(by Steve Gallagher of Purelife Ministries)
The Foundation of Our Counsel
Brethren, if any person is overtaken in any conduct or sin of any sort, you who are spiritual, who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit, should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness keeping an attentive eye on yourself lest you should be tempted also. Bear, endure, carry, one another’s burdens and troublesome moral faults and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1–2 AMP)
As a result of the Sexual Revolution, millions of men (and women) are in terrible bondage to sexual sin. There exists a great need for qualified Christians to step into this spiritual cesspool and help these troubled souls find freedom. I am certain that the Lord is calling His people to meet this need. However, those who sense that call must properly prepare themselves for the inevitable battle.
In the Scripture passage above, Paul outlines the requirements of a person wishing to help those who have fallen into sin. We will examine his three imperatives in this chapter.
Those Who Are Spiritual
Paul’s opening remarks clearly indicate those who should be involved in this work: “you who are spiritual, who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit.” He establishes the context for this conditional statement in the preceding chapter where he summarizes spirituality in three basic characteristics:
1. A believer who has a history of crucifying “the flesh and its passions and desires,” (vs. 17, 24);
2. A believer who is led, controlled and influenced by the Holy Spirit (vs. 16, 18, 25);
3. A believer whose life manifests the fruit of the Spirit (vs. 21–22).
Since his remarks establish the qualifications for those ministering to habitual sinners, these traits warrant at least a brief examination.
Galatians 5:16–17 describes the conflict between the Spirit and flesh that rages within every believer. The “flesh” is a term Paul uses to describe man’s lower nature: that part of every human that selfishly desires pleasure, prominence, comfort, entertainment, and so on. The saints he refers to as “spiritual” have reached their level of maturity by waging a life-long war with the appetites of the flesh. Although they lost many of these skirmishes in their early years, what stands out about them is that they refused to quit fighting until their passions had been crucified and brought under subjection to the Holy Spirit. They are deemed “spiritual” because their daily lives are much more taken up with their life in God than in “the desires of the flesh.”
To “walk by” or be “led by” the Spirit means that a person’s thinking has come under God’s control through this process of crucifixion. To be able to help others in spiritual turmoil one must first undergo the process of brokenness in one’s own life. I expounded on this phenomenon in another book:
In First Corinthians One, Paul describes what we would call “the Western Mind.” He says, “The Greeks [Gentiles] seek after wisdom.” (I Corinthians 1:22) This proclivity to exalt human wisdom is a primary roadblock facing believers who want deep, true, victorious living in Christ Jesus. God doesn’t expect us to be mindless morons, but He does command us to “set our minds on things above” and seek the mind of Christ in all things. Our problem stems from our tendency to approach spiritual matters with the natural, reasoning mind, which is a perpetual antagonist of God. Paul said that “the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.” (Romans 8:7) His point is that the natural processes of the human mind work completely differently than those of the Spirit. Humans are inherently self-centered; our thinking constantly revolves around self. The pride and selfishness that result from this kind of thinking are in opposition to the way the Spirit of God thinks. Because a basic conflict exists between the two (Galatians 5:17), even the most brilliant person will unfortunately never enter the Kingdom of God unless he humbles himself as a little child. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3–4) As believers it is imperative that we come down out of our high-mindedness and learn that spiritual problems cannot be understood or deduced through the logical reasoning of the human mind.1
Lastly, the “spiritual” manifest the fruit of the Spirit in their daily lives. Love—whole-hearted devotion to God—is the life force that permeates the being of those who are full of the Holy Spirit. The secret of their indescribable joy lies in the fact that their hearts are perpetually turned toward the One they love. Nothing can disturb the peace—the tranquility of soul—of the saint who constantly communes with God. Out of this rich life in God comes the loveliness of character described in the following terms: patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
With all of this in mind, let us briefly review what some commentators say about those whom Paul calls “spiritual.” Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament concisely defined this term as, “The spiritually led (Gal 5:18), the spiritual experts in mending souls.”2 Dr. John Gill described them as those “such as live and walk in the Spirit, and are strong, and stand by the power and grace of the Spirit of God…”3 Adam Clarke said that they “have wisdom and experience in Divine things…”4 Albert Barnes wrote that they are those “Who are under the influences of the Holy Spirit… holy persons…”5 Finally, Dr. George Findlay remarked that they have “a knowledge of the human heart, a self-restraint and patient skill…”6
The inescapable fact is that mere dissemination of facts on sexual addiction will not touch a heart that is hardened by years of sin. Frankly, if the counselor is not walking in the Spirit, he will not be much help to the man coming to him in deep need. Indeed, he will discover that a Christian leader can only take someone to the same depths he himself has gone. Only God has the power to transform a person’s heart and only the godly have the spiritual expertise to offer any real help.
In the introduction, we discussed the great depravity of the sexual addict. Men in this spiritual condition need a counselor who is connected to God. Book knowledge about the problem has its place, but that alone is not sufficient to help another. The man actively indulging in the “deeds of the flesh” desperately needs help from someone whose life is exhibiting “the fruit of the Spirit.” He needs personal ministry from someone who is feasting daily on the riches of God. “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn aside from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 13:14)
The Restoration Process
Having established the qualifications for helping those in habitual sin, Paul next explains the process of restoration. The word “restore” used here (Gk. katartizo) is the same word used by physicians to describe the setting of a broken bone. What an apt picture of the ma
n who has been involved in pornography and/or fornication! He may seemingly have it all together—holding down a responsible position, taking care of his family, going to church. He outwardly personifies the all-American life. However, inwardly he has been crushed to pieces by the destructive nature of sin. His perspectives on sexuality are warped and distorted. Evil darkness has penetrated his heart and clouded his thinking. Spiritually speaking, he has fallen off a three story building: he’s still alive, but he’s all busted up inside. He needs someone who can help him set things in order.*
The counselor’s primary role in the restoration process is to lead the counselee into a biblical mindset using correction from God’s Word. Although an essential key in helping men overcome habitual sin, confronting people in the right spirit is one of the most difficult things a counselor will ever do. Biblical confrontation requires the perfect balance of grace and truth personified by Jesus. Any study of His dealings with others clearly reveals that He was an absolute expert at meeting people’s deepest spiritual needs. He could do this because He was “full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
Bringing correction into a person’s life is a delicate operation requiring great care. No one would even consider operating on a person’s spinal cord, and yet it is amazing how some will recklessly delve into another’s fragile inner world with little expertise!** The counsel of the unqualified discipler usually strays off course either by overemphasizing grace at the expense of truth or vice-versa. The results are potentially disastrous!
A person attempting to break free from habitual sin needs encouragement. However, if that is all he receives from his counselor there will be minimal change in his life. It is good to feel sympathy and even pity for those who are struggling. However, human mercy, in itself, always tends to see a person’s need in temporal rather than eternal terms.
One example of this occurred while Jesus was sharing with His disciples how the religious leaders of Israel would put Him to death. Peter, in his unbroken condition, could not accept this. Indignant and full of humanistic mercy, he took Jesus aside and rebuked Him. Picture it—a man rebuking God! And yet, what a perfect example of someone thinking he can discern needs better than the Lord. Imagine Peter’s shock when Jesus turned to him and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Jesus then said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:23–26) The clear implication here is that Peter’s human pity for Jesus was built upon the sandy soil of temporal ease. Saving one’s life in this world is actually Satan’s perversion of mercy. However, a person who is not walking in the Spirit can interpret it as kindness while interpreting God’s mercy as cruelty!
In the existing field of counseling, this secularized mercy usually takes the form of therapies that focus on feelings rather than spirituality. There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong in feeling sympathy for a person’s emotional pain. Indeed, when a Christian becomes involved in the struggles of others, he will undoubtedly encounter some heartbreaking stories. However, he cannot allow pity to supersede God’s Word in establishing a course of action for counseling that person.
The greatest mercy a counselor can do for the man living in rebellion against God’s law is to help him discover genuine repentance and restoration. Biblical reproof, then, becomes essential in enabling the man to see authentic repentance as his avenue to freedom.
The man entrenched in a pattern of licentiousness needs someone who will stand against his flesh during those times of spiritual weakness. When he strays off course, the ultimate kindness one can do is to stop him from foolishly plunging into the abyss. However, I can attest (after many years of experience) that there’s nothing quite so difficult as confronting someone in the right spirit. It requires a great deal of selfless love. It’s costly, but anything less is not of God.
In addition to offering encouragement, a counselor must also lovingly speak the truth. Unfortunately, some fall prey to the selfish enjoyment of pointing out others’ faults. Pride, rather than love, compels them and gives them a feeling of superiority.
The counselor, who is not in a spirit of meekness, will become critical, self-righteous and hardhearted toward people’s needs. As a Christian learns to counsel biblically, he will become more adept at spiritual discernment. In the right spirit, he will perceive sin in the lives of others but through eyes of love. However, if he himself is unbroken and unconquered by God, he will see the same problems, only with a critical spirit.
A number of years ago, Kathy and I developed a relationship with the pastor of the church we were attending. He seemed quite interested in helping us personally, so we humbled ourselves to receive whatever spiritual guidance he could give. Kathy and I held the conviction that, since we were in the business of bringing correction to others, we should always be willingly vulnerable to other ministers.
During their first counseling appointment, Kathy really opened herself up to this pastor. Unbeknownst to us, he had recently grown frustrated with us over some petty issues in the church and took full advantage of this opportunity to confront her about issues in her life that he felt were un-Christlike. While a portion of his criticism was legitimate, much of it was unfounded, and the entire spirit in the delivery was wrong. Kathy, having been schooled in humility, did absolutely nothing to defend herself. Finally, after three emotionally grueling hours, she left his office—devastated.
The upside to this story is that it sensitized us both to how easy it is to hurt others when confronting sin. The reality is that an acute awareness of people’s faults can be dangerous. The spirit a counselor is in will determine his ability to act accordingly. Paul, conveying this same truth, says that the minister “should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness keeping an attentive eye on yourself lest you should be tempted also.” (Galatians 6:1)
Elsewhere in Scripture, Paul states it this way: “And the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (II Timothy 2:24–26)
Bringing godly correction into another’s life is difficult, but if done in the right spirit, it could potentially save him from destruction. If a man knows that you love him, he will accept your reproof. In fact, if he knows that you are doing it out of sincere concern for his well being, he will often be grateful.* Matthew Henry said, “He has done about half his work in convincing another of error who has first convinced him that he loves him.”7
The key to biblical confrontation is maintaining the proper balance between grace and truth. My personal testimony is this: if you will allow the Holy Spirit to direct
your counsel, many men will respond and the results will be astounding!
Bearing the Sinner
In his instructions about helping the habitual sinner, Paul also admonishes the spiritual leader to, “Bear, endure, carry, one another’s burdens and troublesome moral faults and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ.” What, you may ask, is the “law of Christ” that Paul refers to here? He identifies it in the previous chapter: “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
Paul’s meaning is unmistakable: To help people overcome habitual sin, you must consider their needs as important as your own. In meeting people’s needs, you manifest the practical love of a passionate God. The habitual sinner needs a godly person who bears him to God in this way. I can’t state this strongly enough: Please be prepared to bear people spiritually before becoming deeply involved in their lives. They desperately need care from someone with the desire and capability to spiritually carry them.
In his epistle to the Romans, Paul states it in a slightly different manner: “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself…” (Romans 15:1–3)
Bearing people in this way requires deep involvement in their lives. Paul, again addressing the Roman church, provides the complete picture:
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. (Romans 12:10–17)
What stands out in this passage is the extreme sacrifice required of Christians who devote themselves to helping others. The counselor who bears the sexual sinner must walk into the cesspool of his life and help drag him out. I can say from experience—it’s impossible to remain clean while wading into such a mess. It also means making yourself available to them at all times, day or night.
Finally, bearing a person spiritually requires intercession. For the shackles of sin to be broken in a man’s life, someone has to bear him before the throne of grace. Consistent, fervent prayer allows God to come in and do a work in a struggling person’s life. As I’ve already stated, only God can transform the human heart.
Let us now reconsider the appalling spiritual condition of the habitual sexual sinner: His hardened heart is shrouded in deep darkness. The insanity of pride and delusion has created a spiritual blindness. His terrible condition will not be rectified by giving him a few spiritual pointers. The Holy Spirit alone has the power to bring order out of such chaos. Human advice, in itself, is not the answer. The counselor’s prayers are the catalyst by which God goes to work on the man’s behalf. Effectual, fervent prayers change lives.
The Lord taught me an important lesson about this one bitterly cold Chicago morning in 1992 while on one of my customary prayer walks. As I trudged through a deserted park at 5 a.m., the Lord gave me a mental picture of His work through Pure Life Ministries. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself holding a long plank over my shoulders. On it were all of my staff members, only seven at that time, each of them holding a plank of his own. On their planks were their counselees. I sensed the Lord calling me to make intercession on behalf of my workers one of my primary duties in ministry. As I continually held them up to God in prayer, asking Him to supply them with the strength and grace to do their jobs, they, in turn, were to intercede for each of their counselees. For the most part, the PLM staff has been faithful to this charge. Thus, it is now required of every worker at Pure Life to spend at least two hours each morning with the Lord. This is a very real picture of what it means to bear people to God. Men’s lives are being radically transformed in our residential facility, not due to some great counseling system, but because there are people really praying for them.
Ministering to those ravaged by the effects of sexual sin is never glamorous. It is a dirty business, to be sure. Often, as I travel around the country speaking in different ministry settings, I encounter others teaching on the subject of sexual sin. It is remarkable how few of them truly know what it means to bear someone spiritually. At various conferences, they present their own personally-developed ideas, but most have little experience in the day-to-day, hands-on involvement. The true counseling warrior makes necessary spiritual sacrifices to stand against others’ flesh and bear them to God.
The Crux of Our Counsel
Embedded within every man’s soul are two intensely related passions that demand fulfillment—sexuality and spirituality. God created sex to be a source of pleasure as well as a deeply spiritual expression of marital love. Thus, a believer’s relationship with God is often equated with that between husband and wife. (cf. Hosea 1–2; Revelation 21)
Unfortunately, some Christian men recklessly allow their carnal desires to run amok. Rather than seeking oneness with God through worship and with their wives through sexual intimacy, they cross over into sexual perversion. At this point, reason is abandoned and perspectives are skewed. Contrary to God’s original design, man’s dual passions then become fused into a distorted, irresistible drive to worship at the altar of sexual idolatry.
Men who undertake this plunge into corruption find it a daunting task to regain the innocence they willfully relinquished. Even more difficult is the restoration of fractured relationships with God, their wives and others. Regardless of the dire consequences of sin, however, there is a way of escape! Counselors must help these men to see that freedom is available but only through deep repentance, a renewed, godly perspective on sexuality, and an understanding of true worship.
Understanding The Full Scope Of Worship
In both the Hebrew and Greek lexicons, the term worship conveys the idea of physically prostrating oneself before another. In fact, the Greek term takes it even further, giving the sense of a person bowing down in utmost humility to kiss the hand of someone superior.
Humans are, by design, worshippers. They are constantly prostrating themselves in their hearts to something or someone. Situated in the soul of every man is a spiritual altar, and seated on that altar is the most important object of his life. Whether he realizes it or not, the concept of worship involves far more than singing a few hymns and choruses on Sunday mornings. Worship is a not just an act or occasion; it is a lifestyle in which one pays homage to the supreme object of his desire.
When a person allows something other than God to take preeminence in his life, the object of adoration becomes an idol. It displaces the Lord’s rightful position of worship in the heart. For most people, idols arise from those things or experiences the spirit of this world offers, which cater to “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life…” and thereby dictate the course of their lives. However, as any diligent student of the Bible knows, the first commandment makes it clear that God will not tolerate this: “You shall have no other gods before Me… You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jea
lous God…” (Exodus 20:3–5)
Jesus said it this way: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The willful decision to turn your heart away from the Lord in favor of an idol is an abomination to God. Because of the powerful nature of worship, it is extremely dangerous to worship the created thing rather than the Creator.
Not only does idolatry seduce a person away from the Lord, it also molds the idolater into the image of his chosen desire. (Psalm 115:8) In other words, a person becomes like the thing he cherishes most. Rather than being “conformed to the image of His Son,” (Romans 8:29) he is being “conformed to the pattern of this world.” (Romans 12:2 NIV) Thus, the man who actively worships at the altar of sexual idolatry will increasingly exhibit the demonic characteristics of the object of his adoration.
This truth is powerfully displayed in the recent movie trilogy, Lord of the Rings, based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkein. Throughout the story, Smeagol’s obsession with the Ring of Power gradually turns him into the beastly creature Gollum. Scripture could have been describing him when it stated, “Let the evil-doer do worse and worse, let the base grow baser and baser, let the upright man be more and more upright, and the man who is holy be more and more holy.” (Revelation 22:11, Goodspeed) A.W. Tozer brings this out brilliantly:
We are all in process of becoming. We have already moved from what we were to what we are, and we are now moving toward what we shall be…
The perturbing thought is not that we are becoming, but what we are becoming; not that we are moving, but toward what we are moving. For it is not in human nature to move on a horizontal plane; we are either ascending or descending, mounting up or sinking down. When a moral being travels from one to another position, it must always be toward the worse or toward the better…
It has been established here, I hope, that human nature is in a formative state and that it is being changed into the image of the thing it loves. Men and women are being molded by their affinities, shaped by their affections and powerfully transformed by the artistry of their loves. In the unregenerate world of Adam this produces day-by-day tragedies of cosmic proportions. Think of the power that turned an innocent pink-cheeked boy into a Nero or a Himmler. And was Jezebel always the “cursed woman” whose head and hands the very dogs, with poetic justice, refused to eat? No; once she dreamed her pure girlish dreams and blushed at the thoughts of womanly love; but soon she became interested in evil things, admired them and went on at last to love them. There the law of moral affinity took over and Jezebel, like clay in the hand of the potter, was turned to the deformed and hateful thing that the chamberlains threw down from the window.1
The Love of Pleasure
God created a world full of simple, unadulterated pleasures for His creatures to enjoy. However, untold multitudes—including many churchgoers—refuse God’s original design and make pleasure the god of their life. They are known as hedonists. When pleasure of any sort—even sexual pleasure—becomes the focal point of one’s daily existence, it not only eats away at a person’s spiritual life, but it eventually contaminates everything that is wholesome.
Jesus said that the love of pleasure chokes out the Word of God. (Luke 8:14) James told his constituents that their love for pleasure thwarted their prayers and kept them in a spirit of lust. (James 4:1–3) The writer of Hebrews held Moses up as an example to us all because he chose “rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” (Hebrews 11:25) And, the apostle Paul spoke of those who are “enslaved to various lusts and pleasures.” (Titus 3:3)
While these passages are each uniquely profound, it is Paul’s prophetic words in II Timothy 3:4–5 that are most alarming. There the apostle speaks of those living in the last days who are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power…” Undoubtedly, this passage of Scripture refers to people who make pleasure their raison d’etre—their supreme purpose in life. Though exhibiting “a form of godliness,” the true object of their undying affections is not God but pleasure itself.
The person who has sexual pleasure as his focus of worship—whether or not he considers himself to be a Christian—will find that he increasingly resembles that idol.
True Repentance: Precursor To Real Change
No minister of the gospel should need convincing that illicit sexual behavior is sinful. However, over the last 20–30 years, a great transformation of thought has swept the Church into complacency. Under the guise of progressiveness, the Holy Ghost-inspired cry for holiness that used to thunder from pulpits has, to a large extent, been supplanted by “scientific” rationalizations for man’s behavior. Instead of being encouraged to seek godly repentance with tears of contrition at the foot of Calvary, the lust-filled, sex-crazed man is given license to justify and excuse his sin and thereby avoid taking proper responsibility for his own actions.* This silencing of the Holy Spirit’s conviction is unspeakably tragic given that repentance is God’s only solution to habitual sin.
The sad reality is that most Christian men involved in habitual sexual sin have spent years riding the merry-go-round of sin and false repentance, never finding the breakthrough into freedom they seem so desperately to seek. Elsewhere I explained it this way:
As the (sexual) addict enters the beginning stage of remorse, he will often make certain promises to God vowing never to repeat the same sin again: “Lord, I swear I won’t do this ever again!” As his eyes are opened to the reality of the horrible emptiness and nature of his sin, he readily makes such a vow; for, it is at this moment that he truly sees sin for what it really is.
However, the problem with making such a resolution is that it stems from the man’s own strength and determination to resist and overcome an evil. This sort of “promise-keeping” will never endure future temptations in the same area. It is for this exact reason that the sex addict has attempted countless times before to break the habit, yet to no avail.
The man desperately needs repentance. True repentance comes when a man’s heart has changed its outlook on sin. A man will only quit his sinful, destructive behavior when he has truly repented of it in his heart.2
To grasp true repentance, one must comprehend the nature of sin. A person sins whenever he willfully acts upon a fleshly impulse to do something that has been forbidden by God. In other words, he rejects God’s will in favor of his own. So, any attempt to find freedom from habitual sin while remaining in self-will is futile. The act of repentance involves a confession that one’s behavior is wrong, a commitment to quit that behavior, and a submission to God’s will. “Godly sorrow” that “produces a repentance without regret” (cf. II Corinthians 7:10) occurs when the person realizes the error of his ways and agrees to change.
In the pivotal Chapter 13 of At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry, I broke the process down into four basic components:
1. Poverty of spirit: seeing one’s need to change and coming to the realization that he cannot accomplish this change without the power of God.
2. Mourning over sin: as the person begins to face the ugliness of his behavior, he becomes broken over it.
3. Submission t
o God: as the sin in one’s heart is exposed, true repentance occurs. Self-will is replaced by submission to God’s authority.
4. Fruits of repentance: as God is allowed to conquer the man’s heart, a change occurs which becomes evident in the way he lives his life.
It is vital that you, as counselor, lead the man out of habitual sin and into this kind of genuine repentance. He cannot conjure up this experience for himself. He must seek God for it. The counselor’s role is helping the counselee see his need for a radical inward transformation and praying that he receives it.*
The Place Of Worship
While it is absolutely imperative that the struggling sinner experience true repentance, that is only part of the process of change. Yes, he must turn away from sin, but he must also turn toward God. He must stop worshipping the idol of sex and begin truly worshipping God.** This is the most significant crossroads the man will ever face.
However, a counselor telling him that he needs to learn how to worship God may only confuse or even anger him. After all, this is a man who has been singing songs of “worship” in church for years. Unfortunately, in his utter delusion, he fails to realize his “worship” has contained very little spiritual reality. In essence, he has been living in open defiance against the Lord. However, if he enters into authentic repentance—whereby he gets serious about giving up his besetting sin—he can finally begin to worship the Lord “in spirit and truth.”
The issue of worship is strategically important in the war over occupation of the throne of a man’s heart. His flesh loves sexual sin—that is inescapable. But what he can and must do is replace his love of sin with a consuming love for God. The answer is not simply hating the sin but learning to love and fear the Lord as well.
This brings us back to the examination of true worship. The man bound up in habits of immorality has allowed sexual pleasure to reign supreme in his heart. As with all idolatry, when a person worships something other than God, SELF becomes huge in his heart and the Lord becomes small. On the other hand, as he learns to bow before the Lord, God overshadows his inner being, and SELF diminishes. True worship occurs only when the person sees who he is in relation to God and who God is in relation to him. A great humbling can then take place, weakening the power of his flesh that loves the sin.
We must help the man see that true repentance is possible only when he is broken over his sinful, despicable condition and falls UNDONE at the feet of a holy God. There, prostrate before Calvary’s cross, he is in right relationship with God and freed from the bondage of sin. Years of spiritual defeat now behind him, he can begin putting his sexuality in its proper place, and, most importantly, start loving God with all his heart, soul, and mind. He truly learns to worship Him “in spirit and truth.”
The Place Of Devotions
A believer’s devotional life is of extreme importance in the development of a proper relationship with God. I won’t take time here to address the nuts-and-bolts of establishing a daily time with the Lord as I have covered many of these issues in At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry. However, for the sake of reinforcing its value, I will touch upon a few of the benefits provided by a strong devotional life.
First of all, prayer helps the believer rise above the carnal life of the natural man. Walking in the Spirit requires a systematic and consistent prayer life. This is of immense import to the man in habitual sin. Paul gave what essentially amounts to a conditional promise when he said, “If you walk in the Spirit you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.” Brokenness is the entrance into the Spirit-led life; humble prayer is what maintains it.
The Word of God provides the necessary nourishment for maintaining spiritual health. Humans inherently need the influence of Scripture for personal growth. The man in habitual sin cannot hope to escape his carnal lifestyle and twisted perspectives on sexuality without a substantial dosage of the Bible everyday. However, if he spends time in it on a regular basis, God’s thoughts will gradually replace his carnal mindset.
Establishing a habit of prayer and Bible reading also contributes to a disciplined lifestyle. One of the man’s chief problems has been a life without restraint. Solomon rightly said, “Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.” (Proverbs 25:28) The discipline of getting up earlier in the morning to seek the Lord helps bring order to his otherwise chaotic existence.
Lastly, another benefit of spending time with the Lord is an increase of love and reverence for Him. It is impossible to love someone you do not know and equally impossible to know someone you are rarely around. The love of sexual sin can only be supplanted from the throne of a person’s heart by an already existing love for God.
The essence of victorious Christianity hinges upon a person’s relationship with the Almighty. This relationship must be nurtured if it is to grow. If neglected, it will wither away. This is a key element in helping a man find victory over habitual sin. Moreover, it is the crux of Christianity and should be the fundamental and essential goal of counseling.
2 Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, e-Sword Software (www.e-sword.net).
3 Dr. John Gill, John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, e-Sword Software.
4 Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible e-Sword Software.
5 Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, e-Sword Software.
6 The Expositor’s Bible, AGES Software (www.agessoftware.com).
* Paul encountered people in his day that also had an exaggerated opinion of their fitness to minister: “But the goal of instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussions, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.” (1 Timothy 1:5–7)
** I should take a moment here to establish a spiritual fact that is important to understand: every human being alive is “out of whack” in many ways spiritually. No matter how emotionally together a person appears, God sees a different picture. His great desire is to mold humans into the image of His Son. This is the process of sanctification.
* It should be noted that this isn’t always the case. Many men do not want the truth and will resent the person who brings it. Solomon rightly said, “He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, lest he hate you, reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” (Proverbs 9:7–8) However, when you love a
person, you often have to bring the reproof in spite of the fact that he might lash out at you in anger.
7 Matthew Henry, The Matthew Henry Commentary, AGES Software.
1 Adapted from We Are Becoming What We Love from the book God Tells The Man Who Cares by A.W. Tozer, copyright 1992. Used by permission of Christian Publications, Camp Hill, PA. For a complete listing of A.W. Tozer products, log onto www.christianpublications.com or call 800.233.4443.
* After speaking to a group of ministers recently on the subject of ministering to homosexuals, a young homosexual “Christian” approached me and, without batting an eye, told me that he had never had homosexual lust; he had been involved in the “lifestyle” because he had emotional needs that had not been met as a child. Hence, he had nothing to feel remorseful about and did not sense any need to repent.
2 Steve Gallagher, ibid.
* As part of this, I would recommend an excellent book by Watchman Nee on the subject of brokenness entitled, The Release of the Spirit.
** A common mistake among addicts is to renounce what has been the object of their passion and to replace it with another seemingly more innocuous idol. This is only half-repentance.
Steve Gallagher, A Biblical Guide to Counseling the Sexual Addict (Dry Ridge, KY: Pure Life Ministries, 2004), 17.
© 2010, Matt. All rights reserved.