A story from the second chapter of Mark gives a wonderful description of the challenge and glory of how women stuck in the mire of sexual sin can connect with Jesus for the help they need.
When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While Jesus was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”
But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”
Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!” (Mark 2:1-12, NIV)
Many women are like this paralyzed man: desperate for help, but seemingly unable to draw near to Jesus. They are bound up in sin of a sexual nature and are “paralyzed,” unable to move or take action. Stuck in place and helpless. They are hurting, isolated, and terrified to consider talking to anyone in their churches about what is going on in their lives.
Chris came to Harvest USA for help, having recently left her partner of 23 years. She shared that, over the years when she would feel conviction over her homosexuality, she had sought help from pastors and other Christian leaders. Chris shared that most of the time, these leaders would respond to her confession with something like, “You do know, right, that this is a sin? That God is NOT pleased with this?” She said, “I would say back to them, ‘Yes, I do know it’s a sin. . . but do you have any words to help me? To lead me out?’” No one had been able to “pick her up and carry her to Jesus” for the discipleship she needed.
Sadly, overcoming sin of a sexual nature and understanding God’s good design for sexuality are not consistent topics of discussion, much less discipleship, in the church. Many women, like Chris, feel they are just outside the reach of Jesus and unable to draw near to him regarding their private struggles and sin. Some of these women may be ministry leaders themselves, but in terms of personal struggles with pornography, sexual fantasy, and sexual behavior with men and/or other women, they are clueless about how the gospel can help them move in the direction of sexual integrity and freedom.
How can women move from their patterns of sexual sin and the paralysis of faith that accompanies hidden struggles into the healing, forgiveness, and power of the love of Christ?
If you’re stuck on a mat . . .
Here are three initial steps of faith to take if you find yourself stuck and unable to connect the gospel to your sexual struggle.
First, acknowledge that you need help from outside of yourself. Proverbs 28:13 says, “People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy” (NLT). There is mercy for you, sister, as you turn to God in humility and ask him for help, which means reaching out to a person you can trust to share your struggle with.
Sharing your sexual sin struggle is key, as there is healing and freedom that comes in “naming” it before the Lord in the presence of someone else. The paralyzed man’s need was visible and obvious; yours is most likely secret, unknown to even your closest friends and coworkers. In confessing and asking for help, you are receiving the Lord’s help as you allow friends to carry you to Jesus.
Second, believe the words of God given to Christians: You are forgiven! Stand up! Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith, it is impossible to please God. Will you believe in his gracious, loving words to you regarding even these areas of sin in your life? He welcomes you, always, at the throne of grace!
Third, pick up your mat and go home! In other words, now walk forward in faith and repentance. Keep fighting! Don’t give up! This is a lifelong aspect of following Jesus: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14).
My next blog post will unpack what that means. In the meantime, have you been paralyzed like Chris? Have any of these three steps of faith been helpful to you? Let me know.
14 Jul 2011
I mentioned in my last post that one of the most devastating things that impacted your wife when your porn usage finally came out in the open was this fact: You were living a double life. You lived one way in front of her, and you lived another way behind her back. That type of secrecy in a marriage causes great damage.
Dan wrote last week about being “ruthless”…taking seriously the call to delight in Jesus at the cost of delighting in sin. It is a ‘cost’ to not give way to our selfishness so as to fully delight in the provision we have through Christ.
As I shared a few thoughts last week, often our relationships and the people with whom we have them (peopling!) can often become the focus of our treasuring, of our cravings for life and satisfaction. When this happens, if often comes at the cost of our worship and devotion to Christ. I’ve found that in my own ‘ruthless’ battle (which I’m sometimes weak in for sure) to keep Christ first, that I must find hope and guidance not only in the sweet promises of Scripture, but also in the sober warnings. Take for example Psalm 16:1-4, a key passage for my heart.
“Keep me safe O God, for in You I take refuge. I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, apart from you I have no good thing. As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods; I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names upon my lips.”
In the pursuit of treasuring Christ above all, and in letting go of those struggles that seem to rule us, consider the promises and warnings given to us as a gift in these few verses:
· God is one in whom we find safety and refuge.
· Apart from Him we have no good thing…with Him and in Him, we have ALL good things.
· Fellow journeyers are to be delighted in…deeply delighted in!
· Sorrows DO increase (multiply) when we run away from the True God, to other gods.
I’ve experienced the joys of delight in people that flow from the safe refuge of Jesus and I’ve also experienced multiplying sorrows when I’ve run after “other gods”. What about you?
Relationships? Emotional connections with others? Do we “make” all of these experiences for ourselves? Do WE set the agenda and do what we want? Many will shout out a loud and exuberant YES! But the God of the Bible says something else.
I thought it might be good to begin and the beginning…where do all these things come from anyway? I mean…sexuality? Relationships? Emotional connections with others? Do we “make” all of these experiences for ourselves? Do WE set the agenda and do what we want?