With the Spirit’s help, at age 17, I stopped looking at pornography – cold turkey. For anyone who has ever been addicted to anything, you know this is no small miracle! All glory to God alone! I was so disgusted with myself… I had grown to hate pornography and the control I had given it over me. It sickened me to even think about seeking it out anymore. Finally, after six years of slavery, porn’s powerful spell over me was broken, and I was free from it’s bondage!
The good news was that the allure of pornographic material no longer had any power over me. The bad news was, it didn’t have to anymore.
Though Jesus had now delivered and released me from my addiction, I had just spent the previous six years pouring pornographic images into my mind. This would not be undone with a simple prayer and a heartfelt confession.
A man reaps what he sows. I no longer needed a magazine or a movie channel to fuel my lustful thoughts. Many thousands of images were stored up in my memory – and this would take years of undoing to be cured.
In the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman plays a prisoner serving a life sentence. He makes a fascinating statement about the reality of spending a lifetime behind bars. He says, “Funny thing, these walls. First you hate ‘em, then you get used to ‘em. After a while, you start to depend on them”. Live long enough in a prison of your own making, and you can start to forget how to live outside of it.
Though Jesus had freed me from my self-made prison of a pornography addiction, every so often over the next several years, I would run back to my prison cell and sit myself down in my own old prison chair… Then, realizing my error, I would stand up and walk back out again – in His strength – but sullen and shamed by my foolishness.
Proverbs 26:11 – As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.
These times of failure grew further and further apart, as Jesus empowered me more and more to “take captive every thought”. To “flee from sexual immorality”. To “take the way out that He has provided”.
I mentioned in my previous post that there were three primary passages of Scripture which got me through this time of allowing God’s Spirit to fortify me against temptation. They all came from Paul’s letters to the Christians in Corinth. Apparently, sexual purity was a problem for those young Christians, too.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 – Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, Who is in you, Whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has seized you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 – For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not like the weapons of the world. On the contrary, our weapons have divine power to demolish strongholds and to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, so that we can take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Between the ages of 17-23, God and I worked together to effectively erase and replace the thousands of sexual images that I had pumped into my own mind throughout the previous six years of addiction. This recovery was slow and painstaking. I was not always the best rehab patient! But God was gracious and kind. He replaced my shame with His holiness. He exchanged my failure(s) with His victory(ies).
Now, at age 33, I can’t remember ANY of those images from my addicted years. Seriously! Those mental snapshots are gone! And they have been gone for more than 10 years now.
Even 10+ years into victory, though, I am certainly not impervious to temptation. I still have to fight for my mental purity – every single day. I still have to invite Jesus into my tempting thoughts and rely on Him to show me the way out. I still have to recite Scripture silently to myself whenever a lustful desire tries to take root in my mind.
Even if an alcoholic goes drink-free for 30 years, he still has a vulnerability to alcohol. He can never drop his guard, lest he run right back to the prison from which he has been freed. As of this writing (March-2013) it has been more than 16 years since Jesus freed me from my practice of actively seeking out pornography. May the Lord keep me ever-vigilant for another 16 years, then another, then another, then another! – all the way until I enter His Holy Presence forever!
In the next post, I will share how the Lord has taught me to remain vigilant in avoiding sexual temptation over the past 16 years since He initially freed me.