I was about to start taking college classes, I was enrolled in a local Community College, and my dad decided to take me to a computer store and buy me a new computer as I entered this new phase of my life. Really, it was a terrific Dad thing to do. But there was a problem. I was deeply convicted about it. In fact it was like the Holy Spirit was screaming at me in warning. But… my dad wanted to buy me a computer… and I was enrolled to start taking college classes. I kind of needed one, didn’t I?
I don’t know, but I do know that after I had given my life to Christ at the age of 15, I had dedicatedly sought to be led by the Holy Spirit in everything I did. At first this was easy (sort of), I mean… I lost literally all my friends from the druggie crowd, and battled with spiritual warfare issues that lingered from the time of my rebellion against God, but in terms of learning to hear the leading and promptings of the Holy Spirit I was cruising (probably largely due to the fact that I had so much spiritual opposition that I needed to be ‘on it’ constantly.
There was the secret place where I had learned to connect in fellowship with the Spirit of God… but then there was real life, and relationships and social activities. At the momment I was fully aware that for some reason God didn’t want me to get a personal computer to set up in my own room… but my dad wanted to get me one… for school.
We found a good desktop computer, Dad wanted to make sure I was happy with – I’m not really sure how I presented myself on my preferences through my inner conflict which he couldn’t see – and walked out the door with a new system. My dad helped me set it up on a desk in my room, connected me to the internet and we were ready to write reports and study topics!
I had a vague inkling that the reason the Lord was warning me against getting my own computer at the time was because of the temptation to pornography, and though I was aware I had gotten the computer against my convictions, I wanted to make sure not to fall into that trap. I’m honestly not sure how long that lasted, but it wasn’t indefinately. There’s a reason the Lord warned me.
Now, I don’t want the reader to assume that I think having a personal computer is bad for young college guys, or that its an automatic gateway into tematation and sin; that’s really up to the individual. In my case, the Lord knew it would be a problem and tried to warn me; I ignored His warning because I didn’t want to hurt my dad’s feelings (now, not saying it’s his fault, I’m the one who fell into sin, he was being a generous dad who wanted to do something nice for his kid), and as I said, I justified it by the fact I was going to school. Did I need it for school? Actually, come to find out I didn’t at all.
After my battle with temptation to pornography started, I tried to combat it by staying at school all day rather than returning home as soon as my classes were finished. When my classes were over, I’d go to the library and finish my homework there. Then ussually I’d spend extra time hanging out at the library; I knew as long as I was in a public place like the library where people could look over your shoulder that I would avoid that particular sin issue. When I was home, it was another matter.
Lot’s of guys struggle with porn (and ladies, too – in fact society seems to be trying to make it more socially acceptable for females to be into porn than it used to be), but it is a temptation which can be overcome. While back in the throes of it, I have been told by older ‘more mature’ guys that: “It doesn’t get any better.” If you’re struggling with it now, let me tell you positively that that’s not true. (Also, try not to tell someone who is struggling with a sin or addiction that, it will only discourage them, and help to enable whatever it is they are struggling with.)
It is true that you will always have sexual desires, and temptations, but let me tell you positively that it does get easier to overcome over time – certainly easier than if you are at an ‘addiction level’ degree now.
Really, this post is for the purpose of helping people who are struggling with pornography, so I’d like to share some things I’ve learned which have helped me, I’ll look at fundamental issues first, and then some practical tips:
I have found that as a Christian, trying to overcome sexual addiction is often more difficult because of our theology. I think a lot of times we study theological systems (that is: systematic theology) from the perspective that it will help us to grow spiritually. Often, however, our theology becomes an enabler of our sin. To break that down to an u derstandable level, I’ll start with this practical thought:
The more we think about sexual sin, the more tempted we will be by it. That’s just kind of the nature of sexuality is that it is very synergetic (actually God made sex to be that way); when you think about sex, your body and soul respond. Of course, you are aware of this, what’s my point?
Often, as Christians our attempts to overcome sexual sin are counter-intuitive because we focus so much on confession of this sin to God. We fall into sin, and feel guilty for it, so we go to God in prayer… but the focus of our prayer is the sin we feel guilty of. We confess again and again to God and all the while we are keeping our mind on that issue. In our mind it becomes more powerful because in our minds we are not receiving God’s grace for it. (Confession is integral to repentance, but not necessarily for all sins, the point of confession is the admission that you have sinned, and are worthy of judgment – once that is acknowledged the confession portion of repentance is completed. If you confess the same sin again and again, it begins to become your ‘proffession,’ rather than ‘confession’ i.e. you will begin to psychologically accept that that is just what you do, and it begins to become part of who you are: identity confusion.)
Our ceaseless confession of the same sin creates a cycle that empowers our sin as though we can’t oversome it.
Practically, I can tell you by experience that the best way to overcome sexual temptation of any kind is to get yourself in a different frame of mind.
Actually, from the right theological perspective we should already have this in view, as the Greek word translated as ‘repent’ in the New Testament means to change your way of thinking.
When we are tempted in anything, if we can completely change our frame of mind (not just what strive to change what we’re thinking about) we can remove ourselves from that temptation. For example, if you are really tempted to pull up a porn site, and all of the sudden you hear a gunshot right outside your house, and hear shouting, you are likely to swiftly be in a different frame of mind and not even thinking of sex. If you’re not even thinking of sex, temptation to it becomes (at least for the momment) moot.
On the practical side: If you have an opportunity to go play basketball with the guys or sit at home in front of your computer, you know which will be more conducive.
Another way that theology can hurt us (Imma pick on Calvinism a bit here), is that in our cycle of self condemnation, if we feel we have not overcome we chaulk it up to our ‘sinful nature,’ we feel – and our bad theology affirms – that it is impossible for us to overcome it. All that this sense of defeat does is strengthen the cycle by our sense of helpless guilt, and weaken our resolve to actually move past it (because we’re convinced theologically we can’t anyways). Now, I’m not using this as an argument against Calvinism here, but in my experience I have seen this mentality (which is basic to that particular theological system) be a major contributer to this mental cycle.
As a Christian striving to overcome pornography or sexual addiction, my basic advice is:
1) Do what you need to do to change your frame of mind, (rather than praying and praying for God to take the temptation away – this ussually only makes us more focused on that temptation)
2) Get rid of the means of temptation, and avoid those situations which you know will yield temptation.
3) Understand that your sexuality is not intrisically sinful; there is a proper time and place – fornication, adultery, homosexuality (and other perversions) are sins, but the appropriate use of you sexuality is not
The ways of this world are to introduce everyone to sexuality, and to sexualize almost everyone. The Word tells us that iniquity will increase and it is a cultural issue as much or more than it is a private individual issue. No doubt this is one reason why friendship with the world is enmity with God. How am I supposed to overcome temptation when every time I turn on the TV I am bombarded? Well, maybe don’t turn on the TV anymore. But there is a scriptural truth that to the pure all things are pure; if you can learn to keep in the right frame of mind, and not allow the world and your flesh to frame your paradaigm you will be able to stand in the day of battle.
4) Meditate on God’s word.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:
4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;
5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:
I picked on Calvinism a bit earlier, but generally our theology comes down a lot to our understanding of the wil of God for our lives revolving around events – like, the events of our lives: “Was it God’s will that I do such-and-such?” or “How can I live in the will of God?”
This verse provides us an alternative to standard theological assumptions. God’s will is our sanctification, not necessarily events in our lives. Remember that God uses all things for good to them that love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28); now if He can use ALL things together for good, does that include our failures, and sins? Yes, ALL THINGS. The event in our life are far less important than the goal the Lord is leading us to: sanctification, becoming like Christ in whom is no sin.
God’s will for you is to be sanctified, and He will use all things (events outside your control, inside your control, failures, successes, etc.) in life to get you there.
That’s not intended to be a point of condemnation, but of encouragement not to be trapped in a cycle of self-condemnation, but to change our perspective on living in the will of God, and so to encourage us. In fellowship with the Spirit of God is a paradaigm above the ways of this world.
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.