Thursday, January 16, 2020

Who we are in Christ

I watched a wonderful Christian movie called “Overcomer” the other day. In one scene of the movie, a woman leads a teenage girl to faith in Jesus Christ. After the girl accepted Jesus as her savior, the woman who led the girl to Christ made a wonderful suggestion. She asked the girl to read the book of Ephesians and write down everything she saw in regards to who we are as believers in Jesus Christ.

In the opening verse of the epistle to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul made it clear that he was addressing the Christians at Ephesus, who are faithful in Christ Jesus. In other words, Paul’s letter applies only to born again believers in Jesus.

This inspired me to do the exercise, myself. Here’s what I found in just the first chapter of Ephesians.

We are blessed (Ephesians 1:3)
I find it interesting that, even though Paul wrote this epistle or letter from inside a Roman prison, he could still consider himself blessed. This is most likely because Paul understood that God not only provides His children with physical and material blessings, but He provides us with spiritual blessings as well. In other words, regardless of the blessings we may receive in this life, which include the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we will also receive future heavenly blessings.

We are chosen (Ephesians 1:4)
We are chosen out of the world to be set apart with Christ. God took the initiative to bring us to faith in Jesus, even while we were still sinners. But of course, even though God chose to give us the free gift of salvation, we had the responsibility to accept that free gift by believing in Jesus.
That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:9
We are adopted as sons of God (Ephesians 1:5)
As believers, we’re adopted into God’s family with all the rights and privileges of a son of God. Counter to the false teaching of Universalism, which teaches that everyone, even unbelievers, will be saved and go to heaven, the Bible teaches that only born again believers in Jesus are sons and daughters of God. We also see this truth in the book of Romans.
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”
Romans 8:15
We are accepted (Ephesians 1:6)
It is by God lavishly pouring out His grace on us that makes it possible for sinners like you and me to be accepted by God through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross who paid the penalty for our sins once and for all time.

We are redeemed and forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)
Redemption means that we have been purchased for a price and that price was Christ’s blood that was shed on the cross. Jesus paid the price that we could never pay and He paid that price in full. Scripture teaches that the wages of sin is death. Only the death of the perfect, spotless, sinless lamb of God, which is Jesus Christ, could redeem us from an eternal death sentence and make the way for us to be forgiven of all the sins we have ever committed or will commit in the future.

We are guaranteed an inheritance (Ephesians 1:11)
Indeed, as the Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:4, as a born again believer, you have an “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”.

We are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)
In many cultures, couples who become engaged, seal their commitment to be married with an engagement ring. God seals His commitment to a born again believer with the Holy Spirit. Unlike engagements between couples, God will never break His commitment to us. He gives us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of His promise. God will preserve the bride of Christ (that’s all born again believers) until we are with the Lord. I find that so very comforting, don’t you?

The Life Application Study Bible describes it well:
God gives the Holy Spirit to us as a guarantee confirming that we belong to Him and that He will do what He has promised. The presence of the Holy Spirit is like a down payment, a deposit, a validating signature on God’s contract. The Holy Spirit working in us demonstrates the genuineness of our faith, proves that we are God’s children, and secures eternal life for us.
God has given us the greatest gift I can imagine by making a way for our salvation through Jesus Christ. As we go through the struggles and sorrows of this life, we can find comfort in all that God has promised His children because God always keeps His promises.

Related topics:
Video: Amir Tsarfari and Barry Stagner: Universalism and the Christian Church

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Testimony of Dr. Andy Woods

I’ve been listening to Dr. Andy Wood’s sermons for several months now. He teaches slowly through entire books of the Bible. I’ve especially enjoyed his teachings on the book of Revelation and his series on Soteriology: the doctrine of Salvation. I truly appreciate his gift for teaching the Bible in a way that’s easy for a regular person like me to understand.

Andy’s testimony teaches us important life lessons. The first is that you can be active in your church for years and think that you are saved when you’re not. And the second lesson is the one that inspired me to write Dr. Wood’s testimony. Which is that God has a way of directing the circumstances in your life to lead you down the path He wants you to follow.

Andy’s first church experience

For the first 16 years of his life, Andy was a card-carrying Episcopalian, which isn’t too different from Roman Catholicism. Even though some seeds of faith were planted in Andy’s young life, the church services he attended were very high on ritual, which Andy likes to call “the smells and the bells”.

Once in a while, the priest would chant a homily, but he didn’t really teach the Bible very much. It was a moral church, but it wasn’t a church that preached the gospel clearly, if at all. Andy was involved in various aspects of church life and was even given a cross as a reward for perfect Sunday school attendance. Andy thought that because he was religious, he must be saved. But a life-changing event was about to have an impact of eternal significance.

Andy’s wakeup call

In 1983, Andy’s best friend in high school, who attended a different church, invited him to a home Bible study. It just happened that the teacher of the group was teaching John chapter 3. The following verses, about Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus, convicted young Andy to his core.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.
John 3:3-8 NKJV
Andy was amazed at what he had just heard because this was the first time he ever heard that he needed to be born again. Until that point in his life, he thought he was fine as he was. He thought that being religious would get him into heaven. This was a divine wake-up call directly from God’s word!

Andy sat there not fully understanding what the text he had just heard meant. But one thing he understood was that whatever it was, he didn’t have it. Fortunately for Andy, the person teaching the Bible study had enough discernment to realize what was going on in Andy and led him to Christ that very night.

Andy’s next six years

Even though Andy was now saved, for the next six years, he continued to follow the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I. He wanted to live his life on his own terms, and not God’s. That’s definitely something that I can relate with.

It was a time when the stock market was booming in America and the country was producing lots of millionaires. Enticed by what he saw, Andy’s goal was to go to law school and then make as much money as he could. But little did he know that God would soon begin to disrupt his plans.

One day, a youth pastor asked Andy to teach a Bible study for young adults. Andy didn’t have any desire to teach a Bible study but agreed to do it for one month. He was surprised when he found that he actually liked doing it and saw that it was producing fruit in the lives of the people he was teaching. Andy had just discovered his spiritual gift.
A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.
1 Corinthians 12:7 NLT
Meanwhile, Andy graduated from law school and became a member of the California bar. He planned to become an attorney while serving God on the side. He practiced law in California for a couple of years, but God had other plans for his life and would soon disrupt Andy’s plans once again.

From Bible study leader to interim pastor

The pastor of the church where Andy was teaching the Bible study, retired. The church was too small to hire a full-time replacement pastor. So, Andy found himself as the interim pastor at a small church in the Los Angeles area. Things went well for a while as Andy knew one or two books of the bible pretty well. But then an elderly lady in the church asked Andy to teach a bible study on the book of Ezekiel. As Andy began to study the book, he realized very quickly that he didn’t know what he was doing.

Andy seeks a fuller knowledge of God’s word

God began to impress on his heart that, even though he had the gift of pastor-teacher, he wasn’t equipped to teach the full council of God. The Bible verse, James 3:1 which reads “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”, convinced him to seek seminary training.

Around this time he met his wife, Ann. They prayed about what seminary Andy should choose and ended up deciding on Dallas Seminary because many of the respected pastors they grew up listening to came from there.

Andy graduated with his Master of Theology (ThM) degree in 2002 and thought he was done. But Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost, who was a professor there, talked him into going into the PhD program, which Andy started in 2003 and completed in 2009.

Along the way, he met a teacher named Israel Locen who was teaching classes at Dallas Seminary. Israel later began teaching at the College of Biblical Studies in Houston Texas, where he still teaches. As Andy was nearing the completion of his PhD program, Israel Locen called to ask Andy if he’d like to interview for a position as a Bible teacher at the College of Biblical Studies.

So, Andy interviewed for the job in 2008. The moment he set foot on the campus, he began to sense the presence of God there and felt that God was doing something special there. The school called Andy a couple of weeks later and offered him the job. Andy told his wife Ann, who said: “we’re not going”. Andy was wise enough to leave it in God’s hands and God gradually changed her heart. So, Andy took the job while still working on his doctorate degree.

Again, Andy thought this was the end of the story, but it turns out that God had something more in store for him.

Finding a church home

Andy and Ann bought a house in Sugar Land, which is about a 15-minute drive from Houston. Since moving from Dallas, and starting his new job, Andy and his wife hadn’t yet found a church to call home. As a Bible teacher at a college, Andy thought this doesn’t look good, so they started attending Sugar Land Bible Church. They weren’t looking for a position of leadership in the church. They just wanted to go there and then go home.

As it turns out, they were there less than a month when the church almost went through a split due to a moral failure of the pastor. When the elders of the church disciplined the pastor, about half the congregation left because they were devoted to their pastor. Because of the way the situation was handled, the youth pastor and the Christian education pastor both quit, which left the church functioning without the help of any pastors at all.

Knowing that Andy taught at a Bible college, the elders asked him to fill in at the pulpit. Later they asked him to step in as the interim pastor, which is exactly what happened to Andy in California. Andy says “one of the things to look at when studying your life is to look at the same patterns recurring. If God keeps putting you over and over again in the same position, likely that’s the Spirit trying to tell you something”.

About six months after becoming the interim pastor at the beginning of 2010, Andy became the pastor of Sugar Land Bible Church. The elders agreed to limit his duties so he could keep his full-time teaching job at the Bible college.

Final thoughts

Andy’s testimony gave me pause to ask myself “What If?”. What if Andy hadn’t agreed to teach a Bible class at his church. If he hadn’t done that, then he might never have discovered his spiritual gift. What if Andy’s best friend from high school hadn’t invited him to a Bible study where Andy learned that he needed to be born again? Andy might still be lost to this day.

The next time you’re given an opportunity to serve God, take a moment to consider what if.

I truly appreciate the wealth of videos and other training materials that Andy provides at no cost. For example, you can get all of Andy’s sermons at with PowerPoints. He’s a contributor to and has many videos on the Andy Woods Ministry channel on YouTube that teach through books of the Bible.

This message is based on this video on YouTube.

Here are some other inspiring testimonies you may have missed:

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sliding into compromise

Compromise can be a good thing. Especially when it’s a win-win situation without violating God’s laws. It can also be good when it results in reconciliation. But compromise can also be dangerous. Compromising God’s will for our lives is an insidious danger—one that seems to be always lurking around. The truly insidious thing about ungodly compromise is that it usually starts out as a seemingly insignificant choice but can often lead to bigger and more dangerous ones. Compromising God’s laws always lead to disappointment and often destroys our lives and the lives of others.

I think most people don’t even realize they’ve slid into compromise until the damage is done. There are many examples of this in the Bible. God told Solomon not to make alliances with other nations or even associate with them. Solomon compromised God’s command by purchasing horses from Egypt. Seems innocent enough, right? But he didn’t stop there. God had commanded the Jews not to take wives from other nations. Solomon breaks that commandment by marrying Pharaoh’s daughter and then hundreds of other wives from other nations.

God had a good reason to command the Jews not to marry outside the Jewish nation. It’s because God knew that doing so would result in the Jews worshiping the false gods of those other nations. And this is exactly what happened. Solomon not only allowed idol worship in Israel, but he even built a high place to worship Molech (1 Kings 11:1-13). The worship of this detestable false god was associated with child sacrifice. Solomon started well but he let his compromises take him further and further out of the will of God.

There are many other equally horrific examples in the Bible where God’s people made ungodly compromises. David was a great king of Israel. But he compromised by committing adultery with Bathsheba, another man’s wife. This led to numerous sins, including the murder of Bathsheba’s husband (2 Samuel chapter 11). Samson’s fornication with Delilah, a Philistine harlot led to his death (Judges 16:1-30). We should consider these examples as a stern warning from the word of God for our own lives.

We’re constantly under attack

It seems we’re constantly under attack by satanic forces who try to urge, trick, prod, and tempt us into compromising just a little bit here and a little bit there. Satan knows that if he can’t stop us from getting saved, then he’ll go to plan B, which is to keep us from living an obedient and therefore fruitful life of service to the Lord.
Small compromises lead to more serious ones.
With each successive concession, our conscience is weakened.
Ultimately whenever we give way to evil—whether we let go
of a doctrinal belief or simply listen to music
that taints our thoughts—we always lose.
Pastor Charles Stanley

How to become a non-compromiser

In order to become strong enough to resist the temptation to compromise God’s laws, we must develop some essential beliefs and habits. First, we need to believe that the Holy Bible is God’s word and depend on it to guide our daily decisions.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
We need to learn the godly principles that were handed down to us through the Bible and meditate on them daily. Our prayers should reflect the words of the psalmist, who wrote:
Uphold my steps in Your paths, That my footsteps may not slip.
Psalm 17:5
We need to flee from the temptations in life, such as gossiping, flirting with a co-worker, or drunkenness. All too often, these little compromises lead to the bigger, more devastating ones. If we surrender our lives to God, we will shatter our enslavement to compromise and give us rest in Him.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The willing Passover Lamb

The first time we see the lamb as an offering to the Lord is in the fourth chapter of Genesis. Abel provided sheep as his offering to the Lord. The Lord accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s offering of produce from the ground. Why? Because God requires a blood sacrifice to cover sin.

God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac as a test of his love and obedience. A test that he passed with flying colors, by the way. I have no doubt that Abraham believed that even if he had sacrificed the son he dearly loved, that God would resurrect Isaac from the dead. After all, God had promised Abraham that his offspring would outnumber the sands of the sea. As Abraham and his son ascended Mount Moriah together, Isaac asked his father “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7). Abraham told Isaac that God himself would provide a lamb for a burnt offering. This proved to be a prophetic statement.

The sacrificial lamb also appeared at the first Passover, when God told Moses that every Jew should sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their doorposts so that the judgment that was about to come upon the Egyptians would pass over them (see Exodus chapter 12).
Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
Exodus 12:13
Then the Lord told Moses that this day shall be remembered every year.
So, this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.
Exodus 12:14
As you can see, the Jewish people understood the significance of the sacrificial lamb. So, the day Jesus was baptized, when John declared “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”, the people in attendance should have understood that John was declaring Jesus to be their Messiah because the Jews understood that only God can take away sin.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” 
And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
John 1:29-34
Jesus is the same Lamb of God that the prophet Isaiah spoke about in Isaiah chapter 53.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
Isaiah 53:7
You see, it was God’s plan all along to provide a spotless and blameless lamb to redeem the world (1 Peter 1:19). This was God’s plan to pay the penalty for our sin. Jesus paid the debt that we owed but could never pay.

Jesus was fully aware of His Father’s plan for our redemption. He knew full well what awaited Him at Calvary. So much so that it grieved Him to the point of sweating great drops of blood. While praying to the Father on the Mount of Olives, Jesus said: “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Jesus had the free will to refuse His Father’s plan. He could have refused to pay the price for our redemption. He could have called down the armies of heaven, if need be, to save Himself from that dreadful fate. Satan would have loved nothing more because if Jesus had not been willing to be our sacrificial Lamb, then we would still be lost in our sins. If Jesus hadn’t risen on the 3rd day, then we would have no hope in our own resurrection from the dead.

I thank God that Jesus was an obedient Son. I’m thankful that He loves His Father and loves us so much that he would pay the price of redemption that we could never pay. Jesus has redeemed all who believe on His name. He has secured our forgiveness and has given us a permanent place in God's family as children of God.

We should remember and be grateful for this fact every day, but especially on Easter. I pray that you will meditate on what the Father and Jesus have done for you. The Father has given us His only begotten Son (John 3:16). He only asks that we believe on the name of the Lord, Jesus with all our heart.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The 3 tenses of salvation

Did you know that the Bible refers to salvation in the past, present, and future tense?

Past tense of salvation

A believer experiences this phase of salvation when they first believed. This occurs the moment you're saved from the penalty of sin by putting your faith in Jesus Christ.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV
When we were saved, we became a new creation. We became children of God. We didn’t have to earn it. How glad are you about that? I know I am because no one can ever earn their salvation by their own efforts. There’s no amount of good works that we could ever do to earn our way into the presence of a holy a just God.

The Apostle Paul makes this point clear in his letter to Titus:
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:5-7 NKJV
Before we were saved, we had no righteousness of our own. This means that we were not in a right relationship with God. But the moment we were saved, the righteousness of Christ was imparted to us. The righteousness of Jesus Christ was credited to our account. What’s more is that once we’re saved, we’re always saved. Forever and ever and ever!

But don’t take my word for it. Read the words of Jesus for yourself:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.
John 10:27-29
Given the dire importance of the first tense of salvation, I feel it necessary to offer a note of caution. We must understand that salvation, and therefore the regeneration of our minds doesn’t come about by only knowing the gospel. Even the demons know that Jesus is the Son of God and they tremble with fear.
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
James 2:19 NKJV
Rather, I’m talking about salvation that comes from putting our faith in Jesus. The kind of faith that comes from your heart. As Romans 10: 9 says “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Present tense of salvation

After we’re saved, we transition to the next tense of salvation. This is known as the sanctification process. This is the phase of our Christian life where the Holy Spirit works in us to convict us of our sins. Since we all slip up from time to time, this is a life-long process, but one we need to take very seriously.

As the Apostle Paul said to the Philippian church:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Philippians 2:12-13 NKJV
Before we were saved, we couldn’t stop sinning. At least not for long. But after we’re saved, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to overcome the sin in our lives. After all, Jesus wouldn’t have commanded us to “sin no more” if we weren’t able to obey that command (John 5:14).

And yet, all too often we make compromises in this area. We try to justify our sins. We try to convince ourselves (and sometimes others) that they’re not a big deal. But what did the Apostle Paul say? He said to work out our salvation (the sanctification process) with fear and trembling. In other words, this is of vital importance. Not because we might lose our salvation but because there are consequences to compromising. Or, don’t you know that God disciplines His children who practice disobedience (Hebrews 12:6)?

In addition to opening ourselves to God’s discipline when we’re disobedient, consider these reasons to take the sanctification process seriously:

  • Disobeying God’s word can cause us to lose rewards and blessings.
  • We can lose our sense of peace with God.
  • Living as a carnal Christian sets a horrible example to others (both other believers and unbelievers alike).

So how can we work out our salvation?

Here are some things that help me.

  • Listening to and reading the word of God reminds me of God’s will for my life. If we love God, we should want to get to know Him better, and that happens by submerging ourselves in His word “the Bible” (1 Peter 2:2). 
  • Then listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit convicting you of your sins and then take action. We must change our mind (repent) of our sins.
  • I also like to think about the imminent return of Jesus to receive His church. This has really motivated me to clean up my life. After all, should the Lord’s bride prepare herself and be ready for His return?

The good news is that, as a believer, we’re no longer powerless from the death-grasp of sin. Unlike the unsaved, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to resist Satan and his demons.

Past tense of salvation

Now for the really great news. Once we’re with the Lord in our glorified bodies, we’ll finally be saved from the presence of sin. No longer will we be tempted to war against God’s will. Isn’t that wonderful news?

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Justifying our addictions

I’ll bet that most of us are struggling with at least one addiction, either openly or in private. You or someone you know might be addicted to alcohol, drugs, fornication, adultery, or pornography. Or even to things you might not think of as being an addiction, such as covetousness, greed, pride, anger, or bitterness.

For those of us who’ve been saved, the Holy Spirit works in us to convict us of our sins. This is the process of sanctification. But for this process to be fruitful, it requires some cooperation on our part. If we are to mature in our faith, we must choose to change our mind about our sin and turn to God. We must choose to live according to God’s will and not our own.

Jesus Is Better Than Porn

I recently had the privilege of getting to know Hugh Houston, the author of the book Jesus is Better than Porn. While the author shares his battle with and deliverance from pornography, the sound advice he provides applies to numerous other addictions.

Like Hugh, I also struggled with porn for decades. I wish I’d read his book years ago. It would have saved me a lot of guilt and wasted time. Hugh interweaves his own struggle with porn throughout the book in a conversational and easy to read way that I could relate to. I liked how it was never judgmental. Much of Hugh’s detailed story of his own struggle reminded me of exactly the kinds of issues and thought-processes that I was going through when I was wrestling with this addiction.

If you’re currently struggling with porn (or most other addictions, for that matter), I think the insights in this book will help you realize the thought processes you might not be sensitive to. Understanding these thought processes or decisions that lead up to the act of consuming porn is exactly what we need to become aware of and understand so we can take our thoughts captive in order to avoid committing the same sinful act over and over.

You might be thinking that pornography isn’t all that bad. After all, it’s not like you’re cheating on your spouse! It’s not like you’re hurting anybody, right? Wrong! Consider what Jesus said on this subject:
But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:28 NKJV
We need to look no further than the ten commandments to know that adultery is a sin.

The following section is from Chapter 11 Lies I Told Myself, from the book, Jesus is Better than Porn, republished here with the approval of the author, Hugh Houston. I love how Hugh brings to light the lies we tell ourselves when trying to justify our addictions just before we act on them.

Lies I Told Myself

Lies are illusions, mere fiction. 2 + 2 = 4 It’s a fact. If I think that I have the ability to jump off a building and fly, that lie could lead to my death. The law of gravity is the truth, an undeniable fact.

So what are some of the lies, the illusions which kept me trapped in the compulsive cycle of lust and porn for well over 30 years? I’ll list just a few of them here. Perhaps you can help me add to this list.

Lie #1: I’m going to quit. Just one more time and then I will give this up for good.
Truth: This went on for decades.

Lie #2: I know I will eventually give in so it might as well be now. I could fight the urge all day and waste the day or I could just act out now and move on with the rest of my day.
Truth: Urges pass. Feelings come and go. In order to develop new, healthy habits, I will need to overcome these destructive urges and move forward in purity, one hour at a time.

Lie # 3: Sex is my greatest need.
Truth: I could live a fulfilled life without sex. Many people have.

Lie #4: I have a higher sex drive than most people.
Truth: When I stop “feeding the beast” then my sex drive returns to “normal” levels. In fact, what is “normal” in the 21st century is not really normal because we are surrounded by provocative material in the media. In reality, a simple smile and a hug from my wife make me feel much better than looking at pictures of porn and masturbating. I’m tired of all these lies and pray that I will find my way to freedom.

Lie #5: Just a quick peek or a short impure thought is normal and natural. What I am doing isn’t really “pornography”. I’m just admiring the beauty of the female body – part of God’s creation.
Truth: God wants me to avoid all forms of lust and maintain a clean mind 24 hours a day. God condemns adultery committed in the heart.

Lie #6: They’re just pictures, not real people. Nobody is getting hurt. I’m not cheating. I’m not really lusting because I don’t want to be with them. I just want to look at them.
Truth: I am turning a person into an object to be used for my pleasure. My wife feels like she’s not good enough. She feels betrayed. I get so wrapped up in the addiction that I can’t think of anything else. Everyone is getting hurt. Objectifying a woman is dehumanizing and degrading, both for her and for me. Am I no more than my lusts and desires?

Lie #7: (now this contradicts #6) I want to stop and I’m going to stop but I can’t stop. This force that drives me to look is irresistible. I can’t help myself. I know I will eventually give in, so it might as well be now.
Truth: I always have a choice. Every time I looked, I made a decision to give in to my passions and cravings.

Lie #8: Masturbation makes me feel good and relieves tension. It will stop my craving for porn.
Truth: Nobody explodes or dies from lack of orgasm. Masturbation feels good for a few seconds but afterward, I feel worse than I did before. It’s a dismal cycle of destruction. Giving in to cravings only increase the cravings. It’s like an alcoholic saying “This harmless glass of beer will stop me from craving whiskey”.

Lie # 9: My wife doesn’t give me what I need. She isn’t available often enough and she puts everything else before my needs, blah, blah, blah. Therefore, I’m entitled to act out. What my wife doesn’t know won’t hurt her.
Truth: Knowing that I had been choosing my porn girlfriends over her practically killed her.

Lie #10: Everyone does it.
Truth: Yes, millions are caught up in this perversion, but that doesn’t make it normal or good. God doesn’t grade sin on a curve. How many people are addicted to drugs or tobacco? Is that something you want for yourself or your children?

Lie # 11: I am strong enough now in my recovery that I can shift my boundaries and watch movies with nudity, mindlessly surf the net, spend hours clicking links on YouTube, etc.
Truth: All of us need to avoid even a hint of sexual immorality (Ephesians 5:3). We need to establish strict, crisp boundaries to protect ourselves from sin. Complacency is often the first step to relapse.

Lie #12: Discussing my emotions with others will make me seem weak, and will cause my friends to like me less.
Truth: It takes courage to admit our mistakes. Seeking help is an act of wisdom. People respect those who are willing to be vulnerable and change.

Lie # 13: Porn makes me happy. It will satisfy me.
Truth: It is never satisfying. I always wanted to look at the next picture. Just one more. Using porn induces a hunger for more, More, MORE! Afterward, I feel degraded, guilty, ashamed, and emotionally walled off from the world. All alone. It’s like being in a personal prison.

Lie # 14: I’ll grow out of this porn habit. I’ll quit after I get married or after my next birthday.
Truth: I remained in this endless cycle for almost 40 years.

Lie #15: I can beat the addiction by myself.
Truth: I never did. See #14.

Lie #16: If I say this prayer with enough conviction I will be rid of this addiction forever.
Truth: Of course, there is power in prayer. God can do all things. But I have to want to change and take the steps necessary to seek change. Sanctification and spiritual growth require discipline and effort on my part.

Lie #17: I can live two lives. The porn life and the one I present to the world.
Truth: I am one person. Porn will bleed over into every corner of my life, rotting my soul and destroying everything that is good about life.

Applying this thought process to other addictions

I think you can see how this thought process can easily translate to other types of addictions. For example, instead of “Sex is my greatest need”, you might be thinking “drugs or alcohol is my greatest need” and so on. If you’re caught in the web of addiction, please take some time to evaluate your own thought processes that lead you to give in to the sinful urges that you so often act upon.

We can break out of the cycle of being a repeat offender when we become aware of temptation as soon as the thought enters our consciousness. Remember that God will not allow you to become tempted beyond what you are able to resist (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Here’s some practical advice from the Bible:

  • Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak! (Matthew 26:41 NLT)
  • Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (Colossians 3:2 KJV)
  • Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7 KJV)
  • Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18 NKJV)

May God give you the strength to overcome whatever struggles you are going through,

Related Resources

Book: Jesus Is Better Than Porn, by Hugh Houston
Hugh Houston's Blog: Jesus Is The Best
Blog post: Are the 10 Commandments still relevant?
Blog post: You can break free from a porn addiction

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Supplement your faith

In his second letter, the Apostle Peter wrote to the Gentile believers who were dispersed throughout what is today known as Turkey. His goal was to warn them about the false teachers who were infiltrating the churches and to instruct them how to defend themselves against their false doctrines.

Peter’s letter helps us identify false teachers by contrasting the moral behavior that every believer is expected to pursue with the immoral behavior of the false teachers.

After assuring them that God has provided everything, through Jesus Christ, that they need to live a godly life, Peter tells them how to be victorious. He instructs them to make the maximum effort to grow stronger in their faith by applying the seven Christian virtues.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith
   with goodness,
   goodness with knowledge,
   knowledge with self-control,
   self-control with endurance,
   endurance with godliness,
   godliness with brotherly affection:
   and brotherly affection with love.
2 Peter 1:5-7 CSB
Did you notice how the seven attributes in this list build on one another? To be sure, practicing these Christian virtues with endurance requires all the diligence and effort we can muster, along with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s take a closer look at these attributes.

The seven Christian attributes

Goodness: This attribute not only communicates that believers are expected to produce good fruit worthy of repentance (Matthew 3:8) but also tells us that believers are to lead lives of moral excellence and virtue. The classical Greek word translated “goodness” describes the God-given ability to perform heroic deeds.

Knowledge was Peter’s primary solution to counter false teachers. An understanding of God’s word is the best defense against their heresies. False teachers are crafty. They’ll usually speak much truth from God’s word while twisting some of the scriptures they don’t like into something that pleases those with itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3). To avoid being deceived by false teachers, we must diligently study the word of God for ourselves and pursue an understanding of sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).

Self-control: To achieve moral excellence, we have to control our bodily desires. This begins with controlling our thoughts. Only when we allow ourselves to dwell on the lusts of the flesh, do we act out on them. Exercising self-control contrasts sharply with how the false teachers of the Apostle Peter’s day lived, which made it easier to identify them. It also helps us to identify the false teachers of our day.

Endurance: Peter warned believers to not only exercise self-control but to do so with endurance. This means we need to control ourselves all the time, even in the face of trials and adversity. We need perseverance—the spiritual staying power that never gives in and never gives up. We can only achieve this with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Godliness demonstrates reverence and loyalty to God. Perhaps the highest form of godliness is to obey God’s commands. Christians are obligated to follow Jesus’s example “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). I know this isn’t always easy, but take heart; God has given us the faith and grace we need to live a godly life.

These first five virtues pertain to our relationship with God. These last 2 pertain to our relationship with people.

Brotherly affection is demonstrated when we show concern for other people and care for their needs. In my own life, I’ve experienced that my love for God has given me a greater affection for other people than I had known before I was saved.

Love for other people takes brotherly affection to a new level. When we love someone, our desire is for them to experience the highest good. This is the kind of love that God has for sinners (John 3:16).

Applying the seven Christian attributes

In order to become more like Jesus, we need to pursue the seven Christian attributes with all our heart, soul, and mind. After all, as Peter describes in the following verses, there are wonderful benefits in doing so.
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.
2 Peter 1:8-11 CSB
Are you making every effort to supplement your faith by pursuing these Christian attributes with all your might and with endurance? If not, I pray that you’ll reevaluate your priorities and give this the serious thought that it deserves.

May the blessing of the Lord be upon you,