In this second post in a series, I’m going to look at one of four false identities that the Father had to remove as part of my journey to wholeness and discovering who I am in Christ.
This is a vulnerable post about my journey to sexual wholeness and may not be appropriate for minors nor for those of a sensitive nature.
I have been honest about my struggles so that others who were trapped in the same lies of shame can also find freedom and release. Please handle with care.
False identity #2: My identity is in my sin
Hello my name is John and I’m addicted to porn.
The first time I said those words was like a thunderbolt of revelation. I knew my life had spiralled out of control but confessing that I was addicted was a bitter truth that had taken years to face up to and finally confront.
The first step of the 12 step program used in alcoholic anonymous and other recovery programs based on it is:
We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviours, that our lives had become unmanageable.
A brief history of my addiction (content warning)
It took over 30 years to get to this point. From an innocent fascination with scantily clad women in the lingerie section of home shopping magazines grading up to softporn magazines when I was 18 and old enough (and sometimes brave enough) to buy them.
They were my escape from my life which was full of abuse and empty of love. It might have been an illusion to think these images were interested in me – but the illusion was better than the reality.
Encounters with the Holy Spirit and meeting my wife were transformational and I was free for some time.
But then the internet.
Porn became accessible without even having to leave the house. I spent hours searching for images to escape the stress of my job and the shame built as I couldn’t tell my wife just how much I had let her down. So I dumped it on my wife and made everything her fault. As our marriage headed for the rocks, things got worse as online video became a reality and a more powerful pull. I started looking at porn at work and even got caught by a co-worker. I reached out for help and had filters installed on my machines but I couldn’t talk about it in any depth with my “personal pastor” as he found the whole thing bizarre that I would do anything like that. I received healing for many of my childhood wounds and began to learn who I was in Christ but the addiction was so strong it often felt like I had no choice. It became a habit where I was looking for porn online (despite the filters) every day and masturbating every day. “It can’t get worse than this” I though.
I was wrong.
I was so used to “normal” porn that to get the fix I needed stronger fix and so I started watching worse and worse. Each time I would feel physically sick but soon that would subside and it became a new normal. I kept trying to reach out to the men in my church asking if anyone else struggled. No-one admitted they had a problem. In addition, they were upset that I had even mentioned that at a men’s meeting. Eventually, I found one man who was not shocked and helped me fine tune my filter on my computer.
But my understanding of who I was in Christ was weak and so I still felt powerless against the addiction. This belief led me to secretly buy new laptops to use or to use keyloggers to steal the filter password from my mentor.
The shame grew – how could I admit to my mentor and my wife each time I did something like this again.
It was then I discovered recovery groups with xxxchurch.com
After so long, I finally had a community of men who were Christians and who were open about their struggles.
It was with this band of brothers that I could finally fully open up about where I was and receive God’s light into some very dark places.
I sin or I am the sin?
However, it was a short step in my journey from saying I was addicted to saying I was an addict.
But this is a very big difference in my identity.
One says I have a problem, the other says I am the problem.
I had defined myself by my sin not by who I was in Christ.
Whilst admitting I had a problem was liberating, saying I was the problem was a cage.
You see confessing that we have sinned sins brings healing (Jas 5:16) whereas saying we are the sin brings shame.
Shame says this is who I am and nothing can change it.
Like Adam and Eve, shame leads us to hide God and cover ourselves up.
I remember being walked through the story of the prodigal son through prayer ministry and I couldn’t embrace the Father. I felt I was too dirty.
How do we cover our shame? In my life I have sought to cover my shame through five ways:
- Religion – I will cover myself in good works to try to counteract the shame I feel inside
- Transference – I will put my shame on other people and say it’s their fault that I am like this
- Rebellion – I am the problem, I am rubbish therefore I act rubbish – I live out my identity of sin
- Self-harm – I am the problem therefore I will punish myself
- Distraction – I will try to drown out the voice of shame with sensuality (eg drugs, alcohol) or busyness (eg TV, gaming)
Dealing with shame
We don’t need to cover our shame because Jesus has dealt with shame fully at the cross.
You see, the thing they don’t tell you in Sunday School is that the Roman method was to crucify people naked as a final humiliation. Jesus was shamed to take our shame.
This is symbolised in the Day of Atonement – there was a sacrifice to deal with the punishment that our sin deserves (propitiation) and there was a scapegoat that was sent out into the desert to symbolise our shame being taken away (expiation).
Jesus was the fulfilment of the Day of Atonement – he took the punishment our sins deserve (Isa 53:4-5) but he also bore the shame of our sins (Heb 12:2; Rom 10:11).
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Ps 103:12
This is true even if the shame you feel came from someone doing something to you. Jesus was innocent but was shamed by others.
Our shame only leads us to withdraw from God, but never does it lead God to withdraw from us.
God came to Adam and Eve in the Garden after they sinned – it was them that hid from Him.
In the story of the prodigal son, it was the Father who shamed himself by running and exposing his legs (which in that culture was a really big deal) to embrace his son. Furthermore, he bore the shame of what everyone would have said about his son’s behaviour.
In Jesus, God stepped down into our world to meet us in our circumstances and our messes. In the words of Corrie Ten Boom, “there is no pit that Christ is not deeper still”.
Just like in the story of the prodigal son, God doesn’t wait for us to get home and “get it right” before He loves us. We just have to turn to Him – that is repentance – and he comes running to us even while we are far off.
That’s why Jesus accepted the shame – because of the joy set before him (Heb 12:2) – the joy of seeing sinners repenting (Lk 15:7,10) and expanding the Kingdom (Lk 10:21).
But there’s more.
Cleansed and made righteous
God not only deals with the punishment our sin deserves and takes our shame taken away, He also makes us righteous:
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21)
Just as in the story of the prodigal son, when the Father meets us he covers our nakedness in a robe – that robe of righteousness is Christ:
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal 3:26-27)
God looks at us and sees Christ.
This was foreshadowed in the sacrifice system.
When a Jew brought a lamb as a sin offering, the priest didn’t look the Jew – he looked at the lamb.
If the lamb was without blemish or defect then it was acceptable (eg Lev 22:21).
Similarly, God doesn’t look at us for perfection, He looks at His Son – the Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7) who was without blemish or defect (1 Pet 1:19) and so God is satisfied (Jn 1:29).
It’s not about us – it’s about Jesus.
That’s why in the story, the father stops his son just before he says “I am no longer worthy to be called your son”.
It’s true, we’re not worthy – but Jesus is worthy for “while we were sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8) – in fact whilst we were his enemies (Rom 5:10). We didn’t love him or pursue him first. God initiated “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 Jn 4:10).
There’s no way we can earn our salvation – that’s why it is a free gift (Eph 2:8).
The Father sees who we are in Christ as our life is now hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3). And since Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father (Eph 1:20) we too are seated in heavenly places (Eph 2:6).
This is the reality.
Living from our new identity in Christ
That’s why we’re told to set our hearts on things above (Col 3:1-4) as that is where our life, our true identity is.
This is also why we’re told to put to death all the things that belong to our old nature (Col 3:5) and throw off the sin that easily entangles (Heb 12:1) – as it’s no longer part of us. It isn’t who we are any more.
Danny Silk in his excellent book “Culture of Honour” says that he once stepped on a nail which went through his foot but never did he think “I’m a nail!” Similarly as a child of light if we discover darkness inside us – we don’t then say we are darkness. That is as silly as saying “I’m a nail!” We were once in darkness but now we are children of the light and so we live as children of the light (Eph 5:8). God has dealt with our sin powerfully and has made us righteous. We live from that reality – yes we might sin but it’s no longer natural (1 Jn 5:18) – we’re going to fall into righteousness not into sin.
Human children will physically become like their parents not through their own efforts but naturally because of their DNA.
This is a shadow of the spiritual reality that because we have God’s seed in us we will naturally become like Jesus and stop sinning .
No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God (1 Jn 3:9).
That’s why it is fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) – it’s something that grows naturally as we live by the Spirit not the flesh (Rom 8:5-13) and keep in step with what the Spirit is doing in our lives (Gal 5:25).
The battle for our new identity
That’s why Satan will try to get us to fix our eyes on ourselves, on our sin.
Because as soon as we take our eyes off of Christ, things in the natural will look hopeless. So either we will mistakenly try to fix things ourselves through rules (which are powerless to bring about any change, see Col 2:20-23, and will just result in us becoming proud Pharisees or) or we will give up. Either way we won’t be living as a loved son seated in heavenly places.
But more than that, Satan wants us to fix our eyes on our sin so that, we will stop running the race as we doubt that we can do anything. Whereas God has made us co-workers with Him (eg 2 Cor 6:1) planned good works for us to do (Eph 2:10).
This is why we need we are told to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2 NASB). That’s who were are and we are becoming who we truly are. The Spirit is working in us (Phil 2:13) will finish the work Christ started in us (Phil 1:6). We just have to keep in step with the spirit (Gal 5:25), we will be transformed from glory into glory into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor 3:18) until at last we will be like Him when we finally meet Him face to face (1 Jn 3:2).
You are not your sin. You are a beloved son/daughter who has been forgiven and made righteous in Christ and welcomed to your true home. Receive His love, receive His embrace that is dependent on His love not your ability. Enter now into the party he has thrown for you (Lk 15:23), hear His songs of joy sung over you (Zeph 3:17) and draw strength from them (Neh 8:10). Let His love transform you:
Fathers love letter soaking video
An allegorical tale about our identity in Christ
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Other posts in this series:
- False identity #1: My identity is in what I do
- False identity #3: My identity is in my brokenness
- False identity #4: My identity is in my diagnosed condition