This article is part of the Open Letters series.
What do you do when you are still struggling? What do you do when repeated failure, guilt, and shame weigh heavily on your conscience?
Let me begin with a story about a friend of mine. He had come to faith in Christ when he was in his late twenties. As they say, “He had history. He came with baggage.” I’ve never forgotten the way he described his life at the point when Jesus reached him. “If you divided my mental day into a thousand moments, nine hundred of those moments were immoral. I simply lived in a world of immoral images and desires and pursuits and behaviors.” His entire life was steeped in polyamorous, bisexual immorality.
Did his newfound faith immediately bring about a complete change? You know the answer: of course not. But his way of describing the process was particularly vivid. “It wasn’t as though I went from nine hundred immoral moments down to zero. But nine hundred went to seven hundred. And seven hundred became five hundred, and five hundred became two hundred, and so on. It was very hard to think that seven hundred out of a thousand meant progress! But it was. It was huge progress, and even though I was still failing, Christ was changing me.”
Jesus knows the kinds of people he has chosen to save.
He grew. Eventually, by the time I knew him, he was significantly changed—but still not perfect. And he lived with a daily awareness that, “I’m still vulnerable in the area of sexual temptations. I can never think I’m home free and will never struggle.” But he had entered into the long walk of discipleship, the patient, persistent obedience in the right direction, walking under the mercy of the Lord.
What sustained him for ups and downs of the long walk? I’ve never forgotten his words. “Early on I learned something that I’ve never forgotten. I had to presume that Christ loved me. Jesus knew the kind of person he had chosen to forgive and save. He who had begun a good work in me was committed to one day bring me to completion. I relied on the fact that his mercies for me truly are new every morning—I lived in that promise of Lamentations 3:22–24.” Christ’s love for him was the given on which his life depended. He could daily seek Christ’s mercies for what he needed that day: forgiveness from the Lamb, strength from the King, protection in the Refuge, guidance under the Shepherd’s hand.
Step by step by step by step he was moving toward the light. His long, hard fight was wrapped up in the mercy of Christ to him. It is the same for all of us, whatever our particular struggle—sexual immorality, anger and bitterness, fears, addictions, self-righteousness. Jesus knows the kinds of people he has chosen to save. We can seek him, and we will find him true and good for the long haul. My friend was honest, no secrets before God. He was honest to confess where and when he struggled. He was honest with friends, who helped him to seek and find the God who promises many mercies. He was honest in asking help from other people: accountability and prayer, counsel and conversation with brothers. He rebuilt a life that had good in it. He learned to treat both men and women as holy brothers and sisters, rather than as sexual objects.
Here’s an old metaphor about how a Christian fights against darkness. Envision your mind as a room. When sin reigns, that room is filled with dark thoughts, dark actions, and deceptive people who mean you no good. So how do you get darkness out of the room? There are two ways that you fight. First, you stand up to the darkness, expelling it from the room, learning to directly say no to evil. And second, you fight the darkness by filling the room with light. There’s no room for the darkness when the room is filled with worthy actions, true thoughts, and constructive people. When Christ enters the room, he is patiently committed to teach us to say no to what is wrong and yes to what is merciful and good. My friend began to care for other people, rather than using them as objects of his lust.
One of the actions that proved most helpful to him was getting involved in discipline teenage boys. (Pedophilia was not one of the sins he had indulged in.) They were entering adolescence and puberty in a hypersexualized world. At the same age that evil had trapped him, he could help to protect them from going down a self-destructive path. Serving others in need also helped him by filling the room with light so there was less room for darkness. In a sense, they were helping him as much as he was helping them.
Christ comes with mercy for people who know their sins. His mercy leads to doing simple things that consistently head in the right direction. Do you feel discouraged and defeated by your struggle? Don’t let anyone kid you that there’s some magic answer and somehow you missed it. There are no magic answers. But a Person full of light is willing to walk with you in the direction of the light. He is willing to walk with you the whole way home.
Hello Daniel I hope this finds you doing well!
Thank you so much for thinking of me, I wanted to write an email of encouragement for you and your guys.
The first thing I want to say is well done! Getting into a group of honest men, all focused on overcoming the things of the past and becoming a victor not a victim!
Having a community is so important and surrounding yourself with like minded people brings about the accountability and encouragement you need to overcome.
Pursuing Jesus above all is the greatest honor I have ever had in my life, it has given me peace, given me strength and brought clarity to my life when i was confused, lost and without identity.
You see I was exposed to pornography at the age of 6 years old and from that moment it planted a seed in me that would hold me in bondage for another 20 years.
It intensified throughout highschool and into college and trickled over into post college. It became my crutch to feeling something and escaping from reality. It had my mind consumed and my body having complete control over me.
It wasn’t until I rededicated my life to Jesus, that I started to have clarity in who I was, how valuable women are, and how freedom truly felt and how bondage can be lifted in an instant.
I can tell you that after I rededicated my life to Jesus the temptation went away. And I can stand here today being porn free and having peace and freedom only Jesus can give.
I decided at that moment that I was going to choose to pursue Jesus over everything else and learning that God didn’t create us for our bodies to control us. He created us so that we can control our bodies.
You see I used to feel helpless and entrapped in my habits and emotions. I believed the lie that what my body feels is truth and i am only following what is true.
But as the Lord has shown me and by the power of his Holy Spirit I have learned that I am more than a conqueror and the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding will guard my HEART and MIND.
When I allow God to be the center of my heart he protects me, he leads me and he restores me. This is available to every human being on earth.
God is no respecter of persons and he wishes no one to perish but all to come to the knowledge of the truth.
So wherever you are today, know this, when you CHOOSE to follow Jesus he will always lead you to the freedom only his children have access too.
No matter how you are feeling right now, what you have struggled with or are continuing to struggle with Jesus is right there willing to step in for you.
Repent of that action, put on the full armour of God and walk in the authority Jesus died on the cross for.
We have the greatest helper on this earth, the Holy Spirit. He will guide you, he will convict you and he will help you overcome.
The future of your family depends on it, the future of your freedom depends on it and your testimony to help lead others to freedom requires it.
Stand tall, fight for yourself and know the God of the universe is walking with you!
WHOM THE SON SETS FREE IS FREE INDEED
Written by Joe Dallas, Originally posted at joedallas.com Used with permission 
Day has begun and I’m already sinning Help me to change this heart that I have Lord, help me taste of the grace that You’re giving. I want to be a spiritual man. “Let the Old Man Die” lyrics by Chuck Butler
Every one of us struggles with something. Some of us relapse into that “something.” Afterwards, how we handle the relapse will have a lot to do with our future successes or failures.
To struggle is to have temptations, sometimes towards one particular life-dominating sin. You knew the type. It’s usually some bodily pleasure that we’ve discovered, then returned to, and then, after years of repetition, we’ve established as a pattern.
Overeating, porn, smoking, gambling, and drug abuse are all pretty good examples. What we discover we incorporate, and what we incorporate becomes predictable – a regular, often destructive part of our routine.
Predictable, that is, until God puts His finger on that part of your life. That’s when He calls you to repentance, and when that happens, a new standard gets birthed.
Suddenly, what you used to allow is unacceptable, and abstaining from that “something” is a new mandate. New standards of what we do or don’t allow are sure to follow anytime we say “yes” when God says “this has to go.” That’s part of discipleship living.
But to say “God has called me to stop doing this” is also a way of saying “I’m committed to resisting the desire to keep on doing it.” Sometimes the desire is resisted successfully; sometimes not. And that opens up the possibility
Relapse happens when you return to a behavior you renounced. It’s often called “breaking sobriety” because it means you broke a commitment to abstain from something addictive; some would also call it a backslide. But whatever name the relapse rose goes by it smells just as bad, and is a thing to be avoided, guarded against, but also prepared for. It’s somewhat like John’s interesting statement about sin:
These things I write unto you that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. I John 2:1
Clearly John wasn’t saying it’s OK to sin. But he was saying that if you do, you have an advocate. Likewise, when you commit to abstaining from porn, fornication, drunkenness or gluttony, you don’t by any means have to relapse. You can stay clean; there’s no reason to return to those behaviors.
But if you do, you have an advocate with the Father who will cleanse and restore you. In that vein, let me offer a few immediate steps to take if, God forbid, you should relapse.
Decide now who’d you’d call if you relapsed. In most cases an accountability partner is your best bet (and if you’re committed to abstaining from an addictive behavior, then an accountability partner really is a must!) since he works with you weekly and you’re probably in regular contact with him.
But a trusted friend or member of your church will also be a good choice, or perhaps a pastor or counselor. What matters is that you know who to call and what number to use, and that you call him immediately. Tell him you relapsed, and that you’ll need his prayers and support. If you have a severe crises situation, meet with him ASAP.
With the help of whoever you notify, figure out what went wrong. Usually people relapse because they slacked off on their prayer life, scripture reading, fellowship or accountability.
But there may be other reasons, so spend time exploring what you were doing before the relapse, what you could have done differently, and what you’ll do differently in the future to prevent this from happening again. Human error is a terrific textbook, so you may as well use it.
3. Move It!
Get back on the saddle immediately, because you’ll accomplish nothing by wallowing in grief over your relapse, and there’s no reason to delay beginning again. If you refuse to start over, you’re yielding to a more severe, deadlier sin than relapse: despair. Sin is something you can repent of, but despair? Yield to that, and you’re really finished.
Don’t be. Relapse is a temporary set-back; despair is the end.
You’re protecting a treasure when you guard your purity, so apply yourself to its longevity the way you’d protect a valuable antique or piece of jewelry. Recognizing its worth, you work both to keep it, and keep it in its best possible shape.
The freedom of godliness, likewise, is a purposeful, challenging, exciting way to live, and keeping the ball in play is worth all the blood, sweat and tears a committed athlete has to shed.
So move ahead today in the power of gratitude for God’s grace, and let it manifest in the smallest and largest areas of your life.
Written by Joe Dallas, Originally posted at joedallas.com Used with permission 
“I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell the truth, I tell what ought to be truth. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it!” – from A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
The power of porn may not just be its explicit content. It may also be its capacity to take the viewer into another world.
Porn’s a place where bodies and people are perfect, where imaginary lovers comply with every wish, and where the scene created perfectly matches the deepest desires of the viewer. It’s a perfect and perfectly destructive world, and it’s the stuff both horror and heartbreak are made of.
Life on My Own Terms
Novelist Ira Levin tapped into the horror of it in his fantasy drama The Stepford Wives, a dark essay on chauvinism in which a New England town is inhabited by men who’ve perfected the art of re-creating their wives into compliant, flawless and utterly lifeless beings who live only to please
The procedure involves creating a replication of the wife looking and behaving exactly as she does minus anything the husband dislikes. Then the wife is killed, of course, to make room for her new and improved model. When the main character in the story discovers Stepford’s secret, she asks the leader of the town the obvious question: Why?
His answer is chilling in its simplicity.
“Because we can. If we can have you any way we want, why should we settle for you as you are?”
There’s the horror of married men and porn – that a man would betray the real woman who loves him so that he can indulge in a phantom figure that doesn’t even know him.
But there’s heartache along with the horror, lying in the number of men who’ve gotten hooked on the Stepford Syndrome, taking time, focus and sexual energy away from their wives and investing it in images that are perfect, exciting, and utterly unreal. CS Lewis described the issue decades ago when he wrote:
For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete his own personality in that of another and turns it back; sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides.
And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman can rival.
Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself.
Mirage, Not Marriage
Ironically, however convenient it may be to skip the efforts involved in normal intimacy and instead settle for the cheap substitute of these ‘shadowy brides,’ the fact remains that the genuine needs of the soul cannot be met by Stepford Women. They offer no emotional support, provide no reliable nurturing, and have no partnering capacities whatsoever. Like the junk food some people eat in hopes of meeting their hunger needs, they supply a quick rush with no follow through, leaving the consumer hungry for more of what didn’t satisfy to begin with.
The husband using porn is ripping off both his spouse and himself.
Plenty of men have realized that, repented, and stayed on course. On the one hand, that’s something to cheer about. On the other, let’s look at it in light of what Christians in other nations, and other times, have suffered for the gospel, Saying no to porn is the right thing to do, but please don’t confuse it with martyrdom.
So when images beckon from all sides, and when memory of a quick pleasure derived from porn conveniently omits the aftermath of shame and hurt, I hope we’ll remember the real love and support that outweighs and outdoes the unreal hands down, slam dunk. With that in mind, we can consistently and resoundingly say No to the unreal and Hallelujah! for the real.
I love hearing the highlights of people’s lives, vacations, weekends, or even workdays. They are insights into people’s unique passions, joys, and personalities. In my two years traveling with Josh McDowell as his assistant, I experienced quite a few highlights.
But one event, in particular, still stands out to me: the Set Free Conference. There is an epidemic in the church today, and it all revolves around pornography.
Global Initiative to Expose Porn Addiction
Set Free, an initiative launched by Josh to educate, start conversation, and de-shame porn addiction, focused on a few major themes: What is pornography? What are its associated problems, consequences, and solutions? A global initiative, Set Free Conferences have been held in the U.S., Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, and Singapore; attendees have heard from top speakers such as Dr. Donald Hilton, Jessica Harris, Ben Bennett, and Josh McDowell.
Why was Set Free the highlight of this two-year period? Because of the needed global conversation about the pornography epidemic — but also because of the response from attendees.
I’ve watched empowered pastors share excitement and become eager to teach what they’ve learned. I’ve seen moms and dads finally be able to understand their child’s struggle with porn. I’ve seen community leaders get fired up about starting recovery groups. And I’ve seen wounded, broken, humble people openly confess, through pouring tears, the porn addictions that have torn their lives apart.
The first two sections of the Set Free Conference were hard-hitters: the problem of porn, and its consequences. As attendees heard the mind-boggling stats and gut-wrenching repercussions, they were glued to the edge of their seats. As they learned that porn is the number one problem in the Church — globally — their reactions ranged from shock and anger to utter despair.
When we find the courage to talk about that which we deem to be dirty and uncomfortable, shame can be broken, movements can be started, and people can take the initial steps towards freedom.
The Problem of Porn
Our culture is so sexually saturated that porn is now included in top-selling books, advertising, and social media. We don’t even realize how many pornographic images we are exposed to daily, without our even trying to see them.
Christians are just as tempted as non-believers to view porn, which is why pastor Charles R. Swindoll has called pornography the greatest cancer in the history of the Church. As Josh adds, “It’s available, accessible, affordable, anonymous, appealing, aggressive, and addictive.” Porn is affecting the majority of families in every church around the globe. This epidemic is destroying families; it’s now the root cause of 56 percent of divorces.
So what is pornography? A general description is that it’s “that which is designed to arouse or sexually excite.” Porn is not juvenile and harmless, like too many people generally think. It is hardcore, graphic, and disgusting.
Porn addiction is biological, relational, and spiritual. Solutions must address each aspect for us to gain freedom.
Why is it an epidemic? I’ll share my personal experience. As I told readers in my last post, I have battled an addiction to porn that started well before my teens. I know how porn addiction distorts every part of a person’s life. I know the tangible consequences of the degradation of human life. I know the misery of living an isolated and disconnected life, and the hopelessness of addiction.
The reach of the porn industry is mind-boggling. One study found that porn sites receive more regular traffic than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined each month. Porn now accounts for a third of all Internet traffic! More than 91 percent of men and 60 percent of women have reported consuming pornography in the past month.
But a lot of those viewers are young people, who got exposed to porn as early as eight years old! It’s just too easy to stumble on it on both cell phones and computers. In sharing my own story of woundedness, addiction, and journey toward freedom at the Set Free Conference, I’ve seen just how many young males — and increasingly young females — are struggling with addiction to porn.
This breaks Josh’s heart; this crippling addiction is not what God intends for us. Josh has spent the past decade researching the problem, consequences, and solutions to pornography. Here are just a few startling statistics:
- 79 percent of men and 76 percent of women, ages 18-30, view pornography at least once a month.
- 64 percent of young people, ages 13-24, actively seek out pornography.
- 57 percent of pastors admit they struggle with porn.
- 60-72 percent of men and 24-30 percent of women in the Church are sex addicts.
What these stats show is that our society has normalized porn. Research shows that teens and young adults consider failing to recycle more immoral than viewing pornography!
The Consequences of Porn
There’s a reason that sexual immorality is talked about so frequently in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”
The consequences that pornography yields dismantle a person’s biological, spiritual, and relational self. Biologically, it rewires our brains, creating a lack of control, chemical dependency, and desensitization. Spiritually, it disconnects us from God. Isaiah 59:2 states that our iniquities have caused separation between us and God; that our sins have hidden His face from us. Viewing pornography is rooted in our lust and sexual immorality; it is adultery. It is sin, plain and simple.
In Ephesians 4:17-19, we can read that giving ourselves over to sensuality cuts us off from the life of God. Relationally, pornography causes guilt, shame, and isolation. When we isolate, we cut ourselves off from one of God’s greatest gifts, our brothers and sisters in Christ. One of the consequences of the epidemic of pornography is that it leads to a skewed perspective of how to treat others.
Pornography causes the belief that:
- It’s okay to use, abuse, or mistreat others for self-gratification.
- It’s okay to view and participate in the use, mistreatment, or abuse of a person.
- People can treat others with indifference.
- Pleasure guides principle, meaning sexual passion trumps moral objectives.
- A demonstrated lack of empathy toward others.
- Decreased interest in and/or declining performance in school and extracurricular activities.
- Sexual aggression, incest, and age-inappropriate relationships.
- Concentration problems, low motivation, depression, social anxiety, negative self-perceptions, and erectile dysfunction.
Sexual abuse is always a hot topic in the media. But it’s interesting to note how infrequently porn is cited as the source motivating that abuse. Check out the Porn Epidemic’s chapter on sexual harassment to learn more about sexual abuse and its tie to pornography.
Coming face-to-face with the reality of our sin should lead us not into isolation, but to the feet of our Heavenly Father. The weight of our sin is heavy, too heavy to bear alone. It is so easy to be caught up in the magnitude of this epidemic and lose hope. I have done so many times.
But the truth is, there is hope. 1 Peter 2:24 offers us good news: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
It is easy to become discouraged in the shadow of a giant, but we can’t forget that we know the end of the story. Christ, the Son of God, took the form of a man to take our sins upon Himself. He died, but triumphantly rose to reunite us with our Heavenly Father. He offers us forgiveness and healing, if we are willing to place our trust and faith in Him. With His help, we can conquer any sin.
Hope motivated all the Set Free attendees who confessed their addiction for the first time. And there is hope in the midst of your child’s addition, your personal addiction, or those of your friends.
Porn is currently an epidemic. But no problem is bigger than God. I have hope in the power of His healing the world. Because I’ve witnessed it and experienced it. Have hope!
Want to learn more?
For two years I traveled with Josh McDowell, helping to wake people up to the fact that pornography has become an epidemic in America — despite the fact that few seem to recognize the problem.
I know first-hand the devastation it causes, and how easy it is to become addicted and enslaved by shame. Here’s a bit of my story.
My Early Intro to Porn
I remember the moment like it was yesterday. I walked into the room at our youth group’s winter camp, only to be greeted by the tears of a good friend. It was sixth grade and I was 12 years old. He blurted, “I need to tell you something.” Before I knew it, he was spilling out a story all too familiar to my own: his deep struggle with pornography. I sat, shocked, as guilt and an enormous conviction flooded my soul.
I was first exposed to porn at just nine years old, but curiosity led me to seek it out when I was eleven. That unwise decision birthed an 11-year addiction that devastated that period of my life. For almost a decade, pornography became my source of intimacy, gratification, and acceptance.
When I was lonely, porn was my comfort. When I felt like a failure, porn gratified. When I felt like I was worthless, porn gave me a sense of worth.
My desire to be fully known and loved began to be satisfied by this counterfeit source. Porn was an escape into a pleasure-soaked world. I soon became emotionally withdrawn from family and friends, as shame and isolation grew within me.
Hiding My Shame
At church I was the pastor’s son; I looked like I had it all together. I learned all the right answers and how to perform for others’ acceptance. Opportunities arose for me to lead worship, small groups in my youth group, and even speak. Mentors and friends encouraged and complimented me, but their uplifting words filtered through my shame, diving me deeper into desolation.
I lied, ran, and hid in moments of vulnerability. Honestly, my life looked good, but the unrest of my double life tore me apart.
I heard at church and Christian seminars that if I confessed my sin to Jesus, and developed accountability with the guys around me, I would find freedom from my addiction. I tried this for years, confessing my sins over and over again with accountability that failed. This traumatizing cycle of guilt, confession, short periods of change, and relapse continued throughout my addiction.
As I repeatedly failed, the guilt of my failure moved to shame when I viewed myself as the failure. Rock bottom was a rude awakening in my junior year of college.
I had lost hope and was deeply depressed. Failure, worthlessness, and shame consumed my thoughts as I tried to keep my act together. On the morning of March 28, 2017, I finally reached out to the two people that I knew loved and cared about me more than anyone else, my parents.
I called home and confessed. And in that moment I experienced pure grace.
My parents spoke worth into who I was as a child of God — and as their son. That morning launched my process of finding health: cutting the supply of pornography, true repentance, true accountability, and counseling.
Finding healing has been one of the hardest journeys of my life. I struggle to use the term “freedom” because I struggle to believe that we can find true freedom from sin here on earth. That full freedom is what we look forward to when we are reunited with our Creator.
But I can say that I have found a new level of health, which consists of a life of no secrets, intimacy with God, processing emotions, and reaching out in relationships.
Do I still watch porn? No. But am I truly free? No. Because porn is not just a problem, it is a medication for an underlying problem.
We all medicate with something when we have desires that go unmet. Instead of healthily going to God and the people around me to be loved and known, fear drove me to a counterfeit. Through counseling, I realized that I was not just dealing with an addiction to pornography, but wounds of my past. Porn addicts are not perverts; they are hurting and looking for love, acceptance, and gratification in the wrong place. As my friend Ben Bennett says, “Unmet desires lead to unwanted behaviors.”
Leaning on Christ
There is much pain in my story. But that pain is nothing compared to the deep love of Christ. I can sit here today with the strong conviction that I am a beloved child of God, with immense worth to my Creator. That is cause to celebrate! Nothing compares to my intimacy with the Lord and the people around me. I hold strong to these two verses that my parents shared with me the morning I confessed my addiction:
John 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Pornography is wrecking our nation, our churches, our families, and us as individuals. It is undermining the very groundwork God put in place for people to relate in healthy intimacy. The global stats of this struggle are overwhelming, but there is hope, starting with the Church choosing to deal with this struggle directly.
As the Church, the bride of Christ, let’s start talking. Let’s normalize the topic of sexual addiction, which has been taboo for too long in the Church. Until we are willing to talk about this openly and compassionately, porn addicts will continue to hide in their shame.
I ask you: Is it the purpose of the Church to condemn — or to help lead captives to freedom? I believe Jesus came to show us that it’s the latter.