If there was a time in my life when repentance was an affront, it is the time I struggled with a pornography and masturbation addiction. Repentance became an affront because I had done it so many times and I was still stuck in my sin. It was also an affront because it reminded me how useless I had been rendered by an inability to tame the lustful desires that burned in me. The third reason is the core of this blog. The third reason that repentance was an affront was because I loved my sin. Yes, you heard me right. I loved the porn and masturbation. There was a war within me because I was convicted by the Holy Spirit yet my body craved for the pleasure. My soul was tussled by the commands of scripture and the desires of the flesh. This tussle gave me some confidence that I was on the right track. That at least I hadn’t gone numb. That at least I felt it was still wrong. This sounds righteous, Beloved but I later reckoned that it was pride at work in me. It was pride because it took confidence in the fact that I was better off than others who did not share my tussle. The ones that watched porn with reckless abandon. The ones that defended masturbation shamelessly. This pseudo-spiritual confidence only circumvented repentance and fortified my love for the sin. It wasn’t the pride with two horns, dressed in red tights and holding a pitch-fork. It was the kind dressed in bleached robes and a floating halo. Pride dressed in religion. Pride that respects its own sin by giving excuses for it. My porn addiction grew. My masturbation addiction overwhelmed me. My view of women was disfigured and I was further from repentance than ever before. When I did get my deliverance, it hit me that it was a long time coming. I had circumvented the repentance because I loved my sin. We do this through the following ways. I pray you may examine yourself too and search your heart if you are guilty of any.
#1 We circumvent repentance when we prefer internal rebuke to external rebuke
One way to know that you love your sin is how you take correction from external parties. When I was struggling, I was very good at telling myself what I needed to do to stop watching porn but I did not like it when others told me what to do to stop watching porn. I accepted internal rebuke but disdained external rebuke. Others being those on the pulpit, the Gospel music, the sermons on TV and in passing conversations by Christians not even directed to me. I don’t remember reading a book to help me quit porn. I don’t remember searching for sermons to help me stop the addiction. I don’t even remember meeting with an older believer to confess my sin. I don’t remember persistently fighting it off as bad as I needed to breathe. It was for that reason that I was addicted for about a whole year. The reason for the inaction is proof of our love for sin. Further proof is the excuses we give: But I didn’t know which books to buy; But I didn’t know which Christian to approach; But I did not know which preacher to tune to. I now see it as pride because I was only willing to take correction from me. I had become my own god. If you rebuked me, I would quote my favourite scripture: Matthew 7:1 “Judge not!” The thought of confessing to someone I knew was kryptonite to me. I did not want to lose my reputation. But the LORD convicted me as he does you now, “What reputation? You are hiding something that does not exist.” We must stop loving our sin. We must invite external audits in order to be free. (See James 5:16)
#2 We circumvent repentance when we use fellow men as the standard
The word of God is a most ingenious tool. It comforts the afflicted and it afflicts the comfortable. Especially the ones comfortable in secret sin. Pastor Matt Chandler asserts that comfort is a god in our culture. And a god that is offended is always defended by its pagan followers. One way in which I defended my comfortable sin was to use fellow men as a standard. Whilst my soul would get inspired by men and women that overcame struggles of sin, I took false comfort in the fact that other Christians struggled as well. To cement my love for sin, I considered their sexual sin worse than mine. Beloved, does the idea that pastors, great worship leaders and prominent Christians fall into sexual sin comfort you? It only does so when we love our sin. We refuse to fix our eyes on Jesus and fix in instead on fellow men so that we can circumvent repentance. And even if you are not deep in an addictive sin, biblical repentance is circumvented by our proud hearts when we uphold men more than God. David Finklea put it best when he said, “Some are so reformed; others so Pentecostal; many so Catholic; and some so Anglican. That they are barely Christian. Some follow Calvin too closely; Luther too fanatically and Spurgeon too obsessively that they can’t possibly follow Christ. We must realise that we are followers of Jesus Christ and not followers of his followers.”
#3 We circumvent repentance when we make sin look sophisticated and difficult
The scriptures teach us that if your eye causes you to sin, you ought to gouge it out. If your hand causes you to sin, chop it off. If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. The application is quite simple. End that relationship. Leave that Whatsapp group. Stop following that series. Move out of that neighbourhood. Sell your television. Get rid of sin at the source! Oh but how men and women who love their sin make it look sophisticated and difficult! “I’m getting off gradually,” one said to me, “It’s never right to cut off the feed from 100 to zero!” He then proceeds to quote some vague Psychologist that affirms why the gradual approach is working. After all he has laid off watching Scandal and Empire and is just left with Game of Thrones. He even reckons that I should congratulate him for leaving two of the series and being hooked on only one. Another one tells me how she is differently affected by pornographic music videos. She apparently maturely examines the subliminal messages to help her other friends caught in the masturbation addiction. What she isn’t confessing is that her own addiction is worsening in the process. She even assumes that her friend’s deliverance is out of her own video analysis. Only a proud heart would take the credit that belongs to God’s Holy Spirit. Beloved, as we complicate and sophisticate our addictions to circumvent our repentance, God simplifies it for us. We refuse to take biblical action because we love our sin. Christian Danish Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard summed it best: “The matter is quite simple. The bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.” I appeal to us in the words of Pastor Tim Keller: If you trust God’s Word, thoroughly testing it in the crucible of your life over the years, you will find it not only true but also delightful.
Beloved, repentance is not when we cry but when we change.There are two groups of people when a call for revival and repentance is made. The first group is those who hearken the call to abandon the life they found sinful pleasure in and follow Jesus Christ obediently. The second group is those who admit the need to change but conjure up lots of reasoning as to why leaving the world’s patterns is not linear, not-as-carnal. Beloved, the danger with the latter is that you are always second-guessing your own salvation. We act like the unregenerate to a fault. And the question begs, if we are resolute enemies of repentance, are we even born-again in the first place? Do we pass the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5). When the LORD seized my heart. I let go of my pride. I approached repentance as he designed it. And in a matter of time, the desire for porn and lust completely disappeared. In gratitude, I never return to the cords of sin that once bound me. I asked the LORD as I still do today, to give me a heart of flesh and take away the heart of stone. To make me faithful, available and teachable. And in a thriving walk with God, I now realise that people don’t fall into sin, they fall out of repentance. And even now, it isn’t my hold on him that keeps me going, but rather his hold on me out of his faithfulness. My victories are coated with deep gratitude and my failings with deep repentance. May yours be similar, Beloved.