Back in the mid-90s, when internet and cable TV were starting to flex their muscles, I took a dive in the pornography swamp. And when I tried to break free from it, I found I was trapped in quick sand. It took an eighteen month dedicated journey before I felt like I was able to breathe the air of freedom again.
I’m not proud of the failure. As a young man aspiring to be a pastor, it didn’t make me a better leader or a stronger man that I experienced this sin first-hand. (That’s a lie by the way, in case you’re wondering. You don’t need to sample what sin is like in order to learn whether something is right or wrong. You don’t need to experience bankruptcy to learn how to manage money well. You don’t need to kill someone to know that murder is wrong. And you don’t need to jump headfirst into pornography to learn if it will scar you and weaken you. Trust me, it will.)
But tragically, many people who have grown up with digital technology, enter adulthood with their minds absolutely seared with pornographic images. And I’m talking about people in the church. It’s a moral epidemic. And it’s having a devastating impact on our souls and our relationships and our sense of sexuality.
Don’t kid yourself. Porn is cannibalizing your heart and destroying your capacity to experience real love.
I’ve done a lot of teaching over the years on this, and I’ve been asked many times what it was that brought me out of that swamp.
Three things saved me: daily time with God in his Word during which time the Spirit of Christ spoke often into my life about my sexuality, this incredible gift he had given me. Additionally, I allowed my wife to see inside my heart and invited her to share in my struggle for wholeness (which in turn helped her in her own struggle for wholeness). Finally, I sought and submitted to good and godly counsel from people with compassion and skill to offer it.
I’ve long wanted to put this journey down on paper and this winter I completed what ended up being a 40-day devotional called “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness” based on 1 Timothy 4:7. I know, I know – there are endless 40-day books out there. (Are we up to 40-Days of Barbecue yet?) But in the Bible, God seems to have a thing about taking us on forty day adventures.
So over the 40-days of Lent which begin on Ash Wednesday and run until Easter, I want to share with you through my website, blclifton.com, daily readings on how to grow in sexual purity and freedom.
I know there are many excellent books and programs that are out there on the subject of porn-free living. I’m not out to compete with them or convince you that mine is the best approach. To be honest, I haven’t kept up with all the literature that’s out there. This is just one person’s story, of one’s person’s journey, and one person’s findings of what happened when he grabbed hold of Jesus Christ and cried out, “Lord save me.” And perhaps there will be something I share along the way that might speak to you and help you in your own journey.
I believe there ought to be seasons in our lives when we seek God with greater passion than we ordinarily do. There ought to be seasons of revival where we renew our focus on what matters most. The season of Lent provides a perfect opportunity for doing this. But rather than just dabbing some ashes on your forehead or skipping meat on Friday, why not zero in on something that will truly make you into a better man or woman of God?
During Lent, my challenge to you is to do what Jesus said, and “Seek first the kingdom of God.” And if for you, porn or some other form of addiction or impurity is running loose inside your heart, then by God’s grace I invite you to say to yourself, “With God’s help, this is going to stop. Jesus took nails in his hands and feet for my forgiveness and my freedom. I can do better than this.”
I invite you to do three things with me. First, read. Each day beginning on Ash Wednesday I’ll post a devotional on my website. So have a read. Get in the habit of doing it each day. Join me for the journey.
Second, reflect. At the end of each reading will be two or three questions for you to chew on, that will take the reading and drive it home a little deeper.
And third, respond. There are several ways to do this. At the end of each reading, I’ll suggest a worship song which you can pull up on Youtube. Don’t discount this. There is power in music to change our thoughts, turn our attitudes, and strengthen our resolve.
I also want you to commit to memory a Bible verse for each week of readings.
A third idea: I want you to get with another trusted friend or two and begin to talk about what you think God is saying to you. Share your struggles with them. Pray for each other. If you know someone else that is struggling, particularly in the arena of sexual purity, then let them know about this 40-day journey.
And…I’m going to challenge you right here, right now, to lay down your porn habit for these 40 days. If you go without food for 40 days, you’ll die. If you go without water, for 40 days you’ll die. But if you go without porn for 40 days, and the things you do when you watch porn, you won’t die. Your heart will keep beating. Your lungs will keep breathing. It’ll only feel like you’re dying. You’ve allowed your brain to become what St. Augustine called “a wasteland”. There is a very real form of detoxing that your brain and body must go through which you must face down and work through.
But you’ve been so lazy, or you’ve been such a coward, that you’ve not been willing to face that agitation. Desire presents itself to you, and down you go, without so much as a whimper of protest. It’s time for you to dig in your heels. It’s time for you to say, “No. God made me better than this. God made me for better things than this.” It’s time for you to grow up and take steps toward becoming that godly man or woman, the one Jesus died on the cross to bring to life.
So, let’s journey together. Let’s pray together. Let’s dialogue. Let’s grab hold of Jesus’ hand and step toward freedom. It’s time that you trained yourself to be godly.