How to Be Set Free From the Sin of Self-Gratification

This Sunday, November 3rd, marks the 2 year anniversary of the beginning of the end for Chad Holtz.   This was the day of my youngest son’s birthday, but even more importantly, it was the day a friend dropped me off at Pure Life Ministries and, though I didn’t know it at the time, the beginning of my new life.    In a very real way, me and my son Brody now share a birthday.  

Since that time I have come to know freedom over sexual sin and it’s bondage in a way that 20 years of effort never provided.   This freedom has changed everything for me, from restoring my family, my dead marriage, my ministry, and most importantly, a real, authentic, abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.   

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It’s my desire to see other men and women set free – truly free! – from “every weight, and sin which clings so closely” (Heb. 12:1) so that we all can bring honor to the God who has made this freedom possible, and experience the refreshment that only Jesus can bring to our souls when they are his (Acts 3:19-20).  

The greatest hindrance to your freedom, as it was to mine, from sexual sin is hanging on to the lie that masturbation (self-gratification) is OK.    This is the door which if left cracked open, Satan will always find a way to lure you out.   It is imperative that this door be slammed shut, and sealed off for good.   

I used to laugh at this because I thought it not only impossible but unnecessary.    And yet, even as I mocked, I did not know freedom.   In my defense of gratifying myself I was unwittingly admitting that I was bound to something, or idolized something, which I could not and would not surrender!   I could not say with Paul, “I discipline my body, and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27).

How well do you discipline your body?   

For the sexual addict, to not do something first about masturbation is akin to the person with unhealthy lungs saying they will alter their diet and exercise while continuing to smoke.  

So on this week of my anniversary of experiencing nearly 2 years of freedom from self-gratification, I want to share with you how you can do it, too.   On this blog is a series of 4 posts which address this issue, and I’m sharing them all here in one easy-to-find post for your ease of reference.   Parts 1 and 2 deal with answering the question: Why is this wrong?    Part 3 offers practical steps to eliminate temptation in your life and part 4 offers practical steps for adding Christ to your life.    You don’t want to “put off” without “putting on” something which will strengthen and nourish you.  

While these post deal specifically with self-gratification, the principles at play here would suit anyone struggling with other hang-ups and habits.   You might need to adjust some of the practical steps to suit your struggle, and I pray the Holy Spirit will guide you in that process.  

I pray this helps you as it has helped me and others, and may God grant you the strength and the will to do His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). 

Part 1: The Sin of Self-Gratification 

Part 2: The Sin of Self-Gratification 

Part 3: Putting Off the “Old Man” 

Part 4: Putting On Christ 

 

Tell Her Everything, Then Tell Her Nothing

This post is a follow-up to the last one which asked “Are you REALLY “struggling” against Habitual Sin?”    Recent events have convinced me that it’s time to be real about the sins that are killing us and hurting others, and my wife and I pray these posts will encourage you, challenge you, and give you hope for a future in Christ, and therefore in freedom.   

When you are ready to confess your sins to your spouse there are two things you need to know and do.

1.  Tell her everything 

Before we get to the specifics let me address a common question asked:   Do I have to tell her?   Yes.   You have been using your body in ways that suggest it is your own, and it is not.   If you are a Christian, your body belongs to God (1 Cor. 6:19-20) and if you are married, it additionally belongs to your spouse (1 Cor. 7:4).   When you are involved in sexual sin, whether online or otherwise, you are both desecrating the temple in which God dwells (your body) and depriving your spouse of a right that belongs solely to him or her.    So yes, you must tell your spouse, and you must tell her everything.

Everything inside of you will want to minimize.   Don’t do this.   You will be tempted to scale back what you have actually done.   And you will do this under the delusion that you are being noble and kind, sparing your fragile wife from pain she can not handle.  

Don’t do that.  It’s not for you to decide what your wife can handle.  You forfeited that right when you started looking at things you shouldn’t be looking at, and touching things you shouldn’t be touching.

This means instead of telling her you simply look at porn “every now and then” you tell her the truth, which is more like, “I look at it every chance I get, and when I’m not, I am thinking about when I can.”   Instead of telling her that you have been with one woman but only briefly and it meant nothing, you tell her the truth, which is more like, “I’ve been with 9, and I had feelings for one.”

My wife puts it this way:

When you first reveal your sin, it’s like cutting her heart with a knife.  It’s incredibly painful.   During this time you (the betrayed spouse) wonder if you can ever trust again.   When later, it is discovered that there is more involved, that you only got part of the story, it’s like taking that wound and pouring salt into it, and the question of whether or not I can ever trust again is magnified 100 fold.

And be sure of this, the whole truth will come out.   Jesus promised this…

Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.  Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops (Luke 12:2-3)

I have proven this to be true countless times!  So tell your spouse everything.  To stop short here only defrauds the entire process, making a sham of repentance and thus closing off the power of God to restore what your sin has broken.

2. Tell her nothing

After you have confessed everything, offer no excuse.   Do not attempt to rationalize what you have done, minimize it, or justify it.   You have basically three responses from now on:

I’m so very sorry, and, You’re right, and, I love you.

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Whether or not you are truly broken over your sin will be evident by how willing you are to bear the pain, the shock, the hurt-filled and angry words that your spouse is about to unload on you, not just after the initial confession but for days, weeks, months and perhaps years to come.   Yes, it gets better, but how better it gets and how quickly it gets there is determined in large part by whether you are experiencing godly sorrow over your sin or just worldly sorrow (see 2 Cor. 7:10).  Godly sorrow reckons with the fact that your sin has been against both your wife AND God, and you are desperate to make amends because you desire nothing more than to be in fellowship with Christ.   As such, you will look like Christ who bore your sins without uttering a word, without defending himself, but became a meek and lowly lamb.    This is the posture of the truly repentant.   If you are merely worldly sorrowful, then you are really only sorry that you have been found out and that which you truly love (your sin) cannot be indulged in any longer (at least not for now). You can be assured that you will be back in the pig sty before long.

How do you know if you have godly sorrow vs. worldly sorrow?   It’s easy:  You won’t care what becomes of your life from here on out, so long as you have Jesus.   You won’t care if the entire world crumbles around you, that you have to give up your plans for the future, or that you have to even die for your sins, so long as you can be made righteous.  You will want so badly to bear your wife’s pain and suffering that you will take any abuse that might come your way, no matter how she might respond (yes, even if she responds in kind in order to “get even”), because you own the fact that your sins have brought this upon your house, and now you must make restitution.

So you tell her nothing, apart from I’m sorry, I love you, you are right, and so on.

Do these 2 things.  And may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Stay tuned for how to win back his/her trust.

Are you REALLY “struggling” against habitual sin?

Very upset and angry tonight at the havoc sin wrecks in not just the lives of the one committing it, but in the lives of all who love them. In the last 2 days I’ve spoken with four men, two of whom I’m very close to, whose sexual sin has come to light and devastated wives and children.

Men, it’s not worth it. Believe me. If you are looking at things you shouldn’t be looking at, stop. Now.

That was my Facebook status late last night.   I am still feeling it today.  All day long I have been upset, not at the friends of mine who have done some very foolish, stupid things, but at the insidiousness of sin, sexual sin in particular, and the ways in which we allow it to win.   Every where I look it seems to be winning.   And I’m angry.

So the next few posts will unapologeticly come from such a place of anger towards sin.   I’m going to shoot straight with you, and I hope you will shoot straight with someone in your life who takes seriously the effects of sin but even more importantly, believes that it can be defeated.

SIN DOES NOT NEED TO WIN!    If you are in Christ, you are more than conquerors (Rom. 8:37).  Jesus lived and died to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).   So please, pay attention.   God does not want you addicted but free.   Completely, totally, 100% FREE!

So here I want to address a common theme I see in people I counsel and definitely saw in myself a few years ago.   It’s the idea of “struggle.”   People say all the time that they “struggle” with this or that.    “I struggle with pornography” or “I struggle with food” or “I struggle with drinking,” and so forth and so forth.

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But after digging a bit deeper it’s discovered there is no “struggle” at all.   Or at least very little of one.   What is often meant by “struggle” is that they feel an impulse to do something and it weighs on them heavily for awhile until they actually give in and do the thing that’s consuming their thoughts.    They assume that by having this impulse they don’t really want to have and wish would just magically go away is the struggle!   But nothing could be further from the truth!

Struggle, by definition, means to “contend with an opposing force.”    Another definition, which I like a lot, is,

To advance with violent effort.

Pause for just a moment and ask yourself:  Am I advancing in my battle against habitual sin with “violent effort”?

If you find yourself giving over time and time again to the same impulses, then you cannot say of yourself that you are “struggling against pornography (or whatever).”    You are not struggling, and any attempts to convince yourself or others that you are is merely the delusion your sin has brought you under.

The writer of Hebrews reminds those of us who would say we are struggling that,

 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (Heb. 12:4).

In the verse prior we are called to consider the one who did, Jesus, who bore the scorn of sinners like you and I, therefore we should not grow weary in our fight – our violent effort – to be holy.

Let me close with a personal story I’ve shared with others I counsel about sexual sin.     When I was working at Amazon while at Pure Life I would often see adult material pass through the lines where I worked.   Early on in my time there I found this to be a huge problem.   It wouldn’t take but a glimpse of something and my mind would begin racing, conjuring up all sorts of things I wanted to forget.   At first I didn’t struggle much at all and gave in.   But with each passing week, as I endeavored to chase after God with all my soul, strength, and mind, I began to notice something.   I began to truly struggle.

I began to pray hard – ALL DAY LONG.    When the impulse entered my mind I recognized it for what it was – an attack of the enemy – and I prayed, and prayed, and prayed.   I began shouting worship songs in my mind to myself.  If necessary I would sing out loud in the middle of my work space.   I would pray incessantly that God would have mercy on me, a sinner, and help me to hate my sin the way He does.   I would not stop this inner dialog until I had victory and had peace in my mind and soul.   And sometimes that took ALL DAY.   Sometimes I did not have peace until I went to bed.

BUT I HAD VICTORY.

The next day it would come at me again, and I would struggle.  I would fight.  I would put forth violent effort against the enemy of my soul and press into Jesus Christ with every ounce of my being.   My flesh cried out, my desires flared up, but I would struggle, and fight, and kick and scream because I knew my very life depended on it, and so did the lives of so many others.

And most importantly, because Jesus deserved my blood, sweat and tears.    

I can testify that the struggle gets easier, as your spiritual muscles get stronger.   There were many nights I went to bed mentally and emotionally exhausted from fighting all day long, but how sweet the victory is!    I am testifying to you today that I haven’t had to fight like that in over 18 months.   The devil has lost his grip on me in this regard, and I am a free man.   You can be, too.

Have you struggled against your sin to the point of shedding blood?   If not, then you haven’t really even entered the battle.  Don’t sit on the sidelines.   Stop fooling around with sin.  It will cost you everything.

Praying with and for you,

Chad

For more on what God had delivered me from, please read my testimony HERE

Is Jesus the End?

Some love Jesus because he can give them what they need.   Some love Jesus because he is all they need.

Roy Hession, in his book, We Would See Jesuswrites,

We do not have to go beyond Him to something else to satisfy our needs.  He is the end of all that we need, and the simple, easily accessible way to that end…We have been availing ourselves of Jesus and His blood as the way, but to ends other than Himself.

Even if our motives are quite free from self-interest, those things are still not to be ends or reasons for which we get right with the Lord.  Our end is to be the Lord Jesus Himself.  The reason for getting right should not be that we might have revival, or power, or be used by God, or have this or that blessing, but that we might have Him.  Our sin has caused us to let go of His hand; a cloud has come between His lovely face and ourselves, and at all costs we want to find Him and His fellowship again.  That, and that only, is to be the reason why we should be willing to go the way of repentance – not for any other motive than that we want Him.  He is to be the end; but alas, other ends, idols all of them, so easily take His place in our hearts.

Is Jesus your end?  Or something else?

Social Activism Vs. Personal Holiness

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This was part of my devotion reading this morning.  Being the father of two adopted children I took a lot of comfort from this verse.   It helped to affirm that I was right with God, that my “religion” was “pure and undefiled” because I took care of orphans.

As I read this passage today, however, I recognize that the last half of the verse is often left unsaid.  In all the years I used this verse to justify myself or call others to action I only ever quoted the first half which dealt with orphans and widows.   The command to keep oneself unstained from the world – to be holy – was somehow lost in the frenzy to do good deeds.

If it is true that the sort of religion God the Father accepts is one that looks after the “least of these” then it is equally true that the only religion God the Father accepts is one that takes seriously a call to holiness – to be set apart from the world.   We should look, live, think, and act noticeably different from the world.

I confess it’s easier to do the first part.  It’s easier to busy ourselves with doing good things for others – even adopting an orphan – than it is to divulge ourselves of the things of this world which leave us stained.    It’s easier to mow my neighbors lawn than it is to turn off the T.V.    It’s easier to visit someone in the hospital than it is to take inventory of the type of music I listen to and ask whether it glorifies God.   It’s easier to volunteer to teach Sunday School than it is to set my alarm clock one hour earlier each day so I can get up to pray.

What about you?   Is it easier for you to busy yourself with doing good things?   Does the last half of James 1:27 get swept to the side?    It seems to me that it’s so easy to get caught up in one side of this verse or the other.    So many churches are so caught up in social activism that they look more like the United Way than they do the church of Jesus Christ.    Then there are others who are so caught up in keeping themselves unstained from the world that they forget that Jesus ate with sinners, and calls us to do the same.     Far too many pit social activism against personal holiness.    The Christian must not do this.

How are you finding balance?   Is your religion “pure and undefiled before God the Father” by displaying both social activism and personal holiness?   Or is it more one than the other?

Are Your Prayers Powerful?

This Sunday I will begin preaching through the book of James at my church.  The following verse in James has always captivated me:

The prayer of a righteous person has great power (5:16)

Prayers have power.   But, according to James, only those prayers prayed by those right with God have great power.  I don’t think James has in mind here the prayer of the desperate sinner crying out to God for help.  Those prayers are powerful, too.   What James has in mind here is prayers of intercession.   These are prayers for others.

The power of my prayer for others, and the power of your prayer for others, seems to be contingent upon the content of our hearts.    

This ought to arrest each and every one of us.  

I remember when this hit home for me in the most personal, gut-wrenching way.

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I was about 2 months into my time at Pure Life Ministries (see my testimony for more on that) when I got an emergency call at work from my counselor.    He was calling to inform me that my 5 year old son, Brody (the one with glasses), had told his Kindergarten teacher that he was planning on going home and killing himself with a knife.    His mom, my wife, was called immediately and quite naturally she was scared and heart-broken.     This news, that my precious little boy was experiencing something so painful, rocked me to my core.    I was 5 hours away and wanted nothing more than to hold him tight and tell him how much I loved him.

I knew in my spirit that what Brody was experiencing was some sort of spiritual oppression.   Satan was working hard to divide our family and give me any reason to leave Pure Life before my time there was finished.   I also knew that my sinful choices for many years had opened the door for such oppression and that my prayers to defend Brody were little more than hail marys.    My family was left unprotected for years because whatever prayers I offered for them came from an unrighteous man.

I don’t know for certain whether these prayers lack power because the pray-er lacks the boldness they need to approach God because they know they are unrighteous (Heb. 4:16) or because God simply will not listen to them (Psalm 66:18).  There seems to be evidence for both in Scripture.   I know that when I am harboring sin in my life I am unable to pray with much authority.    I also believe God has no obligation to lift a finger.

Whichever the case, knowing that the power of my prayers for others – such as my family, or those who are lost, those who are hurting and in need of healing – hinges on my rightness before God causes me to be walk in humble fear of God.   I desire to root out any known sin in my life that would inhibit my prayer life.   Peter says this:

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers (1 Peter 3:7).

Husbands, did you know that the way you treat your wife directly impacts the way your prayers are received by God?

I don’t ever again want to be the one who opens the door for Satan to get a foothold in my home, or on my wife or my children.   Not on my watch.   Recognizing this has helped to make me all the more vigilant in my pursuit of holiness, and I hope it does for you, too.    I don’t want to offer up limp, lifeless prayers, but potent, powerful ones which move mountains for you and others.    Thank you, Jesus, for your desire to do so!

(for more on this you can read When God Doesn’t Listen)

Redeemed!

In the fourth chapter of Romans, St. Paul is talking about the God who took an old man named Abraham along with his barren wife Sarah and made him the father of many nations and describes Him in this way:

God…who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist (Rom. 4:17).

I praise God that this is the sort of God we have!   God is willing and more than able to do far more than put band-aids on a broken life.   He calls into existence things that do not exist!

I need to testify to something God showed me last week.   I was driving home from my denomination’s conference office following a meeting for candidates for ordination (that I was invited to such a meeting is a miracle in and of itself!) when I needed gas.   I pulled off the highway and into a gas station and as I was coming out I looked up at the flashing neon sign across the road.  An adult bookstore was right in front of me.   I was alone, with no one expecting me anywhere any time soon.   It was a golden opportunity.

That is, an opportunity for the old me.

The realization that such an opportunity had presented itself to me didn’t dawn on me till I was several miles down the highway.   It was then that it occurred to me that something which used to be so enticing to me and impossible to refuse didn’t even cause me to bat an eye.    There was nothing inside of me that wanted to indulge that old way of life!  I began to sing praises to God in my car as I basked in the knowledge that God had indeed created something in me that did not exist a few years ago.    When I arrived home I couldn’t wait to tell my wife how God has so captivated me by this new life that the thought of going back to the old me seems inconceivable!    God did this!

When I was in a meeting with pastors who would decide if I was fit for ordination I was asked of what my life in “recovery” consists.   I took that opportunity to say I don’t think of myself in “recovery” any longer because God has made me a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).    Instead, when it comes to sexual addiction I prefer to say I am “redeemed.”   I have been delivered from sin, from death to life.   I am no longer bound by the chains of addiction but free to look at it presented on a platter across the street and say, “Nope, that Chad no longer exists,” get in my car and drive on.  Praise be to God!

If you feel as though you are shackled and chained to something you can’t imagine ever being free from, there is good news for you!   There is a God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not yet exist!   He did it for me and I know He is willing and able to do it for you, too.

My new favorite song is Redeemed.  Give it a listen.   This can and will be your testimony one day.