Is it an orientation? Or a choice?

I remember walking into an adult bookstore for the first time. (This was before high speed internet connections were common and you could get the crack delivered to your home in 5 seconds or less.) I wanted to be there; and yet I didn’t. I was trembling inside and a little bit outside. I’m not sure exactly how to describe it. I was driven there by a compulsion — to see things I shouldn’t see, to get things I shouldn’t have, to know things I shouldn’t know. There are sections inside an adult video store; I hope you didn’t know that. Some repulsed me. Can you imagine that? Walking around a porno store and avoiding the “gross” stuff? As if it wasn’t all disgusting? I knew I should not have been there but I wanted to be. Everything inside of me said it was wrong, and everything inside of me said it would be okay. Just push through, get what you want, and get out.

Before you become numb to this battle and stop fighting it you must go through it. Was I in that store by my orientation? Absolutely. Was I in that store by my choice? Yes. And when I put Genesis 3 (“Did God actually say…?”) together with Romans 7, I see why I believed it was ultimately better at the time to feel good doing what I wanted instead of suffering the internal agony of not being who I was. It felt so much better to give in than to fight. Which is why so many porn users don’t fight it at all. The porn promises release. The abstinence promises pain. And then there’s this voice saying, “The pain means you shouldn’t be trying to change who you are.”

But there’s nothing else in me God wants to change except who I am. And this comes through the cross — Christ’s cross becoming my cross. What is better? To be warring all the life in Romans 7, denying urges and not feeling good inside, or doing what we feel is right simply because it feels good, better? One voice answers the latter, and it strokes the ear. The other strikes terror sometimes — okay, many times — but it takes us from Romans 7 to Romans 8.

Don’t believe the lie that struggling always to obey God is a worse lot in life than disobeying him with peace. God did not make us to “feel good inside” (or outside) all the time this side of heaven; he made us to share in the sufferings of Christ, that we might share in his resurrection. And the reality is, for many, the resurrection kind of life in these areas of death isn’t always postponed to the life to come. But you won’t know that until you’re willing to go to the cross for as long as it takes to die.

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23 thoughts on “What is Better?”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! May 8th was 1 year clean of porn for me, the longest I have ever gone since I first laid eyes on my Dad’s magazine collection. I am 30! This is a major milestone for me. So much of what you said resonates with me and encourages me to keep pressing on! It is still a temptation, and I know as God continues to change who I am it will get easier.

  2. Jason says:

    I read your description and I felt like I was back there again. Your description was so accurate. Thank you for writing this.

  3. Robert Smith says:

    Well said. I must daily work on the denying and the taking up of my cross. Luke 9:23-24 ESV

    And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

  4. Jill says:

    This one of the most powerful things I’ve ever read! Printing it out for my journal. Thanks, thanks, thanks!

  5. John Payne says:

    Jared, this is an exceptionally well written piece, exposing both your vulnerability and humility. The message goes far beyond the topic, pornography, and addresses the issue of sin . . . any sin. Thank you for your honesty and powerful presentation. God bless you in your walk.

  6. Doc B says:

    This was most excellent, Theophilus!

  7. rc sproul jr says:

    Excellent piece brother, in large part because it shows the excellency of Christ and His gospel.

  8. YoungLady says:

    Very blessed by the honesty in this post. I find great encouragement in Romans 6-7-8 from Paul’s battle with sin (doesn’t go away!) and the freedom we have in Christ Jesus! The one thing I disagree with is Jared’s phrase, “disobeying with peace.” I do believe that is impossible for a Christian. Here is a stirring quote from William Arnot:

    The whole world consists of two classes, different in many things from each other but alike in this, that both are obliged to labour all their days: they are those who serve sin, and those who fight against it. Both experience pain and weariness; sin is a hard master, and a formidable foe. If you do its bidding, you are a miserable drudge; if you war against it, you will receive many wounds in the conflict. It would be hard to tell whether of the two is the more wearied – the carnal who obeys the flesh, or the spiritual who crucifies it. Both are compelled to labour. Both are weary: the one is weary by sinning, and the other weary of sin. One of these strifes will soon be over: the other will never cease. If sin be your antagonist, there will soon be peace; for if sin cannot be taken wholly away from you, you will ere long be taken away from sin. But if sin be, and till death abide, your master, there is no deliverance from the yoke.

  9. J.R. says:

    Jared, man, I love your stuff-have for a long while now.

    But really? Gospel Driven, Gospel Centered, Gospel Wakefulness, Gospel Coalition …? Isn’t that a bit much? Just sayin’

    1. Jared C. Wilson says:

      Isn’t that a bit much? Just sayin’

      JR, are you asking? Or saying?

      1. J.R. says:

        Good one. Asking, I suppose.

        BTW-Great post. Thanks.

  10. waynebradley says:

    Excellent post and a good reminder no matter what the sin is.

  11. Joseph says:

    I appreciate the post. A much-needed instruction to die this side of heaven rather than eternally elsewhere. Now to enact it in my life…

  12. Oof. Is there a more radical thing you can say than, “God did not make us to feel good inside all the time”? Imagine how that concept would turn the world upside-down for some people.

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Jared C. Wilson

Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. You can follow him on Twitter.

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