If you’re struggling compulsively with unwanted sexual behavior, what you most need may surprise you.
I met with Mike last year and listened as he talked about his love of God and his intense desire to bring the truth of Jesus to a lost world. But Mike was falling repeatedly into patterns of sexual sin. The disparity between his convictions and his actions left Mike angry at himself. Listening to Mike, I could hear how much he believed God loves sinners, but I could also hear how much Mike disbelieved that God actually loved him.
I’ve met a lot of Mike’s over the years—men and women who are doing their best to love God, but who are caught in cycles of sin, and who are filled with shame and self-loathing about the disconnect between those two aspects of their lives. I’ve been there.
What we need right there in the epicenter of that conflict is kindness.
It takes courage to receive God’s grace when we’ve sinned badly, repeatedly, or when our sin has really hurt other people. In the midst of ongoing struggles, receiving grace feels counter-intuitive. I’ve just turned my back on God again, so who am I to come to God asking for anything? Receiving God’s grace when we’ve sinned doesn’t only feel counter-intuitive, it can also feel risky. What if I’m wrong? What if God’s fed up with me for having messed this up so badly? What if I’ve reached the end of His patience?
From start to finish, the consistent, clear teaching of Scripture is that God wants to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). As hard as it can be to believe, if you’re wrestling with ongoing sin, God wants to pour out His kindness on you. Would you dare to believe it? And even more, would you dare to receive it?
I may never fully understand why God’s grace always increases when sin increases (Romans (Romans 5:20), but I can say that in my 20 years of ministering in this area, I’ve never met a person who has become truly free from compulsive sexual sin by beating him or herself up when failures come.
I think here of the religious experts standing outside in a huff while Jesus was inside eating and drinking with sinners (Matthew 9:10-12). This wasn’t just one event in time. The conflict Matthew observed then is also within many of us today. Inside us we find both an upright, dutiful Pharisee (who’s trying really hard to do what’s right!) and a rebellious, undisciplined sinner (who’s really, really lost).
The sad, sad irony then and now is that Jesus’ words to the Pharisees (see verses 11 and 12) were words inviting them to come close to Him, too. The upright part of you tries to keep the sinful parts of you from Jesus out of pride, shame, envy, or anger; but both parts of you need Jesus and He wants all of you.
In an unparalleled twist, those who walk in true freedom from sexual sin begin by placing their hand in the hand of Jesus and embarking on a path marked by God’s kindness (Romans 2:4). It is when we stop resisting God’s tenderness toward our ongoing sin that we begin to find those places changed.
Friends, if you’re a Mike, a sinner, a Pharisee, a backslider, a prodigal, an older brother…a human being and you want to gain freedom over your compulsive sins, let me encourage you to take courage and let God be kind to you. Let God love you. Stand at the foot of Jesus’ cross and let His love pour all over you. It’s what you need most.