The all important morning watch

Next to receiving Christ as Savior, and claiming the filling of the Holy Spirit, we know of no act attended with larger good to ourselves or others than the formation of an undiscourageable resolution to keep the morning watch and spend the first half hour of the day alone with God.
~ John Mott

I read these words during my devotion time this morning and was struck by their truthfulness.   I can testify that the greatest blessing or hindrance to my spiritual well being rests on how and with whom I spend the first moments of each day.

I can also testify that this truth is the easiest for the enemy of our soul to minimize, distort and steal.   If you are like me you have probably had that internal dialogue that says things like this:

I just don’t have time.

I’m not a morning person.

I will make up for the time I missed today, tomorrow.

I don’t feel like it.  I’ll do it when I feel like it.

I don’t know how to spend time alone with God.  It feels forced or fake.

All of these are excuses manufactured not from the Spirit of God but by the enemy who knows that if he can distract us from the first part of the day, he can have the whole day.

One of the things I have to guard against is the lie that I can bank up grace and spiritual fortitude.  I have thought at various times in my Christian walk that since I spent an hour with Jesus yesterday morning, and since I’m too busy this morning, I can coast.

But trying to stockpile grace when it’s convenient for me to do so, and expecting it to sustain me for the days ahead while I’m too busy works as well as collecting multiple days worth of manna worked for the Hebrew people seeking the Promised Land (see Exodus 16).

Why?  I am convinced it is because the One who created me and you knows better than we that with each setting and rising of the sun we must acknowledge our desperate need to abide in Christ today.   Apart from me, Jesus said, we can do nothing (John 15:5).   When I think that yesterday’s grace is sufficient for me today I presume upon the gracious gift of God, using it in vain (2 Cor. 6:1).

When I wake up and tend to a thousand other perceived needs besides spending time alone with God I am saying I have the power to manipulate yesterday’s manna to be good for today.  I am taking control of a gift that was never mine to begin with.

The quote above from John Mott reminded me of a few key things.    First, keeping a morning watch is an act of will, not emotion.   There must be an “undiscourageable resolution” to make the first part of our day the Lord’s part.   There will be plenty of times where we will not feel like it.  There will be plenty of times where other things, even good things, lobby for our time.    But if it is true that apart from Christ I can do nothing, than even these good things must wait until I have spent sufficient time alone with God today.

Second, this undiscourageable resolution is formed, not innate.   It will go against our nature to lay aside a morning watch with God.   It doesn’t come naturally to any of us.   Hopefully you can receive this as good news!  You aren’t a terrible person because you don’t feel like spending time with God this morning.   What is true, however, is that you are human and acting and feeling precisely the way God’s word says you will.   The will to spend time alone with God is something that must be formed in each and every one of us.   No human since sin entered the world has desired this naturally but every great man and woman of God who experiences the fullness and richness of God’s grace each day have been formed into such people over time.   You can be, too.

Finally, it’s of the greatest good to ourselves and others.  Our Father in Heaven who created the days, who proclaims that His mercies are new every morning, knows His children can’t experience the abundant life nor have the capacity to love others well if we don’t first rest in Him.   The greatest gift I can give to those I love, who may be demanding of my time and resources, is to rise early enough to spend time with my Creator and soak in His mercy.

During my time at Pure Life Ministries the first task I was given was to spend the first 20 minutes of each morning with God.  Ten minutes reading scripture and 10 minutes in prayer.   Over time that was increased bit by bit.    A year later those 20 minutes blossomed into 90 minutes of the most precious time of my day.   It is without question the habit formed which is most essential to my well being and my ability to love others well.  When I neglect this, I, and those I love, suffer.  Leaders at Pure Life tell me that the number one cause of relapse is when people minimize this morning time with God and begin to think yesterday’s grace will carry over today.   Setting a time aside to be with God each morning is as essential to our recovery as breathing is essential to life.

I want to encourage you today to determine to begin being formed in new ways.   Resolve to set a morning watch and then taste and see how God honors this with not only a greater capacity to love and be loved, but also changes your desires.    Please feel free to share with me how God shows up in your life over the upcoming weeks and months!

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According to the Word of God

This morning in group, one of the men shared that he is thankful that God will never leave nor forsake him, according to the word of God.  

According to the word of God.

I was impressed with the way he stated this and told him so.  What impressed me is that his assurance that God was with him was not based on how he felt but rooted in the trustworthiness of God’s word.   God said he would never leave him and this young man believed it, regardless of his feelings.

No doubt this is why he is 20 weeks sober and continuing to flourish.

In my personal experience in both my own recovery and being a coach for others I have learned that the extent to which we flourish in our recovery – and life! – is the extent to which we have utter reliance on God’s words over any other words.  Those who continue to preach the gospel to themselves, who consistently chew on and digest scripture, who replace the voices of this world with the voice of the Holy Spirit are those who get and remain sober and are less likely to allow the troubles of this life to knock them off the wagon.

It’s imperative for us to daily remind ourselves that we are in a war and there is an enemy that wants to destroy us.  His name is Satan, which literally means “The Accuser.”   The bible says that he is a liar and is the father of lies (John 8:44).  Ever thing that is untrue finds its genesis in Satan, The Accuser.  He lives to accuse those who belong to Christ (Rev. 12:10).  He lives to sow lies into us meant to harden our hearts towards the truth of God, inspire bitterness in our hearts towards others and make us feel unworthy of the abundant life Jesus promised.

And he’s crafty. He has been doing this from the beginning and knows our weak points.  He knows how to whip us into a frenzy of anger or lust or pride or self-indulgence.  He knows how to inspire in us the justifications to seek our own way and defend our rights and put ourselves before anyone else.  He knows how to cause us to doubt the faithfulness of God or the kindness of others.

Your best defense against this liar is a good offense.   My counselor, when he talks about the way Satan works his lies into my head, will get very animated and jump up and scream,

Damn him!

It reminds me that I’m fighting someone very real who is playing for keeps.  My best defense is a good offense.  I need to be in the word. I need to replace the lies with the truth so that my mind can be renewed (Rom. 12:1-2).

I’ve written extensively on this blog about how to do that.   Three very practical ways you can begin today are these:

1.  Get into the word and begin by reading Psalm 119.  It will, if you open yourself to it, nurture in you a love for God’s words.   If you commit to the reading I outline HERE, you will find in a few months a hunger for God’s truth that you’ve never known before.

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2. Pray for people instead of think about them, including yourself.  The Mercy Prayer (click the link) is a prayer that changed my life and my thoughts towards God, myself and others.  Commit to this prayer for the next 3 months and I promise you that your inner world will do a 180.

3. Finally, ask yourself this question often:  Is this feeling, emotion or response I’m about to give one that is produced by the Spirit of God or by some other spirit?  My counselor reminds me that it will always be one or the other.  Recalling this again and again helps me to take every thought captive for Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).  If it’s not from God, renounce it and replace it with truth from God’s word.

According to God’s word, you are a beloved child of God (1 John 3:2).  You were worth dying for even while an enemy of God’s, thus proving God’s love for you (Rom. 5:10)!    Nothing, NOTHING, can separate you from God’s love, neither death nor life, not even angels or demons – including The Accuser – nor the present or future nor any other kind of power (Rom. 8:38-39).   Let that soak in.   Let those be the words that shape you.

Let it be so, according to the Word of God.

Getting the power behind the power of the Gospel

When I was in the pit of my addiction and everything around me was unraveling, a trusted friend and mentor asked me over dinner,

Chad, do you believe in the power of the Gospel?

I responded by saying I do. After all, shouldn’t pastors and seminary students, of which I was both at the time, believe that?  But today, four years later, I realize I didn’t know what I was really saying. I didn’t understand the power behind the question nor what would be required of me to access such power.

I am still very much a work in progress, but here I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned about that power and how it’s made available in your life and mine.   My prayer is that it will help you, as it’s helped me, to live free from whatever is holding you hostage or restore the joy of your salvation.

If when you hear the phrase “the power of the Gospel” you think of Easter, you are thinking about it the way I did four years ago.  If you think first and foremost about resurrection, new life, freedom from addictions and failed relationships, healing, redemption, an eternal home in heaven, or anything of the sort, you are believing in only a partial gospel.

It’s easy to do.  Who wouldn’t want all of those things? And when you are in the pit, you certainly want out.  The problem with it though is that this partial – yet hopeful – gospel obscures the real power behind the gospel.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church which was plagued with living a defeated Christian existence (sexual sin, relationship issues, church division, etc), he reminds them where the true power of the gospel rests:

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

Did you hear that?  Or better yet, did you hear what Paul doesn’t say?  None of the things I thought was the power of the gospel back in the day.  Paul says the power of the gospel is not in resurrection, but in crucifixion.  It’s not an empty tomb, but a blood-stained cross.  Not Easter, but Good Friday.

A partial gospel – one that emphasizes Easter over the Cross – can be used by the enemy to rob you of ever knowing the power of the full Gospel, thus keeping you in perpetual disappointment and defeat as you seek a resurrected life without crucifying the present one.

This was the predominant truth I was missing in my life.  I did not know or understand (it was foolishness to me) the power behind the blood of Jesus Christ and the reason why the Cross must take center stage in my life – even more than an empty tomb.   For when the cross gets diluted in my thinking and in my life, the tomb of my life gets repopulated and polluted.

Paul stresses this just a bit further on in his letter when he writes that he desired to know nothing among the Corinthian church “except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).   It was the cross that dominated Paul’s thinking, not Easter.

Because Paul put Good Friday first, he lived an Easter life.   The paradox of putting the cross at the center of our lives is that it leads to a reality only God can produce in us: resurrection.

Tragically, far too many of us want the new life without dying to the old one.  We love the promise of resurrection and cringe at the prospect of crucifixion.  Can’t we just be bandaged up a bit and go on with our lives as we have come to know them minus these “bad behaviors”?

Not if you want to experience the power of the Gospel.   For the power of the Gospel knows nothing of making men and women better people and only of making men and women new.    God’s program of redemption, then, requires we go the same way of Jesus, which knows resurrection only as hoped-for promise of a life crucified to God.   It requires that everything we know dies.

Death to our dreams and hopes for how our lives should be. Death to our past, our present, and our future.  Death to our desires and preferences.  Death to our plans for how we intend to recover ourselves or others.  Death to our rights.  Death to our pride and place and prestige.  Death to our intentions for where we want to live, what we want to do, what we desire to be, and how we can carve out a “life” for ourselves.

Every time I experience a rift in my spirit, or sense a shift in my relationship with God or others, or feel as though the future is scary or the present suffocating, I can usually identify something of my crucified self that is rearing it’s defeated, yet greedy, head.   There is something within my flesh that I must hand-deliver to the Cross of Jesus Christ and crucify once more so that I might be able to experience the life of the Spirit in which I, and I imagine you, desire to walk.

The paradox in all of this, and perhaps the reason why Paul called this fixation on the Cross “foolishness to the perishing,” is that every time I do this I find God a more-than-ready and trustworthy steward of my crucified self and where my sin abounds, His grace abounds even more.   When I live to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified I receive a life that is not my own, but Christ in me, who is new and alive and full of Easter promise and power.

If you have been missing out on the fullness of the power of the Gospel my advice to you would be to prayerfully ask God to give you a heart willing to take everything to the cross.   Pray this every day until it becomes a reality in you.   Then, and only then, after you have been to the cross, will you experience the gracious gift of Easter and the power of the Gospel which makes men and women new.

Three Years Ago Today…

My son’s 5th birthday, three years ago today, was one of the darkest, loneliest days of our lives.  Brody woke up to what should have been a celebration only to see his dad’s bags packed as I waited to be picked up by a friend and taken to another state for at least 7 months.   He, and our one year old daughter (the rest of our kids had already left for school) clung to their mother’s leg as I waved goodbye to them all, not knowing if I would ever see them again.

I left town that day leaving a wake of destruction.  Nearly 2 decades of sexual addiction had gutted me of any real desire to change or hope that I could while systematically destroying my wife’s faith and trust in both God and myself.  I wish I could tell you what state of mind my kids were in but the truth is I was too involved in my own junk to really notice or truly care.  I could tell they were sad and scared and confused but I was not in any condition to address their needs when I was powerless to address my own.

This trip to a place called Pure Life Ministries was a last ditch effort to save my life, or what was left of it, and to hopefully turn me into a productive member of society, if not for anyone else then at least for the benefit of my five kids.  They deserved a dad who could stop looking at pornography long enough to hold a job so that they could have food to eat.  Amy had already filed for divorce, so this trip was not meant to salvage a shipwrecked marriage.  It was to save my life.

That was three years ago today.   Three years ago today I living in an economy hotel, taking a taxi to Little Caesars to work flipping pizzas while contemplating ending my life.   Three years ago today I witnessed my kids cry because their daddy was going away and I didn’t have it within my heart to really care.  Three years ago today my youngest son celebrated his 5th birthday and I was numb to the fact that I would miss his party, just like I had missed most of his life because I was so consumed in my addiction.  Three years ago today I was waiting for my divorce to be finalized and trying to figure out how I would pay child support.  Three years ago today was the darkest time of our lives.

It was also the beginning of a miracle. 

I would have laughed in your face three years ago today had you told me that.  I would have told you that you are out of your mind.   There was no way on earth I could have believed that three years ago today would be the beginning of my sobriety.   No way would I have believed that three years ago today, while experiencing unbearable darkness and despair, would be the genesis of a new life rising up out of ashes.   No way would I have been able to believe that three years ago today God was already at work, long before Brody’s birthday, and that He was not finished with any of us yet.

But that is exactly what happened.

Today I am 3 years sober!   Today I am celebrating all that God has redeemed, restored, and renewed.   Today I am rejoicing over the change God has brought to bear in my life, my heart, my mind.  Today I am celebrating what God has done and continues to do in my marriage, my family and in our home.  Today I am in awe of a God who has mercifully restored me to the work of ministry and called me to pastor a church that I love and they love me and where I get the privilege of now witnessing God changing lives, restoring marriages, setting captives free and faith taking root.

And today I am remembering that there is no darkness so dark that the Light of the World cannot overcome.  Today I am remembering that while there will be troubles and trials and sorrows in this world, there is One who has overcome the world (John 16:33).  Today I am reminding myself that God leads the blind in a way they do not know, turning darkness into light, and makes rough places smooth (Isa. 42:16).  Today I am rejoicing that God truly does work all things into good for those who love him and pursue him (Rom. 8:28).   Today I am thankful that the good work God has started in me, and in you, will be seen to completion (Phil. 1:6).  

God’s not done with any of us yet!  If you are in a dark spot I want to encourage you today.   God isn’t done.   If you are in a place of despair and feel that all is lost, take heart.  God isn’t done.   God is willing and able to resurrect new life where there isn’t any.  He longs to make you new, not just better (2 Cor. 5:17), and the best way and only way that happens is when we are brought to the very end of ourselves.   So if you feel like you are in a tomb today, prepare yourself!  The voice of the one who weeps for you is making it’s way to your ears even now:  Come out!  Come out!  Come out!  Unbind him or her and be set free! (John 11).  

What looks impossible to us is totally possible for God.   What will your 3 years from today look like?   God knows.  And with him by your side, the sky is the limit.  I, and the world,  can’t wait to hear your testimony!

Happy birthday, Brody!

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Today I opened a journal I kept while being a live-in student at Pure Life Ministries and read the first entry.   This is what I wrote my first full day there, dated November 4, 2011: 

“Today I had my orientation with counselor Brother Ken. I can tell that this place will be a challenge for me. I’m hearing a lot about a ‘personal relationship with Jesus.’ I’m not sure I understand that language anymore….”

Looking back, it wasn’t just the language I didn’t understand.  I didn’t understand how that could happen nor why it mattered.   

Nearly 3 years later I can say without hesitation that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ has made all the difference in the world.   Years of self-indulgence had made me callous to such talk and in my “theologically educated” mind such language lacked rigorous thought.  God, for this addict, was an objective reality for me to teach, preach, and debate about and was on my side irrespective of my ability, even desire, to know Him.   People who spoke of a “personal relationship with Jesus” were depending on feelings rather than faith.  

That’s exactly what someone without a personal relationship with Jesus would presume.  

What flipped the switch for me was an honest inquiry on my part which began soon after that journal entry above.   I prayed, “God, do you want to be my friend?  Do you want me to be Yours?”  

As I began reading the Bible straight through – not to preach it, teach it, or debate it but just to eat it, digest it, and live it – I saw a God aggressively seeking an intimate friendship with His creation.  I read how The Lord would speak to Moses “as a man speaks to a friend” (Ex. 33:11), or how God gave land to Abraham, “his friend” (2 Chron. 20:6-8).  And of course Jesus called those who were his disciples his friends (Luke 12:4; John 15:15).

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It became abundantly clear to me that God desired friendship with me.  With us all.   But what was preventing this from being a real in my own life?   The answer came from the same source:

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant (Psalm 25:14)

 

You are my friends if you do what I command you (John 15:14).

My life of self-will, bolstered by my self-reliance in my education, was blocking me from the benefits of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.   I was not his friend because I did not fear him nor did I obey him.   I proclaimed him and debated him, but I did not know him nor love him.  

Admitting this to myself and to God was the first step in my recovery.   It opened a whole new world which I thought was beneath me.  My friendship with Jesus has sustained me these past 3 years, helping me to forsake the idols of my eyes and heart.    And like any good friend, he’s with me every step of the way, teaching, guiding, loving, disciplining, nurturing, and blessing.  What a friend I have found in Jesus!

May the words of this wonderful hymn encourage you to seek him today as your most needed, and most cherished, Friend.  

  1. What a friend we have in Jesus,
    All our sins and griefs to bear!
    What a privilege to carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
    Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
    Oh, what needless pain we bear,
    All because we do not carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
  2. Have we trials and temptations?
    Is there trouble anywhere?
    We should never be discouraged—
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Can we find a friend so faithful,
    Who will all our sorrows share?
    Jesus knows our every weakness;
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
  3. Are we weak and heavy-laden,
    Cumbered with a load of care?
    Precious Savior, still our refuge—
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
    Take it to the Lord in prayer!
    In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
    Thou wilt find a solace there.
  4. Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
    Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
    May we ever, Lord, be bringing
    All to Thee in earnest prayer.
    Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
    There will be no need for prayer—
    Rapture, praise, and endless worship
    Will be our sweet portion there.

 

 

How to Overcome: Fight, Fast, Flee

A friend who attended the Pure Life annual conference this past weekend reminded me of some helpful advice which if followed can make the difference between a person overcoming addiction or falling prey to it.  The principles are these:   Fight, Fast and Flee.  

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Fight

Overcoming does not come without a fight.   It requires a battle mentality.   We must not forget that we have an enemy, prowling around like a lion, seeking whom he might devour (1 Peter 5:8).

We must not be surprised when temptation comes, or think we have done something wrong simply because we are being tempted.   Temptation provides us with an opportunity to resist the devil and say no to our impulsive desires.   We must remember that no temptation has overcome us that is not common to man, and that with every temptation God provides a way out (1 Cor. 10:13).

So many times I thought I was struggling, or fighting, against my addiction when really I was caving in at the first signs of  battle!  Develop a warrior mentality.  God has called you to be an over-comer, a victor, and has equipped you with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1) and filled you with the same power which raised Christ from the dead!   You, dear reader, are a fighter, and it’s time to win some battles.

For more on this topic read “Are you REALLY struggling against habitual sin?”  

Fast

Overcoming does not happen without fasting.   Fasting is not just giving up food.  It can and often includes giving up things like TV, internet, social media, secular music, drinking, a hobby, or anything else which feeds the flesh.

When we say no to things which we think we need for periods of time (and in some cases, forever) we build our spiritual muscles as well as our confidence in our ability to withstand temptation.  When I began fasting from food for 24 hours once a week I was surprised to discover how much that practice would help free me from my own addictive behavior.   Learning to say “no” to a growling stomach helped me to see that I was not a slave to my desires and could therefore also say “no” to temptations to lust.

If you are not experiencing lasting victory over your addictive behavior then I commend to you the practice of fasting.

For more on this topic read “How Fasting Saved My Life, and Might Save Yours, Too.”

Flee

Overcoming does not happen without fleeing.   1 Cor. 6:18 says to “Flee from sexual immorality.”   Run!   Get as far away from it as you can!

Psalm 1 says a blessed man is one won’t walk in the way of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of scoffers.   The word-picture here is a person who first walks by something enticing and rather than continue walking (or better yet, run!) he stops and stands around, taking in the scene.   Soon he is no longer standing but sitting in it.

One way to flee is by not giving the devil an opportunity to entice us to stand or sit around in our sin (Eph. 4:27).   If you struggle with sexual sin it is imperative you put filters on your computers and phones, along with accountability software which sends a list of websites viewed to your accountability partners.   Covenant Eyes and X3Watch are just two of many great places to start shopping for that kind of support.

Jesus said if our eye causes us to sin, gouge it out (Matt. 18:19).    The meaning here is to take sin seriously.  When temptation comes, run!  Get out of that situation as fast as possible.   Get a friend on speed-dial who you can call and talk with, who will help lead you back to God’s truth.    Whatever you need to do, flee!

 

FIGHT, FAST, and FLEE.   Apply these principles to your daily walk with God and see if He does not grant you the strength and victory His word promises.   We are more than conquerors in all things through Christ who loved us (Rom. 8:37)!

 

Please feel free to share how you have experienced victory when applying these or other principles.

Get Out of the Spiritual Ghetto

In Matthew 17 Jesus comes upon a man who pleads with him to heal his son.   This boy is an epileptic and the scriptures tell us he “suffers terribly, for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water” (Matt. 17:15).

Falling often into the fire, and often into the water.  

When reading this passage I felt the Lord was saying to me that this is a picture of many people’s Christian walk.   I know it was of mine at one time.   In the margins of my bible next to this verse I have written the words:

Falling into both hell and baptism.   How often I walked in both!

I remember all-too-well the days when I “suffered terribly,” moving back and forth between the realities of hell and baptism, fire and water, porn and confession.  It was a miserable existence, one that played havoc on my conscience and my spirit day in and day out.  For years I stayed there in the middle, bouncing back and forth, indulging in my flesh Monday through Saturday and then pleading for grace on Sunday.    

Fire and Water.  Hell and Baptism.  It’s a miserable way to live.

And the enemy of our souls wants to convince us that this is the place everyone else lives as well or that there is no other home but this.  He causes us to defend ourselves by comparing ourselves to others, minimizing our own sin while magnifying those of our neighbors.   When we get busy comparing ourselves to one another it’s easy to believe the lie that the Christian life is always one of hell and baptism, fire and water.

Steve Gallagher, in his book Living in Victory, describes this life between hell and baptism this way:

What is freedom, and what is bondage?  Many Christians try to have it both ways.  They want the freedom of living their own lives, inviting God’s presence on their terms, but never entering into the life of liberty in the Spirit that God intends for them.  Undeniably lukewarm, they possess the worst of both worlds.  They neither live in horrible, outward sin nor in the wedded bliss of the first love.  Since they love their lives in this world, they will not abandon their lives to Jesus.  Therefore, they do not really get to enjoy the pleasures of sin nor the glorious, overcoming life in the Spirit.  Instead, they live in a dismal, gray world which exists between the two extremes – all under the nice sounding title of “being balanced.”  The reality is they live in a spiritual ghetto (pg. 150).

If you are indulging in both habitual sin and religion, waffling back and forth between hell and baptism, then you are in this spiritual ghetto Gallagher describes.  You are what James called the “double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).

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The way out of hell is to always look to Jesus.   Paul says we ought to keep our mind on things above, not on things of the earth (Col. 3:2) and that our goal is to become mature in Christ, looking like him, not others (Eph. 4:13).   The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to “consider Jesus” and to “look to him” who is the “founder and perfecter” of our faith, so that we might not grow weary or fainthearted as we struggle against sin.  We have not, the author reminds us, resisted to the point of shedding blood like our Lord Jesus had (Heb. 12:1-6).

When I compare myself with others around me, and justify my behavior, desires or sins based on what others are doing then I will never change.   Jesus called this path the “broad way” and said many are on it, and it’s end is death and destruction (Matt. 7:13).   That way is the way of hell.   It is not difficult to find any number of enablers, both in and out of the church, who will tell you, “boys will be boys,” or “you aren’t hurting anyone.”   Worse yet, the devil will gladly tell you what you want to hear, causing you to be proud of yourself that your private sins of lust are not nearly as bad as the public sins of your peers.   This is the broad way that leads to hell.

But when I compare myself to Jesus, always looking to him rather than others, two truths come into better focus for me:

1.  How unlike him I am.

2.  How much I need him to change me from inside out.

When I compare myself to Jesus rather than the world around me I see how much and how often I fall short of the glory of God and deserve judgment while simultaneously, by the grace of God, can know His mercy and love.    That He who knew no sin would die for me who is full of sin is a game-changer.  As the beautiful hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” declares, seeing Jesus pours contempt on all my pride and this love so amazing, so divine, “demands my soul, my life, my all.”

If you find yourself falling into both fire and water, hell and baptism, then you must first repent of your lack of faith (Matt. 17:17) and believe that God desires you to be free from this sin, and has the ability to do it.  Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and this most certainly includes your enslavement to unholy desires and lusts.   You cannot compare yourself to others any longer but only with the holy, righteous, perfect Father in heaven who bought you with a price and therefore has rightful claim on how you use your body (1 Cor. 6:20).

There is no joy like the joy that comes with knowing that you know that you know that you are walking in purity and in holiness with Jesus Christ.   Yes, it will cost you much, and require a complete transformation of your mind (Rom. 12:1-2) and heart (John 3:7), but it is worth it!  Jesus did not die on a cross for you and I to live in a spiritual ghetto, bouncing between hell and baptism, fire and water, but so that you and I could be new creations (2 Cor. 5:17)!    He whom the Son has set free is truly and wonderfully free (John 8:36)!