Revelation 2 – Part 4

“But hold fast what you have till I come.” Revelation 2:25

The ascended Lord Jesus addresses the fourth church next. “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass.’” (Revelation 2:18). Thyatira was the smallest and least significant of the seven cities, but it was the one that received the longest letter.” 1

“According to legend, Thyatira was first established as a shrine to the sun god Tyrimnus and named Pelopia.” 2

This town stood about forty-five miles to the southeast of Pergamum. It was famous for its textiles, but especially for its production of purple dye (cf. Acts 16:14) and its trade guilds (or social clubs). 3

Sadly, these guilds were also steeped in blasphemous worship and sexual sin. The church in Thyatira had a woman, Jezebel, who supported such guild practices. If a Christian refused to participate in idol worship, he or she would often be excluded from the guild, and therefore be unable to conduct their business. 4

The Lord Jesus describes Himself as “the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass.” This description of Christ is like that in 1:13-15, but here He is called the “Son of God” rather than “the Son of Man,” since this situation required a reaffirmation of His deity and the authority or right to judge this church. 5

“Eyes like a flame of fire” refers to Jesus’ blazing anger against sin and His ability to see beneath the surface into the inmost being of a person’s heart. 6 The Greek word used to describe Christ’s feet like “fine brass” is a rare word chalkolibanō, also used in 1:15. It seems to have been an alloy of several metals characterized by brilliance when polished. 7  This speaks of the risen Christ’s inflexible, immovable strength and power 8 and His readiness to execute judgment (cf. Revelation 19:15). 9

Although much was wrong with the church in Thyatira, Christ commends this church when He says, “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.” (Revelation 2:19). These believerswere strong in good “works,” “love” for others (not mentioned in the other letters), “faith” in God, “service” of their Savior, and “patience” or perseverance in trials. This church was doing more as time went on (“the last are more than the first”)in contrast to the church at Ephesus which did less. 10 Often churches stop growing over time, but not the church in Thyatira. Their “works, love, service, faith, and…patience” continued to increase more that what they had at “first.”

But despite this evidence of Christian growth, the church in Thyatira had some serious flaws and needed a Judge. “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” (Revelation 2:20). Whereas the church in Ephesus would not allow false teachers, this church did. The risen Lord Jesus rebukes them for permitting a false teacher named “Jezebel” to entice them to practice “sexual immorality” connected to idolatrous worship (“to… eat things sacrificed to idols”).

It is likely that Jezebel’s immorality involved teaching God’s people that it was acceptable to engage in the activities of the guild feasts that took place in pagan temples. The pressure on the workers of that day to give in was great because failure to attend these feasts could threaten their livelihood.” 11

Though perhaps this was her real name, Jezebel also brings to mind the wife of Israel’s King Ahab (see 1 Kgs 16:31; 2 Kgs 9) and represents an entire category of immoral and idolatrous women.” 12

A modern-day practice of Jezebel’s doctrine is connected to pornography which involves sexual immorality and idolatry. Pornography is one of the most destructive practices in the church today and most churches do not know how to address it in a way that offers hope and healing for those enslaved to it. The majority of churches preach against the problem of pornography without providing a safe environment to address the real problem which is a deeper hurt in the hearts of those hooked on porn. Pornography is simply a surface coping mechanism for a deeper wound. Statistics indicate that 60-70 percent of men, 50-58 percent of pastors, and 20-30 percent of women in evangelical churches are sexually addicted. 13

“Pornography is the number one addiction for men. One out of two internet hits have to do with sex and pornography. Pornography can ruin normal sexual relationships because no real person can live up to pornographic images and fantasies. Research has shown that the limbic system bonds with whatever you are visualizing at the time of orgasm, so the next time you have sexual cravings they will be focused on that image or fantasy. This is why pornography is so addicting. Pornography is not really about sex; it is about zoning out, getting high on your own neurochemicals. Sex addicts report having withdrawal symptoms similar to cocaine withdrawal.” 14

Pornography is not just an adult addiction. Young people are also struggling with watching pornography online as young as four years of age and older because it is so accessible, addictive, aggressive, anonymous, and appealing. If you don’t think it’s possible for your children to get hooked on porn, you need to listen to Christian apologist and author Josh McDowell’s videos. 15 If you are struggling with pornography, contact Pure Desire at www.puredesire.org to obtain hope and healing from your addiction.

What is an idol? An idol is turning to something or someone other than God when we are anxious, hurting, lonely, stressed, or even wanting to celebrate. More and more Christians are turning to pornography instead of the Lord to medicate or celebrate their feelings. Pornography is an idol that is destroying the sons and daughters of God around the world.

Christ’s patience toward this false teacher in Thyatira is seen when He says, “And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.” (Revelation 2:21). God is very gracious and patient. He gave Jezebel “time to repent” of her false teaching that promoted “sexual immorality.” But she refused to “repent.” Understand that “a refusal is different than a struggle. At times, believers fight sins but cannot stop committing them on their own power. Jezebel was unwilling to make any effort.” 16  She knew she was doing wrong, and she chose to keep doing it. This does not mean that Jezebel was unsaved. It is possible to be a Christian and drift from sound doctrine (cf. I Timothy 1:19-20). 17

Since Jezebel did “not repent,” the Lord Jesus promised to discipline her and her followers when He said, “Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.” (Revelation 2:22). Since she encouraged lying on beds of adultery, the risen Jesus would cast her on a different kind of bed: a bed of sickness. 18 And because her followers joined her immoral ways, they would experience God’s painful discipline in the form of “great tribulation” or distress.

Another group in this church would experience a more severe judgment. “I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.” (Revelation 2:23). This group is referred to as “her children” because they fully embraced her teaching and lifestyle. 19 They would experience physical “death.” This may sound extremely severe, but it is not the first time in the New Testament that God disciplines His people in this way (cf. Acts 5:1-11; I Corinthians 11:29-30).

 Immediately before pronouncing, ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb 10:31), the writer of Hebrews declares, ‘The Lord will judge His people’ (v 30, emphasis added). The Lord’s discipline would cause His people to know that He is serious about sinful activity and false teaching and that no one is exempt from His discipline (cf. Gal 6:7).” 20

This judgment would be so intense that “all the churches shall know” that the ascended Christ is the One “who searches hearts and minds.” Nothing escapes His notice. False teachers may be able to deceive their followers, but they are not capable of fooling the risen Lord Jesus. These seven churches (and any of us today) reading these messages would be reminded to take sin seriously because God is partial to no one. He says, “I will give to each one of you according to your works.”

Not all the believers of the church in Thyatira followed Jezebel and her false doctrine. Jesus says to them, “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden.(Revelation 2:24). Apparently Jezebel claimed that her “doctrine” (that Christians can indulge in immorality without consequences) was deeper than the teachings of the apostles’ when in reality they extended to “the depths of Satan.” 21  Christ says that those who did not follow Jezebel’s teaching would be subject to “no other burden” just listed.

Instead, this godly remnant was to hold fast what you have till I come.” (Revelation 2:25).  These faithful believers were simply to continue to do what they had been doing – to stand against false teaching and to “hold fast” to purity of doctrineuntil Christ comes for His church at the Rapture (cf. Revelation 4:1-4; cf. John 14:2-3; I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). 22

Walvoord observes, Perhaps because the church was small, Christ did not command them to leave it but to remain as a godly testimony. Judgment on Jezebel and her followers would come soon and would purge the church. In modern times Christians who find themselves in apostate local churches can usually leave and join another fellowship, but this was impractical under the circumstances in Thyatira.

“The parallels between Thyatira and other apostate churches throughout church history are clear. Some compare Thyatira to believers in the Middle Ages when Protestantism separated from Roman Catholicism and attempted a return to purity in doctrine and life. The prominence of Jezebel as a woman prophetess is sometimes compared to the unscriptural exaltation of Mary. The participation in idolatrous feasts can illustrate the false teaching that the Lord’s Supper is another sacrifice of Christ. In spite of the apostasy of churches in the Middle Ages, there were churches then which, like the church of Thyatira, had some believers who were bright lights of faithfulness in doctrine and life.” 23

The ascended Lord Jesus then gives this godly remnant a challenge and promised reward if they fulfill that challenge. 26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations – 27 ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’ – as I also have received from My Father; 28 and I will give him the morning star.” (Revelation 2:26-28). The eternal rewards for remaining faithful to Christ and resisting Jezebel’s false teachings “until the end” of their lives was ruling with Christ “over the nations” in His earthly kingdom and enjoying a special intimacy with the Morning Star Himself, Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:16). 24 The morning star (usually the planet Venus) appears in the night sky, just before the dawning of a new day. Jesus Christ will guide faithful believers in the future, as the new day of His rule dawns (cf. Titus 2:13; Daniel 12:3). 25

“Thus, the reward for a pure life is a greater experience of Jesus during His millennial reign and for eternity. Naturally, a co-ruler of the universe will have greater access to the King than a common citizen.” 26

The Lord intended the prospect of this promised blessing to motivate the unfaithful in the church to return to God’s will for them, and to encourage the faithful to persevere. Believers who are faithful (“he who overcomes”) will receive “power” (authority) in heaven from Jesus Christ and will “rule” (lit. “shepherd”) others during the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth (cf. Matthew 16:24-27; 19:28-29; Luke 19:11- 27; Romans 8:17b; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 3:21; 20:4-6). Some believers will receive greater authority for being faithful, than others who have not been as faithful (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12). While not all Christians will remain faithful to the Lord (2 Timothy 2:12), Christ evidently described believers as faithful (cf. Revelation 2:19) to motivate them to remain faithful. 27

We see that the rewards of ruling with Christ and enjoying a special intimacy with Him in His earthly kingdom are reserved only for individual believers in Jesus who remain faithful to Christ until the end of their lives on earth. The Lord Jesus says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:29). Not all Christians are “overcomers” who hold fast to Christ till the end of their lives on earth. Only those who “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” and appropriate Jesus’ promise will be able to live as “overcomers” and receive these perseverance rewards.

Since Christ will reward each Christian “according to his works” (2:23; cf. 22:12) and not all Christians do the same amount or quality of works, there will be varying degrees of rewards among believers. When Jesus evaluates our Christian lives at the Judgment Seat (Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12), He will look deeper than the works themselves, since He “searches the hearts and minds” of His people and knows what motivates them to act (Revelation 2:23; cf. I Corinthians 4:5). His rewards will also take into consideration the motivation for our works (cf. Matthew 6:1-4; Hebrews 4:12-13). Have we served Christ with our very best to bring honor to Him (cf. I Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:22-25)? 28 Only Jesus Christ is qualified to make such judgments of believers (cf. I Corinthians 4:1-5; Revelation 1:12-20; 2:23; et al.).

To summarize: Christians who succumb to false teaching and the sinful lifestyle it promotes, can expect God’s discipline in their lives even unto physical death (2:18-23; cf. Acts 5:1-11; I Corinthians 11:29-30). Believers who resist false teaching and remain faithful to Christ until the end of their lives will receive the reward of ruling with Christ in His coming Kingdom and enjoy a special intimacy with Him, our Morning Star (2:24-29).

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for loving us enough to tell us what we need to hear. Like the church in Thyatira, You have commended us for having more good works, love for others, faith in God, service for You, and perseverance in trials than we had at the first. But You know our hearts and minds better than we do. You know that we have tolerated false teaching within our churches that compromises the truth of Your gospel by adding works to Your finished work on the cross. Such an unstable foundation has led to an infiltration of sexual immorality and idolatry in Your churches. Those of us who fall prey to this teaching of Jezebel’s spirit are those who often seek spiritual enlightenment apart from You and crave eternal life without believing on Christ’s sacrificial death. We can consider ourselves superior to the rest of the earth’s population and are ever learning some new ‘mystical’ spirituality, which is contrary to the truth of the gospel. Please help those of us who have embraced Jezebel’s teaching to return to Your will lest we experience Your painful discipline. Empower those of us who have rejected her teaching to remain faithful to You until the end of our lives so we may receive Your eternal rewards of ruling with You in Your coming Kingdom on earth and enjoying a special intimacy with You then as our Morning Star. May we hear and practice what Your Spirit says to us. In Your glorious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 41.

2. Ibid., cites David E. Aune, Revelation 1—5 (Word Biblical Commentary series. Dallas: Word Books, 1997), pg. 201.

3. Constable, pg. 41.

4.  Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1508.

5. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

6. Constable, pg. 42 cites, William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 1 (The Daily Study Bible series. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 128; Vacendak, pg. 1508.

7. Walvoord, pg. 164.

8. Constable, pg. 42 cites Barclay, pg. 128.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1508.

10. Walvoord, pg. 164.

11. Vacendak, pg. 1508.

12. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2374.

13. Jeremy & Tiana Wiles, Conquer Series: The Battle Plan For Purity Study Guide, Vol. 1 (Stuart FL: KingdomWorks Studio, 2017), pg. 21.

14. Michael Dye, The Genesis Process: For Change Groups Book 1 and 2 Individual Workbook (Michael Dye/Double Eagle Industries, 2012), pp. 206-207.

15. See Christian apologist and author Josh McDowell’s very informative and staggering videos on October 7, 2018 at Denton Bible Church entitled, “Breaking Free from the Porn Epidemic w/ Josh McDowell” at https://vimeo.com/294241982 and on August 3, 2021 with Pure Desire Ministries entitled, “The Effects of Pornography with Josh McDowell” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3sRmLFarZc .

16. Evans, pg. 2374.  

17. Vacendak, pg. 1509.

18. Constable, pg. 43.

19. Vacendak, pg. 1509. 

20. Ibid.

21. Constable, pg. 43.

22. Ibid., pg. 44; Vacendak, pg. 1509.

23. Walvoord, pg. 164.

24. Vacendak, pg. 1509.

25. Constable, pg. 45.

26. Evans, pg. 2374.

27. Constable, pg. 44.

28. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 771-772.

How can I overcome loneliness? Part 1

“Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments.” 2 Timothy 4:13

We live in a world of 7.9 billion people, 1 many living right on top of each other in crowed cities. We are wired together through incredible communication devices. Yet, despite all these circumstances that you think would inspire community, more people than ever feel alone in the world today. Research has shown that loneliness is especially on the rise among older teens and young adults due to the coronavirus pandemic. 2

Loneliness is one of the most miserable feelings a person can have. You may feel that no one loves you or even cares if you exist. Can you be wealthy and lonely? Ask the Donald Trump’s and Bill Gates’s of the world. Can you be popular and lonely? Ask the Kim Kardashian’s and Dwayne Johnson’s of society. Can you be beautiful and lonely? Ask the beauty queens who have attempted suicide. Can you be married and lonely? Ask the people who marry because of loneliness and then get divorced a few years later for the same reason.

All of us experience loneliness at one time or another, but there are specific causes and cures for it. Sometimes we bring loneliness on ourselves and other times we are in situations that are uncontrollable. The apostle Paul found himself in the latter as he wrote his second letter to a young pastor named Timothy. In 2 Timothy, Paul was a dying old man as he wrote from prison in Rome to Timothy and urged the younger man to visit him because he was lonely.

For the next few days, we are going to look at the causes and cures of loneliness. The first cause is THE TRANSITIONS OF LIFE (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Life is full of transitions and stages. Growing older is a series of changes, and any change can produce loneliness. We are lonely when we are born, and we cry until we are cuddled. We are lonely when we attend our first school or get a new job. Moving to a new community can be a lonely experience as can entering retirement. The death of a loved one is lonely. COVID has been a huge transition for the entire world which has resulted in many experiencing more loneliness.

The apostle Paul is now in the final transition of life, and he knows his time is short. He is feeling alone. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.” (2 Timothy 4:6). Paul is saying, “Timothy, I don’t have much time left. I may be executed by Nero soon or I may die from old age.”

As Paul spends his last days alone, he says 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Paul is saying, “I have fulfilled my ministry and now I am ready to receive my reward of ruling with Christ along with all who have loved His appearing.” The first cause of loneliness is simply the transitions of life. Any new experience we must face, can be lonely.

There are healthy ways and there are self-defeating ways to deal with loneliness. One self-defeating way is to become a workaholic. You burn the candle at both ends and end up not being nearly as bright as you thought. It takes its toll on you physically and emotionally.

Some people try to overcome loneliness through materialism. They buy everything around them. They tell themselves, “If I can just get those things I want, then I will be happy.” But things don’t satisfy. We need people. We need acceptance and love, not things. Some people have an affair – they look outside their marriage to cure their loneliness. But this only leads to more pain and shame. Others may turn to alcohol or drugs. Some people lose themselves in afantasy world by reading novels or watching pornography online. Others do absolutely nothing but sit around and have a pity party. These responses to loneliness are self-defeating. They only create more loneliness and pain.

The apostle Paul did none of these self-defeating things. He did several things to overcome his loneliness which are just as relevant today as they were when Paul went through his days of loneliness. The first cure is UTILIZE YOUR TIME WISELY (2 Timothy 4:13). Make the best of your tough situation. Resist the temptation to do nothing. Loneliness can paralyze us if we just sit around and do nothing. If life gives you a lemon, think of creative ways to make lemonade. This is what Paul did.

Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments.” (2 Timothy 4:13). Paul refused to sit around and feel sorry for himself. He didn’t complain, “God, is this what I get for thirty years of ministry? Is this my reward for starting many churches, for being the person most responsible for taking the gospel to the Roman world? Is this what I get – to die in a damp and dark prison in Rome all alone?” No, Paul did not throw a pity party. Instead, he says, “If I am going to be alone, I might as well be comfortable. I’m going to make the best of a bad situation. Bring my cloak so I can at least be warm.”

Often lonely people don’t take care of themselves. They don’t eat right, they don’t exercise, and they ignore their personal needs. My grandparents were just the opposite. They were constantly walking, reading, and serving others. That is probably why my grandmother lived to be over a hundred and my grandfather lived to be almost ninety-nine.

It is important to pay attention to your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Learn to take care of yourself. When Paul admonished husbands to love their wives as they love their own bodies, he wrote, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” (Ephesians 5:29). Other than those with mental illness, people naturally take care of their physical bodies. 3 Men are to care for their wives just as they care for their own physical bodies. This is precisely what “the Lord” Jesus “does for the church” – He nourishes and cherishes it.

Are we taking care of our physical bodies? Are we eating properly, exercising, getting adequate sleep, and participating in activities that are life-giving? During times of loneliness, we can easily neglect our personal needs.

Paul did not ignore his personal needs. He says, “Bring my coat and my books, and I will take advantage of this solitary time; I will use it for writing and study time.” This was a big change of pace for Paul because he was a doer, a church-planter. More than anything else, he wanted to be in the Roman coliseum preaching the gospel to hundreds instead of in a prison studying. But sometimes God can use loneliness for our good. If Paul had been in the coliseum he would have been preaching, but God left him in prison and we got part of the New Testament instead, which has impacted far more lives for Jesus Christ! You know, probably the only way God could get Paul to sit still was to put him in prison. And Paul’s response was, “If I cannot be where the action is, I will create action right here.”

Since COVID restrictions were put in place early in 2020, the Lord led me to begin this online ministry to the world. Rather than moping around and feeling sorry for myself, I asked the Lord to show me how to utilize my time and talents for Him. And He led me to start See You in Heaven online to multiply disciples of Jesus around the world until all hear His gospel of grace.

What does the Lord want you to do with the time and talents He has given you? Take time to ask Him and wait quietly for His response. Write down what He impresses you to do. I believe we do not have much time left here on earth before Jesus returns for His church. Let’s focus on His leading and use our time and talents in a way that honors Him and fulfills His purpose for our lives.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for the example of the apostle Paul. Even though he was facing a huge transition in his life, he did not sit around and feel sorry for himself. Instead, he took care of his personal needs and utilized his time and talents for You. As a result, we now have a part of the New Testament that continues to change countless lives for Your glory. Like Paul, help us to take care of our personal needs so we can be more available to be used by You to impact this world for Jesus Christ. All of us have time and talents that You have given us. Please show us how to best utilize them all for Your honor and glory. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Retrieved on September 4, 2021, from https://www.worldometers.info/ .

2. Retrieved on September 4, 2021, from Colleen Walsh’s February 17, 2021, article entitled, “Young adults hardest hit by loneliness during pandemic,” The Harvard Gazette.

3. J. B. Bond, Robert Wilkin; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1067.

How can I ever change? Part 1

“Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” Genesis 32:24

What would you most like to change about yourself? If you could change one thing what would it be? Would you like to have more confidence? Be more relaxed? Organized? Perhaps you would like to be more outgoing, more self-controlled, more flexible, less anxious, less fearful or less controlling? One of the greatest tragedies is a person who is never willing to change. Change is a necessary part of the Christian life. If you are not changing, then you are not growing. We need to change in order to remain fresh and to keep moving forward in the Christian life. 

Most of us are interested in changing because we recognize there is always room for improvement. Many of us admit we want to change and try to change, but it doesn’t happen. We try to go on a diet, but it lasts an afternoon. We join health clubs and our excitement runs strong for a few weeks. Then we fall back into the same old rut. We go to seminars or counseling, but we keep falling back into old patterns of behavior. We want to be more positive and outgoing, and complain less, but it doesn’t work. The main reason is because we work on the exterior – our outside behavior – instead of working on the interior – our heart. Any lasting change must begin on the inside. Before we can make lasting changes to our behavior, we must first experience a change in our hearts. And this is a work of God!

During the next few days, Lord willing, we are going to look at a process that God uses in changing us – in making us more like Jesus Christ. God wants to change us and if you are a growing Christian, you will want to change as well. Turn with me to Genesis 32:24-30 where we will see how to change by looking at the life of Jacob, the father of Joseph. The incident in this passage was a turning point in Jacob’s life. It illustrates how God can change us as individuals.

Jacob was somewhat of a shifty guy. At birth he grasped his twin brother Esau’s heel and was given the name “Jacob” which means “heel-holder” (Genesis 25:26). Later Jacob deceived his father, Isaac, into giving him Esau’s blessing, and Jacob’s name came to mean “supplanter”“one who takes the place of another by trickery.” (Genesis 27:1-29). His name took on the meaning of a “cheater, schemer.”    

But a wrestling match transformed Jacob into a new person (Genesis 32:24-30), and he became “Israel,” the man whom the entire nation of Israel would be named after. In this passage we see the process God uses to change us into the kind of people He wants us to become. It communicates to all of us that we don’t have to stay in the rut where we are: God will help us to change and overcome the weaknesses in our lives, if we will just let Him.

How do we let Him? After Jacob sent all his family and possessions across the river on the edge of the Promised Land (Genesis 32:22-23), Jacob had a wrestling match with an angel (Genesis 32:24-30). What does a wrestling match with an angel (Hosea 12:4) several thousand years ago have to do with changing you and me today? There are four steps in these verses that God uses to change us into the people He wants us to become.

First, we discover that GOD USES THE PROCESS OF A CRISIS (Genesis 32:24). We read, “Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” (Genesis 32:24). An unidentified man assaulted Jacob, and he had to fight for his life. The “Man” was the Angel of the Lord. The Bible tells us,3 When he [Jacob] became a man, he even fought with God. 4 Yes, he wrestled with the Angel [of the Lord] and prevailed.” (Hosea 12:3-4 LB). Notice that God took the initiative in wrestling with Jacob, not vice versa. Why?

God was bringing Jacob to the end of himself. The fact that the match lasted till daybreak is significant. For the darkness symbolized Jacob’s situation. Fear and uncertainty seized him. If Jacob had perceived that he was to fight God, he would never have engaged in the fight, let alone have continued all night. On the other hand the fact that the wrestling lasted till daybreak suggests a long, decisive bout.” 1

Jacob had an all-night wrestling match with an angel, and the angel was really struggling, but it was a no-win situation for both of them. By dawn Jacob was getting tired of the struggle because he saw that he could not win. It was a situation beyond his control which was something Jacob was not used to. Jacob had been able to handle his problems using his own craftiness until now. Now Jacob is facing a crisis he cannot control with his scheming.

When God wants to change us, He begins by placing us in a frustrating situation that is totally beyond our control. We cannot win, and we just keep getting more and more tired. If we are in a crisis now, it may be because God is getting ready to change us for the better. We rarely change until we get uncomfortable and dissatisfied enough to let God do something in our lives.

The Bible tells us, “Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.” (Proverbs 20:30 GNT). God loves us so much that He makes us uncomfortable if that is what it takes, to make us willing to change and grow. He will allow a crisis or problem in our lives to get our attention. He needs to do this because we won’t change until our fear of change is exceeded by the pain we are experiencing.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for loving us enough to allow us to face a crisis so we become willing to change and grow. We often don’t like the pain associated with it, but we realize that were it not for the pain, we would probably continue down the path of self-destruction. You understand us better than we do. You know that our fear of change must be exceeded by discomfort before we are open to change. Thank You our Lord and our God for pursuing us and giving us opportunities to grow. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen. 

ENDNOTES:

1. Allen P. Ross, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Law, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 147.

How can I overcome my fears? Part 3

“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ ” John 20:21

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-6), they experienced shame for the first time. The complete innocence and vulnerability they once had with God and one another were now lost. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Genesis 3:7). They were now self-conscious and ashamed of their nakedness before one another, so they tried to remove their shame by covering themselves with fig leaves.

But their sin and shame also adversely affected their relationshipwith God. “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”(Genesis 3:8). Instead of being open and vulnerable before God, they now hid themselves from His presence when He pursued them. God is presented in this verse as pursuing His fallen children by walking in the garden in the cool of the day as if this was something He had always done to connect with them.

We might assume that God came to them to punish and shame Adam and Eve for the wrong they had done, but notice that God does not seek to punish or shame His fallen children. He seeks to restorethem. “Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”(Genesis 3:9). Why would an all-knowing God ask Adam a question to which He already knows the answer? Because the Lord wanted a confessionfrom Adam. “Where are you in relation to Me?” God asks. God knew where Adam was, but did Adam know where he was in relation to the Lord?

When Adam told God, “I was afraid because I was naked” (Genesis 3:10), God replied, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” (Genesis 3:11). God never told Adam and Eve they were naked. This was the natural consequence of their sin.

Satan also reveals our shame to us when we sin (true shame) or don’t sin (false shame). His accusations against believers produce shame in their lives. The Devil uses fear and shame to isolate Christians from God and one another. Like a roaring lion who focuses on those who are isolated and weak, Satan focuses on believers who are alone and weak (cf. 1 Peter 5:8).

Would Adam and Eve believe God is still the same loving and merciful God that He had always been prior to their disobedience? Or would they believe the lie of the serpent who implied that God could not really be trusted (cf. Genesis 3:1-5)? The Lord did not abandon Adam and Eve when they sinned and felt ashamed. He seeks them out to restore them to fellowship with Himself.

But instead of trusting the Lord, Adam and Eve were now afraid of Him. “So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’” (Genesis 3:10). Their fear and shame now became a barrier to His loving and merciful pursuit of them. Not only were they self-conscious of their nakedness before one another, they were now self-conscious of their nakedness before God. By covering themselves with fig leaves and hiding themselves among the trees of the garden, Adam and Eve hid themselves from being able to receive God’s love, grace, and mercy which He was freely offering to them. Their faith in God had now changed to fear. Unfortunately their fear and shame pushed them away from the Lord instead of drawing them near to Him. And fear and shame can do the same to us today.

We are learning from Jesus’ encounter with His ten fearful disciples in the evening of His resurrection day how to overcome our fears. The disciples were afraid of opposition from the Jews so they were hiding behind locked doors. I wonder if they may have felt ashamed too since they had abandoned Jesus in His hour of suffering after promising to remain faithful to Him even unto death (Matthew 26:35, 56).

Like He did in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, Jesus sought out His disciples who were afraid and ashamed. And from this we are learning how to overcome our fears. So far we have discovered we must…

– Rely on Jesus to calm our fear with His peace-giving presence (John 20:19).

– Redirect our focus to the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection to convince our doubting hearts (John 20:20).

Today we see that we must also RENEW OUR SENSE OF PURPOSE (John 20:21). After calming and convincing His fearful disciples, they were still paralyzed by fear. They still remained behind locked doors. Amazingly, Jesus remains calm and gracious. He does not give up on them even though they may have given up on themselves.

Christ believes so much in these frightened men, that He commissions them. “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ ” (John 20:21). Why does Jesus repeat His extension of peace to His disciples?

Because they were terrified of the Jews. That’s why they had locked the doors (20:19). Yet Jesus gave them his peace. Notice that their situation hadn’t changed. The Jewish leaders would still oppose them in the days ahead (see Acts 4:1-24; 5:17-42). But Jesus can speak peace into trouble. Though your circumstances are unstable, he can provide the internal stability your heart needs.” 1

Christ wants to reassure these frightened men of the deep and lasting peace that could be theirs. Peace prepares them for His commissioning. Notice that Jesus’ peace is given to them before they are commissioned. Sometimes we can mistakenly conclude that we must work to gain God’s peace. But Jesus reminds us that this peace comes from His presence in our lives, not from our service for Him. Christians can easily make the mistake and conclude that peace is based upon their performance instead of the peace-giving presence of Jesus Christ. And when they do this, the peace for which they are working so hard to gain, constantly escapes them.

Can you relate to this? Instead of ministering to others out of the peace Christ’s presence has given to us, we minister to others out of fear. The fear of not measuring up. The fear of being disapproved or rejected. The fear of failing. The fear of not having what it takes to be a God-honoring follower of Christ. We can even use ministry as a way to medicate our fears. Ministry can function like an addiction. It becomes our fig leaf to cover up our fear and shame.

But when we understand that Christ’s peace comes from His presence in our lives, we can minister to others out of our identity in Christ, not out of a desperate attempt to earn God’s peace or to prove that we have what it takes. The latter leads to ruin. The former leads to fruitfulness and glory to the Father (John 15:1-8).

After extending peace to them, Jesus begins the commissioning of His disciples. Keep in mind that this is regarded as the first of Christ’s commissionings in the Gospels and Acts. It is followed by Mark 16:15-16, then Matthew 28:19-20, and finally Luke 24:46-48 and Acts 1:8 which seem to be two versions of the same commissioning.

Christ begins by stating that the Father had sent Him. The Greek word for “sent” (apostéllō) in the phrase, “As the Father has sent Me,” refers to an official or authoritative sending. It is in the perfect tense (apestalken), indicating that the mission of Christ is not being regarded in its historical fulfillment, but in its permanent effect. The form of the fulfillment of Christ’s mission was now to be changed, but the mission itself was to be continued.

The Greek word translated “send” (pempō) in the phrase “I also send you,” is a general word for sending. It is in the present tense. The disciples were not to start a new work, but were to carry on Christ’s work. Just as Jesus was the Father’s Representative on earth, so Christ’s disciples would be His representatives on earth.

It is much like a baton exchange in a relay race at a track meet. One relay runner passes a baton to another runner. He receives the baton, and runs with it. And when he finishes his leg in the race, he places it in the hands of another who is to continue the race.

“Since believers no longer belong to the world (15:19), it was necessary for Jesus to ‘send’ His disciples back into the world to complete the mission. Our mission does not replace Jesus’ mission, however. He carries out His present mission through us.” 3

“. . . what is central to the Son’s mission—that he came as the Father’s gift so that those who believe in him might not perish but have eternal life (3:16), experiencing new life as the children of God (1:12-13) and freedom from the slavery of sin because they have been set free by the Son of God (8:34-36)—must never be lost to view as the church defines her mission.” 4

Christ responds to their fears by pointing them to His mission for them to carry out. Remember, whatever we fear, we give power and control to. Christ wants them (and us) to renew their sense of purpose and replace their fears with His mission in their lives. For this to take place, they must give power and control to Jesus.

Christ gives us His peace so we can give Him power and control over our lives. He will not take advantage of us or misuse our trust in Him. He is a good Shepherd Who radically loves His sheep. His death and resurrection prove this. Will we trust and follow Him?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I praise You for giving me Your peace before giving me Your purpose for my life. I can now operate out of Your peace-giving presence instead of operating out of fear. I don’t have to minister to others as a way of avoiding my fears. I can now minister to others out of the peace Your indwelling presence gives to me. Thank You for entrusting me with Your mission to proclaim the gift of eternal life so that those who believe in You should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). I praise You for the new life believers can experience as children of God (John 1:12). Thank You for the freedom from slavery to sin they can experience as they learn to abide in Your word (John 8:31-32). Please renew Your church all around the globe with the urgency of this mission. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1828.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 377.

3. Ibid., pg. 378.

4. Ibid., cites Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991), pg. 649.  

How can Jesus transform our grief into gladness? Part 4

“Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:24

We are learning from Jesus’ instructions to His disciples how He can transform our grief into gladness. Christ can do this when we…

– Ask Him to help us properly understand His word as it relates to our situation (John 16:16-19).

– Accept that pain and suffering are part of life (John 16:20a; cf. 16:33).

– Assess our circumstances with an eternal perspective (John 16:20b-22).       

The fourth way the Lord can transform our grief into gladness is to ALLOW OUR GRIEF TO DIRECT US TO THE FATHER IN PRAYER (John 16:23-24). Christ’s resurrection would change relations. Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples, “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.” (John 16:23). “In that day” after His resurrection and ascension, Jesus would not be with His disciples physically and so they would not be able to ask Him questions. But the Holy Spirit would teach them and answer their questions (John 16:13-15).

We also see that Christ’s resurrection and ascension provided unlimited access to the Father in prayer. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, the disciples had often asked the Lord to meet their needs while they were with Him, but they had not asked the Father in heaven for anything in His name. Christ promises that after His ascension to heaven, the “Father …will give” them “whatever” they ask in Jesus’ name.

Praying in Jesus’ name is not a magical formula that we add at the end of our prayers. To pray in Jesus’ name means we pray what Jesus would pray to accomplish God’s will and bring Him maximum glory. When we pray according to God’s will, He will hear and answer our prayers to magnify the name of Jesus (cf. I John 5:14-15).

Next Christ says, “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24). “Now,” because of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the disciples would be able to approach the Father directly in Jesus’ name. The word “ask” (aiteite) is a present imperative verb and conveys the idea of asking God continually and persistently. Christ assures them that the Father would “give” them whatever they prayed in Jesus’ name to accomplish His will. The purpose of all of this was so that their “joy may be full” or complete. 

No matter what pain or sorrow we experience, it is essential that we stay connected to Jesus because God the Father is still in the prayer-answering business when we love and seek to honor His Son. 1 A disciple of Christ centers his or her life around Jesus (cf. Philippians 1:21), so when Jesus is glorified, his or her joy will “be full” or complete. Nothing is more enjoyable or satisfying for a follower of Christ than to see his or her Lord magnified.

When we go through painful times as did Jesus and His disciples, we have a choice to make. Will we turn away from the Father and pout or will we turn to the Father and pray? If we turn to the Father in prayer, He can fill our hearts with joy that the world cannot take from us. Our joy is connected to prayer. It cannot be made complete in any other way. Isn’t this exciting!?! God desires to make us glad by working in and through us as we pray to Him.

How do you respond to trials? Do you allow pain in your life to turn you to God or away from Him? Many of us want to take matters into our own hands when we experience pain. We may try to medicate our pain with different behaviors, feelings, people, or substances (e.g. alcohol, anger, anxiety, cell phones, depression, drugs, friends, gossip, lust, ministry, music, pornography, rage, romantic relationships, shopping, sports, TV, video games, work, or worry, et al.). But the Lord  wants us to turn to Him as we face painful times. He is waiting to hear from us, so He can fill our hearts with gladness.

What keeps believers from turning to the Lord in the midst of their pain? I believe much of it has to do with the lies we believe.  Let’s look at some common lies and the corresponding truth with which to overcome them:

Lie #1: God must not love me to allow all this pain in my life.

Truth #1: No one and nothing can separate me from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

Lie #2:  God is against me, not for me.

Truth #2: God is for me and He proved it when He gave His only Son for me (Romans 8:31-32).

Lie #3: God will not understand my feelings.

Truth #3: Christ experienced the same feelings as you, so He could understand your feelings and help you process them (Hebrews 4:15).

Let’s lean into the Lord especially during these uncertain times. He longs to fill us with His joy that cannot be taken from us.  

Prayer: Father God, I come to You now through the Lord Jesus Christ Who loved me and gave Himself to die in my place on a cross for all my sins and then rose from the dead. Please forgive me for embracing lies that lead me away from You instead of the truth that brings me closer to You. I am so thankful that I now have direct access into Your presence because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. I can talk to You at any time about anything knowing that You understand and are listening. Right now my Lord and my God, I give everyone and everything to You. I surrender everyone and everything to You, Lord. You are a good, good Father Who wants to bless His children. Thank You for the safety and security that I find in Your everlasting arms of love and mercy. Hold me, Lord. Hold me…. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1811.

Why does the Lord allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it? Part 8

“Jesus said to them, ‘Loose him, and let him go.’ ” John 11:44b

Today we will look at the final reason why the Lord may allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it. It is to GET CHRISTIANS TO HELP ONE ANOTHER DISPOSE OF THEIR GRAVE CLOTHES (John 11:44b). Jesus had just commanded a dead man to come out of his grave (John 11:43). And a living Lazarus walked out of his tomb wrapped from head to toe in burial clothes. Only Jesus can bring life to dead churches, marriages, families, and individuals. That is Jesus’ job. But look at the end of verse 44:  “Jesus said to them, ‘Loose him, and let him go.’ ” (John 11:44b). Could Jesus have caused the grave clothes of Lazarus to drop off? Absolutely! If He could raise Lazarus from the dead, He could certainly cause his grave clothes to drop off. But why didn’t He do this?

That would have left Lazarus naked and caused him a lot of humiliation and shame. By having those around him unwrap Lazarus, Jesus was providing an opportunity for people close to Lazarus to help him lose his grave clothes without losing his dignity. Likewise, Christians need to help one another get free from their spiritual and emotional grave clothes.

Jesus gives life to people. That is His job. But it is our job, the people of God, to help one another get out of the grave clothes that keep reborn people from acting alive. We may still have the grave clothes of shame and self-righteousness. We may view ourselves and God in a way that keeps us from experiencing His resurrection life. There may be deeply ingrained habits or thought patterns that prevent us from living resurrection lifestyles. Or we may have the grave clothes of unconfessed sin or an unforgiving spirit which keep us from experiencing true freedom in our Christian lives.

The church needs to be a safe place where we begin to peel away the grave clothes that keep born again people from experiencing the resurrection life of Jesus Christ. We cannot live victorious Christian lives in isolation from other believers. We need each other to experience the resurrection power of Christ in our lives.

How can churches become a safe place for believers to remove their grave clothes?

1. Ask others to help you remove your own grave clothes. Instead of jumping in like a spiritual superior to help remove the grave clothes of others, church leaders are to give others permission to help them remove what is keeping them from experiencing Christ’s resurrection power more fully. After all, how can church leaders expect others to be vulnerable about their struggles if they are not vulnerable about theirs? This kind of mutual vulnerability conveys the gospel message that we are all imperfect sinners in need of God’s grace (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). If Christians will live in humble vulnerability with one another, they will create an atmosphere that gives every believer in the church the safety and freedom to shed their grave clothes on the pathway to experiencing Christ’s resurrection power.

2. Extend the same grace to others as Christ has given to you (Ephesians 2:8-9; 4:32). None of us deserved salvation, but God freely gave it to us by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. We must create an atmosphere of this grace that invites imperfect sinners to come out of the darkness into the light of Jesus’ love. I have attended Christian churches and/or ministries where believers were treated harshly for having grave clothes that kept them from experiencing Christ’s resurrection power. They were belittled and bullied for having struggles, which only increased their fear and shame. They were viewed as an embarrassment to the church or ministry. According to them, since “true Christians” have no serious problems, no provisions were made to help them.

This is the exact opposite of what Jesus did with those who were broken and wounded. Christ fulfilled the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 42:3 which says, “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench” (cf. Matthew 12:20). Jesus did not deal harshly with those who were already hurting nor did He extinguish what little hope a broken heart possessed. He came along side of them to strengthen them with His presence rather than step on them to advance His own plans. He wants to rekindle our love and passion for Him. Unlike the religious leaders of His day, Jesus had compassion for the weak and vulnerable. He extended gentleness and humility to the harassed and helpless (Matthew 9:36) as well as to the weary and burdened (Matthew 11:28). He gave forgiveness to the fallen (John 8:11). Likewise, the more churches have this Christlike mindset, the more they will expect “true Christians” to have obvious problems and provide ministries that provide the safety and security to promote transparency, healing, and growth.

3. Focus more on the heart instead of behavior. God is not uptight about our sin and shame. People are the ones who are uptight about our sin and shame. God still loved us even though we were undeserving, ungodly sinners without any strength to reconcile ourselves to Him. He did not wait for us to clean ourselves up before He loved us and died in our place. The Bible says, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). “Christ died for the ungodly,” not the godly. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ died for us “while we were still sinners,” not saints. Christ looked beyond our sin to our hearts. He loved us no matter how often or badly we sinned.

Do our churches communicate this same kind of love to those the Lord brings to us? No matter how stinky a believer’s grave clothes are, do we love and accept that person as Jesus loves and accepts him or her? Do we take time to get to know the person, or do we stay preoccupied with their behavior and avoid them or judge them? It is Christ’s love that will embolden believers to remove their grave clothes and be transparent with one another, not focusing on behavior. After all, God’s “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18). And fear and shame are two of the most common obstacles that keep people from being vulnerable with one another. But when we experience God’s incredible love for us through other believers who love and care for us no matter what we have done, we will respond with love toward our Lord and toward His children (I John 4:19).

4. Define believers by what God says about them, not by what they do. Christians are not defined by their grave clothes. They are defined by what God says about them. For example, the apostle Paul wrote the book of Ephesians to Christians who were living in the city of Ephesus, a sex-saturated society that was the home of the temple Diana. Christians were enticed by temple teachings to live without restraint. Paul countered this godless culture by emphasizing the Christian’s new identity in chapters 1-3, followed by a call to live in a way that is consistent with who they are in chapters 4-6.

An example of this is seen in Ephesians 5:8-10. Paul writes,  “8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” Notice that Paul starts with who they now are in Christ – “you are light in the Lord” (5:8a). The light of Jesus Christ now defined who they are, not the darkness of their sin. Paul then concludes, “walk as children of light” (5:8b). Jesus is the “light of the world” (John 8:12) and His followers are defined by His light.  

Christian speaker and author, Dr. Tony Evans, writes, “His followers must reflect Him the way the moon reflects the sun—not as crescent-moon Christians but as full-moon Christians. And we can’t reflect His light unless we’re in the light. So, if you want to reflect Christ, you have to be absorbing Christ through cultivating an intimate walk and relationship with Him (see John 15:1-16).” (Dr. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. pg. 2110).

As we grow closer to Jesus and learn how He sees us, we will begin to live like children of light who produce “goodness, righteousness, and truth” as we discover what is “acceptable to the Lord” (5:9-10).  

If we want to see believers shed their grave clothes and experience the resurrection power of Jesus more fully, we must focus on what God says about them instead of on what they have done. Why? Because the more they see themselves as God sees them, the more He will transform their lives. After all, we act in the way we perceive ourselves to be. The Bible says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7). Our behavior does not determine who we are. At the very core of our being we are God’s children and God wants us to learn to start acting in a way that is consistent with who you are.

For example, if you see yourself as an addict at the core of your being, what will be the most natural thing for you to do? To stay sober or practice your addiction? Practice your addiction. What will be the most unnatural thing for you to do? Stay sober. But if you see yourself as a child of God at the core of your being (John 1:12; I John 3:1-2), what is the most natural thing for you to do? Stay sober. Satan wants to convince you that you are a sinner. Why? Because sinning is accepted as natural. But if you realize and believe you are a child of God at the core of your being, then you will come to the conclusion that sinning compromises who you are. Sin is inconsistent with who you are in Christ. The more a believer sees themselves as God sees them, the more they will realize their grave clothes no longer define who they are. In fact, wearing their grave clothes will seem unnatural and restrictive to them.

Prayer: Wow, Lord Jesus! Many times I have read the raising of Lazarus from the dead, but I had not noticed the last part of verse 44. What a powerful application this is for the church today. Yes, You gave life to Lazarus as only You can do. But You want Your people to help him remove his grave clothes so he can experience his new life more fully. Oh Lord, please awaken Your church to see their role in helping other believers remove their grave clothes in a way that preserves their dignity and enables them to more fully experience Your resurrection power in their lives. In Your life-giving name I pray. Amen.

How can I overcome my sinful addictions – Part 5

“Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?” John 8:46

The third reason why we are hindered from overcoming our addictions is because of our STUBBORN UNBELIEF (John 8: 45-47). Like their father, the devil, these unbelieving Jews lived in a world of lies and falsehood. Jesus said to them, “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.” (John 8:45). These men would rather believe a lie, rather than the truth that Jesus spoke. They had believed the devil’s lies so long that when Jesus tells them the truth, they did not believe Him because His teaching did not line up with their belief system. Here lies the battle: truth versus lies. The only way you can begin to overcome your addictions is to start believing the truth – about Christ, yourself, and your bondage to sin.

Jesus asks them, “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” (John 8:46a). “If you can find anything that I have done wrong, anything in all my thirty-three years on earth; if there is one of you who can stand up and say, ‘You cheated me, you stole from me, you lied to me, you deceived me, you lived for your own self, you took away what belonged to another,’ that would utterly demolish My claim to have come from God.” He pauses for an answer, but no one says anything. Their silence implied that Jesus was sinless. 

So Christ asks, “And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?” (John 8:46b). “If you can find no sin in Me, then I must be speaking the truth, so why do you refuse to believe in Me? A sinless Man should be believed!” Jesus has stripped away the veil that has hidden their hearts from themselves. He has revealed them, not as good and decent men who were free before God, but as slaves, bound with habits they could not break, slaves to sin, desperately needing the work of a Redeemer. Yet they stubbornly refuse to believe in Christ.

So He states the case plainly. “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” (John 8:47). They rejected Christ’s message because they have no relationship with God.

This reminds me of some of the victims of hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest hurricanes to ever hit the United States back in August of 2005. When rescuers came to their flooded homes, they shot at them instead of trusting them to save them from drowning. They refused their help. Are we any different? We can be so entrapped by sin, unable to break those sinful habits, yet when Christ offers us His help to overcome them, we shoot at Him as if we would rather die in our sin than be saved by someone else.

This brings us back to what Jesus said in John 8:31b-32: “31b If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” That is the only way out. To all victims of Satan’s lies Jesus offers the priceless gift of freedom. Only Jesus Christ can deliver us from bondage to sin. We do not have the power in ourselves to overcome sin. Only Christ can free us from sin’s control. Will we think, believe and act on the truth or will we think, believe, and act on a lie? The choice is ours. Choosing the truth will lead to freedom from bondage to sin and an abundant life. Choosing a lie will lead to more bondage and destruction.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we come to You as prisoners of our own making. All of us are slaves to sin. It may be anger, lust, worry, alcohol, drugs, self-abuse, gossip, pornography, cell phones, or work. You know our addictions and only You can set us free. Empower us to know, believe, and act on Your truth so that we may be all that You intended us to be for Your glory. In Your name I pray. Amen.

How can I overcome my sinful addictions? – Part 4

“Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.’ ” John 8:42

We will look at a second reason why we are hindered from overcoming our addictions. It is because of SATANIC LIES (John 8:37-44). We observed last time thatJesus’ audience was comprised of believers (“many believed in Him… those Jews who believed Him” – John 8:30b-31a) and unbelievers (“you do not believe Me… why do you not believe Me?” – John 8:44-45). While Jesus spoke to the believers about abiding in His Word to be set free from bondage to sin (John 8:31-32), the unbelievers listened in and were offended that Jesus spoke of being set free from bondage since they were descendants of Abraham (John 8:33).

Jesus then said to these unbelievers, “ ‘37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. 38 I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.’ 39 They answered and said to Him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. 41 You do the deeds of your father.’ Then they said to Him, ‘We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.’ ” (John 8:37-41). Jesus acknowledged that these people were physical descendants of Abraham, but they were not spiritual descendants. These unbelieving Jews had no room in their hearts for Jesus’ word because they have a different father than Jesus’ Father in heaven (John 8:37-38). When they said Abraham was their father, Jesus said if that were true, they would “do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39). But instead of behaving like Abraham who embraced the truth (cf. Genesis 15:4-6; 18:1-22), they sought to kill Jesus because He told them “the truth” which He “heard from God” the Father (John 8:40). When Christ accused them of doing “the deeds” of their father (John 8:41a; cf. 8:44), He was implying that they had a different spiritual father than God or Abraham.

Then these unbelievers made reference to what they thought was Jesus’ illegitimate  birth, “We were not born of fornication” (John 8:41b). While claiming that God was their “Father” (John 8:41c), they were also taking a jab at Jesus by saying His mother was pregnant before she was married (cf. Matthew 1:18). I find that many Muslims have this same view of Jesus’ birth that they use to justify their rejection of Christ.

What these unbelieving Jews and many Muslims today do not understand is that God is Jesus’ Father. “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.’ ” (John 8:42). Jesus refuted their accusation that He was born illegitimately because His birth was supernatural (“I proceeded forth and came from God”), not immoral! Moreover, Jesus also denied that God was their Father. The phrase “If God were your Father…” is a second class condition in the Greek language which means it is contrary to fact. It would be translated, “If God were your Father [and He is not], you would love Me…” Christ’s point is if they were God’s true children they would love Him instead of trying to kill Him, and they would acknowledge that God “sent” Him.

Christ then says, “Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.” (John 8:43). Even though Jesus’ message is clear and true about His identity and origin, these unbelieving Jews could “not understand” Him. They were “not able to listen” to Jesus’ message because they had hardened their hearts toward Christ (cf. John 5:40; 7:17). Why? Jesus explains: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44). When Jesus spoke, these men wanted to kill Him because their father, the devil, has been a murderer and a liar from the beginning. These men were enslaved to sin because they were in denial about their relationship to Satan. The devil had lied to these leaders about the identity of Jesus and these leaders believed his lies which kept them from believing in Christ. This is at the heart of all who reject Jesus Christ. They have been deceived by the father of lies – Satan himself (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4; 11:3-4).

Addictions are much more than some chemical dependency or deep psychological need. Underneath the addiction there is an invisible kingdom that governs and controls human behavior. Jesus lived continuously in this awareness that the invisible control center of the earth was where the great issues of life were settled. He points out that there is a hateful dictator (the devil) working behind the scenes; a murderer who wants to destroy human beings, and his process is to deceive them, to lie to them, to make them think and believe a lie. That is what happened to these men and it can happen to you and to me. We can believe Satan’s lies that appeal to our pride and ego so that we are no longer capable of understanding and recognizing truth when we hear it from God.

Look with me now at three lies Satan uses to keep us in bondage to sin. Turn to Genesis 3. The first people God ever made were perfect and they lived in a perfect environment, the garden of Eden. Genesis 3:1-7:

The first lie: “Has God indeed said…?” (Genesis 3:1). Satan attacks God’s Word as untrustworthy. Satan keeps us in bondage to sin by telling us God’s Word cannot be trusted. When God’s Word says to forgive others (Ephesians 4:32), Satan says, “Don’t let them off the hook. Make them pay.” But unforgiveness hurts you more than anyone else. When God’s Word says “he who believes in the Son has everlasting life” (John 3:36a), Satan says, “Jesus is not God’s Son. He is merely a prophet or good moral teacher.” If I can’t believe God in Genesis 3:3 how can I believe Him in Revelation 3:3? If I can’t believe God in Genesis, how do I know I can trust Him with my eternal destiny?

The second lie: “You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:4). Satan attacks the concept of objective truth. God says every sin has a penalty, but Satan says, “That’s not true. It is okay to sin. You will feel better.” Initially you may feel better. But in the end, you will be more miserable and empty than you ever imagined. We live in a world that no longer believes in objective truth. Nothing is certain anymore. You believe what you want to believe and I’ll believe what I want to believe. People are more concerned about feelings than they are truth. That is why fake news is so common today.

The third lie: “You will be like God.” (Genesis 3:5). Satan confuses our concept of God and our designed role.Satan told Eve that the only reason God did not want her to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden was because God was selfish. “God doesn’t want anyone to become like Him by knowing good and evil. He doesn’t want you to reach your full potential. If you obey God you will be limited and unfulfilled.” But Satan knew no one could be like God. How did he know? Because he tried it himself and got kicked out of heaven (cf. Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-19)!

Once Satan got Eve to focus on the one tree she couldn’t eat from rather than the hundreds she could enjoy, she lost sight of God’s goodness and plunged herself, her family, and the rest of the world into sin.

The devil wants us to think that if we sin we will become more like God, knowing good and evil. That somehow sinning makes us more godly, more in control of our lives and therefore more like God. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Sin separates us from God and makes us out of control and headed for destruction.

If we are going to overcome addictions, we must come out of denial and realize that we are no match for “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). We cannot overcome Satan and his lies in our own strength. He is much too strong and wise for us. We need a DELIVERER named Jesus Christ who alone can overcome the power of the devil and his lies. Satan is no match for Christ.

Prayer: Lord God, all of us to some degree have been deceived about ourselves, our world, and the god of this world. We have been tricked into believing lies about You as well. Much of my battle with addictions can be traced to Satan’s kingdom rather than to chemical imbalance or psychological need. My bondage to sin begins with my denial of what is true, including Satan’s existence and deception. The devil uses lies to keep people enslaved to sin and unable to discover the truth of Jesus’ identity. This is at the heart of all who reject Jesus Christ. They have been deceived by the father of lies. Lord, I pray that You will bring a great awakening to this lost world so all may see their need for our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. I now invite the Holy Spirit to guide me into all truth so that any deception that has kept me in bondage to sin can be exposed and replaced with Your truth. Use me, I pray, to advance Your gospel of truth so people may discover the freedom only Jesus can give from bondage to sin and shame. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

How can I overcome my sinful addictions? – Part 3

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36

The truth is many of us are not experiencing this kind of freedom from sin that we looked at in the first two articles. Why? What prevents us from overcoming our addictions?

SELF-SUFFICIENT PRIDE (John 8:33-36). This is what hindered Jesus’ audience. Keep in mind that Jesus’ audience was comprised of believers (“many believed in Him… those Jews who believed Him” – John 8:30b-31a) and unbelievers (“you do not believe Me… why do you not believe Me?” – John 8:44-45). When Christ spoke to the Jews who believed in Him (John 8:30-32), many of the unbelieving Jews listened in and were offended by Christ’s words. Then “they answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?’ ” (John 8:33). Now this is a strange thing for them to say in light of the fact that they were currently in bondage to the Roman government. But that’s not what they mean. They are boasting of the fact that they are part of the Jewish ethnicity. They were convinced that God accepted them because they were descendants of Abraham.

This reminds me of when we lived in Dallas, Texas, in the 1980s and we would drive past Texas Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys played. That was a unique stadium. It is not like the Kingdome or the Superdome and other great stadia where football is played, because it is not completely roofed over. It has a big hole in the roof right over the football field. Spectators are protected but the players are exposed to the elements. When I asked why I was told, So God can watch His favorite team!” That is the way the Cowboys feel about themselves: “God’s Favorite Team!” That is what these Jews felt, too: “We are God’s favorite people; God’s chosen race.”

This is the real problem. This is what most often keeps people from coming to Christ and finding the path to freedom: They assume that because they are born into a religious or Christian family, they will go to heaven when they die. After all they live in a Christian nation or their parents were devoted Christians, so that must mean they are Christians and therefore they feel they are already free. And they ignore their hurt and heartache.

This reminds me that when people take their sin lightly, they often take their need for the Savior lightly as well. Evangelist Billy Graham once said, “To you, sin may be a small thing; to God it is a great and awful thing. It is the second largest thing in the world; only the love of God is greater.” (Billy Graham – Angels: God’s Secret Agents).

But Jesus cuts through all that self-sufficient pride and says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34). Like many people in the world, these Jews were in spiritual bondage to sin and they did not even know it. When I preached this message in the provincial jail in the Philippines, I took some thread and began to wrap it around my forefinger and middle finger.

As I did this, I said, “At first, sin seems harmless. We feel guilty, but we tell ourselves, ‘everybody else does it,’ and so we justify our sin and we do it again and again. Plus, it’s fun. Sin feels good at first, doesn’t it? I’m not just talking about drinking and sex, but other pleasures such as telling somebody off when he was wrong or indulging in gossip that ruins somebody’s reputation. Those too are pleasurable sins. But what happens when we keep repeating those same sins?” I wrapped more thread around my two fingers. “They form habits within us that finally become unbreakable. No matter how hard we try, we cannot stop the sin.” I then tried to separate my fingers without success. “You finally decide to quit but you cannot. This is what happened to these Jews.”

Maybe it has happened to you and you have lost all hope of overcoming the addiction that has mastered you. Jesus says, “And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.” (John 8:35). These unbelieving Jews thought they were “sons” of God’s household forever because they were descendants of Abraham, but Jesus implies that they are only “a slave,” not a member of God’s household.

On the other hand, “a son,” a believer in Christ (cf. John 12:36), “abides forever” in God’s household and is set free from sin in his position (John 8:35b). “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36). Only by believing or trusting in Christ alone as our Savior can Jesus set us free from the bondage of our sin. Christ is inviting these unbelievers to believe in Him so they can be set free from bondage to sin positionally through His atoning death on the cross! Once they have Christ in their lives through faith in Jesus alone, they can begin to experience freedom from slavery to sin experientially as they learn to “abide” in Christ’s word (cf. John 8:31-32).

When I said this at the jail, I cut the thread wrapped around my fingers. These Jews (and all unsaved people) must make a personal decision to believe or trust in Christ alone because only Christ can set them free from bondage to sin in their position. God does not have grandchildren, only children who receive Him by faith alone in Christ alone (John 1:12). When you believe in Jesus, He makes you what He is – a son who remains in the house of God forever. And in God’s family, you can enjoy unspeakable pleasures and privileges for eternity!

In January 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation was declared. This legal document said that all slaves were now free. But in the state of Texas, someone kept it a secret. They didn’t tell the people of Texas that they were free. So for a couple of years after the Emancipation Proclamation, they were still living like slaves. Texans were acting like slaves because no one had told them they were free. In fact, they were so glad that someone finally told them, they made that date a holiday, and African Americans celebrate Juneteenth every year. Thank God, someone told them! If no one had ever shared the good news, then they would have stayed in slavery much longer.

Over two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ, signed our Emancipation Proclamation. He declared that we are free positionally from bondage to sin, but Satan is trying to keep it a secret from us. He is trying to keep us from coming to the realization that we do not have to stay enslaved to sin. We do not have to say, “Yes, sir,” to the devil’s control of our lives any longer. We can take the freedom that Christ has provided for us at the cross, and act on it. We can start living in the freedom that we have because we have now been made free in Christ. That is who we are, but we must choose to live like it.  

Prayer: My Lord and my God, I was once ignorant of my sin and my need for a Savior. Like Jesus’ unbelieving audience, I thought I would go to heaven because of my association with a Christian church and family. But neither my church nor my family could set me free from my bondage to sin. Only You could set me free from my sins positionally so I could become a member of Your household forever! Thank You for revealing this to me through Your Word and Your servants who shared it with me. Thank You that I am a permanent member of Your household by virtue of believing in Jesus alone, and now I have access to all the pleasures and privileges that come with it. Please help me abide in Christ’s Word so I may know the truth and be set free from the lies that enslave me to a lifestyle of sin. Please help me to see myself as You do – free from bondage to sin through Jesus’ atoning death – so I may act on this truth and experience the freedom it gives in my daily life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can I overcome my sinful addictions? – Part 2

31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ ” John 8:31-32

Addictions are often fueled by shame-based lies that are inserted into the limbic system of our (right) brains when trauma takes place in our lives. The limbic system is usually programmed by the time we are six years old. Our prefrontal cortex (our moral and impulse control system) of the (left) brain is not developed until we are twenty-five years of age. Over ninety-eight percent of the decisions we make in life are done subconsciously in the limbic system. So much of our lives are directed by patterns of the past.

Also, the limbic system is programmed to help us cope and survive, and coping behavior is at the core of addictive behavior. When we take sinful coping mechanisms and make them a lifestyle, we experience bondage.

Most addicts have wounds that were caused during childhood or adolescence that fuel their addictions as adults. For example, when a six-year old boy is brutally raped and then threatened by his rapist, Satan can easily insert a lie associated with that intense trauma that says, “This happened to me because I am bad.” That little boy grows up believing this lie. At the core of his being he believes he is flawed and that no one could possibly love him if they knew him. The shame from this lie leads him to turn to sexual addiction as an adult to numb the pain from his unresolved trauma.

Trauma comes in many forms and it can be experienced as a child and as an adult. High intensity trauma such as military combat, a natural disaster, physical or sexual abuse, the death of a family member, or divorce can leave deep wounds within one’s soul. But one does not have to experience intense trauma to struggle with shame-based lies and addictions. You may have experienced low intensity trauma that takes place frequently such as neglect, verbal rejection, minimal affection, teasing by a stepbrother, having few friends, etc. The cumulative effect of low intensity trauma can be just as damaging as high intensity trauma.  

However, not everyone who has an addiction has major wounds or trauma. Some people turn to addictions when they feel stressed to medicate their pain. In other words they have developed unhealthy coping mechanisms or sinful addictions to deal with their stress.

Our sinful addictions do not stop with believing in Christ for His gift of everlasting life. That is only the beginning. I must also CONTINUE IN CHRIST’S WORD (John 8:31-32). The Bible says, 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ ” (John 8:31-32). To “abide” (menō) in Christ’s Word means “to continue or remain” in Jesus’ teaching – literally, “to make one’s home at.” Where we make our home is where we spend our time. The Jews knew a lot of Scripture, but they did not know the Author of the Scriptures. “Knowing the truth” means knowing Christ who is the truth (John 14:6; cf. 8:32, 36).

How do I abide in Christ’s Word? Early in my Christian life I learned a method of abiding in Christ’s Word that was primarily for my left brain, not my right brain or limbic system. That method basically focused on downloading biblical data into my left brain through reading, studying, and memorizing Scripture. But keep in mind that most of our decision making takes place in the right brain, albeit at an unconscious level. So if all I am doing is downloading Scripture into my left brain, I am going to experience little transformation. In the last year I have learned a new method of abiding in Christ’s Word that is for both the left and right parts of the brain. This method involves an acrostic, S.W.O.R.D., from Seven Pillars of Freedom by Dr. Ted Roberts:

S – Scripture. For over twenty years, I have read through the entire Bible each year. I was so busy reading through my required passages to get through the Bible in a year, that it became another hurried thing I did in my busy schedule. But now, I approach God’s Word meditatively – not to analyze or criticize the Word, but to be analyzed and challenged by God’s Word. So first, I write God’s Word down on paper. Writing it down will help your thoughts to slow down and focus on the truth of the Scripture.

W – Wait. Read the Scripture again on your knees if possible. Read it aloud slowly and attentively. Then pause to let the passage sink in. Read the Scripture again, this time asking yourself the following questions, “What do I see? What do I hear? What do I feel? Where am I in this passage?” Finally read the passage again noticing what word or words grab your attention. Focus on those words. Chew on them for a few minutes. We have a tendency to intellectualize Scripture instead of experience God’s Word. During the waiting, we want to involve multiple senses – sight, hearing, feelings, touch, etc., to come to our observation about God, ourselves, and others.

O – Observe. Take a seat and write down what you observed in the Scripture. When we journal the Scriptures, we retain sixty percent more of what we learn. What truth do you discover in these verses? How does God see me and how do I see God and me? This will clarify your thought processes and involve another whole section of your brain.

R – Request that the Holy Spirit help you see how all of this applies to your life. This is not an academic process but a process of the heart. You are specifically asking the Word to analyze you instead of you analyzing the Word. This often triggers a neurochemical cascade of new understanding where your mind is being renewed.

D – Dedicate. What helps us from being just touched by God to being transformed is the commitment of our heart and will. Trying harder will not get us headed in the right direction when it comes to freedom from our addictions. But once the Holy Spirit gets us headed in the right direction, dedicating ourselves to that direction in life will transform us.

We may avoid applying biblical truth because it is painful or difficult. Jesus said if you abide in His Word, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32). But at first the truth may make you miserable! What is the opposite of truth? It is error or lies. God’s Word exposes the lies we believe that keep us enslaved to sin. The truth reveals our motives, points out our faults, rebukes our sin, and expects us to change. It is human nature to resist change, so applying God’s Word is hard work.

That’s why I cannot stress enough the importance of being a part of a discipleship relationship with other believers. In fact, notice what Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.” (John 8:31b). The path to freedom from our addictions is discipleship. We were wounded in the context of relationships, and we are healed in the context of relationships – healthy relationships. We always learn from others truths we would never learn on our own. Other people will help you see insights you would miss and help you apply God’s truth in a practical way. They can also help hold you accountable and I know I need that, don’t you?

Before I conclude this article, I want to give you an assignment to do. I want you to make a chart (see above) consisting of four columns and ten rows under each column’s heading. The first column is entitled “Worst Moments.” In this column, write down your ten worst or most painful moments in your life. The second column is entitled, “Limbic Lies.” In this column, write down the lie or lies attached to your worst moments. The third column is entitled “Scripture/Truth.” In this column, ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify the truth He wants you to apply to that painful moment in place of the lie you already identified. Write out the Bible verse and truth about yourself that it communicates. The fourth column is entitled “Destiny.” In this column, write down what that verse says about your destiny. Spend time this week speaking these truths when you find yourself thinking or speaking their corresponding lies.

Let me give you an example of this exercise. I will relate it to the six-year old boy I mentioned earlier. In the “Worst Moments” column, you would write, “When I was six years old, I was brutally raped.” In the “Limbic Lies” column, you might write, “I am bad because of what happened to me.” In the “Scripture/Truth” column, you could write, “I am precious to Jesus because of what happened to Him.” (Matthew 13:45-46; I Corinthians 6:19-20). In the “Destiny” column, you could write, “Because my worth is based on what Jesus has done and not what was done to me, I no longer need to try to prove my value through what I do.”

The more we abide in Christ’s Word, the more we shall know the truth which can set us free from the lies that fuel our sinful addictions. You may have been through some terrible trauma that has left you deeply wounded. Your life may be driven by shame-based lies that drive your sinful addictions. You may have asked yourself, “Where was Jesus when this happened to me?” I want to encourage you, if you are a believer in Jesus, to invite Him to walk with you through that trauma. And as you do this, ask the Holy Spirit to help you answer the following questions:

Where was Jesus when this happened to me?

What look do I see on His face?

And what truth would He say to me soon after this happened?

Christ cares for those who struggle with addictions. I believe the more we encounter the radical love of Jesus Christ amidst our trauma, the deeper His healing will be of our wounds. Healing that is based upon His truth. Getting the truth down into our souls is what brings change and freedom from sinful addictions. Knowing the truth is not just a point of head knowledge; it is relational, it is intimate, and it is expressed through action.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You have taught me so much about what drives my sinful addictions. The primary fuel that has driven them are the wounds from unresolved trauma in my life and the lies attached to them. Lord Jesus, since You are God, You are able to walk with me through those wounds and the trauma that caused them. Thank You so much for speaking Your truth to me when You have walked with me through them. Some of my trauma is because of my own choices while some of my trauma is caused by the choices of others. Regardless of the cause, I pray the Holy Spirit will reveal any deception in my life that has caused me to remain in bondage. Please shed light on the dark places of my life, areas that no one else can seem to reach, not even those who love me the most. Cleanse me and soften my heart and help me renew my mind so that You can use me. Regardless of how painful this process may be or how long it takes, I commit myself into Your loving hands. I am so grateful to have a Father like You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.