I’ve been looking forward to touching on this topic in my blog for some time now and now that we’re officially in 2017 and I find myself sitting by a fire on a snow day in Germany, I think its a good a time as any.
Let me begin by telling you the “why” behind this blog post. Why am I sharing this rather personal look into my life and past?
My first reason is to encourage others who are currently struggling with pornography/masturbation to believe that freedom from a habitual sin cycle of sexual immorality does exist and can be attained.
Secondly, I want to provide others with the “way out”. In this blog I will provide what I believe to be the keys that will unlock the door to sexual purity and freedom from the grip of sexual temptation. Lastly, I want to glorify my heavenly family, Daddy God, my Savior Jesus, and Comforter Holy Spirit.
Please feel free to share my story as well. If you know anyone who’s struggling or could benefit from what I will share in this post please share away!
We are living in a day where its a more common thing to hear of men struggling and losing the battle against sexual immorality than giving testimony of lasting freedom in this area. I think most guys (speaking of Christian men) are afraid to approach the subject because…
1.) They find themselves in a battle they are losing and really don’t have much to say on the subject other than they feel hopeless or,
2.) They are experiencing a time of respite from sexual immorality and are afraid if they talk about it they will somehow jinx themselves into falling back into the vicious cycle. What I want to share with you doesn’t only apply to struggles with sexual immorality, but can really be applied to any area of our lives where we may find ourselves losing a battle against a certain sin.
So let me begin . . .
I won’t spend much time telling you about the details of my childhood and how I came into first contact with pornography other than I think its a pretty standard tale. I don’t remember the exact date but sometime during elementary school, maybe around 5th grade or so, some friends of mine and I found some pages of a skanky magazine in the woods where we would often spend our free time and I can remember that we put the pages we found in a plastic bag and buried it in the ground and would come back from time to time to look at them.
I don’t believe at that moment the hooks of sexual immorality were dug into my flesh just yet, but if not then it certainly was a few years later that curiosity turned into something more when a friend of mine who was also my neighbor showed me his parent’s pornography collection; a suitcase filled with magazines, videos and sex toys. There was also another boy there who was a bit older than me and my neighbor-friend and he told us about masturbation and how to do it and I guess you could say that that was when things took a treacherous turn for me as a young boy trying to figure out what to do with lustful feelings, thoughts, and urges.
I guess if that was the treacherous turn in my life you could call the advent of the internet and access to an unlimited supply of internet-porn the “jump off the cliff” moment of my life into full blown addiction to pornography and masturbation. Looking at internet porn would become a staple in my life for the next 10+ years and heavily influence my interactions with girls; how I viewed them and how I ultimately objectified them to satisfy my own desires.
I want to take moment to relate to you reading this that if you don’t already know that as a unbeliever (although i regularly went to church and participated in “church” activities until I left for college) viewing pornographic material was viewed as completely normal by me and my peers.
My friends and I regularly joked about it and even watched pornography together at times, so this was not something that was really hidden, except from my family. I guess you could say I had enough “religion” in me to know it wasn’t exactly a good thing, but hey everyone else was doing it, I even heard girls talk about how it was normal and even expected so what was the big deal?!
So the hole I was digging for myself just got deeper and deeper as I continued to soothe my pain and rejections from girls, failed relationships and really anything that was lacking in my life pornography and masturbation was like the ointment I applied to the wound. This ointment I was applying would never take the pain away but it would take my mind off of the empty longing inside of me growing larger and larger as the years went by.
And so this was it for me, a pathetic existence. Even though I look back on those 25 years of being lost and driven by the lusts of the flesh and am disgusted with what I had become, I am still thankful to the Lord that it didn’t get any worse than it had. I never dabbled in prostitution or visited brothels or anything of that nature, which doesn’t necessarily make what I did any better, but it does mean that I was spared even greater mistakes that perhaps could have made the hole in which I found myself even more difficult to escape.
Then something glorious happened . . . JESUS!
In October of 2005 I was gloriously saved from myself and delivered from the power of sin.
My desires had changed and I sincerely desired to follow the Lord with all I had; even certain habits like swearing and gossiping became detestable to me and I didn’t even have to try to stop doing them, they just stopped happening. I quit my band because I no longer wanted to play music that didn’t glorify the Lord and my motives were always selfish anyway. Even my nickname which at the time was “mad Mike” changed to “wholesome Folsom” over a matter of months due to how drastic the change in me was to those who knew me.
However, even though the scriptures declared to me my freedom from the power of sin and condemnation and I discovered a love and passion for Christ that I had never known in my previous 25 years of life I found it extremely difficult to get free from pornography and masturbation.
Now understand that before Jesus became my Lord I had no desire to get free from sin, I saw no wrong in what I was doing; now as a new creation in Christ I wanted nothing more than to leave my pet-sin behind and to walk in purity, but it seemed no matter what I tried I couldn’t get free.
Did you catch that? In that last sentence lies the very essence of what my problem was, the “I” . . . no matter what “I” tried I could not get free. Which brings me to my first key to getting free from sexual immortality.
1.) Understand that you as a believer in the finished work of the cross are already free from sin, but that you are choosing to dwell in it.
John 8:36 says “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” The problem is that most who find themselves struggling with sin or in the midst of a difficult situation are more driven by what they feel, see, or are experiencing rather than the truth of the Word, therefore they are not experiencing the freedom that is truly their’s. Faith is believing that what He says is true of you on a personal level despite everything in the natural-realm telling you its not. Own up to your decisions, stop believing that your situation is hopeless and take responsibility for the decision you are making to turn to sexual immorality when you are feeling weak, tired, and needy.
Either the scriptures are not true and you are not really free from sin or maybe you are missing something somewhere in your understanding of the Word and that is blinding you to the road to freedom. It would take another long blog post or more to fully flesh-out this all-important and foundational key to walking in freedom from sin in our lives, but I can tell you from personal experience that in my life it wasn’t until I understood that I am truly saved by grace AND KEPT by grace, not my good works, that I began to experience the peace and thankfulness that comes with knowing that He has done it all and all I have to do is rest in His completed work on my behalf. Yes, that even means when I found myself wanting to look at pornography and the doing it, all the time knowing that what I was doing was wrong! I really learned first hand the truth of the words WHERE SIN ABOUNDS, GRACE ABOUNDS ALL THE MORE!
2.) Understand that you are FULLY FORGIVEN; past, present, and future sins.
1 Peter 3:18 says that “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time.” It is my experience that most believers do believe they are forgiven for their past sins leading up to their salvation, but do not believe that Jesus’ work on the cross provided for forgiveness for the sin they may be committing right now, and definitely not for the sin they will commit sometime in the future. That is unless we remember to confess and ask for forgiveness of our sins (each and every one) after committing them and I guess if we forget one or two then well . . . I don’t know we just hope we were okay with the Big Man upstairs.
As you can imagine this way of believing or should I call it unbelieving doesn’t exactly bring lasting peace or joy because . . . well . . . you just can’t have peace about being unforgiven every time you screw up and believe that you upset God who is now frowning down at you or maybe even wringing His hands in the air screaming “When will he/she stop doing that?! I’m so disappointed right now.” And this is exactly how I imagined God each time I fell to pornography/masturbation; an endless cycle of being in right standing but then out again, feeling good about myself for a time of abstinence then back into despair when I would fall and feel condemned for what I had done. Over and over and over it went, for 10 years.
Condemnation was my master, that is until I finally had the light of truth break through the clouds of hopelessness in this area of my life in that the revelation of Romans 8 began to become real to me. I can’t really recall having an “ah ha!” moment, but for me it was more of a day by day journey wading deeper and deeper into the waters of unconditional love and acceptance despite my occasional moments of weakness. This is my 3rd key to walking in freedom from sexual immorality and that is what we will touch on now.
3.) Understand that you are loved unconditionally by your Father.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved…” Ephesians 2:4-5 Wow, how beautiful is that truth! If our Father loved us so much before we were all cleaned up by the blood of Jesus and made righteous before Him, how much does He love us now?! The answer is He loves us the same! Its never changed!
His love for you still burns as hot as it ever has; the only thing that changes is that we can start to believe that His love truly is unconditional. Sadly, in my own experience I did not really believed that Daddy God loved me unconditionally; oh I would have told you I believed He did but what I really believed is that He only loved me when I was serving Him, going to church, reading my Bible, praying, witnessing or doing any other Christian type-thing, but as soon as I sinned I was in limbo-land with God until I humbled myself in despair and repentance for who knows how many days until I felt I could face the world again and not feel like a hypocrite. I hated my sin, but I simply could not stop myself from the occasional fall, but it wasn’t until i truly understood that His love for me didn’t ever fluctuate, not even a little bit, during those falls that I began to see the pointlessness in allowing condemnation to get the best of me and beat me down for days at a time.
At first it was a weird sensation for me to fall to looking at pornography, which is where I normally would begin to feel like a phony-Christian and hypocrite who wasn’t fit for the kingdom, but then to have the truth of His unconditional love shine into my mind from my Spirit telling me that what I was feeling was a lie and that I was still as loved as ever by my Father, well . . . I guess you could say it took some getting used to. Over time this truth began to take root in me until it became such a day to day reality that my desire to trample on that kind of love by falling for a counterfeit was diminishing rapidly. Now I want to move onto the next and final key to walking in freedom from sexual immorality, which is to . . .
4.) Know that without an intimate and ongoing personal relationship with your Father through the presence of Holy Spirit, lasting freedom will be most difficult if not impossible to attain.
Out of these 4 keys to walking in freedom over sexual immorality, I guess you could say that this is the only one of them that perhaps you may have to make a conscious effort to “do”, at least in the beginning. It wasn’t until I began making an effort to take what I knew to be true about the unconditional love of God and the vastness of His grace towards me and meditate on them in the secret place during intentional time with my Father that I really began to feel breakthrough taking place in my struggle with pornography/masturbation.
You see, after I received revelation about the finished work of Christ a few years before I no longer allowed condemnation over my occasional fall to pornography to lord over me. However, the thing that I was lacking in all of this was taking those same truths I mentioned earlier in keys 1-3 and allowing them through spirit-filled prayer and meditation to become my daily, living reality. What began to happen as the days turned to weeks and then into months as I consistently made time each day to meet with my Father in the secret place, allowing Him access into the deepest parts of my being is that I realized I was no longer feeling the pull of temptation to lust after my flesh as I used to.
Actually, what was most exciting is that I found myself day-dreaming and actually getting excited about the next time I was going to be able to be alone with my Lord! The first time I realized that this was the new “lust” of my heart, to be alone with my Father and have special fellowship with Him, wow . . . I was so thankful!
I want to help you understand something else I feel is very important to clarify about this last key to freedom, and this is that although there isn’t necessarily a method or certain step by step layout that I can give you as to how you should spend your intimate fellowship time with the Lord, I do believe that praying/singing/crying out in the Spirit/tongues should be involved, if not used as your primary focus of your time. Reading the scriptures or even a helpful book written by a Spirit-filled believer, worshiping, or listening to a teaching . . . all these are great uses of personal time, but nothing can substitute time spent praying in the Spirit.
A little side-note: I for one believe that tongues is one of the most misunderstood aspects of the life of a believer because that’s exactly the way the evil one wants it.
If satan can keep a Christian from being baptized in the Spirit while at the same time teaching them to believe that praying/speaking in tongues is demonic or is something that passed away with the age of the first apostles, then he will successfully keep that Christian from walking in the fullness of all God has for them.
I will end this very personal blog post by sharing one last thing for me that really was the catalyst for me in realizing that something had to change and that breakthrough had to come in my struggle against sexual immorality and that came with getting married and then becoming a father.
As a single man who loved the Lord I should have had all the motivation in the world to walk in freedom from my besetting sin; what I mean is that Jesus suffering on my behalf to set me free from sin and death so that I could have a relationship with Him is enough, but I guess you could say that seeing how my decision to stroke my pet-sin from time to time in a weak moment would hurt my wife, well that was really a back-breaker for me.
This along with the birth of my son and imagining what kind of example I would be for Him if victory never came really helped me to stay the course at times when the occasional temptation would come. Before Jessica and I got married I shared with her about my struggle openly, which shocked her as she had no clue about how common this was among Christian men, but that I was fighting the good fight and it wasn’t really a regular problem but that I did occasionally fall in a weak moment from time to time.
I guess I didn’t fully comprehend how this information affected her until our 1st year of marriage which was more tumultuous than I anticipated and during one of our heated arguments she let me know that she felt insecure about herself due to my pornography struggles that in my mind weren’t that bad as it wasn’t something I failed at on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. In that moment I realized it didn’t matter so much what I thought about my problem and that I was hurting my wife more than I knew, which broke my heart.
I will never forget that moment I realized the pain I was causing my wife and allowing pornography to do to my family what so many others have allowed that demonic darkness to do to their’s and destroy them.
So this has been my story.
If you stuck around long enough to read it I hope that it has encouraged you in some way.
I pray that in my testimony you will find hope for yourself in the midst of your struggle, whether it be against pornography and sexual immorality, or in another area where the lust of the flesh is getting the best of you. Your path to walking in freedom from sin may not look exactly like mine but the important thing to remember and to never doubt is that victory does exist and it is already yours in Christ!
He has already done everything necessary to equip you to live out your life in joy and freedom from the things that threaten to destroy you.