NORTH MOBILE, Ala. (BP) — “We are men with a battle plan. We are men of God.”
Those words — a declaration of war against the scourge of pornography — were voiced by hundreds of men gathered in a church auditorium and joined by hundreds of others across the nation via webcast.
“Battle Plan: Freedom From Porn” was co-hosted by Ed Litton, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in North Mobile, Ala., and Neal Ledbetter, director of campus life at the University of Mobile. More than 500 men from a half-dozen local churches attended, while the webcast was viewed by an unknown number of other men as far away as London.
Battle Plan, now posted at www.northmobile.tv, detailed the catastrophic effects of pornography on men’s lives, their wives, their families and churches while relaying a five-point plan of victory through Jesus.
“What really drove us to do this is — the Gospel is being stalled because men are getting stuck in lust and stuck in greed and we’re not taking the Gospel to where it needs to be taken,” Litton said. “A huge motivation for us was to try to help our men get a handle on this.
“It is every man’s problem and struggle — all of us need to go to the cross,” Litton said. “But we have to be set free by the Gospel first.”
Ledbetter, in opening the session Sept. 19, candidly admitted, “I have come from the battle line — I have actually come from behind enemy lines where I was a hostage to pornography.
“You are not the only one. You are not alone in this fight,” Ledbetter said. “I have to say, from the beginning, ‘me too.'”
The issue of lust for men is nothing new, Ledbetter said, and even Augustine, in 390 A.D., admitted he battled it.
“We will fight together — with power beyond this world — the power of Jesus Christ,” Ledbetter promised. “He is your only hope of breaking those chains.”
Ledbetter recounted statistics that shocked no one about the number of sexual references annually shown on American television; the multi-billion-dollar porn industry that grosses more than all professional American sports combined; and the growing percentage of youth and men who have seen online pornography and the number who look at it weekly or monthly or are addicted to it.
Sex in a marriage — a relationship centered on love — was a gift given by God in the Garden of Eden, Ledbetter said, but “porn is a reversal of that. Porn turns us into consumers — not lovers.”
But participating in porn is only a skirmish in a larger battle for men’s hearts, Ledbetter explained, and to win that battle men must remove “self” as king of their lives, repent of their sins and submit to Jesus who transforms the heart.
Litton described the pervasive plague of pornography as one of the greatest moral challenges faced by the Christian church in the post-modern age.
He related the familiar parable of the Prodigal Son but cast it from the father’s perspective, which he said is what Jesus’ parable is really about.
One brother was immoral, who confessed his sins, Litton said, and the other brother was moral in the worst sense of the word — he was a Pharisee who confessed his brother’s sins. But the father — who is God — pursues both boys, Litton said. “He gives grace to both.”
“You can be the younger brother who dove headlong into the cesspool or you can be the older brother who never misses a Sunday at church, who always does what’s right, but has a pornographic mind,” Litton said. “This is not a gathering for men who are struggling with porn — this is a gathering for men.
“God wired us for beauty and the enemy knows that — he wants to destroy our lives … and gets us so wrapped up in something that is so shameful to us that we can’t even teach a Sunday School class for kids because we feel disqualified,” Litton said.
Litton encouraged the men to take the advice of the apostle Paul when he declared, “forgetting the former things I press on.”
“We have to make up our minds and not look back,” Litton said.
In relaying a “Battle Plan: Freedom From Porn” to attendees, Ledbetter and Little drew from a book by Tim Chester titled “Closing the Window”:
* Abhorrence of porn — Men need a holy hatred of porn itself — beyond the shame it brings and the destruction it causes to relationships. Men must yearn for a change of attitude toward porn, Ledbetter said. “You’re going to have to pray and ask God to do this — ‘God, help me to hate what You hate.'”
* Adoration of God — Psalm 51, in which King David confessed his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. David confessed that his sin is against God and prays, “Cleanse me, O Lord, with hyssop — make atonement for me,” Litton said. “Jesus did that for us — the holiness of God humbles us but the grace of God gives us hope.”
* Assurance of grace — Ledbetter told the men they are loved by God and there is nothing they can do by performance to make God love them more or love them less. “It is all by grace by faith not of works so you will not boast.”
* Avoidance of temptation — Men must flee from sin, Ledbetter said. “I don’t have the strength to rescue myself from this situation,” he said, voicing resolve to stay clear of potentially sinful situations.
*Accountability to others — Litton cited what Gen. George S. Patton said about an army being a team; “it lives, sleeps and fights as a team.” The famed general said he had no use for “individual, heroic stuff.”
“You are kidding yourself if you think you can fight this battle by yourself,” Litton told the men, quoting Dietrich Bonhoffer who wrote, “Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a man is, the more destructive the power of sin over that person.”
Everybody needs a small group of men who you can trust and they can trust you, Litton advised as a way of growing in discipleship.
“The more you become like Jesus the less attractive fake things will become to you,” Litton said. “Porn is fake. He is the truth, He is the light — walk in the light and walk in the truth. And I promise you — you will see victory and success in this area [of your life].”
Mark H. Hunter is a writer based in Baton Rouge, La. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).