By / Jan 29

In every age and culture there are certain habits of sinful behavior that are particularly common and overwhelmingly destructive. In modern Western cultures one of the most soul-destroying habits is consumption of pornography, which leads us to commit adultery in our hearts. (Matthew 5:28).   

For this reason we should give special scrutiny to how habits of porn consumption develop and how they can, by the power of the gospel, be overcome. The entry on Job 31:1 discusses how to sever the shackles of porn. In this entry we’ll examine how pornography hijacks the male brain and distorts men’s affections. (Women can become addicted to pornography too, of course. The reason for the focus on the men is simply because more research has been done on the unique connection between the male brain and pornography.)

Too often we fail to adequately consider how our physical body (including our brain chemistry) affects our soul. But as William M. Struthers, associate professor of psychology at Wheaton College, explains,

Because the human brain is the biological anchor of our psychological experience, it is helpful to understand how it operates. Knowing how it is wired together and where it is sensitive can help us understand why pornography affects people the way it does.

Here are four reasons porn use becomes a destructive habit:

Porn rewires the brain — Sexually explicit material triggers mirror neurons in the male brain. These neurons, which are involved with the process for how to mimic a behavior, contain a motor system that correlates to the planning out of a behavior.  In the case of pornography, this mirror neuron system triggers the arousal, which leads to sexual tension and a need for an outlet. Seeking a release through porn leads to hormonal and neurological consequences, which are designed to bind a man to the object he is focusing on. “In God's plan, this would be his wife, but for many men it is an image on a screen,” says Struthers. “Pornography thus enslaves the viewer to an image, hijacking the biological response intended to bond a man to his wife and therefore inevitably loosening that bond.”

Dopamine causes arousal addiction — In men, there are five primary chemicals involved in sexual arousal and response. The one that likely plays the most significant role in pornography addiction is dopamine. Dopamine plays a major role in the brain system that is responsible for reward-driven learning. Every type of reward that has been studied increases the level of dopamine transmission in the brain, and a variety of addictive drugs, including stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamine, and methamphetamine, act directly on the dopamine system. Dopamine surges when a person is exposed to novel stimuli, particularly if it is sexual, or when a stimuli is more arousing than anticipated. Because erotic imagery triggers more dopamine than sex with a familiar partner, exposure to pornography leads to “arousal addiction” and teaches the brain to prefer the image and become less satisfied with real-life sexual partners. This neurological mechanism is one of the primary reasons for the abundance and addictiveness of Internet pornography.

Overstimulation creates desensitization — Overstimulation of the reward circuitry—such as occurs with repeated dopamine spikes related to viewing pornography—creates desensitization. As Gary Wilson explains, “When dopamine receptors drop after too much stimulation, the brain doesn't respond as much, and we feel less reward from pleasure. That drives us to search even harder for feelings of satisfaction—for example, by seeking out more extreme sexual stimuli, longer porn sessions, or more frequent porn viewing—thus further numbing the brain.”

What makes Internet porn unique — Wilson identifies a number of reasons, including: (1) Internet porn offers extreme novelty; (2) Unlike food and drugs, there are almost no physical limitations to its consumption; (3) One can escalate both with more novel “partners” and by viewing new and unusual genres; (4) Unlike drugs and food, Internet porn doesn't eventually activate the brain's natural aversion system; and (5) The age users start watching porn. A teen's brain is at its peak of dopamine production and neuroplasticity, making it highly vulnerable to addiction and rewiring.


Understanding how pornography affects men’s brains can helps us prepare solutions for breaking this soul-destroying habit. Next we’ll look at six steps that can help sever the shackles of pornography.

By / Sep 5

It happened again. While engaged in a great conversation about life and ministry, one of my peers asked, “So, why are you single?”  

I suppose that question is a compliment. It seems that what the asker is really saying is, “Based on what I’ve seen and heard from you, I believe you’d make a good spouse, so what’s the hold up?” And it seems the further we progress through our twenties, thirties and beyond, the more curious people become about what’s “holding us up” from getting married.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe that he is in complete control of my life. I believe he orders my steps and brings things to pass in my life in his perfect timing. (I do have to remind myself of these truths on occasion, though.) Thus, as I tried to conjure up a grand answer to why I’m single, I reached this simple reality: I’m single because God has not led me to marry anyone yet.

I know, I know, that sounds so spiritual. But as Christians, life works best for us when we allow God to take the lead, especially regarding marriage. In fact, after the decision to accept Christ as our Savior, I believe the marriage decision is the most important one. Trust me, my friend, it would behoove us to let God lead us into our marriages, not those other leaders. What other leaders? I’m so glad you asked!

The ticking-clock leader

I know that some people think they should be married by a certain age. I never thought I was one of those people, though, until two weeks before my 25th birthday. I took a mental inventory of all the single guys who had expressed an interest in me, and I realized something: I wasn’t willing to marry any of them. So, not only would I not be married by age 25, I wouldn’t even know anyone I would marry. I felt the panic rising within me, right up until God reminded me that our numerical ages mean very little to him.

The Bible tells us that our measure of time is not the same as God’s measure (2 Pet. 3:8). We are constricted by time and space, but he is not. He sees the end from the beginning and can easily move in, out and beyond our time. Therefore, if he has spouses for us, he will bring them at his appointed time. Yes, we can rush ahead of God and get married on our time, but we will also face the consequences. For instance, I could rush and get married at 25, but then I could also be perpetually miserable and possibly divorced by 28. My encouragement to you and myself is this: Let’s allow God to be our leader, not our perception of time.

The loneliness leader

Some people let loneliness lead them into relationships and marriage. But marriage is not a cure for loneliness. There are a number of married, lonely people. If we allow loneliness to be the impetus for entering a relationship, how will we know that we truly desire to be with that person? We won’t. I’m sure we all experience lonely moments, and I’m sure many of us desire companionship. It’s okay to acknowledge those feelings, but it’s not okay to follow them.

Although easier said than done, we singles must learn to practice the presence of God and allow him to satisfy our hearts. His Word promises that he will always be with us and that he is enough for us to be content (Heb. 13:5). Also, even if we do marry the people God ordained for us to be with, they will not be able to satisfy all our needs all the time. After all, they will be flawed, limited people, just like us.  So finding satisfaction in God alone will not only benefit our singleness, but it will also benefit our marriages (if marriage is in God’s will for our lives).

The lust leader

Most of us have sexual desires, and those desires aren’t inherently sinful. Sexual lust, on the other hand, is a problem. The Apostle Paul actually does advise singles that it’s better to marry than burn with lust (1 Cor. 7:9). However, if you read that entire Scripture, you’ll quickly discern that Paul did not think that was the best option. As usual, I agree with Paul for many reasons, but I’ll briefly share two.

First, marriage will not cure an overall issue with lust. If we frequently lust after people while we’re single, we’ll continue to lust after others when we’re married. That’s a heart issue, not a marital status issue. I strongly encourage that sexual strongholds—lust, porn addictions, etc.—get rectified during one’s singleness.  

Second, sex alone is a terrible reason to get married. Two of my dear friends recently got married, and they both told me they’re glad they didn’t expect sex to be like it’s portrayed in the movies. (Just so you know, it’s not like the movies.) Yet, sex within a marriage is beautiful, because that’s the context for which God designed it. But sex should not be what leads us into a marriage. God should lead.

God can handle your love life

If you and I are Christians, that means we believe God can handle our eternal souls. If we believe his Word, that means we believe he can handle creating the universe, parting seas, slaying giants, healing the blind and resurrecting the dead. If we believe he can handle all that, does it really make sense to believe he can’t handle our love lives? I don’t think so. So, in this dance of love and marriage, let’s allow God to take the lead, and let’s kiss those other leaders goodbye.