Over the years I have received hundreds of e-mails from men and women of all walks of life who struggle with addictions to pornography, masturbation, cybersex, and similar sexual practices.
I have seen lives and families devastated by addictive sexual sins. These problems are not unique to any race, financial, social or marital status, Christian or non-Christian.
Often, those who contacted me have told no one else about their problem. They suffer in silence. If you are such a person, I hope these answers will help you in the right direction. Take it seriously and don’t ignore the problem; it will only get worse and the damage will spread.
If you find yourself engulfed in a sexual addiction, here are some general tips that have helped many in their journey toward restoration and healing:
Face the facts
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
There are many ways that we humans sin and fall short — lying, greed, stealing, adultery, taking the Lord’s name in vain, and many other selfish acts. All sins are equally serious before our Holy God.
If there is some sexual sin in your life, the first step toward improvement is to understand and admit what you have done. If you have given yourself to pornography or sexual fantasies involving people other than your spouse, you have been committing adultery. Jesus said:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).
Grasp the seriousness of this.
You have been breaking a commandment of God. You have turned something beautiful (sex), into something ugly, selfish and damaging.
If you are married, then you have been unfaithful to your spouse.
If you are single, you are sinning against the dear person you may one day marry.
If you are returning to this behavior over and over again, despite your desire to stop, then you are out control. You are addicted. If this is the case, and you can admit it, then congratulations; you have taken the first step toward recovery.
The single biggest factor in combatting such an addiction is to come under the authority of Jesus Christ. You are involved in a spiritual battle. The Scripture contains no promise of help in overcoming temptation for those who are unsaved.
If you are not yet a Christian, we strongly urge you to confess your sin and totally surrender your life to Him. Accept His gift of eternal salvation for your soul.
After accepting Christ, some are totally delivered from their addictions.
“But, I am saved” – If there is no doubt that you have already committed your life to Jesus Christ and are relying on His sin-covering blood for your salvation, then do not let your sin cause you to doubt your salvation. Instead, deal with your sin.
Confess it, and rededicate your life to Christ.
Don’t hold back any part of your life from Him.
Humble yourself totally before God. Surrender it all.
Ask Him to help you live a life of purity and true love.
Accept your own failure and inadequacy.
Admit that you cannot overcome sin on your own.
The apostle Paul understood the frustration and terrible hold that our inherited sin has on all descendants of Adam and Eve:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. …I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
—Romans 7:15-24 (NIV)
Admit your weakness, seek God’s help
All humans are selfish and sinful; it is our nature.
Addiction to pornography and other sexual sins are particularly potent in their effect, similar to a seductive and powerful drug. Once it has a hold on you, it is very difficult to resist. In fact, it is virtually impossible to overcome on your own. You must have God’s help.
God cannot work with you if you are still trying to overcome sin on your own; it is a form of pridefulness. You are, in effect, saying to God “I can take care of this myself.” Consider these verses:
▪︎ “The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God…” (Psalm 10:4).
▪︎ “Pride goes before destruction…” (Proverbs 16:18).
▪︎ “When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2).
▪︎ “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).
▪︎ “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
You see, God’s willingness to “exalt you” (lift you up spiritually) is dependent on your willingness to humble yourself before Him.
But the second part is just as important: God cares for you so much that He is willing to take all of your cares (worries, anxieties, needs, fears, desires, challenges, regrets, etc.) upon Himself.
In other words, humble yourself by accepting your inability to handle the cares of life and give them all over to God. THEN He will lift you up spiritually, and you will find peace and freedom unlike anything you’ve ever known.
The Holy Spirit will be the most powerful in your life, when you are the most humble, when you get your own interests and desires out of the way. Then, He can produce in you the fruit He promised: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Notice that last one—self control. It is important to see that self control is not simply a matter of one’s will; it is, in fact, a fruit of the Holy Spirit working in us. What a merciful God we have! As we learn to depend more and more on God to see us through each day, and we become more aware of His presence moment by moment, we find that over time the magnet of sexual sin loses its strength.
Prayer is conversation with our Creator.
It is a child’s communion with his Father.
The Bible emphasizes that it should have a very high priority in our lives.
Continual prayer is very important to your recovery. If there was ever a time in your life when you need to pray, it is now. It is the Christian’s greatest weapon against the sin nature and the dangers and temptations of this world. Anything of value in the kingdom of God is initiated in and dependent on prayer.
Rely on God, and learn to think as He does.
This will bring a revolution of good in your life.
Here’s how to pray, each and every day…
▪︎ Confess all known sin (Psalm 51; Mark 7:20-23; 1 John 1:7-10)
▪︎ Renounce conformity to the world (Romans 12:2, 6:13-14)
▪︎ Ardently seek an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. He will give you a richer, more meaningful life. (John 10:10, 15:5-12; Ephesians 3:14-19; Philippians 3:10-14)
▪︎ Offer your body as a “living sacrifice” to God (Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
▪︎ Worship God (John 4:23-24; Philippians 3:3)
▪︎ Thank and praise God.
Thank Him for his grace and mercy, praise Him, and keep seeking His mercy. Thank God for answered prayer. (Philippians 4:6-7; Colossians 4:2)
▪︎ Ask God for help in living a pure and loving life (Philippians 4:6-7; Hebrews 4:16)
Although it is healthy to be ashamed of the sins you are involved in, don’t let that shame become one of Satan’s weapons to keep you trapped. Secrecy is often a Christian’s biggest enemy, while confession can bring freedom and release from the bondage of an overwhelming sense of shame.
If no one knows of your personal moral failures, there is no one to be accountable to, or to help lift you up in prayer or encourage you. Don’t let your pride destroy you (Proverbs 29:23; Mark 7:21; 2 Chronicles 32:26).
In an accountability relationship, you choose a confidant that you can be honest and open with about your addiction. Confess your sin (James 5:16). Be sure to choose someone of the same sex. Preferably, select a discrete person that has some spiritual maturity in their walk with Christ, and who has a helpful, non-condemning spirit.
Some of you are church leaders or teachers.
We fully understand that breaking total secrecy about your sin is going to be especially difficult. But it is still necessary. God requires more of shepherds (not less) and holds them more accountable.
Trust God and pray about who He would have assist you.
Humble yourself. Proceed with wisdom and faith. Do what needs to be done. As a leader, it is even more important for you to do what is right and to deal decisively with your sin.
If your addiction involves viewing Internet pornography, there is an Internet service that can assist you.
▪︎ CovenantEyes.net is an on-line accountability service. They point out that “while Internet filters can provide some help, they can also block acceptable web sites, creating frustration.
Filters can also be turned off or bypassed, rendering them ineffective. The Covenant Eyes Program removes the secrecy and privacy of using the Internet. Covenant Eyes promotes self-control and personal discipline, and the individual is held accountable in their Internet use.
It works by logging the address of each Web site visited, then compiling a list of visited sites that can be viewed on-line by your accountability partner. Users often find their temptation dramatically reduced and often leave it altogether once they know someone is monitoring their Web usage.
Blocking Internet pornography
If you spend much time on the Internet, computer monitoring (as mentioned above with Covenant Eyes) or Internet filters are highly recommended. There are many filters to choose from, including:
▪︎ AFA Filter — single profile, with no password overrides. This means no guessed or cracked passwords, resulting in maximum protection for children and adults. See: AFAfilter.com
▪︎ Hedgebuilders — free to pastors, missionaries, and Christian schools. Others pay a small fee. See: Hedge.org
Guard your heart, avoid temptations
Guard your heart with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). Don’t let the demonic realm influence your thought-life (Ephesians 6:12-20).
If you give yourself to sinful fantasies and pursuits, you will become their slave (Romans 6:16).
A simple change of habit can do wonders in keeping you from temptation.
▪︎ For example, if you are most tempted when you spend time on the computer after your spouse has gone to bed, then make a commitment to stay off of the computer during that time.
▪︎ If you know that a certain street you drive down causes you to lust due to certain establishments on it, or prostitutes that hang around, or alluring billboards, you would be wise to travel a different route.
“Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word” (Psalm 119:37).
▪︎ Stephen Arterburn in his book Every Man’s Battle talks about retraining the eyes to “bounce away” from visual things that stimulate lust in you. For men, this might mean you need to look away as soon as you see a scantily dressed female jogger. Don’t fuel your lust. Avert your eyes from temptations, and don’t look back.
The same applies to visual temptations on magazines at the grocery store checkout line, or billboards, television programming and commercials. A good habit can be formed in around two weeks. Keep bouncing your gaze away, and remarkable improvement can be noticed rather quickly.
▪︎ Destroy all pornographic materials in your possession — magazines, books, videos, and computer files. Make no provision for your flesh (Romans 13:14).
If you can’t control yourself, then you must then get rid of every possible access to pornographic material in your life (Internet, cable TV, etc.).
Stop feeding the fire.
If some friendships cause too much temptation, severe those relationships