Refocusing

Stephen Arterburn

When Jesus walked the earth, He directed the focus off of the apparently ‘good’ people doing apparently ‘good’ things,’ and redirected people’s focus on to God. The religious leaders were pointing to the rules; Jesus pointed to Himself, through whom relationships are restored to God.

A healthy, growing faith is always focused on the person of God Himself, not on cheap substitutes. A healthy faith begins and ends in God, not in rules, regulations, and sheer duty. Jesus Christ, not religion, is at the core of a robust Christian faith.

Today Jesus Christ offers men like you and me the same opportunity He gave to those people in the early church. The choice is ours. We can insist on performing and conforming out of obligation and can try to feel good by chalking up good deeds.

Or we can choose Christ’s way. We can love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. We can experience His love and come to know Him intimately. We can stop hiding behind religious facades and meet Him right where we are. We can focus on Him and find sanity, rest, and peace when all hell seems to be breaking loose around us.

Men, it’s not about you. Surrender yourself to Christ’s love and acceptance. Grow closer to Him. Make Him’not your ‘good deeds’ or anyone or anything else’the focus of your life. You’ll never regret it.

The Pursuit of Purity

Psalm 119:9: ‘How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word.‘  Matthew 5:8: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’

Pursuing purity is a reality for every believer in Christ. Yes, even those who struggle with sexual addiction and lust. What seems impossible with man is possible with God. God is able to transform us through the renewing of our mind and lives.

I see purity as an attitude of the heart that will result in a lifestyle change. It is an active decision every day to commit yourself to the pursuit of purity. ‘One day at a time’ is the expression used in AA. Each morning you decide for moral purity. Keeping yourself pure according to ‘Thy word’ requires a daily plan. Essential to your plan is another heart attitude, humility.

Humility is best reflected in the example Christ set for us to follow. Paul, in Philippians 2: 3-8, reminds us of the importance of focusing on the needs of others and not exclusively our own, which so characterizes our selfish nature. Humility of mind reminds me daily that, apart from Christ, I can do nothing. I am dependent on Him to be able to live right. Pride is the opposite of humility, an attitude that says I can do this myself without God. Just remember where that attitude (pride) got you.

So the commitment to be morally pure is a daily one, where you build new patterns of thinking and behaving motivated by a change in heart. Peter put it this way in 2 Peter 1:5-8:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Job made a covenant with his eyes to not look lustfully on a woman. Learning to turn away from lustful thoughts requires the daily discipline of replacing old thoughts and sinful patterns with new and God honoring ones. In your daily plan, be sure to include scripture memorization, mediation, and study of God’s word. Find a bible study group or take a class with others. Learning the scriptures and encouraging one another makes studying enjoyable and enriching. Doing this also helps you build relationships where you can develop accountability and fellowship.

Another part of your daily plan in pursuit of purity is to have a means of confession or honest discussion about your thought life. I know that when we admit any thoughts that bother us to another, the thoughts lose their power. Having another person pray with you can really encourage you. James 5:16 is a reminder of the power of confession, and Hebrews 10:24-25 exhorts us ‘to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.’ Having another person to share with also helps you overcome the deceitfulness of your own heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Asking someone to mentor you in the spiritual disciplines can really be helpful. Look for people who have walked with the Lord and have a mature walk with God. Ask your Pastor for guidance to find someone to mentor you. Sponsors, like mentors, are very helpful in your specific area of recovery. They guide and coach you in the recovery process. A spiritual mentor may not have specific knowledge about addiction, but would bring the wisdom and knowledge that comes with walking in relationship with God. You need both.

In closing, as you seek God in pursuit of purity, He will enable you to develop the disciplines that have been lacking in your life. Ask Him to give you a heart inclined towards purity. As Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’

For more help on this subject, please see Every Man’s Battle and our Resources for Men.

Chris Cole

Ongoing Disclosure

In our society of instant communication–cell phones, text messaging, etc.–we have lost the significance and meaning of words. We rarely think about the significance of the words we use to get our message across. This was not always the case. In earlier writings throughout history men labored to be exact in their choice of words so as to be clear in their meaning and intent of their message. An example is seen in the words of the Constitution of the United States of America. The words had to be exact and precise in order for the document to endure as the foundation of a country and society. If this is true of a man made document for a country, how much more meaningful are the Words used in the Bible.

In the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, when God speaks through the Prophets and Apostles the very words He uses are packed with meaning and significance. In light of using and understanding the words we choose, I want to address the importance of ‘ongoing disclosure’ and its significance for us today.

Let’s first examine the meaning of the word disclosure.

1. To uncover; to open; to remove a cover from, and lay open to view.
2. To discover; to lay open to view; to bring to light.
3. To reveal by words; to tell; to utter; as, to disclose the thoughts of the heart.
4. To make known; to show in any manner.
5. To open; to hatch.

American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster 1828

Now why would it be important to disclose the thoughts of the heart? Why is it important to live an open life before others? Why can’t some things just remain hidden in the heart?

To answer these questions lets begin by taking a look at the beginning of time (from Genesis ch. 2).

When God spoke into existence all of creation, He made a declaration that it was ‘good.’ What God calls good means excellent ‘ perfect ‘ without flaw! (see Jesus’ conversation about the word ‘good’ with the young man in Mark 10:17 ‘ 18). Yet when He came to the creation of man, He chose not to speak him into existence but said ‘Let us make man in Our image, in Our likeness.’ He took dirt and ‘formed’ man out of it. He ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and he became a living being.’ Wow!

What did this man, Adam, have? God planted a garden and put the man in it. Adam had a ‘good’ place to live. ‘Good’ food to eat. ‘Good’ water to drink. There were four rivers listed running through this garden. This was no acid rain ‘ in fact there was no rain at all at that time. There was no pollution in the water or poison needed to spray for insects on the plants. All food was ‘good’ for the man. Remember, ‘good’ means perfect.

What else did the man have? He had ‘good’ companionship. He talked openly with God. God gave him instructions on how to live in the garden. Apparently it was the custom for God to walk with Adam. He was not afraid.

In fact the only thing that God said of Adam that was ‘not good’ was that he was alone. After naming all the animals, Adam discovered that none would ‘fit.’ Then God took Adam’s rib and ‘fashioned’ (literally the word ‘built’) Eve and brought her to Adam.

There was a perfect relationship between God and man and between Adam and Eve. They apparently walked together in the evening in the garden. Everything was open between them. There was nothing to hide, not emotionally, not mentally, not physically. Everything was ‘good’ in Eden.

Then the temptation and the fall. They ate the forbidden fruit. Their eyes were opened and they saw nakedness! Their first natural (fallen nature) response was to cover and hide. They sewed fig leaves and made loin coverings. They tried to cover themselves from each other. There was no one else around except the animals. Then they heard God walking through the garden for the evening stroll. They now had fear for the first time. Their new natural response was to hide, to close themselves from God and from each other.

When we sin it is no different today than it was with Adam and Eve. We go underground. We bury our actions and thoughts hoping desperately that no one will find us out. Where are your hiding places? In the computer room or into password protected files and places of access that no one must ever go but you? Perhaps it is on the phone with a phone actress? (look up the word actress). Maybe it is a certain area of town or another town when you are traveling.

God did not leave Adam and Eve hiding. He sought them out. He called them out; they were guilty and had to face the consequences i.e. death, cast out of the garden (see Gen 3). What was true for them is certainly true for us. The ‘wages of sin is death’ (Rom.6:23). If I face the penalty of death, we are going to hide! We want life. God intends for us to have life, so much so that He gave His only begotten Son to die in our place. The life that God would have for us is a life open to Him and to others without fear. The debt has been paid in full by Jesus Christ. If your faith and trust is in Him, the debt is paid. You have been declared not guilty and set free. Free to run the race set before you, laying aside every encumbrance (Heb. 12:1) and sin that entangles you.

Secrecy is one of the major factors that keep us in bondage to our sins. Exposing our sins to one who is a trust worthy companion, accountability partner or group keeps us from hiding and covering up with deceit and lies.

Consider if God made us in His image what characteristics should be incorporated in our lives.

John 14: 21 Jesus said:

”and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.’

Jesus indicates clearly that it is His purpose and desire to be known personally and intimately. Love my Father, I will love him and will disclose Myself to him. Wow! Jesus wants us to have an intimate relationship with Him, to know all about Him. In effect He tells us that He will reveal things previously hidden from your knowledge about Him. This is not just a New Testament concept. God from the beginning of time had a purpose to declare His glory to us. Consider the following from Psalm 19:

‘The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.’

God through His creation declares His glory. He desires for you to know Him.

For us to experience the freedom of walking with Him and with others without fear we must live a life of ongoing disclosure. God reveals His glory to everyone in His creation. But when Jesus was talking about disclosing Himself it was only to those who love His Father in Heaven. Thus it is prudent to disclose your life to those who will love and support you. If you don’t have anyone who you could trust, perhaps meet with a trusted pastor or counselor.

Remember covering and hiding were the original and natural responses of sin. To live freely is to know that we were all dead in our trespasses and sins and were by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2), BUT GOD! being rich in mercy, made us ALIVE!

Being alive is not to live a life of secrecy and bondage under cover. We were intended to be like Him, for His glory.

For more help on this subject, please see Every Man’s Battle.
For more helpful resources for men click here.

Craig Boden