Most addicts know they need help but they would rather die than ask for it. Requesting assistance is like asking for directions when we are lost. It is a sign of inadequacy or an admission of weakness, a condition we must hide at all costs. Dependence on anyone other than self is a violation of the entirely unsupportable premise, “If I am broken, I can fix myself.” This declaration is not a sign of faith. It’s nothing more than an unwarranted act of presumption. The addict’s confidence is a pretense for cockiness. He is like the over-zealous and misguided Hebrew warriors who “in their presumption went up” (Numbers 14.44 NIV) to fight the Amalekites without the approval of Moses or the Ark of the Covenant. These proud idealists soon found themselves running for their lives.
Self-assured addicts should take a tip from the insanely naïve and ignorant gesture of Skeva’s sons, Jewish exorcists who, upon encountering an evil spirit, received “such a beating that they ran from the house, naked and bleeding” (Acts 19.16 CJB). The spirit of porneia is nothing to fool with. Do not underestimate the power, experience, or single-minded intent of this fierce supernatural opponent. Only God can take down an enemy of this caliber. Human effort is useless in the battle for sexual purity.
Self-aggrandized notions of easy remedies devolve into impossible promises never kept. Like Peter’s false bravado, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you” (Mark 14.31 TMB), the man caught in the cycle of shame will, against all evidence to the contrary, claim he has what it takes to kick the porneia habit. He thinks he can stop anytime he wants to. He’s wrong, of course. He may not want to admit it, but it is impossible for him to stop. Alone, it cannot be done.
As a young pastor in an unhappy marriage and struggling ministry, I would occasionally feel overcome by lust and purchase a pornographic magazine at the local convenience store. I would actually pray as I entered the mini-mart… pray that the kid behind the counter taking my money was not in my youth group! I pulled a woolen beanie over my head and desperately hoped to keep my identity a secret. I could not afford to be recognized.
Why would I take such a risk? Why did I jeopardize my marriage, ministry, and reputation for a dirty magazine? The answer is simple. I was an addict. I had to have my fix, and would do anything to get it. When I was done using the publication, that is “spilling my seed” (Genesis 38.9) before colorful pages filled with images of beautiful, young, naked women, I would come partially to my senses and give Jesus assurances I could not possibly honor. “I will never, never, never, never, never, never, NEVER do that again.” I made the same promise many times before, but somehow deluded myself into believing this time I meant it. I lived in ‘Never, Never, Neverland.’ It was a God fantasy which ironically helped to perpetuate my sex fantasy. Promise-making was a critical element in my addictive ritual. The practice made me feel better about my sinful behavior, but was completely disconnected from reality. I was a promise-maker, not a promise-keeper. I thought I could manage my sin by being sincere enough and repenting hard enough, but I was wrong. When it came to my addiction, I was capable of neither sincerity nor repentance.
Most addicts think they can fix themselves but that is a lie. Simple remedies to complex and longstanding addictions are deceptively attractive because they offer the false perception that recovery is quick and easy. Unfortunately, all ‘fix-it fallacies’ contain elements of truth, making them the worst kind of lies. They allow misguided addicts to hold out for false hope (in some cases, for many years and even decades) while they continue full-force in their addictive lifestyle. Recovery is not about believing half-truths as we continue the on-going pursuit of porneia, but exposing the lies that have bound us to that pursuit.
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