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.

How Far is Too Far: Sexual Integrity for Singles

Bob Parkins

Not many Christians debate God’s instructions against premarital sex. However, there is still not a consensus or a shared understanding regarding what constitutes acceptable physical affection and what is sinful. The Bible uses words like adultery, fornication, lust, and purity, all words that have very clear meanings. Yet many Christian singles, teens, and even parents remain confused. Many Christian singles and teens struggle to maintain sexual purity while abstaining from sexual intercourse, yet many are engaging in sexual acts. They deceive themselves by legalistically reasoning they haven’t violated God’s boundaries because they haven’t technically had sex.

While the Bible does not appear to clarify exactly what other acts for singles are and are not acceptable in God’s eyes, it is very clear about the guidelines we are meant to judge these acts by.

When asked by young couples, ‘how far is too far?’ I generally ask them to search their hearts and examine what their intention and motivation in asking is. Usually a couple who asks ‘how far,’ is also struggling to maintain sexual purity. Those struggling with sexual purity or addictions are in the habit of pushing limits and boundaries. They want to know what is the maximum they can get away with. They look for loopholes in attempts to satisfy the desire for immediate self gratification.

The Bible warns us about being deceived and worshiping idols (Deut 11:16; Exo 20:14), and sex can be an idol to those who struggle to maintain purity. Scripture also tells us that God sees what truly is in our hearts and we will sow what we reap (Gal 6:7). If you have ever asked ‘how far,’ and have patterns of pushing limits, it is likely you are not truly interested in purity and really want to get away with as much physical affection as possible. When you put it that way it seems silly to consider the technicality of sin. If you discover your motive is to selfishly seek your own physical gratification, instead refocus on what is pure (Phi 4:8).

When you flirt with sin, you put yourself in a position to sin. To answer the question more directly, anything that causes you to sin is ‘too far.’ This is probably the best litmus test for determining limits since the Bible doesn’t tell couples specifically how they can show physical affection, at least not in the manner many look for. There are several scriptural examples of expressing affection through treasuring chastity and virtue and abstaining from sexual immorality (Isa 62:5; 2Col 11:2), a counter-cultural perspective in most increasingly permissive/promiscuous societies. Jesus models surrendering personal desires to the Father (Luk 22:42), and encourages us to ask for God’s intervention in maintaining victory over sin in The Lord’s Prayer (Luk 11:4). If you are willfully sustaining a desire that cannot be righteously met, you are deceiving yourself (1Thess 4:3-8).

Determining limits may be a little different for different couples, but be cautioned against any propensity to justify pushing limits. If you get excited to the point that you struggle with lustful thoughts or fantasies from kissing, or if you have difficulty respecting boundaries (yours or hers), you may not be able to handle more. Consider then abstaining from kissing or other applicable acts. Some may not struggle with kissing and will need to set limits accordingly. I suggest also abstaining from any physical activity or show of affection that you are not comfortable doing in front of her father. There are several genuine and appropriate displays of affection that pass this test.

It is important that couples talk about setting physical limits early in their relationship. We live in a backwards culture where single men often push women to/beyond their sexual limit. This is not what God intends or requires of us in marriage, so it certainly cannot be condoned in dating. Men are to cherish and protect their wives, not take advantage of them for their own pleasure (Eph 5:25-28; Col 3:19). Just as a father is to protect the innocence of his daughter, so are we to protect and respect any woman we are dating. Sexual desire for her is not bad, but respecting her virtue means protecting her from these desires (yours or her).

Men, it is up to you to initiate this conversation and establish boundaries. This may be the very first act you exhibit of spiritual leadership in a budding relationship. Any potential spouse who is worth spending your life with will respect your integrity because they will feel safe and cherished. Two scripture verses that are helpful in maintaining focus on purity are:

– (2Ti 2:22) Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

– (Phi 4:8) Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Be encouraged by the peace God promises those that live pure and virtuous lives

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

Celebrating God’s Attributes: His Goodness

Gary Burkle

One of the blessings of being a child of God is the imparting, by God, of some of His attributes into the believer. The holy Spirit is the indwelling presence of God in the believer. “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16-17)

When we accept Christ as Savior, He sends the Holy Spirit, the counselor, to live within us. We know some of the significant attributes of the Holy Spirit from Galatians 5:22…(“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, GOODNESS, faithfulness, and self-control”). Therefore, Goodness is one of the attributes God imparts to us as part of the gift of salvation.

We, then, can allow the Holy Spirit to affect us and our behavior through a series of conscious choices throughout our life. He helps make us GOOD.

This is one of the true blessings of accepting Christ as Lord and Savior. As we grow in our walk with God in the Christian life we become a better and better (a GOOD) person. This is a by-product of the Christian life-style. We humans are truly blessed to be able to participate with God in His goodness through this phenomenon.

We are able to access the attribute of God’s Goodness in our own life’s behaviors and actions by becoming more like Christ. We do this, in some measure, by developing the “Mind of Christ”

. “…the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) We develop the “Mind of Christ” by conversing with him through prayer, learning and internalizing His word (reading/studying the Bible), and through fellowship with fellow believers (the Church/smaller Christian groups). Certainly the indwelling “counselor,” “advisor,” the Holy Spirit helps us in this endeavor of having a Christian life-style.

Now let’s look at a practical application. Purity as a life-style choice: If we are struggling with sexual sin, purity in our life is the key to successful recovery. Purity in thought and deed is incompatible with continued sinning in the sexual area. Sinning in the sexual area of the Christian’s life is defined as sexual contact outside of marriage. In addition, the obsessive viewing of pornography resulting in dysfunctional levels of masturbation, qualifies as sexual sin. A sexually driven thought life is a tell-tale sign of these sins, as well. A sexually driven thought life objectifies the object of our lust and, therefore, dehumanizes a child of God. This is a sin, pure and simple. These inappropriate thoughts also often lead to sinful behaviors, and are incompatible with the holy living life-style urged by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is good and pure and demands that the believer adapt to His standards to allow His continued relationship with us. We must be good and pure to provide an appropriate home for the indwelling Holy Spirit. In turn, He will empower us to experience his attributes, such as goodness and purity, through his power.

To be sure, all humans will be tempted by inappropriate and/or sinful thoughts. There is a spiritual war going on all around us. Part of that spiritual war is the bombardment of our minds with tempting images or thoughts. This can be complicated and exacerbated in our minds if we have engaged in sexual sin in the past.

The more sin we have been involved in, the more challenging images and thoughts we must deal with. In our past sexual sin, we have moved from the tempting thoughts or “triggers” into sinful behaviors, as described above. The more we have done this sexual sinning, the more difficult our struggle for goodness and purity will be now. Most of us need help in this “battle”.

The best answer to successfully combat these maladaptive thoughts and behaviors is found in the principles taught in the Every Man’s Battle workshops. The practical teachings available in the EMB workshops are the best hope for an individual’s successful recovery process. Successful recovery is defined as sexual purity or sexual sobriety.

The principles taught in EMB are tried-and-true principles based on the addiction model. These principles work when diligently applied by the individual. The true key to the success of the EMB workshop model, however, is that it is Biblically based. The EMB workshop model is, at root, based on Biblical truth, and therefore, represents the best hope for success. God bless you in your “Battle.” It is worth the fight.