Spiritual Abuse-A New Catch-Phrase

“Spiritual Abuse”

It is a phrase that I heard about 5 years ago from a man who left our church. The accusation came to me in this fashion and was a term I had never heard before.

Also, in recent days, the phrase has come up again, and this time not to myself but to others. Again, I stop and think about that term: “spiritual abuse.”

And, as I think about it, I go back to the Bible and wonder what it has to say about it if anything.

Here is what I found:

Ezekiel 34:1–4

1 Then the word of the Lord came to me saying,

2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?

3 “You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock.

4 “Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them.

There are further scathing statements scattered throughout the OT, too many to number, but listen to the extent of the “abuse” of the rulers of Israel in the days of Micah the prophet:

Micah 3:1–3

1 And I said,

“Hear now, heads of Jacob

And rulers of the house of Israel.

Is it not for you to know justice?

2 “You who hate good and love evil,

Who tear off their skin from them

And their flesh from their bones,

3 Who eat the flesh of my people,

Strip off their skin from them,

Break their bones

And chop them up as for the pot

And as meat in a kettle.”

(see also Jer 23:1; Ezek 22:25; 34:8–10)

Then, go to the NT and see Matthew 23 and John 10 for indications of what an abusive leader looks like.

Overall, what I see is that a spiritual abuser:

  1. Teaches error.
  2. Destroys true believers
  3. Imposes religion with drastic consequences.
  4. Enjoys the spoils of his abuse at the expense of the harm of the followers of God.

However…

…what I hear as “spiritual abuse” from others does not reflect this in fact, but in opinion. It seems to come often from people who are already filled with incurable independence and self-authenticating authority. Doctrinally, they are aberrant at best and often have a pet doctrine that allows for a relaxed discipleship-one without commitments. That is, although the accusation is hurled, the facts are very different. This is called a lie. In the OT, there were serious consequences for bearing false witness:

Deuteronomy 19:15–21

15 “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.

16 “If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing,

17 then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days.

18 “The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely,

19 then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.

20 “The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you.

21 “Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

In general, pastoral leadership comes with the ongoing potential for accusations. Anyone who understands the Word of God will admit that pastors and elders bear authority in the church (1 Thessalonians 5:12). They have charge over the saints of God and they lead by hard work. They have the right to command the commands of Christ (1 Timothy 4:11). They have an obligation to expect obedience to Christ’s commands from God’s people (Hebrews 13:17).

Given the difficulty that people have with authority in general, it is no surprise that there is a real suspicion towards leaders in the church. In order to alleviate and dispel those suspicions, the lives of leaders:

  1. Must meet high standards: 1 Timothy 3:1ff
  2. Must be examined by others: Hebrews 13:7

The openness of the lives of leaders must allow for scrutiny and examination. Otherwise, suspicion will ensue. Men are mere men. But we do not preach a mere Word. The power of what is accomplished in those who believe in Christ is from the Word itself so that God is displayed and glorified by that process (2 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). That process must be evident in the leaders primarily (1 Timothy 4:15).

Why? So that as leaders command and exhort God’s people, the accusation of ulterior motives can be dismissed when people see their work and their godliness, unless the accusers themselves have hidden agendas. Once an accuser is given a platform, it is very hard to return to normalcy. The destruction that comes from false charges is lasting, and sometimes can bring down and entire ministry.

In conclusion, “spiritual abuse” does not equate with commanding God’s people to obedience to the Words of Christ. If it did, Jesus was the supreme example of a “spiritual abuser” who ever lived: He physically attacked people (John 2:14-16). He expected people to hate their parents and families if they were going to be allowed to follow Him (Luke 14:25-27). He repeated disdain and accusations towards the rulers of the people (Matthew 23). He questioned the salvation of people (Matthew 15:12-14). And, He promised to condemn people who did not follow Him to eternal hell (Matthew 25:41). It is no surprise, then, that His disciples, those who merely repeat what He said, are called the same.

What Kind of People Leave A Church?

The world is a face-paced place. Because of social media, technology, and transportation improvements, we can go anywhere in a matter of minutes or hours, where once it would take days and months. People can travel by car, plane, or boat into places that we used to only read about in books and magazines. We can get updates from events simultaneous to their occurrence. Job changes can move us, relationship changes can move us, national changes can move us from one place to another. Mobility is the expectation of today’s man or woman, even an entitlement. Because of being able to move on a whim we assume that it is a right in every area of life.

 

However, there is one area of life, if you are a Christian, where mobility is not a right. There is one point in life, and there are conditions where, a Christian moving from place to place, or rather, church to church, is actually a sin. However, because we are accustomed to moving so much in our daily lives we don’t see it as such. A true Christian, though, is very concerned about how God sees things more than how we see things. Allow me to explain.

 

The New Testament is an extended exposition on the words of Jesus Christ. Jesus said that the person who hears and acts upon His Words is a wise man (Matthew 7:24ff.). He also said that His Words are spirit and life (John 6:63, 68). His Words are the foundation of the church (Romans 10:17). Moses’ words meet none of these criteria. Therefore, when a pastor preaches, He preaches the words of Christ primarily (2 Timothy 4:1-2). You cannot hear the words of Christ from any other place than the local church. Now, I am very aware of internet preachers, ministries, and other venues of teaching outside of the local church. However, I am not speaking of what we have in existence in the evangelical world today. I am speaking of what the New Testament instructs and commands. Only the local assembly is the “pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). There are ministries outside of the local assembly, but, biblically-speaking, they should be an extension of a local church and not an independent “ministry” built upon a man who does not tether it to the leadership of that church. Maverick ministries are non-existent in the New Testament.

 

But, with the advent of denominations and an infatuation with church splitting, there are about as many flavors of ministries in existence as there are colors in the spectrum. If you want a church of any kind, you can probably find it somewhere and attend it. What has developed, then, is a type of consumerism in church attendance. The idea that the church is created from the demand of the people (2 Timothy 4:3-4) is a popular concept, judging from the behavior of the reasons people leave churches, but not a biblical one.

 

What I would like to do in this blog is identify what kind of people leave a church outside of positive circumstances (job change, valid relocations, military, etc…). It is important that it be clear that leaving a local assembly is unbiblical, unloving and selfish, outside of the positive circumstances that occur in life. There is a regular sinful pathology that is identifiable in people who are about to leave a church and the Word of God identifies them already.

 

Unregenerate:

The number one reason a person leaves a biblical church is that they are unregenerate.

 

John 10:14

14 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,

Jesus taught a parable wherein He identified four soils which all heard the same Word from the same sower. However, only the final soil produced fruit (Matthew 13:18-23). The first heard the Word and were confused by what they heard. The devil, then, comes and snatches away what they heard and the soil produces no fruit. The second soil, which is the heart of the hearer, hears the Word, rejoices in it, and then, when deep things happen in their lives, they reject what they had heard-they fall away. The next soil hears the Word, but his heart is in love with the cares of this world. The eternal is secondary to the temporal, and the word cannot take root and produce fruit. Wealth, money, temporal concerns “choke” the Word. The fourth soil is the soil which hears the same Word, understands it, and then does it, thereby producing fruit. This man or woman who hears, understands, and obeys, is elsewhere identified as “regenerate”:

 

1 John 2:3–6

3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

 

Jesus’ teaching here leaves no room for any other conclusion. This does not mean that they will never be saved, or that they are to be hated by those who are. It just means when you see this kind of behavior in professing believers, evaluate them based upon Jesus’ Words and not the assertions of the people. One family left our church a few years ago and we ran into them recently. When asked why they left, they said, “Well, we can find truth in other places.” I am not at all saying that only one place preaches truth. I would wish that every church that uses the name of Jesus Christ preached the truth. However, when you are already in a place that does, to leave that for another is filled with ulterior motives.

Let’s identify these people a little more closely.

Soil #1 – roadside soil

Matthew 13:19

19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.

Jesus said that there is a type of person who hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it. Relative to the church-attender, the Word is taught, he hears it, but it causes great confusion. The assertions of the Scripture are just so foreign to him. It is like a big puzzle to him. But, instead of being drawn to the Word of God (John 6:68-69), he is repelled by it because it is non-intelligible. I can tell these people pretty easily. They enter the church, sit down, and wait for the show to start. When the teaching starts they look so puzzled. They might even look upset, uncomfortable. I have seen people slink down into their chairs, stair out the window, and even seemingly memorize the church bulletin during the teaching. They are bored and really can’t wait until service is over. Spiritually speaking, God is not working in them for understanding. If that is the case, then it is clear that at that point this person is unregenerate. The evil one is allowed to penetrate their heart and take away the Word they heard, usually on the way out from church.

Soil #2 – rocky soil

Matthew 13:20–21

20 The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.

There are those who leave a church after seemingly dominating the church with joy over finding the Word of God. They are outgoing, exuberant, and excited. There is an outward expression of elation at finding the Word, God, Jesus, and a church. The assertions of Scripture are understood….superficially. But, like plastic, their joy is cheap, superficial, and easily burns away under the fire of persecution. When they have to uphold their rationale for believing the Word they are so excited about, they, over time, fall away from their testimony to that Word. They aren’t so happy anymore. At the first hint of persecution, or affliction in general, they apostatize from Christ and leave His church. One avenue that this follows is that when a local church develops a reputation among other churches, the unbelieving world, or otherwise, a person begins to have to decisions to make. The church that works hard at preaching the truth, upholding the truth, and obeying the truth will receive stigma from lesser-committed churches and mocking unbelievers. In fact, it may be that a biblical church is one in a hundred and so the odds are stacked against it. This person, who is shallow and veneer-like in their commitments to Christ, take all of this in and conclude “The Word is not worth all this pressure.” They leave. This lack of commitment in the face of pressure is an indication that they are unregenerate.

Soil #3 – thorny soil

Matthew 13:22

22 And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

There are church-attenders who leave a Bible-teaching church after they are overcome with worry over their finances. Why Jesus put this in here is very interesting. I mean, this is so common, so hard-hitting. Who doesn’t worry about their finances? Who doesn’t have a care in this world about meeting their needs each month? Isn’t this a little unreasonable for Jesus to even introduce this concept? However, Jesus is right. I have known people who simply cannot let go of being dominated in their hearts over their money, their wealth, and the cares of meeting their needs. They call it “stewardship.” Jesus calls it idolatry (Colossians 3:5). A preoccupation with money and earthly instruments of life will ALWAYS choke the Word. No one is immune to it. It becomes a master and, due to our nature, it rules over us. Here, the Lord said that when a person like this hears the Word, worry immediately comes in and the mindset that wealth produces comes in and takes the Word having been heard and begins to suffocate it. The voice of God in the written Word preached gets smaller and smaller. Disinterest grows and grows. This is especially true if his love for money is challenged by that same Word. This is exactly why it is easier to shove a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom. This kind of person is unregenerate. They sometimes end up content in other churches where the Word is not preached so clearly and they are then able to serve two masters. The Word simply cannot produce fruit in the heart of this person. That is what Jesus said.

Soil #4 – good soil.

Matthew 13:23

23 And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

In this soil, the same phenomena happened-the Word was preached and heard, with one exception. It was understood. Now, think about this-how is it that he could understand it and the others could not? The soil condition was different. It was good. It was pure. It was prepared. How? The other soils were off the path, rocky, and thorny. They were not prepared. Only soil that is on the right path, good and clear of thorns can understand the preached Word. If you see a man or woman who 1) hears the Bible taught accurately, 2) understands its content 3) and proceeds to bear the fruit of conformity to the Scripture (even meagerly), then you have a regenerate person. They will bear fruit. The other three soils could never bear fruit because the seed could never take root. For one reason or another, the condition of the soil was not conducive to growing fruit. In essence, the soil was bad.

Further, think about this: who prepares the soil? Can we prepare our own soil?  Matthew 13:19 indicates that the metaphor of “soil” is referring to the heart. It is a condition of the heart. Can a man or woman improve their heart? No. You and I are completely incapable of changing our hearts. Our hearts are unprepared soil predisposed to filth, lying, and deception (Jeremiah 17:9). Who, then, changes the heart? God alone (Acts 15:9; cf. Titus 3:5-7).

God says,

Jeremiah 13:23

23 “Can the Ethiopian change his skin,

Or the leopard his spots?

Then you also can do good

Who are accustomed to doing evil.

The reality is that when you see a person who hears the Word of God, does not understand it and then abandons it by leaving the church that is preaching it (even for an alternate form of Christianity, that is not proven to be biblical), then you see a man or woman in whom God has not worked for regeneration. That does not mean that you write them off forever. It simply means that you understand the reality that you are dealing with and minister accordingly.

Church Discipline

Biblically-speaking (as opposed to humanly speaking), the only other time people are seen leaving a church in the NT is that they are cast out of the church by the church and its’ leadership.

Matthew 18:17

17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

1 Corinthians 5:13

13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.

Romans 16:17–18

17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.

2 Thessalonians 3:6

6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

2 Thessalonians 3:14–15

14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Titus 3:10–11

10 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11 knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

2 John 10–11

10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

All of these are forms of distancing from a professing believer who refuses to obey righteousness. Remaining in a biblical church is righteous. Unrepentant sin is enough, in the minds of the NT writers, for faithful believers to begin alienating from those who participate in sin. Further, the very evidence of leaving a church that preaches the truth, upholds holy living, strives for obedience, and is filled with regenerate people who are, themselves, also striving, demonstrates the potential for unrepentant sin, if they have not arrived at it already. However, they have left too early to have it exposed.

The sin that occurs when a person leaves a local church is that the church in which Jesus Christ is abiding (John 15:10) is under one command, the very command that the person who abandoned the church in an unqualified way, has disobeyed:

John 13:34

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

It is not possible to love one another when you have left the church. It isn’t. You might feel nice feelings, have emotions, and/or good memories of some events that you participated in. However, this command from Jesus Christ is comprehensive. It is disobeyed when the people you abandoned are the very people you are to love “to the end” (John 13:1). In short, if you, the reader, have left a biblical church (and that itself is a broad category, I understand that. But, you know what I mean) without being sent out in good faith by the people and leaders of that local assembly of the redeemed, you have left in an unqualified way, abandoned the ones whom Christ loves, and have established yourself in a perpetual state of sin since you are now not able to obey the command Jesus gave to His disciples, the one command that separates true disciples from the world – “love one another.”

The only conclusion that can be drawn is a disdain for God’s children, His Word, and even God Himself. And, friend, that has consequences:

Mark 8:38

38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Pornography Attacked

Pornography Attacked

It has always been around, and will always be around. As long as there are people, there will be pornography. You might as well hold back the tide as to try and stop it. The production, sales, and dissemination of pornography have increased in recent years due to technical advancement and internet/social media. However, it is all the same. So, don’t be alarmed.

In this essay, I would like to:

  1. Define pornography.
  2. Explain pornography’s weaknesses.
  3. Give an explanation as to its resistance.

This phenomenon that draws men and women, like very few other lusts do, seemingly has taken over the world. The explanation defies the best psychologists. Their articles, which I don’t encourage anyone to read, are valueless, hopeless, and insubstantial. They will elevate such beastial behavior to a level of soft acceptance and will tell you that there is real satisfaction, need, for some level of sexual deviance, depending upon your line of right and wrong. Like I said: hopeless. 

Rather, if you take every psychological journal article written from the beginning of its existence as a discipline and compile them into one volume, the weight of that volume will not even compare to one word in the Bible. The Bible’s diagnoses and remedy for any sin, let alone pornography, is substantial, true, and always right.

What is pornography?

Pornography must be defined. Because, like all sins, the enemy of God knows that if you misdiagnose sin you will also misapply the cure. So, let’s begin by defining “pornography.” Here it is: “Pornography is any, ANY, sexual behavior outside of the recognized marriage between a man and a woman.” You read right. Here is a list:

  • Premarital sex-intimacy with another before marriage.
  • Lust-desiring intimacy with another who is not your spouse.
  • Adultery-the act of intimacy with another who is not your spouse.
  • Self-stimulation-obvious.
  • Images (artwork, music, or advertisement)-depiction of what entices another.
  • Nudity-any level of revealing a person’s body in public.
  • Beastiality
  • Molestation
  • Rape
  • Homosexuality
  • Lesbianism
  • Incest
  • Lastly, the mere thought of any of these things in our hearts with a desire to fulfill them.

Most people don’t realize that pornography is not pornography simply because a man says it is. What I might consider pornography my neighbor might consider normal and acceptable. Pornography is not subject to the “non-moral” category. Its classification is not relative. What defines pornography is objective, fixed, and unwavering.

Let’s look at this a little more closely. The nation of Israel, in the Old Testament, was familiar with pornography. How do I know?

Leviticus 18:3

3‘You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes.

Apparently, the items listed in Leviticus 18 were done in Egypt. Further, they were also done in Canaan, the land that Israel would inherit forever. That means that although there were no computers, printed pictures, or other means of disseminating it, pornography was alive and well in most of the known world. Obviously, the other nations not specified of here were not exempt.

Let’s look at this list:

  • Vv. 6-17 teaches Israel to reject any, and every, form of incest.
  • V. 18 teaches them to reject incestual polygamy as an aberration of marriage.
  • V. 19 teaches men in the congregation to refrain from sexual intercourse during his wife’s menstrual cycle.
  • V. 20 teaches Israel to reject adultery (which includes divorce-Deuteronomy 24).
  • V. 21 teaches against idolatry (and given the context one wonders if there is an underlying tone of sexual aberration in this ritual of giving to Molech-Leviticus 20:5).
  • V. 22 teaches against male homosexuality.
  • V. 23 teaches against Beastiality.

As you can see, the levels of pornography in the nations matches our own in our nation. In other words, had America been in the land God promised Israel, we would have been slated for destruction by God along with the Canaanites. What has been practiced there is normal for us in ways we don’t even realize. Repeatedly, God tells Moses in this chapter that these are perversions to the original order of creation and are abominable, defiling, and worthy of judgment. As I said, “Pornography is any, ANY, sexual behavior outside of the recognized marriage between a man and a woman.”

The history of Israel is one of perversion. From pre-Israel days with Lamach having two wives (Genesis 4:19), to Tamar acting like a prostitute and Judah committing immorality and perversion by hiring her (Genesis 38), to David and his son Solomon with untold amounts of wives and concubines (2 Samuel 13:5; 1 Kings 11-it should also be stated that having multiple concubines was also practiced by Abraham and other men of God in the Bible as well), Israel ended up behaving just like those nations! The alteration of the good, very good (Genesis 1:31), original design of one man with one woman for a lifetime, has been the norm for everyone.

All of this is to say, it is normal to engage in pornography. And, that is the problem. According to the long line of examples in the Old Testament, sexual deviation is normal, sexual devotion is not. The normalcy of perversion, however, does not normalize it in the sight of God who created the sexual relationship.

Let it be stated once more:  “Pornography is any, ANY, sexual behavior outside of the recognized marriage between a man and a woman.”

The Weakness of Pornography

The weakness of pornography is that it is incapable of holding itself against the truth of God. That is to say, if Jesus is right, then the truth of God does, in fact, strengthen the believer and weaken sin. Let me show you what I mean:

John 8:31–32

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;

and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Do you remember that I said that pornography is not “non-moral”? What I mean is that it is every bit as much unrighteous as murder, pride, drunkenness, or false religion. It is always included in the lists of unrighteousness in the New Testament. In fact, it often heads those lists (see Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:19). Perversions from the norm are what make up those lists and sexual deviation usually leads them all. That means that whenever you lust for a woman, in church or otherwise, when you look at the printed page of pornography, or click onto that favorite pornographic website, or even lust after the women in advertisements, then you are committing condemning sin.

However,

John 8:34–36

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.

“The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever.

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

Therefore, the unrighteousness of pornography is attacked, assaulted, and arrested by the truth which Jesus preached. Either that, or Jesus is an incessant, cruel liar.

Jesus’ Word is the exclusive, exclusive, cure for pornography just as it is the exclusive cure for drunkenness, love of drugs, or any other form of aberration from God. His Word, alone, contains the power to regenerate a person to believe in Him, follow Him, and be freed from these things. And, I might add, Jesus’ words do not need the help of modern, or pre-modern psychologists, psychotherapists, self-help groups, accountability partners, or any other form of embellishment. His Word is “spirit and life” (John 6:63). His Word produces faith (Romans 10:17). His Word regenerates the soul:

1 Peter 1:22–25

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,

for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

For,

“All flesh is like grass,

And all its glory like the flower of grass.

The grass withers,

And the flower falls off,

But the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word which was preached to you.

The weakness of pornography is this: it is utterly incapable of standing up against the Word of Christ.

Someone will ask, however, “I believe in the Word of Christ but I still commit lewd acts, or desire to. Does God’s Word not work like you say?” Remember, lewd acts are not simply aberrations on perversions. They are ANY perversion from the norm. Here are some things to understand:

  1. You possibly believed a false gospel.
    • It is possible that whatever you believed and considered yourself saved by was false, and thus powerless.
  2. You possibly did not truly believe.
    • This is not a question of sincerity, but of the origin of your faith. If your faith was not given from God (Ephesians 2:8-10), then it is from yourself and that does not regenerate (John 3:1ff.).
  3. You possibly, in your heart, don’t want to quit.
    • Be honest.
  4. You might be in a church that simply is not shepherding you well.
    • If you are not in a church that is ministering properly, teaching properly, being led properly, then you are not being taught HOW TO repent from these things and follow Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). You are very frustrated!

But, above all else, please don’t blame God for the way you are. God did not create the aberrations in you-they are who you are before you came to Christ. In fact, if Romans 6-7 is any indication, those desires are still in the flesh, your physical body, and they constantly work to enslave you all over again.

How To Resist Pornography

How can a person resist the temptation, inside and outside of themselves, for pornography?

First of all, repent of that sin and follow Jesus Christ. It is worthy of the wrath of the Lamb of God, the Lamb of God Who died in order to remove sins from His people so they will stand in righteousness forever. Imagine feeling the impulse to devalue a woman and simultaneously realizing that sin is not as strong as it used to be! Imagine the day when you don’t look on a woman to lust after her, to have her (Matthew 5:27-28), but rather to lead her, make her holy, and genuinely love her for her benefit and not your own. Imagine praising that godly woman and being glad for her beauty without being allured by the same. Imagine looking on with pity at the prostitute you used to know when she advances and instead you confront her concerning her perversion.

How can you get to such a place? Do you even want to? Let’s assume you want to. Let’s assume you want to mature and grow up to spiritual adulthood, that is to look and act like Christ.

Think about this: Jesus had an extensive ministry to women. He spoke alone to an immoral woman at a public well (John 4). He received the touch of a prostitute (Luke 7:36-50). He was admired by women wherever He went (Luke 11:27). He was financially supported by many women (Luke 8:1). And, many women looked upon Him near His cross (Luke 23:49). Never, never, was there ever a hint at perversion, in either direction. Why? “Because Jesus is God.” True, but wasn’t He tempted?

Hebrews 4:14–16

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

He experienced temptation somehow. He, apparently, knows what it is like to be tempted to sin (see Matthew 4:1-11). Being tempted is not the same as sinning. Him being tempted to sin does not mean that He wanted to sin. Rather, it demonstrates His impeccable nature in that He was committed to righteousness no matter the result.

And that is the only key to resisting the sin of pornography: pursue righteousness by faith. When you pursue Jesus Christ, His Word (John 8:30-31), you are pursuing righteousness. I will say it again, this is not simply sincere belief. This is not simply a sincere recollection of data. This is not simply thinking better thoughts. You know your thoughts are defiled. It is submitting yourself, to the death of yourself, to the teaching of Jesus Christ in order to obey it.

Romans 6:16–18

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?

But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,

and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

This is not simply-“Don’t look at pornography!” Rather, this is practicing obedience to all His commands beginning with the source of all His teaching:

John 13:34

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Submit to God, writes James, Jesus’ brother, and He will draw near to you:

James 4:7–10

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

You will never conquer unrighteousness by giving it a glance wondering how you are going to defeat it. You will only conquer sin by submitting to righteousness. Do what Jesus said to do. Pursue the obedience of faith. Be in a church that is actually a church with qualified leadership, preaching the Word clearly, minimized theatrics, seriousness placed on holiness, and who is striving to be faithful leading to growing holiness.

Don’t spend time in parachurch therapeutic clinics and seminars. They only serve to heighten the sin in your eyes by drawing continual attention to it. They cannot help you. God has ordained the simple preaching of the Word of Christ to be the power behind your obedience.

At the end of the day, you are not simply dealing with pornography, are you? Don’t you see pride in yourself, anger, love of money, coveting, faithlessness, etc…? Is the lust for others outside of marriage your only fault? Of course not!

Conclusion

In conclusion, all that I can say is follow Christ. His Word works in those who believe very, very effectively (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

How To Use the Cell Phone.

Last Sunday evening at church, we reviewed some considerations for using the cell phone (assuming a cell phone with data and text messaging functionality). Some might say that this is not a spiritual issue and is outside the bounds of pastoral ministry. However, I believe it is a pastoral concern because:

1) Relationships are suffering.

2) The world and its ideologies are pumped in through the cell phone/social media.

3) Digital dialogue is taking over the church’s communication.

4) More and more children have them, thus affecting their ability to hear their parents.

Matthew 18:1-10 indicates that the way that we treat those who follow Christ is the way that we treat Jesus Christ Himself. Therefore, it would be better to drown yourself than to cause a “little one” to stumble into sin. Jesus also instructed us to “love one another” (John 13:34). The NT goes on to instruct as to how to love one another in the world so that we might demonstrate to the world that we are disciples of Christ, both for their conviction and drawing work of God.

The fact that both of these teachings come down to conversations, how we speak, is clear in the NT. Our conversations with one another must be well thought-out, purposefully edifying, and meant to provoke one another to love and obedience (see Ephesians 4:29-32; Colossians 3:16-17; Hebrews 10:25). If Proverbs teaches anything, it certainly instructs us in the wisdom of useful conversation. For example:

Proverbs 16:13
Righteous lips are the delight of kings,
And he who speaks right is loved.

 

Proverbs 16:21
The wise in heart will be called understanding,
And sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.

 

Proverbs 16:23–24
The heart of the wise instructs his mouth
And adds persuasiveness to his lips.
Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Learning how to speak to one another with righteousness, wisdom, and pleasant words will take time, effort, and practice. In fact, so much so, that it takes a lifetime of effort to produce words “fitly spoken” (see James 3).

However, what seems to be the case, is that the product of having all kinds of data, stories, and pictures at instant disposal, has produced in people a failure to communicate face to face. The ability to look someone in the eye and learn what they need to hear at that very moment is precious and valuable in the church (it is at the very heart of ministry!). But, the lack of interest in the concerns of others is evident in the superficial and careless communication that exudes the church. In short, personal, verbal, communication is unclear. And, when communication is unclear, the mind is muddy. And, when the mind is muddy, the glory of God suffers, and we cannot look at one another in the church in love.

Why make that assertion? Consider:

Philippians 2:3–4
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

How much of what we do on our cell phones is for personal interest? News stories (so-called), rumors, trends, shopping, music, latest scores… In fact, there are very few things that can be done on our cell phones (or other personal digital devices) that are for others. Sure, you can send a text message of encouragement, email an important letter, look up something for someone. But, don’t let the little things like that, give permission for the greater problems that are created by the wasted, selfish, time spent. The fact is, it is a phone. Phones were created to communicate with someone else. The new technology that allows deep self-interest is actually working against the commands to love others before yourself.

A mature believer uses things the way they are meant to be used. When he is done, he puts it away until useful again. In that way, the phone becomes a tool, not a worker. It remains a slave and not a master. Many conversations are lost due to untold hours surfing Facebook, “checking” text messages, reading useless weather reports and articles. And that, beloved, is leading the church to superficiality at best, and sinful self-indulgence at worst (compare the wisdom of Paul in Acts 20:24).

Quite simply, put it away. Use the technology to alert you when your spouse, children, or other important people, are trying to get contact you. Limit your business calls to regular work hours, where appropriate. Otherwise, put it down and do the dishes, wash the car, visit someone in the church, read Scripture, pray, etc.. Channel surfing, whether on T.V., or the cell phone (including iPads etc…), is a complete waste of precious time. Time must be redeemed, not wasted:

Ephesians 5:15–17
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,
making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Engagement From a Young Man’s Perspective (At Least It Should Be!)

This post is dedicated young men who are considering marriage. There are certain characteristics common to young men that I want to address, and attempt to do so here. They are unspoken, typically. However, in the years of ministry, these have surfaced in many situations and with many young men. In short, this is not a statement about any one young man, but all young men as these things, I believe, are common enough.

 

When Adam fell, the turmoil left behind was unimaginable by him. The pervasive damage to the heart and life of man was irrevocably altered to such a degree as to cause God tremendous grief:

Genesis 6:6

6 The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

Now, instead of man expressing the glory of God in his work-a-day life on this brand new planet, man now works against the glory of God by his life (Romans 3:23). Adam was created to serve God by means of his work, his worship, through obedience to God’s Word, and with his woman, whom God made (a summary of Genesis 2). This alone is the glory of God in this created world (Genesis 1:28). However, once Adam fell, the glory was lost. Man now works for his own ends, worships the creation and not the Creator, rejects God’s Word in every detail, and uses women for his own purposes and not the purpose of God. Women are not innocent either. Instead of loving their Adam, recognizing his leadership, receiving the Word through him, women now seek to reject a man and his authority, lead over the man, rise up independently, and create her own world by her own standards. I say it again, this turmoil, and its offspring, is truly unimaginable. No wonder God was so deeply grieved that He sent the flood.

When a young man prepares for marriage, all of a sudden he is coming face to face with these realities. For so many years, he has been most concerned with himself. This is not wrong, mind you. However, it simply does not work in marriage. He has eaten when he was hungry. He has slept at night when he was tired. He has exercised when he felt like it. He has had some restraint from his parents, but overall, he has pretty much made his life an expression of his own interests. Again, this is not wrong and is to be expected in the life of a young man.

But, when it comes to the process of engagement and marriage, he must leave all of this behind. He must bring with him all the lessons the Lord has taught him about concern, provision, care, etc.. (in short, leadership) into his marriage. However, the object of his concern, provision, and care is no longer himself. His interests are not first in line any longer. His food intake is not his concern any longer. His hobbies are not a priority any longer. Now, a young lady and her concern, provision, care tops the list of priorities (1 Corinthians 7:32-34). When these wheels begin to move, it is unlike anything he has ever experienced. It is new. He does not even know what is happening. How can he?! It can be enough to call the whole thing off and run the other way!

Yet, God still says,

Proverbs 18:22

22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing

And obtains favor from the Lord.

And, again,

Proverbs 19:14

14 House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers,

But a prudent wife is from the Lord.

This is why, it seems, making the decision to marry, or who to marry, cannot be based upon feelings. Feelings are a bad guide. Married men, can you imagine your marriage running only on feelings? Not a pleasant thought. Neither should engagement be. The decision to marry a young woman must be made from the standpoint of who she is, not what he thinks about her! A young man’s perspective, if the man is honest, is not all that stable.

So, here are some objective criteria for a young man to have in his heart when it comes time to consider marriage:

  • Does she fear the Lord Jesus Christ?

Notice I did not put a woman’s beauty, or lack of it (in your eyes), first on the list. Like a flower, her beauty is only beginning to bud at a young age. But unlike a flower, the deep beauty of a woman who fears the Lord does not fade over time, but only intensifies.

 

Proverbs 31:30

30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,

But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.

  • Does she attempt a gentle and quiet demeanor?

If so, this is the product of the work of the Holy Spirit in her. If not, this is the work of the flesh in her. That does not mean to call it off. It means she needs you all the more!

1 Peter 3:4

4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.

  • Does she enjoy you?

This is more a statement about you than her. What is meant by this is, does she enjoy being with you? Or, to say it another way, “Are you enjoyable to be around?”

Proverbs 3:1–4

The Rewards of Wisdom

1 My son, do not forget my teaching,

But let your heart keep my commandments;

2 For length of days and years of life

And peace they will add to you.

3 Do not let kindness and truth leave you;

Bind them around your neck,

Write them on the tablet of your heart.

4 So you will find favor and good repute

In the sight of God and man.

 

The decision to marry is a (the) greatest decision in this life (1 Peter 3:7 “…the grace of life…”). The decision concerning who to marry is even greater! Why? Because, as a young man, if Ephesians 5:26 is any indication, you are now committing your life to really one thing-her sanctification. Are you ready for this? Are you able let go of your childish infatuations and “act like (a man)?” Can you take this responsibility seriously enough to see with the eyes of Christ? Does this scare you? It should! It had better scare you! But, instead of running from all of this in fear, thus allowing fear to make your decisions, run to it through the fear and fall on Christ in obedience and do your part to make one more young woman holy again. And, if you are looking around at others to see who else is doing it this way, you won’t find them. The love described here is a rarity and demands that you simply stop looking at other human examples and keep your eyes on the divine example of love, Jesus Christ and His church-“the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). Be the example.

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