Saturday, March 12, 2016

Free from Pornography and Every Addiction that Grips Your Soul

This is what you need to hear after you've fallen again. It is rare for a pastor or teacher to write something for you to read right after you just gave in to sin and indulged in temptation. But this is the encouragement you need right now, even minutes after downloading pornography, or getting drunk again even though you promised "never again," or writing secretly to that person who is taking the place of your spouse in your emotions. Boldly calling it Seven Things to Do After You Look at Pornography, Paul Maxwell gives us an article that spares you both the lame, unhelpful suggestions and the shaming. Instead, he gives comfort, hope, and good advice on what to do right now to change things. It applies equally to just about any addiction or temptation.

Below is the Cliff Notes version, where I tried to pull out and copy the main points. Everything below is from Maxwell except a few comments in italics from me. I have read a lot of things written to help with addiction, and watched many people struggle with it. This stuff is among the best I've seen.

"It is often in the moment after the closed door, the darkness, the screen-light, the hidden act — after pornography indulgence — that Satan spins his most eloquent web: menacing patterns of thinking; bargaining with a disapproving and distant God; twisting us in on ourselves in self-hatred. It is in the moment after pornography indulgence that Satan does his finest work. It is in this moment that we need God to do his finest saving. "

1. Know Your Enemy

As soon as you indulge, you either plunge into self-hatred, or into self-avoidance. Satan is satisfied either way. Both paths believe his accusations (Matthew 16:23; 2 Corinthians 7:10).

Don’t forget: After you indulge, you are still mid-battle with a tenacious, evil person bent on stealing your life, and he has not yet gotten it.

[Don't withdraw from God and hide after you have sinned. That's when you need to run to Him most desperately. The battle is not over after you fall into sin; whether you turn to God in regret and plead for mercy and help is the most important battle. The heart of your fight is whether you will trust that His grace is sufficient for you, or doubt Him and neglect His help. Satan can't beat you just by leading you into sin. He can by causing you to stop trusting God for restoration.]

2. Fight Self-Hatred

Wallowing in self-deprecation and feeling like paying penance to God for sin is a sad and ironclad torture. It is false, and it is a wicked oppression. But grace does have a word on this.

If you are tempted to wallow, don’t let your (good) intuitive hatred of sin lead you to hate yourself. Be patient with yourself, because God is patient. He is fighting for your life (Genesis 32:24; John 10:10). He has not forgotten you. He has not left you. Keep fighting with him. Keep gasping for the air of divine life — the Life-Giving Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).

[Shaming and hating yourself is not humble or repentant. It is degrading and weakens you for further addiction and escapism. People who hate themselves tend to keep wallowing in sin because they don't think they matter anymore. The only way to overcome addiction is to care about yourself and to believe that God cares for you too. To have a will to resist sin, you must believe your life is worth fighting for (and God does, so who are you to disagree with Him?).]

3. Fight the Haze

What is impurity? It is feasting that becomes self-isolated, avoiding of God and man and self, numbed, dazed, deadened, desensitized. Sexual impurity induces a spiritual cataract. Again, the feeling is common — browser history cleared, slogging through the rest of the day, lumbering from task to task, from person to person — meaningless, personless, passionless. This experience is integrated into the fabric of pornography indulgence.

Morning mercies can be the emotional reset button we need when we spend our daily emotional cache on pornography (Lamentations 3:22–24). The lamenter is gasping. He prays what he cannot do. “The Lord is my portion . . . therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:24). Really? Will you hope in him? Prayer is an act of hope. The prayer is the lamenter’s portion of the Lord’s work. Keep taking a step forward. Keep taking a breath. Without repeated indulgence, the haze will eventually wear off.

4. Guard Others

Pornography is a training session in the skill of using others for personal pleasure. Just be aware that you are now inclined to use people in close relationship the same way you use those in pornography — with selfish motive, with neglectful attitude, unrepentantly. Pornography puts relational blinders on us — it deeply impedes our ability to love others well. So, the best course of action is to walk as if we have physical blinders on: Tread slowly, and assume that we are currently very vulnerable and prone to treat those around us as subhuman. After indulgence, it is vital to keep in mind that those not on the screen deserve the respect and dignity that we just failed to show those on the screen.

[Be watchful: addiction is always self-serving, and puts your own pleasure or relief above everyone else. It changes how you see people. Using pornography makes it very difficult to look at a woman without seeing her as another possible object of sexual desire. If nothing else convinces you to flee pornography and other addictions, the fact that your mind is demeaning other people into objects to feed your desires should scare you off.]

5. Confess to a Friend

The purpose of confession is “that you may be healed” and “pray for one another” (James 5:16). Of course, the value of “the prayer of a righteous person” is that it “has great power as it is working” (James 5:16). Power to do what? To “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

6. Use Your Clarity for Good

Yes, there might be a haze after indulgence. But there can also be a flood of clarity — the hindsight of regret. “When Judas . . . saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind” (Matthew 27:3). Judas’s clarity took him down a wrong path. But you can use your clarity to get back on the right one.

As Piper might say, “Don’t waste your regret.” Use it for God’s glory and your joy. Set up boundaries. Use the clarity that will surely fade before the next moment of temptation to build structures that will prevent this again.

7. Know Your God

Remember this: God loves you so, so much. He is unsettled by us (Genesis 6:6), and brokenhearted with us, and powerfully for you (Psalm 34:17–19). The haze can block us from God: “The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand” (Psalm 92:6). But even when we cannot see him, even when we fail to obey him, let us pray: God, frustrate our plans to disobey (Nehemiah 4:15), and “no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). More than anything: “God, help us to cast all our anxieties on you, because you care for us” (1 Peter 5:6–7).

Know the difference between the God-mask Satan would wear to deceive you: disgusted, distant, unavailable, disinterested, and remember the face of your real God: loving, patient, working, unsurprised, unrelenting, unwavering in his grasp on you. He won’t let you go.

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