Repentance and the Councilors Role
Ever since I confessed my sin to my pastor he has constantly been amazed that I told him something so personal. In all honesty the majority of time a porn addiction is confessed is when a married man is worried that he is about to be divorced. So my pastor constantly wonders out loud why I would when nothing is forcing me to. My answer is that I have wanted to repent of this sin almost since I started it.
If I remember correctly (it’s been over a decade) I masturbated a few times and tried to stop before I ever looked at any nudity (including the nude paintings I saw in the encyclopedia). The problem was that for me masturbation was like a drug once I started the carrot and the stick training automatically started with it. When I would masturbate it would feel good, when I went to long without masturbating it would feel bad. To make matters worse as with any drug addiction the first time was really the best and as I chased the high it felt less and less good, so I started looking up nudity in the encyclopedia. I was chasing a high because otherwise it would hurt and be confusing.
I remember the first time I tried to stop, my flesh kept telling me if I stopped I would never get another erection again (I was at the flatline stage), so I foolishly checked to see if I could get an erection and it was years before I could go more than a week without masturbating.
I tried to stop many times, I would fast, pray, read my Bible, serve in so many different ministries, work two jobs, go to Bible College, but busyness and serving God did not make me stop.
Soon after my addiction escalated to looking at nude paintings on the computer encyclopedia I confessed my sin to my mom. She just didn’t let me go on the computer. The computer was in her room so she locked the door but the pain from not masturbating got me to break into my moms room. I figured out how to open her door without a key. I so wanted to repent but it hurt.
Going through high school with this sin was terrible. I was going to a Christian high school and I went to the alter many times trying to repent of this sin. But the alter wasn’t the answer. One of my high school teachers had had a porn addiction when he was a teen and did not deal with it until after he was married. Several times I almost confessed my sin to him, but he never had time for me, so I continued to struggle through high school.
I went to Bible college, and I was involved in so much, and yet I was still addicted to porn. I wanted to repent. Finally 3 or so years in I couldn’t take it anymore and I confessed my sin to the vice president of the Bible College, and basically that one conversation was it. I wasn’t very close to him, unfortunately I really wasn’t very close to anyone I looked up to at Bible college. I was 28 before someone I considered a spiritual authority invited me to their house to eat. Sure I have been invited to a spiritual authority’s house to eat as one of the teens, singles, or students. I had been invited to people’s houses to be part of a group, but as an individual as a person I really never got close enough to someone who could help me repent from my sin.
Believe me I wanted to repent. When I confessed my sin, that I had hidden extremely well, at Bible college I knew there was a possibility of me being expelled. Fear of judgment and consequences is why so many of us addicted to porn in the Christian community try to repent without the help of the rest of the body of Christ. Despite that fear I wanted to repent so bad I confessed my sin. I hoped for help, I recognized I may have been judged, but I never expected apathy. By apathy I mean we talked a few minutes after my confession, and then five years later he asked me about my sin.
I have seen an attitude among leadership in the church that once you confess your sins that’s it. Its taken care of or you didn’t really confess your sin. I have heard pastors say something to the effect of that. The problem with this attitude and thought is that the Bible says in 6:7-8 “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. “
When someone is addicted to any sin they are sowing and reaping. Every time I stopped looking at porn and masturbating I stopped sowing, but I was still reaping corruption. I was still reaping the withdrawal symptoms of my sin. At the time of writing this I am 41 weeks out from looking at porn or masturbating, and yet I am still reaping the corruption from looking at porn all those years. Without a doubt the stuff I reap is smaller and smaller, but it is still there.
When I confessed my sin to my mom, and then confessed it to my Bible college vice president they were all about stopping the sowing of sin, but neither of them had a thought about helping me as I reaped the corruption of the withdrawal symptoms. I could not reap this crop by myself. Maybe some people can, but not me.
After Bible College I made a valiant attempt to enter full time ministry, and as the men in charge of the ministry was giving us orientation they made it clear that if we had some secret sin, they did not want to hear about it. I wanted to repent so bad, but this was just another place full of men of God who would not help me repent.
It wasn’t until my late twenties when I had already failed to enter full time ministry, that I finally found a spiritual authority who would not blow me off. Over the course of three or four months I got very close to him and finally once I saw for the thousandth or so time that I could not repent of my sin by myself I confessed my sin to my pastor, and he was the first person in my life to help me bear my burden.
Perhaps you are reading this and thinking that I should have just prayed to God and if I was right with God, had enough faith, was filled with the spirit, etc, then God would have taken my addiction away from me. Perhaps you think I am wrong for confessing my sin to another man instead of just to God. Perhaps you think that I am saying that God is not enough. Every one of those thoughts come from pride not the Bible.
The Bible says in James 5:16 “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” I know pastors who have gotten upset when someone in their church confessed their sin to the pastor, because they think that you should only confess your sin to God. But this verse makes it clear if I am struggling with a fault (this is more than just sin, but would include sin) then I am to confess that fault to another Christian. It even says the reason why is to be HEALED.
It doesn’t say that I will be healed right at that moment. Healing is a process. The Bible also says in Galations 6:2 “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” How can another Christian bear my burden if I am unwilling to tell anyone that I have a burden? All those years struggling with porn trying to repent, I was living in sin not just because I looked at porn but because I didn’t share that burden with another Christian. But at the same time if I share my burden with another Christian and they do not help me bear it, in some way fashion or form, even if its to find someone better suited to help me with my burden, then they are living in sin.
Healing is a time consuming process. We are to confess our faults one to another, but the people we confess our faults to are to help us bear our burden until we are healed. Otherwise we wont be able to repent. This sin has hurt our mind, our bodies, our heart, our future relationship and because of the injuries this sin has given us we are unable to deal with it without help.
The truth is God intentionally made us to not be able to handle these burdens alone. It was an intentional part of His design. I Corinthians 12:20-26 says “But now are they many members, yet but one body. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. “
This verse is telling us about the local body of Christ. And its saying something about the members of that body that are like me. Strugglers. It says that those that are more feeble are necessary. I lost to porn almost daily, but I am necessary in the church. Porn is shameful, but even though I am less honorable because I looked at porn, I am to be given more abundant honor in truth because I lack honor. Who needs honor? The one who already has it or the one who has moral failings but wants to repent and get right with God and the people he has hurt from his sin?
The point is that there should be no schism in the local church. If you have a brother or sister in Christ struggling with secret sin, who wants to repent but is scared to death of what will happen when they are caught, That is a huge schism. Most people who get caught looking at porn are RELEAVED when they get caught because they finally have someone to share their heartache with. But the truth is that it’s a very damning testimony of the church that so many people secretly struggle with this sin and are too frightened to share their sin with anybody in the church.
This passage just told us that those people, brothers and sisters in Christ, who are feeble enough to fall into this sin or other sins are more necessary in the church/Bible College/Christian School/ministry. This passage of scripture just told us that those who fall into this sin who we think are less honorable are to be given more abundant honor. The feeble are more necessary, and those with less honor are to be given more honor so that there is no schism in the church.
See what happens is that many of us with a porn addiction hate it and want it out of our life, but there is fear, and sadly it’s a justified fear, that if we confess our sin that we will lose fellowship with those we confess this sin to. That perhaps we are serving in a ministry and we will lose that position. That perhaps we are going to Bible College and will be expelled.
Unfortunately the Pharisees that are also members in the churches in our country are very loud about condemning any Christian with moral failings, but the Christians who will restore other Christians are quiet, and I think that’s a shame, because in I Corinthians 12 Paul isn’t quiet about restoring Christians in sin at all.
If churches/Bible Colleges/Christian Schools made it clear that if someone has sin in their life that they will obey this scripture and make those who are more feeble necessary, and those who lack honor regain their honor, it would open the flood gates for those of us who desperately want to repent. This is so much more than “I am not going to judge you”.
I think a great example of this is when an unmarried girl gets pregnant. She has a moral failing, so how does the local church make this feeble girl more necessary? How does the local church help her restore her honor? How does a local church make it known to the pregent unmarried, or the porn addict, or someone suffering from another secret sin that they want to repent from, that the local church is there to restore them? Not just from their addiction but restore their honor?
Without this understanding there is a schism in the church. Every member of the body of Christ should have the same care one for another. When one member suffers, even when that suffering is caused by their own willful sin, the other members, because they are part of the body of Christ, suffer with them. But if one member is to scared to share their suffering then there is a schism. Churches/Bible Colleges/Christian schools should be known to all as the safest place to share their addiction for the purpose of repentance. Until then there is a schism in the body of Christ.
One of the principle purposes for every man and women who serves God is forbearing another Christian (Ephesians 4:2, Colossians 3:13). Forbearance is very much going back to Galatians 6:2 where we are told to bear one another burdens. It very much has this idea that you are helping out someone who is injured. You are helping lift them up, helping them with their burdens, helping them because they cannot do for themselves. If a Christian has got everything going on, they have no unconfessed sin, they are actively serving in the church, they are not going through any storms, then you cannot forbear them because they don’t need it at that moment. The Christians you should actively seek out to forbear are the strugglers. Whether its sin, storms, or their past, they need to know they can trust you to forbear them. Particularly anyone struggling with a sexual addiction because they will not be able to repent unless you forbear them.
In I Thessalonians Paul made it clear that forbearance was so important to the ministry that when he could no longer forbear he left the church. I Thessalonians 3:1 “Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone.” This was so important in the local church when the Apostle Paul could not forbear another Christian he stepped out of the ministry until he could.
Why? He tells us. I Thessalonians 3:5 “For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.” Paul is saying very bluntly that when he could no longer lift up these Christians he left. He sent for Timotheus (v2) to forbear them. Why? Because he did not want their temptations to get the better of them. Certainly many of these people would struggle with addiction, and they needed a man of God to help them through that struggle.
Galatians 6:1 tells us “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness.” On the spiritual leaders side of repentance is restoration. Paul held this restoration so high that when he could no longer forbear he stepped out of the ministry until he could forbear. I wanted to repent so bad for so many years, I was surrounded by pastors, and yet I have only ever trusted two men to obey this verse. Both times out of desperation. And only one of those men obeyed Galatians 6:1.
I would ask that all councilors/pastors/authority figures reading this to do what God’s word says to do in Romans 15:1 “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Please help my peer group repent of this sin. I know many of you are not struggling here, and perhaps have never struggled here, you are strong in this area of your life, but most are not, please help those of us who are weak here.
Those weak in this area are not a small number. Over 50% of pastors admit to being addicted to porn. What does that say about the rest of us? Porn is not just websites with XXX in the web address, porn is not just relegated to the internet. Porn for the unmarried is anything that makes us fantasize about sex. Do you know that playboy is now openly selling porn magazines with women in underwear instead of being totally nude? How many decades has junk mail been going to every mail box in the country with women in their undergarments? That is how prevalent porn is in our country.
I do not know what the percentage is of young people involved in porn and masturbation, but because porn is everywhere, I would be surprised if its less than 90%. Porn is not like drugs or alcohol, porn seeks you out and finds you in America. And the shame that comes with it is terrible. And the desire to repent from it is great.
The fear of the Christians who struggle with porn is that they will lose fellowship, that they will lose honor, that they will be cast out of the work they are doing for God. This is why they try to repent over and over again, but they try to repent by themselves without the help God commanded them to seek.
As a counselor/pastor/spiritual authority make it clear to you people that if they come to you for help in repentance that your job is to make the feeble member more necessary, to restore lost honor, to help them reap what they have sowed, to bear their burdens, to forbear with them, that their fellowship will not be destroyed, but instead because of the intimacy involved in this sin they will likely get closer to you than they have ever been to anybody in their life. If any man had said that from the pulpit I would have desperately tracked him down and confessed my sin to him because I desperately wanted to repent from my sin.
Your ministry/church/school is filled with young people who desperately want to repent from this sin. Let them know very publicly what role you are commanded by God to play in that repentance.