08 Jun 2011
How would you feel if someone stole your identity? Stunned? Shocked? Think about it: Someone is acting recklessly and irresponsibly in your name! In your heart, you are saying, “Wait a minute, that’s not me! That’s not who I am!”
You wouldn’t hand your identity over to someone who would act so shamelessly in your name, would you?
But that’s what we do when we cave in to temptation and commit the same sexual sin again and again. We give our true identity—our identity in Christ—over to the one who steals it from us. The devil delights in that transaction!
One of our mantras here at Harvest USA is, “Don’t let your temptations tell you who you are!” One of the biggest faith battles men face in their struggle with sexual sin is this: What is your identity in Christ? What does God see when he looks at you? The answer to these questions is critical if you want to experience freedom from sexual sin!
The Bible teaches that Christ endured the cross for the “joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2, ESV). Do you want to know what that joy was? It was you! Paul called the people in the churches to whom he ministered his “joy and crown” (Philippians 4:1). Do you think he would think of them like that if God thought of them otherwise? (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). Has it sunk in that Jesus himself calls us his brothers (Hebrews 2:11), those of us who desperately cling to him and trust in his saving mercy and grace?
You are new creatures in Christ! You have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. Your sins are forgiven, and you have a living hope that when Christ comes you will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:4)! You have a new nature, a new heart, and a new start. You’ve been born again! This is your new identity! Start believing it!
One way to begin getting this to sink in deeply is to find others who will see you as you are in Christ. God makes himself real through his people. When someone treats you like he really believes God loves you, you begin to start thinking, “Maybe God does really love me.” And that’s powerful!
What do you see when you look at other Christians? Do you see sin in their lives? That’s easy to see. But do you also see God’s grace working in them? Now that takes faith. But it’s there, even in their struggles and failures. That’s true for you too. That’s part of our identity in Christ. We are people who God has started a good work in and will continue to the end (Philippians 1:6).
I know it’s hard to believe you are a new creature in Christ if you keep on sinning, but let me let you in on a little secret: Every single Christian out there does keep on sinning! I know it’s hard to go to church and feel like you are the only sinner in the room, but, believe me, that is just not true. One reason I love working at Harvest USA is because no one walks through the doors here thinking they have it all together. I wish going to church was that way.
What helps you hold on to your identity in Christ when you are in the midst of sexual temptations and sin?
28 Apr 2011
I’m often asked, “What is God’s view of sex? Since God sees everything, does he see us having sex?” My answer is, frankly, yes. God sees what we are doing. He sees a husband and wife making love after the kids have gone to bed; he sees a young couple in the back seat of a car overcome with passion and lust; he sees it all.
What’s more, he sees beyond the behavior; he sees right into our heart’s motivation for sexual behavior. Why we do what we do is as important as what we do. Why else does Scripture tell us about a king who was looking from his rooftop at a woman taking a bath, except that God saw it all first? The Scriptures put it bluntly: “For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths” (Proverbs 5:21, ESV).
Believe it or not, but this reality—that God’s sees all we do—isn’t a bad thing. As a matter of fact, it’s really a good thing. I worship a God who encourages sexual activity. That’s right! What else does “be fruitful and multiply” mean but “go have sex, and plenty of it?”
But the one who gave us this incredible gift also knows the best way it should be used. And that is this: God encourages sex in a certain context, and that context is marriage.
That’s why I love weddings so much. All I see is Jesus standing there with open arms saying, “This is what I’m talking about!” Everybody in the church knows those two are going to have sex that night, and it’s okay with Jesus! He knows there is going to be some “delighting” (Song of Songs) going on. I’m not saying that waiting for your honeymoon night will be the answer to all your dreams. In fact, I’ve heard of some real horror stories concerning honeymoons. But what he asks is that the activity, which brings such joy and pleasure (and sometimes babies into the world), take place in a committed relationship, in some small way reflecting his relationship to us, his people.
God’s will for your life is to experience sex without shame. It’s better to not have sex at all than to have sex that brings guilt and shame. Sex is supposed to feel good. It’s supposed to feel good, not just when it is happening, but even more importantly, when it is over. It is supposed to end in thanksgiving to God for this wonderful gift.
I’ve been married for 38 years. After 38 years, let me tell you this: My sex life is better than ever! Why? Because both my wife and I thank God for where he has taken us in the journey of our relationship, experiencing the freedom and closeness that can only come from 38 years of committing to bless my spouse. Our sex life is better today because it’s more blessed today. Frequency and technique have nothing to do with it. Knowing God’s smile, encouragement, and will for our lives blesses us and confirms his promises toward us. We walk away from sexual activity confident and assured that God loves us and that he is glad when we make love. It’s true!
What I am saying is that God wants to bless you in your most intimate moments. Do you believe that?
21 Feb 2011
Why didn’t God bring up masturbation in the Bible?
I came to Christ in 1971. I came to Christ as a teen as I was struggling with a constant habit of masturbating. Nobody knew that, because nobody would talk about it in those days, so I kept it to myself.
But as a young Christian I was told there was such a thing as a “concordance,” and you could look up all the words that were in the Bible! I got all excited and when no one was around, I looked under the letter “M.” As I found not a single reference to the act, I thought, “Looks like God’s not going to talk about it, either!”
That experience left a big question mark in my heart. Is masturbation right or wrong? All I knew was that I couldn’t stop. I tell people that before I came to Christ, I thought a man ought to be able to go to bed and go to sleep without having to masturbate first. The first time I acted out after I became a Christian, I thought, “It’s back! It didn’t go away like you were hoping.” That reality was devastating. But God’s silence on the subject made it more of an inward battle than it really had to be. Even if it was only a habit I couldn’t stop doing, I needed to be able with talk to people about it.
Around fifteen years ago, I went to a “Promise Keepers” meeting where the theme was worship. God spoke to my heart that weekend and said, “Bob, you are not worshiping me, and you know it.” Worship had become a mere formality in my life. I had a checklist in my mind and as long as we read the Scriptures, prayed, sang good old hymns, and had a theologically sound sermon, I assumed worship happened. But I was just going through the motions. It was far from what God had in mind about worshipping him.
A few months after the conference, I started dealing seriously with my sexual struggle. It was then that God reminded me about what true worship really was. Worship is about giving all of you, all of your heart, to something. Worship has to do with what you are living for. It was then that I realized that even though I was not truly worshipping God, I was worshipping something. I learned that my continual movement toward masturbation and pornography was an act of idolatry (false worship).
This discovery helped crystallize what repentance should be about. Now I knew what I had to turn from—and where I had to turn to. I had to be honest with what was going on in my heart. When life became confusing or boring or scary or whatever, masturbation and pornography was a place of escape, adventure, pleasure, and, in a word, life for me. I needed it, like an addict needs his addiction. I had to be honest about my fantasies and my preference for these things, rather than waiting on God.
It hit me: I didn’t have to know whether masturbation was right or wrong. All I had to know was that this activity was shutting God out of my thoughts and inviting in a substitute which seemed to calm me down and give me a break in life that I desperately needed.
God didn’t bring up masturbation in the Scriptures, but he did say we were supposed to bring every thought captive to Christ Jesus. And bringing my thoughts captive to the idea that my heart truly is an idol factory helps me be honest with the thoughts that go through my head. There is still a desperation in my heart to try and make things work out my way and I do need to repent from that.
Where are your inner thoughts leading you? Do you find that in times of stress, confusion, boredom, loneliness, or fear that you turn to find relief in pornography, masturbation, or other sexual temptations? If so, see your behavior as flowing from your heart, a heart that is living for and consumed by a need for comfort and relief, and not a life that is growing in dependence upon God and the things in which he delights. Repentance is very practical and relevant when we see it from this angle.
17 Feb 2011
Here at Harvest USA, we facilitate Biblical Support Groups for people who struggle with sexual sins. One of our groups for male strugglers incorporates a study of Scripture with an eye toward our behavior. One recent question we focused on was this: What’s really going on in our sexual fantasies?
Are they harmless expressions we all engage in? If these fantasies are inside my own head and don’t affect anyone else, what’s the problem with them? As one guy in the group said, “Is it really anybody’s business what I’m thinking?”
These objections, at first glance, might appear to have some validity to them. But I challenged the men with some of these objections: What if my “private” fantasy includes having sex with your eight-year-old daughter? If you knew that was what I was thinking, you probably wouldn’t be too happy to hear I was teaching your daughter’s Sunday school class next week. Yet we still stick up for ourselves and plead “sanctuary” when it comes to our thought lives.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not pleading a case to hear all that’s going on in that head of yours! But it’s also not a “no man’s land” either. Our thought lives are a reflection of what is going on in our hearts; our thought lives are a door to examining the desires that drive our emotions and behavior. Leave that door unopened to anyone else, and it can lead any one of us down some very dark paths. If we want to find freedom from the enslaving sexual desires that entrap us, then we must be willing to allow others to challenge us at the level of our thoughts and fantasies.
So, what’s going on in our sexual fantasies? I believe, if we’re honest with ourselves, that these secret fantasies represent a place where we find ourselves in control. We live in a world that is largely out of our control, one that frequently seems to be against us. Our fantasy lives are a desperate attempt to carve out a little spot in this world where something works out our way—finally! I know that’s a major issue in my life.
Many men, for example, will ask me if it’s okay to fantasize about their wives. I’ll ask if their wives are built different in their fantasies. But most would respond that it’s more about their wives doing things in their fantasies that they wouldn’t do in real life. Does this sound okay to you? Better still, ask your wife if it sounds okay to her.
Fantasy lives always intrude upon real life, somewhere, somehow. They aren’t harmless; they affect the way we think about or even relate to others in our lives. I know I need God to speak to that part of my heart with authority and grace. I know he does speak to that place. He does so through the words of his people, to those I’ve opened up my heart to, allowing them to challenge my illusions of self-importance.
So what’s going on in my sexual fantasies? A whole lot of me that needs replacing by a whole lot of submitting to the reality of what God is really doing in my life.
What about you? What do your fantasies reveal about your heart? What do you need to do with them?