Tactic #1: Fear

The enemy wants you to be afraid.
But, afraid of what?  Surely not of him.  If we feared him, we’d start defending ourselves.  And he doesn’t want us to fear God, does he?  Didn’t we just read about how the fear of God actually produces courage in this life?

The enemy wants you to fear three things.  The worst one is the fear of failure.

The fear of failure leads to inaction, and inaction is a terrific way to ensnare a person in an addiction.  You won’t attempt things that entail too much risk either because of how you will be perceived by others, or how you will feel inside if you fail.

With regard to sin, this inaction makes us not attempt to find freedom.  We prefer the safety of our addictions and vices.  It’s like a prisoner who has tried to escape multiple times, and the last failure was such a letdown that now he’s given up.  He’s been rendered apathetic, and accepts whatever they do to him.  When a new idea is proposed by some brash, idealistic inmate, this old guy scoffs and berates the idea.  It will never work, he says.  Repeated failure has produced this cynicism, but really it’s a fear of failing yet again.  The hopeless feeling that things will never change is unbearable, but it’s made even worse when you keep trying and failing again.

So it’s much easier to not try.  The enemy wants you to believe you will never find freedom from sin, because then you will immerse yourself in it.  Never happy, never satisfied, always full of shame and guilt; yet afraid to try to break free one more time.

One well-known story I’ve heard concerns an elephant in the circus.  They have these huge elephants tamed, and they are tied around the leg with this chain attached to a post in the ground.  You look at it and think how easy it seems for the massive elephant to break the post from the ground.  Indeed, as a newborn the elephant had tried for months to break free of the chain, but was unable to with his limited strength.  It became seared in the mind of the elephant that this chain was unbreakable, so there’s no use to keep trying.  Now, as a fully-grown elephant, it easily has the strength to break free, but its mind is held captive, and it believes it will fail.  Psychologists call this operant conditioning, because continued failure eventually teaches the elephant to quit trying.

The same result happens for us when we fear failure.  It’s easier to not even try, because I feel so terrible when I fail again.  I can’t live free from sin, and I’m tired of having my hopes dashed by my own weakness.  Once you think this, the enemy has won.  You are enslaved, just like he wants you, and you will live an irrelevant, ineffective Christian life, afraid to witness, and fearful of what people will think if they really knew you.

But the Bible says something different:

Deut 31:6
Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.  (NAS)

If we know our God and believe verses like this, then we lose our fear of failure.  God knows we will fail without His help, but He will not cease to help us as long as we keep calling on Him.  And He is more than able to deliver us.  Remember, we have already been delivered from the penalty of sin.  And in this life, God also wants to deliver us from the power of sin.  This is His will.  He will not fail you.  But if you cave in to the power of fear, to the fear of failure, and believe you will never find freedom, then you have written your own epitaph.

Faith believes God is who He says He is, and will do what He says He will do.
The second thing the enemy wants you to fear is that you will not be blessed.

This is the fear of loss.  If I give up my comforts and addictions, what if God doesn’t come through?  Even secular psychologists understand that to beat an addiction, you have to find something else to replace it with, because the need still resides within you.  With God as our rock and the one we look to for the power to be set free, we are trusting Him to come through with whatever will replace our habitual conduct.  But, what if He doesn’t?

If I give up porn, or stop going to strip clubs, or disconnect my internet (yes, you can live without it…they’re called libraries, and it’s free), then what am I going to do with all this sexual need and desire that fulminates and churns within me?

As a sidenote, this is one area where women do not easily understand the male mind or physical needs.  I think they need to, and if you get married or even find a committed relationship, I personally believe you should talk about this stuff with her.  Women need to understand what’s behind this sin.  It will enable them to discuss it with each other, learn how to support each other, and learn how to help and support men to walk in freedom, rather than condemn them.

Because this question is a legitimate one.  What do I do if I give all this up?  How will I manage?  The unenlightened woman (or man) will overlook and oversimplify this problem, and say you just need to try harder or “give it to God” or some other religious or psychological cliche.  So when you do decide to talk to someone about this stuff, make sure it’s a person who understands.  And if you happen to be unfortunate enough to find yourself attending an ultra-religious church, and your pastor or the person you open up to judges you, condemns you, or threatens you that you can’t stay in the church if you keep doing this sin, then let me make a suggestion for you: Leave that church.  That church is not expressing the biblical love and forgiveness of God.  I know people who’ve experienced this, and it is faith-shattering and very painful.  Just know that those people are not representing God, and there are lots of other Christians and churches that will not respond that way.  Excommunication has its place, but not for a repentant Christian who longs for freedom, but doesn’t know how to find it.

So, back to the question, one reason this is such a great fear is because, what if I don’t find a girlfriend or get married?  What if I have to wait months, or even years?  Why shouldn’t I just move in with my girlfriend?  Why shouldn’t we just have sex?  Won’t that relieve my needs?

These questions, though legitimate, are amplified and exploited by the enemy.  He takes them a step farther, and his goal is to get you to believe a lie that goes back thousands of years.  The lie: God isn’t good.

This was the implication in the garden of Eden.  God was keeping something from them by denying them this fruit.  God isn’t good, and you can’t trust Him.  When you fear what will happen if you give up all your addictions and sinful comforts, you are in the midst of the greatest battle you will fight–the battle for your faith.  Do I trust God enough to take care of these needs I have?  Will He help me and bless me?  Or will I get hung out to dry?  Beyond these questions lie even harder ones such as, what if my personal needs aren’t the most important thing in life?

God’s goodness is actually one of hardest things to believe in.  The enemy does all he can to keep you from believing this.  If we become convinced of the absolute goodness of our unseen God, then we will no longer fear Him not blessing us.  Truly great faith keeps believing this, even until death.  Many of the examples cited in Hebrews 11 of people who lived by great faith fall into this category.   At its conclusion, it says this:

Hebrews 11:39
And these all, having been attested through their faith, did not receive the promise. (NT Transline)

When we set our minds on things above, on things in heaven, we begin to realize that God’s goodness and blessing will not be fully known until we see Him face to face.  No matter what good things we hope for in this life (and marriage and sex are good things, let’s be clear…) they all pale in comparison to what comes after.

That being said, we still have needs in this life, and the enemy wants you to be afraid that God won’t meet any of them, so you have to do it yourself.  I’ll never marry a woman whom I love and desire, so I’m going to go look at all the beautiful ones in the world who accept me as I am, and show me everything I want to see, even if from a distance and without love.  And I’ll pleasure myself since there’s no one else to do it.

Or, even after marriage, you feel like your wife isn’t meeting your needs.  By extension, you are accusing God of failing to do this as well, because she is His blessing for you.  The married man who still looks at lots of porn is in serious danger, especially in the increased potential for suffering that was touched on in the last chapter.  But this tactic of the enemy still applies to him too.  It has just shifted from ‘What if God doesn’t’ to ‘Is that all there is?’ (This shift is a failure to realize that life isn’t all about our needs).

I think this is one of the most-missed tactics (and therefore, most effective) the enemy uses, so read this section again if you didn’t catch it.  Put another way, this fear is about doing for ourselves what we doubt that God will do for us.  It is the belief that what the world offers as sexual fulfillment is as good as it’s going to get, and so it will have to do.  The tragic truth is that such a choice robs of us the truly great things God wants to do for us and through us, and settles instead for a life of depression, discouragement, emptiness, and unfulfillment, punctuated by fleeting moments of amazement and astonishment at what is out there to be seen and experienced.  In this way, it’s not very different from thrill seeking, which is why I’m convinced that those who passionately go after those kinds of activities (cliff jumping, bungie-jumping, all kinds of other things like this) are suffering from the same spiritual emptiness as a porn-addict.

Remember the Psalms:
How great is your goodness, stored up for those who fear you. (Ps 31:19)
The third thing the enemy tries to instill is the fear of missing out.

If he has convinced you that you’ll never be free, and that God isn’t good so there’s no good reason to want freedom anyway, then the enemy has met his goal, because you will be a textbook case of the compromised, couch-potato Christian, carried away by indifference and a lack of passion.  In fact, it’s interesting that passion, the thing our flesh desires so much, is the very thing we lose the farther we fall into an addiction.

But what about success?  Suppose our courage rises and we decide we want freedom and start to make headway.  The enemy has a third tactic to derail us.  Suppose we read a few Bible verses and accept by faith that God is good, that He will bless us as we draw near to Him and walk by the Spirit.  We set our minds on things above, and feel God’s grace empowering and strengthening us.  We believe we will succeed and will not be dissuaded or discouraged by a few failures here and there.  We start to find some success.  A week goes by.  A month.  Two months.  You join an accountability group.  You mess up a couple times, but you get back up and keep pursuing God first.

But then, this feeling comes inside you.  I used to be looking at all this stuff.  These websites.  These DVDs.  My favorite girls.  What if they’ve made a bunch of new stuff that’s way better than their old stuff.  What if I’m missing something that’s really great?

After a few months, I’m waiting for God to come through, but I still don’t have a girlfriend.  And if I did, we’re not supposed to sleep together, so I’m going to have to start masturbating.  That’s what the world says.  How can that be wrong?  As long as I’m not looking at anything bad, right?

But that doesn’t take care of it.  That just fills your head with even more images and things and sounds and shapes and feelings of awe and wonder and beauty and all the other things I’m missing out on!

This tactic of the enemy is designed to derail you once you start making progress toward freedom from sin.  As long as you’re in the mire, this one doesn’t matter, because the enemy has succeeded in keeping from you the knowledge that you really are missing out, but you’re missing out on what God has for you.  And that’s a much greater tragedy.  As long as your enslavement is consistent, you won’t think this way.

When freedom becomes a possibility, however, you will find yourself thinking along these lines.  What am I missing?  All the other guys are having sex, or looking at porn, and I’m left here all alone.  What are they seeing and doing that I’m not getting?

The real sin in this case is impatience (coupled with a still-pervasive selfishness), and the doubt about God not being good has crept back into your mind, because if I’m missing out on something, then it is God who is causing me to miss out.  I’m stuck here waiting for Him to bless me, and nothing’s happening, and look at what all the other guys get to do.  Doesn’t God care?  Has He forgotten?  It often feels like it.  That feeling didn’t just arise from you.  You had help.  Listen to this verse:

Proverbs 23:17, 18
Do not let your heart envy sinners, but live in the fear of the Lord always.
Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.  (NAS)

What a verse!  What an encouragement this is.  You aren’t missing out on anything by pursuing the will of God.  Nothing!  God has a future, and you will not lose it as long as you abide in the fear and the love of God.  And that future is far better than being in bed with a porn star.  See, we know this intellectually.  Why, it’s pointedly obvious, sir. But people don’t make moral choices with their intellects.  Don’t give in to the lie that you are missing out on something.  Don’t envy those guys in porn videos who seem to have it all.  They get paid to have sex with one beautiful woman after another.  Look at how great that must be.  And they sell this very idea to the viewer, reinforcing the belief in it.

If it’s that great, why do these guys end up drug addicts so often?  Why do their marriages (when they happen) and relationships fail?  Why do they even have relationships if this work is so great?  See, when we clear our minds of the clouds the enemy sends our way, we see through these kinds of lies.  Those people who seem to be having so much fun are not to be envied.  They are the ones missing out!  They are missing out on their greatest future.  Their hope is being cut off, and they don’t know the Lord or the judgment that awaits if they don’t turn from their selfish, exploitive, unsatisfying lifestyles.

Why do they keep increasing the extremity of the sexual practices performed in porn?  Because what used to be great is now no longer enough.  If sex is just purely a physical act, then you have to keep increasing the intensity to satisfy.  Love makes all the difference.  If that’s just a flowery cliche to you, that’s fine.  For now.

So if you’ve made some strides toward freedom, don’t let the enemy make you feel like you’re missing out on anything.  You are actually getting closer to the best future you can possibly have, and he hates that with all his being.