I remember the first time I heard a girl confess she struggled with it. I was in college and had just joined a campus ministry. The girls on my team were gathering to share testimonies, our stories of life change (John 4:7-25, 39).
And one of the girls? Incredibly courageous.
I remember tears welling up in her eyes as she told us she was introduced to porn when she was super young – maybe 12? I can’t remember. But that unfortunate introduction led to years of captivity—she had been enslaved to porn and masturbation.
“I always thought it was a guy sin—that something must be wrong with me,” she told the group. But one day she sat in a circle much like ours, and heard another girl share her testimony. For the first time in her life, she realized she wasn’t alone (1 Corinthians 10:13).
My new friend’s courage led to a really sweet night for our group. One that I’m personally glad I remembered years later. We heard story after story of God’s faithfulness to bring the dead to life. His faithfulness to restore the broken, and heal the wounded, abused, the hurting, and the hopeless. Because that’s what he does! Everyday. At all times. It doesn’t matter what the sin is. God delights to meet us in our brokenness. We don’t have to clean ourselves up to come Him. But with sins like hers—we don’t always believe this to be true.
A lot of times, for us? Sexual sin is scary.
But if your scary sin is secret sin, you’re probably a slave to it.
Maybe you’ve tried to stop.
“This’ll be the last time.” But it wasn’t. You’re tired.
Or maybe you’re confused.
If you’re like I was, maybe you’ve never heard girls talk about porn. I thought my new friend was brave, but I also thought, “that’ll never be me.” (So, if you’re reading this, and you don’t know what I’m talking about when I use those words—PLEASE, ask a trusted church leader or your parents. And if you’re anything like me, and curiosity is killing you, I want you to go read Proverbs 14:12 and Proverbs 4:14-15. And then call a trusted leader in your life and tell them you’re curious. Ask for help.)
Maybe you’re offended.
Sometimes blogs or articles like this can feel like somebody’s pointing their finger at you. While Paul does point out we can become slaves to sin, he also reminds us every day is a choice. You’re not too far gone, and I know the struggle is real; but remember you have a choice. Paul says, “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God which leads to righteous living” (Romans 6:16 NLT).
Or maybe you don’t think it’s a sin.
“The Bible just says don’t have premarital sex. I’m not doing that, so I‘m good, right? Besides, it’s not like I’m addicted to porn.” Or, “I don’t know if I’d even call this porn really—it’s not that bad …” Ever thought like that? I’ve been there. But you know what God’s word says? Sexual immorality (that’s all impurity or inappropriate sexual longing) must not even be named among believers. Why? Because it isn’t healthy or right for God’s people to be entertained by sin—and in this case, porn and masturbation are acts that cause us to be entertained by sex outside of marriage (Ephesians 5:3).
Lastly, maybe you’re afraid. Or ashamed?
Maybe you think this will be the sin you take to the grave, or the sin that goes away when you get married. But what if you didn’t have to be afraid or ashamed? What if you could talk about it? … And what if it doesn’t go away when you get married?
As your big sis, I’m here to tell you that there’s bad news and there’s good news.
The Bad News: Sin Always Leads to Death
Some of us know this far too well. What started off as curiosity and a lot of Gossip Girl or Nicholas Sparks turned into a full-blown addiction – maybe it’s porn and masturbation? Or maybe for you, it’s vaping? Either way, you know what it’s like for one moment of curiosity or excitement to trap you in a downward spiral.
Not sure if you’re trapped? Ask yourself these questions:
- How many times have you said, “This will be the last time?”
- Do you count the days between “times?”
- Justifying it with, “well it’s only once a month…or once a week?”
- Ever want or feel like you need “just a little bit more?”
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you’re probably living in the bad news: Sin leads to death.
Anytime you feel an urge to sin—that is to think, say, or do anything that doesn’t honor God, you’re being tempted. “And remember, when you are being tempted, don’t say, ‘God is tempting me.’ God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (James 1:13-15). James is literally saying that just as a baby is conceived, born, and grows up, so too does our sin.
It’s really helpful to think about James’ point: Sin that grows up guides you into the ground. It leads to death.
But we have to be careful, because this can get really confusing really quickly. If you’re a believer in Christ, your eternity is secure not because of your performance; rather, your eternity is secure if you have faith in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9). James is not saying if you keep sinning you will go to hell. That’s not his point. He’s saying if you keep sinning, your life is not going to head in the direction you want it to go.
If you’re a believer in Christ, James is pointing out that if you continue in sin your life will decay and decay and decay. Instead of experiencing the abundant and full life Jesus intends for his kids, you’ll experience the opposite: a life that declines (Proverbs 10:27, 11:19; John 10:10).
For me it looked like this: I was never exposed to porn. But I had a relationship with a guy in high school that wasn’t great. When I got to college, and started to hear girls talk, I got curious—was I missing out on something great? At first, I just wanted to know about it, “this will never be my problem,” I thought, “so there’s no harm in learning about it.” Then, one thing led to another, and years later I found myself struggling with masturbation and lustful thoughts—and no one knew.
I had no community.
I was lonely.
I was the church girl. “I’m not supposed to struggle with this,” I thought, ashamed and embarrassed.
I was afraid of what other people might think.
But I needed help. And that’s where the good news comes into play.
The Good News: Your Sin Doesn’t Have to be Your Story.
For me, I realized I wasn’t living authentically and needed to get to a place where I was surrounded by believers who regularly confessed their sin and helped hold each other accountable to flee temptation. Later in chapter 5, James goes on to say, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” To my surprise, when I got around a group of girls, who loved Jesus and wanted to help each other look more like Him, I was met with grace and compassion.
They reminded me that there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). They cheered for me—and celebrated my confession. They didn’t celebrate my sin; rather, it was my courage to share that they celebrated. They reminded me of what was true: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly” (Proverbs 26:11). They didn’t want me to be like the dog (a gross illustration, I know), so they celebrated my courage and helped me think through ways to combat the temptation.
Matthew 5:30 says, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” Now again, this could be confusing—If you have placed your faith in Jesus, your eternity is secure (1 John 5:11-13, John 5:24). In this verse, Jesus is speaking in hyperbole (extreme exaggeration to communicate a point.) I mean, if Jesus really wanted us to apply this verse literally, the human race would be incredibly crippled (and everyone would be left handed)!
Jesus is saying we should be willing to take extreme measures to run from sin—missing out on something is better than letting our sin lead us to devastation and destruction.
Missing out is a wonderful thing if it means we’re fighting sin. For you, that might mean deleting Instagram or TikTok, maybe you install CovenantEyes on your computer or sleep with your bedroom door open (1 Corinthians 10:13). It might be a sacrifice, but it’ll be worth it.
Jesus doesn’t expect perfection, because we can’t be perfect. Paul understood this reality (Romans 7:21-25). But at the same time, grace doesn’t give us a free pass to sin (Romans 6:1-3).
So, when we mess up, we run to the light. We confess and pray for one another that we might be healed, we remove from our lives whatever might be contributing to the temptation, and we remind ourselves of truth. We remember that God’s mercies are new every morning and his promises have no end (Lamentations 3:22-23). There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). God loves you. So much so that he sent his son to die on the cross for us, taking the punishment we deserve for sin. But the story didn’t stop there, because he rose from the grave, and by believing in him, we can find new life in him (Romans 10:9-10). He’s the ones who transforms us— on our own strength, we’re powerless. But thanks be to God, He gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord (1 Corinthians 15:57). I hope and pray you’ll find the victory and freedom I did.
Love you guys.
Emma is on staff at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas and is leading a ministry called Join The Journey—a daily Bible reading plan aimed at helping all believers regularly get into God’s Word and understand what they’re reading through resources like journals, podcasts and more! Emma graduated from Texas A&M with her undergraduate degree in English and continued her education, studying the Bible, through the Watermark Institute. In her free time, Emma, passionate about her generation knowing the story of scripture and how to study it, creates equipping resources for her peers. You can find out more by visiting understandingmybible.com or by visiting her Instagram, @_emmadotter_