Tag Archives: Steve Gallagher

The one thing needed for real, lasting change

In just a few hours I’m leaving for a 3 day Sexual Integrity Leaders Summit in Atlanta.  I’m looking forward to this conference which boasts the following goal:

The Holy Spirit is moving to take back ground in defining holy sexuality. Join with others passionate about intentionally addressing issues, concerns, and questions related to sexual wholeness, sexual integrity, and finding freedom in Christ. Get equipped with the tools and resources you need.

This conference comes on the heels of me and my wife attending the Pure Life Ministries annual conference which proved to be a powerful encounter with the Lord.   Over this past week I have been reading Steve Gallagher’s book, A Biblical Guide to Counseling the Sexual Addictwhich has helped to reaffirm the reality of my own experience in dealing with habitual sexual sin:  The best medicine is Jesus.

I sometimes get this upside down.   Sometimes I will convince myself that there are other solutions to my problem besides Jesus.  For instance, sometimes I get to thinking that the best medicine is the group of men I meet with weekly in SAA.  Or I get to thinking the best medicine is working the 12 steps, or making more phone calls, or reading more recovery literature or going for a run.

The truth is, all of these are good things, but not the best thing.   In my experience, the only times I have known profound, lasting victory is when I submitted to Jesus and his ways of healing my sinful, broken heart.

Gallagher reminds me that the medicine Jesus prescribes is repentance.   Repentance is the precursor for real, lasting change for anyone caught in habitual sin (sexual or otherwise).   This repentance must come from godly sorrow over our sin as opposed to worldly sorrow over having gotten caught (or having hurt someone we love.  See 2 Cor. 7:10).

I want to close this out by sharing what Gallagher’s lists as the four basic components to receiving this medicine which Jesus offers to each and every one of us who will place their trust in him.    You can find these on pages 40-41 in the book referenced above.

  1. Poverty of spirit:  seeing one’s need to change and coming to the realization that he cannot accomplish this change without the power of God.
  2. Mourning over sin: as the person begins to face the ugliness of his behavior, he becomes broken over it.
  3. Submission to God: as the sin in one’s heart is exposed, true repentance occurs. Self-will is replaced by submission to God’s authority.
  4. Fruits of repentance: as God is allowed to conquer the man’s heart, a change occurs which becomes evident in the way he lives his life.

Gallagher concludes,

It is vital that you, as counselor, lead the man out of habitual sin and into this kind of genuine repentance.  He cannot conjure up this experience for himself.  He must seek God for it.  The counselor’s role in helping the counselee see his need for a radical inward transformation and praying that he receives it.

Praying with and for you.  Pray for me as I am at this conference this weekend!

Grace and peace,
Chad

You find what you focus on

My kids and I play a game when in the car called Skittle Punch Bug.  It’s a game where you get a point for being the first to spot a yellow car and shout out, “Skittle!” or two points if you first spot the coveted yellow VW Bug.    One day while we were playing, one of my boys remarked that there seems to be more yellow cars around when we play Skittle than when we don’t.   To which my wife replied,

That’s because you are looking for them.  You tend to find what you focus on.

We tend to find what we focus on.  I’ve been chewing on this for the past week while I have been reading through the Gospel of John along with two other books:  When I Saw Him by Roy Hession and Living in Victory by Steve Gallagher.

John 5 contains one of the greatest questions in all of literature.   It’s the story of the paralytic man who for 38 years has suffered beside a pool called Bethesda, hoping to one day get a chance to bathe in it and thus be healed of his paralysis.   Jesus sees him and asks him the glorious question:  Do you want to be well? 

Those of us who have long suffered under the paralysis of addiction will yearn to say yes to such a question but will quickly qualify what “well” must mean.   Surely, we will insist, it can’t mean cured.  Surely, we insist, it can’t mean free.  We want that, to be sure, but experience has taught us that it’s not for us and we will settle for simple maintenance.   I’ll settle for just not being miserable every day.   The bar is very low for us addicts, isn’t it?

The truth, however, is that things like curing, freeing, saving, etc are the very things Jesus is most interested in doing for us.  He doesn’t come to us offering a maintenance plan to make my life and yours less miserable than it has been.  He comes offering life, and life abundantly!   (And in case you were wondering, the Greek word for “well” in John 5:6 means “restored, whole, sound, healthy.”   Sounds better than “not miserable,” right?)

Jesus is in the business of making us new, not better.

The books by Hession and Gallagher, which I mentioned above, echo this theme of being made whole, or new, by Jesus.    When we see Jesus for whom he really is, and when we see ourselves as we really are, we can live the sort of life God desires for all of us.  So what does that mean?

First, seeing ourselves as we really are.   I need to see myself in relation to a holy God.   There is for a me a profound shift in the atmosphere, so it would seem, when I call my habitual behavior what God calls it: sin.   When I entertain lustful thoughts, look at porn, focus more on my desires than on God and others, I am not walking in the Spirit but in my flesh.   God calls this sin.   And of course, we can become enslaved to sin.   Essentially that is what addiction is – enslavement to sin.

Agreeing with God that my primary issue is a sin issue opens the door to receive good news, because God is a master at dealing with sin.   Jesus died on a cross to deliver us from sin.   Seeing Jesus for whom he really is means I see him as my Healer, my Deliverer, my Savior.   Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil (1 John 3:8), promises that in Christ, sin shall no longer be our master (Rom. 6:12-14), declares that whomever the Son sets free they are truly free (John 8:36) and that in him we are new creations (2 Cor. 5:17).

I’ve discovered that I find what I focus on.  There are times when I veer off track and focus too much on my “disease” and on my “program” that I forget that what I am really fighting against is sin, and this fight I do not fight alone, but with Christ who has already conquered all.    When I remember that my battle is not with flesh and blood but “against spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12), then I have reason to hope that I can live victoriously because I have a victorious Savior.

It all comes down to what I am focused upon.   Where is your focus?

 

5 Ways to Battle Your Most Deadly Enemy

Uzziah was only 16 when he took the throne as king over Judah.  In the beginning, this young ruler “continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah and as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him” (2 Chronicles 26:5).    As God blessed him, Uzziah’s fame increased throughout the land.  And then this happened.

But when he [King Uzziah] became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God, for he entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense (2 Chron. 26:16)

A few verses later we are told the fate of Uzziah.  His pride prevented him from heeding the correction of the priests and rather than humble himself he grew angry with them.   The Lord struck him with leprosy, and this once obedient, God-fearing king who could do no wrong died a leper, “excluded from the house of the Lord.”

Pride is not just ugly, it’s deadly.  It’s no wonder God hates it so much, and it’s no wonder all of Scripture seems to shout in various ways and means “Stay Humble!”

The number one reason people relapse back into their old sinful habits and addictions is because they fall prey to the lie that they are doing great.   They may in fact be “doing great,” at least in the eyes of the casual observer, but the moment they see themselves as well and in control, look out.   A fall is coming.

After reminding the church in Corinth (and us today) that Israel’s blunders and missteps were recorded to serve as warnings to us (like Uzziah above), he writes,

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Cor. 10:12).  

Satan is waiting with outstretched arms and chains made of re-enforced steel to welcome back the one God had prospered and blessed who now thinks they can take the wheel.     Friends, whenever pride whispers it’s seductive lie that you can take it from here you need to crank up some Carrie Underwood or something, anything that will help ensure Jesus takes, and keeps, the wheel!

I have found in my own life that freedom is a daily choice and the choice is this: Will I live in my own strength and power and might, or will I turn my will and my desire over to God.    I must daily die to my self so that His strength, His grace, His power, His mercy, His spirit can manifest itself in me.    Left to myself, on my own, I am a mess.

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So how do we do that?  What are some practical ways you can keep from taking the wheel back and do battle with this most deadly enemy called PRIDE?

1.  Pray, pray pray.    There is no other way.   Print out the Mercy Prayer which is HERE and keep it in your back pocket or purse and read it and pray it every day, all the time.   Pray it over others, yourself, your wife, your children, those who offend you, those you lust after, those you despise and those you cherish.     Praying mercy for others kills the root of bitterness and strife within us which pride thrives upon.

2.  Pray for humility.  Pray not just for humility, but pray that you would love to be humbled.  Andrew Murray, in his excellent book “Humility” (which you must read), taught me that I needed to pray for this queen of virtues.  It does not come naturally to any of us, and must be sought.    Jesus said we should seek the kingdom and his righteousness, and that blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.   Humility is to live rightly before God and neighbor.    Do you hunger for this?   Pray that you will.

3.  Read.  In addition to staying in God’s word daily, read books about pride and humility.    Murray’s book mentioned above is a great one.   The book I’m re-reading now, Irresistible to God, is another.   Going through Fenelon’s  Seeking Heart as a daily devotional is another excellent practice.

4.  Seek out ways to go low.   “Going low” is the opposite or “rising up” in pride.   Throughout the day there will be numerous opportunities where you can go low.    When someone says something that offends you, you can choose to ignore it and pray for them.  When you really want to ensure you get in line in time to get one of the few pieces of cake left, choose instead to hold the door open for others.   When your spouse has sinned against you and you just know you didn’t do anything wrong, be the first one to say you are sorry.    The more  you practice going low the more this virtue will grow within you and become part of you.   Every fiber of your being will resist it at first (and throughout your life, most likely), but press on by repeating # 1 above.

5.  Consider Jesus.   I have probably preached or mentioned Hebrews 12:1-3 more than anything else this past year apart from 2 Cor. 5:17.  It reads,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Whenever you feel like rising up inside (or presently are doing just that!), consider Jesus who, like a silent lamb who did nothing wrong, went to the cross for your sins and mine.    I’ve yet to be faced with a situation where just one glimpse of Jesus suffering on a cross for me hasn’t helped to diffuse.  It makes all my prideful assertions over my “rights” seem petty and cheap and gives me the strength I need to be obedient in humility.   Does it sometimes hurt?  Of course!   But count it joy that we get to share in the sufferings of Christ! (Rom. 8:17)

Practice these 5 things on a regular, if not daily, basis and avoid the trap into which Uzziah and so many before and after him have fallen.  Pride is not just serious, it’s deadly.

I’ll leave you with these words I have written in the front cover flap of my bible given to me by a great teacher on humility.  Feel free to put them in yours, too:

Chad, you leave your first love and lose the filling of the Spirit by a judging, critical heart which refuses to pass on to all others the mercy by which you alone live.   The love of lowliness and mercy defeats and destroys that spirit of emulation which is the love of achievement or place or plans.

 

My Name is PRIDE

My name is Pride.  I am a cheater.

 

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I cheat you of your God-given destiny…

because you demand your own way.

I cheat you of contentment…

because you “deserve better than this.”

I cheat you of knowledge…

because you already know it all.

I cheat you of healing…

because you’re to full of me to forgive.

I cheat you of holiness…

because you refuse to admit when you’re wrong.

I cheat you of vision…

because you’d rather look in the mirror than out a window.

I cheat you of genuine friendship…

because nobody’s going to know the real you.

I cheat you of love…

because real romance demands sacrifice.

I cheat you of greatness in heaven…

because you refuse to wash another’s feet on earth.

I cheat you of God’s glory…

because I convince you to seek your own.

 

My name is Pride.  I am a cheater.

You like me because you think I’m always looking out for you.  Untrue.  I’m looking to make a fool of you.  God has so much for you, I admit, but don’t worry.  If you stick with me, you’ll never know.

 

~ Beth Moore, “Praying God’s Word,” pg. 60.

 

Over the next few weeks I will be re-reading Steve Gallagher’s book, Irresistible to God, which is about the sin of pride and the blessing of humility.   Pride is the cancer which if left untreated will stain everything in this life and keep us from the next.  So serious is pride that Augustine wrote,

There is hardly a page of Scripture on which it is not clearly written that God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.   (City of God).

 

I plan to blog about some of what I learn from reading again this wonderful book on the subject, and pray it will help challenge, convict, encourage and enable you in your walk with Christ.    If you have not subscribed to Desire Mercy that is an easy way to be sure you get future posts.   Blessings to you!

 

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)!

You Can Be Free, Completely Free, from Self-Gratification

*My wife and  I created this website to help men and women find freedom from sexual sin, grow in holiness, and find hope and healing for their broken marriages.   The following post is not meant to be offensive or attention-seeking, but to address a very real issue affecting countless individuals (and their loved ones) which is talked about so little.   In my experience, men need to hear the following, and I thank God for His mercy in my life, and His grace, apart from which the freedom I now know, and you can know as well, would be impossible.   The following testimony and advice is for those men and women who suspect (or know)  they have an addiction and are seeking a way out.   

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You can be completely set free from the sin of self-gratification.   From this day forward, it never has to be part of your life again.   Imagine that!  Complete freedom from being a slave to your desires!

I’ve had many conversations with men who for years have been trapped in bondage to sexual addiction, like I was, who break down in tears when I tell them I have been free from self-gratification for over 2 years along with the lustful thoughts which once consumed my thinking.   Weeping, they tell me what I know all too well because I was once in their shoes:

Nobody ever told me I could be free from this.

My motivation for telling you something so personal is because there are millions of people who think that freedom is impossible.    They believe the lies of this world which suggest such things as “boys will be boys” or “you just have to when the urge hits” or “if you don’t you’ll go crazy” and on and on they go.    And who can blame them?  By nature we love to hear anything which will affirm the desires of the flesh and no one is saying any differently.    I was 37 years old, a dead-beat dad, soon-to-be divorced husband and washed-out pastor before reading for the first time in my life the following:

A man will never have a pure heart as long as he equivocates about the sinfulness of lust and/or masturbation.  He must decide once and for all that both are wrong in God’s eyes.  If he is indecisive on this point, he will never have the courage to win the battle that lies before him.  His constant waffling will weaken any resolve to do the hard thing.

Likewise, the one who is looking for the path of least resistance in life will also lack the determination to fight for a pure life.  Purity and godliness do not mean enough to him to warrant the effort.  When convicted over his sinful thoughts and actions, he will find ways to excuse, blame-shift or otherwise justify continuing to live in his sin.

~ Steve Gallagher, “At The Altar of Sexual Idolatry” pg. 37

Why hadn’t anyone ever told me that before???   The truth Gallagher speaks is drowned out by the sort of “advice” I came upon from so-called Christian author John Shore, who attempts to steer his readers away from pornography not (and this is important) because it is sin and offends God but because it’s bad business.   Our motivation for giving up porn is not, Shore argues, because we wish to be holy but because, as decent people, we don’t want to support an industry that exploits women (that pornography exploits women is of course true, but not the whole truth).  But listen to what he says about self-gratification:

Again: you will masturbate. Don’t even bother trying not to…So, inside the sanctity of your imagination, give yourself permission to have at it. Go wild, big guy. Doing that is your private business, and your right.

Dear reader, if you are struggling with sexual sin, run far away from such worldly advice as this.    If you want freedom the first thing you must recognize is that you are a slave to your flesh, and taking matters into your own hands will forever keep you in the bondage you already know is real.    If that is a “right” you wish to defend, you will forever be a slave to the wrong thing.  

In my personal experience as well as that of many men whose stories I’ve had the honor of hearing, the common denominator in their inability to find lasting freedom from sexual addiction is their unwillingness to accept what Steve Gallagher says in the quote above.    Time and time again I hear stories from men who found freedom from pornography use for a period of time, but because they never closed the door on masturbation, the old habits eventually came back….and usually with a vengeance.    St. Paul writes,

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires (Rom. 13:14).

And St. Peter reminds us that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).    If you find freedom elusive or impossible I would wager it’s because you are leaving the door cracked open, giving provision for your flesh, by self-gratification.    So long as you do this you will never find the freedom you long for and of which the world needs to hear more about.   Jesus did not die on the cross so that you and I can remain slaves to our fleshly desires.  Boys may be boys, but isn’t it time to grow up and be a man?  

So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free! (John 8:36).

For more on this topic, see:

The Sin of Self-Gratification: Taking on the “M” Word:    Part I  Part II  Part III  Part IV

What is Fearing God?

What does it mean to have fear of God?   Scripture says that it is the fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom, so what does that mean?  Does it mean to be frightened in the way that I am of spiders?

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A couple of passages help me to understand this idea of fearing God a bit better.   One is Isaiah 66:2, which reads,

All these things (the heavens, and earth) my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord.  But this is the one to whom I will look:  he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

 

Much of my Christian existence, both inside and outside of addiction, was spent trying to understand, debate, parse, dissect, even twist God’s word.   Rarely, if ever, did I “tremble.”    I did not have the “woe is me” moment Isaiah himself had in chapter 6 of this same book, where he was confronted by the words of a holy God, and knew he was a dead man lest someone step in between he and this God.  

Do you tremble over God’s word?  Does it stand above you, naming you, judging you, pushing you; or do you stand above it, telling God “You can’t really be like that”?  

Another passage that speaks to me about the fear of God comes from my favorite Psalm, 119.  It reads,

And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules (Psalm 119:43)

Here, the Psalmist rightly understands that should God remove His hand from his life, if he should be without the words of God, he is ruined.   It is wholly by the grace of God that he can stand, and as such, he fears God doing what later on the writer of the Revelation of Jesus Christ will threaten the churches with should they not repent:  the removal of his favor/blessing.  

Do you fear God removing his hand from your life?   Or do you presume upon his kindness and mercy, assuming that because nothing terrible has happened you have nothing to fear?  Perhaps God is not watching, or doesn’t really care about how you live your life in private?    

The following is an excerpt from Steve Gallagher’s book, Living in Victory, explaining a biblical fear of God and what it looks like.   I think he’s spot on:   

 

I can respect God, not just because He has the power to hurt me, but because, in spite of that power and the fact that I have endlessly provoked Him, He has been kind to me. Jesus said of God, “…He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” (Luke 6:35) As this kindness, in the face of my rebellion and ingratitude, becomes more real to me, a deep reverence begins to form in my heart.

 

Fear is the sense of being overwhelmed. One aspect of our fear of God comes from being overwhelmed by His kindness, mercy, and love. The deeper the revelation of God, the deeper the sense of being overwhelmed by His goodness. It is in the light of this understanding that we see the words reverence and awe as accurate synonyms for fear.

 

Another thing that creates fear of God is the realization that it is only His grace that keeps us from falling back into the pit He pulled us out of…fearing the Lord means fearing the loss of His grace that keeps us from our sin. It means fearing a separation form Him and being left to oneself.

 

The man who really knows God fears being separated from Him. He might struggle with tempting thoughts about things he has done in the past, but the thought of returning to that old way of life strikes dread in his heart. That man knows only too well what life without God is like. Despite all the alluring temptations, the thought of life outside God’s presence is frightening… Those who have never been broken by God usually have little fear of Him.