Cost Of Discipleship, Part One

Steve Arterburn

Dietrich Bonhoeffer has been widely recognized as one of the great moral heroes of the twentieth century, and rightly so. He was a highly regarded Lutheran minister at a time when other highly regarded Christian leaders’were compromising and making sure they didn’t make any waves against Hitler’s aggressive, tyrammical power. Bonhoeffer was among the few who resisted. And you know, resistance usually has its costs’Bonhoeffer’s cost everything. He was arrested, imprisoned, and eventually hung on April 9, 1945’less than a month before the war’s end.

 

Yet Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s resistance was more than moral, it was Christian. It was grounded, shaped, and energized by the gospel, and by Bonhoeffer’s loving loyalty to the Lord of that gospel: Jesus Christ.

 

Amidst the tumultuous times of his day, Bonhoeffer wrote a book that has since become a Christian classic. It’s called The Cost of Discipleship. In it he contrasts what he calls ‘cheap and costly grace.’ Cheap grace, for Bonhoeffer, means grace without the cross. Costly grace, by way of contrast, is a grace that comes to us freely because it cost Christ his life’and that which is costly to God must never be seen as something that comes to us without a price.

 

Bonhoeffer’s point, men, is that the gospel makes a claim upon every aspect of our lives. It’s received freely, yet demands sacrificial discipleship as our response.

 

Is your understanding of the gospel comparable to Bonhoeffer’s? If it isn’t, give it some thought.

Confronting the Resistance to Change

Chris Cole

Have you had the situation where you decided to change a habit or behavior and are successful for a couple weeks (maybe longer), only to find the habit or behavior returning? I have. Change is hard. It is difficult to give up old habits and patterns of behaving and relating. How many times have you said to yourself and others that you are going to change and yet resort back to the old way of acting? Maybe you are just beginning recovery and are not sure about making changes others say you need to. What is the resistance to change about, and how can you overcome this resistance?That is what this article addresses.

Resistance is a force that pushes back against movement in a particular direction. In terms of dealing with sexual addiction (and addiction in general), resistance will be encountered as you try to change the old way of behaving. This resistance will manifest in several ways. The first resistance encountered will be simply to admit you have a problem that needs change. This admission is the first step in the recovery process. It is the step of honesty. Overcoming denial often results when the pain of our behavior is worse than the rewards it brings. Pain is a powerful motivator in breaking down resistance to change. Admitting the consequences of our actions can make us face reality and the pain it brings. It further helps one see the unmanageability of life and powerlessness over one’s behavior. When one sees the insanity of what you have been doing, you are ready to truly move forward in recovery. I have found that in the early stages of recovery, being in a recovery group and in individual therapy is indicated in order to break through the denial and have the needed support to deal with the pain of the addict’s life. I have more to say on denial a little further on.

In understanding resistance to change, one must take into account the physical impact of addiction. Research on sex addicts’ brains show a striking similarity to the brains of cocaine addicts. The implications in terms of treatment is that the hyperstimulation that comes from engaging in a sexual addiction alters the brain chemistry, leaving a clear biochemical component as one quits the habit. Withdrawal symptoms include distress, anxiety, restlessness or irritability when unable to engage in the behavior. Resistance can be experienced simply yet powerfully as the person goes through withdrawal. A person must consider a good evaluation by a therapist familiar with addiction with the possible recommendation for referral to a doctor for medication where indicated.

As a person begins to give up the old patterns of behaving, all of the emotions he or she has been medicating through the addiction will begin to come back. Simply put, there will be an awareness of emotional pain. Resistance here will be to find another way to medicate the pain. No one likes to feel pain, yet it is God’s way of driving us to look to Him to find solutions rather than in our own resources. Here again, one must confront and put into place new strategies for handling pain. Addicts generally have more than one addiction. So while stopping the sexual addiction, the addict may increase the activity in another addiction to medicate the withdrawal symptoms. Or while the person gives up the sexual addiction, he replaces it with another addiction with the majority of emotional and behavioral features remaining the same (Carnes, Pat. Addiction Interaction, p.2). Here, the person has not dealt with the core problems. He has simply found another way of self-medicating.

Perhaps the greater battle will be found in changing your belief system. The Bible says that the heart is deceitful above all things. We have this capacity to deceive ourselves. It also says that change comes by the renewing of our mind. When we get caught up in a pattern of acting that gets entrenched, we find numerous ways of defending that behavior. Stronghold beliefs (II Corinthians 10 3-5) are the ways we protect patterns and actions that we wish to engage in that are contrary to living the way God wants us to live. Denial is the way addicts protect sexual behavior that they want to continue to engage in. Resistance will be found in the reasons one continues to justify engaging in self-destructive ways. Rationalizations (‘I don’t have a problem, you all are just sexually too conservative’), minimizing (‘it’s not a problem’), and comparison (I’m not as bad as some of the others’) are just a few. In twelve step language, this equates to ‘stinking thinking.’ One must be relentless in rooting out distortions in thinking. In order to do this, the individual must ask help of others in the recovery community to confront distortions when they hear it. You must not allow pride (‘I can do this on my own, or I don’t need to tell others or ask for help’) to get in the way. Remember, it is your own thinking that has got you in the mess in the first place. We must recruit the help of the recovery community in overcoming resistance to change.

Recovery and change doesn’t just happen. Breaking through resistance is a daily battle that Paul reminds us in Galatians 5 of the spirit and the flesh at war with one another. Paul had to crucify the flesh and its passions. To overcome resistance, one needs to be honest. Find safe people where you can share and be held accountable. Get a sponsor to assist you to work through a twelve step program and establish and maintain sobriety will really be helpful. Establish good spiritual habits of devotion, bible study, and fellowship with other believers. Avoid isolating. We need each other in this battle.

See Every Man’s Battle for more help.

Grieving Personal Wounds

Bob Parkins

While recently at an Every Man’s Battle conference, the group I was facilitating had been processing the relationship between personal wounds and sexually acting-out. While it is often exciting to watch men reconnect with their hearts and risk vulnerability by sharing painful experiences, I encountered quite a bit of resistance from the group. Men often ask me the purpose of “rehashing” the past, “blaming” one’s parents, or they will give me a monologue on “choices” and “personal responsibility.” Their questions are fair and deserve answers, but to miss the issues behind them is to miss the heart of the man that asks.

Some wounds leave us so deeply injured that even looking at them can be terrifying. We are not only afraid of hurting again but we dread uncovering unknown fear. Sadly, we trade God’s healing touch for the certainty of the mundanely dulled and bruised heart. To us, this can feel better than the dread of having our hearts split open, spilling into our own consciousness or for others to see. But whether we acknowledge it or not, we still bleed from within. This is why our addictions have kept us in bondage for so many years. Willingly and sometimes happily, through acting-out, we turned our backs on our own hearts as they bleed from within. Acknowledging a wounded heart is not “rehashing,” “blaming,” or skirting “responsibility” for our own actions/transgressions. When we acknowledge our woundedness we are taking responsibility for our hearts, and that honors God.

Acknowledgement moves us closer to truly surrendering these wounds to God so He may begin to heal them. God patiently respects our unwillingness to acknowledge wounds, for a while. Fortunately he also loves us enough, that in our unwillingness, he allows crisis to bring us face-to-face with our wounds and our transgressions. For many men struggling with sexual addiction, a crisis of truth may take the form of having one’s transgressions exposed. While this is usually humiliating, I frequently remind couple’s of God’s graciousness and his heart for them. A loving father does not allow his son/daughter to continue in sin indefinitely without confrontation. Being brought to a crisis of truth is an opportunity and chance for redemption. For some, it may not be possible to reconcile a broken marriage, but for many others it is still possible. Regardless of what is lost, a chance is given to reconcile with God and with self. Reconciliation with self can never happen without an honest look at one’s wounds.

Healing wounds can start with resistance. Like any other feeling, resistance can tell you something about yourself. If you feel defensive or resistant about an issue, you may actually be afraid to address it. Your resistance may be telling you to dig deeper and deal with some specifics of an issue. It is not “rehashing,” but addressing the issue or wound. You may have a pattern of acting-out sexually to deal with the wound. If you are taking responsibility for your wound by addressing it honestly, you cannot be “blaming.” God will honor your efforts to take responsibility and will graciously see you through the process of healing your wounds, if you let him (Rom 8:28).

For more help in the battle for purity and integrity see Every Man’s Battle.
If you are married and have attended Every Man’s Battle, we encourage you and your wife to join us at our next New Life Weekend.