The Spiral of Degradation (Part 1)
Ken Larkin has been a biblical counselor in our Residential Program for 14 years. He's seen many men who have entrenched themselves in sin and have traveled deep down the Spiral of Degradation. In part one of this interview, he discusses the first two steps of the spiral and how they can play out in a person's life. (from Podcast Episode #493 - Babylon: When Satan Rules the Hearts of Men)
Nate: In Romans one we are given a description of what many Christians’ call “the Spiral of Degradation.” And what we see in this passage is a group of people who are going through a spiritual process that ends in total corruption. Anyone can go through the same spiritual corrupting process that would make them the kind of person that God destroyed in the biblical flood described in Genesis 6. So, anyone of us can become the kind of person that would make God say, “I am grieved that I made them.” Personally, I believe that viewing pornography is a fast track to becoming that kind of person. So, I brought Ken Larkin in to help us take a detailed look at this process. Ken, you’ve watched men come into our program who are way down the spiral of degradation, but you've also seen men come out of the spiral. So, first, could you briefly describe the steps down the spiral of degradation for us?
Ken: Sure. There are basically seven steps. The first step is a failure to reverence and give gratitude to God. In Romans 1:21 it says, “They did not honor or glorify Him as God or give thanks.” The second step is the darkening heart. Verses 22 & 23 say, “Professing to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man.” And you can see where this is going here with the whole idea of pornography and sexual sin. The third step is suppression of the truth. Verse 25 says that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.
As you're going down that spiral, the next step would be to be given over to the lust of the heart. Verse 24 says, “Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity.” Step five signifies being given over even further. In verse 26 it says, “God gave them over to degrading passions.” Further on down the spiral is step six, which is the depraved mind. It says this in verse. Lastly, step 7, goes from verse 29 to the end of the chapter where it says that they came to a place of being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil, and they were given over to a lifestyle of fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the sinful mind.
Nate: If somebody were to read through that portion of Scripture, they would definitely be able to see that there are definite steps along this pathway. This is not just one quick jump all the way to filled with all manner of unrighteousness. This is a process and what we want to help people realize is that if they are anywhere in that process, they're headed somewhere. But we also want them to see that they can come out of the spiral. So, here's what I want to do. I'd like to flesh these steps out and give a little bit of what they might look like in a practical way, so that somebody could see where they identify with being in this process. Or maybe they have been there, or it may help them see where they are headed. Let's start with the first step down. They did not glorify God as God or give Him thanks. What does that mean exactly? And what does it look like when somebody is taking that step?
Ken: Well, it's interesting because Scripture says first that they did know God. So, it's not ignorance. This is someone that has the knowledge of God, has come into a relationship with Him, but then they lose their reverential and worshipful fear and love of God. You could say it's like someone left their first love. First of all, what happens is they begin to lose their adoration and awe of God. They lose the place where God is literally the center of their universe, where He should be. They lose the place where God is everything and where God is God, and what slowly happens is that begins to be replaced by self.
If you look at someone that may have been broken over their sin, they should be coming into true repentance. But often times even after repenting, all of a sudden, their self-life and pride starts rising up again and they become bigger in their own estimation and God becomes smaller. Then what happens is since they're not deriving their ultimate fulfillment from a relationship with God, a sense of discontentment or dissatisfaction starts welling up in their hearts and they become ungrateful. Then since they're not seeking intimacy with God, they might be doing all the outward things they did before, but something inside their heart has changed their direction and now they're turning away from God and seeking fulfillment or satisfaction outside of Him. This causes them to be disgruntled and believe that somehow God's holding out on them and not giving them what they want. It's a very evil disposition.
Nate: Yeah, and it's also very subtle. This doesn't even necessarily mean that a person is engaging in some gross sin. This is just like you said, a change of direction in the heart. I think that’s important for people to understand. The danger zone is not looking at pornography once a week or starting to commit A, B or C sin. The danger zone is where the attitude of the heart changes towards God. Now let’s look at the second step which is the darkening heart. What's happening at this point and how do you see this taking place?
<pull-quote>The danger zone is where the attitude of the heart changes towards God.<pull-quote><tweet-link>TweetThis<tweet-link>
Ken: It's a change in direction. Now they're moving away from the light and toward darkness. I've heard it said that morality is not a line, it's a direction. So now they're moving in the opposite direction and what happens is since they're not satisfied with God, they're going to seek satisfaction in their idol. And in a lot of people's case the idol is sexual sin, which Scripture really brings out in Romans 1. So, what's happening is they might be involved in a certain behavior and it's maybe euphoric or they really get something out of it. It’s almost like a drug addict. The first hit is amazing and then afterwards they're always seeking that high again.
Eventually they want to continue this behavior more frequently. They were giving over to their sin once a week and now they are giving over daily. But ultimately, it's the law of diminishing returns, because it's not going to continually satisfy. It's never going to be like the initial high or euphoric experience, so they're going to want to continue to do it more frequently. And then what happens is you cross lines and begin to engage in more depraved behavior. Where once it might have just been looking at porn, now this person is acting out with other people or getting involved in behavior that is worse than what they ever would have dreamed they would do. But they're starting to go down in a direction away from God and toward their sin.
Nate: Yeah. And when it says the darkening heart, I think the thing to remember is that it's not just a change in the progression of behavior, but something's really happening in the person’s heart. What other kinds of things could you see taking place in this person’s internal world maybe?
<pull-quote>The more you give over to sin you're being corrupted on the inside and your heart is becoming more dark, more polluted, more fouled and tainted by that sin.<pull-quote><tweet-link>TweetThis<tweet-link>
Ken: One of the things is that their value system begins to change. What they would have considered evil before, no longer looks that bad. As a matter of fact, it looks good and it looks enticing. It looks like something desirable even though it might be something God hates and it’s inherently evil. And one of the aspects of sin which we'll get into more as we go down the spiral is that one of the lies that is easy to believe is that you can just easily quit whenever you want. That is not true. The more you give over to sin you're being corrupted on the inside and your heart is becoming more dark, more polluted, more fouled and tainted by that sin. And the effects of that don’t just immediately go away once your wrong behavior stops.