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Godly Manhood in a Digital Age

Today’s conversation is aimed at the men in the room: Those same ones I’ve talked to about what it means to be a nerd dad. How can we be great husbands, fathers, and men in a digital age? What does that look like when Jesus never mentions the internet, smartphones, or video games? Today we’ll talk about the clear standard we are given as men to live humbly before our God, and what that looks like when it comes to being sober minded, above reproach, and the husband of but one wife.

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Hello everyone, and welcome to the Gospel Tech podcast. My name is Nathan Sutherland, and this podcast is dedicated to helping families love God and use tech. Today, we’re going to listen to a talk I gave at a conference, speaking specifically to men, and the big picture was on godly manhood in the digital age, or in a tech age. And I’m very excited about this conversation. As you know, I love talking about nerd dads and parenting well, and living out the gospel deliberately every day, but this talk specifically, actually focuses on how can we be sober minded, above reproach, and the husband of one wife, well in the digital age, not based on following rules, but really how do we look like Jesus in these three areas? How does that apply to our technology? What sort of humility do we need to bring to this conversation, and what might need to change in order to look more like Jesus in this?

Not because changing our actions saves us, but because when we say we trust and follow Jesus, certain actions are demanded. That faith and belief, they’re not just ethereal concepts, that they are verbs, they’re things we do. And that action is required, as James 1 through 3 very clearly points out to us. So we want to be thoughtful in this conversation. I hope that this is encouraging to you. Wives, my hope is when you hear this, you hear a reflection of your husband. If you don’t, you hear some talking points to pray into. This isn’t for you to go and argue with your husband about it, or say, “Why can’t you be more like.” You go to the great husband that you have in Christ, and you say, “Hey, my earthly husband, he needs to trust and follow you more. Help him.” Because that’s where his help comes from, not from you correcting his behavior.

Again, much like our children, husbands are not problems to fix. They are people to love. And I hope that this conversation comes across as loving, as encouraging, as something I’m actively processing in my own life. And if you want more resources, you can certainly check out Ryan and Selena Frederick with Fierce Families and Fierce Marriage. They do an awesome job talking about biblical loving marriage and relationships. And then for dad specifically, Jared Lopes with Dad Tired, check him out. Both of them have podcasts, and so both those groups have podcasts, so check it out. I hope this is encouraging, and we’ll jump right in.

Hi everybody, my name is Nathan Sutherland. I work with the ministry called Gospel Tech. The entire premise is how can I help people love God and use tech? A couple things you should know about me before we dive in. I’m married to an amazing woman, Anna, who helped start this ministry. We’ve married for 17 years, so we would not have won that delightful book. We have three kiddos, Owen, Henry, Hadley. They are 10, seven, and four, so we’re in the thick of it. Anything I say from up here is not because I have this down pat or I am perfect, it is because I’m actively being drug through it by the grace of God, and I’m going to share some of what he’s teaching me with you. And then finally, I was a middle school teacher for a decade. That’s important because that changes a man. When you live eighth grade for 10 straight years, it does something to you.

That also inspired my passion to see young people reach their full potential in Christ, which is why I stepped out of the classroom and started this non-profit. Full disclosure, my last day in the classroom was June, 2019. I was like, “Let’s go start a speaking non-profit.” And then COVID, and that was a lovely growing experience. We don’t really get to talk much about today, but it is part of this. We’re talking today, about godly manhood in a tech age, or in a digital age, excuse me, is the title, but that’s a big subject. I agreed to that subject, I was like, “Absolutely, we’re going to do it.” And I wrote some notes, and I left, and I came back to write it, and I was like, “Oh, no. I know what all those words mean and I don’t know what they mean in that order.”

So this experience was growing for me. Here’s what it means, we first got to work out what godly manhood looks like. Luckily, there’s a verse for that. In fact, there’s a whole chunk of verses. We’re going to focus on one area for this conversation. We’re going to go to 1 Timothy 3, we’re going to use one through seven. This is the list of what’s required of an elder. This doesn’t mean you have to be an elder to be a man. It doesn’t mean that all men need to be elders. What it does mean, is this is a position that we should strive for. And as you’re going to see when I read this, this is a direct description of Jesus, who is the ultimate man. So when we’re talking today about what does it look like to be a godly man in a tech age, we’re going to start with what’s it look like to look like Jesus?

Here we go. I’m going to read the whole thing, and then we’ll break it down to what we’re going to talk about today. 1 Timothy 3:1-7. The saying is trustworthy. If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. None of you will do something wrong by wanting these character traits. Therefore, an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle. Not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity, keeping his children submissive. For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fail in the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

So just a small to-do list there for us, gentlemen. That’s it, and break. Go be men of God in a tech age. But at the end of the day, that’s not a list you can actually do. That’s actually not even the point of that list. That point is here’s what Jesus looks like, and that’s our goal, sanctification to be made to look like Jesus. It will be finished when God finishes the good work He’s already started, when we cross over and this flesh falls away, and we get to worship and live in his presence for eternity. Praise the Lord. But what about the already, but not yet? What about I’m saved by grace, but I don’t look that much like Jesus. Well, that’s where this conversation comes in. We live in a digital age. We’re going to look at just three of those, actually the first three, but in a different order. We’re going to look at what it means to be sober-minded, above reproach, and the husband of one wife in a digital age.

So let’s start with first sober-minded. I love this one because sober-minded is a beautiful picture of what it means to look like Jesus. Jesus always present. This premise of this, as it says later, is to not be one who gets drunk on wine. This idea that I don’t need alcohol to be okay, is a great idea for us to reflect on our tech use. What tech do you and I need to be okay? Because some of us use it like I use chocolate chip cookies. I get stressed, chocolate chip cookies get me through. It’s not good, but it happens. I then add another side. I need cycling to make up for the chocolate chip cookies that I need to get through my anxiety, but what do I really need? Well, I need Jesus. But that doesn’t mean I always use him. Some of us use our technology like that.

Some of our technology, it’s work, some of it, it’s games, some of it, it’s music, some of it, it’s shows. But when I get anxious, when I get stressed, when I get overwhelmed, and I get lonely, when I get tired, I often don’t turn to Jesus for my needs. I turn to social media to give me that little boost that I need to get through. This is saying, “No, you got to be sober-minded. You have to be present in the moment and you have to know what to do when things go bad.” We can look to Jesus for that, and sober-minded, as a man of God in a digital age, means I don’t use tech for hope. I use it from hope. I use tech because I am a new creation in Christ, and therefore I go to tech because I’m already whole and completed, and I love it. So I play games because I’m cool, but full disclosure, that’s not my story.

My story is that I played games whether or not you were going to join me. Sure I played games with friends. Junior high, high school, that was a thing, but I was going to game whether you joined me or not, it just happened to be that you were there. Gaming is what I needed. Take you a step back. It started with the little Mario brothers. When I was eight, my dad brought home the Nintendo Entertainment System, and me and my four sisters, by the way, if you think middle school messes you up, try being the middle child of five and the only boy. I had a lot of tutus in my life.

Me and my four sisters played Super Mario brothers and Duck Hunt on the same cartridge. It was amazing. Pro tip, if you play controller two on Duck Hunt, you can move the ducks. Yeah, you can really send some people to counseling with that little dog mocking them. It’ll mess them up. And something in my brain snapped, and I just knew that this was good. I didn’t know why, I didn’t have any words. I assumed like everybody else, that I would grow out of this because I didn’t know any adults who played video games. So I played in elementary school, and this was a season of life where people didn’t claim the moniker of nerd. That wasn’t something you took for yourself, you didn’t like, “I’m a gamer.” People called you nerd and gamer to let everyone else in society know that you were going to die alone. But you might make a joke about games, someone might laugh and be like, “Cool, we’re secret best friends.”

But yeah, we of course want to throw the ball on the playground, because that’s what cool kids do. And I just assumed I’d grow out of it. Do you know what the average age of a gamer is right now in the United States? 33, and it’s split, technically fifty-fifty, boys and girls, because the gaming counts moms playing Candy Crush at soccer practice. That does count as gaming. But there’s 255 million gamers in the United States, that’s two-thirds of our population. We didn’t grow out of it. Why? Because we got bored with regular Nintendo, so we made Super Nintendo, and then we made the N64, and then we made the PlayStation, and the Xbox, and the Xbox 1X. And it’s got to the point now, where we have so much entertainment scar tissue built up, that we literally have to load a device onto our face, eject images directly onto our retinas.

If our head doesn’t smoke when we’re gaming, it’s not intense enough. That’s the premise behind VR, which is why when we hand it to ten-year-olds and wonder why they can’t sleep, that’s because they don’t have 20-plus years of scar tissue built up to handle that amount of stimulation. Well, I found this out, 2:00 A.M. one day, Sunday morning, I had set a limit of myself of midnight. I was married, had a house, was a career teacher, had a master’s degree in education, and I believed that I was doing okay. No one was telling me I had any problems, but at 2:00 A.M, I had said I was going to be done at midnight. My wife is part cat. She would go to bed at like 9:00. So most of my game would happened in the evening, primarily because I want to stay married.

This is extra, by the way. If you’re hiding a behavior from your spouse, there’s a really good chance it’s an unhealthy behavior. That’s just free, not a part of today’s talk. But at 2:00 A.M. I pushed back from my computer. The team I was playing with online, was terrible, and I just wanted to accomplish this one goal. And we lost the first time. And then the second time, was just one more time, and then just one more time. And then 2:00 A.M. rolls around, by the way, we never did win. Pushed back from my table. I was like, “All right, this is a problem. I got to be up in four hours for church. Okay, close it down. Think about the smiley face I’m going to put on at 6:00 AM when I wake up, because my wife can’t ask questions.” And right before I went to bed, I said a quick prayer. I said, “Dear Lord, please help video games not be a problem for me. Help me be a faithful son of yours, a good husband, and to help share the gospel well in Jesus’ name, amen.”

Pass out. Four hours later, wake up, smiley face, go to church, totally forgot about my prayer. Showed up in church. Pastor says, “Hey, we’re not going to go through the gospel today.” We were going marching on through one of the gospels. He goes, “Instead, we’re going to talk today about addiction.” I, completely forgetting those prayers I said four hours before, was like, “That’s good. Someone here really needs to hear this.” Progress to the first half of the sermon, I don’t remember it because I was really tired. But I do remember halfway through, when the pastor says, “If you’re asking for God to help you manage your addiction, you’re praying the wrong prayer. God doesn’t manage sin, he kills it.”

And I had this, oh no moment. I was like, “Oh, no, I remember the prayer.” Dear Lord, help me manage this gaming, that it wouldn’t become a problem. And on that day, I was given a simple choice. The Lord simply said, “Will you trust me, even in your gaming Nathan?” And I was like, “Well, that’s not really a fair question. I know this. Peter, though, I get it, the whole thing. Do you trust me? I understand, but I want an explanation. Lord, why do I have to give up gaming?” I’m having this conversation in my pew, because this isn’t the first time I’ve talked about God with this. There’s been lots of times where I’ve finished gaming, and my first thought was, when can I get more? My second thought was, “Man, real life is really hard now because I blew off a bunch of important things that I was trying to avoid by gaming.” He simply said, “Do you trust me?”

May 15th, 2011 was the last day I played a video game. You can look it up on your calendar, it’s a Sunday. The point of this conversation is not don’t play video games. Really, the point of this conversation is threefold. First, video games are awesome. That’s science. If you don’t believe me, just know this, God has wired people with creative abilities that they dump into video games, through storytelling, through creative art, through user interface design. They are designed to be awesome. God allowed them to be that way. I’m not here to argue that point. But you also know that God is better. What we need to know, no matter your technology, you do not need it to be okay. And if you believe you do, you’re believing a lie. In fact, there’s a really good chance you’re not sober-minded in that area, because you are running away from being present because you don’t know how to deal with the reality God’s puts you in, which means you need to run to God, not this tech.

Three weeks after this conversation with God in church, I was digging a hole in my backyard, only semi-morbidly. I stopped and had a little conversation with God. I’m like, “You mean the rest of my life is wake up, go to work, come home, do more work, go to sleep, rinse and repeat, and then I die? That’s it?” Again. He very graciously asked me one question, “Do you trust me?” That was really gracious. You ever asked God for answers on why he’s doing things in your life? You ever been thankful that he didn’t answer? I didn’t know, but in the next 12 months, my life was about to explode. We don’t have time for it today, but just trust me, if I still had video games, no one would’ve blamed me for using them as a crutch, for turning to them and not being sober-minded, and there’s a really good chance I wouldn’t be married. I definitely wouldn’t be doing this work.

Because this work came out of me starting volunteering with young people at my school. I started with young life, realized my passion is sharing the gospel with others, not just teaching language arts, which led me to start a non-profit, which led me to start Gospel Tech, which led me to speaking to you today during a school day, because the Lord asked me, “Do you trust me?” When we talk about being sober-minded, we can tell if we’re being sober-minded in the area of technology, if we’re using something for our purpose instead of from the purpose God’s given us, by simply looking to the fruit it produces.

Look at Galatians 5:19-22. We often go 5:22 and we understand the good fruit, but let’s start before that. If you use technology, if you are tied in with social media, video games, shows, music, news feeds, listen to this. Now the works of the flesh are evident, sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy. There are entire apps built around making you uncomfortable and unsatisfied with what you’ve got. Fits of anger, there are entire YouTube channels built around people raging, Google it. Rivalries, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, orgies, in this case meaning wild parties, cavalier lifestyle, and things like these.

Well, I can tell you that my problems with pornography were directly related to my problems with video games. Because if you want instant gratification and adventure, there’s a good chance you want instant gratification in relationship too. I needed to get to the root of my problem and not just build more accountability walls. I needed to give my sin to the Lord. And in this case, I was not being sober-minded and the Lord was calling me to be so. I don’t get to play video games. Even though I think they’re awesome, but I do need you to hear this, that doesn’t mean that I’m somehow better. People hear this and go, “Nathan’s so great. He gave up video games. I should do that.” Maybe, but it’s not a reflection on me. When you hear me say, “I gave up video games,” I’m like that guy that found the treasure in the field and sold everything he had, and bought the field. And sometimes we misunderstand that parable, and go, “Man, if I only loved the Lord enough to give up everything,” that’s not the point of the parable.

The point of the parable is he gave up nothing. The man gave up his used donkey, and his used cart, and his used clothes, and his used house, and bought a castle with horses and people to help him all the time, and brand new shiny clothes, because he bought a field of treasure. I gave up something that was killing me emotionally, socially, and relationally. It was bringing death actively, Galatians 5:19-21 style. I gave that up and gained life, wholeness, peace, and in this case, mission, which was awesome, and I didn’t know was happening at the time, and I wouldn’t have signed up for it if I had, I saw a picture on my wall. There’s a picture taken the year that this happened, and a picture taken about six years later. I’m like, “If that Nathan knew what that Nathan was going to go through, he never would’ve done it. He would’ve bought one ticket to not Nineveh,” right, and sailed this far and fast as he could.

But thanks be to God, that he doesn’t handle us on our wisdom. Here’s Galatians 5:22, we look at your tech and say, does this tech produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? I want you to use all the tech that helps produce those things in you. I want you to be in all the digital spaces that make you look more like Jesus, and that’s what it looks like. If you’re wondering, “Am I sober-minded?” Look at the fruit being pre-produced by your technology, if it makes you look like Jesus, awesome. If it doesn’t, you’ve got some praying to do, maybe there’s some changes that need to happen.

The second thing that looks like to be a godly man in a tech world, in a digital space, is to be above reproach. It’s a big ask. What am I supposed to look like to look like? Jesus? Just be above reproach. Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool. Right, so what does that mean? Well, I think if we were going to look at this, we can simply say that there’s a standard for what we watch, what we play, what we listen to, and what we say. That when we want to look like Jesus in a digital space to be above reproach, to be a godly man in the world of gaming and the internet, we need to have categories for those four things. Excuse me. So if we were to start at the top, we’d say, “All right, there’s a standard for our content.” Look at Philippians 4:8, for what we watch, what we play, what we listen to, and what we say. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just whatever is pure. I’m just going to stop there.

I really want to watch this show. Is it true, honorable, just, pure? I want to play this game. Same standard. I want to listen to this music. Okay, and is there a time to engage hard subjects? Sure. Watch that tough documentary, watch that difficult movie because it progresses a conversation, allows you to build a bridge in the culture you’re living in, all right, but just make sure that your heart is these things. Philippians 4:8 is the standard for our content, not because it won some awards or everybody’s doing it, or it’s not as bad as other people. By the way, none of the games I was playing were immoral. And by the way, I’ve done all the mental jujitsu to say, “But I’m killing demons.” I’m saying none of the games I played broke any of the rules of the Bible, and yet God said, “You need to stop that. Do you trust me?” Because I was gaming for purpose, not on purpose.

I was gaming for hope, because when I was low, I needed this thing to be okay, and the Lord, in my case, was like, “Hey, giving you 12-month runway. Start to build some adult maturity, you’re going to need it.” Then we go, all right, but what about the content? What are we putting into our hearts and minds? Philippians 4:8 is our standard, but that’s not the only standard we get when we’re above reproach in a digital space. We also have a standard for our time. I find that I like to skip this one. I go, “Well, it’s not morally wrong. I’m going to go do it. So here comes six hours of whatever activity I want to choose,” but that’s not our standard. In fact, we’re told 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own for you were bought with a price. Your time is not your own, it’s borrowed. You’ve died with Christ. It is no longer you who live, but he who lives in you.

So as Paul encourages us, glorify Christ with your body. The time you’ve got is not free time. It’s discretionary, I’ll acknowledge that, but that doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want, not as a Christian, not as a godly man in a digital age. You go to that space because God puts you in that space, and you avoid those spaces that God tells you not to go. Think of Paul looking for places to preach the gospel, and he says, “I was kept by the Holy Spirit from entering Asia.” Why? I don’t know, Asia needs the gospel. It just wasn’t going to be the gospel from Paul. Turns out he then catches a ride to Macedonia, and some amazing things happen, and a man who eventually gets a couple of Bible books written to him, comes to Jesus thanks to his grandmother and mother hearing the gospel from Paul, for the day that he was there talking about Timothy.

That’s a nutty ride. We’re assuming God had that in mind, but we don’t get to know that. All we get to know is, Lord, this is my time. I’ve got the same 24 hours as everybody else. I will tell you if there was a second Nathan, there’s a really good chance that Nathan would play video games. He would also start a board game shop. He would also become a long distance cyclist. He’d split it evenly, six hours a day and sleep six hours at night. But that Nathan doesn’t exist. I only get one life and body, one opportunity, and I’m called to be faithful with my time, just like I’m called to be faithful with my content. That’s something we need to be thoughtful of when we’re talking about being above reproach. And the last piece on being above reproach, we’re sober-minded, so we’re using this technology from the hope we have in Christ as creations, and we’re above reproach in our content and our time and our character.

Yes, our character on the interwebs matters. When you go online, you’re an ambassador of Christ. Now it is true that some places, the internet are effectively smoke signals. It’s just not a useful medium for sharing the gospel. Maybe you’re not called into that space. But do hear this, Ephesians 4:1-2 tells us what it looks like to be of godly character. I, therefore a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. This is being a godly man in our case, in the digital age, that’s where we’re called. Ephesians 2:10 says, “We’re called for the world not from it,” that we’re saved for good, worse. God has prepared beforehand for us to do. All right, so what’s it look like to walk in that manner? Verse two, with all humility and gentleness.

I just want to stop right there. Think about if just half of the people on Twitter did that. I know it’s called X, I can’t, so just bear with me. I can’t say that I was X-ing today. It just doesn’t… Anyway. So with all humility and gentleness, just that, the world would operate differently. If 50% of one social media platform did that with patience, bearing with one another in love, not with passivity, active driving Christ-like love, eager to maintain the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace. When we talk about godly character in a digital age, my goodness, Ephesians 4:1-2 is a spot for us to start. We’re going to look at our content, we’re going to look at our time, we’re going to look at our character, and understand that at the end of the day, we need to, just like Ray was saying, repent in the areas we’re not okay. This isn’t a, you know what, I do need to be more patient. You ever tried to be more patient?

Yeah, like [inaudible 00:25:01]. It’s an effort in futility. If you haven’t, please roll the ball up that hill, and then watch it swoop back down and roll it up the other side, and be like, “I got it this next time. It’s cool, God.” The whole premise is the reason you’re not patient, is you’re not trusting God in something. It’s on your timeline, and God’s not doing it fast enough, ergo you’re God, and he’s just not following orders well enough. It’s an area for us to repent. One of the major promises that tech makes is that life can happen on our terms, by our rules, that our kingdom come and our will can be done. Don’t believe it. And when we look at being above reproach, that’s one of the major areas we need to repent. Which brings us to our third and final section.

Third and final section is husband of but one wife. I will note that when I said that this is an example of Christ, I wasn’t being facetious. Christ has but one bride, and we have but one God. This is really important. When we talk about being godly men in a digital age, we have to understand this concept of the beautiful picture of marriage being a metaphor for what’s going to happen. You’re not going to be married to your spouse in heaven. You’re going to be married to Christ, and that’s important for us to wrap our hearts and brains around. Specifically because, well, let’s be serious. The number one issue we run into in technology, when it comes to being the husband of but one wife, is that we want all of the relational intimacy without any of the relational commitment. It’s why pornography gets more clicks in a month on the internet than Netflix, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn combined.

This is not a condemnation of those people out there. This is a recognition that we’re a bit too far down the road to go, “So just don’t look at it.” When I was being raised, we told people just don’t look at it. Just don’t look at it. It’s pornography. It’s bad. It’ll cook your brain, destroy your soul. Don’t do it. And then the people were like, “Okay, but what if I already did?” I ran into the question in my own journey with pornography, of how long ago that I’ve looked at pornography is long enough for God to love me again? How long has it got to be for me to be right before the Lord? Is it 12 hours, 12 days, 12 years? What’s my streak got to be? I think in terms of streaks, I blame video games.

But the idea is that’s not a biblical concept, it’s right heart. I’m looking at pornography because I’m trying to shortcut something God designed and hardwired into me. A desire for relationship and a need for intimacy, and a metaphor for a picture of what the church is to Christ, the great Groom. When I look to pornography, when we look to pornography, we’re looking to shortcut something that God wired to be done a certain way. We want intimacy without the commitment. We want satisfaction on our terms. Again, my kingdom come, my will be done. There are people in this room that are actively wrestling with pornography. You don’t know it because it’s been at least 12 hours since you’ve looked at it. This is fresh start, forgiven by grace. It’s dead, and you’re new. That’s true. You are forgiven by grace.

If all you’re going to do is repent to yourself and not take the steps required of God to root out that sin, then all you’re going to do is keep repenting every time you turn back to your vomit, as a dog who’s not willing to do the simple steps God asks us to do. I do not share that in self-righteousness. I share that as someone who’s wondered repeatedly if I really care about God, if I truly want to be a godly man, why do I keep doing this thing that I hate? Romans 7, who can save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus. Jesus doesn’t leave us hanging on this. Jesus gives us really clear, applicable steps for being a godly man in digital world. Because while Ray is absolutely right in saying we have choices to make, a couple of those choices, we can’t make.

I can’t choose, don’t look at porn. I can only choose, trust Jesus, and then I have to do whatever he says. It’ll get me to don’t look at porn, but there’s other steps between here and there. Because I can never look at porn again and still die hating God. Pornography is not my litmus test. And I can have a neural plasticity trained habit, that I have burned into my neural pathways since seventh grade, from high octane stimulation, and my brain is broken, and will be till the day I die. You might do that with anything. But in our world, pornography is one of the utmost.

Pornography does three things that I want to make sure you know. Based on research, not even the Bible in this case, it decreases your satisfaction with yourself and your relationships. In fact, we’re seeing more. I know there’s young ears in here, so I’m not sorry. Please talk to them about this. My nine-year-old actually walked up to me, ten-year-old at the end of the week. But nine-year-old walked up to me this morning. I had my screen up and I was typing and going through my notes, and he goes, “Dad, what’s porn?”

And I was like, “That’s right. That’s on there, huh?” It’s pornography, which he knows the word pornography. He doesn’t know the abridged, he goes, “Oh.” My son understands, graciously, I do not scar his mind with my life. He simply knows there’s a great book called Good Pictures, Bad Pictures, and it simply says the pornography is when people are not wearing clothes and being unkind with their bodies. That’s my son’s definition. When I say this in front of your children, that’s what we’re talking about. Why? Because it matters to Jesus. So when we talk about it, it decreases our satisfaction with ourselves and our relationships, increases anxiety and depression in those who use it, and creates something called the supernormal stimuli, which I absolutely love that term. Supernormal stimuli has to do with that neuroplasticity thing I said. The things you do more often, you get really good at, supernormal stimuli was a guy who goes, “I wonder what happens when you get inputs that are out of whack with reality. What happens to your brain?”

So he took some butterflies, males, females, put them in a container. He then cut out some cardboard in the shape of a butterfly, and he painted the dots and stripes that the male butterflies find attractive, but he did them more accentuated. The male butterflies flocked to the cardboard butterflies. They gained a taste for something that was not natural, but more attractive. That, turns out, happens to us. When we engage in pornography, we can actually be adapted to something that isn’t real. You can’t get this thing in real life, to the point where your actual designed marital satisfaction can no longer be met by the person God has blessed you with. The only job in that, is professional counseling and deep repentance. Recognizing why this has happened is because of sin, which always brings death, and the only solution to such sin, is repentance.

Repentance to the person you’ve hurt, repentance to individuals who care about you. We’re talking public confession or repentance to another human being, and you need to do it early. I found I have to do it when I start thinking about it. I don’t know about you, but any of us who have habits, we can notice when our brains get in a dark spot. So sure, I have covenant eyes on my phone. Sure, I don’t have any social media because it’s hard to hold accountable. I take those steps. But the point is, and if I build enough walls, then I will won’t look at porn and I’ll finally love Jesus. The point is I already love Jesus and I am a new creation, and every time I want to look at porn, that desire is a lie. I am a new creation in Christ.

This is part of my old brain, that one day will be fixed, but ain’t yet. Listen to this, Jesus says, Matthew 5:27-30, “You’ve heard it said, you shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent, has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Pause. Jesus just told us that porn isn’t about whether people are wearing clothes or not, but what you’re doing in your heart. So I don’t care if you don’t see anything in that movie, if it makes your heart lust, and you use someone else who is made in the image and likeness of Christ, for your own selfish satisfaction, and what’s the other word I was looking for? We’ll just use satisfaction for now. Then that is pornography for you.

They might be wearing clothes. Jesus is talking to a culture that is much closer to Taliban Afghanistan than to the United States of America. They literally had moral police, who had the right to stone you to death for immoral behavior. The women wore full-body coverings, and showing your hair was something you did to your husband on your wedding night. Flash forward to that time when that lady washes Jesus’s feet with her hair. That was a moment, folks, that people didn’t know what to do with.

We are talking, in this culture Jesus says, “If you look at a woman lustfully,” yes, that woman covered head to toe in robe, you look at her lustfully, you’ve committed adultery in your heart, for you that was sin that needs to be repented of. He goes on then, to say, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away, for it’s better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away, for it’s better that you lose one of your members, than for your whole body to go into hell.” That’s pretty rough. I always focused on the pain of that like, “Oh, that would hurt.” That’s not the point.

You’re going to live your entire life without your right hand? Nothing you do is going to be as good. And he says, “That’s better than allowing sin to take hold because you’re going to die.” Your right eye, you are going to live without depth perception forever. You’re going to be running into things for the rest of your life, and Jesus goes, “And that’s your best case scenario compared to what’s going to happen if you allow this sin to take root.” You make excuses, and you say things like I’ve said, “Well, it’s not that big. I didn’t really see anything. It wasn’t really porn.” I have a quick note on that, that the Lord gave me and I’ll share with you. If it’s not that big, then why don’t we confess it?

If it’s not that big of a deal, repent, bring in some help, say it early and often. Because when we look at being a godly man in a digital age, we need to be sober-minded, using tech from the hope we have in Christ, not for hope. We need to be above reproach, that our character matters on the internet, that has do with our content and our time, and yes, the Godly character we carry into those spaces, including what we say, what we watch, what we play, and what we listen to. And then finally, we need to be the husband of one wife. If you are not married and you’re single, guess what? You get to live in light of Christ alone, as his future spouse. That’s awesome. As part of the church, the bride of Christ. And with the idea that if he’s laid it on your heart to get married, he will provide that spouse one day. But in this season, you live your singleness before him.

If you are married, you live your married relationship before him. Cutting off even the most important tech, I don’t know what it is. It might be Sunday football. It might be your television, your laptop, your job, if it causes you to sin, and there’s no [inaudible 00:36:26] participate in behavior A without behavior B being present. In my world, this is gaming. I didn’t realize this by the way, for years as well, that gaming and pornography were completely intertwined for me. Whatever that thing is that’s causing you to sin, cut it off, gouge it out. It officially became expendable because it’s getting between you and your savior, because you are a godly man called into a digital world. Not to get as many followers as possible to impress God, but to be faithful in whatever little task God puts before you. And if he happens to make you a big deal, then to use that platform faithfully as well, because you were faithful with the little ones.

Today, the conversation that I want to make sure we focus on when we look at the big picture, is not so go out and fix yourself. Instead, it’s to recognize what our solution actually is, to be quick to repent, to recognize that 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us we are new creations in Christ already. If you put your hope in Christ, you are new. And living out of that, is the daily sanctification we get to do. Go through the rest of that list, it’s beautiful. Go back to 1 Timothy 3. But at least today we will start with being sober-minded in our technology, being above reproach, and being husbands of but one wife. Thank you guys. I’m excited to see how the Lord uses you.

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