By: Rick Thomas - RickThomas.net
You ever played “whack-a-mole” at an amusement center? It’s one of those games where plastic moles randomly pop-up while you try to whack them with a rubber mallet before they retreat back into their holes.
You never know when or where one will pop up. As soon as you knock one down, another one jumps up. It’s a picture of our hearts. Just when you beat one idol down, another one pops up to take it’s place.
My friend, Marc, would agree. He had a secret porn addiction for nearly three decades.
Through a series of providential circumstances his sin was found out by his boss. Marc was humbled by being exposed and repented of his sin. Mercifully, his boss decided not to fire him.
He did appeal to Marc to let his wife and pastor know what went down. Marc followed through with his request. After speaking with his pastor he decided to seek counseling, which he also followed through my attending bi-weekly sessions.
After about six weeks of counseling Marc shared how he was gaining weight. His counselor had already observed this, but did not bring it to Marc’s attention.
Marc’s admission did open a door for the counselor to have a deeper conversation about matters of the heart. He began by encouraging him about the behavioral changes he had made (Matthew 5:30), but did note how his repentance was not complete.
With great care and accountability Marc was freeing himself from the behavioral addiction to porn. Thedeeper issue was him not addressing the root cause of the porn addiction.
His counselor had been hoping to get into this discussion because he knew if Marc did not deal with his heart he would do one of two things:
He had essentially swapped his external idol–porn–for food. What Marc did not understand was how this hidden idol of the heart was still alive and affecting him.
External idols like porn, eating, alcohol, watching too much TV, shopping, or exercise can have the same insidious root cause. They can be God substitutes, designed to bring relief to a person whose heart is not finely tuned by the LORD.
At the fundamental core of Marc’s heart, he had not changed. He merely swapped his idol of choice from porn to food. If not for the weight gain, it could have been possible to never realize his idol swapping.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)
Idol swapping should be a biblical assumption when counseling a person who has been habituated in a long-term sin pattern (Galatians 6:1). Putting away a former manner of life (Ephesians 4:22) which has characterized a person for 30 years cannot come without a fight (1 Peter 5:8).
Though you want to applaud Marc for cutting the sin of porn out of his life (Matthew 5:30) you also want to make sure he has sufficiently put to death the heart sin which fed the porn addiction (Romans 8:13).
This is also how sin works. Cutting a tree down does not kill the tree. There is still life because the root system is mostly undisturbed. You could unwisely assume the tree is dead. It’s only a season or two later when you realize the job was never completed.
Marc had been doing an excellent job cutting the bad fruit out of his life. He also trimmed back a few limbs. He was noticeably different to many of his friends. Some of his contexts had changed and a spiritual revival seemed to be taking place.
It was only when you spent discerning time with him that you noticed how some things under the surface of his life had not changed.
Marc had not truly dealt with his underlying motives, cravings, and fears. He was not blatantly deceitful. He simply did not know any better. He was like many Christians we know who have not been discipled to where they can shepherd their hearts.
Marc was doing what he knew to do. He was in porn. He knew it was wrong, so he stopped. His problem was he did not know what else was wrong with him. He had a worship disorder of the heart.
There were four primary idols which were cooperating with each other to feed his porn addiction.
The first thing you saw in Marc’s heart was the idol of control. He liked to be in control of things. He was what the world calls a Type A personality. This is not a compliment, but a liability to the biblically uncalibrated heart.Marc did not fully trust the LORD, which motivated him to take matters into his own hands.
The soul not at rest needs an occasion escape. It’s the you need a break today syndrome. Porn became a quickie pit stop for Marc to escape from the pressures of running his world without God.
If you look a little farther down into his idol factory you would next bump into his idol of comfort. The heart not correctly and completely calibrated by God will seek comfort in something other than God.
If you reject God as your source of comfort, rest, peace, and security, then you must be comforted in some other way. This craving for comfort motivated him to find his comfort zone.
As we go deeper into his idol factory, we find low-level fear running amuck in his heart.
People who knew Marc would not categorize him as a fearful person, but he was insecure in some ways. This low-grade insecurity is what motivated him to find comfort or security.
The biggest idol of them all and the one which fed his fears, which motivated him to crave comfort, and which convinced him to seize control of his world was unbelief. His relationship with God was strained.
Though he never made a decision to walk away from God, his heart began to drift from the LORD. Like a man falling asleep on a boat, he awoke miles from where he went to sleep.
It was only because of the mercy of the LORD the scales were removed from his eyes. This happened when he was busted for porn. He gained enough clarity to stop using porn, but still could not see the hidden idolatry in the factory of his heart.
As the counselor addressed these idols, Marc began to see the corruptness of his soul and how he had privately defamed the LORD all these years. He began to renew his mind (Ephesians 4:23) about the true and living God.He began to learn about the Gospel and how the LORD went to amazing lengths to rescue him from helland to rescue him from himself.
A distaste began to form in Marc’s heart for these cravings for personal comfort and control of his life. He embraced the idea of putting his self-reliance to death by trusting God in ways he could never do before.His biggest tests came when the stress and busyness of life motivated him to take a break.
Instead of selfishly heaping pleasure on himself through porn and food, he has a passion to spread the love of Christ to others by serving them in tangible ways.
How about you? Are you finding refuge in other things? Is there something about the LORD which has not been worked out in your heart, to where He is not your first and satisfying choice?