So I have a LOT going on currently, so rather than writing a blog right now, I am going to share some of my new book with you. Eyes of Honor is primarily a Men's book, but 70-80% of the material is gender neutral. Enjoy!
(Buy it exclusively at WeltonAcademy.com)
(Part 2 will come on in the next blog)
I recently heard a well-known Christian motivational speaker who does marriage seminars around the country discuss the affects of sexual immorality on a person and a marriage. He suggested that, though change and healing are possible, the person who has had extramarital sexual experiences will always struggle with ungodly desires at some level. Such people will always need to be on guard, be extra vigilant against temptation. And they will always have a degree of dysfunction in the ways that they view sex.
For many, this has been absolutely true. Yet his absolutism aroused some righteous anger in me. This is the exact mentality that informs most secular and Christian counseling on this subject. And, while (in the case of Christian resources) it is framed by the message of hope in Jesus, this belief system offers no actual hope. Psalm 27:13says, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Many Christian men struggling with temptation and sexual sin feel despair for this exact reason. They do not believe they will see the goodness of God (total healing and freedom) in this area of their lives while they live on this earth.
Not unlike this Christian speaker, the main premise of the 12-step programs is the power of addiction. In order to get help, one must admit to being a helpless and broken addict. It becomes a person’s identity. “My name is Frank, and I am an addict.” You no longer have a problem; you are the problem. You are a victim of a disease; you are a problem to be fixed. Inspiring, isn’t it? After years of struggling against temptations— trying not to check out that scantily dressed woman, look at that magazine in the grocery store check-out line, click on that pop-up advertisement for a porn site—most men reach a point of hopelessness. They feel powerless over sin, believing that they are controlled by outside forces and that no real answers are available. This belief is reinforced by resources on the subject. Thus, these men find themselves in the loneliest and most terrifying of places—despair; they feel like silent victims to their appetites, and they have relinquished all hope of rescue. Sound familiar?
At the foundation of my approach to living free from sexual temptation is the belief that you are powerful. This approach is fundamentally opposite of the secular/clinical approach. As step #1 of the 12-step recovery plan of Sex Addicts Anonymous states, “We admitted we were powerless over addictive sexual behavior and that our lives had become unmanageable.” This is the foundation of the clinical approach to dealing with sin: You are a sex addict, and the road to recovery begins when you admit that you are powerless over your addiction. Although this approach may help many men modify their behavior, it does not bring healing to the root issues in the heart.
During the time of the judges in the Old Testament, Israel experienced oppression from the Midianites (Midian means “strife”). This was not simple border skirmishing, but absolute demoralization and terrorization of the people. For seven years, whenever Israel would plant crops, as harvest time approached, the Midianites would sweep through and destroy all of the crops, as well as the animals that the Israelites would use for both labor and food. The Bible compares the Midianites to locusts that would come in swarms to devastate the land. Because of this, the people of Israel hid in caves and mountains and were brought very low (see Judg. 6:1-6). Let’s put this scenario in modern terms. You are trying to live uprightly for God, yet it seems like whenever you begin to make progress or gain a measure of victory (plant seed) the enemy of temptation sweeps in to devastate your victory. You feel powerless to resist. You try to find a refuge, a hiding place, but you cannot escape the reality that once again your harvest has been stolen. Gradually, you lose all hope for the future.
Enter the hero—Gideon, a man much like you and me. Gideon was threshing wheat in a wine press in an attempt to hide his harvest from the Midianites. Gideon’s name means “one who cuts to pieces”; he was supposed to be a warrior, a powerful man; yet he was defeated, hiding, and full of despair. Even though Gideon did not understand his identity, God did. The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, called him a powerful and brave man, and commissioned him to destroy the idol worship in Israel and defeat the Midianites through God’s empowerment. Though Gideon was full of excuses about why he was not the right man for the job (including self-pity, blame, and a victim mentality), God persistently spoke to him according to his destiny and identity in God—mighty man, brave warrior, conqueror of strife. Ultimately, Gideon chose to believe God’s assessment of him and stepped into his destiny, winning a great victory. (There is much I am leaving out here, but the entire story, which is found in Judges 6, is very powerful and worth reading.)
Many Bible scholars believe the angel of the Lord who appears in various places in the Old Testament is actually Jesus—God manifested to humanity before Jesus’ incarnation. Thus, we can read Gideon’s story into our lives this way. When we feel oppressed by sin and temptation, Jesus speaks to us about our true destiny and identity in Him, and He calls us to take responsibility and act powerfully according to that identity. When Gideon believed what God said about him and acted accordingly, he found freedom. And you can too. In this book you will find the truth about who you are. You are not an addict—a helpless and hopeless victim of addiction. No, you are a son of God. And you are powerful. In the coming pages I will show you what that means and how a revelation of your identity can absolutely free you from the struggle with sexual sin.
Jesus Restores Our Power and Value
Though the clinical approach says that complete freedom is a myth, Jesus died to give humanity absolute freedom from and power over sin. He did not intend for us to struggle against lust all of our lives. Instead, He said, “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Jesus illustrated this in His response to the woman caught in adultery (see John 8:1-11). Though the woman had been caught “in the very act” and could have been condemned to death according to the law, Jesus instead spoke to her according to her value. He said, “I do not condemn you...” (John 8:11)—in other words, He didn’t label her as adulterous, but instead valued her as a loved daughter of God. And He called her to be powerful, to take responsibility and make a choice—“...Go. From now on sin no more” (John 8:11).
This is exactly what Jesus has done for us. Through His death on the cross He has said, “I do not condemn you” (I value you), and through His resurrection, “Go. From now on sin no more” (you are powerful and able to live holy). We have been given the power to walk in purity and freedom. We do not, as so many Christians believe, have to wrestle with sin all of our lives. Referring to his freedom, the apostle Paul said that he would not allow anything to control him—“...I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12). This was not just wishful thinking. He could say this because through grace we have literally been given the power to reign in life and to operate in self-control (see Rom. 5:17; Tit. 2:11-14). The death and resurrection of Christ are more than sufficient for every need, every weakness, every sin in our lives.
As I alluded to in the stories of Gideon and the woman caught in adultery, there are two foundational principles that we must understand in order to walk in freedom and self-control. I am powerful, and I am valuable. We will explore both of these principles, starting with the first: you are powerful.
Powerful People Are Self-Controlled
Jesus said that everyone who sins is a slave to sin (see John 8:34), but then He died so we would no longer be controlled by sin and would have self-control. John described Him as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Paul commanded believers, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts.... For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 16:12,14). As those who have accepted Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, we are under grace, and we, therefore, have a choice. We are powerful. Paul said, “Do not let...,” implying that the believer now has the power to choose against sin. We are not victims or slaves of sin as we once were. If we sin, it is because we choose to. Another example of the choice we must make is in the story of Cain and Abel. “The Lord said to Cain...sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Genesis 4:6, 7 Notice that God didn’t say that sin was within Cain and that he had no choice but to obey its whims? Choice is always a factor.
However, Paul also says in this passage that when we do choose to sin, we give sin the throne in our lives (sin reigns and we obey). So although we are powerful and free because of Christ, we allow sin to be our master. When we choose lust, we are giving up self-control and selling our freedom to the old flame, the porn star, the stripper, or the prostitute. We must value our freedom enough to choose self- control.
When we choose self-control, God’s grace will empower us to maintain that choice. Jesus Christ provided grace through His death and resurrection. Though people often group mercy and grace together, their concepts are not synonymous. Many of us have heard the
difference defined like this: mercy is not getting what we deserve (death), and grace is getting what we don’t deserve (life). Grace literally empowers believers to walk in all that God has designed them to walk in. God’s grace is a gift to us that enables us to live victorious lives here and now. Once we begin to receive God’s grace as a gift that empowers us, we will reign in life. Romans 5:17 says that Jesus provides us with an abundant provision of empowering grace so that we may reign—so that we may fulfill our call of living like Christ:
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
It is important to note that Jesus provided us with righteousness, not as something achieved by works, but as a gift received by faith. Though many of us understand this concept with our minds, we still live like we are trying to be righteous on our own. We try really hard, but
inevitably we fail because we are acting apart from God’s grace. So what does it mean to receive righteousness by faith (and not by trying hard)? We must realize that when God looks at us, He now sees the righteousness of Christ. Romans 4:5 says, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” In His eyes, we are blameless and holy. That is our current identity because of Christ. When we choose to believe what God says about us, we are enabled to receive His grace for righteous living. When we accept His truth about us, we no longer strive for approval through works; neither do we condemn ourselves by evaluating our potential based on our history. Rather, we simply accept God’s declaration of our righteousness. As God renews our minds according to this truth, we will begin to access the grace to live righteously.
Grace Empowers Self-Control
Not only has God given us grace, but He has also given us the gift of His Holy Spirit living within us, who brings the fruit of self-control (see Gal. 5:22-23). This means that we have personal responsibility and freedom. It is absolutely incredible to realize that God wants us to be free. He doesn’t want to control us, as He has proven since the beginning, when He put two trees in the Garden of Eden. Pastor Danny Silk explains it well:
In the beginning, God created mankind to be free. There were no constraints in the Garden. Adam and Eve were running around naked (see Gen. 2:25)—no bras, no underwear, no bathing suits, nothing. This is God’s intended version of your life: absolute freedom. But what made the Garden free? It wasn’t that they were naked. No, the Garden was free because of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. “What?” you ask. “That’s the bad tree! How could that lead them to freedom?” Well, if they hadn’t had the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in that Garden, they would have been trapped in a paradise prison. Without the option of making a poor choice in that environment, they would not have been free.
As we know, Adam and Eve made the wrong choice and traded their freedom for sin. But God valued our freedom so much that He sent Jesus to purchase it back for us through His death on the cross. Yes, our freedom is worth the death of Jesus because God intends that we use all that He has given us so that we will reign in life. Like Romans 5:17 says, we “...who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” Now that Jesus has accomplished His work on our behalf, we have been given grace, which teaches us how to walk in self-control. Because of Jesus’ grace and freedom, we never have to be controlled by outside forces. Rather, grace empowers us to walk in self-control:
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:11-14).
If we do not understand that our self-control is empowered by the grace of God, then we will try to control our flesh by the strength of our flesh, and this will always fail. Jesus has provided the fruit of the Spirit for us; without the Spirit, we can’t operate in His fruit. For those trying to enact their own righteousness through works, this list can feel like the most awful of standards. Only God’s grace enables us to walk in any of the fruit, including self-control.
The Power of Choice
To the man struggling with lust, the most irritating of the nine fruit of the Spirit is self- control. He may feel that he is doing well in the other eight, but self-control eludes him. Many have described self-control as “the ability to say no to sin.” Under this definition, the man struggling with lust will feel like a daily failure. Yet this definition of self-control is inherently flawed because of its narrowness. Self-control is not simply the ability to say no to sin. I would propose that the definition of self-control is better expressed as “being the only one who determines my responses in life.” This shift of definition has far-reaching implications. In the past when we were controlled by fear or lust, there were forces of sin that literally ran our lives and controlled us. Not only has their control been removed by Jesus death on the cross, but also we have been given back the reins of our own lives. That is what self-control means.
You are powerful because God has given you self-control. Self-control gives you the power of choice. If you are controlled by outside forces, then your decisions are not truly your own; therefore, you are not operating in freedom. Once you begin to walk in self-control, you realize that you are the only one controlling your life and decisions; therefore, you become able to make powerful decisions. Powerful people are those who are not controlled by outside forces. They literally command and direct their own decisions, and they take full responsibility for their own actions and consequences.
Jesus’ intention was for His followers to have the freedom to walk in self-control and to be powerful people. About this, Paul wrote,
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. ...For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Galatians 5:1,13)
Here he clearly connects freedom with self- control and the ability to choose powerfully. He exhorts us to choose love rather than returning to slavery to sin. This call to powerful decision- making comes just before Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus has called us to freedom, and we live out that freedom by making powerful decisions based on the truth of God’s Word and the characteristics (fruit) of the Spirit. We are no longer subject to the yoke of our whims or emotions or desires; rather, we are actually able to choose love, no matter the circumstance.
When we are mistreated, self-control does not simply keep us from responding wrongly, but it also gives us the power to respond rightly, in love. The old definition of self-control only gave us the power to say no to wrongdoing. The new definition empowers us to say no to wrongdoing and to make the choice to walk proactively in love. For a man tempted to embrace sexual sin, this is not just “bouncing” his eyes or beating his flesh into submission, but truly considering the needs of the people in his life (his wife, his children, his parents, the women he is tempted to objectify, and so forth) and being compelled by his and Christ’s love for them. Self-control manifested in love looks like this: A man who’s tempted to go to a strip club instead asks the Lord for His heart for the girls who work there. Receiving the revelation that they are loved, but deeply wounded daughters of God, he begins praying for their salvation and healing. Perhaps he even sends them flowers from God. Here’s another scenario: A married man sits in front of his computer feeling tempted to look at pornography; instead, he asks God to show him how He sees his wife. From that revelation of love, he not only chooses not to click on the wrong sites, but also to surprise his wife with a meaningful expression of his value for her. We will discuss this more in the third section (Who is she?).
The truth of self-control is that you are powerful and you can always choose to control yourself. Self-control means that nothing outside of you is running your life—not your angry boss, your rebellious children, your nagging wife, your critical mother-in-law, the evil spirits of lust, generational curses, the wounds from your past, or anything else. Absolutely nothing can control you because the Holy Spirit gave the reins of your life back to you. This is an awesome and empowering truth. You are in charge of you. First Corinthians 9:25 says, “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” Paul highlights self-control as the key to victory, and through Jesus’ blood, you now possess that key. Victory over sexual temptation is possible because you have been given self-control, because you are a powerful person.
Nobody can make you angry. You have the power to choose how to respond when others injure you. Nobody can steal your peace. You always get to choose how to respond. You are the only one in control of you. Nobody can make you follow your lustful thoughts. You always get to make the choice. The lie that counselors teach is that you are out of control. You are not out of control; you are just making stupid choices with the control that you have been given. You are choosing to return to that “yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). But you don’t have to.
You get to choose how to live your life. You can respond with kindness and forgiveness or anger and bitterness. It is always your choice, and nobody can force you to choose differently. Paul and Silas chose to sing hymns and pray after being unjustly beaten and imprisoned (see Acts 16:22-25). When David’s city was raided, all of the women and children were taken captive, and his men talked of stoning him in their despair, David instead chose to strengthen himself in God’s goodness (see 1 Sam. 30:1-6). When Corrie Ten Boom, a holocaust survivor, encountered one of the soldiers who had years earlier killed her sister, she chose to forgive him and welcome that repentant soldier into the family of God.2 These people and many others have made powerful choices, whether in the midst of incredible adversity or in the face of daily stresses and temptations. You can too.
When you see an attractive woman, nobody can make you lust; it is merely a choice. You could choose not to lust, but when you don’t realize that you are in charge of yourself, you will live as a victim. When you live without self-control, you will constantly be fighting with overwhelming outside forces. Paul the apostle wrote:
“Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12)
Paul was a powerful person who understood that self-control meant that nothing outside of him could control him. Only you are controlling you; no one else is responsible for the decisions you
make. The Holy Spirit has given you self- control, and like Paul, you can choose to “not be mastered by anything.”
You Are Better Than That!
This reminds me of a scene from the boxing movie, Rocky Balboa. Rocky had recently decided to come out of retirement to fight the leading and undefeated world champion. The media is predicting Rocky’s humiliating loss. Rocky’s adult son, Robert, has lived his whole life in his father’s shadow and is struggling to make it in the corporate world. In fear of his own reputation being tarnished, Robert comes by Rocky’s restaurant to ask his father not to go back into boxing. You can see from their conversation that Robert doesn’t feel like he is in control of his own life. (Be sure to read this in true Rocky fashion, with a Philly accent).
Robert: So you are going thru with this? Rocky: Yeah I start training tomorrow. Robert: So are you nervous about the fight? Rocky: I am scared to death.
Robert: You don’t look scared. Rocky: Well, you’re not supposed to. Robert: You don’t have to do it. Rocky: Yeah, well, I think I do.
Robert: You know, livin’ with you, it hasn’t been easy. People see me, but they think of you! Now with all this going on, it is going to be worse than ever!
Rocky: It don’t have to be. Robert: Yeah, sure it does!
Rocky: Why? You have got a lot going on for you, kid!
Robert: What, my last name? That’s the reason I got a good job, that’s the reason that people deal with me in the first place. Now, I start to get ahead, I start to get a little something for myself, and this happens! Now, I am asking you, as a favor, not to go thru with this. This is only going to end up bad for you, and it is only going to end up bad for me.
Rocky: You think I am hurting you? Robert: Yeah, in a way you are!
Rocky: That is the last thing that I ever wanted to do.
Robert: I know that is not what you wanted to do, but that is just the way that it is! Don’t you care what people think? Doesn’t it bother you that people are making you out to be a joke and that I am going to be included in that? Do you think that’s right? Do you?
Rocky: You ain’t gonna believe this, but you used to fit right here (pointing to the palm of his hand). I used to hold you up and say to your mother, this kids going to be the best kid in the world.
(Robert rolls his eyes.)
Rocky: This kid is going to be somebody better than anybody I ever knew. And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watching you and everyday was like a privilege. Then, the
time came for you to be your own man and take on the world. And you did... but somewhere along the way you changed, you stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you that you’re no good! And when things got hard you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow. Let me tell you something you already know, the world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody else is gonna to hit us as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward! That’s how winnin’ is done! Now, if you know what you are worth, go out and get what you are worth! But you have gotta be willing to take the hits! And not be pointing fingers saying that you are not where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that. And that ain’t you! You are better than that! I am always going to love you no matter what, no matter what happens. You are my son, you are my blood, you are the best thing in my life. But until you begin believing in yourself, you ain’t gonna have a life.
Rocky was not only physically strong, he was also emotionally strong. He had a high level of self-control. Even while his son was yelling at him, he spoke words of unconditional love, honor, and strength into Robert. Rocky is a beautiful picture of the power of self-control. He made choices based on his own heart and was not swayed by the fear of what others would say or do. His son, Robert, however, had become a coward by living as if he was not in control of his own life. Robert lived as a victim of outside forces.
(End of Part 1)