All posts tagged Sin

Jeffrey Dahmer: Demonic or Subhuman?

I was listening to someone try to give a very objective series of lectures on evil. The lecturer was not neutral towards evil; he was against evil. But he did strive to offer unbiased presentations of the various explanations of evil that exists; conservatives, liberals, Catholics, Protestants, sacred, and secular explanations were discussed with equal attention, clarity, and persuasive intent. In the course of the lectures many different definitions were offered.

  • Evil is a non-entity; the absence of good.
  • Evil is illogical; it cannot be explained.
  • Evil is a social construct; a name for things we do not like.
  • Evil is the result of inequalities; a social ramification.
  • Evil is natural; part of our inherently selfish nature.
  • Evil is distorted good; love gone wrong.

In the end, the lecturer said he believed the various schools of evil can be summarized into two camps – those who view evil as a powerful force in rivalry to God (i.e., demonic) and those who believe that evil is the result of some under-development in the human or human race (i.e., when people behave more like animals than people).

Both, if taken too far, seem to alleviate human responsibility for evil. Whether we blame the devil or our childhood, either can be used as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. But both also speak about real challenges; Scripture recognizes evil as a predator and the effects of external evil upon our lives.

To illustrate these two camps, the lecturer used a quote from Jeffery Dahmer’s apology for killing and eating the bodies of 17 young men over the course of 13 years at his trial:

“It is now over. This has never been a case of trying to get free. I didn’t ever want freedom. Frankly, I wanted death for myself. This was a case to tell the world that I did what I did, but not for reasons of hate. I hated no one. I knew I was sick or evil or both. Now I believe I was sick. The doctors have told me about my sickness, and now I have some peace. I know how much harm I have caused… Thank God there will be no more harm that I can do. I believe that only the Lord Jesus Christ can save me from my sins… I ask for no consideration.”

Dahmer is someone for whom both demonic and subhuman explanations are strongly held. “How could someone do what he did unless there was some powerful evil in him?” some say. Others ask, “What could happen to someone that they would find joy or comfort in those actions?”

It is interesting that Dahmer was asking the same questions as he committed his horrendous crimes. It is significant that even after he arrived at one answer (i.e., “Now I believe I was sick”) he could not forsake the other solution (i.e., “I believe that only the Lord Jesus Christ can save me from my sins”).

The question is, “Should he have to choose one or the other? Must he be either sick or sinner? Or, could he be both? Must he choose between symptom relief and forgiveness? Or, can he have both?” It would be easy to get lost in the extremity of Dahmer’s actions (admittedly, I am brimming with questions as I type).

But the more important point is, ‘Must we choose one or the other?” Here I think the answer hinges on the word “must.” Might it be wise for some people with a profound struggle to understand their experience in light of a biological malfunction or as primarily a reaction to intense suffering? I would say “yes.” For others, might it be wise to see their profound struggle as the feeding and intensification of their sinful flesh? Again, I would say “yes.”

If the question is framed “might,” we can have a productive conversation (which is the bulk of what comprises counseling). If we frame the question as “must” (to either side of the spectrum), then we are likely to see our pre-conceived notion more than the individual we are seeking to assist.

In this regard (whether he was correct in his assessment of himself or not), I find Dahmer to be a better theologian and counselor than many I hear in one-sided debates today (either side) because he did not hold depravity and deprivation to be mutually exclusive. I pray our diagnostic science and spiritual assessments grow to where these distinctions become much more clear than they are today. Until then, may we not assume that evil (the effects of sin through the Fall) can only take one form as we care for one another.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Theology and Counseling” post which address other facets of this subject.

Who Am I In Christ? Sample from Upcoming Summit Counseling Training

In the midst of life struggles, our identity can be rooted in our sin, our suffering, or our Savior.  When things are good (or when we live in denial) our identity can be attached to our achievements, relationships, appearance, job, or many other things. But when things are hard we tend to identify our selves by what we’ve done wrong, the wrongs that have been done against us, or the God who forgives and loves us.

When we root our identity in our sin we beat ourselves up for being stupid, lazy, selfish, and lacking self-control. We begin to make “I am” statements that end with our sin: addict, angry, perverse, etc…

In this case we downplay the significance of Christ’s death to forgive our sin. This results in us playing God by trying to “forgive ourselves.” Our identity has already established that our sin is more dominant than Christ’s blood, so it only makes sense (although we would never say it out loud) that our forgiveness would be required “in addition to” God’s.

When we root our identity in our suffering we define ourselves by the bad things that have happened to us. We begin to make “I am” statements that end with our suffering: divorced, depressed, abused, etc…

In this case we downplay the degree to which we are loved by God. We believe our history has made us unlovable. The result is that we begin to play God by trying to “love ourselves” more to compensate for what our identity has declared unattainable from God.

In both cases, something becomes more central to “who we are” than being God’s children. Then, because God has been rooted out of his rightful place in our identity, we begin to try to do for ourselves what only God can healthily and satisfyingly do.

This is so common, that many readers are probably surprised that “forgiving myself” and “loving myself more” would be mentioned with a negative connotation. But the truth is they are attempts to live without God or declarations that what God has done is inadequate for our struggles.

The only solution to a sin-based identity or a suffering-based identity is to truly understand who we are in Christ. Everything else results in some form of God-playing self-reliance.

At the upcoming Summit counseling training a full hour will be devoted to the subject “How to Avoid a Struggle-Based Identity.” People ask for help because a struggle has begun to dominate their life. Too often life can be measured exclusively by how present my struggle is. The problem is that when I measure a “good day” by the absence of my struggle (sin or suffering), my struggle will remain the focal point of my life. I become trapped in recovery.

The only remedy is to center your life on something other than self, sin, or suffering. In explaining how to do this, our counseling training will explore what it means to have our identity rooted in Christ. This document (who-i-am-in-christ_kellemen) adapted from Bob Kellemen’s work will be a part of that training.

If you are interested in attending this counseling training, please RSVP (link). You can see the announcement post (link) for more information about dates, times, and content.

The “Streak” and the False Pressure of Sanctification

Permit me to have a few “high school athlete” reminisces.  There were a couple of occasions when as a baseball pitcher I took a no-hitter past the sixth inning (o-kay, so maybe these are Khoury league memories).  A strange thing happened.  Although I was having great success, I began to feel pressure.  I had gotten at least 18 consecutive batters out (the entire line up twice) without giving up so much as a hit, but now I was the one feeling fearful.  How crazy is that?  They should have been nervous, not me.

What was going on?  My mindset changed.  No longer was I just trying to get the next batter out, I was thinking about how to get the next nine batters out…how disappointed I would be if someone got a hit…the story in our local newspaper…putting the game ball on my shelf…how klutzy the second baseman was and the threat he posed to my accomplishment…(you get the idea).  I became a streaker (don’t let you imagination get carried away) instead of a pitcher.

In counseling I see many people struggle with the same type of issue.  They do good for “a while” (i.e., no anger episode, keeping the house in order, avoiding pornography, taking “what if” anxiety thinking captive, consistently having a daily devotion etc…) then they feel the pressure of “doing good,” fail, and feel more miserable because of their streak being broken.  Maybe they were in a support group and had to go back to the dreaded “white chip.”  Maybe they have to face the scorn of a spouse who says, “See, I knew you weren’t serious about changing.”  Maybe they just have to live with the thought, “If I can’t beat this struggle after 12 good days, how will I ever beat it after a bad day?”

Let us ask ourselves a few questions.  (1) How does God think about our streaks?  (2) Does a streak have any impact on our next choice, conversation, or temptation?  (3) How can we “do good” without creating a sense of mounting pressure?

First, I believe our streaks mean much more to us than they do to God.  God knows our heart perfectly (Prov 24:12).  We are the ones who have become deceived about our current condition as our streak advances (Jer 17:9).   We are the ones who begin to believe maybe I have finally defeated sin.  God knows better.  God desires a heart that is seeking hard after Him (Micah 6:8).  God is the one who designed sanctification (the process of spiritual maturity) to occur progressively (over a lifetime).  God wants our desire to put sin to death to be constant (Rom 8:13).  The believer who gets to heaven with the longest streak does not get the seat next to Jesus at the great wedding feast.

Second, we must recognize that streaks do not matter as much as fundamentals (to borrow from the baseball metaphor above).  Throwing strike one does not carve a groove in the air that the second pitch will follow like a tire in the rut of an old dirt road.  However, good pitching mechanics do allow for more consistent pitching.  The application is that we must learn from every temptation (whether we overcome or succumb).  A better question than “how long is my sinless streak?” is “have I learned from each temptation better ways of overcoming and am I putting these into practice?”  God recognizes that wisdom and humility are more effective at grooming character than streaks (Prov 3:5-7).

Third, we must recognize that we never out grow the Gospel.  The Christian life is a perpetual coming to the end of ourselves and relying totally on God again (Luke 9:23-25).  We don’t put the blood of Christ on lay away until we get this sin thing under control (Heb 10:14).  We come to him daily, hourly, and moment-by-moment for it is only by His Spirit that we bear the fruit that uproots the works of the flesh (Gal 5:16-24).

Should Married Couples Have Any Secrets?

Let’s start by admitting that this question rarely comes up at neutral times. The context for this question is usually when one spouse wants more information than the other is willing to give. So in most settings as soon as you answer, you are “taking sides.”

I think it would be helpful to differentiate a few words as we seek to answer this question. Admittedly, the definitions are provided with marital application and will lead the discussion. But at least it will help us avoid using the same word to describe different things.

  • Secret – the intentional withholding of information from one’s spouse about yourself in order to cover up an action that would cause another person to be upset or one’s self to be in trouble.
  • Confidential Information – the intentional withholding of information from one’s spouse in order to effectively care for another person.
  • Privacy – the ability to dispose information about yourself voluntarily and not have that information extracted by involuntary methods.
  • Transparency – intentional choices made by a married couple to allow key information regarding marital health and fidelity to easily and constantly be available to both parties without requiring a direct request for information.

Hopefully you can see that our simple question seeking a yes-no answer, just became a bit more complex. But without these additional categories a simple answer would never be able to navigate the complexities of life. I will now seek to briefly answer each of the four questions that emerge.

Should a married couple have any secrets? NO – A spouse should never engage in an activity that they would be unwilling to disclose to their spouse. A secret (as defined here) is withholding information regarding a sin or legitimately hurtful activity. The reason for not keeping secrets has more to do with personal holiness (honoring God) than relational unity.

Should a married couple have any confidential information? YES – If a couple is going to have meaningful friendships outside the marriage (which is a good thing), a friend may share information that is requested to be kept private. In the name of a “one flesh relationship” confidential information should be information about another person and not yourself.

Should a married couple foster privacy? YES – Honor is a key component of relational health. When a relationship lacks privacy it devolves either into codependency or control. The transfer of information not covered under transparency should be voluntary. When this is violated a spouse is taking on a parental role which distorts the equality of marital partners. A couple should have a healthy enough system of transparency that major relational violations are detected through transparent information.

Should a married couple foster transparency? YES – Transparency is a primary form of expressing the “one flesh relationship” between husband and wife. Finances, general schedule, cell phone records, opposite sex communications, social networking passwords and similar things should be open in the marriage. When life is too busy, unorganized or a couple is defensive about such matters, then the marriage lacks a healthy level of transparency.

Self-Awareness: A Key Difference between Hypocrisy &a Hard Heart

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between being a hypocrite and having a hard heart?  Maybe I’m the only one. But I think it is a useful thought to explore. Depravity can come in different degrees (i.e., expressions, depths) even if it is “total.”

I believe these considerations will help us guard our own hearts from sin and more skillfully love those caught in their sin. Too often we just call bad, bad and think we have done our job. If we are going to be effective physicians of the soul, we must know the ailments of the soul particularly.

I would propose that one key difference between being a hypocrite and having a hard heart is the level of self-awareness the individual has about his/her sin.

  • A hypocrite is self-aware. He knows that he is not what he claims to be or is not doing what he expects other people to do.
  • A hard-hearted person is not self-aware. He is blind to the wrongness of his actions. His heart has lost the sensitivity to discern good from evil, truth from lie in the area of his particular sin.

Which is worse? I would contend that having a hard heart is worse than being a hypocrite. As a hypocrite, I would still be agreeing with God’s law regarding my sin. I still advocate for others to follow God’s law and feel some form of offense when God’s law is broken. Unfortunately, my self-centeredness would only allow me to detect when the violation of God’s law hampers my preferences.

As a hard-hearted person, I would both defend my sin and advocate for the freedom of others to behave (not that sin should be reduce

d simply to behavior) in a similar manner. I have reached the point that I have renamed bad, “good.” I must not only be given eyes to see my own behavior, but I must (before that) have my conscience enlivened to accept God’s truth.

What are some implications from this consideration?

  1. When we interact with someone who is continuing in a particular sin we should seek to discern if they are under conviction (neither hypocritical nor hard-hearted), self-aware but in denial (being hypocritical), or not acknowledging the truth at all (hard-hearted).
  2. We then respond to this person on the basis of their self-awareness.
    1. For the hard-hearted person we can only pray that God will change their heart and avoid as much personal/relational damage as possible (Matt. 7:6).
    2. For the hypocrite we can appeal to the part of their conscience that is active and seek to help them come under complete conviction.
    3. For the person under conviction (and really for them only is it wise/effective to) we remind them of God’s grace to forgive and the guidance of His Word to restore them.
  3. We recognize that a failure to change is not because we have not shared relevant, biblical information in a clear and compassionate way.

As for our own hearts, this reflection should cause us to be very cautious when we refuse the counsel of fellow believers and should urge us to live more transparently with our fellow believers as a protection of starting the hypocritical to hard-hearted slide.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Counseling Theory” post which address other facets of this subject.

Precision within Idolatry

Note: This post was originally published on the Biblical Counseling Coalition blog “Grace & Truth.” I would highly recommend this organization as a clearinghouse for excellent materials in Biblical Counseling. This post has since been critiqued by Dr. Jay Adams on his blog at Next week I will post a reply to Dr. Adams’ critique in which I hope to demonstrate that the content of this blog is not an attempt to be “new” to draw an audience, but rooted in Scriptural directives and example.

One of the areas in which I believe Biblical Counseling can grow is the precision with which we think of idolatry. I am not referring to our ability to identify the object of idolatry: a person, money, an experience, etc… Neither do I mean just singling out the desire that fuels an idolatry: pleasure, control, peace, etc… Both of these are important.

But I believe we can be precise in our understanding of idolatry in another way. An idol (by definition) replaces God. More accurately, it tends to substitute for some aspect of God. Rarely do modern people call their idols “god”; we just rely on them for some particular thing only God can do. Therefore, because God relates to humanity in many different ways, we can turn to our idols in just as many ways.

For purpose of illustration, I will coin the phrases “idols of worship” and “idols of comfort.” Each is meant to capture different aspects of God we can replace.

Idols of Worship

  • With these idols we celebrate the object of our affection.
  • We pursue it with passion because we find it delightful. We try to savor and master the experience.
  • The mode of worship for these idols is pleasure
  • If you will, this is an idol we “sing to.”
  • These idols would have a tendency to stem from our raw sin nature and deem God to be less desirable.

Idols of Comfort

With these idols we turn to them for refuge.

  • When life gets hard we turn to these false gods believing they can provide safety or a form of escape.
  • The mode of worship towards these idols is trust.
  • If you will, this is an idol we “pray to.”
  • These idols typically emanate from experiences of suffering and perceive God to be less available, relevant, or dependable.

Both forms of idolatry share some essential commonality. God has been replaced. The replacement is incapable of sustaining what is being asked. The person will experience forms of disappointment and pain.

Yet the two forms of idolatry are different in important ways. Idols of worship are “classic” idols. Idols of comfort are “subtle” idols. The first is pursued for its own sake. The latter is pursued as a means to an end. The first insults God. The latter doubts God.

What is the relevance of this discussion? Does it change counseling methodology? Does it impact our theology of counseling? I believe it does.

Impact on Methodology

In both cases, the goal is to get to right beliefs about God through Scripture and by repentance. However, the “fear of God” that leads to repentance is very different. Idols of comfort already know fear. They are looking for something to be strong. Idols of worship are more rooted in pride and think they’ve already found what they’re looking for.

The words spoken to someone struggling with an idol of comfort should be more tender. The trustworthiness and understanding of the counselor serves as an ambassador for the trustworthiness and compassion of God. They are drawn from their idol. Dependence is natural and desired. Usually the scariest part of repentance and faith for these people is the absence of control.

The words spoken to someone struggling with an idol of worship are spoken to someone who does not yet see their need to be rescued. They are often still an evangelist for their idol. Their idol serves them and they want to know if God will do the same. More cognitive, relational, and emotional structures have to be torn down and built from scratch.

Impact on Theology

These are not the only categories for idolatry that could be developed. Each way that God relates to man can reveal its own flavor(s) of idolatry. We can try to replace or subsidize any aspect of God’s character or any of God’s activities towards us. The emotions that we are playing to in our false worship become indicators of how what we need points us back to God.

With this conception of idolatry, I believe it allows us to speak of the influence of suffering upon idolatry in clearer, more refined, and more compassionate ways. Our compassion does not have to be the mere avoidance of condescension (“I am a bad sinner too”) or empathy for injustice (“I would be tempted in the same way.”). Our compassion can be more descriptively robust without leaving our anthropology behind or compromising biblical standards.

Extended conversations about pain, neglect, disappointment, and other forms of suffering paint a picture of how someone sought comfort before they knew there was a Comforter. In these cases, repentance may be a very sweet transfer of trust. Conviction may feel like fear and anticipation more than guilt. In which case, idolatry would be “seen through” as much as “put off.”

In these possibilities, the core categories (idolatry) and movements (repentance) of change are the same but the experience (emotions) and role of the counselor (confrontation for idols of worship; directive compassion for idols of comfort) is different. I would hope as we grow in our precision of understanding idolatry that it would enable us to capture the experience of more hurting people, win their trust, and point them to all of who God is.

Join the Conversation:

  •  What other categories of idolatry would you suggest? What is distinct about that category and what part of human experience does it help us understand?
  • What dangers do you see in adding diagnostic categories within idolatry? In your opinion, does the potential reward merit the risk?

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Counseling Theory” post which address other facets of this subject.

Generational Sin: Destiny or Context?

This post is meant to offer guidance to common “What now?” questions that could emerge from Pastor JD’s sermon “Consequences: 2 Samuel 12-16” preached at The Summit Church Saturday/Sunday February 5-6, 2011.

When we see and hear how the sin of David affected his son Absalom many of us may begin to experience fear. This fear is compounded if we consider God’s words in the second of the Ten Commandments.

“You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:5-6).”

The gracious disproportion of numbers is not much comfort if you are in one of the first three generations. So we have to ask, “What is this verse talking about?” Some would say it means that God punishes children for the sins of their parents. God has heard His people ask this question before and answered it in Ezekiel 18:19-21.

“Yet you say, ‘Why should the son suffer for the iniquity of the father? When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. But IF a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die (capitalization added).’”

The question we are asking pivots on, “What makes the ‘if’ so hard?” We are all wicked in the sense that we are born in sin and righteousness is unnatural. So the link between Exodus 20 and Ezekiel 18 seems to be that it is harder for someone to turn from sin when their family of origin rejects God.

One reason for this is that following God is unnatural. Proverbs 22:15a describes all our beginnings; “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” There is a natural consequence to absence of godly parenting – we go in the way that seems right to us which ends in death (Prov. 14:12, 16:25).

But there seems to be more to it than natural consequences in Exodus 20. I would describe it as a “life context with momentum.” There is more than the absence of good; there is the presence of bad. A child learns a lifestyle, collects hurts, gathers fears, and takes on goals. This is the child’s life context for years, even decades.

Like braces on teeth, this molds the child, even if the child can tell the context is wrong and doesn’t want to continue it. The child only knows what not to do. In avoiding the evil they know, there are many more dysfunctions to fall into. After all there is only “one way” that leads to life (John 14:6) and many ways that seem good that lead to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14).

I believe this gives us insight into another passage that speaks of influences beyond our immediate life and choice – Ephesians 6:10-20 on spiritual warfare. It is interesting that the only active steps we are called to in spiritual warfare are to “put on the armor (v. 11, 13)” and “stand firm (v. 13).”

In light of this discussion, I would say this means:

  1. Study the Bible diligently to “put on the armor of God”: to learn God’s truth, gain a vision for God’s righteousness, embrace and live in the gospel of peace, by faith resist the lies of your upbringing, trust in God’s salvation, and ask the Spirit to penetrate these things into your heart.
  2. Understand the context of your family of origin. Examine what you learned inaccurately from them—what things they taught you to be good, valuable or desirable that are not. What things did they model to be scarce or withhold that are plentiful in Christ? Know these influences “with momentum” so that you can “stand firm” in God’s armor when they push you towards destruction.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Counseling Theory” post which address other facets of this subject.

10 Pre-Marital Questions on Sex (Part 6)

This series of blogs comes from FAQ’s from the guys in Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry. They represent a conglomeration of questions from many different husbands-to-be during the Engaged Discovery Weekend. If you are interested in serving as a marriage mentor or are engaged, click here to learn more about Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry.

How do you overcome expectations you have from past sexual experiences?

This question is packed with scenarios, both positive and negative: the expectation that sex will be used for control, the expectation of a certain energy level or spark in sex, the expectation of “great sex” in a bad relationship or “mediocre sex” in a good relationship, the expectation of inevitable betrayal, or the “practical” expectation of how we will move from foreplay through intercourse to afterglow.

This is also a vitally important question. Foreign expectations (positive or negative) have a detrimental impact on a marriage. No longer is a couple crafting a life that is an expression of how God is making these two individual lives into one unique, mutually satisfying relationship. Rather, foreign expectations mixes oneness with fears, hurts, pleasures, and hopes from other relationships.

We should pause and reflect for a moment on a general dynamic of how sin works. Sin creates false standards and tries to convince us to live within or in light of them. Lying creates the standard (expectation) that the truth is expendable in the name of self-protection or convenience. This effect exists whether we are the one lying or the one being lied to. All future communication is filtered through this lens of convenience and/or suspicion.

Drug usage creates the standard (expectation) of an artificial high and the ability to escape stressful circumstances. “Normal” is now measured as boring or unacceptable. “Stress” is now deemed something that must be chemically escaped. Friends and family now live as if the drug user “cannot handle” things that life requires and begin to make unhealthy compensations.

The same happens with sexual sin (whether you committed the sin or the sin was committed against you). It creates a false standard by which we enter future experience. We begin to overcome by recognizing that this struggle is not exclusive to the domain of sexuality. We have faced a similar dynamic with any sin (and its influence) we have seen God purge from our lives.

After taking the encouragement from this reflection, we need to articulate the falseness of our expectations. The degree of impact our expectations have is determined by the degree to which we believe those expectations to be right and true. Part of “taking every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5b)” is to see the lie we are tempted to believe as false and detestable.

  • The past girlfriend/wife who was a passionate lover is not the standard of a good wife. That reduces what it means to be a good wife to being a sex object.
  • The past girlfriend/wife who punished you by withholding sex is not something to be conquered in this marriage. That imposes a history and motive on your bride that she has not earned.
  • The past girlfriend/wife who cheated on you is not something to be controlled in this marriage. That makes you a fearful slave to something that “could happen” and creates the kind of relational strain that only manifests the kind of awkwardness that confirms your fears.

Articulating the expectation allows you to approach God with it in a new way. We now come unconvinced by (or at least willing to question) our expectations. We now desire freedom from our sin-induced expectations more than fulfillment of them. We no longer view them as “good” or necessary to be “safe.” These expectations only masqueraded as light, but were darkness. We believed they offered life, but now see (or are beginning to see) they offered death. Sin had fooled us again into using these expectations as a God-substitute as the basis for our pleasure, identity, security, or protection.

In light of this journey, we can begin to see that God offers sex in marriage as a portrait of the Gospel and as the standard by which we think about marital sex. Sex is no longer good or safe primarily because it meets our criteria developed from our past experiences, but because it conforms to the design of our Creator who makes sex for our good, our pleasure, and as a portrait of something greater.

This reality of God’s design for sex can now capture our imagination (the source of our pleasurable expectations and fears) in a greater way than our past experiences ever did. This captivation and delight in the Gospel expressed through sex is something that, like all other emotionally-related experiences, have an ebb and flow. Therefore, we should expect this is a process we will go through many times as the expectation fades. But that is what we should “expect” this kind of change to look like based upon Paul’s instructions about these kinds of things in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.

“You Sin Less than Anyone I Know”

It was one of those “mystery pain” nights. My seven year old came down because his “side was hurting.” It conveniently began to be uncomfortable just after we turned out the lights for bed. But I was up for some late night chatter, so I offered to lie in the floor next to his bed until it felt better.

Sallie and I had been watching a movie about Alexander the Great when he came down stairs, so he asked me what it was about.  I explained that it was about a man who tried to and nearly succeeded in conquering the whole world.

He paused for a moment and said that is why he never wanted to be President; he was afraid having that much power would be too tempting for him. It was a sweet moment of realizing how deeply his young mind thought about life and how seriously (at least when he’s thinking) he takes his sin nature.

From there he rambled for a while about a cartoon where a main character was corrupted by power and the lessons he learned in first grade about the checks and balances in government. It was a delight and highly entertaining to lie in the floor and listen to his mind connect the dots between various sources of information he had been exposed to.

As a side note, I highly recommend the occasional late night hang out with your children. Whether we’re camping or waiting out a phantom side pain (I’m still not convinced), rarely do I leave without hearing a side of my boys’ hearts that I would not get during the day.

Somewhere in the midst of his chatter he said, “You know, Papa, you sin less than anyone I know,” and then went on to say why he agreed with me instead of something he heard at school.

That moment was very convicting to me. Earlier that evening we had tried to learn the game of Monopoly for the first time with the participation of my five year old son. Being the perfectionist that I am, I only know one way to play a game – “the right way.” Evidently my wife believes that the “author’s original intent” does not apply to the rule book of board games, so there was much for them to unlearn from their initial exposure to Monopoly with her the day before.

While both boys had fun, I cannot say that patience would be the word that best describes my “coaching” of the fundamentals of Monopoly. I would not volunteer the footage of that home movie as a how to video on family game night.

My son’s assessment of me made my “acceptable sharpness” look different to me. It showed me how much of a standard bearer I am for my sons. At this age (I know it will change), they assume almost everything I do is right and everything that bothers me is wrong. My “emotional climate” is their reality.

When they get bigger, one significant gauge for how much they will question their faith is how accurate my example was to the teaching of Scripture and how effectively my example can be followed in the real world. Hearing his sincere words about how he views me, makes me question how effective saying, “Only Jesus is perfect, so don’t base your faith on me,“ will be.

As he moves into adulthood he will be able to separate my example from Jesus, but in the formative years of pre-teen and teen-dom it seems likely that my example (as his father) will be his vision of Jesus. Until he can transition from the concrete example of his earthly father to the intangible God-as-Spirit and God-as-Word revealed in Scripture, I’m it.

That gave weight to something I have said many times, “We teach values more by our emotions than by our words.” So in that evening I confessed to my son that I had not even handled our Monopoly game well and that I’d been too impatient. I don’t think he believed me. In that moment God used him to teach me a truth I needed to learn from the innocent love of a child, “Love covers a multitude of sins (I Pet 4:8).”


Podcast: Radio Interview on Sexual Sin Seminars

Wednesday (February 8, 2012) I had the privilege of being on the “Called 2 Action Today” show with Steve Noble to talk about my two upcoming seminars: “False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Lust to Adultery” and “True Betrayal: Overcoming the Betrayal of Your Spouse’s Sexual Sin.”

The podcast from this show can be found here.

I appreciate Steve’s willingness to have an open, candid, “no sacred cow” conversation about issues that are too often ignored in the life of the church. We got the chance to talk about the importance of both sides of the issue: (a) how to overcome a struggle that directly affects the majority of the church — sexual sin, and (b) how do we care for the offended spouse who is often neglected even when a church is willing to minister to the offending spouse?

Steve had a great grasp of who is affected (men and women; singles and married) and what is at stake (the freedom of God’s children and the testimony of God’s church). His questions and commentary brought both of these to the forefront.

I appreciate his willingness to bring this issue and these seminars before the Body of Christ in RDU. I would appreciate your prayers as we seek to shed the light of Scripture and the hope of the gospel on this subject that is normally marked by darkness, shame, and despair. If you are able to attend we would love for any pastor, counselor, small group leader, lay leader, struggler, or friend who wants to be to offer hope to join us.

Night One:

False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Lust to Adultery
February 12, 2012 // 5:00 to 8:00 pm
The Summit Church; Brier Creek South Venue
2415 Presidential Drive, Suite 107; Durham, NC 27703
Free – No RSVP Needed

Night Two:

True Betrayal: Overcoming the Betrayal of Your Spouse’s Sexual Sin
February 19, 2012 // 5:00 to 8:00 pm
The Summit Church; Brier Creek South Venue
2415 Presidential Drive, Suite 107; Durham, NC 27703
Free – No RSVP Needed