False identities and our true identity in Christ part 2 (godly identity)

False identities

In this second post in a series, I’m going to look at one of four false identities that the Father had to remove as part of my journey to wholeness and discovering who I am in Christ.

***CONTENT WARNING***
This is a vulnerable post about my journey to sexual wholeness and may not be appropriate for minors nor for those of a sensitive nature.

I have been honest about my struggles so that others who were trapped in the same lies of shame can also find freedom and release.  Please handle with care.

False identity #2: My identity is in my sin

Hello my name is John and I’m addicted to porn.

The first time I said those words was like a thunderbolt of revelation.  I knew my life had spiralled out of control but confessing that I was addicted was a bitter truth that had taken years to face up to and finally confront.

The first step of the 12 step program used in alcoholic anonymous and other recovery programs based on it is:

We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviours, that our lives had become unmanageable.

A brief history of my addiction (content warning)

It took over 30 years to get to this point.  From an innocent fascination with scantily clad women in the lingerie section of home shopping magazines grading up to softporn magazines when I was 18 and old enough (and sometimes brave enough) to buy them.

They were my escape from my life which was full of abuse and empty of love.  It might have been an illusion to think these images were interested in me – but the illusion was better than the reality.

Encounters with the Holy Spirit and meeting my wife were transformational and I was free for some time.

But then the internet.

Porn became accessible without even having to leave the house.  I spent hours searching for images to escape the stress of my job and the shame built as I couldn’t tell my wife just how much I had let her down.  So I dumped it on my wife and made everything her fault.  As our marriage headed for the rocks, things got worse as online video became a reality and a more powerful pull.  I started looking at porn at work and even got caught by a co-worker.  I reached out for help and had filters installed on my machines but I couldn’t talk about it in any depth with my “personal pastor” as he found the whole thing bizarre that I would do anything like that.  I received healing for many of my childhood wounds and began to learn who I was in Christ but the addiction was so strong it often felt like I had no choice.  It became a habit where I was looking for porn online (despite the filters) every day and masturbating every day.  “It can’t get worse than this” I though.

I was wrong.

I was so used to “normal” porn that to get the fix I needed stronger fix and so I started watching worse and worse.  Each time I would feel physically sick but soon that would subside and it became a new normal.  I kept trying to reach out to the men in my church asking if anyone else struggled.  No-one admitted they had a problem.  In addition, they were upset that I had even mentioned that at a men’s meeting.  Eventually, I found one man who was not shocked and helped me fine tune my filter on my computer.

But my understanding of who I was in Christ was weak and so I still felt powerless against the addiction.  This belief led me to secretly buy new laptops to use or to use keyloggers to steal the filter password from my mentor.

The shame grew – how could I admit to my mentor and my wife each time I did something like this again.

It was then I discovered recovery groups with xxxchurch.com

After so long, I finally had a community of men who were Christians and who were open about their struggles.

It was with this band of brothers that I could finally fully open up about where I was and receive God’s light into some very dark places.

I sin or I am the sin?

However, it was a short step in my journey from saying I was addicted to saying I was an addict.

But this is a very big difference in my identity.

One says I have a problem, the other says I am the problem.

I had defined myself by my sin not by who I was in Christ.

Whilst admitting I had a problem was liberating, saying I was the problem was a cage.

You see confessing that we have sinned sins brings healing (Jas 5:16) whereas saying we are the sin brings shame.

Shame says this is who I am and nothing can change it.

Like Adam and Eve, shame leads us to hide God and cover ourselves up.

I remember being walked through the story of the prodigal son through prayer ministry and I couldn’t embrace the Father.  I felt I was too dirty.

How do we cover our shame?  In my life I have sought to cover my shame through five ways:

  • Religion – I will cover myself in good works to try to counteract the shame I feel inside
  • Transference – I will put my shame on other people and say it’s their fault that I am like this
  • Rebellion – I am the problem, I am rubbish therefore I act rubbish – I live out my identity of sin
  • Self-harm – I am the problem therefore I will punish myself
  • Distraction – I will try to drown out the voice of shame with sensuality (eg drugs, alcohol) or busyness (eg TV, gaming)

Dealing with shame

We don’t need to cover our shame because Jesus has dealt with shame fully at the cross.
You see, the thing they don’t tell you in Sunday School is that the Roman method was to crucify people naked as a final humiliation.  Jesus was shamed to take our shame.

This is symbolised in the Day of Atonement – there was a sacrifice to deal with the punishment that our sin deserves (propitiation) and there was a scapegoat that was sent out into the desert to symbolise our shame being taken away (expiation).

Jesus was the fulfilment of the Day of Atonement – he took the punishment our sins deserve (Isa 53:4-5) but he also bore the shame of our sins (Heb 12:2; Rom 10:11).

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Ps 103:12

This is true even if the shame you feel came from someone doing something to you.  Jesus was innocent but was shamed by others.

Our shame only leads us to withdraw from God, but never does it lead God to withdraw from us.

God came to Adam and Eve in the Garden after they sinned – it was them that hid from Him.

In the story of the prodigal son, it was the Father who shamed himself by running and exposing his legs (which in that culture was a really big deal) to embrace his son.  Furthermore, he bore the shame of what everyone would have said about his son’s behaviour.

In Jesus, God stepped down into our world to meet us in our circumstances and our messes.  In the words of Corrie Ten Boom, “there is no pit that Christ is not deeper still”.

Just like in the story of the prodigal son, God doesn’t wait for us to get home and “get it right” before He loves us.  We just have to turn to Him – that is repentance – and he comes running to us even while we are far off.

That’s why Jesus accepted the shame – because of the joy set before him (Heb 12:2) – the joy of seeing sinners repenting (Lk 15:7,10) and expanding the Kingdom (Lk 10:21).

But there’s more.

Cleansed and made righteous

God not only deals with the punishment our sin deserves and takes our shame taken away, He also makes us righteous:

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21)

Just as in the story of the prodigal son, when the Father meets us he covers our nakedness in a robe – that robe of righteousness is Christ:

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal 3:26-27)

God looks at us and sees Christ.

This was foreshadowed in the sacrifice system.

When a Jew brought a lamb as a sin offering, the priest didn’t look the Jew – he looked at the lamb.
If the lamb was without blemish or defect then it was acceptable (eg Lev 22:21).

Similarly, God doesn’t look at us for perfection, He looks at His Son – the Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7) who was without blemish or defect (1 Pet 1:19) and so God is satisfied (Jn 1:29).

It’s not about us – it’s about Jesus.

That’s why in the story, the father stops his son just before he says “I am no longer worthy to be called your son”.

It’s true, we’re not worthy – but Jesus is worthy for “while we were sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8) – in fact whilst we were his enemies (Rom 5:10).  We didn’t love him or pursue him first.  God initiated “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 Jn 4:10).

There’s no way we can earn our salvation – that’s why it is a free gift (Eph 2:8).

The Father sees who we are in Christ as our life is now hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3).  And since Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father (Eph 1:20) we too are seated in heavenly places (Eph 2:6).

This is the reality.

Living from our new identity in Christ

That’s why we’re told to set our hearts on things above (Col 3:1-4) as that is where our life, our true identity is.

This is also why we’re told to put to death all the things that belong to our old nature (Col 3:5) and throw off the sin that easily entangles (Heb 12:1) – as it’s no longer part of us.  It isn’t who we are any more.

Danny Silk in his excellent book Culture of Honour says that he once stepped on a nail which went through his foot but never did he think “I’m a nail!”  Similarly as a child of light if we discover darkness inside us – we don’t then say we are darkness.  That is as silly as saying “I’m a nail!”  We were once in darkness but now we are children of the light and so we live as children of the light (Eph 5:8).  God has dealt with our sin powerfully and has made us righteous.  We live from that reality – yes we might sin but it’s no longer natural (1 Jn 5:18) – we’re going to fall into righteousness not into sin.

Human children will physically become like their parents not through their own efforts but naturally because of their DNA.

This is a shadow of the spiritual reality that because we have God’s seed in us we will naturally become like Jesus and stop sinning .

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God (1 Jn 3:9).

That’s why it is fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) – it’s something that grows naturally as we live by the Spirit not the flesh (Rom 8:5-13) and keep in step with what the Spirit is doing in our lives (Gal 5:25).

The battle for our new identity

That’s why Satan will try to get us to fix our eyes on ourselves, on our sin.

Because as soon as we take our eyes off of Christ, things in the natural will look hopeless.  So either we will mistakenly try to fix things ourselves through rules (which are powerless to bring about any change, see Col 2:20-23, and will just result in us becoming proud Pharisees or) or we will give up.  Either way we won’t be living as a loved son seated in heavenly places.

But more than that, Satan wants us to fix our eyes on our sin so that, we will stop running the race as we doubt that we can do anything.  Whereas God has made us co-workers with Him (eg 2 Cor 6:1) planned good works for us to do (Eph 2:10).

This is why we need we are told to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2 NASB).  That’s who were are and we are becoming who we truly are.  The Spirit is working in us (Phil 2:13) will finish the work Christ started in us (Phil 1:6).  We just have to keep in step with the spirit (Gal 5:25), we will be transformed from glory into glory into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor 3:18) until at last we will be like Him when we finally meet Him face to face (1 Jn 3:2).

Summary

You are not your sin.  You are a beloved son/daughter who has been forgiven and made righteous in Christ and welcomed to your true home.  Receive His love, receive His embrace that is dependent on His love not your ability.  Enter now into the party he has thrown for you (Lk 15:23), hear His songs of joy sung over you (Zeph 3:17) and draw strength from them (Neh 8:10).  Let His love transform you:

Fathers love letter soaking video

An allegorical tale about our identity in Christ

Click here to be taken to the Amazon page.

TLP ana and the prince cover

Other posts in this series:

Other relevant posts on this blog:

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Taking off false identities part 1 (godly identity)

False identities

In life there are two choices: believe what God says about who we are or to believe what someone else says about us.

In this first post in a series, I’m going to look at one of four false identities that the Father had to remove as part of my journey to wholeness and discovering who I am in Christ.

I am going to be very vulnerable so that I may bring freedom and release to others who are trapped in the same lies that I was. So please handle with care.

False identity #1: My identity is in what I do

God has designed us men to embody his transcendent/outward nature – his “doingness”. As such it is easy for us to mistakenly define ourselves by what we do. That’s why one of the first questions we men ask when we meet someone new is “what do you do?”

We forget that doing flows from being and not the other way round: What I do flows from who I am.

Chapter 1

I was a secondary school teacher for about ten years who was dedicated to his work and had won awards and praise from staff and students alike. But truth be told I was a workaholic – typically putting in 76 hours a week and neglecting my wife in nearly every way.

Whilst I was aware that I was working very hard I never realised the depth of my problem until extreme circumstances exposed what was really in my heart (Dt 8:2-3). For many reasons my wife developed clinical post-natal depression and tried to kill herself. She was sectioned (‘forcibly’ admitted to a mental ward) and I was left home with a baby and a stressful job (which included being attacked by a student). I couldn’t cope and I had a breakdown. It was during this time of brokenness that I heard God tell me to quit my job for the sake of my wife and first child.

I was devastated: “what will I do? All I’ve ever done is teaching!” I didn’t realise it at the time, but the fear wasn’t because I wouldn’t be able to get another job it was because I didn’t know who I was apart from the job.

While I would never want to repeat these events I am so grateful that God allowed me to walk through something this extreme which was the only thing that could expose my problem, separate me from this false identity and then force me to hunger for Him to deliver me and show me my true identity in Christ. Only then would my priorities fall into place permanently.

Since we act out of our identity when our identity is in our job then our worth and value is in the job. Therefore we sacrifice our spouse, our children, our friends and our health to the job to become the best so that we have worth. If anything goes wrong in our job then we will spiral and be stressed/depressed and have no peace.

Ultimately, when our identity is in our job we worship our job. It is no surprise that we sacrifice everything on this altar.

  • Do you define yourself by what you do?
  • How would you react if you had to give up your job or your ministry for obscurity?
  • Is Christ enough for you? Or do you need to get your worth through something else.

God is the great “I AM” (Ex 3:14) who is not defined by anything external to Himself. He is a self-sufficient community of Father, Son and Spirit. When we become united with Christ (1 Cor 6:17) – we become part of that eternal relationship. We are adopted into His family (Eph 1:5) become a children of God (Jn 1:12, 1 Jn 3:1). We can rest in our true identity, there is a place for us as His children.

This story had a happy ending – God provided another job (2 days before our money ran out) which had teaching as part of it but had far less pressure and no students who would attack me. In addition it has a better remuneration and flexibility that allows me to take off time to spend with the family. It is a blessing that I would never have imagined in my former life. And it is more of a blessing because as a Son of God I already have approval and so my work can flow out of that place of peace, this also means that I don’t need to fear others succeeding.

I would love to end the story (and this blog post) there and conclude with the real change that has meant that even though I could make far more money in other jobs – I’m not tempted by them because they would involve sacrificing my family. And that is something that the Father has rooted deeply into me through this experience.

However, the truth is that this was merely Chapter 1 in the story that God was writing in my life. I am still on the journey to wholeness.

Chapter 2

A couple of years into my new job I started thinking that I got it because of my ability and not because of the grace of God. I started thinking that I was better than my colleagues.

This story had a happy ending as the Father has a great sense of humour. One day I happened to find my application letter so I thought I’d look to see how excellent it was (and give myself a well-deserved pat on the back). What I discovered was that in the very first sentence I had majorly misspelt the company’s name! How I was humbled. God is good – there is no way they could have missed that glaring error – this job is most definitely a gift from Him and not due to my feeble efforts.

Again I would love to finish this post here and just talk about the real transformation that happened in my work but after the victory here my identity problem sneaked itself undercover elsewhere – which is very common to us Christians.

Chapter 3

I “baptised my brokenness” – in other words I “Christianised” my problem. Instead of finding my identity in my “secular” job and seeking approval there – I instead sought it within the church – becoming a speaker, a leader, a prophet and many other things. I was so busy doing the work of the Lord that I neglected the Lord of the work. My prayer life was for gaining words for others not listening. My bible reading was studying for preaching not letting it speak to me on its own terms.

God’s cure for this was the same as before – He needed to remove this false identity forcibly so that I could discover my true identity was in being a son.

I went to India and saw more miracles in a week than I had in my whole Christian life. My wife went to Bethel’s school of supernatural worship and tangibly encountered the Father. Normal church life was not enough any more. God also called me to speak more honestly about my struggles with pornography and to teaching children godly sexuality. Very quickly it became clear that the church was not comfortable and we had to choose between conforming or being obedient to our calling. We left the church and were told by one of the leaders that we would “never have any influence” and this curse fed my brokenness.

We started an organic church and I was desperate to make it succeed to prove them wrong but of course it couldn’t until I was made whole. The turning point was when everyone left except two people who were at that time very broken. That was the moment I had to choose.

I said to God “even if there are only ever these two people – I will pour my life into them”.

It was this obedience to Him in the midst of obscurity that changed things around – because as we are faithful with little, God will entrust us with much (Mt 25:21). It’s in the obscurity that character is truly formed.

This story also has a happy ending as the church grew and like David, we saw the misfits and broken people transformed into mighty men.

Chapter 4

However, we did our job of discipling so well that they all left to pursue their God dreams around the country.

Whilst my wife and I were proud spiritual parents, suddenly we found ourselves at the beginning again.

The pattern of transformation on this journey to wholeness had come full circle yet again.

It’s often then that Satan will whisper to us that we are back in the same place – that nothing will ever change.

The reality is that our growth into maturity is helical.

We are going round a mountain on the way to the top. When we come round the mountain and experience the “same place” again – we are actually further up. We have experienced more of the goodness of the Father, we have developed our relationship and our trust in Him and so the “same place” is an opportunity to draw on the grace that He has deposited and go even deeper with Him.

As someone once said: “God never lets us fail a test. He allows us to take it again and again until we pass”.

Each time I yield to Him and let His Spirit have His way wholeness is brought in that area.

Then my journey takes me to a new place where I repeat the process. Just like the Israelites gradually drove the nations out of the Promised Land – so we too we drive out the brokenness until our lives become the perfect image of who we are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph 2:6).

Chapter 5

I love the Father’s great sense of humour. This wasn’t the post I was going to write. I thought I was going to be writing on my other false identities – but I felt His prompting last night to include this area. Each time I was writing this part, He asked me to include the next chapter in my journey and in this final chapter I discover just how much He has hoodwinked me.

Tending the garden of our souls is an ongoing process. Every day we must water the good plants and pull up the weeds. However, sometimes we don’t realise that a new plant is actually a weed until it begins to flower.

At this stage in my life I am dedicated to writing blog posts and books to help others escape the traps I fell linto, so that readers will stand on my shoulders and go further than me.

As I reach this point in this post I realise that God has set me up to show that a new weed has grown up in my life whose root is still the same false identity and it’s only now that I see it for what it is.

I have chosen not to look at how many books I sell or how many people read my posts as I seek to write in obedience to Him only. But I have to confess to you now that I have started to put my identity into what I post on social media.

As a consequence I have started to base my worth on how many likes my facebook posts receive. If I don’t get (m)any then it sends me into a spiral. I confess that I often spend time thinking of the perfect post and the best time to post it in order for it to get noticed. And if I haven’t got anything worthy of notice then I don’t post – sometimes days at a time.

I knew that this was becoming an issue but it’s only as I’ve written this blog entry that I realise its root. Satan wants to tell me that I’m always going to have this same problem no matter what I do. But I am further up the mountain and I have already removed so many of the weeds in the garden of my soul.

Now I recognise it for what it is – I can crucify this part and offer it afresh to the Father to be transformed into increasing likeness of Christ in me – the hope of glory (Col 1:27).

Father, thank you for your continued work in my life. Thank you that I am being transformed daily from glory to glory. Thank you that you will complete the good work you started in my. Thank you for showing me that I have put my identity and my worth in my social media posts. I’m sorry that I’m drinking from a source other than the river of life. I’m sorry that I have sought my value in something other than being you loved child. I renounce this identity and surrender it to you in the name of Jesus. Fill me with your Spirit of sonship that cries out ‘abba Father’ and give me my daily bread to live on. I ask that you would use this post for your glory –that many of your children will be set free and find their true identity in Christ. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

I don’t have to fear this area now. God is more than able. Every time it crops up in the future I just have to confess it, surrender it to Him and receive His Spirit in return. Soon it will be nothing other than a whisper that is devoid of power. For the truth sets us free (Jn 8:32).

PS Now you know – you are most welcome to keep me accountable and ask me “how is it going?”.

The next three posts in this series will actually cover what I originally planned (unless the Father has other surprises in store for me):

  • False identity #2: My identity is in my sin
  • False identity #3: My identity is in my brokenness
  • False identity #4: My identity is in my diagnosed condition

How to stop looking at women lustfully part 2 (godly desire)

sisters and daughters

In our previous post on this topic we looked at three steps to dealing with lust:

  • Acknowledge it, but realise that the woman is a shadow of who our hearts are really looking for.
  • Realise we have a higher calling: we men are made to love women sacrificially like Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25), we are called to give (love) not take (lust).
  • Act according to our calling by praying blessing on the woman we see.  For example “Father, I thank you for this beautiful woman.  I thank you that you have made her to be loved and cherished.  I ask that you would pour out your blessing on her, that she would become aware of your presence, that she would find her value in your love and not how she looks….” 

In this second post on this topic we look at how to prevent lust entering into our relationships with women in our Church.

For three years I led an organic church which ministered to those broken by traditional church.  I had the honour of serving a number of young beautiful women.  With one woman in particular she needed much prayer, counselling and support on her journey to wholeness and I soon realised that an attraction was growing within me.

This was not surprising due to the amount of time I was spending with her and the prayer counselling process which forms a bond between spirits.  It was becoming distracting and was starting to interfere with my ability to serve her.  But yet I was praying for her like I mentioned above.  So what was I to do?

There’s this great passage in 1 Timothy that holds the key:

“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” 
1 Tim 5:1-2 (emphasis mine)

We were family!  As someone much younger and in my care, she was my spiritual daughter and I was her father.  Once I saw this truth it started to change how I related to her.  I started relating as a father loving his daughter rather than a man relating to an attractive woman.  I started calling her my “daughter-in-Christ” to help outwork this view into our relationship and my mind.

The desire that I had felt inside me began to be transformed now I knew where it was to be focussed.  The sexual energy that God had given me as a man was now channelled to the correct godly destination.  No longer was it being hijacked by the worldly view that it must always result in physical gratification.

It was such a delight to love her as a father and seek her mature into a woman of God and the delight and pride I felt at her wedding to a godly man was overwhelming.

The phrase “brothers and sisters” occurs more than 100 times in the New Testament which speaks of the reality of our new relationships in Christ.  In addition, Paul called Timothy his son (1 Cor 4:17, 1 Tim 1:2a; 1:18, 2 Tim 1:2a; 2:1, Tit 1:4, Phile 1:10) as did Peter call Mark (1 Pet 5:13).  Paul also treated the Thessalonians as his children (1 Thess 2:11).

So may you start calling the women in your church your sisters (or if you’re much older like I was, your daughters) and see your relationships transformed as your sexual desires find their true purpose in Christ.  In Jesus’ precious name.  Amen.

Top 10 posts of 2016

best-blog-posts-2016-v2

When I started this blog I sought to share the revelation that God had been giving me on my journey to sexual wholeness and I wanted to help others on the journey and help parents communicate a godly view of sexuality to their children.  I am so grateful for the many messages from readers who have benefited from my writings and my vulnerability.  Thank you so much and I hope I can continue to bless you in 2017.

So in order from least to most views here are the top ten posts of the year:

10. Discipline vs punishment vs education (godly parenting)

This post spoke of how the word discipline comes from the word disciple and is about training.  It was a calling of parents back to the Hebrew way of showing not telling. (56 views)

9. Destination sickness (godly desire)

The Christian life is a journey not a destination.  This vulnerable post spoke about how our obsession with getting “there” leads us to work harder or give up and not to grace. (57 views)

8. Wired for intimacy part 1 (godly sexuality)

This post looks at how, even from birth, babies are wired to seek faces.  This reflects how we are wired to seek God’s face. (59 views)

7. Redeeming Christmas (Godly Parenting)

A post that helps parents make the Christmas celebration more Christ-centred for their children and themselves. (64 views)

6. Calling out your child’s true identity (godly parenting)

The story of Gideon shows us how God calls out his true identity and this serves as a model for us as parents to call our children into maturity. (78 views)

5.   How to stop looking at women lustfully (godly desire)

Another vulnerable post where I share the difference between worldly solutions to lust with a godly approach which has helped me. (86 views)

4. Trump, Clinton or Christ?

A topical post that sought to counter the political spirit that was/is seeking to break the church’s unity and therefore it’s prophetic voice to the world. (142 views)

3. Nothing is impossible (teach your children godly sexuality part 15)

As parents it’s easy to despair and think all is lost. This post spoke on the reality of our God who is able to redeem all things – not just so we are healed/fixed but so that the mistakes become sources of grace to others. (169 views)

2. An alternative ending to the Orlando shooting

A topical and vulnerable post about the similarities between my life and Omar Mateen’s.  His life ended in tragedy, mine in redemption through expressing my same sex desires to Jesus. (328 views)

1. Immature giftings (Godly Parenting)

This post was aimed at parents to help see that sometimes bad behaviour is actually an immature gifting that needs to be directed to its true purpose.  However, many people found this post as a source of grace for them on the journey to maturity – whereas before they had berated themselves – they actually saw they were stamping on their giftings/callings. (1846 views)

Destination sickness (godly desire)

***CONTENT WARNING***
This is a vulnerable post about my journey to sexual wholeness and may not be appropriate for minors nor for those of a sensitive nature

I think one of the biggest lies about the Christian life is that Christians think it is a destination rather than a journey.

destination-sickness-2

We see this view presented by Christians through books written by those who have overcome their struggles and have “made it”.  If you follow their steps then you too can be free of <fill in the blank>.

You know I’ve yet to see a book, let alone a best-seller, where the author mentions that they still struggle with anything of consequence, that they’re still on the journey.  That just wouldn’t sell because people would say that their method can’t be any good as they’re not perfect yet. They clearly can’t be an expert.  Can you see a publisher wanting to sell a book from someone who is not a “success”?

We buy into this lie.  It’s so appealing because God has set eternity in the human heart (Eccl 3:11) and our desire is to be in that place of perfection.  Hence we buy these books, follow the steps, learn the methods but yet struggle.

Maybe when this happens you are an optimist and simply think that this isn’t the right method as it doesn’t “work” for you and so continue on your journey searching for the “right” method/approach/teaching that does work.

Or maybe you’re like me and start believing that since you’re not “there” that maybe you’re not a Christian or maybe you are a “bad” Christian, that you are a sinner, that you are a failure. This is what happens to me when I believe the destination distortion.

This lie causes us to conceal our imperfections from others as otherwise the Church will know that we are not perfect, that we’re not at the destination.  They might even question if we are really saved – as Christians don’t do that sort of thing.

Where does this lie take us?

The only way I can do this is to be extremely vulnerable with you so you can see it clearly.

This week I messed up.  I looked at porn on the internet.  I masturbated.  I then felt rubbish.

I was so ashamed I didn’t tell my wife because I didn’t want to break her heart.  My brother-in-Christ who I can be honest with has gone AWOL which of course left me alone with my thoughts and exposed to the lies of Satan who loves picking off those isolated Christians.
 
“Look at what you’ve done!  How can you claim to know anything about godly sexuality?  How can you help other people to get free when you yourself are not free?  You’re a hypocrite.”

When prayer requests come in I hear “How can you pray for them after what you’ve done?”

So I stop ministering to others.

My focus changes from serving others and looking outward to looking at my sin and wallowing.
I’m no longer pressing onward on my Christian journey.  I have stopped journeying because I’m clearly not at the destination.

This is where this lie takes us.  It causes us to stop.  And Satan wins.

The cure for destination sickness: living in the light

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:12-14

Paul sees this.  Even the great Christian Paul has not arrived but is pressing on to take hold of all that Christ has for us.  We’re all on a journey.  We’re not at a destination.

Yes we have a new nature and are no longer slaves to sin but we still mess up.

..let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2)

How do we throw off the sin that entangled me and stopped me from running and caused me to look down at my sin and not on Jesus calling us by name?

We start by confessing what we have done to others.  No excuses.  No justification.  Just truth.  

You know how hard it was for me to tell you the truth earlier?  I wanted to use euphemisms.  I definitely wanted to miss our the bit about masturbation.  But the Father challenged me to be more vulnerable so that more freedom will be released to those who are reading and struggle:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another [your false steps, your offenses], and pray for one another, that you may be healed and restored. (Jas 5:16a AMP)

Bringing sin into the light destroys its power over us.  There’s no competition between light and darkness.  When you turn on the light switch it’s all over for darkness.  If we pretend that we’re OK we prevent ourselves from receiving God’s forgiveness and grace.  How can we be forgiven if we’re saying we’ve done nothing wrong?

When I eventually confessed what I had done to my wife.  She looked me in the eye and said “that explains everything!”  She saw that I had stopped pressing forward and was no longer ministering grace to our family.  She knew I wasn’t living in the identity of who I actually am.  A cuddle, a kiss and her subsequent words of love over me bring healing and restoration and release me from my introspection.

So I get up and I start moving forward again.  I’m already closer than I was when I had stopped.  And by His glorious grace I will reach the goal:

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:6)

Can I pray for others?  Yes because my prayers are answered by a powerful and perfect God and not by my own efforts?  Can I help others?  Yes, because I’m not there but I am further down the road of maturity.  By sharing my struggles I can help them to avoid or overcome obstacles that tripped me up.  I can help them go faster and further than me.

Together we will obtain the goal for which we were called if we journey together in the light.
 
Father, I pray for those who are reading this.  That they would find fellow brothers and sisters who would journey with them.  They would find those who would be open and honest about their struggles so that together they can experience your healing grace and be transformed into the likeness of your glorious Son.  In Jesus’ precious name.  The author and perfecter of our faith.  The one who calls us onward in love.  Amen

How to stop looking at a woman lustfully (godly desire)

*Content warning*
This post discusses desires in a frank but godly way.
desire

All Christian men know the passage:

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt 5:28)

The problem is we don’t know is how to stop this.

Sometimes it feels like we are wired to notice the bodies of others. In fact we can often be shocked at how much we can be aroused by just looking someone. But as a Christian man, we think “I’m a new creation – I’m not meant to feel this way!”

A brief internet search shows that we are not alone when looking for help to stop lusting after women:

looking-lustfully
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However, the advice given seems to fall into one of three camps:

  • Condemnation/shame/works – you shouldn’t do this, it doesn’t honour God or the woman. Try harder, chop off everything that causes you to sin, etc.
  • Triumphalistic – you’re a new creation, you’re free from this, shake it off as it’s the old you, repeat “I am the righteousness of Christ”, etc.
  • Liberal/humanistic – it’s natural, men are designed the polygamous, there’s nothing you can do about it, accept it as part of who you are, etc.

As well meaning as all of these are, all of them are lacking:

  • Using internet filters to cut things off is helpful but ultimately it’s external and doesn’t change our heart.  And you can’t avoid going out in summer, nor filter the first accidental glance.  Besides self-effort will ultimately fail as apart from Jesus we can do nothing (Jn 15:5).  And so the cycle of shame will begin again and the more rubbish you feel the more you will act out of that identity.
  • Realising your new identity is important – it helps renew our mind (Rom 12:2), and how we act flows out of our new identity. But it’s too easy to treat this as a formula: “I’m saying the right words but it’s not working!” and miss intimacy with the father that changes our heart.  It’s also to easy to become inward rather than outward looking.
  • Whilst we do need to recognise how God has made us as men, we are not animals subject to our biological urges. We’re made in the image of God and our sexuality means something.

So what can we do? How can we take the good in each of these approaches?

First we recognise that God has made us men and has wired us to notice beauty – so when you notice this happening don’t try and suppress it or pretend it’s not there. That won’t solve anything.  Acknowledge it, however realise that the woman is not the goal, but merely the shadow of who our hearts are really looking for.

Second we realise that we are made in the image of God and men are meant to love women sacrificially like Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25). We have a higher calling: we are meant to give (love) not take (lust).

Thirdly, we men are made to act not just acknowledge our godly calling to give.  After all we are meant to be co-workers with Christ (1 Cor 3:9). I have found the best way to do this is to pray for the woman we see.  Something like:

“Father, I thank you for this beautiful woman.  I thank you that you created her and that you love her.  I thank you that you have made her to be loved and cherished.  Father I ask that you would pour out your blessing on her, that she would become aware of your presence, that she would find her value in your love and not how she looks….” 

This prayer is not a formula – it’s from the heart.  It’s not a inward prayer “father help me to stop lusting!” which assumes we are still bound by our old identity as a sinner.  It’s a prayer from our new identity in Christ and in line with what we are meant to do as men.

The Kingdom is advancing – and seeing a beautiful woman is an opportunity for it to forcefully advance in our lives as we step into our destiny as men.  Amen.

Speak to the desires of the heart (teach your children godly sexuality)

So one of my boys kept lifting up the skirt of one of my girls to see their knickers.  An excellent opportunity to talk about godly sexuality with them I thought…

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So true to form I followed the principles I give in my workshop and talked about the goodness and the holiness of sexuality with them.  How it’s a good and beautiful part of a lady made by God but it’s also a special part and so we need to treat it with honour.

However he kept on doing it, despite talking about its specialness and despite disciplining him for repeatedly doing it.

I know, I know, I should have called out to God for help sooner – but sometimes we have to get desperate before we find ourselves on our knees actually listening – but He’s so gracious that when I did he gave me the wisdom I needed:

“Speak to the desires of the heart”

You see the trouble was that I was saying all the right things but I was talking to his logical mind rather than his desires.  And if we want to see change then we need to address the desires:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

But the question is: how do we address desires in a godly way?  In the same way as we teach any other aspect of godly sexuality; we talk about the goodness and the holiness of our desires.

You see God made him a boy and so there is a godly fascination and yearning in him for to complete the whole image of God:

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mt 19:4-6 emphasis mine)

The holiness is the fact that this fulfillment occurs in a covenantal relationship and this yearning is a shadow of our yearning for Christ (Eph 5:32) who is the “desire of all nations” (Hag 2:7).

Since he was only about 5 at the time, I had to keep things a bit simple, so I began:

“There’s something really interesting about girls, isn’t there?”  He nodded.  “God made girls attractive to us so that we really want to find out more.”  I could see that I now had his full attention.

“And that means that there’s something in us that wants to see their knickers.”

“But God made seeing a girl’s knickers to be something special for marriage just like you only get presents on special days like Christmas.”

Now it’s tempting to stop here, but doing so means that we are expecting them to conquer desires by self-effort which is law not grace. So now we need to offer to pray for them:

“But in the same way it’s hard to not open presents until Christmas day, it’s hard to stop looking at knickers.  So we need Daddy God’s help.  Can I pray with you?”

He nodded and the rest is history.

You see affirming the goodness of our children’s desires speaks to their reality, only then can we begin to steer these desires towards their intended goal.