By Mike Genung
Finding true freedom from sex addiction does not come from working programs, reading books, attending groups, counseling or Bible knowledge. These are valid and important tools God uses as a part of the healing process, but in of themselves they don’t set the struggler with sex addiction free.
Why? Because until he fills the hole in his soul with something bigger, stronger and more attractive than sexual sin, the gnawing emptiness inside of him will continue to drive him to lust. The spiritual vacuum within must be resolved for true, life changing freedom.
In the 9 years I spent in the 12 step program for sex addiction, I got about 4-1/2 years of sobriety as they defined it, which was “no sex with anyone, including self, outside of marriage.” Although I didn’t act out sexually during this time I was miserable, love starved and empty inside. Dealing with the externals wasn’t enough, and I turned back to sexual sin for three wretched years.
One problem was the 12 step program’s definition of sobriety missed the mark. In Matthew 5:27 Jesus said lust in the heart is sin, thus the truest measure of freedom from lust is measured in the heart, not by external actions alone. The struggler with sex addiction is starved for love and acceptance and he needs a new heart, which only God can do. Focusing on the externals alone is the same as cutting off the top of a weed; it’ll grow back unless the roots are exposed and dealt with.
The 12 step program offered a safe place for me to share my weaknesses and stay out of isolation, which is an important part of the battle. But the program couldn’t offer what I was hungry for, and a starving man will eat anything, even if it’s garbage.
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking “he’s crazy, living with a pure heart is impossible, at least for me. I’m having a hard time keeping away from porn and masturbation, let alone keeping my thoughts pure.” You’re close to the truth. Living free from lust is impossible for man, but not for the Living God. What you’re after is something only He can provide.
Finding true freedom from the obsessions and compulsions of sex addiction involves the acceptance of a gift; the gift of the Living God’s blazing, life changing grace; His love, joy and peace. God’s love is that which fills, purifies, and gives new life. His love changes lives and cleanses hearts and it’s far more attractive than the pathetic counterfeit of lust. Once a man or woman accepts the gift of God’s grace and love in their heart (we’re not talking head knowledge or theology here) the attraction to lust dissolves. Thus the goal for the struggler with sex addiction is to come to the place of receiving the gift of God’s grace. To accept this gift we must be willing to let go of two things: lust and lies.
We cannot accept the gift of God’s grace while we’re holding onto lust, which means we have stay out of isolation, stay connected to others, and destroy every stumbling block of temptation such as we’ve described in what to do.
Then we let go of the lies in our heart that keep us from receiving God’s grace. Every man I’ve seen who’s struggled with sex addiction has bought into two lies:
1. I can’t be loved as I am. 2. God can’t or won’t love me.
Often these lies were born in childhood and nurtured by parents, family members, peers and others, including Christians. Rejection, abandonment, neglect and abuse feed us the message we’re of little worth or value; we can’t “be good enough” to be loved. These lies put God’s love far out of our reach so we turn to false substitutes such as sex, food, power, money, work, ministry, relationships, drugs or alcohol to fill the Grand Canyon of emptiness within.
By design we are all born hungry for God’s love, and until we find it we move through life in emptiness. Sin, bitterness, unresolved pain or trauma and things we’ve done to hurt others are barriers to accepting God’s grace that must be dealt with. For example, if a man is bitter toward one of his parents, the poison of his resentment will keep him from living in God’s love. It will also provide a spiritual doorway for the forces of darkness to influence him with lust, self centeredness, pride and other sins.
The acceptance of God’s grace in the heart is the answer to sex addiction. The decision to remove the walls that keep you from receiving the gift is up to you. Ask the Living God to expose the barriers to grace in your life, and then tear them down.
Here’s what some of the walls could look like:
1. An unwillingness to do everything to annihilate the stumbling blocks of lust.
2. Bitterness in the heart towards others, which means forgiveness is needed.
3. An unwillingness to stay out of isolation, which gives lust more power.
4. Sins committed against others, which means we need to ask for forgiveness.
5. The two lies (I can’t be loved… God can’t love me) which must be removed and replaced with the truth of God’s love for you.
7. A distorted view of God, which often develops from father wounds.
8. An unwillingness to face and deal with the pain and emptiness within.
9. Unresolved trauma, such as sexual or physical abuse.
The gift of God’s grace isn’t something you can earn, deserve, or “be good enough” to gain. As a father loves his children, God loves you deeply no matter what you’ve said or done and He’s waiting for you to come to Him. The withering shame from sexual sin tries to convince us we can never be loved, but it’s a lie. No sin is bigger than God’s grace.
Picture you’ve bought a special loved one a big, expensive gift; it’s so big they have to use both hands to hold it. The day arrives when you will give your loved one their present; you grab the gift and run towards your friend. But instead of accepting it, your friend, who is holding a snake in his right hand and a hairy spider in the other, says “I’m not ready to let go of these things yet. Maybe later.”
The Creator of the Universe is waiting for you to come to Him and accept the gift of His life giving love. The question is, will you accept it? The hardest struggle for those who struggle with lust is to accept the simple gift of God’s grace. Why? Because the lies they’ve bought into all their life go deep, and they’ve spent years reinforcing them with the shame from their actions. Allow the following truths from God’s word to sink into your soul:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16
“Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, `Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” John 4:10
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” John 5:39-40
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.” John 15:9
“…and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:5
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, evenwhen we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:4-9
Jesus is ready, willing and eager to give you the life and love you’re starved for. Are you ready to accept the fact that God loves you and wants to give you life? Are you ready to say goodbye to lust forever, run to the Living God and accept His gift of grace?
If so, then go after Him with all your heart:
“…you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. Deut. 4:29
“And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. ” Psalms 9:10
“When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.”" Psalms 27:8
“O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalms 63:1
“Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually.” Psalms 105:4
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
God’s promised that you will find Him if you seek Him with all of your heart. Your heart’s cry is for the Living God; to hear His words of kindness, and to be filled with His life, love and peace. Go after Him as hard as you used to go after lust, girlfriends, jobs, and material things. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you, and set your agenda aside. Take your attention off of your sin, and set it fully on Him. Grasp for Him, and don’t let go or stop seeking His face until He’s changed your life.