“Bible shows the way out of sin and addiction"
Award of Outstanding Merit - $1,000
John Freeman is president of Harvest USA and has been on staff for 24 years. A graduate of the University of Tennessee and Westminster Theological Seminary, John speaks extensively on the issues of Biblical sexuality and the church. He most recently contributed articles to the book, The Homosexual Debate and The Church and The Journal of Counseling and Discipleship. He has also served as adjunct faculty in counseling at Philadelphia Biblical University and Center for Urban Theological Studies in Philadelphia.
“Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).
When I first read this, I could barely believe it. “What? Me, clean as snow?” How stunning.
By the time I was 20 years old, I was a sexual mess. Having been exposed to pornography at the age of 7, I was also the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of other older teen boys. The interior damage to my soul, heart and mind was immense. My abuse and subsequent addiction to pornography caused me to look at myself and others in a distorted manner.
Life became about me and satisfying my cravings. As a result, by age 20, life had become about using others. In my case, other men. The essence of lust is that it disregards others as image-bearers of God and reduces them to a nonpersonal entity that exists for one’s personal pleasure. At times I had even confused this empty pursuit with love.
However, when I read the Bible for myself, I started to get a glimpse of God as he really was, not as I wished him to be or what others told me. That’s why everyone should read it for themselves. Getting God’s story mixed up with my story began to disrupt me in an uncomfortable, but good way.
I also read that God cried tears over both my past abuse and my own attempts to satisfy my perceived needs. Some of what I began to understand seemed like a bitter pill to swallow. I saw how, as a young man, I routinely used my past abuse and history to hold God and others at a distance. The way I had walled off my heart, run from God and used others started to seem as ugly as what had happened to me.
Had it all stopped there, I might have been doomed to a life of despair, shame and guilt. However, I also read the story of a God who had intentionally sent his son, Jesus Christ, to enter a broken and damaged world. Therefore, the mess of my own heart did not seem beyond his redemption. He cared for me.
This is crucial to understand. The Bible teaches that God is personally involved and moved by the plight and struggles of people. Even the great philosopher Aristotle believed there was a powerful force behind and over everything. He believed the force to be impersonal and detached; so much so that he called that force “the Unmoved Mover.”
In contrast, the Bible presents us with a God who is personal and intimately involved with all his creation; so much so that one might say he is the “Moved Mover.”
When we turn to God and away from sin (our attempts to make our life work our way, apart from God), he offers us a new record and a new heart to love others correctly. This both shocked me and appealed to me, because it was so unlike my real record—and beyond my natural ability.
That’s what Psalm 51 is all about. God is an inviting God, who offers to wash us and make us clean as snow, even though our personal past may be anything but clean. More than that, God will give us the power to continue following Him and live godly, upright lives right now (Titus 2:12).
Now, all this was a truth and story much larger than my own, one that I started to believe and want for myself. We all can have it. By faith, God’s story can become ours. All we have to do is ask and seek.
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