By Bob Bevington | First Published: February 26, 2016
Bob Bevington is author of Good News About Satan: A Gospel Look at Spiritual Warfare. He offers a half-day workshop for men titled Our Battle With Porn: Four Life-Changing Strategies.
If someone you know … has installed porn blockers on his computer—and yet continues to find ways to gain access to porn, please tell him there is still hope.
If someone you know … is committed to accountability—and yet continues to secretly fall when tempted, please tell her it is still possible to walk in the light.
If someone you know ... has made the decision to quit porn a thousand times—and yet continues to engage in it, please tell him there is still a path to lasting freedom.
If that someone you know is you, please draw near as I share my story.
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I was 24 years old and married for two years when I began to feel drawn to pornography every time I became frustrated or bored. Before long, I was solidly hooked on a secret, self-centered, shameful and seemingly irresistible habit.
For the next several years I wrestled against porn addiction with all my might. But I lost every battle because my white-knuckle willpower eventually proved no match for my desire for the passing pleasures of porn. In my early 30s I simply gave up and gave in—for an entire decade. It was a decade that ended in the shattering of my family.
Eighteen years have since passed, and much has changed. Looking back, I can now identify three distinct phases of my journey from addiction to freedom.
1. RECEIVING HIS GRACIOUS DELIVERANCE.
Back in my 30s, whenever I became aware of temptation building, I believed I would eventually have to give in. But one day God sent a single verse of Scripture to expose this belief as an absolute lie:
“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).
What a monumental truth! In Christ I am completely free from the law that said I have to sin. From that point on, as temptation would build, I could truly respond by saying, No, I don’t have to. It was a response that became my new habit. Eventually I applied this approach without even thinking. Before long it felt like I wasn’t even being tempted. This went on for several years.
I did not understand it at the time, but I had been delivered. Deliverance is monergistic; that is, we are nearly passive in receiving freedom because God provides all the power. For a profound example of monergistic deliverance, read Ezekiel 36:22-32 and count the number of times God says “I will” as He changes our lives at the core of our being.
Think of the children of Israel, their backs to the sea, being charged at by Pharaoh’s army. Where did the power come from to part the waters? Not from them. No white-knuckle willpower there. They walked through, turned around and watched their enemy get destroyed. They never lifted a finger. We, too, can be set free from our enemies, including sin (see John 8:34-36, Romans 7:23-25, 11:26-27). God can and does deliver people from addictions.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructed us to pray, “Deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). Again, we don’t bring about our own deliverance, and Jesus invites us to ask the Father for it. If you are captive to porn, why not do this on a daily basis?
2. EMPLOYING HIS GENEROUS PROVISION.
After several years of freedom, I gradually felt the old, familiar temptations return. And eventually I was shocked to find myself giving in to them again. I should not have been surprised. “For God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
When a person is delivered, the Deliverer should get all the glory—but I had gradually begun to take the credit for my freedom. So the Lord mercifully let me fall flat on my face, and I was forced to take a new approach, a synergistic struggle.
By synergistic, I do not mean 50-50. Ours is a qualified synergism in which we are 100 percent dependent on God’s enabling power, and, at the same time, 100 percent responsible to apply effort by faith (see, for example, Colossians 1:29, Philippians 2:12-13 and Psalm 127:1).
After their extraordinary deliverance, the children of Israel found themselves engaged on many battlefields. They learned to humbly depend on the power of God to defeat their enemies. Likewise, I had to learn to shift my dependency off of myself and onto a source of strength outside of myself—the enabling power of God.
I learned to use the tools He provided—including porn blockers and accountability. But man-centered tools did not return me to freedom. Freedom came as I placed my faith in the triune God alone, expressing my dependency on Him through prayer (including prayer for deliverance) based on the promises of His Word. And throughout it all, I learned to be ever on my guard against pride.
3. PRACTICING HIS GLORIOUS PRESENCE.
When the children of Israel sincerely focused on the Shekinah—the manifest presence of the glory of God—do you think they simultaneously engaged in sexual sin? Probably not. Likewise, I discovered I am not inclined to enter into sexual temptation—or even embrace an impure thought—when I maintain a conscious awareness of the presence and the glory of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 4:6).
It’s a fact—the infinitely glorious Jesus Christ is unavoidably close at all times. And meditating on Him is changing me at a deeper level than I ever thought possible in this life. Old neurological pathways are being eroded away as my previous sinful thought patterns remain unused.
Practicing His glorious presence has also made me painfully aware of how very far I am from completely thinking, speaking and behaving in accordance with the monumental truth that the all-glorious Christ is with me and in me (2 Corinthians 13:5; John 15:5, 17:23, 26; Romans 8:10; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27, 3:11). But it’s a truth I intend to cling to until the moment I see Him face to face. That will be the most transformative of all moments (see 1 John 3:2-3).
As I’ve interacted with hundreds of men about this subject over the years, I do not think these keys necessarily come in any particular order. But seeking deliverance, shifting your dependence to God’s enabling power and practicing the presence of the all-glorious Son of God can be three significant keys to freedom.
And when freedom comes, don’t forget, Soli Deo Gloria: glory to the triune God alone! D ©2014 BOB BEVINGTON
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS ARE TAKEN FROM THE HOLY BIBLE, ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION.