Several weeks ago I mentioned in a posting titled, "Is Lust Nullifying Your Voice?" that I had been invited by my pastor to share my story during the Holy Convocation at my church on Saturday, September 15. The objective as stated by the Elders of Grace Church was to call the men to live a life of holiness and purity even in the midst of a culture ensnared by perversion and porn. I was asked to share my personal testimony of how the Lord delivered me from a life enslaved to lust, anger, shame, and pornography. This was the precursor to my introduction on Sunday as a new staff member at Grace Church of Fredericksburg, assigned to work with young adults. Truly this was ordered of the Lord!
The turnout was superb! It seemed that we had just under 200 men in attendance that morning for the four hour session. It was evident that the Lord moved powerfully upon the hearts of the men present. I do want to thank many of you for praying for me during that time. There was definitely some intense warfare going on as I shared my testimony.
You may be wondering, “How did the actual testimony go on Saturday?”
Well, I’m glad you asked!
Honestly, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I didn’t anticipate the awkwardness that was evident as I spoke. In so many ways, I wasn’t my usual self. Prior to the opportunity, I was quite excited and had mapped out a few main points that I intended to address. Normally I enjoy preaching/teaching in front of such crowds—yet, due to the nature of the topic, primarily my own journey to hell and back—I wasn’t as articulate as I would have preferred. Several times I paused, acknowledging the difficulty of sharing such things.
At the end, finally my composure broke as I expressed the reality of my past outlook in the midst of the seemingly never ending war against lust: I wasn’t going to make it. There was a point in the journey towards freedom that I thought I wasn’t going to make it through. The battle to walk in freedom was so fierce, so difficult, so painful—that I didn’t think I was going to emerge victoriously. Rather, I thought that I had forfeited my marriage, my calling as a prophetic voice to the nations, my integrity and character, and my intellectual prowess. The pain was like none other that I had ever experienced to that point, or since. During that season I wrote about it in my journal, labeling it the agony of nothingness. This is what I imagined how Esau (the brother of Jacob) felt—existing, but not alive—haunted by the memory of forfeiting his birthright for a measly bowl of stew.
Likewise, I had exchanged my spiritual birthright for a quick fix of illicit arousal that always brought forth the numbing reality of nothingness. This corrupt bowl of lasciviousness corroded my mental and emotional faculties—all the while my spirit was defiled.
Hope was no where to be found.
How could I possibly fight against this vile wickedness that was so seemingly embedded deep within—the lust, the perversion, the rebellion, the anger, the shame—among other vices? In the midst of this, I couldn’t hold on. Hope vanished. Like a dead corpse, I stumbled on, existing, but not fully alive. And definitely with no hope towards the future.
Yet, when I couldn’t hold on, somehow, Christ held onto me. In desperation I cried out to the Lord daily. During the first year I spent my hour of power with the Lord. Often I couldn’t pray with intelligible words, simply because I didn’t know what to pray when I was paralyzed with hopelessness and despair—instead I prayed in tongues, continually. Daily I bombarded the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) beseeching God for His mercy to be released upon me. There were no other options. I can recall crying out to God with loud cries for His mercy to be released in my life through the atoning work of the Cross. I was a desperate man. Mercy met me at my lowest point. I had sinned greatly against the Lord—therefore, I had to ask Him for even the desire to turn away from the sin so that I could seek Him with a pure heart. The callousness of my own heart was so real.
Time passed—yet, somehow I persisted in the face of great adversity and insurmountable odds. I did make it. Christ changed me from the inside-out as over time I was purged of the lust, rebellion, anger, and shame that had previously held me in bondage. Matthew 3:8 was a living reality in my life—“bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” It wasn’t enough to simply have a change in behavior with the roots embedded deep within, it required that I permit the Lord to do such a deep work of transformation within.
We must continue to walk in repentance from lust until we bear the fruit of purity and holiness in our lives. We can live in the freedom that Christ attained for us on the Cross. It is not God’s will for us to live with a heart that rages within to attain the illicit glimpse of the forbidden image of a seductive pose. Hence, if you don't bear the fruit of purity in this day and age, it will cost you something. Don't get me wrong, it will cost you something to walk in such purity of heart, but it will cost you more if you fail to do so. The cost of sin is far greater than the cost of paying the price to attain the fullness of the freedom through Christ's atoning work.
Keep pressing in until you bear the fruit of purity in your life. In the grace of God it is possible. Here are a few things that must be in place of you truly want to live in the freedom that Christ purchased by his blood. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it serves as a starting point for wherever you are today.
Accountability—You won’t make it without this critical discipline, and it must be a person who is walking victoriously in this area. Don’t have someone who is struggling in this area to be the primary accountability partner.
Intimacy with the Lord—Cultivating this is the absolute key to long-term transformation. Without this dynamic, there will no true heart change even though behavioral changes may persist for a season. This includes the reading/studying of Scripture and the daily time spent seeking the Lord.
Pray in the Spirit—I’m specifically referring to the charismatic notion of praying in tongues. In this battle against lust, there are countless times when you will have no strength within to pray, but enough to pray in tongues. It builds up your spirit as you pray in agreement with the Father's perfect will over your life.
Friendship—This is so important. I’m talking simply about cultivating God-ordained friendships with others. Often these types of struggles cause us to isolate ourselves, which is very dangerous. The joy of friendship is priceless. Treasure them. Honor them with utmost diligence.
Small/Care Group—Find a small fellowship group to be a part of that meets consistently. Commit yourself to serving the needs of others within the group. This was also a context where I could encourage others even in my darkest hour. The group leader was aware of my situation and he sought my input during group discussion times.
Develop a war mentality—You have declared war once you have committed yourself to the process of walking in repentance. It isn’t a walk in the park—hence it is a crawl in a war zone with deadly bullets whizzing by your head.
Boundaries—This include getting rid of television and/or cable. My wife and I don’t have cable and we never will. Also she has ensured that nothing comes into the house such as women clothing magazines or anything of that nature. And I don’t have unlimited access to the Internet. Even though I walking in victory in this area, I am planning on installing software that will allow my accountability partner to receive weekly checkups as to what sites I’ve visited.
Education/Learning—For me this was a lifesaver. I was enrolled at Regent University pursuing my M.A. in Organizational Leadership. Continued lustful thinking destroys the mind. Pursuing my M.A. helped me tremendously by forcing me to think critically and abstractly, which strengthened my cognitive capabilities. Plus I was able to focus on other things rather than own my struggles.
Deliverance—Pornography does open the door for demonic spirits. There is a critical need to undergo some measure of deliverance from demonic spirits, especially once accountability and boundaries have been established in the life of the believer. However, if the person does not have these other dynamics in place, they probably won’t have the necessary inner fortitude to walk out the deliverance. Often in many charismatic circles, deliverance is seen as the only necessary key to being set free from porn, lust and perversion—I beg to differ. Deliverance alone doesn’t assure that the believer will have the necessary inner fortitude (self-control) to walk out that deliverance. However, it is a critical component of the overall equation of producing the fruit of purity. Also many want the deliverance, but they aren't willing to cultivate the repentant heart that precedes purity.
These pointers represent a starting point to implement in the quest for freedom in Christ.
So in spite of my inabilities that morning, God moved powerfully upon the hearts of the men. I had guys come to me sharing with me their vulnerabilities. Interestingly there was one thing I had forgotten to share that morning, which was a common theme in my conversations afterwards. During my darkest hour, one of the most intense desires was to meet another guy who had actually overcome an addictive lifestyle to lust—one who was walking in victory. I could never find anyone even though I read a few books about guys overcoming this sin.
Oh, how my heart longed to simply have that reassurance face-to-face that it was indeed possible to overcome the bondage of lust! Others that morning reiterated the same desire, and my testimony proved to be the assurance that they were longing for: In Christ all things are possible!