You Are a Kingdom

Mark 1:14-15

In the last devotional, we learned the arrival of Jesus (and the exit of John the Baptist) meant the transition of one age to the next.  The former age of the law became the present age of grace, also called the kingdom of God.  Today, we’re going to learn more about the kingdom of God from Mark 1:14-15.  We’ll examine the kingdom of God through the five W’s (and one H), Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.  We can’t wait for you to learn more with us about the kingdom of God!  We hope you will be blown away by what you discover within you! 


Who gets to be in the kingdom of God? Is the kingdom of God reserved only for angels, spirits, fat cherubs, and the Almighty?  Or do only pastors and priests get to be in the kingdom of God? Absolutely not! The kingdom of God is for greasy swindlers and the unwashed rabble.  It’s for the misfits and malcontents. 

When Jesus spoke these words, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15), he was speaking to those who only had one thing to offer, their sins. He was speaking to those who responded to the call of John the Baptist to confess their sins and repent. These were not holy people, not even close. They were self-declared sinners.  

Most are too embarrassed of the implications of this truth, for they know it means the kingdom of God is for pimps, pedofiles, prostitutes, and prisoners.  This is truly amazing! If you were a king, and could have any kingdom you wanted, which citizens would you choose to be in it? Would you choose you? 

One more thing, it’s not just that the kingdom of God is for sinners, but it is also that sinners are the kingdom of God! Revelation 1:6 says that God made us sinners into a kingdom.  “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom…”  The kingdom of God is a ruined and redeemed people, who contribute their sins and collect his grace.


What is the kingdom of God?  The kingdom of God is not something made up of bricks and mortar.  Fundamentally, the kingdom of God is a relationship between an individual and God.  The kingdom of God is a sinner’s submission to Jesus Christ as his or her King.  It’s the relationship of Creator and creature.  However, the kingdom of God is not the relationship itself, but, more accurately, it is the relating.  

What do we mean by this?  It helps to think of the kingdom of God not as a noun, but as a verb.  It’s the relating of the relationship between you and God.  It’s the sparks, the fire.  You see, it’s not stagnant, like a noun, but it’s living and active.  It’s growing and expanding, getting higher, wider, longer, and deeper.  

Just think of some of the parables Jesus told about the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God is like a farmer who went out to sow; the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that a man planted in a field; it’s like yeast a woman took and mixed in her dough; it’s like a treasure hidden in a field that a man found; it’s like a net that was let down in the water to catch fish; and it’s like a merchant in search of fine pearls.  

Can you see the pattern?  The kingdom of God is action, a verb!  The kingdom of God is not the stuffy, old home you inherit from your granddaddy that reeks of cat urine and mildew.  It’s not a thing, but a movement.  Again, it’s not just the relationship between you and God, but it’s the relating.  Why is this so important?  Because the kingdom of God within you is dynamic, it can grow and shrink.  In other words, it’s not something you inherit from your parents, culture, or church, but it’s a relationship you must pursue and fan.  It’s not a relationship to settle for.  

The formula is simple, God pursues you and you pursue God, like two wild lovers, like the ones we read about in the erotic book of the Bible called Song of Solomon.  Even the Lord’s prayer demonstrates the verbal action of the kingdom of God, “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”  Do you see?  When you pray for God’s kingdom, you pray for it to come, advance, and threaten your so-called sovereignty at every moment.  The kingdom of God is the reality of the relationship between you and God that forcibly seeks to express itself through you (yes, sinful you!), into the world, every day of your life, especially the lousy ones.  “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).


When does the kingdom of God happen?  By now, you’ve probably realized the kingdom of God, which is also called the kingdom of heaven, does not happen just in the future, but it is happening now.  Actually, as we learned in our last devotional, the kingdom of God began with the arrival of Jesus Christ in this world.  Remember, Jesus clearly said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15).  Put another way, the kingdom of God is right at your fingertips.  The past age of the law has given way to the present age of grace.  One day in the future, this present age of grace will give way to the new heaven on earth, which we commonly think of simply as “heaven.”  

Again, the implications of this reality are colossal.  If the kingdom of God is happening right now, then there’s no time to lose.  You must take responsibility for your life today, because you don’t know what the next moment will bring.  You must stop being the pawn of others, pushed around or silenced.  You must let the kingdom of God within you erupt around you.  If you’re waiting for a time when “more of God” will show up, then you are deceived.  You have all the God you need right now.  You have enough kingdom of God within you right now to deal with sin, impact your community, fight the devil, and strengthen your relationships.  

The writer Mark chose his words very carefully when he recorded, “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand’” (Mark 1:14-15).  When Jesus proclaimed the gospel, the kingdom of God arrived.  And this formula is not just true of Jesus, but of all citizens of the kingdom of God.  Whenever you proclaim the gospel, the kingdom of God shows up.  The more good news of Jesus you share, the more life the kingdom of God will take over.  The more you show and share the love of Christ, the sooner the kingdom of God will come in full.  

Yes, it’s happening right now!  God looks into your searching eyes and tells you to forget the mistakes of the past and stop fearing the future, for the kingdom of God is yours to live in and enjoy right now.  


Where is the kingdom of God?  Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is at hand,” which not only shows the timing, but also the location.  The kingdom of God is near both in time and space.  Where is it?  It’s wherever you are.  Jesus boldly said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21, NKJV).  Allow those words to settle in your soul for a moment.  The religious leaders of Jesus’s day wanted to know where the kingdom of God was, probably so they could manipulate it, but Jesus refuses to give them something they could twist for their own purposes.  Instead, Jesus tells them the kingdom of God is within each believer.  

Again, the kingdom is not a noun (person, place, or thing) with an address, but it’s an action with an actor, which is you!  Have you ever felt as if you were living too small a life?  Have you ever felt something stirring within you, which you couldn’t quite label, but you knew it wanted out?  Most people walk around in shoes that are too small for them, if you know what I mean.  Most don’t realize the enormous capacity of their souls, big enough to enclose the kingdom of God!  Yet, we continue to feed our souls the breadcrumbs of the kingdoms of this world, when they were meant for the feast at the table of the kingdom of God.  What is the kingdom of God within you demanding of you right now?  It is only as large in you as the decisions you entrust to it.  


Why the kingdom of God?  Why does the kingdom of God exist how it is today?  Why is it here?  Why is it now?  Why is it in our tired, broken world, rather than in some other kind of shiny, fixed one?  To put it simply, it’s because of you.  You are the “Why.”  To see what we mean, read these two short stories (parables) Jesus told about the kingdom of God in Matthew 14:44-46: 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up.  Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” 

Most likely, when you read those parables, you put yourself as the subject of the action.  Most of the time, this is how these two parables are taught to us.  We’re told something like, “The kingdom of God is worth so much, so you better be willing to sell everything you’ve got in order to get it…Do whatever it takes to make it yours!”  However, there’s another, much better, way to understand Jesus’s two parables.  After all, as we learned above, if the kingdom of God is within you and if you are the “who” of the kingdom of God, then why would you need to go searching for you?  That makes no logical sense!  Instead, the “man” in these parables is Jesus, not you.  And, guess what he’s searching for?  He’s searching for you.  Here are the parables again, but with some clarifications added: 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure [YOU!] hidden in a field, which a man [JESUS] found and covered up.  Then in his joy [HEBREWS 12:2] he goes and sells all that he has [ON THE CROSS] and buys that field [IN REDEMPTION].  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant [JESUS] in search of fine pearls [FALLEN HUMANS], who on finding one pearl of great value [YOU!], went and sold all that he had [ON THE CROSS] and bought it [WITH HIS LIFE].”  

Amazing, isn’t it!  Can you see?  You are the treasure; and you are the pearl of great price.  Jesus is the man who sold everything he had to purchase you.  Jesus is the merchant who sold all he had to buy a pearl such as you.  Why?  For the joy of finding you!  You are the reason for the kingdom of God.  “Worthy are you…for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).


Finally, how does the kingdom of God begin in your life?  If the kingdom of God is to be understood as a verb, the action of God relating to you and you relating to God, then Jesus gives us two verbs, perhaps the greatest two verbs in the Bible, repent and believe, with which we are to make it ours.  Jesus said in Mark 1:15, “repent and believe in the gospel.”  So what do we need to repent of?  And what do we need to believe?  

You need to repent of your self-righteousness.  According to Wikipedia, “Self-righteousness is a feeling or display of moral superiority derived from a sense that one’s beliefs, actions, or affiliations are of greater virtue than those of the average person. Self-righteous individuals are often intolerant of the opinions and behaviors of others.”  This may surprise you, but, in a manner of speaking, it’s not really your sins that condemn you, but it’s your self-righteousness.  Do you know how you can tell if you’re self-righteous?  You won’t embrace your flaws, or those of others. You won’t be kind to your faults.  You won’t accept your failure.  You always play it safe.  You can’t let go of your missed opportunities.  For some reason, you act more like a god than a normal human being.  Normal humans fail, but you refuse to accept that reality.  Jesus calls us to repent of our self-righteousness, so that we might depend on his righteousness, which he freely gives to us by faith.  The proof you’ve accepted Christ’s righteousness is that you’ve repented of your self-righteousness and accepted your sinful humanity, warts and all.  Remember, your sins don’t prohibit the kingdom of God from growing in you, but your self-righteousness does.  

What do we need to believe?  Of all the doctrines of the faith, there’s one that’s most important for you to believe in.  When Jesus called us to repent and believe, he called us to believe in the love of God.  You must believe God loves you. The gospel is Christ’s righteousness and love given freely to you.  God is our heavenly Father, whose heart breaks when his children believe he does not love them.  The first thing you must know about the kingdom of God is that it’s a world of his love for you.  His love is behind every stone and in every gust of air in the kingdom of God.  You’ll never be able to repent until you believe in God’s love for you.  You’ll never be able to change, accept yourself, move forward, have hope, or find joy, apart from the love of God.  Sin entered this world, not because Adam and Eve did something wrong, but because they doubted God’s love for them.  Think about it.  If you have trouble seeing the love of God in your life, then look at the cross of Jesus Christ.  “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).    

There’s a connection between repenting of self-righteousness and believing in God’s love, and it is this.  As you acknowledge and accept your shortcomings and sins, your knowledge of God’s love for you will increase; however, if you hold onto your self-righteousness, then the knowledge of God’s love for you will diminish.  Those who truly realize the greatness of God’s love for them are those who do not depend on their self-righteousness.

The kingdom of God is the doing of the relationship between Creator and creature in the present world that begins within every person who repents of self-righteousness and believes in the love of God in Christ for him or her. 

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. When you think of the kingdom of God as a verb, rather than a noun, how is your relationship with God affected?  
  2. Who is it hardest for you to accept?  Why?
  3. In what areas of your life do you need to take more responsibility?  Why is it a struggle?  Are there fears?  What is the kingdom of God within you asking of you?
  4. Spend two minutes thinking of the ways God has loved you into being (include all the people, events, opportunities, obstacles, and gifts he has put in your life).

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.

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?