Light in the Darkness - Help for women who are tempted by or enslaved by pornography
A Light in the Darkness
Women Enslaved to Sensuality/Pornography
For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. Psalm 18:28
The statistics are not new, or hard to find—over 250 new internet pornography sites appear each day. Over one hundred thousand websites offer illegal child pornography. The average age of first internet exposure to pornography is 11 years old. Porn revenue is larger than all combined revenues of all professional football, baseball, and basketball franchises. In fact,
On and on the numbers and facts go, painting a very dark picture of twenty-first century society. Yet, for some reason, some of us are not all that surprised to hear that 20% of the men surveyed admit to such things as accessing pornography at work, or 47% of Christian men admit pornography is a problem with which they struggle. What does surprise most of us is that 28% (or approximately one out of three) of visitors to adult websites are women. Even more surprising is the fact that women, as well as their male counterparts, are increasingly becoming enslaved to habits that depend upon the adult “entertainment” industry.
Pornography is traditionally seen as a man’s problem, not a problem that is common among women, and in particular, Christian women. Sadly, the facts speak differently. Christian women are being ensnared by the treacherous tentacles of pornography with increasing frequency. Great are the devastations that are ravaging Christian women deceived by their sexual curiosity, the enticements of the world, tricks of the evil one, their own sinful human hearts, or sometimes their own husbands or dearest friends!
Perhaps you are echoing the thoughts of many others, “But I thought women are not supposed to be creatures easily aroused by visual stimuli!” Most of us have heard it said that women are aroused by touch, men by sight. What we fail to understand is that women are also aroused by sight, just as men are also aroused by touch. While it is true that women tend to respond more strongly to emotional intimacy than do men, and men tend to be more easily captivated and aroused by visual stimuli than women, it is not true that women are not enticed or aroused by what they see any more than men are not aroused by what they feel. The reality is that women aroused by naked human flesh (both male and female) or enticed by sexually-charged images is not an anomaly. This error gives many women a false sense of invincibility with regard to viewing sexually explicit pictures or fantasizing about sexually explicit encounters. Believing that one can control the affect of fantasizing and viewing pornography on his or her life is the first of many doors that leads into the darkened world of sexual enslavement.
What constitutes “pornography”?
When we think of the word “pornography,” we tend to think of triple “x” movies, magazines, or internet pictures depicting nude women. Pornography, however, includes any image intending to arouse sexual excitement. Pornography may include nude or partially nude images of men, women, or children, engaging in any kind of sensual behavior. Lingerie catalogs, newspaper ads, and billboards are just as capable of providing visual stimulus as “porn” sites found on the internet. If we broaden the present-day dictionary definition to include biblical definitions, we include mental “pornographic” images and fantasies that can be replayed in the mind at will.
According to Merriam Webster (online dictionary), “pornography” refers to:
1: the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement 2: material (as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement 3: the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction
The Bible does not use the word “pornography,” but it does use several words that include the present-day English definition of “pornography.”
Lust: any appetite (which in and of itself may be quite legitimate and God-given), which controls the individual, as opposed to the individual controlling the appetite.
So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels. Psalm 81:12
Lasciviousness: unbridled lust
Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. Ephesians 4:19
Wantonness: to give one’s self to living for pleasure; impulses of sexual desire
For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 2 Peter 2:18
Uncleanness: impurity of lustful living; impure motives. The Bible word “uncleanness” is similar to the modern word “immoral,” which is a term used to describe significant sinful thinking and conduct.
For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. 1 Thessalonians 4:7
How does it happen?
A woman might be exposed and enticed to pornography or adult entertainment for many different reasons. It may have been introduced in childhood by friends at a sleepover, or just as likely introduced by a cunning child molester who wanted to coerce a young girl into accepting sexual contact. Pornography might have been discovered on “You Tube,” in an internet chat room, on a social networking site, or in the process of doing an innocent Google search. Children often discover a parent’s sensual magazines, movies, or secret life, while others have it given to them freely by parents who are blinded to its harm. Many women view their first pornographic movie with a husband who is eager to incorporate it into their intimate life, while still others deliberately seek it on their own, out of curiosity, boredom, or as an outlet for sexual tension or desire.
Many women describe their initial reaction to pornography or the many facets of adult entertainment as shock, disbelief, disgust, confusion, or anger. Yet strangely, many testify that it also produces a sense of intrigue, fascination, or curiosity at the very same time. Some resist the urge to go back, to investigate further, or to experiment, but others let their minds wander and replay what they saw until they are drawn to see it again. Like a roller coaster ride or a scary movie that produces the exhilarating “high” of fear, pornography beckons its victims to observe, satisfy curiosity, and experience once again the exhilaration of being shocked. This is the initial “bait and hook” that draws careless women deeper into the dark world of sexual perversions.
Soon, the initial shock dissipates and is replaced with adrenalin-producing excitement that is wrapped up in heightened sexual awareness. This slowly draws a woman closer to entrapment. The mental replays continue, constantly beckoning one back to viewing and experiencing more—until one day the titillating thoughts and desires “possess” the mind and intrude without invitation. The woman is not aware that her reasoning is slowly being corrupted and the trap is tightening. Still, she goes back again and again. A Christian woman senses guilt, at least initially, but it can be easily ignored, rationalized, or justified. Enjoyment trumps wisdom when pleasure is valued more. Like a jacket on a warm day, the grieved yet quiet voice of the Holy Spirit can be put off and set aside.
Yes, guilt can be exciting
Guilt is often described as something that makes one miserable and eats at the conscience until one repents and seeks forgiveness from God and those wronged. The awareness one has violated God’s good and gracious laws produces a natural fear of judgment and manifestations of guilt. In fact, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to convince one of his sins and make him aware of inevitable judgment, should he decide to persist in his rebellion. Guilt is a powerful, God-ordained means of convincing a sinner of sin and bringing him back into a right relationship with Himself. It seems odd, then, that guilt can be ignored, “played” with, or even turned into something exciting.
The heart of every human being has a capacity to sin against God, be self-deceived, and love the ways of the world. According to Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” to the point we cannot even comprehend it. So distorted is human desire that it is capable of not only defying a holy, sovereign God, but loving the very sin that grieves His heart and required His death on Calvary. The Scriptures state that “Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant” (Proverbs 9:17). In other words, the whole process of sneaking around to conceal the sin, defying discovery, and succeeding to carry it out undetected is as exhilarating as the sin is pleasurable. The presence of guilt becomes a dare, and the act of ignoring it a pleasing sense of self-assertion. The person living a “double life” may actually enjoy the ability to successfully deceive those who view her as a dedicated Christian.
Again, in Proverbs 10:17 we read that “bread of deceit is sweet to a man,” even though God’s Word also warns, “but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.” Sin and deception are pleasurable, and even guilt can produce its own excitement—but not without a price. It always leaves a bitter taste that is as difficult to swallow as gravel and is as pleasant and satisfying as eating dirt. No matter how pleasant the sin is or how exciting its pursuit—in the end, it produces destruction, sorrow, and emptiness that is felt in the depths of people’s souls. The book of James says that after “lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:15). “At the last,” the Bible warns, sin causes us to mourn over our self-induced destruction and bites like the teeth of an angry serpent—but not at the beginning (Proverbs 5:11; 23:32). Many play the game “to the last” and discover when there, that they are not only changed into someone they abhor, but they are entrenched to the point of being completely enslaved by a vile “secret life.”
Every Christian makes the choice to forsake sin and choose the more challenging path of pleasing God, or to embrace sin and choose the alluring and easy path of pleasing self. Forsaking sin looks like the path of sorrow because it does bring its inevitable afflictions, while embracing sin looks like the path to fulfillment because it does brings its inevitable pleasures. Yet, as they say, looks are very deceiving. What the two paths look like at their starting point are very different than how they look at their destination. One path leads to great loss and sorrow; the other to great gain and joy.
David understood this and even in his most difficult circumstances looked forward to the final destination of a right path. He testified, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11). In contrast, the path of this seductive world leads to death, not life, and ends in sorrow and pain, not joy and pleasure. Proverbs warn us about the deceptive paths of a woman’s folly, who represents the allurements of the world, “For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead” (Proverbs 2:18).
Moses made the choice to follow Christ and decided he would rather “suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25). He looked ahead with an eternal viewpoint, and as a result chose the same reproach that believers of Christ have endured through the centuries above all the treasures that could be found in Egypt (Hebrews 11:26). We can do the same and choose the very path of faith and obedience that Moses followed. But like him, we must esteem the blessings of keeping ourselves from sin more precious than all the pleasures that are found in this life. Like Moses, this decision requires us to look ahead and see our desired destination and rewards by faith.
The decision to indulge in sin that one knows is abhorred by God produces a hardened heart that is eventually calloused to the discomfort of guilt, and blinded to the ultimate destiny to which such a path will lead. As a result, it becomes easy for such a person to adopt one of the most slithering of self-deceptions—the false belief one can repent later in order to avoid destruction while enjoying sin for the moment. The craving for pleasures offered by a world of sexual perversion distort one’s ability to navigate around the rocky cliffs of temptation that sink so many ships in the sea of life. Nevertheless, a person who sails this way firmly believes he has the ability to steer around dangers and thus avoid pain and suffering.
One way women often deceive themselves into believing they have things under control is to “manufacture their own porn” rather than access it on the internet or watch it in an x- rated movie. The illicit sexual images that stir the passions and ignite arousal in these women are images conjured up in their own minds. Because sexual fantasies, thoughts, and mental pictures are not tangible and are not observed by anyone, women convince themselves they are harmless. Some Christian women go so far as to believe thoughts do not matter to God and are not sinful in any way. Their computer hard drive might not contain questionable evidence, but their hearts have seeds of lust’s destruction secretly embedded and seen by God.
Another entrapment that often deceives Christian women is the belief that they are able to engage in masturbation or sexual exploration of pornography for “righteous” reasons. A plethora of websites are out there whose sole purpose is to convince Christian women they are not sinning, but merely exploring the “gift of sex” that God Himself has given for their enjoyment. A careful study of God’s Word will convince believers who are searching for truth (not justification for sin) that such activity cannot be justified from a truly biblical perspective. Guilt will not be relieved with arguments that cater to their selfish lusts.
The belief God does not hold us responsible for our thoughts is a huge deception, for nothing could be further from the truth. God hears our thoughts just as loudly as He hears our spoken words. When we pray silently, God hears, and when we think about sinful things, God sees and hears this as well. “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). David stated in Psalm 139 that God not only knew him and his ways, but understood his thoughts as well. Notice, too, how God explained the seriousness of man’s corruption to Noah just prior to the great flood. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Make no mistake about it, God not only sees and hears our wicked thoughts, He tells us that, “The thought of foolishness is sin . . .” (Proverbs 24:9a).
The Bible teaches that God weighs our thoughts and responds to them accordingly. He commands us to forsake wicked thoughts and to trust and follow Him rather than the thoughts of our hearts. Thoughts are not only capable of transforming us into hardened sinners having no delight in things that are pure and right—they are the key to being transformed into people delighting in knowing God, loving Him, serving Him, and emulating Him. “Ye that love the LORD, hate evil…” (Psalm 97:10a).
Paul described unbelievers as people who live to fulfill the desires of their sinful human nature and their minds (Ephesians 2:3). Believers, in contrast, are described as people longing to keep their thoughts, as well as their actions, pleasing to the Lord. Paul urged Christians to cast off their sinful imaginations or reasoning and bring every thought into captivity under obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Christians win the battle over any sexual sin by disciplining their thoughts and guarding their hearts from seeing, hearing, or imagining anything that would be morally impure. It requires them to completely “overhaul” the way they think and be willing to work hard to replace ungodly thoughts with thoughts that are honest, just, pure, and lovely (Philippians 4:8). Restructuring their thought lives is not a quick fix—it requires diligence and dependence on God’s strength.
The downward spiral into habitual sexual immorality of any kind always involves one’s undisciplined thought life as well as actions. The mental life of a sexually sinning person is central to the problem of outwardly expressed sexual sin. The brain is the primary sex organ of the body—the “command center” responsible for signaling every other part of the body to respond. This is why it is impossible to be sexually aroused without sexual ideation. When sexual thoughts revolve around a spouse as they do in the Song of Solomon, or around pure and lovely things that pass the Philippians 4:8 test, the result is sheer pleasure with no sorrowful side effects. However, when thoughts revolve around things that God clearly forbids, the end result is always one that brings along with it regret and further moral decline.
The more one thinks about evil of any kind, the more one’s inner person is corrupted and molded by his thoughts. Pleasant thoughts that center on God’s Word and God’s work and character cannot coexist with thoughts that center on sexual perversions. Sexual expression within the perimeters of marriage is wonderful and holy, but it can be transformed into a powerful force for evil when one’s thoughts are allowed to center on someone other than his or her spouse, or when it is allowed to rest on sinful sexual ideation in order to enhance pleasure or arousal.
Before long, sensual thoughts become something people depend upon, look forward to, and love. They become an escape from difficulties or boredom, a means of forgetting troubles and soothing loneliness. Ultimately, they will replace God’s means of finding comfort, fulfillment, and encouragement in Him and in a life wholly dedicated to loving God, loving others, and building God’s kingdom. Many women never dreamed as they descended into the enslavement of the porn industry as “curious observers” that they would wake up to discover they are not only drawn to the perversions, but they are also “enthusiastic participants.” Many, many women begin their sexual descent into vile sexual activities such as homosexuality and bestiality with “innocent” curiosity and a casual interest in pornography.
Listen to the testimony of a Christian woman who gradually seared her conscience and slid further and further into sexual corruption.
“Once engaged in the sexual sin in my thought life, it became extremely difficult to overcome the next step of making the choice to NOT put those thoughts into actions. For example, when my mind was fully engaged to follow a certain path, even though thoughts of God and guilt, and conviction would seep in there, I dismissed them and continued on the path of seeking gratification. This was typically on my way to the adult toy store. Even while there, the thoughts would go through my head that I was taking my body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, into this evil place, and that Jesus could see me there. Even though I dismissed it, I still felt very uneasy and hoped no one I knew would be in the general area passing by. If a clerk would ask me if I needed help, I would look down and shrug them off as quickly as I could. After a few visits, it was no big deal, and I would fully engage the clerk with questions about a particular item.”
The craving for more
Habits that center around any kind of pornographic image and the sensual offerings of adult entertainment do not satisfy the soul—they leave it craving for more. The fleeting moments of pleasure quickly give way to the hollow restlessness of a soul searching unsuccessfully for peace. Imagine being lost in a hot desert, longing for one cool glass of water to quench your thirst, and then being offered the water—only to be thirstier than ever the moment you finish drinking it. One enslaved to sensuality lives with this craving. The sexual high they long for gives a few moments of satisfaction only to give way to immediate dissatisfaction and an unfulfilled longing for something more.
When this occurs, some perceive they are heading down the wrong path and acknowledge there is no joy or satisfaction in the pleasures of sin. They willingly listen to the Word of God and often turn around immediately. The majority, however, are deceived by their human bent to pursue whatever gratifies, even for a moment. People take this path because they believe “just once more” will satisfy. They search and experiment and do whatever they can to replicate the sexual “high” they experienced when they first discovered the world of pornography—but are never satisfied. This draws them into sins they never imagined to be temptations for them and turns former “fantasies” into obsessive fixations on sexual perversions.
Sin never satisfies. It does not bring fulfillment or peace of heart. Solomon tells us that the eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing (Ecclesiastes 1:8; Proverbs 27:20). Trying to find satisfaction in anything except the Lord always ends in disillusionment. It leaves people asking, “Is that all there is?” If our Savior is not our first love, even the seemingly best of marriage relationships will become the occasion of disillusionment and disappointment. The corrupting influence of pornography and sexual sin will multiply that dissatisfaction.
The alternative found in God’s Word gives pleasure of a different sort. Those who believe the Scriptures, fear God, and depart from evil find an inner satisfaction beyond their comprehension. We read, “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures” (Psalm 36:8). Notice that God says “abundantly” satisfied. To be abundantly satisfied is to enjoy great plenty, not just enough. Again we read, “The fear of the LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil” (Proverbs 19:23).
When thoughts become actions
What we think about influences what we do and how we act. Our thoughts always eventually betray themselves by our outward behaviors, even in subtle ways. The progression of iniquity, or unrepented sin, always begets more sin. Pornography that was once shocking and exciting becomes boring, leading to a search for new or more shocking sexual stimuli. Sexual sin does not stay static—it grows and morphs into a desire for more deeply perverted forms of sexual expression. It develops into habits of masturbation or the desire to flirt or dress in sensual clothing. It changes how people laugh, and at what they laugh. It forms their tastes in entertainment, music, and friends. In many cases, it leads into adultery, fornication, or worse.
Thoughts become actions, yet actions also feed our thought lives. It is a perpetual circle that continually fuels the other. The Scripture tells us, “Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established” (Proverbs 16:3). When all our activities are pleasing to the Lord, including how we express our sexuality, our thoughts are changed. When our thoughts are changed, our actions are affected as well, for it is out of the heart that our actions spring (Luke 6:45). The starting place of adultery or fornication is in the secret desires of the heart; yet once the ball is rolling, sinful thoughts pick up steam and affect every part of our lives, including our actions, thoughts and emotions.
Self-centered thoughts turn into self-centered actions
Sexual union is intended by God to be totally others-centered, as to bring pleasure and blessing to one’s spouse. The goal of pornography is sexual arousal and masturbation, which is a selfish substitute for real intimacy and giving. The essence of biblical sex is the antithesis of self-fulfillment. Sex is to be the expression of union and intimate companionship with one’s spouse and is never to be divorced from intimacy. Sex without intimacy is a form of cheating and laziness. It expresses a desire for sex without the desire to achieve it the way God designed it.
When sexual thoughts and desires lead to masturbation rather than union with a spouse, sex becomes the quintessential essence of self-service, self-fulfillment, and self-absorption. It does not require investing one’s life in another person or dying to self, which is the nature of companionship in a marriage relationship. Sexual gratification, apart from marital intimacy, changes one’s sexual orientation and grows into something that will eventually render a woman (or man) less and less able to enjoy God-blessed sex with one’s spouse, and less and less able to enjoy a God-blessed relationship with Christ.
Sexual tension is not a justifiable reason for masturbation. The flesh is insatiable and does not operate on the principle of tension reduction. The practice of masturbation increases a desire for more pornography and self-sex, and incrementally reduces enjoyment of sexual expression with one’s spouse. It destroys—it does not enhance sexual relationship. The uplifting alternative to the degradation of sexual sins is an intimate relationship with Christ first and foremost, and second, an intimate relationship with one’s spouse.
Sin’s pleasures bring death’s sorrows
In Paul’s exhortations to young Timothy, he described the result of unrepentant sin, of pursuing one’s own reasoning and rejecting God’s Word and warnings. He called it the “searing” of the conscience, as though one’s ability to discern the presence of evil has been hardened and destroyed in the way a piece of fabric can be burnt to a crisp by a hot iron and its usefulness destroyed (1 Timothy 4:1-2).
To have a seared conscience is to have one’s moral compass destroyed and rendered inoperable. With no operational conscience, the still small voice of the Holy Spirit cannot be heard. Such a person proceeds unfazed and unrestrained, like a cow headed for slaughter, oblivious to the death that lies ahead. All warnings and pleading fall on deaf ears and are rationalized away as nothing of great importance. They are heard as nothing more than the annoying buzz of a fly and are flicked away like a cow shooing flies with her tail. The cow walks on, chews her cud, and looks for the next handful of hay right up to the moment she meets her demise. Just as James predicted, a person living for pleasure nourishes his heart like an animal is nourished in preparation for the day of slaughter (James 5:5).
Many women who open the doors leading to sexual enslavement and follow the paths leading to their destruction persist in believing they are the exception to the rule—even while their children follow them, their marriages fall apart, their souls are in anguish, and their sorrows multiply. Although they admit they do not like what they have become, many remain so in love with the emotional high of the sin that they continue in it, even while it kills and destroys. They do not recognize the greatest “death” of all is the death of their spiritual understanding. They are so deadened to spiritual things that they cannot foresee the eternal losses awaiting them at the judgment seat of Christ. These women will never understand the depth of their loss nor the full meaning of “time lost” until they stand before the Lord and give an account of the lives God gave them. Let no woman who imagines she is not presently suffering “consequences” deceive herself into believing she has escaped. “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after” (1 Timothy 5:24).
The Bible states that a woman given over to a lustful sexual appetite is like a dead woman living. Death is all around her, yet she continues to pursue her sexual pleasures. The Scriptures say, “But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.” (1 Timothy 5:6). The word “wanton” refers to a sexual appetite that is unacceptable to God; that depends on lust and a careless pursuit of sensual pleasure. A believer can give herself over to the pursuit of pleasure, or the pursuit of a relationship with Christ—but she cannot give herself to both at the same time. If she desires a relationship with Christ she must, as an act of her will, turn away from her lust and turn instead to Christ. Without repentance, she is permitted to continue on her path of destruction unabated. Hear the words of the prophet Jeremiah who preached to people enslaved to sexual sins. “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts” (Jeremiah 2:19).
Darkness and light
Sex is a spiritual activity that deeply affects the inner spirit of man. The marriage relationship is described as “honorable” (something very precious), and “undefiled” (something morally pure) in Hebrews 13:4. When it is enjoyed in the way God intended, it produces a joyful, contented spirit. But when it is pursued apart from its holy origin and distorted by lust and selfishness, it is corrupted and produces a troubled, unsatisfied spirit. Women who have been used and abused sexually will testify that their experiences affected their inner souls in ways they never imagined. Sexual violations touch more than their bodies—they touch their inner beings and inflict wounds only God can heal. Sexual union is not something on the level of a recreational sport—it is a mystical union that involves the spirit and has the power to affect their emotions and mental frame of mind as no other activity can.
Many describe the aftermath of sexual violations and perversions as producing an inner darkness that is palpable and pervasive, affecting them in ways they never imagined. In contrast, those experiencing the healing power of God’s love describe finding hope in God’s Word as light shining in their darkened souls. Interestingly, the metaphor of light and dark is used throughout the Scriptures to help us understand the vast difference between living in harmony with God’s Word and living apart from the influence and illumination of God’s Word; between living as an unbeliever and living as a child of God. The Bible describes people living in spiritual darkness as people not knowing at what they stumble (Proverbs 4:19). People who have not come to Christ have no spiritual light whatsoever. They live in utter spiritual darkness, yet do not know it. They who hear the Gospel and reject it are described as people loving darkness and hating light because they love their sinful ways and do not want them illuminated or revealed as evil (John 3:19-20).
The Bible says only a fool walks in darkness (Ecclesiastes 2:14). But we who have come to Christ enjoy the blessings of God’s light shining in our hearts, showing us the way of salvation and the glorious destiny of God’s children. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
To live in darkness is to live in a world where we cannot see where we are going, nor can we distinguish the difference between one direction or another. Darkness hides everything that is good and beautiful and brings with it a sense of loneliness and pervasive anxiety. We cannot see danger in total darkness, or the way to safety. On the other hand, to live in the light is to live in a world where we clearly see where we are going and what is all around us. Light illuminates everything, enabling us to see the beauty of color and texture, the faces of those we meet, as well as the dangers that may cross our paths. Only those who have never experienced light live content in the dark.
The Bible speaks of a darkness that is able to pervade the mind of believers choosing to follow their own sinful urges and reasoning and living secret lives of sin. They can never be happy living in the dark, and can never pretend they do not know the danger that lurks there. To have light and then deliberately turn from it is to put them in great spiritual peril. As unbelievers, we lived oblivious to danger in utter spiritual darkness. Now as God’s children, we see the danger and are urged to live in the light of God’s Word, lest we stumble and fall in the darkness that is all around us. The Bible says, “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).
God calls every one of His children out of spiritual darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). Darkness may prevail around us, but in the beam of God’s light, our path is illuminated, and we see with perfect clarity. David said, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Those who follow Christ have abundant light to illuminate their way, for Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Most sexual sins are committed in the context of some kind of secrecy and/or deception, or what the Bible refers to as darkness. This is why those engaging in sinful behavior want to hide portions of their lives. They carefully conceal the true content of their private e-mail accounts, their private thoughts, or their private TV viewing for a reason. They do not want to be exposed. Great emotional energy is spent hiding and pretending. Jesus is not welcome in every corner of their hearts and lives because not every corner of their hearts is clean. But oh! What a difference walking in the light of truth makes!
Those willing to expose every corner of their lives and hearts to the purifying light of God’s Word find freedom from dishonesty. How liberating it is to live in the light—in complete honesty, not having to hide anything at all. No wonder believers are warned not to have anything to do with the unfruitful works of darkness. Those things done in the dark, hidden from view, and that cater to men’s sinful flesh bring nothing but darkness into our lives. So we are told to reprove them, avoid them, and walk instead in the light of God’s fellowship, in obedience to God’s Word (Ephesians 5:11).
To live in sin is to live in darkness, apart from Christ, for one cannot enjoy the presence of God in the dark. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all! It is impossible to embrace sin and refuse to do battle with it and at the same time fellowship with Christ. The believer who claims she loves God while she loves and hides sin is deceiving herself. The Bible says, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). Christ will not share a believer’s heart with anyone or anything. He wants the entire believer—every single corner—not just what other people see.
While some wish never to be discovered, there are others who are tired of hiding and secretly wish someone would discover them and help them. This is dangerous, because they often “push the envelope,” hoping and expecting some caring person will see how desperate they are and come to their rescue. When they do not, great hopelessness and sorrow follow. This behavior mirrors what we did as children and how we tested the boundaries, love, and level of involvement or commitment of our parents. But it is a sinful manipulation, not a “cry for help,” and will lead to great disappointment and disillusionment when people do not respond in the way they desire. Rather than looking to people or “crying out” in immature ways, the people who are tired of running and hiding need to cry out to Christ and look to Him for that way of escape that has been promised to all children of God (1 Corinthians 10:13). Although people may certainly be a great help and evidence of God’s provision, the believers’ expectations ought NEVER to be in people, but in Christ alone. “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him” (Psalm 62:5).
The way out
The way out of the dark is to leave it and move toward the flicker of light you see in the distance. Only believers can cry, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me” (Micah 7:8). Our God is plentiful in mercy and ready to forgive all who come to Him exposing their sins to the light, confessing them, and seeking His forgiveness. David assures us, “Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous” (Psalm 112:4).
The world uses the word “addicted” to describe one physically or mentally dependent upon drugs or other compelling habits. The Bible describes this as bondage to sin or being enslaved by sin. Any sin repeated often enough has the potential of becoming a powerful habit that intertwines one’s life with a tenacious grip. Even without a physical dependence, habits can become so powerful and so embedded in a person’s behavior that they seem to control him against his will. The Bible describes one controlled by his sin as being in bondage to it. Whatever overcomes him and controls him does enslave him, Peter said (2 Peter 2:19).
One who is enslaved to her sin wants to retain access to the sin, even while she acknowledges it as sin, and even though she wishes its grip on her were dissolved. Although the sin causes guilt and sorrow, still she loves it and does not want to give it up completely. She might set it aside, but she does not want it out of her reach, in the event she might want to indulge in it again. This frame of mind is what the Bible refers to as being “double-minded.” A double-minded person wants to “straddle the fence” and hang on to sin with one hand and Christ with the other. Double-mindedness is evidence of worldly sorrow, not genuine, God-given repentance. It is a solution that insures continued enslavement with sporadic periods of abstinence. The only thing that frees anyone from the bondage of sin is repentance toward the Lord Jesus Christ and dependence upon Him. A true change of heart is impossible apart from a wholehearted commitment of one’s entire life to Christ.
What does godly repentance look like? Paul describes it in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 as something that produces not only a change of mind, but a change in behavior. Godly repentance includes:
- Admitting honestly of committing the sin
- confessing the sin to the Lord and others affected by it
- humbling ourselves before God in prayer
- seeking from the Holy Spirit a heart of God-given sorrow for grieving our Savior’s heart
- asking for protection from the sinful trap of secret double-mindedness about the sin (James 1:5-8)
- praying for a hatred of the sin
- praying for the grace to flee from it
- beseeching our merciful Father in heaven for a fervent love of the righteous alternative to the sin(s)
- asking with a contrite heart for forgiveness
- asking Him to protect our hearts from succumbing to that same temptation
Double-mindedness and worldly sorrow without genuine repentance are two big reasons many Christian women “struggle” with but never overcome their sexual sins. Another cause for failure is the false notion that repentance will immediately free them from any further desire to sin again. When the impulse and temptation to repeat the sin arises, these women mistakenly see it as utter failure and often give in to temptation in despair. It is like a boxer quitting the fight because he lost a round. The fact is, a boxer can lose many rounds, get knocked down, beaten and battered, and still win the fight. Those involved in the tenacious habits connected to pornography and sexual sins must prepare themselves to fight to the death and never quit. May the words of Solomon ring in their ears, “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again . . .” (Proverbs 24:16).
Some quit because the battle seems too great, while others give up because they do not always want to engage in the rigors of battle. Many want an easy path to freedom not requiring them to deny themselves or exert effort. If they can have freedom without self-denial or hard work, they will embrace it. But they do not like the idea of denying themselves something for which their sinful human flesh is screaming. Still others fail because they insist they can “conquer it alone,” and do not understand how tenacious these sins are, or how much they need to enlist the help of another mature believer who is able to provide accountability, encouragement, prayer, and confrontation when necessary. The secrecy that locks people into sexual sins must be expelled with openness and transparency. Enlisting help is like pouring cold water on a fire and is God’s provision for victory and healing (see James 5:16).
Until one who is enslaved recognizes the deceptions and misconceptions of her own heart, she will tend to put up a half-hearted fight without any real commitment to following Christ wholeheartedly or any sustained effort to discipline her thoughts and life. This is understandable for one who does not know Christ nor has any hope of heaven, but for a believer who knows and experiences the love and forgiveness of Christ, it is particularly egregious. The ways of the world, the devil, and a sinful human nature are a believer’s mortal enemies. Why then would a believer want to retain any kind of friendship or connection with them? The Scriptures ask, “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements [the world’s principles or ways], whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” (Galatians 4:9)
Notice the key action word in the following statement recorded in Romans 3:17-18, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” Paul was commending Christians who “obeyed from the heart” God’s Word. The result was that they were freed from the power of sin and were actively engaged in using their energies to serve Christ rather than serve their flesh. Jesus said to believers, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). The condition to freedom from sin in both instances depended upon a willing obedience to God’s truth, which is contained in God’s Word.
It is important to remember that it is not sufficient to “put off” an iniquity, but that there must also be a hand-in-hand “put(ting) on” of the opposite righteous behavior (Ephesians 4:20-24) if one is to overcome any significant besetting sin. Prayer alone does not release one enslaved to habits rooted so deeply within his heart. Just as necessary as prayer is repentance, so is accountability, a deliberate daily walk with God, restructuring of one’s thought life, restructuring one’s daily routines, a willingness to get rid of anything that elicits temptation, and a deliberate effort to replace every sinful thought or action with its opposite righteous counterpart. Any thought or activity serving as a prompt to indulge in sexual sin must be thoroughly rooted out and changed, not just stopped. One must always remember that spiritual fruit and purity of heart is produced as he daily repents of sin, change his mind, and redirects his thoughts and actions in ways that conform to God’s Word. Paul assures the believer who does so by saying, “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Romans 6:22).
Christians’ battle cries need to echo those famous words of Winston Churchill—“Never, Never, Never, NEVER give up!” Pick up the Christians’ shield of faith, the sword of the Word, and the commands of the Captain, and FIGHT! Christians fighting in the name and strength of the Lord will win the battle. Those diligently learning how to walk in the Spirit will not fulfill the lusts (sinful human desires) of the flesh according to Galatians 5:16-17. Victory is assured to those who will keep their focus on walking with God, daily seeking Him in His Word, and daily committing themselves to obey whatever He calls them to do. There is a wonderful promise for believers seeking the Lord in Psalm 37:23-24, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.”
The invasive influence of our sexually obsessed culture on the lives of professing believers makes vigilance crucial, lest they be sucked into its downward current and discouraged. The words of the Apostle Paul to the believers who lived in Corinth are especially apropos, given the notoriety of that city for its blatant sexual immorality, namely, his declaration that those believers were once fornicators, adulterers, idolaters, effeminate . . . but . . . are “washed, but are . . . sanctified, but are . . . justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Remember, it is the Lord Jesus Christ who is the source of light that guides believers along on their journey and illuminates their way. Flee the darkness and follow God’s light! There is hope! “For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness” (Psalm 18:28).
Last Updated (Tuesday, 01 June 2010 13:59)