I often preach against the cross-less Christianity that is being preached today precisely because it leaves people in bondage to the sins that control their lives. The cross-less gospel leaves out, or teaches against, “self-denial” and “faithfulness in persevering through trials”.
James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who endures temptation (NASB “trial”); for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
We all must endure many temptations and trials in this life, and through these become approved. The Greek word rendered “temptation” (NKJV) / “Trial” (NASB) is πειρασμός (peirasmos, #3986) and means both (a) “a trying, testing,” (b) “a temptation,” (Vines Expository Dictionary, Vol. 2, P. 495).
ADDICTION NECESSITATES THE CROSS
In our haste to overcome our additions so that we can feel justified, we forget that the cross must accomplish its designs! Addictions signal areas in our life that are not submitted to God; things outside of God to which you look for comfort, pleasure, or help. These addictions usually offer cheap and easy alternatives to the fruit of God so that things like “pleasure” and “entertainment” are substituted for “joy in the Lord”, which is far more difficult to obtain and cannot be obtained at the whim of our own carnal will.
Jesus requires all His disciples to bring their whole life to the cross. This is where the initial battle takes place. We resist the call to deny ourselves and take up the cross by which the will of our flesh is crucified!
Before I continue I must note that many addictions go beyond spiritual and moral parameters and gain physical hold over our bodies; all addictions begin and continue at their core as a spiritual and moral illness, but they usually gain physical hold over our life. So, while any attempt to address these addictions from purely a physical standpoint will be futile, ignoring their physical hold over us is equally unbiblical.
We must begin where our addictions began: the heart. To overcome our addictions requires that the resolve and testimony of our heart be “for me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain!” (Philippians 1:21). Until Christ is securely seated upon the throne of our heart and is proved by the testimony of our life to be both our “life” and our “gain”, we have not yet been approved through perseverance!
When the set of your heart becomes “to live is Christ, and to die is gain”, then you are prepared to take on the enemy that has hold on your life through your addiction.
This will feel like “death” to you in the beginning because it is death; it is the death of your flesh on the cross as you deny yourself and follow Christ. This test is whether or not you love Christ or sin.
Until we rid ourselves of the lie that addiction to sin is compatible with fellowship in Christ, we will continue to be enslaved to our sins because we will be deceived into thinking that we do not have choose between sin and Christ. Only “the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). You must believe wholeheartedly the judgments of Christ and know that anyone who has fellowship with the darkness does not have fellowship with God (1 John 1:5-6). Though the presence of an addictive sin in your life does not indicate that you have already fallen away, it must raise your awareness that something is wrong and you do not currently stand approved. You must depend on the Holy Spirit for the strength to persevere and enter often into His communion!
A cross-less faith is still under the dominion of sin.
This is a far too in-depth question to fully address on such a platform as this, however, there are certain points that form a crucial starting point for the foundation of victory over this addiction.
REBIRTH and RENEWING
Titus 3:3-8 “We also were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various desires and pleasures, living in evil and envy, filled with hatred and hating each other. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward mankind appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of rebirth and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, being justified by His grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.“
First: regeneration. It’s necessary to say upfront that if you are not born again then you cannot gain eternal victory over sin.
The first element of our salvation is the washing of rebirth by the Holy Spirit. Even if you managed to dispense with pornography you would still be dead in your sins. You must receive a supernatural, fundamental alteration of your heart so that your old heart of stone can be replaced with the new, living, beating heart that God gives to those who follow Him by faith; you must receive the forgiveness of Jesus’ blood by which your sins and guilt can be washed away; and you must receive the Holy Spirit by whom you are sealed for redemption! This cannot be faked, nor produced by man; it must come from God. Seek God!
Second: renewing. The second element of salvation is the renewing of the Holy Spirit in which dead things are made alive!
Those who are born again but have wrestled with ongoing pornography addiction have suffered what A. W. Tozer called “a moral and spiritual cauterization” (A. W. Tozer, Experiencing the Presence of God). Pornography cauterizes our spiritual and moral sensitivity, which is at first painful, but eventually leads to a place of hardness where we are no longer sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and pain of our consciences!
Such a process is described in passages like Romans 1:21, Ephesians 4:17-19, and 1st Timothy 4:2. These passages should drop us to our knees, and we should not arise from there until we have cried out to God from the very depths of our heart to give us life where there is now death!
THE WORD OF GOD
The renewing of the Holy Spirit is worked in us as the word of God enters the depths of our soul (Colossians 3:15), penetrates every fiber of our being (Hebrews 4:12), washes us clean (Ephesians 5:26), sanctifies for God’s use (John 17:17), and corrects our paths (Psalm 119:9)!
Consistent Bible study and prayer is an integral part to the process of renewal.
BREAKING THE PHYSICAL BONDS
Matthew 5:28-30 “But I say to you that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away. For it is profitable that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body be thrown into hell.“
What most people do not know is that pornography addiction has been demonstrated in labs to be up to 4 times stronger than morphine; research has shown its degenerative effects upon the brain to be as serious as cocaine.
Pornography is a true addiction with physical bonds in the brain!
Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.“
Your brain can be renewed. But you have to listen to the good and perfect will of God. We need to follow Jesus’ allegorical teaching and cut off that which causes us to stumble.
1. Physical removal of privately accessible internet connected devices.
2. Internet accountability software that is interconnected to personal accountability with a pastor or spiritually mature mentor.
I really encourage between 6-months to 1-year without any privately accessible internet access. For a born again believer who has been unsuccessfully wrestling with pornography addiction, I encourage beginning with the first option and staying committed to it for at least 6-months, but recommend between 1 to 2 years.
Studies have proven that the brain can heal, but that it can take up to 3 to 5 years for full healing!
I recommend removing private access to the internet for up to 2 years so that you can gain a strong foothold of victory without any relapses.
When you reintroduce privately accessible internet connectivity into your life it must be under the accountability of internet accountability software on every internet-enabled device. You should be accountable to either a spouse, mature brother, or pastor in the Lord every time you access the internet.
I really believe internet accountability is critical. My laptop, tablet, and phone all have x3 Watch installed and reporting to my wife. There are many free and subscription resources available.
There’s a lot more to say and clarify about this subject, but, for now I hope this begins to highlight a good beginning point.