New Hope Notes
Sabbath and Purity
The Divine Rythms
Pastor Jon and Mark J
PASTOR JON BURGESS: Welcome, New Hope! Today, we have Mark J, The Poet, to share with us his struggle with addiction to pornography. Mark, you talked about a poem and shared it with us, as well as, on the YouTube channel—very powerful! You are a minister’s son (a PK), grew up in church, and you were addicted to pornography. Take us back to the beginning when addiction to pornography started in your life; this may be the first time you’ve ever heard that said in a church setting.
MARK J, The Poet: I remember when I was about 13 years old I had a computer to do my schoolwork and got on the Internet. One day when my parents were not home and my four other siblings were out of the house, I got curious and started typing words into the computer to see what I could find—then these pornographic images popped up! It gave me a rush, like adrenaline, and I became very addicted over time; it took a long time for me to realize that I was addicted and had a problem.
PASTOR JON: You're in a church context, and yet you didn't feel free to talk to anybody about this—not even your parents or anybody in church—so you just kept it quiet. Why was that exactly the wrong thing to do?
MARK: Because when you keep something a secret (especially when it's sin), that's when the secret grows in darkness. I felt so alone, as if I were the only one with this addiction, because no one mentioned pornography at church.
PASTOR JON: Right. The national statistics on pornography continue to increase; it's a $97 billion worldwide industry with 4.2 million websites, specifically, dedicated to pornography. And 70 percent of men 18 to 34 visit pornography sites; so, obviously, we know from statistics that there's a good majority of folks in this room that are dealing with it or know someone who is dealing with it. And yet, there's a good chance that this is also, maybe, the first time they've ever heard it addressed in a church setting. Why is it important that the church be the place where we talk about this?
MARK: It's important because, first of all, freedom is in Christ—it's through Him! It's His design. He's the inventor of truth and healing. He's the Creator. So, if we can't talk about it in church, then people will continue to stay in their secret shame, and feel alone just as I thought I was alone. But when we can be open and real with one another in the church—that is so powerful!
PASTOR JON: Fast forward a few years, and you fall in love! God blesses you with an amazing wife. Did you think as a lot of young Christian men do, that “Man, when I get married, I won’t have these temptations anymore because, I will have a woman in covenant sexual relationship that will solve everything.” Did you think that?
MARK: Yes, I sure did. I was so excited to get married, thinking that she will cure all my lust issues. But, after just a few months, I was on my brand?new iPad. Late one night, while my wife was sleeping, I was back browsing on pornography sites. I just didn't know how to break this addiction; I didn't feel I had the freedom to talk about it with anyone.
PASTOR JON: And so at some point your wife discovers that you're living this double life. What happened?
MARK: Oh, my goodness! Going back to that emotion when someone figures out your secret—my heart was racing! I had tried to stop my addiction, but the problem was that I tried to stop with my own will power—it didn't work!
PASTOR JON: That is such a powerful point, Mark, because we try and battle sin with logic. And you tried to say, “Well, this hurts my wife so much, there's no way I would ever do anything like that again!” And, yet, apart from scripture, science shows why logic doesn't work to get anyone free from pornographic addiction. The reason is that when looking at this façade (it's not even a real woman), your wife can never live up to that. She's a real woman who actually loves you, and this image is not a real person!
These images release dopamine that goes through your brain, bypassing prefrontal cortex, a part in your brain that knows right from wrong that deals in logic. You were using logic, but logic didn't work.
MARK: My addiction had progressed over the years. So, about five years after being married, we were going through a separation. And honestly, I had given up on myself because lust is never satisfied. It takes just a little bit, and you say to yourself, “I'll just do it this once, just this once,” but you keep going back.
I thought I could manage it. I'll just stick to pornography and not do anything else; but honestly, it progressed from there! I found myself seeking other women, Facebook, Instagram, pictures, and chat lines. It was getting so bad that I had given up believing I could change, because I thought I tried everything—everything except being honest with other people, of course. So I just kept going downhill!
At that time, I was separated from my wife, depressed, not knowing who I was and not knowing if healing was for me, when I was connected with a friend who made me feel comfortable being real. For the first time in my life I was honest—it felt really good! Today, honesty has become an important part of my healing!
At the point of finally learning to be honest, my wife said, “Okay, you want to work things out? Well, here's a list of things I want you to do.” (Of course she had every right to do that!) I said, “Okay, let's get to work.” So I sat down with a pastor, started Christian counseling, and therapy. It’s coming on three years that I’ve been completely clean from pornography!
PASTOR JON: What your story just told me is that you had never truly experienced the love of Christ until you opened up and got real with a brother. Religion says love is conditional; that love will only be there for you as long as you keep everything in line and in order. But what you experienced in the moment was a lifting off of the burden on your shoulders—by just bringing it into the light—the unconditional love of Jesus Christ!
MARK: Yes, that is so true. And there's nothing like that experience. It's interesting because I was a church kid, you know. I knew about Jesus, I really loved Him, but I didn't understand how much He loved me (the messed?up Mark, the fallen Mark, the failure Mark), in spite of my mistakes! I didn't understand His love and His grace, but when I was able to open up and just show Him all my junk (my garbage); then I saw that God loved me in the middle of that lust, those issues! That was life changing! I said, “Whoa God, you accept me right now? You mean I don't have to prove myself? I don't have to do more work? I don't have to do more outreaches? I don't have to lead more people to You? You love me as I am?” Changed everything!
Be gracious with yourself because God is gracious with you. He loves you like you can't imagine—and I say that, as someone who has really encountered His grace, as someone who was raised in the church, knew about Christ, but still had problems/issues. Be gracious with yourself, and know that you are not alone.
I've been a part of a ministry called Celebrate Recovery, and learning to overcome my habits and hang?ups—which most of us have. We must make a commitment to community—a commitment to the process. I was not able to set myself free or to kick the habit on my own. The turning point came when I finally shared my addiction with somebody else and brought it into the light, and joined a group of other people called Celebrate Recovery. Don't try and do it alone. Do it in a community—a safe place where you can have others do it with you!
PASTOR JON: That's incredible. I believe I speak for our whole New Hope Ohana, when I thank you for your courage to address a very difficult and sensitive issue; yet with such candor and transparency. Your openness frees the rest of us to be able to say, “Well, I want to know that same freedom.” What you're saying is “freedom is in Christ."
*We Will Find Freedom In Christ When We Commit To A Long-Term Process.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV) says, “3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Paul is calling us to look at the battle in the brain before we can conquer the battle of our body.
*We Will Find Freedom In Christ When We Commit To The Process Of Sexual Purity And To Do This In Community.
James 5:16 (NIV) says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Pastor Wayne Cordeiro says,“The devil is a headhunter, your mind is the battlefield, and your imagination is his trophy,” He is after your brain because he knows that if he has your brain, he has everything—your brain rules your body!
PASTOR JON: We actually have three avenues to help you:
This is not a place for those who have it all together; it is a place where we worship the perfect God who wants to bring us into perfect peace—into a place of absolute freedom.
So, I want to encourage you to commit to the process of sexual purity and commit to do it in community. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen daily. Two thousand years ago, Jesus provided the key to unlocking the chains to set our brains free. But we must take the key through repentance, honesty, and openness.