I was hopelessly addicted to porn.
I remember a period when I would stand by the tall white-trimmed double windows in our living room, which faced the front yard, almost every morning as a teenager. I would watch my parents pull out of our graveled driveway and head off to work. It was summer vacation and I was home alone.
As soon as my parents were out of site, it felt as if I was dragged with a chain around my neck to the desktop computer.
Porn wasn’t fun anymore.
I would sometimes even feel a kind of depression when I looked at porn. It was no longer something I wanted to do. It was something I had to do.
What is your prison sin?
All of us have sins we struggle with that frustrate and discourage us. They are more than just sins. They are addictions. For many of us, our addictions can easily take us beyond frustration and into despair.
We feel trapped in our sin, and the hope of freedom we know we should hold onto grows dimmer and dimmer. I call these struggles “prison sins” because it feels like there is no way out.
What are your prison sins? For years, mine was porn. Porn is a monster. It will stop at nothing until it has your soul.
But now that I can joyfully say I haven’t looked at porn in a long time, I realize that porn was never my only prison sin. I have at least two others that are constantly seeking to destroy me.
Pride is an unshakable weakness that has made a fool of me time and time again. And gluttony is an addiction which I shamefully confess I am not yet free from.
That said, I’m not talking to you as a wise teacher who has faithfully practiced what he preaches and has always seen the fruit of it. Instead, I want to encourage you as a fellow struggling brother who is still figuring it out.
But I do have a few thoughts that I believe will be helpful for anyone stuck in sin.
I wish I could give you a magic pill that will destroy your prison sins once and for all. But I can’t. I can’t tell you how many days, weeks, months or years it may take to be totally free. But I can tell you that if you don’t give up the fight, you will win.
“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up,” (Gal. 6:9).
God’s questionable tool.
First, we need to be clear on something. Addiction is sin. There is no excuse for it. We are not the victims of it; we are the offenders. God doesn’t wink at it or look the other way. Proverbs 15:9 says, “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD.”
But God also isn’t afraid of our sin, and in his infinite sovereignty and wisdom and grace he even knows how to use it to bring us close to him. Romans 11:32 says, “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”
Here are 4 ways our prison sins can actually be used to lead us to freedom.
1. Repent, don’t give in to shame.
When we fall, one of the hardest things to do is talk to Jesus. The reason we avoid God is the same reason Adam and Eve “hid from the Lord” after they sinned (Gen. 3:8).
We feel shame.
But God already knows what you did. And still he stands there with open arms, like the father of the prodigal son, waiting for his child to come home.
When you fall you must repent immediately. Timing matters because we deceive ourselves and think time is a factor in our forgiveness. If we wait long enough we feel less shame for our sin, so it seems easier for God to forgive us.
But that’s why we must repent immediately. Because it penetrates our hearts when they are most fragile. This is where healing begins.
One of the practical ways repenting as soon as you fall can help rescue you from your prison sin is that the embarrassment that comes with knowing you have to repent, and that you have to do it immediately, becomes motivation to not give in the next time.
2. Confess, don’t save face.
Never stop confessing your sins to other Christians.
James 5:17 seems to imply that you may not find freedom if you don’t confess: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
Pastor and Theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, said it well:
“Why is it that it is often easier for us to confess our sins to God than to a brother? God is holy and sinless, He is a just judge of evil and the enemy of all disobedience. But a brother is sinful as we are… We must ask ourselves whether we have not often been deceiving ourselves with our confession of sin to God, whether we have not rather been confessing our sins to ourselves and also granting ourselves absolution. And is not the reason perhaps for our countless relapses and the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living on self-forgiveness and not a real forgiveness?”
Nothing is more humiliating than telling your friends that you sinned, especially if it is something you’ve confessed many times before.
But we’re sneaky.
We’ll wait a couple of weeks, or even months, before we confess. That way our sin sounds like something we used to struggle with, but we have grown stronger since then.
That isn’t confession. It’s appeasing your conscience.
Just as with repentance, you must confess right away. That’s where you feel the healing power of God through his people.
In a practical sense, confession works the same way as repentance. You dread having to tell other people you sinned. So knowing that you have to call your friend and tell him what you did when this 5 minutes of pleasure is over becomes a new motivation not to give in to sin next time.
3. Pray, don’t grow weary.
When you are discouraged by sin and begin to lose hope that you will ever be free, few things seem as ineffective as prayer. But the truth is, few things are as vital.
Christ alone can rescue you from your prison sins. Never stop turning to him in prayer and pleading for his help. And every time you pray, be encouraged by stirring your faith and asking yourself:
“What if this is the prayer that God answers with a final yes! What if this is my last porn confession?”
Because it could be. It really could be. God is faithful, and he wants you free far more than you do.
4. Hope, do not despair.
If I can leave you with anything it’s this.
Do not quit.
Don’t stop praying, repenting, confessing, trusting, fighting. Do not give into despair. Do not “grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up,” (Gal. 6:9).
You can win this fight. I can’t give you a timeline, but I can give you a promise. God will never give up on you, so you should never give up.
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