Repentance

Repentance is realizing you will never be able to control your sin on your own and reaching out to God to give you the help you desperately need.

Why Do People Continue to Do What They Know is Wrong When They Know it’s Hurting Them?

Fear

It’s the age-old question and it puzzled me for years: Why do people continue to do what they know is wrong when they know it’s hurting them?

There is a huge class of sin that falls in this category. The obvious one, given this venue, is pornography. But there are many others that fit the description as well:

  • Overeating
  • Failing to exercise
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Failure to see a dentist

Most of these vices come with an immediate payoff in the form of self-gratification… or at least pain avoidance.

In Romans 6:19-23, the apostle Paul lays out the freedom from sin that is available to us through Jesus. He asks, “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things which you are now ashamed of?” It’s a rhetorical question of course; there was indeed a benefit. It was pleasure—a completely positive experience, but a fleeting commodity.

But we also reaped guilt, shame, and fear… and these things, unlike pleasure, seem to persist.

In my own case, I mainly reaped fear—the bitter aftertaste of sin.

That secret I was hiding… why did I hide it?

Fear is the reason:

  • Fear of being caught
  • Fear of the embarrassment and shame
  • Fear of the consequences of my actions
  • Fear of ruin

We all know in our hearts that sin only leads to bad things, just as we know we rob ourselves of the benefits that accrue from making wise choices.

We also know what we need to do: drop the charade, own up to our failures, expose our sin, ask forgiveness, and repent.

But why don’t we do that?

Once again, it’s often fear that keeps us from experiencing the freedom from our sin that Paul promises us.

The Antidote to Fear

Faith is the first half of the antidote for fear. We must decide that God can be trusted; that he will forgive as fully as he promised.

The hardest part is often believing he loves us unconditionally. That is an amazing statement we hear so often that we don’t always appreciate the significance. But hear this: the God of creation, of galaxies and nebula, of microorganisms and subatomic particles, is head over heels in love with you.

I’m surprised that he even knows my name, yet I’m told he knows everything from the hair on my head to the things I have done. He knows I’ve seen porn and sneak a second serving of ice cream and he continues to love me anyway.

By trusting his love for us, we realize he has our best interests at heart. Fear begins to crumble as we embrace this truth. We start to believe that we can face the consequences of our sin knowing Jesus is with us.

The second half of the antidote is Grace: God’s work through Christ that nullifies our sin. Guilt and shame are easy targets for grace, gone in the blink of an eye. Maybe that’s why grace is so hard for us to accept. In human terms, we don’t merely forget an offense and act like it never happened. If you come to accept God’s grace though, that’s exactly what happens to all your offenses in the eyes of God… instantly.

Sin + Faith + Grace = Life

Sin + Fear + Guilt + Shame = Death

This is how faith and grace work together to simultaneously break the bonds of sin—and both are the free gift of God.

2012-10-18 07.02.05John Allen is a Life Coach and lives in Seattle. He works with entrepreneurs and emergent leaders to help them pursue their visions and live fuller, more meaningful lives. He has a special interest in Christians who struggle to turn over every part of their lives to Jesus, to go “all in.” You can find out more at www.allencouraging.com.

Can You Still be a Christian if You Keep Struggling with Sin?

Back when I was looking at porn on a regular basis and lying about it to my wife, I knew I wasn’t right with God, but I never knew how bad it really was.

I would pray secretly to God asking Him to fix me, and I tried to reassure myself that He was forgiving and patient. But I never submitted my secret life to Him or made Him my Lord and Savior.

Photo by Ezra Wolf, Flickr Creative Commons

Ezra Wolf, Flickr Creative Commons

In reality, pornography was my god, and I was trying to be my own savior. I was attempting to please God through my hard work, but I still believed deep down I could fix myself. In my honest moments, filled with remorse, I wondered whether I was a Christian at all. I now believe that was the Holy Spirit speaking to me.

Don’t get me wrong; I was a churchgoer and a Bible-reader. I prayed each day and taught my children about Jesus. I was even an elder in my church for a time, and I repeatedly shared my “faith” with others.

But those things won’t save anyone.

In spite of all those things, I was still a liar. I kept committing adultery in my heart. And the Bible seems pretty clear that you can’t be any of those things and be saved at the same time (1 Corinthians 6:9–10). For that matter, you can’t even be greedy, slander people, or be a thief either.

According to that verse, I was still one of the unrighteous. So how could I have been saved?

•••

I always believed I would know God more once I got my sin under control. Now I understand how wrong that assumption was, because once I surrendered my life to the Holy God, He was the one who got my sin under control.

Now, I’m not saying you can’t be a Christian and struggle with porn (or any sin for that matter). But what I can tell you, is when God changes your heart, sinful things lose their ability to draw you in. You won’t want to go back to the same sins over and over because they will no longer satisfy your new heart. Your new heart will be drawn to God the King.

This is why the Bible follows up its earlier comment about the unrighteous not inheriting the Kingdom by reminding the Corinthian believers that they’ve been changed:

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11).

These Christians used to be liars, thieves, and adulterers—but not anymore. Now, they are washed clean of their sin and set free by the blood of Christ. They are no longer defined as sinners! They are righteous (even though they clearly still struggled with sin).

The same becomes true of you when you meet Jesus Christ and He saves you from the power of sin. This, after all, is what he does.

If you find, however, in your most honest moments, that your deepest desire is still to sin, to fix yourself, to worship another god… then it’s imperative you consider whether you’re trusting Jesus to save you, or if your faith is still rooted in your own goodness.

Are you seeking Him with your whole heart, or are you still trying to save yourself?

•••

God came to me much like he came to Cain. He showed me that sin was crouching at my door and it wanted to have me (Genesis 4:7). And like Cain, rather than submitting to God, I slayed myself (and my wife) with my lying and my selfish lust.

Through that season though, God never stopped pursuing me out of love. This wasn’t always with soft hands and a warm embrace. At times I felt as if He was haunting me. He would convict me with Scripture and cause my spirit to become restless with the actions of my life. I realized I could never be a half-hearted but happy Christian. I could not escape His pursuit unless I surrendered to Him.

I would like to say that I eventually cried out to God, but the truth is, He came and saved me in spite of my stubborn pride. I had little to do with it.

God rescued me from my sin—and from myself.

God brought me to Himself when I insisted on looking for my own way.

The lesson to be learned from my story isn’t that God can make you into a more upright person. No, the lesson from my life is that God is the one who rescues.

Experiencing how He has released me from the slow poison of my wretched heart, to be free to love Him as my rescuer—that has become the joy of my life.

Is This the Year You Finally Give Up?

End of your ropeFor years, I believed I was doing a good job of controlling my life. But there was always one thing I just couldn’t get under control—my pornography addiction.

No matter how hard I tried to control my wayward sexuality, I always felt like it controlled me.

Believe me, I tried everything to control it. Sometimes I’d do great for a week or two, but as soon as I began to think I was getting my sin under control, I’d immediately fall. No matter what I tried, nothing worked for long.

So I kept looking for new answers. I looked for new books to tell me what I needed to do to overcome this terrible habit. I looked for new sermons that would give me the steps I needed to take to get free. I searched everywhere for the missing secret of how I could effectively control my sin, but I never found it.

I was asking the wrong question, though.

I kept asking, “What do I need to do to control my sin?” But the reality is, there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t win this fight with my own power. If I were ever going to find freedom from my pornography addiction, I would need to look outside of myself for the answer.

In order to find true freedom, you must give up
on your own ability to control your sin.

The only way any of us will ever find lasting freedom from our pornography habit—or any sin for that matter—is to reach out to Jesus for help. You simply aren’t strong enough to fight sin on your own. None of us are. That’s because all sin is a spiritual battle with a very real adversary who will choke you out if you try to fight him one-on-one. But remember, greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world. So if you’re trusting in the superior power of Jesus to help win the battle for you, your victory has already been won.

It isn’t easy for us to accept this. We don’t want to admit we need help. Heck, we don’t even like asking for directions. There’s something in us as men that makes us want to fight our battles solo—especially these deeply personal battles. We want to believe we are strong enough to control our sin on our own. We all want to be a spiritual Rambo.

If you’re being honest with yourself, though, being told you can’t control your sin probably isn’t that big of a shock to you. The fact that you’re reading this book means you are already beginning to explore your need for outside help. But what happens if you’re at the point where you recognize that you keep failing but you aren’t ready to reach out to Jesus yet?

Chances are, you will keep finding ways to justify your sin—or make excuses for it—until you figure out how to finally get it under control.

You will also be extremely tempted to keep your sin hidden no matter what, which will require you to become an expert at lying to cover your tracks, manipulating others to get your way, and digging yourself out of any mess you end up in.

  • Because you lied to your wife and she believed you the previous ten times, you assume you will be able to do it again and again.
  • Since you’ve successfully hidden your online behavior for years now, you become extremely confident that no one will find out what you’ve been up to.

These deceitful tactics seem to work well at first, so you’ll likely keep repeating them to keep from being exposed. Eventually, you will start to believe there is no situation too difficult for you to wiggle out of.

If you continue down this path long enough, you will more than likely come to view yourself as invincible. You may still recognize you aren’t doing very well at controlling your sin, but at least you are doing a great job of managing its effect on your life. The longer you believe that lie, the harder it will be for you to recognize your need for outside help.

Which is why everything in your life may appear to be manageable for you right now. But eventually, God will lovingly step in and allow all the hidden crap in your life to hit the fan.

Friends, God loves you too much to sit back and watch you destroy yourself. He isn’t going to allow you to keep wandering into battles you can’t win. He knows your desire for control is hindering you from knowing Him fully and personally. That’s why He will never stop pursuing you, or stripping away anything that gives you a false sense of control in your life, until you reach the end of your rope where you can finally see how incapable you are of controlling your sin on your own.

He wants you to reach a point where you have no choice left but to reach out to Him.

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.
With less of you there is more of God and his rule
(Matthew 5:3).

So, let me ask you, is this the year you finally give up on trying to control your own life and trust God to take control instead?

What’s keeping you from letting go of your rope and giving up?


cover-mockupThis post was an excerpt from my upcoming book,
10 Lies Men Believe About Porn, available in Spring of 2014.

For more information, or to sign up for updates, please visit the
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