for an Injured Church
The Cure for Sin and Doubt
(c) 2015 Brian Forbes
A doctor has to examine the wounds before he can apply treatment. Agreed? So this might be a little bit painful, but we're going to have to uncover some open sores right now. It won't be pretty. There may be people for whom this message stings. It may bring up parts of your painful past. For you, I sympathize. It's not an easy message for me to give either. There are parts of my own past that I don't like to think about either, and talking about it isn't fun. But when we're done, the healing will start.
This is the message that I would have preached to myself 15 years ago. I pray that if there are people like me out there, that it will help. I couldn't write a defense against the attacks on YOUR spiritual life and how you overcame them. I have been personally trained to give this message. These are the obstacles I have overcome. I pray that the temptations that came against me were unique to me (1 Corinthians 10:13), but if they were not unique to me, I pray that this message can help others through similar struggles.
The church right now, in many ways, is falling apart. There are two things that put us in that state.
~ Sin ~
Is our culture pure?
Is our church culture pure?
2 Samuel 22:22 He rescued me, because He delighted in me. “The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, And have not acted wickedly against my God. For all His ordinances were before me, And as for His statutes, I did not depart from them. I was also blameless toward Him, And I kept myself from my iniquity. Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to my cleanness before His eyes."
Mt. 5:19 "For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander."
Acts 15:29 "You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell."
Galatians 5:19 "The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery..."
Eph. 5:3 "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality..."
Hebrews 13:4 "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral."
Rev. 21:8 "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."
Rev. 22:15 repeats it. "Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood."
There seems to be one thing that the early church focused on keeping out of the believer's life. There was one issue that made most of the lists. It's the very thing we should be careful to avoid. If there's one temptation that is particularly strong in our society, it is this. Sex sells, and they're making a fortune off of us.
But, you say, I'm not sexually immoral! Nobody ever
described to me what that meant either. I had to read my Bible to figure
it out. I say that the definition for that is found in Lev. 18. NASB
& KJV translate it this way:
"None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness; I am the LORD." (18:6)
And what is nakedness?
To some degree, it is cultural. When you are starving, anything tastes good. When you have just eaten, you won't even eat strawberry shortcake that was made from scratch.
So what is nakedness?
I have no idea where the exact line should be drawn. But the Bible does give us a clue about what God considers nakedness.
Isaiah 47:2-3 "Take millstones and grind flour; take off your veil. Lift up your skirts, bare your legs, and wade through the streams. Your nakedness will be exposed and your shame uncovered."
Ezekiel 23 and Hosea 2 speak of a woman's breasts in the context of adultery.
We won't read to you from Song of Solomon.
Grandpa's generation was tempted by long legs and belly buttons. And if you don't believe that those scriptures sufficiently explains what nakedness is, ask your brother or your dad... They know. It is certain, it's hard to lust after a beautiful woman in a snow suit. It's hard not to lust after a beautiful woman in a bikini. Like gravity, the pull is exponentially stronger or weaker depending on how close you are to it. There may not be an exact line. I leave it between you and God.
Romans 14:4 "Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand."
In our culture...
There are days dedicated to nudity. There are places where near nudity is expected. It's hard to find mainstream tv series that don't have sex scenes. It shows up on Google searches with filtering on. It's in the impulse aisle at grocery stores. It's in the clickbait on news articles. It is on Facebook. It is in the news.
I bet there isn't a person reading this who hasn't recently
seen nudity on the internet, or gotten an explicit
spam text message. 20% of Christian youth remain sexually pure. (click)
That says nothing of the purity of the mind.
Matthew 5:28 "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
Lust means you want something? What do you want? To marry her? The clear implication is that the lust would be in the Lev. 18 sense of uncovering nakedness. Do you want to see it? Does it make you feel good to show it off? Ex. 23:2 "Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong." We live in a very sexually tempted society. We need a defense equal to it.
Update (May 2017):
Knowing this, that it's sin, that it's everywhere, is not enough to keep us from it. This struggle, though mostly a man's, is common to all. If you are a wife and your husband confesses his temptation and subsequent failure, have pity on the man. Temptation really is everywhere. Jesus didn't say if your hand makes you sin, you're condemned. He said if it makes you sin, cut it off. (Mt. 5:30) If he doesn't take drastic steps to avoid it in the future, such as plugging in his phone for the night, or turning his computer monitor toward the door, you can and should be angry. If he humbles himself and confesses his sin with shame and weeping, pity is better. Every time I have ever sinned in this manner, I've taken steps that I thought would help me to avoid future sin, and I still failed. Sometimes it was weeks later, other times it was years later, but temptation always comes back. Right now, my wife tells me that people in her Facebook feed, people who she's grown up with and loves, have chosen to drive through town without clothes on. Would you blame your husband for seeing this comment and then follow it up with a google search to satisfy his curiosity? These women are doing this in an effort to make men and women toplessness equal in culture. There are women in my own Facebook feed who post every couple months how woman shouldn't have to cover up when they are feeding their baby, and the images and videos they post are designed to show as much as possible and still be legal on Facebook. Is the proper response to condemn the man for looking? Or is the proper response to protect your husband from these women? Maybe both? I'm not going to tell you how to do your job, but if women don't take charge in confronting women, men will continue to be tempted in our society. They will continue to fail. You are the watchman on the wall (Ez. 33) against the temptress. (Pr. 7) "Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come." (Luke 17:1) As much as we need to be vigilant ourselves, we need your help, ladies. Don't tempt us. Don't let us be tempted. The culture is falling into the pit, and only we can be the stick that keeps it from sliding into death.
Some will say people in glass houses shouldn't throw
stones. They will say you're being Pharisaical or judgmental.
My answer? I believe people are reading Mt. 7:1 wrongly. If
"judging" meant never to evaluate the actions of others, we would
have a contradiction in scripture. Jesus wouldn't contradict Moses.
"Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt." Lev. 19:17b
Jesus wasn't saying NOT to evaluate people. He was
saying to evaluate yourself first. Then you will see clearly to remove
the speck. Before you say that Lev. 19:17b doesn't apply to you, read the
next verse, which was quoted by Jesus. You might recognize it.
"Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." Lev. 19:18
Someone might contend that not everyone has the same morals, and that confronting a mocker or a scoffer isn't wise. To be sure, Proverbs 9:8 says, "Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you..." If someone doesn't share your morals, let them continue in their sin until they can see their own depravity. But keep the following in mind as you do.
Read Ezekiel 33. Go ahead, I'll wait. "...if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head." “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel" v. 7 And Jesus made Christians salt and light. We flavor and illuminate. "When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood." v. 8 By this article, I am communicating the message. It is now up to you to heed the warning.
Those who have been through this cycle a few times will
begin to think that they are not worthy of forgiveness. The answer is that
you're exactly right. You are not worthy of forgiveness. Nobody, not least God
is obligated to treat you with compassion and reconciliation. The message of
Christianity isn't that we have earned his forgiveness. The message is that
it's a free gift. (Ro. 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9) Let that
sink in every time you go out and make a mockery of his sacrifice. (Heb. 10:26,
1 John 3:9) But once you've been through that cycle, at the end of it, allow
yourself to grieve. Repent again. We all have to fall
back on the grace of God. What else can you do? As long as
you have breath in your lungs, keep getting up. Keep moving toward purity. The
alternative is terrible.
Ps. 37:21-24 "The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; those the Lord blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be destroyed. The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand."
Ps. 103: 7-18 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
Update March 2018:
Worshipping with Rend Collective tonight, an experience we all should have at least once or twice a month, I felt God's inspiration come to me in a profound understanding. When you read 1 John and remember that righteous people, people who are of Him will not continue in sin, and you read Hebrews 10, where it says that there's no more sacrifice for deliberate and perpetual sin, I felt the despair of utter condemnation. I sympathized with all the people who have ever come to me and told me that they are not worthy of God's grace, because they have been the one to spit on him while professing him. They have hurt people on purpose. They have lied, cheated, and stolen. I felt it as I thought about myself! In my moment of self loathing and regret, I realized that God's grace is sufficient to cover all sins (Mark 3:28), and it's a lack of faith to think that our sin is greater than His grace (Mt. 19:23-26, James 4:1-10). To make a complicated truth simple, as long as you hate your sin, God has new mercies for you right now. (Lam. 3:23) As long as you hate your sinful inclinations, the Spirit of God is working in you unto salvation (Heb. 12:6), and he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it in you! (Phil. 1:6) Choose faith. Choose repentance. God will work the salvation. Take a small step, and let Him do the rest!
~ Being Pharisaical ~
I thought early on that being Pharisaical meant that you were telling people what right and wrong are too. Then I read the Gospels. Jesus told people what right and wrong are. The prophets did too. The writers of the Epistles commanded all sorts of things. The Pharisees were not condemned for obedience. Ever. On the contrary, they were set up as a standard for righteousness. "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." Mt. 5:20 They were condemned for being fakers.
Some would object that I am just like the Westboro Baptist Church, who condemns anyone they come in contact with. I advise that you remember 1 Cor. 5:12-13. "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?" "God will judge those outside." And we also need to be like our Lord. Mt. 9:36 "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Don't condemn people. That's God's job. But warn people. And love them. Be moved with compassion.
~ All Sin is Equal ~
I was told a thousand times growing up that all sins are equal. No sin offends God more than any other sin, they would say. I don't know where this "all sin is equal" idea comes from. It may come from James 2 that says not to show favoritism, because it's breaking the law. If you show favoritism, you will become a lawbreaker, just as a murderer is a lawbreaker. Both make you guilty, so show mercy to people (James 2:13). That passage does NOT say that all sins are equal. Sure, all sins will drive a wedge between you and God, but that is where it ends. Is there another place in scripture that says all sin is equal? I know of none. It does say that any sin could put you on the wrong side of the law. If it did say that all sin is equal, it would contradict the following scriptures. Mt. 23:23 says explicitly that there are weightier matters in the Law. Jesus said that there was a first and second most important commandment. (Mt. 22:36-40) He said that the man who betrayed Jesus - it would have been better for him if he was never born. (Mt. 26:24) That says to me that there are some sinners for whom it was good that they were born. Romans 1 indicates that there is a ladder of sin that one can climb - to become more proficient at it and be more offensive to God. There are degrees to sin. Like Ezekiel, I have been called as a light in the church. I have been called to urge the church in the 1 Cor. 5 sense to repent of our sin.
Consider this. If you personally had to pay for every sin you commit - each one with a price tag, would you commit them?
2 Sam. 24:10-14 Now David’s heart troubled him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” 11 When David arose in the morning, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, 12 “Go and speak to David, ‘Thus the Lord says, “I am offering you three things; choose for yourself one of them, which I will do to you.”’” 13 So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider and see what answer I shall return to Him who sent me.” 14 Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” Again, would you commit sin if you had to pay for it? What's so wrong about a census? Moses took a couple. Such a small sin with such a huge consequence. If there such a thing as a small sin...
"For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open." (Luke 8:17)
If you had to pay for it, would you rather be guilty of sexual immorality or neglecting to ask God if it's ok to count people?
Let us all fall on the mercy of God.
~ Doubt ~
Nobody in my youth trained me in how to deal with doubt. Everyone has gaps in their education, but if I can help it, I want to teach others how to overcome doubt. Doubting God is sin. Romans 14:23 "...and anything that is not done in faith is sin." The origins scenario given by all publically funded organizations removes God on purpose. They say that a supernatural explanation is not scientific, therefore, we cannot accept the "God did it" scenario. I did youth ministry. I felt that I was off the hook when we dispersed. I attended to my personal life and my family. I was in it for more than 6 years. Isn't that enough?! More than half of my small group, who were all professing Christ, went to Christian colleges, became chaplains, and etc., walked away from God a couple years later. That kills me inside. May God bring them back to us. Amen. Youth leaders I served with walked away from the church. Christian friends I have had for a long time now accept sin in themselves and others. Why?
The reasons they gave me were just about all linked to the doubt of God and the scriptures. The church is in the state it is because of the lies that we believe. What lies do you believe? What do you doubt the scriptures about? Those are lies.
What lie does the church believe that causes people to quit Christianity?
How much has popular culture influenced your Christianity? Who is responsible for your education? How do you know what is culture, and what is revealed? Is your pastor at fault? Is it your parents? Your teachers? Sure, they have some responsibility, but there is one person to blame if you remain ignorant. You.
Do you know what the answers are? Have you studied the questions that make you doubt God? Have you found evidence for your faith? Do you know what the Bible-believing Creationist organizations say? (ICR, AiG, Reasons.org) Do you know what history says? I do. I looked it up. You can know too. I wrote down what I found in my book. From Noah to Hercules And if you're frugal, much of the information from my book is given free on my website. There are links to even more evidence than you can read in a month.
At this point, we wonder, if we all come from Noah, that means the flood is true. And a global flood is impossible. Is a global flood impossible? Could every kind of bug fit in one football field? Could you feed 2 elephants and 2 hippos and countless dinosaurs for a year on the stores of a boat that size? How did the koalas get to Australia after the flood waters receded?
Was the flood possible? No.
Was creation of matter out of nothing possible? No.
Was the virgin birth possible? No!
Did this happen naturally?
Why do we need a natural explanation for something that the historical text says that God did?
Thinking through all the atheistic, naturalistic explanations, the flood would have destroyed everything. But God remembered Noah. God was doing the work, so we don't need to find a natural explanation. We only have to find a scenario that God could have orchestrated. Could you come up with a way that God might have done it? What is impossible for man is possible for God. "With God, all things are possible." Mt. 19:26 The flood was a miraculous work of the hand of God.
The boat wasn't even necessary. The boat was an expression of faith on the part of Noah. God could have wiped out everyone with a plague. He could have saved everyone in their own little bio-bubble under the sea. He is God, and He could have done anything! But He chose to take Noah through the flood on a boat. The parable of the seeds shows that some of us have faith that is untested. God may test you with your own boat on dry land scenario. Don't fail the test.
Part of the training process of the Christian is to begin to accept the fact that God can do things that we can't. He can walk on water. He can calm the storm. He can bring people back from death. He can do anything. Trust Him. Isn't that what God wants from us? Our trust? Isn't that where we went wrong in the Garden of Eden? "'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for one who believes." Mark 9:23
~ Starting points ~
If you start with doubt, your blind eye won't see it. If you start with faith, God will reveal it to you.
“I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand.” - Anselm of Canterbury
If you are ever in doubt about something that God said, give God the benefit of the doubt. You owe him that much.
~ Confronting our sin ~
"Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and you don't do what I say?" (Luke 6:46)
Why are Christians not bold? Pay a guy $10 / hr. and he'll hold a sign that says, "E-Cig ->". Pay a girl that same amount, and they'll ask a complete stranger if they want more tea. For the love of their sexuality, a man will walk naked in a parade. What are we willing to do? What can you give up as a gift to your Savior? What are you willing to believe in order to hang on to Him? How much is your Christianity worth to you? We can't change the world. We can change ourselves. We can't convert the world, but we can start with our friends.
Sin is defined as disobedience of God's commands. (1 John 3:4, Romans 7:7)
Which would you rather?
1. A hundred million dollar check.
2. The capacity to kick a sinful habit?
Would a parent take a million dollars in exchange for their child? What economy do you live by? Money - which is selfish gratification, or love - which is self-sacrifice. You couldn't pay me enough to leave my wife. Ours is a different economy. God also works on a different economy. God's people are motivated by something else.
"Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey--whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?" Ro. 6:16
Do you live for money?
Why should I fear when evil days
come, when wicked deceivers surround me—
those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?
No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them—
For the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever—
That he should live on eternally, that he should not undergo decay.
For he sees that even wise men die;
the stupid and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others.
They have called their lands after their own names.
But man in his pomp will not endure; he is like the beasts that perish.
This is the fate of those who trust in themselves [...]
But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself. [...]
People who have wealth but lack understanding are like the beasts that perish.
Here is the secret...
Are you ready?
The secret to being sinless is...
Stop associating yourself with your sin!
Pin the evil in you to your flesh so that they can perish together. This is the message of most of the Pauline epistles. We have a duel nature. The flesh vs. the spirit. Don't say, "I am gay." Rather say, "My flesh is gay." Your spirit is renewed in Christ. (Romans 7) The answer to sexual purity is to walk according to the Spirit of God.
Mt. 5:30 "If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell." But whose hand has ever made them sin? It's our desires that cause us to sin. (James 1:14) We can overcome these fleshly impulses by starving them to death.
Don't let your flesh win.
Are you going to let the war between spirit and flesh be won by the flesh? "So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Gal. 5:16)
"And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Ro. 8:3-4)
Many of Jesus' sermons in a nutshell were: "Stop sinning!" We say "forgive us our sins" as though it costs God nothing. What if you had to pay for the sins of your neighbor? What would you say to your neighbor if he was acting criminally, and you knew you had to pay the penalty? Would you want to say something if you had to pay for someone else's sin? Confront your brother who sins against you. (Mt. 18:15)
How do you know you have eternal life? You stop sinning! "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin." (1 John 2:1) "Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did." (1 John 2:4-6) "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:15-17) "But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One." (1 John 2:1b)
"I will pour out my Spirit in those days. [...] The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved..." (Joel 2:29,31-32)
When Jesus came the first time, John the Baptist preached a message. Jesus is coming soon. So I bring the message to prepare the way for his second coming. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Mt. 3:2) Repent means stop sinning. And start following Jesus' example. :)
I wrote out some practical steps on keeping your internet usage in check. I hope they help.
#1 thing is to make a decision to make a covenant with your eyes.
#2 You can use Covenant Eyes as some do, or Net Nanny, but I prefer Accountable2you. It's cheap, and none of the plans work 100% anyway, so the accountability is the most important thing. If you read the end of John 3, the salvation chapter, we need to purposefully walk in the light so that our deeds will reflect God's.
#3 Find the parental settings for the sites you use most. Find Google safesearch settings and turn them on. On Youtube, turn on restricted mode. Whatever you think you need to watch, you really don't. If you need to comment on a video, turn it off just for that video and turn it on after you comment.
#4 I use Firefox, so the add-ons I use are for that. You can find similar ones for Chrome (Desktop), but not Chrome on android, so I use Firefox for both.
#5 Make sure you have a good antivirus software. Some of the things you don't want to see will come through with viruses. Some of them have parental control settings.
#6 Find out if your router has OpenDNS. If it does, set it up. It will deny most adult sites.
#7 In Firefox, install Fast Image Blocker by AdblockLite. It removes all images by default, and you can add sites to allow images. Amazon, Youtube, and Facebook are allowed by default. Another one worth installing is Enforce SafeSearch by serv-inc. It's too easy to turn safe search off on all the major search engines. Make it more difficult.
#8 Turn your monitor toward the public. If anyone could walk in at any time, you're walking in the light, my friends. In recent days, it occurred to me that many people have more than one monitor. I have three. If I'm feeling tempted, and I cross a line, I can turn off one of my monitors. It will be a reminder that temptation is at the door. If I continue in it, I can turn off another monitor. If it continues more, I can shut down the computer. The same can be done with the tools you use on your phone. Give yourself a 10 minute break. Then a 60 minute break. Then a 24 hour break. Is it worth losing your job to keep a pure lifestyle? It may be. Anxiety is a valid excuse that people are able to use for stopping work. This is too.
#9 Plug your phone in for the night. Start at 8PM. Lock your computer until morning. (WinKey+L)
#10 If your hand makes you sin, cut it off. If your eye makes you sin, gouge it out. Of course, it's our desires that make us sin, and those desires are a war between flesh and spirit, so do not let your flesh and the patterns of the flesh control your life. Every time you see something that you wish you hadn't, report it and then consider what process you might want to cut off for next time. Spend as much time trying to prevent yourself as you do engaging in it. Use as many clever tactics to limit yourself as you do trying to get around your filters. Spend your money on fixing your problem. If you spend less effort on preventing future failure than you do on failing, how can you possibly win? Your spirit is your flesh's worst enemy.
Of course, none of these work against someone determined to find a way, so #1 is the most important one. And always, always, if you're going to test the boundaries of your system, ask someone else to do it with or for you. Preferably you do these things with someone who isn't as tempted by the mostly male psychology.
More thoughts – 11-9-2018
Some people like to skirt the line. They say, “There is no harm in clicking the graphic content button on Facebook, because it is always violence. That doesn’t bother me.” “The Passion of the Christ is an R rated movie.” “Schindler’s list has nudity in the context of horrific events, so it’s ok to watch that.” “The app is rated M, but it really isn’t adult oriented, so I’ll install it anyway.” Any of these statements may be true at a given time and context. They can be true for certain people. If you are here getting advice from me about how to get out of sexual sin, you are not that person. There are people who have the occupation of putting themselves regularly in compromising situations. Doctors, nurses, chiropractors, massage therapists, artists, etc. They have learned to cope with the temptation. You have not. Chances are, they haven’t either, but they put their job before their purity. Draw the line for yourself and then put a buffer around the line. The Jews in the early times who put rules around the commands of God were probably trying to help. It really does help in avoiding the sin if you’re going to avoid the things that lead to sin. So, don’t go up to the line. If you do that often enough, you will cross it. Your desperation for purity needs to be beyond your desire to commit those sins. Until you’ve had practice in purity, you will fail in sin. So, here’s my advice. Don’t install rated M apps. Don’t put on an R rated movie. If you find that this buffer is too stringent, involve an accountability partner to both help with the decision and follow up on your use of it. It is true that someone is employed to watch compromising videos to give them ratings. Someone is employed to verify that a picture doesn’t meet the quality standards of a site. Someone is employed to investigate crimes against women. This is not you. And if you have been given that ability, to view those things by the grace of God and come through untainted, understand that it isn’t me. Some people are employed to clean up car accidents. It’s not for everyone. It probably isn’t for you. It certainly isn’t for me.
~ My story ~
I am preaching this message to my younger self. This message would have helped me when I was entering adulthood. I have become qualified to talk on this by coming through it personally. It's not that I started life sinful. I started strong. I resolved never to kiss another man's wife, so my first kiss was on my wedding day. I committed to always have someone with us when we were together until we were married. We were sexually pure when we got married. But we all stumble. I'm no exception. I almost believed in evolution. One could even argue that I did believe it for a short time. Some people can believe in evolution and Christianity at the same time, but not everyone can do that. I couldn't do that. Giving up on Genesis, for me, meant giving up on God. During that time, I invested my time, energy, and talents in pornography. Telling you this brings me shame. But my former master has become my enemy, and I want to destroy the hold of pornography on God's holy church. So I confess my sin to you.
My expressions of faith were inversely tied to my doubts of God's word. When I would watch pornography, I would doubt God. I would worship, and I would believe God. I recalled how people close to me would fall in love, fornicate, and then turn away from Christianity. I saw that the same thing was happening to me. So I gave up on my porn addiction.
Easy as that!
Not really. It was difficult. It took resolve. I stopped going to the beach. I made my computer access to be only in public areas. I turned off R rated movies and most PG-13. I "cut off my hand" so to speak. It is possible to overcome addictions like this. I engaged in Christian rituals. Worship - Sermons - Fellowship - Reading my Bible. Every time I did these things, sin had less of a hold on me. Every time I slid, doubt came. Eventually, after a long trial, the battle finished, and the evil in me was removed. I'm always on my guard not to fall back into the old habits, never allowing the demonic foot in the door. I learned that if you join with the armies of hell, and you act wickedly, you will become who you have chosen to be. God hardened Pharaoh's heart. (Ex. 9:12) If you choose faith, love, and hope, and you live according to God's plan, you find peace and joy. You actually begin to believe whatever path you decide to travel.
This is also called "confirmation bias" by the academics. We pick a position and find evidence to support it. So I advise that you look to Pascal, choose faith in the only God that makes sense, and live according to his Word. That's called Pascal's Wager.
Why would anyone choose sin? Why would you choose to doubt? The evidence is there if you resolve to look for it. The answers are there if you choose to believe it. Choose faith, my friends. God is trustworthy.
~ Final thoughts ~
This paper is a bit of a downer. I know. It's not fun. I will concede that the message may not apply to everyone that hears it. Some of you are further along than I am. Your temptations may be different than mine were. There are really good things happening in the church. Evangelism. Teaching. Praying for the sick. It is my hope and prayer that you take away something from this that will build up Christians who are now like I was. They, like my Jr. High / High School small group, are being drawn away by worldly temptations and philosophies. They don't have to be defeated by the lies and temptations of the enemy.
I encourage you with this thought. Paul wrote about the sexual immorality happening in Corinth... About 2,000 years ago. And they have had many ups and downs since then. There is always and will always be a call to purity in the church. This message shouldn't be discouraging to us. This is a hopeful message for those of us who have regenerated hearts. We can overcome the worldly temptations. We can learn to trust. Let us forever resist temptation and cling to faith. And the gates of hell will not prevail against us. (Matthew 16:17-19)