“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am Holy”(Lev. 19:2).
One of the dark sides of this current lockdown in our country is the number of people accessing pornographic sites. India has seen a huge jump in internet usage during this lockdown. According to News 181, Times of India2, Zee News3 and The Week Magazine4, the usage of Pornography has increased by up to 95%, a statistic which cannot be taken lightly. Thanks to cheap smartphones and affordable internet data, pornography is accessed by men and women, by young and middle-aged people, by rich and poor people, and sadly by church members and church pastors.
While technology plays a role in this sin, the issue is undoubtedly deeper—in the heart. And the Word of God deals with sexual sin especially seriously. We are commanded to “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18), and are told that the consequences of living in such sin are dangerous. For example, a person in sexual immorality will destroy himself (Prov. 6:32); will be judged by God (Mal. 3:5; Heb. 13:4); will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Eph. 5:5); becomes an enemy of God (James 4:4); will suffer the eternal fire (Jude 1:7; Rev. 2:22); and will face second death (Rev. 21:18).
So, how can a pastor keep himself pure? Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” This is a wonderful thing! God in His Word has given us ways to keep ourselves pure. As we reflect on ways to keep ourselves from this sin, here are a few things which we always talk about in our church and with young men:
An Intimate Relationship with God: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5). The starting point for our fight against all sin has to be found in our relationship with God. It is when our hearts are captivated by God, that sin’s grasp on us will be loose. In the words of Thomas Chalmers, “The love of God and the love of the world are two affections, not merely in a state of rivalship, but in a state of enmity—and that so irreconcilable, that they cannot dwell together in the same bosom.”5 So, let us invest our time in growing in our knowledge of God and loving God with our hearts. Let us be disciplined in reading and meditating on God’s Word. And let all our efforts flow from our love for God and our desire to please him.
Prayer: “…we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy” (Dan. 9:18). Prayer is where we open our heart and keep it in front of God. In prayer, we can talk to God and seek to depend on His will. Jesus himself prayed when he was tempted, and taught his disciples “watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Mk. 14:38). So, let us plead with God in prayer to lead us not into temptation (Matt. 6:13). And when we are tempted, let us pray and confess our weakness so that our conscience remains sensitive and clear before God. Instead of taking prayer lightly, let us pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). Let us depend on God’s help to save us from sin.
Accountability: “For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! (Ecc. 4:10). Accountability with fellow pastors and Christians is a helpful way to keep us away from such sins. As a pastor, you should open your life with your fellow elders and also with others. Talk honestly about your struggles and allow them to ask you hard questions about your heart, family and devotional life. Let your brothers help you to grow more in godliness and holiness. Something which I have learnt from my pastor is that he always tries not to travel alone. Whether you are going for a house visit, a short trip, or for preaching to another city, it is a good idea to take someone along with you. This will help you to be accountable, and you will also be able to disciple them. Let us be accountable to others and open our hearts so that others can help us.
Self-Discipline and Time Management: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16). Although we cannot fight sin without the help of the Holy Spirit, self-discipline is very important in a pastor’s life. We cannot be lazy and passive and expect to remain pure. What we fill our minds and time with matters. Make a schedule for yourself and try to stick to it. Try not to spend time alone on the phone, computer, TV or internet late into the night, but sleep early so that you can get up early in the morning the next day to spend time reading and praying. Let us rely on God, and let us make every effort to stay pure and to invest our time for God’s glory.
A Close Relationship with your Wife: If you are married, God has given you a companion you can be open with about your personal life, and someone with whom you can be intimate. So, take the time and effort to work on growing your relationship with your wife. Lead her by example in confessing sin and talking about struggles. Ask your wife to help keep you accountable in your efforts to discipline yourself at home, and ask her to pray for you. And be transparent with your wife by sharing passwords of your phone, laptop, social media accounts, WhatsApp, etc. Let us endeavour to cling to our wives and not be secretive with them.
If we as pastors would like to help our churches and our country to resist pornography, it is vital that we stay pure. Let us make every effort to “strive for holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). And in all our efforts, let us “Keep [our] heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23). May God keep our hearts pure and help us to flee from sexual sins. May this be true in our lives, and may our churches grow in holiness and purity.
Note: If you are a pastor who is in the habit of regularly visiting pornographic websites, you need to talk to trusted friends and seek help now. Sadly, you may need to step away from ministry, but that is a small price to pay compared with the harm you will do to your own soul and the souls of your church if you continue on the same path. Brother, for the sake of your soul, repent, and find forgiveness.
5‘The Expulsive Power of a New Affection,’ Thomas Chalmers.