As you likely already know, I was recently diagnosed with shingles. In case you don’t know, it is painful. And due to the fact that the shingles virus was in my left eye, I had two office visits each with my general practitioner and my optometrist. Do you know how they diagnosed the virus? In short, the combination of symptoms. With that, even before I was examined by the doctors, I had to answer a number of questions concerning COVID19 symptoms. They didn’t ask me if I had COVID19. Instead, they asked me if I had symptoms related to the virus. In fact, they were so careful that I had to answer the questions via a website before even visiting the doctor’s offices. Why? They simply wanted to know if I had symptoms related to the COVID19 virus. After all, the symptoms typically alert the medical professionals about an underlying problem. However, please keep in mind, whether a person has COVID19 or shingles, the symptoms aren’t the primary issue.
Speaking of symptoms, as a result of my illness, I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to physically attend the PORN Epidemic Conference held here in Sioux City this week. But thankfully, I was able to participate in the conference via live stream. Our keynote speaker and teacher, the venerable Dr. Josh McDowell, explained that a pornographic addiction, similar to any other addiction, is a symptom of a deeper problem or problems. Yes, that’s right. A symptom. As with COVID19, it isn’t sufficient just to address the symptom. You have to get at the issue, whether addiction or stronghold, manifesting the symptoms. 
Before we continue, let’s classify addiction, specifically pornography addiction. “Your pornography addiction is a heart-issue first and foremost. It’s an idolatry issue. You are exchanging truth for a lie. You are voluntarily placing your affections on the cheap thrills that are ultimately fleeting and leave you feeling worthless. You were created for God, by God. Your affections were meant to be placed there, on Him. Ask God to help you every time you are tempted.” (“10 Ways to Fight Pornography,” All Pro Dad,  Let me be even more definitive in the classification. It is sin. All forms of idolatry is sin. As the Apostle Paul writes, RO 13:13 “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” But God doesn’t leave us alone in our struggle. He is faithful and promises a way of escape from our temptation. Again, the Apostle Paul writes, 1 CO 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Conversely, did you know that the overwhelming message spoken to those who are addicted to PORN, and to so-labeled addicts in general, is that you can never be completely healed and restored? The best case scenario is being labeled an addict and told that you’ll always be an addict and you will be in recovery the rest of your life. Essentially, you’re told that if you’re an addict you have an incurable disease. Note the difference. Addiction isn’t classified as a symptom but a disease. For that matter, secular clinicians will typically avoid the “cure” word and instead say that the disease of addiction is simply treatable. Accordingly, as stated by the Hayes Clinic who claim over 100 years of combined expertise, “addiction is an incurable, progressive and fatal illness.” As a result, an addict is basically sentenced to lifelong treatment and meetings with other addicts for the rest of their lives repeatedly introducing themselves as an addict. Just a thought, but this may be the only alternative for those who reject the Deity and Lordship of Jesus Christ. That’s a sad thought isn’t it?
But what if we stopped the blame, addressed the shame and removed the labels in light of the power of Jesus Christ and His holy word? I submit to you that there is hope in Christ Jesus. In fact, you can be healed, set free and restored in the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of Jesus Christ and for the glory of Jesus Christ. Through Bible study, prayer, relational support and counseling you can discover the source of your pain, the real issue, and begin the healing process. This includes exploring your life and asking, Where have I been wounded and how do those wounds affect me today? Why would you do such a thing? This is likely the root of your problem. Again, addiction is a symptom.
Please be encouraged and don’t rule out a spiritual solution to your addiction. There is help, hope and healing in Jesus Christ for any and all addictions. Jesus has the power and authority to declare you “restored.” God loves us and He saves us by His grace (Ephesians 4:11-12) and His grace gives us power over sin (Titus 2:11-12). The Christian band Casting Crowns nailed this idea in their song, Love Moved First.
“What kind of grace, relentless grace
Would chase this rebel down
Crawl into this prisoner’s cage
Take my hand and pull me out
You knew I couldn’t make the change
So You became the change in me
And now I live to tell to the story
Of the God who rescues” ~ Love Moved First, Casting Crowns
And because of the love, grace and power of Jesus Christ, we can bring our failures and addictions to Jesus. He will heal us, renew us and restore us. Jesus will set you free. As the Christian band, We the Kingdom declare in their song God so Love:

“Bring all your failures
Bring your addictions
Come lay them down
At the foot of the cross
Jesus is waiting there
With open arms
Can you see His open arms” ~God so Love, We The Kingdom

As I watch, listen, pray and discern, what I see, hear and otherwise sense are an unnumbered amount of people who want someone to listen, someone to understand, someone to comfort and someone to love. It doesn’t stop there. They want someone to relate, someone to encourage and someone to care. The stories of pain and heartache are diverse, of course. As Dr. McDowell explained the pain and heartache are the result of various forms of wounds. However, our pain and emptiness leave us in a similar position. Our individual journey is unique, but the consequence of spending time in the darkness is eerily similar. If you want to be restored and you’d like more information about our Christ-centered response to addiction, please call us at 712-255-5989.

A Work in Progress,

Pastor Gene