Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

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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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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The Wide Turn

When a Christian porn addict finally steps from denial and repents of their sins it’s natural they’ll expect God to heal them pronto.  After all, He’s God.  He can do anything.  But rarely does He take away out-of-control habits overnight.  Those of us who spent decades filling up our hearts and minds with obscene images find out in a jiffy replacing them with wholesome, worthwhile thoughts will take longer than we want.  Porn addiction is akin to a huge aircraft carrier in that it takes even the most modern of them at least 4.5 miles to turn around.  Therefore steadfast patience is essential to recovery.  We have to trust God knows what He’s doing.  Paul wrote, Therefore we do not despair, but even if our physical body is wearing away, our inner person is being renewed day by day.  For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).  In other words, we may feel we’re barely making headway through a long, dark tunnel but there’s a beckoning light at the end of it that keeps us moving forward.

 

Looking back over the 9 years I’ve spent overcoming my addiction I can see a “quick fix” wouldn’t have been in my best interest.  Ogling porn and pleasuring myself were but symptoms stemming from my core problem – self-reliance.  Until I learned I was utterly powerless to combat my sinful nature on my own and that my only hope was to rely totally on my Heavenly Father for strength I was merely slapping Band-Aids on the gaping hole in my heart.  The first principle in Celebrate Recovery is: “Realize I’m not God.  I admit I’m powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable.”  I had to get that sobering truth through my thick skull before any healing could take place.  See, there’s no substitute for God’s power.  David cried, Give us help against the enemy, for any help men might offer is futile.  By God’s power we will conquer; he will trample down our enemies (Psalm 60:11-12).  When I began my recovery all I wanted was to be set free from the chains of my addiction.  God intended to do a lot more than that, though.  He wanted to transform everything about me and that makeover was going to be painful at times.  Steve Gallagher wrote, “Deliverance from sexual addiction involves personal loss.  A true overcomer must part with certain relationships, places and things that were intimately associated with his sinful lifestyle.  This is extremely difficult and often traumatic to the sex addict who’s looked to his sin for comfort, pleasure, and as an escape from the real world.”  Subconsciously I’d made porn my idol and dethroning it was going to take time and effort.  God knew how hard it would be.  I didn’t.

 

I’m not a fighter.  Never have been.  I don’t even like to argue.  I always figure out a way to steer around any pothole I encounter.  But I realized I was going to have to figuratively “climb into the ring” with my porn addiction every day and I was going to need God in my corner.  “…We do not wage war according to human standards, for the weapons of our warfare are 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).  Take every thought captive…  Holy smokes.  That’s a big order.  I took that to mean my battle was really against me and the love I had for my sin-of-choice.  I had to start hating it or I’d never stand a chance of defeating it.  And, because I’d been feeding the wretched “old man” Wheaties for decades, he wasn’t about to take a dive anytime soon.  I had to develop an unflagging determination to win and a willingness to do whatever it took, however long it’d take.  As a leader in CR, I’ve seen hundreds throw in the towel when they saw what they were up against in their muscled sinful nature.  It can be intimidating and many give up.

 

But I can testify there’s hope for even the worst of addicts.  No mountain’s too tall when God’s your Sherpa guide.  He’s created ministries like Celebrate Recovery and Overcomers Outreach that provide workable steps and principles to follow and, most importantly, a group of Christians who’ll walk beside you as you heal – one day at a time.  If you stick with the program and trust God before long you’ll see tangible progress being made.  Like any challenging climb you’ll stumble sometimes but when you’ve got the unlimited power of the Holy Spirit right there to yank you back on your feet quitting doesn’t make sense.  I’m also blessed with a sponsor and several accountability partners who constantly encourage me to keep putting one foot in front of the other when the going gets rough.  Without them I’m not sure where I’d be right now.  At one point I realized I’d gone an entire day without thinking about porn and I knew I was beginning to make the wide turnabout towards freedom.  All these years later I’m happy to report I’m no longer a slave to porn.  The mountain was scaled.  It was a slow and sometimes daunting climb but the view from the summit is well worth the struggle.  God will never let you down if you sincerely desire to leave addiction behind.  The Bible confirms it, proclaiming “…If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) and “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).  Focus on where you’re going and not where you’ve been.  You’ll get there.

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A Matter of Pride

Webster’s defines pride as “an exaggerated opinion of oneself.”  I can’t think of a single instance when, in that sense, pride is beneficial.  And if you’re a disciple of Christ, pride must be executed.  Jesus said, If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23).  Yet nothing’s harder for a porn addict than denying himself.  Why?  Larry Crabb wrote, “The lethal blow is dealt not to our humanity, but to its corruption.  Because our soul is so thoroughly stained with self-reliance, the death of pride feels like the death of our self.”  Exactly.  Next Jesus added, For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it(Luke 9:24).  Our pride takes those words as a personal threat and it’ll do everything possible to protect itself.  I previously wrote about some of the excuses porn addicts use to justify their atrocious, destructive habit.  Fact is, pride’s the only one that’s legitimate because it’s the root of the problem.  So when they learn becoming a born-again Christian entails killing it, pride will fight tooth and nail to survive.  Thus pride becomes the #1 enemy of the “new creation” the Holy Spirit initiates and begins to nurture in the believer.  And that battle for supremacy can get downright brutal.

 

Pride isn’t just one thing.  It’s an overbearing, micromanaging multitasker poking its self-promoting nose into every aspect of a person’s life (especially the porn addict’s), convincing them they won’t find fulfillment if it’s not in charge.  What it hides is that it’s a cancer.  Solomon wrote, Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).  Since the word haughty is passé nowadays it behooves us to recall its true meaning – thinking we’re better than someone else.  No wonder it’s rarely used!  This world teems with haughty people who won’t admit they are!  God has a major problem with haughtiness.  He said, “I will destroy anyone who slanders his neighbor in secret.  I will not tolerate anyone who has a cocky demeanor and an arrogant attitude (Psalm 101:5).  Due to that ominous warning pride’s extremely self-protective.  Other entities, God in particular, make it feel vulnerable so it erects walls and barriers accordingly.  The Bible states, God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).  Pride despises humility because a humble mien is the strongest weapon an addict (of any kind) can wield to break free of their debilitating obsession.  Therefore pride’ll try to convince the mind humility’s a sign of weakness that’ll only lead to opportunistic folks taking advantage of them.  It’ll also tell the porn addict they have every right to proudly view whatever they darn well please.

 

When pride is seated on the throne the addict becomes unapproachable.  Attempts to confront, correct or advise them regarding the error of their ways are summarily ignored.  Even a Christian addict will accuse those who dare suggest they’re in deep denial about their affliction of being judgmental and cite Matthew 7:3 about their having a beam of wood sticking out of their eye.  In essence, pride cultivates in the individual a “know-it-all” mindset that’s nearly impossible to reason with.  That was me.  Nobody could tell me nothin’.  I had all the answers.  Or so my pride assured me.  Paul wrote, If someone among you thinks he is wise in this age, let him become foolish so that he can become wise.  For the wisdom of this age is foolishness with God (1 Corinthians 3:18-19).  Until I hit a brick wall in my addiction I never entertained for a moment the thought there was a lot I didn’t know and had to learn.  You see, I was too busy conning folks, masquerading as a wholesome “good guy” who had no sinful vices.  As far as I was concerned my downloads didn’t stink.  Therefore I didn’t need a fun-spoiling God.  I was doing His job just fine, thank you very much.  I deemed His moral laws outdated so I felt empowered to make up and live by my own.  Indulging in porn?  Shoot, as long as I kept it private it was okay in my book.  Ironically, even though I was the world’s worst backslider my puffed-up pride had fostered in me an unsubstantiated “holier-than-thou” mentality that, in retrospect, I now find shameful.  How blind I was!  I’d gotten baptized when I was 9 so I figured, since my “ticket to heaven” was permanently punched, that symbolic act gave me carte blanche to tell others what horrible sinners they were.  All these negative traits were products of my unrestrained pride.  That’s why Jesus taught it must be defeated; else it’ll rule and ruin us.

 

My egotistic “old self” addicted to porn had to die so the humble “new self” could take over.  Andrew Murray wrote, “This is the true self-denial to which our Savior calls us – the acknowledgement that self has nothing good in it except as an empty vessel which God must fill.  It’s simply the sense of entire nothingness, which comes when we see how truly God is all, and in which we make way for God to be all.”  Humbling oneself before your Heavenly Father doesn’t mean you’ll now develop self-loathing or low self-esteem issues.  The silent inner peace that grows from willfully obeying Christ’s teachings and joyfully serving your fellow man is a blessing. Surety of purpose fosters the healthy spiritual love for yourself Jesus insisted is essential to holiness.  He taught, Let him who is the greatest among you become the servant (Luke 22:26).  Yes, that’s extremely difficult.  Embracing a servant’s outlook goes against everything this fallen world advocates so Christians have to fight not only their stubborn pride but the secular “anything goes” mentality surrounding them.  But here’s the truth: The addict who loves others as himself will see their desire for pornography fade – along with their pride.

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Excuses, Excuses

A blogger I respect posted an alarming statistic: In 2010 there were 900 certified sex addiction therapists in the U.S.  In 2017 that number was 2,500.  Talk about a growth industry!  Thus it’s logical to connect society’s unconscionable apathy towards pornography to why so many are seeking help for their obsession with it.  Obviously, more people are viewing sex addiction as a serious malady and are willing to let professionals assist them in discovering what’s causing their compulsive behavior.  While Celebrate Recovery’s in-depth step study course does that too (and most participants benefit greatly from it), exhuming and examining tragic or abusive incidents in one’s past doesn’t always translate into positive results in the present.  The danger is that, sans skilled spiritual guidance, the addict will simply add those traumatic events to their list of excuses.  The Bible teaches Christians struggling with any recurring sin should focus on the here and now, not on memories from the past.  Fact is there’s absolutely no Scriptural support for assigning full blame to folks who mistreated or betrayed us earlier in life for any addiction.  Rather, it insists our sinful nature is the real culprit that must be confronted and dealt with.  Check out King David.  When he was called on the carpet by Nathan over the atrocious sins he’d committed to have Bathsheba he didn’t claim it was due to being underappreciated by his horde of wives and concubines.  Nope.  He accepted all the blame, humbled himself before the Lord and repented.  Porn addicts must do the same.

 

But playing the “not-my-fault card” is very tempting because everyone does it to a certain extent.  And, according to Freudian psychology, parents are the top blame-getters.  God begs to differ: The person who sins is the one who will die.  A son will not suffer for his father’s iniquity, and a father will not suffer for his son’s iniquity; the righteous person will be judged according to his righteousness, and the wicked person according to his wickedness (Ezekiel 18:20).  God’s not saying horrible things don’t happen that end up causing us problems down the line.  They do.  However, we’re encouraged to courageously move forward, Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead…” (Philippians 3:13).  The Holy Spirit will enable us – if we let Him.  The past will always be there.  We can’t change it.  But by taking responsibility for how we let it affect us today we can free ourselves from the joy-stealing burden it’ll impose on us.

 

Another easy target presented as the excuse for an individual’s porn addiction is the spouse.  I confess.  I used it myself.  (How two-faced I was!  I’d been an avid porn enthusiast all during my bachelor days, too.)  Rationalizing my wife wasn’t as fascinated with sex as I was and then blaming her for my premeditated, calculated decision to immerse myself in the sordid world of porn was a display of my darkening, extremely self-centered heart.  The truth of the matter is I indulged because I wanted to.  If my love and respect for my wife had been genuine I wouldn’t have.  A conscientious Christian husband must first examine himself to see if there’s something he’s doing that’s keeping his wife at a distance and then do something about it.  I also should’ve never bought into the widespread-but-erroneous belief that my wife’s primary responsibility in our marriage was to “see to my needs” while, at the same time, I was routinely neglecting hers.  Alas, most porn addicts are convinced it’s all about them 24/7.

 

God’s yet another handy scapegoat.  Some addicts direct their anger over their bad habit at their Creator (whatever they opine Him/Her/It to be), either for “making them this way” or for not instantly eradicating their strong craving for porn toute suite on demand.  But blaming God is so lame.  He didn’t coerce you or anyone else on earth to sin.  Truth is He’s gone above and beyond to make salvation and freedom from addiction available to everybody.  Just as it falls upon each individual to take full responsibility for what they choose to fill their days up with, they must also decide whether or not to accept God’s gracious gift of eternal life via believing in His only begotten Son and what He did on our behalf.  We must own up to the fact that porn addiction is not only a sin against God but that only He has the power that’ll enable us to overcome our out-of-control fleshly desires and to follow His instructions for becoming a healthy, mature adult.

 

Perhaps the most frequent excuse given is one that psychiatrists, therapists and even Christian counselors have granted way too much credibility – emotional defects.  The trouble with this diagnosis is that it often leads to years or even decades of an addict zeroing in on their naturally-fluctuating feelings and still not making noticeable headway towards overcoming their ugly habit.  Introspection alone won’t cure what ails us.  Steve Gallagher wrote, “It needs to be stated that for 2,000 years God’s been successfully and powerfully transforming hopeless sinners into bright, joyful saints without the aid of psychology.”  Emotional defects are but symptoms of the bottom line condition we all share – our wicked hearts love to sin.  The Bible says, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?(Jeremiah 17:9).  Me?  I paraded out all the excuses I could amass but the unavoidable truth was this: The affection my heart had developed for porn had become unmanageable.  I was at fault for following sin where it took me.  My addiction brought a lot more than all-too-brief moments of endorphin-fueled pleasure into my existence.  It brought guilt, a contrary disposition and mounting dissatisfaction with everything.  Ironically it wasn’t emotional defects causing my addiction.  Just the opposite was the case.  What I needed was a safe place where I could go and be me.  I found it at Celebrate Recovery.  You can, too.

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The Vile Routine

The modern-day relevance of the Bible is amazing.  Consider this passage with porn addiction in mind.  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 is 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).  What these verses describe, written when porn was nothing more than crude drawings, is the vile routine the addict repeats again and again.  I’m no stranger to the process.  The Scriptures clarify God’s not the tempter.  The devil?  He hardly has to lift a finger these days.  Fact is I welcomed temptation, I didn’t avoid it.  An addict, I looked forward to my “alone time” and would plan my day accordingly.  I loved my sin, plotting in advance to seize any opportunity to let my obsession take over and rule me.  Some translations substitute carried away for lured in those verses.  That’s precisely what happens to people when it comes to indulging in sexual sin.  They literally get carried away.

 

Steve Gallagher described it thusly: “It’s almost as if his carnal desires momentarily take control of his mind and carry him away to some dream world where he’s then utterly defenseless.”  Exactly!  Once aboard the fantasy express they’ll go wherever it takes them because all they care about is what awaits at the end of the line – self-gratification.  Nothing else matters.  It’s not unlike being in a trance.  The impulse is so strong even dedicated Christians will forsake all decency for that fleeting instant of pleasure.  Bonhoeffer wrote: “At this moment God is quite unreal to us, he loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real…  Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God…  The lust thus aroused envelopes the mind and will of man in deepest darkness.  The powers of clear discrimination and of decision are taken from us.”  I know firsthand of what he speaks.  Once my lust was aroused my course was set in stone.  Those who devise sinful plans are as good as dead, those who dream about doing evil as they lie in bed.  As soon as morning dawns they carry out their plans, because they have the power to do so (Micah 2:1).  Sadly, this was a daily occurrence for me while in the throes of addiction and eventually I’d end up well beyond the “point of no return”.  I’d developed “…a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift to run to evil (Proverbs 6:18).

 

At this point sex addiction gets personalized.  What I mean is every porn addict has a particular perversion they gravitate towards every time.  It’s not unlike the alcoholic who prefers a certain brand of booze.  But whereas the problem drinker usually wants to get drunk quickly the porn addict prefers to make the buildup to climax last as long as possible.  Therefore they’ll sometimes spend hours surfing websites, looking for that “perfect” photo or movie scene that satisfies their aroused libido.  This is dangerous because it can lead the addict into dark realms he never in a million years thought he’d venture into.  Plus, this entire time-consuming shameful routine more often than not fails to meet expectations.  You’d think eventually that disappointing outcome would discourage further forays into filth but no.  Like a drug fiend, the addict figures the next “fix” will be the one that transports them to nirvana.  Therefore the vicious cycle continues on and on in an endless search for lasting fulfillment that never comes.

 

But what’s this “death” sin leads to?  Is James insinuating porn addiction is lethal?  While I’ve never heard of anyone expiring of a porn overdose it definitely does cause things to die.  It kills self-respect and self-confidence.  It causes the demise of close relationships; especially marriages.  It destroys character and attractiveness as the addict turns meaner, more paranoid and snarkier as their inflated sense of entitlement expands into all areas of their life.  I know because I became increasingly bitter and resentful in my attitude towards everybody.  Constant exposure to lurid sex, wherein male participants appeared to be having tons of dirty fun with pliant women, made me think I was missing out; that I was underappreciated by my wife; that I was being deprived.  My sin was slowly but surely becoming the death of all the good things I’d been blessed with by my Heavenly Father.  What Solomon, one of the richest and wisest men who ever lived, wrote is spot on: There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death (Proverbs 14:12).  The Christian porn addict rationalizes they’re only committing a minor sin; that they’re merely satisfying an urge that for some reason God made stronger in them than most; that they’re not hurting anyone.  They’ve bought into pornography’s big fat lie lock, stock and barrel.  What they refuse to acknowledge is how thoroughly narcissistic their life’s becoming day by day.

 

Is there a cure?  Yes.  It’s a word that appears almost 500 times in the Bible – Repentance.  That’s when a person willfully reverses their opinion of sin.  It ain’t easy, especially when they’ve been feeding their “iniquity of choice” for decades like I did.  That’s why a Christian ministry like Celebrate Recovery is invaluable to overcoming any addiction, not just a disgusting obsession with porn.  Folks there know what you’re dealing with and they’ll help you to redirect your energies into a more productive/positive mindset by thinking less about you and more about God and others.  There is hope.  But in Christ alone.  God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).  It’s true.  The vile routine can be broken.  I’m living proof.

6

The Hiding Game

Christ described the porn addict’s mindset eloquently.  He said, “…the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed (John 3:19-20).  In Celebrate Recovery we know we’re sick as our secrets.  That’s not just a catchy slogan.  When it comes to porn addiction, being exposed is what an indulger fears most so they become experts at hiding their habit.  Especially if they’re a Christian.  There are several reasons.  For one thing, obsession with porn is shameful to admit.  They’re afraid if they confess it to their pastor he’ll judge them and might even question if they can be trusted around teens or adolescents.  Plus word might leak and spread through the congregation.  Another is the stigma associated with sexual lust that doesn’t apply to other vices like codependency, workaholism, impatience, etc.  Plus keeping their addiction covert is relatively easy.  They can be a respected deacon and at the same time be glued to their PC monitor, cruising porn sites for hours nightly and nobody would suspect a thing.  The alcoholic or druggie will show outward signs of wear and tear but not the porn addict.  Even the blackest heart can remain undetected cloaked beneath a dress shirt and a fancy tie.

 

All of us have an “inner” and an “outer” life.  Another way of putting it would be “the person we are” and “the person we want folks to think we are.”  There’s nothing inherently wrong about that dynamic because, naturally, there are thoughts/motives we wisely choose to keep to ourselves.  However, if we think for a moment God doesn’t know the real us we’re fools.  Jesus preached, Nothing is hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing is secret that will not be made known.  So then whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms will be proclaimed from the housetops (Luke 12:2-3).  Back when I was in the clutches of porn addiction I simply acted as if God couldn’t see what I was doing.  I reasoned that surely He had more pressing concerns to oversee in the cosmos than monitoring the damage I was inflicting on my soul.  But what I refused to acknowledge was just how much He loves me and how much He wants me to depend on Him for fulfillment.  God does not view things the way men do.  People look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).  Fact is, there are over 2,000 direct references to the inner life in God’s Word so its importance can’t be overstated.  Authentic spiritual freedom depends greatly on one’s unfiltered transparency.  It’s sad when a Christian becomes a hypocrite.  If we say we have fellowship with him [God] and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth.  But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:6-7).

 

Now, the non-believing porn addict may never get caught.  But the Christian who’s certain his private sin will never be found out is mistaken.  God treasures him too much to let him destroy himself.  I thought I’d cleverly covered my tracks but all it took was a few mouse clicks for my wife to discover what I’d been hiding from her from the day we met.  Since she wasn’t even looking for my browsing history I have no doubt God deemed it high time I got exposed for the phony I was.  It’s a night I’ll never forget, I assure you.  Looking back I realize my sin was an insidious, self-inflicted disease that blocked my ability to comprehend its very existence.  My swollen smugness and misguided sense of entitlement had blinded me to my despicable iniquity.  I couldn’t see it for what it obviously was – a deadly virus infecting my heart.  Therefore I minimalized it.  J.C. Ryle wrote, “Men try to cheat themselves into the belief that sin’s not quite as sinful as God says it is, and that they’re not so bad as they really are.”

 

What disgusts me most about my addiction is how immature I behaved trying to keep such a big part of me hidden from sight.  That’s what kids do, not well-adjusted adults.  That made it even harder to confess.  But when I got backed into a corner I had no other option than to give Celebrate Recovery a go.  What James 5:16 informs the porn addict is vital to overcoming their ugly habit: So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed.  That sounded too good to be true, too easy, but I was desperate.  My marriage hung in the balance.  Steve Gallagher wrote, “Real deliverance from sexual sin can never be possible until the heart is opened up and exposed.”  So what gave me the courage to do that?  It was finding myself surrounded by a group of guys that struggled with the same affliction.  That was a new and extremely liberating experience because I knew I couldn’t hoodwink a single one of them.  They weren’t just going to listen to me spill my guts, they were going to hold me accountable.  Several of them stepped forward to say they’d be available to chat any time I was tempted to relapse.  I didn’t know Christian men like that even existed!  Realizing I wasn’t going to have to walk the rocky, pot-holed road of recovery alone made all the difference in the world.  Most important, though, was the hope I gained from being assured that He who created the entire universe would never give up on me.

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