[The average person probably assumes that many of the things I write about are hard for me to be so transparent with, but that surprisingly isn’t the case. I can talk about my past, my homosexual encounters, my promiscuity, my current struggle with homosexuality, etc., pretty easily... which I contribute completely to the grace of God at work in me. But today I’m going to write about something that actually is hard for me to communicate publicly. But on this one, I know for a fact I am not alone. I know almost every guy faces what I'm about to hit on, and I hope that my thoughts on the subject might offer some insight to someone, even if they're jumbled and scattered... I'm no skilled exegetist.]
I am addicted to pornography.
It’s more difficult than you may think for me to write out those five words. Only in the past couple of weeks have I been able to even be honest with myself about this addiction, much less really tell anyone else. A couple of my friends know that I “struggle” with watching porn, but they don’t know of the extent to which I “struggle”. I think I’m ashamed and don’t talk about this because pridefully I feel like I of all people shouldn’t have this problem. As much as I try and help people out of sexual sin, I shouldn’t be partaking in it myself. While this is true, that I shouldn’t be partaking in porn, it is my pride which makes it so hard for me to admit that I struggle so badly with it. My reputation is my biggest idol.
As I revealed in my February post entitled, “My 2-D Devil”, throughout the entire year of 2011, I only remember falling into this sin once or twice… which was a remarkable improvement compared to me watching it daily for at least five years, prior to my conversion. I don’t know why it wasn’t as much of a struggle for me last year, but it wasn’t… the temptation just never seemed to arise in my heart.
But as I began to talk to other people about their addictions to porn, around January of this year, I began to fall again. The first time I viewed it after going so long without it was absolutely devastating to me. Granted, much of that devastation was due to my elevated self-righteousness at the time… I had been convinced that I [keyword “I”] had conquered this sin. I viewed myself as being on a higher spiritual level than those who struggled with pornography. When talking to people who were so desperately distraught over their repeated failures, I remember thinking, “Just stop doing it! It’s not that hard!”
Over the past 7 months, I have become that person who won’t “just stop doing it”
Rather than improving in my battles against this temptation, I find myself at least once a week in agony over my disobedience, yet again. Sometimes I can’t even find it inside myself to say “I’m sorry God”… because I believe if I were really sorry for grieving His heart, I would stop. But rather, I honestly tell Him, “I’m sorry that I’m not more sorry”. I believe whole heartedly in being honest and transparent with the Lord… not for His benefit, He already knows my heart. But for my own benefit. It’s in being honest with ourselves and with God about the state of our souls that the Holy Spirit begins to show us the rocky crevices in our heart where sin hides.
Though my spiritual life hasn’t been as bad as it could have been the past 7 months [which just goes to show the great patience of God], it has nonetheless been filled with emotional roller coasters. After I watch porn, I am overcome with sorrow and regret, usually for days. I am saturated with the fear that my faith could possibly be counterfeit. But more than anything, I’m just confused. Confused about why I keep doing this, confused about why God keeps allowing me to do this, confused about my confusion, and so on. But after some time, the guilt starts to fade away and I start really “feeling” the promises of the Gospel again. I feel connected to God once more, and assured that this time I won’t give in. When the temptation comes, I’ll just remember how bad I felt and for how long I felt so confused, and I’ll fight it. I will not, under any circumstances, watch porn.
Then I watch porn.
And the cycle has been repeating itself now for what seems like an eternity, slowly but viciously eating away at my soul. Just yesterday, I spent at least two hours watching pornography…. right after reading my bible and praying. I found myself at the end of myself… despaired, angry, saddened and disgusted. This morning when I woke up, I continued in my prayerful repentance before the Lord, and on my way to work I felt different than I normally do just hours after watching porn.
I didn’t feel like sorrow was weighing down upon me.
- “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows..”- Isaiah 53:4
I didn’t feel like punishment was awaiting me.
- “God made [us] alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”- Colossians 2:14
I didn’t feel like the past two years of pursuing God was all fake.
- “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”- Phillipians 1:6.
You see, although I know these verses well and have indeed recited them to others countless times, I haven’t fully trusted them myself. My heart hasn’t fully taken hold of the promises of God and in my double-mindedness, when the winds of temptation come I haven’t had His Word deep in my heart to anchor me in obedience. I start having thoughts like, “I don’t know if that really applies to me… I hope that’s true, but what if it isn’t?” and in this weakness I give myself over to pornography. In this double-mindedness, I have proved the Scriptures true in being unstable in all my ways.
Like Calvin says, “A perfect faith is nowhere to be found, so it follows that all of us are partly unbelievers.”
But I believe this morning the Lord told me, “Matt, I forgive you. I forgave you before you even knew you were forgiven. Look at the Cross of my Son. Look at the Blood of my Son. All the evidence of my unfathomable mercy is there. I love you, I’m for you, and I’m not leaving you. Now praise me for what I’ve done for you. Praise for what I’m doing for you. Praise me for what I will do for you. Praise your way out of pornography.”
Praise my way out of pornography? Now this is something that was new to me, which is why I know it was God, not me. But it makes so much sense….. so much sense. When do we praise God the most? When we realize how good, gracious and merciful He is toward us. But I have not had that mindset when thinking of God…. and I haven’t for awhile.
For the past year or so I’ve been viewing following Jesus as a “don’t do that… or else” way of life, in some respect. Grace has been something I talk about often, but not something I feel like I’ve been fully allowing myself to experience. In some weird way, it’s like I’ve still been living under the law… and if I view myself as under the law, I give the sin that resides in my flesh power. Our nature is to rebel against God’s law, and we see in Romans that the law was put into the place so that our sins would increase and we would see our need for Christ. Don’t believe me? Check it out:
“Now the law came in to increase the trespass”- Romans 5:20
“ For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law..”- Romans 7:5
Okay, now this one is long, but please don’t skip it! Really meditate on what Paul is trying to convey.
“What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment,deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.”- Romans 7:7-14.
You see what he points out there in verse 14? The Law is spiritual, but he, along with all humanity, is of the flesh and sold under sin. Our flesh is what arouses in rebellion when confronted with God’s holy and good commands. [You can’t believe the Bible without believing we are as corrupt as it says we are] But, as regenerated followers of Christ, we are not merely of the flesh any more, but also partakers of the Spirit. Unlike unbelievers, we are spiritually alive and love God… while simultaneously inhabiting flesh that hates God. This is what people mean when they say Christians have two natures. In basic terms, every Christian is a little schizophrenic, so to speak. Our spirit [our “inner-being” as Paul points out] being now alive, wants to do good and obey the Lord… while our flesh remains opposed to good, bent toward evil and disobedience.
Okay, now with that being said, I want to really get you thinking about something…stay with me.
As God’s beloved children, if we do not view God as the Father He says He is, but as an angry dictator with lightning bolt in hand– ready to strike us down at any moment–we (in some respect) place ourselves under a law– without even knowing it. In doing so, we not only adopt a false God-view, and subsequently a false world-view, and through fear we endow our crucified flesh with power as it begins to “seize an opportunity through the commandment” (Rom 7:11). Might I add, the commandment that we have placed on ourselves.
Our faith in Christ freed us from the law, it’s requirements and it’s penalties. But through partial unbelief, we place ourselves under a new law…. which has the same effects on our sinful flesh as the old law. Like Romans 7 points out, sin seeks it’s opportunity through the commandment. If the commandment says “don’t do this”, our flesh says “I’m gonna do that.” If the law says yes, our flesh say no. If the law says stay, our flesh say go. This is how polar opposite our fleshy nature is to God.
Our new law we make up:
- God says has forgiven us in Christ. We say ”God will forgive me if I do this and don’t do that.”
- God says, “You trust in My Son and there’s no condemnation for you.” We say “If….”
- God says He will finish the work He began in us. We say, “But what if He doesn’t?”
Although true believers will not lose our salvation or faith if we take on this false-dictator view of God, we most certainly set ourselves up to live a life full of failure, fear and confusion and forfeit the great pleasures God is offering us in knowing Him. Sin that may have been previously put down by the Spirit will arise and wreak havoc in our lives because our fear–coming in through unbelief in the promises of God–quenches the Spirit while enticing our flesh to rise up and hunt for forbidden pleasures.
When we don’t see God as the loving Father that He is, grace and mercy seem like unrealistic things for Him to show toward us. But God is our loving Father. Please hear me when I say that! [Trust me, I’m preaching myself just as much to anyone else reading this] He is full of grace and unlimited in mercy, and irrevocably forgives anyone who trusts and follows Jesus. Don’t pride yourself in thinking that you are going to the exception to that fact. Put to death the deeds of the body by realizing, believing and meditating on the truth that you are not under law awaiting legal penalty, but under grace encompassed by the incomprehensible love of God. Yes, incompressible, so stop trying to understand how he could love you. Just believe that He does.
- His Grace makes you clean.
- His Grace makes you un-blameable.
- His Grace makes you holy.
- His Grace makes you His.
“Yet you are holy, enthroned on [inhabit] the praises of Israel [God’s People]”- Psalm 22:3.
God’s presence is manifested amongst our praise, and where God’ s presence is manifest, His grace and mercy are manifest. If we don’t feel the grace of God, or have trouble fully believing that we are recipients of that grace, praise Him anyway.
- Praise Him for being gracious and good even when you can’t feel it and don’t believe it.
- Praise Him for being unchangeably compassionate and patient toward you.
- Praise Him for working all things, even your seasons of rebellion, for your good.
- Praise Him for not leaving you to yourself every time you turn away from Him.
- Praise Him for rescuing you, instead of letting you try to rescue yourself.
- Praise Him for loving you just as much today as He did the day He bled for you.
I feel like God put it on my heart this morning to write about this and immediately I thought “I should wait until I have this under control to speak out about it”, but again that is my pride getting in the way of me being honest, humble, transparent and relatable. I want people to know they aren’t alone in this.
I understand this war with pornography is not over and I do not know that it will end in this lifetime. I know temptation is already on it’s way, yet again. But now I know how to fight it, effectively, and how to conquer the daily battles….and it’s definitely not with my own will power. I don’t need to “muster up” my own strength and resilience. And it’s also not in hoping that temptation will stop coming. All I have to do is really believe God.
- I have to believe that He is my Father —because He says He is my Father.
- I have to trust that I’m His—because He says that I am His.
- I have to believe that I’m clean— because He says that I am clean.
- I have to trust that He’s in me— because He says He’s in me.
- I have to believe He won’t leave me—because He says He’ll never leave or forsake me.
- I have to trust that He will comfort me— because He says He is the Comforter.
By faith, with no doubting, I must see and believe that everything I want and desire is found in God— and by faith, I approach the throne of Grace in time of need and will receive the help that I ask for….. and so much more.
Even when we aren’t being tempted, we must feed our spirits constantly with the grace and truth found in the promises of God in Jesus Christ. We can’t allow our minds, even for a second, to stray away from the grace God gladly bestows on us. The best defense is an offense, and our offense is the grace in truth.
So while my flesh, sold under sin, is very much addicted to pornography… my spirit is addicted to God. And that’s a blessed addiction that can conquer all others. I’m going to praise my way out of pornography.
I soberly and cautiously want to end this with a warning, though. If you don’t really love Jesus Christ, strive to follow Him, love God’s law or feel any remorse for your sins, you are under the real law and the real penalty for your sins is coming to you. Believe in Jesus Christ, forsake your self-righteousness, licentiousness, or whatever it may be—and follow Him. Ask Him to change your heart, radically and eternally, and to set your affections on Him. He is the way, the truth and the life and no one will inherit eternal life but by Him. The grace that I have spoken of throughout this whole post is found only in the refuge of Jesus Christ—who had no sin, but became sin…. so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Believers and Unbelievers: Repent, and believe the good news!