Saturday, July 5, 2008

Repenting of Porn Addiction (Part 1)

I know all too well that there are no quick fixes: no easy tricks or easy solutions to porn addiction. Believe me, I’ve tried them. There were many times of desperation where my latest epiphany seemed like the missing link to my personal recovery. “This is it!” I thought. “This is the key to beating this addiction.” I’m not much for self-help psychology, but I was the first guy in line to buy the newest book about sexual healing to go to the addictions conferences, to tap into the power of prayerful meditation.

I don’t for a moment belittle these moments in my life. They were sincere moments of remorse. They were steps forward. These moments were footprints on the road to recovery . . . but they were only footprints, not monuments. As William Faulkner put it, “A monument only says, ‘At least I got this far,’ while a footprint says, ‘This is where I was when I moved again.’”

If you follow my footprints you’ll come to a spiritual answer, an answer that centers on Jesus Christ. Some of you are quite comfortable reading about that. Others are not. I understand if you aren’t. But please, understand: I would cheat you if I didn’t tell you what I know.

Oxford scholar CS Lewis once said: “I believe in Christ like I believe in the sun: not just because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

In other words, Lewis didn’t just believe in Christ because the message and story of Christ was believable. He believed in Him because of how this faith made sense of all other areas of life and history. It brought synergy to the pieces of his life. In the same way, as I started to dive deeper into life with Christ, He shed great light on my brokenness and addictions.

The Key to Change: Real Repentance

When I say the word “repentance” different things may come to mind for different people. For some this word is too preachy and religious, so it is dismissed. For some, this is a very familiar word that sounds like, “Say you’re sorry and try harder.” When met with this kind of challenge some rise to the occasion: it means a renewed commitment to prayer, reading the scriptures, and faithful service in the church community. If you are like me, you hear “repentance,” and think, “Yeah, I’ve tried that. Do you know how many church altars I’ve been to? Do you know how many tears I’ve cried over this? Do you know how many renewed commitments I’ve made—and broken? Repentance is an empty word to me anymore.”

I understand your frustration. I do. When I was caught in the grip of pornography addiction there was a besetting misery in me each time I looked for answers. I knew I could not excuse my behavior like a helpless victim, but I felt helpless and utterly out of control. I became familiar with the smell of church carpet near the altar. I became familiar with the burn of fresh tears in my eyes. After a while, I began to lose my faith in the altar calls—i.e. my resolve to follow through in obedience after a night of gut-wrenching “repentance.”

The English word “repentance,” comes from the Latin poenitÄ“re, meaning “to feel regret.” It is where we get our word “penitence,” the feeling or expression of humble pain or sorrow for sins. Often the word “repentance” is used to translate the term metanoia in the Greek New Testament. Metanoia means to reconsider or rethink something, to experience a real change in one’s thinking. Real repentance is when a fundamental change takes place in someone’s mind and heart in terms of how one thinks about his/her sin. One begins to see the sin as God does—an offensive thing that both saddens and angers Him.

What is Real Repentance?

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11,

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.”

As we pick this passage apart, remember that it is God who grants repentance. It is not the work of the human heart that simply tries harder to repent.

Real repentance is (1) produced by godly grief. It involves grief: a deep mourning, a pain, a heaviness of spirit. But not just any grief: it’s a grief with a “Godly” or “Godward” focus, a grief that centers on the breaking of God’s heart. Many times the grief of our addiction comes from a feeling of deep shame and embarrassment of being caught in our sin. Sometimes our grief is a felt sense of emptiness or lack of comfort. Sometimes our grief is a sense of personal moral defeat. These may be natural and understandable sorrows over our sin, but they are not godly grief. Godly grief says, “I have hurt the heart of God. As painful as my sin is to me and my relationships, it first and foremost is a sin against the Lord.” It is like the prayer of repentance by King David, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4a).

Real repentance also produces (2) earnestness, a sense of haste, diligence, and effort. Simply put, when someone repents, he/she rushes to action; they do not simply sit in the feeling of grief.

Real repentance produces (3) eagerness to clear oneself, a desire to apologize and make amends. This requires a deeper look: what is the root of my addiction, and how has this sinful root caused other sinful problems? There was a time when I dealt with only the symptoms of my addiction, the visible manifestation of the deeper issues. I repented of viewing porn, but I was unaware that I needed to repent of deeper problems. I said “no” to porn but didn’t say “no” to other forms of lust, my chronic masturbation and lustful glances towards women. I said “no” to porn, but didn’t repent of my hard-heartedness towards God, my stubborn self-will, my obsession with and worship of my sexual appetites. I had said “no” to lust, but hadn’t given myself over to the fear and adoration of God.

Real repentance produces (4) indignation, a hatred of sin. Consider the cross of Jesus. For six hours one Friday, Jesus hung on a cruel Roman cross, and during that time experienced living hell, the complete absence of His Father’s loving presence, and instead He bore the curse of our sinful rebellion. God’s furious wrath was poured out upon His Son. For that moment in time, the Son of God carried the weight of our sin, and He drank the cup of God’s fury. Does this fact touch our souls? Does the thought of God’s wrath make us uncomfortable? It should. In the face of such wrath, the mountains melt like wax: how much more then the human heart?

Yet in the cross, Paul says, we have not only a revelation of God’s justice and wrath (Romans 3:23-25), but a picture of God’s great love and kindness (Romans 5:6-8), the love of One who would come and die for ungrateful people. And “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4).

We never graduate from the cross of Christ to any “deeper” truths. The cross is the pinnacle of theology. It is the clearest and greatest picture of God’s character. As Charles Spurgeon beckoned the church to “abide hard by the cross and search the mystery of His wounds.” John Calvin wrote, “When we behold the disfigurement of the Son of God, when we find ourselves appalled by His marred appearance, we need to reckon afresh that it is upon ourselves we gaze, for He stood in our place.”

Let us preach the Gospel to ourselves every day, and as we do this, Jerry Bridges says, “you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life.”

Real repentance produces (5) fear. This word “fear” is the same word used in the gospels when people encounter an angel. It is the same word used of the disciples who saw Jesus walking on the sea in the late night, thinking He was a ghost. It is the same word to describe the awe of the disciples when Jesus stopped the storm with just a word, or the reaction of the crowds upon seeing one of Jesus’ miracles. In other words, this fear creates astonishment and respect which shakes us to our core.

Real repentance produces (6) longing, a passionate desire. A brush with the devastating effects of sin will often leave our hearts wide open, and deep, primal longings are exposed. Repentance brings about an awakened desire and a longing to redirect those desires toward the right things. God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). This passage shows so clearly that first, people are very thirsty. We are designed to be satisfied by the Eternal God—the source of all satisfaction. Secondly, people are very foolish: we search in vain for what we can only find in God. We dig empty wells in a dry and weary land. Real repentance means that we redirect our longings to the only Well that can satisfy.

Real repentance produces (7) zeal, an excitement, a fervent spirit . . . a healthy jealousy towards a restored relationship with the Lord. Elsewhere in Scripture this word is used to speak of the vice of envy, but here, a virtuous jealousy. To Israel, the Lord called himself the Jealous God: “You shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14). God has a jealous longing for our undivided worship. When we truly repent, we have a jealous longing to make God our only god. We will begin to long for closeness to God with no competing idols.

Make no mistake: pornography is idolatry. Real repentance means that we identify our lust as idolatry, not just as a “problem” or “addiction.” According to Romans 16:18 and Philippians 3:19, there are many in the world, and even in the church, who have made their own appetites their god. This word “appetite” in these texts is translated “heart” in John 7, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture says, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38). An idol of pornography is an empty well. But Jesus offers living water. He alone can satisfy our deepest longings and cravings.

Finally, real repentance produces (8) punishment. In the original context, Paul was speaking to a whole community of Christians who were dealing with particularly shameful sins in their midst. Certain Christians had manifested unrepentant sinful lifestyles that brought shame upon the entire church. The community sought to use corrective church discipline to bring these problems under control.

Source - http://www.covenanteyes.com/blog/2008/06/18/repenting-of-porn-addiction-part-1/

2 comments:

Asian Invasion said...

Excellent post. I definitely learned a lot here.

KING said...

As you stated: the missing link to personal recovery. This is where my problem comes in. i found myself going back to the same habits every month or 2. I repent and still found myself doing what i don't want to do but i still find myself going back to my vomit. I really want to stop this online Porn. i told myself recently, can i personally really get over this; this is because the thought/desires just came in my mind and i found myself surfing the net to fill my puzzle. But i will take your advice step by step.