Tag Archives: addiction

Rescue from Relapse

Relapse is without a doubt the most difficult part of recovery.    The pain it causes not only to yourself, but to those who love you, is torturous.   It’s like ripping a scab off of a wound which seemed to be healing nicely.   The shame, guilt and self-hatred which accompany a relapse is suffocating and nearly impossible to silence.

I know this feeling well, and regrettably, all too recently.   If you are anything like me, after a relapse you want to just crawl into a hole and die.   The sense of profound failure is crippling.  It’s impossible to look anyone in the eye.   Edgar Allen Poe’s infamous, incessant, beating heart beneath the floor boards gets louder and louder in my ears and I’m convinced everyone sees me as not just a failure, but a murderer of all that is good and holy.   It’s how I see myself in days and weeks following a relapse.  It’s how I all too easily assume God sees me, too.

That last bit is the worse, and potentially the most debilitating.   In my experience, how we understand God’s relation to ourselves in our highs and our lows, our recovery and our relapses, makes all the difference in how quickly or how slowly (or if ever) we get back on the horse and the road to sanity.

Understanding God as One who is for you, not against you; who is immovable and unconditional in his love towards you, is essential, in my opinion, to rebound from any relapse.   Holding on to this fundamental understanding of God is difficult to do, however, when the accuser of our souls is working overtime to bury us in shame and despair.   Sometimes this accuser’s voice comes through people we’d least expect, those who hold trusted positions in our lives such as family members, pastors, counselors, and friends.    It might sound something like this text I received from a family member just weeks after she learned of my relapse:

My thoughts today are that you should just be done with God.  Obviously he cannot help you.  He is powerless to set you free so why bother with him?  You cannot serve flesh and God simultaneously and you always choose the flesh! So denounce God and then you can continue your life without guilt. Without the struggle.  Seriously.  Your life is a testimony that God is unable to set the captive free so stop the struggle and just give in.

Yuck.  Even typing that out makes me feel like I need a bath.   The accuser, scripture tells us, will often masquerade as an angel of light.   Sometimes we will hear these lies from people we think should know better.   It’s bad enough that these lies are replaying themselves in our heads like a tape on repeat when we relapse.  It’s almost unbearable when they come at us from people we love and who claim to love God and us.

The best way I know how to defeat the enemy is expose it to light.   If you are hearing the voice of the accuser in the midst of relapse – or any struggle – talk about it.   Share your thoughts with trusted friends in recovery.   I am so grateful for my brothers in recovery who heard these words and graciously spoke truth and love over me.   They helped me start the process of letting go of resentment towards those who know no better and speak from their own places of pain and humanity (still working on this!).  They also reminded me that my higher power is not in those words and to seek out what it is he has to say about me.   Words such as these:

Do not gloat over me, my enemies! For though I fall, I will rise again. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light (Micah 7:8).

for though a righteous man falls seven times, he will rise again (Prov 24:16).

The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand (Psalm 37:23-24)

The LORD helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads. The eyes of all look to you in hope; you give them their food as they need it. When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing (Psalm 145:14-16).

“Say to them, ‘This is what the LORD says: “‘When people fall down, do they not get up? When someone turns away, do they not return? (Jer. 8:4)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).

There are countless more truths found in Scripture which reveal a God who does not abandon us in our weakness but who, paradoxically, is made strong through them (2 Cor. 12:9-11).

A relapse is never the result of God’s weakness or inability to save us.  It is always a result of our own frailty and powerlessness, revealing wounds we’ve yet to allow the Healer to touch.  It’s an opportunity for us to learn and grow in our walk not just in recovery but in Christ, and an opportunity for saints around us to practice the art of gentle restoration (Gal. 6:1).

I hope someone reading this finds hope in the midst of relapse.  Know that any voice that sounds like condemnation is not from your Father in heaven.   Run to the One who while we were yet sinners – enemies of God – laid down his life for us that we might walk out of our pit and into the light.  He is always ready and willing to help the downtrodden and the poor in spirit.   He does not grow weary in doing good towards us and his thoughts towards you and I today and always are bountiful, infinitely rooted in love, peace, and hope.

Grace and peace,

Chad

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Tired of being a slave to porn? Take your first step towards freedom

Being enslaved to pornography is hell on earth. I know because I’ve been there. If you are there now, or don’t wish to go back to that life, I would love to talk with you.

I will be forming a support group for men who want to be free from the hell that is sex addiction. God created us for so much more than that. If you are interested, please send me a private message by email me at recoveringchad@yahoo.com. Your anonymity and confidentiality are important to me.

I will be beginning a local group for those who can meet weekly and if the interest is there, an online group for those who are far from me.  I’ll have more to say about the format soon.  Please share this with anyone you think might need some hope.

Grace and peace.

Just Do It!

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything here so I thought I’d share an update and hopefully some inspiration.

Today marks my 30th day doing Whole30.   I made it!   I can’t believe it, to be honest.   For those of you who don’t know what Whole30 is, it’s a diet where you eliminate all sugar, dairy, grains and processed foods for 30 days.   That means no ice cream, no Oreos (my favorite), no cheesecake (my other favorite), no rice, noodles, bread, butter…you get the idea.

In order to convey the enormity of my finishing 30 days on this diet without a single cheat I need to tell you that I’m that guy that up until 30 days ago NEVER said no to a snack.   I’m that guy who stopped a couple times a week at Dollar General for a box of Milk Duds, or who routinely sat down at night to watch TV with a big glass of milk and 5 or 10 Oreo Double Stuffed cookies.   All day at work I snacked on anything from fudge to brownies to candy my co-workers brought in.

All that to say this:  It seemed like an impossibility to give all that up cold turkey for THIRTY DAYS.

But I did it!   And I feel better than I’ve felt in YEARS!   Let me share with you some of the benefits I’ve discovered…

  • I lost 18 lbs!   My clothes fit better and I’m no longer huffing after tying my shoes 🙂
  • I have more energy.  In addition to eating better, I also started training to run a half marathon in July.   I’ve been following an 8 week training plan and over the past four weeks I’ve gone from running 2 miles after my first full week to running 6.5 miles just this past Sunday!
  • I discovered a new hobby – cooking!  Having to prepare fresh food every day meant I had to organize my time in such a way that I had time to cook and prepare meals.  I found that I really enjoy trying new recipes and preparing food not only for myself but for those I love.   It’s a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction to have others eat what I’ve prepared and see they enjoy it (check out some pics below!)

Those are some of the more obvious benefits – things others can see (or taste).   One of the less obvious benefits but no less important was how I discovered this really bolstered my recovery health.    There really is no secret to fighting addiction.  At some point when you are sick and tired of being sick and tired (hit bottom) you have to just do something else.   Replacing old, bad, destructive habits with something new, good, and life-giving is one of the best things you can do for yourself for long term recovery.    It gives your mind, body and spirit something new to pursue, creating joy that you didn’t know you were missing and giving you even more reasons to pursue sobriety.    You really are worth it!

The other advantage this brings to recovery that I have found, and I talk about this on other posts here related to fasting, is how being disciplined in this area flows out and over into other areas.   Discovering that I am able to say no to the urge to have an Oreo (and not die because I’ve deprived my body of something it wants) helps strengthen my spirit to respond positively when tempted with other ungodly desires.    If you can discipline your body to say no to food it wants, you can do the same when lust comes knocking at your door, or any other drug of choice to which you’ve been enslaved.

I think Jesus knew what he was doing when he fasted himself and taught his disciples to do the same.    He knew the spiritual secret behind saying no to the desires of the flesh, (even to something neutral, even good, like food)  – that such a practice can prepare one’s body and soul to say no to Satan’s other means of temptation and attack.

I want to encourage you if you are struggling today (or this month or for the past years).   If you have never considered how food or other areas you keep saying “yes” might be contributing to your unwanted compulsive behaviors elsewhere, maybe do so now.   Consider putting yourself to a 30 day challenge and say no to something other than (in addition to) your drug of choice.   If it’s porn, but you also love donuts, give up donuts for 30 days and just see if that doesn’t make you stronger in your fight against porn.   In my experience, it will.

What are you waiting for? Today is as good a day as any to start.  Just do it!

Grace and peace,
Chad

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Blackened Salmon with Sweet Potato and Green beans..YUM
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Chicken on cauliflower rice topped with dairy free mushroom cream sauce
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Finished up a 6.5 mile run!

The Christian dissonance of “It’s My Body”

I try to avoid political topics on my blog but the latest news regarding “heartbeat” bills and discussion around women’s right to have an abortion has been occupying much of my head space.

Which is interesting to me because I wasn’t this occupied with it in the past.   The reason I felt it worth writing about here is because I think my views about abortion have changed some, aligning more with my views on sexual integrity in general and the rights I believe we have over our bodies in particular.

It’s this latter portion that is most concerning to me, especially as it relates to those of us who are Christians.   For the record, I don’t believe it’s the job of the Church to legislate morality (in most cases), but I do believe it’s the job of the Church to serve as a conscience to the State.   We may not get to make the laws, but we certainly should be witnesses to the light.  What we support (or don’t support) while bearing the name of Christ makes an indelible impression upon a watching, confused, disbelieving world.

Having said that, allow me to state my premise clearly, and then I’ll unpack it.   Whether you agree or disagree with this statement, I hope you’ll continue reading and even comment.

The deeper we pursue Christ and his holiness, the more incoherent and dissonant is the world’s message declaring, “It’s your body, it’s your choice.”

This should come as no surprise to Christians, but it’s amazing how much we muddy the waters with the things we support.   The dissonance between the messages “Come, pick up your cross and follow me,” and “It’s your body, it’s your choice,”   which are often proclaimed from the same pulpit and pew can only further confuse a world in such dire need of Christ’s liberating, healing, saving word.

Our primary task as Christians is to make disciples.  How can we expect the disciples we are making to understand what it means to lay down one’s life for the sake of the gospel when we tell pregnant women, “It’s your body, your choice”?

Scripture teaches us that when we become Christians we recognize that we have been bought with a price.   Paul, if writing today, would no doubt ask us the same question:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Cor. 6)

Do we not know that our bodies are not our own?   Why, as Christ followers, are we telling people the exact opposite?

Paul writes in Philippians that we who know Christ are to have his mindset:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

He goes on to declare that it’s this mindset – this lowly, humble, it’s-not-MY-body mindset – that God will exalt and this spectacular display of selflessness, one that seems utterly foolish to the ways of this world, will cause every knee to one day bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Friends, this means that the degree to which people are not calling Jesus Lord of their life is in large part the same degree to which we, his Body on earth, are not bearing witness to the sacrificial, self-denying life of Jesus.

Naturally, this has implications in how we live far beyond (and before) thoughts of abortion are even entertained.   Understanding that this body I have is a gift from God and not my own dictates how I use it moment by moment.  It means I can’t just say “yes” to something because I desire it because I understand that my desires are not always holy desires.   Thus, questions about sex outside of marriage, masturbation, pornography use, and of course, abortion, all must be held up to the light of the gospel and it’s demand upon not just my doctrine (what I believe) but upon my body (what I practice).

It’s only when I surrender my body, along with my heart and my will and my thoughts, to God that I can begin to know the sort of freedom and joy and peace Jesus promises to those who seek him and his righteousness first and foremost.

I’ll conclude by stating my premise once again:

The deeper we pursue Christ and his holiness, the more incoherent and dissonant is the world’s message declaring, “It’s your body, it’s your choice.”

Grace and peace,

Chad

The one thing needed for real, lasting change

In just a few hours I’m leaving for a 3 day Sexual Integrity Leaders Summit in Atlanta.  I’m looking forward to this conference which boasts the following goal:

The Holy Spirit is moving to take back ground in defining holy sexuality. Join with others passionate about intentionally addressing issues, concerns, and questions related to sexual wholeness, sexual integrity, and finding freedom in Christ. Get equipped with the tools and resources you need.

This conference comes on the heels of me and my wife attending the Pure Life Ministries annual conference which proved to be a powerful encounter with the Lord.   Over this past week I have been reading Steve Gallagher’s book, A Biblical Guide to Counseling the Sexual Addictwhich has helped to reaffirm the reality of my own experience in dealing with habitual sexual sin:  The best medicine is Jesus.

I sometimes get this upside down.   Sometimes I will convince myself that there are other solutions to my problem besides Jesus.  For instance, sometimes I get to thinking that the best medicine is the group of men I meet with weekly in SAA.  Or I get to thinking the best medicine is working the 12 steps, or making more phone calls, or reading more recovery literature or going for a run.

The truth is, all of these are good things, but not the best thing.   In my experience, the only times I have known profound, lasting victory is when I submitted to Jesus and his ways of healing my sinful, broken heart.

Gallagher reminds me that the medicine Jesus prescribes is repentance.   Repentance is the precursor for real, lasting change for anyone caught in habitual sin (sexual or otherwise).   This repentance must come from godly sorrow over our sin as opposed to worldly sorrow over having gotten caught (or having hurt someone we love.  See 2 Cor. 7:10).

I want to close this out by sharing what Gallagher’s lists as the four basic components to receiving this medicine which Jesus offers to each and every one of us who will place their trust in him.    You can find these on pages 40-41 in the book referenced above.

  1. Poverty of spirit:  seeing one’s need to change and coming to the realization that he cannot accomplish this change without the power of God.
  2. Mourning over sin: as the person begins to face the ugliness of his behavior, he becomes broken over it.
  3. Submission to God: as the sin in one’s heart is exposed, true repentance occurs. Self-will is replaced by submission to God’s authority.
  4. Fruits of repentance: as God is allowed to conquer the man’s heart, a change occurs which becomes evident in the way he lives his life.

Gallagher concludes,

It is vital that you, as counselor, lead the man out of habitual sin and into this kind of genuine repentance.  He cannot conjure up this experience for himself.  He must seek God for it.  The counselor’s role in helping the counselee see his need for a radical inward transformation and praying that he receives it.

Praying with and for you.  Pray for me as I am at this conference this weekend!

Grace and peace,
Chad

Recap of PLM Conference: Fix your eyes on Jesus

I just returned home from the Pure Life Ministries annual conference which was such an amazing experience and encounter with God.    Some 480 men and women gathered in Florence, KY to worship the God who has the power – and the desire – to set each of us free from the chains that ensnare us.    It’s an amazing thing to be in the presence of such testimonies and witnesses to God’s redeeming love.

I wanted to take a moment while it’s fresh on my mind to write down a few of the things I took away from the great speakers who shared over the last few days.   I hope this helps me to better apply what I’ve learned and to edify you.

Steve Gallagher referenced the proclivity within each of us to gravitate towards either law bending or law keeping.   He stressed that when both are right with the Lord and walking in the Spirit both are a blessing to the Church.   We need the law benders to upset our status-quo and breath fresh wind into our sails and we need the law keepers to remind us of God’s holiness and demands upon the Christian to obey him.

Steve then did a beautiful job referencing each of the seven churches in Revelation 2 &3, showing what happens when these natural tendencies of ours (law bending or law keeping) cease being surrendered to God.   One thing in particular that stood out to me was pointed towards law keepers, or those of us who can easily become satisfied with having a form of godliness but none of it’s power.    How easy it is to play church and appear to be doing all the right things while our heart is far from God.     I know all too well how easy it is to do this, and how easy it is to fall into a delusion that all is well in doing it.

Dave Leopold built upon this foundation laid by Steve (unbeknownst to either while preparing their messages).  He spoke of how we toil in our own way rather than God’s way.  Building a ministry isn’t always the same, he said, as building God’s kingdom.

Dave’s longing for himself, and his prayer for us, is that we may all prove that we have been with Jesus.  May our very lives – both inner and outer – be evidence that we have spent much time at Jesus’ feet.   Jesus does not desire us to be mere messengers of his message, but desires each of us to become the message.   When he has conquered us, he will send us out to conquer the world in Jesus’ name.

I loved the illustration he shared of the sun.   When we lay out in the sun, we are changed.  Our face let’s the world know that we have been out in the sun.   Likewise, as we spend intimate time with the Son of God, the world will know it.

Dustin Renz shared a powerful message on suffering.   I think he is exactly right that we do not teach or understand suffering within the church.   And yet, the life of Jesus himself as well as all of scripture is full of calls to suffer, even promises that we will.   Dustin shared the following points:

  1. We need to learn to expect suffering.   Jesus promised that we would know trouble in this world.   In fact, the very call to follow Jesus is an invitation to lay down our lives and die.
  2. Suffering shapes us and fits us for service.    James reminds us to consider it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds.   These are preparing us for service.
  3. Learn to endure suffering.   Imagine if Paul had given up after being ship wrecked, stoned, beaten, imprisoned, starved, left to die?   The loss to Christianity would be extraordinary!    We must endure to the end.  Far too often we give up too easily and we have not even come close to experiencing the sort of suffering Paul and countless other Christians have endured.    How many potential testimonies, not to mention our own, are lost because we give up too soon and run back to our sin?

Glen Meldrum shared three snares of the soul which will trip us up time and time again if we are not mindful of them.

  1. We don’t treat sin like sin.   Numbers 33:50-56, God insists that Moses and the people, when they get to the promised land, must drive out the wicked inhabitants and all their idols.    If they do not, they will be “barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides” and trouble you all the days you dwell you there.   Jesus was serious about sin, warning to cut out the eye of the hand that causes you to sin.    Whatever is keeping you from Jesus, get rid of it!   Even if it’s something “good.”
  2. Not being very careful to love the Lord (Joshua 23:11-13).    We must be very careful to love God!   Make it your purposeful pursuit in life to spend time with God and nurture this relationship.  No one follows Jesus by accident.  None of us default towards loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.   Our sinful hearts are easily distracted and get caught up in so many other things that we lose sight of our walk with God.    Be careful!
  3. Idolatry rises up in our hearts.   Things like bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, sexual sin, pleasure, and more become the gods we cling to to.  We become what we worship.   The destruction happening in marriages is from hell.   Satan hates God, and his work is to destroy the image of God in us by replacing it with his own image.  How does he do this?  By causing us to have other gods.

All of these messages, though unplanned to be so, beautifully weaved together this overarching theme for me:  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.  Pursue Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.   Submit to the love – and the rule – of God in my life.  And pray.   Pray like my life and the lives of others depends on it, because it does!

I’m so grateful for this time of refreshment and revival.   It has inspired me towards a deeper repentance and desire to be of service to God and others in ways that for quite some time I have felt unworthy to pursue because of my past failings.    God reminded me this weekend that he has not altered his feelings towards me nor his call.   I’m grateful that my wife was able to join me on this trip and for work he is doing in her life and ours as a couple.   We are both excited to see what God has in store for us in the weeks, months and years ahead.

 

Four things we lack

In my copy of John Owen’s Mortification of Sin, J.I. Packer writes a stirring introduction.  He suggests four things which today are insufficiently emphasized, causing modern readers to “suffer from the short-comings of much present-day Christian nurture” and therefore missing much of the significance in Owen’s work.   These four things lacking in today’s writings and preaching are the holiness of God, the significance of motivating desire, the need for self-scrutiny, and the life-changing power of God.    I believe Packer is right.   I want to take a look at each of these in turn and relate them to my own experience with recovery.

The Holiness of God 

Packer reminds us that the Puritans believed that holiness is the attribute of all God’s attributes.  It is what distinguishes God from all of creation “making him different from us in our weakness, awesome and adorable to us in his strength, and a visitant to our consciences whose presence exposes and condemns sin within us.”   When we down-play this, Packer reasons, we sentimentalize love and mercy, making God seem more like a kindly uncle than the One whom, when seen, caused Isaiah and John to come undone.

At the tail end of a relapse last year there was a seismic shift in my spirit that occurred while reading a commentary on Acts 5, the story of Ananias and Sapphira.   You’ll recall these are the husband and wife who died after they lied to Peter about their profits from a piece of land they sold.   The commentary was simple enough, stating the obvious from the text:  When we lie to others, we lie to God.   This is an affront to a holy God.   The Holy Spirit used this simple truth to help me see (again) just what sort of God it is I am dealing with.   If a lie to another person provoked such righteous judgment from God upon Ananias and Sapphira, how much more so would my habitual sexual sin?   Who was I to assume that my sins, which were many, were not shutting me out of God’s presence and courting death at every turn?    God is holy and calls his people to be holy.   We will not and cannot see him if we do not agree with him in this.   Our lack of emphasis on this today is to our detriment.

The Significance of Motivating Desire

Packer, and the Puritans before him, and Jesus before them, would remind us that it is not the outside of the cup that makes us clean but what is inside.   Jesus cares about the desires we nurture within us, not just our actions.   “Too often today,” Packer writes, “the moral life is reduced to role-play, in which prescribed and expected performance is everything and no attention is paid to the cravings, ragings, and hostilities of the heart so long as people do what is thought they should.”   Owen takes us deeper than this externalism, insisting that it’s not just the bad habits that must be broken, but the sinful desires driving them.

I liken this to to the difference between sobriety and recovery.  We have all heard the expressions “dry drunk,” meaning a person who is sober from drinking alcohol but still exhibits all the character defects that come with alcoholism.   It is so easy to get caught up in doing the right thing – putting on a performance – that we overlook the most important part: the heart.    Jesus promises to make us born again.   As I’ve said elsewhere on this site, Jesus didn’t die to make us better; he died to make us new.    This is good news!  Our lack of emphasis on this today is to our detriment.

The Need for Self-Scrutiny

In both Scripture and Owen, much is said about the deceitfulness of one’s own heart.   And yet, Christians today are slow to suspect themselves or each other of self-deception.  Our self-ignorance leads us to “think well of one’s heart and life when God, the searcher of hearts, is displeased with both.”    Owen would remind us to remain vigilant, always examining ourselves in light of what Scripture has to say in order that we might know which desires of ours need to be mortified.

Steps 4 and 10 are helpful guides in addressing this need (taking a moral inventory and continuing to take a daily, personal inventory).   As such, people in recovery may have a leg up in this endeavor, as we are generally more aware than most of the deceitfulness of our own hearts and the lure of disordered loves within us.    This flies in the face of the culture around us, though, even within much of the church.   We are more likely to be encouraged to go after whatever our heart desires rather than be encouraged to search the Scriptures to see how that desire aligns with God’s word.   Whether you have been walking with Christ for decades or are just getting started, we need to always remember that the enemy of our souls uses our desires to tempt us (James 1:4).   Our lack of emphasis on this today is to our detriment.

The Life-Changing Power of God

Both Scripture and Owen taught that at the heart of salvation is a change of heart.  There is a moral change that occurs by which the Holy Spirit induces Christlike attitudes and actions in us.  There is an “expectation that Christians through prayer to Jesus would know deliverances from sinful passions in the heart,” and it is sad, Packer writes, “that today so little is heard about this.”

I’m am writing this just following Resurrection Sunday.   As with every Easter, there are scores of articles written de-emphasizing (if not denying) the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus.   With even this fundamental truth – the one of which without there would be no Christianity! – being cast aside as non-essential, is it any wonder that we fail to believe in a power able to overturn the kingdoms of our heart and make us new creations with new desires?    The scriptures proclaim that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work within us.   And yet, far too often in recovery we give more power to our addiction than we do the power of the blood.   Our lack of emphasis on this today is to our detriment.

To conclude, my experience has been that where one or more of these elements are lacking in my life I am more susceptible to my hurts, habits, and hang-ups.   But when I begin each day in awe of God’s holiness, aware of my motivating desires, become willing to scrutinize myself, and rely on the power of God to transform me inside-out, than I am far less likely to fall into sin and far more likely to grow in my desire to be like Christ.