QuestionI've been addicted to porn and masturbation for two years. Everyone around thinks that I'm a right on Christian, but I'm not. Do I have to tell people what's going on? I'm trying to stop. Will God still forgive me?
Before any sin can be addressed, there has to be a period when a person faces reality. We want to think well of ourselves and it is tough to say, "I have a problem." However, you can't fix a problem that you are unwilling to admit exists.
Two thousand years ago, the Jews refused to see all the sins they were committing. They thought they were special people, but because they refused to see reality, they drifted further into sin. Paul wrote a scathing summary of the Jewish life and concluded with a series of quotes from their own law: "As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one." "Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit"; "The poison of asps is under their lips"; "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Romans 3:10-19). Paul needed them to face reality so that change could take place.
The problem is not an isolated one. Paul later used the Jews as an example to Christians that despite every equivalent advantage, the Jews turned against God. Paul's conclusion to Christians was: "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (I Corinthians 10:12). Just because you are a Christian, it does mean you have immunity to sin. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8). What ought to distinguish Christians from the rest of the world is our abhorrence for sin. We stumble, but we pick ourselves up and keep going in the right direction.
Will God forgive you? He has said over and over that He wants to forgive everyone. "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9). The one thing you need is a willingness to change. Paul was forced to scold Christians in Corinth on numerous sins that they had been committing. The Corinthians took his rebukes to heart. "For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (II Corinthians 7:8-11).
When I deal with pornography in private counseling, one of my goals is to demystify the allure of pornography. If you understand how it works and why it works -- especially on men -- then it is a bit easier to battle. Since I don't know the particulars of your situation, I would like you to take time to read an article titled, "A Look at Pornography" and then write again about what you have learned about your particular situation. Think about what it is about pornography that is causing you to return to it even as your intellect tells you that it isn't good for you.
You're not the only one facing this problem. "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (I Corinthians 10:13). Can you find in your heart enough trust in God to believe there is a way out of your situation, if you are bold enough to to take the way of escape?
Do you need to tell everyone about your sins? You do need to tell God: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9). I would also recommend finding a solid brother in Christ to whom you can talk to one-on-one about your problem. Let me explain this from the dieting industry. Programs, such as Weight Watchers, work because of the weekly meetings. It is one thing to control yourself, it is another to exercise control knowing that someone is going to ask how your week went in regards to your problem. Just knowing you are going to have to explain yourself gives you some added boost. Right now, Satan has found a weak point in your armor that he is exploiting with zeal. While your wounds are healing, you need someone to back you up, to listen sympathetically, to scold you when you start to stray, and to point you in the right direction. This is why James said, "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:17). This is not to say that everyone needs to know. Instead, you need some people on your side rooting for you and praying for you. In fact, I would argue that some people probably should not know because it will do too much damage.
One last point, if you are going to successfully battle sin, you can't view the problem solely as removing the sin from your life; that is only half the battle. Unless sinful habits are replaced with righteous deeds, you leave a vacuum in your life that is begging to be filled. And Satan will be more than happy to shovel more dirt back into your life. "When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first" (Matthew 12:43-45). This is why you find the Bible filled with statement about removing sin and adding righteousness, such as: "The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts" (Romans 13:12-14). Fill up your life with so much good that you don't have inclination or time to do sinful things.