Tag Archives: adultery

Win the battle in your mind

In the course of my own recovery and through counseling many others I’ve concluded this one simple truth:

our mind is a battlefield.

Every compulsion, every relapse, every giving over to whatever is our “thing” begins in the mind.   If I had a penny for every time I heard, or said myself, “I was having a really good day, and then this image/thought entered my mind and I….”  I’d have a lot of pennies.

I wasted many years of my life and did a lot of damage to myself and others because I never learned (and nobody taught me) how to win the battle in my mind.   In fact, I never really understood that I was at war!   While I often would say I was “struggling” with pornography what I really meant was this:  A lustful thought keeps entering my mind and 99% of the time I cave in to it.  That is not the picture of a person struggling but of being a doormat (For more on that topic read “Are you REALLY Struggling against habitual sin?”) 

If you are serious about kicking your habit of looking at porn (or whatever else you have a compulsion towards) you will need to get serious about a few things.  Here’s a short list…

1. Get serious about this warfare thing.   Really.  Some segments of Christianity will play down the warfare imagery in scripture, others glorify it.  You need to get away from both and simply, yet hugely, take it seriously.   A cursory read of Scripture makes it abundantly clear that there is a battle for your soul and there will be winners and there will be losers.  The enemy is always prowling like a roaring lion seeking one to devour (1 Peter 5:8).  It’s no surprise that included in this admonition by Peter is to “be alert and of sober mind.”   You need to know that when you determine to pursue holiness in body, mind, and soul, you will be entering a battle with the enemy who has studied you.  He knows where to trip you up, he knows what thoughts will seduce you, he knows how to cause you to stumble.   So be alert!   Take this warfare motif found throughout all of scripture seriously, and view it as God’s textbook written solely for your benefit to know how to win not just the battle but the war.

2. Get serious about your thoughts.  The bible teaches that we ought to take every thought captive to be obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).   Surely this is to include suspending those lustful thoughts (or other compulsions) and surrendering them over to the blood of Jesus.  Any thought contrary to the revealed will of God ought to be – and can be! – brought into obedience with Christ.  Do not fall for the enemies lie which says your thoughts do not really matter.   Jesus said that if you have even the intent of lust in your heart it is as good as committing adultery and that if you harbor anger you have committed murder (Matt. 5:27ff).  He also taught that it’s what is inside us that defiles us.  Clean the inside of the cup (which will include your mind!) and all will be clean (Matt. 23:26)!   Your thoughts matter to God.   And they will either lead you to life or shipwreck you again and again.

Know this:  Just because a thought enters your mind does not mean you have sinned.   As I said above, the enemy will bombard you with all sorts of schemes and make you believe you are justified to dwell upon them.  You have a choice when a sinful thought crosses your radar:  Chew on it or spit it out.    Keep reading to learn how to do the latter.

3. Get serious about fighting.   Your most valuable weapon in the fight against your thoughts is prayer.   I teach my guys in recovery and my church in recovery (because we are all in recovery) to pray instead of think.  When I would struggle with impure thoughts and had determined I would not be a slave to them any longer I began praying the mercy prayer almost with every breath I breathed.   It would be on my lips when I rose and when I laid down at night.  I would recite it hundreds of times throughout the day and even more when I was bombarded with temptation.  I would go to bed exhausted from praying but victorious.   And guess what?  Over time the battle got less and less intense.  Over time I realized that I was “being transformed by the renewing of my mind” (Rom. 12:1-2).  My mind was actually learning to think -and pray – in new ways.  I was taking every thought captive to obey Christ.

The first wave of attack against any enemy force is going to be the hardest.   And the bloodiest.   If you are new to this sort of warfare you can expect some casualties.  But don’t give up!   Surround yourself with like-minded soldiers who are fighting the good fight as well.  Call them consistently and constantly, particularly in the early stages until you get some traction (60-90 days minimum).   It won’t be long before you are the one others are calling, and you’ll be sharing your experience, strength and hope with them.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Phil. 4:8)

Your deadliest enemy causing relapse (it’s not what you think)

In the bible there is this fascinating series of events in the book of Exodus where the ruler of Egypt refuses to let the people of God, whom he is holding as slaves, free.  Moses has been sent to lead them out to the Promised Land but Pharaoh will have none of it.  What follows is a series of 10 plagues upon Egypt, displaying both the power of God and the hardness of the human heart.

I don’t know about you, but after the first plague of all the water in my country turning to blood, I think I’d give in.  I think I’d say, “Okay, Moses, you win, I’m thirsty. Take your people and go.”    Or at least I like to think I would.   But then I look back over the decades I spent in active porn addiction and remember the first wave of plagues it caused. I remember the way my wife first reacted when she found out and the fear I felt that she would leave me.   I remember promising to never do it again.  I remember how after a few really bad weeks, things got a little bit better.   A sense of calm was restored.  The water was again drinkable.

And I, like Pharaoh, went back to my old ways.   This cycle continued for 7 long years.

In Exodus 7-12 we are privy to not just an awesome story of God’s power over creation and desire to free his people, but to the universal condition of every human heart.  Faced with consequence after consequence, some incredibly serious (imagine waking up to a huge bullfrog on your face, or breaking out in boils all over your body!), Pharaoh would play the game I’ve played countless times in the past:

God forgive me! Amy I’m sorry!  I won’t do it again!

And then, once the pain went away, I would harden my heart and go back to what I wanted to do.  Until the next time I got caught.

For Pharaoh, it took the death of his first born son before he finally hit bottom and gave up.   I hope that isn’t what it takes for you.  It doesn’t have to be.

Pharaoh, and many of us, understand the difference between godly sorrow over our sin and worldly sorrow.   Worldly sorrow is being sorry that I’ve been caught, that my choices have caused so much pain in my life and in the lives of others, and that this situation is extremely inconvenient for all involved.  Godly sorrow, on the other hand, includes all of that but has an additional, essential element.  It’s sorrow that my actions have grieved God’s heart and have put separation between Him and I.  It’s to realize that my sin has offended a holy God and, worse of all, I am making a mockery of the great sacrifice made on my behalf when Jesus shed his blood for me.

This distinction is critical because Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said that godly sorrow will lead to salvation – freedom! – and leave no regret, whereas worldly sorrow will only lead to death (2 Cor. 7:10).

That is what Pharaoh experienced.  Death.   He had lots and lots of worldly sorrow with each passing plague, but never godly sorrow.   And because of this, with each passing plague, after the storm subsided and things went back to normal, he went right back to being his old self. He relapsed.

I get to talk with many people fighting addiction to all sorts of things and we all have this in common:  When things get really bad we want help.  We show up to a meeting. We call a friend.  We check into rehab.  We do all the right things – necessary things- because the pain is great and we need to act.   Thank God for this.  But we have another thing in common, too.  It’s that when the pain goes away and it looks like life is going to continue, we grow complacent and we think we can return to the things we did and just be smarter about it.  Maybe hide it a bit better.  Maybe we believe the lie and say we won’t go as far this time.   But like Pharaoh, that never ends well.  It always leads to death.

If this is a cycle you are on it may be because you haven’t yet come to real godly sorrow over your sin.  You don’t have to be like Pharaoh (and me) and lose everything before you come to your senses.   Ask God today to break your heart over your sin and help you to see it the way God sees it.  Pray that God would give you a heart that breaks over sin and a desire to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16).   Ask God to help you see the cross of Jesus as though for the very first time, and that you would desire to know nothing apart from Jesus Christ crucified for your sins.

God knows you intimately and loves you dearly.  He knows what the greatest enemy is to your soul, and what hinders you from having the abundant life for which he died so that you might taste. It’s the difference between worldly and godly sorrow.  May you experience today a refreshing drink from the living waters of Jesus and never again return to the bloody waters of your old self.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

My wife shared a testimony today that never should have been

This morning my wife shared her testimony to a group of 60 or so women.   It’s not the first time she has been invited to do something like this but it never ceases to amaze me that she is doing this.  I’m blown away once more by the amazing ability of God to do miracles in people’s lives.

You see, what happened today shouldn’t be happening.   At this time 3 years ago I was a bum living in an economy hotel taking a taxi to work at Little Caesars while Amy was high on anti-depressant/anxiety drugs and knocked out on sleeping pills.  I was eating cold pizza every night for dinner, alone and glued to my laptop in my “Free Wi-Fi” hotel room while Amy was contemplating suicide and struggling to stay awake long enough to drive our 5 kids to school each morning.   The divorce was to be finalized in 3 months and I was wondering how I was going to come up with $2000 a month to pay in child support and alimony.   Nothing was good. All was hopeless.   We were both dead inside – towards God, each other, and a future with any significance.

Guys and gals, if you think porn is a harmless habit, something private which won’t hurt anyone, you are a fool.  Like I was.   Stop being a fool.  Please.

So as you can see, it’s an absolute miracle that today, 3 years later, my wife would be able to stand before a group of women and proclaim the power of Jesus Christ to break through even the hardest and miserable of hearts and resurrect not just a marriage but the faith of two very lost souls.

I wanted to write this today because I wanted to give praise to God for what He has done in my life, my wife’s life, my kids’ life, our ministry, and more.  I am so proud of her and the woman she is, and the woman she is becoming by God’s grace.

I also wanted to write this to encourage anyone reading who is in the pit today.   Whether you are the addict or the one living with one, we know the hell you experience every waking moment.    I know what it’s like to think there is no possible way life could exist apart from lustful thoughts and compulsions, and Amy knows what it’s like to feel utterly alone and abandoned by God and to fight constantly the battle of wanting to leave but not knowing how or to where.

So how can I encourage you?   By shouting this one simple, yet world-altering truth as loud as I can and for as long as I can:

GOD HAS THE POWER TO MAKE YOU NEW!!

It’s true!  God doesn’t want to “fix” you, He wants to do a complete overhaul on your life!   Yes, the foolish you, the deluded you, the drunk-on-porn you, the high-on-drugs you, the suicidal-thinking you, the depressed you, the cheating you, the lying you, the struggling-just-to-stay-alive-one-more-hour you, cannot imagine any other life because the life God can and will impart to you will require the current you to DIE!    The moment you realize and believe that God doesn’t desire to make the you you currently are better but to make a brand new creation out of chaos and brokenness is the moment you are on your way towards sanity.  Towards a new life. Towards a testimony which God is going to design in ways you can’t imagine right now but will one day bring Him glory and honor and praise.   Why?  Because this is what God does.   The same God who spoke a universe into existence is the same God ready to create a new you.

So cry out.  Cry out to a Father who loves and cares for you so much that He died for you while you were still in this mess, snubbing Him at every turn.  He loves you that much!    He didn’t bleed for you so that you can live in bondage to sin and shame.   Cry out.  Be willing to die.  Be willing to allow God to create you all over again.

God is looking for people to showcase His amazing ability to do the impossible.   Like my wife, who shared a testimony today which goes against all the odds.    Thanks be to God that our Father in Heaven is a odd-beating God.

And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them (Isaiah 42:16).

testify

One Thing You Lack

One of the greatest joys this blog has brought Amy and I is the opportunity to help others find freedom in Jesus Christ from the bondage of sexual sin and hope for their shipwrecked marriages.    Few things are more satisfying than getting to walk with a man from his complete bondage to pornography and lust into complete freedom in Christ.   It’s like witnessing resurrection.   The dead coming to life.

And few things sadden me more than watching a man or a couple walk away from the freedom Jesus offers.

The story of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-22) has helped me grasp why people walk away.

Alexandre_Bida_The_rich_young_man_525

In this story, a man who has great possessions asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.   The rules which God has required of everyone, and all of us, he has kept from his youth.   Today he would be your average Christian who obeys the big commandments and adheres to his or her church membership vows.    Yet he is missing something vital to the well-being of his soul, and Jesus knows what it is.

You lack one thing:  go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, then you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.

For this man who had it all, and did all the right things, he lacked one thing,  and that one thing would make or break him.    Tragically, he walked away unchanged.

Tragically, a large percentage of the men who contact me asking how they can be free from sexual addiction,  walk away unchanged like this rich young ruler.   The reason is because they are unwilling to let go of the one thing which they, like the rich ruler, think they cannot do without:  self-gratification.     When they come and ask the question, “How can I be free from my addiction to pornography?” and then go on to tell me all the things they have tried and done, programs they have attended, counseling they have paid for, filters they have installed, I then say to them,

One thing you lack:  swear off of self-gratification – masturbation – forever.

This is rarely a welcomed invitation, but I suspect it’s not a surprising one.   I imagine the rich young ruler had a sense of the idol of his heart when he approached Jesus.   He was hoping, perhaps, that Jesus would validate him all the same and allow him to keep the thing he cherished most.    He went away sorrowful and unchanged because he was unwilling to part with the one thing which kept him chained.

He might have reasoned with himself, Why can others have things and not me?  Or, why doesn’t everyone else have to sell all their stuff?   The one thing we lack is different for all of us, but for the sexual addict – just like the money addict – it’s not difficult to name.

When I tell people they have to give up self-gratification to be truly free, they have a sense that this is truth.  But it’s a costly one for them to face.    The few who take that narrow road find that their lives are new, changed, abundant.    Those who choose an easier path, in my experience, remain chained.

For the sexual addict this really should be no surprise that you have to cut your addiction off at the root.    It’s obvious that the alcoholic must give up drink and being around drink.  The drug addict must cease all contact with substances which give them a high or a low.   A time of detox is expected where the body goes through withdrawals where it feels like life as they know it is ending.   The gods we bow to are jealous and do not let go of us without a fight.    If you are reading this and are addicted to sex, lust, pornography, whatever, then why should you expect the path to freedom to be any easier or any different?

If you are reading this and are addicted to any thing or any one, then you instinctively know the thing or person you need to “cut off.”   Jesus was serious when it came to extricating ourselves from sin.   If you struggle with lust, even with the intent of lust, then you are an adulterer, he says.   Therefore, you should cut out your eye or cut off your hand if these things cause you to sin.  It’s better to lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell (Matt. 5:27-30).     The principle here is to get to the root of the problem and be done with it.   For the sexual addict, if you are unwilling to extricate self-gratification from your life then you will always be tethered to your addiction.    You might put band-aids on it for periods of time now and then, but you’ll never be free.  

This should sound liberating to the person who has found they have never been able to kick this habit completely.    I’ve yet to meet a man who has accepted the invitation to give up self-gratification completely who is still struggling with pornography.    When Jesus looks at us and calls us to give up something that has become controlling in our lives, he does so out of love.   Read Mark 10:17-22.  You see that before Jesus told the rich young ruler to go sell everything he looked at him and “loved him.”    It is out of love that Jesus is calling you to take up this cross and follow him.   He believes you can do it, is willing and able to equip you for the battle, and has a promised land waiting for those who will accept the call.

What is the one thing you lack?    I pray you not walk away today unchanged.

The Glorious Question….what’s your answer?

I think one of the most glorious questions in history is the one Jesus asked the invalid of 38 years in John 5:

Do you want to be healed?

Imagine!  The creator of the universe asking this man that question!   But it isn’t a question he asks only of this man.  He asks it to every one of us.

Do you want to be healed?  Do you want to be made well?  Do you want to be whole?    How we respond to that question is every bit as important as the glory of the question itself.

That Jesus has to ask the question speaks volumes, doesn’t it?  I know from personal experience that the answer to that question is not always what we might expect.    The reason for this is explained just 2 chapters prior to this story:

And this is the judgment: the light has come in to the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil (John 3:19)

Jesus is always asking the glorious question to us, every day,  and we often tell him no.   It’s true that the reason is because we love our sin more than God.   Like Gollum with his Precious, we are not keen on parting from the thing which has become our favorite god, the thing we have bowed to time after time.   Even though it threatens to destroy us and everyone we love, we cling to it nonetheless.

gollum

Do you want to be healed?    The question offers us a promise that seems too good to be true because we know how evil we are.   We know the power of our Precious.   It has held our attention for so long, with such intensity, that the thought of it being gone from our lives invites all sorts of other questions:    What will I do without it?   What will be expected of me if I’m healed?   What will I run to when I feel alone?  And the big one…

What if it doesn’t work? 

Isn’t that the biggest fear?   What happens if you put all your eggs in the basket named Jesus and it doesn’t work?  What if you step out in faith, go all-in, take the plunge, and you discover that there is no one there to catch you?

If you feel that way you are not alone.  I remember feeling that way, and I talk to many others who do, too.   Particularly if they are professing Christians.    The reasons come in many shapes and sizes but can generally be summed up one of two ways:  We love our sin too much to want to be healed and/or we are afraid God cannot make good on his promise to heal us.    We have more faith in the power of our sin than we do the power of God to heal.   It’s as though we want to protect God from failure.    Oh, how prideful we are!  Is there any limit to our evil?   

This is why for so many of us it is not until we are at the end of our rope that we will say yes to the question, Do you want to be healed?   It won’t be until we have exhausted every other resource, every other “program,” every other step, and have hurt everyone who loves us that we will then hear the question as though for the first time and cry out like the invalid of 38 years, “Sir, I have no one else!”

When we realize there is no one else, we lose the fear of falling into nothing because we see our sin has already brought us there.   I remember when I first heard the words, “God hasn’t brought you to this point to just make you better, but to make you new.”    I so desperately wanted those words to be true!   Though I couldn’t imagine it could be true of me, I knew that either God had to do a miracle in my heart or I was dead.    There was no one else.  I had tried it all.   God was either going to prove Himself as more powerful than my Precious, or there was no God, and the gospel was pointless.

Thanks be to God, He has been more than faithful!   His word is true, and His promises are real.   He says to you and I time and time again throughout Scripture, in fact, more times than any other command, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”

If you have heard Jesus ask you the glorious question, do you want to be healed?  tell him yes!    Do not be afraid, for He is with you, and will never leave nor forsake you.   Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37)….not even defeating your Precious and creating a new mind and heart inside of you.

Do you want to be healed?   

healing

How would you answer this question?

My mom, Lyndell Hetrick Holtz, who has an amazing testimony of her own (you can read all about it in her book:  Confessions of an Adulterous Christian Woman), reminded me of this question yesterday.    I posted it on my Facebook page and a friend printed it off and put it on his office wall.   Not a bad idea!   Here it is: 

ImageSo how would you answer this question?   

 

 

Brokenness and Forgiveness: Our Testimony

Last Sunday Amy and I were at Scioto Ridge UMC in Hilliard, OH, sharing how God has healed the brokenness in our lives and restored our marriage.   It is our prayer that if you found our blog today God will use our story to give you hope, and to lift your eyes to the One who has made all the difference in the world:  Jesus Christ.

“Brokenness and Forgiveness” from Scioto Ridge UMC on Vimeo.

So You’ve Cheated? Know Your Rights.

One of most common questions I get asked by men (I’m writing this as a man to other men, but the following advice applies to women caught in the same) who have been unfaithful in their marriage (whether through pornography use or a physical affair) is this:

How can I win back her trust?

The answer to that question will vary from couple to couple, but the foundation is always the same.  That foundation gets laid when the offender acknowledges what his rights are, which are these:

Did you catch them?   They are very important, so take a moment to write them down.    To say it another way, in case you missed it the first time, the rights that are yours as the unfaithful one in a marriage are these:

none

Speaking from personal experience, the longer it took me to realize this foundational truth – that I had no rights – the longer I delayed healing and the rebuilding of trust in my marriage.   The moment I stepped out of my marriage in unfaithfulness was the moment I forfeited whatever rights I had.

What sort of rights am I talking about?   Well, at the risk of sounding simplistic, ALL of them.   There are things about a broken marriage which will look different from a healthy one until trust is restored, and the sooner you recognize that the better.   Your marriage is no longer one of equal footing (if it ever was).   So what does this mean in real life?

  • When she hurts your feelings you don’t tell her that she has hurt your feelings.   Most likely she was trying to.   Suck it up.
  • When she calls you all sorts of names and her anger is bearing down on you with both barrels, you bear it.   Don’t assert your “right” to have your argument heard, and don’t try to tell her she is sinning against you with her words or actions.*
  • When she wants to stay up until 3am talking about her fears you listen.  Don’t assert your “right” to get some sleep because you have to work in the morning.
  • When she wants to cancel a family vacation or alter other routine events, comply.  If friends and family object, defend her.
  • When she wants to convert your office space into a scrap-booking room, help her do it.
  • When she wants to look through your cell phone every hour, or have access to your laptop, or wishes to know every move you make every minute of the day, be grateful she wants to be involved in your life so intimately, and thank her for it.

There came a point where I was so broken over the sin I had done and the pain my actions had brought upon my wife that I no longer had the will to rise up and assert myself.    The sooner I stopped asserting myself, the sooner healing began and trust was restored.   The more I fought that, the more miserable we both were. Here is a handy chart to demonstrate that:

degreeofmisery

A person who has experienced true brokenness over their sin, who understands godly sorrow over worldly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10), will willingly lay down their rights.    This is not something any of us can do on our own.  We must have the Spirit of God at work within us, constantly remaking us into the image of Christ, who “though in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8).

We must become like Christ towards our hurting wives, and bear them and their pain the way Christ has borne ours.  You, like Jesus, have no rights.  

How long, you ask?  How long until I can eat where I want to eat?    Well, here is a helpful chart I made that depicts the length of time your rights are withheld:

norights

This is not a hard and fast rule, but the longer you have been sinning against God and your wife the longer it will take to establish a good foundation.    Of course, the ideal you are shooting for is where both partners surrender their rights to each other, “submitting to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph. 5:21).     And no, you do not have the right to tell your wife she is to submit to you out of the fear of Christ.   You lost that right, too.    With God’s help, she will willingly give that back to you when you have done the hard work of following the above advice.

Guys, believe me, it’s worth it!

* While the offended party may indeed be sinning against God and you with their anger and bitterness, it’s crucial you understand 2 things:  First, you caused this.   Second, it’s not for you to point this out to her.    Your primary duty is to pray for her and to intercede on her behalf to God, bearing her sins in the way Christ bore your own.    The longer your wife sees her daggers falling on a humble, prayerful, loving target the sooner those daggers will lessen, become duller, and soon cease altogether.

Satan Fans the Flame of Disordered Love

so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs (2 Cor. 2:11).

I suppose one advantage of being in bondage to sin for so long is it made me well aware of the enemy’s tactics.   I hung around him long enough to have some understanding of his “designs.”    There are many tactics of Satan,  but I’d say one of his favorites is making us think our actions are normal and natural and even reasonable.  Have you ever said to yourself or someone else, “Well this is just who I am” or “I can’t help it, I’m made this way” or perhaps, “It just felt right, how could it be wrong” or even, “Love wins“?

love-wins-logo

This is because each of us “is tempted when lured and enticed by our own desire” (James 1:14).   Satan doesn’t really need to bring anything new to the battle for our hearts.  He just needs to fan the flame of what is already there.   

For every one of us that could be a different thing.  My desires won’t be the same as the next guy or gal.   For some it might be lust, for others it might be disordered sexual desires, for some it might be food, for others it might be control, for some it might be fame, or perhaps money or it could simply be a desire to devour any kind of impurity (Eph. 4:19).   In all of us is this desire which wants to disobey, to rebel, to reach for the forbidden fruit even though we know God said no and even though there are plenty of trees from which to pick from all around.   Our radar zeroes in on the one forbidden thing.

This is the curse of sin and it stains us all.  Satan doesn’t need to do anything more than to blow on the hot embers of our desire and when we act upon them, James says this desire then gives birth to sin (we act on that desire), and as we continue to act on this desire because we think it’s just natural, normal and reasonable, it brings forth death.   The death here is a spiritual death, one described by Paul in Romans 1:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done…Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them (vs. 21-32).

The death is a spiritual death, by which we are slaves to our human desires.    The early church father, Augustine, called our plight one of “disordered loves.”    All of us, no matter who we are, love the wrong things.   None of us are without excuse.  All have these disordered loves and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).   If we do not “come to our senses” as the Prodigal Son did and say yes to the Spirit of God convicting us of our sin, we will continue to slide down this road where we are no longer able to hear or know truth, but instead we find ourselves doing what God says not to do and even give approval to those who do (Rom. 1:32).

Satan fans the embers of human desire which feel normal to us, and as we worship the creature (our desires) we fall prey to the delusion that we are fine, even justified, in our sin.

We need to be aware that Satan is a master at making our desires appear to be natural, even holy.   The prophet Jeremiah said we will dress the wounds of the people and say “peace, peace” when the reality is, there is no peace (Jer. 6:14).   Paul saw clearly what Jeremiah saw, that our hearts are deceitfully wicked and prone to love the wrong things (Jer. 17:9) and rather than justify love for loves sake he cried out, “Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).

Scripture repeatedly warns us to be vigilant and watchful over our hearts and the hearts of others.   The Puritans did this through daily introspection and examination, naming their desires and lining them up with God’s word to see if they were holy desires or fleshly ones.   We would do well, perhaps, to adopt some of their rigors.  But being rigorous without first repenting, without first coming to our senses and realizing Satan has used our desires against us, we will not know freedom.   The good news is this:   When we humble ourselves and cry out along with Paul our need to be delivered from this body of death which loves the wrong things, we are given a new heart.  The Holy Spirit recreates us as new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17) and instead of being a slave to our desires we become slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:15-23).

A good practice is to ask yourself often whether or not the things or people you love are ordered after the wisdom of God or the wisdom of this world.   There is a way which seems right to humankind, but in the end it leads to death (Prov. 14:12).    Don’t be ignorant of Satan’s designs on your desires.   Take delight in the Lord, and discover that His word is true, you will be a new creation, with new desires (Psalm 37:4).

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:25).

From Ashes to Beauty

In my last post (Marriage Isn’t for You (Or your spouse)), I shared some resources for marriage which Amy and I have found helpful.   But there were two I left out which would be of great benefit to you if you are 1) a couple seeking to rebuild a marriage after infidelity or 2) you are a pastor or counselor seeking resources to help you help others.

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The first is a book by Jeff Colon, President of Pure Life Ministries, called From Ashes to Beauty.  Jeff knows first-hand the wreckage sexual sin will bring to a home and he and his wife have been powerful examples of what a life surrendered to God looks like.  God used Jeff’s sermons and presence at Pure Life while I was there to help turn me around and his wife, Rose, was Amy’s counselor-by-phone.    The book, From Ashes to Beauty, offers sound spiritual truth and practical advice essential for rebuilding and revitalizing a marriage, particularly if it is one affected by sexual sin.  I can’t recommend this book enough!

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The second is for husbands.  It’s called The Complete Husband by Lou Priolo.   What I liked about this book is how it challenged me on every page to take responsibility for my marriage and give me practical, biblical tools with which to do so.   Every chapter contains an exercise of some sort geared towards making you think through and act upon your role as a Christian husband.

Check out these resources.   You’ll be glad you did.