Tag Archives: sexual sin

Two saying which have changed lives

After talking with a friend this morning I was reminded of two sayings – one a statement the other a question – which have changed my life and the lives of others who have been reading this blog for the past 2 years.   I think they deserve repeating, often.

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They are:

 

1. Jesus didn’t die to make your life better.  He died to make you new.   (2 Cor. 5:17).

2. Is this is a sin too great for Me (God) to deliver you from, or is it a pleasure too great for you to surrender?

Consider these two sayings carefully and their ramifications.

For more on both of these see…

God Wants to Make you New, Not Better

How Would you Answer this Question?

 

 

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Let’s Get Heavy!

I want to be very heavy.

I remember when I was giving over to sexual sin all the time I felt very light.  I did not have any real direction and could be swayed any which way with the slightest push.   The last book I read was always the best book, and anything novel, or new, was king.  When talking to others I was a yes-man, eager to have their approval and liking, even if I didn’t necessarily agree with what they were saying.   The compass of my life was always spinning, pointing in whatever direction my desires for that day led.   When talking with others I was not fully present but easily distracted and lifted away by the slightest breeze.

C.S. Lewis writes in his book, Weight of Glory,

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Another image of his comes to mind, I believe it’s from The Great Divorce, and I am sure I am not remembering it correctly but the word-picture I recall him painting of our bodies in heaven are such that they are heavy, or weighted, with holy desires and purpose.   On earth we were light and flighty, but in heaven we are solid and immovable.    We are full of the fullness of His glory.

An-Eternal-Weight-of-Glory

I believe God is preparing us to know such weightiness even now, and that we can know it in greater and greater degree, or from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18), as we pursue Christ and His holiness.   Paul writes,

So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…  (2 Cor. 4:16-17).

Like I said, I want to be heavy.  Don’t you?   I want this “eternal weight of glory” ever increasing in my inner-man, out-weighing day by day the outer-man which is wasting away.   I don’t want to be tossed to and fro by my fleshly desires which are too weak and fickle when compared to the incomparable glory of God and the treasures He has in store for those who will seek Him and His righteousness first, above all else.

The “momentary affliction” which we must all bear as our “outer-man” dies is worth it!    I pray that God will give you and I the strength we need for today to grow up in Him, and to bear the weight of His glory for the world to see.    Let’s get heavy!

 

That Could Still Be Me

Yesterday I received a phone call from someone I was involved with in my past.   It’s been nearly three years and this came as quite a shock.  I’m not sure how she found my number.   The conversation was short and one-sided. My side.   I told her that the person she thinks she is calling no longer exists and that she should never call or contact me again.   Ever.   And I hung up.   Later I told my wife all about it.   She figured this would happen sooner or later and hugged me and thanked me for telling her.  All is well at home.

The most haunting, frightful thought for me surrounding that phone call was this:  That could still be me.    Three years later this person is still seeking thrills over a phone line, consumed with lust and chained to fleshly desires.   It’s a living hell which I know all too well.   And but for the grace of God, that could still be me.  

Last night my wife and I gave thanks to God for this reminder of where we once were and where we are today.   Perhaps I was in need of a reminder of what God has saved me from and the ridiculousness of it all.   Because it really is, you know?    God made something so wonderful and yet millions of us settle for a cheaper, fake model.   We are fixated by pixels on a screen or a voice on a phone line or a stranger in a hotel.   AND NONE OF IT IS GOOD ENOUGH.    More is always desired and necessary and yet the itch never stops.   It’s absolutely ridiculous.   Yet at the same time it seems like the most powerful, intoxicating, necessary thing  and we can fathom nothing better, in heaven or earth.   Such is the pull and delusion of sin.  

Indeed, as Augustine said, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee, O God.

I was shaken by the thought that that could still be me.  Three years later I could still be a slave to my desires and passions, ruled by my flesh, no doubt divorced, alone, estranged from my kids and family, wanting nothing more than a cold pizza for breakfast and an internet connection.    That could still be me.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ Jesus broke the chains of the devil in my life and set my heart and mind free!   It is a wonderful thing to be able to say, “The man you seek no longer exists.”    God has made good on his promise to make a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17)!   The old has passed away, behold, the new has come !

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If you are where I was three years ago, and where she is still today, think about where your life will be three years from now if you continue on the path you are on.   All your best thinking has brought you to this point, and you have to admit it’s ridiculous and a mess.     Will you accept the offer of life that Jesus extends to you even now?    He loves you madly, and has gone to great lengths to prove this to you!   The fact that you are reading this now is a sign of His mercy on your life.    He is trying to break through the delusion of your sin and bring you to a place where you can, as though for the first time in your life, hear His words – pure words – afresh and new.      Matthew 4: 16 says,

For those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.

You have been there long enough, haven’t you?   Do you wish to be there still in three years?    It only gets darker and more hellish, my friend.

This morning during morning prayer time my wife and I prayed for that woman who called.   We prayed that God would flood her with need-filling mercy, that He would save her soul, that He would open her heart to receive the good news that Jesus more than satisfies and can do far more than we can even ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20).    It’s the same prayer we pray for you, dear reader, every day.    In three years time may you, too, be able to say, that could still be me, but thanks be to God, it is no longer I!

Are you on a Confession Cycle? Stop It!

A passage in James talks about the effectiveness of confession.   It reads,

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed (James 5:16).

There was a period of time, about 3 years, where I faithfully attended a 12 step group for sexual addicts.   Every week I would confess my faults to other men going through the same struggles, and I would hear their confessions, too.  At the end of each confession the group would respond with an appreciative, “Thanks, Chad.”   I felt good for getting it off my chest, and felt safe sharing my struggles with these men.   There is something liberating about not having secrets.

But I’ve come to learn that liberating is not the same as healing.    Being an addict as I was, I became rather fond of the intimacy shared with a group of other broken people, just like I was, who could share our faults openly without fear of rejection or correction.   I knew that I could confess my sins and hear, “Thanks, Chad,” every time.

cycleI talk to a lot of people these days who have grown addicted to the liberating effects of confession yet have not discovered the healing such confession is meant to bring.  They are stuck, it seems, on a “confession cycle,” forever spinning their wheels, confessing the same sin over and over and over and over again, never knowing victory.  Is that how life is supposed to be?    As a Christian, I can’t believe it is.   I cannot believe Jesus died on a cross and sent us the Holy Spirit just so that I could struggle forever with the same sin until I die or he returns.

Sure we will have struggles. Sure we will be tempted and sure there will be times we fall.   But for the person who is maturing in their faith shouldn’t there be more victories than defeats?  Shouldn’t the spiritual fruit of self-control (Gal. 5:23) become more and more evident in our lives?    Is it true that if we walk by the Spirit we will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16), or not?    Is it true that the reason Jesus came to live and die was to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), or not?

I am convinced the answer to all of those questions is YES.   Victory over the chains that have us enslaved is possible for every one of us!  God not only desires to set you free, but He has the power to do it.   But how?  How can you get off the Confession Cycle and start walking in victory over habitual sin?   James 5:16 directs us to at least two things:

1. Proper Confession.   James says that our confession is to lead to our healing (Confess your sins to one another…that you may be healed).   The word “healed” is the same word used through scripture for “cure” or “to make whole” or “to bring about one’s salvation.”   If we are not experiencing this through our confession it is not because God’s word has failed but because we are not properly confessing!     2 Cor. 7:10 reads,

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

If you are stuck on the confession cycle it may be because you have not yet experienced godly sorrow over your sin.  We have not yet seen that our sin is first and foremost an affront against a holy God.  We have not cried out like David, “Against You, and You only, have I sinned!”  (Psalm 51:4).   Rather, we are more concerned about our circumstances and the trouble our sin is causing our personal lives.

When we see our sin through God’s eyes we are filled with godly sorrow and our confession will lead to our healing.   Godly sorrow is not the same as feeling shame or guilt.   It’s a sense of being undone (Isa. 6:1-5). It is calling out with Paul, “Wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).   The answer comes no sooner than the confession rises from our heart:  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (7:25).

2. Righteous Prayer. The remainder of this verse on confession is often left out, yet it’s critical if you want to find healing.   James says that the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective.   James seems to expect that our confessions should involve someone who is solid in their faith and can point them in the right direction.  Who are you confessing to?  Is it someone you know to be righteous?  Are they striving to be holy?  Do they desire to be like Christ in all they say, do and think?  Has he or she experienced victory over sin?

12 Step programs are great in that they can connect you with a sponsor – a mentor of sorts – who can guide you through the steps, and who has some level of sobriety themselves.   While this is good, it is not best.   If you find yourself riding a  confession cycle I would encourage you to find a righteous person to walk beside you, who can pray for you and with you, and who will lead you to the only true source of lasting victory over sin: Jesus Christ.

The Confession Cycle is an exhausting, defeat-riddled existence to live.    It is not the life God has in mind for you.   He has given you His Spirit.   The same power that raised Christ from the grave is at work in you who believe (Eph. 1:19-20)!

Dear reader, God has so much more in store for His children than a defeated existence where we continually confess the same things over and over again.    Examine whether you are confessing properly and whether or not you have the right person or people around you who can pray in such a way the heavens open and all hell breaks loose!

Praying with and for you,

Chad

From Ashes to Beauty

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

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

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

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

The Two (Different) Types of God’s Love (and why it matters)

I am reading the great revivalist, Charles Finney’s, lectures about revival.   Finney lived and preached and prayed until his death in 1875, before which he led the Second Great Awakening, a revival that swept through America and saw hundreds of thousands come to know Christ.   It has been said of Finney that just the sight of him would cause people to fall to their knees and repent to God for having been in the presence of such a holy man.    His work continues to point people to Jesus today, including myself, as evidenced by the page dedicated on this blog to showcasing the pre-revival work he would require to be done, which changed my life when I did it myself.

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In my reading last night I came upon a couple phrases I was unfamiliar with in large part because Finney is writing in the 19th century and the meanings of words often change.    He was talking about the “love of complacency” and “disinterested benevolence” and in the context they both sounded like good things, though different.    After Googling it I found a great article that explains all of it in great detail (and it’s worth reading!).    At the risk of messing it up, Finney distinguishes between 2  types of love God has for us.  One is a selfless love of “benevolence” which seeks to see the whole world saved.   It’s the sort of love which compelled God to send His Son into the world.   The other, however is a love God has reserved for those who walk in righteousness, who strive to walk holy, as He is holy.    This is the love of “complacency” or, in 21st century language, “approval” and “friendship.”    Jesus said, “You are my friends if you obey my commands” (John 15:14).

This distinction – between the general benevolence of God to all and the particular love of God towards some – rocked my world a few years ago and was the thing I fought against most in my transformation.    My sin blinded me to God’s holiness for so many years that it became necessary, and easy, to believe the love of God was uniform and universal, in spite of my sin.   I remember saying in an interview once, “If God has loved and saved me, and knowing the mess I am, then surely everyone must be loved and saved!”   How I presumed upon God’s love!  I was guilty of the charge Paul lays out in Romans 2:4ff…

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

I was silenced, shut-up, by God’s word.   The only way out was for me to confess that I did not truly love God with the love of “complacency” but merely one of “benevolence.”  I was not truly known by God as a friend, but only in a general sense, in the same way God loves all the world.    When I confessed this  – when the truth became clear to me – my heart’s cry then and still today is that I would be known and loved by God as a friend!   And what a joy it is to know God as friend!

When you come to know this particular love of God reserved for His friends you know what it means to walk in the Spirit rather than the flesh.   You begin to see the difference between a walk that was enabled by God’s kindness, which was for the purpose of leading you to true repentance, and a walk that is empowered by God’s Holy Spirit, which is reserved for the “children of God.”   And this is not a spirit of fear, but one of adoption, by whom we are able to cry out “Daddy!  Father!” (see Rom. 8:9, 13-17), and through Whom we are able to crucify the flesh, live free from the sin that has enslaved us, and be used by God as instruments of righteousness (see Rom. 6:5-14).

Below are the concluding remarks from the article I referenced above about Finney.    I recommend reading it in it’s entirety, but here is a snippet:

It is the grand truth in the study of God, that “God is love”(1John 4:8). And, anyone who professes to know God, while walking disobediently, exhibits neither disinterested benevolence nor the love of complacency toward God or man. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His Commandments: and His Commandments are not grievous” (5:3). The essential or fundamental difference between disinterested benevolence and the love of complacency, is that disinterested benevolence is owed to all without regard to character, i.e., “For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life”(John 3:16), while the love of complacency is due only those who are holy or lovingly obedient, i.e., “He that hath My Commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him”(14:21).

The danger of confusing these terms that Charles G. Finney labored his life to teach the Philadelphian Church of the 1800’s, is that:

(1) The Ungodly will claim that, if the God who is love died for the world, then all men will be universally saved, e.g., Universalism. But, that would be to neglect the paramount truth that only those who “believe on the LORD Jesus Christ” shall “be saved”(Acts 16:31), because that only is the “faith which worketh by love”(Galatians 5:6).

(2) The Backslidden will maintain that obedience to the Moral Law is not only unnecessary for salvation, and that, outright disobedience to the same Moral Law does not separate us from the love of God. “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear”(Isaiah 59:2). It would be the same as if they advocated that it is unnecessary to love God with all your heart– as demanded by the Moral Law (Matthew 22:36-40)– in order to be saved, i.e., “But if any man love God, the same is known of Him”(1Corinthians 8:3). Further, they would be purposely obscuring the fact that “whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not”(1John 3:6), and that “if we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the Truth”(1:6). And,

(3) The Honest But Ignorant Saints will become so confused by an improper understanding of the love of God, that they will often find themselves falling back into sin, making little headway in their Christian walk, while finding their pace to be much like the Laodicean Church around them. “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the Oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat”(Hebrews 5:12).