I’m re-reading “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan and I’m stuck in the introduction:
“From my perspective, the Holy Spirit is tragically neglected and, for all practical purposes, forgotten. While no evangelical would deny His existence, I’m willing to bet there are millions of churchgoers across America who cannot confidently say they have experienced His presence or action in their lives over the past year. And many of them do not believe they can.”
What’s the difference between a pregnant woman and a light bulb?
At the risk of gaining your attention at the expense of your respect, can I explain myself before I give the punchline? The bible teaches us to avoid foolish talk and coarse joking and I believe that we should. It also teaches us to “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” I have a ton of context to give you as we unpack the matters at hand today, among them, my own past, experiences, and most importantly the truth that stops me and should stop us all dead in our tracks as we journey down these paths.
Nicholas Cage describes a powerful toxin to one of his CIA superiors in the movie “The Rock”: “…it’s very terrible, Sir. It’s something we wish we could disinvent.” So, here’s your punchline: You can’t unscrew a light bulb. There are things in this life, like hitting “publish” on this blog post, like inventing a super-poison, like crossing over the line of virginity and into “sexually active (or, activated)” that just cannot be undone. No matter how hard I scrub, there’s nothing but time, the blood of Christ, and the renewing of my mind (Romans 12.2) that can erase the many pornographic images that were etched on the canvas of my imagination from the time I was first exposed to it at age 8 or 9.
I cannot “unsleep” with the dozens of lovers I’ve had in my life any more than
Here’s some background in case you’ve not been paying attention:
I grew up in a small enough town that just about everyone knew everyone else’s business. Yet, I was taught to be sexually experimental by two other boys in my neighborhood before I was even in my teens. This led to a prolonged period of sexual promiscuity, a decades long addiction to pornography, and sexual identity issues up to the threshold of my thirties.
“…do not say to yourself, ‘The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.’ No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity… but on account of the wickedness of these nations… Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff necked people. (Deut. 9.4-6 NIV)”
Ouch! That Doesn’t Just Hurt My Neck.
“Stiff necked?” That doesn’t sound very “Jesus with long, flowing hair, holding a little lamb and playing with children” warm and fuzzy… I thought God was love and He loved me enough to send Jesus to die for me. Now, He’s calling His chosen people “stiff necked”?
It means “stubborn” and, yes, Israel was being stubborn. You and I are often stubborn. Often, we take more credit for things that God does through us than we ought to. God makes it very clear not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New, that He has a plan and is set out on reconciling the lost to Him, wiping out wickedness not because of the righteousness of those He is pursuing, but because of His own righteousness. God… is… Holy. Without Christ’s substitutionary death (and resurrection), we’re not. Not holy. Ouch, is right. (Read on, this isn’t a permanent stiff neck…)
Even after we become Christians (justification & salvation), we’re still not perfect. We have a new identity in Christ, but we’re not fully mature and glorified. Be encouraged. Despite our best efforts, God will accomplish what He has planned. The wicked will be punished eternally through separation from God. We who are considered “righteous by faith” will even forfeit some eternal rewards for our own wickedness. God is still sovereign. You are adopted into His family not by your own merit, but by His righteousness (see also, Eph. 2.8)
“So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. (Phil 2.12-13, HCSB)”
Let’s Loosen That Neck
God is on track, pursuing an oft stubborn, off track and proud traitor race. This is not a license to do whatever we want – it is freedom from the condemnation the enemy of God would crush us with when we do falter. The great news is – God is sovereign regardless of our shortcomings and He is at work in us, giving us both the strength and the desire to do His work (see previous verse).
Today, may you keep a healthy perspective that you and I are not the reason why things work out well when they do. Yet, you and I are not hopeless when things don’t work out. You and I are not the solution to every problem, no matter how talented or in the zone we are. God Himself is the only one worthy of the name “I Am”, making us worthy of the name “I am not” (HT: Louie Giglio). I would only add “I Am Not, and That’s Okay” to the name-tag.
May the great “I Am” strengthen you in confidence when you are in doubt, not because you are all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips, but because He is already and always on track with His perfect plan. May He encourage you throughout your day when the Accuser comes calling to tell you that you’re stiff necked and that’s all you’ll ever be. May you be in your circumstances, but not defined by your circumstances.
Never got into drugs when I was younger and “could have”. While I never purposely got high, I did catch a “contact high” a couple of times from snorting contact lenses. I mean, from walking into the wrong room at a party.
Which brings us to today’s question:
If you can get “contact high” from getting too close to people smoking weed, is it possible to get “contact stupid” from getting to close to people who do foolish things? You know you’ve thought it… The bible teaches “bad company corrupts good character” and “he who walks with the wise grows wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm”. As another friend of mine once summarized – “you become the average of the 5 people you hang around most”. Anyone want to move to another state all of a sudden?
|My son, Jezreel, walking in my sneakers.
Who’s walking in your footsteps? Watch
This week, Jesse Whitfield is opening a discussion for men who dare show up at ONETH1NG, about “Battle Scars”. As these unique men carry on the next installment of a discussion series called “The War Within”, light has been shined on the fact that this is a weak point in a man’s armor and he dare not let his guard down in that area. As guys have opened up, many of us have come to grips with the ugly truth about porn – most guys have a past, a past they’d like to see stay exactly there. More sobering, regardless of the fact that we are new creations in Christ, as the Metallica song goes “the memory remains”.
Many of the men have walked away from these discussions wildly encouraged by the power realized in them through the Holy Spirit and deeply edified by the knowledge that not only has “no temptation seized [them] but that which is common to man”, but also that God provides a “way out” and “battle buddies” who can help them to win every skirmish and ambush they face. Great news – this week, Jesse will talk about what to do with the pernicious memories that remain and maintaining moral purity at the core of a pornified culture that baits us to the edge. But, is this the end or just a means to an end?
Wives’ note: you want your husband to be here. You need him to be here for the sake of his victory in this battle, your marriage’s longevity, and your sacred honor. Shy of that, you’re wise to
encourage him to stay in close, regular contact with guys who can lock arms with him and watch his back and blind spot.
“Practical life application” is a major buzzword among churches and Christians who strive to be “relevant”. This discussion has been, by that definition, very relevant. But, one of the dangers that necessarily creeps in when that brand of Christianity stays “in the zone” for too long is an overemphasis on personal performance, rather than a focus on the sufficiency of Christ. That is, too much time spent on what the Christian does at the expense of what the Christ has done. Worse, when it stops at “my behavior” instead of “testimony of God’s work in my life to and for others” it falls far short of the reason Christ suffered and died for us all.
As the setup goes for this week’s ONETH1NG: “What is at stake when we allow our past to creep into our present/future?” Further – who’s future is at stake? What is the impact of porn being so “normalized” in our culture on the next generation? Who is God discipling through your obedience?
I hope you get a chance to join our discussion or join in at ONE TH1NG or with Seasons of Life as we walk with men and women just like you to “realign lives with the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Jesus Christ.”