Month: March 2018

Grace vs Guilt: Go and Sin No More

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When you become saved, you are saved by your faith alone, in the forgiveness and grace offered by Jesus Christ alone. These are the fundamental concepts of what is known in Christianity as the reformation, or the claim brought forth in the late 1500’s by a German monk named Martin Luther that countered the group think of the Roman Catholic Church, the thought that salvation could be purchased by financial contributions or works. Jesus Christ is who are you saved by, but what are you saved from?

You are saved from your sins against God, and the just penalty you would otherwise face without the intervening grace and mercy offered to you by Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. But what happens if you sin after you have been saved?

Can We be Sinless?

There’s a ton of debate on this question, that is: can humans be sinless? The short answer I subscribe to is: we won’t be sinless in this lifetime. Sin is so deeply rooted into the hearts of mankind that it seems it’d be impossible to escape it for now, and we certainly could not do so on our own strength.

It takes no time at all to think of the countless sins I’ve committed in my life, and the list isn’t what I would call ‘short’ since being rescued by Christ. The enemy of God, Satan, would love nothing more than to use these sins and the weight they carry to shame you and paralyze your growth in your relationship with Jesus. I know you hear the voice inside your head. It sounds a lot like your voice, telling you that you could never be sinless, you’re too lost, you’ve done too much wrong, and you should abandon any hope in God ever deeming you worthy. But the truth is, it has nothing to do with your worth, and everything to do with the worth of His Son, Jesus, who said your sins are “forgiven”. This is what makes you acceptable to God. That is ‘Grace’.

Romans 6: 1-2 – What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so grace may abound? By no means…

This is not a free pass to go on sinning. Jesus Christ said “Repent, and believe…”. There is a glaring requirement here besides just believing, and that is to repent. One who freely revels in their sins and gives no regard to their implications usually shows no fruit of a repentant believer in Christ Jesus. Contrarily, one who comes to hate their sins, mourns them when they occur, and strives daily to put the sin to death by praying for the Father’s help and spending time in the word will, in time, usually see the bondage of the accompanying guilt and shame broken, and the sin will hopefully be a distant memory. This process is called sanctification, or to be made holy.

The unfortunate part, for us, is because of the depth of the roots of sin we usually have to fight a war on many fronts. Lust for sex, porn, greed, excess, anger, dishonesty, infidelity, gluttony, envy, and our PRIDE are all faced daily in our culture. Sometimes the fight seems to already be lost before we even realize we are in the midst of battle.

Armor Up

We are told in Paul’s letter to Ephesus, to put on the ‘armor’ of God (Ephesians 6:11) to protect ourselves from the devil’s schemes. The devil will shower you with distraction, guilt, and shame when you’ve been called to follow Christ and still find yourself falling short of Christ Himself (Romans 3: 23). Remember the disciples, each of them with their flaws and faults, were still called by Jesus and sanctified over the course of their life as His followers.

The best way to armor up and protect yourself from the lies of the enemy are to read and pray daily. When you do this you will begin to intimately discover what kind of savior died for you, and His loving nature. One of the best illustrations we have in the Bible, while its origin is disputed, accurately depicts the loving and gracious nature of Jesus Christ when confronting a sinner, an adulteress more specifically. In John 8, after the hypocrites have dispersed and Jesus faces the adulteress, He doesn’t require her to be clean or without sin before He passes His judgment on her, nor does He ask her for some sort of work in return for salvation. He freely offers it to her.

He simply says, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go, and sin no more.”

The Real Battle for Sexual Purity

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Article written by: Jimmy Needham for the blog at Desiring God

I remember the first time I saw Jimmy’s testimony about overcoming pornograpy on YouTube, and it impacted me then.  I just found this article by him, and wanted to share both here on my blog.  Enjoy.

Here is the link to the video I mentioned above: 

I used to look at pornography nearly every day for a decade. But for the past twelve years, by God’s grace, I have not visited a single porn site.

For many battling addiction, that sentence embodies what we’re striving for. That sentence, however, is not a success story.

As we all know by now, lust manifesting in addiction to pornography is rampant in our tech-savvy culture, and sadly it’s little different among Christians. I’m in weekly conversations with college guys at our church who are fighting hard against lust and porn addiction.

It’s interesting for me to hear how people talk about their struggle. Often when they share, they frame it in terms of “how long it’s been” since their last encounter with porn. The room rejoices with those who haven’t had an incident in a while, and we spout off advice to the ones who have. You can almost see the ranking system build before your eyes: The most recent sinner cowers on the bottom with the lowest score, while the one with the longest record of abstinence stands tall at the top.

But we may have it more wrong than we think. Why? Because our actions don’t always reveal our hearts.

Dirty Dishes

If you were looking for the most moral people of Christ’s day, you would look no further than the Pharisees — fasting, tithing, praying, obeying. Yet when Jesus has a chance to speak to them he says this:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.” (Matthew 23:25–26)

For these religious leaders, holiness was only skin-deep. Their deeds were moral, but their hearts were evil. Jesus understood that what you could see in a person’s life often says very little about the condition of a person’s spirituallife. If God was merely after behavior modification, Jesus would have praised the Pharisees. Instead, they received some of Jesus’s harshest words of all.

One way to tell if you’re measuring success by an outer-cleanness versus an inner-cleanness is if you obsess over how many days it’s been since you last sinned. That mentality presupposes that your issue is one primarily of behavior, and not of the heart. But God always seeks a change deeper than our behavior.

Superficial Celebrations

This isn’t just a porn issue. We see this in other areas. For example, it’s not necessarily grounds for celebration if an obese person loses a hundred pounds. On a superficial level we can certainly say that proper diet and exercise is better for their health, and therefore a good thing. But is it worth celebrating if that weight loss was motivated by vanity? Or if it produced a heart of self-righteousness or self-worship? Perhaps they dealt the decisive blow to their gluttony, only to have narcissism sprout in its place. The new state of the person might be worse than the first!

The Puritan John Owen said it well when speaking on the fight against sin: “He that changes pride for worldliness, sensuality for Pharisaism, vanity in himself to the contempt of others, let him not think that he has mortified the sin that he seems to have left. He has changed his master, but is a servant still.”

Obedience from the Heart

If it’s true that God looks at the heart first, what are some markers of that inner-cleanness he desires beyond the changes in our behavior?

  1. A sense of neediness and dependence on the grace of God. Christianity is nothing if not the religion of the helpless. The godliest thing any of us can do in our fight against sin is to admit we cannot fight against sin on our own. We need the power of the Holy Spirit working within us. If you feel defeated in your struggle against lust, let that sense of defeat push you further into the arms of your strong Savior today, and push you to lean on his strength and help, again.
  2. A steady gaze at Christ as our treasure and satisfaction. Most of our efforts in sanctification fall short of seeing Christ this way. But Scripture is clear: There is no legitimate conquering of sin without a pursuit of Christ in its place (2 Timothy 2:22Romans 13:14John 6:35). Jesus is a good meal for our soul. The battle for purity is really a battle to delight in God.

Don’t mistake what I’m saying. God absolutely wants external, visible life-change: “[Christ] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). But a change of behavior is only God-glorifying if it is motivated by a change of heart.

As you war against your flesh, as you fight against lust and addiction, as you counsel others in the battle, aim higher and deeper than outer moral conformity. Feel your inability to produce lasting life change apart from the work of God’s Spirit. Pray for a heart that is so enamored with the beauty of Christ that it despises the temptations of sin. Win the inner victory with Christ’s help, and the external victories will not be far off.

Jimmy Needham

Jimmy Needham is a singer/songwriter and serves on staff at Stonegate Church in Midlothian, Texas. He and his wife have two daughters and a son. Learn more at

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Grace vs Guilt: Who Saves Us From Ourselves and Lust?

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I know the struggle of lust.  It’s a battle that seems to have no end, in a war that too often already seems lost.  Pornography addictions very often lead to sexual addictions, and compulsive, reckless behavior that destroys families, relationships, and can even end lives.  When I realized what I had was not just something “natural”, or that it wasn’t okay “because everyone does it”, I realized it because it was ruining me. It was ruining, even more, a marriage that had been built on lust and no understanding or belief in what marriage was created by God to be.  

This life I wanted so badly to escape at nearly 26 years old was the only life I had known since I was eleven years old.  It may not be fair to say this filth ruined me, rather, it may be more accurate to say it kept me from ever knowing who I was.  I would not know who that person was until I found out who this God was I had constantly rejected pretty much my whole life. What I found out told me it was possible to escape this death grip.    

I found out, in the midst of much sel-loathing, guilt-filled regret, and suicidal thoughts that God is a God who loves us, in spite of us.  He is a God who fights for us, even when we fight Him, and try to do it our way.  When we realize this, who He is, we are faced with who we are: Wretched Sinners.  We could not save ourselves or make ourselves worthy to be in the presence of God, even if we somehow possessed the power to do so.  

If we could save ourselves, the Jews would have done so when they faced the Egyptians at the Red Sea (Exodus 14),  but they couldn’t.  God brought them there to show them just that; He is the ONLY way to life.  Without His love, our story ends in the Garden when Adam and Eve failed God.  It ends in bondage, slavery, and death had it not been for grace and mercy from the Author of Life.  He gives life, and He saves life.

God parted the sea, not because the Israelites worshiped Him flawlessly, but so they would really see God for His might, glory, and most of all, His love.  He did not ‘fight’ for the perfect people, or for the righteous. He fought for HIS people, in all of their brokenness, doubt, sins, and contentment for less than Him.  He broke into their lives when they thought He had forgotten them and hardened their hearts.  We are His, not because of what we do for Him, but because HE says we are His.

If God needed us to be perfect before He rescued us, there would be no grace or mercy. If we could be perfect God would not have needed to send His Son to bring us new life by laying His down for ours (John 3:16-17).  No, instead, He meets us where we are to save us from ourselves, and to save us from the guilt and shame of our sins.  His grace is stronger than our guilt, and His mercy reaches further than any sin I’ve ever committed, or any sin you could commit.  

This is the freedom you seek, and the cure for the addiction you feel.  This is the Good News of the Christian life. And this is the way out for the man or woman who feels trapped by their lusts.  He is the Savior who can make this life you live now a distant memory. He is the only way to life, and He forgives you like He forgave Adam, and He will save you like He has saved the Israel of the Old Testament, and like the wretched sinners Christ has come to save in the New.

Don’t just cry out in your guilt and shame and face another day alone.  Cry out to your savior. He WILL fight for you.     

3 Ways to Tell If You’re Addicted to Masturbation

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Taken from an article found on the XXX Church Blog:

Addicted to masturbation??? Is that even possible?

[Yes], …masturbation can become a legitimate addiction, just like any behavior. I’m not intending to make a moral statement or provide a biblical guideline but rather to help you decide if you are addicted so you can seek healing.

Here are three practical ways to help you discern if you’re addicted to masturbation:

1) Are you using masturbation to alter your mood?

Masturbation is a quick fix. It’s free, accessible and easy. It’s the perfect drug. Understandably, men and women use it to medicate bad moods. Those warm fuzzy chemicals sure hit the spot!

There are more positive ways to sooth moods, for example, listening to calming music or having a hot bath after a lousy day. The difference with using masturbation to alleviate negative emotions is that the powerful chemicals and hormones involved set you up for compulsion and emotional repression, not to mention they can be a detriment your future or current sex life. These are powerful chemicals you’re playing with.

Take note of when you feel the urge. What has triggered you in the past? Did you feel stressed? Powerless? Rejected? Lonely? Tired? Anxious? Sometimes our sex drive is just being its thoughtful self and saying ‘Hey! It’s been a while since we’ve tried reproducing! I’m here to personally encourage you to today!’ (Thanks Sex Drive: maybe take note of the relationship status next time) However, there is often an underlying motivation: to feel good. Because you don’t already.

If you’re regularly masturbating in response to negative emotion, you may be addicted. Why? Because it reveals you’re not processing your emotions and indicates you’re living in some level of distress, making it the perfect opportunity to get hooked. Addiction loves pain. It is a faux salve for emotional wounds. But in reality, our vice, be it masturbation or otherwise, is infecting that wound that so desperately needs to be healed.

2) Do you feel like you can’t stop?

Perhaps one of the clearest signs of addiction is when you feel you can’t stop, even when you really want to. Pretty simple. You may white-knuckle it for a few weeks, but it always come crashing back into your life.

There’s a reason for this.

A sexual encounter (with someone else or on your own) instigates the release of a host of nice-feeling chemicals into your brain’s reward system. It’s an incredible gift from God when it’s not confused. It keeps humanity thriving and surviving. It releases chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin when you participate in a behavior that it believes ensures survival of the body or gene pool (hence why an orgasm feels so much better than mopping the floor or eating dirt). The reward pathways function is to remind the brain to do that thing again! Your body begins to make unconscious associations. When you feel poorly, it remembers how to give you a kick! A process begins deep in your brain which, unbroken, leads you right back to the behavior, because your brain is wired to seek the easiest route to pleasure.

3) Is your habit harming you or those around you?

A characteristic of any addiction is continuing despite harm. Harm can come in many forms: emotional, relational, physical, spiritual or criminal to name a few.

If you’re masturbating to the point of overuse or needing medical assistance, you may very well be addicted. This is nothing to be ashamed about. Doctors have seen it all.

Compulsive masturbation can lead to sexual dysfunction and less-than-ideal intimacy with your spouse. This is a very real harm that must be identified. More than physiological, this can affect your spouse emotionally. Are you masturbating to the detriment of your sex life?

Isolation is another harm to look out for.  Such retreat can be rooted in shame, anxiety or the lost ability to interact non-sexually. Perhaps you would rather be at home masturbating than socializing. Having an orgasm is easier than building real relationships. But only the latter will bear good fruit in the long run.

Masturbation is a very personal and complicated topic. It can be a response to sexual or emotional trauma, it can be a struggle that begins in early childhood, it can be accompanied by porn or voyeurism or nothing at all, and the line between “struggling with” and “addicted” can get blurry. There is a battlefield of opinions out there and it is so easy to slip into judgment and shame in this conversation.

Please know that, no matter what, you are known and cherished by the God of the universe, and the team at XXXchurch have resources to help you find freedom. You are not alone, and you need not feel ashamed. Recovery is so possible.

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