Wednesday, 31 July 2013

What the Heck is Holiness? - Part 1: The Power of Porn!

     Hi guys, so I was exposed to stuff of a sexual nature from an early age through television and school and first saw a pornographic magazine at the age of 10. YIKES!! Here we go folks, we're going deep with this post!! Please don't let this opening line scare you off. I'm going to be really real and honest here in the hopes that what I have to share will put peace in some people's hearts and set them free while bringing a gracious challenge to others in the lifestyle of a Christian. I'll share personal experience from my own life all the way through as well as truth from the Bible and I'll try to say quite a lot in this post so please don't tune out. I'll be real but not to the point of being crude. This isn't at all easy for me to share, particularly on a public forum and hey maybe it will change how some people feel about me but I've waited a long time before putting this out and I know it's necessary for me to share so it's ok ; ) I pray that the Holy Spirit will give me grace to write and that He'll give you grace to read and hear what I believe He has to say. Ready? Still with me? Awesome, thank you, let's go!! : )

     So I first saw a pornographic magazine at the age of 10 (which is apparently only a year earlier than the average young person in the West) and this opened a door to a new world of temptation and sin. Bad times. Two years later while away at a youth camp I committed my life to loving and serving the Jesus who died to remove me from my sins and give me His new life. It was a beautiful experience, walking in this new connection with God, knowing His heart and His delight towards me. However, the following 6 years for me were a serious battle against lust and pornography. Getting a computer in our house certainly didn't help! With my parents out of the house I'd just get lost in this thing. I became very clever at covering up my tracks. If I was on the computer and alone it seemed like it was inevitable*. I felt so helpless against it. In my spirit it definitely wasn't what I wanted to be doing or giving my mind to but there's a reason Paul told Timothy to "Flee YOUTHFUL passions..." (2Timothy 2:22a) and not just general passions. Youthful passions are powerful and unrelenting! Guilt and shame would descend upon me every time making me feel unfit to go to God. This is one of the enemy's favourite tactics against us! If he can get us to believe we're unwelcome in the presence of God, we won't go to Him but He is the one who heals us and forgives us and strengthens us to resist temptation. When we don't understand this we try fighting the devil on our own and it's just embarrassing! We forget the first part of James 4:7 and simply try to resist the devil without submitting ourselves to God first. It's hard to submit yourself to God when you feel like He doesn't even want to look at you! It's a clever tactic but knowing it definitely helps us.

     At the age of 15 I was asked to start helping to teach the youth (who were aged 11-17) on Sundays in my church. I was really excited about this but I was still up and down with this inner struggle. Sometimes I'd go weeks or months without giving in but then would fall back into it. Of course the devil had an absolute field day with my heart. John tells us that it's in walking in the light that we allow God to cleanse us from sin (1John 1:5-10) but the devil lives in the darkness of secret sin and he will happily kick our heads in all day if we stay there with him, continually whispering, "You call yourself a Christian? No one else has this problem. How can God love you when you do this? How can God use you when you do this? You're a hypocrite." So there's me leading young people, trying to be an example, trying to be a role model while being utterly torn apart on the inside. Riddled with guilt and shame. Maybe you've been there or somewhere similar. Let me tell you about the grace of God though. Through all of this stuff I found that God would still speak to me! I found that He would still use me to speak to others! I can't tell you how humbling it is to know the love and grace of God in the middle of sinning! He remains faithful in all circumstances (2Timothy 2:13) because His faithfulness was never dependent on me! He was faithful before I was born and He'll be faithful after I'm dead, it's who He is!!

     The devil wanted to condemn me but the Holy Spirit wanted to convict me. I began to become aware of the heart of God towards pornography. Thoughts of how lost the people on the screen were flooded my heart. The heart of our Father for His daughters who'd wandered so far from Him and His love pressed heavily on me. This was not ok. Kris Vallotton gives the best description of the difference between condemnation and conviction that I've heard in his book** so let me share it with you. He says that condemnation is from the devil and will always equate you with your sin e.g. you sinned, you're a sinner. You lied, you're a liar etc etc. The goal of condemnation is to convince you that you are what you do. If it's successful, the devil can leave you alone because you'll only ever act out who you believe you are and you'll continue in these cycles of sin, driving you further from your relationship with the Lord. Conviction however is from the Holy Spirit and conviction basically says "You're way too awesome to be acting like that! That's not who you are any more. Why settle for that?" Conviction comes with the power to change, condemnation robs you of that power! I started to feel more of the conviction of the Holy Spirit and I knew I didn't want to live my life like this. After occasions of giving in, I started to find the strength to go before God and speak to Him and cry out for forgiveness and deliverance. Leading a double life is not healthy for anyone. I started to set targets for myself with agreements between me and God. I'd say for 2 weeks I'm not going to look at anything dodgey on the internet or even  anything slightly dodgey on TV e.g. music videos (remember the good old days when people wore clothes in music videos? Good times.) and the fear of the Lord combined with His conviction and grace carried me through those weeks. Obviously this wasn't a permanent solution and something else was needed.

     When I was 18, Lent came around. To be honest I didn't even really know what Lent was up until then but I heard it's 40 days when people give stuff up. I made my decision. 40 days, no porn, just prayer. At the time there was also a girl in my life, a previous girlfriend who really wasn't doing my heart any good either so I added in that I wouldn't contact her either during this time. I wanted to get free of things that were hindering me in my relationship with Him. So for 40 days I steered clear of any images that might compromise my promise and I just prayed and spent time with God while of course going to school and doing usual day to day stuff. Towards the end before the 40 days were even over, this thought passed through my mind: "The time is almost up then you can look at stuff again." The thought of trading this amazing new and fresh intimacy with God for anything else was actually hilarious! I think I actually laughed out loud! Hahaha!! VICTORY!!! When the 40 days were over I can't describe to you the level of freedom I felt but most of all I was walking in this new unbroken communion with God because my conscience was clear before Him. John tells us in 1John 3 that there is something incredible about being able to stand in His presence with a pure conscience, a heart set at rest, with confidence because we know that we're doing His will (1John 3:19-22). I can't describe this feeling to you but it was delicious!! HAHA!! The desire to even look at anything like that had completely left me and been replaced with a desire to walk closer with God. My journey didn't stop there however, God had more He wanted to teach me.

Thanks for reading friends, that's the end of Part 1. I hope it's helping you. Whether it's sexual sin you've struggled with or something else that has left you feeling far from God, or whether you're not a Christian at all and have felt like you can't possibly live the Christian life, please continue to read this mini series. It's really not about us and our ability, it's about Jesus and His power to save, deliver and heal us and make us more like Himself. It's about us answering the call to walk closely with God and leave our dirt and shame behind. It's about allowing the strength of His love for us to break the chains of our sin. Let the dark power of porn dissolve in the light of His love. Come as you are and let Him do the rest!

End Notes
* By the grace of God I never struggled with masturbation at all throughout the battle against lust and porn. That in itself is a miracle! Haha!

**
Moral Revolution: The Naked Truth About Sexual Purity by Kris Vallotton. Buy it! - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Moral-Revolution-Naked-Sexual-Purity/dp/0768438632/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1375186402&sr=1-1&keywords=moral+revolution

I also just want to honour my Mum and Dad for being good parents and working so hard to provide for me and my brother. Mum I know you'll probably read this so I want to say thank you for continuing to encourage me in the Lord so I could come out with this testimony of His faithfulness! You continue to inspire me.



Part 2