Tag Archives: temptation

Josiah Northcutt’s Testimony

(Click here to listen. This testimony is used with permission and touches on adult subjects. Please use discretion when playing it and discernment with playing it around young children.)

Howdy! I’m Josiah Martin Northcutt and I love Jesus. Now you may ask Josiah what does that mean? Why do you love Jesus? Those are both valid questions, because without them I’m just another talking head. Those two questions make up precisely why I am up here today. I’m going to answer them by telling you all about me and my story all the way back from the beginning. But Before I begin, I’d like to start by giving out a disclaimer. With what I’m going to be saying throughout the rest of this message you might get the wrong impression of my parents. You might think that they didn’t do enough to help me and you might think that they failed me. Well I’m here to say right here and now that nothing could be further from the truth. My parents were and are amazing and if they had had even an inkling of the story I’m about to tell now they would have done everything in their power to love and support me. The fault is purely on me.

Also I feel I need to warn any parents of young children who may still be in the audience that I’m going to bringing up some mature subjects and you may want to take them somewhere else.

If you came in today not knowing anything about me, well, You’re going to leave knowing a lot more than you bargained for. So…….. Lets begin.

My story starts around the time when I was just 2 years old. Yes, I do actually remember something from way back then. I was 2 years old and naturally like most kids that age I was very curious. I loved experimenting with random things even if didn’t really even know what I was doing. I loved taking my ear and flipping it back and forth, I loved sticking out my tongue and bending it into all sorts of weird shapes, I really loved shaking my hands back and forth so much that my fingers flapped against each other and got going so fast that I could see the blur.  I did that way too often and to honest I’m surprised I didn’t get carpal tunnel. Well I suppose then eventually it was bound to happen. One day I eventually worked my way down to an area of my body that you can probably guess. Now I didn’t really know what I was doing, in fact I didn’t learn until much, much later in life that the act was called masturbation. I was 2! I did it because if felt good, plain and simple. However there was one thing I noticed while doing this that made it different then all the other things I liked to do with my 2 year old body. And that was, naturally, that I didn’t feel comfortable doing it in front of other people. So when I ever would masturbate, I would go in my room, close the door, and make sure that no one was around to hear or see. Now I didn’t really know why at the time that I felt ashamed of it in front of other people but I did. So I kept it hidden from everyone.

Flash forward a few years and I’m around 12 years old. The masturbation habit has been going steady all this time and while I had been doing this several times a week since I was 2 it hadn’t every really felt like an addiction or anything harmful. But naturally being a 12 year old boy a new dynamic entered the fray. I started going through puberty and my body began to change, and along with those changes also came a new thought process. Now before whenever I would masturbate there was no thought to it, But now I found myself thinking about girls whenever I did it. It quickly became just another layer to the already routine habit I had been building since early childhood. However it didn’t take long until I noticed something about these thoughts that were different. I could never have guessed at that exact moment that this would go on to be the start of the darkest part of my life.

These thoughts you see weren’t that innocent, In fact they were downright explicit. I knew how a man was supposed to treat a women in real life, but inside the recesses of my own mind I told myself that it didn’t matter here because no real person was being harmed. I felt guilty but I didn’t stop it and to be honest I didn’t really want too. I was enjoying letting my mind wander free in lust and even though I knew somewhere deep down that it was wrong I stayed with it. Because after all, I would say to myself, “no real person is getting physically mistreated so no real harm can come of it. As long as it stays like this it shouldn’t be too bad.” But the lust I was feeding had other plans.

At bookstores I began to notice the women in the swimsuit magazines and I noticed something I hadn’t felt before. I found these women attractive and exciting to look at and as I flipped through one or two magazines the sensation of being able to see what I had lusted over in my mind was the straw the broke the camel’s back. Just a little while later I purchased my first internet enabled device. I popped open the image search feature and searched for more swimsuit photos. There was no turning back now as I dove head first into what would become my strongest demon. My addiction to pornography.

Soon after my mind turned into a wasteland. I thought about porn all the time and I grew socially awkward, especially around girls. Worst of all I started entertaining lustful fantasies about people I cared about; family, friends, and loved ones. Family gatherings and school were awkward because I was looking at the people I had violated in my mind. I felt like an awful human being and I swore up and down I’d stop right then and there, only to fall prey to it again and again. Like all addictions the intensity of the porn increased too. What had started out as simply swimsuit photos started to turn into nude women, then some foreplay, and then before I knew it, it was full on graphic sex. I couldn’t believe it. I would find myself watching stuff that just months prior I would have puked at. That’s one of the major issues with porn, the images stick with you and are engrained into your mind. I still remember stumbling across a video of a women being sexually abused by two men against her will. That image is never going to completely leave my mind. Porn is a never ending slippery slope. Once you get into perverted sexual sin there is no limit to what you will seek out and that certainly held true for me. I never got worse than that particular video, but let me tell you there is stuff out there that would make that seem humane by comparison.

By the time I was 14 I had hit absolute rock bottom. I hated life, I was depressed, at school I thought only of how quickly I could get home to get off to my next fix. By now I was fully aware of the damage porn was doing to me and I hated myself for it. I hated that the people I loved the most where often the objects of my lust, I struggled with treating girls with respect in class since often times the night before I had just watched something that completely defiled what a female was. And oh how I was bitter towards those women in the videos I would watch. They were the ones causing my problems; if they wouldn’t have existed maybe I would have never had to become addicted to them. It was there fault I was addicted to their erotica and I thought of them as nothing less than objects. But even all that wasn’t the worst of it.

You see I grew up a pastor’s kid. I believed in Jesus, he was my God, and I still remember saying a prayer asking him into my heart when I was 5. But with porn and lust destroying my life I believed in something else entirely.  I believed that Jesus was ashamed of me, that I was not worthy of being loved by his presence, I believed that only when I never viewed porn again would he ever forgive and accept me. I hid my myself from him the whole time. But like all people do I hit a breaking point, the lust, the pain, the shame, the guilt, the hate all finally took me down for good and I was dead.

It was late in the evening one night and I sat in my room exhausted on the floor. With tear’s running down my face and a feeling of hopelessness I knelt down at my bedside and cried out the following words: “Jesus are you there? I’ve always believed in you but I’ve kept my real self hidden all this time. Jesus I’m addicted to porn and it has won. My mind has become filled with lust and I can’t fight it. I don’t know where to go and I can’t change myself on my own. I believe that my sin is stronger than your love. As I gasped through tears I thought of the knife drawer in the kitchen. I fell down and yelled out with my last ounce of strength: “God! If your there, and you love me, please  take me! My soul, my heart, my mind, my body they are yours take them and please help me out of this. AS the knife drawer flooded my mind again, I collapsed into the floor and let out “Because GOD!…..if you don’t take me now……This may be the last time we ever talk again.”

As I lay there on the floor something happened. I began to feel a peace I had never felt before. I closed my eyes and listened. I could feel my soul stir as the presence of the Holy Spirit took it. I began to hear thoughts in my head. They said “I love you, you are forgiven. You are not alone, and I’m stronger than your weakness. I HAVE YOUR SOUL NOW! ” I cried out thank you over and over again and leaped up with a new passion and vigor. Jesus had me now, there was no way that I could lose. Well, Guess what I did one week later? I succumbed to the temptation of porn once again. As I prepared to beat myself up again like I always did something was different. I was disappointed that I had failed again, but the hopelessness wasn’t there. I felt like I had just made a mistake so I bowed my head and prayed again. The voice came back into my head and said“You are forgiven, I love you. Go and sin no more”. From there on out I went through various ups and downs in life. Times when I felt like I had conquered porn and times when I strayed back to it like a dog to it’s own vomit. All throughout this I gained several important things that would impact my life. My best friend turned into a brother in my time of need, I learned that there were countless men AND women just like me who were too ashamed to admit what they were going through,  But most importantly I learned that Jesus wasn’t interested in the perfect person I thought he was. He wanted me the sinner. I could do a whole another sermon on the countless things that Jesus has taught me along the way, but since you’ve already had to endure my talking about porn and masturbation this whole time I’ll narrow it down to two things. Both of these were very beneficial on my road to recovery.

The first issue was my guilt. I felt so ashamed of myself on the inside whenever I was around someone that I had lusted over in my mind.  I was constantly haunted by the words of Matthew 5:28 where Jesus says “But I tell you this, anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” I prayed to Jesus asking for guidance on how to handle this problem and this is what I learned. Guilt is a natural reaction to something that isn’t good for us. When we’ve done something wrong or we are contemplating doing so, it’s good that we feel guilty. It’s warning us not to go down that path. However, it isn’t something you are supposed to stay with. Guilt is a warning sign to get out, not to stay down there with it. It’s natural to be tempted, we are all attracted to certain things that can lead us astray. I realized that finding certain women attractive wasn’t the issue, I mean after all It’s good that men find women attractive because if we didn’t, we might begin to have bit of a population problem. However we are supposed to love and respect each other with our thoughts. It’s ok to think that someone is attractive but that doesn’t make them yours to lust over. Even if you’ve never read the bible you probably won’t be surprised that when Jesus was asked which commandant was the most important to follow he responded with “Love your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your body, and all your mind.” But do you know what Jesus said next? He said this “There is a second commandment equally as important as the first and that is, that you must love your neighbor as yourself.” Well, we are all each others neighbors and when we love each other we respect each other for who we are. Entertaining a fantasy in your mind that makes another person out to be nothing more than an object, is the opposite of Loving your neighbor. Jesus once told a women caught in the act of adultrey, “I don’t condemn you, Go and sin no more.” So now when I am around people I once had lust for I’m not haunted by guilt anymore because I’ve been forgiven. And now that I’m forgiven I can love them like I’m supposed too, and that has set me free.

The other issue I feel was key to my recovery was the issue of my own resentment. Naturally I hated porn for what it had done to my life, but that resentment carried over to the people behind the cameras themselves. I blamed them for my issues and I didn’t want to ever think about those porn actresses themselves. Well one day I stumbled across a documentary by a couple ex-porn stars talking about the industry. Now if you don’t know much about the world of porn let me tell you, the men and women who produce it are not in a very safe environment. Many of them have diseases and have been abused both physically and sexually. One particular actress mentioned that if you think of a bodily fluid whether it’s urine, feces, or semen I guarantee you the set we work on is covered in it. I was embarrassed at myself. How could I have forgotten that these actors and actresses were really people too, I was no better than them. They were just as much my neighbor as anybody else. I mentioned before that one of the downsides of porn was that the images stick with you. Well by God’s grace a positive has come out of that. I probably have at least a hundred porn actresses’ names that are always going to be in my head and now when I pray, I make sure to mention their names. I pray for their safety, their souls, and I apologize for not treating them with the respect I should have. One of my favorite reminders about how I am supposed to do this comes from a song I discovered last year. The song is called “Dear Mr. Christian” by Rap artist Derek Minor. In the first verse he raps from the perspective of a female porn actress. I would like to share with you briefly a couple of the lyrics. They go like this:

Dear Mr. Minor are you listening? I know that you’re a Christian
And you got computer programs to block me from your vision
And every time you watch me you say that I’m the issue
Your pastor preaches about how not to let me catch you slipping
But maybe I’m a victim, maybe I’m just trapped in the system
And next time you pray maybe I might get a mention
And Before you talk about me, remember that I’m lost
Because your secret pleasure, is coming at a cost

This is one of my favorite songs of all time and to me it is an excellent reminder of how we are supposed to treat people when we claim Jesus is our Lord.

Well that was my story and to close I’d like to bring this message back to where I began. Everything that I’ve said today comes from my own personal story, But the truth is! the story isn’t mine. The reason I came up here doesn’t have anything to do with myself. I wanted people to be able to come and hear a story of someone they could relate too, someone they felt was honest, someone they felt was real. But if you leave thinking this story is about me you have the wrong impression. This is the story of how a broken man, a lustful pervert, a complete and utter sinner rotten to the core was saved by Jesus. So what do I want you take away from it all? It’s simple really, at the beginning of this service I started with a statement that you couldn’t understand……. so I’ll say it again. I’m Josiah Martin Northcutt and I love Jesus. I hope now, you can understand why.

 

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Who is the Real Enemy?

(Click here to listen.)

A couple years ago I was invited by some other students at my seminary to go down and visit a large protest that was going on downtown. This protest had some big sounding goals, a desire for actual justice, and involved quite a bit of idealism at first. I went down to participate as a voice for peace, knowing that some there were already advocating for violence. The Occupy protests went on for some time before being chased out of the parks, but if we look below the surface of how they were portrayed and how they talked about themselves, we can see a bit of what our scripture passage is talking about today. The first thing is that there were some legitimate critiques of the government’s handling of the housing crisis that overwhelmingly favored the wealthy campaign donors who had caused the mess in the first place. The second is that the “Occupy” protests held within itself the seeds of its own disintegration. They could not deny their desires and as the atmosphere in the encampment degenerated into a party/free-for-all the serious people who could have provided a stabilizing moral center were disenchanted and splintered off to actually do something. The whole of our text today speaks to the desperate need to exercise self-control in order to combat that one enemy who can derail us faster than any other.

9 Let the believer* who is lowly boast in being raised up, 10and the rich in being brought low, because the rich will disappear like a flower in the field. 11For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the field; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. It is the same with the rich; in the midst of a busy life, they will wither away.

12 Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord* has promised to those who love him. 13No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. 14But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; 15then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. 16Do not be deceived, my beloved.*

 

James begins this passage by addressing the poison of confusing social class with value in God’s eyes. Recorded for us is an important reminder that wealth and “success” are not something to boast about as marks of God’s favor. James here tells us that the poor have dignity, and it is the duty of the people of faith to affirm the gifts that God has given to those people who are viewed by our society as people who have nothing to contribute. It is in treating each other with the same dignity that we affirm the truth of what we believe Christ to have done in establishing his rule. Every person has access to God’s redemption and the Holy Spirit. Every person has something to contribute to the ministry of the church. Each one of us also has something much better than anything our world has to offer: we are beloved of God. The creator of the universe loves us, not because of our circumstances or our choices, but because he made us. We are each fearfully and wonderfully made in the image and likeness of God and no matter how much we accomplish in our lives, no matter how much wealth or status we accumulate, no matter how far we climb the social ladder we all come to the same end and all have the same access to the redemption of God. If you are going to boast, rich, poor or otherwise boast in the fact that you are a child of the king and one who has received the greatest gift, the gift that surpasses all others, Jesus. In the light of that fact everything else becomes less important.

So if money and prestige aren’t signs of God’s blessing what is? James tells us here that the only reliable sign of God’s blessing is being able to endure temptations. That is the true test of your maturity and faith, not giving in to the temptations that are around us. You might be thinking how do I not give in? Well, I am glad you thought that because I have a couple of ideas to help us out. The first thing you need to endure temptation is a cultivated awareness of the presence of God. God is right there with you when the temptation comes and at every other time, so is present to give you aid if you call on him. God really is with you when the neighbor’s dog leaves a pile in your front yard, when that idiot cuts you off in traffic, when two pop cans drop in the vending machine, when someone says let’s go to the buffet for dinner, when that nice coworker gives you that meaningful look, and when that banner ad pops up in your web browser. With the God who loves you so deeply right there and at the front of your mind, it becomes easier, not easy, but easier to turn away from the temptation and ask God for the strength to avoid it. Then with God’s help you can endure the temptation and maybe even see the desire it arrives from find its true fulfillment. CS Lewis gives a great example in his book The Great Divorce in which Lewis sees heaven and hell and gives some wonderful metaphors speaking to the truth of change in our lives, and how our temptations twist the desires, even the good desires of our hearts, away from their ultimate fulfillment. <Read p 106-114>

Now that we know what happens when we endure temptation let’s ask the question of where temptation comes from, the question of who is responsible for bringing this temptation into our lives. James is extremely straightforward here and leaves us with a clear understanding of exactly where the responsibility lies. It is a fact of humanity that no person gets up in the morning and says “I want to make the worst possible decisions in the worst ways in order to maximize my and others’ suffering.” No one wants to look in the mirror and say “Wow was I an evil jerk today.” When we succumb to temptation we immediately tend to shift the blame to someone else. We want to blame God, other people, or in Adam and Eve’s case the “serpent”, but we don’t recognize the reality that the temptation found its source in us. Let’s take Adam and Eve as an example. The couple goes for a walk in the garden and meets the serpent by the tree. The serpent talks them into eating the fruit and they go run and hide. So I have a question that no one seems to ask: What were they doing in that part of the garden in the first place? If they hadn’t gone to the tree they wouldn’t have encountered the serpent there. They were not tempted by the serpent, the serpent took advantage of their already being tempted to push them over the edge into disobedience. Just like Adam and Eve we want to blame God for “the woman you made”, other people for “handing us the fruit”, or the “serpent” for telling us what we wanted to hear so we can look in the mirror later and say “It was not my fault.” James is clear, as is the rest of scripture that the ultimate responsibility for our temptation and broken actions is our own. Do not be deceived, if you want to overcome you have to confront your true enemy, those desires that rage unchecked within each of us. To take responsibility we must, as the young man in Lewis’ story, allow God to break the power of our desire, to kill it. This will be a painful process that requires the support and love of our faith community, since each of us will need that same support when we confront the enemy within. We must remind ourselves and each other that we have a resurrected life in front of us, waiting to burst forth if we face the pain of dying to ourselves and our desires. I need you to help me and you need me to help you, that is why Jesus calls our community a hospital for sinners, we need the healing of the resurrected life every day and each other to encourage us in the struggle.

During our time of open worship sit in the presence of God, knowing that many things will come to your mind. Release all of those to Christ as they come asking that he only return that which is pleasing to Him. If you feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit to share God’s words to you, please stand, and after five minutes the microphone will be brought to you. If you hear from God and those words are for you alone, treasure those words in silence.

<Open Worship>

There is a song that has helped me through some of my own battles with temptation that I would like to share with you. It is called “Knowing You”

 

 

Chorus 1

Knowing You Jesus knowing You

There is no greater thing

You’re my all You’re the best

You’re my joy my righteousness

And I love You Lord

 

Verse 1

All I once held dear built my life upon

All this world reveres and wars to own

All I once thought gain I have counted loss

Spent and worthless now compared to this

 

Verse 2

Now my heart’s desire is to know You more

To be found by You and known as Yours

To possess by faith what I could not earn

All surpassing gift of righteousness

 

Verse 3

Oh to know the pow’r of Your risen life

And to know You in Your sufferings

To become like You in Your death my Lord

So with You to live and never die

 

CCLI Song # 1045238

Graham Kendrick

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