Powerlessness. It can be a dreadful word because our experience tells us that it is true. We have tried again and again to stop lusting and acting out, but we haven’t been able to. As believers, it can be more frustrating because we should have the power of God to help us overcome lust. But why don’t we stop?
Powerlessness is a biblical concept as seen in Romans 7:
For that which I do, I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I (Romans 7:15).
The writer here is basically expressing powerlessness; he does things he doesn’t want to do and even does things that he hates. Sound familiar? He repeats himself in verse 19, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”
Some say that this chapter represents a lost man before salvation, but based on the verb tenses and its position in Romans, there is no doubt in my mind that these are the words of a saved man. Even more proof for me is that this has been my exact experience as a saved man!
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not (Romans 7:18).
The powerlessness lies in the flesh, the sinful, condemned, carnal nature that still abides in every believer. Paul spelled out all of the reasons that he could trust his flesh—his nationality, his religious heritage, his zealous adherence to the law—and yet in spite of all this, he had “no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). Jesus told his dedicated disciples, those that had forsaken all and followed Him, that “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
The flesh is weak because it is inherently selfish and self-serving. But then add to that the entrenched patterns and habits that we have established through repeated behaviors such as porn use and masturbation, many of them from a very early age. Then there are the powerful chemical, physiological, and social effects that sexual experiences bring. In the context of sexuality, Proverbs 5:22 says, “His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.” That is a description of sexual addiction.
What began as a curiosity became a habit, then an obsession, and finally, bondage and slavery. “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same he is brought in bondage” (2 Peter 2:19).
How many of us have sat across from well-meaning pastors, counselors, or friends who told us, “Just stop. Don’t do it anymore.” Hearing this makes you want to laugh and then cry because you know that you would stop if you could.
Admitting powerlessness is the first step and it should be obvious to the sexual addict that he is powerless. But many of us didn’t want to face it until “our lives had become unmanageable.” That is, after we repeatedly got caught, lost a job, destroyed a marriage and family, caught a disease, got arrested and faced incarceration, or any of the other inevitable consequences of our behaviors.
Step one is a necessary start to sobriety and recovery. Face up to the fact that the concept of powerlessness is not an invention of man, but it is thoroughly biblical. Of course, don’t confuse powerlessness with hopelessness. There are a lot of people that admit that they are powerless, but have long-term sobriety and healthy sexuality.
Consider an illustration from the natural world: When the Wright brothers and other pioneers were trying to fly, they were not trying to do away with the law of gravity. That would have been foolish. Instead, they discovered laws that would overcome gravity when correctly applied. Now we take the ability to fly for granted.
In the same way, we will be in the flesh as long as we live in this world, but there is a higher law—the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus—that can overcome the lusts of the flesh.
There are biblical answers to powerlessness, some of them represented in the other 11 steps of the program. But don’t get ahead of the process. Admit that you are powerless and that you need help. If you won’t start there, sobriety and recovery are highly unlikely.
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