Act Your Age

Mark 1:14-15

People today are talking about the world coming to an end.  Yes, there’s a worldwide pandemic, but is it a sign of the end?  We’ve got news for you, in a manner of speaking, the world has already come to an end once.  That’s what our passage is about today: the transition of one age to the next, the previous world to the present.  We’ll end our devotional today by looking at some ways to determine which age you’re really living in. 

The End of the Old Age

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand…’” (Mark 1:14-15a).  There’s quite a bit going on here, so are you ready to dig in?  Let’s go for it!  First, remember what we learned in our last study of Mark 1:12-13, The Outsider.  We learned how Jesus rebuilt the human race by becoming the Second Adam.  Jesus went back to ground zero and reenacted the drama of the Garden of Eden, only this time he got it right.  Where Adam failed in paradise, Jesus prevailed in the wilderness.  Not only did Jesus defeat the devil, but also he became a fully righteous human being.  By doing this, Jesus ushered in a new age, the age of the faithful second Adam.  This means Jesus is the first person of the new age.  The age of Adam ends and Jesus brings in the age of the kingdom of God.  If this is the case, then John the Baptist is the last person of the first age of Adam.  That’s why Mark mentions John’s arrest.  John the Baptizer is about to be beheaded, bringing the first age of Adam to a bloody curtain call.  

Elsewhere, Jesus makes a stunning comment about John, which makes sense if John is the last person of the first age.  Jesus said of John, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.  Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11).  Note, although John is the greatest person in the first age, even the lowest person in the next age (called either the “kingdom of heaven” or its synonymous phrase “kingdom of God”), is greater than John.  

To summarize, there are two ages, the age of the first Adam and the age of the second Adam; John ends the first and Jesus begins the second.

The Two Barrels

Next, take note of the curious way Jesus speaks of time.  Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled” (14).  The Greek word behind “time,” kairos, can also mean “age.”  As for the word “fulfilled,” imagine an enormous oak barrel being filled up with water, drop by drop.  This barrel is the first age.  At last, the final drop falls into the barrel, filling it to the brim.  This last drop in the “First Adam” barrel was John the Baptist.  John’s arrest and death, “fulfilled” the first barrel, or age.  In turn, Jesus is the first drop in the second barrel, or age.  The second barrel, as mentioned, is called the kingdom of God.  Ever since Jesus, drop by drop, the kingdom of God barrel is being filled-full, or fulfilled.  What happens when the second barrel is filled (which is the one we are living in right now)?  Then there will be a new heaven on a new earth, where all people and creatures dwell immediately in the presence of God.  How do we get there?  This is what Jesus begins to do in Mark 1:14-15.  Here’s a chart to help you sort things out:

Barrel 1Barrel 2(Barrel 3)*
Age of first AdamAge of Second Adam (Jesus)
John the Baptist is last personJesus is the first person
Former ageKingdom of God or heaven (began with Jesus and continues to the present) (New Heaven and Earth)
John the Baptist is the greatest personThe lowest person is greater than John the Baptist
LawGospel*for a later discussion

Jesus Takes the Baton

John the Baptizer was the great disturber of his age, which is why he was put to death.  He hated hypocrites and called all people, high or low, to confess the truth about themselves, as we discovered.  So, put yourself in Jesus’s shoes, as the first person of the new age, what do you do now?  Your friend John was arrested and soon will be beheaded for his message.  Should you “take it easy” for a while?  Tweak your message?  Not Jesus.  Jesus takes the baton that John the Baptist handed him and picks up where John left off.  

“…Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.’” (14-15).  As we learned, John called people to confession and repentance.  Jesus takes his baton and runs further with it, calling people to repent and believe in the gospel.  Can you see?  In the old age, the age of the law, you can only be made aware of your sins and repent of them.  The gospel of God has not yet been revealed; and there is no eternal hope for you in the old age.  Jesus brings in the new age of the gospel good news.  The kingdom of God has begun! 

The Gospel in a Nutshell

We’re going to take a moment to give you a summary of the gospel message.  We won’t elaborate too much on it here, but we will in future devotionals.  Essentially, think of the gospel message through these three statements:

  1. Our problem,
  2. God’s solution,
  3. Our response.

Our problem is sin; every person is born without righteousness and with a sin nature.  Sin has thoroughly corrupted every part of life, the natural world included.  Second, God has a solution for us, and his name is Jesus Christ.  Jesus will make the world right again.  Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the grave, offering to us the free gift of salvation.  Third, the gospel demands a response from us.  In order for the gift to be applied to our lives, we must have faith.  The word faith can also mean “trust” or “belief.”  That’s why Jesus calls people to repent and “believe.”  Our problem; God’s solution; and our response.  That’s the gospel message in a nutshell.  This message is the greatest theme of our age.  

Practitioners of the First Age

There’s more for us to learn from these verses, which we will do in part two of this devotional.  However, let’s take a moment to apply today’s truths to our lives.  We learned today that Jesus ushers in a new age, leaving behind the old age of Adam.  However, even though this is the case, some of us are still living in the first barrel.  Although a new barrel is available to us, we’re still swimming in the old, putrid waters of the last age of Adam. 

How can you tell?  As mentioned, the age of Adam was the age of the law.  This meant that in order to be successful in the age of Adam, you have to keep the law as much as possible.  The more you keep the law, the “greater” you are.  Think of the law as any accomplishment that makes you look good in the eyes of God or the eyes of humans.  Those who live in the first barrel are worried more about looking good than being real, because their identity and salvation are at stake.  Those who continue to live by the rules of the first age seek to impress rather than serve, gain attention rather than give affection, and use God rather than love God.  They are all about glorifying themselves.  And if they are not recognized for their efforts, then their world comes crashing down.  If you take away their false god, life won’t be worth living for them.  They constantly seek to earn approval.  They are defined by ethnicity, nation, or gender.  They think God loves them less when they sin and more when they succeed.  They judge others harshly; they judge themselves even more harshly.  

Some Lies

Even more, they fall prey to the lies of the devil.  Some of these lies psychologists call “cognitive distortions.”  See if any of these sound familiar to you:

My needs don’t matter.

I have to be perfect.

Nobody cares for me.

I am all alone.

I can never be forgiven.

Everybody is against me.

I’m really not that bad.

I made a mistake…so I’m a stupid failure.

There’s nothing I can do…

I should…I ought…I must…

If I only would have (fill in the blank) things would have turned out better.

Life owes me…

These are some of the lies of the old age, still echoing into the new age.  Everybody tells themselves these lies, but you don’t have to listen!  You can learn to fight back with the truth of the new age, the second barrel.  

The Importance of Preaching

That’s why it’s so important to see that Jesus came preaching.  “Jesus came…proclaiming the gospel of God” (14).  Jesus preached the good news of the gospel age!  These days, we don’t like to say the word “preach,” because we think it sounds too preachy.  But, you know, sometimes you have to preach the lies out of your head.  When the old age tells you “Your needs don’t matter,” then you have to preach to yourself, “God made me with needs and they matter to him!”  When the old age tells you, “You have to be perfect,” then you have to preach to yourself, “I don’t have to be perfect, but I have to be whole, which includes both my strengths and weaknesses, my successes and failures.  I have to embrace my failures, not reject them.”  When the old age says to you, “You’re so much better than others and at least you’re not like that other person,” then you have to preach to yourself, “Don’t take myself too seriously, I’m replaceable and need to learn to laugh at myself; I’m thankful for whatever God has given me and I celebrate what God has given to others.”  Above all else, you have to preach to yourself the gospel: 

I am a sinner.

Christ died for my sins and rose from the grave.

I trust him for my salvation.

Act Your Age

Some of us say we’re Christians, but we live more in the old barrel than the new.  We’re practitioners of the old age, even though we say we’re Christian believers.  You say you believe Christ, but you believe your old lies more.  If this is you, then here’s one more incentive to take the plunge into the barrel of the new age.  Once upon a time, Jesus went to a wedding celebration (John 2:1-11).  When the host ran out of wine, Jesus found some barrels of water, which were being used for ceremonies of the law.  To the disciples’ great surprise, Jesus turned this water into wine.  This is how we’re to think of the new age: it is filled with the best wine you’ve ever tasted!  The old age of the law contains stagnant water for dead rituals of self-promotion, but the new age of grace bubbles up with wine for celebration and love.  

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” —Mark 1:14-15

The Breakdown

  1. Can you explain the gospel message (according to the devotional)?  Put it in your own words.
  2. Which lies do you struggle with in particular?
  3. What would it look like to live in the new age of the kingdom of God?  How would your life change if you truly embraced the age of grace?  How would it stay the same?
  4. How does living in the age of grace free you up to be yourself?

The Outsider

Mark 1:12-13

An outsider is someone who does not belong to a particular group.  He’s a visitor, a stranger.  You’ve probably felt like an outsider.  You feel you don’t really fit in at a church; it’s hard to belong at school; you have little in common at work; and your peers and family seem to ignore you. Jesus can relate. 

“The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness” (12).  Jesus was an outsider.  He was rejected by men and rejected by God.  The Spirit drove him outside, into the howling wilderness, where his companions were wild animals, the devil, and a few brave angels.  Everything about this story screams “outsider!”  One minute, his Father was bragging about his love for his Son, “You are my beloved Son…” (11), the next minute, Jesus is starving, hunted, and alone.  One minute, Jesus is being encouraged and supported by his Father, “…with you I am well pleased,” the next minute, he is being threatened and tempted by the devil.  God sure has a funny way of showing his love.  

In fact, the Outsider is so alone that the story mentions no other human companions, just non-human participants: the Spirit, Satan, angels, and wild animals.  Quite a party!  He has been driven out to another world, far away in time and space from support, care, and understanding.  He has no Heavenly Father and no earthly friends. 

But why?  Why was he driven outside into the wilderness?  If the first part of his mission was to identify with the human race by being baptized in the Jordan River, the second part of his mission was to do what the human race failed to do in the garden of Eden.  Jesus is returning to ground zero, not to rescue the human race, but to rebuild the human race. While Jesus will rescue the human race at the cross, he will rebuild the human race in the desert wasteland. In order to rebuild the human race, he needs to turn himself into a second Adam and do what the first Adam failed to do.

All the clues of a connection with the story of Adam in Genesis are right there in the brief text of Mark 1:12-13.  When the Spirit hovered over the earth it became a paradise for Adam; but when the Spirit descended upon Jesus, his world became a desert.  Adam was in charge of civilizing the animals by naming them; but Jesus was surrounded by wild animals.  Adam was driven out of the garden after he sinned against God; but Jesus was driven out into the wilderness after he obeyed God (by being baptized).  Angels were sent to block Adam from access to the tree of life; but angels were sent to sustain Jesus and keep his life.  When Satan tempted Adam in the garden, Adam failed; but when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus prevailed.

Jesus is going back to ground zero of the Fall of Adam and Eve, in order to rebuild the human race, by becoming a faithful second Adam. Jesus is going to earn and merit righteousness before God, which Adam failed to do. And by becoming a fully righteous human being, Jesus will prove that he has what it takes to rescue the human race.  He will do this by offering his perfect life as a sacrifice on the cross, giving his righteousness to those who lost theirs.  The righteousness we lost in the garden, Jesus regained in the wilderness, and offers to us on the cross. 

Let’s apply this truth in two ways.  First, you can accept the righteousness of Jesus as your very own.  Technically, Jesus “imputes” his righteousness to you.  Let’s put it in more familiar terms.  Pretend you need a hundred trillion dollars to enter heaven when you die.  Obviously, nobody has that kind of money.  Then pretend the only Person who has earned one hundred trillion dollars is Jesus, so he transfers it to your account.  Now it’s yours. Now you have what God requires.  Those who want his expensive gift of righteousness can have it.  He earned this righteousness for you by living a perfect life that upheld God’s law, including what he did in the desert.  When he was driven outside, he made a way for you to come inside.  Even more, your sins do not deplete the righteous account Jesus has given to you and your good works do not add a friggin nickel to it! 

Second, outsiders save the world.  Jesus was the Ultimate Outsider, who had to go where nobody else could go to do what nobody else could do.  This was his mission to rebuild humanity.  Likewise, God tends to use outsiders to do his most important work today.  In fact, God has a habit of using outsiders to carry out his mission.  God loves those who don’t fit in, whom the world looks down upon, and who feel they have little to offer.  Perhaps you think you’re the least likely person that God would use.  Perhaps you think you’ve sinned too much, went too far, and waited too long.  Perhaps you think you’re too outside to be useful to God.  Remember, God loves to use the outsider, because it helps God convince the world that people are saved by grace, not by works.  Jesus dealt with plenty of people who thought they were on the inside track, and showed them how far their hearts were from God.  And he dealt with plenty of outsiders, showing them how close they were to the kingdom of God.  God has a special mission for every outsider.  Hold on to that truth for dear life. 

Ultimately, outsiders will rule the world.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.  And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.  —Mark 1:12-13

The Breakdown

  1. What did you learn from this passage of Scripture?
  2. Have you ever felt like an outsider? Write about it or talk with someone about it.
  3. How do you think Jesus can relate to you?  Try to list five ways.  And if you’re up to it, share your list on the Holy Ghost Notes Facebook page.

A Father’s Approval

Mark 1:9-11

Tom was a star athlete.  When he was just a freshman in high school, he made it to the state final in Track and Field.  He ran against upperclassmen and veteran competitors.  In his final race, to everyone’s surprise, Tom finished 5th place!  Given his young age, Tom was thrilled with the result, so were his coaches.  But as he climbed onto the podium, there was just one face he wanted to see, his father’s.  When he looked up into the stands, while his mom was smiling and cheering, his dad was looking down at his stopwatch, obviously disappointed his son didn’t place higher.  He didn’t clap, he didn’t cheer, he only disapprovingly shook his head.  Twenty-five years later, and having just buried his dad, Tom tells this story with tears in his eyes.  He ran for his father’s approval, but he didn’t get it.  

In the Bible passage today, Mark 1:9-11, we want you to follow the eyes of Jesus, because they are quite telling.  It starts, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan” (9).  Although we’ve been focussing on John the Baptist, the spotlight now turns to Jesus, who has already been declared the Son of God (1:1).  Much to our surprise, the Son of God lived in a small town called Nazareth, population 120.  He left his small town to go to the Jordan River in order to be baptized by John the Baptist, just like everyone else.  As Jesus waded into the slow, muddy water, he showed us we were all in this together.  By being baptized, Jesus identified with the suffering and need of the human race.  God was one of us.

But now follow his eyes.  Verse 10 reads, “And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.”  Who saw?  Jesus did.  Where did he look?  He looked to the stands, so to speak, to look for his Father.  Like Tom, like you, and like me, even the Son of God sought his Father’s approval.  “…he saw the heavens opened…” because he was looking for the only Face that mattered to him at that moment.  

His Father was not looking down at his stopwatch in disapproval.  In fact, his Father couldn’t wait to show his Son approval.  The text says, “…immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.”  Picture the start of a college football game.  There’s a banner at the corner of the field with the name of the hometeam painted on it.  Then suddenly, immediately, the home team comes bursting through the sign, tearing it open, rushing onto the field.  That’s like what Jesus saw.  His Father tore through the heavens as if they were a sheet of butcher paper and rushed upon the field to be with his Son.  Since God is Spirit, he had to take the form of a physically visible creature, in this case, a dove.

It’s interesting to note another scene in the Bible that connects a dove with water and a voice from heaven.  In Genesis 9, at the end of the flood story of Noah and the ark, there is a dove, water, and a voice from heaven.  All three came together when Noah was trying to determine if it were safe to walk the earth again.  Here in Mark 1:9-11, it’s as if we’re being told that Jesus is the new ark, upon which humanity can be saved.

There’s a difference, however, between this story and a story like Tom’s.  And it’s an important difference to grasp.  Jesus hadn’t yet done anything to merit either approval or disapproval.  Tom had already won his race and finished his season; Jesus had yet to start.  The race for Jesus was a difficult and dangerous course, which would culminate on a cross.  Here on the banks of the Jordan River, Jesus was at the start of the race, warming up.  His first hurdle would be his battle with Satan in the wilderness (1:12-13), which we’ll talk about next time.       

Does it surprise you, then, that his Father would call out to him, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (11)?  Again, Jesus hadn’t yet done anything.  The story just began.  Jesus hadn’t yet faced any enemies, overcome any obstacles, or performed any miracles.  As far as the story goes, he was just a thirty year old carpenter from Hicksville, Nazareth, hardly worth the applause of God.       

Typically, we believe merit should come first and then approval.  You win a race; then you get a medal.  You work hard for a week; then you get a paycheck.  You do well on a test; then you get an A.  But the mischievous Father in heaven flips it around.  You get approval; then you run the race.  You get approval; then you do your ministry.  You get approval; then you do your job.  Pretty mind blowing, isn’t it?  But it had to be this way.

How else do you think Jesus was able to do all he had to do?  He had to have his Father’s approval first.  Think of what Jesus had to go up against (all these are found in the book of Mark).  Jesus would battle the devil; choose his disciples to carry his message to the ends of the earth; cast out demons; heal the sick; preach to the masses; cleanse lepers; heal paralytics; forgive sins; argue with religious leaders; heal a man with a withered hand; calm a storm; walk on water; heal a bleeding woman; raise a dead girl; face the rejection of his hometown; mourn the beheading of his friend; feed several thousand, twice; make the deaf to hear and blind to see; be falsely accused; be plotted against; be betrayed; be forsaken; be arraigned and tried in court; be spit upon; be tortured; be mocked; and be crucified.  How in the world did he do all that?  In great part, because he had his Father’s approval right at the beginning.  Throughout it all, he could still hear the echo of his Father’s voice cheering him on, “You are my beloved Son!  With you I am well pleased!”  Then he could take another step.

And if this is how life works for the Son of God, then who are we to think we’re any different?  The only way you can make it through your difficult journey is if you know the Father’s approval first.  Otherwise, you’re sunk.  There’s nothing you cannot do or endure so long as you have the Father’s approval.  It’s all you need to get through whatever hell you’re in right now.  Betrayal?  Backstabbing?  Abuse?  Personal failure?  You can make it through your rough course if you hold on to God’s loving approval.  He says to you, “You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.” 

Your good works don’t merit God’s approval; rather, God’s loving approval of you merits your good works.  Now, with the love of your heavenly Father descended upon you as a dove, go and live your life for him.

The Breakdown

  1. Carefully read Mark 1:9-11.  What strikes you the most? 
  2. What does the word “approval” mean?  Look it up in a dictionary.  
  3. Would you rather have approval before you earn it or after you earn it?  Why do you think God gives us approval first? 
  4. Pray and search your thoughts, ask yourself about the areas in your life you’re seeking the approval of others.  What would it mean if you knew God himself approved you?  What would it mean if you approved you, too? 

Porn Clown

Mark 1:8

The pandemic has us at home, out of our routines, and with extra free time.  As a result, you may be struggling with porn more than usual.  So let’s take some time to talk about it.  The Bible verses in Mark 1:1-8, perhaps surprisingly, can help us a great deal in this area.  Let’s pause at Mark 1:8 and let the power of this text grab hold of us.  Before Jesus arrives on the scene in verse 9 (we’ll talk about that in the next post), we’re brought into the dramatic world of John the Baptizer, who called people to confession and repentance.  It’s a world, quite frankly, most Christians today are unfamiliar and untrained.  But we need to open up the door to this world and live in it for a moment.

As people came to the water to be baptized, they recognized their true condition and didn’t hide behind fake self-righteousness, good works, or glowing masks.  To be in this world of John the Baptist, you have to strip everything away, until you’re left with nothing but the cold, hard truth about your situation before God.  In case you were tempted to skip over this part, it’s no joke, this is the necessary work you need to do in your fight against porn.  Remember, when you give him your sin, he gives you his Spirit.  “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (1:8).  

Deranged Clown’s Prisoner

The more you recognize your sin, the extent of it, and your mad desire for it, the more God will give you his Spirit.  Sin will lose its power and you will gain power.  There’s a short video you’ve got to watch first, then I’ll explain more.  It’s a comedy sketch by Key and Peele, called Being a Deranged Clown’s Prisoner.  Go ahead and watch it now.  We’ll wait…

We’re going to put this as bluntly as possible: in your battle with porn, you are a deranged clown’s prisoner.  That deranged clown is you.  And it’s not you.  At the same time.  So long as you’re alive, you’ll never escape.

The deranged clown is the part of your nature that has gone rogue.  You can’t control it and it does whatever it pleases.  It’s desire is for everything you don’t like and that’s against your desire to follow God.  If you want purity, it wants porn.  Recall Key and Peele sitting in the cold, disgusting prison, blood-splattered everywhere, chained to the walls.  They are at the whim of the deranged clown, waiting for him to return and have his way with them.  This is the best picture we can paint for you of your battle with porn.  The desire comes and goes, seeks to torture you, and the more you feed it, the more power it gains—however, the way you feed it is not how you might think, but we’ll get to that.

This is going to be a long post, because there are no quick answers.

You’re Not Free

The first thing you’ve got to accept is that you’re stuck in that prison.  This might come as surprising news, but welcome to the world of John the Baptizer, the world of true confession and repentance.  If you’re going to make any progress in your battle against porn, you must first realize that the battle will never go away.  You’ll never be free.  Perhaps someone once told you that you could be free.  Maybe you keep telling yourself, “One day, I won’t have this struggle; I’ll be holier and be able to conquer porn.”  That’s a load of shit.  So long as you’re alive in this world, you will have what the Bible calls a sin nature, the rogue clown.  And he’ll be just five feet away from you the rest of your life.  Any different teaching is pure deception.  Welcome to the jungle.  

Another Way to Fight

Key (in Key & Peele) put it this way in the sketch, “There’s kind of a positive in having no options, because, you know, we’re not even going to try to escape, because we know we’d fail.”  Your battle against porn is not about escaping it, but about learning how to deal with the deranged porn clown when he shows up.  Man, this is so essential to get, so re-read that last sentence.  We must accept the struggle in which we find ourselves, for only then will we be able to learn to fight another way (other than escape).

But beware, the porn clown is always watching you through the jail cell window.  The Bible puts it just as vividly when it says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8).  Here’s why this is an essential truth for you to grasp about your situation, because you can’t deal with the porn clown by avoiding him or trying hard to abstain.  This is called “white-knuckling it.”  See if you can relate.  You decide to give up porn, because you know it’s ruining your life.  You vow never to look at it again.  You try your absolute hardest.  You avoid computers; you put passcodes on your devices; you get an accountability partner; you go on long jogs to release energy; you try to stay busy; you don’t watch R-rated movies.  But then, two days later, you look at porn!  You think, “I can’t believe porn came back!”  But guess what?  The porn clown never left!  And now, he’s pissed!  Remember, you’re like Key and Peele chained to the wall, so ask yourself, what good would it have done for them to close their eyes and pretend the clown wasn’t there any more?  What good would it have done for them to say they’d never look at the porn clown again?  They’d be like children pretending the blanket would protect them from monsters.  

In one sense, it’s like a man telling himself he’ll never eat again, or be hungry again.  Just as hunger is good and normal, so are your sexual urges.  They are not leaving you (thank God!) and the porn clown will continue to attack them (and derange them) so long as you’re alive.

We Don’t Have a Free Will

Much to our chagrin, we do not have a free will.  It’s chained and bound to a bloody wall, haunted by a painted, maniacal enemy.  Oh, sure, we have a free will when it comes to choosing insignificant things, like what we’ll wear to work or when we’ll go to sleep at night.  But when it comes to choosing God or choosing porn, our wills are locked to the prison wall.  We may get away a few times with abstaining from porn—a few weeks or months here and there—but don’t be deceived, the clown will be back.

Summing It up

Let’s take a moment to summarize.  You are in a prison.  In the prison there’s a deranged porn clown.  He’s trying to tear you apart, limb by limb.  There’s nothing you can do to escape.  Got it?  

Avoiding and Hiding

Now, let’s think about the usual ways we deal with porn: avoiding it or hiding it (after we do it).  Again, can you relate?   You try your hardest to avoid, avoid, avoid.  There’s a thousand methods we’ve come up with to avoid porn, everything from computer software to putting a rubber band on our wrist and snapping it when we’re tempted.  We’re not discounting these methods, but there’s so much more we can do.  Second, if/when we are unsuccessful at avoiding porn, then we hide it.  We cover it up and lie about it.  We pretend we didn’t fail.  All the while, the clown grows bigger and bigger in our lives.

Instead of avoiding and hiding (or white-knuckling and sneaking), let’s learn from John the Baptist.  He says to confess and repent.  If you want to start making real progress in your battle against porn, then learn to confess and repent, rather than avoid and hide.    


First, let’s learn about confession.  Believe it or not, this is what Key and Peele did in the sketch.  If this surprises you, then you probably don’t know what true confession is.  The word “confess” means to acknowledge or agree.  In a comical way, Key and Peele were in agreement with the clown.  When the clown tries to terrify them, they beat him to the punch.  The clown laughs menacingly, “No one has ever suffered, as you will!”  Then he whips out a rusty power saw to cut them to pieces.  One of the prisoners calmly replies, “That’s a great saw…if you’re cutting off legs, that is the way to go.”  The clown shrinks back, dumbfounded.  Back and forth they go; the more the clown tries to terrify them, the more they acknowledge what he is doing and agree with him.  They anticipate what the clown is up to and validate his efforts.  Soon the clown can’t take it anymore and screams out, “Make it stop!  This is torture!”  

True confession tortures the devil.  Did you know that?

Here’s a truth worth memorizing right now: if you can’t talk about something, or acknowledge something, then it has power over you.  The more you avoid or hide it, the more it grows in power.  The more you pretend it doesn’t exist, the scarier it becomes to you.  This is true for many things, not just your fight against porn.  True confession lances the infection so it stops its painful swelling.  True confession causes the deranged clown to shrink away and lose power over you.

How could this look in your battle with porn?  When the porn clown begins to tempt and torment you, turn to him and say, “It’s true, I confess, I’d really love to look at porn right now.  In fact, here are the ten websites I’d like to look at.  Here are the kinds of things I’d like to see.  And here’s what I’m planning on doing while I’m looking at them.  And wait, there’s more!  Here are some other porn fantasies I have…I confess, my heart is always intent on finding illicit content in which to indulge.  Given the chance, I would sneak away by myself, so nobody would catch me; I would stay up late and pretend to be working on something else, meanwhile, I’d search for nude images; I’d spend all day, if I could, indulging in porn.  I admit to all of this and more.”  

Map out your fantasies before yourself and God; stop pretending you’re “better” than you really are.  Acknowledge the desires and machinations of the diabolical clown, both thoroughly and precisely.  “I’d really like to do or see X right now; I’d really like to do Y if I could get away with it.”  Acknowledging, admitting, and confessing the truth will set you free.  The Spirit descends upon the one who is truthful, making you only as strong as you are honest.  We’ll see the ultimate example of this in the Lord Jesus Christ in the next portion of Scripture we study, Mark 1:9-13.

Know what your inner deranged porn clown is up to and say what it wants to shrink its power.  Confess, confess, confess, until he limps back into the corner and gives you reprieve.  God gave you an imagination so you could stay five steps ahead of your sin nature, to keep track of it, before it takes you by surprise and devours you.  If you satisfy the desires of the deranged clown in your imagination first, then there’s much less of a chance you will act out these desires in real life.     


The second great aspect of John the Baptist’s message is to repent.  Remember, instead of whiteknuckling and sneaking (avoiding and hiding), we’re going to confess and repent.  The word repent means “to change your mind.”  You may be tempted to define this superficially, which most Bible teachers erroneously do!  The superficial definition goes like this: to change your mind means something like, “I was going left, but then I turned around and went right.”  Or, putting it into our context, “I was going to look at porn, but then I didn’t.”  As we said, these are superficial takes on metanoia, the Greek word for repentance.  

When John the Baptist speaks of repentance, he doesn’t mean simply to change your final decision; rather, he means to change your actual mind.  Morph your thinking.  To repent means to change your mindset about life, God, and yourself.  This definition leaves room for mistakes, for wrong turns, and for the inevitable slips of judgment.  But it frees you to embrace whatever life throws at you.  Think about Key and Peele in the prison; their entire disposition was that of “embrace.”  No matter what the clown threw at them, they found a way to accept it.  Comically, when the clown threatened to light one of them on fire, for instance, the other responded, “That’d be nice, because I was just thinking it was getting a little chilly in here.”  These two prisoners are poster children for Reinhold Neibur’s serenity prayer!  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  When you can’t change your situation, you can change your mindset about your situation.  To change your mindset about porn, therefore, would be to embrace the lifelong struggle with the porn clown, to change the way you handle temptations and failures, and to learn the difference between symptom and cause.

Symptom vs. Cause

Here’s what we mean by the last statement.  We believe the actual viewing of porn mainly to be a symptom, rather than the disease, itself.  In other words, if you’re trying to overcome porn addiction merely by attacking the actual viewing of porn, then you’ll have limited, if any, success.  Don’t get us wrong, you should stop looking at porn!  However, if that’s all you focus on, you won’t get to the root of the problem.  Think about the coronavirus.  If you said you could “cure” the coronavirus by lowering someone’s temperature and giving them a throat lozenge to alleviate coughing, then you’re an absolute nitwit.  Treating the symptoms is not the same as attacking the virus.  

In the same way, there’s something else going on in the life of the porn user.  Viewing porn is the symptom of a deeper disease.  This deeper disease is manifesting itself as porn use.  This is one of the reasons why porn use is so hard to break, because the user thinks superficially about his problem.  He focuses on the actual viewing and fails to do a deep dive into understanding what’s driving his viewing.  Again, to repent of porn is not merely to change your mind about whether to view it or not, but repenting of porn is to embrace the lifelong struggle with the porn clown, change the way you handle temptations and failures, and learn the difference between symptom and cause.

The Deeper Disease

So what is the deeper disease?  It is the rejection of self, the rejection of God, and the rejection of others.  This fundamental rejection of God, self, and others, is what fuels our desire to look at porn.  Put another way, if you want to reduce the symptoms, in this case, looking at porn, then you have to repent of feeding the clown.  Most of us don’t know what feeds the clown and we are unaware of when we are doing it!  But we must stop feeding the clown, so he loses power.  

Clown Food

The first serving of clown food is rejection of self.  There are many ways in which you may be rejecting yourself, and each of these ways feeds the deranged porn clown.  We reject the things we don’t like about ourselves.  Some might not like their appearance, weight, or height.  Some might not like their emotional makeup, especially when they are sad or sensitive.  You may not like your stutter, skin color, or sexuality.  You compare yourself to others or what society upholds and you feel you fall short.  As a result, you feel shame and just want to hide.  Maybe someone taught you the wrong message about your sexual desires and shamed you for them.  All these years, you thought God was against the sexual part of you.  So you’ve been rejecting this good and normal part of your being.  Or maybe you were abused by someone you trusted, again, causing much shame, confusion, and rejection.  You blamed yourself—literally, you put the blame on your self.  You thought YOU were the problem.  Or maybe the people who were supposed to love you unconditionally, your family and parents, always told you that you were no good.  Since you felt their rejection, you made it your own.  You began to reject yourself and live out their prophecy.  “If I truly am no good, then I might as well be bad.”  Which part of you are you rejecting?  

Rejecting yourself is clown food.  If you want to stop feeding the deranged porn clown, then you have to repent, which would mean accepting yourself.  You have to go deep into your being and embrace the parts of you that you don’t like.  Don’t like your sexual desires?  Repent and embrace them!  Don’t like the way you look or think or act?  Repent and embrace these wonderful parts of you!  Don’t like your emotions, your weaknesses, your vulnerabilities, and your failures?  Repent and embrace every tear, stumble, bruise, and flaw.  Resist at your own peril, for until you embrace yourself, then symptoms of this rejection will continue to manifest as porn use.  

The second kind of clown food is rejection of God.  There are many ways in which we reject God.  Whenever we lie or hide, we are rejecting God and his desire for truth and relationship.  When we love and cherish other things more than we love and cherish God, then we’re rejecting him.  When we disobey our conscience, we reject God.  When we think God doesn’t love us, then we’re rejecting God.  When we are envious of others, then we’re rejecting God.  When we are discontent with what God has allowed in life or where he has placed us, then we reject him.  When we try to justify ourselves and are full of self-congratulatory behavior, we’re rejecting God.  When we’re full of self-pity, there’s a part of us that’s rejecting God.  When we feel entitled, we are rejecting God, refusing to walk humbly before him. In so many ways, we resist God’s existence and authority over our lives. 

The way to repent of our rejection of God is to accept God.  You accept his will, ways, word, and works.  Instead of laughing at God and taking yourself so seriously, you laugh at yourself and take God seriously.  As pastor Colin Smith once tweeted, the fear of the Lord means that God’s frown is your greatest dread and his smile is your greatest delight.  Rejection of God is at the root of much porn use.  In fact, you may be frustrated at God, so much so that you asked God to help you never to do porn again, but God has not answered your prayers.  Ironically, this has caused you to reject God more, fueling your porn use all the more!  Think about this: perhaps God has left your heartbreaking addiction in place, so you can learn how much he loves you and how much you need him.  Maybe God wants you more than you want him.  And maybe you still have this symptom (porn use), so that you can address the deeper disease.  In what ways are you rejecting God?

More briefly, but just as important, the third type of clown food is rejection of others.  To reject others is to feed the porn clown and give him power.  We reject others when we see them as objects, rather than real human beings.  We treat them as sources of pleasure or pain.  We blame them, rather than taking responsibility for our own problems.  If you want to get a vivid picture of how you interact with others, just think about how nations interact with each other, for human relationships are microcosms of international relationships.  Nations invade, take over, colonize, compete, threaten, destroy, influence, enslave, exterminate, and much more!  This is what each individual is constantly doing to those around him or her, whether you realize it or not.  Why?  Because we reject others as individuals who are made in the image of God, who have important stories, beliefs, feelings, experiences, and offerings.  

The way to repent of your rejection of others is to accept them.  If you struggle in this area, work on your empathy.  Try to put yourself in the shoes of another to feel what they feel.  Validate their experiences.  Let them be themselves and stop trying to make them into your image or use them for your purposes.  

Making It Possible  

Embrace yourself, embrace God, and embrace others.  The only way this is possible is because God first embraced us.  Otherwise, it’s just wishful thinking.  God reached out and embraced us in his Son, Jesus Christ.  We can accept ourselves, God, and others, because God first accepted us.  We’ll learn more about God’s unfathomable embrace in our upcoming devotionals.  

Finally, here’s a word about accountability relationships.  It’s crucial you have someone in your life who can hold you accountable.  However, don’t just tell this person about the superficial slip-ups with porn or illicit material.  As we learned, go deeper.  Talk to your accountability partner about the ways you reject yourself.  Be specific!  Talk with him or her about the things about God you reject, too.  And talk about the things in others you reject.  Then be sure to remind each other that God accepts you, just as you are.

Although we are a deranged clown’s prisoner, there is much hope for us.  By learning to confess and repent, you can reduce his power over you.  When it comes to pornography, you may have many battle wounds, but rest assured, God loves you exactly how you are and sends his Spirit to help you.  You are forgiven, each day is a blank slate, and we are all in here together.    

The Breakdown

  1. What do you reject about yourself? 
  2. It’s a strange metaphor, but how does knowing you’re a deranged clown’s prisoner help you in your battle with porn? 
  3. Who can you talk with about your struggle with porn?  
  4. Why do you think confessing and repenting is better than avoiding and hiding?