(This is sermon I wrote in 1994. I had the secretary retype it in this format because if I did it, I would edit as I go. And I wanted you to hear it as I wrote it almost 30 years ago. The sermon is based on Ephesians 4:17-21. In a May 1, 2023 blog I published a letter I had written to WORLD magazine in regard to an article that said pornography would not be dealt with till after the Baby Boomers had gone. I mentioned that almost 30 years ago this Boomer had addressed this issue from the pulpit. Here’s the original sermon.)
If you’re on the battlefield and need to call in artillery fire real close to your position, after you give the grid coordinates where you want the artillery, you say “Danger – Close.” And that’s what I have to say about pornography this morning – “Danger – Close.”
There is no place where we’re not close to it. Pornography is not limited anymore to a few men’s magazines, French postcards, or smut books. Pornography is found in popular novels where sexual acts, that add nothing to the plot, are described in titillating detail.
Pornography is not limited anymore to X-rated movie theaters. Most neighborhood video stores have a section for “Adults only,” which contain as raunchy material as any Adult Bookstore ever did. It’s almost funny. People who would be up in arms if an Adult Bookstore moved into their neighborhood are happy to have a video store close by.
Pornography is not limited anymore to X-rated movie theaters you have to sneak into or magazines you have to sneak home. Pornography can now be transmitted directly into your home through cable or satellite. You can enjoy all the pornographic material you want and no one will be the wiser. As one cable TV executive said, “You probably can’t get your wife to go to a porno film, but you can show her one at home.”
Pornography is not just limited to X-rated movie theaters anymore nor is it even limited to the Adult section of your video store. There is a whole new genre of movies being made for the mainstream public. They’re called erotic thrillers. The thrill doesn’t just come from the suspense, mystery, adventure, or drama, it comes from graphic and usually perverted sex. Another pornographic offering made for the general public are videos trying to disguise themselves as helps for marriage. But folks, turning to a Playboy video for your marriage problem makes as much sense as turning to a casino for your money problem.
Pornography is not just found in living rooms, bedrooms, or adult rooms in video stores; it’s found in classrooms. In the ‘70’s, one college I went to had an elective on sex. The main resource for the class was pornographic movies. At another college, one of the textbooks for a required freshman sociology course was Human Sexuality: Contemporary Perspectives. The textbook defended homosexuality, lesbianism, premarital sex, masturbation, pornography, and abortion, and described sexual technique in great detail.
There’s no place that we’re not close to pornography. Even if it’s not in our homes, it’s more than likely in the homes of some of our children’s friends. My first exposure to hard core pornography came when I was 12 or 13. I was at my friend’s house. We went to the same Lutheran grade school and church. His dad came downstairs while we were shooting pool and tossed us a small paperback filled with explicit, perverted black and white pictures. All he said was, “Enjoy yourselves.”
Pornography: Danger – Close. It’s all around us and it’s impact is close to home. If pornography is in your marriage, whether you’re the man who brings it in or the woman who tolerates it, you’re explicitly doing what Hebrews 13 says don’t do. “Don’t defile the marriage bed.” Pornography brings filth into the marriage bed. It introduces an ungodly, self-centered mindset that works against married love. Pornography encourages the lustful passion that St. Paul says is found among believers, but is not to be among believers.
Even if pornography is not in your marriage bed, it still impacts you. Pornography leads to crime. The common interest among serial killers is pornography. 1983 statistics show that those states with the highest sales of pornography also have the highest number of rapes. And there has never been a child molester who has not been found to be a habitual user of pornography.
Pornography impacts us all. It degrades the image of God in man. The 1986 U.S. attorney general’s study of pornography found that today’s pornography doesn’t merely show naked people or even ordinary sex acts. “The MAINSTREAM of explicit material…focuses on rape, incest, defecation, urination, mutilation, bestiality, vomiting, enemas, homosexuality, and sado-masochistic activity.” Friends, pornography is not the equivalent of Renaissance nude paintings and sculptures which depict the beauty of the male and female body. Pornography depicts the filthy, disgusting things sinful man does to the beautiful body.
The impact of pornography is always negative and it’s always progressive. Jeremiah says of a civilization on the brink of destruction, “They were not ashamed and they did not know how to blush.” Doesn’t that describe us? Pornography leads us to this point. A 1980’s study found that “exposure to pornography desensitizes and addicts the viewer. This is true whether the pornography is ‘hard-core’ depictions of graphic sexual violence or ‘soft-core’ depictions of consensual sex or ‘neutral’ sex education materials.”
Pornography: Danger – Close. There is nowhere you’re not close to it. Its impact is close to home and its origins are close to home. Eighty percent of pornography is produced in Los Angeles county, but that’s not its origins. Playboys headquarters is in Chicago, but pornography doesn’t originate there. Bourbon Street is close to home and it’s pornographic, but pornography doesn’t originate there either.
Pornography starts within us. Jesus says, Out of the heart comes evil thoughts and sexual sins. Pornography doesn’t leap off that video tape or magazine page into your heart. No, it starts in fallen human hearts and oozes out into books, magazines, and movies. James 1:14 says that each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by HIS OWN LUSTS. Pornography doesn’t create something in the heart that wasn’t there before. It intensifies the lusts that’s there to begin with.
So we can’t blame Hugh Heffner, cable TV, or our local video store. Even if these would all be gone, pornography would still be in our hearts. This is the truth David proclaims in Psalm 51. He blames his adultery with Bathsheba, not on the fact that she drove him to do it by bathing seductively outside beneath the roof of his castle, no he blames it on his sinful conception.
The origin of pornography is our sinful heart. St. Paul calls it the Old Self or Old Adam. Jesus calls it the Flesh. Whatever you call it, it’s clear what the Old Sinful Self does. St. Paul lists among its deeds sexual immorality, impurity, and sensuality. In our text Paul says that our Old Self is corrupted by “deceitful desires.” The Old Self thinks it can be satisfied by pornography, but it’s deceived. The Old Self needs more perverse, more lewd, more demonic depictions of sexual activity to get the same feeling of satisfaction and even then the Old Self isn’t satisfied. It always wants more.
St. Paul in our text shows us the insatiable nature of the Old Self and tells us that if we don’t deal with it when it’s still close to home, at its roots, it will continue to branch out. He points to unbelievers to show us the pattern: First the understanding becomes darkened. What’s the harm in pornography? What’s wrong with using it, especially if I use it with my spouse? But just like you develop callouses over what makes you frightened if you watch horror movies, so you become calloused if you use pornography. The same old things won’t turn on the Old Self anymore. So the use of pornography escalates either more, or more perverse, material is used. Finally, says St. Paul, the person is given over completely to sensuality. Then every kind of impurity with greediness is practiced. Sex becomes a totally sensual thing, a totally self-centered thing. It looses all spiritual dimensions. Sex ceases to be what God intended it to be, a physical picture of a spiritual reality. In other words, the relationship between husband and wife, in time, no longer reflects the relationship between the Church and Christ, the heavenly Bride and Groom, in eternity.
Friends, you Old Self is always going to want pornography. There’s never going to come a point in your Christian life where you’ll not be drawn to pornography. How can I be so sure? Because St. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that the Old Self is not subject to the Law of God and it’s not able to be. You can’t reform, modify, change the Old Self. The forbidden fruit of pornography is always going to look delicious and even beneficial to the Old Self.
The cause of pornography is close to home. But thanks be to Jesus that the cure for pornography is also close. It’s in those waters over there in the Baptismal font.
Water applied in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit brings to you the One able to defeat pornography, the perfect God-Man, Jesus. Jesus never lusted after pornography. He never had lewd obscene thoughts. Although He was tempted in the exact same way we are – even worse – He never sinned. This perfect Man who is also God comes to you through Baptism. St. Paul says in Galatians 3, “As many of you who have been Baptized, have put on Christ.” That means you’re covered through Baptism by the perfect life of Jesus. God doesn’t see you lustily sitting in front of that video. God doesn’t see you secretly reading that magazine. God doesn’t see your perverse heart greedily devouring that pornography; He sees Jesus.
When these waters touch you, more than just water washes over you, so does Jesus’ blood. Revelation describes people in heaven as those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. Baptism is the washing of water with the Word of God. Here, the blood that Jesus shed on Calvary is poured over guilty, lewd, obscene souls and makes them pure as the driven snow. It’s as if you never had soiled your heart, your mind, or your marriage bed with the filth of pornography.
These waters are the cure for pornography because right here is where that Old Self from which pornographic desires flow is drowned, or if you prefer St. Paul’s language, crucified. He writes in Romans 6, “Therefore, we have been buried with Christ through Baptism into death…Our Old Self was crucified with Him that our body of sin might be done away with.” The next time pornographic thoughts attack or tempt, remember, that part of you is dead. Dead men don’t lust. Dead men don’t look at filthy videos. Dead men don’t read porno books. You’ve been buried with Christ. That part of your life is over with.
And a new life has begun. These waters give birth to the New Self. In your Baptism you have been born again by water and the Spirit, says Jesus. In your Baptism, you have experienced the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, says St. Paul. This New Self of yours has been created in righteousness and holiness. This New Self of yours gets no joy in pornography. It gets no thrill from it. Why? Because it is holy and pure. It’s true; your Old Self really enjoyed pornography, but after Baptism, your Old Self doesn’t live with you anymore. You’re a new creation, a New Man, a New Woman.
Friends, water destroys all forms of pornography. Magazines, video tapes, VCR’s TV’s, and books all are ruined by water. But ordinary water can only destroy the forms, not the source, of pornography. Only the waters of Baptism can drown the Old Self that produces and longs to wallow in pornography. But thanks be to Jesus! The waters of Baptism do destroy the source as sure as ordinary water destroys the forms of pornography. Danger – Close! Take cover in your Baptism. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Christ our Savior Lutheran Church
Harvey, LA, July 17 1994
Ten Foot Pole Sunday