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Four Letter Word ::

JENS NORVED looks at the four letter word that both allures and strikes fear into Christian web surfers
Source: Perspective Vo10 No3&4 © Perspective 2003

What is a four-letter word which both allures, and strikes fear and shame in the hearts of Christian webbers? JENS NORVED takes a look

Have you ever wondered which four-letter word both allures, and strikes fear and shame in the hearts of Christian webbers? Porn is that word, for those of you not in the know. There – I’ve said it. And I’d rather not repeat it, because many will simply not be able to listen to the argument of this article if I do. The reason is that the word has become so loaded, so linked with images, feelings and hatred that it has itself become offensive to use in polite company. This is not new, nor indeed, is it wrong. For Paul (writing in the context of sexual sin1) states that some forms of sexual immorality and greed are not even to be ‘named’ among believers (Eph 5:3), for it is ‘shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret’ (Eph 5:12). Yet, as with ‘sexual immorality’ in Ephesians 5, it is a topic we need address because of its current proliferation both without and within the church of God.

More than ever before we are being bombarded with sexual imagery – through billboards, television, and magazines. But the problem with sin for most of us (ashamedly) is ‘getting caught’ – the problem with the web is that the medium not only naturally lends itself well to this one type of sin in particular, it also offers the illusion of anonymity2.
Where a church pastor 10 years ago would not have possibly dared risk discovery in search for immoral material by attending the “adult shop” in his local community, the same is now easily available without leaving his office desk, and with it, the promise of anonymity. Indeed so infiltrating is the phenomena today, that such material is actively and regularly thrust before us by its proponents – even when not invited. Today, such immoral and insidious ‘spam’ mail regularly finds its way before the members of Christ’s flock, alluring its recipients astray with persuasive words and smooth talk (like the prostitute of Proverbs 7:21). And indeed Solomon’s warning speaks still today to God’s people (Prov 6:25-27):

Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes, for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very soul.

At the heart of sexual immorality is self-centredness: the desire to rule your own world, and to ignore God. Indeed, sin is nothing other than doing what God forbids or failing to do what he commands. The problem with sexual immorality is that it often leads to a pattern or cycle of behaviour which reinforces our dependence upon more and more sexual immorality. The cycle (below) usually works like this. Pain is overcome by sexual immorality (in this case electronic images). But watching these leads to feelings of guilt and shame, which necessitate lies to remain covered. Lies increase our isolation, which in turn creates pain, which is invariably overcome by the short term solution of more sexual immorality.

The dominating force here becomes ‘the secret’, for which we will do anything to avoid being discovered – resulting in a negative spiral of anti-relational choices as we build walls of deception against discovery. Where God made sex to be the expression and fulfilment of man and woman’s greatest earthly relationship (Gen 2:24-25), such voyeuristic sexual immorality ultimately destroys our relationships. Indeed, the illicit temptations of the web are nothing short of the Devil’s work calling us to reject God, to devalue the dignity of human life and sexuality, and to submit ourselves to his cruel and self-destructive slavery. In the words of wisdom, he who follows the temptress ‘lacks judgement’ and so ‘destroys himself’ (Proverbs 6:32).

So who can break the cycle?

The great news of the gospel is that God is in the business of breaking cycles of sin. Where sexual immorality traps its consumers in a cycle of dependency on something other than God – which in the end is idolatry – true freedom is found in turning to God in repentance and dependence for forgiveness and the power to change. Only God offers true escape for those ensnared in web sin. Only He offers forgiveness for those who have fallen, and by his Spirit the power to say no to sin, and yes to godliness. Any solution which offers to break the cycle of sin, but which neglects this first step, deals insufficiently with the true problem: of our broken relationship with God.

In other words, the key to change is grace. It is not only that by grace (as we know) that we have been saved, not by works so that none can boast (Eph 2:8-10). But grace also acts as our motivation to change. We have been made new in Christ, so lets not turn back to the ways of darkness. In the words of Paul, ‘it is for freedom that Christ has set us free, so stand firm, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. For what really matters is faith expressed through love’ (Gal 5:1,6).

But more is needed than simply a revitalised determination to avoid sin. As we said, ‘the secret’ becomes the dominating force, and this is only broken by the light of truth: letting the secret out. That is, when we no longer allow ourselves to reinforce our isolation through lies and cover-up, we start the painful process of allowing others to know the truth about our failures, and about God’s work in our lives. For some this entails requesting forgiveness, for others building accountability and support in prayer, and while the risk is that it may result in our being rejected, we believe this is an integral part of breaking the cycle of such insidious sin.

Furthermore, practical steps must to be prepared and taken to avoid those areas where we find ourselves prone to temptation. Seriousness is called for here – remember, the call is not for Christians to give sin a ‘cut and comb’, but to pull sin out by the roots. The words of Paul are that we are to have nothing to do with the deeds of darkness, but rather expose them for what they are (Eph 5:11). The call is to flee from sexual immorality, and to honour God with our bodies (1 Cor 6:18-20). Again, to use every effort to strive for holiness (Heb 12:14), to actively avoid sexual immorality, thereby to learn bodily self control (1 Thes 4:3-4). Changing is not easy and it involves costly decisions made right now. Perhaps it will mean severing your server connection, disconnecting your modem, adding filter software, giving your spouse the net-password, building a trustworthy accountability group, or changing email service.

Finally, as Christians know, the battle with sin is ever-present. As the saying goes: the moment you think you’ve licked a particular sin, the devil just dishes it up again with a different flavoured sauce! And as for web-sins, new sauces are seemingly dished up at every click of the mouse. But the battle is worth fighting – for while we live in the fallen world now, we await the perfect world to come. We have written this so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence – Jesus Christ, the Righteous one.

Jens Norved is a pastor at Unichurch, Brisbane, and editor of gracenotworks(
1. The Greek word translated ‘sexual immorality’ in the NIV, (porneia, from which the English word pornography and its colloquialism porn derives), denotes any kind of illegitimate sexual intercourse, especially adultery and sexual relations with prostitutes. Likewise, the term ‘impurity’, which can signify unrestricted sexual behaviour, is a work of the flesh (Gal 5:19) and opposed to life in the Spirit._

2. The reality though is quite different. It is not just United States military software which tracks countless telecommunications including Internet and web users, but one’s own computer records any events on its own hard disk as well as leaving a (theoretically) traceable code indentation in other computers. Not to discard the fact that the all perceiving eyes of our God knows our each and every action, with nothing hidden from him._

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