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Archive for the ‘Sin’ Category

Abuse: Call It What It Is

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  Leslie Vernick

Let’s Not Call It Abuse

 [This article was originally published on ChristianCounseling.com on June 9, 2014]

 Samantha had high hopes that something might change after she got an appointment with a Biblical counselor at her church.  She had hoped that her counselor would stand with her and be her advocate.  When she began to describe what was happening in her home, her counselor carefully listened to everything she told him.

Samantha recounted the names her husband called her when he got angry or she failed him.  She described things such as not allowing her to give her own perspective during an argument, not allowing her to leave a room when she was feeling scared, and demanding she submit to his most trivial demands like cook him a full breakfast every morning even though she worked full time and had a baby to get ready to take to the babysitter.  She told him how her husband lied, how he twisted Scriptures, how he bullied her and threatened her.

Samantha took a huge risk sharing these things with her counselor but she believed that if her counselor and church leaders knew what was happening, they would get behind her and lovingly but firmly tell her husband (who was active in their church) that his behavior was sinful and ungodly.  She thought that once she got others to agree that his behavior was destructive, he’d be less likely to tell himself the lie that what he was doing wasn’t that bad.

Sadly the counselor became fixed on two words Samantha used when finishing her story.  She asked her counselor, “Please tell him to stop emotionally abusing me.”  Her counselor’s first response to Samantha’s story was, “Samantha, let’s not use the words emotional abuse.  It’s such a trendy term these days.”

Samantha’s heart sank.  It was hard for her to breathe. Her chest pounded, her head started spinning. Now what?  She thought to herself, If this isn’t emotional abuse, what is it?

Our culture is adept at watering down language so that it becomes vague, meaningless and doesn’t offend.   For example the phrase termination of a pregnancy is softer than the phrase killing an unborn child. Terminating a pregnancy lacks the emotional wallop of the truth – a real baby is being killed.  Termination of pregnancy sounds nicer and it whitewashes and sanitizes the true meaning of what’s happening to both the child and the mother.

When we refuse to recognize and name emotional abuse for what it is and instead describe it as marital conflict or mutual sin, it’s not that we’re incorrect; it’s that we are imprecise.  We water down what’s really happening.

When a doctor tells a patient who has cancer he’s sick, that’s true.  But if he doesn’t use the C word because it’s too potent, he’s not telling his patient the whole truth.  As a result, the patient might not get the treatment he or she needs because he or she doesn’t see the full problem they face.

As biblical counselors our mission is not only to be truth seekers but truth tellers.

Naming things in Biblical days had special significance. Names represented a character trait, a special ability, a future expectation or a proclamation of what’s happened in the past.  Names are significant and what we name things has meaning.

When we say to our clients, “Let’s not call what’s happening to you ‘abuse’,” that’s wrong. What we’re saying is that what’s happening to her is no big deal?and that is not true.  Minimizing what’s happening in her marriage damages her, her husband, and their marriage. Abusive behavior is always bad, always sinful and always destructive.

The Bible repeatedly tells us that God comes alongside the victim. He is against those who seek to destroy and damage others.  He never tells them it’s not that bad or calls it something other than what it truly is. We need to speak the truth about what is happening, without flattering abusers that their behavior is not as bad as their spouse claims (Psalm 12:2-3).

Honesty: I Desire To Sin More Than I Desire To Obey Christ

SOURCE:  R.C. Sproul

How should we deal with stubborn pockets of sin in our lives that won’t seem to go away even after much prayer and honest heartfelt desire to change?

One of the great Christian classics is a devotional booklet written by Saint Thomas à Kempis called The Imitation of Christ.

In that book he talks about the struggle that so many Christians have with habits that are sinful. He says that the struggle for sanctification is often so difficult and the victories that we achieve seem to be so few and far between, that even in the lives of the greatest saints, there were few who were able to overcome habitual patterns. We’re talking about people who overeat and have these kinds of temptations, not those who are enslaved to gross and heinous sin.

Now Thomas à Kempis’s words are not sacred Scripture, but he gives us wisdom from the life of a great saint.

The author of Hebrews says that we are called to resist the sin that so easily besets us and that we are admonished and exhorted simply to try harder to overcome these sins. You say, How do we escape these pockets of sin that we have such great struggles with, that we have an honest and heartfelt desire not to commit? If the desire not to do it is really honest and penetrates the heart, we’re 90 percent home. In fact, we shouldn’t be locked into something.

The reason we continue with these pockets of repeated sins is because we have a heartfelt desire to continue them, not because we have a heartfelt desire to stop them.

I wonder how honest our commitment is to quit. There’s a tendency for us to kid ourselves about this anytime we embrace a pet sin. We need to face the fact that we commit the sin because we want to do that sin more than we want to obey Christ at that moment. That doesn’t mean that we have no desire to escape from it, but the level of our desire vacillates.

It’s easy to go on a diet after a banquet; it’s hard to stay on a diet if you haven’t eaten all day. That’s what happens particularly with habitual sins that involve physical or sensual appetites. The ebb and flow of the desire is augmented and diminished. It increases and fades. Our resolve to repent is great when our appetites have been satiated, but when they’re not, we have a growing attraction to practice whatever the particular sins may be.

I think what we have to do is first of all be honest about the fact that we really have a conflict of interest between what we want to do and what God wants us to do. I think we have to feed our souls with the Word of God so that we can get what God wants us to do clear in our mind and then build a strong desire to obey.

Abortion: How Does God See Me Now?

SOURCE:  Living Free/Kim Ketola

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.” (Romans 5:8-9 NLT)

Abortion has created strife that sometimes may spill over into the church. Those who are rightly outraged about the loss of life that happens with each abortion may not be sensitive to the pain experienced by those who learned the truth too late. Or the double pain known to millions of Christian women because we denied what we knew to be true when we chose abortion against our own beliefs.

Kim admits, “Whether through perceived judgment or my own guilt, abortion made me avoid church.” Many women feel like a second-class citizen in church after abortion—caught in the crossfire of abortion politics and personal guilt and shame.

But God’s ways are not our ways. No matter how others may see us . . . or how we see ourselves . . . Jesus looks at us through eyes of love.

God doesn’t hate us for our weakness and our need. He knows we are frail and need his help.

Jesus can help you consider all the circumstances of your abortion and hold you in love as you think it through with him. Even if he doesn’t love what you did, he never stopped loving you. As you mourned, he mourned too.

Jesus sees us through eyes of love. He loves us so much he died for us while we were still sinners. And no matter what we have done, if we will leave it at the cross and trust Jesus, he will make us right in God’s eyes. Jesus does not condemn. He forgives.

Lord, I do need your help. Help me get past my fears and shame and trust you to walk me through this. . . . Help me reach out for your forgiveness and peace. Thank you for loving me. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …


Cradle My Heart: Finding God’s LOVE After Abortion by Kim Ketola.

Same-sex Attraction: Truth–But No Stone Throwing

SOURCE:  Eric Metaxas/RPM Ministries

Eric Metaxas at BreakPoint shares great wisdom about a humble, grace-oriented approach to speaking about human sexuality. You can read and listen to his thoughts at No Stone Throwing.

Here’s a portion of what Eric shared (headers added by RPM Ministries).

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Think Twice

It’s easy to get angry at someone in open sexual sin. But you might think twice before picking up that stone…. Sometimes we Christians demonize our opponents instead of loving them. We often forget that, apart from the grace of God, we might well be on the other side of the issue.

Truth Is a Person

This is especially true when it comes to the issue of human sexuality. To understand why, we must first remember that, for the Christian, truth is a person: Jesus Christ. We see the world and our place in it in light of the person and work of Jesus.

So we should never forget that just as Jesus was the incarnation of God’s love, mercy, and compassion for us, we are called to model these for our neighbor.

Now this doesn’t mean that we should shy from calling sin by its name — on the contrary, sometimes this is exactly what loving our neighbor requires. But we should do this in sorrow rather than in anger and never out of a sense of condemnation — because we know that since none of us is without sin, none of us gets to cast the first stone.

Humility

So, when we address a hot-button issue like same-sex attraction or same-sex marriage, we should always keep in mind our own struggles and brokenness when it comes to sexuality.

If you are blessed not to have struggled in this area, then recall your struggles in other areas. If you can’t think of any, well, you might want to think about the sin of pride. I’m just saying.

….As Christians know, sex is intended to serve a unitive purpose — it’s supposed to be the physical expression of the spiritual union between husband and wife. As the Bible puts it, “the two become one flesh.”

Seeking in a “Disordered” Manner

It may come as a surprise to many of us, but many people in same-sex relationships are seeking the same thing. The problem is that they can’t achieve what they are seeking, because they are seeking it in what Catholic moral theology calls a “disordered” manner. Likewise, many advocates of same-sex marriage aren’t out to subvert marriage, at least not consciously. They’re pursuing the goods of marriage, all be it, in a disordered fashion.

Thus when we rightly say that the Christian response to same-sex attraction is chastity, we must remember that chastity is difficult enough for heterosexual Christians — who at least have the hope of expressing their sexuality in marriage.

The same is true with same-sex marriage. As God said in Genesis 2, “it is not good for man to be alone.” We were designed for the deep kind of physical and spiritual connection that comes through marriage. So even while we insist that that kind of connection is only available between a man and a woman, we must empathize with and grieve for those who cannot achieve it.

Speak in Love or Don’t Speak

If we can’t, then we should consider keeping our mouths shut. Because if we forget to offer love and support along with the truth, we aren’t much better than the scribes and Pharisees, whom Jesus rebuked for placing heavy loads on people’s shoulders while not lifting a finger to move them.

The world doesn’t need more Pharisees, it needs people who speak the truth in love — love that never forgets Who is the Truth.

How to Destroy Your Marriage Before It Begins

SOURCE:  Garrett Kell/Gospel Coalition

Tim and Jess had only been married for eight months, but the honeymoon was most certainly over. The sweet conversations that once marked their relationship had been replaced with constant bickering. Their laughter had dulled, and their distance had grown. Their sexual intimacy had almost ceased.

What went wrong? How had Satan slipped into this young marriage? As I unpacked some of the couple’s history, I discovered he hadn’t sabotaged them on their honeymoon, nor in the early months of figuring out married life. The Devil had begun his work before they’d even made it to the altar. Though Tim and Jess are Christians, their dating and engagement were marked with sexual impurity.

Though the early days of their relationship had been fine, over time they made consistent compromises that developed into a deeper pattern of sexual sin. Whenever they’d sin, they’d confess to each other and make oaths to never let it happen again. But it did. Because of the shame, they never let anyone else in on what was happening. In hindsight, Tim and Jess admit their courtship was a big cover-up of deceit.

Sadly, Tim and Jess’s story is all too familiar. Many unmarried Christian couples struggle with sexual sin. This should be no surprise, since we have an enemy set against us and our impending marriage (1 Pet. 5:8). He hates God, and he hates marriage because it depicts the gospel (Eph. 5:32).One of Satan’s most effective strategies to corrupt the gospel-portraying union of marriage is to attack couples through sexual sin before they say “I do.” Here are four of his most common ploys to attack marriages before they begin.

1. Satan wants us to make a pattern of obeying our desires instead of God’s direction.

God’s ways are good, but Satan wants us to believe they aren’t. This has been his plan from the first call to compromise in the garden (Gen. 3:1-6). His end goal is for us to develop a consistent pattern of resisting the Spirit and following our sinful desires once we get into marriage. He wants us to learn to resist service and to pursue selfishness.If we learn to do what we want when we want before marriage, we’ll carry that pattern into the days and years that follow. This, however, is deadly since service and sacrifice are essential to a healthy, Christ-honoring marriage. Love in marriage is shown by a thousand daily decisions to do what you don’t want—whether doing the dishes or changing a diaper or watching a movie instead of a basketball game. If your relationship before marriage is characterized by giving into urges of immediate desire, you’ll most certainly struggle when you encounter the nitty-gritty of married life.

2. Satan wants us to underestimate how susceptible we are to temptation.

Satan wants us to think we won’t take our sin to the next level. He wants us to think we’re stronger than we really are. He wants us to think we’ll never go that far. This is a powerful trick since it simultaneously plays on both our pride and also our well-intended desire to honor God. You’re weaker than you think. You can go where you think you won’t. Sin is like an undercurrent in the ocean—if you play in it, you’ll be overpowered and swept away into certain destruction.One of the ways Satan works this angle is by tempting you to think purity is a not-to-be-crossed line rather than a posture of the heart. He wants you to think purity before God is not kissing or not taking off clothes or not having oral sex or not “going all the way.” He wants you to think that if you don’t cross a certain line, you’re staying pure. The problem with this kind of thinking, however, is that Jesus says if we just lust in our heart we’ve sinned and stand condemned before God (Matt. 5:27-30).Purity is much more about the posture of our hearts than the position of our bodies. The age-old “How far is too far?” question may reveal a desire to get as close to sin as possible instead of a desire to flee as our Lord calls us to (1 Cor. 6:18).

3. Satan wants couples to weaken their trust in one another.

When we compromise sexually, we’re showing the other person we’re willing to use and abuse them to get what makes us happy. Every time we push the boundaries with our fiancée or lead her into sin we are communicating, though we don’t mean to, “You can’t trust me because I’m willing to use and disregard you to get what I want.”This is certainly one of Satan’s deadliest strategies, and the one I suspect hurt Tim and Jess the most. They didn’t trust each other. They never really did. So much of their dating relationship was engulfed in the cycle of sin, shame, and start-over that they never developed a mature, battle-tested trust for each other.It’s important to point out, however, that when we resist sexual sin, God blesses a relationship with the exact opposite effect. Every time we say “no” to sexual sin and turn to prayer, telling one another we value them and their walk with the Lord too much to go one step further, he uses that faithfulness to strengthen trust. My wife regularly tells dating couples that one of the reasons she trusts me is because I literally ran from compromising situations before we were married. We weren’t perfect in our courtship, but the Lord used that season to build trust in one another.

4. Satan wants to deceive you with the forbidden fruit of lust.

There’s a world of difference between premarital sex and sex within marriage. One reason is that the forbidden fruit of lust portrays sex before marriage as something it isn’t always in marriage. Normally, premarital sexual activity is like gas on fire. Passion is high, feelings are intense, and the drive to go further is fueled by the knowledge you shouldn’t (Rom. 7:8).Sex in marriage is different. There’s still passion, and there’s still intense feelings and emotions—but sex in marriage is based primarily on the hot coals of trust, devotion, and sacrifice (1 Cor. 7:1-5). Couples who built their sexual expectations on passion provided by the forbidden fruit are often disappointed and confused when sex is different in marriage.My wife and I laughed at this idea when our premarital counselor shared it with us. We were sure we’d be exception to the rule. But almost six years and three kids later, he was right. Couples like us can have a strong sex life, but it’s fueled by deeper characteristics than fleeting passion. Satan wants couples to get used to running on the caffeine and sugar of lust rather than mature love of service and sacrifice.

Few Concluding Thoughts

1. Wait in faith. The Christian posture is always one of waiting. We wait for Christ’s return. We wait for an eternity with him. And unmarried believers wait for the blessings of marriage. Say “no” to sin’s promises by faith in God’s. Renew your mind with God’s Word and keep waiting in faith.

2. Guys, you gotta lead. While both persons in the relationship are responsible before God, the man must set the pace for purity. Too often ladies are forced to draw the lines and to say “no.” That’s cowardly and wrong. It’s the man’s responsibility to care for his future wife by leading her toward Jesus and away from sin, darkness, and the pain of evil. If he sets the wrong pattern here, he’ll be digging out for years afterward—and may never regain the ground he loses apart from God’s grace.

3. Involve others every step of the way. Don’t let your relationship remain unexamined by other godly Christians. Both of you should have a godly couple or group of faithful friends who hold you accountable. Invite tough questions and give honest answers. God uses transparency to give strength.

4. If you sin, go to the gospel. The apostle John wrote, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1-2). If you sin, flee to the cross. Run to the empty tomb. Look to your Advocate, confess your sin deeply, and repent. God loves to bless this kind of posture (Prov. 28:13).Sexual sin doesn’t need to be dagger in the heart of your courting relationship, engagement, or marriage. God is a merciful God who delights in restoring what sin seeks to destroy (Joel 2:25-27). He will not, however, bless ongoing disobedience and presumption on his grace. If you have fallen into sexual sin, today is the day to plead for mercy and turn to Christ in faith. May God give us mercy to pursue purity for his glory and our good.

What Do I Need To Know (about ME)?

SOURCE:  Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee/Living Free

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

This Psalm was written by David. God called David a man after his own heart (Acts 13:22). And yet David knew he had failings. Because of his devotion to the Lord, he didn’t want to continue in any sin. He was open to personal examination and asked God to search his heart.

God already knows everything about us . . . more than we know about ourselves. David knew that. In verse 2 of the same chapter, he wrote, “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.”

God knew David’s shortcomings. David wanted to know them too. He wanted to say “I did it” and ask forgiveness. He wanted to clear anything offensive to God from his life.

Are you willing to ask God to search your heart? You may be doing all the “right” things, but what is in your heart? Bitterness? Unforgiveness? Jealousy? Fear? Selfishness? Wrong motives?

Sin separates us from God’s best for our lives. “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore” (Isaiah 59:2 NLT). We all sin. We all let wrong attitudes creep in. But we don’t need to let them move in permanently. We need to regularly ask God to search our heart and point out anything that shouldn’t be there.

How about you? Will you ask God to search your heart today?

Father, anyone looking at my life might think I have it all together. But you and I know differently. Please search my heart and point out anything offensive to you. Forgive me . . . and help me live in a way that is pleasing to you. In Jesus’ name . . .


These thoughts were drawn from …


Stepping into Freedom: A Christ-Centered Twelve-Step Program
 by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

Why You Give in to Sexual Sin

SOURCE:  John Piper/Desiring God

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. . . . Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:8, 12)

Why isn’t he [David]  crying out for sexual restraint? Why isn’t he praying for men to hold him accountable? Why isn’t he praying for protected eyes and sex-free thoughts? In this psalm of confession and repentance after essentially raping Bathsheba, you would expect David to ask for something like that.

The reason is that he knows that sexual sin is a symptom, not the disease.

People give way to sexual sin because they don’t have the fullness of joy and gladness in Christ. Their spirits are not steadfast and firm and established. They waver. They are enticed, and they give way because God does not have the place in our feelings and thoughts that he should.

David knew this about himself.

It’s true about us too.

David is showing us, by the way he prays, what the real need is for those who sin sexually — joy in God.

This is profound wisdom for us.

How God Really Sees Me: Am I Condemned? Or Not?

SOURCE:  Living Free

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2 NIV

Condemnation. A distorted reflection . . . and a lie.

We confess our sins to Jesus and He forgives us. When we become a follower of Jesus Christ, He forgives all our past sin. As Christians, when we fall into sin, the Bible promises that if we confess that sin, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us (1 John 1:9).

And yet, we persistently hang on to the guilt.

We condemn ourselves and sometimes allow others to condemn us.

If we can get our eyes off the expectations of others and ourselves and look into the mirror of God’s Word, we will see ourselves as God sees us–forgiven, clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Here are a few of the reflections found in the Bible–there are many more.

  • I am righteous through faith in Christ. (Philippians 3:9)
  • Christ made me right with God. (1 Corinthians 1:30)
  • God declares that through Jesus we have been made righteous. (Romans 3:23-24)

Look into God’s mirror. He sees you as forgiven and righteous!

Are you struggling with condemnation?

It can weigh you down, depress you, fill you with fear, and keep you from doing what God has called you to do. God wants us to repent and seek forgiveness. He wants us to try to make things right with others when that is possible. And then He wants us to move on. To learn from our mistakes, but not to dwell on them. He wants us to see ourselves through His eyes–forgiven and righteous.

Father, I thank you that Jesus paid the price for my sins. Thank you that when I repented and confessed my sins to you, you forgave me and cleansed me. Because of Jesus, I am righteous in your eyes. Please help me see myself through your eyes. Help me to walk in the peace of knowing that I am forgiven. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Seeing Yourself in God’s Image: Overcoming Anorexia and Bulimia
 by Martha Homme, MA, LPC.

What Makes Even My “Little” Sins So Bad?

SOURCE:  D.A. Carson/Tolle Lege

“God is always the most offended”

“What makes sin sin, what makes it so profoundly heinous, what makes it so deeply repugnant and culpable, is that it is offense against God.

We dare not forget that the first commandment, according to Jesus, is the commandment to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength.

Thus the first sin– first sequentially, first in fundamental importance– is not to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength.

It is the sin we always commit when we commit any other sin. At the most profound level, whenever we sin, God is always the most offended party.

David understands this: ‘Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight’ (Psalm 51:3).

And that is why, whatever other forgiveness we try to secure, we must have God’s forgiveness, or we have nothing.

Yes, you and I need to forgive one another. Yet in the most profound analysis of what sin is, only God can forgive sin.”

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–D.A. Carson, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 159-160.

The Reasons for My Suffering

SOURCE:  R.C. Sproul

Suffering and the Glory of God

I once visited with a woman who was dying from uterine cancer. She was greatly distressed, but not only from her physical ailment. She explained to me that she had had an abortion when she was a young woman, and she was convinced that her disease was a direct consequence of that. In short, she believed cancer was the judgment of God on her.

The usual pastoral response to such an agonizing question from someone in the throes of death is to say the affliction is not a judgment of God for sin. But I had to be honest, so I told her that I did not know. Perhaps it was God’s judgment, but perhaps it was not. I cannot fathom the secret counsel of God or read the invisible hand of His providence, so I did not know why she was suffering. I did know, however, that whatever the reason for it, there was an answer for her guilt. We talked about the mercy of Christ and of the cross, and she died in faith.

The question that woman raised is asked every day by people who are suffering affliction. It is addressed in one of the more difficult passages in the New Testament. In John 9, we read: “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (vv. 1–3).

Why did Jesus’ disciples suppose that the root cause of this man’s blindness was his sin or his parents’ sin? They certainly had some basis for this assumption, for the Scriptures, from the account of the fall onward, make it clear that the reason suffering, disease, and death exist in this world is sin. The disciples were correct that somehow sin was involved in this man’s affliction. Also, there are examples in the Bible of God causing affliction because of specific sins. In ancient Israel, God afflicted Moses’ sister, Miriam, with leprosy because she questioned Moses’ role as God’s spokesman (Num. 12:1–10). Likewise, God took the life of the child born to Bathsheba as a result of David’s sin (2 Sam. 12:14–18). The child was punished, not because of anything the child did, but as a direct result of God’s judgment on David.

However, the disciples made the mistake of particularizing the general relationship between sin and suffering. They assumed there was a direct correspondence between the blind man’s sin and his affliction. Had they not read the book of Job, which deals with a man who was innocent and yet was severely afflicted by God? The disciples erred in reducing the options to two when there was another alternative. They posed their question to Jesus in an either/or fashion, committing the logical fallacy of the false dilemma, assuming that the sin of the man or the sin of the man’s parents was the cause of his blindness.

The disciples also seem to have assumed that anyone who has an affliction suffers in direct proportion to the sin that has been committed. Again, the book of Job dashes that conclusion, for the degree of suffering Job was called to bear was astronomical compared with the suffering and afflictions of others far more guilty than he was.

We must never jump to the conclusion that a particular incidence of suffering is a direct response or in direct correspondence to a person’s particular sin. The story of the man born blind makes this point.

Our Lord answered the disciples’ question by correcting their false assumption that the man’s blindness was a direct consequence of his or his parents’ sin. He assured them that the man was born blind not because God was punishing the man or the man’s parents. There was another reason. And because there was another reason in this case, there might always be another reason for the afflictions God calls us to endure.

Jesus answered His disciples by saying, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (v. 3). What did He mean? Simply put, Jesus said that the man was born blind so that Jesus might heal him at the appointed time, as a testimony to Jesus’ power and divinity. Our Lord displayed His identity as the Savior and the Son of God in this healing.

When we suffer, we must trust that God knows what He is doing, and that He works in and through the pain and afflictions of His people for His glory and for their sanctification. It is hard to endure lengthy suffering, but the difficulty is greatly alleviated when we hear our Lord explaining the mystery in the case of the man born blind, whom God called to many years of pain for Jesus’ glory.

God’s Mercy in Messed Up Families

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to find an example of what we would call a “healthy family” in the Bible?

It’s a lot easier to find families with a lot of sin and a lot of pain than to find families with a lot of harmony.

For example, here’s just a sampling from Genesis:

  • The first recorded husband and wife calamitously disobey God (Genesis 3).
  • Their firstborn commits fratricide (Genesis 4:8).
  • Sarah’s grief over infertility moves her to give her servant, Hagar, to Abraham as a concubine to bear a surrogate child (Genesis 16). When it happens, Sarah abuses Hagar in jealous anger. Abraham is passive in the whole affair.
  • Lot, reluctant to leave sexually perverse Sodom, his home, has to be dragged out by angels and then weeks later his daughters seduce him into drunken incest (Genesis 19).
  • Isaac and Rebecca play favorites with their twin boys, whose sibling rivalry becomes one of the worst in history (Genesis 25).
  • Esau has no discernment. He sells his birthright for soup (Genesis 25), grieves his parents by marrying Canaanite women (Genesis 26), and nurses a 20-year murderous grudge against his conniving younger brother.
  • Jacob (said conniver) manipulates and deceives his brother out of his birthright (Genesis 25) and blessing (Genesis 27).
  • Uncle Laban deceives nephew Jacob by somehow smuggling Leah in as Jacob’s bride instead of Rachel (Genesis 29). This results in Jacob marrying sisters — a horrible situation (see Leviticus 18:18). This births another nasty sibling rivalry where the sisters’ competition for children (including giving their servants to Jacob as concubines) produce the twelve patriarchs of Israel (Genesis 30).
  • Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, is raped by the pagan, Shechem, who then wants to marry her. Simeon and Levi respond by massacring all the men of Shechem’s town (Genesis 34).
  • Jacob’s oldest son, Reuben, can’t resist his incestuous desires and sleeps with one of his father’s concubines, the mother of some of his brothers (Genesis 35).
  • Ten of Jacob’s sons contemplate fratricide, but sell brother Joseph into slavery instead. Then they lie about it to their father for 22 years until Joseph exposes them (Genesis 37, 45).
  • Judah, as a widower, frequented prostitutes. This occurred frequently enough that his daughter-in-law, Tamar, whom he had dishonored, knew that if she disguised herself as one, he’d sleep with her. He did and got her pregnant (Genesis 38).

That’s just the beginning. Time would fail me to talk of:

  • Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10),
  • Gideon’s murderous son, Abimelech (Judges 9),
  • Samson’s un-Nazirite immorality (Judges 14–16),
  • Eli’s worthless sons (1 Samuel –2-4),
  • Samuel’s worthless sons (1 Samuel 8),
  • David’s sordid family (2 Samuel 11–18),
  • Wise Solomon who unwisely married 1,000 women, turned from God, and whose proverbial instruction went essentially unheeded by most of his heirs (1 Kings 11–12),
  • Etc., etc.

Why is the Bible loud on sinfully dysfunctional families and quiet on harmonious families?

Well, for one thing, most families aren’t harmonious. Humanity is not harmonious. We are alienated — alienated from God and each other. So put alienated, selfish sinners together in a home, sharing possessions and the most intimate aspects of life, having different personalities and interests, and a disparate distribution of power, abilities, and opportunities, and you have a recipe for a sin-mess.

But there’s a deeper purpose at work in this mess. The Bible’s main theme is God’s gracious plan to redeem needy sinners. It teaches us that what God wants most for us is that we 1) become aware of our sinfulness and 2) our powerlessness to save ourselves, as we 3) believe and love his Son and the gospel he preached, and 4) graciously love one another. And it turns out that the family is an ideal place for all of these to occur.

But what we often fail to remember is that the mess is usually required for these things to occur. Sin must be seen and powerlessness must be experienced before we really turn to Jesus and embrace his gospel. And offenses must be committed if gracious love is to be demonstrated. So if we’re praying for our family members to experience these things, we should expect trouble.

Family harmony is a good desire and something to work toward. But in God’s plan, it may not be what is most needed. What may be most needed is for our family to be a crucible of grace, a place where the heat of pressure forces sin to surface providing opportunities for the gospel to be understood and applied. And when this happens the messes become mercies.

My point is this: if your family is not the epitome of harmony, take heart. God specializes in redeeming messes. See yours as an opportunity for God’s grace to become visible to your loved ones and pray hard that God will make it happen.

ANGER: Take a Deep Breath

SOURCE:  Living Free

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19 NLT

Anger is a God-given emotional energy designed for good. It can lead to sin, but doesn’t have to. We can control our thoughts and actions. We can stop allowing anger to master us. The Bible teaches that we should not be quick-tempered.

We need to slow down and think about things before we respond in anger. We have all blurted out hurtful angry remarks and then wished we could take the words back. Slowing down can help us avoid these situations.

The next time someone does or says something that you don’t like—stop! Take a deep breath. Consider your response. You can avoid a lot of hurt and regret by making the right choices at this point.

Father, help me look beyond what people say and see their heart. Forgive me for the times I have responded to quickly—and foolishly—in anger. Teach me to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Anger: Our Master or Our Servant
 by Larry Heath.

Battle Plan Against Sin –> Act The Miracle

SOURCE: Adapted from a work by  John Piper

The battle plan

The link between the cross and the conquered sin in my life is my Holy-Spirit-empowered will. And that empowering by the Spirit is blood bought. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:5-6).

In other words, God intends that part of our experience of sanctification be the consciouswilled, opposition to specific sins in our lives. I only say “part” of our experience of sanctification because this is not the whole work of sanctification. In some areas of sin, God simply takes away the desire and the temptation is gone, and we don’t have to fight it any more.

Now here is what God showed [me . . .]: For decades I have applied this battle plan to sexual temptation but hardly at all to the sins of selfishness, anger, self-pity, blaming, and sullenness. I have engaged my will head-on with sexual lust. I have heard Jesus say, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matt. 5:29). Nobody spontaneously tears out his eye. That is an act of will overcoming all kinds of natural disinclination. That’s what I do when any illicit sexual thought tries to gain the ascendancy in my mind.

I go on the attack with A.N.T.H.E.M.:

  • AVOID.
  • Say NO! within five seconds.
  • TURN to something magnificent, like Christ crucified.
  • HOLD the pure thing in the mind until the temptation is gone.
  • ENJOY the greater pleasure of the blood-bought promises of God.
  • MOVE on to meaningful Christ-exalting activity.

There is nothing passive in my will when the lion of lust comes out of the bushes. I don’t lie down and wait for a miracle. act the miracle. I will explain that phrase in just a moment.

What I realized was that I was not applying any of this same gospel vigilance—what Peter O’Brien calls “continuous, sustained, strenuous effort”—against my most besetting sins. I was strangely passive, victim-like.

I had the unarticulated sense (mistakenly) that these sins (unlike sexual lust) should be defeated more spontaneously—with less direct use of my will. It should all happen naturally from the inside out. And if I tried to attack them with my will the way I did sexual lust, it would produce external conformity, not internal change. But I never let that thought stop me from attacking lust.

The text that broke though my inconsistency was Philippians 2:12-13.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so
now, not only as in my presence but much more in my
absence, work out your own salvation with fear and
trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and
to work for his good pleasure.

Why should there be “fear and trembling” as I attack my sin and bring about salvation from self-pity?

The reason given in the text is not a threat. It’s a gift.

Work to kill your sin, and will to kill your sin, and do it with fear and trembling because God Almighty—Maker of heaven and earth, Redeemer, Justifier, Sustainer, Father, Lover—is so close to you that your working and willing is his working and willing.

Tremble at this breathtaking thought.

God Almighty is in you. God is the one in you willing. God is the one in you working. Your “continuous, sustained, strenuous” effort is not only being carried out in the presence of the all-holy God, but is the very continuous, sustained, strenuous effort of God himself.

I am not waiting for a miracle. I am acting a miracle.

God is the decisive cause, but my will is the agent. And it becomes the agent in obedience to the command “work!” For in your working, God is working.

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This is an excerpt from the revised edition of  Brothers, We Are Not Professionals  (B&H Publishing Group, 2013).

Fighting Sin is Tiring

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

God highly prizes those quiet warriors who battle with sin even when it hurts.[1]

Though they might not get much media coverage, they are heroes of the faith.

But even heroes can get tired.

And sometimes heroes even say things that seem less than heroic.

This is what the wicked are like—

always carefree, they increase in wealth.
Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;
in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been plagued;
I have been punished every morning. (Psalm 73:12-14)
 

 Why does everyone else seem to have it easier? While everyone else goes about normal life, I fight a war every minute. When do I get a break?

 
 “You have said harsh things against me,” says the LORD.
“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’
“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’” (Malachi 3:13-15)

 

So, a few words to fighters…

First, if you think a little fatigue takes you off God’s ‘highly honored’ list, you are wrong. Fatigue means you have been in battle, and it makes you kin to people like Elijah (1 Kings 19:4). Be encouraged; you are not alone. There is an army of fatigued strugglers who walk among us. Ask around, tell your story and you will meet some of them.

Second, all those folks who act as if life is fine? No troubles? Prosperity galore? Those folks don’t exist. Behind every happy person is a sad person. Behind every human being’s persona is a combination of good, bad and really hard. You would definitely not want to be the “prosperous” people who are referenced in these passages.

Third, the battle is worth it. Your Father knows every second of your battle. The challenge is that you need eyes that see past today and see something bigger than your immediate struggle. That is a message that your Father gives you. The beauty of your struggle, in which you fight by faith, is that it has eternal implications (1 Pet.1:6). Its beauty will some day be apparent for all of us to savor.

Fourth, you, perhaps more than anyone else, can have confidence that you are a child of God (Heb.12:4-6).

How Much Will God Forgive?

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley

Can you always count on God’s forgiveness?

Yes, always.

God will forgive you of your sins committed against Him. God will forgive you of your trespasses against others; He will strengthen you and help you as you confess your sin to others and ask their forgiveness. God will heal you of false guilt and help you to put completely into the forgiven past the sins of others in which you were involved.

One day Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus replied, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (See Matt. 18:21–22.)

This number—seventy times seven—refers to an unlimited perfection of forgiveness. We are to forgive others without end. Would Jesus ask Peter to do something that God wouldn’t do? No. Our Father holds out unlimited forgiveness to us. We need to come to Him and receive it.

Does this give a license to sin?

No.

People who think they can sin because they can always come to God for forgiveness make a serious error.

In the first place, true believers have no desire to sin. People who think salvation gives them permission to sin and then be forgiven repeatedly may not ever have experienced a true spiritual conversion.

In the second place, people who repeatedly sin and then seek forgiveness develop a hardened heart—a callous attitude toward their behavior and a cavalier attitude toward God’s mercy.

Finally, people who sin must face the consequences for the sins. Forgiveness does not erase consequence. The Lord chastises those who sin until they seek and accept forgiveness; the consequences of sin are related to the perfection of God’s law. The soul may be cleansed and redeemed, but people reap what they sow in their bodies, relationships, material possessions, and other areas of the natural life.

The Scriptures tell us, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’ Awake to righteousness, and do not sin” (1 Cor. 15:33–34).

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Stanley, C. F. (1997). Becoming emotionally whole (electronic ed.). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Once Saved, Why Do I Still Have To Ask For Forgiveness?

SOURCE:  John MacArthur

As long as we live in a sinful world, with our own sinful tendencies, there is a sense in which Christians, though eternally cleansed by the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5), still need daily cleansing from the effects of their sins.

The perfect illustration of these two kinds of cleansing is found in the apostle John’s account of the Last Supper, when Jesus wanted to wash Peter’s feet. At first Peter was reluctant to have Christ serve him in such a humiliating fashion. He told the Lord, “Never shall You wash my feet!” (John 13:8).

Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

Peter, always brash, decided that a foot-washing would therefore not be sufficient for him: “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” (v. 9).

Jesus’ reply draws a clear distinction between two kinds of cleansing: “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you” (v. 10).

Bathing illustrates the forgiveness of justification. Those who are justified are forgiven the penalty of sin forever. They do not need to be justified again. The day-to-day effects of their sin still need to be dealt with, however. Sin needs to be confessed and forsaken regularly, and the pardon of a loving but displeased Father must be sought.

The verb tenses in 1 John 1 also demonstrate this. A literal rendering of verse 7 reads, “The blood of Jesus His Son keeps cleansing us from all sin.” And the verb tense in verse 9 also denotes continuous action: “If we are continually confessing our sins.”

So neither the confession nor the cleansing spoken of in 1 John 1 is a one-time, finished event. These verses simply do not support the idea that God pays no heed to the believer’s daily transgressions, as if our justification once and for all made sin an utterly moot point for the Christian.

Yet the question nonetheless seems to trouble many Christians. Why must we seek God’s forgiveness if He has already granted forgiveness in justification?

The answer is that divine forgiveness has two aspects. One is the judicial forgiveness God grants as Judge.

This is the forgiveness that was purchased by the atonement Christ rendered on our behalf. This kind of forgiveness frees us from any threat of eternal condemnation. It is the forgiveness of justification. Such pardon is immediately complete and never needs to be sought again.

The other is a parental forgiveness God grants as our Father. He is grieved when His children sin. The forgiveness of justification takes care of judicial guilt, but it does not nullify His fatherly displeasure over our sin. He chastens those whom He loves, for their temporal good (Heb. 12:5–10).

So the forgiveness Christians are supposed to seek in their daily walk is not pardon from an angry Judge, but mercy from a grieved Father. This is the forgiveness Christ taught us to pray for in the Lord’s Prayer. The opening words of the prayer, “Our Father,” demonstrate that a parental rather than a judicial relationship is in view. (This is also true in 1 John 1, where “fellowship … with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” is the subject matter, again suggesting that the forgiveness in verse 9 is a parental rather than a judicial forgiveness.)

Judicial forgiveness deals with the penalty of our sins. Parental forgiveness deals with sin’s consequences.

Judicial forgiveness frees us from the condemnation of an aggrieved, omnipotent Judge.

Parental forgiveness sets things right with a grieving and displeased but loving Father.

Judicial forgiveness gives us an unshakable standing before the throne of divine judgment.

Parental forgiveness deals with the state of our sanctification at any given moment and is dispensed from a throne of divine grace (Heb. 4:16).

As Judge, God is eager to forgive sinners; but as a Father He is equally eager to keep on forgiving and cleansing His children from the defilement of their sin.

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MacArthur, J. F. (1998). The freedom and power of forgiveness (electronic ed.) (57–58). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

The Process of Developing a Life-Controlling Problem

SOURCE:  Living Free

John and Becky are 50-year-olds who attend church every Sunday and on Wednesday evenings. To look at them on Sunday morning, it would seem they are a happy Christian couple; however, the police know their address very well. During the last two years, they have become regular visitors to this home.

There are two life-controlling problems in this home.

John has uncontrolled anger, and Becky, though frequently physically and verbally abused, covers for his violent behavior because she believes it is the Christian thing to do. This violent behavior and unhealthy cover-up have gradually worsened over the years. John, who was abused by his father when he was a child, has been abusing his wife for years, but it has escalated to the point where her wounds can no longer be covered up.

These mastering problems have not only trapped John and Becky, but because they have been covered up and not dealt with, their children have also been caught in this web of pain.

A life-controlling problem is anything that masters (or controls) a person’s life. Many terms have been used to describe life-controlling problems. Someone may speak of a dependency, a compulsive behavior, or an addiction. In 2 Corinthians 10:4, the Apostle Paul uses the word stronghold to describe an area of sin that has become a part of our lifestyle when he writes that there is divine power to demolish strongholds.

The easiest life-controlling problems to identify are harmful habits like drug or alcohol use, eating disorders, sexual addictions, gambling, tobacco use, and the like. Life-controlling problems can also include harmful feelings like anger and fear. The word addiction or dependency can refer to the use of a substance (like food, alcohol, legal and/or illegal drugs, etc.,), or it can refer to the practice of a behavior (like shoplifting, gambling, use of pornography, compulsive spending, TV watching, etc.). It can also involve a relationship with another person. We call those relationships co-dependencies.

The Apostle Paul talks about life-controlling problems in terms of our being slaves to this behavior or dependency that masters us. He writes in Romans 6:14, Sin shall not be your master. In 1 Corinthians 6:12b, he says, Everything is permissible for me ‘ but I will not be mastered by anything [or anyone]. According to 2 Peter 2:19b, A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. Anything that becomes the center of a person’s life if allowed to continue will become master of that life.

Because we live in a world today that can be described as an addictive society, most people are affected in some way by a life-controlling problem — their own or someone else’s. Everyone has the potential of being mastered by a life-controlling problem. No one plans for it to happen, but without warning an individual (and those who care about him) can be pulled into the downward spiral of a stronghold.

Addictions and Idols

Idolatry leads to addiction. When we follow idols, a choice has been made to look to a substance, behavior, or relationship for solutions that can be provided only by God. We have a felt need to serve a supreme being; if we choose not to serve God, we will choose an idol to which we will become enslaved. Jeffrey VanVonderen says:

Anything besides God to which we turn, positive or negative, in order to find life, value, and meaning is idolatry: money, property, jewels, sex, clothes, church buildings, educational degrees, anything! Because of Christ’s performance on the cross, life, value, and purpose are available to us in gift form only. Anything we do, positive or negative, to earn that which is life by our own performance is idolatrous: robbing a bank, cheating on our spouse, people-pleasing, swindling our employer, attending church, giving 10 percent, playing the organ for twenty years, anything!

Following idols, which leads to addictions, prevents us from serving and loving God freely. All kinds of substance and behavioral dependencies lead to enslavement because everyone who makes sinful choices is a candidate for slavery to sin (see John 8:34). Jesus states in John 8:32 that the truth will set you free. God spoke to Moses in Exodus 20:3, You shall have no other gods before me. Sin, when unconfessed, strains the relationship with God that is meant to be enjoyed by the believer (see Proverbs 28:13; Jonah 2:8).

A very controversial question arises: Is an addiction a sin or a disease?

Those who believe addictions are sin point to the acts of the sinful nature which include a substance (drunkenness) and behavioral (sexual immorality) problem in Galatians 5:19-21. Another reference to the sinfulness of addictions is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 which shows that a definite change occurred in the lives of the Corinthian Christians: And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Those who believe addictions (particularly alcoholism and other chemical dependencies) are a disease state the characteristics are progressive, primary, chronic, and fatal. In the latter stages, the victims are incapable of helping themselves because there is a loss of control and choice. In the 1950s the American Medical Association voted approval of the disease concept of alcohol dependence. The term disease means deviation from a state of health (Minirth, 57).

When sin and addiction are compared, they show similar characteristics. Both are self-centered versus God-centered and cause people to live in a state of deception. Sin and addiction lead people to irresponsible behavior, including the use of various defenses to cover up their ungodly actions. Sin and addiction are progressive; people get worse if there is not an intervention. Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethesda and later saw him at the temple. Jesus warned him about the progressiveness of sin: See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you (John 5:14). Sin is primary in that it is the root cause of evil. Sin produces sinners as alcohol causes alcoholism. Sin is also chronic if not dealt with effectively. Finally, sin is fatal with death being the end result.

Although addictions do have the characteristics of a disease, I must stand with the authority of God’s Word as it pronounces various addictions as being a part of the sinful nature (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21). They are sinful because God has been voided as the source of the solution to life’s needs, and these choices often develop into a disease. A noted Christian psychiatrist says:

Physiologically, of course, some people are more prone to alcoholism than others, even after one drink. And often guilt drives them to more and more drinking. But then some people also have more of a struggle with greed, lust, smoking, anger, or overeating than others. Failure to contend with all of these is still sin (Minirth, 57-58).

Anything that becomes the center of one’s life, if allowed to continue, will become the master of life. If God is not the center of a person’s life, that person will probably turn to a substance, behavior, or another person for focus and meaning. David describes his enemy in Psalm 52 as one who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others (v7).

The young, rich ruler described in the gospels (see Matthew 19:16-29; Mark 10:17-30; Luke 18:18-30) came to Jesus asking how to receive eternal life. When Jesus told him he would have to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, and follow him, the young man went away sad. This rich man’s stronghold was the love of money. Everybody, not only the rich, must guard against this greater love of the rich young man. Paul writes: People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

This stronghold, the love of money, is the root cause of most addictions that plague our society. Although alcohol is a major cause of deaths, sicknesses, broken families, and relationships, it continues to be advertised with marketing strategies which appeal even to America’s high school and elementary-aged children. The demand for cocaine and other substances would soon cease if there were no profits to be made. Sexual addictions are fed by an $8 billion industry of pornographic materials, appealing television commercials, and provocative movies. Compulsive gambling is fed by state-run lotteries. I wonder how much the love of money contributes to eating disorders. Many young women starve themselves to sickness and even death because of a greedy society that promotes an unhealthy thinness as beauty through media appeal and modeling agencies.

As the creation of God, each of us has a need to be dependent. There is a vacuum in the heart of every human since the fall of Adam and Eve that can be filled only by Christ. After our first parents disobeyed God, they immediately recognized their nakedness. Without God’s covering, they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8). They soon learned they could not escape from God.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there (Psalm 139:7-8).

It is interesting that Adam and Eve hid among the trees. They hid there because of guilt. Idols, which are false gods, can also become hiding places. Isaiah writes: for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood [or false gods] our hiding place (28:15).

In a life where Christ is not the focus, a person is likely to center attention on a substance, behavior, or another person which will eventually become a god to them. David recognized the need to have God as his tower of strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior from violent men you save me (2 Samuel 22:2-3).

The disease concept of addictions should be approached with caution. Assigning addictive substances and behaviors to the disease model tends to overlook the sinful nature of mankind. Although it is popular to label every stronghold as a disease, the Church must warmly care for those caught in the web of deception with ongoing support. It takes more than a pat on the back to cure them of their stronghold. Sinful choices develop into lifestyles that are self-centered and destructive. The fall of man puts us all in need of recovery.

How the Trap Works
Addictions and dependencies generally fall into three categories: substance addictions, behavior addictions, and relationship (interaction) addictions.

1. Substance addictions (the use of substances taking control of our lives)

  • Drugs/chemicals
  • Food (eating disorders)
  • Alcohol Other addictive substances

2. Behavior addictions (the practice of behaviors taking control of our lives)

  • Gambling
  • Compulsive spending
  • Use of pornography/other sexual addiction
  • Love of money
  • Sports
  • Other addictive behavior

3. Relationship (interaction) addictions (You may have heard a relationship problem like this referred to as co-dependency. )

Everyone has the potential of experiencing one or more of these life-controlling problems at some time. Maybe you find yourself already involved in an addiction or another problem behavior that has taken over your life. Sometimes it is hard to identify a life-controlling problem.

Here are some questions that may help in that process:

Is my behavior practiced in secret?
Can it meet the test of openness or do I hide it from family and friends?
Does this behavior pull me away from my commitment to Christ?
Does it express Christian love?
Is this behavior used to escape feelings?
Does this behavior have a negative effect on myself or others?

These questions help us identify problems that have reached (or are in danger of reaching) the point of becoming life-controlling problems.

The next step is to look at the ways these behaviors and dependencies tend to progress in a person’s life. Researchers have identified a pattern that follows some very predictable steps. Most people get involved with an addiction to receive a feeling of euphoria. Alcohol or other drugs, sex, pornographic literature, gambling, and so forth, produce a temporary high or euphoria.

Vernon E. Johnson, the founder and president emeritus of the Johnson Institute in Minneapolis, has observed (without trying to prove any theory) literally thousands of alcoholics, their families, and other people surrounding them . . . we came up with the discovery that alcoholics showed certain specific conditions with a remarkable consistency. Dr. Johnson uses a feeling chart to illustrate how alcoholism follows an emotional pattern. He identifies four phases: (1) learns mood swing, (2) seeks mood swing, (3) harmful dependency, (4) using to feel normal. Many of the observations made by Dr. Johnson and others, including myself, can also be related to other types of dependencies although the terminology may differ.

We call it the “Trap” because it often snares its victims before they realize what is really happening.

Every person has the potential of experiencing a life-controlling problem. No one is automatically exempt. Even though no one plans to be trapped by such a problem, it can happen without a person’s even being aware.

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Material from Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do
Copyright © 1991, 1997 by Turning Point Ministries
All Rights Reserved

Evil, Suffering, Death

SOURCE:  Billy Graham

WHAT’S THE SOLUTION TO THESE THREE HUMAN PROBLEMS?

In the Psalms, David speaks to three problems that are still with us. They are moral and spiritual problems, and only moral and spiritual answers can solve those problems.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, NIV.

The technological revolutions of today stagger our imaginations. We try to peer into the future, and if we could actually see what the world will be like 10 or 20 years from now, I’m sure that we would be overwhelmed.

This is not the first time, however, that the human race has undergone a technological revolution.

Three thousand years ago when a young man by the name of David became king of Israel, Israel was divided and backward, and was oppressed by its neighbors. Israel was little more than a cluster of primitive tribes living in tents, and people were barely scratching a living from the land.

But 40 years later when King David died, all that had changed. In only one generation Israel had become one of the strongest, most prosperous nations in the Near East. In fact, in those few decades, Israel experienced one of the greatest periods of social and economic progress in its history.

What happened?

Certainly David was a man with exceptional leadership ability, and he had the favor of God.

But there was another reason: King David introduced into Israel a new technology.

About two centuries earlier the Hittites had discovered the secret of smelting and processing iron. Slowly the skill spread, but for many decades Israel’s enemies deliberately kept the knowledge away from Israel.

But David changed all that, and he introduced the Iron Age to Israel. Now, instead of using crude tools made of sticks and stones, Israel had plows, sickles, hoes, axes and other implements made of iron. And in the course of that one generation, Israel was completely changed.

The introduction of iron, in some ways, had an impact on David’s day much as the microchip is having today.

King David reflected on what was happening. David not only was a great ruler, he also was a great poet and a philosopher and a musician.

A technological revolution had changed the lives of his people. But as David looked at life, he realized that there were several problems that technology had not solved.

In the Psalms, David speaks to a number of these problems. And these problems are still with us, for they are moral and spiritual problems, and only moral and spiritual answers can solve those problems.

I want to address three of these problems.

HUMAN EVIL

The first problem that King David knew he could not solve is the problem of human evil. Something is wrong. We can’t get along with other people, even in our own families. We find ourselves in the paralyzing grip of self-destructive habits that we can’t break. Racism, injustice and violence sweep our world, bringing a tragic harvest of heartache and death. Even the most sophisticated among us seems powerless to break the cycle.

The Bible says that the problem is within us—within our hearts and our souls.(1) We are separated from God, and we need to have our souls restored—something that only God can do.

Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”(2)

The British philosopher Bertrand Russell was not a religious man, but on one point he agreed with Jesus when he said, “It is in our hearts that the evil lies, and it is from our hearts that it must be plucked out.”(3)

Albert Einstein once pessimistically declared, “It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.”(4)

Many people have puzzled over this. People take beneficial technological advances and twist them into something corrupting. Brilliant people devise computer viruses that bring down entire information systems. But the problem is not the technology; the problem is the person using the technology.

King David himself knew the depths of evil in his own soul. He couldn’t free himself from personal sins, which included adultery and murder.(5) Yet King David, seeking God’s forgiveness, said, “You restore my soul.”(6)

The Bible teaches that we do not simply have bodies and minds, we also have souls. Our souls are that part of us that yearns for meaning in life and that seeks something beyond this life. Our souls are that part of us that yearns for God. Even people who have no religious beliefs wonder at times if there is something more.

Thomas Edison said, “When you see everything that happens in the world of science and in the working of the universe, you cannot deny that there is a ‘Captain on the bridge.’”(7)

(2.) HUMAN SUFFERING

The second problem that King David realized he could not solve is the problem of human suffering. The Bible says, “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.”(8)

Yes, to be sure, science has done much to push back certain types of human suffering, but think of the suffering that we still face in the world today: Inner-city children trapped in cycles of despair. Children of divorce described increasingly by researchers as carrying deep and lasting wounds. Orphans and desperate children, around the world, torn apart by war.

And among those of us who are the most protected against poverty and violence, families self-destruct, friends betray us, psychological pressures bear down on us.

Why do we suffer? That is an age-old question that none of us can fully answer.

King David too suffered heartbreak. His own deceit caused the death of his infant son. His children were involved with rape, revenge and murder. His son Absalom led a revolt against him.

Yet David, again and again, in the most agonizing circumstances, could turn to God and say, “The Lord is my shepherd.”(9)

(3.) DEATH

The third problem that King David knew he could not solve is the problem of death.(10) Some people find it difficult even to comprehend death, and most people live as if they were never going to die. But death is inevitable.

The writer of Ecclesiastes declared, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die.”(11)

Several years ago a university student asked me what was the greatest surprise of my life, and I replied, “Its brevity.”

This, then, is humanity’s threefold dilemma: evil, suffering and death. Technology cannot solve these problems. They ultimately are spiritual problems, and they demand spiritual solutions.

And today in our world we need a moral dimension more than ever. Without it, the 21st century could become the bloodiest century in the history of the human race. It could be the last century. But it does not need to be this way.

Wernher von Braun said, “It has frequently been stated that scientific enlightenment and religious belief are incompatible. [But] technology and ethics are sisters.”(12)

Blaise Pascal has been called one of the architects of modern civilization. He was a brilliant scientist at the frontiers of mathematics, even when he was a teenager. He is viewed by many as the founder of the probability theory and as the creator of the first digital calculator.

Pascal explored in depth our dilemmas of human evil, human suffering and death. People can achieve extraordinary heights in science, the arts and human enterprise. Yet people also are full of anger, hypocrisy and self-hatred. Pascal saw this as a remarkable mixture of genius and self-delusion.

On November 23, 1654, Pascal had a profound religious experience. He wrote these words: “May I never be separated from Him. … Total and sweet renunciation. Total submission to Jesus Christ. Eternally in joy.”(13)

Pascal came to believe that only the love and the grace of God could bring us back into harmony with God. Pascal experienced it in a way that went beyond scientific observation and reason. It was he who wrote the words that are now well-known: “The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing.”(14)

For Pascal, scientific knowledge paled beside knowledge of God. When Pascal died at age 39, he was ready to face God.

King David lived to be 70 years old; yet he too had to face death: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”(15) This was David’s answer to the three dilemmas of human evil, human suffering and death.

It can be your answer as well as you seek the living God and allow Him to fill your life and give you hope for the future.

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(1) Jeremiah 17:9. (2) Matthew 15:19, NIV. (3) Quoted in “The Rest of Success: What the World Didn’t Tell You About Having It All,” by Denis Haack, ©1989 Denis Haack, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois. (4) From “Has Man a Future?” by Bertrand Russell, ©1961 the Estate of Bertrand Russell, Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England. (5) 2 Samuel 11:27. (6) Cf. Psalm 23:3. (7) From “Uncommon Friends: Life With Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel & Charles Lindbergh,” by James D. Newton, ©1987 James D. Newton, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, New York, New York. (8) Job 5:7, NIV. (9) Psalm 23:1, NIV. (10) Psalm 55:4-5. (11) Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, NIV. (12) From Commencement Address, June 3, 1958, St. Louis University, Von Braun Papers, Box 46. (13) From “Personal Notes,” in “Pensées,” by Blaise Pascal, translated by John Warrington, ©1960 J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., London, England. (14) From #224, in “Pensées,” by Blaise Pascal, translated by John Warrington, ©1960 J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., London, England. (15) Psalm 23:4, NIV. Bible verses marked NIV are taken by permission from The Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Rachel Weeping for Her Children — How should Christians think and pray in the aftermath of such a colossal crime?

SOURCE:  Albert Mohler

Rachel Weeping for Her Children — The Massacre in Connecticut

Thus says the LORD:  “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”[Jeremiah 31:15]

It has happened again.

This time tragedy came to Connecticut, where a lone gunman entered two classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and opened fire, killing at least twenty children and six adults, before turning his weapons of death upon himself. The young victims, still to be officially identified, ranged in age from five to ten years. The murderer was himself young, reported to be twenty years old. According to press reports, he murdered his mother, a teacher at Sandy Hook, in her home before the rampage at the school.

Apparently, matricide preceded mass murder. Some of the children were in kindergarten, not even able to tie their own shoes. The word kindergarten comes from the German, meaning a garden for children. Sandy Hook Elementary School was no garden today. It was a place of murder, mayhem, and undisguised evil.

The calculated and premeditated nature of this crime, combined with the horror of at least twenty murdered children, makes the news almost unspeakable and unbearable. The grief of parents and loved ones in Newtown is beyond words. Yet, even in the face of such a tragedy, Christians must speak. We will have to speak in public about this evil, and we will have to speak in private about this horrible crime.

How should Christians think and pray in the aftermath of such a colossal crime?

We Affirm the Sinfulness of Sin, and the Full Reality of Human Evil

First, we must recognize that this tragedy is just as evil, horrible, and ugly as it appears.

Christianity does not deny the reality and power of evil, but instead calls evil by its necessary names — murder, massacre, killing, homicide, slaughter. The closer we look at this tragedy, the more it will appear unfathomable and more grotesque than the human imagination can take in.

What else can we say about the murder of children and their teachers? How can we understand the evil of killing little children one by one, forcing them to watch their little friends die and realizing that they were to be next? How can we bear this?

Resisting our instinct toward a coping mechanism, we cannot accept the inevitable claims that this young murderer is to be understood as merely sick. His heinous acts will be dismissed and minimized by some as the result of psychiatric or psychological causation, or mitigated by cultural, economic, political, or emotional factors. His crimes were sick beyond words, and he was undoubtedly unbalanced, but he pulled off a cold, calculated, and premeditated crime, monstrous in its design and accomplishment.

Christians know that this is the result of sin and the horrifying effects of The Fall. Every answer for this evil must affirm the reality and power of sin. The sinfulness of sin is never more clearly revealed than when we look into the heart of a crime like this and see the hatred toward God that precedes the murderous hatred he poured out on his little victims.

The twentieth century forced us to see the ovens of the Nazi death camps, the killing fields of Cambodia, the inhumanity of the Soviet gulags, and the failure of the world to stop such atrocities before they happened. We cannot talk of our times without reference to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, Pol Pot and Charles Manson, Idi Amin and Ted Bundy. More recently, we see evil in the impassive faces of Osama bin Laden and Anders Behring Brevik. We will now add yet another name to the roll call of mass murderers. His will not be the last.

The prophet Jeremiah knew the wickedness and deceit of the sinful human heart and asked the right question — who can understand it?

Beyond this, the Christian must affirm the grace of moral restraint, knowing that the real question is not why some isolated persons commit such crimes, but why such massacres are not more common. We must be thankful for the restraint of the law, operating on the human conscience. Such a crime serves to warn us that putting a curve in the law will inevitably produce a curve in the conscience. We must be thankful for the restraining grace of God that limits human evil and, rightly understood, keeps us all from killing each other.

Christians call evil what it is, never deny its horror and power, and remain ever thankful that evil will not have its full sway, or the last word.

We Affirm the Cross of Christ as the Only Adequate Remedy for Evil

There is one and only one reason that evil does not have the last word, and that is the fact that evil, sin, death, and the devil were defeated at the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. There they were defeated conclusively, comprehensively, and publicly.

On the cross, Christ bore our sins, dying in our place, offering himself freely as the perfect sacrifice for sin. The devil delighted in Christ’s agony and death on the cross, realizing too late that Christ’s substitutionary atonement spelled the devil’s own defeat and utter destruction.

Christ’s victory over sin, evil, and death was declared by the Father in raising Jesus from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is the ground of our hope and the assurance of the final and total victory of Christ over all powers, principalities, and perpetrators.

A tragedy like this cannot be answered with superficial and sentimental Christian emotivism, nor with glib dismissals of the enormity and transience of this crime. Such a tragedy calls for the most Gospel-centered Christian thinking, for the substance of biblical theology, and the solace that only the full wealth of Christian conviction can provide.

In the face of such horror, we are driven again and again to the cross and resurrection of Christ, knowing that the reconciling power of God in Christ is the only adequate answer to such a depraved and diabolical power.

We Acknowledge the Necessity of Justice, Knowing that Perfect Justice Awaits the Day of the Lord

Charles Manson sits in a California prison, even now — decades after his murderous crimes were committed. Ted Bundy was executed by the State of Florida for multiple murders, but escaped both conviction and punishment for others he is suspected of having committed. Anders Behring Brevik shot and killed scores of young people in Norway, but he was sentenced to less than thirty years in prison. Adolf Hitler took his own life, robbing human courts of their justice, and Vladimir Lenin died of natural causes.

The young murderer in Connecticut took his own life after murdering almost thirty people, most of them children. He will never face a human court, never have to face a human accuser, never stand convicted of his crimes, and never know the justice of a human sentence.

But, even as human society was robbed of the satisfaction of that justice, it would never be enough. Even if executed for his crimes, he could die only once. Even if sentenced to scores of life sentences to prison, he could forfeit only one human lifespan.

Human justice is necessary, but it is woefully incomplete. No human court can hand down an adequate sentence for such a crime, and no human judge can restore life to those who were murdered.

Crimes such as these remind us that we just yearn for the total satisfaction that will come only on the Day of the Lord, when all flesh will be judged by the only Judge who will rule with perfect righteousness and justice. On that day, the only escape will be refuge in Christ, for those who knew and confessed him as Savior and Lord. On that day, those who are in Christ will know the promise that full justice and restoration will mean that every eye is dry and tears are nevermore.

We Grieve with Those Who Grieve

For now, even as we yearn for the Day of the Lord, we grieve with those who grieve. We sit with them and pray for them and acknowledge that their loss is truly unspeakable and that their tears are unspeakably true. We pray and look for openings for grace and the hope of the gospel. We do our best to speak words of truth, love, grace, and comfort.

What of the eternal destiny of these sweet children? There is no specific text of Scripture that gives us a clear and direct answer. We must affirm with the Bible that we are conceived in sin and, as sons and daughters of Adam, will face eternal damnation unless we are found in Christ. So many of these little victims died before reaching any real knowledge of their own sinfulness and need for Christ. They, like those who die in infancy and those who suffer severe mental incapacitation, never really have the opportunity to know their need as sinners and the provision of Christ as Savior.

They are in a categorically different position than that of the person of adult consciousness who never responds in faith to the message of the Gospel. In the book of Deuteronomy, God tells the adults among the Children of Israel that, due to their sin and rebellion, they would not enter the land of promise. But the Lord then said this: “And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.” [Deuteronomy 1:39]

Many, if not all, of the little children who died in Newtown were so young that they certainly would be included among those who, like the little Israelites, “have no knowledge of good or evil.” God is sovereign, and he was not surprised that these little ones died so soon. There is biblical precedent for believing that the Lord made provision for them in the atonement accomplished by Christ, and that they are safe with Jesus.

Rachel Weeping for Her Children

The prophet Jeremiah’s reference to Rachel and her lost children is heart-breaking. “Thus says the LORD:  ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.’” Like Rachel, many parents, grandparents, and loved ones are weeping inconsolably even now, refusing to be comforted for their children, because they are no more.

This tragedy is compounded in emotional force by the fact that it comes in such close proximity to Christmas, but let us never forget that there was the mass murder of children in the Christmas story as well. King Herod’s murderous decree that all baby boys under two years of age should be killed prompted Matthew to cite this very verse from Jeremiah. Rachel again was weeping for her children.

But this is not where either Jeremiah or Matthew leaves us. By God’s mercy, there is hope and the promise of full restoration in Christ.

The Lord continued to speak through Jeremiah:

Thus says the LORD: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the LORD, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, declares the LORD, and your children shall come back to their own country.”
[Jeremiah 31:16-17]

God, not the murderer, has the last word. For those in Christ, there is the promise of full restoration. Even in the face of such unmitigated horror, there is hope.“There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to your own country.”

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Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.,serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

FIGHTING THE GIANT OF FAILURE

SOURCE:  David Jeremiah

Acknowledge Your Failure

Overcoming failure—and profiting from it—begins with us.

Former President Harry Truman knew how to honestly evaluate things, even his own life. When asked if he was popular as a child in school, he replied, “No. I was never popular. The popular boys were the ones who were good at games and had big fists. I was never like that. Without my glasses, I was blind as a bat, and to tell the truth, I was kind of a sissy. If there was any chance of getting into a fight, I took off. I guess that’s why I’m here today.” In modern language, he “failed” at being popular, but he wasn’t afraid to admit it.

Sometimes we hesitate to admit our failure because we think of it like confessing sin. All sin is a failure of some sort, but not all failure is sin. So don’t be afraid to admit it when you fail.

Accept God’s Forgiveness

If our failure is due to sin, the only way to overcome its effects is to confess it to God and receive His forgiveness. The clear testimony of Scripture is that God is a forgiving God. He does not condone our sinful failures, but neither does He hold them against us if we want to be forgiven for them (Psalm 103:10; 1 John 1:9).

Apply the Lessons of Failure Toward Success

We should never accept failure as the final judgment or assessment of our potential. If we did that, we would never move beyond our first failure. We must learn to use failure as a resource, as an opportunity.

An assistant to Thomas Edison tried to console him after a string of failed experiments had produced no results. “Oh, we have lots of results,” Edison said. “We know 700 things that won’t work!” John Keates, an English author, once wrote, “Failure is in a sense the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterward carefully avoid.”

By studying our failures we will discover what we are doing wrong which can only lead us more quickly to what to do right.

Accept Failure as a Fact of Life, Not a Way of Life

Failure is an event, not a person; failure is something that happens, not someone you become.

We carelessly use the phrase, “I’m a failure,” so frequently that we begin to believe it. A person can have hundreds and hundreds of failures in his life and still be a success. Or, if he allows just a few failures to overcome him, he could be on the road to characterizing himself as a failure.

Think about Peter’s failure to identify with the Lord Jesus on the night of His arrest. And then think about him preaching with fire at Pentecost in the opening of the book of Acts. Peter failed, but he wasn’t a failure.

Arise from Failure and Start Again

The temptation when we fail is to wallow in self-pity, to sulk, to feel sorry for ourselves (a sure sign of the influence of the giant of failure). The best thing you can do is stand up, brush yourself off, and start moving forward again.

One of my favorite characters in Scripture is Jonah. You know his story, how God told Him to go one way (east to Nineveh) and he went the other (west toward Spain). Jonah failed miserably in his role and responsibility as a prophet. Yet after he had come back to the Lord, God gave him a second chance (Jonah 3:1–2). He sent him again to Nineveh to preach and 120,000 people repented before God. It was one of the greatest responses to the Word of God recorded in history. And this from a man who just a short time previously had failed miserably.

Sometimes when you try to start over people will say, “You’re a failure.” That’s the enemy talking—don’t listen. You listen to God who wants you to succeed. If you are right with Him He will be right with you.

Avoid Judging Failure in Others

Just as others might judge us, we must be on guard against judging others as a failure. [Consider] the examples of three people who were judged by others as failures, but whom God saw as successes.

1. The rich man and the beggar.
In Luke 16 the story of the rich man and Lazarus reveals two opposite individuals. Outwardly the rich man was the success and Lazarus the failure. But God’s perspective was the opposite. The rich man ended up in agony, and Lazarus ended up being comforted in Paradise. If we had seen the two before knowing God’s evaluation, would we have been quick to judge? God’s values are often very different than ours.

2. A Pharisee and a tax collector.
In Luke 18 we have the story of a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee was the epitome of success within first-century Judaism, and the tax collector one of the most despised men in town. But when they went to the temple to pray, their true success and failure became obvious. The Pharisee was proud and arrogant, the tax collector humble and repentant. Which would we have chosen as the success and which the failure?

3. A Pharisee and a prostitute.
In Luke 7, we have the story of a Pharisee named Simon and a sinful woman, a prostitute. Simon invited Jesus to his home for dinner. A prostitute came into the dinner and anointed Jesus feet with perfume and her tears. Simon was offended because of her impropriety, but Jesus was offended at Simon’s lack of love. The man who appeared to be successful was a failure when it came to love for God. The prostitute, a failure in life, succeeded in loving God. Which would we have chosen as successful and which as a failure?

These stories warn us to beware of judging others who appear to us to be failures. The man who, from the world’s point of view, was a great failure turned out to be the man God exalted and honored by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at the right hand of the throne of God.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are a failure when you fail. Defeat the giant of failure by striving to receive Jesus’ final words about your life, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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Jeremiah, D. (2001). Facing the giants in your life: Study guide (111–113). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

When looking for porn…begin in the heart

SOURCE:  Rick Thomas/Counseling Solutions

Where would you look to locate the primary problem with pornography? In our culture?

Are you tempted to initially react to the sensual realities of our culture? You should react! You should be concerned! But when you address the porn problem, are you more inclined to begin the discussion with the prevalent, pervasive, cultural, immodesty issues?

Granted it should be part of the discussion. Certainly it is right to walk our wives and daughters through how to dress modestly. It is wise to teach them how to help guard the hearts of their male friends, by dressing in an appropriate manner. However, the way they dress should not be the starting point in the pornography discussion.

Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:45

Jesus began the discussion regarding behavioral sins like porn, not with the behavior, but with the heart. In the quote above, Jesus tied the behavior (tongue/speech) to the heart. He placed the source or the genesis of our sin problems in the heart rather than on the lips.

Matters of the heart

A man’s struggle with pornography does not begin in his culture, but in his mind. Paul appealed to us to make sure we “renew the spirit of our minds” before we put on a new behavior (Ephesians. 4:22-24).

If we do not first attack our physical sin issues at the level of our minds, we will set ourselves up for the very real possibility of that sin reappearing. If we do not put the axe to the root of the tree then there will be sprigs, then limbs, and possibly full-blown branches reappearing.

And along with the ongoing, recurring behavioral sin problem of porn, there will be the real possibility of compounded frustration, anger, hopelessness, and even less faith to attack the behavioral pornography problem.

Responding to sin primarily at the level of the behavior will not ultimately work and will lead a person toward despair. All sin, including pornography, must be rooted out where it began. Find the source and you have positioned yourself for God’s empowering grace to extract the sin.

Pornography begins in the heart. Awareness of this truth brings hope. If a man believed the root of his porn problem was in his culture, then he would set himself up as a potential victim of his culture and possibly controlled by his culture.

He would be at the mercy of his culture. He would be a victim, always reacting to his culture-how women dressed or not dressed. His energy, time, and focus would be spent guarding the wrong door.

Granted, porn in our world should be guarded, but that’s not the main door. There is no hope in being a victim. However, if a man believed his wicked heart was the main problem, then there would be hope because he could apply God’s grace, repent of his sin, and live in the good of God’s Gospel.

At that point he would be positioned for strength in the battle against lust. He can’t repent of his culture. He can’t make the women of our world dress the way he thinks is right, but he can repent of the sin in his heart.

The real issue

Porn is not primarily about breasts and bottoms. There most certainly is a physical attraction for men regarding the opposite sex. God made us to desire women and in a biblical sense we should be attracted to the opposite sex. However, because of original sin, what was intended as love can easily darken to lust.

I’m not downplaying or ignoring the temptations that come with immodest women and physical attraction. I’m not saying she has no responsibility in the matter. However, what I want you to see is that if you are experiencing lust, then the source of your lust does not begin with the lady’s breasts or backside.

It begins in your heart. If you are lusting after another woman, then you need to address what is going on in your heart first.

I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:28 (ESV)

In my years of counseling, the overwhelming external sin issue among men has been pornography. It rarely matters what their reason is for seeking counsel.

If they come with marriage issues, financial problems, kid problems, depression, anger, alcohol, bitterness, or any other problem it is not unusual there is the complicating problem of porn.

Porn is pandemic in our Christian culture.

Part of the reason it is so prevalent is due to the ubiquitous expansion of the Internet. But the primary reason for porn addiction is because we live in a world of weary, frustrated, insecure, and angry men who slip into pornography because it is easy for the mind to be lured away.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. – James 1:14 (ESV)

It is a private way of bringing temporary pleasure to oneself. Typically, it is despairing men looking for an escape and porn is a practical way to get away for a few minutes.

The theater of the mind

Though there is gratification in the behavioral experience of porn, it does go much deeper than the external benefit and instant gratification. Porn not only finds its source in the mind, but there is pleasure to be found there as well.

Porn is a private theater for the mind. Porn is motivating! It is where the insecure and frustrated man can be king for a day–in his own mind. The porn addict is in control when he enters his porn world, which is usually a far cry from the lack of control he has in his real world.

He can make the cyber ladies meet his desires. It is the one place in his life where he is in total control. He controls their speech. He controls their thoughts, particularly their thoughts about him. He controls their actions. He controls their responses to him.

He twists the script in such a way to be affirmed, applauded, and appreciated. The script writer enjoys his one-man show and when he is satisfied he closes the act with a brief moment of physical gratification.

In a real world where things don’t turn out as positive and where people don’t necessarily like him, the ladies of the Internet do like him–in the theater of his mind, where they fawn all over him. There is not only instant pleasure, but there is instant victory.

  • He wins.
  • He’s good.

And he feels good about himself–for a few minutes, just before he re-enters the real world where he lives with marital disappointment, disruptive kids, an over-bearing boss, an unforgiving world, and a host of other problems he can’t seem to control.

Porn becomes his quickie, self-made escape. Like the pot smoker of the 60′s–he takes a little trip, only to return to a hopeless world.

The controller is controlled

His continual foray into the cyber porn world creates another problem too. It is like a drug. It’s addictive.

Once upon a time in the theater of the mind, the addict was in control. He used to decide when he was going on his little escape adventure. But after several such adventures of lust, his heart began to have a “mind of its own.”

That which he used to control now controls him. He is now an addict and his addiction has its roots twisted around his heart.

There was a time when he determined when he wanted his fix, but now the fix wants him. It calls. It knocks. It crouches at the door, waiting to pounce. It blitzes his mind and overpowers him.

His wife runs an errand to the store. The temptation overtakes him. It comes before she’s out the door. He waits. She leaves. Now it’s his time!

Maybe he has some downtime in his frenetic, un-affirming world and he feels the heat rising in his mind. He’s being allured to the computer. The girls are calling. They want him. He gives in. It’s got him! He did it again, but this is the last time, he says.

Porn negates the Gospel

Porn-addictive-thinking is void of the Gospel. The Gospel is Jesus Christ going to His death in order to save people from themselves. This is God’s grandest expression of love and affection for any of us. Our sin needed to be satisfied and the satisfaction came when Christ paid the debt.

Yielding to porn negates this truth. A man’s porn pursuit begins when the Gospel no longer satisfies. He wants something else, something more. Living in God’s pleasure is not enough.

The Gospel is God’s clearest message of His affection, love, care, and concern for us. When we think about the cross of Christ, we are reminded there is no length God wouldn’t go in order to rescue our perishing souls.

Because the death of Christ is an infinite expression of His great love, if the Gospel is rightly applied to your life, then there is a lessening need to make yourself feel better about yourself through man-centered methods, like porn. The Gospel shrinks our cravings for man-centered affections, love, and affirmation.

Christ becomes the “escape” for the Gospelized man or woman.

  • Do you want to change your reality? Fling yourself on the cross.
  • Do you feel alone? Live in the daily realities of the cross.
  • Do you feel isolated? Abide hard by the cross of Christ.

The cross is your escape. Living in the good of the Gospel is your victory. This must be your starting point. Remind yourself daily of what Christ did for you, how He went through death to save you (Hebrews 2:14-15). If your world is challenging and you are tempted to find a brief respite in the midst of the chaos, then let me suggest a respite.

It’s Christ. Preach the Gospel to yourself today. Right now! Ask your friends to push you toward Adam’s tree. Memorize Philippians 2:5-11. Study this text. Learn of your Savior and what He did for you. Express gratitude for His great affection for you. Learn it. Live it. Enjoy it.

While there is no magic or silver bullet in the Philippians text, the idea conveyed in that text can be life-changing. The problem with the person addicted to porn is his affections are drawn away from Christ.

The person addicted to porn has a worship disorder, to where his affections are under the control of someone else other than Christ. The solution for such a person is found in Philippians 2:5-11 as well as other texts.

While that text is made up of words, the idea of the text is life-changing. We must have the mind of Christ, not the mind of this world. Begin the heart cure at this moment.

The heart cure is reminding yourself no matter how difficult your situation is, God loves you. He cares for you. “How do you know that?” That’s easy. The cross of Christ informs your thinking here.

When I am reminded of what He did for me then I know I’m not alone. God is for me, not against me. This is Gospel-informed thinking that will have an effect on your behavior.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:31-32 (ESV)

Don’t fight the fight alone

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. –Galatians 6:1-2

As you repent of your self-focused heart cravings by informing your mind of the realities of the Gospel, as understood by the Word of God, another way you can keep from going at this alone is by adding external accountability into your life.

I have recommended through the years Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes is a very capable and non-cumbersome software program that allows another friend to have a report of all your Internet traffic for the week.

With Covenant Eyes you can fight the very real battle of being wooed to your computer to take a peek. Let others help you. Let others fulfill the law of Christ. Allow another person into your secret world of porn addiction. Once you do that then the battle is well on the way to defeat.

God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

Lastly, I exhort you to go to your local church. Talk to a trusted friend in the context of your local church. Let them into your world. Ask for their help. It would be their joy to come alongside you to help you walk through the entangling web of porn addiction.

Jesus doesn’t condemn us when we sin

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Roy Borges

Go, and Sin No More

As I lie in my bunk listening to my radio, Rebecca St. James croons, “Go, and sin no more.” The words vibrate off the four walls of my cell. If only I could erase the past and begin again.

The Bible tells a story of a nameless woman whom the scribes and Pharisees dragged before Jesus (Jn. 8:1–11). Like me, she was accused, convicted, and judged. They brought her to Jesus as He sat teaching in the temple.

In a huddled heap, prostrate before Christ, she sobs bitterly. Alone, shivering at His feet, she listens to their indictment. The charge: adultery. The verdict: guilty. The penalty: stoning.

But the undaunted eyes of the omniscient Christ see the religious leaders’ intent with a glance. They came to trap Him.

Seeming to ignore them He stoops and writes something on the ground. The circle of bearded men impatiently watches and waits. Stones are ready in their hands. Suddenly He declares: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn. 8:7).

Again He stoops to write on the ground. One by one the accusers creep away into the crowded street to hide their shame.

Alone now, Jesus looks at the weeping woman at His feet.

“Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?”

Incredulous, she lifts her head for the first time and looks into the eyes of the one who will pay the price for her acquittal.

“No one, Lord.”

“Then neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more” (Jn. 8:10–11, paraphrased).

Jesus knows everything about me. I cannot hide anything from Him. But He’s not there to judge, accuse, or condemn me. Man has already done that. Jesus is there to offer forgiveness and to bid me not to sin again.

The past can’t be erased. I have to live with my mistakes. But God can use them for good when I have a contrite heart. God’s grace not only completely forgives; it tells me I can begin again.

When I asked Christ into my heart and felt His forgiveness, like the woman in the story, I saw the greatest miracle of all. It’s more marvelous than creation, more mysterious than the stars, more melodious than a symphony, more fabulous than life itself.

God forgives a sinner like me and sets me on the path of righteousness. “Go now and leave your life of sin,” He beckons. Can I do it?

Not in my own strength. Even though in my heart I desire to please God and I don’t want to sin again, I know I will.

The Apostle Paul put it this way: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Ro. 7:18).

The devil wants me to focus on the disease so I’ll forget the power of the Physician. But God is able to deliver those He has saved. No, I am not free from sin. It will always be present in my flesh. But my sin cannot condemn me because the blood of Christ satisfies God’s justice.

When I’m overpowered by temptation, I cry out to the Lord. My cry will keep me guiltless. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).

“Go, and sin no more” is a command and a challenge. It means I can begin again wherever I am because I am trusting Him. When I rely on His strength, He will help me. That’s why He came. His love and mercy see me through whenever I pray, “Lord, forgive me for my sins and give me the strength to ‘go, and sin no more.’”

God’s Love Won’t Let Me Go — Regardless

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Ruth Myers

The Love That Won’t Let Go

God’s passion for His children is unlike any other love we’ll ever experience.

When I was a teenager, God began to deepen my appreciation for His love through “The Love of God,” a song made famous by George Beverly Shea. This song describes God’s love as “greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell.” If the skies were a scroll and the oceans filled with ink, the song goes on to say, and if every stalk on earth were a writing quill, we still could never write in full this love God has for us. The skies could not contain it. The oceans would run dry.

Through the years since then, the Lord has been weaving into my life a richer awareness of how lavishly He loves me (and all of us) and how deeply He longs for each of us to experience His love. My heart has been opened again and again to delightful discoveries that have made me feel more satisfied and at rest in Him, more alive in His love, more liberated, more secure.

In God we find the kind of love we most deeply need. If we want real love, ideal love, perfect love, God’s heart is where to find it. It’s the only love big enough to meet the God-sized needs of your life and mine.

Just Because

Because you are a special treasure to God, He is working to draw you into a deeper love for Him—away from any idols in your life, away from rival interests, away from giving first place to His good gifts instead of to Him.

In Jer. 31:3, the Lord tells His people, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (NKJV). Every hour since you first met Him, He has been pursuing you, seeking to draw you closer as a mother draws her child, as a bridegroom his bride. He wants you near.

God loves us “just because.”

His love defies human logic. It doesn’t make sense. And yet there are reasons. I think of at least two:

First, God loves us because He is love. It’s His nature to love.

Second, He loves us because He made us.

Sin has destroyed some of the beauty of His design that He must now work to restore; but He made each of us with great skill, and we have unique value to Him. Because He made us for Himself, in His image, we have the potential of intimate relationship with Him. He prizes us and wants us for Himself. He loves us for what a love relationship with Him can mean to us—and to Him—now, in this life. He also loves us for what He knows we’ll become for all eternity. He eagerly awaits the delights in store for Him and us when we will dwell with Him forever in joyful, unbroken fellowship.

We read in Dt. 7:7 and 10:15 that God set His love upon His people—He “fastened” it upon them, as The Berkeley Version says. I like that. There’s a gentle but unyielding persistence about the love of God, a tenacious tenderness toward each person who has responded to Him. He loves us and holds on and won’t let us go.

From Everlasting to Everlasting

What is God’s love like? The tenacious love of God is both eternal and changeless. These two concepts are wonderfully linked.

“The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him” (Ps. 103:17,RSV). From everlasting to everlasting. Let’s look at this phrase more closely.

From everlasting, before I ever existed, God loved me. Long before I was born, He looked ahead and fastened His affection upon me. His love for me began in His foreknowledge of me. When He decided to love me, I did not yet even exist. His love is not mine because I merit it, for He fastened His love upon me before I ever did one thing, good or bad.

Before we were born, He already knew the worst about us, and nothing that happens now can surprise or disillusion Him. He has never had any illusions about anyone or anything. He doesn’t suddenly discover some truth about one of us and think, Oh, why did I ever choose to love him or her? I like what J. I. Packer says in Knowing God: “God’s love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on the prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.”

Therefore, in the midst of my failures and struggles when I feel so undeserving, I never have to think, Oh dear, does He still love me? His love for each of us is never rooted in our worthiness, but rather in His own nature.

God says to us, “It’s not because you earned it or worked so hard for it that I have loved you. And I don’t continue loving you because you manage to maintain a high enough standard in My eyes. No, I simply made a permanent choice to love you.”

That choice will never change. He loved me from everlasting and will love me to everlasting. His love for me—and for you—will never end. It’s a lifelong, eternity-long relationship, now and forever available to meet our every need as we seek to know Him better.

Even When We Rebel

We see God’s unchanging love in an especially beautiful way in the book of Hosea. There God declared that He still loved His people “though they turn to other gods” (Hos. 3:1). Hosea’s message shows God’s constant love for His people, even when they spurned Him and persisted in rebelling against Him.

God speaks these words to His people in Hos. 11:8: “How can I give you up, Israel? . . . My heart will not let me do it! My love for you is too strong” (Good News Bible). And the New Living Translation puts it this way, “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? . . . My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows.”

This was His attitude toward them even though they had persistently rebelled against Him. God had patiently sent them warnings over the centuries, but so often they refused to listen. Finally, He had to send severe chastening. They needed it, and He gave it. But even that chastening was evidence of His love, just as it is in our lives. Throughout it all His attitude was still, “How can I let you go?” He cannot give us up. He cannot abandon us. His love for us is too strong.

How that relieves my heart!

Even when I’m letting something else be more important to me than God, God is still loving me. Even when He must discipline me, He says, “I won’t go one bit further than I have to for your good, and I would never cut you off from My love. My heart would never allow it.” He recoils at the very thought of ever withdrawing His love for us.

Psalm 73:26 begins, “My flesh and my heart may fail”—yes, this will happen to us in different ways all through life. Our bodies and souls may grow weak and waste away. And worse than that, we may inwardly and outwardly fail to trust and obey the Lord. But we can come right back to Him, confess how we have failed, and let the Lord love us. Then we can go on to personalize the last part of this verse, saying with the psalmist, “Lord, You are the strength of my heart, the source of my stability; and You are my chosen portion forever.”

Love without Limits

God’s love is incalculably great. His love is abounding, vast, infinite. His love has no limitations, no boundaries. In both duration and extent it is limitless. We’ll never be able to get out of it or away from it or beyond it.

Notice the description of God’s love in Eph. 3:16–19. Paul speaks of how the Spirit within us strengthens us so that we can, in fuller measure, have Christ dwelling within us. He says, “I pray . . . that your life will be strong in love and be built on love” (Eph 3:17, NCV). He goes on to pray that we will know in actual experience the greatness of Christ’s love—that we will understand more fully its boundless dimensions, how long and wide and high and deep it is, though it is far greater than anyone can ever know.

God’s love is limitless. This means there are no bounds to the encouragement and hope and strength it can give us. Once I found myself under unusual pressure while my husband, Warren, was gone for almost a month. Situations arose that were difficult for me to cope with. In those stressful weeks the Lord deeply ministered to me through 2 Thess. 2:16–17: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us unending encouragement and unfailing hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word” (paraphrase based on NASB and Phillips).

Here is His personal, loving touch: encouragement and hope that never fail because they are by grace, not based on my deserving. My heart—and yours—may often fail and our resources prove to be inadequate. But the Lord Himself, who loves us, is always ready to inspire us with courage and confidence, as J. B. Phillips puts it.

The Lord does not parcel out little dabs of love—”Well, you’ve been good children today, so I’ll love you a little bit.” No, His love flows freely. It overflows, coming to us in an abounding way. We read in Ro. 5:5 that God’s love has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. “It floods our hearts,” as James Moffatt translates it. It’s a tremendous outpouring of love—not in skimpy measure, but rather in a flood, an inundation.

And He has put right within us the source of this abounding love—the Holy Spirit—so His love can be poured out abundantly throughout our whole being. We don’t have to settle for trivial little insights into His love. We can experience vastly more of it than we do at present, if we truly want to—if we open ourselves to Him and His Word, seeking and yielding and trusting.

The Grace behind His Love

God’s love is linked inseparably with His grace, His attitude of unmerited favor toward us. Grace is the basis on which He first chose us in His love, and His overflowing grace is the basis on which He continues to lavish His love upon us.

We read in Ro. 5:20 in the Wuest translation that where sin abounded, “grace superabounded with more added to that.” There are no words to adequately convey the abundance of God’s grace. So we can just say that it “superabounds—with more added to that”!

God’s love is so great that no sin is too great for Him to forgive. We can always approach His throne of grace and receive forgiveness, whether for a large, even scandalous sin, or for any of the mass of little failures that get us down so that we think, Oh, do I have to confess that again?

The flow of God’s love never stops; it always shines forth undimmed. But our response determines whether it gets through to us. We can pull the blinds—or we can open them. We choose what we’ll let ourselves be filled with, and God respects our choice. He does not force His love on us. But at all times His love flows and shines—perfect, unwavering, available to meet our needs.

We see this unchanging flow of God’s love portrayed in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. The father was waiting for the son to turn his back on his rebellion and return home. And when he saw him coming, he didn’t have to think twice about responding with fervent love. The flow of his love had never lessened, though the son had strayed to a far country and into terrible sin.

All of us need this grace. To the person with desperate needs who is willing to admit them, God shows His love. Do you qualify? I know I do. I qualify because I have needs—desperate needs. And He has made me willing to admit them and let Him meet them. When I fail to recognize how needy I am, He graciously works to remind me (at times in painful ways). And He renews my willingness to say, “Lord, I’m so messed up, so needy, so unable to obey You and to handle life in my own strength. So I bring my deep needs to You.”

As we mature through the years, we see shortcomings and areas of neglect in our lives that we didn’t know were there. So often, when we feel we’re doing well (if we’ve been victorious and had our quiet time every day and learned Bible verses and been nice to our family and our neighbors), then we think, God surely loves me today. Then we drop into those low times—we’re sure there’s no way He could love us now. So at the very point where we need His love most, we don’t even dare come before Him to seek and experience it. We forget that He has always loved us, even when we had absolutely no use for Him at all. And He will always love us—just because.

Sacrificial Love

When it comes to human love, we like to see action as well as words, don’t we?

Words, of course, are important. A wife never tires of hearing her husband tell her again, “I love you.” God gives us plenty of words to tell us He loves us, but He also acts upon that love. His greatest action was sending His Son to suffer humiliation and anguish for us when we still had no use for Him. He was willing to pay the highest price possible so that we could belong to Him, so that He could have a loving relationship with us.

His love for you and me is a costly love. In the Wuest translation of 1 Jn. 4:7 we read that God’s love is “divine and self-sacrificial.” This, again, points us to the cross—the ultimate sacrifice. Such love is foreign to our nature. Humans love like this only when their love comes from God.

In Ro. 5:6–8 we read:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

And because of this sacrifice, “we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Ro. 5:11).

Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). A human love will conceivably die for a friend—though only the greatest of human loves would ever dare to do it. Jesus, however, died for His enemies, so that He could make us His friends, bringing us into intimate relationship with Himself. That’s how much He desires to have us near Him.

Only God is the source of such love. His is truly the greatest love of all.

The Favor of the King

In this, as in all that God gives us, He is immeasurably generous. His love gives and gives and is never depleted, because His power and resources are unlimited. He never has need to give in a grudging way. As Eph. 3:20 says, He’s able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think—beyond our fondest dreams. He’s a total giver who loves to give, who delights to do good for us, so that we can live truly abundant lives.

Romans 5:17 speaks of what Christ has done for believers and how “by their acceptance of his more than sufficient grace and righteousness” people can now “live their lives victoriously” (Phillips). We have this possibility of living royally because of the abundance of God’s grace. As we have seen, grace means “unmerited favor,” favor that we don’t have to earn, favor that we don’t deserve. In fact, we deserve just the opposite!

And whose favor is it? The favor of the King of kings. Favor that flows out from Him toward us. And as we receive it, realizing we are highly favored by the only truly important person who exists, it does something in our hearts. If we belong to the King of kings, we can be sure of His favor whenever we approach Him.

God loves to honor our requests and bestow His favors upon us. God delights to do the things that delight us, and so He gives to us lavishly. He is not a stingy God. When Jesus came to this earth, His purpose was to share with us His true and eternal treasures. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

These riches include everything we need here on earth for a full spiritual life and a satisfying emotional life. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Pet. 1:3).

This is all ours to enjoy as we seek to know Him better.

Bad Choices: Forgetting the Past — Looking Forward

SOURCE:  Living Free

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14 NLT

God loves us so much that he gives us the freedom to make choices. Some are of little consequence, but others are life-changing. This freedom of choice dates back to Adam and Eve. They made a bad choice, and sin entered the realm of mankind.

The freedom to make choices brings responsibility. We have all made poor choices at times and have suffered the consequences of those bad choices. The good news is that no matter what poor choices we may have made in the past, there is always hope for a better future. God knew that we would make some bad choices, but he loves us so much that he sent Jesus to pay the price for our sin and to provide a way for our relationship to him to be restored.

Some people go through life carrying the load of some wrong choices they have made in the past. They believe they have messed up so badly that nothing good can ever come of their lives. Do you ever feel this way?

Good news! If you want to be set free from the past, Jesus is the answer. He has already paid the price for your sin … for every wrong choice you have ever made. Talk to him. Ask him to forgive you and to help you make better choices from now on. He is ready, and he is more than able.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 NIV

Remember, you are very special to God. He loves you no matter what you have done. He is there for you. He wants you to put the past behind so that you can become all that he has designed you to be. Ask God’s forgiveness … learn from your mistakes … and look forward to a future filled with hope.

Lord, thank you for forgiving my sins. I have made so many wrong choices. Help me now to put them behind and to look forward to the future you have planned for me … one filled with hope. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Free to Grow: Overcoming Setbacks and Disappointments by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

Beware the Peril that Lurks in Success

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful.  (2 Samuel 11:2)

We are never more vulnerable to sin than when we are successful, admired by others, and prosperous, as King David tragically discovered. Imagine him reflecting on his adultery a year later.

It was spring again. David once had loved warm, fragrant spring afternoons on the palace roof. But this year the scent of almond blossoms smelled like deep regret.

David had no desire to look toward Uriah’s empty house. If only he had not looked that way a year ago. The memory throbbed with pain. His conscience had warned him to stop watching Bathsheba. But in his desire-induced inertia it had felt like he couldn’t pull himself away.

What pathetic self-deception! Couldn’t pull himself away. He would never have tolerated such a weak excuse in another man. If Nathan had unexpectedly shown up while he was leering would he have pulled himself away? O yes! Wouldn’t have risked his precious reputation!

But there on the roof alone, he had lingered. And in those minutes, sinful indulgence metastasized into a wicked, ultimately lethal plan.

David wept. His sovereign, lustful selfishness had stripped a married woman of her honor, murdered her loyal, valiant husband, and killed his own innocent baby boy. Bathsheba was now left with a desolate, hollow sadness.

And he shuddered at the Lord’s dark promise: “The sword will never depart from your house”(2 Samuel 12:10). The destruction had not run its full course.

How had he come to this?

David thought back to those harrowing years when Saul chased him around Horesh. How often had he felt desperate? Daily he had depended on God for survival. He had longed for escape and peace in those days. Now he viewed them as among the best of his life.

And then came the tumultuous, heady years of uniting Judah and Israel under his kingship and subduing their enemies. And it had all climaxed with God’s almost unbelievable promise to establish David’s throne forever.

Had a man ever been so blessed by God? Every promise to him had been kept. Everything David touched had flourished. Never had Israel as a nation been so spiritually alive, so politically stable, so wealthy, so militarily powerful.

And at the peak of this unprecedented prosperity, David had committed such heinous sin. Why? How could he have resisted so many temptations in dangerous, difficult days and then yield at the height of success?

Almost as soon as the question formed in his mind he knew the answer. Pride. Monstrous, self-obsessed pride.

Honored by his God, a hero to his people, a terror to his enemies, surrounded by fawning assistants and overflowing affluence, the poisonous weed of self-worship had grown insidiously in David’s heart. The lowly shepherd that God had plucked by sheer grace from Bethlehem’s hills to serve as king had been eclipsed in his own mind by David the Great, the savior of Israel — a man whose exalted status entitled him to special privileges.

David cupped his face in his hands as his shame washed over him again. Bathsheba’s body had been nothing more than a special privilege he had decided to bestow on himself. And in so doing he had placed himself above God, his office, his nation, Uriah’s honor and life, Bathsheba’s welfare — everything. David had sacrificed everything to the idol of himself.

David fell on his face and wept again. And he poured out his broken, contrite heart to God.

But profound hope was woven into the deep remorse David felt. Knowing he deserved death, David marveled at and worshiped God for the unfathomable depths of mercy in the words, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Samuel 12:13). It took his breath away. This word had come before a single sacrifice had been offered.

This was love that surpassed knowledge. Something miraculous was at work here, something much more powerful than horrific sin. David wasn’t quite sure how it worked. What he did know is that he wanted other transgressors to know the amazingly gracious ways of God.

The greatest enemy of our souls is the pathologically selfish pride at the core of our fallen natures. If we look deep enough, this is what we will find feeding the strong, sinful cravings of our appetites.

And this is why prosperity can be so spiritually dangerous. We tend to see our need for God more clearly in adversity. But seasons of success can be our most perilous because we are so easily deceived into thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. Self-exalting pride is what leads us to usurp God’s rightful rule.

We must beware this danger that lurks in blessings.

And when we sin, we must run to and not avoid the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). On this side of the cross we now know fully what David didn’t: God put away our sin by placing them on himself.

Only at the cross will we hear, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” Ever.

————————————————————————————————————–

Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) is President of Desiring God, which he and John Piper launched together in 1994.

Q&A: How To Forgive

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question:   I know God’s word tells us to forgive, but how do you do it? I try, but I still feel angry and bad thoughts come into my head. How do I know when I’ve let it go?

Answer:   Forgiveness is a decision not a feeling. It’s a choice, so the process starts there. You must decide in your heart to work toward forgiving those who have hurt you or sinned against you.

I find that many people either forgive too quickly, before doing the emotional work they need to do in order to process and get rid of their hurt and anger, or they don’t forgive at all because they have erected large, thick walls of bitterness and resentment.

Jesus tells us to forgive one another, and that alone is a good enough reason to do it, but forgiveness is a good thing to do even for those who don’t know Jesus or believe in him. Long before modern medicine studied the physiological effects of chronic anger, resentment, and bitterness on the body, God knew that harboring these toxic emotions could not only damage our health but also ruin our lives. He warns us to get rid of them promptly.

God knows sin destroys us. It is not the sin that is committed against us that wields the fatal blow. Rather, it is our own sinful reaction to the things that have happened to us. Unresolved anger often turns to depression, self-pity, bitterness and resentment, and these things poison our body and our soul. A person finds healing through the process of forgiveness by both receiving forgiveness and extending forgiveness. That is why God is so insistent that we forgive. He doesn’t want sin to ruin our lives.

Please don’t misunderstand what forgiveness is. Forgiveness isn’t excusing the offender or minimizing their offense. Forgiveness is your decision to cancel the debt they rightfully owe you. Many protest here and become stuck because they are rightly deserving of justice or an apology or some restitution for the offenses done to them. They don’t want to cancel the debt owed because it feels so unfair to them. Yet, if they are waiting for the person to repent or apologize or show remorse, they may wait a very long time.

In the Old Testament story, Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery. Joseph’s obedience freed him to be used by God in Egypt. But Joseph never initiated reconciliation with his betrayers—nor did he expose himself to them when he first saw them again. Why? He did not trust them. He was kind and gracious to them because he forgave them, but he tested them to see if they had repented and changed their jealous and self-centered ways. Joseph invited them back into relationship with him after they passed the test (see Genesis 42–46). Joseph’s forgiveness and his brothers’ repentance were both necessary to bring reconciliation and restoration to their relationship.

For some of you, you may never see repentance from the person who hurt you. Sandy lived stuck in her past, angry that her father abused her. She refused to give up her anger until “he admits what he did and says he’s sorry.” When she confronted him and asked for an apology, he told her she was crazy and denied everything she accused him of doing. That left her waiting for something that may never happen. She allowed her father to continue to ruin her present and her future because he would not do what she longed for him to do. Sandy’s anger and lack of forgiveness wasn’t hurting Sandy’s father. He lived selfishly just as he always did. It was Sandy’s life that was hurt by her angry and bitter heart. Finally forgiving her father released Sandy from those toxic emotions. Her father will still have to give an account for what he did to Sandy, only it will be God, not Sandy who will judge him.

In my own life, forgiveness usually comes in steps and cycles. It is not a one-time, over-and-done-with event. First, I decide to forgive, exercising my will. Then I begin the process of letting go, releasing the anger, the hurt and my desire to retaliate. I appeal to God for justice and turn the situation over to him. I also ask him to help me see my offender and myself differently. This is very helpful. When God shows me my own sinful nature and the things I am capable of doing, then I can have some genuine compassion for my offender because, but for God’s grace, I may have done the same thing. I no longer want to see my offender only as someone who did something wrong, but also as someone who has done some things right. I no longer want to see him or her as a victimizer, but as a person with weaknesses of character and a sinful heart, just like me.

When hurtful memories surface and I’m tempted to dwell on the wrongs done to me, I continue this process and keep at it until the negative emotions and thoughts are no longer in the front of my mind. They are fading and moving to the past, right where they belong.

To practice forgiveness, walk regularly through these four steps:  Decide—Begin—Continue—Keep at it.

As we do this, we are changing. We are no longer defining ourselves by what has happened to us, but we are instead seeing ourselves by what God is doing in us. Our healing becomes a powerful conduit for God’s love and grace to flow to others, and we can honestly say that what Satan meant for evil, God is using for good.

Does the Bible teach that Christians are nothing but sinners-that there is nothing good in us?

SOURCE:  John Eldredge

No Good Thing?

I’m just a sinner, saved by grace.

“I’m just clothes for God to put on.”

“There sure isn’t any good thing in me.”

It’s so common this mind-set, this idea that we are no-good wretches, ready to sin at a moment’s notice, incapable of goodness, and certainly far from any glory.

It’s also unbiblical.

The passage people think they are referring to is Romans 7:18, where Paul says, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (KJV).

Notice the distinction he makes. He does not say, “There is nothing good in me. Period.” What he says is that “in my flesh dwelleth no good thing.” The flesh is the old nature, the old life, crucified with Christ. The flesh is the very thing God removed from our hearts when he circumcised them by his Spirit. In Galatians Paul goes on to explain, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature [the flesh] with its passions and desires” (5:24). He does not say, “I am incapable of good.” He says, “In my flesh dwelleth no good thing.” In fact, just a few moments later, he discovers that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2 NKJV).

Yes, we still battle with sin.

Yes, we still have to crucify our flesh on a daily basis. “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the [sinful nature], you will live” (Rom. 8:13 NKJV).

We have to choose to live from the new heart, and our old nature doesn’t go down without a fight.

For now the question on the table is: Does the Bible teach that Christians are nothing but sinners-that there is nothing good in us?

The answer is no! Christ lives in you. You have a new heart. Your heart is good.

That sinful nature you battle is not who you are.

 

(Waking the Dead , 75-76)

True Repentance: What does it mean to turn your back on sin?

SOURCE:  Douglas Wendel/Discipleship Journal

“What’s it supposed to look like?” a Christian friend questioned me from across the table one day at lunch.

In discussing his recently failed marriage, I suggested that he had not repented of his own wrongdoing in the messy ordeal. He seemed overly focused on his ex-wife’s wrongs, while he had barely mentioned his own shortcomings. I grieved over my friend’s broken marriage but also over his unrepentant heart. Unfortunately, I see unrepentant attitudes becoming more and more common among the conflict-filled lives Christians lead today.

In Is. 30:15, we are told, “In repentance and rest is your salvation.” In other words, the road to a restored relationship with God and with others begins with repentance. Denying sin separates us from God in our day-to-day walks with Him; repentance and confession bring reconciliation.

If repentance is so important in our relationships with God and with others—especially those we love most— why is it so difficult to do? Perhaps one of the answers lies in our inability to answer the question my friend asked me: What does repentance look like? If we don’t know what repentance should look like in our own hearts and lives, we’ll have a difficult time recognizing whether or not we are truly repentant.

What Repentance Is  . . . and Isn’t

The original biblical languages give us some interesting insights into the meaning of the word repentance. The Hebrew words nacham and shub and the Greek word metanoeo are all translated “repent” in our Bible. In the Old Testament, nacham denotes a change of mind or heart, while shub indicates a turning away from evil and then a turning to God. In the New Testament, metanoeo means a change of one’s mind or purpose. Repentance, then, is the inner change of one’s mind and heart that results in outwardly turning away from sin and turning toward God.

Notice in this definition that the focus is on my actions and attitudes, not someone else’s. This is a key in understanding what it means to repent. Blaming someone else is not repentance. Crying is not repentance. Even feeling sorry for people who’ve been hurt by our sin is not necessarily repentance. True repentance is the inner focus of my heart on my own sin—realizing the pain and separation I have caused in a situation, feeling sorry about my wrong actions and attitudes, and being willing to turn away from my sin. It is recognizing and dealing with the plank in my own eye before trying to remove the speck in my brother’s eye (Mt. 7:3–5).

Aspects of Repentance

Here’s what true repentance should look like in our lives:

Grieving over my sin. When we realize how much our sin hurts God and other people, it should cause deep grief within us. In Ps. 51:3–4, King David stated, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”

David did not ignore or gloss over his sins of adultery and murder once God brought them to his attention. He faced them squarely, looked at the horrible results of his evil acts, and grieved over the hurt he had caused, especially his sins against God. Though David also sinned against people, the severity of his sin against God was almost more than he could bear.

In their book Rekindled, NBA general manager Pat Williams and his wife, Jill, tell how they resurrected an almost dead marriage. One day Jill told Pat of her lack of love for him and her apathy about their marriage. Pat was driven to his knees before God. He began jotting down in a notebook all the specific ways he had sinned against Jill during their 10 years of marriage. As he meditated on this list, Pat realized that “he himself had been the man who was tearing that relationship asunder.” The reality of his own sins and the hurts he had caused his wife tore his heart apart.

The hurts and heartaches brought on by our sin should be almost more than we can bear, too. We would also benefit by writing down the specific ways we have sinned against God and other people in thought, word, and deed. Listing these offenses will help us see the severity of our sins and give us a starting point for the next aspect of repentance—confession.

Confession. Grieving over our sin should create a desire to confess our sin to God and to those we have offended. Confession means we agree with God that our attitudes, words, or actions have been wrong. In the latter part of Ps. 51:4, David states, “You are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” David’s attitude here comes through loud and clear: “God, You are right in judging me, because I have been dreadfully wrong!” Once David realized the horror of his wrong actions, he openly agreed with God about his sin.

Not only did David agree with God about his sin, but he also agreed with others about it. Nathan accused David of having Uriah killed and then taking his wife. David replied to the prophet in humility, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13).

As a young Christian, I attended a weekly Bible study where the leader gave members of the group an opportunity to share how God was working in their lives. One week a brother in Christ solemnly stood and confessed that he had committed fornication the week before. Most of us were speechless at this brother’s admission, but our group leader spoke to him with kind words of encouragement and restoration. As hard as it was for this young man to admit his sin, we all learned from his experience. We also saw our leader respond graciously and gently, and the young man experienced the truth described in Prov. 28:13: “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

Amidst the stench of sin, confession is a breath of fresh air. If we are truly repentant, we will humbly agree with God and with others about our sins. Only the fresh air of confession will cleanse our hurting relationships. We must breathe deeply and frequently of confession.

Calling to God for inward change. Once we have confessed our sin, we should have a desire to forsake our sinful habits and replace them with godly ones. As we look through Psalm 51, we see David crying out to God for inward change. In verse 2 he asks God “to wash away all my iniquity.” In verse 6 he prays, “Teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” And in verse 10 he asks God to “create in me a pure heart.” David wanted God to replace the evil within him with God-honoring attitudes and actions.

As a 19-year-old air force airman, my self-centered life was characterized by dissatisfaction. I worked at a “boring” desk job and lived around other unhappy airmen who gave themselves to all sorts of sinful pleasures. Then one night I heard a clear presentation of the gospel message and placed my trust in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I asked God to take away my sinful, self-centered desires and replace them with His desires for me.

The next morning when I awoke, I was still living amidst my unhappy neighbors. I walked to the same desk job. My outward circumstances hadn’t changed a bit, but over the weeks and months that followed, my inner attitudes changed. My desk job became a place to learn endurance, to share my new faith in Christ, and to glorify God. I began to see my neighbors as lost people who needed to hear the life-giving message of the gospel. God answered my cry for inner change and gave my life meaning and purpose by transforming my self-centered attitudes into God-centered ones.

In his book Understanding People, Lawrence J. Crabb, Jr. says this about our need for inward change:

Repentance involves much harder work than apologizing for losing our temper and promising never to do it again. Sin hidden from view needs to be surgically removed like a tumor.

God is the surgeon who can remove the tumor of sin from within our hearts. We must allow Him to do His supernatural surgery in us so that we can overcome our sinful nature.

Only God, with our willing obedience, can transform our hideous, sinful habits into channels of blessing to others. No doubt we will fall short as we strive to change, but the inner transformation God brings from our repentance should result in consistent, long-term changes, inwardly and outwardly.

The Benefits of Repentance

As we genuinely repent, we’ll begin to see the benefits of the heart changes we’ve made.

Fruit. In Mt. 3:8, John the Baptist rebuked the religious leaders of his day, saying, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” John’s statement makes it clear that true repentance is evidenced by a changed life on the inside and outside.

I recently heard the story of a Christian man who was confronted by his fellow workers. They shared with him their concerns about some of the attitudes they saw in him, pointing out how his pride and controlling behavior would often come out in staff meetings. Although these were tough words for this man to hear, he accepted their reproof and humbly asked the Lord to change him from the inside out. I met this man a year later. I was impressed by his humility, his listening ear, and his concern for me as an individual. The positive changes in his outer person were proof of his genuine repentance before God.

Repentance always brings identifiable changes in our attitudes, words, and actions. Do you remember what happened when Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh? They repented, turned to God in prayer and fasting, and humbled themselves before Him (Jon. 3:5–9). Just as the people of Nineveh produced fruit with their repentance, we, too, should demonstrate the fruits of repentance, such as a changed thought life, kinder words, and victory over destructive habits.

Inner peace. A changed inward and outward life before God and others will result in inner peace. And this inner peace will stay with us even when things are not going our way.

King David was chased out of Jerusalem by his own son Absalom (2 Samuel 16). During his flight, a man named Shimei pelted David and his men with stones (v. 6). In response to Abishai’s offer to kill Shimei, David said, “If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’” (v. 10). Why was David able to respond this way while being showered with rocks and dirt? Because peace ruled in his heart. David had fully repented of his sins against Uriah and accepted the consequences of his wrongdoing.

I was once in an air force Bible study in which one of the members, a young man named Dave, was arrested for using illegal drugs. He was a struggling believer who repented of his sin and recommitted his life to Christ after this incident. Dave’s life drastically changed as he began growing in his relationship with the Lord and sharing his faith with others. Although he was now right with God, Dave still had to face the consequences of breaking the law, including the possibility of imprisonment for his wrongdoing.

Did this discourage Dave from following the Lord? No. With peace and joy that come only from above, Dave stepped into the courtroom for his trial, confessed his use of illegal drugs to the judge, and talked about how his life had changed because of his relationship with Christ. The judge mercifully let Dave out of the military without sentencing him to serve any prison time.

Just like King David, we may have to face significant consequences because of our sins, even after we have repented. But the fact that we have grieved over our sins, confessed them to God and to those we’ve offended, and allowed God to bring inward and outward change to our lives will give us a peace that endures these hardships. This deep, lasting, inner peace can be attained no other way.

Taking Stock of Your Soul

Repentance is not easy. It requires honesty, humility, obedience, and endurance. Our reputation before others may suffer. Yet the devastating damage caused by failure to repent is far more costly than the self-sacrificing price of repentance. Many broken lives and relationships bear witness to this fact.

Ask God to reveal any sin in your life that you haven’t fully repented of. By His grace, determine to do what’s right in His eyes.

The Sinning Servant: You? Me? Yes!

SOURCE:  Janice Wise/Discipleship Journal

THE SINNING SERVANT

God responds to our failures not with condemnation, but with gentle conviction.

It had been a good day! After building an altar, the prophets of Baal had laid out their sacrifice and shouted for their god to light the fire. All day they had clamored—but nothing happened.

Then Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord God, spreading his sacrifice upon it. Three times, at Elijah’s insistence, the people poured water over the offering, until the water ran down and filled the trench around the altar.

Elijah prayed, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me . . . so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again” (1K. 18:36–37).

The people watched in amazement as the fire of the Lord fell from Heaven and burned up everything—sacrifice, wood, stones, soil, even the water in the trench. How they cried, “The LORD, he is God! The LORD—he is God!” (1K.18:39). In triumph Elijah commanded the people to help him destroy the prophets of Baal. God had been faithful once again.

Then it was time to pray for rain. Three years before, Elijah had called for a drought in the land because of the sins of the people. Now God instructed Elijah to present himself to King Ahab with the announcement that rain was coming this day.

Elijah prayed seven times, until a cloud appeared in the sky and the wind rose, bringing a heavy rain upon the drought-stricken land. In the gathering storm, Elijah ran ahead of King Ahab’s chariot all the way to Jezreel. God had demonstrated His power and shown without a doubt that Elijah was His servant. Tired but elated, Elijah could thank God for the wonders of the day.

As he rested, a messenger came from the palace. Queen Jezebel’s words were pointed. “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them” (1 K. 19:2). She intended to kill Elijah as he had killed her prophets!

At the height of confidence and triumph the Enemy struck his blow. The Scriptures say, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life” (1K.19:3).

After a day’s journey into the desert, Elijah found a broom tree and sat down under it. “I have had enough, LORD,” he prayed in discouragement. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1K.19:4). Then Elijah did what we often do in times of discouragement; he lay down and fell asleep.

Discouraged—Elijah? This man of God who had that very day experienced such triumphs in his ministry? Yet here we find him full of fear, defeat, self-pity. We, too, face these enemies as we serve the Lord. And often, like Elijah, we let them control our reactions.

NO CONDEMNATION

How does God deal with faithful servants who succumb to the attack of the Enemy? With condemnation?

No, for condemnation enlarges the already heavy load of defeat and drives us farther from our God. The Scriptures teach, “God’s kindness leads you toward repentance” (Ro. 2:4). God’s love brings us to the place of conviction. There He lifts us up and sets us once more on His path for our lives. As we look at God’s way with Elijah we can better understand the positive force of God’s conviction in our own lives.

Elijah slept on under the broom tree. Then God sent an angel—not to upbraid or punish the prophet, but to give him hot bread and fresh water. After Elijah had eaten, he lay down again.

A second time the angel of the Lord came to him. Surely this time the angel would speak to Elijah about his shameful behavior. But no—look at what the angel said: “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you” (1K. 19:7). Once more Elijah received nourishment and encouragement.

THE PLACE OF CONVICTION

After he had experienced God’s kindness, we might expect Elijah to quit running, but he only used the added strength to run farther away. He traveled forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb, where he found a cave and spent the night.

God knows exactly where we are headed when we run, and He even helps us to get there. He shows His love to us as He leads us to the place of conviction.

I remember a childhood friend who once threatened to run away from home. Her mother responded kindly, “Oh, you don’t want to live with us anymore? Would you like me to help you pack your suitcase?” Deciding she wasn’t that eager to leave, my friend talked her problem over with her mother, who helped her become happy at home once again.

So God helped Elijah, giving him strength even to run away. When Elijah reached his hideaway God was there, too. And He had just one question. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1K. 19:9).

“I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty,” Elijah responded. “The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (1K. 19:10).

See how fear and self-pity changed Elijah’s point of view. The Israelites had just proclaimed, “The LORD—he is God!” in response to the heavenly fire that consumed Elijah’s sacrifice. They helped Elijah put to death the prophets of Baal. And it was Queen Jezebel, not the Israelites, who had threatened to kill Elijah. When we get “under the circumstances,” driven by the Enemy, we have a distorted view of our situation.

God did not point out all these fallacies in Elijah’s complaints. Instead He spoke to him as He does to us when we have lost our way. He said in effect, “Look at Me.”

God’s GENTLE WHISPER

God told Elijah, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by” (1 K. 19:11). No condemnation, no explanation. Just the positive command to look at the One who can turn our darkest night into day by His presence.

There came a powerful wind—but the Lord was not in the wind. An earthquake followed—but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, a fire—but the Lord was not in the fire.

For those who know His voice, God doesn’t speak through wind, earthquake, and fire. These are the ways He speaks to the world, to instill fear of Himself, for “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10). Elijah did not need to be made afraid. He just needed to be reminded of his relationship with God.

After the fire came a gentle whisper. Then Elijah, recognizing the voice of his God, went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Once more God asked the question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1K.19:13).

Condemnation will hammer at us about our sin; conviction asks the question that helps us see and correct the wrong.

God asked the same question. Elijah gave the same answer. In love, God lets us speak out the self-pity and frustrations, emptying them from ourselves to Him. Again Elijah aired his complaints, ending with the plaintive, “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (1K. 19:14).

God did not comment on Elijah’s twisted view of things. Instead, after allowing the prophet to express himself, God gave a positive direction. Genuine conviction always provides a bridge back to the path of God.

THE PATH BACK TO GOD

God commanded Elijah, “Go back the way you came.” Then He gave him instructions to anoint Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha (1K. 19:15–16). God was telling Elijah to get on with the work of the Kingdom. God also shared with Elijah some future events, thereby showing him that their friendship remained intact; Elijah continued to be God’s man no matter how far he had run.

Almost as an afterthought God added: “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him” (1 K.19:18). Elijah wasn’t the only one left, and God had known it all along.

Elijah’s conviction and repentance were complete, for we read in the next part of the chapter that he immediately went and obeyed God’s command to appoint Elisha to succeed him (1K.19:19). God blessed Elijah as he obeyed. When the prophet anointed Elisha, the young man left his family to become Elijah’s attendant. Elijah never again had to feel he was the “only one.”

THE POSITIVE POWER OF CONVICTION

Conviction speaks the truth in love. It usually consists of few words, sometimes only a question. But our hearts know we are being checked in our course by the One who loves us.

James wrote, “Elijah was a man just like us” (Jas. 5:17). We who serve God have great power from Him—and shattering weaknesses of our own. The creative might of God’s conviction forms a bridge from our weaknesses to His strength. Because of this power active in our times of failure and discouragement, we can gladly say with the Apostle Paul, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

When we suffer discouragement and self-pity we are God’s servants still. We can trust that He will restore us to His paths as we yield to the positive power of His conviction.

 

“I will not accuse for ever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me. . . . I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;

I will guide him and restore comfort to him.”

—Isaiah 57:16-18

Homosexuality: Standing Without Compromise On The Authority Of The Bible

SOURCE:  Albert Mohler as posted on Ligonier Ministries

The Challenge of Same-Sex Unions

In the world but not of the world? From the very beginning, the church has faced the challenge of responding to external events, trends, ideologies, and controversies. By definition, the church does not get to choose these challenges, but they have been thrust upon Christians by the world. The question always comes down to this: What now?

That question seems especially urgent in light of the emergence of same-sex unions and marriage in the United States and the world over. How must the church answer this challenge?

To answer that question, we need to think about the speed of the moral revolution that has pushed this question to the forefront of our culture. In less than a generation, homosexuality has gone from being almost universally condemned to being almost fully normalized in the larger society.

We are facing a true moral inversion — a system of moral understandings turned upside down. Where homosexuality was even recently condemned by the society, now it is considered a sin to believe that homosexuality is wrong in any way. A new sexual morality has replaced the old, and those who hold to the old morality are considered morally deficient. The new moral authorities have one central demand for the church: get with the new program.

This puts the true church, committed to the authority of God’s Word, in a very difficult cultural position. Put simply, we cannot join the larger culture in normalizing homosexuality and restructuring society to match this new morality. Recognizing same-sex unions and legalizing same-sex marriage is central to this project.

Liberal churches and denominations are joining the project, some more quickly and eagerly than others. The cultural pressure is formidable, and only churches that are truly committed to Scripture will withstand the pressure to accommodate themselves and their message to the new morality.

What, then, is the true church to do? First, we must stand without compromise on the authority of the Bible and the principles of sexual conduct and morality that God has revealed so clearly in His Word. The Bible’s sexual morality is grounded in the creation of humanity in God’s image; we are created as male and female and given the gift of sex within the marriage covenant — and only within the marriage covenant between one man and one woman for as long they both shall live.

The easiest way to summarize the Bible’s teaching on sexuality is to begin with God’s blessing of sex only within the marriage covenant between a man and a woman. Then, just remember that sex outside of that covenant relationship, whatever its form or expression, is explicitly forbidden. Christians know that these prohibitions are for our good and that rejecting them is tantamount to a moral rebellion against God Himself. We also know that the Bible forbids all same-sex sexual acts and behaviors. Thus, we know that homosexuality is a sin, that blessing it in any way is also sin, and that normalizing sin cannot lead to human happiness.

Second, we must realize what is at stake. Marriage is first and foremost a public institution. It has always been so. Throughout history, societies have granted special recognition and privileges to marriage because it is the central organizing institution of human culture. Marriage regulates relationships, sexuality, human reproduction, lineage, kinship, and family structure. But marriage has also performed another crucial function — it has regulated morality.

This is why the challenge of same-sex unions is so urgent and important. Redefining marriage is never simply about marriage. It leads to the redefinition of reproduction and parenthood, produces a legal revolution with vast consequences, replaces an old social order with something completely new, and forces the adoption of a new morality. This last point is especially important. Marriage teaches morality by its very centrality to the culture. With a new concept of marriage comes a new morality, enforced by incredible social pressure and, eventually, legal threats.

Third, we must act quickly to teach Christians the truth about marriage and God’s plan for sexuality in all its fullness and beauty. We must develop pastoral approaches that are faithful to Scripture and arm this generation of believers to withstand the cultural pressure and respond in ways that are truly Christian.

Last, and most important, this challenge must drive us to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christians must be the first to understand this challenge in light of the gospel. After all, we know spiritual rebellion when we see it, for we ourselves were rebels before God’s grace conquered us. We know what moral confusion means because without the light of God’s Word, we are just as confused.

There is no rescue from the self-deception of sin except for the salvation that is ours in Jesus Christ. While doing everything else required of us in this challenge, the faithful church must center its energies on the one thing that we know we must do above all else — preach, teach, and live the gospel of Jesus Christ.

CAN HOMOSEXUALS BE CHRISTIANS?

SOURCE:  C. Michael Patton

I have been asked this quite a few times over the years and the issue was brought up again recently. Can homosexuals be Christians?

Or, better, is there such a thing as a “homosexual Christian”?

Many would believe that someone who engages in a homosexual life style is necessarily excluded from the Kingdom of God unless they repent. Repentance here would mean a change of thinking and, shortly following, a change of action – no longer participating in this lifestyle. In other words, while some would be willing to say that a homosexual can be saved, their salvation necessitates their change of lifestyle within a short period of time.

While I agree with those who say that homosexuality is a terrible sin (Lev. 18:22, 20:13 Rom. 1:27; 1 Cor. 6:6; 1 Tim. 1:10), I do not believe it is one that is outside the realm of a believer’s carnality. Neither do I believe that if one practices homosexuality their entire life, they are necessarily excluded from the Kingdom of God. I hope people do not misunderstand my purpose here. I in no way endorse homosexual behavior or seek to relativize its standing before the Lord as an abomination. But I do think that sometimes, we who are not tempted in such a way can fail to see the seriousness of the struggle experienced by people who are tempted towards homosexuality.

Sexual sin and temptation are part of everyone’s life. We are born with a drive toward fulfillment of this God-given part of our humanity. Some will deny this drive because of God’s calling in their lives (e.g., singleness). Yet sin has corrupted this drive and we are all born infected with sin. Because of upbringing, genetics, cultural influences, and other factors, people will experience this corruption to greater and lesser degrees. I personally have never felt any inclination toward expressing my sexual corruption in a way that was focused on the same sex. Why? Not necessarily because of good choices I have made, but because the genetics, upbringing, and influences were not there. I have just never had the sinful bent within me that compels me to lust after someone of the same sex. Don’t get me wrong. I have a sinful sexual bent, but it is of the more natural kind. This does not justify it or make me more innately righteous than the homosexual, it is just a fact that this is not a sin I have ever had to deal with.

I thank God that this is the case because I know that whatever sinful bent I have, it will get the better of me at some point. It is just the way it goes, living with corruption. I also know that I will not be alleviated of my bents until the restoration of my body at the resurrection. I just have to do whatever I can to master my sinful tendencies until then. As the U2 song goes, “some days are better than others.” I can identify with sinners because I am one. I can identify with those who have a bent, because I have one (many actually). Therefore, when I see someone giving in to the bent of homosexuality, I am saddened. My heart goes out to them because their problem is essentially the same as mine. We have a corrupted nature that causes us to give in to our bents.

Now, back to the question of the hour. Can homosexuals be Christians? This is really a theological question that evidences a lack of understanding about sin and redemption. It reveals a major misconception about the nature of sin, placing homosexuality in its own category because of its depraved nature. While I do believe that homosexuality is a worse sin than many others (that is right, not all sins are equal like some would have us believe), I don’t believe that those who have that bent should be seen differently than others.

We could ask the question this way: Can people who have sinful bents be Christians? Of course. Who else can be? Christ was the only one that did not have a sinful bent. Okay then, how about this: Can people who have really bad sinful bents be Christians? Again, the only biblical answer is yes. People who have really bad sinful bents can be Christians. Really, the question that is being asked is this: Can sinners be Christians? To that, I say, is there any other kind of Christian?

Some would respond and say that while they are willing to concede that homosexuals can be Christians, they must be in the process of overcoming this sinful behavior. In other words, they must have consistent and perpetual victory over this bent. Hold on there. While I agree that homosexuals can and many times do have victory over this bent to the point where they redeem themselves completely from this lifestyle, I don’t necessarily think that this is always going to happen. I would say that in my life there are some bents I have had victory over, and some that remain as a naggingly persistent web. This web is one of deception and destruction that can easily trip us up. Listen to the writer of the book of Hebrews:

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

The writer of Hebrews says that it is “easy” to get entangled in this web. The passage warns of the ten euperistaton hamartian - literally, “the easily ensnaring sin.” I believe the primary referent for “the easily ensnaring sin” is the sin of unbelief (the subject of the book), but this sin of unbelief expresses itself in the sin of the hour. In other words, the sin of unbelief leads to our practicing our particular bent. Most importantly, it is “easy” to fall into this.

Again, while I agree that homosexuals can and should be overcoming this sin, it could be the case that they have become entangled in it. This entanglement may be the very acts of homosexuality, or it may be the plight of struggling with it until redemption. It is no different for those of us who are not bent toward a homosexual lifestyle. Some of our most serious bents may plague us, literally, until Kingdom come.

Many refer to Paul admonishing the Corinthians to look back to their victory over sin, implying that they did not practice such things any longer or were completely delivered from them. One of these sins is homosexuality.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

While this seems straightforward upon a cursory reading, I don’t believe that it supports the case that homosexuals can’t be Christians for two primary reasons. First, the people to whom Paul was writing were sinners and were in the process of being rebuked by Paul. Notice here just three chapters back:

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:1-3).

They were fleshly. The sins described in 6:9-10 are fleshly sins. This means that the Corinthians were not necessarily doing well. Yet Paul says they were washed and sanctified. Now either Paul has a slight case of amnesia, or we have to understand 6:9-11 differently, which brings me to the second reason I believe this passage cannot be used by the person who says homosexuals cannot be Christians. Paul identifies Christians with Christ, not with their sinful disposition. In Pauline thought, people who are clothed in Christ’s righteousness are no longer named according to their sinful bent, even if that bent may continue to entangle them. The Corinthians were entangled in their bents to be sure, but Paul sees them through the righteousness of Christ. This is why Paul could say “such were some of you.” This does not make their sinfulness any less severe, but it does say that Christ’s redemption, in Pauline theology, has redeemed the sinner, though he remain in a sinning state. Those without the covering of Christ’s righteousness are still identified by their sin in the eyes of God. Therefore, in this context, it is true that fornicators, thieves, coveters, homosexuals, and all unrighteous people (those not covered by Christ’s righteousness) will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But thankfully, we have been covered by His righteousness and set apart, though we are still sinners.

One more thing. I often hear this concession: While I believe that homosexuals can be saved, they cannot believe that homosexuality is approved by God or attempt to justify their sin. I understand and agree with this to some degree, yet I still say that this is not always the case. We all have ways of justifying our bents, whatever they may be. Sometimes we minimize their seriousness, while other times we outright deny them. It is also often the case that we just do not ever deal with them. For twelve years after the resurrection of Christ, Peter continued in his belief that Jews were better than Gentiles. He lived twelve years after becoming a Christian believing that he, by virtue of being a Jew, was so much better than Gentiles that he would not even set foot in their house. Speaking to the Gentile Cornelius and his family, he said, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean” (Acts 10:28). What if Peter had died in year eleven? He would have died living his entire Christian life as a prideful racist. Racism is spoken of in the New Testament as a mark of ungodliness even more frequently than homosexuality. Therefore, while I believe that the conviction of the Holy Spirit should be there and it should change our hearts, we have this uncanny tendency to justify our sinfulness to ourselves and to others or to just ignore it.

Having said all this, we all need to recognize the utter sinfulness of sexual perversion. Homosexuality is a sin, and a terribly destructive one at that. But we need to be careful and gracious with those who struggle with this sin, understanding that the struggle against sin is the plight of us all. The solution is not for us to compromise to the politically correct agenda of our culture, which seeks to turn this sin into a perfectly acceptable lifestyle choice. But at the same time, we need to be gracious, knowing that the only hope anyone has is to be covered in Christ’s righteousness, not our own.

Can a homosexual be Christian? Yes.

All sinners can be Christians. Indeed, all Christians are sinners. Let us all view this important issue in light of a deep understanding of the plight of sinfulness and may God help us to overcome the resulting bents.

“Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7).

Six Ways of Minimizing Sin

SOURCE:  blog from Provocations and Paintings

I found these six ways of minimizing sin to be very instructive regarding gospel-centered sanctification/mortification of sin. Take a moment and examine your fight against sin, the ways you are prone to minimize sin, and develop an intentional strategy to renounce them.

Defending

I find it difficult to receive feedback about weaknesses or sin. When confronted, my tendency is to explain things away, talk about my successes, or to justify my decisions. As a result, I rarely have conversations about difficult things in my life.

Pretending

I strive to keep up appearances, maintain a respectable image. My behavior, to some degree, is driven by what I think others think of me. I also do not like to think reflectively about my life. As a result, not very many people know the real me (I may not even know the real me).

Hiding

I tend to conceal as much as I can about my life, especially the “bad stuff”. This is different than pretending in that pretending is about impressing. Hiding is more about shame. I don’t think people will accept the real me.

Blaming

I am quick to blame others for sin or circumstances. I have a difficult time “owning” my contributions to sin or conflict. There is an element of pride that assumes it’s not my fault AND/OR an element of fear of rejection if it is my fault.

Minimizing

I tend to downplay sin or circumstances in my life, as if they are “normal” or “not that bad. As a result, things often don’t get the attention they deserve, and have a way of mounting up to the point of being overwhelming.

Exaggerating

I tend to think (and talk) more highly of myself than I ought to. I make things (good and bad) out to be much bigger than they are (usually to get attention). As a result, things often get more attention than they deserve, and have a way of making me stressed or anxious.

[This excerpt is taken from the excellent study called The Gospel-Centered Life.]

Redefining Marriage: How Tragic!

SOURCE:  Andrew Comiskey

Obama’s Endorsement of Gay Marriage Fails Us All

How tragic that the most influential political leader on earth would use his power to redefine marriage.

He bowed his knee to the lie that justice means giving gays all they clamor for, rather than what they need.

In that, Obama failed to love gays well. He has failed to act authentically as a Christian, and has failed generations to come whose foundations will be further shaken by yet another battering of marriage.

My hope is that Obama’s delusion would wake up all Christians to the good battle Jesus calls us to in this time. We must make every effort to extend God’s mercy to those with SSA in the hope that they might repent unto Jesus Christ. And we must make every effort to ensure that marriage is upheld as one man for one woman for the sake of the children they create.

Grieved as we are, we can take heart that God loves marriage and our fight for its essence. Through marriage, He dignifies human sexuality and renders it truly creative and life-giving.

“ADDICTION” may seem too strong a term, BUT . . . ?!?

 SOURCE:  John Eldredge

Reenacting the Fall

The story of Eden is not over.

Every day we reenact the Fall as we turn in our desire to the very things that will destroy us.

As Gerald May reminds us, Addiction exists wherever persons are internally compelled to give energy to things that are not their true desires. To define it directly, addiction is a state of compulsion, obsession, or preoccupation that enslaves a person’s will and desire. Addiction sidetracks and eclipses the energy of our deepest, truest desire for love and goodness. (Addiction and Grace)

Addiction may seem too strong a term to some of you. The woman who is serving so faithfully at church-surely, there’s nothing wrong with that. And who can blame the man who stays long at the office to provide for his family? Sure, you may look forward to the next meal more than most people do, and your hobbies can be a nuisance sometimes, but to call any of this an addiction seems to stretch the word a bit too far.

I have one simple response: give it up.

Let go of the things that provide you with a sense of security, or comfort, or excitement, or relief.

You will soon discover the tentacles of attachment deep in your soul. There will be an anxiousness; you’ll begin to think about work or food or golf even more. Withdrawal will set in. If you can make it a week or two out of sheer willpower, you will find a sadness growing in your soul, a deep sense of loss. Lethargy and a lack of motivation follow.

Remember, we will make an idol of anything, especially a good thing.

So distant now from Eden, we are desperate for life, and we come to believe that we must arrange for it as best we can, or no one will.

God must thwart us to save us.

————————————————————
(Desire , 92-93)

Pornography: Q & A — Should I Marry A Man With Porn Struggles?

SOURCE:  Russell Moore

Should I Marry a Man with Pornography Struggles?

A couple of months ago, I posted a question about an ethical dilemma a recently engaged woman is facing. She just found out that her spouse to-be has had “ongoing struggles with pornography.” She isn’t sure what to do, or how to make sure the issue is sufficiently addressed. You gave your thoughts on the issue, and here are mine.

Dear Engaged and Confused,

Far too many women are watching “The Notebook” or “Twilight” for indicators on what kind of man they should marry. Instead, you probably should watch “The Wolf Man.”

Have you ever seen any of those old werewolf movies? You know, those in which the terrified man, dripping with sweat, chains himself in the basement and says to his friends, “Whatever you do, no matter what I say or how I beg, don’t let me out of there.” He sees the full-moon coming and he’s taking action to protect everyone against himself.

In a very real sense, that’s what the Christian life is about. We all have points of vulnerability, areas of susceptibility to sin and self-destruction. There are beings afoot in the universe who watch these points and who know how to collaborate with our biology and our environment to slaughter us.

Wisdom means knowing where those weak points are, recognizing deception for what it is, and warring against ourselves in order to maintain fidelity to Christ and to those God has given us.

What worries me about your situation is not that your potential husband has a weakness for pornography, but that you are just now finding out about it. That tells me he either doesn’t see it as the marriage-engulfing horror that it is, or that he has been too paralyzed with shame.

What you need is not a sinless man. You need a man deeply aware of his sin and of his potential for further sin. You need a man who can see just how capable he is of destroying himself and your family. And you need a man with the wisdom to, as Jesus put it, gouge out whatever is dragging him under to self-destruction.

This means a man who knows how to subvert himself. I’d want to know who in his life knows about the porn and how they, with him, are working to see to it that he can’t transgress without exposure. I’d want to know from him how he plans to see to it that he can’t hide this temptation from you, after the marriage.

It may mean that the nature of his temptation means that you two shouldn’t have computer in the house. It might mean that you have immediate transcription of all his Internet activity. It might be all sorts of obstacles that he’s placing in his way. The point is that, in order to love you,  he must fight (Eph. 5:25; Jn. 10), and part of that fight will be against himself.

Pornography is a universal temptation precisely because it does exactly what the satanic powers wish to do. It lashes out at the Trinitarian nature of reality, a loving communion of persons, replacing it with a masturbatory Unitarianism.

And pornography strikes out against the picture of Christ and his church by disrupting the one-flesh union, leaving couples like our prehistoric ancestors, hiding from one another and from God in the darkness of shame.

And pornography rages, as Satan always does, against Incarnation (1 Jn. 4:2-3), replacing flesh-to-flesh intimacy with the illusion of fleshless intimacy.

There’s not a guarantee that you can keep your marriage from infidelity, either digital or carnal, but you can make sure the man you’re following into it knows the stakes, knows how to repent, and knows the meaning of fighting the world, the flesh, and the devil all the way to a cross.

In short, find a man who knows what his “full moon” is, what it is that drives him to vulnerability to his beastly self. Find a man who knows how to subvert himself, and how to ask others to help.

You won’t find a silver bullet for all of this, but you just might find a gospel-clinging wolf man.

(Image Credit)

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