September 2012 – Willpower Doesn’t Work
It was the late 80’s; I was on a business trip, alone in a hotel room. I had binged on porn until midnight, and was dealing with that awful shame hangover. The pull to binge hit again. Deciding I would take a stand, in a moment of bravado I made a vow to God that I would not act out again that night.
Minutes later, the waves of temptation rolled in. I caved. Now I had a cocktail of misery of an even more intense shame hangover, combined with the terror of what might happen now that I had broken a vow to God.
Here’s what happens to the person who is ensnared in lust:
A man (or woman, as they struggle with this too) spends years surrendering to temptation.
Then, after he’s had enough pain and/or the consequences have caught up with him, he wants to stop.
The shame and fear of rejection are too great, so he tries to go it alone. It doesn’t work.
Perhaps he goes to a support group. It feels great to unload the burden of shame, but lust still kicks his butt.
The problem is that he’s spent years soaking his will, emotions and spirit with lust, and is in a state of spiritual blindness. To expect he can use his sin-saturated mind, will, and emotions to break free from that which he craves is a delusion.
Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, but behold, darkness, for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope along the wall like blind men, we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at midday as in the twilight, among those who are vigorous we are like dead men. All of us growl like bears, and moan sadly like doves; we hope for justice, but there is none, for salvation, but it is far from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before You, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: transgressing and denying the Lord, and turning away from our God…
Lust drives a man deep inside himself into a fantasy world. In this dark place of twisted emotion and distorted thinking, truth and reality are stirred in with a witch’s brew of lust, fantasy, sin, and selfishness. Such a man is in bondage to sin; in desperate need for help.
Fortunately, God promises a way out:
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
1st Corinthians 10:13
But… when I was in bondage to lust this verse depressed me because it seemed I couldn’t find the door, let alone know “the way out.” I felt like I was always stumbling around in the dark; “groping for the wall,” as Isaiah put it. Temporary relief from sin was seemingly the best I could hope for.
The truth is that there is a way out of every temptation; I just didn’t understand what it looked like:
Start by asking God for a revelation of your heart.
If I had started with this step it would have saved me years of “groping along the wall like a blind man.”
A lot of guys chant the first step of the 12 step program (I’m powerless over lust), or can quote verses about “our righteousness being as filthy rags.” They’ve got knowledge, but there’s no Holy Spirit power in their life because they’re still relying on their corrupt, broken willpower (i.e. pride). In Philippians 3:3, Paul writes that “we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” A man or woman who puts no confidence in their abilities or strength is in a place where they can take the leap of faith and lean hard on God for victory in every temptation. The key is for the Lord to remove the blindness of our eyes and give us a no holds-barred glimpse into the heart.
When the Lord has done this in the past, it has broken, even horrified me. Seeing the depths of depravity in my soul brings me full-force to the only possible conclusion: if God doesn’t change me, there is no hope. I need Him desperately.
Allowing God to break us takes a willingness to feel pain. We 21st century Christians don’t like to go there… we like to keep it positive, encouraging, seeker-friendly, intellectual, theological, inviting. Being broken over our sins is for the ashes and sackcloth types of the Old Testament. As long as we’ve got good Bible teaching and the right theology in place, we’re in, right?
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalms 51:17
I can tell you that my days as a Head Christian did nothing for me. I was always faking it, miserable inside, empty – and out for attention for the stuff I did. My relationship with the Lord was forced, full of guilt and trying to earn His favor by doing good works, which kept me in pride mode (sounds a lot like a Pharisee.)
Show me a man who is truly broken and I’ll show you a guy who’s inches away from a breakthrough.
We’re not very good at breaking ourselves because we’re blind to the sickness in our heart – we need to ask the Lord to open our eyes to our sin and allow Him to break us. God has a way of putting the right pressure at the right point at the right time for what we need. When we see His love in those touches, our relationship with Him takes on new life.
Watch out for men who won’t confront their own sin or take a hard look at their heart. Guys like this are always preaching, find it easy to condemn others for their faults, and talking about what’s wrong with the church. Such men show by their actions that they’re operating out of pride and are in need of a work of God in their life. They’re afraid of facing the pain and emptiness within.
Now that you don’t trust yourself, you’re ready to fight God’s way. Man’s way is to overcome by willpower so he gets the glory. God’s way is to overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit so He is loved, honored, and worshipped.
Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit says the Lord of hosts.
God’s way of fighting temptation includes the following:
* Staying out of isolation and being accountable with others (James 5:16). Much has been written about this so I won’t go into detail.
* Obedience. In Matthew 5 Jesus says we are to cut off the things that cause us to stumble. This is not a principal, but a command. I see guys all the time who aren’t willing to shut down the TV service, or change their phone service so they can’t get internet over their phone, or put porn blocking software on their computer who keep stumbling. Obedience stems from humility, agreeing with God that our corrupt flesh is not strong enough to handle our stumbling blocks, and a resolve to make Jesus Lord and do what He says, no matter the cost. Philippians 2:8 provides us with the obedience/humility/death to self connection:
Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Support groups are filled with men who often stumble because they think that showing up to a group is enough. Accountability without action will gets us nowhere.
* Prayer. I can’t emphasize this one enough; prayer is one of the most powerful things we can do. I used to pray for a minute when temptation hit, give in, and then assume that prayer was a waste of time. The truth is that I didn’t punch through the temptation with prayer until it broke; I gave up too soon, which is just want the enemy wants.
We begin by lighting up our personal prayer life; a few hurried minutes in the morning won’t get it done. God promises that if we approach His throne of grace we will receive mercy in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). We need to become throne of grace stormers.
Then, we need to ask for consistent prayer from:
1. Our spouses. I can see it now. Some of you are freaking out because I’m saying to ask your wife to pray for victory in your lust battles. There is no one who will pray for you with the same wisdom, discernment and love as your wife. Bringing her into the battle with you is one of the smartest, most powerful steps you can take. The truth is that most men avoid asking their wives because of fear and pride. Fear of what will happen if they humble themselves and ask for prayer, and pride in wanting to show they can do it on their own. Here again, humility is the key. God promises He will give grace to the humble (James 4:6); the process may be a little rough, but the end result is worth it.
2. Your support group/accountability person.
* Praise and thanks. James 1: 2 says we’re to “consider it joy… when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” That includes temptation. Praising and thanking God gets our eyes off lust and onto Him and His purposes. Praising God can include reading the Psalms out loud, singing along with worship music, and thanking Him for His blessings.
The way out is not for the faint of heart, or for posers. It’s for those who want all that God has to give, no matter what the cost. All of the above require faith and humility to put into action. Faith, that God will carry you through, and humility, to take the steps that will make you a recipient of His lavish grace.
Josh McDowell Takes on Porn
The apologist Josh McDowell recently did an interview on the topic of porn in the church in a refreshing, no-holds-barred manner. Here are a few snippets:
* Internet porn is “the greatest threat to the cause of Christ in the last 2,000 years.” Nothing is destroying more pastors, families, marriages and young people, he said, than porn.
* Josh said he wanted to “smack pastors” who write the issue of porn off as something that, in effect, doesn’t need to be dealt with “because it’s always been around.”
* Josh quoted a number of statistics, including:
1.5 billion porn movies are downloaded every day.
70% of 12 to 25 year olds view porn on a regular basis.
80% of youth pastors struggle with porn.
62% of all Christian men struggle with porn.
50% of all porn is accessed through cell phones.
The average age of first exposure to porn is 9.
You can watch the interview at http://www.100huntley.com/video?id=eNpbd6EMPWA. This is the 9th part of Josh’s interview. This video should be played at every church in America.
If your church isn’t dealing with the giant pink elephant in the middle of the sanctuary, now is the time. Please consider forwarding this newsletter to someone in leadership at your church so they can take action.
Your Marriage is a Big Deal to God
I am now in the process of writing more articles for the website.
Here’s a new one for husbands and wives:
Take a look at www.blazinggrace.org if you haven’t visited for awhile. The site has been redesigned, with more changes on the way.
Also, our forums offer a safe place for those who struggle with sexual sin and their spouses to go for support and encouragement. Visit the forums at http://www.blazinggrace.org/forums/
The Road to Grace
The Road to Grace; Finding True Freedom from the Bondage of Sexual Addiction is Mike Genung’s book on breaking free from sexual addiction.
Topics covered include:
* Biblical tools for overcoming sexual temptation.
* Healing from shame.
* How to stop a masturbation habit.
* Dealing with the core issues that drive sexual sin.
* Understanding and receiving the love of God in the heart.
* Healing for Wives
* How to restore a marriage that’s been broken by sexual sin and/or adultery.
The Road to Grace is used in support groups, and provides plenty of material for discussion.
For more information and to purchase, visit www.roadtograce.net
Healing a Broken Marriage
The Destructive Force of Adultery
Winning the War in the Mind
August 2012: Look Who’s One of the Porn Industry’s Biggest Customers
July 2012: For Those Who are Control Freaks (and Don’t Want to Be)
June 2012: Blazing Grace on a Sunday Morning
May 2012: Why We Need Suffering
April 2012: The Forgotten Half: Wives of Christian Porn Addicts
He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.
Blazing Grace’s purpose is to minister to the sexually broken and equip the church to effectively deal with the porn epidemic.
Please feel free to forward this newsletter.
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May God’s grace abound to you.
All material copyright 2012 Mike Genung