I am locked in a battle for sexual purity and I am dying in it.
Time and time again, I watch pornography.
Time and time again, I diminish a female – reducing her to just her body and nothing more. Time and time again, I let my gaze linger on women. And the whole time, there’s always this quiet voice inside me that I try to silence in the moment. There are many things this quiet little voice says to me, but the one word I hear the most is “fight”.
I will not mince my words. Every encounter with porn has sliced sinews of my soul off. In this battle for sexual purity, I have become a maimed soldier.
Whenever I am tempted, this scene plays in my mind: I’m in that quiet room in my soul where I host God, and I find that Satan is leaning on the doorway, waiting. He was chatting with God, but now he turns to me.
“Oh, is this the one you were talking about?” Satan gestures lazily at me. “Yes,” comes God’s reply.
“You know, he looks really familiar. Ah!” Satan snaps his fingers as an evil glint enters his eyes. “He most definitely came to pay me and my friends a visit last night. Or was it this morning? Or 5 minutes ago? Hard to keep track really …”
“I know what he’s done,” replies God calmly.
Satan scoffs. “And still You call this one Your son..? A precious child of Yours?”
“Go now,” commands God.
Satan pushes himself off the doorframe lazily, making to move away. But before he does, he turns and smiles at God: “You’ve an even softer spot for losers than I thought!”
Then he walks, striding towards me lazily. He wraps an arm around my shoulder, pulling my ear close to his mouth: “Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.” And then the old snake is gone.
“Mark, what Satan said about what you did is true. But what he said about who you are is not.”
Now I stumble across the doorway, my knees suddenly weak and my breath ragged.
The weight of my sins and all the wrong I’ve done have turned my soul to lead. I trip and fall face-first on to the ground, and when I pick myself up, it’s through tear-blurred eyes that I see God in front of me – His arms extended to me.
“My son,” He says, “come here.”
I shuffle closer, and then His arms encircle me. Now I cannot help but cry and cry as the weight of a thousand and one sins is lifted as God holds me close. Lead turns to gold … to light. It is a torrent now of tears and thoughts, and wails where words simply fail.
“Why?” I eventually manage, choking and sputtering the word out. “Send me away, God. I don’t deserve this love. I’m not even sure I want this love. Even if I say I do, nothing in my actions reflects that I actually do. Everything Satan said was true … I’m sorry … but he’s right.”
I hang my head. I really am pathetic.
There is sadness on God’s face for a moment, but then He smiles. “Mark, what Satan said about what you did is true. But what he said about who you are is not.”
I lift my head a little. God rests His hands on my shoulders: “You are not pathetic. You are precious to me.” As the words enter my ears and sink into my soul, deep calls to deep, and something stirs within.
That was truth. Even after all I did? And all I might still do against You? You’d still call me Your own, Your precious son?
God smiles even more fully now and nods. “Remember, even while you were still a sinner, I sent Jesus to die for you. You are loved, my dear son. And you are fully forgiven.”
Then God holds out a closed hand, clasping a scroll. “I have a mission for you today, Mark. Will you accept it?” I peer at the scroll, but I can’t see what’s written on it. Then I look to God – and I see it.
God hopes. He believes in the good that may yet come out of me.
In spite of all the pornography, objectification, lust, lies and failures … there is hope. My hand is shaking, but I put it forward – palm up.
“Yes, God. I’ll do it. I’ll accept this mission.” He smiles and lays the scroll in my hand.
I open it up and read the words there, “I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).
I stare at the words, and they stare back at me.
In spite of all the pornography, objectification, lust, lies and failures … there is hope.
“Mark, will you die as Jesus did, and will you believe that I can raise you from the dead?”
There is a painful lump in my throat as I try and speak, and an even greater one in my soul. Something is telling me to run – that only pain and trials await me on this path. A voice within screams at the stupid, un-fun and unnecessary decision I’m thinking of making!
The shrill voice seems to be making more and more sense. But hadn’t I just said I would accept God’s mission a few moments ago? Somehow those words of certainty seemed far far away now.
“I’m not strong enough – I want all of it!”
I manage to look God dead in the eye for a moment before it is too much, and my gaze drops back to the floor. But still my yelling continues, “What this world has, the pleasures that others so joyfully experience … I want it all. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry … I’m not strong enough.”
And then I’m running, tripping over myself, rushing to get out of that room.
My foot was just about to cross the doorway. I turn around and God is there, holding an open hand out to me. I know.
In a firm voice, God tells me: “I know that you’re not strong enough. And I know what it is that you want.” Then his voice drops to a gentle whisper, “But I am strong enough. Stronger than the world. And I know what it is that you truly need, my son.”
And there I stand, at the doorway of my soul, with a choice to let heaven in or to run away to hell.
I whisper my apologies pathetically as I close the door on God. The hypocrisy splashing onto my soul is acrid, bitter. I call Jesus, Lord – and yet I run from Him and deny Him? The sadness in God’s eyes when I closed that door on Him bores into me.
But before I can examine the damage to my soul, I find that I am now surrounded by the pleasures of the flesh – soothing and sedating.
There is no problem. There is no problem. There is no problem.
Or is there?
I think what Satan would want me to think is that there really isn’t a problem. But if there really isn’t a problem, then why would I write this? If I truly believed that I would never experience God’s victory in the area of sexual purity then why would I bother writing this?
I know (or at least I think I know) the risks of writing something like this, but what really is at risk? I am dying, after all.
Clarity has come upon me as to the courses of action I can take. I can live the remaining life I have left enjoying all the worldly pleasure I want. Perhaps with enough pleasure of the flesh or whatever else Satan brings my way, I will indeed find my soul inoculated from the pestering cry of that still small voice.
Fight. Suffer. Die. And after it all, be reborn in My Name.
Some bloody and bruised soldier I am, with badges upon badges of failure. Yet, God so help me: I’m choosing to stand up again.
I want to say no to the pleasures of pornography and the worldly pleasures of the flesh.
I believe they do not and cannot ever satisfy the soul. God alone is not only capable but willing to fully and truly satisfy my soul. Life and life abundantly as Jesus promised is something that can be realised.
Maybe you’re like me, and you’ve realised that you are dying too. Maybe you also know that God has won and will win in your fight for sexual purity. Maybe those are just words to you now, and not a lived experience. That’s where I am now, at least.
Some bloody and bruised soldier I am, with badges upon badges of failure. Yet, God so help me: I’m choosing to stand up again. And I will fight for Him in this battlefield of sexual purity. I’m not a saint, I’m not even a soldier at times.
But I am a son. A son of the Most High God who hasn’t given up on us yet – and never will. So far be it from us to give up on Him.
I haven’t tasted God’s victory over sexual purity yet, but I know my failures take nothing away from a God who is all-victorious – even over death itself. So yes, I’m dying. But I’m dying to self, and to a God who’s already beaten death and calls me His own!
So I have hope when I look to the times where I can really choose and trust Him to bring me into real living.
Perhaps, by His grace and mercy, this very day, this very hour, in this very internet window … I might say that indeed I die, but because of who God is, I truly live.
This article was first published on Mark’s blog, and is republished with permission.