[Editor’s note: today’s post is an excerpt from the book Pure Eyes: A Man’s Guide to Sexual Integrity by Craig Gross and Steven Luff. For more information, visit the X3 Store.]

The point in all of these scriptures isn’t that we should avoid pornography and masturbate because God told us not to (although it’s important to be obedient). This point is that we shouldn’t put anything before God. When we look at pornography—when we covet it and desire it and search for it and lust after it—we are putting that desire before the Creator of the Universe. We turn that thing into an idol.

What are we doing when we’re looking at pornography and masturbating to it other than worshiping an idol? Picture it. Picture the excitement, the anticipation, the focus, the searching, the finding, and the supreme captivation experienced when using pornography. It almost sounds like what a true worshiper should be doing when coming to God.

In Romans 1:18-25, Paul writes about the Gentiles and how their wickedness led them to neither glorify God nor give Him thanks. “Although they claimed to be wise,” he wrote, “they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”

Does the part about “exchanging the glory of immortal God for images made to look like mortal man” sound familiar? It sounds just like our relationship with pornography, doesn’t it? Paul’s conclusion here is as powerful for us today as it was for the Gentiles of his time. He wrote, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen.”

Wow. Pretty powerful stuff. “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” And this is the point here: when you choose pornography over the sexuality that God intended for you—between you and your wife—you are exchanging the truth for a lie, a lie that will always complicate, confuse, and destroy your life.

And how interesting is it, once again, that once we take our eyes off of God, in any capacity, and attempt to seek professional or personal pleasure outside of Him, we fail.

This concept is summed up in I John 2:15-17 where the Apostle John writes, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world-—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—-comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

This is not to say that we can’t enjoy the world. This does not mean that we cannot take pleasure in the wonderful things that God has put here for us to enjoy–good food, travel, movies, sports, hobbies, sex with our wives. It means that we must never love this world more than we love God. To do so is to open ourselves up to heartache and hurt, because anything that isn’t God is fallible and will ultimately let us down; God will be there for us…forever.