Secret Sin

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“I was a fraud… I seemed like I was close to God but my heart could not have been farther away from Him. I looked like such a good Christian, but my sin, self-righteousness and pride would soon take me down.” – Jeff Kramer

“I was a fraud,” said Jeff Kramer. ”In my early 20s, I seemed like I was close to God but my heart could not have been farther away from Him. I looked like such a good Christian, but my sin, self-righteousness and pride would soon take me down.

“I came to faith in Christ when I was a kid. I understood salvation, but there was a disconnect beyond that. I was a good kid, but also very self-righteous and a people-pleaser. The fact that God loves us in spite of our sin was lost on me. I thought the Lord loved me because I was a pretty good dude.

“I was the small, red-headed kid who got picked on at school. My parents were present in my life, but there wasn’t a lot of warmth in my family – it was more of a John Wayne, ‘cowboy-up’ kind of upbringing. Athletics really saved my life. When I discovered sports, I went from being picked on to popular.

“My dream was to play college basketball. At 19, I eked my way onto a small college team and was thrust into the spot of being a popular college athlete and all that goes with it. I was tired of holding on to the morals I grew up with and felt like I was really being ripped off by God. So I prayed and asked God to show me if there was more to following Him than I was experiencing. I decided to pray and read my Bible for a month. If I didn’t feel better, I was going to rebel and go my own way.

”Midway through that month, the Lord convicted me of my self-righteousness and pride. I admitted to people at our church that I was a fraud, but the church didn’t really know what to do with me. There wasn’t a community of believers in my life to hold me accountable. So while my prayers to God became real for the first time, I also continued a serious sin pattern in my life.

“My struggle with pornography, which began in third grade, worsened after college. I was in an international sports ministry and visited a dozen or more countries over a period of eight years, recruiting and training teams to do evangelism. Staying in hotels alone every night, I successfully hid my porn addiction from everyone.

“In my early 30s, I enrolled in seminary and got married. I also taught Sunday School at a local church and regularly shared the gospel, but my secret sin was always there. My wake up call happened two years into our marriage, when my wife told me just how lonely she felt in our relationship. I was focused on my career and ministry and was dragging her along for the ride. Her words hurt because I really thought I was killing it as a husband. In reality I was failing at home.

“What I was doing obviously was not working, so at a friend’s suggestion, we visited Watermark. I loved the teaching, but when I got into a community group, I started to second-guess the whole thing.

“At our first community meeting, one of the guys asked the group to look over his budget and let him know if he was being a good steward of his resources. Another guy talked about his struggle with pornography. The other man opened up about his struggle with same-sex attraction. I couldn’t decide if these guys were totally authentic or totally nuts. I wasn’t ready to open up about my struggle, but I stayed in the group because I was sick of being in bondage to my sin.

“When I finally decided to reveal my porn addiction, I thought the community group would be shocked. Instead their first words were, ‘Thank you. We are all broken. Let’s heal together.’ That day the Lord touched me through the words of those men. I felt His love and acceptance in a way that I never had before.

“Porn had been such a long-time struggle it was often one step forward, two steps back, as I walked through recovery. Confessing my sin to my wife was painful, and she was really hurt. But godly women in our community group helped her navigate her feelings of anger. It was not easy but we got through it.

“I went through Watermark’s biblical recovery ministry, which is now called re:generation. That’s where I discovered that in my core, I am a fear-based, people-pleasing man who searched for significance in pornography. But where I finally found significance was in understanding who I am in Christ. God loves me because I am His child. It’s a simple statement, but it became the most profound truth in my life.

“After years of guilt and shame, I’ve found freedom in living authentically. I feel safe to be vulnerable with the Lord. I have learned how to be honest before God and to breathe in and out confession to Him and to the community He has put in my life. I am in awe that God loves me in spite of my unfaithfulness. Although I’ve spent years following Christ, the greatness of God still wrecks me.”