One Man's War With Lust
I recently read an article devoted to the subject of lust and pornography and how best to wage war against such temptation. It reminded me of what I had earlier written in Chapter Five of my book, Pleasures Evermore (NavPress). I thought it might be helpful to post it here again (with only slight revisions). Continue reading . . .
I recently read an article devoted to the subject of lust and pornography and how best to wage war against such temptation. It reminded me of what I had earlier written in Chapter Five of my book, Pleasures Evermore (NavPress). I thought it might be helpful to post it here again (with only slight revisions).
I want to direct your attention to the anonymous author of the highly-praised article entitled The War Within. First published in Leadership magazine in 1982 (Fall Quarter, pp. 97-112), this testimonial is the stirring, first-person account of one man's battle with the destructive impact of lust.
The author, a pastor, husband, and father, describes in vivid and disturbing detail his ten-year war with pornography, peep-shows, and strip bars. His story is a seemingly endless cycle of sin, tears of conviction, repentance, restoration, more sin, more tears, repentance yet again, restoration, sin . . . well, you get the picture. Countless hours of counseling, deliverance ministry, self-imposed discipline, agonizing prayer, Bible-reading, and virtually every known remedy available in both the Christian and secular community proved fruitless to set him free from the shackles of lust and its paralyzing shame.
Not long ago I read in a denominational newspaper a similar story of another man's battle with pornography. At the conclusion of the article he recommended a four-step approach to breaking free from the cycle of addiction. He suggested that a person begin with counseling, preferably with someone who is experienced in dealing with sexual addiction. The second step is getting in a relationship of accountability with someone who is not afraid of asking the tough questions. Maintenance is the third step. The addict must take steps to avoid putting himself in a position or place of vulnerability where he is likely to fall back into old habits. Finally, one must rely on the power of God.
I don't want to sound critical or unappreciative of this author's advice. It's not as if his counsel is wrong. It's simply inadequate. Perhaps it has proven effective in his own case. But I'm not convinced it will prove fruitful in the long term. Six months or a year down the road, when the watchful eye of concerned friends and family is turned in the other direction, when loneliness and boredom and frustration with God set in, four-steps to freedom or seven-principles to deliverance or whatever program one has embraced will prove no match for the deceitful lies of the Enemy and the powerful throb in the human heart for satisfaction. One's craving for pleasure will not magically disappear or even dissipate. Odds are it will only increase. Every loss must be for the sake of or with a view to a superior gain. Saying No to the pleasure pornography brings will last only if in its place is a Yes to the pleasure one finds in fascination and fellowship with the person and presence and splendor of Jesus.
The courageous author of The War Within didn't discover this until he read a simple book of memoirs entitled What I Believe, by the Roman Catholic Francois Mauriac. Mauriac, he explains, "concludes that there is only one reason to seek purity. It is the reason Christ proposed in the Beatitudes: 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.' Purity, says Mauriac, is the condition for a higher love – for a possession superior to all possessions: God himself” (108). Hear now the impact of this discovery on one tormented pastor's soul:
"The thought hit me like a bell rung in a dark, silent hall. So far, none of the scary, negative arguments against lust had succeeded in keeping me from it. Fear and guilt simply did not give me resolve; they added self-hatred to my problems. But here was a description of what I was missing by continuing to harbor lust: I was limiting my own intimacy with God. The love he offers is so transcendent and possessing that it requires our faculties to be purified and cleansed before we can possibly contain it. Could he, in fact, substitute another thirst and another hunger for the one I had never filled? Would Living Water somehow quench lust? That was the gamble of faith” (108-09).
Moses took that "gamble" (see Heb. 11:24-26). So did Paul (see Phil. 3:7-11). Likewise, this pastor. So I ask you, as I ask myself: how have the scary, negative arguments against sin fared in your war with the world, the flesh, and the devil?
If there is a negative incentive to saying No to sin, it is the prospect of missing out on the "surpassing excellencies of knowing Christ Jesus" in all his tenderness and compassion and power and peace. If there is a positive power that will defeat the appeal of lust and pornography, it is the superior and altogether satisfying delight of finding in God’s presence, fullness of joy, and at God’s right hand, pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11).