Tag Archives: sex addiction

The Walking Dead and Step Ten

I came to The Walking Dead late in the game but became a fan almost immediately.  Beyond the zombie lore there is a story consisting of compelling characters struggling against good and evil in both the new world around them and the one within them.  Rick, the main character, is the leader of a group of survivors who for five seasons have been battling it out against both the walking dead (zombies) and the living who are in some ways even more deadly, all while trying to maintain some sense of decency and connection to the values by which they were once governed.

By the time we get to the current season five, the group is battle hardened.  They have been tested at every turn and have grown wise to the ways of this new world.  In episode 12 of this season they arrive at a camp called Alexandria which from all appearances looks like an oasis, nearly untouched by the death around it.  Walls protect a town of citizens who have running water and electricity and a budding form of government.  The people of Alexandria have jobs and they throw house parties and they discuss what sort of food they should bake for their new neighbors.  It’s a very different world than the one Rick and his gang have known for the past few years.   It’s one they longed to find for themselves, but now that they are in it, the question posed to us viewers is how well can they adapt and live normal lives after being part of so much death?

At the end of episode 12, Carol, Rick and Daryl look out from the porch of their new home and bring voice to their growing concern about this seeming paradise:  What if we grow weak here?  What if we drop our guard?  It’s at this point that my recovery antenna began beeping and I was willing Rick to quote the scripture passage that corresponds with Step Ten:

Therefore, let anyone who thinks that they stand take heed lest they fall (1 Cor. 10:12).

He didn’t. Instead, he assured the others that they would not grow soft, that they had been through too much to go back.  If by this Rick means that they will rely on what they have learned thus far and practice the tools which have kept them alive, I couldn’t agree more.   But if he means what far too many of us in recovery often think, that they will never grow soft merely because they have been through so much already, then they, like every addict in recovery, are setting themselves up for a great fall.

Step 10 says that we “continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”  Combined with it’s scriptural component, quoted above, it is the step we must never skip nor cease stepping.  It encourages us to stay vigilant, to always keep watch, and to never forget that sin, like the walking dead, is always crouching at the door with a burning desire to consume us, and we must learn to master it (Gen. 4:7).

Every person who has ever been sober for a good length of time and then relapsed will no doubt testify that the days and weeks leading up to their relapse were less than vigilant.  The routine that had gotten them sober was somehow disrupted.  The fellowship between they and God was somehow strained.   Devotion time and prayer time waned.   If you have ever relapsed think back on the days leading up to it.  Had you grown comfortable in your sobriety?   Maybe you started letting things in which before you had cut off?

When we grow comfortable in our new found paradise called Sobriety we open ourselves to the walking dead who haven’t stopped being hungry. 

12Steps.org has this to say about Step 10:

Step 10 begins laying the foundation for the rest of my life. It is a pledge to continually monitor my life with honesty and humility. It requires me to be vigilant against my addictive behavior and against the triggers for my addictive behavior. It requires me to be humble before my God who can keep me from my addictive behavior if I have the right attitude. It requires me to deal with my defects promptly when they arise and not to let them linger in my life.

How can we practice Step 10 in our lives?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Practice what got you here.   Continue the daily disciplines that you did when you were first getting sober.  If you have stopped these at some point pick them up again.  If you feel it’s time to alter them in any way, talk it over with a sponsor or mentor first.
  • Begin every day with prayer.  Turn your will and your life over to the care of God for today.   It doesn’t matter that you did this yesterday.  Jesus said we need to take up our cross daily.  We need to daily put to death our willful selves and surrender each morning to the life God wants to work in us.  We can’t do even one day alone.
  • End each day by examining where you were dishonest, what secrets you may be keeping, what wrongs you have committed.   Who were you unkind to or where did you puff yourself up or look at others as less significant than yourself?  Ask God to bring to light anything that you need to bring under the blood of Jesus and go to bed with a pure heart and clear conscious.
  • Clean house.   When you first got sober you no doubt cleaned yourself and your environment of your drug of choice.  If porn and sex is your thing, you probably limited your cable TV (or better yet, cut it out completely), monitored your music, kept clear of certain hot spots, installed filters and accountability software on all your devices, unsubscribed to any magazines or books which have suggestive material in them, etc.  Beware of creep.  Creep is when these things which you once were convinced needed to go begin to creep back into your life.   It’s human nature to think we are doing great so now we can slack off and watch a show or two which before we would never consider.   Remember, sin is crouching at the door!  The Walking Dead are still hungry.

These are just a few suggestions based on personal experience.   Please add your own suggestions in the comments.

I don’t know what is in store for Rick and his group in Alexandria but I do know that unless they, and we, remain vigilant and keep walking the walls to ensure there hasn’t been a breach, we are setting ourselves up for relapse.  So to the question, what if we grow soft and let our guard down?  May we be resolved to answer like Rick:  We aren’t going to let that happen.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

So you went to the altar and your life didn’t change? Welcome to the club

I have heard it from others nearly as many times as I have lived it myself:

I went to the altar and asked God to take away my addiction to pornography (or insert any other compulsive behavior) but when I woke up Monday nothing changed.  Why won’t God heal me?

For many, many years I walked that dusty road between the pews and knelt at the altar, confessing my sins from the past week and pleading with God to take my affliction away.   And for many, many years I woke up Monday wondering why God hadn’t answered my prayer.

This cycle went on for nearly 2 decades until another godly man who had been down the same road I was on and was now living a victorious Christian life told me the hard truth I needed to hear.  I’m not sure if I had heard this prior to his entrance into my life or not.  Perhaps I had but simply was not ready to receive it.  Sometimes truth falls like seeds onto rocky ground and just lays there.  Sometimes it takes a great upheaval – like the loss of everything in my life – for that rocky, fallow ground to be broken up just enough for that seed to take root.   In any event, I was finally ready to hear from this man what I’m about to share with you now. He said,

Your kneeling at the altar is not the end of the fight but the beginning.  It is to say I am powerless to do this on my own but I am choosing to trust that Jesus will be fighting alongside me as I pass from death into life.   And anytime you are being reborn it’s going to be painful.  It’s going to be a fight.  Welcome to the club.

The “club” is real, vital Christianity as opposed to the passive, vapid religion I had long been living.   For far too long I had been under the delusion that if God really wanted me to be free from sexual sin He would set me free.   It was as though I expected some magic wand to tap me on the heart and take away all the compulsive tendencies.  That I would wake up Monday free from lustful thoughts and impulses.

But that never happened.  At least not for me.   I rejoice with those who experience such radical transformation overnight but my experience, and the experience of most people I meet, is that it’s not so instantaneous.

But it’s every bit as radical.

It’s radical if you understand the truth I shared above.  It’s radical if you change from seeing yourself at the altar as some passive consumer coming to be magically delivered and see yourself instead as a broken man or woman kneeling before your king to be knighted, and rising thereafter to enter the war from which you have long been absent or oblivious to.  

Monday is not the day to wake up expecting to be free from impure thoughts but the day to rise up and don your helmet and go to war, fighting for the first time on the right side of the battle, knowing you have beside you the one who already conquered sin and death.

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Turning your life over to God doesn’t mean you wake up the next day and your addiction is gone. It just means you pass from being dead to waking up in a UFC cage match. It means you finally enter the fight. It’s going to be a battle but one you don’t fight alone.

One of the first and greatest Christian thinkers in history, Augustine, is also known as the patron saint of sex addicts.  He struggled mightily with lust as he was coming to know Jesus.   In his book, Confessions, he describes well this battle to which our trip to the alter enlists us:

The enemy held fast my will, making it a chain with which he bound me tight.  Out of my perverse will came lust, and the service of lust ended in habit, and habit, not resisted, became necessity.  By these links, which is why I called it “a chain,” hard bondage held me in slavery.  My new will, which had begun to spring up in me freely to worship You and to enjoy You, O my God, the only certain Joy, was not yet able to overcome my former willfulness, made strong by long indulgence.  Therefore, my two wills – the old and the new, the carnal and the spiritual – raged in conflict within me.  They tore my soul apart by their dispute.  (Confessions, Book 8).

In a few deft lines, Augustine brilliantly captures the hell of addiction.   What we have for so long been indulging becomes our master, and when we kneel before a new Master, Jesus, our freedom from the former life will not come without great struggle and sacrifice.   Being reborn is painful, and cannot be done alone.

So, when you went to the altar your life didn’t immediately change.  I am by no means saying you should not continue to make that trek to kneel before your king.  Do it daily, in fact.  Do it until – and even beyond – the truth of what you’ve read here, and the grace of Almighty God, explodes the rocky ground of your heart and you rise up finally willing to enter the fight that many of us, and all of heaven, have been waiting for you to fight.   Remember, you don’t fight alone.

Welcome to the club.

Denial – That a power greater than myself can love me.

Recovery at Cokesbury is the parent site of the recovery ministry we are launching here in Dayton, TN.   They do an awesome job of introducing people to the transformative power of the gospel.   Last night I got to do the weekly teaching as part of a series called “Molehills.”  This one is about DENIAL and the power of Jesus Christ to make us new, not just better.   I pray this blesses you and gives you hope for a new future.  The music at the beginning and throughout rocks, but if you just want the message it begins at 32:30.

Recovery @ Cokesbury 9-25-14 from Cokesbury UMC on Vimeo.

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.

 

 

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).

hole-deep

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)!

Keep It Simple, Stupid

They were both very passionate about their position, this fact made obvious by the increasing volume with which they both argued their point and the speed with which they cut the other off in order to insert a new point.   I sat on the couch nearby, forbidden to enter the fray, and for perhaps the first time ever, felt grateful for being so restricted.    The discussion was over the rapture – when it might happen, who would be around before and after, and how world events were playing into the hands of biblical prophecy.  Behind closed eye-lids I rolled my eyes and to this day, 2 years later, can remember but one piercing thought:

Despite such passionate convictions on secondary issues like this and many others, all of us here have one thing in common: We are here, in “rehab” for sexual addiction, and therefore all of our theological posturing sounds stupid.    You may be right about the rapture, but if you are addicted to pornography or serial adultery (or any other habitual sin), those arguments aren’t doing you any favors now, nor will they in the future.

When I arrived at Pure Life, the director of counseling discerned exactly how I needed to be handled and issued a gag order on me with regards to talking theology.   I wasn’t allowed to enter into any theological discussions while a student there in large part because he discerned such discussions fed my pride.   He was right.  He was also right about the other part:  such discussions concealed a wicked heart, making me feel I was “good” simply because I talked about God a lot.

What I really needed was a return to the simplicity of the gospel.  I needed to get back to the basics.   I needed to return to the cross.

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).

It is so easy to be distracted by issues and soap boxes and theologies.    It is so easy to get mesmerized by the dust kicked up around us by our words and blogs and comments and arguments and before we know it we believe being a Christian is about proving ourselves and our beliefs as “right” over and against others.

All of this stinks of pride, and it’s repugnant to God (Prov. 16:5).

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I am grateful for men like Billy Graham, who turned 95 yesterday, and for decades of ministry stuck to the simple, clear, clarion call of the gospel: Repent and believe in Jesus and be saved from your sins.    The cross is where the blood of Jesus was made available to destroy the works of sin and death in us, and without that sacrifice and our trust in Jesus we will remain lost.

Every time I find myself wanting to argue about this or that, or chase some rabbit trail about secondary matters, or let someone on social media know what I think, I am doing well when I bite my tongue and remember to keep it simple, stupid.   Anything pulling me away from the cross is nothing but a distraction from what really matters, and what will truly transform my life and the lives of others.

Lord, keep me simple and focused.   Amen.

Tell Her Everything, Then Tell Her Nothing

This post is a follow-up to the last one which asked “Are you REALLY “struggling” against Habitual Sin?”    Recent events have convinced me that it’s time to be real about the sins that are killing us and hurting others, and my wife and I pray these posts will encourage you, challenge you, and give you hope for a future in Christ, and therefore in freedom.   

When you are ready to confess your sins to your spouse there are two things you need to know and do.

1.  Tell her everything 

Before we get to the specifics let me address a common question asked:   Do I have to tell her?   Yes.   You have been using your body in ways that suggest it is your own, and it is not.   If you are a Christian, your body belongs to God (1 Cor. 6:19-20) and if you are married, it additionally belongs to your spouse (1 Cor. 7:4).   When you are involved in sexual sin, whether online or otherwise, you are both desecrating the temple in which God dwells (your body) and depriving your spouse of a right that belongs solely to him or her.    So yes, you must tell your spouse, and you must tell her everything.

Everything inside of you will want to minimize.   Don’t do this.   You will be tempted to scale back what you have actually done.   And you will do this under the delusion that you are being noble and kind, sparing your fragile wife from pain she can not handle.  

Don’t do that.  It’s not for you to decide what your wife can handle.  You forfeited that right when you started looking at things you shouldn’t be looking at, and touching things you shouldn’t be touching.

This means instead of telling her you simply look at porn “every now and then” you tell her the truth, which is more like, “I look at it every chance I get, and when I’m not, I am thinking about when I can.”   Instead of telling her that you have been with one woman but only briefly and it meant nothing, you tell her the truth, which is more like, “I’ve been with 9, and I had feelings for one.”

My wife puts it this way:

When you first reveal your sin, it’s like cutting her heart with a knife.  It’s incredibly painful.   During this time you (the betrayed spouse) wonder if you can ever trust again.   When later, it is discovered that there is more involved, that you only got part of the story, it’s like taking that wound and pouring salt into it, and the question of whether or not I can ever trust again is magnified 100 fold.

And be sure of this, the whole truth will come out.   Jesus promised this…

Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.  Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops (Luke 12:2-3)

I have proven this to be true countless times!  So tell your spouse everything.  To stop short here only defrauds the entire process, making a sham of repentance and thus closing off the power of God to restore what your sin has broken.

2. Tell her nothing

After you have confessed everything, offer no excuse.   Do not attempt to rationalize what you have done, minimize it, or justify it.   You have basically three responses from now on:

I’m so very sorry, and, You’re right, and, I love you.

sorry

Whether or not you are truly broken over your sin will be evident by how willing you are to bear the pain, the shock, the hurt-filled and angry words that your spouse is about to unload on you, not just after the initial confession but for days, weeks, months and perhaps years to come.   Yes, it gets better, but how better it gets and how quickly it gets there is determined in large part by whether you are experiencing godly sorrow over your sin or just worldly sorrow (see 2 Cor. 7:10).  Godly sorrow reckons with the fact that your sin has been against both your wife AND God, and you are desperate to make amends because you desire nothing more than to be in fellowship with Christ.   As such, you will look like Christ who bore your sins without uttering a word, without defending himself, but became a meek and lowly lamb.    This is the posture of the truly repentant.   If you are merely worldly sorrowful, then you are really only sorry that you have been found out and that which you truly love (your sin) cannot be indulged in any longer (at least not for now). You can be assured that you will be back in the pig sty before long.

How do you know if you have godly sorrow vs. worldly sorrow?   It’s easy:  You won’t care what becomes of your life from here on out, so long as you have Jesus.   You won’t care if the entire world crumbles around you, that you have to give up your plans for the future, or that you have to even die for your sins, so long as you can be made righteous.  You will want so badly to bear your wife’s pain and suffering that you will take any abuse that might come your way, no matter how she might respond (yes, even if she responds in kind in order to “get even”), because you own the fact that your sins have brought this upon your house, and now you must make restitution.

So you tell her nothing, apart from I’m sorry, I love you, you are right, and so on.

Do these 2 things.  And may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Stay tuned for how to win back his/her trust.

Are you REALLY “struggling” against habitual sin?

Very upset and angry tonight at the havoc sin wrecks in not just the lives of the one committing it, but in the lives of all who love them. In the last 2 days I’ve spoken with four men, two of whom I’m very close to, whose sexual sin has come to light and devastated wives and children.

Men, it’s not worth it. Believe me. If you are looking at things you shouldn’t be looking at, stop. Now.

That was my Facebook status late last night.   I am still feeling it today.  All day long I have been upset, not at the friends of mine who have done some very foolish, stupid things, but at the insidiousness of sin, sexual sin in particular, and the ways in which we allow it to win.   Every where I look it seems to be winning.   And I’m angry.

So the next few posts will unapologeticly come from such a place of anger towards sin.   I’m going to shoot straight with you, and I hope you will shoot straight with someone in your life who takes seriously the effects of sin but even more importantly, believes that it can be defeated.

SIN DOES NOT NEED TO WIN!    If you are in Christ, you are more than conquerors (Rom. 8:37).  Jesus lived and died to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).   So please, pay attention.   God does not want you addicted but free.   Completely, totally, 100% FREE!

So here I want to address a common theme I see in people I counsel and definitely saw in myself a few years ago.   It’s the idea of “struggle.”   People say all the time that they “struggle” with this or that.    “I struggle with pornography” or “I struggle with food” or “I struggle with drinking,” and so forth and so forth.

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But after digging a bit deeper it’s discovered there is no “struggle” at all.   Or at least very little of one.   What is often meant by “struggle” is that they feel an impulse to do something and it weighs on them heavily for awhile until they actually give in and do the thing that’s consuming their thoughts.    They assume that by having this impulse they don’t really want to have and wish would just magically go away is the struggle!   But nothing could be further from the truth!

Struggle, by definition, means to “contend with an opposing force.”    Another definition, which I like a lot, is,

To advance with violent effort.

Pause for just a moment and ask yourself:  Am I advancing in my battle against habitual sin with “violent effort”?

If you find yourself giving over time and time again to the same impulses, then you cannot say of yourself that you are “struggling against pornography (or whatever).”    You are not struggling, and any attempts to convince yourself or others that you are is merely the delusion your sin has brought you under.

The writer of Hebrews reminds those of us who would say we are struggling that,

 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (Heb. 12:4).

In the verse prior we are called to consider the one who did, Jesus, who bore the scorn of sinners like you and I, therefore we should not grow weary in our fight – our violent effort – to be holy.

Let me close with a personal story I’ve shared with others I counsel about sexual sin.     When I was working at Amazon while at Pure Life I would often see adult material pass through the lines where I worked.   Early on in my time there I found this to be a huge problem.   It wouldn’t take but a glimpse of something and my mind would begin racing, conjuring up all sorts of things I wanted to forget.   At first I didn’t struggle much at all and gave in.   But with each passing week, as I endeavored to chase after God with all my soul, strength, and mind, I began to notice something.   I began to truly struggle.

I began to pray hard – ALL DAY LONG.    When the impulse entered my mind I recognized it for what it was – an attack of the enemy – and I prayed, and prayed, and prayed.   I began shouting worship songs in my mind to myself.  If necessary I would sing out loud in the middle of my work space.   I would pray incessantly that God would have mercy on me, a sinner, and help me to hate my sin the way He does.   I would not stop this inner dialog until I had victory and had peace in my mind and soul.   And sometimes that took ALL DAY.   Sometimes I did not have peace until I went to bed.

BUT I HAD VICTORY.

The next day it would come at me again, and I would struggle.  I would fight.  I would put forth violent effort against the enemy of my soul and press into Jesus Christ with every ounce of my being.   My flesh cried out, my desires flared up, but I would struggle, and fight, and kick and scream because I knew my very life depended on it, and so did the lives of so many others.

And most importantly, because Jesus deserved my blood, sweat and tears.    

I can testify that the struggle gets easier, as your spiritual muscles get stronger.   There were many nights I went to bed mentally and emotionally exhausted from fighting all day long, but how sweet the victory is!    I am testifying to you today that I haven’t had to fight like that in over 18 months.   The devil has lost his grip on me in this regard, and I am a free man.   You can be, too.

Have you struggled against your sin to the point of shedding blood?   If not, then you haven’t really even entered the battle.  Don’t sit on the sidelines.   Stop fooling around with sin.  It will cost you everything.

Praying with and for you,

Chad

For more on what God had delivered me from, please read my testimony HERE

God’s Will For Your Life is not Addiction but Sanctification

It might surprise you to know that God has described quite plainly what His will is for you and I.    In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 we read,

For this is the will of God, your sanctification:

God’s will, or desire, is your sanctification, or holiness.   Or, to put it another way, God wants us to look and act like Jesus. 

sanctiffy

Broadly speaking that is what sanctification is: to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29).   In this letter to the Thessalonians, however, Paul goes into some detail about what this sanctification looks like.   He says that a person becoming more like Jesus will be someone who

  • abstains from sexual immorality, (4:3)
  • will know how to control his or her own body, and (4:4)
  • will not be controlled by lust like those who do not know God (4:5)

It follows, then, that the person who is sexually immoral, cannot control his or her own body and is controlled by their lusts (desires) is not conforming to the image of Jesus Christ and therefore outside of God’s will for their lives.   Paul goes on to say in this same passage that God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness, and therefore

whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you (1 Thess. 4:7-8)

There was a time in my life where I was enslaved to the desires of my body.  I could not say “no” to what my eyes wanted nor to what my heart desired.   I would wake up each morning hoping that today would be a “sober” day but deep in my heart I knew that it most likely would not.   If the opportunity presented itself for me to act out in some way I knew resistance was futile.

What kept me from finding real freedom for so many years was in large part due to my acceptance of the lie that I suffered from an addiction.    I bought into the wisdom of this world which convinced me that I was an addict and if I would accept this, I could find ways to manage that addiction through programs of recovery.    But I would always be an addict.  Sobriety became the goal of my life, and my identity was wrapped up in what I was running from.    “Hi, my name is Chad, a sex addict.”

The reason this sounds so right is because it’s partly true.   I was an addict.  But it wasn’t to pornography or sex or anything else.   It was to sin.   I was addicted to myself.   The Scriptures speak to this in Ephesians, where Paul describes those like myself who walk (read:  have a lifestyle) in the “futility of their minds.”   Such people are darkened in their understanding and have been “alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”   He writes,

They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity  (Eph. 4:17-19).

That was me.   Here Paul describes everyone who is addicted to something.  We are addicted to sin, and we love the darkness more than light (John 3:19).

No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.

But I am a pastor!  I spent 7 years of my life in theological training!  I adopted 2 children!  I visited the sick and fed the hungry!    Surely my addiction to pornography is not that big a deal to God, right?    How easy it is to convince ourselves that our good deeds will in some way cover up the unholy lives we live in private.   I was, at my core, a “worker of lawlessness” and though I said, “Lord, Lord,” I had no right to lay claim on Jesus, nor to expect he would claim me as his own (Matt. 7:21-23).

Realizing my plight – that my addiction is sin, and sin separates me from God – was the beginning of freedom.    Realizing I was not a good person who sometimes does bad things but a worker of lawlessness, ignorant of the things of God and greedy to practice every kind of impurity opened me up to receive grace.  Not the mushy sort of grace that is so often sold to us today but the rugged, transforming, powerful grace of God which was in Christ, who “destroyed the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

The glory of this revelation is this:  God’s will for us is that we be holy.  God’s desire for us is that we be freed from our enslavement to the desires of our flesh and walk in newness of life.   “For everyone who has been born of God,” says John, “overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4).    Jesus did not die on a cross so that you and I can be maligned by an addiction for the rest of our earthly lives but so that we, broken people, might become saints and manifest the glory of God in our bodies thereby showing a disbelieving world that God has in fact defeated sin and death.

The introduction of children of God should never begin with “Hi, my name is ___________, a ____________ addict,” but with “Hi, my name is _____________, a new creation!”  (2 Cor. 5:17).

The degree to which we self-identify with the former vs. the latter is perhaps the degree to which we doubt God’s will for us is our sanctification, or that it could possibly take place here, today.    By the powerful, rugged, transforming grace of God I can say I have been set free from an addiction to sin and empowered by God’s Spirit to be made holy.  I still have a long way to go, but I see now how I wasn’t even getting off the starting block when I was unable to say “no” to my desires.    If God can do that for me, I know He can, and desires, to do it for you, too.

His will for your life is your sanctification.  Thanks be to God.

 

Postscript:  An important read by Steve Gallagher, founder of Pure Life, distinguishing the difference between the person who is truly wrestling with habitual sin vs. the one who just gives over time and time again:  How Can I Be Saved And Still Be Doing This?

Also, by Kevin Watson: What Does the Bible Say About Sanctification?

 

 

The Sin of Self-Gratification: Taking on the “M” Word (Part II)

Introduction: In the second part of this series I intended to outline some practical ways you can break free from the sin of self-gratification, particularly if this is a habitual problem for you.  However, as I got to writing I felt God leading me back to the issue of the heart, for that is where it all begins and ends.   Before we can even think about the “hows” of freedom we must reckon with the Why and the Way.   Both are the same:  Jesus.    Thus, the “hows” will come in part III and IV.    What follows here will sound harsh and heavy to some and salve and grace to others.   I know that when I was in the depths of my sin, which I called an addiction, I took offense to those who shot straight with me.   Looking back, I can see it was God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit drawing me.   My pride blinded me to it all, however, until I lost it all.    I don’t want you to have to lose everything before you wake up to real dangers of the fire you are playing with and the distance it has and will put between you and God.   I pray that God would use my offering here to draw us all closer to Himself.

In the first part (read HERE) I attempted to explain that this is first and foremost a matter of the heart.   If you are stuck in a cycle of self-gratification (masturbation) you won’t have real freedom until you lay down all your excuses and rationalizations for doing it and reckon it for what it is:  sin.   You must come to a similar place as King David in Psalm 51 who cried out,

Against you [God], you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment (51:4)

Without first repenting, the road towards holiness, which is God’s will for your life (1 Thess. 4:3), cannot begin.    Let me say a word here about what repentance is NOT.

Repentance is not being sorry that your life is a mess because of your mistakes.   For many years I cried out to God to help me stop doing the things I was doing but my motives were selfish.    I was sorry that I got caught or sorry over how all this made me look to others or sorry that others were upset and disappointed in me.   I was fearful that I might lose my family, my job, that someone “important” might find out, and even sorry that my work in ministry, which I took great pride in, might be hampered by my sinful choices made in secret.

I have found that many Christians, particularly those in some form of ministry (self included), want freedom from their addiction to pornography or self-gratification because they sense that it is preventing them from being all that they could be in their vocation.   This is not repentance but spiritual pride.     A great example of this is found in Acts 8 with the story of Simon the Magician.   Simon became a Christian and desired to be great in the work of the church.   When he saw the power the apostles had to impart the Holy Spirit he craved it for himself.  He wanted to be used mightily by God!   Who doesn’t, right?   But Peter’s admonition is sobering to all of us who desire to be great in our ministries:

You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you (Acts 8:21-22).

Friends, if you desire freedom from your addictions or hang-ups so that you can be a better pastor, youth leader, worship leader, Sunday school teacher, husband, wife, parent, friend – whatever – then your heart is not right before God, nor are your intentions.   Freedom comes only when we see ourselves in the pure light of God’s holiness and desire nothing more or less than to be in fellowship with him.   When we realize that without holiness we will not see the Lord (Heb. 12:14) we are on the path of godly sorrow which leads to life rather than our selfish worldly sorrow which brings only death ( 2 Cor. 7:10).

When I realized this about myself it changed the way I pray.  No longer do I pray as I once did, asking God to increase my ministry or make me useful or even great in His kingdom.   Instead, my constant heart’s cry is that I might know Him more fully, intimately and truly.   And not only that I would know Him, but that He would know me.    That I would be counted among his friends.   Jesus said his friends are those who obey him (John 15:14).   I want to be Jesus’ friend!   Do you?

God’s word declares that those who are “in Christ” have had their flesh crucified with Jesus and are raised again to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).   Paul goes on to say in that same chapter that those who have been united with Jesus in his death have been set free from sin.   Therefore, “let not sin reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Rom. 6:6,12).   He concludes,

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (6:13-14)

Romans-6

Sin will have no dominion over you!   This is GOOD NEWS!    Jesus didn’t die on the cross for you and I just to make us better, more well-adjusted people in the midst of a fallen world.   He died to destroy the works of the devil and to make you and I into NEW creations!  (2 Cor. 5:17).    The extent to which we are not walking in this newness of life and freedom from sin is not because God’s word has failed but because we refuse to die.   Our pride tells us we are just fine with God and God is just fine with us.  We sing “I Am a Friend of God,” convincing ourselves that if we sing it enough it must be true while lacking the self-control and the obedience that comes from being crucified with Christ and alive in His Spirit.

The reason I am spending so much time on this, even at the risk of coming across as harsh, is because I would still be dead in my sin if it weren’t for people speaking hard truth into my life.   I assume most of my audience here are church-going people who have convinced themselves over time that their life with God is an 8 on a scale of 1-10 but would be a 10 if they could just rid themselves of this “one little problem.”     I know this because I said the  same thing for over 20 years!   It wasn’t until God’s word pierced my heart and showed me that my so-called “righteousness” was nothing but filthy rags so long as I justified my lust as an addiction I was saddled with as opposed to sin which Christ died for.

But upon seeing it for what it truly is – sin – the remedy became a reality in my life.   Not overnight.   There is a phasing out period that many will experience.   But the bondage will be gone.  No longer will you feel as though you cannot say no when temptation strikes but you will find that you have a real choice in the matter: to obey or not.   It is the Spirit of God at work within you, causing you to will and to do His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).   As we learn how to put off the “old man” and put on the “new” we will find that there is great joy in obedience and great freedom in holiness.

I hope you’ll join me for the next post as we examine practical ways we can put off the old and put on the new.