by Mike Genung
Man (or woman) is tempted to give in to sexual sin.
He succumbs, and the snake of lust coils around him. Later he gives in again, and the snake bites him… lightly… the sting is barely noticeable. Afterwards, every time the man indulges in sexual sin the snake sinks its fangs a little deeper, injecting more poison into his system.
All his focus is on the short-lived pleasure of lust; he doesn’t realize how the toxins that are now coursing through him are affecting him. At first, the worst part is the shame hangover; the guilt, emptiness and shame that wash over him after each binge. As time goes by, the shame hangovers lessen in intensity – because something worse is going on at a deeper level.
It takes years for the toxins to reach their full effect. Lust-poison is most effective when it sneaks up on a man; it gets a tighter grip that way and can do more damage to the soul.
In time, the rush that porn or other sexual sin used to provide is no longer there. Now he does it just to try to feel normal. Or not feel at all. One day he wakes up and realizes his heart and emotions have been cauterized. He doesn’t know what love is about. Receiving it seems impossible; giving love means faking it. He feels dead inside.
He bounces between anger and depression like a manic yo-yo. One day he’s lashing out at his wife and kids, and the next he’s deep in despair. He wears the Good Christian mask at church. Christians are easy to fool; all it takes is a little Christianese; quoting a verse, saying something nice… even getting involved in ministry. He builds an elaborate, white-washed wall that is meant to protect and conceal who he really is from others.
Until one day, he gets sick of the games. Nothing matters except his desperate attempt to feel good by indulging in lust, which leads to another snake-bite, and more toxin. Why fake it anymore? God hasn’t helped him and has probably bailed out on him, so maybe he should forget the whole church scene.
He’s totally blind as to how the snake’s venom has transformed him. The toxins are composed of pure, liquid evil. Every time the snake sank its fangs into him, he was injected with resentment, bitterness, fear, shame, guilt, lies, self-absorption, pride, rejection, apathy, emotional and spiritual blindness, and anxiety. Lust is a Trojan horse that conceals a host of other viruses. The lies are the worst as they control the heart: “Lust will solve your problems, No one must know who you really are and what you’ve done, God has abandoned you, there is no hope, Lust is now the best you can hope for and all you have. You cannot be loved for who you are.”
Here’s the dangerous part: if he allows lust free access to his heart for too long, his heart hardens. It’s impossible to soak a heart in evil-toxin for decades without turning it to stone. Once the lies have had enough time to set, the wonderful truths in God’s word no longer penetrate.
It’s at this point, when he enters the danger zone; now anything can happen. He may walk away from the church, his family, or even his relationship with God. If he somehow manages to keep the pieces together, the best he can hope for is a life of misery. As each day is lost, the chances increase that he will finish his life in bondage to sexual sin.
If you think I’m overstating the above, consider:
I’ve talked to men in their sixties and seventies over the years who are still in bondage to sexual sin. Last year one wife in her seventies shared that her 79 year old husband had spent all 50 years of their marriage blaming her for his choices to serve lust. I talked to another man in his sixties a year ago who was knee deep in it. As we started to talk he went off on a tangent about what he saw wrong with the church… theology issues, etc., I pointed out that he was criticizing the church to avoid looking at his heart and what his life had become. Looking at the heart is difficult for those who’ve spent their life walling it off – and blaming others.
The longer a man allows the snake to bite him, the greater the chance he will never experience true, lasting freedom from the bondage of sexual sin. That’s not to say that there isn’t hope, but that his heart has become so hard and there’s so much corruption and deceit coursing through his veins that receiving the truth will take a major work of God.
One of the most insidious effects of the lust-toxin is the spiritual and emotional blindness it causes. When I was in bondage to the snake, apathy and passivity were often its most potent weapons. There was always tomorrow… maybe something will happen later… maybe God would give me a big surge of spiritual willpower that will be so powerful that I will overcome lust on the waves of it. Maybe…
Men who live on “maybes” wake up in their sixties and realize that most of their life is gone… and wasted. “Maybe” is not faith; it’s delusion.
We don’t want to believe that many men in the church will waste the one life God has given them because of porn or some other sexual sin. We don’t want to face the fact that thousands of marriages and families in the church are dying and rupturing because of “just porn,” not to mention affairs or promiscuity. We don’t want to believe those nutty surveys that show that 65-75% of Christian men are viewing porn.
The church doesn’t want to hear this, because if it’s true we’re in serious trouble; our way of “doing church” is off course. I’ve met many of what I call Head Christians over the years. They were walking, talking Bibles, but once you got under the hood of their lives, everything was a mess. We put too much emphasis on head knowledge, doctrine, and theology, but not enough on the heart.
If you’re in your 50s, 60s, or 70s, and are in bondage to sexual sin, please take the following paragraph seriously:
You don’t know how much time you have to live. My wife works at the emergency room of a hospital; recently she told me of a man in his 50s who died of a heart attack, and then another in his 40s. Lust dulls a man; you must understand the urgency of your situation. Once this life is over there are no second chances. If you want freedom from sin, God offers it, but you’re going to have to go all out and destroy the house of cards your life has been built on. There’s no more time for “I’ll try… maybe… oh well…” Apathy is one of your greatest enemies. Lock your eyes on eternity, go all out, and never let go.
Here is what your path to freedom will involve:
1. Examine everything that causes you to stumble in sexual sin, and eliminate it, today. Refuse to allow compromise a foothold in your life any longer. This will not heal you, but it will give God the breathing room to work. You will have to press through discouragement, despair, and the enemy will surely remind you of past failures and tell you there is no hope. Keep going.
2. You are corrupted with lies about yourself, God, and others. The only way to deal with a lie is to expose it, admit that you’ve allowed it to rule you, confess it, soak yourself in God’s word every day, and cry out to Him to rebuild your heart with the truth. Exposing the lies your life is built on may be the most difficult part because they are buried in a hard heart. Cry out to God and ask Him to expose every lie you’ve bought into. Ask you wife to list every lie she sees that is keeping you from freedom and joy: your wife knows you like no other and will be able to help you a lot in this area.
3. Your relationship with the Lord is the most important thing to focus on now. Everything you need – a soft heart, the truth to penetrate your soul, cleansing, hope, and especially – love – will come from God. You must adopt the mindset that you’re going to go hard after God until He shows up, no matter what happens or how you may fall or stumble.
Let “God me merciful to me, the sinner!” be your starting point:
“But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to Heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, “God be merciful to me, the sinner!” I tell you this man went to his house justified, rather than the other, for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
In spite of how difficult your road may be, there is hope. You biggest struggle might be in believing this; perhaps you gave up years ago. Jesus’ mission on earth was to set captives free. Your sin is not beyond Him or His work on the cross. The question is, what do you believe in your heart? (not what you know). What if I told you that God wants you to come to Him and He wants to heal you? If you will carefully walk through Scripture you’ll see that the angels throw a party when a lost sheep comes back. You’re not excluded from that invitation.
4. I encourage you to go to a Christian retreat alone for several days, with no TV, cell phone, laptop, ipad, or other electronic device. Bring your Bible, a journal and food. Go after God. Don’t let up. Soak in the truth. Absorb yourself in God and who He is. Watch and listen for Him, and what He shows you. I’ve learned that God will keep His promise that if we seek Him with all our heart we will find Him. The key is “with all of our heart,” which means to keep going until He changes us.
5. Tear down all of your pride, justification, denial, and selfishness with humility, serving and helping others without caring whether you’ll get a pat on the back, and inviting God to expose all of your sin. Get out of your me-zone. Apologize to those you’ve hurt. Confess the truth, all of it, to trusted friends or support partners. No more holding back. Ask for help and prayer.
6. Realign your God-given priorities as shown in His word, which are: God, your wife, your kids, and then everything else. Confess your now former, false priority-set to your wife and kids, and ask them for prayer so you can take love and shepherd them as you’re called to.
7. Pray, often. Prayer is powerful because of Who we are praying to, and is one of the most important things you can do.
8. Expect resistance from the snake. If you’ve spent most of your life absorbing sin-toxin, you can expect the battle to be intense. Your flesh will scream in agony for a hit of lust, anger, selfishness, pride, or even despair, and the enemy will remind you of every time you failed. Get others to gird you up. Expose your distorted thinking and battles to them; don’t even think about trying this on your own. There is strength in numbers.
9. A little note here: if you’ve been going to a support group for years and it hasn’t helped, find another one. Get a group or guy who will tell you the truth and pray for you. If your support group doesn’t spend time in prayer, find one that does. Getting others praying for you is critical. Some guys are support group junkies who just go to groups to feel better, but never get anywhere. If that’s you, find another group.
10. Once and for all, destroy your Good Christian mask. Quit pretending to be someone you’re not. Stop all lying, hiding, and deceit. Quit the playing the Christian game; let your reputation become less important to you than integrity and truth. You will never heal unless you stop the lying and hiding; dishonesty is a part of the disease.
11. If you’ve been hurting your wife all these years and blaming her for your sin, make healing your marriage a big priority. Show by your actions that you’re serious (she probably stopped believing your words long ago). Your relationship with your wife is the most important one on earth; God takes marriage seriously. Lust blinds a man to all that God has given him in his wife. Do not neglect her in this process; restore her to her rightful place as your best friend.
What I have given you above are directions to take. God works differently with everyone and He uses different timing, methods, and people to speak to us. Give God room to work in your life as He wants to. Watch for Him to show up and speak to you, Be flexible. This is going to be a process; there is no silver bullet. Don’t give up, and keeping pressing forward.