FamilyLife Today®

Porn Addiction: Your Exit Strategy

with Ray Ortlund | February 10, 2022
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Porn addiction can seem inescapable. But its power isn't unbreakable. Author Ray Ortlund helps replace pornography's dehumanizing lies with startling truth.
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Porn addiction can seem inescapable. But its power isn’t unbreakable. Author Ray Ortlund helps replace pornography’s dehumanizing lies with startling truth.

Porn Addiction: Your Exit Strategy

With Ray Ortlund
|
February 10, 2022
| Download Transcript PDF

Ray: I want to see a great movement of God in our generation. What if, ten years from now, the most captivating preachers of the gospel in this country are ex-porn stars? What if the best storytellers for the gospel are ex-porn videographers? What if the most generous philanthropists are ex-porn investors? The risen Jesus is well-able to do that; would we not love to see that?

Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.

Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: I’m excited today. I’ve never had a man in the studio who wrote the Bible.

Ann: Oh, you’re right! [Laughter]

Dave: We’ve got one of the biblical writers—

Ann: Yes!

Dave: —in the studio. He is here!

Ann: You’re right!

Dave: No. And obviously, if you are listening, you are like, “What in the world are you talking about?” We’ve got Ray Ortlund in the studio who—you’ve written many things—but you are one of the cowriters of the ESV Bible.

Ray: Well, I’d rather say “translators.” [Laughter]

Dave: I know; I know. Welcome to FamilyLife Today, Ray.

Ray: Thank you. Great to be with you.

Dave: Tell us a little bit about yourself; because I know you’re pastoring, sort of, now.

Ray: Yes.

Dave: Give us a little background.

Ray: Well, we planted Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2008 and stayed there for a number of years—just had a total blast—I’m so thankful that I ended my pastoral years on this upward trajectory of just amazing fun. We had such a great time; God really smiled on us. Eighty percent of the church are in their 20s and 30s; how did that happen?

Dave: —at your church?

Ray: Yes!

Ann: Because you have a very young spirit.

Ray: Oh, well, I don’t know; but it’s such a gift.

We, now, are with Renewal Ministries, which is a nonprofit that my dear dad and mom handed down to us.

Ann: Wow.

Ray: We’re under the board of RM, and we are having a blast.

Dave: You have how many kids?—grandkids?

Ray: Four kids—all married—and fourteen grandchildren.

Dave: Wow! Fourteen; are they near you?

Ray: No!

Ann: Why did that happen, Ray?

Ray: I know; I know. We raised our kids to think for themselves, and then they went and did it.

Ann: They do it!

Ray: Yes.

Dave: They left you.

Ray: The ingrates! [Laughter]

Dave: The ingrates. [Laughter]

The amazing thing is recently you released a book. I want to know if you thought you would release this your whole life, because it’s called The Death of Porn: Men of Integrity Building a World of Nobility. Is this a life work? Is this something you saw yourself, ten years ago, writing? Or is this something that became a passion recently?

Ray: More recently; because during those years at Immanuel Church, every Tuesday night, we had Immanuel Theology for Men. These great guys, in their 20s and 30s, for the most part, would come. We had hundreds of times together with Bible teaching, honesty, and honor. I would teach some robust theology or Bible for about an hour. Then we would have Walking in the Light for about 20 or 30 minutes, break up in twos, and we would go into 1 John, Chapter 1, verse 7: “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of God’s Son cleanses us from all sin.”


We would break up in twos; and one guy would say to the other, “Okay, here is what isn’t working in my life”; and he would explain. The other guy would say, “Alright; well, let’s pray”; and he would pray for that guy. Then they would turn it around: “Here is what is not working my life; here is how I am not doing well”; and the other guy would pray for him. Then we would have Honor Time because Romans 12:10 says, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” This is, as far as I know, the only competitive sport in the Bible. [Laughter]

Dave: “Outdo one another…”

Ray: “Outdo one another in showing honor.” So it—and that was all of us together—it was a great big group. Guys would say things, like, “Jim, last Thursday night, when I felt like looking at porn, I texted you. You called me right back, and you talked to me. We talked together for half an hour. You got me off the edge of that cliff. Dude, I honor you. Thank you for that.” It was like popcorn going off; I’d have to shut it down after a while.

So teaching of Scripture—honesty, and honor—hundreds of experiences like that. I just came to realize how massive this issue of sexuality and porn has become in this generation of young guys that I love so much.

Dave: So what do you think is happening? You and I grew up in a different generation; there wasn’t the accessibility to porn like there is now. What do you see taking place?

Ray: We’re all under tremendous pressures right now at multiple levels, and our sexuality is one of the primary targets of temptation and corruption. It’s no surprise because, you know, God is not having second thoughts about giving us sexuality. He created us like this; He’s not wishing He could delete it. He’s not sorry He made us this way.

God’s answer to the loss of sexual integrity is not to delete our sexuality, or even to suppress our sexuality, but to redeem our sexuality/to give our sexuality back to us better than before. That is God’s purpose—almost nobody believes that—I mean, you have to be a Christian to be crazy enough to believe God wants to do that in your life!

Dave: Yes, so what does that mean? How does God want to redeem our sexuality?

Ray: Typically, it happens when we come to the end of ourselves. That’s when we turn around and really great things start to happen—when we stop posing; we stop hiding—we come out into the light of the truth of who God is, and the truth of who we are, and we start talking about it in real confession.

I mean, I meet with TJ Tims and Sam Allberry—TJ and Sam and I get together in my study, and our only purpose is to confess our sins to one another—mutually transparently. Nobody gets coerced; nobody gets shamed; nobody is embarrassed or cornered. We don’t like that; we object to that very strongly. Everyone is dignified. And we talk about our failings, and our shortcomings, and our weaknesses; and I hate it. [Laughter]

Dave: You don’t look forward to that one; huh?

Ray: No, I mean, it’s very freeing; right?

Dave: Yes.

Ray: But in advance, when I know the guys are coming, I know that what I most need to tell them about is the very thing I don’t want to tell them about. That’s what I most need to confess, and they feel the same way. I’m really struck that, when we get together, I keep telling them the same things. [Laughter] I thought I would be a better man by now, you know, after all these years, immersed in Scripture, and blessed by God, and so forth; but I’m grateful that I have these two guys, whom I trust; and they are not dysfunctional enablers. They are serious men; right?

Dave: Yes.

Ray: I can level with them. I can tell them about the real me, and they don’t gasp in shock. Neither do they pat me on the shoulder and say, “Oh, there, there. Everybody does that.” They treat me as a serious man, and they pray for me. It’s freeing; it is burden-lifting, and I get some sparkle in my eye again. Now, there is not too much of that going around guys; that’s got to go viral.

What if a movement caught on of men and women—but my interest in this book is men—of men getting together in that kind of transparency, on a regular basis, and looking each other in the eye/being honest with each other, and praying for each other and then coming back the next week and doing the same thing again? All the indicators would move in the right direction.

Dave: As I picked up your book, The Death of Porn, that was what struck me immediately, which was very unique of all the books I’ve read on this topic—was this zeal you have to see a movement,—

Ray: Yes.

Dave: —like you just said, of men—and women can be involved—but it’s really a book for men. I resonate/men, saying, “We’re going to stop this; this doesn’t have to be the status quo,” because we’ve gotten to the point, where it’s like, “Yes, porn is a big part of our life, and it’s just never going to go away.” You’re saying, “No; there could be a movement that takes place”; right?

Ray: Yes; I use the hashtag, #starvethebeast. It can’t endure that; it’s not as formidable as it appears. It is we, men—and Christian men—who are enabling it and supporting it. What if we didn’t do that? I want to see a great awakening. Yes, I want to see a great movement of God in our generation. What if the next great awakening starts inside the porn industry?

Ann: Yes.

Ray: What if, ten years from now, the most captivating preachers of the gospel in this country are ex-porn stars? What if the best storytellers for the gospel are ex-porn videographers? What if the most generous philanthropists are ex-porn investors? The risen Jesus is well-able to do that; would we not love to see that?

Ann: Yes; well, it’s interesting, I thought, because you compared the English slave trade—

Ray: Yes.

Ann: —to what we’re going through now with the porn industry.

Ray: Yes.

Ann: How did you make that correlation?

Ray: Well, what if it were the year 1850? Slavery would be legal; it would be a profitable business. It would have the law on its side; it would have social convention and social approval on its side. It would be, indeed, an economic necessity. Many people would be involved in the slave business—other people wouldn’t like it—but they would just accept it, and shrug their shoulders, and say, “That’s just the way it is. It’s not really right, but okay, these things happen.” A few people would be liberators and abolitionists.

Now, we look back on the Christians, who either participated in or did not speak up against the slave trade; and we grieve over them. We feel, rightly, they lost their historic opportunity. Now, it’s our turn.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: Yes.

Ray: And where are we going to take our stand? Are we going to be involved in the slave trade? Are we just going to passively accept it, and just look on from a distance; or are we going to stand up and say, “Friends, this is just inhumane! We’ve got to do all we can. Let’s go set as many people free as we possibly can”? It starts at the front-end with consumers.

Ann: I love what you said when you were talking to men. You said: “Once you’ve settled in your mind that you do have a future worth getting excited about, then you can help form a rebel movement—defiant, young men, who will someday dance on porn’s grave—multitudes of men no longer groveling but standing tall and loving life again; and all of it, thanks to God.” That is a great dream.

Ray: I’ll give my life to that.

Dave: How does it happen?

Ray: Well, I’ll tell you how it doesn’t happen, in my opinion. It doesn’t happen by flexing our political muscles and a big march on Washington. The phrase, commonly, is that: “Politics is downstream of culture, and culture is downstream of renewal in the church.” We are the salt of the earth; we are the light of the world. If there isn’t enough light, well, let’s look at ourselves first.

I think it starts in a counterintuitive, surprising way. It starts with us Christian men owning up—not pointing the finger at the bad people creating the porn—but turning around, and looking in the mirror, and looking at ourselves, and admitting our own complicity in this; and going to one another, and locking arms together to live in honesty, to live in transparency, to live in integrity, and give the rest of our lives to multiplying that safe place of integrity and confession, and to see that go viral. I have seen this at our church. I have seen a spirit of honest, gentle, non-shaming, non-pressuring honesty spread over a whole church. The truth of it: it feels like heaven on earth.

Ann: That’s why you have 20- and 30-year-olds coming; because they are thinking, “This is a place where I can be honest and real, and I have hope,”—even what you talk about, in the beginning, telling men that they are royalty.

Ray: Yes.


Ann: I don’t think men believe that.

Ray: No; this world has no idea who these great guys really are. This world, every day, treats these magnificent young men as if they are part of some market niche or part of a voting bloc. In other words, it tells them, “You are a unit in some kind of social collectivity useful for somebody else’s selfish grandiosity.” Now, the world beats that into all of us, and into these young men and young women every day.

Well, we’re not taking that anymore. We open up the Bible, and we read on the first page of the Bible—in Genesis, Chapter 1, for crying out loud—that God created us in His image. The King of the universe has put us here in this world to represent His kingdom; He made us royalty. Now, we have added on layers of complication through our own sinfulness; right?

But I love to look right in the face of a young guy—25, 30, 35 years old—and say, “Now, look, God created you that you are. That foundational baseline God created you that you are cannot not be. That you is not a problem; that you is a strategy. You—with your individuality, your gift mix, your potential—God created you as a living, breathing human strategy to bring His kingdom of royalty, and dignity, and healing, and hope into a world gone mad. That’s who you actually are.”

When, by grace, we actually give ourselves permission to believe that—even just a little bit—we get some steel in our spine; we can live again.

Dave: I’ve never read a book about porn and the struggle with porn that took the pathway you took—starting with—because even when I read your first chapter title, I saw: “You Are Royalty,” I’m like, “What is this?! I think I know where he is going”; but I’m like, “Really?! That’s where you are going to start?” Then, as I read the chapter, I’m like, “Oh my goodness! You have to start here.”

But what happens to a man when he understands he’s royalty, especially in his struggle with porn? And this happens to a woman as well.

Ray: Absolutely; well, we all know behavior modification just doesn’t work; it doesn’t change anything. Real change doesn’t happen from the outside in; it happens from the inside out.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Yes.

Ray: What’s most important about us in this world is not what we own but what we believe. So we need to go back to page one of the Bible and dare to believe, again, in who we really are. Who God says we are is who we really are; [not] these false narratives that the world gives us, that we create for ourselves; including the narrative that says, “I’m so damaged,” “I’m beyond repair,” “I’m beyond redemption.”

Ann: “I’m hopeless.”

Ray: Yes; so what we want to do is rise up, and let’s give ourselves the permission to be indignant at that self-destroying lie. Let’s give the devil a bad day; [Laughter] and dare to believe what God says about us when He says that: He cherishes us; He created us for greatness; He gave His very Son, because we matter that much to Him. Let’s just dare to believe it and see what God will do with that.

We’ve got to believe the gospel;  secondly, come together. Instead of flexing our muscles, and shouting at the world—telling them how wrong they are and how they are ruining everything—instead, we say, “No, here is how I’m not doing well. I’m amazed that God loves me at all. It’s a miracle that here I am. Why don’t you come join the miracle/the miracle of grace?”

Dave: And one of the most powerful things—and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this—is when we understand we are royalty. But when a community of men—or a community of women or men and women—together understand our identity in Christ, what happens?

Ray: You know, who helped me on that is Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, Life Together; he explains it there so clearly. I’ve never seen it so clearly that, when sin wants to have a man alone in isolation/hiding, because then sin has got him. But when that man dares to believe that God is saying to him: “Look, you don’t have to come, clean yourself up first—I don’t want the prettified version of you—I want you, the desperate sinner that you are. Now, come to Me as you are in all your mess.” The truth of it is I think God is saying, “Actually, you are worse than you think. [Laughter]

Dave: Yes.

Ray: “And I’m better than you think; so why don’t we get together?” [Laughter]

Ann: That’s good; it’s interesting too—I’ve had the opportunity, sometimes—it’s one of my favorite things to speak to high schoolers and people into their 20s. I recently had a chance to be with them; and then afterwards, just praying for them. As I’ve gotten older—and maybe/and I see this in you too, Ray—is I see the greatness in these kids.

Ray: Yes.

Ann: So as I’ve gotten older, I want to tell them, like, “I see this greatness in you.” I’ve gotten into this habit of whatever I see—when I see the good—I’m going to speak that into them.


As I do it—like, I can say: “Man, I see that you are so courageous,” “I can see that you are bold,” and “I see the tenacity of your faith,”—these people are crying. Tears are just streaming down their face, which I am surprised; and yet, I think, “Oh! We hear so many lies all day long from the culture, from the world, from the enemy, from our past pain—that we are reeling in the lies of Satan—I believe he uses all of that to continually condemn us. So when another follower of Christ says, ‘I see who God has made you to be; I see the greatness in you,’ they weep; because they forgot.”

I love that about you; I love that about what you write; and I love what you see in people. You see the magnificence/the image-bearers that we are.

Dave: I love that that is how you start a book on porn. [Laughter] Seriously, it was like, “Wow! That is where it needs to start, reminding us who we are.” Because if we’re going to live out of our identity—what we believe/what you said—is so important, because it dictates how we behave.

Ray: Amen.

Dave: If we don’t believe that, we’re going to behave like we’re sinners rather than we are image-bearers that carry the image of God in us.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: “We are royalty”; that’s a beautiful statement of truth.

Bob: Anyone who has tried to do battle with lustful feelings that have led to pornography and has found themselves experiencing the shame and the guilt that comes with looking at porn realizes that shame and guilt are not sufficient motivators for us to be loosed from the bondage of lust. We need, as Ray Ortlund has said here, a higher calling. We need to be pointed to the nobility that is ours in Christ and to live out of that identity.

Ray writes about this in his book, The Death of Porn. It’s a book we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to get your copy, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. This, by the way, is a great book for fathers and sons to go through together or for a men’s group at church to work through together. Again, it is called The Death of Porn by Ray Ortlund. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order your copy; 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.”

You know, there is a reason that we tackle these kinds of challenging issues here, at FamilyLife Today; it’s because our commitment is to effectively develop godly marriages and families. We believe godly marriages and families can change the world one home at a time. It’s by taking these kinds of issues, head on, that we are able to help build strength and stability into marriages and help defeat some of the spiritual strongholds that are keeping husbands and wives from experiencing the oneness that is God’s design for marriage.

All that we do here, at FamilyLife, is made possible by listeners, just like you, who have gone from being listeners only to being men and women, who say, “This mission/this ministry matters, not just for me and my family, but for others in our community/for others around the world.” Those of you who step forward and support this ministry, either with a one-time gift or by becoming a monthly ministry partner, you make all that we do here, at FamilyLife, possible. We are grateful for your ongoing support.

If you can help with a donation today, we’d love to send you, as a thank-you gift, a copy of a book we talked about earlier this week, Sean McDowell’s book, Chasing Love, that helps us think through the cultural confusion around issues related to sexuality and gender in our culture. Again, Sean’s book is our gift to you when you make a donation today. You could do that easily online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. We look forward to hearing from you, and we are grateful for your partnership with us in this ministry.

Now, tomorrow, Ray Ortlund is going to tackle what is at the root of a lot of the bondage to pornography that men are experiencing—and women as well—it’s the issue of despair, a loss of hope. We’ll hear more about that tomorrow; hope you can join us.

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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Addicted to Porn? This Way Out
with Ray Ortlund February 11, 2022
Addiction to porn can feel -- hopeless. But author Ray Ortlund reminds us God meets us in our moments of deepest shame to offer freedom for a lifetime.
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