Category Archives: Christian essays

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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The Biggest Obstacle to Recovery

What’s that?  It’s our shameful lack of discipline, that’s what.  To an addict discipline is pretty much a dirty word, right alongside obedience and restraint.  We’re not instinctively disciplined people.  Our sinful nature wants to follow the path of least resistance, not put up a fight, to meekly acquiesce to our physical and mental desires.  I know.  I was addicted to porn for decades.  Discipline’s an essential ingredient of any recovery program whether secular or faith-based.  All recovering addicts must adhere to a strict protocol (a list of rules, if you will) otherwise they’ll relapse into old habits.  Obviously, cultivating discipline is promoted in Christian ministries like Celebrate Recovery but there’s one major difference.  Jesus calls His followers to do more than just battle their sinful compulsions.  To be a Christian means becoming, day by day, a disciple of Jesus.  Bonhoeffer wrote, “Discipleship means adherence to the law of Christ which is the law of the cross.”  Of course, the cross implies hardship, persecution and pain – things an addict seeks to avoid at all cost.  Yet the fact remains freedom from the chains of addiction, even for an atheist, requires daily mega-doses of self-discipline.  We must learn to say “no” to what we’ve convinced ourselves we need in order to be happy.  And that’s never easy.

 

Of course, weakness in the discipline department isn’t a new dysfunction.  That deficiency’s trail of destruction winds all the way back to Eden.  The Bible’s full of folks who thought they had a better blueprint for living than God had for them.  They always ended up learning – the hard way – God’s plan would’ve been more advantageous.  Take King Solomon.  He asked God for wisdom.  He got it in boatloads.  Perhaps he should’ve asked for discipline because he turned into the poster boy for sex addiction.  While he no doubt had a “heart for God” he also amassed a harem of 700 wives and 300 concubines!  Good golly!  Who needs porn when you’ve got a thousand women who’ll gladly do as you command?  Yet all of it was, as he proclaimed, Futile! (Ecclesiastes 1:2).  The wisdom Solomon shared in the Book of Proverbs sprang from firsthand experience.  He warned us, Fearing the LORD is the beginning of moral knowledge but fools despise wisdom and instruction (1:7) and A wise person is cautious and turns from evil, but a fool throws off restraint and is overconfident (14:16) and One who has isolated himself seeks his own desires; he rejects all sound judgment(18:1).  Those are but a few primo examples.  What he labeled foolishness is an undisciplined mindset based solely on one’s personal preferences.  And if those preferences conflict with God’s laws then the great I AM must be mistaken.  That stinkin’ thinkin’ leads to obsessions of all kinds.  And it all starts with a refusal to develop discipline.

 

Face it.  Few like to be disciplined.  But we’ve all seen what happens to children who never are.  I assure you, I didn’t enjoy it when my parents had to show me the error of my ways but it was always for my benefit.  As adults punishment for not doing the right thing usually comes in the form of unwanted consequences.  In my case God didn’t have to do much at all to get my attention.  My covert porn addiction placed my marriage in jeopardy and I realized it was sink or swim.  Steve Gallagher wrote, “A person’s behavior in secret is where character – or the lack of it – is revealed.”  My deteriorating character was the direct result of me not cultivating any self-control over my randy libido.  The Bible states, “…All discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful.  But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it.  Therefore, strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet… (Hebrews 12:11-12).  It’s not like I didn’t know better.  Mom and Dad raised me properly.  I was the problem.  My brothers and sisters at Celebrate Recovery helped me relate to Solomon who confessed, How I hated discipline!  My heart spurned reproof!  For I did not obey my teachers and I did not heed my instructors (Proverbs 5:12-13).  Recognizing I was ill-equipped to discipline myself I turned to my higher power, Jesus Christ, and humbly asked Him to become my trainer.  It was the wisest thing I’ve ever done.

 

What I’ve discovered during these last nine years of recovery is that when my identity is imbedded in Christ (instead of my sexual urges) discipline comes somewhat easily.  It’s when I start prioritizing my sinful inclinations and start thinking they make up “who I am” that I lose my way.  I must remind myself constantly I’m a new creation because of Christ; that the healthiest discipline I can impose upon myself is to deny the “old man” in me instant gratification.  Paul wrote, You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new man, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).  Hold up.  Read that mind-blowing verse again.  I hope it excites you as it does me when I contemplate what it says.  The new man I became when I totally surrendered my life to Christ is destined to achieve Godlike righteousness and holiness!  Wow!  When I ponder the mess I am most days it’s encouraging to know I have nothing less than a bona fide miraculous transformation awaiting me.  Therefore my job #1 is to discipline myself to do what Jesus told me to do.  In other words, to be more like Him with every move I make and in every thought I conjure up.  By doing that my porn addiction will remain a fading memory of who I used to be, not who I am now.

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One Cure Fits All

There are many helpful programs available to those who suffer from porn addiction but they all have something in common.  Not one can brag of an impressive success rate.  Not even the Celebrate Recovery ministry I’m involved in.  (Still, I won’t hesitate to recommend CR to anyone weary of dragging around life-hampering habits of any kind.)  Don’t get me wrong.  All sex addiction therapies, rehab clinics and professional counselors offer healthy treatments.  In some cases an addict achieves complete freedom from their obsession.  But in my experience the only surefire cure for our contrary sinful nature is to surrender it to Christ’s care and control.  However, partial surrender won’t cut it.  It’s all or nothing with God.  What I’m saying is, while both faith-based curriculums and modern-day psychiatric approaches certainly have lots to offer, only the Heavenly Father never fails those who truly repent of their sins.  Now, be aware genuine repentance doesn’t come easy.  In Greek the word is metanoia, the combo of meta (following) and noieo (think).  It means making a U-turn in one’s attitude towards sin.  Steve Gallagher defined it “…an experience whereby a person’s will is altered for the express purpose of bringing it into line with God’s will.”  Personally, I’ve found permanent repentance difficult and elusive.  I reckon if it was a walk in the park there’d be no born-again porn addicts, right?

 

Some Christian therapists claim if an addict suffers even one relapse, however brief, on their recovery journey their repentance was wholly bogus.  I beg to differ.  To me that stance reeks of a judgmental mien.  Where’s the grace, mercy and compassion found in harboring a legalistic attitude like that?  Honestly, the adage “I’m not as good as I will be, yet I’m a thousand times better than I used to be” describes my ongoing recovery well.  My Father God knows how weak I can be at times yet He hasn’t disowned me for a split second.  When Jesus preached So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48) He was obviously giving us a goal to strive for because He was quite aware that, for us, perfection is unattainable this side of heaven.  He wasn’t unrealistic.  We’re told, “…He knew what was in man (John 2:22).  Otherwise, why was His excruciating atonement necessary?  It’s only by His shed blood on the cross I’ll be blessed to live in His glorious presence forevermore.  What I’ve learned via Celebrate Recovery is to ask God to guide me daily, praying He bestows upon me His divine power to turn away from temptation and do, to the best of my all-too-human ability, His will – not mine.  Understand I’m not saying relapses are okay.  They never are.  But I can’t let them stop me from reaching up to let my Savior yank me back onto my feet so I can continue forward towards the holiness He’s promised will be mine someday.  Ceding defeat is not an option.

 

Though He treasured God’s law, Jesus was no legalist.  He “got” human frailty.  When His close friend/associate Peter succumbed to his latent fear, panicked and denied even knowing his Master three times our Lord didn’t condemn him for his relapse into self-protection mode.  In fact later, after His resurrection, Christ singled him out as the one He trusted most to “…feed my sheep the Gospel message (John 21:17).  Jesus didn’t demand Peter prove the authenticity of his repentance.  Rather, since He’d already forgiven him He was encouraging him to get on with the vital job at hand.  No doubt Peter mourned turning his back on his Master and vowed to never do it again.  His wasn’t a worldly sorrow Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11; Now I rejoice, not because you were made sad but because you were made sad to the point of repentance.  For you were made sad as God intended… For sadness as intended by God produces a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret, but worldly sadness brings about death.”  When I stumble into old behaviors (a rare event nowadays, thank God) I feel I’ve let the indwelling Holy Spirit down and it generates a sorrow that runs deep, indeed.  Knowing I’ve been forgiven spurs me to be stronger next time temptation beckons.

 

I’m not condoning a lackadaisical mindset concerning porn addiction.  No way.  If you’re caught in its sticky web I beg you to seek help immediately.  If you’re a non-believer I pray your search will lead you to a productive program.  If you’re a Christian I think you know where you’d best run to – the open, welcoming, healing arms of our Savior who loves you beyond measure.  He’ll never let you down.  Your recovery will take more time than you want and there’ll be dangerous potholes to navigate around in the long road ahead but He’ll always be there to pick you up when you fall.  Your rebellious, stubborn pride will have to be broken – sometimes repeatedly – but you’ll survive.  When Jesus taught, Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5), He was assuring us those who unconditionally subject their will to the will of God won’t be disappointed with the end result.  God can cure you of your addiction but you have to rely totally on Him or you’ll remain frustrated and unfulfilled.  Note Jesus offered genuine hope we all can hang onto in His very next statement: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6).  Like anything worthwhile, if we want it badly enough to exert 100% effort to get it, it’ll be ours.  And, with God on our side, we can’t lose.  Paul said it best when he wrote, For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).  Trust God.  Who else has made that kind of promise to you?

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Satan Doesn’t Make Us Do It

Logic says if God Almighty can’t make us do stuff what makes us think the devil can?  Yet don’t be deceived.  Satan exists.  If you believe Jesus is God’s Son you mustn’t dismiss His teaching that the devil’s a genuine entity.  Still, the porn addict doesn’t get to blame their sin on Old Scratch.  The Word emphasizes our flesh is the main culprit.  Actually, my disgusting habit sprang from a coalition of both.  My frisky libido is a vulnerable target for Satan to focus his attacks on.  Realize he doesn’t wear a red suit with a pointed tail and therefore a cinch to spot.  He’s cleverer than that.  Scripture tells us he’s an angel who, like us, is restricted by time and space.  He’s nevertheless a spiritual being free of physical limitations.  Plus he’s not alone.  He commands a formidable army of demons who worship him.  Paul wrote, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens (Ephesians 6:12).  As a Christian I trust Paul because there are days when evil seems to rule civilization, causing horrible atrocities that defy rational explanation.  If the devil can instigate mass murders then luring me into viewing porn is small potatoes.

 

It perplexes many believers that God gave Satan the same free will He gave us.  Truth is, we can both choose to sin.  God allows it.  However, the consequences of sin are as predictable as basic math.  Sin comes with a steep price.  If I do what I know is sinful I’m aligning myself with the devil whether I want to admit it or not.  The one who practices sin is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning (1 John 3:8).  If I hanker for porn I’m foolishly making myself easy pickings for demons that have nothing better to do than tempt me into indulging in self-gratification.  Merrill Unger wrote, “Although the human race fell in Adam and became a prey to Satan and demons, the forces of darkness have always been severely restricted.  They can enslave and oppress fallen man only to the degree he willingly violates the eternal moral law of God and exposes himself to evil.”  In the depths of my addiction I became, albeit unwittingly, my own worst enemy.  As Merlin Carothers commented, “It’s never safe to step into Satan’s territory.”  I stepped in it all the time.

 

Those who don’t believe in angels or demons because they can’t see them are being unreasonably selective.  Physicists now claim the immense universe surrounding our planet is 80% filled with an invisible substance they call dark matter.  They don’t know what it is, what it looks like, how it behaves or where it came from but they’re 100% sure it’s as real as your elbow.  It has to be there.  Thus we can’t rule out the existence of spiritual personalities solely because they dwell in a dimension humans aren’t privy to.  Bible-reading Christians know this is true.  Paul wrote, “…I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treachery, your minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-14).  Steve Gallagher opined, “Make no mistake, demons will do anything they can to get the believer to fall in order to draw him away from the Lord.  They’re brilliant strategists who’ve probably been following the man since he was born.  They’re knowledgeable of his weaknesses and know exactly how to entice him into their snares.”

 

I spent decades wallowing in the bottomless cesspool of pornography.  When I finally stepped out of denial and earnestly sought to defeat my addiction I had to come to grips with the fact porn had built a virtual stronghold in my psyche and it’d have to be assailed relentlesslyFor though we live as human beings, we do not wage war according to human standards, for the weapons of our warfare and not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds.  We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ(2 Corinthians 10:3-5).  The question arises: “Why’s the success rate for Christ-centered ministries like Celebrate Recovery no better than that of secular programs?”  I think it’s because God doesn’t intend to cure His children of only their most destructive affliction, He intends to remove everything that doesn’t look/act like Jesus.  And that thorough scouring process requires more effort, dedication and determination than most addicts are willing to commit to.

 

What I’m trying to convey is that any addiction, porn in particular, needs to be considered both a physical and spiritual illness.  As the initial passage cited confirms, the battle to combat the sinful desires of the flesh is fought primarily in the spiritual heart and mind of the believer.  And the more powerless a Christian admits to being in that war, the stronger God will prove Himself to be for them.  Paul openly complained about his infamous thorn-in-the-side weakness explicitly but also acknowledged it made him more dependent on his Heavenly Father who informed him, “…My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weaknesswhich prompted Paul to write, Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).  As a confident man, it was embarrassing to confess my inability to conquer porn addiction on my own.  I had to humble my ego; else my bloated pride would’ve shut God out.  I had to don “God’s armor”, not just to protect myself from demonic assaults, but from my own sinful nature.

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The Narrow Path

One of the many things Jesus taught was following Him isn’t easy.  On the contrary, He spoke repeatedly about how hard it is.  For instance: Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  But the gate is narrow and the way is difficult that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).  That’s not what Christian porn addicts care to hear.  He’s saying we have to constantly battle an incredibly strong, resilient and deeply-rooted urge to take the low road.  I’m not implying sexual sin is worse than any other.  We all have our own cross to bear.  But our increasingly-permissive culture makes the broad, spacious way extremely inviting for the porn addict to travel.  Regrettably, it was my “If it feels good, do it” generation of the 60s/70s that widened the gate to the destruction freeway more than any other that came before.  We promoted a pleasure-obsessed mindset Erwin Lutzer described thusly: “For those who believe in free love, sex is primarily a physical experience.  When you’re hungry you eat, when you’re tired you sleep, and when you’re turned on, you have sex.  Such reasoning may sound right, but it’s off the target by a mile.”  Consequently we now have billions of people going wherever their panting libido leads and all too often it guides them into the sordid world of pornography.  Once there it’s hard to get out.

 

Humankind has always been visually oriented – males in particular.  Not surprisingly many of the ancient drawings and illustrations depict sex acts.  The invention of the printing press in the mid-15th century was a boon to education but it also opened up a whole new method of spreading lurid images and raunchy literature into the mainstream.  But when television burst onto the scene 500 years later the weakened levies broke and the media declared illicit sex an antiquated taboo.  Advertisers knew all along sex sells and now they could force that potent lure into every living room via the “boob tube.”  Before we realized it the “anything goes” attitude acted out in TV sitcoms and dramas drastically lowered moral standards.  Yet that was just the beginning.  When VCRs came into vogue in the 1980s porn addicts could now buy or rent X-rated movies to view in the privacy of their home.  Then the internet arrived.  For addicts like me it meant no longer having to drive to a seedy “adult” establishment (and risk my shameful habit being discovered) in order to get my fix.  Satan’s long-term plan to poison humanity with smut has reached full fruition.  The porn plague seems unstoppable and it’s infecting the entire globe.  That’s where our soul-staining predicament stands right now.

 

The flesh corrupts.  That’s why Christians are called to be in this fleshy world but to never be of it because this isn’t where we belong.  Secularists label that a ridiculous notion.  Encapsulating the unbeliever’s attitude, A.W. Tozer commented that “Men think of the world, not as a battleground but as a playground.  We’re not here to fight, we’re here to frolic.  We’re not in a foreign land, we’re at home.  We’re not getting ready to live, we’re already living, and the best we can do is rid ourselves of our inhibitions and our frustrations and live this life to the full.”  On the surface that sounds great but born-again Christians are commanded to deny themselves and live to please our Savior only.  Paul taught, “…For you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of the light – for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth – trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:8-9).  It’s blatantly obvious many modern-day churches and their leaders have succumbed to the dangerous attraction of their teachings being considered non-controversial.  Rarely do I hear sermons exhorting believers to earnestly-but-graciously exist outside the herd mentality.  That’s why the lifestyle of an average American Christian is too often indistinguishable from that of an agnostic.  The deceitful “I’m not hurting anybody” refrain is why porn addiction flourishes among those who claim they obey God’s Laws faithfully.  It’s as if self-gratification somehow got demoted to being a harmless indiscretion, not a sin.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

 

God knew the day would come when the word “obscene” would be passé and Christians would have to be reminded of His still-relevant warnings such as, “Be sober and alert.  Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, strong in your faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are enduring the same kinds of suffering (1 Peter 5:8-9).  Steve Gallagher wrote, “The Christian struggling with sexual sin must acquire a new attitude about what Christian living is all about.  Our purpose in life is not to greedily fulfill every desire; we’re not to be gluttons for pleasure but rather soldiers willing to suffer hardship for the sake of Christ.  Rather than being immersed in the sensuous living of the world, we should be separated from it.”  Can a non-Christian porn addict overcome their compulsive behavior?  Yes, some have done that.  But without the power the indwelling Holy Spirit supplies, it’s tons more difficult because the path leading to complete freedom is, indeed, extremely narrow.  Paul’s oft-quoted verse of encouragement is one Celebrate Recovery highlights frequently because it’s helped so many find healing through surrendering their affliction to Christ.  He wrote, You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image – in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth (Ephesians 4:22-24).

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Flesh Wounds

The porn addict engages in war daily because pornography is so accepted and accessible nowadays. I pray that despicable industry will come under intense attack soon.  Recently one of the major TV news outlets actually dared to address this fallen world’s smut problem, labeling the porn plague as a detrimental societal influence the “Me, too” movement should be aggressively railing against.  “Ya think?” I exclaimed.  I find it ironic that while viewing child porn is a felony (justly so), pre-teens having unrestricted access to graphic sex acts on their smartphone is waved off as no big deal.  We must demand our courts return to upholding the obscenity laws on the books because what we’re dealing with is what God’s Word calls “the flesh”, a term for mankind’s sinful nature in general.  The flesh has inflicted massive wounds on civilization from the get-go.  You don’t have to read far in your Bible to see it, either.  And God looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth (Genesis 6:12).  It brought on God’s watery reboot yet the rebellious flesh came back strong as ever.  It’s why we needed and now have a Savior.  His name is Jesus Christ.

 

God’s made it clear sex is therapeutic and beautiful as long as it’s between a married male and female.  He made it pleasurable for good reason.  If it wasn’t it’s a sure bet our species would’ve gone extinct eons ago because men are reticent to do anything that lacks something in it for them.  (Just sayin’…)  Thus God installed sex as a necessary motivational force alongside hunger, thirst and the survival instinct.  However, an overstimulated, unregulated sex drive leads to sex addiction.  Steve Gallagher wrote, “In addition to the incessant cries and ruthless demands of his [the addict’s] flesh for more, he has the world constantly telling him he can have more any time, any place, and with whomever he desires.”  For the porn addict it’s akin to an alcoholic’s residence being surrounded by liquor stores.  The battle to abstain from the urges of the flesh is a fierce one.  But it can be won if you let the Holy Spirit fight it with you.

 

One Bible dictionary defines flesh as “…the natural man, including the un-renewed will and mind, moving in the world of self and sense only.”  The flesh sees no need for spirituality.  Paul explained it succinctly: For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.  For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace, because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:5-8).  In other words, flesh and Spirit are in constant conflict.  For most of my life I let my gratification-seeking flesh run the show, reducing God to being a spectator in the bleachers.  My mind, the mysterious interface between my physiological brain and my spiritual soul, was powerless to control my libido.  I fantasized about sex all the time.  My unbridled lust ruled the roost.  Charles Hodge called flesh “the inward principle of evil which possesses our nature, and lies back of the will, beyond the reach of our power…”  Truth is the flesh will destroy us unless we call upon Jesus for help.

 

Once we surrender to Christ and repent of our sins the Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence in our heart.  The flesh doesn’t take kindly to this invasion and things heat up quickly.  Paul wrote, For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want (Galatians 5:17).  This is where our free will comes into play because the choices we make moment to moment determine which side will dominate.  Paul put it this way: “…A person will reap what he sows, because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit (Galatians 6:7-8).  He also taught us how to resist: “…Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to arouse its desires (Romans 13:14).  The indwelling Holy Spirit can reprogram your mind from its default setting of wanting to view porn to having the option of refraining from indulging in that demeaning, immature activity.  It doesn’t mean you won’t, but you no longer have to.  I had to learn to “just say no” to temptation.  After decades of ogling porn it wasn’t simple, though.  As Paul instructed, I had to practice steering my thoughts out of the gutter.  “…Whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.  And what you learned and received and heard and saw in me, practice these things.  And the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:8-9).

 

Remember, wars are inherently vicious.  And the ongoing war waged between your flesh and your Spirit won’t end this side of heaven.  In Celebrate Recovery we emphasize the adage of taking it “one day at a time” because a victory today doesn’t guarantee one tomorrow.  The enemy’s relentless, always trying to convince you to quit.  Jay Adams wrote, “…Too many Christians give up.  They want the change too soon.  What they really want is change without the daily struggle.”  I wish I could promise you your recovery will be a cinch but I’m just not that big a liar.  Suit up.

7

How Bad Do You Want It?

Questionable grammar aside, the title of this old Don Henley song hits the bullseye when it comes to addiction recovery in general.  Saying you’re ready to repent of a particular sin and doing it can be two different animals altogether.  For the Christian addict, following what God’s Holy Word instructs us to do to de-idolize our “sin of choice” enables us to free ourselves from slavery to it.  But are we willing to adhere to the discipline and self-denial required to overcome our obsession?  Will we “walk the walk” or simply “talk the talk” as we continue to sharpen our hiding skills?  Don’t buy the lie that insists merely reading your Bible daily, tithing faithfully and attending Celebrate Recovery meetings will, in and of themselves, make your cravings for sinful things/behaviors disappear like magic.  It takes maintaining persistent determination to become righteous for as long as it takes, even if the process involves years or even decades of struggle.  What you must ask yourself is this: How bad do you want to change?  Bad enough to endure scorn, ridicule and/or ostracization by friends and family members?  Sorry, but half-hearted attempts to let the Holy Spirit transform your heart and mind won’t work.  It takes everything you’ve got.  You have to go “all in.”  And that means surrendering it all to God Almighty.

 

Frank Worthen wrote, “When we reach the point where we realize our own efforts are getting us nowhere, we accept the conclusion we can’t change ourselves.  The next question to ask is, ‘Do we really want our lives to be different?’  God usually does very little in our lives until we get honest with him.  He knows if we’re asking Him for deliverance when we really don’t want it.  If change isn’t happening… we may need to admit we really don’t want it.  Lasting freedom from sin comes when our motives are pure: when we don’t want to grieve the Holy Spirit.  Our desire for a full, rich relationship with the Lord is the motivation which clears the way for real change.”  Look, you can blame God all you want for not instantly taking away your destructive urges but it won’t alter the hard truth that you brought your addiction upon yourself via the dubious choices you made.  The good news is that, despite the mess your sinful nature got you into, God will change you if you want change more than staying the way you are.  How can you know with absolute certainty He’ll keep His end of the deal?  The Bible is full of His promises and God doesn’t lie.  Ever.  “…If my people, who belong to me, humble themselves, pray, seek to please me, and repudiate their sinful practices, then I will respond from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). “…Take delight in the LORD, and he will answer your prayers.  Commit your future to the LORD!  Trust in him, and he will act on your behalf (Psalm 37:4-5). Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.  Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

 

Wait!  There’s more!  Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I say, rejoice!  Let everyone see your gentleness.  The Lord is near!  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 4:4-7).  In other words, if you do something about your affection for sin then the omnipotent God of the universe will reciprocate in kind by giving you the strength to start hating it.  In my case I was forced to admit my lifelong secret addiction to pornography had stained my heart to the point where I’d turned into a horrible person no one cared to associate with.  The night my wife confronted me with the shameful, undeniable evidence I sank to my knees and pleaded with God to heal me of my disgusting habit.  I finally wanted change bad enough to give Him complete control of my life.  At last I was ready to accept His terms for rehabilitation.  Steve Gallagher wrote, “God guarantees freedom to His children, but it’s their responsibility to meet the conditions.”

 

Understand your Heavenly Father doesn’t want you to remain in the clutches of sin.  He will answer your prayer to break loose from the bonds of addiction.  His Word tells us repeatedly of His boundless mercy and unconditional love.  It’s right there in black and white.  Freedom can be yours!  Check it out yourself: “…Whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark 11:24).  Our Heavenly Father came through for His children ages ago and He hasn’t changed a bit since.  And what’s true of God is true of His Son, our beloved Savior: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever! (Hebrews 13:8).  It was He who taught us, For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  Is there anyone among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:8-11).  Have you had enough of your stinkin’ addiction to surrender it – all of it – to your higher power, Jesus Christ, whose power knows no limits?  I used to tell myself I could stop patronizing the porn merchants at any time.  But that was bull dookie.  I couldn’t.  It took doing it God’s way in order to quit.  One day at a time.

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