How often do you use this word or even think about it? What is desire?
Desire is defined as: “a conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment.”
Desires are part of being human and woven into our created nature. But what we desire can often trip us up -- and I believe that’s what James was warning us about when he wrote:
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)
The world we live in fuels those deadly desires. Media, TV, movies, commercials...it’s everywhere. Gotta have the best car, house, clothes...on and on and on. All these things pollute and push out (or at least set aside) the desires of our heart that God our Father would have for us.
Human desires became broken when Eve bought Satan’s lie and Adam failed to fend off his deceit.
As part of the redemptive plan of God in Christ Jesus desire is in play. Human desire was one of the parts of mankind that was broken in the fall in the Garden of Eden. Before the eating of the fruit man and woman were unaware of evil; having an evil desire was not in the mind or heart of humanity.
Then the crafty serpent deceived the man and woman, the lie was bought and evil desire entered the human mind and experience. The very deadly desires that James warned about.
The plan to redeem
Psalm 37:3-5 Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
James 4:2-3 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
God gave you the capacity to desire; to experience "a conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment." In God's plan, desire was intended to lead us to good things; to places of goodness, truth, and beauty that really would produce joy and contentment.
But since the Fall in the Garden, two huge questions remain:
What do I do now with the truth of God's good design?
And how can I change my broken evil desires?
Good questions. The good news is that desires can be changed by the grace and power of God. So, let's talk about a few practical things you can start doing today to effect that change.
I know this: Life change happens when heart change happens. Changing evil desires and shaping new and right-minded desires is an inside job.
Identity and Beliefs
Here are two areas of life that can really trip you up: identity and beliefs. How you see yourself shapes your belief system about yourself. What does that mean?
People tend to see circumstances how they want to see them, not as the circumstances actually are. What that means is we tend to see life through a "me-shaped" lens; we will see the world around us through a reflection of ourselves.
Optimists see circumstances differently than pessimists. Skeptics view circumstances generally...well..skeptically. If you’re in a tough situation then that difficulty usually impacts how you view things around you. See what I mean?
So, if our self-belief systems are polluted by wounds, addictions, bad relationships and a host of other things, what we believe about ourselves, our value and identity will likely also be negatively impacted.
Here’s where a right perspective of identity is profoundly important. In a saving faith relationship with Jesus Christ, we have been given the right to become children of God (John 1:12). We are saved by grace, through faith (Eph 2:8-9) and not of any good deed or work we do.
In that moment of salvation through faith Christ Jesus, your identity is forever and eternally changed. You have just become a beloved and adopted son (or daughter) of the Most High God. Did you get that? You are now a prince (or princess) in the Kingdom of God the Father; the Creator who's image you bear.
When you choose to believe that and receive it in your heart, soul and mind it can change everything! Is this change instant? No, but I sure wish it was.
I believe this is part of the sanctification journey we are on as Christians. We need to choose to believe our new identity in Christ. Remind yourself of this truth daily (or however often you need).
In light of this truth of your immense value as a child of God, you are free to open yourself up to the work of God's indwelling Spirit to change your broken desires to Christ-like desires. You don't have to obey the lies of the enemy anymore.
The redemption of your Garden-of-Eden-fractured desires is part of God’s plan to redeem the whole you. Start this process by recognizing your true identity given to you in Christ Jesus, by God the Father.
With your identity framed in the right perspective (knowing your true value and worth to God), you can begin to change your desires with a new heart and the “new creation” God declares you to be.
For additional help on your journey, visit the links below:
If you are human, you face temptation. Every day. Multiple times a day.
But just because you are tempted doesn't mean you have to give in to temptation. You are made in God's image and therefore your life is meant to reflect Him in all of His goodness and righteousness. And through faith in Him you can do just that.
The following are 13 Bible verses* to help you resist temptation and live in the freedom and victory God offers you through Jesus Christ. In Him, you don't have to say yes to temptation ever again. Praise God!
1. There is a way out!
1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
There is no such thing as a "unique" temptation. Also, there is no temptation for which God cannot provide a way out. So, when tempted guard against thinking that you are being tempted so uniquely that even God can't get you out of it. Look for His promised way of escape. Then take it!
2. Jesus knows how you feel.
For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Even though Jesus never sinned, He did know what the weight of temptation felt like; he was "tempted as we are" and "suffered when tempted."
The next time you feel the burden of any temptation, remember that Jesus knows what that temptation feels like and how to carry its weight -- and He is standing ready to help you in that moment. Share your burden with Him.
3. Submit to resist.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Satan is called the accuser and he uses temptation as a way of bringing accusation against you to try and convince you your life isn't worth loving. Every time you give in to temptation he "tattles" to God about you and tries to rub your nose in your failure. But Satan is no match for God; his authority is subservient to God's.
Therefore, if you want to win the fight with Satan you must submit to God first. Then, from such a position of humble allegiance you can tell the enemy to get lost -- and have the full backing of God when doing so!
4. Pray for deliverance.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray for deliverance from evil. I think it's safe to say, then, that this would be a good thing to pray. Daily. (Probably even multiple times a day...)
5. Don't blame God!
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
Some temptations can be so incredibly strong. It can seem as if there is no possible way to resist. In such moments it can be easy to "blame" God for these temptations, almost as if to say, "God, whatever happens next I can't help because you don't seem to be around right now. So, I guess this is on you."
But God cannot tempt anyone to do evil. This is antithetical to His holy character. We must own our temptations and cry out to God for help in our weakness. He is faithful to help us when we humble ourselves before Him.
6. Stand firm (together) in your faith.
1 Peter 5:9
Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
The devil is said to "prowl around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." That's what temptation is trying to accomplish: your destruction. But you are called by God to resist him by standing firm in your faith and remembering that you are not alone in this fight.
Calling to mind (or on your phone!) your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world is a great and powerful encouragement in your battle to resist the temptations of the roaring lion who is trying to devour you. Just like in the wild, if you stay in the herd you are much safer against the lion's attack.
7. Walk by the Spirit
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Do you want a guarantee for victory over temptation? This verse gives it to you. To "walk by the Spirit" is mutually exclusive from "gratifying the desires of the flesh." Therefore, when temptation strikes, call out to the Spirit of God who dwells within you and follow wherever He leads you.
8. Carry God's Word in your heart.
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Memorizing Scripture is good, but chewing on it until it becomes part of your heart and soul is even better. Notice in this verse the direct link between carrying God's Word in the deepest part of your being (heart) and how that affects whether you will give in to temptation. When your heart beats to the rhythm of God's Word, you will resist temptation
9. Put on the armor!
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
Resisting temptation is a battle; a war! You would never dream of going into physical battle without the right equipment. Fighting temptation is no different. Gear up with the full armor of God:
Along with all this armor you must "pray in the Spirit." Be battle ready against all the wily schemes of the enemy.
10. Make a covenant.
Job 31:1 (NIV)
I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.
A covenant is a serious commitment that carries specific consequences if broken. In your battle against temptation, get serious about your areas of weakness and consider making a covenant like Job did. He wasn't flippant about what he would allow himself to look at with his eyes. He took his gaze seriously.
What aspects of your heart, mind, and body might you need to make a covenant in order to resist temptation more successfully?
11. Love (and obey) Jesus.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. -Jesus
The most powerful force against temptation is not willpower, it is love. When you understand the depths of God's love for you through Jesus, your love for Him will grow. And the evidence of your increasing love for him will come through greater obedience to His commands.
The barometer of our love for Jesus is our obedience to His commands. And His commands are not burdensome. His commands lead us away from sin and toward righteousness. His commands are good and help us resist temptation. Trust and obey...
13. Ask for help!
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
By God's grace we have access to all the help we need for resisting temptation -- if only we will ask! When you are tempted, don't waste time trying to "figure it out" or do it on your own. Instead, "draw near" as fast as you can to the Lord, eager to receive mercy and grace as you battle temptation.
These are just a handful of verses to help you resist temptation. Dive into God's Word every day so that you might know Him more and learn to walk in His ways. Over time, your faith will grow and you will experience more and more victory over temptation.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Click the icons below to find more resources to help you resist temptation and live in step with God's design.
*Unless otherwise noted, all Bible verses are from the English Standard Version translation.
No one truly enjoys suffering. When pain enters our lives, we instinctively seek relief. This is a right and good response. But often in our quest for relief we mistakenly assume that emotional, spiritual, and relational healing and growth can (and should) happen quickly. They don't.
But before you get too discouraged, let me try to show you why it is far better to focus on finishing well rather than just starting fast on this journey of healing and growth.
Here are 4 reasons why finishing well is better than starting fast when it comes to true life transformation.
Finishing Well Reminds You that Change is a Journey, Not a Destination
Thousands of men have contacted us over the years to get help for their unwanted sexual habits. They reach out for many different reasons, but almost all have the same fundamental desire: change.
They don't want to keep doing the things they are doing. Mainly because they are finally waking up to the reality that what they're doing is harmful to themselves and others. They want out. But they want out NOW!
It is understandable to want quick fixes when the effects of a sexual addiction are finally admitted and revealed. It's a mess. It hurts. It's heavy and complicated. To want freedom from such bondage, and peace instead of chaos, is right and good.
But change, true life change, never happens instantly. Period.
Real transformation, the kind that God works in us through His Spirit, takes a lifetime to come to full maturity. Therefore, focusing on finishing well rather than starting fast reminds us that change is a journey, not a destination.
There isn't a magical point in time where you can say, "I've arrived! All that must change and be completed in my life is accomplished. There is no more healing or growth needed." This "destination" is called heaven, and we only arrive there after death. (And even in heaven there will be no end to our exploration and wonder of the eternally infinite God...)
So, when it comes to life transformation, finishing well is better than starting fast because it keeps you focused on the lifelong journey of growth rather than constantly trying to achieve an unreachable and unrealistic goal of perfection this side of heaven. There is much freedom and peace that come when we focus on finishing well.
Finishing Well Leads Toward Practical Outcomes, Not Merely Idealized Possibilities
It is easy to "dream big" when considering how to start the journey toward life change. It is something else entirely to actually live out the day-by-day grind of such transformation. Finishing well is about establishing real goals with real results.
When I began my journey of recovery from sex addiction back in 1999 I had lots of hopes and dreams (fantasies, really) about what a "changed life" could look like. But all those dreams existed way out in the unrealized world of "possibilities," not in my actual life.
The best possibilities for transformation never happen if there isn't concrete goals and actions attached to them. And this is actually what it takes to finish well. To keep dreaming and dreaming and dreaming about all that "could" change is to stay stuck forever at a starting line you never leave.
If I was going to experience actual life change I was going to have to do something, not just dream something. I had to call a counselor and set up appointments, find a support group and attend faithfully, dig into God's Word and follow wherever His Spirit led me, and many other tangible actions that required my will, not merely good intentions.
One of the most practical outcomes of a finishing well attitude has been the relationships developed with other men for encouragement, accountability, and support. Had I only just "dreamed" about a changed life without ever doing something about it, I would still be alone, isolated, and probably completely enslaved to my addiction (if not dead).
Finishing well involves taking concrete steps toward different outcomes. Faithfulness and perseverance grow because you are committed to actions over the long haul that produce change, not just ideas floating around in the dreamland of possibilities.
(For help taking concrete steps, we have resources for Men, Women, and Families.)
Finishing Well Produces Righteous Character
So what is the actual "goal" of life transformation? If it's a journey and it requires actions, what is this process actually intended to produce?
The short answer is the life of Jesus.
We are made in God's image; we are made to reflect God in the world (Gen. 1:26-28). Jesus Christ was the exact representation (image) of God (Heb. 1:3). Because of sin we are separated from God and do not reflect Him rightly (Rom. 3:23). However, through faith in Christ we are reconciled to God and made truly alive; in Christ we are able to reflect God properly. (Eph. 2:8-10)
The Bible calls this process of maturing in our ability to accurately reflect God's image in the world "sanctification." And it is simply the process by which we "look" more and more like Jesus.
The metaphor that is often used to describe this process is fruit. In Galatians 5:22-23 we read, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." God's Spirit in us is about the business of producing the fruit of these characteristics of Jesus.
Fruit doesn't manifest instantly. This is why we say finishing well is a lifelong process. What God is producing in us, the character of Jesus, is not instant. It takes time to grow and mature.
Just think of a few of the characteristics listed above and how time is woven in to their very definitions: patience, faithfulness, self-control. One could even argue that love and joy and gentleness require time to mature because they are experienced in relationship to someone or something else.
Finishing well keeps us on a growth mission over time. As God reveals areas in our lives that do not align with the character of Jesus, He refines us through pruning and discipline (John 15:1-11).
By contrast, starting fast stays focused on self. It's all about making yourself look good without any actual transformation of character. It is shallow and unsustainable. It also comes crashing down when storms come. (Matt. 7:24-27)
Finishing Well Pleases the Lord and Grows God's Kingdom
Finally, probably the greatest reason why finishing well is better than starting fast is because it pleases God.
Jesus told a parable of a master and his three servants in Matthew 25 to help his followers understand what the kingdom of heaven is like. The master gives each servant a different amount of money and then leaves. When the master returns, he goes to see what the servants did with the money he entrusted to them.
Two of the servants had used the master's money to double the amounts. The third servant did nothing. Listen to the commendation the master gave to the servants who increased the amount given:
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. (Matt. 25:21)
The servants who multiplied the investment of the master in them were commended. They were welcomed "into the joy of [their] master." This is a picture of heaven. Jesus (the Master) is returning and He will be asking what you and I did with the investment He made in us through His Spirit. He is expecting a return on that investment; a return that enhances and expands His kingdom.
How will you answer?
Did you "start fast" with a bunch of possible ideas that never really got off the ground and were mainly intent with cutting corners to just make yourself look good and not really show any desire to actually change?
Or did you set your heart and mind on finishing well, on humbling yourself to God's Word and Spirit and engaging the long journey that unfolds step-by-step, day after day, in the trenches of character development and authentic community?
Is change difficult? Of course it is. Is it worth it for the sake of a new heart and mind, healthier relationships, and the hope of hearing "Well done" upon entering the joy of the Master? Most definitely!
If you would like help on your journey of finishing well, please contact us.
Founder & President
Yes, it is possible to quit porn and masturbation.
But I'm assuming you would prefer I write a little bit more in answer to this question. So I will.
I won't spend time writing about how big the porn problem is (you can read some statistics here). Nor will I focus on how porn affects the brain or the addictive nature of porn or is masturbation a sin. All good topics, but that's not why you're reading this article, is it?
You are reading this article because you want to know how to quit porn and masturbation.
Here are 5 tips to help you quit porn and masturbation. These are not a "magic formula" that guarantees freedom, but they will greatly increase your probability of success.
1. Learn your triggers
It is highly unlikely that your engagement of porn and masturbation is random or arbitrary. There is always some kind of pattern to such acting out. This pattern includes what we call triggers.
A trigger is anything that prompts you to pursue a particular unhealthy behavior (in this case, porn and masturbation). Triggers could be physical, like something you experience with your five senses (seeing, touching, tasting, hearing, smelling). Triggers could also be emotional or mental (i.e. sad, bored, scared, lonely, stressed, etc.).
To learn your specific triggers ask yourself the following questions related to your engagement with porn and masturbation:
Spend time examining your triggers and write them down. And commit to a lifelong journey of learning yourself so you can become better equipped for dealing with any kind of temptation you face.
Once you learn your core triggers, it's time to make a plan for responding to temptation in healthy, life-giving ways.
2. Plan your ways of escape ahead of time
I'm going to assume that you are not engaging porn and masturbation 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. (If you are, hospitalize yourself immediately!) The time to create a plan for dealing with your triggers is not 60 seconds before you act out -- make your plan(s) before you are wrestling with temptation.
Think of your unhealthy habit of porn and masturbation as a big hole in the roof of your house. When do you notice the hole as a problem? On sunny days? No! You curse the hole when it's raining, right? But you can't fix the hole when it's raining.
The time to work on fixing the hole is when the sun is out, even though that's also the time you aren't really thinking about the hole as being a problem. But rest assured it will rain again!
The key to responding well to your triggers and temptation is to plan your ways of escape before the "rain" starts falling. Here is a template to help you create your plan for resisting temptation when your triggers are tripped:
Responding well to triggers and temptation does not happen "organically." You must have a plan and you must work that plan. Quitting porn and masturbation requires more than hope and good intentions. But if you've learned your triggers and created a plan for escaping temptation, you are well on your way to living free from porn and masturbation.
Now it's time to exponentially increase your probability of freedom by sharing your triggers and your plan with someone else. No long-term freedom from porn and masturbation is possible without the help of others.
3. Share your triggers and your plan with a trusted friend
We all need help in life, and not just with overcoming the destructive habit of porn and masturbation. God designed us to thrive as human beings when we live in community. "It is not good for man to be alone."
I admit that what I am about to propose isn't easy. It's scary to be vulnerable with other people, especially sharing such a personal struggle like porn and masturbation. But it is necessary.
Now that you have written down your specific triggers and created a plan of escape when temptation hits, it's time to share this with at least one trusted friend. I found it most helpful in my own recovery journey to have at least 3 other people who knew this information.
A trusted friend is someone who cares about you enough to hold in confidence this personal information. And they have your best in mind; they want to see you succeed in your pursuit of freedom.
When you share your triggers and escape plan, this is what you are asking your trusted friend to do:
Quitting porn and masturbation is about more than just stopping unhealthy behaviors and thoughts. It's also about building strong friendships and growing in integrity as part of a community. And possibly the primary reason you need community is because you won't travel this road of growth and maturity perfectly.
You will stumble along the way, and you will need a loving community to help you get back up and keep going.
4. Confess and repent when you stumble
I wish freedom from porn and masturbation was easy. I really do. But it is not. It is messy and imperfect, just like you and me.
As you fight the battle against the temptations to engage porn and masturbation, you will not always win. You will sometimes stumble and fall. But falling on this journey doesn't mean you have utterly failed.
It is important to reframe stumbles as opportunities to learn and grow, rather than false indications that you are fatally flawed and beyond hope of ever being free. Fatalistic thinking is NOT from God!
God forgives your sin, not so that you can keep returning to it, but instead so you can look at it objectively, free from its shame, to learn how to respond better the next time you're faced with a similar temptation.
When (notice I said when, not if) you stumble and fall, be quick to confess it and repent. To confess is to "agree with truth." So, don't lie or try to hide the fact that you acted out. Agree with the truth that you did x, y, or z.
To repent means to "change your mind." The reason you stumbled was because somewhere along the way your mind was convinced that it was a good idea to sin. Repentance is refocusing your mind back on what is true and right and good. (Phil. 4:8)
I find it most helpful to confess and repent in the following contexts:
Confession and repentance is not usually easy or comfortable, but it is crucial if you are going to break free from porn and masturbation and become the person of integrity God created you to be.
Finally, it's important that all this work on quitting porn and masturbation doesn't overshadow what the real goal of such work should be: to build an intimate, growing relationship with God.
5. Keep the real goal in view: intimacy with God
Your struggle with porn and masturbation is not disconnected from your relationship to God. Yes, you read that sentence correctly, even if it is not something you have ever thought before.
Sin is not an entity unto itself. Sin is a distortion of something good. Think of sin like a parasite; it requires a host. Your sinful desires for porn and masturbation are merely distortions of the good desires God created within you for connection, intimacy, and pleasure.
Therefore, your pursuit to break free from porn and masturbation must ultimately be a pursuit of knowing God and His good design of sex, love, and intimacy. Don't lose sight of this larger (and better) goal. If you only eliminate an unhealthy habit, you will miss the greatest joy of all: walking with God as He designed you to walk.
Take some time to go back over the previous 4 tips and reframe them with this goal of intimacy with God. Maybe ask yourself the following questions:
As you keep the bigger picture of intimacy with God in view you will discover that "quitting" porn and masturbation is not so much a journey of negation, but instead a journey of pursuit. By running toward God you are automatically running away from sexual sin in all its forms.
Yes, it is possible to quit porn and masturbation.
By pursuing intimacy with God and others...
Founder & President
You have an enemy. His name is Satan (also known as Adversary, Accuser, Deceiver) and his goal is simple: destroy your life.
Satan has been around for a long time, way longer than us. He started out well, as an angel of light. He was essentially the "worship leader" of the angels in heaven. But his worship of God became overshadowed by worship of himself, and such pride got him kicked out of heaven (along with the rest of his worship band; about one third of the angels).
Ever since Satan's "fall" he has been intent on one thing: destroying the God he once worshiped. This is where his focus on you and me comes in.
God created mankind in His own image. We read the following in the first chapter of the Bible:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness"... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:26a, 27)
We (humans) are the only part of creation that bear this special mark of God; we are created unique, distinct from everything else in the universe. And this is why Satan hates us: we look something like our heavenly Father.
When God created Adam and Eve, the first humans, He placed them in a beautiful garden and said, "“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:16b, 17)
They had freedom with only one restriction. (Can you imagine?) God gave humans a choice: trust God and live or trust anything else and die. This is the leverage point Satan seized upon in order to try and destroy humans, and thus try and mar the image of God.
In this story of mankind's fall into sin, Satan employs three tactics that he still uses today to seek to destroy God's image bearers. Learn to recognize these tactics and you will do well in fighting against Satan's destructive force in your life.
Tactic 1: Distraction/Doubt
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1)
Satan's first tactic to destroy God's image bearers was distraction, or doubt. He asked Eve a question to plant a seed, not to gain information. He wanted to distract Eve just enough from God's Word so that she would begin to spin additional questions about God's trustworthiness.
This tactic is still used all the time today. God's Word says one thing, yet Satan brings a question to plant the tiniest seed of doubt as to whether God's Word is trustworthy or even good.
Some examples might be:
Tactic 2: Distortion
Notice how Satan completely flips the script of what God actually said.
"Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?" (3:1, emphasis mine)
The simple answer is: No, God did not actually say that!
God said: "You may surely eat of every tree... except one."
Satan distorted God to say: "You shall not eat of any tree."
It's stark, but subtle. God actually invites Adam and Eve to focus on all the freedom He has given them, and also pay attention to the one danger. Satan, conversely, entices Eve to focus on the one restriction and ignore completely the vast freedom God has granted.
Let's continue the story to see even more of Satan's tactic of distortion.
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (Gen. 3:2-3)
Eve gives a decent answer, but it's incomplete. Satan's first tactic seems to be working. She has already forgotten bits of God's Word. The seed of distraction and doubt is steering her ever so slightly away from the truth.
God said they could "surely" (or "freely") eat from the trees in the garden. She omitted this small, but significant qualifier. She also added something God never explicitly said about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: "neither shall you touch it."
Anytime we add to or subtract from God's Word, the meaning will eventually become distorted. And Satan smiles.
His distortion continued.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4-5)
Satan flat out contradicts God's Word when he says "you will not surely die," for God said plainly, "for in the day that you eat of it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] you shall surely die."
This is the moment of truth for Eve (and us). Trust God and His Word or trust Satan and his word. This is how every decision of life ultimately boils down.
For many of us, much of the time, the tactics of Satan have the same effect on us as they did on Eve (and Adam) below.
Tactic 3: Division
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Gen. 3:6-7)
Satan's seeds of distraction and doubt drew Eve's attention away from God's Word just enough for him to plant a few more seeds of doubt through distorting and flat out contradicting God's Word. With each question and contradiction Eve's focus was diverting from God (and freedom) to sin (and death).
And as soon as Eve and Adam ate the forbidden fruit a separation of cosmic proportions was established. Immediately there was division between husband and wife; they became self-conscious of their nakedness and sought to hide their bodies from each other.
But more than just a marital division occurred. Heaven and earth were separated. God's image bearers chose the way of the Deceiver instead of their Creator. Life would never be the same again. And life would also have an expiration. Every human being born from Adam will surely die. God's Word was true after all.
Satan, the great Deceiver, is intent on destroying your life and mine. He literally hates us! He uses the same tactics today that he used in the beginning: distraction/doubt, distortion, and division.
Where in your own life do you see the enemy's tactics? Has he planted seeds of doubt about God's goodness and trustworthiness? Has he distorted God's Word, causing you to omit or add things that fundamentally alter its meaning and effectiveness? Where has Satan created division between you and God, or you and others, or even you and yourself?
Do battle today to reclaim ground the enemy has stolen. Because of God's grace and the power of the resurrected Christ your life does not have to be destroyed.
Trust fully in God's Word.
Repent of sin.
Pursue unity with God and others.
It's true you have an enemy. But it's also true you have Savior in Jesus Christ, the One who conquered sin and death -- and Satan! In Christ, you have hope and joy -- and the freedom your soul was made for from the beginning.
by Jonathan Daugherty
What is the best remedy for complete burnout, total fatigue? More work, of course! You just need to tap into the right formula. Obviously, you're doing something wrong. If you weren't, well, you wouldn't be so tired now, would you?
This, unfortunately, is the answer many well-meaning people are shoving down the throats of already burned out, and broken, sex and porn addicts.
Therapists, good-natured friends, and even pastors heap up massive servings of rules, along with some side orders of shame and fear, to sexually broken people searching for help. It's no wonder that very few sex and porn addicts ever taste the sweet morsels of freedom and peace.
Jesus once said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt 11:28)
You should see the looks on some guys faces when I tell them their mission in recovery isn't "doing more." It's like I've knocked over their apple cart with all their carefully positioned, platitudinal answers to all life's questions. What? Getting free from sexual bondage doesn't mean I have to take on more rules and tasks and burdens? How can that be?
I'm always amazed and encouraged by how Jesus cuts to the heart of what we need without blinking at all our excuses. He knows that our hearts need rest. So, he invites us to rest...in Him.
"But, Lord, I know that I need to get cleaned up and stop acting out first."
"Come to me," Jesus says.
"Well, I know that I need to get in a group, pray every day, read my Bible, and go to church."
"Come to me," He beckons.
"C'mon, Jesus, I need to know that everything I'm going to give up is really worth it, and that everything I'm going to work so hard for will impress you."
"Come to me."
Keeping the rules has never transformed one sinful heart.
Jesus alone transforms hearts. He alone can heal your sexual brokenness, the abuses from your past, the anger and fear in your heart.
Rules and programs and books, these things become a noose around your already broken neck if you don't understand that you must first come to Jesus. He gives rest, no one else does. No one else can.
Sometimes it's hard to recognize rest (i.e. peace) as your essential need. It feels more like the primary need is figuring how to just not act out anymore. But I have come to see that when a soul has found its rest in Jesus, the motivations it once had to act out are gone.
Finding rest, and continuing to rest, in Jesus gives the soul all it needs to live life in fullness and joy, no longer seeking the facade of true intimacy promised by lust.
Now, don't think that prayer, Bible study, community and counseling are rubbish. They are not. But when one seeks in those activities what can only be found in the person of Jesus Christ, there will be no rest, only anxiety.
Be careful to keep the central thing first: Jesus gives rest to all who come to him. Everything else is secondary.
3 Tips for Finding Rest in Jesus
While it is true that Jesus offers us the generous, open invitation to come to Him to find rest, there are some insights to be gained from those who have traveled this road before us.
Here are a few tips I've learned from others over the years that might help you find the rest your heart longs for in Jesus:
1. Tear Up Your Agenda
Even when your soul is weary, it's easy to have an agenda for what you think rest should look like (and feel like). But this won't help you find true rest.
To bring an agenda to Jesus when your soul is frazzled and worn is like bringing your bankruptcy paperwork to Bill Gates as a strategy for creating wealth. Jesus knows what your soul needs to find rest. If you knew, Jesus wouldn't have made the invitation.
So, lay down your ideas of what you think it will take to find rest, and instead place yourself in the competent and caring arms of Jesus.
Sometimes just laying down your agenda brings a wave of rest your soul hasn't felt in, well, maybe forever.
2. Listen More than You Talk
Jesus says that He will give you rest. This means that He knows what it takes for your soul to be at rest. Therefore, it's to your advantage to listen to whatever He tells you.
I have been leading a weekly support group for sexually addicted men since 2000. Sometimes a guy shows up and on his first time there talks more than everyone. He has answers, but no solutions. He doesn't even realize it.
Maybe you have had a lot of "answers" for the restlessness of your soul, but have yet to find any solutions. You talk and talk and talk. But your answers only add more anxiety and turmoil to your life.
Sit still. Focus on Jesus and His Word. Listen. Stay silent. Just listen. You may not hear anything for awhile. That's okay. This is Jesus calming your mind and heart so that you can receive the rest He wants to give you.
The kind of rest Jesus offers cannot be received by a proud heart. Not until you admit you don't have all the "answers" will you be truly ready to receive the rest Jesus has for you.
Listen more than you talk...
3. Wear Jesus' Yoke
There is a kind of rest that Jesus offers that is totally free. It doesn't cost you anything. Just come to Him and receive it. It's wonderful. But it's not all that Jesus has to offer.
There is a deeper rest that Jesus offers to those who are willing to be "yoked" to Him. This He calls "rest for your soul."
The first kind of rest is a release from the burdens of all your toil and labor in trying to generate the peace that only Jesus can bring. And we all need to be released from the prison of self-righteousness and pride.
But the deeper rest is found in a new kind of toil and labor, the work that Jesus wants us to do alongside Him.
He says, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matt. 11:29, emphasis mine)
To be "yoked" to Jesus means that He is going to put you to work in learning from Him what it means to live life the way He intended it. This is not easy and it doesn't come naturally. But by His grace, and through His power, you can do the work God made for you to do. (Eph. 2:10)
And this work that Jesus invites you to do alongside Him will lead you to discover a rest for your soul that you could never find on your own.
Are you laboring? Heavy laden? Even in recovery? Come to Jesus. He promises to give rest to all who come. So, what excuse is holding you back from receiving what your soul truly needs? Just come...
In this post we will help you define porn addiction, understand the biology, psychology, and theology of porn addiction, and then share the best resources available to help you break free from porn -- for good!
What Is Porn Addiction?
Let's break down the terms:
Porn -- sexually explicit media, whose purpose is to elicit sexual arousal.
Addiction -- the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.
So, porn addiction is an enslavement to viewing sexually explicit media that causes arousal.
In years past, one might have argued that viewing porn was simply a personal choice that didn't have any empirical effect on one's body, mind or behavior. But research is showing that is simply not true.
In order to understand porn addiction and its effects, it is important to address the whole person: body, mind, spirit.
Therefore, we need to explore the biology, psychology, and theology of porn addiction.
The Biology of Porn Addiction
What happens to the body of the porn addict? Or more specifically, what happens to the brain of the porn addict?
Everything you do with your body is processed through the brain. It is like the "CPU" (Central Processing Unit) of the human body. To wiggle your finger or smell a rose, the brain is vitally necessary.
Your brain is full of neural pathways. These pathways are what "carry" bits of information from one place to another in the nervous system. They are formed whenever you learn something new, and they grow stronger the more you repeat that thought or action.
So, if you view porn over and over again, you are forming very strong neural pathways that eventually become "unconscious" because of the repetitive behavior.
Your brain, in a sense, becomes "hard-wired" for porn. This is why porn addiction can be so difficult to overcome -- biology is powerful!
Before you feel hopeless at this news, let me encourage you. New neural pathways can be created that can "override" the old pathways. This is called neuroplasticity. Your brain doesn't have to stay perpetually "stuck" in old patterns of porn-addicted thinking.
As you focus your mind on what is true and good and beautiful, you can create new neural pathways that grow stronger than your old "porn pathways." Over time, you can "rewire" your brain away from porn to healthier thoughts and behaviors.
One other notable biological aspect of porn addiction is the "feel good" chemical that is released in the brain when viewing porn: dopamine.
Dopamine acts like a chemical reward for pursuing thoughts and behaviors deemed pleasurable. In some ways, dopamine could be described as the "want to" drug of the brain that develops an appetite of "craving" the more it is released.
Therefore, when you look at porn (or even think about looking at porn) your brain releases dopamine. Simultaneously, neural pathways are carrying bits of information along a "track" reinforcing the behavior. Repetition of this activity strengthens both the dopamine release and neural pathway development.
Over time, the "craving" for porn biologically intensifies.
The Psychology of Porn Addiction
While the biology of porn addiction looks at the brain and neural pathways and pleasure chemicals, the psychology of porn addiction focuses on the mind and emotions. What emotional and mental factors play into porn addiction?
In years past there seemed to be a pretty consistent psychological model applied to porn and sex addiction: early trauma in childhood followed by introduction to sexual stimuli, topped off with weak or dysfunctional family relationships.
While this model still applies today to many who develop a porn addiction, a new model is emerging: high media consumption reinforced by cultural normalization of porn, topped off with little to no experience with emotionally bonding to another person.
Research is showing that the ubiquity of consuming digital media is actually reducing our ability to read emotional cues from others (i.e. facial expressions). And when you add porn into this mix, it only magnifies desensitization toward human connection. The mind and heart eventually grow cold and numb.
One of the most common refrains we hear from men who attend our Gateway to Freedom 3-day workshop is that porn "numbed out" their ability to feel empathy or compassion or even desire toward anyone.
Another psychological factor in porn addiction is shame. Shame is the core belief that your value is equal to your performance. In other words, you are only as good as your behavior.
Shame can create a mental "spiral" of thoughts that are highly self-condemning. It's as if there is a perpetual microscope analyzing every minute detail of thought and action.
Shame creates a standard you can never live up to. You are never enough, never wanted, never known. Always less than, always left out, always hidden.
The use of porn only increases the unhealthy shame thoughts because porn never truly satisfies and therefore reinforces the shame lies. Addiction is a vicious cycle of self-destruction.
Porn addiction doesn't just take a toll on your biology, it diminishes your heart and soul, too. Relationships inevitably take a huge blow because of porn addiction.
Over half of all divorce cases "involve one party having an 'obsessive interest' in pornographic websites." The psychological, social and familial cost of porn use can be very high.
But porn addiction isn't only about biology and psychology. There is also a theology to porn addiction. God cares about how you use the body He gave you.
The Theology of Porn Addiction
Does God's Word really have anything to say about porn addiction? Yes!
Regarding pornography, Jesus said, "Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has committed adultery in his heart." (Matt. 5:28)
To look with "lustful intent" fits the definition of porn: "whose purpose is to elicit sexual arousal". Jesus said this is a sin of the heart, not merely behavior.
Pornography is not only about behavior ("biology"). It is an invitation to draw your heart away from what is true and good and beautiful, and instead incite you to lustfully devour with your eyes the flesh of fellow image bearers of God.
Elsewhere the Apostle Peter said:
"...For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved." 2 Peter 2:19b
This clearly fits the definition of addiction: "the state of being enslaved to a habit."
God did not create us to be enslaved to our sexual urges and desires. His design was that we be free to love and be loved in the expansive boundaries of His created order. Sexual expression is reserved for the context God designed: covenant marriage.
Freedom from porn addiction is not merely about tweaking brain chemistry (biology) or seeing a therapist (psychology); your sexuality is a deeply spiritual thing because God created it.
Your sexuality is a beautiful and wonderful gift from God. You were made male or female on purpose -- with a purpose.
God's purpose for your life is not to be addicted to porn, but rather to be whole and fully satisfied in Him. And the good news is you can be! (see below for resources)
Where to Get Help for Porn Addiction
We have looked at the definition of porn addiction, the biology of porn addiction, the psychology of porn addiction, and even the theology of porn addiction.
But now it's time to turn our attention to getting you the help you need to be FREE of porn addiction.
As we have noted in this article, you are made up of body, mind, and spirit. Therefore, in order to get the best help possible for overcoming your porn addiction, you need help physically, mentally/emotionally, and spiritually.
Here are some of the best resources available in each of these categories:
Physical Help for Overcoming Porn Addiction
We recommend you get a check up with your personal doctor to assess your overall health in light of your addictive patterns. Oftentimes other issues like depression, anxiety, or dual addictions can present alongside a porn addiction.
Here are other resources that might also help you better understand and address the physical side of porn addiction:
Mental & Emotional Help for Overcoming Porn Addiction
For help finding counselors and other professionals skilled in treating the mental and emotional effects of porn addiction, consider these resources:
Spiritual Help for Overcoming Porn Addiction
There is a growing number of resources available for addressing the spiritual needs of overcoming porn addiction. The following links can help you pursue freedom from a biblical framework:
Help for MEN with Porn Addiction
Help for WOMEN with Porn Addiction
For help finding support groups for porn addiction recovery, visit Groups.Bebroken.com or download the Live Free app at LiveFreeCommunity.org.
For additional resources to overcome porn addiction, visit PureCommunity.org.
Written by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder of Be Broken Ministries
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To repent is to express sorrow over sin that leads to a change of mind and heart.
But why is repentance so essential to living a life of integrity? Can't we just "do the right thing" without having to express sorrow over our sin?
The Backstory on Repentance
God's Word tells us plainly that human beings are made in His image. This makes humans distinct from everything else in creation. We bear a "resemblance" to God that is unique in the world; we were made to reflect His holiness throughout all of creation.
God's instruction to the first humans was simple: freely enjoy everything I have created, but don't cross this one line. We know how the story went. They crossed the line, and so have we ever since.
This disobedience to God is called sin, and it divides us from God and each other. It distorts God's image into something that doesn't look like Him or act like Him. Whereas God brought life, sin brought death.
The good news, though, is that God loved us. He didn't want us forever separated from Him. So, He enacted a redemptive plan to reconcile us to Himself. And this plan only required one thing of us: faith.
Where Faith Comes In
Faith has always been the central requirement for an intimate relationship with God. It was true in the Garden of Eden before humans sinned. And it's true now after we sinned.
But faith, although it is simple, is not that easy. There are all kinds of things that want to keep us from exercising faith: pride, fear, anger, lust, materialism, and so much more.
For faith to be "activated" we must repent of our sin. In other words, faith that truly makes a difference in our lives is not merely a mental assent that God exists; it is an active dependence on the Creator who made us and redeemed us through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This active dependence on God is where repentance comes in, and this must involve a true brokenness over sin.
King David in Psalm 51 said this after he was confronted with his sin of adultery, "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you [God], you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge." (v. 3-4)
And the apostle Paul in the New Testament reminded the church in Corinth of the good fruit that comes from godly sorrow:
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Cor. 7:10)
Repentance is borne of a deep sorrow over sin. This is what prepares our hearts and minds for the humble dependence that leads us to faithful obedience and a life of greater integrity.
Let's look now at how repentance is essential to a life of integrity.
3 Ways Repentance Is Essential to Integrity
1. Repentance reminds us of our need for help
When we look honestly at our sin, it at least has to reveal that we aren't perfect. In order to have integrity (the "state of being whole") we must recognize how far short of God's standard we fall, and be ready to seek help.
If we never ask for help on our journey of life and faith, it is highly probable that we are not engaging in the discipline of repentance, and thus not living with integrity. Daily repentance will reveal our broken hearts and the areas in which we need the most help.
2. Repentance acknowledges God as our source of holiness
When we repent of our sin, we are saying to ourselves and to God, "I blew it! I missed the mark of holiness you expect. Apart from you I cannot live the life you require of me. You are my only hope."
We are not capable of living the life God requires of us -- because of our sin! But when we repent we are reminded of the great love and grace and mercy that God has given to us through Jesus.
Jesus did live a holy life. THE holy Life! And, by faith, he freely offers His life to us. Celebrate this amazing truth!
3. Repentance trains us to worship God, not ourselves
The root of all sin is pride, the belief that we can thrive independent from God. In essence, sin is self-worship.
When we repent we are starkly reminded that God alone is holy and we are not. He alone is worthy of worship, we are not. The very first of the 10 Commandments sums this up: "You shall have no other gods before me." (Ex. 20:3)
There is a rich and rewarding humility that emerges from repentance. And from this foundation the desire to actively depend on our Creator grows. Over time, this produces a life that looks more and more like the Image it was meant to reflect.
Repentance is essential to a live of integrity. Let's commit together to daily express sorrow over our sin that leads to a change of mind and heart.
Life is stressful. Can I get an 'Amen'?
Stress (or anxiety) can come from lots of places: medical issues, broken relationships, work problems, trauma, mental health disorders, addictions, drugs, alcohol, heredity, and many others. Just about anything can be a trigger for stress.
Stress, for the purposes of this article, can simply be defined as worry -- to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts.
So, how are you handling your stress?
Let me suggest that the following exercises might help you manage your stress in healthier ways:
1. Read and Pray Every Day
While there certainly can be physical reasons for anxiety, one thing seems to always be present when we are stressed: obsessive thoughts about our fears.
What you think about matters to how you feel. And what you think about is affected by what you focus on. So, what are you focused on?
A simple way to refocus your mind away from your fears and anxieties is to read and pray every day. Read a passage of Scripture that reminds you of your inherent value or of your identity in Christ.
Pray throughout the day. Share your struggles and fears with God. Be honest and open about the difficulty you are having; even expressing any doubts you are having about God and goodness and life.
Also, it is important to read other good material on understanding your emotions and how to respond to them in healthy ways.
Read and pray every day. It makes a difference for handling stress well.
Stress creates a sense of panic. And when we panic everything speeds up -- thoughts, heart rate, and even breathing.
So, a very practical exercise to help deal with stress in a healthy way is to focus on your breathing. And keep it simple: breathe in and breathe out.
According to Medical News Today, something called the 4-7-8 breathing technique can help reduce tension and stress. (I'm not advocating for yoga; this is only a simple way to breathe that has positive effects on your body.)
Simply breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and then exhale for 8 seconds. Start easy by doing this for 3-7 minutes, then work your way up to 15-20 minutes a day. I suggest lying down or sitting down when you start, just in case you get light-headed.
To enhance this breathing exercise, meditate on Scripture or pray the Lord's Prayer. Breathe in God's grace and truth, and breathe out any lies of shame and all the things you can't control. Focus your mind on God's truth and grace.
Breathing is essential to life. Learn to breathe deeply and focus on what is true. This will help you handle your stress far better.
3. Name Your Fears
Stress seems most powerful when it attaches our fear to the unknown. And the unknown is whatever is unnamed.
Have you ever noticed that the stuff that scares us most is usually the stuff we know very little about. Take something extremely difficult, like cancer, for instance.
When someone has cancer but doesn't know it, their fears about feeling sick can go in a million different directions. But once the cancer is named, those particular fears are not as strong -- even though the thought of fighting cancer is very daunting.
Once the diagnosis is made, new fears emerge, right? But why? Because now there are yet more unnamed realities that must be faced.
Naming your fears is healthy self-talk. The Psalmist says, "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?" (42:5) And follows this up later with a specific question, "Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?"
Finally, after naming the specific fear (oppression of the enemy), the Psalmist fights it with pointing his will toward truth: "Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God."
The more you can name your fears and combat them with truth, the more you can limit their power over you -- and the more your stress will decrease.
4. Connect with Healthy People
It is not easy to deal with stress, or name your fears, alone. You need to connect with healthy people who love you and can listen thoughtfully to your full story of stress and anxiety.
Healthy people are those who understand the difficulties of life, and have likely traveled through some valleys themselves, but know how to direct you to wisdom with love and compassion.
The more you try to handle your stress alone, the more you are likely to drown in it. Healthy people lift your head above water so you can see from a different vantage point, and breathe the air of hope and truth.
I'm sure you're asking, "Where do I find these healthy people?"
Start right where you live. Plug into a local church where you can connect with Christians who can love and support you.
Seek out professional counseling to deal with any underlying roots to your stress, whether they be psychological or physical.
Connect with others in a confidential support group.
5. Embrace Your Limitations
There is no "cure" for the difficulties of life. Sure, there are things you can do that help with responding to such difficulties in healthy ways, but be careful of "magical" thinking that says you just need to get the formula right and all your troubles will disappear.
You and I have limitations. And each of us is different. I'm amazed at how "easily" some people seem to handle stress. It's like nothing bothers them. But I'm not them. And neither are you.
Admitting you are weak is not weak. It's actually quite powerful. The Apostle Paul said as much:
"But he [Jesus] said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (1 Cor. 12:9-10)
Stress isn't fun. It seems to "torment" with relentless persistence. But you can respond with confidence; not in yourself, but in the grace of God.
Preach this message of truth and hope to yourself every day: though I am weak, my God is strong. I will trust in His power, not my own. I rest in Him.
May you grow in grace as you learn to handle stress in healthier ways.
Written by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder of Be Broken Ministries
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Addiction destroys life. Over time, with each acting out experience, a little more life is drained from the addict. Eventually, all that remains is a walking dead person.
Easter is the celebration of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. He conquered sin on the cross and then crushed death by His resurrection. Many addicts are Christians, they believe Jesus Christ is their only hope of salvation. So, how come many are not experiencing freedom and victory from their addiction?
The story of the resurrection of Lazarus might give us some insight into why many Christians are not experiencing freedom from addiction, and how they can.
The full story is found in John 11 in the bible. Lazarus was a good friend of Jesus. His sisters, Martha and Mary, were too. Lazarus gets sick and his sisters ask Jesus to come heal him. Jesus doesn't come immediately, and Lazarus dies. Not exactly what the sisters expected from Jesus. And that's the first thing we need to understand about recovery: God's path to freedom and new life won't be what we initially expect.
Most addicts who enter recovery expect the process to be quick, easy, and not terribly uncomfortable. But such expectations are just the underlying lies of addiction. ("If you smoke this, drink this, or look at that, all your dreams will come true.") God has a far better way for addicts, but many never realize it because they can't get over the initial challenge of recovery not being what they expected or hoped for.
Jesus eventually arrives on the scene after Lazarus has been buried. Martha and Mary express their grief and disappointment to Jesus. He responds to both with truth and grace. To Martha he gives a theology lesson (v. 20-27). To Mary he offers his tears (v. 32-36). This is the next thing we need to understand about God's path to recovery: Jesus responds to our pain personally.
No two addicts are identical in their stories or suffering. Each one has unique pain. Some addicts are hardened cynics. To these God may bring a hard truth to break their pride. Other addicts are crushed victims. To these God offers tears of understanding to lead them home. God knows that we need and when we need it on our journey of recovery.
Now the moment comes when Jesus is brought to the tomb where Lazarus was buried. This is the scene that will take our breath away -- literally!
"Jesus said, 'Take away the stone.'" (v. 39a)
You cannot walk out of the grave of addiction until the "stone" locking you in is removed. And you need a community willing to move it.
Dead people can't move stones. Yet, so often addicts are preached at to "get up" or "stop it" or "just make better choices." If Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead without moving the stone, Lazarus would have been "alive" but living in a locked tomb. The stone had to be rolled away for him to come out of the grave. The "stone(s)" in the addict's life must be rolled away before they can come out of their addiction.
Some common "stones" that keep addicts imprisoned are:
And many more. Each of these stones require the help of others to remove. The addict drowning in shame cannot remove that stone by sheer willpower or "positive thinking." Other people need to speak truth and hope and grace in order to remove that stone.
But even after the stone is removed, Lazarus is still a dead man. And he stinks.
"Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him [Jesus], 'Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.'" (v. 39b)
Addiction stinks. The people who come around the addict to help remove the stone need to know this: What lies on the other side of grave stones is a stinky dead person. And depending on how long the addict has been dying in their addiction, the stench can be quite putrid. But it's good to smell the stink. Here's why.
Many addicts, especially those addicted to "non-substances" like porn and lust, are great at hiding their addiction. Their grave stone is securely in place and therefore the "stink" of addiction isn't easily recognized by others. This means friends and family may not know that their loved one is dying, or already dead.
When the grave stone is moved and the horrible smell of death hits you in the face, it is a powerful moment. Don't rush past it. Yes, it hurts when the stinky truth about a loved one knocks you over. But you can learn from it. Breathe it in so you can become familiar with the stench, so that when you pick up that scent in others, you know what to do to help them break free from their grave of addiction.
Finally, the moment has come for Jesus to do the miraculous; to raise Lazarus from the dead.
So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. (v. 41-44)
When Jesus, the author of Life, speaks, death must flee. Death could not hold Lazarus when Jesus called him out of the grave. And addiction cannot hold the addict when Jesus calls them out. But an addict might ask, "Why, then, don't I feel free?" Easy, you're still wrapped up in your death clothes.
There are a lot of "walking dead" in recovery groups. They are "alive" in the sense that God has given them new life, but they are still bound by their former, familiar grave clothes. This, again, is why we need a strong, loving community around us to help take off the death garments.
Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (v. 44b)
Jesus alone can call a dead man (or woman) back to life. Jesus alone can break the deadly power of addiction. But Jesus expects the community around the addict to "unbind him, and let him go." Addicts need the power of community to loose them from the familiar, stinky clothes of their old ways.
Are you struggling in your recovery? Do you still feel "dead" on your journey? What is God trying to show you from the resurrection of Lazarus that needs to be applied in your life?
Remember these words of Jesus, "...everyone who believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" Do you?
May you, by the power of the resurrected Jesus Christ, and the presence of a loving community, walk today in freedom and victory over addiction.
For help finding a group in your area, visit Groups.Bebroken.com.