Tag Archives: christian counseling

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.

Are you Inspecting or Reflecting Salvation?

In Luke 3 the word of God comes to John the Baptist who is in the wilderness.   So often this is where God breaks through to us – in the wilderness.   Rarely will we hear it or know it in the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, particularly when we think we are doing just fine and need nothing (it’s significant, I think, that Luke first tells us about all the governors and rulers – the powerful of the land –  before he moves to John in the wilderness).   People in the wilderness know they are in need.   They know that unless Somebody intervenes into their sorry state they are forever lost.  People in the wilderness are desperate.

God hears the cries of desperate people in the wilderness.    If you are in such a place today consider that it might be God’s mercy which brought you here.    He has a word for you and needs you to hear it.  Will you listen?  Will you respond?

reflect

John responded by going out and proclaiming that lives can and should be transformed.  He proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins – a life that is turned completely around and marching to new orders.

He then quotes the prophet Isaiah.   As only one who has been in the wilderness can do, he points those who will listen to a God who fills the valleys and topples the mountains.    This is a God who will exalt the humble and humble the proud.

He goes on to say that God will make the crooked straight and the rough spots level.    This is good news!   I am so in need of a God who won’t leave me the way He found me in the wilderness!  I’m in need of a God  who will give me a new life with a new path to walk on while sanding down the rough spots in my life!   I can testify that God is still at work doing exactly this!   While I still have plenty of rough edges to be worked out and have much growing yet to do in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) I have witnessed the toppling of mountains in my life which at one time seemed insurmountable.

Do you have rough spots that need leveled or your path made straight?   God can and will do it!   And it will most likely be through a path you would not have picked for yourself or  imagined.   God declares,

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 (Isa. 43:16).

Praise God!   I don’t know about you, but this gets me excited!   If we will just let go of the reigns, humble ourselves to God’s word,  and give up control God will lead us to a place of new life – one we cannot imagine!  He will not forsake this!

Finally, John the Baptist reminds us that God does all this so that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6).   God is seeking a people for Himself who will reflect the glory of His Son Jesus Christ, the spotless One who had no rough edges or crooked paths but only sought to do that which his Father did.   This is your calling and mine.  It is the will of God that you and I be holy and sanctified – set apart (1 Thess. 4:3) – and it is for this purpose:  That the unbelieving world, the world blinded in the wilderness, would see the salvation of God and come to believe that their rough places can be made smooth, too.   

May you be so moved by the word of God that you transition this day from being part of this world which is watching the salvation of God unfold in the lives of others to the part of God’s Bride which is reflecting the light of His glory for others to see.

Choose today to stop being a mere inspector of God’s salvation.  Be a reflector of it.  

It is happening all around us.  God is not forsaking His plan.   And it can and should include you.