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...
In this 5-part series on The Pathway to Purity we have defined and explored the key markers that indicate growth toward greater integrity. This post reveals the final marker: Love Your Neighbor.
You might be thinking, How does loving my neighbor have anything to do with my sexual integrity? Good question! So let’s explore 3 ways that loving others is connected to your growth in sexual integrity -- and good character in general.
Loving Others Ensures Self-Care
The above statement may seem contradictory. Isn’t loving others focused on others? How, then, could such an outward focus have such an inward benefit?
Jesus told his followers (and his opponents) that the greatest commandment was to love God and “love your neighbor as yourself.” He even stated, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:36-40) Notice the qualifier on how to love your neighbor: as yourself.
You cannot love others well if you do not care well for yourself. Therefore, loving others will ensure that you are taking care of yourself. This means you must reject any lies of shame that attack your worth, properly care for your body and soul, and establish healthy boundaries against temptation and toxic environments. Such self-care allows you to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Practical Tip: Ask yourself (or a trusted friend) in what areas of your life are you not exhibiting good self-care. Choose one area to work on improving and establish a plan for pursuing better self-care. Invite someone to hold you accountable to your plan.
Loving Others Guards Against Selfishness
Let me be clear: self-care and selfishness are not the same thing. Self-care is about establishing and maintaining proper health in body, soul, and mind for the good of others. Selfishness is about pursuing your own desires to the detriment of others. Self-care is really self-love in its purest form. Selfishness is truly self-hate; it abandons the Golden Rule toward yourself.
God’s Word instructs us, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4)
The key word in this passage is humility. You and I are to consider others more important than ourselves. Notice that this passage doesn’t teach self-denial, as if you and your interests are unimportant. No, the instruction is about attitude and focus. The attitude is humility and the focus is others. A selfish, self-hating person can have neither humility nor altruism.
Sexual sin is always self-centered. It feeds selfishness, leading you in the opposite direction from loving your neighbor. Therefore, it is critical to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Tim. 2:22) Then you will have a brotherly love that overflows onto your neighbors. (1 Pet. 1:22)
Practical Tip: Get out a piece of paper (or a Notes app on your smartphone). Write down the names of 3 people you care about. Next to each name write down at least one way this week that you will consider them “more significant than yourself.” Follow through on your commitment to exercise humility and focus on their interests above your own.
Loving Others Multiplies Grace
What is the ultimate effect of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Is it simply that your sins are forgiven? Is it merely that you are offered a place in heaven with God? These are great and wonderful truths, but I believe the ultimate effect this Good News has is that it compels everyone who embraces it to share it. The grace found in Jesus cannot be hoarded.
Why must you share this Good News with others?
If you really want to grow in your integrity, make it a habit to give away all that Jesus has given away to you -- grace, forgiveness, kindness, joy, peace, hope, love, Himself. The effect of grace in a life that is gripped by it is always multiplication. Love others as God has loved you. There are no regrets in multiplying grace.
Practical Tip: Is there someone in your life who needs to hear your story, no matter how many steps you have taken on the Pathway to Purity? Ask God to bring to mind someone that needs the hope of grace. Pray for courage to step out and share your story with them.
If you would like more resources on your journey to greater integrity, please visit PureCommunity.org.
by Dan Allender
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I attended a ministry workshop years ago with my wife. We were there to learn about how to prevent burnout when working in full time ministry. The speaker made a comment in one of his teaching sessions that really floored me. He said, "God is extremely inefficient in His character." I didn't really know how to react to such a statement. I leaned in, blinked my eyes a few times to remove any mental cobwebs, and waited to hear what he might say next to clarify this perplexing comment.
He went on to say that God, if He were efficient, would carefully measure everything He did. Why place a million flowers on a field in South America that no person may ever see? Why fill the sky with billions of stars in galaxies we will never know about? Why create thousands of sea creatures when just a few dozen would have gotten the point across about His creativity? If a business analyst in the 21st century were to evaluate "God's business" he would have to conclude that the operation is running at a loss. There is too much extravagance. God does not operate "efficiently."
As I pondered this idea, a powerful truth began to sink in - and I rejoiced at the inefficiency of God. What if God were efficient in His dealings with me, a stubborn, selfish child? What hope would I have if He were not one who poured out His love, lavished His mercy, and filled me to overflowing with His grace? The extravagance of God has been offered to me. I am, therefore, thankful for the inefficiency of God.
The longer I thought about this truth the more I was convicted of how I treat other people. I became painfully aware that I often interact with others in ways that attempt to measure everything, a way that is "efficient." I attempt to keep everything "even" between me and others. They pay me a compliment, I return the compliment. I borrow something, I lend something. Measure, measure, measure.
My heart grew sad as I thought of how this must break God's heart to see His children, who have been given the keys to the doorway of heaven, selfishly mete out the bare minimum of blessing on those around them. Jesus spoke of such inconsistency when he shared the parable of the unmerciful servant. (Matt. 18:23-30)
He said, "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents (millions) was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
"The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
"But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii (pennies). He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.
"His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
"But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt."
God refuses to "measure out" His goodness, grace, mercy, and love toward us. He refuses to contain Himself when it comes to showering peace, purity, and promise. He gives and gives and gives. He is the "inefficient" God, whose purposes far exceed any measurement. You see, God is interested in our hearts. He wants a relationship with us. You don't measure relationship. You cannot measure love. This is the heart of God: mercy and compassion for wretched sinners like you and me.
I have been challenged by this truth. I must wake up each day and take an honest look in the mirror and ask myself if I am willing to reflect the heart of God today. It can be a tough question when the busyness and trappings of this world compete for my attention. I am tempted to "measure" my kindnesses or generosity, feeling such sacrifices carry with them an added burden. But what I am learning is that "[his] yoke is easy and [his] burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30) When I reflect the heart of God, I carry no burden because God provides immeasurably beyond what I could even ask or imagine.
Rejoice with me for the inefficiency of God...and ask Him to be reflected in you today.
What's So Amazing About Grace?
by Philip Yancey
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