL-TODAY.
We recognize that an issue like pornography can be very destructive in a marriage relationship. Over the years, here at FamilyLife®, we have identified what are the most common general categories that either promote marital health or lead to challenges in a marriage relationship. On our website at FamilyLifeToday.com we have an assessment that any couple can take online to help you grade your marriage and assess how you’re doing in what are the five most critical areas when it comes to marital health.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and look for the “Love that Lasts” marriage health assessment. You can answer a few questions; you’ll get a score there. You can look and say, “Oh, this area is doing fine; but these other areas—we could use some help.” Then, in the areas where you need help, we’ve got articles; we’ve got resources. We can point you to tools that can help you strengthen the weak areas of your marriage.
Again, look for the “Love that Lasts” marriage health assessment when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Share the link with your spouse so that both of you are taking time to assess your marital health and getting a game plan put together to build a marriage that goes the distance.
We hope you can join us again tomorrow. Deepak Reju is going to be here again as we continue to look at how husbands and wives can be allies together in the battle against pornography in a marriage relationship. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today; his name is Keith Lynch. I also want to thank our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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