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6 Essential Ingredients for Repenting of Pornography

Recently a new survey commissioned by a nonprofit organization called Proven Men Ministries and conducted by the Barna Group took a national representative sample of 388 self-identified Christian adult men. The statistics are alarming and paint a picture of the serious problem of pornography. The statistics for Christian men between 18 and 30 years old are particularly striking:

  • 77 percent look at pornography at least monthly.
  • 36 percent view pornography on a daily basis.
  • 32 percent admit being addicted to pornography (and another 12 percent think they may be).

The statistics for middle-aged Christian men (ages 31 to 49) are no less disturbing:

  • 77 percent looked at pornography while at work in the past three months.
  • 64 percent view pornography at least monthly.
  • 18 percent admit being addicted to pornography (and another 8 percent think they may be).

Even married Christian men are falling prey to pornography and extramarital sexual affairs at alarming rates:

  • 55 percent look at pornography at least monthly.
  • 35 percent had an extramarital sexual affair while married.1

These statistics are alarming; in fact, they are downright discouraging. The porn addict lives in a world where they go through a cycle of feeling sorry for what they did, but never coming to see the gospel seriousness of what they have done. The statistics show we must help porn addicts understand the seriousness of their sin, the nature of true biblical repentance, and turning away from sexual sin to Jesus Christ. The great Puritan author, Thomas Watson, once said there are six ingredients for true repentance.

First, sight of sin

A person comes to himself (Lk. 15:17) and clearly views his lifestyle as sinful. If we fail to see our own sin, we rarely, if ever, are motivated to repent.

Second, sorrow for sin (Ps. 38:18).

We need to feel the nails of the cross in our souls as we sin. Repentance includes both godly grief and holy agony (2 Cor. 7:10). The fruit of repentance is showed in genuine, anguishing sorrow over the offense itself, not just the consequences of it. Sorrow for sin is seen in the ongoing righteous actions it produces. True repentance lingers in the soul and not just on the lips.

Third, confession of sin.

The humble sinner voluntarily passes judgment on himself as he sincerely admits to the specific sins of his heart. We must not relent of our confession until all of it is freely and fully admitted. We must pull up any hidden root of sin within our heart. “Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit” (Deut. 28:19).

Fourth, shame for sin.

The color of repentance is blushing red. Repentance causes a holy bashfulness. Ezra says, “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens” (9:6). The prodigal was ashamed of his sin that he did not feel he deserved to be a son anymore, but the Father wouldn’t have him back as a servant. He was his son (Lk. 15:21). Sin brings us low trying to shame us to despair, while godly shame drives us to repentance and moves our hearts toward gratitude to Christ. John Owen provides us an example in his On Mortification:

What have I done? What love, mercy, what blood, what grace have I despised and trampled on? Is this the return I make to the Father for his love, to the Son for his blood, to the Holy Spirit for his grace? Do I thus requite the Lord? . . . What can I say to the dear Lord Jesus? . . . Do I account communion with him of so little value? . . . Shall I endeavor to disappoint the [very purpose] of the death of Christ?2

Fifth, hatred of sin.

We must hate our sin to the core. We hate sin more deeply when we love Jesus more fully. Repentance begins in the love of God and ends in the hatred of sin. True repentance loathes sin.

Sixth, the turning away from sin and returning to the Lord with all your heart (Joel 2:12).

This turning from sin implies a notable change—“performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20). “Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols and turn away your faces from all your abominations” (Ez. 14:6). We are called to turn away from all our abominations, not just the obvious ones or the ones that create friction with others. The goal of repentance is not to manufacture peace among others with perfunctory repentance, but rather to turn to God wholly and completely. This repentance most importantly is not just a turning away from sin. It also necessarily involves a turning in “repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Here is the joy found in repentance. “It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance” (Roms. 2:4). We rejoice that Christ has done so much for us and continues to do for us.

By understanding the seriousness of sin and biblical repentance, we can come to understand that the captives have hope and freedom in Jesus Christ. He came to set them free. While we live in a world that is full of bad news, in the midst of the bad news of our sin there is hope and healing from sexual sin. In the midst of your struggle look to the beauty of Jesus in the cross. Gaze at the wonder of the cross.

Look to Jesus—he is the cure for sexual brokenness. Jesus is in the business of setting the captives free through his finished work. No matter your sexual history, Jesus alone can make you pure again. Turn to him, and trust in him. He is all you need.

I urge you to heed the words of J.C. Ryle who wrote,

Look at the cross, think of the cross, meditate on the cross, and then go and set your affections on the world if you can. I believe that holiness is nowhere learned so well as on Calvary. I believe you cannot look much at the cross without feeling your will sanctified, and your tastes made more spiritual. As the sun gazed upon makes everything else look dark and dim, so does the cross darken the false splendor of this world. As honey tasted makes all other things seem to have no taste at all, so does the cross seen by faith take all the sweetness out of the pleasures of the world. Keep on every day steadily looking at the cross of Christ, and you will soon say of the world, as the poet does—

Its pleasures now no longer please,


No more content afford;

Far from my heart be joys like these,


Now I have seen the Lord.
As by the light of opening day


The stars are all concealed,


So earthly pleasures fade away


When Jesus is revealed.”3

1. For more on these statistics please go to http://www.provenmen.org/2014pornsurvey and www.covenanteyes.com/pornstats/

2. Quoted by Timothy Keller, Romans 8-16 For You. The Good Book Company, 2015. 24.

3. J.C. Ryle, The Cross of Christ, accessed January 5th, 2015. http://www.gracegems.org/23/Ryle_cross.htm

Dave Jenkins is the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, and the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine. He and his wife, Sarah, are members of Ustick Baptist Church in Boise, Idaho, where they serve in a variety of ministries. Dave received his MAR and M.Div. through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on twitter @DaveJJenkins. Find him on Facebook or read more of his work at servantsofgrace.org.

Adapted from Servant of Grace. Used with Permission.