If you embrace these 10 myths about lust, you will find no remedy for your lust. Instead, you will dive into a “black hole” of sin. Embrace the truth; reject these 10 myths about lust:
1. “I lust because I’m human.” No, you lust because you’re a sinner.
2. “I lust because others dress immodestly.” No, you lust because your wicked heart enjoys the immodesty of others.
3. “I lust because I’m not married.” No, you lust because you love sex more than God.
4. “I lust because I desire marriage.” No, you lust because you desire sexual immorality. Desiring sexual immorality is the opposite of desiring marriage. A desire for marriage is a desire for sexual morality within marriage.
5. “I lust because I cannot help it.” No, you lust because you willfully choose sin over holiness. You’ve developed a lustful habit. Repent and turn to Christ habitually. Live out the holiness He requires until new holy habits are formed.
6. “I lust because my spouse is not as interested in sex as I am.” No, you lust because you desire sex more than you desire God.
7. “I lust because my spouse does not appreciate me.” No, you lust because you believe God is too small to meet your needs abundantly.
8. “I lust because I believe God’s image-bearers are beautiful.” No, you lust because you reject God’s creation (Gen. 1:26-27). Those who lust objectify God’s image bearers, reducing His divine image to a mere object of immoral non-consensual one-sided sexual gratification.
9. “I lust because sexuality is pervasive in my godless culture.” No, you lust because you want to be like your godless culture.
10. “If I fulfill my lusts, they will go away.” No, the remedy for lustful desires is for you to deny yourself (starve your lust), pick up your cross, and follow Christ (Luke 9:23).
The only answer for a lustful heart is constant repentance and faith in Christ. We must believe God rather than man, whether “man” is everyone else or ourselves. God is more beautiful and more valuable than fulfilling our lustful desires. If you embrace and meditate on His beauty, all sin will appear ugly and detestable.
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A group of guys are sitting at a table arguing about who won the 1984 World Series MVP. If the year was 1994 then the argument would go on until somebody got home and looked up in their copy of Sports Almanac. Today the argument will last only as long as it takes for someone to grab their iPhone and consult the mighty Google machine.
You want to know something, then you Google it. It’s your God-given right to have this information and it is at your finger tips. We are an information-saturated culture. I’d almost argue that many of us are addicted to information. We can’t let questions go unanswered anymore. Willie Hernandez must be known.
Knowledge is a good thing. There is nothing innately wrong with someone settling an argument by Googling the 1984 World Series MVP. In fact it can be quite helpful.
The problem is when we believe knowledge is a right. And it becomes a big problem when that foolish belief collides with our sex-crazed culture.
Many young men are introduced to pornography out of curiosity. They simply want to know what those forbidden parts look like. And then that curiosity gets more pointed. They want to know what certain celebrities look like naked. It never satisfies.
It’s not only young men that I have been caught in this snare. It’s trapped many good and seemingly faithful men. They don’t begin on a quest to view porn for sexual pleasure. It’s a quest to view forbidden images for the sake of knowledge. But those images aren’t just innocent facts like who won the 1984 World Series MVP. They are flaming darts meant to cause you to wind up like a gutted deer hanging from a tree.
Brothers, don’t believe the lie the enemy is whispering in your ear. You aren’t doing research. You aren’t merely on a quest for knowledge. You are on a prideful jaunt into the land of the forbidden. You think that it is your right to see what ought not be seen by your eyes. It is not. This information is not yours to hold. This is sin.
Your thirst for knowledge wasn’t meant to be satisfied. Your thirst for knowledge was meant to be spent on the eternal–ever filling but never complete. You can’t just Google the answer. There is no “argument over” when it comes to beholding the infinitely beautiful God. It is in the Person of Christ that you and I ought to direct our gaze and our desire to know and behold and worship.
Don’t waste such a beautiful gift on inferior joys than come to a climax. Spend this gift—this thirst—on the bottomless joy of God in Christ.
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My sophomore year in high school, I was approached by a number of people who told me that no matter what I wanted, whether it was drugs or pornography, I could have it whenever I wanted. At this time, I was a youth leader not only at church but also at my high school leading a bible study. Even though I became a believer when I was four and started to sense God’s call to pastoral ministry as early as age six, I was still very immature in my faith at this time and not very knowledgeable about Christianity. As time wore on, I became very depressed as I witnessed the painful divorce of my parents, and I caved into pornography. It was a slow slide into pornography for me, but once it began, it was incredibly addictive. While no one knew of my struggle in high school, I hid in shame as I regularly watched pornography and lived a double life. It was not until my freshmen year in college, when I was asked to be on staff at a church, that I confessed my sin of pornography to the pastor. He responded by saying that I should step down immediately from all leadership responsibilities.
While this event transpired over ten years ago, I have often reflected on how God has led me by the Spirit in the process of progressive sanctification and on what He has taught me. This reflection leads me to write this article on what purity looks like in the home, in the church,
in the workplace, and on the internet. As we go through this topic, I want you to understand that I am not just giving you steps on how to move past this on your own, but rather grounding everything I am saying in the Word of God. I believe the only way to overcome an addiction to pornography is to recognize that it is idolatry, and as such, needs to be repented of. Once you have repented of this addiction, you need to recalibrate your heart and mind with the gospel by reading, studying, and meditating on the Word of God both individually and corporately.
As we move through this very frank discussion, understand that I do so not because I have arrived at complete purity in any way, but rather I write on this topic because, I am deeply burdened for the men and women of all generations in and outside the Church. With that as a background, let’s now focus on understanding how the holiness of God relates to purity.
Dr. R.C. Sproul in his classic book The Holiness of God states the importance of purity is because Christians are called saints. He explains, “The saints of Scripture were called saints not because they were already pure but because they were people who were set apart and called to purity. The word holy has the same two meanings when applied to people as it has when it is applied to God. We recall that when the word holy is used to describe God, it not only calls attention to that sense in which he is different or apart from us, but it also calls attention to His absolute purity. But we are not God; we are not transcendent; we are certainly not pure.”[i] Dr. Sproul further elaborates on holiness noting, “True transformation comes by gaining a new understanding of God, ourselves, and the world. What we are after ultimately is to be conformed to the image of Christ.”[ii]
The Bible promotes purity in five ways: (1) it purifies (1 Peter 2:1; John 17:17). (2) It gets to the source of the problem (Hebrews 4:12-13); (3) it is our source of equipping (2 Timothy 3:16-17); (4) it promotes approval (2 Timothy 2:15); (5) it illuminates the way (Psalms 119:105). There are five common myths about pornography: (1) people think, it’s just harmless fun. (“I’m not hurting anyone.”); (2) it only affects me; (3) I can control it; (4) Prayer will rid me of it. (“Breaking free is God’s responsibility, not mine.”); (5) I will never again be clean enough to be used by God.
Undergirding my points about purity in the home, in the church and the workplace are six biblically based points that are grounded in the fact Christians have been set apart by a holy God, and are to reflect the holiness of God in the world (1 Peter 1:13-25).
(1) Whether you are single or married, go public with your desire to grow in the grace of God. For many years, I lived in shame and guilt because rather than coming into the Light and having my sin exposed, I purposefully kept it hidden. Pornography fosters a lifestyle of secrets and deception. The process of restoration begins with full disclosure. If you are struggling with an addiction to pornography, you must see it as a sin and admit your love affair with this idolatrous behavior. To minimize this behavior is to embrace several of the myths about porn, namely that it is harmless, that it only affects you, and that you can control it. The problem as Dr. Bryan Chapell rightly describes it, is a “misunderstanding of how God continues to view us after we have received the grace that justifies us.”[iii]
(2) Going public involves confession to God and family members. The Lord will forgive and cleanse you of all sin and unrighteousness (1 John 1:9-10). Confessing your sin to family members and friends is important for you to have a source of encouragement and accountability. Going public also means telling several other godly Christians such as your pastor who can come alongside of you to serve as an accountability partner.
(3) Become proactive in addressing this issue in your life. Pornography is an insidious disease that spreads when we are quiet about it. Being quiet about your sin will not help you overcome its hold. If you want to be freed from pornography, it will require hard work by the grace of God. Become proactive by intentionally seeking out others and installing software such as Covenant Eyes on your phone, laptop, or other devices you use to access the internet. Realize that such protection is to help you protect your own heart, but in order to deal with the heart issues underlying this issue, you need to see your sin for what it is—cosmic treason against an infinitely holy God. Only by seeing your sin in this way can you look to the Savior and find Him to be utterly sufficient to forgive you for your sin. You may overcome an addiction to pornography, but if you do not see the horror of your sin you will never look to the Savior and find Him to be utterly sufficient to forgive you and wash away your sin. In other words, if you do not look to Jesus for forgiveness, you will look to yourself or other things to fill the void of your addiction to pornography. Covenant Eyes and other software are great tools for filtering out pornographic images on your internet devices; however, the only absolute solution to the heart issue of lust is the gospel. If what I am saying here describes you, than you need to be in the Word of God, in prayer, and in fellowship in a local church. If the addiction is severe, I recommend seeking assistance from a professional Christian counselor for additional help beyond that provided by the local church.
(4) Run to Jesus. The apostle Paul implores the believers in Corinth to “flee immorality” and Timothy to flee youthful desires (1 Cor. 6:18 and 2 Tim 6:18). This advice runs contrary to the common belief that maturity is associated with being able to resist greater sexual temptation in one’s own power. Paul suggests that mature people know when to run. No person subjected to pornography remains unaffected. Run to Jesus!
(5) Get serious about living the Bible. The Apostle Peter asserts that a person who is actively adding goodness (moral excellence), knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love to their life will “never fall” (2 Peter 1:5-11). The person addicted to pornography has quit adding these qualities to their life.
(6) God expects us to be involved in the pursuit of purity. The Apostle Paul stresses this point in 2 Timothy 2:20-21. We have the choice of being a “vessel” for either noble or ignoble purposes. Impurity is only a permanent state and pattern when we choose for it to be so. The process of moving from one state to the other involves obedience to the truth. When we begin obeying the truth, we engage the power of the Holy Spirit to give us success. Over time and with a lot of hard work, prayer, and accountability, those struggling with porn can become pure again. When you discover what pleases God, you will flee from immorality. If you are single, the way you view women will change as you are freed from sexual immorality. If you are married, you will begin to learn to find your spouse as your standard for beauty. Whether you are single or married, as you are freed from sexual immorality, you will begin by the grace of God to conform to the biblical design God has established for your own good so that you can grow in His grace to be an agent of His grace to a watching world. Dr. Bryan Chappell’s comments are helpful in this regard: “God looks at us though we were as holy as his own Son, and treats us lovingly despite our many perfections.”[iv]
The Holiness and Forgiveness of God
What does purity look like in the home, in the Church, in the workplace, and on the internet? It looks like the principles above grounded in the reality that our holiness is not so much a matter of what we achieve as it is the grace our God provides. Grace is God’s willingness to look at us from the perspective that sees His holy Son in our place. God sees our faults and frailties reflected in the mirrors of our lives. Still, He chooses to look at those who trust in His mercy through the lens that features the holiness of His own child rather than our filthy rags. As a consequence He loves and treasures us as much as if we had never sinned.
As we grow in our understanding, of the holiness of God, we will in turn grow in the grace of God by casting aside sexual immorality, along with its filthiness. We will also commit to turning our eyes to Jesus, the One who sees all, knows all, and under whose gaze everyone lives under. It is only through this lens that you will be able to be pure. Whatever we do, say, and set our eyes upon must be that which glorifies God. We must come to understand that the God whose gaze we live under sees all and knows all, and this fundamentally changes the way we approach porn by causing us to see it as a violation of His holiness. In turn, this changes our response towards this sin from one of living in deception to that of a commitment to living in the light of God’s love. Such a shift in direction will result in being honest about our struggles, repenting of our impurity, and committing, by the grace of God, to be men and women of integrity who have like Job made a “covenant with my eyes” (Job 31:1) to not look on anything that would distract us from the face of Christ. It is only when we are truly satisfied in Jesus that we will turn away from sin, instead, focusing our gaze on Jesus. May we be as Joseph was with Potiphar in Genesis 39:6-23 and be men of godly integrity. It is only then that we will see pornography as an abomination to God, whereupon, we will flee from it by committing our lives to the kind of scrutiny that they are already under now as we live under the gaze of our Sovereign God.
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This post first appeared as a two part series at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood here and here.
[i] R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Illinois, Tyndale, 1998), 191-192.
[iii] Bryan Chapell, Holiness by Grace Delighting in the Joy That Is Our Strength (Wheaton, Crossway, 2001), 9.
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Pornography is an insidious cancer that is spread quickly throughout the world devastating men, women, children and destroying marriages, cities, nations and civilization. Pornography is a problem, I know all too well since I struggled with it throughout my teenagers years into my early twenties. Pornography is a problem that is crippling not only men but also women. Since I’ve struggled with pornography what I’m writing about is not just the theories of someone who hasn’t struggled, but rather as one who has struggled and continues to fight against this sin. The Gospel is good news for those who are struggling with sexual sin because it provides the power to put sin to death by the grace of God through the Spirit of God to the glory of God.
Overcoming Sexual Sin
The first way to put sexual sin to death is by understanding at the heart of sexual sin is idolatry. Idolatry is worshipping anything other than God. The best way to deal with idolatry is to understand what the Gospel is and what it demands. The Gospel demands our complete allegiance and devotion. The Gospel is not a call to embrace our sin but rather a call to embrace the sinless Savior who died for sinners. The Savior calls for His disciples to take up the Cross and follow Him in all of life. Finally, to overcome sexual sin men and women need to be accountable to other godly believers. It is important to qualify that last sentence by saying that a man should never be accountable to another woman and a woman should never be accountable to another man. A man should be accountable to another man, and a woman should be accountable to another woman.
The first step is the most important step, but the second step is equally important because often times a man or a woman may be serious about overcoming sexual sin, but end up falling back into sin because they don’t have the support of others. In order for men or women to live in the Light, they need others to walk alongside of them by living in community in the context of the local Church. Christians are called to walk alongside of each other and to bear each other’s burdens in community with each other. I also strongly encourage those who are dealing with sexual sin of any kind to discuss this issue with your Pastor, an elder or a deacon in your local church, and also to find a godly mature Christian counselor.
I understand that sexual sin is a difficult and sensitive issue, which is why I’m writing on it. Sexual sin in the Church is robbing the Church of many good men and women. Sexual sin grieves the Holy Spirit who gives men and women gifts to serve and strengthen the Church in its mission to make disciples. Sexual sin robs God of glory because Jesus is the Savior of sinners and He longs to save those who are broken by sin, and make them whole with His Gospel. Sexual sin hurts evangelism and missions because it robs the effectiveness of those who are called to such ministries. Sexual sin affects Pastors, ministry leaders, Bible College and seminary students many of whom struggle silently for years in sexual sin and never overcome sexual sin.
Sexual sin is not what God wants from His people. Sexual sin hurts the Church, and affects its mission of making disciples. God saves broken people and then uses them for His glory. Perhaps you have been broken by sexual sin. You may think today that the story of your life is sexual sin or some other kind of sin, but I writing today to tell you that this is exactly what the devil wants you to believe. Sexual sin is not your story; there is a greater story, the Gospel. Jesus truly saves sinners from all kinds of sin. Jesus redeems people from all kinds of sin, and delivers them by His grace, for His glory in order to spread the fame of His Gospel to the nations.
Three Ways to Fight Against Temptation
God provides three ways for us to endure temptation: prayer, trust and focusing on Jesus Christ. “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38). If we do not pray, we can be sure a test will turn into temptation. Our first defense in a test or a trial is to pray, to turn to our heavenly Father and put the matter in His hands.
Second, we must trust. When we pray, we must pray, believing that the Lord will answer and help us. We must also trust that, whatever the origin of the trial, God has allowed it to come for our good. God has a purpose for everything that comes to His children, and when we are tested or tempted, we should gladly endure it in His power, for the sake of His glory and our spiritual growth.
Third, we should focus on our Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 12:3-4, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Christ endured more than we could ever be called on to endure. He understands our trials and He is able to take us through them.
The Gospel is not a call to be comfortable or even to cuddle up to your favorite pet sin, but rather a call to abandon your sin, count the cost, put on the Lord Jesus, and take up your Cross and follow Him in all of life. Embracing sexual sin is not the Gospel and neither is abusing grace by living however you want to live. God is holy and calls His people to be holy (1Peter 1:15-16). Holiness is not fun but God has supplied the means through His Spirit for you to hate your sin, to put it to death and to put on the Lord Jesus through His bloody death, burial, resurrection. Overcoming sexual sin is only possible because of Jesus who as our sinless, victorious, triumphant and exalted Savior overcame death, and the grave to serve now as our Intercessor, Mediator and High Priest.
The most deadly temptations come from our own feelings of unworthiness, or discouragement because of sin and the accusations of Satan. When we sin and the devil tells us, “How can you call yourself a Christian? Isn’t it true that you have no part of Christ? Why don’t you give up the façade?” Do you hear that voice? Do you feel the sting of that accusation? Then consider Jesus.
Let Jesus Christ be your banner, the source of all your confidence. Fix your thoughts on Jesus, contemplate the sufficiency of His work for you, and reflect upon the love that bore your sins. And when Satan levels his accusing finger at you saying you are the great sinner you then can say, “Yes I am a great sinner, but Jesus Christ is a greater Savior.”
Jesus is the great apostle sent by God to bring us salvation, and He will not fail. He is the great high priest who reconciles us to God, which means nothing shall separate us from God. He is the master architect and builder, constructing God’s house for His own glory and dwelling, and we His adopted sons and daughters are that house. He will not be thwarted; He will not be overcome. The house He builds on the rock of His gospel will not be dashed by any storm. All of this means that we can draw our courage, our confidence and our hope from Him. Therefore, we are safe to the praise of His name.
Whether you’re struggling today or you’re overcoming in your battle against sexual sin, I encourage you to be honest about your struggle with sexual sin. Don’t hide behind a facade of knowledge or pretension but come out into the Light of Jesus and discover the joy and the freedom that come from being who you really are by the grace of God. Don’t settle for the lie of pornography but rather hate sin, fight against sin, and put sin to death by delighting in Jesus. Only then will you find true joy and satisfaction in Jesus and be able to make much of Him for His glory.
This post first appeared at Vicki Tiede’s blog.
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As I was scanning the airwaves on the drive home from work this afternoon, I was once again taken aback by the incessant message of sexual deviancy that is promoted on seemingly every available channel, except the few Christian music stations, if of course you can find them on the radio dial. As the message of “sexual freedom” and license poured through every option on the radio, I was struck by how our society has become so accepting of this approach to life. Think about the last 50 years of television for example. On television, we have gone from Leave it to Beaver and The Waltons to Two and a Half Men and The Family Guy. In Hollywood, we have gone from A Roman Holiday to Brokeback Mountain. In the music industry we have gone from Elvis, who at the time was considered outrageously sexual by some to Miley Cyrus gyrating on stage with giant stuffed bears while licking a hammer. What in the world has this world come to? While we can certainly point with disdain to any number of sexually related issues in our society, the bigger question, at least for me and my family is what to do about it? What are alternatives to the din of digression found on television, movies, and the radio, not to mention the printed page?
Having a 12 year old daughter certainly brings this issue to the forefront as a parent. My wife and I are constantly bombarded with questions from our daughter such as “What is wrong with Usher” or “What is the big deal….why I can’t listen to rap music….it has a cool beat.” For those of you who have no clue who Usher is, he is what you would label as a pop music artist. If you don’t know what that means you will just have to Google it. So with those types of questions being asked, we could easily say to our daughter, “You can’t listen to that music because we said so” and leave it at that. After all, we are the parents and what we say goes. While that is certainly a valid approach, does it really help her understand the ramifications of listening to sexually explicit music or even music with clear sexual overtones? In my humble opinion, it does not. As I began to ponder this issue a bit more today, I felt the need to share some viable alternatives to the pornified entertainment culture of our day.
1. Turn off the radio, television, or entertainment device. Seems rather obvious right? It is the quickest way to circumvent trash coming into your home, car, or brains. That little thing known as the power button is a powerful tool and should be used far more often than it is in most households.
2. Have a conversation. As a parent, it is increasingly clear my wife and I cannot house our child in a protective bubble where nothing of ill repute will interact with her. While we would love that, it quite simply is unrealistic and ultimately it will not prepare her for adulthood and how to act in a mature biblical manner. She will go to school where other kids who are also inundated with the trash our society has embraced and most likely discussions of that trash will ensue. When these topics come up, be prepared to have that needed conversation with your child about why your family does not watch or listen to that garbage. Break out that book that may have some dust on it called the Bible. Read as a family what God says about seeking after what is good, holy, and just.
3. Have family devotions. The Puritans called this “Family Worship.” Gather together on a regular basis as a family and read and study God’s word and pray. This is powerful stuff folks. It is also the best alternative available to combat that garbage we have been talking about. You know the old saying “Garbage In/Garbage Out.” The opposite is true as well and that is “Biblical Truth In/Biblical Truth Out.” The only thing that can shine through the darkness that is our current societal mess is the light of God’s Word. How does that light shine? It shines by God’s people devouring His Word to the extent that it shines through every fiber of our being. With God’s Word occupying every aspect of our life, there will be no available room for trash to be a part of who we are or what we do.
4. Look for positive alternative activities. Rather than plopping down in front of the television at night or on the weekends, a device we all know is nothing more than a propaganda tool for perversion, do something together as a family. As a culture, we have forgotten about the great outdoors. Go play catch, take a jog with your child, put a puzzle together, dust off those board games, or read a book.
5. Listen to positive music and watch positive movies. If you must turn on the radio, locate that long lost Christian music or Christian talk station in your local town. Find that local Christian bookstore or explore Amazon.com for Christian music options. There are plenty of styles to choose from anything from Christian rap to Christian country to Christian rock. As with anything, be observant and attentive to your musical choices because not everything labeled as Christian is exactly music that glorifies God. There are also many great classic movies from the days of yesteryear available that are wonderful family oriented alternatives to the heaps of garbage paraded from Hollywood these days.
6. Become more involved in your local church. There are hopefully many positive activities to involve yourself and family in at your local church. If not, see what other churches are up to in your community. Have your kids become involved in children’s activities or youth group. Get them around other bible believing kids their age so they can develop lasting positive friendships.
I am sure there are many other suggestions that could be made and things we can do to deal with the pornification of our society but hopefully these are enough to get you started. One thing is certain and that is this sexualization of our culture is not going to cease. Sadly, it is only to get worse. Instead of being like the proverbial ostrich with our head in the sand hoping it all goes away, let’s get out in front of the issue in our respective families and put in place positive godly alternatives to what the world is offering. In doing so, we will be following the biblical mandate to “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut. 6:7) (By the way, that passage is from the front of the book, a place far too few people explore these days.) Parents, we are commanded by God to promote a godly atmosphere in our homes. We are commanded to speak of God and His word at all times in our homes. It should be something we desire to do because God is the only solution to the depravity we face today.
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Over the past year or so I’ve written a lot on pornography. One of the reasons for this should be obvious as I believe the Bible teaches that God created sex to be within the confines of the marriage relationship. Whether it is pre-marital sex, homosexuality, pornography or any other sexual perversion, I believe anything short of sex within the confines of marriage between one man and one woman is wrong and dishonors God. It dishonors God because He created marriage. Some people feel in our culture that we are just “prudes” and “bigots” but really it goes much further than this. When people accuse Christians of being bigots and prudes what they are really saying is they disagree with what the Bible teaches. Sadly, most of these people then come to the Bible to justify their behavior. The truth though is there is no justification for homosexuality or any other deviant sexual behavior. The Bible roundly and repeatedly condemns sexual sin because it dishonors God who created and sustains the world we inhabit.
Here’s the rub and I think it’s an important point: Those who advocate for sex outside of marriage are more than dishonoring God. What they are doing is seeking to establish their own rules and justification for their sin. Maybe you think I am being too harsh, but I am speaking from personal experience. As a Christian of over twenty years I’ve struggled with sexual sin. While I no longer struggle with sexual sin by the grace of God, the love of a godly wife, and the protection of good pornography software, I know well that I could struggle very easily. It is easy to lust after things I want and to look at unrighteous images. That is just a fact. The only deterrent to looking at images and other things that pull at my heart is the Gospel. When those images from my past come back (and they do), I have to preach the Gospel to myself. I have to put on the armor of God every day. While I’ve been forgiven and washed in the blood of Jesus, I earnestly believe I will still have to deal with the consequences of my sin violating my conscience over and over again. That is not a message that is popular in Christianity today. The reason that is the case is because we have an extremely low view of sin and a very low view of God. This has occurred because we are spoon fed self-help and self-esteem messages that run counter to the Gospel. The fact is as Martin Luther once said, “We are both saints and sinners”.
As saints we are forgiven totally and completely by our Savior. This includes our justification, adoption, and all that entails. Yet, we are still sinners. We are forgiven and yet we need to daily repent of sin. Martin Luther again is helpful when he noted in the beginning of his 95 thesis that the Christian life is a life of ongoing repentance. By ongoing repentance what Luther meant was the Christian needs to constantly turn away from sin due to the fact we are still sinners. We still battle against the flesh, the world and the devil. If you don’t think that you still struggle with sin, you are deceived by Satan. The truth of the matter is our flesh wants to be gratified. We are too quick to blame Satan when we should blame our flesh. Our flesh is strong and wants to be satisfied by indulging in worldly pleasures which is why we must daily submit ourselves to the Word and to the work of the Son. To do so is to humble ourselves before God and ask Him to continue to cleanse and purify us. This is at the heart of what it means to grow and progressively becoming like Jesus Christ, the process of sanctification. This is the old paths the Puritans described time and time again: repent of sin and grow to be like Jesus. To become more like Jesus necessarily involves growing in holiness. To not grow in holiness is to disregard and use the grace of God as a license to sin. We desperately need a high view of God, a high view of sin and a low view of ourselves if we are ever to see the radicalness of the grace of God that Paul described. It is precisely because of such a lack of understanding God and sin that many Christians are struggling with sexual sin. Rather than reveling and basking in wonder at God’s grace, they abuse the grace of God thinking they can do whatever they want and live however they like. Yet there is no justification for this behavior as a Christian. You’ve been saved for a purpose and that purpose is to grow in the grace of God.
I know well what it means to abuse the grace of God. When I went through a particular hard time in my life, I started drinking and doing things I should not have done. While this was many years ago, the reason I behaved that way is I justified my behavior. I said, “It is okay” but it wasn’t, and as a seasoned Christian I knew better. I got convicted in short order and God changed my heart immediately. It was painful and I lost a lot of friends from high school during this time because I just couldn’t do the things they were doing. While I tried to explain my change of lifestyle, I probably did so in a way that was offensive and unloving. Thankfully, some of my friends understood but overtime we slowly drifted away as I got married and became more focused on my marriage and ministry. Yet, as I’ve thought recently about this period of justifying my sin, I’ve also come to realize that I am not the only one who attempts to justify their sin.
I recently wrote an article about pornography for a popular Christian website that I highly respect (http://cbmw.org/men/manhood/overcoming-an-addiction-to-pornography-and-embracing-purity-part-1/ and http://cbmw.org/men/manhood/overcoming-an-addiction-to-pornography-and-embracing-purity-part-2/ ). Thankfully that article was well-received but it got me thinking also about how we hide from our sin rather than placing it under the scope of God’s presence. I think one of the biggest struggles for Christians like me who’ve grown up in the Church is justifying and becoming apathetic towards sin. Rather than using our maturity and freedom in Christ to disciple newer Christians, we instead recuse ourselves to the sidelines. To be perfectly frank with you, this saddens me and is why I am writing this article with tears in my eyes.
The time for justifying ourselves, for being apathetic and sitting on the sidelines needs to cease. The Kingdom of God is both now and future. It is now that we are given the time to proclaim the Good news of the Gospel. In the future, it will be our joy to sit before the throne of Jesus and enjoy an eternity sitting at His feet worshiping the Lamb who is worthy of all glory and honor. Yet now we have a charge to sit at the feet of His under-shepherds and hear His perfect Word preached from finite man and to worship with other sinners who have yet to be glorified. All of this is truly good news. God wants us to grow in His grace, to sit ultimately at His feet, and to share His Word in His power, under His authority to the praise of the Triune God. Don’t make excuses for why you are struggling with your discipleship anymore but rather step out in faith, daily repent of your sin, and engage the work God has given you to do for His glory. There will come a day when all our work will cease but for now there is much work to be done. It should be our prayer that we be found faithfully working for the Master.
Rather than sitting on the sidelines, seasoned Christians should find ways they can serve in their respective churches and communities. There are always hurting people to pray for. If you can write reasonably well then get a blog. If you can speak well consider prayerfully seeking the Lord about opportunities He may give you to minister to others. There is always street ministry, homeless shelters, pregnancy centers and many other opportunities to minister to the lost and hurting. Pray and seek the Lord about where and what He would have you do. There is much work to be done for the Kingdom in these days, but there are still very few laborers. Don’t sit on the sidelines and be apathetic and complain, but rather get up off your seat, get out into the ripened fields and by His grace get busy for the Kingdom of God spreading the fame of Jesus to all people that they might be saved and grow in His grace for His glory.
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