Predestination conquers pornography. Or, as I heard John Piper once say, “Theology can conquer biology.” Because we know God, we can “abstain from sexual immorality,” and we can “know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thess. 4:3–5).
I know doctrine can trample over the lusts of the flesh, because that’s exactly what sovereign grace did for me. While some may view election as a controversial doctrine, the Holy Spirit used this doctrine to deliver me from the evils of pornography.
I grew up as an average kid in a Southern Baptist Church. I went to church three times week. I sang in the youth choir. I even had a stint in the puppet ministry. I reluctantly joined in the aisle-movements of “Walk, walk, walk, walk, in the light,” and arm-waving antics to “Waves of mercy, waves of grace.” I led Bible studies, played my acoustic in the youth band, and all the while, I was enslaved to pornography from seventh grade to my sophomore year of high school.
I knew it was bad. I knew my parents would flip out. But I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who to talk to. No one—seriously, no one (back then)—was talking about it. Guilt and shame weighed heavily upon me. I kept telling myself, “Today is the last time.” I even bought a ring bearing the Alpha and Omega Greek letters, to serve as a kind of detour for fulfilling my lust. Well, Jesus is no talisman or amulet—that’s not how he works. I would take the ring off, and click my way to digital dens of iniquity. Christian paraphernalia has no power to change us. What we need is the power of the crucified and risen Christ at work in our hearts. And that’s exactly what happen to me one Sunday morning. The love of Christ changes everything.
One Sunday morning of my sophomore year, instead of using of my NIV Student Bible to give my arm that two-and-a-half more inches to prop my head for ideal sleeping, I heeded the words. I opened my Bible to Ephesians, and I read along with my pastor, starting at Ephesians 1:3.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:3–14)
This love, set on me before the foundation of the world, rocked my teenage world. It still gives me chills. Here we are—dust—and in divine love we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. We are co-heirs with the Son of the Most High. We have redemption through the blood of Jesus because he is rich in grace.
As an insecure high school kid, these doctrines lifted me out of my shame and directed my gaze to the King of love. I found myself laying in bed at night, and instead of cycling through images in my mind, my thoughts were set on sovereign grace. “He set his love on me? Me.” Something drastic happened to me. I went from being grateful for what Jesus did on a Roman cross, to being dazzled by our great God and Savior.
It wasn’t predestination, per se, that severed my craving for digitized hook ups—it was the love of Jesus displayed in predestination. Even more, it was (and is) Jesus himself. Jesus truly is the expulsive power in our affections. Jesus is more exciting, invigorating, and satisfying than anything that moth, rust, or slow internet could destroy.
Ephesians 1 took me to the deep well of soteriology, had me look over the cobbled rocks, and pushed me in—not into the distraction of theological debate, but into the glories of the gospel. The love of Christ began to compound, overload, and like the best pop-up ads in the universe, the love of Jesus crowded up—and out—my heart. I found myself daydreaming about the gospel. I couldn’t juke Jesus out of my heart and mind. And he’s still at work in me today.
The eternal love of Christ reordered my disordered loves. We are predestined to become holy and blameless before him. Sovereign grace saves and sanctifies. My bloated sexual appetite went under a reformation under the authoritative love of King Jesus. The Lordship of Christ is rooted in his love. Christ’s whole disposition towards his people is love. It’s always been. It is now. And will always be. He loved us before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4–5). He loved us at that blood hill outside of Jerusalem, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”(Gal. 2:20). And Jesus loves us right now, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Rev. 1:5). If we believe his love, let us believe the freedom he brings. As the old hymn croons:
Manhood isn’t about muster, bravado, hunting, or chest hairs—it’s crucifixion with Christ. Biblical manhood is tethered to the Son of Man and our awe of him, or aligning to him, and our adoration of him. “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD” (Psalms 27:4). A husband learns to love from the love of Jesus for him (Eph. 5:25). Men walk in the truth as we walk with and in Christ. As Kevin Vanhoozer says, “To ‘walk in the truth’ is ultimately to participate in the love of God by acting out our being-in-Christ. This is the purpose of doctrine: to teach disciples the surpassing worth of being-in-Christ (cf. Phil. 3:8).”
Together, brothers, let’s learn the surpassing worth of Christ, in his love, for men like us.
J.A. Medders is the Lead Pastor of Redeemer Church in Tomball, TX. He and Natalie have two kids, Ivy and Oliver. Jeff digs caffeinated drinks, books, and the Triune God. He blogs at www.jamedders.com and tweets from @mrmedders. Jeff’s first book, Gospel-Formed: Living a Grace-Addicted, Truth-Filled, Jesus-Exalting Life, is set to release this November from Kregel.
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