For to us a child is born,
Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love everything about it. The cold(ish) weather (I live in Texas, so 'cold' is relative). The festive music. The delectable food. The brief moments of kindness that interrupt the usual flow of humbug hostility and division. I love the Christmas season, but I love the Christ in Christmas far more. Here's why...
My work puts me in front of broken and desperate people all the time. Their lives are marked by deep pain and debilitating strongholds. They all want the same thing: relief from their pain. They have all been hurt, and most of them have also hurt others. They carry shame, fear, anger, and myriad other emotions often too deep for words. In their hearts they cry out: Where can I find relief and hope for something better?
God hears the cries of desperate people. And He answered the deepest cry of every person's heart through the greatest gift ever given: Jesus Christ.
Christmas is the celebration of the long awaited Savior of the world. He was God's answer to all the brokenness that results from sin. Jesus was pure. He was good. He was kind. He was true. He was love. He was all the world ever needed to be reconciled to God. He was (and is) our Hope.
But how does Christmas (the coming of Jesus to the world) matter to recovery?
Christmas reminds us that God knows our needs even before we ask.
When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden God did not wait for them to be contrite or ask for help before He clothed their nakedness. No, Adam and Eve were in the middle of playing the blame game with makeshift foliage underwear while God took action to slay an animal and give them proper coverings. This was the foreshadowing of the sacrifice to come in Jesus Christ, covering our sins once and for all.
In recovery it isn't always so easy to know what is needed. After all, would you really need recovery if you knew what you needed and how to obtain it? But God is rich in mercy and grace, having already put into motion the very answer your soul needed before you could even ask the question. May you discover in Christ God's covering for your sin and shame.
Christmas keeps us humble.
Make no mistake about the fundamental message of Christmas: the world needed a Savior! I know this message is not popular in our modern age of technology and hyper-intelligence, but it is still true. No one can cheat death. No one escapes accountability before God. And no one is without guilt before the Creator.
Recovery is only successful when humility is at its root. The proud are not teachable, therefore they are not changeable. Until there is brokenness and humility there can be no recovery. The vulnerability of the Son of God lying in a manger as a baby reminds us that since we cannot claim superiority to God and He was willing to humble Himself to such a lowly state, we too must embrace humility if we are ever to be changed by Him.
Christmas reveals that Light overcomes darkness.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
The above Scripture comes just before the opening Scripture of this article. What a vivid description of what recovery feels like -- seeing a great light that dispels the deep darkness all around.
Jesus Christ coming into the world was the Great Light. He exposed the darkness of sin's effect; the lies, the greed, the hatred, the violence, the divisions, the lust, and so much more. But the darkness could not overpower the Light in Christ. Even death (the greatest darkness of all) could not contain Him. Light won. Light always wins!
Recovery requires uncovering what is in the dark. The secrets. The wounds. The shame. Light must be allowed into the dark places in order for healing and wholeness. Praise God that He didn't leave us in the dark! Let us celebrate the Light we have been given in Jesus Christ. For He is why Christmas matters to recovery...
Thoughts are at the root of every decision you make. (Think about that.) When you decide anything, thought was the starting point. What you think about shapes everything about your life; decisions, language, attitude, intelligence, and more. This is certainly true when it comes to sexuality and the strongholds that can overcome those whose thoughts are consumed by lust. Therefore, it matters what you think about, right?
In this series we have been exploring the Pathway to Purity and the key markers along this journey that indicate growth toward a life of greater integrity. The first marker was Share Your Story. The second marker was Make Some Friends. In this post we will unpack this crucial marker of transforming your mind; thinking about what you think about and focusing your mind on truth that transforms.
Transform Your Mind
God’s Word tells us in Romans 12:2,
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
God says that this world is not what we are to look like. To be “conformed” means to fashion one’s self to another’s pattern. God didn’t make you or me to “bear the image” of the world. Quite the contrary! You and I were made to bear God’s image; to look like Him. (Gen. 1:26-27)
The primary way we resist this conforming to the world is through our thinking. God wants to transform us, which means to change into another form, or to transfigure. Transformation isn’t just about mirroring or matching a pattern, it is about becoming something totally different. And if you want to become a man or woman of sexual integrity, you must be transformed by the renewal of your mind.
What does renewal of your mind look like?
Time in God’s Word
When Jesus prayed for those who would follow him He made this request of God the Father: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17) There it is. Truth is God’s Word. And God’s Word is given to us primarily in two forms: the Bible and the Holy Spirit. While these will never contradict each other, it is important to understand some distinctions in how the Bible and the Holy Spirit work in the renewal of our minds.
The Bible is God’s written Word to us. It contains His law that reveals His character. It also shows us His redemptive plan for our salvation through Jesus Christ. We need the clarity that the written word gives us so that we have an anchor to truth. We must spend time in the Bible to learn who God is and how our relationship to Him is meant to be.
Jesus told his disciples that when he was going to ascend to heaven that he would send the Holy Spirit to them. Why?
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13)
The Holy Spirit is our guide into all the truth. The written word is contained within the pages of the Bible, while the Living Word is written on our hearts through the Holy Spirit. In combination, the written words of Scripture come to life in our mind, heart, and actions through the personal power of the Holy Spirit.
You must spend time communing with both the written Word and God’s Holy Spirit in order to be transformed. God’s Word must be the anchor to the thoughts we think. Only then can we discern God’s good and perfect will. Only then will we be transformed.
Trust in God’s Promises
Renewal of the mind starts with simply knowing where to go for truth: God’s Word. But we must then take the next step: trusting God’s promises. It’s one thing to learn about God’s truth. It’s another thing entirely to trust God’s Word for our lives today. But God has made some wonderful promises for us on this journey toward greater integrity:
Meditate on God’s promises. Feed on them like food. Recall them when the world is seeking to “fashion you according to its pattern.” Be persistent. Over time you will gain greater confidence in God’s faithfulness and goodness. And with such thoughts filling your mind, you will be unshaken and undeterred by temptation and trials.
Training in Spiritual Battle
The Pathway to Purity is not a journey of sitting cross-legged and humming while levitating. It is a battle! And the battle is fought first in the mind. Therefore, you must train yourself in spiritual battle.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:11-12)
The enemy of your soul, the devil, wants to lead you astray from all that is true and good. Therefore, he is relentless in his attacks on your mind because he knows that thoughts are at the root of every decision you make. His tactic has been the same from the beginning: plant seeds of doubt about God’s Word and His promises.
The good news is that God has given weapons to fight the enemy’s attacks. But you must use them! Storing God’s weapons in your closet do you no good when attacked in the marketplace. Spend time in Ephesians chapter 6 so you know what God’s armor is and how you can daily put it on. The battle is real, but the victory is yours in Christ Jesus!
Also, I recommend you read The Bondage Breaker by Neil Anderson for additional help in combatting Satan’s lies with God’s truth.
As you march along the Pathway to Purity remember that these markers are simply guideposts for moving you forward. All of them are reminders that movement is essential to growth. Never stop engaging any of them. Keep pressing on!
For helpful purity resources, visit PureCommunity.org.
The Bondage Breaker
by Neil T. Anderson
Order on Amazon.com
God called me into full time ministry to sexually broken people with only three words: Tell your story. So, ever since the early 2000’s I have been doing just that, telling my story. Over and over. But the first time I told my full story wasn’t as one called by God to minister to others. It was years earlier in a counselor’s office as a broken, desperate man wrestling with the destructive effects of a 13-year addiction to porn and sex.
As I look back over the nearly 20 years that I have been on this journey of recovery and growth I see a sort of “pathway” take shape that has led me to where I stand today. And while I have certainly not walked this pathway perfectly (nobody does) I have seen how it is the same pathway that anyone who wants to break free from sexually addictive patterns must walk. Therefore, if you would like to pursue a life of greater integrity, I invite you to walk this pathway with me.
This pathway has 5 key markers on it, and I want to share each with you over the coming weeks. Here is the first marker on the Pathway to Purity:
Share Your Story
The very first step on this Pathway to Purity is to share your story -- your full story. You must share your history of brokenness, failure, fear, hurt, and false starts. Everything in the dark needs to come into the light, because this is not a pathway covered in shadows. A life of sexual wholeness is marked by confession and openness.
I recommend you seek out a pastor or counselor or trusted friend who will hold in confidence all the pieces of your story. If you sense that the person you are sharing with is “unsafe” and does not have your best good in mind, then do not entrust your full story to them. Move on to someone who exhibits trustworthiness and a genuine desire to see you move forward on the pathway to purity.
Sharing your story is not only confessing sin. It is also revealing your confused and broken heart. You must share the feelings you have carried in secret. The questions and doubts you have had about yourself, your family and friends, and even God. We all struggle with the brokenness of life and how this brokenness invites us to fear, anger, shame, and despair.
You may be wondering why is it so necessary to share your “full” story. Can’t you just share the current sexual struggle or challenge you are facing? The problem with only sharing your current circumstance is that it is only revealing the culminating symptom of what has occurred in your history. In other words, your “today” is connected to all your “yesterdays”. To try to address today’s problems without uncovering all your yesterdays is to leave you with an incomplete picture of what today’s problems are really all about.
Once you tell your story, take a deep breath. You have done a good thing. You have taken your first step toward a life of integrity and wholeness. That is worth celebrating. Don’t try to run on this pathway; it’s meant for walking. So, take your time on this first step of sharing your story. After all, you probably have more than just one yesterday to share.
I’m praying for you to have the courage to take this first step on the Pathway to Purity. Because if you never take this first step you cannot make it to the subsequent mile markers. Sharing your story is the key to starting well. You can do this!
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
To share your story with a qualified counselor, visit Counselors.Bebroken.com.
To find a support group, visit Groups.Bebroken.com.
by Keith Repult
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How can you face the withdrawal symptoms that come with breaking a sexual addiction? Find out in this popular edition of the Purity Post.
For help getting started on your recovery journey, visit StartingPoint.Bebroken.com.
Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction
by Dr. Mark Laaser
Order on Amazon.com
Here we are, at the final post in this 5-part series on the Benefits of Recovery. I hope you have gained encouragement and insights as you have read these posts. Whether you struggle with addictive patterns or know someone who does, my hope is that these benefits of recovery will help draw more into the hope and joy that is found in recovery.
Let's dive into the final Benefit of Recovery.
Recovery Benefit #5:
Recovery leads to purpose and service.
If addicts are increasingly selfish, you can be certain they aren't serving others out of a caring heart. They may be involved in "service," but it's probably with an agenda or a sense of duty to cover up the truth about their raging addiction. This is another reason why addicts don't have deep joy: the greatest joy is only realized through giving.
As an addict progresses in recovery, there comes a point when a "nudge" starts happening. It's similar to a nesting bird when she senses it's time for the baby chicks to spread their wings and fly. The early stages of recovery are like the incubation and hatching period; a total dependence on the protection and nurture of the mama and papa birds (sponsors, mentors, counselors, etc.). But no bird is meant to live its entire life in the nest. And no addict is meant to live his or her entire recovery in the "nest." There must come a time to fly.
"Flying" in recovery is when an old-timer addict simply takes a few newbies under their wing and mentors them. He share his story with them. He encourages them as they tell their story and face all the fears of starting this awkward journey. He passes along insight and wisdom as one who knows through experience the highs and lows of the recovery process. And most importantly, he reminds them that recovery is worth it because there is a God who loves them and made them for something special, something beyond addiction -- something even beyond recovery...
For additional recovery resources visit PureCommunity.org