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.
Hi, thanks for the sharing something I badly needed to hear and to affirm.
It’s my pleasure. I need it too.
Do you speak of sexual sin, but I am amazed at how often what you say really applies to all of us as sinners. Standing at the foot of the cross and let in Christ’s love pour over us is a beautiful, beautiful picture. Thank you. It brings me to tears.
It’s amazing to me how I know this truth in one area of my life but can miss its importance in another! Thanks for reading!
In overcoming habitual sin and self-condemnation, I found Fr Jacques Philippe’s book “Searching for and Maintaining Peace” an invaluable help. He asserts that we often fight the wrong battle, of never falling. We are sure to fall. But the goal is to maintain a peaceful heart as we fight against sin, trusting in God’s strength, not our own. When we fall, we acknowledge, “Lord, this is who I am without You.” “The first goal of spiritual combat…is not to always obtain a victory…,rather it is to learn to maintain peace of heart under all circumstances, even in times of defeat.” At first I resisted the advice, for shouldn’t I know better by now? But it really helped break the power of sin in my life. That and practicing self-denial in other areas of my life too.
The article was already as timely and relevant as possible. Then this comment came along to add what I didn’t know needed to be added. Thanks for the input. Any idea where I can source this book?
Thank you for sharing this, KW!
Thanks Josh! I know the feeling all to well.Having sexual sin a part of my life for the last 40 or so years no.For the past 21 years in recovery I certainly do see a change in my character in this are.Your right Josh, being ( naked before God) in being transparent has be life changing for sure.Most importantly knowing God a my father is key.Thanks again brother..
It’s crazy, isn’t it Paul, how much we can fear transparency and yet it is really life-giving when we can be “naked” before God and whole-enough others. Thanks for reading, brother.
“It is when we stop resisting God’s tenderness toward our ongoing sin that we begin to find those places changed.”
This reminds me of the woman caught in adultery who the religious leaders wanted to stand to death and Jesus granted them this privilege according to the law. But not one of them had the true authority to carry it out. The only one with true authority was the one with Mercy.