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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You are a soul contained in a body. The “essence” of being human is not merely physical. You know this if you have ever attended an open-casket funeral. The person in the casket certainly resembles the person you knew, but something is undeniably different. Something is missing. It’s their soul.
In this 5-part Pathway to Purity series we have examined the following key markers that indicate growth toward greater integrity:
Now we come to this next marker of feeding the soul, that part of you that “animates” your existence. It is important to take care of this critical part of your being. Without a healthy soul you are certain to miss out on the best that God has for your life. So, let’s dive in and look at a few critical needs of the soul and how you can feed it well.
Your Soul Needs God
This may seem like a Duh statement, especially coming from someone who is unapologetically Christian, but it is still necessary to state. Your soul not only needs God, it was made by Him and for Him. A soul disconnected from God is missing out on true life. It is like having the greatest sportscar on the planet, but without an ignition system. It may look like a car (and a fast one!), but it has no power to do what it was made for. In the same way, your soul needs the presence and power of God in order for you to “operate” as He designed you to operate.
There are two aspects to your soul needing God: 1) Your soul needs God to be truly alive, and 2) Your soul needs God to live well. In Christian terms, we call this justification and sanctification. I don’t have space to go into detail here on these doctrinal ideas, but you can learn more in Simply by Grace by Charles Bing.
In laymen’s terms using the car illustration, your soul needs God to “ignite” your engine (make it come to life), and to provide navigation (show you the way).
Feeding your soul starts with connecting daily with God, inviting Him to pour into you His presence and power. Remember, your soul was made by Him and for Him. Apart from God you cannot fully experience peace and joy and power on this Pathway to Purity.
Practical Tip: Take some time to confess to God your need for Him; that your soul is thirsty for the living water only He can give you. (John 4:14) Write in a journal a note to God expressing this desire.
Your Soul Needs Rest
When we think of rest in our modern industrialized Western culture we often think of it in terms of not working or sleep, or some combination of both. But rest for your soul is not physical. It is spiritual. And spiritual rest comes from the assurance of the identity you have in Christ by God’s grace.
Let’s admit that our souls get distracted and dismayed by the circumstances of living in a broken, sinful world. The chaos around us (and often in us) causes our souls to become frantic with worry, and worry is the antithesis of rest. Therefore, we must be reminded regularly of God’s grace toward us and how it brings rest (peace) to the soul.
God’s grace reminds us of three fundamental truths: 1) He loves us, 2) He wants us with Him, and 3) He keeps His promises to us.
“...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Meditate on the grace God has given you through Jesus Christ. Let this daily reminder of God’s love and His desire to bring you home to Him fill your soul with restfulness. In Him we have peace for our souls.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1
Practical Tip: Get out your calendar and block off time for “soul rest” in the next 4 weeks (a full day is ideal, but at least 3-4 hours is a good start). Commit to using that time for restful meditation on the grace of God toward you. Take a journal and write some thoughts about this experience. And make this a regular part of your life to periodically “unplug” from your normal routine to find rest for your soul in the presence of Jesus. (Matt. 11:19)
Your Soul Needs Freedom
“True freedom comes when you embrace God’s overall design for the world and your place in it. This is why in the Bible you see this strong connection between God’s law and soul freedom.”
--John Ortberg in Soul Keeping
The way your soul will experience freedom is not the way the world defines freedom. The world says “do whatever you want, however you want” and you will be free. God says exactly the opposite. Since God is the Creator, He gets to define what true freedom looks like for His creation, and He says it looks like obeying Him.
Your soul was made by God for freedom; for abundant, joyful, adventurous freedom. Such freedom is not found in directing your own path, but rather by surrendering to the direction of God and His path. The more you live in obedience to God, the more your soul will thrive; you will be free indeed! (John 8:36)
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” 1 Peter 2:16
Practical Tip: In prayer, write down the areas of your life that are not fully surrendered to God. Where are you living in disobedience to His Word? After making your list, offer it to God as a sacrifice. Repent of your disobedience and declare your love for God through a renewed commitment to obeying Him from a pure heart. (John 14:15)
Your Soul Needs Joy
If you look around at many Christians today you might conclude Jesus Christ is a very terrible Savior. Not because His followers are legalistic or hypocritical (which can certainly be the case), but because they lack joy. True followers of Jesus must be joyful! It is a key fruit of the Spirit, and the only reasonable response to the forgiveness of sins. (Gal. 5:22-23; Ps. 95:1-2) God made your soul to need joy.
Joy is defined as “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.” What could be more satisfying than knowing and loving the Creator of your soul? Your soul needs this satisfaction that only comes through the grace and love of God.
Your flesh will try to fulfill this soul need for joy through many material means. Money, sex, power, and all other sorts of external ventures that never fully release your soul into the deep waters of true joy. This is why the cravings of the flesh are never satisfied. But the joy of the Lord is a wellspring that cannot run dry because it flows from God -- the infinite source of Joy!
One other comment about joy: it is meant to be shared. The joy that God made your soul for is not something to hoard. It is meant to satisfy you, but overflow onto others. As your soul is filled with the joy of the Lord, let it spill out. Smile. Laugh. Share your delight with friends and family. Invite them into your joy, not in a “lord it over them” kind of way, but in a “I want to share the wealth” kind of way. With God as the Source of your joy, you could never give away more than He could supply. Shower others with the joy in your soul!
Practical Tip: Plan a fun activity with your friends or family in the next month. No “agenda” or ulterior motive. Spend time enjoying each other’s company and expressing delight in the goodness of God.
“To seek God is the business of the Christian. The quest begins at conversion; it doesn’t end there. Once we have “found” him, the real search begins. We say ‘I found it’ because he found us and now invites us to seek him until we pass through the veil into heaven.”
May you press on in your pursuit of greater integrity on this Pathway to Purity. The quest is not complete until we are at home in heaven with our Creator. Then, our soul will enjoy eternal rest.
My next post will explore the last key marker on this journey. If you want more help along the way, please visit PureCommunity.org.
by John Ortberg
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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
Life is hard even in the best of circumstances. It gets a whole lot harder when trying to overcome sexual struggles and strongholds. We instinctively know that problems of any kind are rarely solved by information alone. And especially when the problems are personal. Personal problems require personal solutions. In short, if you want to heal from sexual brokenness and pursue greater integrity, you will need friends who can help you along the way.
This post is the 2nd in a five part series on the Pathway to Purity, helping you recognize and engage the key markers for living a life of greater integrity.
Make Some Friends
There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Many may try to travel the Pathway to Purity fast but they don’t get very far. It’s a hard road. It was made for walking, not running. And to walk it well requires help along the way. No one can successfully master this pathway alone. No one!
The idea of needing friends in life is not new, even if we don’t always understand what true friendship is really all about. Life consistently proves to us that we are better off in community than isolation. But this doesn’t mean we always intentionally pursue community, especially when dealing with personal and painful struggles. And sexual brokenness qualifies as a very personal and painful struggle.
So, what are the benefits of making friends on this Pathway to Purity?
First, let me define true friendship. “A friend loves at all times…” (Prov. 17:17a) A true friend is one who works for your best at their own expense. In other words, a friend is someone who loves you. It’s that simple. Love always seeks the highest good of another.
There are 3 main benefits to making such friends on the Pathway to Purity:
Friends Encourage Growth
Encourage means “to inspire someone with the confidence to do something.” Good friends are good cheerleaders, consistently reminding you that the journey you are on is a worthy one; that taking the next step is not only right, but good.
The Pathway to Purity is a road we must travel throughout our whole lives, only “ending” when we die. We won’t reach the “destination” of complete wholeness and “purity” until we are at home in heaven with God. Therefore, we have many steps to take on this journey, and some steps aren’t as easy as others. A life of integrity is marked by humility, grace, accountability, healthy boundaries, suffering for doing good, and much more. We need encouragement to keep growing in these attributes, and good friends can encourage us in this growth.
Friends Comfort you When you Fall
Everyone stumbles on the Pathway to Purity. Everyone! And most stumble many times, even if they have been walking the path for a long time. Stumbling is frustrating, sometimes humiliating. When we fall, sometimes we don’t want to get up. We feel like just crawling into the ditch and dying. But to remain down on this pathway will ensure that you never experience the beauty and joy that comes by continuing.
When (not if) you stumble it is critical that you have friends who can come sit with you in the ditch and comfort you. In the moment you stumble you do not need instruction, you need comfort; “consolation, reassurance, support.” Out of this comfort your friends can give you perspective, reminding you why you stepped on this pathway in the first place: to grow in God’s design and purpose for you. Good friends can help you take a deep breath, dust yourself off, and stand back up on the Pathway to Purity.
Friends Challenge you to Keep Going
In the same way that everyone stumbles on the Pathway to Purity, everyone wants to quit at some point. Everyone! And many do quit. But one of the key factors that will keep you from giving up completely is to make friends early in your journey. Remember, no one successfully masters the Pathway to Purity alone, and if you “want to go far, go together” -- with some friends.
There are lots of obstacles and challenges on the Pathway to Purity. There is pride, fear, temptation, fatigue, past wounds, shame, just to name a few. If you think you can overcome all these on your own you are in for a very short trip on the Pathway to Purity. Overcoming these challenges requires the power of God and loving accountability from some friends. A true friend keeps pushing you to move forward even when the journey gets difficult.
Do you have some friends, true friends, who are traveling with you on this Pathway to Purity? If not, pause right now and pray for God to show you who He wants you to reach out to for such friendship. Be patient with yourself and with the process of building true friendships. But be persistent! You need friends on this journey...
For help finding a support group in your area, visit Groups.Bebroken.com.
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