80/20 Obedience

Steve Arterburn

One man is silent when called to speak. Another’s speech is seasoned with anger, bitterness and everything negative rather than grace.

 

Men, the gospel of our Lord calls each of you to a higher standard. Each of you, however, has become too highly skilled at setting aside God’s clear instructions for our lives, are choosing a path of disobedience instead.

 

Don’t amend God’s word with the latest trends, and don’t ignore the call of God’s Spirit to our own plans and purposes. Selective obedience isn’t true obedience. In fact, it’s a recipe for disaster. Even if you seek to follow God 80 percent of the time, the 20 percent of the time you don’t will sink you every time.

 

As the apostle Paul warned Timothy, many men serve their own interests by having ‘a form of godliness but denying its power.’ For instance, men know when they are sexually violating God’s will, but they continue to indulge their sin anyway. Husbands know when they’re tearing down their spouses, but they continue the verbal tirades. Fathers know when their kids are just dying for some time with Dad, but other demands always take priority.

 

By way of contrast, when God’s man is tempted to enter that 20% zone, he does what God would have him do’even if it’s less convenient or not as immediately gratifying. Guys, one of the great ironies of the Christian life is that freedom comes through obedience. Dare to live freely in joyful submission to your Lord today!

Spiritual Warfare and Recovery

Craig L. Boden

Congratulations on your progress in the recovery from Sexual Addiction. Allow me to remind you of the management tools you received at the Every Man’s Battleworkshop. These tools work when we apply them. You might want to take the opportunity to review those tools of management care.

If you are a Christian, you have been enlisted in the Lord’s army, and as with all good soldiers the training in boot camp applies throughout the career of the soldier. He must be equipped and ready for battle. His equipment must be clean and in working order. He must care for himself and be fit for battle. Do not loose sight of the fact that you, as a believer, have been enlisted into an army. As Paul called Timothy, so we too are called to’

‘Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” II Timothy 2:3

We are all aware of how difficult the war on terrorism is to fight when we don’t know who the enemy is, what they look like, or where they will fight. Yet we hear the news and see casualties daily. It becomes discouraging when the news reports more casualties among our forces and civilians than we hear about enemy casualties. It causes us to wonder ‘Are we winning? Can we win?’ The answer is a resounding ‘YES!’ Do not be discouraged, be ready to fight!

The analogy is all too clear when we look at our recovery process. Let’s look at Ephesians 6:10 ‘ 13

‘Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.’

Attending an EMB is like basic training without the exercise and getting yelled at! Recovery is partly your advanced training and direct warfare. Every good soldier must continue to train and learn strategies for war. Then there are the times when we have been called to the front of battle. This term is confusing because this is not conventional warfare. There is no front. Today being on the front is equivalent to a terrorist picking off his targets much like a sniper or carefully placed land mines along the roadside. Unfortunately the front can also be sitting in your office and a jet plane crashing into your building.

Men, we are at war, physically and spiritually.

It is so easy to become discouraged when it seems we are bombarded at every turn with temptation. The temptation is not sin. We fall when we turn to the temptation rather than to God. We question why did I get blind sided? How could I have let this happen again? Why do I struggle so much? And why is this desire so intense? When will it stop? When can I move to the rear and be safe of the temptation? In my great-great grandfather’s memoirs from the Civil War, at one point when the battle was very intense and he did not think he would make it, he told his ‘body guard’ to move to the rear. A while later he looked over his shoulder to discover his ‘body guard’ (actually his slave and friend) crouching behind him. I told you to move to the rear. He replied, ‘But Capt’n ther ain’t no rear!’ Sometimes I feel the same way when it comes to Satan’s attacks. It appears the rear, where we are apt to lay down our weapons for a rest, is when we step on the land mine or receive incoming sniper fire.

Perhaps it is in the times of lax or perhaps over confidence when we feel safe, that we are most vulnerable to the enemy.

I think of the conversation between Jesus and Peter in Luke 22. After receiving the Passover Meal with Jesus a discussion, actually an argument, breaks forth between the disciples about who will be the greatest. Jesus explained to them, and us, that being the greatest means being a servant to all. Then He turns to Simon (Peter).

‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail, and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.’

Satan set his sights on Peter. He wanted him in the worst way. He wanted to destroy him and could have done it. But Jesus interceded on Peter’s behalf. Satan was limited in what he could do. The same is true for you. Satan is a powerful foe. Do not loose sight of the enemy’s strength. But he is limited in the use of power.

Remember the story about Job?

‘Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.’ (Job 1:12).

Satan was limited to what he could do with Job. In his frustration he again appealed to God to touch his bone and flesh, believing then Job would turn from God.

‘So the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life (Job 2:6).

Satan had to ask permission to use his power on God’s chosen one. God, in His Sovereignty, allowed Job to be tempted to turn away from Him. He allowed his suffering. He allowed a battle that was raging in a different realm, invisible, and inaudible to Job or any other human, to pierce the realm below afflicting its devastating blows with exact precision, without any more warning than the people in the Twin Towers in NY City had September 11, 2001.

We hear the phrase, ‘War is hell,’ in this context it is not slang nor intended to be base, but graphically accurate. Spiritual War is from the pit of hell with all of Satan’s forces aimed at derailing us from faithfulness to God our Father. Satan’s forces may be ancient but are on the cutting edge of our best technology. He obviously is a master strategist in war. He knows how to use smart bombs. We are struck down without even knowing we were in danger. He is a master of cyber space and afflicts us with the click of a mouse. He is a master of infiltrating our ranks and comes between us and the ones we love the most. We become perplexed when we begin to believe our wives and children are the enemy. They are not. But they can be victims of the enemy’so can we. Satan can cause us to feel persecuted while in recovery. While doing the right thing now, our past acting out may still have left open emotional and relational wounds.

Men, take courage. There is good news. No, the war is not over, but it has been won. Jesus has not only seen the end from the beginning. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. Satan has been defeated yet his forces still skirmish. You and I are their desired target. No, the encouragement comes from Paul to the Corinthian Soldiers (Christians). II Corinthians 4:7-11,

‘But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.’

Men take courage. Do not be surprised by the ‘fiery ordeal’ as Peter calls it in I Peter 4:12. Do not think you can win the battle of temptation on your own. You are a band of brothers. Get a ‘buddy,’ an accountability partner if you do not have one. Remember even your best strategy can be under minded by the enemy. Work the management plan. If Satan can just keep us isolated in shame we will meet defeat. Talk to others about the struggle, the temptations, and defuse Satan’s booby traps.

Be prepared for an assault at all times. Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (I John 4:4).

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

Ministering Through Our Experience of Recovery

Pastor Ed Grant

I began counseling Sarah almost eight years ago. Her addictions and self destructive behavior were misguided attempts to keep her painful feelings at bay, to keep her ‘in the land of numb’. Recovery has been an inch by inch experience as we plumbed the depths of her painful past. Despite some occasional emotional struggles and setbacks, she and her husband now have a marriage neither could have imagined before they began the journey toward recovery together.

As our congregation prepares to begin ‘Celebrate Recovery’, a wonderful program based on the Beatitudes, I asked Sarah to lead the group for sexually abused women. Though she stills struggles with the shame of her past she sincerely desires to use her experience to help others. Recently she said to me, ‘It would be a shame not to use my experience to help others.’

Satan’s purpose is to keep us bound in the shame of our sins and secret past, isolated from God and from one another.

God’s intention for our recovery was demonstrated most clearly on the cross when He defeated sin, death and the devil. The open tomb on Easter declared to the world God’s power to rescue those held by death’s bonds and by the devil’s lies, to free them to experience His amazing, unconditional love.

St. Paul writes, ‘He forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.‘ (Col.2:13b-15).

The scars on His resurrected body became the evidence of Jesus’ triumph. Ministering to others through our recovery requires that we show them our scars. God has chosen to use our scars and the vulnerability it takes to show them to offer hope, wisdom, encouragement and warning to those embarking on the journey toward recovery.

Our scars give hope.
Ted Rose, a former elder who has gone home to be with Jesus, loved to visit the sick and shut-ins. Once he visited a man who was to undergo heart surgery the following day. He was visibly shaken at the thought of having his body cut open. Ted offered to pray with the man and to show his own scar from heart surgery. Seeing Ted’s scar had a very calming effect. Our scars show the world that we survived our wounds and that there can be healing for those whose wounds are still bleeding.

Our scars offer wisdom.
It is important that we learn from our mistakes, but heaven help us if it is the only way we learn! How much better to learn from the mistakes of others. King David sinned and, for a time, was in denial about it. God’s hand was heavy upon him until he finally came clean about his secret sin. After he confessed his sin and received forgiveness he wrote, ‘8I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. 9Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.‘ (Psalm 32).

The mistakes we have made can serve as warnings to those considering a short-cut to recovery. Our failures can expose the traps and pitfalls Satan conceals from view.

Our scars offer encouragement.


Those beginning recovery usually have a difficult time receiving God’s love for them because of an overwhelming sense of shame. Those who bare their scars give great encouragement to accept what cannot now be felt. Their scars testify to the healing power that flows from God’s loving touch. When the walking wounded see us and hear our candid testimonies they are encouraged to believe that God could love even them.

Paul often recalls his past life for this very purpose: ‘15Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. 16But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.‘(1 Timothy 1:15-16).

To Titus he wrote, ‘12I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

As we share our scars with the wounded I believe that God continues to work healing in our own lives. Certainly the telling of our stories and the response we receive dispels the commonly held belief: ‘If you really knew me you wouldn’t love me’. We are refreshed and encouraged as we see the way God uses our scars to touch the lives of others.

When we get to heaven and see Jesus, we will gaze upon His scars. They are ‘the marks of love the Father chose never to erase.’ (Michael Card)