Pornographic idolatry and spiritual adultery go hand in hand.
While many of us think lightly of pornography, porn use has substantial spiritual ramifications. In this episode of Man Talk, Vince Miller is joined by Irving Woolf, professional counselor with Hopewell Counseling and founder of Purity Platoon a men’s purity ministry which has helped thousands of men find victory over sexual sin. Today we hear Irv’s thoughts on idolatry and adultery in the Bible.
Vince: This is Resolute, and Man Talk. I am Vince Miller, your founder, and host. And today we’re looking at the topic of sexual addiction and idolatry.
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Well, I’m excited to introduce to you today, my good friend, Irv Woolf. He is the President and Founder of Hopewell Counseling, based in Maple Grove, Minnesota. He has also founded his own men’s ministry, entitled, “Purity Platoon,” which has helped thousands of men battle for purity in their lives. Today Irv counsels with men on a regular basis. So Irv, welcome to the show.
Irv: It’s good to be with you, Vince. It’s my delight and joy to be able to talk about these kinds of topics because they’re important.
Vince: Oh man, this stuff is of critical importance. I think guys want to hear us talk about sexual immorality, adultery, lust – all these topics. Because, to be quite honest – we have a hard time talking about this stuff together. And sometimes when we hear people talk about it, without us necessarily being present in the room – it gives us time to process, right?
Vince: And I think sometimes guys need to be drawn out by that. So we’re praying for all you guys out there listening today. Irv, I want today to get into adultery and idolatry. I think these are very powerful words throughout the Bible. In fact, the word, “idolatry” is deeply connected to sexual compulsions, believe it or not – throughout the entire Bible. Guys may not be familiar with that. But can you please just give us a brief overview of what is idolatry.
Irv: Yeah. Idolatry is worshiping anything other than the Lord God. And you can worship it in a variety of ways. You can simply worship it with your time and your energy and your thought life. Or you can create something out of silver, gold or wood or stone – and begin to bow down to it, and offer food sacrifices to it and all of that kind of thing.
Vince: That’s – and by the way, I’m– I don’t mean to interrupt you, but I think this is important. Because I think most guys only think about it as the latter. They only think about it as this object that we worship, and they don’t bring it closer to home, right?
Irv: Sure. It’s easy to make an idol out of your work.
Vince: There you go.
Irv: I had one client who worked 108 hours a week.
Vince: Holy smokes.
Irv: Well there’s only 168 in the whole week, but he’s spending 108 focused on his God. And his God was his work. Other people make money and materialism and Mammon their idol. And that’s what they serve, and what they bow down to. For other people, it’s sexuality. And for sex addicts, in particular, they would say sex is their most important need. And they’re focused on it most of the day. In fact, some will spend anywhere from 3 to 6 hours looking at pornography on the computer.
Irv: So they’re occupying huge amounts of time, wasting their lives on this God who won’t ever satisfy them. Never will.
Vince: Okay, so I love that you’re describing it that clearly. Because you’re saying that it has something to do with how we objectify these things, how we turn to them, the compulsions that we have with them. That we can become psychologically, behaviorally, emotionally, spiritually addicted to these things. We may not see it as this wood object that we’re worshiping, but you’re saying – in essence, it really is.
Vince: We are, we’re bowing to the God of our sexuality. Trying to get our needs met there, and then we keep coming up – well, empty-handed – if you can pardon the metaphor there. But we keep coming up empty handed, right? And we’re trying to figure out how to– We may not really see these things as idolatry, but it really is.
Vince: And how does that come and– How does that come between us in a relationship with God, and how does God view this?
Irv: Well you can’t serve 2 Gods. You have to make a choice. And that goes back to the 10 Commandments. You can’t make an image of God, nor can you – in turn, serve anyone other than the Lord God. That’s idolatry, to serve something else. And really what we’ve got is God-substitutes. These are God-substitutes. So I don’t have to believe in God, I’ve got God substitutes that I worship. And it may be – maybe even something as fine as your family. “But my family takes priority and precedence over everything and anyone.”
Irv: And that becomes – in which, now I’m worshiping my family. There’s an interesting passage in Psalm 135. It says, “The idols of the nations are silver and gold made by human hands. They have mouths, can’t speak. Eyes, but can’t see. Ears, but can’t hear. There’s no breath in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” You become like the idol that you worship. It’s our God-substitute. And now we are serving it. And it is our God, and we are worshiping it with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Vince: That is fascinating. When you talk about it this clearly, Irv – this presents a real challenge. Because if you think about it, we’re really serving yourself, and we come up empty handed every single time. And like you say – we have to make a choice. We can either serve God, or we can serve these other things. And in some cases, they are real things that we worship. In this case, we know we’re talking about our human sexuality, or we’re talking about our career or money or all these other things.
And we have turned them into God because we devoted all of who we are – heart, mind, soul, and strength, right? Which is what God demands from us. And you know what’s interesting about this image? Let’s continue with the sexual metaphor throughout the entire Bible. God says that when we give ourselves to these things, not only do we become like them, right? Like you’re saying in Psalm 135
Vince: But that action is called adultery. Isn’t that interesting?
Vince: That God refers to it almost in a sexual way. You – my idolizing, you’re engaging in the activity of adultery.
Vince: Which we only think about that in relationship to husband and wife and then–
Vince: Committing an act outside of that oneness–
Vince: But God takes that oneness metaphor, and that separation and that act of separation – calls it adultery–
Vince: In relationship to this particular situation – idolatry, in any situation, right?
Irv: Yeah. Well, and he says in James 4:4. “He would be a friend of the world, makes himself an enemy of God.” And then he says that it’s adultery, “You adulteresses.” Don’t you know that friendship in the world is enmity with God? So you can’t have it both ways. You can’t love the world and love God. You can’t love your idol and love God. You have to make a choice. And men oftentimes choose what they can see, hear, taste, smell.
Irv: All the 5 senses.
Vince: Right. Okay, so let me throw out something. And I’ve said this, as I’ve spoken at conferences with men – I know you’re going to agree on, agree with it based on what you just said. But I – I have turned to many men that have struggled deeply with this. And I’ve had to look them in the eyes with the deepest love and say to them, “If you continue doing this at the behavior pace that you’re doing it right now, I hate to break you the news, but you don’t love God.
Vince: And guys are almost agasp when I say that to them. But it is the bottom line truth. For us to go out and commit adultery of any kind – sexual, or in this case – with any kind of object. Even something manufactured by our own mind, our heart – we’re committing adultery. Which is to say to God, “I hate you.”
Irv: Yeah. And it’s basically making yourself an enemy of God. Now God’s got to fight you. He’s got to oppose you to get your heart. He wants your heart back. And you have run after an idol.
Vince: Yeah. It’s not – and we don’t want to be enemies, God. That’s a losing battle right there. And the best part about it is God does want us to love him. Like he–
Vince: He wants us to come to a place, where we come to the end of ourselves. Where He can love us. We can turn to Romans 1, and of course, we can see that God will give us over to ourselves. If we want to sin, he will give us over to our sin. And then our sin will become a judgment unto ourselves.
Vince: Right? As Paul has laid out so beautifully throughout the entire book of Romans. If you want to sin and you want to live in sin – well God will give you over to that sin, and then you will live under the law – Galatians 5.
Vince: But if you want freedom, and you want life – you will live by the spirit, and you will fall in love with him. And you’ll become sensitive and conscious to God. And you will not commit adultery of any kind – sexual immorality or even sexual addiction or idolizing pornography – or whatever it is.
Vince: We will cut that off, and we will turn our love toward God. And that is a very hard feat, I think for guys.
Irv: Yeah, I do too. I think for an awful lot of guys, it’s easier to run hard after what I can see and what I can taste and what I can touch and what I can smell and what I can hear. All of those things appeal to our senses, and God – well God is– Yeah, I can’t see him, I can’t taste him, touch him, smell him – maybe he’s not even really there? So that feeds into unbelief. And the idol, I can see.
Irv: I mean – if I work hard, if I work 108 hours a week, I’m probably going to get promoted.
Irv: Somebody’s going to recognize, buy it – for sure, I’m going to make a ton of money.
Irv: And that’s validating to my ego.
Irv: That makes me feel like I’m really valid, and I’m doing a great job.
Vince: Yeah. And maybe that’s it? Maybe it’s because we’re really struggling, as it says in Galatians 5? Between the war, between the flesh and the spirit and the things that we can see and the things that we cannot see. And of course, it’s easier for us to worship the things that we can see, rather than the things we cannot see. Where God is pleading with us. He’s pleading with us to lean into him, to trust in Him.
I – it makes me think of a couple of verses here, as we begin to close, Irvine. I’m so grateful for your wisdom and for some of the things you’ve shared with these guys. But Isaiah 44, verse 9 says, “All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit.”
Vince: Stop it.
Irv: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Vince: Stop it.
Vince: That’s one of the verses that – this makes me think of Leviticus 19:4 says, “Do not turn to idols or make for yourself any Gods of cast metal. I am the Lord, your God. Their God is pleading with us. Can you hear His voice?”
Vince: That’s His voice. God says, “Do not turn to idols of any kind.” Now we’re not just talking about metal, we’re talking about anything that we manufacture in our mind. ‘Cause that’s where everything comes from.
Vince: Just like you said on the last show, it all comes from the desires of our heart, right? All these things that are manufactured in our world come from our heart. They come from our mind. We manufacture them in our mind. And in Psalm 16:4, says, “The sorrows of those who run after another God shall multiply. Their sorrows will multiply.”
Vince: “Their sadness – their emptiness will multiply. Their drink offerings of blood, I will not pour out or take the name – or take their names on my lips. God will not even bless them, he will have nothing to do with them.” Oh man, these are things we don’t want to do, gentlemen. Turn your love toward God today. Turn it toward God. Worship him only. Do not engage in the idolatry of your heart, where sin begins.
Guys, turn away. Heed Irv’s advice, heed God’s advice. There are not 2 Gods that you can worship. You cannot worship God and Mammon, the things of this world. So, guys, we’ll leave it there with you today. And I pray that if you need a heart change, that you will seek Him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength today. For he is the Lord, your God.
And that’s the show, thanks for listening. As we close today, I want to remind you of a couple of things. First, if you want to connect with Irv, you can do so at Hopewell Counseling. There are links on this podcast if you’d like to connect directly with him.
Also, as we close, I want to remind you that we have great content for your men’s groups. Excellent small group videos and participant handbooks that will empower the men of your church to lead. Check it all out at beresolute.org/free-trial. That’s free dash trial. And yes, I will see to it that you get a free trial and a Resolute Men’s study guide to go with it.
So, guys, I hope you enjoyed this episode of Man Talk, but please know that the time that we spent together today is worthless, unless you choose to act on it. So do something today – by getting off the bench, and into the game. And I’ll see you right back here next time on another edition of Man Talk.