In the current climate of our country I have been praying, reading, and seeking my place in it all as a Christian. With all the conversation about rights, freedoms, guns, privacy, the president, and the like, there are a lot of things to sort out. It seems as though there is a drive and push for us as the body of Christ to separate our life in Christ from our life as an American. From my perspective this is super problematic. Is it possible that we have lost our focus? As Christians, our sole purpose is to bring glory to God with our lives. When we begin to put our rights or our earthly freedoms before God or when we find ourselves fighting for our rights and earthly freedoms (sometimes no matter the cost), it would seem that our priorities might be out of order. We are called to be representatives of Jesus Christ, and as a result, how we live matters. The things we say and do matter as we are to represent Jesus in the best possible light. When we focus so intensely on our earthly freedoms and comforts we may start to panic, or start to react poorly, or become so caught up that we forget we are representing Jesus to those that we think are trying to change or remove those freedoms from us. "And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father."Colossians 3:17
This is also a matter of trust. Do we trust God regardless of the outcome? Do we trust God even in the midst of what may result in hardship? Do we trust God even though evil may seem to be prevailing?
The challenge for us as believers is to put Jesus first in all circumstances and situations. If you don't agree with someone it is okay to disagree, how you disagree maters greatly. Disagree in love. As a believer in Jesus you are commanded by God to love others, and Jesus made it clear that this includes your enemies.
"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him." Colossians 3:1-10
Want to continue the conversation? Leave me a comment, I would love to chat more about it!
Pornography addiction is no small thing, and for many men and women the struggle is real. Pornography addiction can leave a person feeling broken, desperate, isolated and simply put, imprisoned. For those struggling with this addiction they are constantly being told that there is hope and that freedom available but they never seem to be able experience it and as a result they feel even worse. The truth of the matter though is that there is in fact hope, there is a way to experience freedom from this bondage. I started watching pornography when I was 9 years old, I always knew that it was something I shouldn't be watching but I began to crave it. By the time I was a teenager I was a full blown porn addict, and I was also beginning to have actual sexual experiences which heightened the watching of porn. This carried well into my adult life. I came to Christ when I was 27, I had many addictions prior to my turning to Jesus from drugs, cigarettes and alcohol, to sex and pornography, and when I came to Christ, 4 of those things immediately dealt with. I stopped smoking, doing drugs, drinking, and I stopped engaging in sexual activity. For some reason the one that stuck around was the pornography. It had become a way of life for me, it was normal and I couldn't stop watching it. In the beginning of my walk I would seek to hide it as I felt ashamed but then in reading the Gospel of John I came across John 3 verses 20 and 21 which state "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” These verses shook me, I had to ask myself the question, "am I practicing the truth and coming to the Light or am I hiding my sin?" Clearly I was hiding my sin. This convicted me and I began to reach out. I kept my circle tight but I made sure that I had a couple guys I could share my struggle with, and this began the process of me getting the help I needed to walk in the freedom that Christ offers.
Lets get into some practical steps on how to deal with pornography addiction. (Please note that though they aren't directly listed in the steps below, fervent prayer and Bible study are a must in and through this process.) (Also, this blog will be a little longer than normal and that's okay!)
Step 1, Admit you have an issue and need help. This might seem obvious but pride can be a beast and a lot of times we think we can handle these issues on our own. Porn addiction is not an issue that you can handle by yourself, it will require the help of the Holy Spirit and the help of the body of Christ. This is so vital to beating this addiction!
Step 2. Have a couple people that you can openly talk to about your struggles, your failures and your successes. There are a few things to draw out here that are important to mention. Fist, again, our pride can be a beast. If we have those people in our life we need to make sure we exercise the option to contact them and not only contact them but contact them before and not after a failure. This point is so important because it is often the hardest. We get embarrassed or we think they will be mad at us for struggling, or we just messaged them a couple of hours ago, or the day before etc... The enemy is crafty in these moments and our flesh starts to take over, we need to get out ahead of things before they get out of hand (and if we are honest they can get out of hand quickly). You need to have people in your life that will walk through this with you and that you can be open and honest with. I tell my friends that I am accountability partners for that even if I don't pick up leave a message or text me, I will respond and know that I will ask so they will have to answer, I tell them that I expect honesty as that is what they will get from me, and I want them to walk in the victory they have in Christ.
Step 3, Have an escape plan. This follows step 2 as they go hand in hand. This plan should be known by your accountability partners as they are a key part of the plan and holding you to the plan laid out. This plan should include contacting your accountability partners, prayer, Bible reading (specific Scriptures that you have found powerful or remind you of Gods goodness), something or a series of somethings you can do instead (this is where having a hobby is huge, for me it is writing or making music, this helps me focus on something different and is very helpful). If you are alone, sometimes you might have to leave the house and go somewhere public or just get in your car, crank some worship music (or just Christian music in general) and just drive. 1 Corinthians 10:13 is a great verse to memorize for those that struggle with lust or pornography "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure." This is a fantastic verse to remember, it's one of those verses that removes our excuses. Do we believe and trust that God is faithful and that He will show us a way out so that we can endure the temptation(s) before us? Think of it this way, if you were in a burning building you would do anything and everything to get out, to save your life. You wouldn't just sit in the middle of a room and say "well the building is burning so I guess I am just going to sit here and die." You would fight for your life. I would like to develop this illustration a bit. Let's say that the fire represents temptation and allowing it to consume you would represent you sinning. God gives us an ax in one of those glass cases that says "break glass in the event of an emergency." Jesus is always our exit, we need to choose Him rather than sit in the temptation, allow it to consume us and rebel against Him. Jesus died so we may have life, in Him we have victory over sin and death, we fight for our life by choosing Jesus in the moments when we feel the weakest. This brings me to step 4.
Step 4, Submit to resist. James 4:7 states "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." We have a tendency to read a verse like this and think we resist by fighting and by fighting I mean take things on in our own strength or flesh, when we do this we fail because we can only fight the temptation for so long, we can only resist for so long, eventually we give in. Here is the thing, when we submit to God we are resisting the devil, we are choosing Jesus over sin. So how does this play out in reality, how do we submit to God and resist the devil in real time, we do so by implementing steps 1-3. We get serious about walking in righteousness, we take God serious, we pray, we begin to practice holding our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, we call or text our accountability partners, we implement our escape plan, we get out of the building before the fire consumes us.
Something very important to remember is that we are all in process. When we put our faith in Jesus we begin the process of learning to be more like Him, we are being molded, and shaped into Christ-likeness. Something equally important for us to remember is that we are not hide behind the process, meaning, we can't settle for our sin or justify our sin, we need to be discontent with our sin and long to be freed from those things that hold us in bondage, we should be growing!
One final thing to wrap this all up. The thing that was a game changer for me was when one of my accountability partners, best friends, and brothers in Christ shared something so simple yet so profound. I want to bring you to the account of Esau and him trading away his birthright for a bowl of soup. Esau traded everything, he traded his blessing, all for a bowl of soup. We read in Hebrews 12 verses 16 and 17 "that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears." What my buddy said next was a major eye opener for me, lets look at pornography as a bowl of soup. Are you willing to trade everything, to trade away your blessings for a bowl of soup? I am not speaking about matters of salvation, however, we are looking at the fact that God isn't going to be mocked, He isn't okay with sin in the life of a believer. Everything you have is a blessing, your very life is a blessing, you might have a family, you might be a pastor or a part of a ministry, all of that can be gone in the blink of an eye. Pornography in general has a crazy destructive ability, it steals your joy, it distorts your view of others, it destroys families, it ruins future relationships, it simply wrecks things. For me, this was huge, and so when I am faced with temptation, I say "no soup for me", this is the first step in my escape plan, it reminds me that i don't want to trade everything for this temporary moment of sin against God. God has provided me, and I'm sure you, with more than we deserve, He has done so much for us and it is time we take Him serious and take Him at His word. He is in fact faithful to provide a way out, the question is will we take the exit.
This blog is by no means extensive, there is so much more conversation to have, with that, we would love to hear from you. Let us know what works for you, let us know how we can pray for you specifically. If you are struggling with this issue we would love to help so please don't hesitate to email us or if your comfortable leave a comment. Thank you so much for your time in reading this and we hope you found it worth your time and helpful. God bless!!
The Pharisee card, I have seen it used a lot these days and it is breaking my heart. Unfortunately, most of the time the card is being played it is played as sort of a Christian trump card intended to discredit the person it is being played against, this can be very problematic. We see the Pharisee card being played in conversations that challenge our previous held beliefs or ideas, and instead of engaging in Christ honoring conversation we assume the person is being Pharisaical and we dismiss them as not having anything to offer us, so we shut them down by calling them Pharisees or Religious Leaders. I want to look at the Pharisees for a minute and dive into how they were responding to Jesus and His disciples. As a bit of a disclaimer, this may be hard to swallow because it should challenge us to look at how we respond to people when they challenge the things we believe.
Lets state the obvious first, the Pharisees were self-righteous hypocrites. Sadly, this is where we tend to stop and often why we use the Pharisee card out of context and incorrectly, and we certainly don't apply the card to ourselves because we are not self-righteous hypocrites (please insert any level of sarcasm you see fit). There is so much more to this picture than meets the eye, and this is where we can find our self acting like the Pharisees if we are not careful. The Pharisees refused to listen to the truth of God's Word, they refused to admit that they might not have it all figured out, they refused to examine the claims of Jesus, the figured they had all the answers and no one could tell them otherwise. With that, when Jesus brought them a truth claim about Himself or the Scripture they rejected it immediately, they had already come to the conclusion that they were right and He was wrong. This is where we can be much like the Pharisees. When a brother or sister brings something to us or challenges something said or that we have held on to as a belief, instead of examining if what they are saying is true, we reject their claims, and we seek to discredit them, this is exactly what the Pharisees did. We as people have a problem when the facts don't align with our previously held beliefs and with that, we have a couple of options. We can either approach the topic presented with an open mind and an open Bible examining the claim(s) that is being made, or we can cling to our presuppositions and assume the person is wrong and dismiss what they are saying. In my mind, the first approach is the wise approach and the more Biblical approach. (Now, there are certain doctrines that you are going to rightly cling to, for example; Salvation through faith alone, the person of Christ (the hypostatic union (two complete natures, Jesus was fully human and fully God during His time on earth), and others.)
We look an awful lot like the Pharisees when refuse to examine a claim being brought to our attention. Even if the person is way out of bounds in their thinking, we should still be willing to hear them out, take the time to examine the Biblical reality of the claim and have a conversation. The problem is that that option is harder, longer, and requires our attention and time, it is way easier for us to dismiss things. I am reminded of a time when I was young in my faith and a buddy of mine whom I had come to trust had shared that the music I was listening to was problematic and certainly didn't glorify God. My initial response wasn't the kindest, I thought in my mind that they were some religious nut and I said "music is just art, it's fine for me to listen to these things." That friend shared a series called "They Sold Their Souls for Rock and Roll" by Good Fight Ministries with me, and I didn't want to watch it. I thought it was just going to be some over the top, crazy religious stuff that was seeking to condem me for my listening habits. However, because I had come to know this brother in Christ I chose to watch it. The video series was 10 hours long and after the first half of video 1 I was wrecked, I was in tears and I realized I was wrong, God did a mighty work. Later that week I gathered up all my music and I threw it in the dumpster, it took everything for me not to jump in and fish it all out but I knew that God had made it clear that it needed to go. My point is this, my previously held belief was that my music was fine, but in reality, it wasn't and through careful examination of my buddies claim according the to the Word of God I saw that I was wrong. I could have fought for what I thought was right, I could have called him a Pharisee, I could have dismissed him or sought to discredit him but instead I reluctantly listened, and examined the claim and my life changed as a result.
One of the hardest things for us to do as humans is to admit when we are wrong, or to entertain the possibility we could be wrong or even deceived.
We need to be teachable and realize we aren't always right, and that it is possible that we can be deceived and go around thinking we are right when we are in fact wrong. It is important for us to study, to examine the evidence and when we are wrong, we need to adjust. Sadly, with the way the Pharisee card is being used today, Jesus, the disciples and especially Paul would be likely to be called Pharisees, that should trouble us and shake us awake.
The final thing I will mention about the Pharisees is not an item that is spoke about much but it is so important!! The Pharisees were heretics, they were false teachers, this also plays greatly into their self-righteousness and rejection of the Truth. The Pharisees were more concerned with what the Tradition of the Elders taught then they were what the Word of God taught. They were more concerned with what the Talmud had to say then the Word, they were teaching and holding people to extra-Biblical material, that is not okay. I wont spend much time here but just know it is important and maybe do some study on it, you might be surprised what you find.
The bottom line is this, before you play the Pharisee card examine your heart, examine your thoughts, examine the claims, and make sure you are properly using the card. There are for sure times when playing the Pharisee card makes sense, however it is not as often as you think and unfortunately we have abused it's usage. May we be careful to examine what is being said by our brothers and sisters in Christ, even if we don't agree with them we need to have the conversation in love, not ascribe motive or intention to them, and always represent Jesus in all situations, even the ones where it makes sense to play the card.
We would love to hear from you about this, please leave a comment and continue the conversation, and as always lets keep the conversation Christ-centered and Christ-like. Thank you so much for taking the time!!