behavior

There is a Narcotics Anonymous slogan somewhere that is helpful for us…

“Never use, under any circumstances.”

We sex addicts often don’t take our addiction as seriously as those who deal with hard drug addiction. That is to our detriment. Drug addicts know that they are one relapse away from death…literally. As such, there is a real solemnity to their devotion to recovery once they really become willing. We obviously don’t see our sexual sins that way. We can masturbate, or use porn, and what happens? We don’t die…at least not in the way of a drug addict who relapses and dies of an overdose.

This is a subtle deception, and a powerful one. We allow ourselves to be duped by the lies of the enemy. Satan really doesn’t care if we die, as long as he can keep stealing from us. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy (Jn. 10:10). If he can get away with any of those three in our lives, then he’s a happy demon! Death comes to us all eventually, and Satan isn’t in a hurry. Some methods of stealing and destroying kill us more quickly than others. But, it’s still stealing and destroying.

Every time I use my drug of choice – lust/sexual indulgence – the enemy steals from me and destroys something God would bless me with. The most important thing stolen is my connection with God himself. This isn’t to say I masturbate and lose my salvation. It is to say I lose my experience of the conscious presence of God. He is omnipresent – everywhere at all times. But that isn’t the same as consciousness of his manifest presence to me. That is what I lose when I choose my sin – every, single, time.

This is where the humility of the 12 Steps, and really applying ourselves to this program of spiritual awakening and growth in godliness is so helpful. It is a process by which we become more and more converted to “Thy will be done.” I know that using pornography and gratifying myself sexually in any form is not God’s will – every, single, time. So, choosing it, having that knowledge, is willful disobedience to God. We don’t like to think of it that way, but it’s true.

Hopefully this doesn’t hit you too harshly. I’m not trying to shame or guilt trip. It may feel like a cold splash of water to the face though…sorry about that!

Be Broken Ministries has extended an amazing offer on their weekend intensive workshops for men – Gateway to Freedom.

Here is the information from their website:

Because of the generosity of some of our donors, we are able to offer a special 50% OFF scholarship offer for the Gateway to Freedom workshops being conducted in the summer months of 2013.

 

You must be registered for one of the following workshops to be eligible for this offer:

 

Texas – June 7 – 9

Northwest – July 19 – 21

Texas – August 2 – 4

Pennsylvania – August 23 – 25

Georgia – September 6 – 8

 

Learn more about this offer on the website, and get signed up!

These lyrics made me think of our struggle with porn. Specifically, I think of the porn actress; how she pretends to be gratified by what she is doing – and we feed off of that pretending as if it were real. Our chemically driven brains don’t know the difference, but our spirit-driven hearts certainly do.

For me, the lyrics have an overtone of jealousy in them – jealous of beauty flaunted. There is a sense of hypocrisy – that it is all just a show and underneath the mask all is not well. While we revel in a wash of chemicals to the pleasure centers of the brain, our hearts languish in our betrayal of ourselves, of others, and of God.

In case you haven’t found out – porn is a lie!

You can listen to the song here…

EVANESCENCE – EVERYBODY’S FOOL

Perfect by nature
Icons of self indulgence
Just what we all need
More lies about a world that

Never was and never will be
Have you no shame? Don’t you see me?
You know you’ve got everybody fooled

Look here she comes now
Bow down and stare in wonder
Oh how we love you
No flaws when you’re pretending

But now I know she
Never was and never will be
You don’t know how you’ve betrayed me
And somehow you’ve got everybody fooled

Without the mask
Where will you hide?
I can’t find yourself
Lost in your lie

I know the truth now
I know who you are
And I don’t love you anymore

It never was and never will be
You don’t know how you’ve betrayed me
And somehow you’ve got everybody fooled

It never was and never will be
You’re not real and you can’t save me
And somehow now you’re everybody’s fool

 

Surrendering our thoughts is an important aspect of the fight against our addiction. What does not work is to try and resist thoughts outright. Saying to myself, “I am not going to lust for that beautiful person over there” is a sure-fire way to lust for that beautiful person over there! It’s like saying, “I will not think of a pink elephant” and of course an image of a pink elephant pops right up in my mind.

What we do is apply what spiritual formation experts call, “indirect effort.” We cannot control our thoughts through direct effort. We have to apply indirect effort. What that means is we redirect our thoughts. Instead of telling ourselves, “No, don’t think that” we instead choose to think on something else. If it is appreciating beauty, we can turn our attention to something else beautiful, which does not contain a lustful element. For me, that may mean pondering how beautiful the weather is, a sunrise or sunset, the sky, a flower, a song, my wife or children, or any number of things in God’s creation for which I do not lust after. Again, I’m not directly saying “No” to the lustful thoughts, I’m saying “Yes” to another thought.

Ponder how water rolls off of a duck’s back. Ducks dive into the pond and shake off the beads as they come up. That is what happens when we redirect our thoughts. We choose to ponder things that draw our thoughts toward God and his will. We plunge our thoughts into the depths of God’s grace. In doing so, we shake off the other thoughts like beads of water.

It’s a discipline, and as such takes practice. When we do this, we are applying the principles in these scriptures:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
– 2 Corinthians 10:5

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
– Romans 12:2

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
– Philippians 4:8

Another good “thought replacement” exercise is to turn our attention to thanksgiving. When lustful thoughts and images come up, gently turn thoughts toward things in your life for which you are thankful. It may be helpful to write out and carry a “thanks list” with you, and continually add to it. When the thoughts hit, pull out the list and review it. Again, this is in keeping with scripture:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

A beautiful thing about these verses is how they explicitly state that these activities are God’s will for us. Thinking a certain way is a key to spiritual growth and success – which includes turning away from our sin.

A final note: when we engage in these activities, we can do so in full faith that God will empower our efforts. He wants this for us, and his grace enables us to know and do his will. When we choose God, he shows up. When we choose to think about God, he shows up in our thoughts!

This is a post from one member of our online community, The Purity Report. We thought it worth sharing here…

SSA has been an underlying theme in my story. Some of the root causes that I see here: father who was often overbearing and not affectionate, early abuse by a much older boy that felt like acceptance at the time (age 4 or 5), feeling inferior to boys who were good athletes or very sure of themselves.

I have come to dislike the very concept of identifying ourselves by what society calls “sexual orientation.” There was a very large group of reports on the social costs of pornography put out by the Witherspoon Institute in 2010. One of the areas of research was done by Norman Doidge on “sexual plasticity.” Essentially, he found that the kind of person that we are sexually attracted to is neither hard wired from birth nor does it remained fixed throughout our lives. A quote:

“Though some scientists increasingly emphasize the inborn basis of our sexual preferences, it is also true that some people have heterosexual or homosexual attractions for part of their lives and then develop opposite attractions later on in life.”

This is secular (not Christian) research, but the point is (for me at least) we are learning that sexual attraction isn’t really something we are born in, it is something we largely develop due to what we are exposed to. So, why do we obsess on identifying ourselves by what we are sexually attracted to? If that is NOT something which is hard wired in us, why would we consider it a defining characteristic?

This point was driven home to me last year watching one of those vocal talent shows so popular on TV these days. They often do a kind of backstory video piece on contestants just before they sing for the first time in front of the judges. There was one guy they showed, and in his video backstory, the very first words out of his mouth were, “I’m so-and-so, and I’m gay.” I remember thinking, “Okay, this guy is on national TV in a singing contest. What relevance does his sexual attractions have on whether he can sing or not? Why is he even bringing it up?”

I am guessing he brought it up because more than he wants to be a good singer, he wants to be approved for who he is. And, sadly, he appears to see his sexual attractions as the most defining part of who he is.

I am now a married man with two teenage kids. I’ll be honest, before marriage I didn’t have much sexual interest in women at all. I did want to be married and be a father, however, so when I met the woman who is now my wife and found someone I really liked, I married her. It did take time, but I am now quite sexually attracted to her. Do I ever feel SSA anymore? Sometimes, but I don’t need to “own” that as if it’s a part of my identity. Certainly not a very important part of my identity.

I chose to identify myself as a child of God, a loved member of my church, a father, a husband, a musician and other things. What or who I may feel sexual attraction toward comes way down the list of anything I want to own as my identity.

Twenty years ago I could not say any of this. But, it has been this shift of mind that has helped me accept myself and feel accepted. I want to be accepted as husband, father, church member, brother in Christ and child of God. When I focus on that, the rest is way less important and therefore has way less power over me to make me feel inferior. I can ignore it more easily when I don’t feel it is who I am.

Sexual abuse damaged me. The healing process is a lifelong journey and I am much more at peace than in the past. However, I will always carry some scars until I reach heaven. I do better when I don’t focus on the scars anymore, however. When I look at them too long I feel ugly. My close brothers in Christ know all about them, but that’s not what they see when they look at me. I am not the scars.

Have you ever been riding in the passenger seat of a car, when the driver doesn’t brake as early as you like? You grab the door handle, and press your foot hard to the floor as if there were some imaginary brake on the passenger side? My wife does this to me often when I’m driving. I apparently don’t brake to her liking. We won’t discuss if I secretly brake on the passenger side when she’s driving!

This phenomenon reminds me of Step 1 of the 12 Steps:

Step 1: We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.

Living with an addiction, or just living as a sinner far from God (that describes every one of us at some point in our lives), is pretty close to this metaphor. As the car of our lives doesn’t slow down when it should, or veers off the road toward the ditch, we discover the unmanageability of our way of living. We find we cannot keep this up, and we are headed for destruction. Worse, we discover to our terror that we are incapable of wresting the wheel away from our sinful nature. Cruise control was engaged, and we are unable to disengage it.

Every time we chose our sin, every time we escaped into our fantasy, every time we self-medicated through porn, sex, drugs, alcohol, raging tantrums, even religious activity, we were taking the passenger seat. We were, in effect, saying, “Sin, take the wheel.” As we do this over and over again, we lose all control over our lives. We are relegated to mashing the floorboard of the passenger seat, powerless to slow the car or steer it in a different direction.

This is the essence of Step 1. We admit we are powerless to stop the car. Furthermore, we admit that we cannot manage the chaos – we our not in control.

But, there is good news. Really, really good news! Once we admit our powerlessness, as scary as that is, we can then look to a Power greater than ourselves.

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

(Without writing a book here – let’s just say that honestly thinking I can stop a car and successfully drive it from the passenger seat is simply insane. Moving right along…)

What choice do we have? We are powerless. We cannot control and manage the chaos in our lives. I can put my head between my legs, grab my ankles, and kiss my life goodbye (sadly, this is how many respond), or I can come to the realization that God can, and even wants to take control of this situation. There is hope!

This is where things really get exciting!

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him to be.

This is where the famous Carrie Underwood country song starts to play in the background.

Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can’t do this on my own
I’m letting go
So give me one more chance
Save me from this road I’m on
Jesus take the wheel

Here’s the reality – the one driving the car was really us all along. It wasn’t some abstract addiction – it was us. The wheel is in our hands. Taking the passenger seat really isn’t an option. The real problem is, we don’t know how to drive. Heck, we can’t even reach the pedals. We’re just little kids trying to do grown up things. We are people trying to play God. No wonder we can’t stop! An emotional two-year-old is behind the wheel of my two-ton car!

God is the one who gave us this life, and he’s the one who knows how it is to be lived. He built it. He purposed it. He knows how to drive this thing. He has more than enough power to stop the car and turn it wherever it needs to go. In fact, he has an awesome destination already in mind. Restoration to sanity looks like making a very simple decision – Jesus take the wheel!!!

Our founder, John Glisson, was featured this last week on Pure Passion TV.

In this interview John talks about his struggle with pornography & masturbation and how God has shown him the way of escape. Check it out!

The World Dictionary defines Relativism as follows:

…any theory holding that truth or moral or aesthetic value, etc, is not universal or absolute but may differ between individuals or cultures.

A phrase used in relativistic thinking is, “There is no absolute truth.” Of course, that very statement violates the philosophical law of non-contradiction, which states that a precept cannot be both true and false at the same time in the same way. Saying, “There is no absolute truth.” is an absolute truth statement, which nullifies itself as self-contradictory.

Regardless of this obvious contradiction, relativistic thinking, particularly with regards to morality, is pervasive in our culture. How many times have you heard, “What’s true for you may not be true for me.” The outworkings of functional relativism, as I’ll call it, ultimately result in humanism. Man is the ultimate arbiter of truth, and since men have differences one to another, so truth claims have no absolute authority over individuals.

Relativism poses significant issues to the Christian worldview. As a Christian, God is the ultimate authority and arbiter of truth. Furthermore, Christian orthodoxy holds that God has revealed his moral law to humanity through the Bible. This is the standard by which Christians are to measure themselves and the world around them. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty, creation, sin, the fall of man, and the atonement through Jesus Christ are central precepts to Christianity.

What is clear is that American Christians, especially with regards to sex, are largely identical to society at large. Divorce rates, pregnancy out of wedlock, consumption of pornography, even abortion, and so forth measure similarly. One way in which Christians in the Bible are specifically exhorted by the Bible to be distinct to those around them is in the area of sex (see 1 Cor. 6:12-20). However, what we actually see is no real difference. This is could be called hypocritical at best.

So what does relativism have to do with the church’s hypocrisy regarding sex?

No firm believer in Christianity and the Bible would adhere to full-on relativism, “There is no absolute truth.” But the seeds of relativistic thinking are present, evidenced by inconsistent profession of belief and actual behavior (again read hypocrisy). Most Christian men, for example, would agree that the use of pornography represents lustful, and therefore sinful behavior. They would not recommend it to others as a beneficial to the spiritual life and relationship with Jesus Christ. Their behavior, on the other hand, reveals they do not apply this same assertion to themselves. Christian men, who would not recommend pornography to others, are frequent consumers of it. This is evidence of an underlying functional relativism as it relates to pornography.

Why is this an important point? Isn’t this just sin requiring repentance? Why all the talk about relativism?

Yes, pornography is sin in the Christian worldview (see Matt. 5:28). Its production and consumption are both sinful according to biblical standards of morality. The issue with simply slapping the label of “sin” on it and moving on is that it short-circuits deep self-reflection on the issue. In our modern vernacular, the term “sin” has such a behavioral emphasis that it is applied only to abstinence from prohibited actions. This detracts from the process of repentance, which is generally defined as a “change of mind.” Changing one’s mind requires thinking about an issue, not merely willing a change of behavior.

Romans 12:2 admonishes us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” In order for the mind to be renewed, it must actually be used. If we stop at “sin” as wrong behavior, we discourage the use of our minds to actually think about what is going on, allow the truth of God to penetrate our thinking, and bring about a change of thinking. Asserting you have bought into functional relativism, evidenced by hypocrisy, beckons each of us to take a long, hard look at ourselves. This engages the mind, brings light to our thinking, and results in changes in thought and hence behavior.

When was the last time  you heard someone teach that we should repent of the sin of functional relativism, evidenced by immorality? There’s something that makes me think!

There is obviously much more to say about this topic, but I will stop here to keep it brief. What do you think? How has functional relativism kept us from arriving at the place where porn is not an option?

This is one of the most often quoted verses. In John 8:32, Jesus’ words linking truth to freedom offer encouragement and inspire us to seek truth in the pursuit of personal freedom.

But there is a problem. Many who come into the church, and even discover a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, do not experience freedom. They remain trapped in bondage to sin and warped thinking. They remain stuck in their lives and do not know how to move forward. Sadly, many of these same people leave the church, or worse leave faith altogether. They leave disillusioned and come, through their own experience, to believe the words of Jesus must not be true – or not true for them for reasons they cannot explain. This, of course, would be immediately validated by the relativistic world around us that says what is true for one may not be true for another.

So what is the answer? Is Jesus right? Why is the freedom promised by Jesus not a reality in the lives of so many? To find out, we have to go back to the source. Let’s look at the scripture in its proper context.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 NIV)

Taken in its full context, you can see what geeky software developers like myself call a conditional, if/then statement.

If you hold to my teaching…

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

What becomes immediately apparent is that truth is not the beginning of Jesus’ thought. Rather the truth, which results in freedom, has its root in holding to his teaching. We must listen to and apply the teaching of Jesus to our lives, regularly and consistently over time, in order to know the truth of his teaching and experience the freedom promised.

How do I arrive at this conclusion that it is “consistently and regularly over time” you may ask? Well, since I posed the question, I will answer it.

The Greek word used for “hold to” is meno. In the King James Version, this word is translated as “continue” in John 8:31. Interestingly, meno is the same Greek word from which we translate “abide” in John 15:4-10. This is another famous passage where Jesus instructs us that if we “if we abide in him”, the vine, “then we will bear much fruit.” There it is again, a conditional, if/then statement! The point is clear – there are conditions on our part to really experience freedom.

To be very clear, this is not a study of salvation. It is a study on how we can experience freedom from the grip of bondage to sin. Salvation and freedom both work in our lives by grace, through faith (Eph. 2:8-10; Gal. 3:1-3; Php. 2:13). Faith then works through love (Gal. 5:6). However, I will go so far as to say that if one does not possess a desire to hold to the teachings of Jesus and apply them to his or her life, they could question whether they have accepted the Gospel, or given mere mental ascent to Jesus as a “good teacher” or otherwise. Paul would advise us all to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). True faith should at some point be evidenced by a desire to apply the teachings of Jesus and grow in them. Every believer should pray earnestly over these issues.

Truth as expressed by Jesus is not merely knowledge of fact vs. fiction, but an experiential knowledge. This truth can only be rooted in experience. We must take it upon ourselves to learn Jesus teachings. We then must vigorously apply those teachings to our lives. Through application, we come to a personal/experiential knowledge of their truth and veracity, resulting in freedom!

Actress Mariska Hargitay, famous for her role in the television show Law and Order SVU, was published on the Huffington Post today. In the article, she talks about some of the startling statistics on the prevalence of male, childhood sexual abuse. She started a foundation in 2004 called the Joyful Heart Foundation.

In Mariska’s words:

At Joyful Heart, the foundation I started in 2004 to help survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse heal and reclaim their lives, we are proud to share in the vision of one day ending violence against all people. We hope to send this message to all survivors: We hear you. We believe you. We feel for you. You are not alone. And your healing is our priority.

You can read her article, entitled “Personal Fouls” here…

While we may differ in some of the ways to address the issue, faith vs. secular, I applaud Mariska’s courage to take a stand on a difficult issue.