June 2013: Which One Will You Serve?
I was alone in the house. It was early 1998, and my wife and kids had left for an overnight trip. After spending the night in a cesspool of porn and masturbation, I trudged down to the basement the following morning, and sat down in a heap of guilt and shame.
An image formed in my mind. Jesus was standing in a corner at the opposite end of the basement. He was wearing a white robe with a golden sash across his chest. His gaze was fixed on me, and He held out His hand as a gesture for me to approach Him. Having just acted out with porn, this was shocking in of itself; God showing up was the last thing I expected, let alone an invitation to draw near to Him.
Then, across from the Lord, at the opposite corner, a beautiful woman appeared. She was dressed in a long black dress, and was also looking at me. Her smile was alluring… she represented everything I craved in lust. Everything that is, except, what I saw in her eyes. They seared with hatred. There was no love or purity there, just demonic evil.
It dawned on me that I had to choose between Jesus and Lust. If I approached Jesus it would mean saying goodbye to Lust for good. I knew I couldn’t play games with God once I went after Him; it had to be a solid commitment.
Running to Lust, which was what my flesh was screaming for, would have required making a brazen act of willful disobedience right in front of God. The idea of infuriating the Lord with such obvious rejection was terrifying; I dared not approach Lust.
So… I did nothing. I sat there and refused to move toward either one.
The scene vanished, and I was left alone again.
At that time I had been attending 12 step groups and in counseling for the better part of seven years. I’d been doing everything I was told to do, and yet was still in bondage to sexual sin. In that early morning of 1998, God showed me a big reason why: I hadn’t made a firm commitment to go after God and permanently sever all my ties to lust. I was still trying to have God and sexual sin. I could not fall head over heels for lust because I knew I’d start crossing boundaries from porn to prostitutes again and would destroy my life and that of my family. And, I needed God, because believing that He forgave me had a way of massaging the guilt after every failure.
But I wasn’t ready to give up porn; I still wanted to be able to indulge in it, even though I felt miserable every time I did it.
So I served two gods: lust for pleasure, and God to feel better about my sin. Or rather, I tried to. It never worked, and I was always miserable, empty, and lonely, even if I was around people. For me, the emptiness was the worst part. Lust hollows out a man until he’s one big hole.
My walk with Christ reflected my choice to betray Him with lust-worship. I wasn’t passionate about Him; how can a man with an empty, stone cold heart be passionate about anything, especially God? The love of God wasn’t coursing through my veins; lust was.
I was what the Bible calls a lukewarm Christian, which was dangerous. In Revelations 3:16, Jesus says He will spit the lukewarm out of His mouth. In his book Crazy Love, Francis Chan gives 17 signs of lukewarm Christians. I’ve paraphrased them here for brevity.
1. Attend church regularly, because that’s what good Christians are supposed to do. Their bodies are there, but their hearts are far away from Him (Isaiah 29:13.)
2. Give money to charity as long as it doesn’t threaten their standard of living.
3. Choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict. They try to fit in at church and in the world, which is evidence of their double-mindedness. They care more about what people think than what God thinks.
4. Don’t want to be saved from their sins; just the penalty of it. They don’t want to stop sinning, they just feel better after they do it. They don’t hate it.
5. Are moved by stories of people who do radical things for Christ, yet they don’t do them. They assume such things are for “extreme” Christians.
6. Rarely share their faith.
7. Gage their morality, or goodness, by comparing themselves to the secular world.
8. Say they love Jesus, but He’s only a part of their lives. He’s not allowed control of their lives and they haven’t submitted and surrendered to Him with a commitment to obey.
9. Love God, but not with all their heart, soul, and strength. In 1998, it was impossible for me to love God this way. How could I when I still playing with lust?
10. Love others, but not as much as they love themselves. They tend to gravitate to people who can love them in return. They can tend to be takers more than givers.
11. Will serve God and others, within limits… as long as it doesn’t demand too much sacrifice.
12. Think about life on earth more than they do eternity. Their perspective is narrow.
13. Are thankful for their comforts and luxuries, and rarely consider giving as much as possible to the poor or needy.
14. Do whatever it takes to keep from feeling guilty. They ask “how far can I go before its sin?” instead of “How can I keep myself pure?”
15. Are continually concerned with playing it safe; they’re slaves to the god of control. This focus on safe living keeps them from sacrificing and taking risks for God.
16. Feel secure because they do all the things “good American Christians” are supposed to do: attend church, make a profession of faith, have a Christian family, vote Republican, or live in a comfy home in the suburbs.
17. Do not truly live by faith. They don’t seek God for His guidance and then obey; they don’t need Him to upset the applecart of their carefully planned out lives.
To my shame, I have to say that most if not all of this was me. I still battle with some parts of it. It’s easy for the Christian walk to get stifled in this land of comfort and ease.
Here’s the bottom line: Six months after I made a firm commitment to go after God and refuse to compromise with lust any longer, the Lord changed my life. I made Lust my sworn enemy; she was no longer my friend. The battles were still hard and the pull could be intense, but lust was no longer a god I would serve. Doing all the right recovery stuff without a firm commitment to go after God and sever lust = bondage, emptiness, and lukewarm Christianity.
When we move towards God, something in us will die; we won’t feel good at first. We’re saying goodbye to lust, and let’s face it, we treated that demon like it was our friend. Something in us still yearns for it. In time the craving goes away, and we eventually come to a place where we can receive the love, grace, and blessings God has wanted to fill us with all along.
God isn’t going to make the choice to move toward Him for you. He isn’t going to give you a sudden burst of emotion and willpower that sweeps you away and carries you to Him. The twelve step program used to tell me I was powerless over lust. While it was true that I couldn’t remove or change the evil flesh within, I did have the power to choose whether I would go after God or Lust. My flesh was kicking and screaming all the way once I made the move toward God, but the closer I drew to Him, the more He provided the power to say no. Eventually, He overflowed my heart with His love and then it was game over. Lust became a sick joke at that point.
If you’re a comfortably numb, Christian sex addict, let me warn you, you’re playing with fire, just as I was.
You don’t know how much longer you have to live, and you surely don’t want your last weeks on this earth to be spent serving Lust.
“The American church is a difficult place to fit in if you want to live out New Testament Christanity.”
I also want to challenge all of us to take a hard look at the 17 points above and ask ourselves if there are any make changes that need to be made. The American Dream is a lie; having a nice house in the suburbs and the latest iphone doesn’t mean your life is right with God. I had a thriving business and a house in the suburbs in 1998, and was deceived, in bondage to sin, and miserable. Francis Chan wrote that he sees most American churchgoers as choked with the pleasures and sins of this world. He also wrote that when he decided to take God at His word and started downgrading his life with a smaller house that Christians started telling him he was going too far. Perhaps when a lukewarm Christian meets one who is serious about their commitment to God there’s an element of conviction that the lukewarm wants to dismiss.
Knowing what to do and not doing it is the same as sitting in a basement and trying to have God and lust. Today we have more knowledge and teaching than good sense; I was a church-goer who knew he should have ran to God that day, but I held back. Without action and obedience, nothing changes.
If Jesus is holding out His hand out to you today, the good news is that you can approach Him, now.
Permanently sever all of your ties with lust, and move towards Him with everything you have. Enough of comfortable, safe, Christianity. Become a spiritual risk-taker, and take a wrecking ball to your comfort zone.
It’s a decision you’ll never regret.
Bitterness & Hurt, or God, Which One Will You Serve… for Wives
By Sandy England
The challenge in “Which One Will You Serve?” is not only for the men, but those of us who are wives. For some, the need to move toward God, now, is urgent.
After I discovered my husband’s betrayal with porn and affairs, I gave into anger, hurt and bitterness. I even found that my Christian friends encouraged and fed my flesh with comments like “well you should be angry… who can blame you… you should just leave… you’re justified because of what your husband did.”
However, that was not God’s will for me or my marriage. God was asking me to come to him, to be healed, to find comfort and to learn to forgive. If I was going to come to him and be healed I would have to leave my anger, justifications and even my support group of Christian friends. I was bound up in my flesh, and their influence on me made it harder to leave all that behind.
For a long while I chose bitterness and hurt over God. Choosing Him and letting it all go was not an easy battle. When I decided to choose God; and to work on my marriage, I lost many of my “friends”. They couldn’t believe or understand why I would choose to work through the difficulties instead of just taking the easy way out. Over time, those relationships faded away and I had no one to talk to. The cost of choosing God over the flesh was high for a while. It is not easy and it takes baby-steps – but as Mike writes, each and every step you come closer to God, you are blessed with strength to fight the battles of the flesh. It is so much better to choose God; to live in love, forgiveness and His blessings, than to live with hate, anger and self-doubt.
Update on the New Book
My second book, 100 Days on the Road to Grace; A Devotional for the Sexually Broken, is close to the finish line. By the next month’s newsletter I should have copies in hand.
For more information on the book, see http://www.roadtograce.net/new-book-rtg-devotional/
Blazing Grace Retreat in September?
For those who love the Lord, spending extended time alone to seek Him is one of the most wonderful experiences in life. There’s nothing like the joy that comes from hearing from and drawing close to Him over one or two days in a secluded place away from the rat race. I try to go to a Christian retreat alone for an overnight stay once every 4-6 months; every time I do I come away with a deep sense of peace and joy from my encounter with Him. My batteries are recharged and there is much needed clarity on what’s important.
I’m looking at holding a “Seeking God” retreat in September, from Friday morning the 13th through Sunday morning the 15th. You would need to arrive by Thursday night the 12th so we can all start Friday morning. This would be held at a Christian retreat center in Beulah, Colorado. There are no TVs in the rooms and no cell phone service (there is a land line). You would be expected to leave all the electronic gadgets home, or at least packed in your luggage; otherwise your time there would be wasted and you might be a distraction to others. The retreat is an eight bedroom building with a meeting room and kitchen, nestled in the majestic beauty of the Colorado Mountains. Attendance will be limited to eight persons or couples.
I won’t be teaching on sex addiction or anything like that; I will be there to facilitate and support your search for God. There will be scheduled times for the group to get together, share, and pray for each other. Otherwise, you will spend your time apart from the others, going after God.
For some, the idea of spending that much time alone with the Lord sounds difficult; even a waste of time. Once the mind settles down and all the insanity of the rat race fades away, the spirit begins to soften and we put ourselves in a place where we can hear from the Lord. Once He begins to speak, teach, lead, or even convict, there’s nothing like it. I often have to drag myself out of there to go home.
They have a cook who provides 3 meals a day for $20.00 per person. Lodging is $50.00 a room per night for the first night for singles; $40.00 a night for the second and third nights. Add $20.00 per night to these rates for couples. There wouldn’t be any other cost to you other than your travel expenses to get there; Blazing Grace isn’t charging for this.
I can’t guarantee what God will do when you’re there; He doesn’t work the same way with everyone. I will share that He changed my life and set me free from the bondage to sexual sin after an intense time of seeking Him. If you do a word search in Scripture for “seeking God” you’ll see there are many blessings promised to those who seek Him with all their heart; see Jeremiah 29:13, Psalms 119:2-3, Deuteronomy 4:29, Hosea 10:12, Matthew 6:33, and the verse quoted in Final Words at the end of this newsletter.
**I need to see a show of hands for anyone that might be interested so I know whether to reserve the facility for that weekend.**
The sooner the better; they are already booked for the previous weekend, and that time of the year is busy for them. No deposits are needed.
Please respond to this newsletter and email me if you might be interested in participating.
You can read this and previous editions of the Blazing Grace Newsletter online at www.roadtograce.net:
May 2013: What Defines You?
April 2013: 15 Principles for Freedom
March 2013: I Believe; Help My Unbelief!
February 2013: Adultery
January 2013: Speak, Lord, Your Servant is Listening
December 2012: Healing the Wounds of Rejection
November 2012: A Look at Grace
October 2012: When Someone Shares their Sin
September 2012: Willpower Doesn’t Work
August 2012: Look Who’s One of the Porn Industry’s Biggest Customers
July 2012: For Those Who are Control Freaks (and Don’t Want to Be)
June 2012: Blazing Grace on a Sunday Morning
If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Blazing Grace’s purpose is to minister to the sexually broken, encourage believers to draw closer to God, and encourage the church to effectively deal with the porn epidemic.
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May God’s grace abound to you.
All material copyright 2013 Mike Genung