I want to give my question in the form of my testimony.
I was raised in church and I walked to the altar at the age of 6, and to the best of my understanding at the time, and I believe sincerely, asked Jesus to save me.
From that time I did not really devote myself to Bible study or prayer, and discipleship was really missing from my life. By age 23, I identified as Christian, but I drank, smoked, used drugs, and was heavily addicted to pornography.
After meeting my wife, one of the most authentic followers of Christ I’ve ever known, my life changed - seeing her walk with Christ made me realize what was wrong in my life. Immediately, I dropped the smoking and drug use, and tried to quit lust/pornography. I also began Bible study and prayer like never before and rededicated my life to Christ. A couple of years later alcohol was completely booted from my life - lust and pornography were still an issue. We locked my phone and eliminated sources of web access for me. Stumbles happened, but they were becoming less frequent, but I still allowed myself mental images and there were even times when I would plan to sin with lustful thoughts. There were times when I would execute such a plan to sin, then would be reminded of Christ’s sacrifice and say to myself, “yeah, but…” and I would sin. On one occasion such as this in the summer of 2018, I began to indulge in sin and then this voice in my mind that was not my own started cursing at God. I fell, literally, on my face asking God’s forgiveness and begging for mercy. A handful of further stumbles followed, but in October 2018 I confessed all to my wife (including the fact that I had deceived her about much of my sin), I repented, confessed to God, asked forgiveness, and from that time the bondage was broken in my life and I had a power of self control I had never had before. The affliction of the “unwelcome thoughts” persisted for a year or so as did constant battles of assurance and fears of apostasy, but now I am closer to God than ever. I still struggle with assurance, however, especially when I read the book of Hebrews. In fact, many times any time I encounter judgement, punishment, condemnation, or rebuke in Scripture I almost automatically apply it to myself and get into a fear cycle.
My understanding, after counseling, is this:
- I was saved from possibly the age of 6, or around 23, but I really can’t put a date.
- God allowed the affliction of the “unwelcome thoughts” because that, at least seemingly, was what it took to finally break the bondage and bring me into obedience. (Psalms 119:67)
- I was being sanctified during those years - evidenced by a decreasing pattern of sin and growing yearning for God.
- The fear and condemnation was and is spiritual warfare. A stronghold of Satan’s was broken and he was lashing out.
- God is unimaginably good and faithful (Hosea).
*To underscore the depth of the stronghold of lust, I would add that I was exposed to pornography at around age 6 and had largely unimpeded access to it until I began to limit my own access (Mark 9:47)
My question: I believe points 1 through 5 are true, but how can I overcome the fear cycle and my struggle with assurance?