13 Aug 2020
True heart change is never a one-step process. And prayer is not an exchange with God that automatically makes us feel a certain way.
To learn more about this topic, consider purchasing one of our resources, such as What’s Wrong with a Little Porn When You’re Single? by R. Nicholas Black and How to Say No When Your Body Says “Yes” by Dan Wilson. When you buy these books from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.
You can also read the blog, “Prayers for a Wilderness People,” which corresponds to this video.
09 Jul 2020
Our childhood experiences impact how we all think, desire, believe, and act as adults. But is there any value in reflecting upon those past experiences for the sake of repentance and transformation in the present? Believe it or not, this is a highly debated question among counselors, ministers, and anyone seeking to help those who are struggling in life.
At Harvest USA, we believe that understanding where we’ve come from, what has influenced and shaped us, and how to apply the gospel to those experiences is absolutely vital. Here are two ways that a growing understanding of the shaping influences in your life can help you battle sin and temptation today.
Healing Is an Aspect of Repentance
In Sexual Sanity for Men, Dave White writes, “You are not merely the sum total of all the individual decisions you make. The aspects of life outside your control are extremely significant and impact you as an individual.”¹
Repentance involves choosing to turn from sin to God. Notice this: We don’t repent of our sufferings; we repent of our sin. In order to effectively turn from our sin, we are helped by understanding why we sin. One major motivation behind sin is an autonomous desire to deal with suffering on own terms. A son whose parents neglect him and show him no comfort easily finds himself turning to masturbation for self-soothing, a pleasurable alternative to crying himself to sleep. A girl who is rejected by her peers and degraded by her father behaves with increasing promiscuity to find validation and worth. A young boy who is sexually abused by an older man is thrown into a world of fear, confusion, shame, and even awakened desire, which he has no ability to process; further, his family culture of “don’t ask, don’t tell” keeps him from sharing with anyone about this traumatic experience.
So many men and women who struggle with sexual sin see Jesus only as their judge. They are all too aware that he sees their sin, but they have no concept of him seeing their suffering, especially suffering that happened decades ago, though it continues to deeply impact their lives today. Jesus came to be their Healer, Warrior, Advocate, and Comforter. Once people begin to experience Jesus as one who is for them, who has not forgotten their wounds, who came to heal them, he becomes a refuge for them in times of temptation and guilt. Most sexual strugglers have been hiding not just their sin from Jesus, but their suffering and shame as well.
God designed us to be fundamentally relational, as well as vulnerable to external influences. This is not a result of Adam’s fall into sin. Children are meant to be shaped by their parents, family, and larger covenant community, which should all be saturated with his Word. We are so moldable as children because God wants Scripture to inform our hearts, minds, and desires, both as it is formally taught and as it is lived out in everyday interactions and relationships. As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Though God intended for us to flourish, man’s fall into sin has made our vulnerability to external influences a heavy liability. We all grow up in a world and culture that rebels against God and his Word. From very young ages, boys and girls are bombarded with unbiblical messages about what is desirable, what it means to be successful, what is means to be a man or a woman. Throughout our lives, we breathe in these messages every day so that none of us are immune to their shaping influence. So many of the men to whom I minister have never given thought to the fact that their beliefs and desires were, on certain levels, taught to them.
But this actually is the beginning of some very good news because, if our beliefs and desires are moldable, we have the opportunity to have them refashioned after God’s own heart. While decades of belief and wrong desire are not easily reformed, our hope for transformation rests in the reality that our union with Christ guarantees this kind of change—albeit with slow, gradual steps—as we daily abide in Christ and his Word.
A Word of Caution
As with every shaping influence in our lives, both good and bad, none of these external influences are ultimately determinative. A child may grow up in a godly, strong, safe, Christian environment and still choose to live a life of rebellion against God. Conversely, a child who grows up in a toxic, painful, ungodly environment is not without hope for gospel transformation that leads to a life of increasing sanctification.
This means that we can’t blame our sin on external circumstances. The Bible always locates sin in our hearts. God will not excuse our sin because of our circumstances. But neither does God discount our circumstances. He takes into account every nuance of our lives, from the biggest moments of trauma to the smallest offense imaginable. He remembers them, cares for us in them, and ultimately uses them to serve our worship of Jesus. Jesus came as a suffering servant: “He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). A greater understanding of the way we’ve suffered leads us to a greater understanding of the love of Jesus, the One who willingly bore our shame, suffering, sin, and guilt, to reconcile us to God.
¹ David White, Sexual Sanity for Men (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2012), 51.
You can also watch the video, “You Are Always Being Influenced,” which corresponds to this blog.
09 Jul 2020
It’s not enough to simply think about desires and beliefs in a vacuum. Our context and our circumstances strongly shape what our hearts believe and desire.
To learn more about this topic, consider purchasing one of our minibooks, Explaining LGBTQ+ Identity to Your Child by Tim Geiger and Raising Sexually Health Kids by David White. When you buy these books from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.
You can also read the blog, “Your Childhood Experience Matters,” which corresponds to this video.
11 Jun 2020
All pleasure was meant to point us to Jesus, the only one who can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.
To learn more about this topic, consider purchasing Sexual Sanity for Men: Re-Creating Your Mind in a Crazy Culture and God, You, and Sex: A Profound Mystery by David White. When you buy these books from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.
You can also read the blog, Betcha Can’t Eat Just One: Redirecting Desire, which corresponds to this video.
11 Jun 2020
Have you ever taken the Lay’s potato chip challenge and tried to eat just one? It’s not easy! Or consider the Pringles slogan: “Once you pop, the fun don’t stop!” Even though we know there are healthier options, those chips taste so good that we want to keep eating more.
On a more serious note, though, we often find it hard to refrain from unhealthy, non-food indulgences as well. Why? Our sinful hearts easily turn pleasurable experiences into idol worship. We encounter something good, and then we often treat that thing as ultimately fulfilling. Have you ever been given a good gift, like sex within marriage, only to use it wrongly, such as a source of pleasure only for yourself and not for your spouse? We usually don’t view pleasure as a good gift from God to be received with thanksgiving. Instead, we see it as a need or a right. The idol then has the chance to persuade your heart to continue feasting, to keep coming back for more pleasure.
Whenever you believe that life is truly found in a certain pleasure, you will continue to experience a gravitational pull in its direction. You will be torn between fighting sin and believing you can’t live without it.
But God wants us to understand life and pleasure in a very different way. Pleasure in itself is not bad. It’s a natural response to anything good that comes from God. C.S. Lewis shows us how pleasure goes awry in his book, The Screwtape Letters. Speaking from the standpoint of one demon to another, he writes, “All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent to its Maker, and least pleasurable.¹”
Pleasure in its truest essence always finds its source in God. Sexual pleasure is not the problem. The problem resides in the receptor of pleasure, our hearts. As Lewis points out, our problem is that we indulge in sexual pleasure in forbidden times, ways, and degrees. We do this because we believe sexual pleasure will bring us life, justifying in our hearts our willingness to disobey God’s commands.
So what can you do to seek deeper transformation and experience pleasure as God intended? Here are three suggestions.
Cultivate a Heart of Thankfulness
Sinful pleasure has a dreadful way of killing our enjoyment of life. We become desensitized to so many good gifts while simultaneously becoming ultra-sensitized to one specific pleasure that controls our affections, time, and energy. Start re-sensitizing yourself to simple, good pleasures in life by thanking God for the food you eat, the bed you sleep in, the relationships in your life, and so on. Of course, all of these temporal pleasures from our benevolent Father pale in comparison to the pleasure found in our union with Christ.
Pursue Pleasure as an Act of Worship
God created you for worship. And while there are clearly-defined, formal ways in which God requires his people to worship him, he created you to bring him praise and glory in unique ways as well. In Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell, an Olympic gold medalist, said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” For Eric, running was an act of worship. Running brought him incredible joy and fulfillment. But he also refused to let running be his source of life. As the movie shows, when the pleasure of running was offered in a way that stirred Eric’s conscience, he refrained.
How has God made you to feel his pleasure? In what unique ways has he called you into worshipful activities? Whether it is painting, reading, playing sports, parenting, or cooking, acknowledge your Creator and Redeemer in those moments. The more you live before God with your pleasure, the greater power you will have to resist turning that pleasure into an idol.
Fasting as a Way of Realignment
What are those things in your life that aren’t sinful in and of themselves, but that you use in degrees that are sinful? These are things that take too much of your time, attention, and affection, showing that your heart is out of alignment. Are you over-exercising, over-eating, scrolling social media with a jealous heart, or interrupting others in conversation to make sure your own opinion is voiced? Just as a car needs a realignment if it’s veering to one side, so too our hearts need realignment. Fasting is one powerful and purposeful way to give up those activities that you know sinfully pull on your heart. I would recommend at least a week-long fast. The degree of pain and struggle you go through to give that up is indicative of the life you were deriving from it. Allow your fast to be a time of repentance and also a time of true pleasure and life, which can only come from the Life-giver.
Idols lie to us that we are foregoing enjoyment when we forsake them. But nothing could be further from the truth. Idols take your heart’s capacity to enjoy infinite pleasures at God’s right hand (Psalm 16:11) and shrivel it up, so that you can only enjoy the confined, ever-shrinking space of creature-worship. Believe instead that your heavenly Father will give you “fullness of joy” in his presence.
¹C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996), 44.
You can also watch the video, How Does Jesus Meet Us in Our Desires?, which corresponds to this blog.
02 Apr 2020
COVID-19 has the real ability to destroy lives and families, but, in Christ, our true hope rests in the God who raises the dead. Sexual sin also has the powerful ability to destroy lives. But for all who have experienced the ravages of this sin, there is hope in the God who takes what was dead and makes it alive. No matter how far your sin has taken you, you are not out of the reach of Christ’s redemption.
In this video, Mark Sanders highlights the similarities between COVID-19 and the destruction caused by sexual sin.
To learn more about this topic, consider purchasing How to Say No When Your Body Says Yes by Dan Wilson or Hide or Seek: When Men Get Real with God About Sex by John Freeman. When you buy these resources from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.
You can also read the blog, Redeem Your Quarantine: Help for Fighting Sexual Temptations, which corresponds to this video.
Hearing brothers and sisters in Christ share their expectations for God’s purposes in this season has been a rich blessing. During global crises like the coronavirus, we Christians have the unique benefit of knowing that God is sovereign, good, and loving through this season of great suffering. We need to maintain the hope in Romans 8:32 that all things are ours in Christ, especially as we love and minister to those who are suffering.
But there is another being striving for his own purposes in this season. The devil, while always restrained by God’s sovereign will, is seeking to destroy many people through COVID-19. Whether it’s marital conflict, impatient parenting, rebellious children, anxiety, selfishness, or all of the dangers that accompany isolation, Satan is trying to take advantage of this moment.
One of his major tactics is to capitalize on people’s loneliness and isolation. The situation in which many people find themselves right now is rife with temptation towards pornography. Loneliness is perhaps the most common circumstance that accompanies pornography usage. To make matters worse, the porn industry sees the coronavirus as fertile ground for greater pornography consumption, and they are making access easier and cheaper while everyone is quarantined.
Brothers and sisters, may we be able to say with Paul that we are not ignorant of the schemes of Satan (2 Corinthians 2:11). Satan has a crafty plan to use your quarantine as an opportunity for guilt, shame, misery, and destruction, all for the sole purpose of damaging your intimacy with the Lord and others.
So what will you do to withstand these attacks? Will you just take them as they come and hope for the best, or will you, with the Spirit, proactively plan to fight temptation well? Here are nine practical steps you can take to minimize temptation’s power:
One: Take away access.
One of the biggest sources of temptation is availability. I currently have no ice cream in my house, so I simply cannot eat it. But if I did have some in the freezer, my temptation would increase tenfold. Especially if you are already succumbing to temptation, you need to take radical steps to cut off accessibility. This might mean installing filters and accountability software, getting rid of devices altogether, or limiting when and where you use them. The goal is to put as much distance between you and temptation as possible.
In this season, many of you are working from home on work computers with unfettered access to the Internet and no way to install accountability software. While router protection¹ is something to consider, working from home does present a degree of access that might be unavoidable, which is why the second point is so crucial!
Two: Establish accountability immediately.
You might already have someone to whom you are vaguely accountable. Now is the time to step that up! Get a team of people to come alongside you, and check in every day with at least one of them. This is actually a great time for accountability because everyone is available—we’re all at home! Encourage your accountability partners to also share how you can keep them accountable; mutual accountability is always best.
Three: Set up a daily routine.
For most of us, our lives before quarantine had external structure and routine. While some are able to maintain that routine in isolation, many of us have had our daily lives thrown off track. Idle time is a huge enemy in your fight against pornography, so develop a daily routine that allows for planned rest and productivity each day.
Four: Be proactive in caring for others.
Pornography is a fully selfish endeavor. There is absolutely zero love for neighbor involved. In fact, it’s an act of hating your neighbor. Engaging in activities of loving others lifts your spirit and makes acts of hatred more repulsive. Whenever you feel lonely or depressed, remind yourself that others feel just like you do and would greatly benefit from a phone call, text, or even a handwritten letter.
Five: Don’t settle for false comfort.
In the pit of loneliness, fear, and despair, we all seek relief. In those moments, God freely invites you to take and eat of his goodness and comfort (Isaiah 55). While turning to false comforts will only leave you feeling empty, more depressed, and full of regret, the God of all comfort opens his arms to embrace you.
Six: Set goals to fill your extra time.
Some examples might be studying a second language, learning a musical instrument, finishing a house project, reading a specific book, doing something creative, calling a friend or family member every day, or memorizing a whole book of the Bible. Incorporate these goals into your daily routine. Pick goals that you can work towards each day and perhaps will continue to pursue after quarantine.
Seven: Consider how you will further your relationship with God.
Even if you’ve been cut off from all physical human contact, you are not separated from God. He says to you in Psalm 145:18, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Every moment of your quarantine is an opportunity to be near to God. He invites you to enjoy sweet communion and fellowship with him through Jesus Christ.
Eight: Find a psalm that resonates with you, memorize it, and pray it to God every day.
Scripture provides a psalm for every experience you can possibly endure, from isolation and depression to fear and anxiety. A psalm that speaks to our hearts gives amazing comfort because it shows us that God understands what we’re going through. Moreover, he invites us to speak these painful experiences to him. We all know the healing that comes from sharing hard things with others. These are but signposts to the healing and comfort that God gives when you pour out your heart to him!
Nine: Invest in heavenly treasures.
Many people I talk to are more concerned about the economy than the virus. If there is anything we can learn from this pandemic, it is the utter frailty of our earthly investments. This is a special moment, when God has captured our attention and made it undeniably clear, that “fading is the worldling’s pleasure.”² Don’t squander this window of clarity. When things go back to normal, we will again be tempted to trust and hope in things that are wasting away. Use this season to invest in heavenly treasures that can never fade, spoil, or perish (1 Peter 1:4).
You can also watch the video, Invisible Destruction: COVID-19 and Sexual Sin, which corresponds to this blog.
¹Router protection refers to products such as “Circle” and “OpenDNS.” These products block content at the source of the router itself, so that any device connected to your Wi-Fi has a degree of filtering.
² “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” (No.345) in Trinity Hymnal (Rev.ed.) (Suwanee, GA: Great Commission Publications, 1990).
05 Mar 2020
The majority of men who come to Harvest USA for help with sexual struggles are married.
In this video, Mark Sanders shares several important truths that husbands need to know about humbly, patiently, and sacrificially walking alongside their wives in the long process of reconciliation and healing.
You can also read the corresponding blog, Wives and Porn: What Not to Say After She Knows.
27 Feb 2020
Idols are cruel masters that are bent on your misery. But they don’t present themselves that way. First, they convince you that your life is summed up in the attainment of a specific desire. It might be success, comfort, control, affirmation, or intimacy. Then, this idol promises you that it can meet this desire in your life. It even gives you displays of its power and invites you to taste of its delicacies. So you sign on the dotted line and agree to give your heart to this idol in exchange for its services.
The Problem with Your Idol
In the beginning, the idol seems to be fulfilling every single promise it made. It delivers quickly and efficiently. It’s there for you in the good times and the bad. It’s there to comfort you, weep with you, celebrate with you, and offer to spend the lonely nights with you.
Your love for this idol is growing quickly. The more you feed it, the more it draws you in. Over time, your life becomes consumed by it. Other things in life become distractions and obstacles in the way of going back to this idol again and again. Going one day without it feels unbearable, making your inevitable return that much more intoxicating.
This is when you start to question your agreement with this idol. The cost of this pleasure wasn’t spelled out for you in the initial contract. You start to notice that other things in life have lost their value. You don’t enjoy them the way you used to. Your relationships with others may have become awkward, transactional, and strained. Over time, you’ve become more and more isolated, and, eventually, you’re left alone—just you and your idol.
The Struggle with Your Idol
Upon realizing that you have made a terrible mistake, you try to get out of this contract. But this idol has already sealed and notarized it. You beg and plead with it to let you go, but it shouts all the more that it will never leave you. It even threatens you and those you love. It tells you that if you try to get help from others, you’ll be endangering your family and even your own life. Right after threatening you, it woos you back with smooth and enticing words.
Finally, one day, you think you’ve found a way to escape this idol’s grip. If this idol offered you such powerful fulfillment in life, maybe Jesus can do the same for you. So you pray that Jesus will meet you in the same way this idol did, maybe even better. That Jesus will give you comfort, intimacy, control, and affirmation. But Jesus doesn’t answer you the way this idol did. The idol said, “You can walk by sight and feel good whenever you want.” Jesus says, “Walk by faith, and trust me when trials come your way.” After a while, you grow frustrated with Jesus, that he’s not helping you the way you want. He seems distant and unable to give you what makes you happy. In anger and unbelief, you willingly return to your idol, hopeless for anything better in your life.
As you stay with your idol, one thing is very clear to you: This idol hasn’t satisfied you. It’s just filled you with junk that tasted sweet but left you bitter. It promised real life but only delivered powerful counterfeits. Your life is now marked by unsatisfied longings that are temporarily mitigated by your idol.
You feel stuck, and it seems that Jesus is either unwilling or unable to free you from your misery.
Freedom from Your Idol
But then Jesus comes to you and offers you a pathway out of your despair. He tells you there is a way to be freed from the tyranny of this idol and its false promises. He exposes the lie that brought you in to begin with: That life can be found outside of the Life-giver. It is the hook of believing that life can be found in living for comfort, intimacy, control, security, and affirmation.
As long as you continue to believe that lie, your hope of escaping this cruel master is vain.
Jesus tells you to repent of coming to him merely to use him as a means of giving you your idolatrous desires. He reminds you of the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” You had put your desires for other things before desiring him. You thought that in them was found the wellspring of life.
Jesus reminds you,
“Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love” (Jonah 2:8).
Your heart is pierced by his words. You see clearly how you’ve been spurning his offer of himself in order to cling to your idols. And you hear his invitation as a real way forward out of your misery, but your idol retorts with a strong counterargument. It says, “If you give your heart to Jesus, he’s calling you to give up good things and desire him only. Do you really want to give up your comfort, your security, your control?”
Jesus knows your weak faith and the ease at which your idol is able to convince you of its lies. And so, tenderly, with a heart of compassion, he tells you, “You’re not giving up your desires; you’re giving them over to me. You’re giving your whole life to me. In so doing, I will give you myself. And when I give you myself, all of your desires with which I created you find their ultimate satisfaction in me. When you are satisfied in me, you are truly free.”
In tears, you cry out, “Lord, I want to be satisfied in you, but that’s not happening in my life. I’ve tried, and you haven’t shown up for me.”
“My beloved child,” Jesus says, “You’ve been coming to me on the basis of your feelings, your experience, and your doubts. You haven’t been coming to me in faith in my promises to you. You’ve been coming to me demanding that I meet you on your terms. You haven’t been coming to me in trust, submitting to my perfect will for your life. You’ve wanted me to serve you so that you can be lord of your life. I want you to know a peace that comes from offering yourself to me daily as a living sacrifice, because you trust that I am sufficient for every need you have, and I will be faithful to every promise I have ever made to you. You thought that I existed for you. But you exist for me. You exist to glorify my name.”
With these words, your shackles come undone and fall to the floor as you see the path of joy and freedom set before you. Freedom is not in having your desires met in your timing and your ways. Freedom comes from repenting of your idolatry and entrusting your whole life to your first love, to the one for whom you were created.
The Death of Your Idol
Your idol has been dealt a death blow, but with its dying breath, it lunges at you with a sword of doubt saying, “You might want this freedom, you might even desire to worship Jesus alone, but you’ll fail, and you’ll come crawling back to me. Your repentance won’t be perfect.”
With confident humility you respond, “You’re right. I won’t be perfect. Even in my best moments, my love for Jesus will fall short of his supreme value. But my hope is not in my righteousness. My hope rests in being united to my Savior, who bore my sin of idolatry on the cross and has given me his perfect righteousness, so that I can come to him freely and ask for help from his infinite storehouse of grace.”
Jesus welcomes you into his arms and declares with amazing love, “You are my portion, and I am yours!” Jesus is not a genie or a powerful new way to get what you really want in the way you want it. Jesus Christ is the one who bore all the guilt of your sinful humanity and gives you nothing less than his own indestructible life—he himself is our reward. He doesn’t serve our desires; he reshapes them by his death and resurrection and guarantees them to us by joining us eternally to himself.
27 Nov 2019
Ten, twenty, thirty years of consistent patterns of giving into sin are hard to overcome. Decades of sinful responses to life will produce ingrained ways of thinking and acting that are not easily changed.
At Harvest USA, I find that men who struggle the most to find consistent victory over sin are not those who have suffered significant losses as a consequence of severe sin. Instead, the men who struggle the most to gain traction in their repentance are those who consistently make small compromises with sin, which leads to minor consequences in life.
They don’t lose their jobs; they don’t lose their families. But what they are in danger of losing is hope!
When someone starts to take repentance and accountability seriously, it’s initially a very encouraging endeavor. They feel a high degree of acceptance among others who struggle in similar ways. They experience a clean conscience from confessing sin to others. They feel hope that they are not alone in their struggles, and have real avenues of support and encouragement. All of this momentum gives many people a record-breaking initial season of freedom from sinful behaviors. Victory appears to be on the horizon!
But then they fall back into old patterns. After two months of a clean record, they cross that line and indulge in pornography again, or hook up with someone again. At this point, most people are tempted to question everything that they’ve been doing so far. Was it all a sham? Have they really made any progress if they are back at this place again? To make matters worse, that initial act of sin leads to more acting out. This is when they feel like they are now in a worse place than when they began this journey.
It is not uncommon to put forth unprecedented degrees of effort and resolve into battling sexual sin and still experience regular failure in this area. If this description matches your experience or the experience of someone you are helping, how are we to interpret and understand what God is doing?
First of all, I want to dispel two opposite yet companion false expectations of repentance. These are two lies to guard your heart against:
- The first lie: No matter what you do, you are doomed to eventually act out again, it’s only a matter of time.
- The second lie: All you need is the golden key of a specific insight, technique, or experience to be completely free from this sin.
Both of these lies give false expectations for what repentance looks like. The first lie I confront quickly. I boldly tell new groups of men at Harvest USA, that in Christ, nothing is forcing them to go home that night and act out in their well-worn behaviors. Sin is no longer their master; they’ve died to sin when Christ died to sin on the cross. It is a lie from Satan to believe that you are always doomed to eventually go back to your enslaving patterns of sin. God always provides a way of escape.
Yet the opposite lie is also very tempting and prevalent. Those enslaved to addiction want complete freedom, and they want it as quickly as possible. It’s tempting to believe that this will be an easy fix when there is often powerful momentum in the beginning stages of truly fighting sin. But this expectation of a quick, simple fix, only to be discovered by some insight or a new technique, both misunderstands the power of indwelling sin and also the scope of transformation that God is truly after.
I find it common for men to flip-flop between these two false expectations. One week, they are in the pit of despair that this sin will always enslave them; another week, they feel invincible, believing they’ve crossed a threshold where they’ll never be severely tempted again. But what if God is after more in your repentance than a clean track record?
What if God is after more in your repentance than a clean track record?
It is certainly a good thing to want complete freedom from destructive behaviors. But it is not good if that is the only thing you care about in your repentance.
God is doing so much more in you than merely stopping behaviors. He’s doing a comprehensive renovation of your heart. And for many people, that transformative process involves a much longer season of prolonged failure than they initially expected.
While there are many things God may be doing in allowing people to experience slow growth, I believe there is one fundamental lesson he wants everyone to learn in their repentance.
If God gave us immediate victory over sin, so many of us would be left with immeasurable amounts of deadly pride. We would look at others with judgmental hearts and have little room for patience or compassion as they continued to struggle and fail.
C.S. Lewis captures this deadly exchange when he describes Satan’s delight over prideful law-keeping. He writes, “He is perfectly content to see you becoming chaste and brave and self-controlled provided, all the time, he is setting up in you the Dictatorship of Pride—just as he would be quite content to see your [blister] cured if he was allowed, in return, to give you cancer. (p. 125).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
It’s important that we qualify what humility looks like in the battle against sin. Despair is a form of pride; you are looking to yourself as the answer to your problems, and when you can’t find the strength from within, your pride keeps you from looking to God.
Humility, on the other hand, leads to genuine hope. Humility accurately assesses the degree of helplessness we experience in our own strength to kill sin. The humble person accepts that reality and does not shake their fist at God for allowing them to experience weakness.
Humility leads to genuine hope. Humility accurately assesses the degree of helplessness we experience in our own strength to kill sin.
Instead, the humble person comes to God in trust and faith, continuing to believe that God is good, God is strong, God is mighty to save. The humble person acknowledges God’s goodness in calling them into a dependent relationship with him. That it is eternally better to be weak and experience God’s strength than to be strong in yourself and be separated from God for all of eternity.
God’s highest goal in your battle against sexual sin is growing your dependence, trust, and reliance upon him in ever-increasing intimacy and fellowship. People entrenched in sexual sin are not marked by this kind of relationship with God. This kind of relationship is not quickly grown. And thus your slow progress in fighting sexual sin is directly connected to the progress of your humble reliance upon God.
The more you give in to the temptation to despair over your lack of progress, the harder it is to find hope in a humble relationship with God.
If you are struggling today to make progress in your battle against sexual sin, focus your attention on cultivating a humble relationship of trust and reliance upon God. Fight to hope not in yourself, but in God. Fight against laziness and presumption that you can go a single day without a vital connection with him. Fight to believe that this depth of relationship with God is what you’re ultimately fighting for, and it is what God has promised to accomplish in your life.
Learn more by watching Mark Sanders’ accompanying video: Why Isn’t God Answering My Prayers for Deliverance?