Incognito

Incognito

Written by: Lemuel Teo (Photo by: Ronald Lim)

Getting cosy in the shroud of secrecy

What can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again, nothing but the blood of Jesus
O precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow
No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus

The words of the hymn were haunting; the blood of Jesus is so precious and efficacious in washing away our sin and restoring us to wholeness. Yet, in my mind, I did not regard the blood of Jesus as infinitely precious, nor did I desire to let go of the darkness within my soul so that I may be white as snow. I cheapened God’s grace and neutered the power of Jesus’ cross. Immersed in the cesspool of sexual sin, I was comfortable and did not want to get out.

It started innocently enough. Every time I indulged in pornography or masturbation, I would be beset with guilt and condemnation. I would run away from God and cower in a darkened corner, feeling unworthy to talk to Him, read His Word, or go to church. But I began to find freedom by confessing my sin to Jesus and “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). He is our “advocate with the Father… He is atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 2:1–2). So there is “no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). This meant that whenever I stood before God, I was clean and free from shame! It was wondrous to be able to boldly “enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19) and feel unencumbered by sin. My wretched sinfulness was met by the awesome grace of Jesus!

However, this newfound freedom in Christ soon gave way to a perversion of the grace of God. Understanding that Jesus would forgive my sin (1 John 1:9), I started justifying my recurrent and persistent attachment to pornography and masturbation. I would choose to sin, confess my sin, and then feel adequately righteous before God. I was able to gloss over my deplorable sinfulness, looking unto Jesus to advocate for me. Sexual sin was no longer repulsive to me.

Treating sin as sin

Soon, my unrepentant heart grew calloused and I could no longer appreciate the grace of Jesus. Deep inside I knew that I was living a double life — happy and pristine on the outside, yet confused and conflicted on the inside. It was during a time of worship that I felt as if God was saying to me, “Repentance is turning away from your sin. You have not turned away from your sin, but instead  you have embraced it. You have abused my grace to you.” That was a moment of reckoning for me: I could turn my heart to God or walk further away from His embrace — the choice was obvious.

I had to treat sin as sin and not hide it under the excuse of “I’m a work-in-progress” or “I will break free from it…one day.” Sin had to be dealt with here and now; I had to confront my sin straightaway and not allow it to fester within my heart. Apostle John wrote, “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth” (1 John 1:6). Also, the  later part of the oft-quoted verse, Romans 8:1, addressed those “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

Walking in freedom

I believe that it is possible to walk in freedom from sexual sin. Paul’s exhortation was to “(s)et your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). Instead of embracing my sin, I had to loathe it. In an article by Bob Deffinbaugh, he wrote:

“The problem with many Christians is not their despair…but their lack of it.… Until we hate sin, we will not turn from it. Until we reach the end of ourselves, we will not look to God.”

By God’s grace, He revealed to me the consequences of pornography when I came across reports about prostitution in Thailand and Cambodia. He showed me that every time sexual sin is committed, both parties are defrauded. In the case of prostitution, usually, a woman’s body — created in the image of God — was being abused for the twisted pleasure of someone else — who is also created in the image of God. Their purity and worth is exchanged for debased intercourse. While pornography might not physically connect the abuser and the victim, in the spiritual realm, the same defrauding is taking place. I was aghast at the spiritual implications of pornography and I certainly did not want to have a part in the exploitation of someone else’s sexuality.

Freedom is within our grasp

God’s ultimate purpose is to heal and save His people. The good news is that God has called us out of darkness into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9), so we can leave our dark days behind and walk in His light. The Moral Revolution collective posted this on Instagram: “Sexuality doesn’t have to be our area of weakness. Our sexuality is the place God wants to show Himself strong in our purity and in our lives.” You might find it difficult to walk in His light, but Jesus can sympathise with all our weaknesses and struggles, therefore “let us…come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrew 4:16).

The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1–2).” Let us throw off the cloak of secrecy and run unhindered towards Jesus. He is the one who is able to make us perfect and make us whole again.

LEMUEL enjoys good conversations over a cup of kopitiam kopi. He connects with God while playing the piano and is frequently in awe of His creation—sunsets, sea breezes, and tropical downpours. View his attempts at capturing interesting or beautiful moments @lemuelteo.

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