One of the greatest joys this blog has brought Amy and I is the opportunity to help others find freedom in Jesus Christ from the bondage of sexual sin and hope for their shipwrecked marriages. Few things are more satisfying than getting to walk with a man from his complete bondage to pornography and lust into complete freedom in Christ. It’s like witnessing resurrection. The dead coming to life.
And few things sadden me more than watching a man or a couple walk away from the freedom Jesus offers.
The story of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-22) has helped me grasp why people walk away.
In this story, a man who has great possessions asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. The rules which God has required of everyone, and all of us, he has kept from his youth. Today he would be your average Christian who obeys the big commandments and adheres to his or her church membership vows. Yet he is missing something vital to the well-being of his soul, and Jesus knows what it is.
You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, then you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.
For this man who had it all, and did all the right things, he lacked one thing, and that one thing would make or break him. Tragically, he walked away unchanged.
Tragically, a large percentage of the men who contact me asking how they can be free from sexual addiction, walk away unchanged like this rich young ruler. The reason is because they are unwilling to let go of the one thing which they, like the rich ruler, think they cannot do without: self-gratification. When they come and ask the question, “How can I be free from my addiction to pornography?” and then go on to tell me all the things they have tried and done, programs they have attended, counseling they have paid for, filters they have installed, I then say to them,
One thing you lack: swear off of self-gratification – masturbation – forever.
This is rarely a welcomed invitation, but I suspect it’s not a surprising one. I imagine the rich young ruler had a sense of the idol of his heart when he approached Jesus. He was hoping, perhaps, that Jesus would validate him all the same and allow him to keep the thing he cherished most. He went away sorrowful and unchanged because he was unwilling to part with the one thing which kept him chained.
He might have reasoned with himself, Why can others have things and not me? Or, why doesn’t everyone else have to sell all their stuff? The one thing we lack is different for all of us, but for the sexual addict – just like the money addict – it’s not difficult to name.
When I tell people they have to give up self-gratification to be truly free, they have a sense that this is truth. But it’s a costly one for them to face. The few who take that narrow road find that their lives are new, changed, abundant. Those who choose an easier path, in my experience, remain chained.
For the sexual addict this really should be no surprise that you have to cut your addiction off at the root. It’s obvious that the alcoholic must give up drink and being around drink. The drug addict must cease all contact with substances which give them a high or a low. A time of detox is expected where the body goes through withdrawals where it feels like life as they know it is ending. The gods we bow to are jealous and do not let go of us without a fight. If you are reading this and are addicted to sex, lust, pornography, whatever, then why should you expect the path to freedom to be any easier or any different?
If you are reading this and are addicted to any thing or any one, then you instinctively know the thing or person you need to “cut off.” Jesus was serious when it came to extricating ourselves from sin. If you struggle with lust, even with the intent of lust, then you are an adulterer, he says. Therefore, you should cut out your eye or cut off your hand if these things cause you to sin. It’s better to lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell (Matt. 5:27-30). The principle here is to get to the root of the problem and be done with it. For the sexual addict, if you are unwilling to extricate self-gratification from your life then you will always be tethered to your addiction. You might put band-aids on it for periods of time now and then, but you’ll never be free.
This should sound liberating to the person who has found they have never been able to kick this habit completely. I’ve yet to meet a man who has accepted the invitation to give up self-gratification completely who is still struggling with pornography. When Jesus looks at us and calls us to give up something that has become controlling in our lives, he does so out of love. Read Mark 10:17-22. You see that before Jesus told the rich young ruler to go sell everything he looked at him and “loved him.” It is out of love that Jesus is calling you to take up this cross and follow him. He believes you can do it, is willing and able to equip you for the battle, and has a promised land waiting for those who will accept the call.
What is the one thing you lack? I pray you not walk away today unchanged.