20 Feb 2020
Our thoughts can be transformed by Jesus as he gives us the ability to think as he thinks.
To learn more about this topic, consider purchasing Sex and the Single Girl: Smart Ways to Care for Your Heart by Ellen Dykas. When you buy this minibook from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.
You can also read the blog, Common Lies We Believe About God, which corresponds to this video.
20 Feb 2020
Nobody talks to you as much as you talk to yourself. Your mind, constantly filled with an internal dialogue, interprets the world around you. What do you think about this? What do you believe about that? With little effort, your mind continuously feeds thought after thought.
As we experience the world around us, we develop interpretations in the form of our beliefs and how we think life works. Whether we are aware of it or not, we develop beliefs about God, family, church, gender, sex, relationships, pleasure, and so on to help us navigate life. The problem is that our interpretations and beliefs are often tainted with perceptions and ideas that aren’t true. The result? Lies bang on the doors of our belief systems and invade our thought lives.
Living with the lies and messages that we believe is like breathing—we don’t even think about it. These automatic tapes in our internal dialogues can get stuck on repeat. As trials and pain seep in through the cracks of our experiences, we grapple to process our realities. Often when we can’t make sense of life, we become aware of how we view God. We begin to take inventory of our experiences. In our thoughts, we tally up the pain of our lingering sexual sin struggles, our deferred hopes, and our life circumstances that aren’t going as planned, and we start to consider what God has—or hasn’t—done for us in these situations. As we look through the lens of our experiences, we question, we doubt, we blame God, and we believe lies.
Here are four common lies we believe about God, as well as truths we can learn to apply.
Lie #1: God is not good, but distant and cruel.
The Lie: We believe that God doesn’t really care about us. If he is good, he would have stopped that unpleasant thing from happening. If he isn’t cruel, he would offer me victory over my out-of-control sexual desires—or allow me to indulge them. He must delight in taking away the things that we love and letting us suffer.
The Truth: Life can seem cruel, especially for those who have experienced sexual abuse or ongoing temptations like lust and same-sex attraction. While we live in this sinful world, we will both sin and be sinned against. Human sin, not God, has caused the pain and suffering that we experience. God cares so much about restoring what sin has broken that he sent Jesus Christ, his only Son, as a sacrifice to make payment for our sins (Romans 5:8). Instead of condemnation, he offers salvation, through the death of Jesus, for all who believe in him (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10).
Lie #2: I will never be able to overcome my patterns of sexual sin.
The Lie: Sexual and emotional desires are out of my control. It is not possible—or desirable—to be free of what is so natural. I engage in sex outside of marriage because I am only responding to my urges and desires. Self-soothing through masturbation is an addiction that won’t ever go away.
The Truth: For some, it may feel this way at times, or even most of the time. However, to believe this is to say that Christ is insufficient. Christ came to bring liberty to the captives (Luke 4:18). These struggles may last a long time, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be overcome or that Jesus withholds his aid. While accepting this lie is to give up in defeat, challenging the lie looks like believing that change is possible and that there is hope as we fight against our sin. Not only is God’s grace sufficient for us, but his power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Lie #3: God helps those who help themselves.
The Lie: God only helps us when we work to help ourselves. Being saved, accepted, and forgiven is dependent upon us. If we continue to fail or don’t do what is right, we are displeasing to God. The burden falls on our best efforts and religious works.
The Truth: Legalism says we can be good enough in and of ourselves, earning God’s favor by constant self-improvement. This denies the gospel and rejects the Bible, which says that God saves us and grows us, by his grace, through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-10). The gospel is a message of radical grace and love: God in his love does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We cannot and are not required to change ourselves to earn his favor. God wants our hearts, not our perfection.
Lie #4: God thinks sinful sexual behavior is the worst; therefore, he sees me as damaged goods and unforgivable.
The Lie: We identify ourselves by our sin. Since we struggle with this sin, God must hate me. Even if God’s love is real, it can’t possibly be strong enough or deep enough to extend to my sexual brokenness. What has happened to me is how God sees me.
The Truth: Please hear me, you are not your sin; your sin does not define you. There is increasing pressure to identify ourselves by our feelings, attractions, and experiences. These things were never meant to carry the weight of a person’s identity. As believers, we are forgiven, gifted with a new heart, no matter what our besetting sins may be (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Peter 2:9-10) or what sins have been done against us.
We should be looking (and thinking) through the lens of God’s Word, not our experiences. When we do this, we will rightly see who God is, and that will nourish our thoughts. In order to break free from our faulty interpretations about life, we must name the lies and replace the false messages we have believed with the richness of God’s true Word (2 Corinthians 10:5). As we grow in knowing the Lord, lies are dismantled and replaced by faith and obedience.
You can also watch the video, How to Recapture Our Thoughts, which corresponds to this blog.
05 Aug 2015
In an earlier post (below), Dave White talks about whether it is ever appropriate to tell you children about your own sexual struggles and sin from the past. In the video above, Dave gives a number of options on how to do this.
Do you have sexual skeletons in your closet? Many Christian parents do, and as their kids edge toward the teen years, they begin to dread the questions that may come and begin to ask their own: How can I expect my kids to hold the line sexually when I failed at their age? Isn’t disclosing my own failures giving them license to do whatever they want?
In light of these concerns, does it ever make sense to open the closet door and let your kids see your past?
It depends. There are some kids in a place of rebellion, looking for any excuse to act out. The parent/child relationship may be so contentious that any vulnerability will be exploited and used later to lash out and possibly wound when you seek to address your child’s behavior. Were you a Christian while you were sexually active? This could cause your Christian teen to think they can sin now and repent later. All of us should pause and seek the Spirit’s guidance in broaching these issues with our kids.
That said, in the vast majority of cases, I believe it can be wise and helpful to let your kids see into the closet. Here are three good reasons why.
First, your story can provide a cautionary tale. Even if you were spared the harsh consequences of STDs or an unplanned pregnancy, you can discuss the soul damage that can occur when we don’t follow God. Our “anything goes as long as it doesn’t hurt someone” culture tells us we can indulge sexually with impunity, but God says it is a sin against our very selves (1 Corinthians 6:18). Our kids need to hear that there are unseen consequences in carelessly squandering God’s great gift in this area of life. There can be some real losses later in life. Even if the sin was only with your spouse prior to marriage, you can share the challenges this may have caused early in marriage, the way it impacted the joy of your honeymoon, etc.
Listen: I’m not big on scare tactics. Graphic STD photos aren’t helpful to show to your teen. But there is a benefit to hearing that this is God’s world and following him is the only path to true blessing and joy.
Second, it gives glory to the God who redeems. My past is extremely messy, and my kids have known it for a long time, getting more details at age-appropriate stages. Why do they know this about me? I want them to know that my life is a testament of God’s grace! The Spirit of God has radically changed me from the inside out. They need to know that God forgives sinners and there is no one beyond his grasp. I praise God that the man I was 20 years ago would be unrecognizable to my kids (and not just because of the Afro!).
Real honesty removes you from any pedestal that would cause you to eclipse Jesus. He alone is the righteous one, and your kids should know that you’re as needy as they are for his grace—and that means today, not just in your distant past! One of the most crucial things we do in passing on the Christian faith to our kids is to model authentic faith, which revolves around confession and repentance.
During a season often marked by growing distance between parents and teens, this is a way for you to build a bridge relationally. Being vulnerable, inviting your kids to know the “real” you, invites a reciprocal response. True, they may not be willing to open up, but at the very least it lets them know you want a deeper relationship. The essence of relationship is to be “known,” so we should be striving to let our kids really know us in age-appropriate ways. And it is always huge for teens to be treated as the budding adults they are.
Finally, your kids need to know that the gospel speaks to their sexuality, affected by the Fall, as is everything. “Youthful lusts” are a powerful force at this age. All teens enter these turbulent years wrestling with physical desires they’ve never experienced before, and to make matters more difficult for them, parents generally are not asking them about this stage of development. So, kids are wrestling with strong physical and emotional feelings and desires, and the real-life guidance they need is sadly lacking from their own parents. If no one speaks about these struggles, then, to them, neither does the gospel. But it does!
This is a crucial time for them—and you, as their shepherding parents—to apply the gospel in deeper ways! Our sexual struggles (and failures) are often a significant place of learning our utter dependence on God’s Spirit and the body of Christ to grow and live in the way we are called to live in Christ. And the best way for your kids to learn these things is for you to be vulnerable about your own neediness, and encourage them with how Christ and his people have met you in your own struggles with sexual sin.
For further thoughts look for our mini book, Raising Sexually Healthy Kids, published by New Growth Press, available at https://newgrowthpress.com/harvest-usa/