We are focusing on the word “worship” this month and I planned a sweet little post centered around my favorite Christmas hymn, “O Holy Night.” It was going to be great. You would have loved it.
But, as I started writing, my spirit was bothered. I wasn’t bothered because of what I was writing, but rather, what I wasn’t writing. You see, things don’t feel very holy right now in our culture. God is on His throne, absolutely, but there is a sense of darkness all around. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels it. And I don’t want to ignore it.
So yes, we are still going to focus on the word “worship,” but we are going to take a look at another side of worship – what happens when we worship our own desires.
Long Lay the World in Sin and Error Pining
Just last week – and these are only from last week – I read stories about how rape porn is making 6th grade a toxic environment; about a woman who is suing several hotel chains claiming their employees knew she was being sex-trafficked as a young child and even escorted her to waiting Johns; about how video games and online chats are “hunting grounds” for sexual predators; about eight men who were arrested when they thought they were showing up to have sex with children; about a sting operation that poses as underage girls on Instagram and how grown men – who believe they are dealing with young girls – blatantly groom them for sex; and the story about a pastor who was arrested on child porn charges.
Again, that was just last week, and I didn’t search for any of these articles. They were a part of the news cycle that appeared among the headlines. Read them all… if you have the stomach for it.
These news outlets – all secular – believe they are just reporting the news. But they are doing more than that, they are revealing the truth of Romans 1. While they likely have no intention of proving scripture to their readers, it couldn’t be any more blatant.
There is a thrice repeated phrase that haunts Romans 1 which says, “God gave them over…” (Romans 1:24, 26, 28) that comes after a list of sins by a people who knew God but did not glorify Him. Instead, they chose to worship their lusts, they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, they looked for ever-increasing sexual experiences. They ran after other gods, and God finally gave them over to what they wanted. He no longer restrained them or the consequences of their desires.
These dreadful words, “He gave them over…” increase in intensity as they usher in doom and show how awful is the fate of those who give up God to worship any lesser thing. He handed them over to what they wanted. There is not a ray of light among these verses – all is dark and somber, each verse more dreadful than the next.
A truth about God is He doesn’t force anyone to worship Him. However, Romans 1 is a warning for those who decide to want what they want. A ubiquitous (and ever-increasing) desire of our culture is sex without restrictions, with multiple partners, as often as possible. Porn feeds and accelerates this desire.
Never has porn been so easily accessible by anyone of any age old enough to tap out a few key word searches. A not-so-hidden secret is that porn typically doesn’t stay in its “nice, neat” corner of a sin life (as if there is any such thing). It reaches farther and faster than anyone just looking for a thrill could imagine. I’m betting none of the people profiled in the above articles ever dreamed porn would take them that far. And stats confirm that we are living in a porn-soaked society:
• In 2019 (so far) there have been 42 billion visits to Pornhub, one of the largest porn sites – up 8.5 billion visits from last year.
• Pornhub released 1.36 million hours of new content in 2019. That means you would have had to start watching this content in 1850 (before the Civil War!) to catch up to 2019. If you watched all of 2019’s content, you wouldn’t finish until the year 2188.
• Porn sites receive more regular traffic than Netflix, Amazon, & Twitter combined each month.
• Recorded child sexual exploitation (known as “child porn”) is one of the fastest-growing online businesses.
• Porn is an estimated $97 billion global industry, with about $12 billion of that coming from the U.S.
• Exposure to porn has been found, along with poverty, drug abuse, and homelessness, to be one of the most consistent risk factors associated with human trafficking. And after victims are ensnared, porn is often used to desensitize them to the acts in which they will be forced to engage. Quite literally, porn feeds human trafficking and human trafficking feeds porn.
In turning away from God as a society, we may get want we want, but we may not want what we get. According to Romans 1, as they persisted in their own desires, God didn’t try to stop them from their meteoric decent into the abyss. God respects – because He gave us – free will. Again, He doesn’t force us to follow Him, and He lets us see what life without Him looks like – and it looks like the stories grabbing headlines above.
It’s worth adding, God is not anti-sex – He created it! But He did not intend for our sexuality to be consummated synthetically or commodified for the masses. He created sex to be enjoyed between one man and one woman within marriage.
A Thrill of Hope, the Weary World Rejoices
Thankfully, Romans 1 is not the end of the story. While the stats show millions of people ensnared in porn, there is freedom. The same Paul who wrote Romans 1, wrote just two chapters later, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through redemption in Christ Jesus.” There is forgiveness, there is redemption and there is restoration in Jesus.
While porn used to be a dirty little secret that employed shame and isolation to further devour its prey, more churches are talking about porn addiction and offering accountability and recovery programs. It may be one of the hardest addictions to break but there are more resources available than ever to help those who are ready to lay their addiction at the feet of Jesus.
In addition, there is more awareness than ever about human-trafficking. There are more rescue and recovery programs for its victims. For those who have literally had their value haggled and exploited, He appears, and souls feel their worth.
Even when headlines reflect our counterfeit worship, He is still the Good News and in the business of writing holy stories.
Fall on your Knees
Dear Lord, thank You for not forsaking us completely and leaving time for repentance. Thank You that the technology that brings porn so abundantly also brings Your Word in more languages, apps, and teaching applications than ever before. I pray for changed hearts and revival in our land. Heal the hearts given over to porn and the victims left in their wake. Lord, let us stop trading You for sin and calling it the good life. You promise life to the full; I bow at Your feet to receive it. Amen.
For resources and to learn more about porn’s impact on our culture, check out Fight the New Drug.