BeFreeinChrist is posting this message on battling sexual bondage in 5-parts. It is an article written by a brother of BFiC from a presentation he made at a conference on Sexual Brokenness several years ago. This was back when he was in our predecessor group, New Life Ministries (NLM).
It’s becoming a more and more common scene. Your heart aches for the broken brother sitting across the table from you. His head hung, the hands trembling, he takes a deep sigh and begins. Maybe a tear escapes as he speaks.
“I’m back at it again. I swore I’d never look at those web sites anymore, never put my wife through more pain, never allow my mind to be so polluted. But sometimes when I’m feeling down or lonely or frustrated, the pull of pornography just seem so strong…” His voice trails off.
What do you tell him? How can you help? How do you give him hope? Maybe YOU’RE that hurting brother right now. I know I’ve been him.
I used to be guilty of a kind of “magical thinking” in this area. There just had to be some prayer of deliverance I could pray, some understanding of scripture that would one day explode in my heart, some experience of brokenness at the altar that would forever remove this baffling and sometimes terrifying battle against sexual temptation from my experience.
I don’t think that way anymore. Granted, God deals with us as individuals and if you’ve experienced that kind of supernatural, one-step deliverance from this problem, praise Jesus!! But I believe that lots of us Christian guys who struggle in this area, maybe most of us, need to be reminded of this: Christ’s provision for His people is multi-dimensional, and every part of His provision is important to the process of overcoming in the battle for sexual holiness.
What I’d like to do here is review what I call Biblical models of life-change and how they work together to produce change, holiness and increasing freedom from sexual bondage.
But we should define our terms. What do we mean when we talk about sexual bondage? That’s a term that can be defined in a lot of different ways, but for here and now let’s define it as either an individual sexual behavior or an array of behaviors that in some way violates God’s design for sexuality- that is, it falls short in some way as an expression of love and commitment and mutual service within a marriage- and has become a significant struggle and source of spiritual and emotional conflict within the life of an individual.
So while we could perhaps debate whether or not a husband taking a furtive glance at Miss February or a fleeting romantic daydream on the part of a wife as she watches a “chick movie” is sin, that’s NOT what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about something that’s become at some level addictive- that is to say, sex has become the drug of choice for medicating out the pain of living in a fallen world.
I think it’s important from the get-go that we affirm or reaffirm the biblical truth that sex, sexuality and sexual behavior are part of God’s design for humanity and are therefore inherently good and intended for the blessing of God’s people. The reason that’s an important affirmation is that people who struggle with sexual conflicts for long periods of time can come to view their very sexuality, their very maleness or femaleness as a curse and try to suppress or deny or somehow kill off altogether a very significant, wonderful part of their humanity.
This area is one in which I have struggled for a good part of my adult life. In fact, I came to faith in Christ in the early 70’s as a result of a life crisis that involved an arrest for improper sexual behavior-that of being a peeping tom. I’ve long since given up my nighttime prowling, but God has continued, graciously, kindly, to hammer away at the underlying attitudes, assumptions and heart conditions that led to that crisis. Unfortunately, our current cultural climate affords all sorts of “legal” opportunities to engage in voyeuristic behavior, from suggestive billboards to popular “men’s” magazines to lounges featuring so-called “exotic dancing” to internet pornography that can be viewed in the privacy of one’s own home. I’m not proud to admit that I have succumbed to any and all of these at various times over the years, but I think it’s important that you understand that I’m offering my observations her from the perspective of one who’s fought this battle for sexual holiness himself and hasn’t always won. But I haven’t given up, and I’m still learning. It’s in that spirit, of one who’s still in process in this very area, that I want to explore the concept of….
II. Biblical Models of Change
The key question: How do you help a person escape a life-dominating sexual pattern or habit that’s enslaved him or her? This isn’t just a theoretical question. For almost all of us, it’s just a matter of time before we’ll wrestle with that question in the context of a real relationship- a real, flesh and blood friend who needs our encouragement. For some of you, it’s happened already. For others, like myself, this type of battle may been a real and painful part of your own life.
Here’s my bottom line: I believe that for most Christian men, the snare of sin, including sexual sin, is a multi-dimensional problem, requiring a multidimensional solution–that is to say, nothing less than every aspect of Christ’s provision for His people at the cross.
But that’s still abstract. Let me break it down by discussing what I call Biblical Models of Change. Put in another way, how does the Bible answer the question, how do I change? That’s a question every Christian, including Christians struggling with their sexuality, is going to ask sooner or later.
There’s not one answer, except in the sense that the grace and power of God is one answer. But we experience that grace and power in several ways. So let’s look at some of them.
Model #1 – Confess….and be Healed
In Psalm 32, David wrote,
1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”– and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
The starting point of all spiritual life, as well as all genuine change, is humility, brokenness and emptying. This involves an honest acknowledgement that while the sexually broken and addicted person is where he is as a result of his own choices and his own unwise responses to the pain of living in a fallen world, he can’t get out on his own. He (or she) has experienced the bitter reality of Romans 6:16: Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey–whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
Sexual bondage flourishes in an environment of shame and isolation. Honest confession to the Lord and to another human being of where the sexually broken person has been, what he or she has done and what the inner environment of the thought life has been like is the first crucial step of braking the vicious cycle of
PAIN ———>>ACTING OUT ———>>SHAME AND GUILT
Confession lines up with the admonition of James 5:16:
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
It is consistent with “walking in the light” of truth as set forth in the 1st chapter of I John.
And it is the foundation for Steps 4 and 5 of the Twelve Step Models first articulated by Alcoholics Anonymous:
4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Confession is an act of humility. God promises over and over in countless scriptures that He’s FOR the humble and will help them. There’s something freeing and healing about confession, as the Apostle James observes in the text above. And confession to another human being breaks the wall of shame and isolation.
Lots of us have studied and memorized 1 Cor. 10:13. The reality is that the idea that “no temptation has overtaken us but such as is common to man” can remain an abstraction until we’ve taken the painful but absolutely essential step of sharing our story with another human being. But something wonderful happens once that step is taken. We find we’re not alone. It’s not essential that the listener has personally struggled with our particular brand of sin. The point is that we’re all struggling somewhere, somehow, and when the root issues of anger and fear and unbelief and God-playing are exposed, we’re still more alike than we are different. And in discovering acceptance from another person, not of the sin, but of our personality, of our stature as God’s image-bearers, broken and fallen as we are, a glimmer of hope arises.