Of Porn and Pride, Part 2


By Mike Genung

Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth who have carried out His ordinances; seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger. Zephaniah 2:3

For the sexually broken, humility is critical to their recovery. It is the humble, as we saw in Part 1, who receive grace from the Lord, a grace with which freedom from lust is impossible. While pride walls us off from the help of God and others, humility acts as a conduit of His love, strength, and mercy.

The search for humility is not only for that which pleases God, but for God Himself, as the only way we can live a life with pride and arrogance kept in check is with God’s help. Humility doesn’t come easy, for pride is a foe that is far more subtle, seductive, and deeply entrenched than lust.

Seeking humility involves making consistent, willful choices. We won’t “feel” our way into it; it will not come by a sudden rush of emotion out of the blue. Reading about humility in Scripture or hearing it taught from the pulpit is good, but information alone isn’t enough.

Consider these verses which show that the path to humility is one of action:

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:10

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time… First Peter 5:5–6

“Humble yourselves”… “Put on”… “Clothe yourselves”… humility must be chosen, worn, and lived in, all of which require an act of the will. While humbling ourselves is difficult, it’s much better than the alternative, which is to wait for God to step in and do it for us with discipline.

Want healing and forgiveness (i.e. freedom from sexual sin)? Note the order for God’s process in the following verse:

And (if) My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

“Humble, pray, seek and turn.” Isn’t it interesting that humility comes first, immediately followed by prayer and seeking God? Why doesn’t turning from wickedness come first? My experience has been that when my primary focus is on trying to stop sinning (be good by my own efforts), I can’t. However, when I’ve confessed my utter inability to overcome sin apart from God’s help (humility), and have intensely focused on seeking Him, He’s given me the grace to break free, often by revealing a lie I’d bought into or sin that needed to be dealt with. There’s never been a quick fix that I can remember, but as I get older I believe that this is because the Lord wants us to consistently press into Him with the same intensity we pursued our wife before marriage, or success in the business world.

So what does humility look like? How do we know if we’re “wearing it?” I’ve been around long enough to know that humility cannot be measured by whether a person looks or sounds humble (we Christians are great at doing that phony Sunday smile thing, aren’t we?) Rather, humility is measured by chosen attitudes of the heart which manifest in acts of selfless, unconditional love.

The following attitudes of the heart are the cornerstones that set the foundation of humility:

Contentedness.

In the context of choking off lust, this means saying “I will be content with the wife God has given me.” We refuse to compare our wives with other women, or allow our greedy flesh to roll in the muddy lie that “the grass is greener on the other side.” It’s not, it won’t satisfy, and jumping over will swing a wrecking ball into the lives of those we love. By learning to be content with the gift of the spouse God has given us, we are not only choosing humility but nipping lust in the bud.

One way to give contentedness wings in your soul is to praise and thank God for your wife, every day. Ask Him to help you want the woman He’s given you. Pray for your wife often, and ask God to bless her with His love and presence. If your relationship has dried up, start doing the things you used to do when you courted her; pursue your wife all over again and make her a priority, second only to the Lord.

Contentedness is a choice that must be made in every part of life—family, finances, ministry, and career. It’s “Lord, thank You for what You’ve given me today” instead of “I want, I need, I crave, I must have.” If circumstances are difficult, contentedness chooses to accept and see them through God’s eyes rather than rebel in anger, or retreat in depression, despair, fantasy, or some other broken escape mechanism. While this is no easy task, it’s what Paul meant when he wrote:

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13

The humility of contentedness trusts that God is in every circumstance, will work it out for good (Romans 8:28), and will provide our needs (Philippians 4:19). It replaces emptiness and self–seeking with peace and a heart of gratefulness for the persons and situations our sovereign Lord has given us.

Living in the light of our brokenness

for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh… Philippians 3:3

Where the proud say, “I don’t need anyone; I can do this on my own”, a man of humility knows he can’t make it on his own. Humble men have faced the searing pain of their inner depravity (Romans 3:10), know they’re weak, and seek out the help of God and others. (Note that they’ve faced “the searing pain within.” Having head knowledge of “I’m a sinner” isn’t the same as seeing, feeling and knowing how selfish, distorted and proud one is.) They have a teachable spirit and can take constructive criticism. A humble man strives to see his mistakes as teachers to bring him closer to the Lord, not risks to his pride. In the process of facing his brokenness, he realizes his desperate need for God’s grace, and is able to accept the gift of His forgiveness. All striving to earn God’s favor is cast aside and he comes forth as a pauper, eager to receive all that the Lord would give him.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalms 34:18

When pride surfaces, those who know they’re broken deal with it as soon as possible. Recently, I felt a prompting from the Lord to email a prayer to a friend of mine. After sending the email I was excited to see how my friend might respond, but then, it hit me—I wanted appreciation for what I’d done. My pride had reared its ugly head again. Convicted over my sin, I went to the Lord, confessed it, and asked Him to reshape my motives so I would seek His glory instead of mine. Being humble doesn’t mean we never struggle with pride, but that we admit it when we do. The key is to cut the snake’s head off as soon as it surfaces so it doesn’t fasten its hold on us.

I believe it’s harder to get the concept of brokenness through to those who have experienced success in business, or even ministry. Such men are often caught up in their accomplishments, and, even though they may say they’re dependent on the Lord, are still operating from the corrupt strength of their flesh. Perhaps this is why James wrote “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you” (James 5:1); the “successful” have a harder time seeing their urgent need for God. Such a man often flounders in the battle against sexual sin because he hasn’t allowed the Lord to kick out the cracked crutches of dependency on his flesh and replace them with the power of God’s strength.

We are apt to say that because a man has natural ability, therefore he will make a good Christian. It is not a question of our equipment but of our poverty, not of what we bring with us, but of what God puts into us…The comradeship of God is made up of men who know their poverty.

Oswald Chambers

On the opposite side of brokenness, humility doesn’t beat itself up for its weaknesses. This is false humility—pride in reverse. “Look at me, my sins are bigger and badder than yours…” The focus is on self. Humility relies on grace and lets Christ’s shed blood do the work of forgiveness. It doesn’t hang itself on the cross so others will pity it as a “holy martyr.”

To live in brokenness is to live in freedom. What a joy it is to shed the old, worn out snakeskin of a false reputation (pride); that of the “good Christian who never sins, struggles, gets depressed, or fails miserably.” We’re free to be transparent with our weaknesses, and in this freedom we find God’s grace, acceptance, mercy and love. The unintended blessing of transparency is that it encourages other believers to be honest with their weaknesses; the Lord shines through the cracks.

Others come first.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus… Philippians 2:3-5

For much of my life I’ve carried a heavy burden: that of self. This pride–load narrows my focus to my wants, my problems and my needs, excluding others from the picture. Sadly, there have been too many instances where my kids excitedly shared something with me and I half–heartedly listened, too wrapped up in myself to enjoy the moment.

To put others first is to love them. This could mean something as simple as putting the reading material down and listening with intent, or as involved as taking your wife out on a date… to the restaurant where she wants to go, and seeing the movie she wants to see

(gulp… even if she wants to see a chick flick.)

Easy enough. I can do the above, but then comes the hard part—seeing others as more important than myself. My flesh balks in defiance; I’m used to focusing on me. We’re no longer talking about being nice, but a total revamping of the heart. Such an overhaul means I need to think of others and their needs more, and less of me and my problems. They get filet mignon, I get a Big Mac.

Someone cuts me off in traffic? If I want Christ–like humility, I’m forced to remember their value in God’s eyes, and let them move on without getting bent. I might even pray for them. Having a conflict with my wife or a close friend? I must force myself to listen first, extend grace, speak kindly (watch the tone!), and give them the benefit of the doubt. Expressing my opinion takes a backseat to hearing the other person. If we need to agree to disagree then I must do it without pouting, manipulating or complaining.

None of this means I turn into a marshmallow. I still speak the truth; it’s just that the medication is coated with grace, making it easier to receive.

“Look out for the interests of others…” Here again I’m challenged to go from “all about me” to “all about another”. The first place to start is at home, with those closest to me. What are my wife and kids going through? Do they need my encouragement, guidance, love, or a listening ear today? Do I need to help out around the house without asking? How can I pray for them?

My world expands from there. As I exit the me–shell and spend time with others, their needs rise to the surface. Remembering that I’m broken and not wanting to say or do anything (stupid) in my flesh, I ask for God’s wisdom and leading as to how I might help.

Recently I wrote a letter of appreciation to a man who’d been a positive influence on my life professionally and personally many years ago. Afterwards, he called and thanked me, saying it was the best letter he’d ever read, and that it made him and his wife cry. Writing that letter didn’t cost me much more than a few minutes and some caring words. God did the rest.

If we allow the Lord to lead us into humility in focusing on others and looking out for their needs, we’ll discover far more blessings and peace than we ever did when self was on the throne. We’re filled up when we pour out.

Obedience

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8, 14

When I look at the level of Christ’s obedience, one thing comes to mind: absolute, unconditional surrender to the will of God.

For some this may be the most terrifying part of seeking humility, because it means stepping away from the control panel of their life and surrendering it to God. It’s saying “Lord, no matter what, have Your way. I will no longer be the master of my life; I put all of my dreams, desires, and future into Your hands, whether it means good times or suffering, sickness or health. Whatever You want, I will do.” As we say this, we know we could be looking over a sharp cliff with an unseen bottom. Will God want our checkbook? Will we have to give something up? Could this mean a career change? Or witnessing to strangers?

Absolute surrender challenges our perception of God’s character and stretches our faith as never before. Will we still believe God is good, even if we obey and circumstances get worse?

Occasionally a man will come to me whose marriage is on the edge of divorce. His wife is devastated from the effects of his porn addiction or adultery, and he wants to know how he can change her or remedy the situation. My reply is always that his marriage and his wife are in the hands of the Lord, and his only option is to surrender, trust, and follow God’s leading. This forces him to choose between fear and faith; he has to trust someone he can’t see to change a situation he can’t fix, with no guarantee of the outcome he wants. Stripped of control, all he’s left with is pure, raw faith—in the Creator of the Universe.

Obedience begins with the small things. A while back my family and I did a little project where we wrote letters of encouragement to each other. I wrote a letter to my wife, and she to me, and my two oldest children wrote letters to each other. A month earlier, I had bought a card for my wife but had never used it. After I typed out my letter to my wife on the computer, I kept getting what seemed to be a nudge from the Lord to hand–write the text on the card. “This is stupid,” I kept thinking. “The text will never cram into the writing space of the card… Why can’t I give her the typed letter as is?” However, the impression kept needling at me until I finally gave in and decided to give it a try.

The text fit with room to spare.

When I presented the card to my wife, she was surprised that I’d “gone to extra lengths” by getting her a card instead of giving her a letter typed on printer paper. Because I stepped out in a tiny area of obedience that I believe was from the Lord, it made a positive difference in my relationship with my wife.

Scripture is filled with stories of how obedience is required for blessing. Naaman the Syrian wouldn’t have been healed if he hadn’t washed seven times in the muddy Jordan River (2nd Kings 5). The Lord gave David explicit instructions for victory in several different battles. After a night of unsuccessful fishing, Jesus told Peter, who would have been tired and discouraged, to lower his nets; Peter reluctantly obeyed—and brought in so many fish the nets started to come apart (Luke 5). After Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus and was blinded, the Lord said “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6). In Damascus, God sent Ananias to pray for Paul so that he would regain his sight. And, Jesus’ death at the cross resulted in the salvation of millions, if not billions.

Obedience doesn’t remove the possibility of suffering. After rejecting the sexual advances of Potiphar’s wife, Joseph spent two years in prison. John the Baptist spent the last months of his life in prison before getting his head cut off. Jesus was obedient to the Father and went to the cross. Peter was crucified in his old age. John the apostle was exiled to the Island of Patmos in his later years. Suffering is part of this life, and there may be times when obedience to the Lord means pain, loss, or hardship.

If obedience is so hard, you ask, why should I let God have complete control of my life?

If the answer is to try to “be a good Christian,” forget it. What satisfaction is there in that if you’re going to get your head cut off?

No, there must be something more. Paul provides the answer in Philippians 3:8:

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…

We obey the Lord so that we might know Him intimately. I’ve tasted God’s presence, and know there’s nothing more wonderful on earth. I love it when He speaks to me through His word, His quiet voice, His people, or circumstances. I want more of Him even if it means suffering is in His plan. How could I write such a thing? I’m learning there are benefits to trials and tribulation; the furnace of suffering has a purifying effect that burns off the dross of selfishness, pride, and fear. Seeing the Lord at work in my life increases my faith, which makes me want to obey Him more. The process may be gut wrenching at times (there are days when I pray for the strength and grace just to endure), but the end result is worth it.

This brings us back full circle to the beginning of this article: to seek humility is to seek the Lord, and growing in humility draws us near to Him.

When I consider the four cornerstones of humility and what it will take to make them a way of life, I know there’s no way I can do it apart from God. I’ve failed enough to know the battle between my will and my flesh is too strong for me to overcome on my own.

“God gives grace to the humble.” The journey begins with a simple step, an honest prayer from the heart that can look like this: “Lord, I confess that I struggle with pride. I seek and ask for humility—please help me to choose it in every area of my life. Please help me to be content with everything You give me today, good or bad, and to value and love others more than myself. Please make me a man of love, no matter what it takes. I surrender my life into Your hands; please expose and remove anything that doesn’t please You, and help me to obey You. I seek You and I want to know You; please reveal Yourself and the truth to me. I want to be filled with Your life, love, and peace so that I might honor You and be used for Your purposes.”

None of us will be the perfect model of humility like Jesus, but in time and with His help, He can change you. Don’t let your mistakes discourage you; this is a rough road where all stumble along the way. Keep pressing in and moving forward, and one day you’ll discover you’re not the person you were. There will be less fear, and more faith; more love, and less selfishness; less lust, and more contentment and peace.