Honesty and Forgiveness

Steve Arterburn

Emotions are a funny thing. We all know what they are, but where do they come from? They seem to flow from the core of your being, from deep down inside. And if you’ve developed the pattern of denying or hiding your feelings, you’ll lose the very sense of who you really are—who God created you to be.  Don’t believe me?  Consider the prophet Jeremiah.

When you read the Old Testament book of Lamentations, which Jeremiah wrote, you’ll see that you have nothing to fear about bringing even your most raw or maybe what you think are embarrassing emotions to God.

Jeremiah was intensely honest in sharing his broken heart with God.  But what follows his grief?  When Jeremiah finished his grieving, he turned to God to seek forgiveness.  The book ends with a question of remorse: ‘Are you angry with us still?’ the prophet asks.  Have you ever asked that question?  Behind this question is Jeremiah’s humility, coupled with his hope that God will start the process toward reconciliation and forgiveness.  Jeremiah knew God’s heart, so he knew that God would forgive.  If you truly repent of your sin, you can be sure that God will forgive you too—no matter how great your sins and failures.  You need to come humbly before him and place your life in his strong, gentle hands.

Recovery With a Purpose

Dave Boyle

What is the purpose of life?  This is a question that many people have asked themselves over the last couple of years since the book The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren was released. In fact so many people have been asking themselves that question, that the book has been either number one or two on the New York Times best seller list for the past 60+ weeks.

And it’s a question that we, as men who have struggled with sexual integrity issues, should be asking ourselves on a regular basis. The Every Man’s Battle Workshop has made it very clear to us: we need structure in our lives if we are going to be successful in our recovery. And at the very core of having a structure in place, is having a purpose in life. In other words, it’s a lot easier to implement an action plan in our lives when we know why we’re doing it.

In The Purpose Driven Life, pastor Rick sets out the five purposes that he believes are the most fundamental and most important in any believers life.

The first one is that we were made to worship God. The very first line of the book is, ‘It’s not about you.’ The sooner that we realize that our lives are about worshiping, obeying and pleasing God and not about pleasing ourselves, the sooner our recovery can begin. Remember one of the big roadblocks to recovery? It’s entitlement. ‘I deserve to get on the Internet with how stressful my life has been.’ ‘I’m entitled to have that affair with the way my wife’s been treating me.’ But God says it isn’t about me, it’s about Him, and working through that sense of entitlement to get to a place where I’m obedient to God whether I feel like it or not is a huge recovery step.

The second purpose that Rick outlines in his book is that we were made to have fellowship with other believers. There is no such thing as a ‘lone ranger’ Christian. Our recovery is so tied in to having others around us that it is one of the most important things you’ll ever do in your journey to sobriety. If you are not part of a support group, please start exploring that right away. You cannot do this on your own.

The third purpose in the book is that we were made to be like Christ. That kind of maturity takes work, which is why it is the very first thing of your action plan that we talk about at EMB. Spend at least 15 minutes in the Word and in prayer every day. No one can become mature in Christ without spending time in His Word and in prayer.

Rick’s fourth purpose that he talks about in the book is that we were made to serve God. And most of serving God is serving His children. If you’ve been in recovery awhile now and have some sobriety time behind you, this is a good time to start practicing some of the gifts God has given you to help others. You may want to step up in your support group and start providing some leadership, or start actively looking for another guy to be a sponsor or accountability partner with. God doesn’t want you on the sidelines, and He doesn’t want you just showing up but not contributing from the gifts he has given you. Pray for a servant’s heart, and for God to open the door for you in ministry.

And finally, we were made for a mission. And that mission is to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, whether that be actively witnessing to our friends, family, co-workers or neighbors, or sharing with other guys in recovery what God has done for you. Read over what the 12th step says sometime. The bottom line is you can’t keep it unless you give it away.

These are five of God’s purposes for your life. Go back over them and see which one is most lacking in your life, and in your recovery, and pray this week that God will help you to implement it. And then go for it.  See what exciting things God brings into your life!

For more help on this subject see Every Man’s Battle.

Practical Repentance

Joe Dallas

Did sin ever yield real pleasure? If so, go back to your old drudgery, and wear the chain again, if it delights you. But inasmuch as sin did never give you what it promised to bestow, but deluded you with lies, be free. ‘Charles Spurgeon

When you’re angry enough, scared enough, or frustrated enough, you take action. So it is with sexual sin. If you’re ready to repent of it, you’re probably angry (‘I’ve had it!’), scared (‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’), or feeling the futility of it all (‘There’s no future in this for me!’). All three roads lead to repentance.

To repent is to turn. That’s what distinguishes repentance from confession, which is a simple acknowledgment of sin as opposed to actively turning from it. It is through confession, according to John 1:9, that we are forgiven of sin: ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ I John 1:9 But confession doesn’t necessarily change us, important as it is.

God not only calls us to acknowledge our sin; He also commands us to put it away. Now ‘repent’ is a word we associate with dour men in sackcloth warning us about the coming doom. That’s too bad, because repentance is a valuable concept. It means ‘to think differently, reconsider, turn around.’ No real changes are made without it.

Repentance is the willful act of discontinuing a thing which is destructive, followed by an earnest effort to do what is constructive and right. In short, without confession nothing is forgiven, but without repentance nothing is changed. To repent, or turn, you need to first identify what you’re repenting of, then determine the most effective way to do it. Exactly what do you need to repent of? Of course, you can’t repent of having sexual impulses. You can’t rip them out and abandon them, and you can’t just will them away. Repentance applies to acts of the conscious will, whether they are outward actions or inward indulgences. So you are not trying to repent of sexuality per se but of conscious sexual sins. These would of course include sexual contact apart from marriage, and the use of pornography. These are direct forms of immoral behavior, easy to detect and obviously immoral.

‘We can’t keep the birds from flying over our heads, but we can keep them from building a nest in our hair.’ -Martin Luther

Sexual fantasies are similar. They, like sexual lust, are conscious acts of the imagination. And they too need to be distinguished from fleeting sexual thoughts. Martin Luther, speaking of impure thoughts, said that we can’t keep the birds from flying over our heads, but we can keep them from building a nest in our hair. That’s pretty well put. Wayward sexual thoughts come to everyone, I suppose, but when we indulge those thoughts by orchestrating sexual fantasies, then we’re not just having fleeting thoughts; we’re creating mental pornographic home movies.

But repentance shouldn’t stop there. You should also consider any activities that contribute to them or encourage them. Here you need to be very honest with yourself. Are there parts of your lifestyle’habits, places you like to go, forms of recreation’that encourage sexual immorality? That’s a question every Christian has to ask himself; it’s a question that’s doubly pertinent to you. So often, men can go on kidding themselves, then wonder why they’re not making any progress. They claim to want freedom, and seem willing to give up overt sexual sin, but show an unwillingness to give up the very things that lead them back into that activity. In all matters, the question should never be ‘Is going to such and such a place an overt sin?’ but rather ‘Do I have the liberty to go to this place without setting myself up to stumble? Will it encourage me toward my goals, or will it encourage me toward a setback?’

If you’re serious about repentance, bring every part of your life under scrutiny. Remember, you’re trying to emerge from the mindset of a child to that of an athlete, putting aside anything that interferes with your ultimate goal. That, in the truest sense, is repentance.

For more help see Every Man’s Battle.