Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Free from the Stranglehold of Sin

Dannah Gresh: Is there a specific sin in your life that's caused you to give up the hope of ever finding freedom? Jimmy Needham says God is powerful enough to transform your life!

Jimmy Needham: God actually can produce lasting freedom, lasting victory in your life. Maybe you’re just thinking to yourself, I’ve been in this for a long time, and every time I fight it, it fights back harder. I’m telling you that God is mighty, and He’s for you. He’s your Father, and He wants to see you free—free in Christ.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Brokenness: The Heart God Revives, for Thursday, November 5. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Jimmy and Kelly Needham have been with Nancy all this week talking about the ups and downs of marriage, ministry, and family life. You can listen to earlier parts of the conversation by going to ReviveOurHearts.com.

Today Jimmy is continuing in his story of finding freedom from a pornography addiction. If you have young children in the room, you may want to occupy them elsewhere, as some of what Jimmy shares might not be appropriate for little ears. Here’s Nancy to resume that conversation with Jimmy.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I kind of left us hanging, because, Jimmy, you were in college. You were walking in community, walking in the light, but still battling. Yet, there came a point. I don’t want to miss this, because for some, they may think, This is just something that I just have to do the rest of my life. And God, in His mercy, brought you to a place that put an end to it.

Jimmy: Right, yes. I hear that so much from guys that deal with this. It’s that idea, the resignation that, “I guess this is just how it’s going to be. I guess I’m just going to periodically fall back into this.”

Nancy: We can feel that way about any sin struggle.

Jimmy: Yes, absolutely. I feel like there’s just this hopelessness over this issue that I really want to dispel, because the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives inside of us!

Nancy: That’s huge!

Jimmy: Yes, that’s not a small thing! I actually just wrote about this because I wanted to give people a sense of, “Okay, what did it look like for me, and is lasting victory possible?” And so, for me, in college at nineteen, growing in satisfaction with Christ, but still feeling that temptation.

I remember for me, and the way I put it for folks is that I had to get a few decisive victories under my belt. I had to get where I could feel what it felt like to overcome in the moment of temptation. I remember those three or four of them very specifically.

I was my room. None of the guys were home in the house I lived in. I was tempted to get on the Internet and look at something. And in that moment, just a settled “no” came inside me. I read some of the Word. I left the house. I went for a run, ran for a couple of miles, and came back.

I was able to see in that moment: The temptation came, and God through His promises and His presence gave me freedom. I fled sin, I fled to Christ.

Nancy: He gave a way of escape, and you took it.

Jimmy: I took it; I ran, yes! And then, it was a couple weeks later, and the moment happened again. But this time I had a memory; I had a memory of victory. There was something really powerful about that for me. It was like, “I remember what it feels like to win this in Christ! I remember!”

So a similar thing happened. I think I took off running, and did that whole thing. But it was about three of those moments where, by the third or fourth time, I had times to look back on and go, “I remember what it felt like. I remember the overcoming of that temptation, and now I’m here in this moment.”

It wasn’t the end of the world! And so, yes, the Lord strengthened me with those memories and His promises! Now I’m thirty-two, and the last time I looked at pornography was when I was nineteen years old. And that’s not, like, “Go, Jimmy!” or anything like that. That’s saying God actually can produce lasting freedom, lasting victory in your life!

Maybe you’re listening to this, and you’re just thinking to yourself, I’ve been in this for a long time, and every time I fight it, it fights back harder. I’m telling you that God is mighty, and He’s for you. He’s your Father. He wants to see you free—free in Christ!

Nancy: So from that point at nineteen, would you say, after over those decisive victories, did you ever get to the place where there wasn’t any temptation? You travel. You have road life. You certainly have opportunities to be exposed to temptation.

Jimmy: Sure. It would be a lie to say I’m never been tempted or have never been tempted in that window from nineteen to present. But it would also be a lie to say that I feel or have felt, in this decade or so, the same level of temptation I felt then.

So, definitely there’s a felt decrease now. You [Kelly] could testify to that.

Kelly: Yes. And I think I would say, too, you’re so aware of the power of that temptation, and you also know how much you love nearness with Christ now. There’s not even a desire to expose that in even mild forms.

We’ll talk some, and there will be just certain movies (we love good movies that are well-reviewed, highly-reviewed movies) . . . Jimmy will say, “I would love to see that for the cinematography, for all these other things. But if there are going to be elements of sexual immorality portrayed, it’s not even worth going there!”

Nancy: Because of what that might stir up.

Jimmy: Yes.

Kelly: So I think one myth to dispel about the temptation going away means, “It doesn’t matter if I see a few magazines or a few movies. I’m invincible!” I think you walk with a sense of, “I’m not invincible.”

I think the Bible warns us of that. “Be careful lest you fall! Beware of that weakness.” And you [Jimmy], appropriately, in wisdom are closing doors and not even opening the door in some of those areas that we might say, “Oh, it’s not that bad.”

Nancy: Are there other practical perhaps hedges or helps in your walk with the Lord or in your marriage where you say, “These are ways we protect and guard our relationship, our hearts, our love for Christ so as not to be drawn into things that would take us back to that old life?”

Kelly: I think with this issue in particular—and all sins—creating a safe place in our marriage for bringing things into the light, even temptation. I had a mentor before we got married mention that. She said, “If your husband ever comes to you with a struggle with that, don’t let your first words be condemning or shaming. Make your marriage a safe place for him to bring those things in.” And I remember that.

Nancy: If the reaction makes him afraid, then he may not come back next time.

Kelly: Yes, he might not come back. I want for his sake, for our marriage’s sake, for our marriage to be a safe place where we can talk about those things and we can pray for one another. We want to be preserving a level of love for one another where we can safety confess things and not lash out even if there’s been a temptation to. This has been really important.

So even if there has been a moment on the road where he’ll call and go, “Hey, I just wanted to call and talk to you. This is happening, and I just want to bring it into the light, that I feel tempted,” or any of those moments. Then we can pray together.

So we’ve created a safe space in our marriage for the confession of sin, and even just the speaking about temptation, and not lumping shame on to that unnecessarily. We want to be able to push one another toward Christ.

Jimmy: Yes, and I think maybe one other thing to add to that. We try to keep a twenty-four-hour rule when it comes to these things. If there’s something that comes up and there have been moments of temptation or just things that it would be helpful for my wife to know that went down, to not let that go a couple of weeks before I bring it to the light.

Satan loves the darkness. And so we just try to get in the habit of, “That happened. I’m going to try to be courageous and bring this to her immediately and say, ‘Hey, just so you know, this thing came across my screen. It wasn’t something I chased; it was there. I didn’t give into it. But I just wanted you to know, because if you don’t know, the next time it comes across my screen and you don’t know, I might actually want to linger,’” or whatever.

Kelly: That applies to all sin-struggles as well in our marriage. If one of us has written an article and there’s just that prideful temptation to go searching for comments and just garnering the praise of man for yourself . . . We both talk about battles.

I’m going to within twenty-four house of that come and tell my husband (and tell other people, too), “Hey, I just feel like I gave space for my mind to just be thinking about myself in ways that felt sinful and just indulgent mentally.” I’m going to share that.

So not just with pornography, but with other sin-struggles and gluttony struggles. We both talk openly about that in our marriage—just looking to food instead of Christ. So all of those things, we have a short timeline on what we’re confessing to one another and just keeping nothing between us in that way.

Nancy: There’s something about that, especially in the context of a marriage, but just with relationships in the Body of Christ, that seems like it strips the temptation of its power when you say it and then it’s out there. You’ve heard yourself say it, and your mate or your accountability partner knows it.

I think it diminishes—it like “de-fangs”—the sin. Not that it won’t. You couldn’t still go there. But I’ve seen in my own life, as my husband and I talk about things . . . “I’m being tested here; I’m being tempted here, and I just want you to be aware of this.” That all of a sudden makes it not as attractive to me to pursue that thing.

Kelly: It’s like, I think it’s in your book Brokenness, Nancy, you talk about having “the roof off and the walls down.” It’s not enough to just talk to God about it. There’s something about talking to other people about it that actually helps us feel the weight of how powerful that sin is. It helps us recognize how little we actually want it.

When we have to tell it to somebody else, you’re immediately like, “Uh, why am I turning to that!?” You can self-justify a lot. Say you’re talking to God, but really, I think that’s such a key element, to share with other people.

If you don’t have a spouse, that would apply to you, too, in singleness. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have that in place. You need to get two or three safe people that you trust, that love God and are going to point you to Him, that you’re sharing those things with—temptations, sin struggles. Ask them to pray for you and fight alongside of you and point you to the only One who can save.

Nancy: And also, people who are going to be honest with us and not just say, “Oh, that’s okay, everybody struggles.” Because that’s not really helpful.

Jimmy: Right.

Kelly: That’s not helpful. We need people to remind us of the cross, that there’s a cost for our sin on our beloved Christ, and that should grieve us. There should be a godly grief happening over sin. We need people who are going to point out when that’s not there in us.

Nancy: Kelly, I know both of you are involved in ministry to college students. You have a lot of young woman that you see what they’re walking through, what they’re struggling with. There are some who come and share that with you, some you can just observe it, probably.

When you see a younger woman—a young wife, a young single woman—struggling with sexual purity, inside or outside of marriage, and she’s burdened about this, and she wants help for it, it’s a struggle . . . It may be a pornography issue, it may be other kinds of sexual sin. How do you help her get started in taking some initial steps toward freedom?

Kelly: I think, first is talking to somebody else. What I find is most women (because I talk openly about it and I’ve written about it, I think, on the True Woman blog as well), they’ve never talked to anyone about it—ever!

Nancy: And don’t think they could.

Kelly: They don’t think they ever could. They feel like they would be . . . I mean, I think a lot of women have grown up in churches where even sexuality has been distorted. So I would say the first element would be sharing with somebody.

But the second thing I often tell women is, “You need to have a right understanding of sexuality, that God created sex.”

Nancy: He’s all for it.

Kelly: Sex is a good thing—just like there are plenty of other things that are good things. They also have a proper place. Sex has a proper place in a covenantal marriage relationship, and it is a good thing.

Nancy: And beautiful and powerful and wonderful.

Kelly: It’s beautiful and healthy for a marriage. It’s really important, I think, for women to understand that, because I think they’ve often somehow subconsciously been trained that all sexuality is bad, wrong, evil.

There will be young women in college that I’ll tell them, “If you have a desire for that, that’s a great thing. That’s a good gift that God’s given. It’s not for anything other than marriage. And so, if God gives you a husband one day, he’s going to love it that you’re excited about that. That’s going to be a blessing to your marriage!”

I think that helps them. There’s some unnecessary shame that I think women can feel about sexuality—that even the desire for it is wrong. Well, we don’t say that about marriage. We wouldn’t shame someone and say the desire for marriage or children is wrong. It’s not, but it doesn’t mean you just go on the street and pick up someone and go the Las Vegas chapel and get married, either.

A desire for sex or sexuality is not wrong in and of itself, and understanding its proper place, I think can help defuse some of that extraordinary shame that they feel. 

I think some women are afraid if they share with someone that they’re going to get looks like, “Uh, I can’t believe you struggle with that!” They whisper that it will be received poorly, and honestly, sometimes it is. But not to let that discourage you.

The Bible calls you to confess your sin one to another, to bring things into the light. If you get a poor response the first time, ask God for the strength to look to another woman who is exhibiting godly characteristics and faithfulness.

Pull her aside and say, “I really need to share something heavy on my heart. I want to be closer to Christ; this is inhibiting me. Can I talk to you about this?” I think the Lord will be faithful to provide someone—and hopefully more than one woman—that they can talk to about it. But getting it into the light, for most women, is absolutely the biggest struggle and what causes the most freedom after that!

Nancy: So she’s single. She has these strong desires that can’t be fulfilled in holy ways until she’s married. What does she do with that in the meantime?

Kelly: I think almost everything that Jimmy said would apply to that same thing: seeing Christ as satisfier in the moment of temptation, choosing to go to the Word, to look for the way of escape, to call up a friend.

Again, that’s where if you have never shared with anybody that you struggle with this, that’s not going to be something that feels accessible to you—to call a friend and say, “Hey, I’m struggling with sexual temptation right now. Can we go out and grab coffee?”

But if you’ve talked to them about that already, you’ve brought that into the light, then you call that friend and say, “Hey, I’m struggling with this right now. Can we do something?” That friend knows you’ve been battling it and can come alongside you and fight with you against it.

I think everything that has already been shared on that would apply to women as well. But, again, if you’ve never told anybody, in some ways you have cut off a really important support system for you in battling sin—which is the Body of Christ and the community that’s around you.

Nancy: Then, Kelly, let me just take this back again to . . . I know that some of the women you minister to are married. We hear from women here at Revive Our Hearts whose husbands are deep into pornography or other kinds of sexual sin, and he’s not trying to battle it (the husband). He’s not trying to get set free. And here’s a wife in this marriage.

Give a word of encouragement to that woman about what her recourse is—how she can lay hold of the grace of God and lean into that in this marriage.

Kelly: Sure. I think I would first want to ask them, “Is your husband a believer?” I think if your husband is not following Christ, is not a Christian, then he can’t know real change until he submits his life to Christ. That would be the first place to be praying, for God to save him.

But if he does claim to follow Christ, he is a Christian and is unrepentant in this sin, unwilling to change, unyielding in that, I think there’s a place for women—if they haven’t—to approach their husbands honestly and confront them with that.

I think that needing to submit to and honor and respect our husbands does not exclude the need, at other times, to confront lovingly. There’s a way to do that in a posture of respect. A lot of that has to do with the timing of when you say that and how you say it.

Nancy: And we’re not talking about diminishing sin or saying that it doesn’t matter.

Kelly: Exactly. It matters greatly! Especially if you have children, there are big stakes in the game for an unrepentant heart in this area. I think, if that hasn’t happened yet, I would say start praying for a few weeks about when to approach your husband, what to say, how to say it.

Then confront him with, “I’m really concerned for your soul firstly, for living in unrepentant sin, and for all these other things that are going on.” Then to plead with him to change, to try and persuade him to come back to Christ.

At that point, if his heart is still hard and still unrepentant, I think that’s part of what the grace of the local church is for. I know that the elders of our church when Jimmy was ordained looked at me and said, “Kelly, this means for you that if there’s ever anything in Jimmy’s life that he’s hardened to and you feel like you have no way out or that needs to change, you need to come to us, that we’re here for you in that.”

That was so great for me to hear as a wife, thinking, I’ll never need that. But just to know the elders of my church are saying, “We’re for you and for your husband.” And so for the wife who’s at a local church and plugged in there, that would be a great time to go to your pastor or elders at your church and say, “I need to talk to you about something. I’ve already talked to my husband; there’s still no change. What do I do? Can you be a help in this area?” Involve your local church in going down that route together.

Nancy: This is so-o-o important. So many women are writing to us about these really hard things in their marriage, but we’re not there with them. We’re not in the middle of that situation. We can’t walk through this with them. One of the first questions we ask is, “Tell us about your church. Tell us about your relationship there.”

So many believers today think that they can manage this in isolation, in independence from the context of the local church. This is why you need that kind of relationship before the bottom falls out, before you’re in a crisis, so you have those relationships established.

I know some churches are better than others at dealing with these things and I’ve said to women “Look. If they don’t know how to deal with it, you put yourself under their care, let them know that you need their care, and they may learn through the process how to deal with this.”

It’s crucial. I’ve had so many women say, “Well, we’re not really in a church.” Or they’re just sitting on the periphery, nobody knows who they are. You need to be known and have those relationships that God has put in place for our edification and growth, but also for our protection.

I think you’re exactly right to call it a grace from God. That is God’s means to care for His people, His local church families with the structures in place. God uses that to bring about change. So I totally agree with that. It would be totally appropriate to bring this before your church and watch God work there, in that context.

Nancy: We sometimes think that our problems or our broken pieces and parts of our lives disqualify us or would make us rejected. But Christ is for broken people and pieces and parts. And His Body here on this earth, the local church, that’s what it’s for. It’s for messes—which we all are desperately in need of mercy and grace!

These are all means of grace that we want to make sure we’re taking advantage of.

Dannah Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been talking with Jimmy and Kelly Needham as they warn us about the danger of pornography. They've also reminded us that we are forgiven and loved through Christ. I wonder if that's just what your heart needed today. I want to affirm this truth: Jesus gives us the power to say “no” to sin.

Nancy: What a precious gift that is, the grace and mercy of Christ. Where would we be without it?

Jimmy and Kelly have both written some blog posts on dealing with sexual sin, on the issue of pornography in particular, and we’ve linked to those on our website. So if this is something you’re battling or you’re wanting some resources for a family member or a friend who is battling with it, be sure to go to ReviveOurHearts.com and we’ll point you to those resources.

Dannah: I want to encourage you as a woman who has fought with her husband to win a battle against pornography in our home that victory is possible through Jesus. Today can be the beginning of winning that battle together. I'm praying for you, friend.

Nancy: Amen. Thank you, Dannah. And thanks for being so open about what you and Bob have faced. It's been a joy to see God bringing beautiful freedom and victory in your marriage, and how God is using you now to be a blessing and encouragement to others who are dealing with that battle.

If you listened to today’s program and thought, Wow, this is just what I needed to hear! would you consider giving back to Revive Our Hearts, as a way of expressing your gratitude? This ministry is possible because of the generosity of friend like you who love God’s Word and want to keep this outreach going. Your gift today will be an investment to help women and their husbands in some cases  who are in bondage to sin as they seek to find freedom—beautiful, sweet freedom—in Christ.

Dannah: That's right, Nancy. When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount, we want to thank you. To do so, we’ll send you Nancy’s brand new advent devotional called Born a Child and Yet a King. And, Nancy, I’m really excited about your new devotional. It’s part of the Advent series you’ve been writing for the past few years. 

Nancy: It is, Dannah. This is the third book in a trilogy, and in this one we’re going to unpack some well-known Christmas carols over the thirty-one days of December. We'll trace the gospel through those carols. We'll see who Jesus is, what He has done, and why He came to this earth. My hope is that this year as we hear those familiar songs, we’ll be filled with a fresh sense of wonder and awe, and that we’ll cry out to Him be filled with a fresh sense of wonder and awe. This is a resource we’ve prepared just for our listeners, and we want you to have a copy of it.

Dannah: Yes, this new Advent devotional is exclusively available through Revive Our Hearts. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com to make that donation, or call us at 1–800–569–5959 and ask for your copy of Nancy's new devotional.  

Have you ever thought about how amazing it is to be adopted into God's family? Jimmy and Kelly Needham talk about how adopting a little boy into their family has been a beautiful picture of the gospel. That’s tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts. We’ll see you there.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is reminding you that victory is possible in Jesus. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

About the Guest

Kelly Needham

Kelly Needham

Kelly Needham is married to singer/songwriter and speaker Jimmy Needham. She first began writing and speaking to his fan base in 2008 as they traveled together and has since garnered a much wider platform. Kelly is a regular contributor for the True Woman blog and is author of the upcoming book Friendish: Reclaiming Real Friendship in a Culture of Confusion. She has been on staff at two different churches, serving in youth, college, and women's ministry. Whether writing or speaking, Kelly’s aim is to convince as many people as possible that nothing compares to knowing Jesus. She and Jimmy live in the Dallas area with their three children, Lively, Sophia, and Benjamin. You can find more of her writing and speaking at kellyneedham.com or follow her on social media.

About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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