fighting for free hearts

Managing Your Porn Habit?

Back in the prime of my addiction, I used to come up with all sorts of “plans” that I tried to employ in order to break free from pornography, lust, and compulsive masturbation.

I would look at the calendar and use things like major holidays, or New Year’s resolutions, or even just the start of a new month as an attempt to hit the Reset Button on my addictive pattern.

The result was predictable. The “plan” always failed. Some lasted longer than others, but none of them worked.

That approach was doomed to fail.

Those “plans” were my version of an attempt at managing my sin. I was going to conquer it through sheer will power. And then, when those plans failed, I tried yet again to manage the sin by convincing myself that since I couldn’t break free, the best I could do was manage it by keeping it from getting out of control.

I convinced myself that being free was impossible, and perhaps I had been making too big a deal out of it anyway. As long as I kept it from destroying my life I was doing well, or so I told myself.

That was as good as it was going to get. And after all, wasn’t that good enough?

This approach to sin — the attempt to manage it — is part of a larger issue that Dallas Willard talks about in The Divine Conspiracy when he discusses what he calls “The Gospel of Sin Management.”

In that book Willard doesn’t describe my situation exactly, but he raises the issue that in the church we have largely adopted a Gospel of Sin Management. In Willard’s words it works like this:

History has brought us to the point where the Christian message is thought to be essentially concerned only with how to deal with sin: with wrongdoing or wrong-being and its effects. Life, our actual existence, is not included in what is now presented as the heart of the Christian message, or it is included only marginally.

Willard goes on to say that on the right wing of theology the only thing made essential is “forgiveness of the individual’s sins. On the left, it is removal of social or structural evils.”

He also adds that to the right, being a Christian is a matter of having your sins forgiven. To the left, you are Christian if you have a significant commitment to the elimination of social evils.

Both of those approaches were represented — and still are — in the perspectives and practices of plenty of people I have known throughout my life as a Christian.

Both right and left, as described by Willard, have nothing to offer in terms of the breakthrough I had been seeking all those years. The reason they have nothing to offer is articulated by Willard this way:

What right and left have in common is that neither group lays down a coherent framework of knowledge and practical direction adequate to personal transformation toward the abundance and obedience emphasized in the New Testament, with a corresponding redemption of ordinary life. What is taught as the essential message about Jesus has no natural connection to entering a life of discipleship to Him.

No wonder I was stuck in a cycle of failure.

My endless plans failed because there was nothing about them that even came close to transformation. Men I confided in, and with whom I had accountability, talked nothing of transformation. In my own theology, I didn’t even use the word “transformation.”

Life was about being forgiven and slugging it out with my sin — sometimes slugging well, at other times very, very poorly.

I was reminded of this cycle of failure recently in light of some different things I have read pertaining to the Ashley Madison hacking incident which has — unsurprisingly — revealed that some high-profile Christian men had accounts with the adultery web site.

I say “unsurprisingly” because of what I shared in a post titled I Am Ashley Madison. It is an honest admission of the pain and humility I feel surrounding this incident.

I also say “unsurprisingly,” because Christian men get addicted to pornography or lust or various forms of sexual acting out just as easily as non-Christian men.

In fact, Christian men may be prone to sexual acting out because Christianity at large has failed to offer them — or the world — anything compelling. Rather, sexuality is for many the only experience they have of true, transcendent spirituality.

This is not an excuse for their sinful behavior. It’s still sin and they need to repent. What this is is a realistic appraisal of the conditions that are created when Christianity becomes something other than what it should be; namely, the abundant life that Jesus promised.

In the absence of a vibrant connection to God — His life and His heart — compulsive sexual behavior is going to look really good. Moreover, thrilling sexuality will be the thing that — of all counterfeits — comes closest to providing the transcendent experience we should be getting from a full life with God.

So then, in the church at large you have many Christian men trying to be good men; wanting to do the right thing; but also feeling very empty. They are experiencing a loss of heart because the Christianity being offered to them — like what Willard described — is about just being forgiven, or fighting social evils.

Neither of those is the Gospel Jesus preached. And neither of those will excite you the way pornography or lust will.

But the real Jesus, and the real good news “of the presence and availability of life in the kingdom, now and forever, through reliance on Jesus the Anointed,” to quote Willard yet again, will excite you and fill you with vibrancy.

So, yes, with a Christianity that fails to offer the compelling reality of the presence and availability of life in the kingdom, we should not be surprised that Christian men fall into compulsive sexual behavior and even wind up on Ashley Madison.

Sin management will not do. We need transformation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: