Question:

I have a question for you.I was born again several years ago. At that time, I didn't have too many struggles and had a heart of joy and was very happy. Before I was saved I struggled with looking at pornography and masturbating. Ididn't doit for a long time while I was getting my heart right to be baptized and give myself to God,and then the last few years I have been struggling again. I even think, I honestly can't remember for certain, I know I wanted to make a deal with God that if He would bless my wife and I with a child I would quit this behavior. Well, my wife is pregnant and I am still struggling.

If I take these sins to God, is there any way I can be forgiven? Or am I already dead to him? I mean how far can you promise things and try and make deals with God and then default on them because you are so weak? Every timeI sin, I know I am sinning, but can't seem to stop myself. My wife doesn't know, and the guys I work with all do it as do most guys that aren't saved and then talk about it and laugh about it and tease each other about it -- kind of like when I was in the military.

It's something that started when I was about 11 and have struggled with all my life. Nowadays the world wants to tell you there is nothing wrong with you, but I know better. It's a disgrace before God and I know it makes Him sick and angry at me when I'm doing it. I always ask for forgiveness when I am done and swear it will never happen again, but a couple weeks go by and here we go again. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of other sins I ask for forgiveness for every day. It's just this one, that I seem to feel the most guilty about. Maybe it's because it is a secret sin and not something I do plainly in front of others, such as cursing, talking behind someone's back, gluttony, lying, judging others,etc. I'm just as sorryfor any other sin, but it doesn't carry the guilt this one does.

Is this sin and the fact that I promised God I wouldn't do it again one of those sins that will cause me death or can I be forgiven? I want so bad to bring glory to God by making Him happy and serve Him welland end up in Heaven with all those who are saved that have gone on before me. Is there any hope for me? If there is will you please pray for me? I need all the help I can get. Thank you for listening and I look forward to your answer.


Answer:

There are some notes which make me wish I was sitting down discussing matters directly, and this is one. There are so many things we should discuss. But I'll do the best that I can.

Let's start with what is almost a side issue, but it is something important that you need to change. You can't make deals with God. The very approach says you see God as someone you can manipulate.

In addition, making rash promises that you don't keep forces a bad attitude on the promiser. "It is a snare for a man to devote rashly something as holy, and afterward to reconsider his vows" (Proverbs 20:25). "Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few" (Ecclesiastes 5:2). As you see in your own life, each failure convinces you that you are worthless. Satan worms into your life through your doubts and convinces you to give up. You're filled with sorrow, but it is a worldly sorrow. "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death" (II Corinthians 7:10).

Look at what you are saying! You are doubting that God wants you. You wonder if you can be saved. All this despite God's words: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9). God wants everyone saved. If there is any hindrance, it is on man's side, not God. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:16-17). And it started with trying to bargain with God out of sin.

The key is changing your life so that sin is no longer a part of it. ""Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways," says the Lord GOD. "Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies," says the Lord GOD. "Therefore turn and live!"" (Ezekiel 18:30-32). The number of times you might slip isn't as important as your determination to change. "For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (II Corinthians 7:11).

Most men don't realize what the draw of pornography is. They are so focused on their body's pleasure that they don't realize how they are being manipulated. Everything about pornography is designed to hold your attention, to shock, and to sexually excite you. It has one purpose, to get you craving more.

Drug addicts are snagged by people offering "free" samples. Those samples start creating cravings that won't easily go away until the drug is used again. But soon it isn't free -- it costs you something. Those free samples are given to manipulate you into forking over your wallet. See "A Look at Pornography" for more about how pornography works and why it is wrong.

The pornography industry is operated in the same fashion. Those offering porn are looking to make money -- lots of it. To do it, they trap men by their sexual drive. The pleasure from sexual release provides the drug that gets a man wanting more. Worse, these people prey mostly on young men because their minds are just developing and their sexual drive is both new and very strong. By filling their minds with trashy images, their mental pathways quickly and solidly forms habits which are hard to break.

But not impossible to break. It takes two things to break a bad habit: 1) making it hard to follow the set habit, and 2) replacing the bad habit with good habits.

I don't know what is your favored source of pornography, I assume it is the Internet, but what you need to do is make changes to your lifestyle that makes access to pornography hard. For instance, a business man tempted to watch films in the privacy of his room can on check-in request that a family block be placed on the television so those channels can't be accessed. Move the computer in the house into a public area of the house. Put a block on access. One that is amazingly simple to install is OpenDNS; even better, it is free. It can be bypassed, but the point is that you have to choose to bypass it (extra steps which gives you time to think). And if another person is one who sets up the locks, and thus holds the keys, it becomes even harder to bypass. Or for one more unbreakable, get a filtering program, such as Safe Eyes, Net Nanny, or B-Safe, and again give the keys to someone else.

The second half of the equation is replacing bad habits with good one. Start paying attention to when you have urges to look at pornography. One common cause for married men is having too much time between sex. It is easy to get distracted by life and too tired to take time for pleasure. "Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control" (I Corinthians 7:2-5). As semen builds up in your body, your sexual urges also increase. You established as a young man a bad habit of relieving those urges through pornography and masturbation. You should recognize it for what it is, and find relief in sexual play with your wife.

It won't be easy. You have a sinful habit to break that has been established for years. You might have set backs, but the real point is how determined are you to break this?