Archive for September, 2009

Wishing for a “to-do” list?

for todayAfter the previous article, I am sure some folk think I am pretty self-righteous.

I assure you that is the farthest thing from my mind. In fact I have been really wrestling with this idea of works vs. faith, or more accurately, where do faith and works truly coincide?

Thanks to a discussion over at “The Old Adam” I have been reminded that we humans are always trying to add something to what Jesus has already done. Didn’t Jesus say “It is finished”?

Do you ever wish, like I do at time, that God would just give you a “to-do” list every morning? One that would simply list your responsibilities for the day, such as:

1.Get up early today. You need time to prepare for step three.
2. Make sure to tell your wife you love her and kiss her twice before leaving.
3. Do not catch the 6:55 train this morning. There’s a person I want you to talk to on the 7:05, so sit in the front, near the last door. They will say “Excuse me” after sneezing. That’s how you will know them. I’ll take over from there.
4. Walk up 5th instead of 3rd today. Give the lady sitting by the dumpster at Yamhill $5 and bless her with a short prayer.
5. You’ve got problems at work. The person who irritates you the most is going to try your patience today. Make sure you keep a smile on your face and BE NICE!
6. and so on…

But, God doesn’t work that way, does He? Jesus said “Each day has enough trouble of it’s own.” We are to “Watch and pray.” It would be nice to know exactly what God’s will is evey moment of every day, but Paul says “…try to discern what the will of the Lord is” and “set an example by doing good things when urgent needs arise”.

Central to my own walk is the lingering inclination from my warped upbringing to base my confidence and assurance of salvation in what I do. Did I pray long enough? Did I remember everyone I should have. Oh no! I woke up late this morning and barely had time to shower much less pray like usual. Is it enough to get me through the day?

I am slowly (thank you Lord!) coming to realize that my faith must only be in the “once for all” sacrifice of Christ Jesus for my sins. Read Hebrews 10 again, and again. We do not and cannot save ourselves. Our works are not a means of grace; they are the fruits of grace and the Holy Spirit. Too many times I have beat myself up, or let Satan do it, because I felt I wasn’t doing enough. At the same time I have people reminding me that they wish they did as much as I do. I feel that I am lazy and unambitious, to be honest. But one verse keeps popping up for me:

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'” (Luke 17:10 ESV)

We are to always “be ready”! Ready for what?

“…for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

ready to share

ready for every good work

– in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching

We have to continue…..in what?

– in His kindness

– in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard

– steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving

– in faith and love and holiness, with self-control

– continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it

The emphasis throughout God’s New Covenant through Christ Jesus is that we continue to hope, believe, love and trust in HIM. Yes, we are to pursue holiness. Yes, we are to be angry and sin not. Yes, we are to care for widows and orphans. We are to also pray for all the saints and our church and secular leaders.

Trust in God, not in yourselves or your own works.

When Christians make the mistake of thinking that they must do this or do that in order to gain God’s favor, they have entirely missed the point. We are not saved by, nor do we earn favor by what we do. No, we evidence God’s favor by always wanting to be used by God when God is ready and presents us the opportunities. Once we cross the line of checking off a list of our own or a list someone else puts up for us, we are fallen into legalism, a self-righteousnes based on what we do. That is the “un-gospel”.

Everyone of us who puts their faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus must continue to base our faith and hope in HIM alone! That doesn’t mean we sit on our lazy behinds and do nothing.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV)

A Heart disease

This is an adult oriented article, so I feel I should let you know that while I don’t intend to get graphic, the things I discuss are of a sexual nature. Specifically, this is about the bane of modern Christianity –  the sin of virtual adultery and fornication – too often excused as a “problem” or an “addiction”. This is not a physical disease folks! This is a disease of the heart!

During a search for images to associate with this article, I had to deal with the idea that some people believe sex and church services are compatible. There a scores of articles about 30 day sex challenges and “7 Day Challenge for Better Sex” seminars being held in churches. Is this the biblical approach to handling what is supposedly a “Christian” problem, namely porn addiction? On top of this there are so-called “Christian sex enhancement stores” “Christ centered sexual advice sites” and so on. Most of this stuff is really centered around the carnal and lustful desires of the flesh, not even close to being about Christ or living godly lives, in and out of the bedroom.

Isn’t the very idea of “Christian porn” or “Christian sex toys” like saying there’s such a thing as “kosher pork”?

Taking the polls for granted, which say “Every church has this problem from Pastors to laypersons” doesn’t really address the issue. Men of Purity is a start, but rather than treating men who are guilty of this sin as willful sinners, it reduces the “sinfulness”, and therefore the seriousness, of this problem. It is not the same as watching too much TV or eating too much. It is sin against God, your wife, your family, your own body, and stranger’s bodies who sell their souls in order to make money to fulfill your wicked lusts.

I am a man, and before I became a believer, I was addicted for decades to the most deviant forms of pornography I could find. I could not live without it. Single or dating, I still needed porn. Being married didn’t help. I still needed to stop by the local porn shop and pick up some videos to watch “on the sly”. When my wife and kids were away from the house, I fired up the PC and got onto all kinds of free porn sites. Most were meant to titillate you into an obsession that could only be remedied by more than a preview; you needed a paid account. I resisted that out of pure stinginess, but still subscribed to a few so-called “gonzo sex” sites now and then.

Regardless, I felt guilty about my addiction and did my utmost to keep it secret. And why? Because I knew it was not normal for a guy to spend hours online working himself up to indulge in the most bizarre fantasies that he would never ask his wife to indulge in. Or, if she were willing, I would probably completely lose respect for her as a result. When I would leave to go on business trips, I usually destroyed any and all evidence of my “crime” lest my wife or a relative should happen to discover my collections. I lived in fear of dy8ing unexpectedly and others finding out what a perverted person I really was. I have probably destroyed more porn on those occasions than most men have looked at in their lifetimes. Why did I do this? Because I felt guilty even though I wasn’t a believer in Jesus Christ as my savior, but I certainly believed porn was bad, and not at all pleasing to God. While I was hardly pleasing to God in many other areas of my life, this was one area where I was hugely conscious that I would be labeled a pervert by anyone who happened to find out about the “real” me.

Why am I sharing this? Because I am sick and tired of the church’s acceptance of this idea that men can be followers of Christ and still be actively indulging in porn. For all intents and purposes pornography is fornication. You are, when observing men and women or two people of the same sex engaging in sexual licentiousness, an active participant. You are as guilty as the man next door who’s cheating on his wife, or the wife cheating on her husband. What this really amounts to is a rebellion against the will of God.

What does Paul tell the men in Corinth, who were exposed on a daily basis to the temptation of “live sex” at the many temples in the city. Many of the pagan religions of that time and place incorporated sex into worship of the god, whomever he or she might be. Paul says, “For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

(1 Thessalonians 4:2-8 ESV) 

Paul says that those who follow their carnal passions into areas of fornication and adultery do not know God. When I became a believer, I had given up two major addictions: smoking and porn. The first was primarily because I was scared to death I had contracted mouth or throat cancer. The latter, because I did not want to continue living addicted to porn the way I was. Becoming a Christian was a RESULT of that repentance. I had started leaving off doing a lot of things that I realized I could no longer do, in good conscience, if I were to be reconciled to God through Christ Jesus.

 After coming to faith, and being baptized, I enjoyed almost 18 months of complete freedom from this attraction to porn. Since that inital time, I have rarely been tempted to check out porn in any fashion. Thankfully, sexual thoughts or urges are rarely instigated by sinful or lustful thoughts (same thing actually), but I have wrestled with my sexual urges very regularly since this time. But, thank the Lord, I have not been disposed toward taking up my old porn addiction because of one primary concept: I fear the Lord. I do not even want to presume upon His mercy of forgiveness by resuming what I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is as bad a sin as homosexuality or even murder in the eyes of God and according to His word.

 So, what I am saying, to the few, if any, who’ve read this far is this: “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:16-18 ESV)

 In this verse, Paul is talking about choice. When a person “presents” himself or herself, they are showing up for a prearranged meeting or interview. Let’s call it an appointment or even a date. When you, a person who calls himself a servant of God, present yourself willingly in front of that TV or computer in order to engage in a little, or a lot, of sexual fantasy at least be honest enough to admit these things:

 1. You have chosen to put yourself where you areYou know what you are doing is wrong (aren’t you worried your wife or child might catch you?)

2. You are deliberately and willfully disobeying God (Matthew 5:28)

3. You are making choices that you will have to answer for, whether you are caught or not (Romans 2:8)

4. You can excuse it all you want, but you are deceived if you think God winks at this “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.” (Luke 11:34-35 ESV)

Joseph, who didn’t have just a fantasy to resist, but his own master’s wife, and didn’t even have a Bible or brothers to encourage him – “And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.” Eventually she got him in a position where he was trapped, but he fled, leaving her upset enough to frame him for raping her.

 Just because you aren’t actually having sex with that woman or man in the video or magazine or romance novel, doesn’t absolve you of your willful treachery. – “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness (you are coveting sex with that person who arouses you) must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness (and what is porn?) nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. “ (Ephesians 5:3-5 ESV)

 You cannot continue to be a Christ follower and indulge in pornography. God saved me from this addiction, by giving me a conviction of His hatred for it. When you see the way these women are treated and abused (apparently willingly) you cannot help but know that this is sin against God and sin against other human beings.

 I still have times when I am sorely tempted and tried, being around women who are blatantly promiscuous and/or scantily clothed. God did created me to be attracted to the opposite sex. But God has also provided an escape for every married man with a healthy wife, and for those single men and married men who cannot have their physical needs addressed by marital sex. God knows you have a sex drive, but our problem is that we men have too much free time on our hands to think about and be tempted by thoughts that lead us to sin.

 I believe this is why Paul recommends that we “work with your hands”. Too many of us spend time watching and thinking and open ourselves to many temptations. Get busy and do something useful to take your mind off sex. If you become so driven that your body becomes aroused without sexual thoughts or visual temptation, I personally believe God allows us to release that tension as long as we regard it a bodily function just like our normal functions of removing wastes from our body. If you must fantasize, then you do not need the release. You are seeking an excuse to fantasize and that will lead you down the road to addiction again. Paul tells us to be in control of our bodies.

Just be very careful that this does not turn around and control you. Paul says “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12)

I invite any and all other opinions about this. Just be gracious about your views, please. I know I am not right about everything, but this is one area where I believe the church, as a whole, has failed to called sin – sin. If you are a pastor, elder, deacon, teacher or involved in discipling anyone, you need to confess this sin, if guilty of it, and be willing to resign your position until you have things back under God’s control. 

Porn is the present day’s Ba’al and Ashtoreth. And we all know how much God hated those things. Do you really think if Christ returns just as you are lusting after some stranger on a porn site, that He will welcome you and send you along with His sheep to everlasting joy and life? Do you REALLY???