Lust is Like Drunkenness (John Piper)

Founder of, John Piper preaching a sermon.
Founder of, John Piper

Pornography is often compared to a drug, so it isn’t shocking that other people have thought about lust in similar terms. Lust is a force–an energy–that drives people in a particular direction. Everyone knows that not every impulse should be acted on or the world we live in would be even more chaotic and disorderly. And every Christian know that lustful thoughts and emotions fall into that category.

Pastor John likens lust to drunkenness. Lust numbs the mind to morality and consequences much like the effect of alcohol. The problem is people do dangerous things while intoxicated. And when they sober up, they always have to live with the results of their decisions. Pastor John advises Christians struggling with lust to be proactive and aggressive–much like they would when preventing a drunk friend from doing himself harm. Christians should help each other in the fight for purity if that means establishing mature accountability relationships or simply being available to chat when a friend is experiencing temptation.

I’ve transcribed the insightful clip (episode 60) from the Ask John podcast. If you get something out of it, I recommend you check out other episodes on and download the app in the app store.


Host: Pastor John, in a previous podcast, you expressed how important deep and rich theology is in the fight against porn addiction and lust. That was the theme of podcast #19. And I want to revisit this and look more closely at how Christian men can serve each other. What would you say to a man who has friends committed to helping him win the battle against lust and porn addiction?

Piper: I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Paul’s text in 1 Corinthians 9 where it says he “pommels his own body.” The word is literally gives his body a black eye. He says “I don’t box beating the air.” In other words, I know where to land my punches. He’s talking about the sins in his life that need to be punched out. They need to be put to death. And so he’s talking about a kind of self-denial and a kind of self-opposition that stands up and pokes himself.

I think he’s just extending Jesus’s words where he says “if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out.” Well, that’s a pretty good punch to the eye–it’s taking your eye out. And “if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” We know that’s not meant to be literal because he says “if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out.” Well, you’ve got your left eye left left over and you can see the naked woman just as well with your left eye as your right eye. We know that the literal tearing out of the right eye wouldn’t solve the problem.

He means be as vigilant and as forceful in your opposition to sin as you need to be in order to kill it in your life. Here’s my new wondering: Why does lust, why does seeing–I’m thinking mainly men, but not just men. Why does seeing have such a force to draw us to click on pornography or to linger over some bathing suit issue of Sports Illustrated or to linger over some ad for a movie–what is it about us? As I’ve tried to analyze my own body over the years–I’ve got this phrase that I use call psycho-erotic euphoria. I made that up. Psycho-erotic euphoria.

What I mean is I don’t know what it is or where it is. It’s not very localized in the body. It can get localized, but it isn’t localized usually. And it’s just like power in your body that makes you so pleased by the erotic, by the visual, that you are moving toward it visually with such a force that it starts to nullify moral conviction and puts you out of touch with all of the arguments you had before to be pure and moves you into behavior that you then are later going to disapprove of. What in the world is that like? And my answer is it’s like drunkenness.

If you go to a bar–I’m just making this up. If you got a bar with a buddy, “We’re going to witness for Jesus tonight at the bar.” And you sit there and this guy that you’re with starts drinking and he drinks too much and he gets drunk. And you say “Well, this is obviously not working, we’re not going to win anybody to Jesus. We just disobeyed Jesus by getting drunk. So we’re going to get out of here.” So he grabs his arms and says we’re leaving. And he’s the one who drove tonight. And so he wants to drive and go down and watch a movie downtown while he’s drunk. “You’re not driving, I’m not going to let you drive.” “It’s my driving, I’m going to drive this car [drunk voice].” And you bend his arm back behind his back and throw him in the back seat, and grab his key. And since he’s your friend he doesn’t hit you. And you drive him home and throw him in bed.

Now that’s a lot of man-handling for a drunken guy. Is that right? Should we do that? And I think most people would say “Yeah, you should do that. He’s drunk, he was going to kill himself.” And my question is, is there something like that that we should do for each other? If this psycho-erotic euphoria is as powerful as drunkenness–and I think it is–then do we need people in our lives who will break our arm. Paul says “I pommel my own body.” I’m saying “You should pommel me.”

We often talk about accountability relationships, and a lot of people get all bent out of shape about legalism, and you’re supposed to love Jesus from your heart, and not have to be constrained. Look, if you’re drunk, and you’re about to kill yourself, you better be glad somebody is in your life to throw you in the back seat of the car. And, later on, when you wake up, you’d be glad they did, and then you can pray yourself back into some kind of appropriate stance where you obey freely from the heart. But this lust thing is much more like drunkenness than it is like anything else, and so we may need this kind of personal accountability where we have some kind of connection–some kind of special number on our cell phones. Some way to push a button and say “knock me out if you have to in the next half hour because I’m about to lose it because of this psycho-erotic euphoria that’s come over me like drunkenness.”

I’m just throwing that out there to guys. Compare it in your life. Analyze your own soul to see whether the sheer physical, erotic, psycho nature of this power is enough like drunkenness that you would put a thing in your life like “drive me home.”

Host: Yeah, I can see how this point gets applied to a brother stumbling in sin in our presence. So much of pornography and lust, however, is a private struggle in the darkness of isolation. How does this principle work out there?

Piper: I’m saying, when Hebrews 3:13 says “Exhort one another every day as long as it is called today lest there be in you an evil heart of unbelief.” You would extend that out and say perhaps throw one another in a cold shower every now and then so that there won’t be an acted out heart of inebriated psycho-erotic drunkenness in a person’s life.

If a guy is fighting a losing battle, and most of these guys or gals know who they are. “OK, I’m supposed to fight this, I’m supposed to win it. I’m regularly losing this battle.” If they know that, they need to say that to their small group and then one idea would be I’m going to put your number at the top of my favorites on my iPhone. It will take one punch and I want you to give my number a special ringer on your phone. So it goes [rings], and you say the only time he only hits that number is when he needs me to intervene. So you get on the phone and say “Stand up, go outside in the snow.” Or “I’m coming over right now.” You just have it worked out just the way you would if you were an alcoholic. And he were saying, “I’m just moving toward this bottle on my wall that I don’t know what it is. I want you to come smash the bottle for me.”

It’s that weird. I mean why else would Jesus say things like “cut your eye out?” I mean, that’s just wild. I mean if somebody says “that’s wild to put a special number on your phone.” Really? Take a screwdriver and poke it in your face–that’s not wild? I’m saying when Hebrews 3:13 says, “Exhort one another every day as long as it is called today, lest there be in you an evil heart of unbelief.” You would extend that out and say perhaps throw one another in a cold shower every now and then, so that there won’t be an acted-out heart of inebriated psycho-erotic drunkenness in a person’s life.

Author: Cornelius

I’m a 20-something year old from the American Midwest passionate about seeing people make healthy, informed choices about the moral direction of our lives.

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