Do you know that you love God more today than yesterday? And are you demonstrating your love by keeping his commandments?
We Christians who hope to recover from sin need an intentional spiritual formation that is based on God’s design for the human being, his love and good plan for us, and our unique character defects.
Sure, we desire to finish well, but do we have an intentional plan?
Some would say that all we need is our salvation experience, an event or time when we “accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.” Acceptance of Christ’s atonement for our sins could have occurred in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, or quietly at home as in my case. Or maybe in your adulthood you’ve acknowledged your need for God, and demonstrated the same by joining a church. There, we have an event.
But consider the process of “moving with God in the transformation of my own personality.” Christianity is about change. So just what does that moving with God look like?
When I’ve lost my way at the Denver Zoo, I’ll find a map that says “YOU ARE HERE!” It’s helpful to know where I am instead of walking in circles. Similarly, a GPS locates your current position in relationship to where you want to go.
If like the rest of us, you want peace and happiness, a measure of meaning, and hope for the future, then surveying your current condition is the best place to start.
In spiritual formation, we apprentice ourselves to Jesus Christ. From his Spirit, gradually we learn how to live Christ’s life in the midst of our circumstances – the same circumstances that God directs and permits with his infinite wisdom.
In this apprenticeship, we trade one life for another. While God is rescuing us from this difficult world, a future hell, and even ourselves, Christ directs us to take up our cross now and follow him. And paradoxically in surrender we find the sweet “fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.” [Philippians 3:10]
This “taking up and following,” to the point of surrender, is the secret to any true personal development.
One of my favorite contemporary teachers is Dallas Willard. He says that we “must learn and accept the responsibility of moving with God in the transformation of my own personality.” I couldn’t agree more.
Can you imagine the spiritual, psychological, behavioral, and relational repercussions of such an apprenticeship? What would become of us?
The traveling salesman would not simply refuse pornography on the road because he might get caught, but would cherish his friendship with God. Even our young sons and daughters might learn to “flee from sexual sin” if we modeled a genuine intimacy with God.
The fact is we are continually forming our spirits. No experience, however brief, leaves us unchanged. We are becoming now what we will be forever.
What are you becoming?
Recently I shared a devotional with Focus on the Family’s counseling department. My comments there, tie in with what I’m discussing this week in my weekday teleconferences for men.
My topic is spiritual formation. In this blog I’ll tailor my thoughts to recovery from sexual sin and addiction. The principles and process, however, apply to every Christian whether or not he struggles sexually.
Now to my main point – perhaps like me, one of your greatest desires in life is to finish well.
Yet frequently, I hear of another Christian leader or politician who has fallen morally. I grieve for them, and the rest of us – especially their families. Of greater concern, however, is how their sin degrades our culture’s understanding of Christianity.
For those of us who have loved Christ for some time, someone’s fall may not shock us. After all, in The Mortification of Sin John Owen reminded us that we must be killing sin daily or it will be killing us.
Like Paul, however, I’m flummoxed by “the sin that dwells within me.”
To the non-Christian or new Christian, we must look like a bunch of hypocrites. We’re accused of preaching one thing publically, while doing the opposite privately. How it must frustrate the masses that we insist on their sexual integrity when sin abounds in our ranks.
Enough about our reputations, however, the real issue here is Christ and how the world judges him based on what we say and do as Christians.
-to be continued
It’s an attention-grabbing subject. Have you ever wondered why?
Some contend that sex is only a big deal because of harmful, outdated, religious taboos. This secular view asserts that if we would just accept sex as a natural part of life, then it won’t be such an issue. Lacking a scriptural perspective, the naturalist concludes the solution must be to remove morality from sexuality as much as possible.
Unfortunately, the opposite (and equally unbalanced) reaction to this hot topic comes from the church. Prior to the 1960s, Christians engaged in what might be described, at best, as innocent negligence toward human sexuality. This attitude deteriorated into denial-laced reactivity as the sexual revolution rocked our culture. Shaming, fearful prohibitions confirmed that people of faith were merely on the defense. Devoid of compassion or hope, the religious voices had no good alternatives to offer.
Today’s more proactive churches are trying to find a relevant message. Still on the defense, however, they’re often grasping at straws in the flood of internet pornography. Behavioral approaches include computer filters and accountability groups, but the Christian sex addict finds these are easily sidestepped and lack intimacy or depth. We exhort our men to fight “Every Man’s Battle ” and our youth to remember “ Waits,” only to find that behavior-based remedies are as ineffective as the “Just Say No” campaign was against drugs.
So what’s a Christian to do? After trying everything else and throwing our hands up in despair, we’re left with one reality: despite all attempts to minimize or shamefully repress it, sex remains a big deal because God created it to be one. And therein lies the key to our dilemma.
Next time: metaphors and messages
The word “sin” conjures up all sorts of images. In the Bible, the word is taken from the sport of archery. Whenever an archer falls short of his target, he sins. Therefore, a sensible archer takes a steady aim and intends to hit the mark every time.
When we sin, we are missing the mark of God’s excellence. Since we’re not perfect, sin is inevitiable. Therefore Christ, the Most High Archer, takes our place and hits the mark of God’s excellence every time.
Sin is also failing to honor God who is above all. It’s not inappropriate for us to realize that whenever we sin, we not only dishonor our Creator but we defeat ourselves in that we are not enjoying God in that moment.
Now, when it’s your time to shoot the target (whatever it may be), where do you see God? Is he at your side coaching and encouraging you? Has he not attended your sporting event? Or is he there criticizing your every move?
Here’s a recovery tip. How you see God is far more important that than the target! I pray that your view of God grows daily in it’s richness and accuracy.
The term, acting out, is recovery lingo for self-defeating behaviors. From our Christian viewpoint, we could also call these behaviors sinful. But what does acting out tell us about ourselves?
Our behaviors are “the tip of the iceberg.” Beneath our conduct is the real story that reveals our thoughts, emotions, and desires. Symptomatic of what’s going on inside of us, our behaviors are reacting to the pain that we’re trying to self-medicate. Ultimately, acting out reveals our need for inner peace with God and ourselves.
Usually we limit out understanding of acting out to bad behaviors. But what about the seemingly good behaviors that are mere smokescreens? When addiction resides in the heart of a man, there will be duplicitous living. His public behavior may seem excellent and commendable, but his private behaviors can be deplorable. His wife and children experience his moral schizophrenia and rarely know how to respond.
In Christ, we have the power and privilege of being our true selves. His Spirit makes us whole, and drives out false desires, damaged emotions, and distorted thoughts.
No doubt our redemption/recovery is a miracle. But Dr. Wayne Cordeiro, pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship, reminds us that some miracles require cooperation.
It’s my desire to help you learn how to cooperate with God and the miracle of your recovery. If I can be of service, please contact me.
It’s not uncommon for the wife of a sex addict to ask, “What does repentance look like?” She needs to see a change in her husband, and hopes to learn what to expect.
Recently a wife called in and said that she felt her husband was sorry, but not repentant. He had been invovled with Internet porn for over three years. Whenever caught, he says he’s sorry, but his behaviors don’t change.
After this call, I wanted to sort out the differences between being sorry and being repentant.
Sorry is passive. Repentance is active. Sorry lacks initiative, but repentance owns the problem and looks actively for solutions. Sorry keeps me focused on me. Repentance turns my attention to God. Sorry leaves no assurances of personal change, and very little empathy for others. Repentance rests in what God is able and willing to do in me, and provides a greater sensitivity towards the one or ones that I’ve offended.
I know that pornography is a scalding liquid that runs to the lowest point in a man’s soul. It sears his conscience in time, leaving him to virtually abandon his faith, his wife, and his children.
Sadly, it’s also importantly to realize that porn is not just for men. Women are increasingly falling into the same boiling cauldron. Studies suggest that one in five or six women are addicted to some form of sexual behavior.
If you or your spouse struggle with sexual sin, there is a sensible, compassionate approach that I’d like to share with you. I hope you will contact me when you’re ready.
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