Looking Good on the Inside

Chuck Underwood

What is it that keeps men imprisoned in a downward spiral of sexual sin? It can be summed up in one word’denial. The fact is we cannot change what we will not acknowledge.

Many men have a behavioral life that is in conflict with the professed values, and beliefs that define their Christian walk. They look good on the outside, but are pretty shabby on the inside–like the duck that seems to glide effortlessly across the smooth calm water. It looks good on the surface, but under the water that duck’s feet are anything but still: they are wildly kicking just to stay in forward motion.

Some men create a lot of ways to look good on the surface without looking at what goes on under the waterline’a lot of violent kicking.

Many times a man will try to solve his sexual addictions by making the problem someone else”a wife, or girlfriend. If only she would change, then I wouldn’t have to act this way. She just isn’t meeting my needs. Someone else must be responsible for my choices.

The most difficult thing for a man struggling with sexual sin is to be honest. The wisest man ever’King Solomon said, ‘He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy’ (Proverbs 28:13, NIV).

Admitting that there is a need to change is the first step out of sexual bondage. Minimizing the need to confess to God, others, and ourselves only obstructs positive growth.

What is the positive growth we are after? To restore the relationships that were destroyed as a result of sexual sin is of utmost importance. Sexual sin separates and isolates a man from his network of support. In a counseling practice one of the predictors of successful therapy is the degree of connection of a person to his family and friends. A sexual addict perpetuates fantasy in his daily life that plays a huge part in isolating him from other people. It becomes a double life that seeks to avoid exposure at all costs’bringing a loss of emotional connectedness. Disconnection and isolation are the very things that are realized in a world that becomes extremely self-centered.

The goal for every Christian should be restoration. This begins with confession. Confession implies transparency’a straightforward agreement with God that those choices were sinful. Confession is reality-based: a complete honest, humble emptying of self. The reality is being willing to deal with the sexual sin up close and personal. When a man comes before God in this manner He declares him forgiven’even righteous (I John 1:9). It is a three-part journey’forgiveness from God, forgiveness of self, and forgiveness of others.

God’s forgiveness is always available for the asking. But, have you ever asked God to forgive you and then not felt forgiven? First, forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a fact, a fact backed up by God’s own Word.
For some forgiveness isn’t accepted because there is a belief that forgiveness is not deserved’the idea of not being good enough to be forgiven. The reality is that men often stand in the way of the effects of forgiveness because they are trying to hide the complete truth from God and themselves.

Forgiveness and reconciliation must take place in order to restore relationships with Christ, wives, family, and friends. Reconciliation is a process of emotional reconnection to those vital relationships.

Can the downward spiral of sexual sin be stopped? Absolutely! What does it take? It takes honesty confession, growth, forgiveness and restoration. Acknowledging the problem and desiring to change is the pathway to establishing a behavioral life that is no longer in conflict with the values and beliefs of a growing Christian walk.

For more help in the battle for purity see Every Man’s Battle.
Also, take the loving step of helping your spouse. See the programs for wives and couples offered at the New Life Weekend.

Celebrate Your Victories!

Jonathan Daugherty

There is one thing I wish we as Christians were much better at doing, and that is celebrating. We tend to struggle on the whole at really cheering one another on in the faith and throwing parties in honor of those demonstrating the character of Christ. In this article I want to challenge you to cultivate an attitude of celebration in your ongoing pursuit of purity.

God designed us for joy! He didn’t design our minds, bodies, or spirits for anxiety, depression, or gloom. Yet, how often do you find yourself stressed to the max and feeling as if you can’t breathe under the weight of your life? The pace of life, the onslaught of temptation, and uncontrollable circumstances beat you down. But is that reality from God’s perspective or just the excuse often used?

The truth is that it is simply easier to point out faults than to celebrate victories. One reason for this may be that we are spending more time giving into temptation than we are living in purity. But does that mean we must wallow in our sin and shame while our moments of faith and resolve go completely unrecognized? I think not.

One thing I have found to be true in pursuing purity is that the “domino effect” works in both directions, whether following our lusts or following Christ. The more we give into temptation the easier it becomes to fail more quickly the next time we are faced with a similar situation. Conversely, the more we discipline ourselves to obey Christ, taking every thought captive, and connecting with our band of brothers, the stronger we become in resisting attacks. Because of this principle I believe it is all the more important that we develop an ongoing attitude of celebration, not only for our own benefit but for the benefit of other brothers striving for purity.

I have numerous people contacting me every week, wanting to know how to break free from sexually destructive habits. I try to respond to every person based on the core values of ministry (hope, integrity, humility, honesty, compassion, perseverance, accountability, faith, and love). The values that amaze people most about how I interact with them are hope and love. Many times people will attempt to argue that their situation is unique and they really can’t be free. But I never back down from the hope of freedom available to everyone through Christ. What many of these individuals have missed much of their life is someone sharing the truth with them and cheering them on when the journey is hard. They have never been celebrated for doing what is right, only chastised and shamed for their sin and addiction.

Jesus Christ was the incarnation of joy. Many times, because of the very serious nature of his mission (salvation of all mankind) we tend to picture him sullen and, well, miserable. Last time I checked, I didn’t see throngs of people dashing to see a sullen, miserable person. People were drawn to Jesus because He exuded life, true life. As his followers we are to do the same. And one way we do this is by celebrating the successes we, and others, have on our journey to purity.

Here are a few ideas on how you can celebrate your victories:

When you meet a purity goal

– Give yourself a gift of some sort to remind you of meeting that goal.

– Share a meal with your band of brothers in honor of accomplishing your goal.

– Celebrate with a favorite hobby or activity (i.e. golf, hunting, professional sporting event, etc.)

When you resist temptation

– Call a buddy to share the success with them.

– Say, “Thank you Jesus for this victory!”

– Write down what happened to remind you later of the victory.

Here’s the real key to celebrating victories: don’t celebrate alone! God wants us connected, to Him and to others around us. We can certainly have personal moments of celebration just between us and the Lord, but the ongoing impact of celebration is most often realized in the context of others. Surround yourself with people of celebration who understand how to balance getting excited about doing the right thing and holding you accountable when you stray.

So, how’s your “celebrateability?” I challenge you to watch for the moments and situations worthy of celebration. Then, don’t be afraid to cut loose and enjoy the freedom God has given!

For help in the battle for purity see Every Man’s Battle.

The Loophole of Denial

Fred Feliciano

I love a good story. Good stories catch us off guard. A good story has the power to show us what we believe about the world and how we think things ought to be. They stretch our minds, challenge our beliefs, and move us towards change. That is why I love Jesus’ stories. His stories move me, jolt me and propel me towards facing and embracing the reality of who he is and who I am. In short, his stories catch me by exposing me. That is why I also struggle with his stories. They expose me and my thoughts. His stories bring me back to facing my self whether I want to or not. So, I find ways around his stories in order to avoid stepping into his light. I just focus my attention on something else, anything. I use denial as a loophole. A loophole is a term used to describe a way around a particular obstacle with little to no negative effect to oneself. We find ways out of situations where we anticipate feeling shame.

The loophole of denial assists us in avoiding the light of God in two ways. First, denial provides us a way of alleviating the stress of our shame by refusing to face it. Shame can be defined as an intense fear of being exposed based on a corrosive belief that one is fatally flawed, unlovable and deserving of rejection from others who are deemed worthy and perceived as merciless all at once. As long as we do not have to face what we do that’s wrong, we don’t have to confess or own up to others in honesty and we find relief from the burden of our shame momentarily. Good shame allows us to focus attention on the welfare of God and others above our own.

Confessions made in the light of good shame lead us to restore relationships with loving dignity and help to develop true self perceptions in light of God’s true view of us which does something better than provide relief from the shame we feel. It provides us a deep sense of rest in our minds and hearts. The cost of not facing our shame is too high a price to pay.

Secondly, the loophole of denial provides us a way of avoiding painful truth by creating an alternative to the truth. Alternatives to the truth are simply lies. Lies help us to maintain the illusion that we can avoid rejection and increase the chances of acceptance by presenting ourselves as someone we are not. The problem with creating alternatives is that acceptance is never fully experienced and we are never fully known because the truth of who we really are remains hidden underneath the lies;  we remain distanced from others. Those who are closest to us never experience us as we are. They experience a false self. The alternative at first seems like it will increase acceptance and decrease rejection but in the end it isolates us further by taking us farther away from the truth of who we are, others are, and who God is. We wind up never trusting or being intimate with anyone.

Christ provides us a way out of our shame-based loopholes of denial by reversing the path our loopholes have taken us. Traveling in reverse back into the loophole of denial transforms it into a doorway. A doorway that leads to a redemptive path of trust for prodigal sons. Prodigals who, in repentance, come home, face the truth of their guilt in relation to their legitimate failures and face their longings for acceptance never received. But most of all are able to trust, face, and receive the Father’s healing embrace. His embrace declaring to us, ‘Not only are you forgiven but you are my son. You were dead but are now alive!’

I want to encourage you to read in Luke 15 about the transforming power of the Father’s deep love for his ragamuffin sons. Let that story catch you, expose you and shake you loose from your denial and fear.

For help facing your denial and experiencing God’s transforming power, see Every Man’s Battle.