The Most Important War We Fight Is Not of This World

There are lots of wars going on right now.

I made a mention of it in my post yesterday that there are over 50 armed conflicts ongoing right now in the world. Add that to any kind of “culture war” or athletic rivalry that some call “wars,” and the terminology of war is all around us.

However, by focusing so much on these wars, we may be missing out on the most important war we’ll ever fight – the war on sin in our own lives.

It’s very easy for me to get caught up in fighting the battles that are visible. And I think it’s that way with many believers. But by focusing so much on getting culture to agree with us or keep Christ in Christmas, we might be missing out on fighting against a much deadlier enemy, our sin nature.

Sin sucks. Sin is horrendous. Sin is deadly. Sin is the reason people miss out on eternity with God. Sin is the reason people wander far from God. Sin is the reason people reject Jesus. Sin is the reason Christians’ relationships with God and each other are strained sometimes. Sin is the reason we are not who we are called to be every single day.

That is the war we must fight, each and every day. And we must be on guard. Paul speaks clear truth in Ephesians 6:12 –

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.

Our war, our primary war, if not the only war worth fighting, is against the sinful desires of our own heart and the work of Satan to bring us down.

Now, this is not an indictment on any individual “culture war.” Some of those may be worth fighting. I’m not going to pass a judgement on those wars here, although I may have in the past.

I’m simply saying that, at each and every moment, we’re engaged in a battle with Satan. We’re engaged in a war with the enemy of our soul, the devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

We must do everything within our power to strap up our armor and fight sin in our lives with every breath we have, every available method.

If it’s lust, pray to God for a redeemed heart. Then watch where you look, confess slip-ups to God and to others, and keep going.

If it’s pride, pray to God for a redeemed heart. Then remember the blessings you’ve been unfairly given as a child of God, confess slip-ups to God and to others, and keep going.

If it’s fear of man, pray to God for a redeemed heart. Then remember God’s approval is all you really need, confess slip-ups to God and to others, and keep going.

If it’s anger, pray to God for a redeemed heart. Then seek after peaceful solutions in difficult circumstances, confess slip-ups to God and to others, and keep going.

If it’s getting impatient with a waiter at the restaurant, pray to God for a redeemed heart. Then put yourself and their shoes and ask what you would want others to do for you, confess slip-ups to God and to others, and keep going.

It’s not always that simple, and there are a lot more steps that go into each of those scenarios. But that’s the basic pattern. Pray to God for healing, make conscious practical decisions and steps to fight the sin, confess when you fall short and don’t give up.

This isn’t a war where waving the white flag is an option.

Advertisements

We’re Fighting the Wrong Sexual Immorality Battle. Primarily, At Least.

The evangelical army struck back again this past weekend after the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal across the country by a 5-4 majority. Evangelical leaders from Russell Moore to Albert Mohler to Matt Chandler to Randy Alcorn signed a statement, entitled “Here We Stand,” standing against the SCOTUS decision.

I’ll state this: homosexuality is a sin, as the Bible says. But my ultimate issue is not that the SCOTUS made same-sex marriage legal. My problem is that we in the church, in the Christian culture, have made same-sex marriage the primary target of our “sexual immorality radar” when there is a much bigger problem at hand. It’s a problem that, in my belief, each Christian has dealt with in one way or another at some point in their life.

Lust. Sexual lust. Sexual temptation.

How many Christians look at pornography regularly? How many Christians lust after their co-workers regularly? How many Christians have affairs, emotionally or physically? How many Christians fantasize about sexual sin? How many Christians don’t treat their wives the way they should?

I think marriage is not the cornerstone of humanity that many Christians think that it is. The real cornerstone of humanity is an individual relationship, or lack thereof, with Jesus. Basically, whether people are trusting in Jesus or not. And daily, the Christians of this world fail in trusting Jesus with their sexuality.

I know I do. I know that I lust after women every day. I know that I’m tempted sexually every day, and often I think thoughts I should not. There have been times in the past I’ve engaged in behaviors that were sinful and inappropriate. I’m still a virgin, by God’s grace, but there were a couple times I could have lost that. Praise the Lord that I avoided that. But the fact remains that I have sinned sexually before and will continue to.

I am not alone. Nearly daily we can read of people who have:

  • cheated on their wives/husbands,
  • been involved in child pornography,
  • been arrested for sexual harassment and
  • conceived children out-of-wedlock.

And Christians are not free from those things. Christians are right there in the thick of it all.

However, when it comes to sex and sexual sin, the church in general shies away from talking about things like this in a real way. We’ll do one of two things: we’ll skirt around the issue, or we’ll go all-out condemnation. We rarely sit down and have an honest and real conversation about where we are in our sexual lives, married or not married.

It’s uncomfortable to have those conversations, but it’s super necessary. God gave us the church, the body of Christ, to encourage, challenge and build up one another as fellow believers in Jesus. God didn’t give us the church so we could have an army to attack the issues of the culture. God gave us the church so we could have an army to attack the sin in each other’s lives.

And if we spend all of our time repeating the same mantra of “the world is doing things the wrong way,” we’ll miss the fact that we as Christians are doing things the wrong way.

So please, church, as you rant and rave and post and tweet about the decision, please, for the love of God, ask yourself where you stand in regards to your sexuality and what God’s standard is. Odds are, you’re falling short in some way. I mean, we’re humans, we’re bound to fall short. Three simple steps towards growing:

Recognize the forgiveness and grace of the Gospel. God doesn’t leave us hopeless in our sin. He gives us grace so that we’re not defined by our mistakes or our failures. He doesn’t hold our sin against us.

Examine your thought life and your actions and see where you’re falling short. This will be hard and will take time, but it’s the first step towards growing in godliness.

Share where you are with a brother/sister in Christ and pray together for strength and victory. This is why we’re a church. This is why we have brothers and sisters in Christ, to fight sin, to pursue Christ, to encourage one another.

Don’t let this historical event be yet another occasion for you to trumpet how sinful the world is. Let it be a reminder that you as well are sinful and missing out on the best God has for you in your sexual lives.

Let us not be like the Pharisees who cast the first stone without examining ourselves first. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 shows us the way:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Bristol Palin’s Second Out-of-Wedlock Pregnancy Deserves Grace Too. Just Like the 5700th Time I Lusted.

Twitter can be a wonderful place for news, opinions and the occasional funny meme or cute photo. If you don’t follow @CuteEmergency, you’re missing out on some incredible things.

As I scanned through the Trending Topics, as I’m prone to do often, I saw “Bristol Palin” on the list. Curiosity piqued, I clicked and found out some news. She’s pregnant out-of-wedlock, for the second time. A big deal was made of the first baby, which was announced during her mother’s run for the Vice Presidency back in 2008. And I’m sure that soon there will be a big deal about this baby too.

A lot of the early analysis, if you look at Twitter, is calls of hypocrisy for Palin’s extensive work with pro-abstinence organizations such as The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and the Candie’s Foundation. And I’m sure there will be more.

Palin announced the news on her blog on Patheos.com:

I wanted you guys to be the first to know that I am pregnant.

Honestly, I’ve been trying my hardest to keep my chin up on this one.

At the end of the day there’s nothing I can’t do with God by my side, and I know I am fully capable of handling anything that is put in front of me with dignity and grace.

Life moves on no matter what.  So no matter how you feel, you get up, get dressed, show up, and never give up.

When life gets tough, there is no other option but to get tougher.

I know this has been, and will be, a huge disappointment to my family, to my close friends, and to many of you.

But please respect Tripp’s and my privacy during this time. I do not want any lectures and I do not want any sympathy.

My little family always has, and always will come first.

Tripp (her first child), this new baby, and I will all be fine, because God is merciful.

First thought: good luck on not getting any lectures, because in our social media world, that’s all she’ll get. Anyways.

This situation reminded me of somebody very close to me, someone I know very well, someone who struggles with sin too. Me.

See, I struggle with lust, particularly when it comes to sexual temptation. I haven’t let it get to a point where I’ve had sex or had a kid, but it’s been present in my life for a long time. It’s a daily struggle. And daily, I give into my lust, often simply by looking too long at a girl in a sinful way.

Yeah, I said it in public.

Anyways, I daily have to remind myself of the grace of God that Christ earned for me on the cross because I can get really frustrated with my lust. I can get really mad that I lust after girls. I wish I could just look at them the right way all the time, but I don’t. It’s a sinful thing I’ve been praying about a lot, but it’s not going away yet.

I think we have a problem in the church culture when we expect people who make mistakes to fix them immediately if they’re a Christian. There’s no grace period, especially if it’s a mistake that’s already been publicly made. I know that I struggle to give that grace to myself.

There’s no Scripture that says we will totally kill our sin in our lifetimes. And even if we make one ginormous mistake that we swear to never make again, we will most likely make that mistake again. Bristol Palin is a perfect example of that. As am I.  I swear to myself that I’ll never look at a girl lustfully ever again, but then I do, and I feel like crap.

(Side note: This is why I think “resolutions” are dangerous, but that’s a different thing entirely.)

Since we are sinful people living in a culture of shame and not of grace and compassion, our first reaction to each other and to ourselves is to condemn and to shame those who mess up publicly. But really, we should be the first people to give grace and love and support.


 

Imagine there’s a young girl in your church who becomes pregnant by her high school boyfriend. He can’t handle the pressure that comes with it, so he quits the relationship. She comes to the church, alone, desperate for help. The church does the right thing and helps her pay for doctor’s visits. The youth pastor and his wife are there, supportive all along the way, even showing up for the birth of the baby.

A couple weeks after the baby is born, she stands in front of the congregation with her child, a gorgeous baby boy, and gives an impassioned testimony about the grace of God in her circumstances. She says her goal is to raise this child to the glory of God. She also speaks about the dangers of moving relationships too fast and the importance of saving yourself for marriage.

Three years later, you see a little bit showing in her belly. You soon hear that she’s pregnant again.

What’s your first reaction?

My first reaction in this hypothetical: Some people never change. What the heck is she doing?

Jesus’ first reaction:

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

He doesn’t condemn this woman who has surely done this before. He loves her, does not condemn her, then instructs her to sin no more. He’s certainly not going to encourage her to sin anymore or let it casually slide, but in the middle of her darkest hour, her deepest sin exposed, He loves.

Bristol Palin sinned, and she acknowledges that. The woman caught in adultery doesn’t plead her case, doesn’t deny that she did what was accused of her. She just receives the grace. I hope and pray Bristol Palin does the same, receives the grace of the Gospel as she goes through this ordeal for the second time in a very public way.

Let this be a reminder to us in two ways. First, there’s always the possibility that we’ll commit the same sin a second, third, 5700th time. Second, grace from God is there each and every time. Let’s give the same grace. Please avoid speaking in a condemning way of her. God’s already skipped over that part and loves her. Let’s be people of grace.