Jim loves God. He appears to love his wife and kids very much; he’s a leader in the church. He looks a lot like you and me.
Jim, however, has a secret. He’s been living a double life for some time. At first it bothered him a lot, not so much anymore—he has developed a calloused heart. His conscience is seared from neglect.
That could explain why he is so indifferent to a sin that is eroding the very foundation of who he is and what he says he values most. It would not be near as hard to understand if he was faithless, foolish, or openly rebellious. While people tell him he’s a “good man” all the time, Jim knows he is living in a house of cards. He has been keeping up the façade for so long that even he’s been able to compartmentalize his sin. That’s why Jim did not confess, but had to get caught.
The World’s Perspective: Recovery
The world would say Jim is a sex addict. He is driven by a desire that he cannot control. He can’t help himself, at least not without sex addiction counseling. Even then he will always be an “addict in recovery” at best.
There are no shortage of theories about the physiology, emotional dysfunction, and addictive cycle of a person struggling with pornography. We can learn from this for sure, but the issue goes deeper. Jim is in trouble.
He is “addicted,” but, unless we look past the symptoms and cycles of behavior, we too will be tempted to think there is little hope for real freedom. The revolving door of recovery dooms him to a more damaging cycle of conforming, performing, falling, shame, more sin, more therapy, more performing…where is the hope in that?
The Word’s Perspective: Redemption
God has a perspective on sex addicts. We see in Scripture that He gets the problem. He knows we are all sexually broken. He has seen the generations of perversity. He is jealous for the purity and healing of His people. The cross does not lose its power and the blood of Christ its efficacy in the face of sexual sin.
But, here is the problem: Jim has forgotten about the Gospel. He is myopic and amnesic, having lost sight of the cross and forgotten who he is in Christ.
The good news is: God isn’t in the recovery business; he is in the redemption business.
He does not give you freedom to stay indentured to a cruel master. He slays that master dead and asks you to reckon it true – then, live like it.
The Gospel Gap
So often there is a gap between our spoken and our lived theology. Pornography is not just a lust issue, it’s a love issue. Jim says he loves God, but his will and choices betray him. Does he really love pixilated images more than Christ or his loving wife? What does Jim love most? What does he treasure above all?
The truth is: Jim loves himself, loves ease, and loves control. Early on he tried to fight a lust for pleasure with his will and lost.
Just saying “No” to sexual lust is like fighting a forest fire with a water pistol.
Jim is defeated, surrendered, and enslaved to sin.
It reminds me of the old T.V. show “To Tell the Truth.” Would the real Jim please stand up?! From a biblical worldview we would say Jim has a worship problem which leads to an identity disorder. But, we need to realize we are all addicts of sorts and humbly go on a mission to help Jim see that false intimacy is keeping Him from real intimacy with Christ.
Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling
Dare we ask if Jim is saved; a new creation in Christ? That might seem like an odd place to start. He is a churchgoer and small group leader, knows the Scriptures and even taught Sunday school. Wouldn’t it be a bit insulting to back the train up that far? Insulting to the flesh? Yes. But, it is absolutely where any Christ-centered biblical counselor would want to start.
Most churches would set up accountability and ask him to step down from leadership. Some would gladly support Jim getting into a recovery group or sexual addiction therapy. The problem is that this is only addressing the fruit not the root. That is why pornography is rampant in our churches, with little hope for reversing the trend.
Jim needs to see that impurity is keeping him from God but so is religious façade. What he needs is to get real with God and others in real authentic community.
Even if he’s already saved, he desperately needs the Gospel retold afresh. It will point him back to his first love. It will allow him to come out of hiding, face the shame, admit his condition, and cry out for mercy (Proverbs 28:13). He can’t fight pornography in the flesh (Colossians 2:20-23). What if he really got the implications of Paul’s declaration: “such were some of you…” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). God does not see Jim as a sex addict, but as “washed, sanctified, and justified in Christ.” Jim can’t let his struggle define him nor allow him to make excuses.
Jim needs a counselor whose focus is on Christ. If we don’t help Jim see his need for Christ to overcome this stronghold he could get caught counting the days of purity, asking his wife to be the purity police, updating his filtering software, and always looking back. Instead, we have an opportunity to help Jim walk in his brokenness, be weaned from his addiction to self, and reorient his worship (2 Corinthians 5:15). Anything less is another from of bondage. Helping Jim means being ruthlessly Christ-centered in your counseling.
Recovery and the disease model is more bondage. Repentance and appropriating our identity in Christ brings responsibility and hope.
Join the Conversation
What are the differences between the recovery/disease model and the redemption/repentance/identity in Christ approach?