Accountability

The financial industry, and the government agencies that oversee it, pass stringent regulations to prevent profiteering. That is completely understandable, as our fallen human nature is rife with greed and avarice; many people will do anything for a buck, or a million of ’em

Profiteering, though, isn’t exclusive to the financial industry, or even the government bureaucracy. Religion has more than its share of greed and avarice, if not for material gain, then certainly for a reward in the afterlife. These days we hear of Muslim “holy warriors” blowing themselves up to take the infidels with them, all to gain the martyr’s status with its reward of seventy-two virgins—or so the story goes. Yet, there is are examples of religious opportunism far closer to home.

Christendom offers many examples of religious opportunism, from multimillion dollar televangelists to the small church’s big donor who expects to run the whole little show. I call them big cogs in little gears; they don’t mesh, and are proud of it.

Regardless the arena or the scale, fallen humanity loves to opt out of accountability. We fancy ourselves as our own authority—even as we give lip-service to our devotion to God.

A less obvious, though far more common, religious opportunism is taking Apostle Paul’s inspired words out of their Scriptural context. When the apostle wrote of our liberty in Jesus, he did not mean to suggest that we could get away with taking God’s grace for granted, as many so easily do.

1 Corinthians 5:12-13 NKJV
(12) For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?
(13) But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “PUT AWAY FROM YOURSELVES THE EVIL PERSON.”

Those who use Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10 to justify an opulent lifestyle are just as guilty of misusing Scripture as Muslim martyrs, and their judgment is just as sure. Some of us have the gift of earning wealth, but forget about Jesus’ words regarding treasure in heaven.

Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV
(19) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
(20) but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
(21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What we begin as a, “rainy-day fund,” takes on a life of its own, ruling us with a dictator’s iron gauntlet or hob-nail boot. You’re right, I didn’t mention spiritual or moral responsibility, but your treasure’s location speaks to those as well.

Atheists balk at accepting God’s existence either because some “Christian” demonstrated unchristian behavior toward them, or because if they did they would have to be accountable to Him. Why can’t God’s church see that principle just as clearly?

#OddSensations

On my way to the kitchen to retrieve my bowl of oatmeal, I realized I was in the grip of an odd sensation. “What is this odd sensation?” I asked(I tend to talk to myself when no one is around to look sideways at me[Yes, I know I shouldn’t care so much about what others think of me, but I do, so shut up!{please}]).

Let’s see, where was I? Oh, yes, “What was that odd sensation?” you’re asking, so I’ll tell you.

Happiness.

What bums me is feeling purposeless. When working at New Life Center I was happy, because despite the minimum wage and the menial nature of the job, I felt I was making a difference. Since leaving there that sense of purpose has been absent, and much of the time I felt depressed.

Until recently, that is, when my friend Tricia sent me her new novel’s manuscript for beta-reading. Well, you know me; being a compulsive editor I couldn’t just read it for content. I had to edit her hard work line-by-line, and though that is heavy mental work I get a kick out of making something worthwhile even better.

Though I’m sure there is a Scriptural application in this, at the moment I have bigger mice to slay. So do me a favor, if you can think of Scripture for this principle, please leave it in the comments. I await your response with ‘bated breath.

And I thank you.

Apple Cluster Sin

Sandy’s Donuts makes “apple clusters.” They are the yummy clusters of goodness that most bakeries call, “apple fritters,” and simply typing that places me in serious temptation. Like this morning when, after getting up late, I didn’t feel hungry for breakfast, so I delayed it til after 2pm when I began feeling hungry. But that isn’t when the apple cluster temptation began.

My yearning for those clusters of fried, sugary goodness began as I was trying to concentrate on my daily Bible-reading … of course. While struggling through those Scripture passages, I prayed for God to counter my almost-certain baked goods binge. After my reading I realized that our household garbage receptacles were nigh unto overflowing, so hungry as I was, I set to gathering the refuse and began the fifty-yard trek to the dumpster. During my return trip I began feeling convicted about my yummy, afternoon plans as God’s inaudible voice reminded me of the consequences:

First, James 4:17 NKJV Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. This nugget of wisdom from author James isn’t new to me; in fact, it haunts me more than I care to admit.

Do you really want to willfully sin?” said that pesky, silent voice.

Isn’t it somewhere included in ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER that debaters aren’t supposed to detonate the “S-bomb”? If it’s not, it should be.

Second, “You will feel depressed and bogged down later.” Again, nothing new, but the hard truth of experience. While my palate loves those apple clusters, the rest of my body does not. No need for Your quiet voice here Lord, but thanks for the reminder.

Third, “You’ve already grown out of at least two wardrobes …” Enough said.

And finally, my own inner voice for a change, “Of course, You’re absolutely right Lord. I’ll be glad I didn’t. And thanks ever so much for Your help.

Sin? Really?

How could enjoying one (or two) wonderful apple clusters possibly be sinful? After all, lots of other fat Christians (forgive my frankness) manage to indulge their appetites for such palatal pleasure, so why not me? The answer is easy; I don’t want a thousand or two calories, however delicious, forming a barrier between my Savior and me. Regardless how you cut it, to willfully disobey is sin.

Does satisfying any of your appetites, whatever they may be, put a busy-signal on your prayer-line? Does praising your loving Savior seem just a bit hollow when you allow His conviction to penetrate your denial, and indulge anyway? If we honestly have to answer in the affirmative, James 4:17 applies directly to us.

Where is your battle line drawn?

I confessed just one of my struggles, but I have many more. What are your struggles? You may be skinny as a rail, able to look down your nose at us fat folks munching out on our sugary poison, but Apostle John says you are not free of your own guilt:

1 John 1:8-10 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

If God’s church seems lacking in vitality, you and I can see the reason by simply looking in a mirror. A sinning church is an impotent church. How have we sinned? Read the New Testament and apply it to yourself, rather than to Betty-Sue over there.

And pray! Serious, sin-confessing, prostrate-on-the-floor prayer. Then watch the Holy-Ghost victory flow.

THE THORN IN MY HEART

St. Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh

Apostle Paul wrote of several aspects of his life that could cause him to be proud:

2 Corinthians 12:1-4
(1) It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord:
(2) I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago–whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows–such a one was caught up to the third heaven.
(3) And I know such a man–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows–
(4) how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

(Romans 11:13) For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,

(2 Corinthians 12:12) Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.

Most scholars believe Paul spoke of himself regarding these wonderful claims. Yet, in all these, he glorified God rather than himself, and for one reason:

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
(7) And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
(8) Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
(9) And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
(10) Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

What a truth! The eminent apostle recognized a fundamental spiritual law: that everything we naturally think we know is completely backward compared to God’s eternal truth.

My Thorn

I have a few physical issues, but none so deep or painful as to be compared to Paul’s thorn in the flesh. For that I thank my Creator, God’s eternal Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. My thorn is entirely different from anything physical; it is a thorn in my heart.

God’s Word calls the seat of our emotions, faith, mind, will, and temperament, the heart. Of course, God doesn’t mean that muscular blood-pump in our chest, but the in-most home of our nonphysical functions.

My personal thorn pierces a number of my heart’s functions, and my born again life’s work has been dealing positively with it. Here’s a litany of my heart’s bleedings: my emotions are too tender, my faith is too weak, my mind is too loud, my will is too weak, and my temperament is too fearful. Just ask any women who have been in my life.

I praise God, though, for the way He’s used that thorn, and the incorporeal blood that drips from it. My tender emotions give me empathy for others’ suffering. My weak faith makes me skeptical of anything that is not of God and His Word. My loud mind is also analytical, giving me a sensitive bovine manure-detector.

Let’s see, what possible redeeming value could my weak will and fearful temperament have? They work together, feeding off of each other, and have always been the cause of my deepest regrets, so I must dig deep to find the answer. For one thing, weak will prevents me from overpowering those around me. Even though some really need overpowering (that’s where the fear flattens my resolve), apparently God wants me to leave that job to someone else. Or is that a cop out? There are times when I realize that God has placed me where I should assert myself, such as sharing my faith and dealing with others’ wrong demands, and I pray constantly for the assertiveness to overcome such resistance when needed.

God’s Solution

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Jesus bore that cruel crown of thorns to tell me that my sins pierced His divine soul. How trivial my personal thorns are in comparison.

Though we sometimes must seemingly dig to China to find God’s richest blessings, those gold nuggets give us unrivaled cause for grateful rejoicing. Join me in praising Him for the hard things!

Who Do We Worship?

First, What Is Worship?

Technically, it is an expression of our lowliness compared to our object of worship. It demonstrates recognition of another’s superiority or sovereignty over us. Praise is an expression of worship that recounts the qualities and works of the one we worship. I didn’t capitalize “one” in that sentence because we too often worship our temporal gods of material goods, people, or positions of power.

Today’s worship is usually programmed to elicit worshipful feelings, even if the content is non-Scriptural. Too often we feel we’ve failed to worship if we somehow fail to reach that tearful ecstasy. Despite all its wonderful aspects, Pentecostalism has elevated emotional response to where it can become the main priority of worship, with a neopentecostal worship style becoming the norm for Evangelical churches.

Now look! Did I say emotional worship is wrong? Not at all, as long as it isn’t our main priority. If our tears are in response to our love for God, or our conviction of sin, and not merely emotional contagion, God is well served by our tears.

God, or Jesus?

That’s a trick question. Jesus is the human expression of God, the eternal Word, so worshiping God is worshiping Jesus the Christ, the unique Son of God. In the same way, worshiping Jesus is worshiping God.

CAUTION! We can easily analyze the heart out of worship, and getting hung up on technicalities is the heart of legalism. Speaking of hearts, God knows and understands our deepest motivations. If love for God motivates our worship, it glorifies Him even if we fail to understand all the Scriptural particulars.

We mustn’t worry about how we worship God, whether we focus on the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. Instead, we need to concern ourselves with obeying God according to the light He has cast upon His Word.

Amazing Grace

No one will ever get living for God exactly right. That’s why He gave us 1 John 1:8-10.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

If you can’t praise God for that, you don’t know Him as you could.

Why I am Not a Calvinist

I was raised Catholic, and if there’s any confusion among Protestants reading this, that means, “Roman Catholic,” or my preferred label of “Romanist.” Their dogma is about as far from Calvinism as ideologically possible, but that’s not why I have a problem with Calvinism.

Considering my conservative view of God’s Word, it’s a wonder that I don’t embrace Calvinism; some of the best Bible scholars, both now and throughout history, are or were Calvinists. Yet, they are missing one significant fact about God: The eternal, self-existent One governs His universe outside of our temporal constraints. Yes, God understands time. He aught to; He created it. Thing is, we limit God according to our understanding of creation. For example, we call God, “Him,” even though He is neither male nor female. The Bible anthropomorphizes Him by speaking of His hands or wings, and non-believers do the same by thinking of Him as a wizened old man with a long white beard, gazing at us through a heavenly telescope to catch us in misdeeds.

Why do we limit our ideas of what’s possible by our understanding of cause-and-effect? Calvinism teaches that we’re saved because God “elected” those who would be saved, individually, from time’s very beginning. In other words, we’re saved because He chose us. Isn’t it also possible that He chose us because we’re saved? Why not both at the same time?

Without going into a hodgepodge of doctrinal proof verses, I can say there is enough solid Scriptural evidence supporting both Calvinism and Wesleyan/Arminian holiness positions that I hesitate to align myself with either side. Can I lose my salvation? Absolutely not, if I am truly saved. Am I truly saved? I have the witness of the Spirit (Romans 8:16), so I must be. Right? Why, then, have so many who claimed that promise apostatized, not only leaving the faith, but vehemently opposing it?

When attempting to evangelize people we often ask them if they’re saved. When they answer, “I hope I’m saved,” we assume they aren’t. But God’s Word tells us, “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” (Romans 8:24-25) Apostle Paul said we “were saved,” meaning it’s a done deal. But we can’t “see” that hope, or it wouldn’t be hope. So we can’t know with a certainty that we’re saved. Claiming that would be claiming the same foreknowledge that only God possesses. According to Paul’s words, “perseverance” is the key to our ultimate salvation.

My intent here isn’t to place your faith in doubt. Rather, I hope to shake it just enough to send you into God’s Word to prove me wrong, and I look forward to seeing those proofs in the comments.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord

Some churches end congregational prayers with, “Through Jesus Christ our Lord.” While that’s more-or-less Scriptural, I wonder whose Lord He really is. Can I make that prayer more specific by saying, “Through Jesus Christ my Lord?”

What does His lordship mean to me? What does it mean to you? For Jesus to be our Lord, we must obey Him, not only when it’s convenient, or easy, or when we agree with His commands. Jesus said in John 14:15  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That’s simple cause-and-effect, like a stone tossed into the air and falling back to earth. It will happen with no exceptions.

He also said in John 15:9-12  “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (10)  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (11)  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (12)  This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

So, Jesus’ lordship is all about love: His love for you and me, and our love for Him—evidenced by our love for one another, regardless what they’ve done to us. If there’s any question about what that special kind of love looks like, we need to revisit St. Paul’s definition of godly love:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  (5)  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  (6)  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  (7)  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I could turn each statement of that passage into a personal question, but I think that is something each of us must do as a devotional exercise, and not just once, then forgetting about it. We must question each action, especially those involving others, according to God’s standard, and never be satisfied with the results until we see perfect conformity. Of course, that means we’ll never be satisfied, which is just and right, considering who is our Mentor.

Please don’t be daunted in your pursuit of God’s perfect love. As St. Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:13, As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. And in Galatians 6:9,  And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

By those Scriptural standards, is Jesus Christ my Lord? Is He your Lord? If you’re not sure, go to God in prayer right now to sincerely confess your failures, ask His forgiveness, and commit yourself to Christ’s lordship. Your life will become His, and His life will become yours, forever.

My Old Shoes

Yesterday I bought new shoes at Famous Footwear. Of course, as I had worn my old shoes into the store and removed them to try on some fresh footwear, my impression of all the samples was jaded by my old shoes’ relative comfort. Despite the new shoes’ foreign feeling, however, I knew they would supply the improved support that I badly needed.

Thing is, my feet are my body’s structural foundation, and even though the old, loose shoes felt more comfortable than new shoes ever could, they didn’t contribute to the stable posture needed to prevent aches and pains throughout.

Today’s Sermon

You may wonder how buying new shoes could apply to Pastor Ona’s sermon this morning, so I’ll tell you. He preached about our core values as Spirit-filled Christians, which includes walking as Jesus walked, and sharing His love for God’s word and His creation. Pastor Bob spoke of going to church to get blessed by worshiping God in Spirit and Truth, then reverting to our customary entertainments and worldly patterns of life as soon as we walk out of the church building.

It seems we’re creatures of habit, or at least those of us who are or were fallen human beings are that way. As such, the old ways feel more comfortable than the new behaviors that our faith dictates. Apostle Paul said it best:

Romans 7:14-24  For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.  (15)  For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.  (16)  But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.  (17)  So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  (18)  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  (19)  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.  (20)  But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  (21)  I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.  (22)  For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,  (23)  but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.  (24)  Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

Sound familiar?

Yeah, yeah, I know you’ve heard it all before, but if it does not align rather closely with your testimony; if you don’t struggle with the comfortable habits of your “old man,” you are either a saint waiting to be canonized by the Catholic Church, or you’re lying to yourself and to God. Apostle John said:

1 John 1:8,10  If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
(10)  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

But neatly inserted between those two rather dismal statements is the hope of verse 9:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Does that mean we can get away with presuming upon God’s grace by willfully transgressing His standards and principles? Here’s what Apostle Paul said about that:

Romans 6:1-2  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  (2)  May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

Honestly, this piece could go on to become an encyclopedia of Scriptural admonitions for Christlike living, but to alleviate your eye strain I’ll just refer back to my shoe-shopping experience; resist the temptation to continue enjoying those old-shoe-habits simply because they are comfortable. If your activities don’t lead you to godliness, they won’t lead you to heaven.

My Problem With Prayer

I have a hard time praying, not because I don’t believe God can answer prayer, but because I overthink the process. So I try to pray because God’s Word quite clearly directs us to pray constantly (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17) even though I fail miserably.

Christ-followers of different stripes profess all sorts of beliefs about prayer. The brethren I truly admire simply obey God’s Word from a simple, childlike faith, without cognitive conflicts. They are the ones who pray for miracles and watch God provide those miracles. Unlike some believers who demand God’s obedience to their prayers, they don’t just pray in Jesus’ Name; they live in Jesus’ Name.

My problem with praying is the opposite of those who demand answers to their prayers, and it’s because of one Scripture passage:

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16b)

While I correctly claim for myself the righteousness of Jesus, there is no way I can consider my life righteous in the sense of living without fault. Though I must claim God’s grace over my faults, I can’t ignore other Scripture passages that instruct us to be righteous:

If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. (1 John 2:29)
Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. (1 John 3:7)
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” (Romans 1:17)

Where are my answers to prayer?

I’ve prayed for the same things over the years, things that would make me more Christlike, such as greater self-control, more active love, more intimacy with my Father God. I want to remember Scripture passages so I can recall them when needed for meditation or encouraging others. I want holy boldness to confront sin with love as my Savior did. I want to be remembered as a man after God’s own heart, and holy, because God is holy. And that’s all I want.

I ask, Is that too much, Lord?

His answer doesn’t satisfy, even though I know it’s true. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

I ask, Why, then, do I not see godliness in my life?

He answers, So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

I ask, But I’m a mess, Lord. How can you use me like this?

He answers, Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

I am humbled by His truth. Why couldn’t I see it before. Father, use me however you wish. As messed up as I am, I trust Your perfect judgment. Thank you, Lord, for all my faults and my strengths, for they are Yours.

THE PORN PROBLEM IN GOD’S CHURCH

I don’t know how old I was when I first became aware of pornography, but it impacted my life powerfully, taking over my mind and displacing wholesome priorities. But praise God, He gave me enough insight to keep me from pursuing the worst, most demeaning types of porn. Even so, my early exposure to that evil established a lifelong pattern that has interfered with God’s work in my life.

Most people might think that being born anew in God’s Spirit would end my fascination with porn, but it simply introduced a life-and-death battle where no such conflict existed before. Over the years I rationalized my appetite for erotic imagery by calling it a compulsion, but a particular Scripture passage dashed that deception:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:13-14)

So much for that cherished rationalization. For me, the key truth here is idolatry, or placing something between myself and my God. In fact, I did exactly that with my “compulsion,” placing it outside of God’s reach, believing that He was unable to deliver me from that sin. Could that be anything but the most subtle of blasphemies?

Erotica is indeed common to man—and woman for that matter—and in the natural context of marriage between a man and a woman it is a beautiful thing. But porn is mass marketed erotica, and one of the enemy’s perversions of natural and good innate drives.


Fatal Attraction

What’s wrong with having a little fun? After all, no one really gets hurt, do they?

Oh my, where do I start? From personal experience I know that immersing myself in erotica both pulls the plug on my spiritual life support and interferes with my emotions and my creative and critical thought processes. Recognizing the spiritual aspect is no great stretch, but I suspect most people fail to realize how it messes with ones mind.

Think in the physical terms of a healthy lifestyle; most of us realize that our bodies work best when we take regular exercise and eat a well-balanced diet of minimally processed foods. The body receives both the exercise and the diet well because God created us for just that sort of natural maintenance.

We also have other needs, such as physical and emotional intimacy, and they are best satisfied when we meet them according to our Creator’s pattern. Shortcutting the satisfaction of those needs produces only frustration and heartache, and makes us ripe for the enemy’s picking.


The Lie

Every convincing lie is built around a kernel of truth, and the pursuit of sexual gratification through pornography is a powerful example of such truth-based falsehoods. God indeed created us with a powerful sexual drive that is fulfilled in a healthy marriage. Many husbands, however, tell themselves that porn’s erotic stimulation will help to spice up their marriages, often with their wives’ approval. Somehow they fail to recognize the probability that such perverse sexual gratification will displace their normal, healthy sexual relations. But men aren’t the only culpable parties to porn; many women consume “spicy,” romance novels that show a perverted view of romantic relationships, and that habit is every bit as damaging as graphic porn. Both encourage false ideals and expectations to which real people can’t possibly conform.

Such is the way of perversions. Whether they be sexual, food related, or the pursuit of prosperity, possessions, security, or the power-trip of dominance over others, they’re all based on some God-given drive gone horribly wrong.


My Erstwhile Prayer

For years I’ve prayed for God to deliver me from my compulsion to use porn for sexual release, issuing anguished cries of desperation and shame. Through my stubborn refusal to apprehend God’s victory, I managed to covertly blame God for not taking it away from me. My muddled mind interpreted God’s “failure” to deliver me from the need for such perverted sexual release as His implied permission to continue.

We regularly hear a particular Bible promise that should put all these desperate pleas to rest:

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

Why are we so unbelieving that we regularly gloss over such beautiful promises? Somehow they are good in principle, but our issues are just too big for God’s power. BALDERDASH! Isn’t it remarkable how the flesh can pervert even such a beautiful, God-given resource as prayer?


The Pornographic Church

We church folks can easily understand the unchurched world’s dependence on sexual and all other forms of perversion. Yet, we fail to grasp how easily the world system erodes the church’s holiness. Pollsters tell us that church-goers are mere percentage points less likely to frequent pornography web sites than the unchurched, and among those, ministers are just as likely to develop the habit of viewing porn. In fact, some of the most vocal in their condemnation of sexual sin are themselves deeply stained by such virtual voyeurism.

My personal experience demonstrates the futility of trying to maintain an intimate relationship with God while chronically involved with pornography. We church folks find Christianese verbiage easy enough to spout, but though we practice a form of godliness, we deny its power (2 Timothy 3:5). Remember; shame kills intimacy, whether with God or with one’s spouse.


The Remnant

Despite all the successful attacks on the church’s moral purity, God has maintained a remnant of chaste brothers and sisters in Christ. Are all the rest hell-bound for eternity? But for God’s amazing grace they would be. Does that mean we can freely gratify our fleshly drives without consequence? As Apostle Paul wrote, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2) We must remember that making excuses for our sin is actually self-justification, which in a real way rejects Christ’s justification, and we all know what that means.

To avoid our enemy’s condemnation, we must remember a key Scripture passage:

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh. (Romans 8:1-3)

The operative phrase is, “for those who are in Christ Jesus,” so anyone trying to fudge a free pass for sin is flat out of luck.
Glance back to Romans 6:1&2 for a moment; the phrases, “continue in sin” and “live in it,” mean there’s a huge difference between living in sin and inadvertently sinning. We all experience moments of weakness when we yield to temptation, but a true Christ-follower gains no satisfaction from such behavior. That’s why Jesus gave us 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Despite having been made dead to sin, we are certainly not immune to temptation. In fact, we suffer greatly from grieving God’s Holy Spirit within us, and the only remedy is brokenhearted confession and heartfelt repentance.

If your relationship with Father God lacks intimacy, there’s a strong probability that you have allowed something to block your access to Him. Even if that something is addiction to pornography, Jesus has already won your victory over it.

Dump your depravity! Shuck your shame! Claim God’s precious promises for yourself and join His holy remnant as an ultimate conqueror.