temptation

A man sits alone with a choice before his eyes,
No one else is present as he wrestles with his lies.
A fire smolders once again from deep within his soul.
He can fuel its growing heat or choose to leave it cold.

Passion begins to flow with a force against his will;
Scenes that grip his mind bring the promise of a thrill.
Emotions rage, needs unfold from a weak and lonely heart;
In this very private moment, will he stop or let it start?

A lovely wife, terrific kids have blessed his simple life;
His gracious God and prayerful friends stand by him in the strife.
But out of sight is out of mind in this moment of clear choice;
Even the indwelling Spirit speaks with ever-fading voice.

Images entice his spirit as their beauty pierce his reason;
Setting aside real joy and peace, he indulges for just a season.
More brief and empty now seems the thrill once it is done;
Regret and shame overwhelm as the lies again have won.

He walks away so dirty, feeling lost in his defeat;
Everything he really loves he chose again to cheat.
Full of remorse in this return to the filth of where he’s been
If only he knew how to stop this madness, before it starts again.

Written by Daniel Henderson in his book “Think Before You Look”
published by Living Ink Books

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!

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!

I was recently a guest on the Attitudes of Sexual Integrity podcast with Russ Shaw. We had a great time talking about addiction, recovery, God and his grace. I had the honor of sharing some of my story, and talking about the ministries we have under the Pure Community umbrella. We also talked about our involvement with the Gateway to Freedom workshops that we are bringing to the Atlanta area.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, or download the MP3 directly here

I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed recording it!

I have been listening to “The Principle of the Path” by Andy Stanley on audio book (for the third time). It is a great book of wisdom regarding life, our choices and how we can better position ourselves, and our loved ones for the lives we hope for.

In Chapter 4, there is a quote I wanted to share (or paraphrase). Andy says, almost in passing, that when we realize we are addicted to something, it is not the time for accountability and increased self discipline. No, it is much too late for that. Those things are effective preventative measures, but they are not enough to break an addiction.

Andy keys off of this verse from Proverbs…

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty. (Prov. 27:12)

What Andy goes on to recommend, again almost in passing because it is not the main topic of the book, is to get a counselor, and get into a recovery group or 12 Step program. The point is that addiction recovery is serious business, and can’t be broken through half measures. We can’t act like un-addicted people and expect to find freedom. To those people, our efforts to break free may seem foolish and extreme. But, we see something that they do not – an addiction that is ruining our lives from the inside out.

When we see we are addicted, we see danger. Looking back to that verse in Proverbs, the question is how will we respond? Will we respond like the prudent and take refuge, or like the simple and keep going? Will we take Pastor Andy’s advice to seek counseling and a recovery program, or will we keep on acting like nothing bad is going to happen and pay the penalty?

Are you uncertain if you are addicted to pornography (or something else)? Take the test here…it only takes a few minutes. Try to stop and see what happens. If you find you cannot stop, as many of us have, merely getting an accountability partner isn’t likely to stop you either. Getting back on the right path is going to require more drastic measures.

We offer a great first-step called The Purity Report. It is a safe, online community where you can break the silence with others in recovery. We even offer a private 12 step forum where you can begin working the 12 Steps in a Christ-centered environment. We are under no illusion that a website is capable of breaking your addiction. But, it is a good first step, and we can point you to other great resources for counseling and face-to-face groups.

Men, you have got to watch this, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE SINGLE.

http://yourmove.is/watch/the-new-rules-for-love-sex-and-dating/2/

Andy Stanley hits this out of the park. Please take the 25 minutes to watch this teaching, and take his words to heart!

Are the Bible’s teachings about women still relevant? In this message, Andy explains that Jesus’ teachings about honoring women were extremely counter-cultural in the first century. They remain so today. So Christian men especially need to transform their thinking. And there are two simple steps to start with.

Tabletalk Magazine, from R.C. Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries, has published a powerful short article about pornography and the call to glorify God.

The Pornographic Life

The first paragraph alone is so very familiar – the seemingly unending cycle of sin that we find ourselves trapped in. We get so discouraged we don’t even want to pray, confess, or do anything. We become spiritually paralyzed and eventually spiritually cold and dead. There is a better way!

I have learned a lot in the months following the publication of Redemptive Divorce. While the book helps Christians end the continual destruction caused by their wayward or incorrigible spouses, we receive many letters from repentant men and women who realized too late what they had thrown away. Take, for example, this excerpt from “Tim’s” letter:

I wish that you had thought to include a section directed towards the wayward spouse. Perhaps you are planning a follow-up to this effort. Either way, it is sorely needed. You see, I am that spouse. My wife filed for divorce almost 12 years ago. We are both believers, but I allowed sin to enter my life and to rule over me. Unfortunately, counseling never got to the heart of the matter. It wasn’t until my wife filed for divorce that the light bulb turned on and the Holy Spirit was able to use the experience to reach me. Unfortunately, my wife was so tired of trying to get through to me that divorce came as a welcome relief.

As I read each pain-filled letter and email, I realized that nothing separated me from these remorseful victims (victims of their own sin). The flesh is just as much an enemy to me as anyone. So, I began jotting down lessons—principles of purity—as they occurred to me. Here are ten principles gleaned from the sad testimonies of formerly wayward spouses. I have made it a habit to read them periodically, especially before traveling alone. May I suggest you do the same?

Ten Purity Principles I Never Want to Forget

  1. No matter how little I regard my own worth, I am very important to my wife and family. Failure is not an option.
  2. The consequences of sin always surpass my expectations.
  3. I mean more to my wife than I realize; so, should I fail, the impact on her would be greater than I can know.
  4. Personal purity is not a personal issue; it affects everyone I love.
  5. When I’m angry at God, sin feels like a friend. That’s when I need to ask for help.
  6. For women, the brain is a sex organ. Impure images and thoughts are no less a violation of my wife’s territory than another man’s hands on her body is a violation of mine.
  7. When I behave as though God isn’t enough, He understands. When I behave as though my wife isn’t enough, she cannot understand. She only knows her value to me by my behavior.
  8. A seedbed of sin is the stubborn conviction that I’m entitled to better than what I’m getting.
  9. I am at my best when I have nothing to hide.
  10. The stakes are too high for me to guard my purity on my own; I need backup.

Written by Mark Gaither, author of Redemptive Divorce.

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!