More Powerful Than Blood

Steve Arterburn

Family is important. It provides relationships that will be your foundation, through thick and thin your entire life. What’s more, families are where we get our foundation spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. In short, families are the cradles of character.

 

But in Mark chapter three, Jesus demonstrates that as important as family truly is, it’s not what’s most important. The scene took place on a day when Jesus and His disciples were so overwhelmed by the crowds they didn’t even have time to eat. Jesus’ mother and brothers approached the house where Jesus was, but couldn’t get in. So they did the next best thing. They sent word inside that they wanted to speak to Jesus.

 

When Jesus heard this, He asked provocatively, ‘Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ Then He looked at the crowd around Him and declared that they‘those who did God’s will’were His true family members!

 

This is one of the many times where Jesus shatters our preconceived notions. Yes, your family is very important. It’s very important to God, and therefore, should be important to you as well. Yet family doesn’t take precedence over the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom makes a total claim upon us and radically reorders our entire existence. Therefore, to exalt anything over our loyalty to Jesus Christ is to make that thing an idol, even your family. Don’t let something good take the place of what’s clearly best.

Sexual Purity And The Gospel

Lance David

I have a confession to make. I don’t understand the gospel. That’s not to say I don’t know the nuts and bolts of it. However, I’m embarrassed to say, the gospel rarely captures my heart. Let me explain.

The other day, my wife made a confession to me. Our three-year-old daughter had slammed the front door on the fingers of our one-year-old daughter (and this slamming thing has been a problem without a good solution for a while now). In frustration and fear my wife shouted, ‘You stupid kid.’ Of course she wasn’t proud of this and had hoped it would blow over, thinking it was probably the first time that the little squirt had heard that word. However, the next day, the question came, ‘Mommy, what does stupid mean?’

Have you ever wished you could take something back? My wife never wanted anyone in the world to call our precious daughter stupid- and she had done it! To solidify that this was not merely going to blow over, the next day my wife and I both heard our three-year-old say to our one-year-old, ‘You stupid baby.’

It was after this that my wife told me what had happened.

Now, I love my wife. She is such a good gift to me. She is not perfect, but is my perfect match. And, I love my daughter- the coolest three-year old in the whole world. And my wife felt really bad for what she had said. But I was struggling. My head said, ‘It’s not the end of the world for your daughter. She knows her mother loves her. This is a really good thing that your wife told you and she’s hurting.’ But I was starting to feel the anger well up inside me. Things like, ‘I’m a counselor, for crying out loud! People come see me because their parents said emotionally abusive things like this to them! How dare she say that to MY daughter!’

Now, my wife can read me very well and needless to say, my judgmental attitude did not go over well with her. The whole thing was rapidly going somewhere in a hand basket when God stepped in. Somewhere deep inside my wife’s heart she knew God was saying, ‘I’ve taken your punishment for you. And I’ve taken your judgmental husband’s punishment too. Neither of you need to suffer for your sin because I already have.’ And then my wife spoke to me, ‘It’s ok if you judge me, Jesus took my penalty. And he’s taken yours as well.’

The truly amazing thing is that she said this without any hint of defensiveness. It wasn’t one of those Christianized versions of ‘sticks and stones can break my bones.’ Instead she related a calming, strengthening, life-giving reality. The effect on me was marvelous. Instantly I knew she was right and that I could let go of my desire to get justice by being angry at and demanding punishment of my wife.

The truth of the matter is that I did not readily offer my wife grace because I so rarely accept God’s grace. Again, I am trusting Christ alone to save me from my SIN. It’s just that so often I don’t accept God’s grace to save me from my individual, practical, all-too-often-occurring sins. You know the ones like my judgmental heart, my arrogant spirit, my lustful eyes.

If I get convicted of those kind of things I usually think, ‘Okay. I slipped up again. That was bad, though not as bad as some people I know. I won’t do it again. I’ll try harder from now on. It won’t happen again.’ Or if the situation fits I try to handle my sin is by shifting the blame to someone else. ‘It did that because she deserved it.’

But Jesus’ offer is that I shift the blame to him. The really good news of the gospel is that God doesn’t whitewash my sin. He sees it for the filth that it is and he says, ‘You don’t have to suffer for it because I already have. Go ahead, walk in freedom.’

I think that for many of us on the path to sexual purity we forget our desperate need for the gospel to impact us in the rubber-meets-the-road ordinary arenas of life. What do you suppose would be the fruit in terms of sexual purity if our hearts were more and more captivated by the gospel? I pray that would be more and more of a reality for both you and me.

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

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.