24 Jan 2018
It’s pretty well established that pornography impacts the way men view women, even in the way they treat them non-sexually. But for one man, the impact of pornography on his mind and heart started as a young boy stealing glances at his father’s porn stash. This wasn’t harmless activity; it caused confusion that lasted well into adulthood and his own marriage.
Click here to read more on what Bob is saying on his blog: ‘Coming to Grips with how Porn has Damaged My View of Women.”
I was born two years before the first issue of Playboy premiered, and when I was only six years old, I found some Playboy magazines in my father’s night table next to his bed. I stumbled across them quite innocently enough. Looking back, it was nothing like the porn I looked at as an adult. But it was porn, and I do remember being impacted by the images of naked women.
As a boy of only six, I felt strange sensations looking at the women sprawled across the pages. Feeling excited but also feeling guilty, knowing, somehow, I was looking at something I shouldn’t have. In my young heart and mind, I intended on coming back for more looks because of the good feeling, but I felt compelled to sneak because of the guilty feelings. Later, I discovered that my father had many ingenious places to hide these magazines around the house, but I’m pretty sure I found them all.
Each month I would look forward to new magazines showing up in different hidden places. This was a little private adventure in my life that I never told anyone about. You see, the sexual revolution had just started (thanks to publications like Playboy) and back then people were not openly talking about pornography and masturbation.
So I kept my behavior to myself thinking I was quite alone in what I was experiencing. I also had a tough time processing information I heard about masturbation. I connected it so much with my shameful sneaking that I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing what I was doing.
The point here is this: something happened to me. The images I was too young to process impacted my soul. Some sort of damage occurred. That is why I liken aspects of that experience to being molested. The women in the photos didn’t know how they impacted a six-year-old boy, but that does not make them entirely innocent. This might sound a little overboard for you. But the way I experienced all this felt, in one way, similar to what some people who have been molested have experienced—feeling pleasure and guilt at the same time and ending up confused and conflicted. How was I to think about women after looking at them this way?
If I felt that my experience of looking at porn as a young boy was similar to being molested, then my looking at porn as a grown man was like molesting women. How common is this: the abused becomes the abuser?
But I also had to come to the point of questioning my dad’s behavior and how that confused me. Why did he hide the magazines if they were OK to look at? I didn’t see the magazines laying around other people’s houses. The shame I felt about my inability to process the sexual information I was gathering was huge. I couldn’t get over the idea that normal people probably would go to bed and then go to sleep. I could not do that. I had to do something else first.
Coming to grips with my own personal soul damage was very strategic for me. I certainly believe my indulgence in viewing pornographic images impacted my relationship with women. Among many ways I have disrespected women, speaking to them in a condescending manner is probably top on the list. Dismissing women as too emotional, irrational, and calling them “sweetheart” or “honey” when all I was doing was keeping them in their place. Pretending to listen to them, but all the while trying to catch a glance at certain body parts or saving circumstances in my mind for future fantasies. After all, I could use their body any way I wanted to in my imagination. This is strange behavior for a Christian, I know. But I have come to see that porn taught me to treat women in a more misogynist manner than I probably fully recognize.
And then it hit me. If I felt that my experience of looking at porn as a young boy was similar to being molested, then my looking at porn as a grown man was like molesting women. How common is this: the abused becomes the abuser?
It’s taken me a long time to repent of the way I treat women. I’m still repenting. I have learned that the healing power of the gospel consists in being confronted with the truth of how I have treated others, and repenting as a result. Knowing what I deserve even for a glance (Matt. 5:27-30) can be overwhelming.
But knowing God’s call to repentance goes way down to the depths of your heart. It tears away any pretense of false integrity and assures you that you are really dealing with God. And when you know that the God who made heaven and earth is graciously offering forgiveness and a new start—your heart becomes equipped to change behaviors and attitudes. I needed the healing that only God can provide through what He accomplished in Christ on the cross.
I see it happening with me, and I want to encourage you, men, that it can happen to you. You can treat women as those who are created in God’s image and relate to Christian women as your sisters in Christ. You can go eyeball to eyeball with the women you talk to and not let your mind wander elsewhere. You can care for their hearts, and later you can pray for them.
This is living by faith and not by sight; this is having eyes that are no longer filled with darkness, but rather with light.
Bob talks more about this on his accompanying video: How Did My Porn Habit Damage My View of Women? These short videos can be used as discussion starters in small group settings, mentoring relationships, men’s and women’s groups, etc.
31 Aug 2017
For those who struggle with life-dominating sexual struggles, repenting is something that is hard to do. We resist it. We run from it. Why? Bob Heywood talks about the reasons why it’s so hard — and what the one key thing you need to do to stop resisting.
Click to read Bob’s blog on this: Repentance and Resistance.
31 Aug 2017
Repentance and Resistance
Repentance is a hard thing to talk about. We might have a certain confidence in our ability to articulate what the Bible says about repentance, but when we take an honest look at our repentance, in the light of what we know the Bible teaches, we can become very discouraged. Truth be told, we don’t know what a life of repentance is supposed to look like. When was the last time you talked about it in your home Bible study group? Around your dinner table? With your friends?
Are we modeling repentance in our churches? Jack Miller, the author of Repentance and the 20th Century Man, said that the leaders of the church (pastors, elders, deacons, etc.) should be the lead repenters. In other words, the congregants should know what repentance looks like by observing the lives of their leaders.
How true is that in your church? Martin Luther said, “When Jesus Christ said, ‘Except you repent you will all likewise perish,’ he was not talking about a one-time event but rather a life time of repentance.”
I resist repentance because of my deep sense of shame over my sexual sin. I find it hard to believe God could love a pervert like me.
I think about this subject a lot because the men who come to Harvest USA struggle with the reality of going to church and feeling like they’re the only ones who need to repent.
For them, not only is repentance not modeled well for them, repentance is a hard thing to do. They resist it and believe me, I know what that resistance is like in my own life.
I resist repentance because of my deep sense of shame over my sexual sin. I find it hard to believe God could love a pervert like me. Feeling like a pervert is a shame-based self-identity that sticks to us like tar.
I resist because I feel like I’ve sinned my way past God’s desire to pursue me. I’ve gone too far, I’ve sinned too much. He’s not going to want me anymore.
I resist because I haven’t made myself good enough again for him. I first need to pray more or read the Bible more or tell more people about Jesus. I got work to do.
I resist because I simply can’t believe he would accept me right here and now.
To be honest, I resist God simply because He is God! He is too big for me to take in. Too much holiness for me. Too sovereign for me. He knows too much about me. When the Psalmist says “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (Psa. 139:6), I think to myself, I’m not even going to go there! I resist some more.
These are all lies that shame tells me about myself.
The only way I can do what I need to do—which is to resist those lies!—is to speak truth to myself. Truth about what repentance really is.
And it starts with this truth. You need to first repent of your inability to receive God’s love and grace for you. Let me explain how this first step leads us to freedom and joy.
I believe that faith and repentance are opposite sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other. You obviously need faith and repentance to be saved, and I don’t believe God is asking for two different things. As you begin to believe — you are starting to repent. That’s why if we take an honest look at our faith we can get discouraged. Jesus said, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you” (Luke 17:6).
So this is again what I’m saying to anyone struggling with sexual behavior you can’t seem to stop—you need to first repent of your inability to receive God’s love and grace for you.
I don’t know about you, but when I read this, I realize that I must have very little faith. And while that’s true, here’s a bigger truth I have to speak to myself: It’s not my faith that saves me, it’s the object of my faith that saves me.
It’s the same thing with repentance. It’s not my repentance that saves me; it’s who I’m turning to. It’s not how sincere I am, but how sincere God is. That is the reason we are saved by faith and not by love. If our salvation depends on our love for God we immediately turn love into a work that we have to do.
Then our conversations with God sound like, Why don’t you believe I love you, God? Or, What else do you want me to do? Let’s stop looking at what we bring to the table and look at what Christ brings to the table. Hey! That’s something to repent of! God doesn’t need to believe us. We need to believe Him.
So this is again what I’m saying to anyone struggling with sexual behavior you can’t seem to stop—you need to first repent of your inability to receive God’s love and grace for you.
But here’s the second thing to know about repentance. God will take you places where you can’t avoid Him. The verse before Psa. 139:6 says, “You hem me in, behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.” And Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
God has cornered me with nowhere else to go but to Him. Perhaps you are feeling this right now. But the good news is, when I look at my behavior as the very thing Jesus died for, I’ve got no other alternative but to submit to Him. Nobody else points directly at my sin and calls it what it really is. His blood is the only honest solution for my dilemma.
I submit to Him when I’m honest with Him about my sin. When I learned that my sexual struggle was not just a habit I couldn’t stop doing, but it was idolatry and turning to something else besides God for my source of comfort and strength, then I could confess accurately. I could thank God for opening up my eyes to see things as they really are.
Then another truth hits me: I have really sinned, but God really loves sinners!
To me, that is what a life of repentance looks like. Appreciating more and more God’s character that we can’t help turning to Him. His perseverance with us is disarming. We can’t avoid Him. So we find ourselves acknowledging the movement in our hearts away from Him and His will, but that doesn’t have to stop us from turning back toward Him. Because we know of His eternal commitment to us for His glory.
Understanding the reasons for our resistance enables us to truly repent.
You can watch Bob talk more about this on his accompanying video: Why Do I have Such a Hard Time Repenting? These short videos can be used as discussion starters in small group settings, mentoring relationships, men’s and women’s groups, etc.
With the Ashley Madison scandal of 2015, and the exposé of a number of Christian men who either had signed up for the service or, worse, actually used it, Bob Heywood, who lived through his own journey of needing to rebuild trust with his wife after years of secretive pornography usage, gives his thoughts on what the first steps need to be on the part of the offender. This three-part series does not answer the legitimate question of whether the offended spouse should stay or leave, but if the marriage is to survive and hopefully grow, these first few steps will be critical.
In my first two blogs (Part 1 and Part 2), I mentioned two initial steps you need to take to bring healing to your marriage: Fully own the damage you caused, and let your wife heal at her own pace. Now, for the third initial step you must take.
You have to move toward your wife as a forgiven man. Not forgiven by her; you can’t control that or make that happen. No, forgiven by God. If you have given your life to him, then hear the good news of the gospel: God has taken your sin upon himself and given you his perfect, flawless life-record as your own. It’s this new foundation that you need to begin to grasp. God sees you as clean, washed, even when all the pieces of your life are still scattered all around you—even when the pain of your sin is still vividly in your mind and heart.
Why is this so important? Because you really can’t do the first two steps I mentioned apart from this one. You will not be able to fully face the truth of what you did, nor will you be able to let your wife heal at her own pace (with or without you), unless you begin to see that no matter your sin, Christ has paid the ultimate penalty for it. This alone is the foundation for your own healing.
This healing is not being accomplished by your sorrow, nor by your newfound good intentions or works, nor by the hope you have in wanting to heal your marriage. It’s because Jesus was willing, on one gruesome day, to die in your place—in order to give you life, to set you free, to place upon you a love so deep that you now belong to him as a cherished child.
You see, your sin exposed the lovelessness of your own heart. But by grasping God’s love for those with broken hearts with an open, empty hand (that’s faith), you will now be able to learn to love as you never have before.
“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
This is what living by faith looks like. Not a cheap grace, but a substantial grace that now gives you the love you need to move forward in total transparency, hiding nothing, admitting to everything. I don’t know your wife. I don’t know how she is going to respond. What I do know is that you need to know that God loves you and that his promises never change. This should help you with my next point.
And this is what your wife needs—she needs to see you growing in this grace. You will still fail. You will still stumble and fall at times. Your wife is going to need her measure of grace from God to survive the destructive self-centeredness that brought you both to where you are now.
Remember that your sin is against God first! He felt it first! It was his law you broke! It was his grace that you trampled underfoot. To me, that is what God is trying to communicate to us from the cross. “This is how your self-indulgence has impacted me,” he is saying. “You broke my heart!” That is deep! That is love at a whole new level! He made an open display of your sin so that you don’t have to hide anymore. If you can honestly face the cross, you can honestly face your wife, hear whatever she needs to say, own all the damage you have caused, and patiently wait for whatever healing she needs to experience before she can even think of getting close again.
Finally, I would say, with Paul, “Love… hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7, ESV). You don’t want to give up hope. You want to continue to believe that God will do a work. And he will do a work in your life and in your marriage. It just might not look like the way you want it to look! You have to trust him no matter what the outcome.
With the recent news of the Ashley Madison hack and the exposé of a number of Christian men who either had signed up for the service or, worse, actually used it, Bob Heywood gives his thoughts on what the first steps need to be on the part of the offender. Bob lived through his own journey of needing to rebuild trust with his wife after years of secretive pornography usage. This three-part series does not answer the legitimate question of whether the offended spouse should stay or leave, but if the marriage is to survive and grow, these first few steps will be critical.
I mentioned in my last post (here) that one of the most devastating things that impacted your wife when your sexual sin finally came out in the open was this fact: You were living a double life. You lived one way in front of her, and you lived another way behind her back. That type of secrecy in a marriage causes great damage.
One of the first things you need to do to rebuild your marriage is to learn—carefully and with sincerity—how to rebuild the trust that you broke. I’ve already said a few things about the first step you need to take: Take a hard and honest inventory of the damage you have caused to your wife and marriage.
And if your wife is still willing to stay in the marriage, here’s a second big step you must take:
Give your wife space to walk her road of healing, at her pace
Don’t expect that trying to do all the right things and doing lots of good activity this time is going to fix everything. If this is your new focus, you will put a crushing weight of pressure on your wife. How? Because most likely, underneath all your “good” activity, is an unspoken demand that she should respond and accept your earnest steps to change.
When you do this, you are shifting the dynamic of the relationship off of you and onto her. Now the future of the marriage depends on how she responds to the “new” you. Oh, this is subtle! You may not even be aware of it. But if this is happening, and if your wife is having big problems accepting the new you, then you attempt to justify that, whatever happens, at least you really tried. After all, marriage involves two people working at it, right?
Yes, start changing your behavior, and begin relating to your wife as a man of honesty and transparency. But you have got to disconnect your behavior from expecting a particular response to it. You must.
The most important thing she needs from you right now is to give her all the space she wants to heal at her own pace, not yours. She is disoriented from living with a man who lived two lives. Jesus said sexual sins were legitimate grounds for divorce. You need to face the reality that you crossed that line—whether your sexual sin involved a physical encounter or “just” a virtual one.
Your wife will be struggling with the reality that you crossed sexual boundaries, that you took your heart and your body outside of your marriage. That’s bad enough. But she will also be struggling—perhaps more so—with your deception. Your wife can’t fix that. You’ll have to give her emotional space as she struggles with how to move on. How to learn, slowly, whether she can begin to trust the person you are now showing her.
One thing that God will work on in your heart is this: your desire to control things and make them work out your way. That’s what your sexual sin was about. Your desire for control is what plunged you into porn or whatever you did to seek emotional or physical intimacy outside of your promise to your wife. Control, to be in charge, to make sure you got what you wanted—and avoid whatever it was that you hated—is what kept your deception going.
Your idolatry to control your life is one giant lie that God cannot satisfy you. Your refusal to seek him led you to seek something else that promised no disappointment, no pain, no struggle, no problems.
But now you need to learn from God that your control was an illusion. You thought being in control would give you what you needed. And now your continued desire for control will also lead you to think that you need to—and can—fix this relationship and get it back on its feet. But that’s not going to work this time.
This time, you are going to have to deeply rely on God to fix this. You can’t fix this on your own. At this point, your promises, your new intentions, your new behavior are going to have to be seen to be believed. Over time. Over a lot of time.
You must now learn not to depend on yourself—your “wisdom,” your schemes, your manipulations. You can’t make this thing work. It’s in the mess that you have made of things that God is trying to make himself real to both you and your wife. It’s in the brokenness that God slowly brings new life.
Don’t push this, don’t rush this, don’t expect things from your wife. Don’t pressure her to heal faster than she can. Love is a long road. It’s worth the trip. She needs to go at her pace, and you will need to learn to love her at that pace.
God is in the business of redeeming lives, but he also insists on doing it his way. You’ve got to learn this yourself. Are you willing to be a disciple, willing to walk with her at his pace? Then realize that his pace for you includes the time your wife needs to heal. When you give her space, you walk at your master’s pace.
With the recent news of the Ashley Madison hack and the exposé of a number of Christian men who either had signed up for the service or, worse, actually used it, Bob Heywood gives his thoughts on what some of the first steps need to be on the part of the offender. Bob lived through his own journey of needing to rebuild trust with his wife after years of secretive pornography usage. This three-part series does not answer the legitimate question of whether the offended spouse should stay or leave, but if the marriage is to survive and grow, these first few steps will be critical.
You’ve been found out. You’ve messed up and you’ve messed up big time. You have violated the boundary lines of sexual activity that God has put in place, and you have crushed your wife. You think you know how bad it is. But chances are good you still aren’t thinking clearly right now. You haven’t a clue how deep sexual betrayal runs. You can feel the pain you caused, but you still don’t know all the ins and outs of your sin.
The real issue right now for you is this: Will you honestly look at the damage you have done to your wife, and to your marriage? Will you name it and own it?
The worst first step you can make is to say “I’m sorry” and plead that you won’t ever do it again. Sorry is not going to be enough this time, even if you think it will ease the pain. But whose pain are you trying to heal at this point? If your goal is to get rid of the pain and move on, then you are just doing what your sexual sin was trying to accomplish in the first place: rid yourself of pain.
As much as you might want to put your marriage back together, I believe the real issue is not about how couples move forward again or how they are going to pick up the pieces.
The real issue right now for you is this: Will you honestly look at the damage you have done to your wife, and to your marriage? Will you name it and own it?
You have to own up to the fact that your behavior has crossed lines that bring death to a relationship. We can speculate about what Adam and Eve were thinking about before they ate the fruit. But it was when they ate the fruit that death occurred. They crossed the line, and everything changed.
By doing what you did, you crossed the line; you’ve eaten the forbidden fruit. Everything has changed now. The fallout is deeper than you think. Maybe Adam and Eve wouldn’t have eaten the fruit if they could have seen the possibility that their one action would eventually lead, through uncountable years of human history, to a world overrun with violence and suffering. But that doesn’t really matter right now. We are living in a world that they created, and we keep sustaining. So you must face your own self-made catastrophe because you didn’t consider the consequences.
No matter how your wife found out about your sexual sin (whether you got caught or you confessed), she now needs to process the fact that she doesn’t really know who you are. A whole chunk of your life has been lived in secrecy from her. Now she feels like she has been living with a stranger all these years. You may think this isn’t so big a deal, but it is. Can you imagine what the wife of Dennis Rader felt after finding out that she was married to a serial killer for 30 years? For three decades she related to a man who lied to her every minute of every day. I know that sounds like an over-the-top example, but do you get the point? How can your wife easily trust you again, when (for how long? how many years?) you presented a part of yourself to her, every minute of every day, that was a lie?
You shouldn’t be surprised that she is now asking herself questions like, “Does this mean that every time he walked out the door and said he was just going to the store he was really going somewhere else?” She may feel like she has to turn into some sort of private investigator or detective. This wasn’t her calling when God asked her to be your wife. She is wondering what these women on the Internet have that she doesn’t have. She struggles with wondering what is wrong with her, even when she isn’t to blame at all for what you did. She wonders if her husband ever really loved her at all, or if that just another lie.
I know I’ve been very negative up to this point. But one thing I’ve learned in my own journey is that God works in real time. He does his work in reality. It does us no good to paint the picture different than it really is. The corner we’ve painted ourselves into looks bleak.
But there is hope! And it can only start when we get real with what our behavior has done—how it has deeply hurt—our spouse and honestly face up to the damage we have inflicted. It can’t start any other place. Start naming the damage—to God and to her.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
14 Jan 2014
I was exposed to pornography at a very young age. I was six. At that point in my life I really didn’t know what I was looking at. I didn’t understand my body’s reaction to it. All I knew was I felt good and I felt guilty. Those two feelings drove me to a life of shame that I still haven’t fully unpacked. The hallmark of that shame was sneaking. And I was good at it.
But to have an entire area of my life in the dark and not talked about, meant that I knew I wasn’t functioning properly. Something was wrong, and that reality drove me to Christ.
When Christ drew me to himself and saved me, He made some radical changes in my life. I experienced a certain amount of victory concerning my habit. But I’ll never forget the first time I used pornography after I got saved. I remember thinking, “Its back.” I also remember looking in the mirror and realizing I couldn’t wait for my good works to kick in, in order to get right with God. My promise to faithfully do my devotions for a week didn’t really help. I needed to trust Christ for what he did for me on the cross, right then and there.
The problem was that I was dealing with this on my own—by myself. Because of my shame, I didn’t open up to anyone when I occasionally fell. I had no understanding concerning what pushed me toward acting out. I didn’t believe anyone would understand my behavior, and I had no concept of accountability. Becoming a leader in the church meant it was even more strategic to not let the cat out of the bag. The fact that I had an occasional bout with pornography and masturbation just wasn’t going to be brought up.
Then came along a wonderful invention called the VCR. The curiosity of wanting to see just what went on in those videos was just too much. As I began to give into this temptation I realized I was getting in way over my head. I also felt like I couldn’t stop because I hadn’t stopped. I’ll never forget when I came to what I now consider the worst soul-deadening conclusion ever in my life. And that was: “Maybe I can do both. Maybe I can be a leader in the church and look at porn at the same time.” After all, I was getting away with it, in a sense, already. I had plenty of opportunities to teach and lead in the church and nobody suspected anything thanks to my deep theological convictions. And, don’t forget my uncanny ability to sneak.
The problem with all of this is that I was married. My wife kept sensing more and more that she was living with a stranger, somebody she really didn’t know. She noticed that I wasn’t spending much time in the scriptures in my preparations for Sunday school classes. She realized I was living off of leftover energy from years’ past. As she tried to communicate this conviction to people in the church she got blown off as a woman who needed to go home and submit. Frustrated, she almost got to the same place of giving up and just living with an unresponsive husband.
Finally, two couples in our church heard my wife’s cry. They started to keep an eye on our behavior in public and realized something was wrong. One Sunday after church, these two couples approached my wife and I. They mentioned they had observed a few things in our relationship that they had concerns about. As they confronted us with their observations, we agreed to go to counseling. After all, I did love my wife, and I would rather see our marriage work out than fail. As we waited for an opening at the local counseling center, our four friends became an accountability group for us. We met together once a week to go over how my wife and I were dealing with each other and working together through everyday struggles.
Around a month into this process I rented a pornographic video. The next day, I immediately noticed how this impacted my communication with my wife. Our words were flying over each other’s heads without connecting and we were only frustrating each other. I knew I couldn’t move toward my wife and continue looking at pornography. I decided to confess my sin to the accountability group. This was the first time in my life I ever spoke out loud to any one about my problem. Needless to say, my life hasn’t been the same since. That confession, in that room, with those people, whose pursuit of my wife and myself I knew I couldn’t get around, changed my life forever.
One of the first things that happened was that God opened up an opportunity to counsel with a man who specialized in sexual issues. He directed me to a men’s Biblical Support Group at Harvest USA. I remember the first time I walked into the support group. I carefully looked around to make sure nobody knew me. Then I sat there and wept. I couldn’t believe where God had me. This was a whole new experience for me. I became aware of the fact that one of the main reasons why I kept losing this battle was because I was fighting it by myself. I desperately needed the body of Christ to act like the body of Christ. I needed men in my life to challenge me in both my thoughts and actions. I also began to see my sin as idolatry. As men courageously revealed their rituals and described their heart’s engagement when viewing pornography, I began to see clearly the same experiences in my own life. There was no other way to describe this behavior than as worship—as idolatry.
Let me conclude by saying this: If it weren’t for the loving pursuit of those two couples in our church, I really don’t know where I’d be right now. Their courageous step into the chaos of our lives is a living example of how the church is to put the “one another” passages of scripture into practice. Whenever I share my testimony, people think of situations in their lives where they wish someone would have walked into it in a similar redemptive manner. If you see people struggling in your church, that’s a call from God to you to apply his Gospel to his people.
08 Jun 2011
How would you feel if someone stole your identity? Stunned? Shocked? Think about it: Someone is acting recklessly and irresponsibly in your name! In your heart, you are saying, “Wait a minute, that’s not me! That’s not who I am!”
You wouldn’t hand your identity over to someone who would act so shamelessly in your name, would you?
But that’s what we do when we cave in to temptation and commit the same sexual sin again and again. We give our true identity—our identity in Christ—over to the one who steals it from us. The devil delights in that transaction!
One of our mantras here at Harvest USA is, “Don’t let your temptations tell you who you are!” One of the biggest faith battles men face in their struggle with sexual sin is this: What is your identity in Christ? What does God see when he looks at you? The answer to these questions is critical if you want to experience freedom from sexual sin!
The Bible teaches that Christ endured the cross for the “joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2, ESV). Do you want to know what that joy was? It was you! Paul called the people in the churches to whom he ministered his “joy and crown” (Philippians 4:1). Do you think he would think of them like that if God thought of them otherwise? (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). Has it sunk in that Jesus himself calls us his brothers (Hebrews 2:11), those of us who desperately cling to him and trust in his saving mercy and grace?
You are new creatures in Christ! You have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. Your sins are forgiven, and you have a living hope that when Christ comes you will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:4)! You have a new nature, a new heart, and a new start. You’ve been born again! This is your new identity! Start believing it!
One way to begin getting this to sink in deeply is to find others who will see you as you are in Christ. God makes himself real through his people. When someone treats you like he really believes God loves you, you begin to start thinking, “Maybe God does really love me.” And that’s powerful!
What do you see when you look at other Christians? Do you see sin in their lives? That’s easy to see. But do you also see God’s grace working in them? Now that takes faith. But it’s there, even in their struggles and failures. That’s true for you too. That’s part of our identity in Christ. We are people who God has started a good work in and will continue to the end (Philippians 1:6).
I know it’s hard to believe you are a new creature in Christ if you keep on sinning, but let me let you in on a little secret: Every single Christian out there does keep on sinning! I know it’s hard to go to church and feel like you are the only sinner in the room, but, believe me, that is just not true. One reason I love working at Harvest USA is because no one walks through the doors here thinking they have it all together. I wish going to church was that way.
What helps you hold on to your identity in Christ when you are in the midst of sexual temptations and sin?