Consequences

Having one’s sins forgiven doesn’t negate the detrimental effects they inflict on our lives.  Case in point: The day after my wife confronted me (lividly) about my covert porn addiction I reported I’d humbly dropped to my regret-soaked knees before God and He’d mercifully forgiven my disgusting behavior.  The lethal look in her eyes said God may’ve forgiven me but she certainly hadn’t.  It abruptly dawned on me that, while God could and would fix what was wrong with my heart and mind, it’d be up to me to repair the damage my sin had caused in our marriage.  God knew my repentance was genuine but proving it to my skeptical wife was going to be another thing altogether.  It’d take time, patience and a lot of dogged determination.

 

What discourages many starting a recovery program is while they quickly recognize they are, indeed, improving – their circumstances aren’t.  In fact, their situation’s often slipping deeper into chaos.  Why?  The Apostle Paul tells us bluntly, “…The payoff of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  Now, since all humans die physically, the death he speaks of pertains to the things that make for a happy, rewarding life.  Specifically, relationships with other people.  Yes, God’s liable to punish individuals for intolerable, offensive acts and sometimes He does.  The Old Testament verifies it repeatedly.  But we’re also informed He’s“…Compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth and that He Forgives iniquity, transgression and sin (Exodus 34:6-7).  This means the majority of hardships and troubles we experience on earth are, more often than not, logical and predictable consequences of sin.  In other words, God didn’t drive a wedge between me and my wife; my unrelenting obsession with pornography did.  Truth is my Heavenly Father was lots more understanding about my addiction than she was.  Matthew Henry wrote of God’s slow-to-anger heart, “It can endure evil and provocation without being filled with resentment or revenge.  It’ll put up with many slights from the person it loves, and wait long to see the kindly effects of such patience on him.”

 

However, we should never mistake God’s big, merciful heart as an indication He thinks sin’s okay.  It never will be.  He loathes sin passionately.  Understand He’s lenient with us for a reason.  Steve Gallagher wrote, “His patience is for the purpose of giving a person time to repent.”  The Holy Word confirms it: The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come… (2 Peter 3:9-10).  We’d best keep that last phrase in mind.  It’s mighty foolish for a Christian to persistently indulge in habitual sin, rationalizing there’ll be no “day of reckoning” in their future because Jesus has already suffered the punishment they deserve on the cross.  God will put up with only so much wickedness, as the nation of Israel learned the hard way, before He intervenes.  But I digress.  God rarely sees a need to mess up our life.  We do a bang-up job of that on our own, thank you very much.

 

Take note.  God loves us more than anyone possibly can but we won’t truly benefit from His love if we don’t return it.  The Bible states, You must love the LORD your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:5).  But simply saying we love God without reserve and then, at the same time, intentionally disobeying His commandments won’t cut it.  Paul wrote, “…Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price.  Therefore glorify God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  A grateful believer in Christ, my soul belongs to my Father God who rescued me from my sinful nature.  Thus I owe the blessed Messiah He sent my unwavering devotion.  Jesus said, If anyone loves me, he will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him.  The person who does not love me does not obey my words (John 14:23-24).  There you have it.  No ambiguity whatsoever.  Realize, though, that being a follower of Christ also has serious consequences.  Your life may turn out to be more difficult.  You could find yourself ostracized for your faith.  You might get labeled a deranged “Jesus Freak.”  Friends and family members may avoid you.

 

That’s when Christians are tempted to retreat into old habits and attitudes in order to “fit in.”  We’ll retain our born-again status but start rationalizing that, since our massive sin-incurred debt’s been paid in full, we’re allowed to go easy on sin.  Ironically, too many modern-day churches endorse that unscriptural mindset because it’s what folks prefer to believe.  It’s the ever-popular “I-wanna-have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too” syndrome.  John MacArthur said, “Preachers tell people God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives, but that’s only half the truth.  God also hates sin and will punish unrepentant sinners…  No gospel presentation’s complete if it avoids or conceals those facts.  Any message that fails to define and confront the severity of personal sin is a deficient gospel.  And any ‘salvation’ that doesn’t alter a lifestyle of sin and transform the heart of the sinner isn’t a genuine salvation.”  In other words, stupidly trying to hoodwink God will have dire consequences. For if they’ve escaped the filthy things of the world through the rich knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they again get entangled in them and succumb to them, their last state has become worse for them than their first (2 Peter 2:20).  Thus if you haven’t yet completely repented of your sinful ways it’s time to go back to square one and step out of denial once again.

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What is Love?

Many of the men in my Celebrate Recovery small group are either divorced or in a marriage-on-the-brink-of-collapse due to their lack of sexual integrity.  All were introduced to pornography early on and it seriously warped our concept of what real love is.  Of course, the entertainment industry hasn’t helped.  It repeatedly presents promiscuous behavior as the ideal of manhood.   For example, what youngster doesn’t yearn to be James Bond when they grow up?  The overwhelming message is that, when it comes to romantic love in particular, uncompromised self-centeredness is okay.  Porn reinforces that destructive mindset exponentially.  However, the Bible clears the issue up completely.  It’s just a matter of us paying heed.  In my previous essay I highlighted that Jesus instructed us to give in order to be cleansed.  And what does everyone on the planet possess they can choose to freely give others?  Love.  Christ preached, Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away.  Treat others the same way you would want them to treat you.  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners love those who love them (Luke 6:30-32).  Thus if we don’t comprehend what love actually is it’s going to be extremely difficult to give it away unconditionally.

 

The Apostle Paul conveyed to the world precisely what pure love is in his first letter to the church in Corinth: Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude.  Love doesn’t demand its own way.  It’s not irritable or touchy.  It doesn’t hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong.  It’s never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out.  If you love someone you’ll be loyal to them no matter the cost.  You’ll always believe in them, always expect the best of them, and always stand your ground defending them… Love goes on forever (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).  Therefore nobody can say no one knows for sure how to love.  We’ve been told.  But those of us whose mind and libido have been thoroughly corrupted by pornography have a lot of tough sledding ahead to overcome and replace our woeful misconceptions.  Having the Holy Spirit dwelling inside to facilitate and empower the transformation of my sin-soiled mind made the job more doable.  I recommend inviting Him, via believing in Christ, into your heart today.  What have you got to lose?  (It’s like when Jesus asked His disciples in Mark 4:40, Why are you afraid?)

 

There’s a reason Paul’s “love passage” often gets read at weddings.  Since I was for decades a you-can’t-tell-me-nothin’ porn addict, taking Paul’s definition to heart has helped me learn how to truly love my wife.  He says patience is essential.  I had very little because porn doesn’t require it.  It causes you to think it’s all about meeting your needs immediately.  I mean, I was usually ready to tango so why wasn’t my spouse?  Porn never says “no”.  Then there’s kindness.  It implies being gentle and understanding so I needed to develop a more “gentlemanly” demeanor.  It was vital to regaining her trust that’d vanished when she discovered my hidden addiction.  Understandably, she was scared of being betrayed again.  But, as the Scriptures explain, There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear…” (1 John 4:18).  There must also be a complete absence of jealousy and envy.  In my case I envied the men in porn flicks because they were getting what I was convinced I deserved.  I coveted the fictional lifestyle they appeared to be living and, as you’d expect, that adversely affected my sexual expectations immensely.  Furthermore, love isn’t conceited.  In my twisted brain I figured my wife should be delighted to have such a virile mate!  She wasn’t, so I felt justified to rely on porn.  Others become emboldened to have illicit affairs or employ prostitutes in response.  What too many of us fail to savvy is that mature women find humility to be very attractive – and sexy, to boot.

 

Notice Paul taught, “Love doesn’t demand its own way.”  Mutually-gratifying sex in marriage is a two-way street.  With porn I didn’t concern myself with anyone else’s needs (or morals) and that only fed my selfishness.  I eventually learned if I first make sure my wife is satisfied my own satisfaction is enhanced immeasurably.  Who knew?  Yet healthy love starts outside the bedroom.  We can’t be irritable complainers during dinner and then expect our wives to be “in the mood” minutes later.  By the same token we can’t hold grudges over past disagreements.  We have to let them go or thick walls get erected.  Paul next says we must have deep respect for the truth.  Sex addicts pretend they’re allergic to truth because it threatens the secrecy they hold dear.  At CR I was able to be open and honest about my disgusting habit and that gave me confidence to be more transparent with not just my wife but everyone.  Lastly, Paul spoke of the all-important loyalty factor.  It means placing your relationship with your dearly beloved second only to the one you have with God Almighty in that it should be regarded as sacredHusbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her…” (Ephesians 5:25).

 

Solomon, despite his many flaws, scattered great marital wisdom throughout the Book of Proverbs.  In essence, he repeatedly encourages men to be content with what God’s given them; to be satisfied to Drink water from your own cistern, and fresh water from your own well (Proverbs 5:15).  Steve Gallagher wrote, “If a man will learn to love his wife, in spite of how he feels inside, God will take away his appetite for other women and will give him in its place a desire for his wife.”  Take it from this recovering porn addict – he’s right.

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Cleaning the Cup

Jesus boldly exposed the two-faced attitude of the religious elite of His day (Actually He addressed us all to an extent) when He said, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Didn’t the one who made the outside make the inside as well?” (Luke 11:39-40). Hypocrisy runs rampant. In particular among Christians who battle porn addiction because relapses are so easy to hide. They can attend church services faithfully, get involved in ministries like Celebrate Recovery, install smut filters on their devices and some may even go so far as to brag about their “miracle cure.” By all external appearances they appear to be on the up and up while at the same time their internal sexual fantasy factory is racing full steam ahead. I’ll readily admit I’ve lived that lie myself at times and the shame-filled guilt it brings on is horrible. Yet those moments of weakness have never failed to remind me I’m still a work-in-progress who must strive ever harder to cooperate with the indwelling Holy Spirit in His efforts to sandblast the inside of my cup. Thank heaven Christ didn’t leave us hanging. He offered us the cure for hypocrisy in His very next utterance: “…Give from your heart to those in need, and then everything will be clean for you” (Luke 11:41).

Sex addicts, by nature, are habitual takers, not givers. Jesus, our ultimate role model, not only touted the benefits of giving, He constantly gave all He had to others – including His life. Read the Gospel accounts. You’ll see His entire ministry was devoted to doing for others what they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do for themselves. He healed them, restored them, taught them a more righteous way to live, delivered them from their afflictions and – most importantly – loved them as no one ever had before. What He asks of His followers is to give until it hurts. Steve Gallagher wrote, “This one word, used some 2,000 times in Scripture, describes the fundamental nature of God and, consequently, what it means to be godly.” When we’re preoccupied with wallowing in self-indulgent activities (like ogling porn, for instance) we certainly aren’t giving anything and it only creates distance between us and God. I’ll testify that the more hours I spend imitating my generous Savior the less I have to even think about perusing obscene films and photos.

Giving isn’t instinctual for us at all. It’s risky to give unmerited love unconditionally. C.S. Lewis wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it’ll change. It will not be broken; it’ll become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” When we whitewash the outside of our cup so as to impress folks with our shiny veneer but covertly keep our cup’s inside brimming with filthy, septic trash we’re nothing more than unrepentant hypocrites, afraid to give of ourselves and thereby become thoroughly cleansed.

The concept of giving isn’t new. Most religions advocate it. But the ultra-radical “giving spirit” the New Testament urges Christians to develop is something much more profound than projecting a superficial “spiritual countenance.” That’s what the holier-than-thou Pharisees did. Christ taught we must die to ourselves before we can truly live. Paul said the best life can only be had via 100% surrender to Jesus, by denying our self-centered preferences and dedicating ourselves to doing the will of God. And God’s will is to love others relentlessly. John wrote, “We know that we have crossed over from death to life because we love… The one who does not love remains in death” (1 John 3:14). Our Lord made it plain: “I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Thus giving love freely is the key to “draining the swamp” inside our cup.

Speaking of giving love, I can’t convey to you in words how vital my Celebrate Recovery small group has been and continues to be. Those men are akin to blood brothers in that it’s nearly impossible for me to be hypocritical around them. Weekly I’m able to “spew it all out” to them in a safe, confidential setting. Whether I’ve experienced victory, defeat or something in-between I know I can be transparent and not suffer condemning glances. In this way I hold myself accountable for my thoughts and actions because those men not only “get me” but can relate to what I’m dealing with internally. In that room there are no ethnic or racial differences because we trust and love each other implicitly. We give each other cup-cleansing truth about ourselves. We’ve discovered giving’s infectious, spurring us to give freely to others the good news about how Christ can heal even the worst of sinners simply by believing in Him. Whether cognizant of it or not, each of us leaves our meetings a little bit cleaner on the inside than when we arrived because once again we’ve received what Jesus has given us – the opportunity to give Christian compassion and forgiveness in kind. Brennan Manning wrote, “…The God of Jesus does not judge us, for He loves sinners. He’s the only God people have ever heard of who behaves this way. Unreal gods, the inventions of people, despise sinners. But the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do. And this, of course, is almost too incredible for us to accept.” Copy that.

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The Love of Lust

One false rationale I concocted during my porn addict days was that I was just born with an overabundance of sexual lust no one woman could satisfy.  In other words, it wasn’t my fault I had to feed my ever-hungry lust.  But, having been raised a “good boy” my parents could be proud of, I made sure the insatiable monster didn’t “hurt nobody.”  After all, I was a Christian.  Pornography solved that dilemma because no one else need be involved.  Plus I could keep it secret.  Yeah, God knew but why would He care?  Surely He had bigger fish to fry in the cosmos.  Still, what Jesus preached kept reverberating through my pesky conscience.  Christ didn’t mince words when He taught, You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away!  It’s better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into hell.  If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away!  It’s better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into hell (Matthew 5:27-30).  Our Lord, never shy to exaggerate, frequently did it to drive home a major point.  He certainly wasn’t advocating self-mutilation.  Nope.  Not His style.  He was saying that, because sexual lust won’t simply vanish on its own, drastic measures will have to be taken by anyone who’s fallen in love with chasing the “ultimate orgasm” and now wants to be set free from that pursuit’s hold on their heart.  Thus when I stepped out of denial I knew I had some “spiritual amputation” in store.

 

Lust has saturated humankind.  Frederick Buechner wrote, “Lust is the craving for salt of a person who’s dying of thirst.”  It doesn’t matter if it’s lust for pleasure, for gain, for position, for fame, for wealth or whatever.  Lust is spiritual poison.  The Bible warns, Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father isn’t in him, because all that’s in the world (the lust of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the arrogance produced by material possessions) isn’t from the Father, but is from the world.  And the world is passing away with all its desires, but the person who does the will of God remains forever(1 John 2:15-17).  In my case I blamed my Maker for mistakenly installing a super-strong libido in me.  In my opinion that gave me license to indulge in porn because it was God who’d made temptation irresistible to me.  The Scriptures begged to differ: Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one.  But each one is tempted when he’s lured and enticed by his own desires.  Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death (James 1:13-15).  Yep.  Death of marriages, death of families, death of all that has meaning in this life.  My runaway sexual lust led me down the darkest path I’ve ever walked.  Thank God my wife intervened!

 

When Jesus spoke of being thrown into hell He wasn’t necessarily referring to the afterlife.  Steve Gallagher commented, “Lustful living is hellish living.  Lust is demanding, never satisfied.  The more one feeds the beast, the more ravenous it becomes.”  Paul warned, “…Don’t let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires(Romans 6:12).  In my years of leading a sexual integrity small group in Celebrate Recovery I’ve learned sexual lust manifests itself in many different forms.  For folks like me it was ogling pornography.  But for others it’s trolling prostitutes or engaging in illicit affairs.  Therefore installing internet filters on their computer or phone won’t cut it because sex addiction (as opposed to that of alcohol or drugs) is mental in nature.  That’s why developing and diligently reinforcing an “attitude of gratitude” is supremely important.  If an addict can learn to be content with what God’s provided in their life they usually find the urge to seek physical gratification via committing adultery diminishes.  But contentment is elusive if one remains isolated.  That’s why the sense of belonging and acceptance a fellowship of broken people provides (like I found at CR) is critical to a sex addict’s healing process.  Most friendships arise from our possessing a particular skill that helps others be successful.  That’s natural.  But what I discovered in CR was a group of good folks who don’t want anything from me at all.  They love me because I’m a child of God.  Period.

 

What we all need, especially Christians, is perspective.  We’re blessed beyond measure.  The Bible says our Heavenly Father adores us, has made a way for us to enjoy eternal life, has handed us the keys to His glorious kingdom, bestows upon us unique spiritual gifts, has the power to heal any emotional wounds we’ve suffered, will give us strength to overcome any temptation Satan may throw at us, and will grant us practical wisdom through the indwelling Holy Spirit – just to name a few of God’s blessings.  Gallagher wrote, “If a believer isn’t grateful it’s because he willfully chooses not to be.”  Yet feeling thankful isn’t enough.  One must express their gratitude in order to receive the full benefit.  And there’s no better method of doing that than through prayer.  Once again it’s Paul who said it best: Do not be anxious about anything.  Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God.  And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

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Two Keys to Recovery

There are several, but in my experience none top prayer and studying God’s Word.  I’ve found both indispensable to my recovery from porn addiction.  Neither cost a cent.  There’s no fee for getting on one’s knees and there are several free apps providing full access to the Bible in any translation.  In my previous essay I wrote that by “walking in the Spirit” one can avoid a lot of potholes when it comes to battling animalistic urges.  Thus sticking our head in the Scriptures and communicating with our Heavenly Father on a daily basis are essential.  As for prayer I’m sure I don’t need to define the term for believers.  Jesus prayed all the time.  He even taught us how.  Sounds simple, right?  It’s not.  Why?  Because talking to an invisible God doesn’t come naturally for any of us.  Therefore it’s something we must work at.  Don’t feel alone.  Many noted theologians and preachers rate their prayer life inadequate.  The respected Christian psychologist/author Dr. Larry Crabb once confessed prayer was the weakest aspect of his faith.  He wrote of his ongoing frustration: “There are no techniques in good conversation with God.  There are no means to manipulate Him, no ways to persuade Him to do things our way.  He’s not open to input on how best to run my life.”  Prayer is challenging.

 

Yet to not pray is akin to expecting your phone to recharge without plugging it in.  And giving up praying altogether because you don’t hear anything isn’t a productive option.  Fact is prayer’s our spiritual lifeline.  The most practical advice I’ve run across is to (A) create an environment most conducive to you getting comfortable talking to God, (B) figure out what hour of the day praying inspires you most and (C) allot enough time for God to cut through the mental clutter orbiting your brain 24/7 to make His divine presence palpable.  Keep in mind what you say to God is never as important as merely including Him in your daily life.  Crabb encountered the great Brennan Manning one day.  Brennan said he was on his way to a weeklong prayer retreat.  Crabb asked what something like that did for his faith.  Manning replied, “I’ve never thought about what I get out of it.  I just figure God likes it when I show up.”  Perhaps that’s the best reason for spending time with our merciful Creator.  He’s absolutely delighted when we pause in our busy lives to hang out with Him for a while.

 

Then there’s the Bible.  Personally, I deem it vital to experiencing/conducting a satisfying life on earth.  When I finally stopped ogling pornography it was crucial I fill the resulting void with uplifting things, powerful things, intriguing things that’d hold my interest and keep my thoughts from wandering back into fantasyland.  James expressed it better than I ever will: Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that’s so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.  Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they’ve heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do (James 1:21-25).  There’s a lot of wisdom in this encouraging passage worth examining closer.

 

James stresses stepping out of denial regarding our sinful habits must occur first or we’re just spinning our wheels, going nowhere.  Next we must approach God’s Word humbly by deflating our bloated pride and trusting it contains the whole truth and nothing but.  Note that if we read the Scriptures with the intent of cherry-picking verses out of context in order to beat people over the head with them then we’re missing the point by miles.  The Bible isn’t a weapon.  It’s a flawless guide and, when employed as such, it’ll change everything about us.  Is it controversial?  Does a duck quack?  Still, to quote Timothy Keller, “To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible’s teaching is offensive to you assumes that if there is a God He wouldn’t have any views that upset you.”  I’m amazed at how many broken folks come into Celebrate Recovery desperate for spiritual healing from their destructive addictions yet can’t be bothered with reading the Bible.  Nine years ago I was one of them.  Despite my church upbringing I’d never read it cover to cover but when I did something miraculous happened in my soul.  I’d been waiting my entire life for God to reveal Himself to me.  Yet all that time His one-on-one communication device had been collecting dust on my bookshelf.  My conceited intellect had deemed it irrelevant.  Steve Gallagher wrote, “I can’t emphasize enough the importance of soaking up God’s Word.  The person may not be changed overnight, but the change will come in time.”

 

Some have, upon learning I read the Bible every day, inferred I’m a victim of “brainwashing.”  I tell them if they knew the kind of sordid, obscene images I’d spent nearly half a century papering the walls of my mind with they’d likely concur a thorough “brain wash” was necessary to set me right with God again.  I’ve never found anything to rival the effect His Word continues to have on me.  (I’ve looked.)  Kathleen Norris wrote, “In the context of real life, the Bible seems refreshingly whole, an honest reflection on humanity in relation to the sacred and the profane.  I can’t learn enough about it, but I also have to trust what little I know, and proceed, in faith, to seek God there.”  I can tell you this – seeking God instead of sexual gratification is a thousand times more rewarding.

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Our Walk

What the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:16-17 is excellent advice for any recovering sex addict.  He said, “…Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the lusts of the flesh.  For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.  Spirit and flesh equal oil and water.  They don’t mix.  Yet some Christians think they can move forward in their recovery straddling the line between both and then wonder why their compulsive behaviors continue to bedevil them.  It’s because the lusts of the flesh are much stronger than they ever imagined and those lusts focus their attacks on our hard-to-control libidos.  That’s why Paul led off his acts of the fleshlist with “…adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry…” (Galatians 19-20).  This should shock no one.  Sexual sin has topped the charts since Adam & Eve got booted from Eden and it’s never been usurped.  Now, sex isn’t inherently sinful.  But if it becomes your idol it’ll enslave you.

 

In the Bible the term walk is used to describe how a person lives their life.  Today we refer to it as one’s lifestyle.  No matter, it’s all about how we conduct ourselves on a daily basis.  We either mind God’s laws or we don’t.  There’s an incentive to do so, though.  God told Moses, If you walk in my statutes and are sure to obey my commandments, I’ll give you your rains in their time so the land will give its yield and the trees of the field will produce their fruit (Leviticus 26:3-4).  Later on God told Solomon, If you walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days (1 Kings 3:14).  He also made it clear that to not walk with Him is asking for trouble.  I have spread out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts(Isaiah 65:2).  Centuries later Jesus taught us where to walk: I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life (John 8:12).  These being just a few examples, it’s obvious the Bible stresses our life journey will reflect our chosen lifestyle.  We can walk in the Spirit or walk in the flesh.  I don’t have to tell you which a porn addict opts for.

 

I’m not implying walking in the Spirit’s easy.  In fact, determining what’s true and what’s bogus in today’s deceptive culture is impossible on our own.  That’s why letting Jesus and His wisdom guide me is crucial to my recovery.  He said, If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples and you’ll know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).  Nine years ago not only did I have to step out of denial and confess I had a serious obsession with pornography; I had to accept the truth that, by myself, I didn’t have the power to beat it.  I needed Christ’s power to straighten out my walk so as to better imitate His walk.  Once I laid my addiction down at the foot of the cross the truth about my weakness lit up before me like a thousand-watt bulb.

 

But how can a person know they’re walking in the Spirit?  Once again, God’s Word doesn’t leave us guessing.  It says the proof’s in the fruit pudding, so to speak.  Paul wrote, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  Thus I can gauge how “in the Spirit” I am by honestly assessing how many and how much of those admirable traits I display toward folks I come in contact with.  Jesus told us the Holy Spirit’s one with Him and with our Father in Heaven so if we want to live the best life possible we’ll continually strive to strengthen our bond with His divine presence.  He said, Remain in me, and I’ll remain in you.  Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  The one who remains in me – and I in him – bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing (John 15:4-5).  Striking words, indeed, and some may be put off by Christ’s bold statement.  I’m not.  I have no issue with the Creator of the universe saying, sans His involvement, nothing of lasting value will result.  I’ve witnessed the healing miracles He’s performed in my life and, as a leader in Celebrate Recovery, in the lives of countless other broken people who put their faith in Him.  I’m convinced.

 

To walk in the Spirit is to trust the Advocate Jesus sent to indwell believers after He ascended to the right hand of the Father.  I found the Christian concept of trusting expressed brilliantly in Brennan Manning’s awesome book, Ruthless Trust – The Ragamuffin’s Path to God.   In it the respected author explained we can reliably place all our faith in God because no one in existence loves us as much as He does.  He wrote, “The splendor of a human heart which trusts that it’s loved gives God more pleasure than Westminster Cathedral, the Sistine Chapel, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, the sight of ten thousand butterflies in flight, or the scent of a million orchids in bloom.  Trust is our gift back to God, and He finds it so enchanting that Jesus died for love of it.”  Who in their right mind would willingly walk in the footsteps of someone they don’t trust?  In my decades of living I’ve learned I really can’t fully rely on another human being because they’re, well, human.  If we can’t trust He-who-made-everything-there-is we’re doomed.  Thank God He’s promised us we can.

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The Discipline Dilemma

In my previous essay I said lack of discipline is an addict’s biggest obstacle to permanent recovery so I figure it’s worth exploring further.  Bear in mind the dilemma isn’t limited to porn, alcohol or drug addicts.  It affects everyone somewhat, whether in their spiritual life, their work ethic or their relationships.  Discipline deserves our focus.  I’ve gleaned a lot of sage advice and guidance from many gifted Christian writers over the years and I’ll be quoting from a few of them in this piece.

 

In order for discipline to work one must understand why developing discipline is crucial.  First it takes digging.  In other words, just admitting I had a porn addiction was one thing, uncovering the roots of that obsession quite another.  Whether that oftentimes disturbing excavation project is accomplished with the help of a trained therapist, psychiatric treatment or through the intense step study course offered by Celebrate Recovery, it’s integral to the healing process.  Dr. Larry Crabb wrote in Inside Out, “But how far should we go with this?  Are we to spend hours, maybe years, pondering how badly we’ve been sinned against until we run out of painful memories?  Must we look for new insights about ourself in every dream, every slip of the tongue, every emotion?  Should we scrutinize every word we say to see if perhaps a speck of self-protection remains?  This business of an inside look could become ridiculous – and damaging.  Yet an inside look is necessary.  Risky, but necessary if we’re to move beyond superficial change to change from the inside out.”  Obviously, it’s not to be undertaken on a whim.  Courage is mandatory when confronting long-closeted skeletons but we must remain cognizant we pretty much brought our spirit-crippling affliction upon ourselves and this is the price we pay for doing so.  I could go on and on but safe to say it’s difficult to know where you’re headed to if you don’t know where you’re coming from.   However, the Christian addict has a huge advantage over the unbeliever in that they have their omnipotent, compassionate and merciful Savior walking by their side throughout their journey to wellness.

 

That thorough house-cleaning job is a one-time deal whereas maintaining a disciplined lifestyle is ongoing.  It’s the “walk the walk” part of recovery.  Despite this series of blogs being mainly directed towards Christians who struggle with addiction, my emphasis on strong reliance upon faith isn’t intended to exclude those who don’t share my adoration for Jesus.  Yet I can’t explain the importance of discipline without bringing unwavering trust in our higher power into the discourse.  My hope is that Christ will use my story to cause some readers to consider asking Him for assistance.  (He never says no.)  There are many good books that directly or indirectly address the need for discipline in the life of a believer.  Jerry Bridge’s The Discipline of Grace is one.  He wrote, “The pursuit of holiness requires sustained and vigorous effort.  It allows for no indolence, no lethargy, no halfhearted commitment, and no laissez faire attitude toward even the smallest sins.  In short, it demands the highest priority in the life of a Christian, because to be holy is to be like Christ – God’s goal for every Christian.”  Is the bar set incredibly high?  You betcha.  But what wouldn’t a grateful man or woman do for an innocent person who willingly took a bullet for them?  And for their spouse and children?  That’s what Jesus did on the cross for all humankind.  If that’s not enough incentive to become disciplined then I don’t know what is.

 

Of course, no guide beats God’s Holy Word.  It contains all the answers but we do have to read it.  For instance, therein Paul warns that believers, free as we are, must exercise discipline.  ’All things are lawful for me’ – but not everything is beneficial.  ‘All things are lawful for me’ – but I will not be controlled by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12).  Regarding this passage Bridges opined, “Though we’re continually dependent on the enabling work of the Holy Spirit, we must fulfill our responsibilities.  God doesn’t do that for us.”  Another fine book is Charles Swindoll’s So You Want to be Like Christ?  In it he paraphrases Proverbs 25:28 utilizing modern lingo: “When we fail to control our desires – when we allow our natural inclinations to control us – we’re like a bank vault with a screen door.”  Fact is, being a born-again follower of Jesus has never rendered anyone immune from the temptations of the flesh.  Self-control is precisely what it implies and it can’t be accomplished without striving to become more disciplined every day.  Swindoll wrote, “The exercise of this discipline called self-control prevents desire from becoming dictator.  For the person without Christ, desires dictate and he or she obeys.  Those in Christ, living under the authority of His Spirit and ruled by Him, are able to defy this once-powerful dictator.  As a result, we experience a transforming change that others notice.”

 

My porn addiction was a brutal dictator for decades.  It was always in the immediate vicinity of my awareness, ordering me to constantly seek opportunities to slip out of my “nice guy” costume and dutifully indulge my fantasy factory – as long as I took precautions to keep my addiction covert.  When I finally let Christ shine His marvelous light into its darkness, exposing it for the destructive illness it is, the dictator high-tailed it.  But it didn’t take being overthrown well.  It didn’t surrender, it simply waited.  Sure enough, about two years into my recovery it snuck in, aiming to reclaim the throne of my heart.  That’s when discipline was most vital.  Up till then I’d been riding the wave of exhilaration due to being released from the slavery of addiction.  Alas, I briefly relapsed.  But I had my encouraging gang of non-judgmental brothers and sisters in Christ who urged me to use the tools I’d acquired through CR.  None proved to be more effective than discipline.

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