It took me 20 years as a Christian to really grasp how awesome Grace is. To really be able to receive it and allow it to work in my life. To understand that it is, for real, the power of God to stand against temptation and to win your battle against sin. It is more than just the thing that floats you between the times you sin.
For years I could only get to 98% of my goal to live free of porn. Nearly a decade of trying to convince myself that today would be my cold turkey day. Praying for 5 years with an accountability brother to break the habit. Hoping that today would be my last day with porn. Believing that God was getting more and more irate with my failure. Failing over and over, I was letting myself and God down. The depression and self loathing was palatable. The desire to be set free was there, but the understanding to conquer the sin was missing as evidenced by years of repeated failures. My heart hoped for being set free, but it was growing weary.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12 ESV
It was not until I fell so hard and hit my rock bottom that God was able to reach me. It was only when I was so deprived of self worth, so disgusted by my own sin, that I cried out to God for mercy. I was a wretched sinner. 20 years as a believer, I had confessed my sins a thousand times. I had received Jesus and been baptized a couple times. How horrible the time wasted thinking that being a ‘good’ person was going to set me free from sin. 20 years and I’m just realizing that ‘good’ isn’t good enough and never will be.
I had no idea what mercy was before this point. I had no idea how much judgement I was sowing into my own life. How worthy I was for hell. 98% ‘good’ will never reach righteousness or holiness. Perfect is what I needed. It was when I reached this point that God was able to pour out mercy like a salve with grace of Resurrection power to bring me back from the dead. I had no idea what grace would come out of this experience, but soon I would find that it is this grace in my weakness that I am made perfect through Christ.
God brought me to my accountability brother for healing. He had put forth a solution that was daring. A real cold turkey kind of experience I had never tried. One that completely relied on God, and not a single drop of my own efforts. I took his advice. I made a covenant with my eyes to be lust free (See book Covenant with My Eyes by Bob Sorge) and asked to receive God’s grace to defeat that temptation to lust. Here is my covenant I made with God, asking for HIS grace to protect me.
Heavenly Father, I make a covenant before You with my eyes. I will that I should not sin against you or welcome the enemy into my life through my eyes. I am asking you to remind me of this covenant I have with you. Grant me the grace to always keep it. Knowing the weakness I am without You or Your Spirit, the greatness of Your power, I throw myself at your mercy and strength. By this, I have the faith to stand on these promises of this covenant:
1. To never look upon a man or woman or a picture intentionally to lust, including and especially not taking a second look
2. To never read sensual, suggestive, or immoral sexual material, print or electronic
3. To never look at other men or women to determine my self worth or value
4. To see other people as you created them, not as sexual objects
5. To never use my eyes to flirt with anyone other than my spouse
6. To not take pleasure outside of the intimate relationships with my spouse
7. To be diligent to turn away from any sensual displays that may catch me off guard when watching TV, movies, looking at the internet, etc
8. To not use the internet, any websites, any apps, or click any links that would lead to sexually suggestive materials including personals or “sfw” pictures
9. To not view pornography or the many variations of it
10. To not use sexual humor or innuendo.
11. To be utterly honest with my spouse and accountability brother and seek prayer within reasonable time (< 12 hours) for any temptations or attacks against my sexuality / purity the enemy has come against me, including anyone else’s attempt at flirting with me.
God, please give me the grace to find my strength in you. To find my identity in you. To have faith in the man you’ve created me to be. I know this covenant is based on Grace and Mercy. I know this covenant is based on love and deep intimacy. I know this covenant is based on trust. I love you.
Grace, through Jesus, is the power over sin.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
The experience of victory over temptation to lust was surreal, the power of Grace, tangible. The weight of the fear of failure was gone. It was no longer my efforts but God’s. My role was to believe that God had given me the grace to withstand the sin.
After a year of covenant and victory I was discussing this achievement of God with my Brother during our prayer time. I realized that the eye covenant was just dipping my toes in the great sea of grace that God has for us. The grace I experienced was focused on helping me not sin with lust- I realized that this grace was available for our entire lives. Victory over all sin and temptation, not just lust. It was like God let me test drive grace and get a win under my belt.
Through that victory over porn, I realized I was a new Christian. All the times I asked for a ‘do over’ and believed I was new – held no weight and seemed an impostor to the realization of the new Christian I am now. The Christian who had found grace. I finally had a life changing, habit breaking, revelation of the power of Christ and His Grace.
How could I have missed it for 20 years of my walk with Jesus?
I thought if I tried hard enough and prayed enough and had enough faith I would be able to set myself free from the temptation of porn. It wasn’t until I gave up and gave it to God- realizing my efforts were like rags – that I found there was nothing I could do but rely on God and his grace to do the work.
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6 NIV)
“Wow”, I exclaimed, “I can’t believe I didn’t understand what grace is. Sure, 20 years as a Christian, but I just now have had the revelation move from my head to my heart. This changes everything. I feel like a new Christian with super powers- grace!”
This grace, this power- is real. Tangible. Life changing. Jesus set us free and gave us the grace to live pure without having to give into sin. God did it all, through Christ. We just have to receive it.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:8-9 NIV)
Now that God has gotten through to me and has given me power over the temptation of lust I have ended my reliance on porn and found victory over sin. The next chapter of my life, as part of God’s plan, is to bring deeper understandings about what Grace is. To bring clarity and truth of a costly grace, a powerful grace, which is the real grace God has for me and is wholly different than the cheap grace that floated me from one sin to the next. God was going to answer for me the question, “what was this new found grace, and what kept me from finding it so long ago?” I’ve been taught grace for my entire Christian life. What did I miss? Stay tuned for part 2. In the mean time, I leave you with this: