The Shame of Pornography and God’s Justification of Sinners

Does the Spirit shame or convict?

Does the Spirit shame or convict?

“God knows I am worse than even the Accuser accuses. But still loves me as His own. Take my reputation. Give me Christ.” R. C. Sproul, Jr.

I recently watched Gary Wilson’s TED’s talk “The Great Porn Experiment.” Wilson discusses the high stimulation impact pornography has had on men since the beginning of the internet. He discusses the correlative symptoms of pornography use like failure to perform in normal sexual relationships, failure to connect in relationships, and depression. Immediately, this video made sense to parts of my story dealing with depression and fighting pornography.

I’ve struggled with depression all of my life, but, as I thought back over the times when my back was really up against the wall, all of those periods were marked by heavy intake of pornography. During times where I wasn’t watching pornography, I was able to manage the depression better. In my case, those times of freedom also coincided with high consumption of Scripture. It wasn’t me breaking free from those chains, but the Spirit working in me.

Since my last bout of heavy depression almost five years ago, the same has held true. I’m positive there are those reading this who can think back (if they’ve ever struggled with pornography) and now pick out the negative results watching pornography has had on their life, relationships, and sanctification. You cannot love God and consume pornography.

For me there was a vicious cycle of freedom, failure, shame, depression, freedom. Over and over and over for the better part of ten years—from my teenage years until a few years into my marriage. The shame over failure caused me to spiral into deeper despair and more sin took root.

I’ve talked to a lot of guys about their struggles with pornography and all of them have told me about similar spirals in their own life. Many will talk about how bad they want to stop, but they find it impossible when in this spiral. What I found in my life is the same. In the spiral of sin, all hope seems lost. I never found lasting victory until God broke into the spiral and the Spirit spoke the truth of the gospel, the truth of my position in Christ, into my heart through Scripture.

Here’s the truth. Your old person has been put to death and you have been raised to new life in Christ. Your position as sons and daughters is secured. When God chose you in eternity past, when the Son purposed to redeem you, when the Spirit changed your heart, they knew you—all of you. The gospel transformed your entire person—all the filth, all the grime, all the darkness. The verdict of justified, the covenant of peace made in Christ for you, is an all-knowing verdict. You stand naked in front of God.

When the Accuser makes accusations, when he heaps shame upon shame for your every sin, he does so only knowing a fraction of the your sin. His accusations are a sliver of the depravity pie. We might rightly reply to Satan’s accusation, “If you only knew the half.”

Yet Paul boldly proclaims,

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom 8:33-35)

He can confidently proclaim this as truth because he knows nothing is hid from God. He knows it all. The accusations being made by Satan don’t even scratch the surface, and still can’t make a dent in the covenant of peace made in Christ on our behalf. Therefore, take heart. Your sins are well known, and fully covered. As Martin Luther says,

When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: “I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there shall I be also.” Letters of Spiritual Counsel (86–87)

Mathew B. Sims is the author of A Household Gospel: Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and writes for CBMW Manual, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Borrowed Light, and other publications. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship and offers freelance editing and book formatting services. He is a member at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC.