Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Thoughts for young men on lust...

"Your enemy the devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."
In my time walking with fellow young Christian men as an RA and in the local church, the struggle with lust seems to be a constant issue in someone's life. Being still a young man myself, I have listed several principles, in no particular order, that have helped me fight lust, and have helped others as well.
1. Sometimes you can't make it on your own. I have no idea what Bono was talking about in this U2 song by the same title, but I know it's true when it comes to lust. Actually, we can't ever make it on our own. What dudes need is a constant web of support from other godly guys.
2. Don't fake it. Hey the Bible (and even Jesus) knows that you're a sinner. And guess what- most people around you know it too (in fact, we are all pretty hideous in our own right). So when you fake it and pretend that things are going well, you just end up screwing yourself in the end. The message of the Bible when it comes to community is- I'm a sinner, you're a sinner, no surprises there. Now what are we, together, going to do to fight our sin? Boom shaka.
3. Take God at His word. There are some unbelievably scary things that the Bible says about lust. Let God's words soak in to your heart like hydrogen peroxide to an open wound, and sting you and kill all unholy thinking in you. Below is a little list of verses that I let speak to me over the years:
- Looking at a woman with lust is the same as having sex with her (Matthew 5:27-30) and bringing Jesus in the room to watch you do it (1 Cor. 6:15-17).
- Jesus says that a consistent lifestyle of unchecked lust means that you're not a child of God and you will be sent to hell. Do you feel the flames of hell when you're tempted? You should (Matt. 5:30)
- Lusting is acting as if you don't even know Jesus (1 Thess. 4:3-8). It is also giving the finger to the woman's future (or current) husband AND your future/current wife.
- Lusting is an inhumane & animal-like action that treats a woman like an object, not a person. I drool over ribeye, not over women (except my hot wife)...(Jer. 5:8).
- God looks at lust as if you were looking/acting at your sister (esp. if she's a fellow believer). My 2 sisters are both dating dudes right now (AC/DC) and the standard of living to all women who are not your wife should be "Would I be cool if I walked in on someone doing this to my sister? What would make me want to shake that guy's hand instead of ring his neck?" (1 Tim. 5:2).
4. Correspond your actions with REALITY. Porn/lust is easy because the women you look at aren't real. They never nag, never have a bad hair day, and never wake up on the wrong side of the bed. They're not real.
5. Live radically. Jesus says you should pull your eye out if it causes you to sin. His point is that you should live so radically and care about holiness so much, that you will sacrifice anything to please God. Not have internet in the house? On my phone? OMG that's so radical.
6. Don't kid yourself. Sexual desire is not wrong. Acting upon or fulfilling that desire in anyway on anyone or anything that is not your wife is hellishly (made that up?) wrong. Don't rationalize your sin by saying it's just one look, or you didn't actually do anything, or that every guy does it, etc, etc, etc. Don't make excuses. Be honest, ask God for help, ask your bros in Christ for help, and kill your sin.
7. Um, no, you haven't arrived. The moment you convince yourself that you have finally defeated your sin is the moment your sin begins to defeat you. If an army doesn't think there is a war, they are very susceptible to an attack. Keep your head on a swivel, because temptation is coming.
8. Do what Jesus did. In Matt. 4 & Luke 4, Jesus rid himself of temptation by appealing to God's word. Have a game plan for when temptation arises. What promises of God will you cling to? What lies is Satan telling you? How can God's word trump the lies of Satan? I always cling to Psalm 83:11- "No good thing does God withhold from him who walks uprightly." The lie of lust is often "You are missing out if you don't look/think/act. You are missing out on pleasure...." God says "No good thing are you missing out on if you follow my Word." If I believe that, it's a done deal, and I'm running out of the house of temptation naked like Joseph.
9. There is a way out. Take it. NOW! God says that there is always a way out in temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). However that "way out" may be at step 2 in the process of temptation. Sometimes, I asked God, "Why wasn't there a way out like you promised?" He said, "There was. It was just at a point far earlier than you expected, and you turned me down." Some of you do not need to go online alone at midnight. Your "way out" is before you turn the computer on. Some of you do not need to watch a movie alone in your room with homegirl. Your "way out" is before you closed that door. That being said, there is victory in Jesus. That's why he came and died for you- to make you holy (1 John 3:5!)
10. Worship God. Be Happy. Every practical struggle with lust comes down to an "idol" that you are desiring. It may be pleasure. It may be control. It may be comfort. It may be safety. The problem is that when you bow down to that god and let lust be the tool that your idol uses, you never actually get what you wanted. Maybe you struggled with porn because it is a relationship without rejection- power button, click, click, click, and you feel accepted! However, God has met all your needs in Christ. Need pleasure? Be satisfied in relationship with God and hang out with him (Phil. 3:8, Psalm 73:25-28, Psalm 27:4, Phil. 4:4). Need comfort? God is called the "God of all comfort" (2 Cor. 1:3). Need safety and security? God is your rock and refuge (Psalm 18:1-2). Need acceptance? How amazing that God has given you Jesus and accepts you as his child, not because of you, but because of Jesus! (1 John 3:1). Need control? No you don't! You need to relinquish control to the One who has promised to meet all your needs in Jesus (Phil 4:19). He also has said that nothing happens to you unless it is for your good and his glory (Rom. 8:28). So put God on his throne.

Monday, July 20, 2009

On Thanksgiving!

Last night, when my head hit the pillow after a tiring weekend in the heat, I literally said out loud, "Thank you Jesus for my bed." This set off a chain of thoughts about thanksgiving and reminded me of something I had written before, pasted below for your edification, enjoyment, and evaluation!

Some thoughts on gratitude to our God...

It seems interesting to me that often times when we are tempted to complain, be discontent, to not be joyful, we persuade ourselves into contentment and thanksgiving with comments like, "I have nothing to complain about," or "I have so much to be thankful for," or even, "I'm not impoverished in a third world country, what am I so down about?" Furthermore, it is interesting to me in my own prayer life and as i hear others pray that we pray with such gratitude, "Lord, we have so much to be thankful for: healthy bodies, a solid family, great education, great friends, good weather, nice clothes, and you provide food for us as well. Thank you Lord." Now these comments and prayers are completely innocent on the surface, but what can they possibly imply about our joy? Let me ask a question to myself here- Ryan, do you think that if you didn't have a healthy body or great family and friends, that you would indeed then have NOTHING to be thankful for? Or do you think that if you were impoverished in a third world country, you would indeed have something legitimate to complain about?

Too often in my own thoughts and prayers, I make God's physical blessings the ground of my joy and gratitude, and not God himself. I actually think that if I was poor or unhealthy, then indeed i could complain and be ungrateful. You see, my health and clothes and friends and education must not be the grounds of my joy or my thanksgiving. What should be then? God and God himself. Take this whole world, health, prosperity, friends, family, talents, freedoms, education, and leave me with Jesus and I will be more satisfied with only Him. I would, at that poor and lowly physical condition, still have nothing to complain about and everything to rejoice over and give thanks for. As the Psalmist writes, "Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none that I desire on earth besides You. My heart and my flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:25-26).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Sermons of our Culture

I nearly cried watching Michael Jackson's funeral the other day. And not because I will miss him, nor because of his daughter's tearful farewell, and definitely not because of my sore back thanks to my moonwalk attempts. I was heavy-hearted, not by the death of the king of pop, but by the dishonor given King Jesus.

Our culture is constantly preaching messages, through commercials, songs, movies, articles, and through the funeral the other day. The name of Jesus was referenced, heaven was spoken of, and yet the service closed with the message that, "We are the world," truth is relative, and let's accept all worldviews as equally valid (regardless of their correspondence with history, reality, etc.). Much else can be said, but my main concern is that the real, actual, living, historical Jesus is sharply misrepresented. The natural man affirms loudly and loves the big themes, for they make him 'feel' peace- "God is love," "We are all God's children," "Jesus gives hope and peace..." However, we detach these 'big themes' from the 'smaller' details, questions, and answers that make these big themes true! Jesus is peace! But how do we get that peace in light of our sin? God is love! But what does that love consist of, and what changes does it cause in our lives? The peace of Jesus & the love of God mean nothing if they don't answer questions and solve problems related to the plight of my soul and the glory of God. We want to affirm big, feel-good themes, but we want to detach them from reality, detach them from history, and therefore detach them from any real significance beyond a sound-bite.

I have thought of several biblical & Christian observations & responses to this example of a widespread issue that the church must face and engage in:
- Apologetics is a must-study for every Christian. You do apologetics on your couch.
- We are now a post-Christian society.
- We must have our minds ready for battle every day. Holy living starts with holy thinking.
- I'd rather ride a bumpy road to heaven with Jesus, than take a smooth one to hell without him.
- How does our Christian theology actually affect our morals? Does it?
- Is your day in, day out, faith based in history?
- What is your answer for the hope that is in you?
- Do all religions really lead to God?
- In our culture's worldview, who gets punished or goes to hell? Does anyone?'
- Can you explain what the "love of God" actually & practically means?
- What are your emotions when God & his word are disregarded? Are you hurt, heavy, & sad?
- Do you have love for the non-Christian? If so, how do you show it?

What other reactions do you have?