How does belief in God, or faith, factor into the struggle for purity? Every believer I’ve ever talked to will tell you that lust powerfully affects their relationship with God. And they know that if their faith in God were adequately high, compromise in this area wouldn’t even cross their mind. So how can we better understand the relationship between unbelief and pornography?
I’ve transcribed a clip in which John Piper addresses this exact question. Pastor John defines unbelief as a failure to be satisfied in Jesus, which has a huge impact on whether someone embraces pornography. Spiritual success, he argues, is about conquering the power of the promises of sin with the power of a superior promise. Check out Pastor John’s full animated response.
God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.John Piper
How does unbelief contribute to the need I feel for pornography?
Well, let me see if we can distinguish feeling the need for pornography and unbelief. Feeling need for sexual titillation is like getting hungry when you haven’t had anything to eat for a day. It’s as natural as the day is long. Sex–we’re just wired–men and women. Women differently, but not without it. [Sex] is a desire that rises up in the body and is there. There it is. And it wasn’t believing and unbelieving and made that desire happen. That was hormones that made that happen. So the first answer to the question how does unbelief relate to my sense of need is that it doesn’t have anything to do with “I want. I feel. I desire.” Those desire are there like I”m hungry for a steak. Or “I’m tired, and I need to go to sleep.”
Now the question is what do you do with it? Now there unbelief has everything–as to whether you need pornography. I said titillation or some kind of [feeling]–I want sexual feelings. I want to satisfy this desire. That’s natural. But now whether you go toward pornography to do that is the issue of sin because pornography is an abuse of women, first of all. And secondly, it’s the illegitimate, I think, stoking of a legitimate desire, and God has other ways for that to be satisfied.
So, unbelief relates like this. Unbelief, in my understanding of faith, is that you don’t just believe that Jesus is the son of God, died for your sins, rose again, reigns in heaven, and is coming again. Forgives my sin–that’s factual. It’s also a being satisfied with that. Treasuring that. Faith is not just an intellectual assent to doctrines. Faith is an effectual embrace of the savior for my deepest longings.
Unbelief is a failure to be satisfied in Jesus. It’s a failure to go to him as the living water, and go to him as the bread from heaven, and go to him as the light of the world, and to go to him for a satisfaction that’s deep enough and strong enough so that when I’m tempted to go in a sinful direction to satisfy an appetite. Say an appetite for companionship, or an appetite for food, or an appetite for sex. Any of these appetites–if I want to go in a sinful direction. The satisfaction of Jesus–that is belief is Jesus. Embracing Jesus. Loving Jesus. Being content in Jesus–is going to be the power that severs the root of that impulse.
I believe with all my heart that the main way that we’re sanctified in life is that we conquer the power of the promises of sin with the power of a superior promise. Jesus saying, “I’ll be with you. I’ll love you. I’ll take care of you. I’ll reward you. You will know a fellowship with me if you conquer this that you wouldn’t have known otherwise.” And who of us has not tasted that, right? We’ve either yielded and gone into some sexual thing that has made us feel yucky and dirty and we have to repent and hope we won’t do it again.
Or we’ve conquered. We’ve walked into some path of light and life and holiness and purity. And everything in us is saying “Yes. Oh that I could do that every single time because it is so much richer and fuller and deeper than the other way.”
If you take unbelief as simply denying facts, but not as embracing Christ as profoundly satisfying to your soul, then it wouldn’t make sense. But if belief includes an effectual embrace of Christ as your deepest satisfaction, then it’s going to have a huge effect on whether you embrace pornography.