I don’t talk about what I’m about to share much; it’s not a highlight of my life, and as humans, we are generally fearful of sharing the things that don’t put us in a good light. But given the frequent struggles that we have in the body of Christ, I hope my transparency can help someone who may be struggling with secret sin.
I grew up in a Christian home. My dad and my mom were faithful to God, to serving the Lord in ministry, and to having a godly family. Even though I grew up going to church each Sunday and midweek, even though I had great, loving parents, I found a vice right under the roof of my Christian home. My family, though godly, were avid television watchers. We grew up with cable television, renting movies from Blockbuster, and my dad even bought a satellite dish that gave us pretty much unlimited access to many channels. At a young age, not many boundaries were placed on my television watching. The things that came on television when I was of elementary and junior high age were much cleaner than what is available today, but there were movies that I should not have seen, and I was so enticed in that I would try to watch the "scrambled" adult channels just to see what I could see.
As I grew, so did my curiosity. I can remember one evening standing in the hallway of my house, outside of the view of my dad, and sneaking to take a look at what he was watching on television. It wasn’t a porn movie, but it was a movie that had a sex scene, and seeing this just blew the doors wide open on the situation for me. From that point, I would try and see movies that would show me more. At the age of a young elementary student, I was on a journey to fulfill my desire to see inappropriate material, and my appetite grew for harder more graphic content.
I mentioned earlier that my dad bought a satellite dish. It was the big, old-school kind. There was no Dish TV or Direct TV at that time; I’m talking about a full-sized dish that was mounted on a pole and actually turned when you would change the channels. We had so many channels that I can’t even come close to naming them all. I found out there were no parental controls on this satellite dish, and being a curious and sinful young man, I began to explore channels when my parents were not home or when they were asleep at night. I would turn the volume down low and surf until I found something that fulfilled my lust.
Then during one of my surfing sprees, I found channels that I didn’t even know existed. These channels showed hardcore pornographic movies one after the other. That moment changed everything. I learned what “rated X” meant, and this was the ultimate high for my lustful passions. I remember the first time I watched, I became physically sick to my stomach. My stomach hurt with an intense pain, and I didn’t know what was happening to me. Even so, I didn’t stop watching. This open door in this Christian home presented one of the biggest struggles of my life that would last until adulthood.
I went on and continued to go to church. I was active in my youth ministry, and I still had this secret sin lurking in my life. I was ashamed to tell anyone what I was doing. I was convicted by God that what I was doing was wrong, but I loved the fulfillment of my flesh so much that even though I knew it was wrong to view these things, I really didn’t want to stop. This also fueled how I viewed girls. I began to look at them solely as objects. I had not had sex yet, but in my mind, I had formed a fantasy of sexual adventures, and this added an even darker layer to what I was viewing on television. Engrossed in this sin, I was still going to church. I was participating in ministry as a youth leader, and even though I was not fornicating physically, it was always on my mind. I was driven down by guilt. I thought this would be my existence forever.
I finally reached a point where I became tired of living the lie, and I could not stand the conviction any longer. I sought God in prayer specifically concerning my addiction to pornography, and I remember telling God, “If you don’t set me free from this, then this is just who I will be because I can’t stop.”
In maybe my senior year of high school, I remember searching the Internet for "breaking strongholds" or "being free from strongholds." I came across a lesson on how to be free from sin that included some steps to take to achieve that. I remember feeling kind of weird about it, but at that point I was willing to try almost anything to be free. The steps consisted of renouncing my sins and asking Jesus to set me free from each. It was something to be done out loud. I remember being in my room and going through this list of sins and renouncing these things in faith in the name of Jesus, and I’m telling you that I experienced freedom that day. I knew something was different, and the Lord used a document I found online to aid in it. I probably couldn’t find that document today, but man, I felt that was the moment I was freed.
Fast-forwarding to college and adulthood, I definitely didn’t struggle like I did when I was at home. God gave me grace to live free from porn. It was when I would go back home that the temptation intensified, and I did fall a few times. One significant event that took place was when a strong storm hit my hometown. I remember it damaged the satellite at my parents’ house to the point where it was destroyed. Oh, how I praised God that it was gone because it had been a major stumbling block to me.
As I became an adult, there were periods where I would slip back into viewing things that I knew were inappropriate. There were times when I was extremely victorious and times when I felt defeated. What began to take place, though, was as I grew more and more in the Lord and in His Word, those times of defeat grew less and less. I found that hiding God’s Word in my heart helped me not to sin against Him. I found God’s Word to be a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path. Digging in deeper to God and His Word made all the difference.
What took the longest for me to overcome were the images in my mind. Even though I was married with children, I still found this to be a problem for me. Our minds cannot easily erase images that we’ve seen, and for years, I would have these pornographic images just pop up in my mind out of nowhere. This was a source of aggravation on my part because I knew that it wasn’t just about not doing the acts, but it was also that my mind needed to be renewed. Praise be to God that through reading, meditating, and pondering on His Word, these images are almost all gone. I still have moments when my mind is triggered, but I have to continue to work hard to not voluntarily set anything that’s profane before my eyes.
With the availability of media, cell phones, and other devices today, we have to be even more vigilant to stand firmly in this area. We have to protect our kids at all costs because it’s becoming more difficult as time goes on. Concerning technology and what’s available, I lived in a pretty tame environment compared to the world my kids live in. Even so, right in my Christian home environment, the enemy found a major foothold that could have been more catastrophic than it was outside of the grace of God.
In the future, I may write a more detailed account of this particular struggle if indeed it would be a blessing and encouragement to readers. This aspect of my life was truly my Romans 7:7-25 experience. Praise God for his great grace!
Saints of God, let's not fool ourselves. If you have an issue with secret sin, deal with it now. Those types of sins grow in darkness. True accountability is great and necessary. Not walking through this type of stuff by yourself is important. Being real with God on these issues and not trying to hide out is a must. God already sees; there’s no hiding from the eyes of the Lord. There is a particular guilt and embarrassment associated with sin, but we can rest assured of a couple of things laid out in Scripture:
- Acknowledge the sin: Psalm 32:5 reads, “I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide: I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah!”
- Confess the sin: 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
These are promises we can hold onto when dealing with pornography or any other sin that thrives in the darkness. We should hold fast to His Word.
I encourage my brothers and sisters to take sexual purity seriously. I believe the neglect of issues of holiness is a major factor contributing to the weakness of the Church today. Let’s not be in the category that’s spoken of in John 3:19-20:
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people lived the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
Parents don’t let your home have a facade of being safe when in reality it is full of obstacles and things that will trip your children up. We have to be more vigilant now than ever!