Day 4 : Too Far Gone?
My parents tell a story of a time I almost died. It was a brisk summer day in 1989, and I was just over a year old. My family was hosting a barbecue with their friends in our backyard. My mom was having a conversation when she momentarily lost sight of me as I approached the edge of our in-ground pool. As the conversation went on, a weight came over her and she felt a still void in the air. If that feeling had only come a few moments later, the words on this page wouldn't have been written. In terror she saw the worst of her fears materialize as she looked to find me sinking to the bottom of the pool. Her glass thrown aside, she dove in without hesitation and pulled me to the surface in a matter of seconds.
Moments before being rescued, I was drowning without knowing it. Many of us walk through life drowning spiritually, oblivious to this fact.
Pornography, masturbation, and all forms of sexual sin appear harmless on the outside, but seem to be imprisoning us on the inside. Each time we give in, whether we know it or not we are actually paving a path in our brain that becomes easier to walk down each time. In our bodies, a chemical called Dopamine is triggered by sexual arousal. For the record, this is a perfectly fine substance that rewards us for behavior the brain deems beneficial. Like most things, it is the abuse of Dopamine that creates addictive pathways in our brains. 
One researcher put it like this:
Think of the brain as a forest where trails are worn down by hikers who walk along the same path over and over again, day after day. The exposure to pornographic images creates similar neural pathways that, over time, become more and more “well-paved” as they are repeatedly traveled with each exposure to pornography. Those neurological pathways eventually become the trail in the brain’s forest by which sexual interactions are routed. Thus, a pornography user has “unknowingly created a neurological circuit” that makes his or her default perspective toward sexual matters ruled by the norms and expectations of pornography. 
By viewing pornography, masturbating, etc. you and I create these addictive paths that slowly sink us towards the bottom of the pool, as I did in 1989. So then what are we to do?
I grew up around the idea of church. My parents weren’t Christians but my grandparents took me every chance they could. I attended a church, went to events, and acted as other Christians acted. Yet, I was far from God. Inside I was a bitter, angry and confused young man until sometime around my junior year of high school. One day, God began to take hold of me. He began to replace my heart of stone with a new heart by showing me what he accomplished at the cross. From that time on I’ve been following Jesus. It is to him alone that I owe my freedom.
No amount of facts, studies, courses or programs can set us free. No amount of therapy sessions will release us from these chains. If my life is testament to anything, it's that Christ is the only way to freedom. The type of freedom he offers us isn't about behavioral modification. It is about this simple truth - Christ paid our debt at the cross and no sins were left untouched by that sacrifice. This course was created and built upon the gospel truth of Jesus. There are plenty of other resources out there, but one unique to The Risen: we don't claim to have all the answers. We simply want to point people in the direction of freedom. That direction is toward Christ.
You and I are loved in the most unconditional, authentic, honorable, holy and righteous way. Despite all that you’ve done or neglected to do, a man walked this earth 2,000 years ago and died knowing that he was dying for you, not a future version of you. And that truth resonates through the fabric of all creation, regardless of our culture, popular opinion, or scientific studies. Speaking of science, did you know that until recent history gravity was widely misunderstood? Prior to Issac Newton it was, at least, an ignored force of nature. And yet gravity existed prior to Issac Newton. The point is this - some truths, although misunderstood, remain steadfast until the end. Truth does not depend on belief, truth simply is. Such is the nature of Jesus Christ and his redemptive sacrifice for all of mankind.
When we aren’t afraid to admit our need for Jesus (because how many times have we tried to white-knuckle our way toward better behavior?) we become better equipped to challenge addiction. Similarly, those who scoff at the very idea of seeking help are some of the most broken, hurting people on the planet. Once I was a broken man, a broken man who called himself a Christian yet had not grasped the full nature and intention of the cross. I wanted my life to appear perfect, when in reality I was a disaster, but I was rescued from drowning by the only person in all of creation capable of rescuing me.
At this point people start making excuses as to why they are the exception. "You don't understand what I've done." "Doesn't this give me a license to sin?" "If it's this simple why haven't more people taken hold of such a simple truth?" Well let's try it this way - have you ever been given something you didn’t deserve? Or more specifically, have you ever been forgiven of something that you didn't deserve to be forgiven of? There was a time in my life when I owed a debt of about $40,000. On a day I'll never forget, that debt was forgiven. I wrestled to understand how a debt of that magnitude was forgiven unconditionally.
Our debt is far greater then any monetary amount. In our search for fulfillment, we have done unspeakable things, all in the name of pleasure, selfishness, and pride. In our sin we have accumulated an insurmountable debt to God. The Bible teaches us that the price to be paid for sin is death.
For the wages of sin is death... -Romans 6:23a (NIV)
This considered, it is incredible to think that God, the creator of all things, took the lowly form of man, came to this earth, and lived among us. And how much more incredible is it that the same God died for you and for me, breaking the chains and crushing iron bars we didn’t even know bound us? Even if some never believed in this rescue, he still came, he still died. He did all of this with all of humanity on His mind.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” -Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)
If you're not a believer in Christ, keep moving forward anyway. Ask tough questions. Ponder the things that brought you here. Despite what we believe, Jesus loved and died for us. He is the key to freedom from our struggles, he is the author of our salvation, and no matter how many times we stumble and fall, no matter how many times we doubt or lack wisdom, those who believe in him are slaves no more to sin:
“So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” -Galatians 4:7 (NIV)
Going forward in this course means understanding that Christ is at the center of what we stand for. Without Him, these lessons are simply words on a page. Without Him, it’s only a matter of time before we fall back into the lie of believing God wants our good behavior. He is far more interested in our hearts. How long will you believe that God is wanting neat, cleaned-up, church going, sin-free people before He will extend love? I’ve been there, I’ve tried to muscle my way through to freedom, all the while God was screaming, "You have freedom! Take hold of that truth and let your actions be an overflow of my mercy and grace in your life." Our hope is that you ponder the person of Christ, and come to know Him.
So are you worth God's time? The answer has already been delivered, and His name is Jesus. Is there any among us who are too far gone to receive the grace of God? Not a chance.
- Break the Cycle
As humans, we are drawn to the things we know are wrong. So long as we remain of the mindset that we can do enough good works to earn harmony with God, sin will always have a certain appeal. It is when we surrender over our lives to Christ that the law loses all of its power over us. The law effectively becomes irrelevant because Jesus paid the price (no, this is not a license to sin - we will cover this in a later lesson). When the law becomes irrelevant, we are no longer so bent on keeping it and sin slowly loses its allure. Dopamine is the reward our brains receive when we do something we crave. What if in putting our faith into Christ we no longer had cravings because the law has already been perfected in Christ? If none of this is making sense yet, keep reading the lessons and praying that God would show you this truth through His word.
- Programs Won't Save Us
Man-made methods of freedom from this addiction are great supplements, but we are ultimately set free through belief in Jesus Christ. Even The Risen won't rescue you in-and-of-itself. What we need is a new heart:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. -Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV)
- If You Haven't, Give Your Life To Christ
When we continue to put our faith in Christ and rely on his forgiveness, his mercies are renewed each day despite our shortcomings. If you haven't put your faith in Jesus, do so today. It's as simple as admitting that without Him, you're lost. With Him, you're made righteous before God. Pray to Him today, let Him know that from now on, you're operating as a new man or new woman, washed white as snow through Christ.
Day 4 Application
What was the debt that you owed to God?
How were you freed from that debt?
Can sin change your worth to God now that Christ has died in your place?
Since the last lesson, how have you been with maintaining your sexual purity?