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Rescue Plan

Dale Johnson: This week on the podcast, I am so delighted and thrilled to have my friend, Deepak Reju with us. He serves as a pastor of biblical counseling and family ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. He did his theological training at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, both his M.Div. and his Ph.D., he’s married to his Sarah, they’ve been married since 2001, and they have five wonderfully adorable children. I’ve not had the privilege to meet them yet. Their names are Zechariah, Lydia, Eden, Noel and Abraham. In his free time, you can find Deepak playing a board game with his kids, reading, cooking, which I’m more interested to hear about, coaching his son’s soccer team, or on a date night with his dear wife.

I’m so glad that Deepak is with us. He’s written a new book, actually, two new books. We’re going to talk about the subsequent book in another podcast. The first one is the Rescue Plan [1] and you wrote this with Jonathan Holmes. This particular book, Deepak, is on this issue of pornography, “Charting a Course to Restore Prisoners of Pornography.” First of all, I’m so delighted that you’re here. So delighted that you’ve written this book and so delighted that you’re going to introduce some of our audience to the content of the book. So Deepak, welcome to the podcast.

Deepak Reju: Glad to be here, glad to talk with you, Dale.

Dale Johnson: Well, listen brother. I want to jump right into it and give you an opportunity to flush some of this out as we know pornography is continuing to grow, certainly among men and even more so as statistics tell us, among women as well. It is becoming consistently a massive problem within the church even within schools of higher education, seminaries that sort of thing. I think this is a timely, timely book.

I want you to just start by giving us an overview of what you and Jonathan Holmes wanted to do, intended to do in Rescue Plan, why you wrote it, and who you wrote these particular books for.

Deepak Reju: Yeah, thank you, Dale. What we did is we wanted to put out a book that wasn’t geared for the struggler, because there are a lot of good books starting with Heath’s book Finally Free [2] that is written with a person who is addicted to pornography. What we’re looking for is to fill a gap, which is write something for the counselor, pastor, small group leader, best friend, accountability partner, discipler, parent of a teenager. Just hit the people who are the helpers coming alongside the person who’s struggling, and train them in what they need to do if they’re helping someone out of the pit. That’s where we thought there was more of a lack of material because there are a number of good books that are out there written for the addicted person. There’s not much out there for the person who’s trying to think.

So, for example, like the parent of the teenager, when the teenager first confesses, what does the mom or dad do with that? You know, what kind of conversation? How do they press in? What kind of accountability? We want to come alongside that parent and help them know, so we have a chapter on parents ministering to teenagers who are struggling with pornography. That’s our goal.

Now, what do we do? We want to lay out a basic theology of addictions because the culture has a lot to say about addictions, but they don’t have a theological framework. We want to talk about masturbation because it is a common problem, but just nobody ever is honest, and open and talks about the reality that masturbation often goes with the pornography problem. And we argue that masturbation is not part of God’s plan. We lay out our framework for arguing why we think it’s not a part of God’s design. And I think what we were most surprised is how many evangelicals are ambiguous about this topic of masturbation, or even so neutral on it they gently promote people who want to use masturbation as a release, and therefore, a lot of people are just confused what to think about it.

Then what I’d call “the rising tide of problems” with women who have been raised on technology, and the numbers are starting to reflect that there’s a growing number in the younger generation who are struggling with it. So, we have a chapter on women struggling with sexual sin and differentiate it from men. Then, finally, we deal with the two ones that you expect is singleness and marriage. There’s a lot of material out there on that. But the one that really drove me to write the book in some ways is dating. What does a girlfriend do when her boyfriend confesses? That’s the one where I felt like I couldn’t find much of anything out there written from a really theological standpoint, but also has a practicality to it and doing it. And then the other one is teenagers, helping parents understand what to do when their teenagers are confessing. So that’s who it’s for and an overview of what we’re doing in the book. 

Dale Johnson: Yeah, I mean, this is where the rubber meets the road. When those moments happen where a sin is exposed. Now, how do the helpers engage? What do we do? We may, we may have a theological framework. But we might not know where to go. I see this sometimes a lot teaching in seminary where you teach the theory to a student, but they never seen it happen in real life. I think the value of this book in giving real life examples and then where to start on the road for the purpose of restoration and rescue and intervention, and that sort of thing. I think that’s so helpful for us to contemplate, even some of the scenarios that you’re mentioning. I’m thinking of just lots of examples of ways that we become entrapped in sin, and I think you’re identifying some of those really well.

Now, let’s talk practically. We’ll get into this a little bit. But where does the war at least in your mind on pornography begin? I think this is an important place for us to start. So where does that begin? Because pornography often leads to what we see in the broader culture and the sexual revolution that we’re experiencing now, which is into gender issues and that sort of thing. But pornography is often utilized as sort of a bottom level. So where does that war actually begin, Deepak?

Deepak Reju: You know, I’ve been saying that there’s a lot of things we need to deal with, but I think it starts with access points. The problem is that people do not take seriously the kind of access they have because we’re in an Internet world where you can get any kind of content anywhere you want at any time. And there’s a real danger with that kind of environment for someone who’s struggling with pornography. So, Matthew 5, what does Jesus say? Cut off your arm, gouge out your eye. I take that as He’s showing us we have to have a brutal, aggressive, radical approach to our sin. And so, it starts right there, you know, if you’re beginning to struggle with pornography, then you can cut it off quickly. But if, you know, I’m dealing with now, guys and gals to start struggling when they were teenagers and they’re showing up in their 20s and 30s. So we’re like a 10, 15, 20-year battle for some of these people and what does it look like for them to be radical and finally cutting this off.

Garrett Kell, who’s a pastor here in the area. He’s on the board for Gospel Coalition, faithful preacher-teacher. He’s been very upfront about his struggles in the past and his book, Pure in Heart [3] is another good example of an excellent book for a struggler. One of the guys I’m helping had lunch with Garrett, and Garrett held out his phone to him and said, “If you put a gun to my head, I can’t find any illicit content on my phone.” He had so shut down his phone. There’s no way he could get to it. I do not think most strugglers have that standard. I don’t think they’re approaching it in the way that Jesus commands it like, going after it radically and cutting it off. So, we’re looking at, you know, if people are passive, if they’ve grown comfortable with their sin. If they haven’t really taken the firewall seriously, in a bad moment, they’re just going to run into trouble, and I, as the discipler, counselor, and pastor, am going to be extra aggressive in cutting off those access points. If I were to walk in an emergency room, and you know, I’m profusely bleeding and the nurse says to me, “Yeah, go sit on the side. You’ll be fine.” I mean, I’d have a conniption fit, like wait, what kind of triage is this? Well, same thing. I want to get to the heart issues, but I can’t get to the heart issues unless we first deal with the access points and cut it off. So, we don’t win the war with access points. I think that’s where we start. What do you think, Dale?

Dale Johnson: You know, I think that’s a good point, and the nuance that you’re giving there is so, so helpful. Some people think we win the war by just cutting off access points, but we’re not done. You mentioned the issue of the heart. Some people say, well, “I’m just waiting for my desire to change because it’s not what I really want.” Well, you can’t go in that direction either. I mean, the Bible tells us to deal with sin in two ways. The first one is flee when we recognize that we’re too weak, we flee. And what Jay Adams used to call radical amputation. This is a part of what you’re describing here. We have to cut off access and recognize in humility, we’re not strong enough to deal with this issue. You’re going to have a point of weakness just like you mentioned, and we have to be able to cut ourselves off, recognizing in humility our own weakness.

Now, the second way, which I’m sure we’re going to talk about, and you guys described in the book is we grow to spiritual maturity where we don’t desire those things anymore. But that’s a process. That’s like a long time. We have to cut off access. I think that’s such a wise thing and really wise for those who are helping to engage in because you know, a person struggling with pornography, they’ve deceived themselves for quite some time, like well down playing, “Oh, it’s not so bad or I’m not as bad as I think.” The helper needs to come in and be able to address that issue and that’s one of the ways. But again, that’s not the only thing. You mentioned something a few minutes ago about the issue of numbers rising in women. I do want to talk about that because there are a lot of ways that women are affected by pornography. We typically think about pornography as being, you know, a man’s problem and that sort of thing. But women are certainly affected. I want you to talk about this. How are women affected by porn? Or how much are they affected by this issue of pornography?

Deepak Reju: Yeah, so let’s just take the youngest generations, Alpha and Z. We’re thinking about the generations that have been now raised on technology and there’s a drastic difference between their experience of technology, compared to say like baby boomers. Baby boomers, this is pretty much non-existent. So there’s a generational gap amongst women in this problem in a way that’s not there for men because men, you know, we can have generations of men hooked on pornography starting with when Playboy and Hustler first came out decades ago. For women, this is a new experience because women now have access to pornography in a way that previous generations did not. So, the numbers, you look at all kinds of studies, man is probably going to range somewhere between 50 to 70% of men struggle with pornography sometime. Yeah, women is probably going to be somewhere around, you look at the numbers around 20 to 30%. So, it’s not as much as men but it’s quickly rising, and if you look at the difference in generations then the number begins to creep up because, a basic teenage, one of my, one of the ladies on my staff who is a counselor was talking about a Netflix show she was watching for teenagers, and in the girls on the show were talking about pornography as if it’s completely normal. I think that’s what we should expect. And as those young ladies hit our pews in their 20s and 30s, we’re going to see this what I refer to earlier “rising tide” of women.

Now, the double whammy in this is that we refer to this far too often as a man’s issue. And yet, a young woman in the pews, hearing a pastor say to men, “this pornography is a problem, you need to deal with it.” And yet make no reference to women makes her feel twice as much shame because now she’s a freak because she struggles with it too, and and there’s no reference to anyone that women should struggle with this which is why we wanted to put a chapter in there. But we also loaded up all kinds of case studies with women struggling with pornography, We went into the different aspects, the different ways in which women can struggle. So it’s not expecting it’s one simple, uniform kind of struggle, there are different ways. So, you know, erotica literature. Reading explicit material is going to be much more common with women than men, but it is an issue. It’s a problem, in addition to looking at explicit content. 

Dale Johnson: Yeah, I think that’s important and you mentioned several of the ways. You mentioned a couple few minutes earlier about, you know, women being affected by man’s use of pornography, but that’s even grown to now where women are engaging in the use of this material as well. And I think one of the most important things that you mentioned too, is how common it is becoming in the culture. I mean, we’ve even excuse the use of it in a lot of various ways. There were churches in the past, or groups in the past, who tried to use in terms of like conversion therapy using pornography, to help people to have sexual heterosexual desire. I mean, that in and of itself is promoting something sinful that we think is going to correct a sinful desire. That is ludicrous from our perspective, from the Scriptural perspective of correcting sexual immorality. So, it’s becoming more common, as you mentioned in literature and movies, and normal TV shows, and that sort of thing. And people are just becoming sort of, it’s becoming normalized, which doesn’t make it right. I appreciate the way you guys are addressing this.

Now, we’re going to talk about this issue of pornography. We definitely have to talk about how we start to overcome it. How we walk through this issue. Walk us through just a minute, you guys talk about what you call the four As, the four ingredients of giving into temptation. So, talk about that as a point of awareness for our counselors. 

Deepak Reju: Yeah. Well, and so the first 3 A’s. I got permission from Heath to use those in the book. They come from him and then I added a fourth to it. So, Access points, we already talked about. That’s the first A. Appetite, the most fundamental aspect of every addiction is that there’s a carnal inordinate desire that’s overtaken the person’s life. Anonymity, you don’t look at porn in public with other people around, you got to hide and isolate yourself in order for it to happen. So, Proverbs 18:1 “whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” And so, the typical scenario single man alone late at night, door shut by himself with his laptop or phone. Last one, the one I added was Atheism. The moment you act out, you are choosing your sin rather than God. So, there’s momentary atheism, there’s unbelief in that moment. And that’s dangerous if you don’t come to terms with that unbelief.

Dale Johnson: That’s so important, because yeah, that action is making certain statements about God. As if God’s not real, God doesn’t exist, or maybe He doesn’t see what I’m engaging in right now, or He’s okay with it. I mean, I think that’s insightful and we have to start putting these actions in theological terms where we’re making a blatant statement about God that is certainly untrue. Now, I want to see if we can close this particular time down because we could talk about a lot of different things. I think this topic is rich for us to address but if a young man is struggling with pornography. Let’s talk very practically here. You mentioned earlier, you’re seeing this happen a lot in dating where a woman finds out that her boyfriend is engaged in pornography to some degree. What advice do you give? I mean, how do you engage that young man? Should he date? Should he not date? Should he wait? How do you address the young lady in situations like that? 

Deepak Reju: Yeah, on the question of “Should he date?” My answer would be no-no, no, no, no, no, and no, if he is struggling with a consistent pattern of looking at pornography, he needs to clean up his own life before he dates, as if he can’t lead himself with things like self-control and the maturity to have that kind of self-control. Why is he taking the responsibility for someone else in his own life? And then, you know, in dating if he gets married in a year or two, then someone else is like adding in children to the picture. My perspective has been that you need to clean up the pornography problem before you step into a dating relationship.

Now, does that mean a guy needs to be perfect in every aspect of the sin? No, none of us are, but does he need to demonstrate self-control when regard to his own sexual sin before he stepped into a dating relationship? I think, yes, and the more I’ve dealt with couples in marriage that have struggled with this and seeing how it destroys their marriage, the more aggressive I have become on the front end of it in helping couples who are dating not enter into the relationship. So, if a guy is regularly struggling with his girlfriend, and confesses to his girlfriend. And they come to me, I’m going to tell them to break up. I’m going to tell them, deal with this problem first, and then, we can think about dating, and you know, most guys don’t like that. They want the girl and they think pridefully, they can deal with their sin problem at the same time, and yet already setting a pattern for destroying trust in the relationship. 

Dale Johnson: And sometimes the girl doesn’t appreciate that either, right? She just wants to dismiss what’s going on, not saying that the truth that we’re sharing with her is actually helpful for her down the road, protecting her to some degree.

Deepak, this is good, man. I, really well said, lots of wisdom that you’re describing, certainly heightens my recommendation for the book. I want to remind you guys, listeners, of the book that he and Jonathan Holmes, have written called Rescue Plan: Charting a Course to Restore Prisoners of Pornography. Brother, thank you so much for joining us and spending time with us today.


Helpful Resources:

Rescue Plan:  [4]Charting a Course to Restore Prisoners of Pornography

Psychobabble [5] by Richard Ganz