This past year including that of mid-2012 and throughout early-2013 the Lord has been burning me through fires hotter than I have ever been through on issues of purity and holiness with living arrangements, church commitments, job changes, friend and family adjustments and so on. The fires have been painful, stressful, burdensome, and tempting. But once again and again, God’s substitute for my sin, Jesus Christ, has been the one who has brought me through these fires. They are the fiery trials described in First Peter chapter 4. Those trials that are heavy, stressful, but leave you stronger and more confident in God once the soreness rubs off. These kinds of trials refine faith that is more precious than gold. And that is what these have done.
I don’t know how else to say this. Regardless of my background, church, family, friends, I grew up thinking that being a good person was about covering up your problems. The more I dealt with by myself, the better I would look to others. But now as a mature adult and a growing Christian, I find that this could not be more wrong and that the Christian life is not about hiding my sin to look good for others, but that it is repenting of my sin and boasting in my weakness so that Christ may look good for others around me. Dealing with my sin alone and attempting to be good before presenting myself to others had always left me frustrated before God and others. I felt especially in my teens that I could and would never be good enough anyways, so why try? This later led into questioning my faith, all kinds of sin, and worst of all, nearly giving up on life itself. Regardless of who I had around me at the time or not, I desperately needed a father, I needed The Father, to walk me through those struggles. As humans we are not meant to struggle alone, we are meant to bear one another’s burdens. I will not go too into detail about those times, other than explaining this: I was neither equipped to bear my burdens or the burdens of others.
Christ had and has always had a different plan for me. I am a young husband to a gorgeous 21 year old wife who adores me and looks up to me to provide physically and spiritually for our family of three children. And I cannot do it alone. I need my Father. The Lord God is a father to me. He saved me, is still changing me, and is walking through and leading me through every phase of my life to continue to make me stronger and more dependent upon Him.
I recently finished reading Joshua Harris’s book Dug Down Deep for a leadership training course that my church is bringing me and many passionate young men through. In chapter seven, while explaining sanctification in the life of a Christian, he gives a story of a time when he was a young man and magazine writer staying at a pastor’s house for a Billy Graham Crusade. During that time he fell into a quick probably two minute temptation with the sin of lust of the eye while surfing through channels while alone. Instantly he felt the weight of guilt upon him and every lie of the accuser explaining to him all of the reasons why he was hypocrite and unworthy to be where he was: in ministry.
During that wrestle, Josh fell asleep and had a dream that he was in a room with thousands of file drawers with index card sized files detailing every deed that he had ever committed with his name signed at the bottom of every card. He was horrified to find that the bad deeds far outweighed the good ones and he could not argue with the name signed at the bottom of each card. He felt weighed down with guilt and shame when Jesus Christ entered that room and took and opened the cards signing His name on each one, crossing off Josh’s from each one. Josh’s first reaction was to stop the Lord Jesus like Peter did when He washed his feet. But the Lord continued to sign His name over each and every sin that Josh had committed throughout his life and ended by telling him to live free.
This was a great and powerful story that I could relate to in so many ways. I can really relate with Josh because there is nothing more freeing in life than realizing that you don’t have to live up to some expectation before God will love you! And ultimately there is nothing more liberating that realizing that God already loves you and that you are already freed from you past, present, and future sins by the past event of the Cross of Christ. Living under the shadow of guilt is enslaving but living under the shadow of a perfect Savior is altogether freeing. The love of God is shown in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
So if you are reading this and you know exactly what I am talking about then stop trying to earn God’s love by looking good to people! Accept and know that the Biblical Christ already loves you, has already saved you, and is walking you through each sin that you are currently battling against. The defeat of you addiction is not by your perfection, but by God’s power. You do not have to clean yourself up before you meet with your church, or your brothers and sisters in Christ. If Christ is the one who has already cleaned you up, then it is not about you figuring things out on your own anymore, it’s about you bringing you sicknesses before him in all of their ugliness for the purpose of Him transforming your life to look more and more like Him. This is what sanctification is all about.
Joel Frezza died with Christ. Joel Frezza is given a new nature, Christ’s nature. Because of Satan, the world, and sin, Joel Frezza’s old nature loves to creep up and make war on Joel Frezza’s new nature. But because Joel Frezza is still being sanctified today and is not yet glorified, Joel Frezza must continue to put off his old nature and put on his new nature. Because Joel Frezza is justified by Christ, Joel Frezza is free to grow in sanctification.
My personal struggles have always been with purity. I never believed I was pure as a teen and only realized that of course I wasn’t. I felt so silly that Christ, the Savior that I was constantly trying to please, was the same Savior that had offered me everything I needed to have the purity that I so long desired. But it is not by pleasing Him, but by being pleased by Him. Pastor John Piper says that “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.” Christ’s life of perfect obedience to the Father and spotless life of purity is more than enough to give me the purity that I had always longed for.
Once I had experienced this in a way that I was equipped and mature enough to make war against the accuser, my battle was not about how long I could resist the temptations of pornography and lust behind a closed door, but it was about being equipped and ready to fight the accuser who I knew would be waiting for me behind a closed door, not with my good works, but with Christ’s. The accuser, the devil, will point out all of your past failures, but he will never mess with Christ’s righteousness. So let him know when he comes at you that, yes, you have sinned and fallen short this and that time, but Christ has never fallen short. And remind him that you are no longer trusting in those works , but in Christ’s. So if Christ will vouch for your sin then the enemy has no business bullying you around. Resist him and he will flee.
So my purity is not found in me at all but in someone else’s purity. This is what has freed me from the addictions and bondage of lust in my life. And though I can promise you that lust will find me out in the future and for the rest of my life, I can also promise at the same time, that it will not rule me like it did before in my teens. Christ is my ruler, and more than that, my Father, who walks me through every grueling and messy battle of life. I will have no other God upon the throne of my home and my heart. Not lust, and not my good works. And when those sins come for me again and again, I promise you, Christ will be there with me.