The Joy of Growth

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  Hebrews 12:1-4.

I’m thankful for every day my habits of the heart don’t dominate me.  The sin that so easily entangles trips me up as well.  There is no sin that is not common to man God cannot conquer; though I know this, I also know my nature yearns with nostalgic longing for past pleasures and habits.  Most of you probably don’t know what I’m talking about, since you’ve already reached that place where sin no longer wraps your feet in its tendrils and drags you to the monster in the closet.

But I do.

Men of the 20th and 21st centuries have a unique situation facing them.  We are supposed to be ambitious but humble, sexual beings but refuse to treat women as sex objects, powerful but not lusting after it, and bad boys without the dangerous traits of one.  These oxymorons are preached from nearly every pulpit and soapbox in the world ad nauseum.  Who’s the author of such a teaching?  The source of confusion, Satan, the accuser of the brothers.

Women, too, have their struggles with this in our modern times, for they are told they need to be superwomen—i.e. able to juggle career, children, marriage and social events with ease and no stress.  They are taught to seek a super husband, one who earns a good living and is ambitious; at the same time these men must be gentle, prince charming, knight in gleaming armor and strong natured, not given to the weaknesses of common men.

Do you know anyone who is perfect?  I don’t.

Like me, most men struggle with how to treat the women in their lives withrespect while maintaining the “head of the household” job God gave them to perform in the Scriptures.  Like me, these men struggle to maintain control over their sexual urges and treat women with respect, all the while tempted to look that naked centerfold.  Like me, they see their best abilities scorned by their wives, family, friends and bosses, yet they are still demanded to do their best for all of these people.  Mounting debts from unpredictable circumstances—or even those forseen but beyond our ability to prepare for—and a host of other worries create disease from stress and hopelessness.

Women face demands to be the best in their career where they must compete with their male counterparts for pay, position and respect.  The problem, of course, is that men don’t have the babies, so the women are looked at by even their female superiors with a jaundiced eye and reticance about their trustworthiness.  I know plenty of women who feel like failures at motherhood, work, being a spouse and life in general, though they trudge on anyway.  At the end of the day, they dream about husbands who will rub their feet, take the kids so they can have down time, arrange a date night and wash the dishes or clean up with them or for them.

If I confessed that I’ve had a lust problem most of my life, would it surprise you?  And, if so, why?  If I tell you I’m not that good with office work, would that surprise you?  Then, if I continued to tell you how that works out in the practical, as in, I’m in debt up to my ears from bad choices and struggling to file my taxes, would it make more sense and cause you to look at me as less than a man?

Probably.

To be honest, I see a lot of inconsistency within the church concerning grace.  A guy works his butt off only to have a disastrous situation come along and take everything away, and people wonder if he wasn’t a loser all along.  Bong!  Bong! Bong!  Big Newsflash:  WITHOUT JESUS WE’RE ALL LOSERS!!!!!

I’m so tired of being sinner, but I never tire of being one saved by grace.  I don’t excuse my sin or sidestep admitting it because that’s foolish, hypocritical and dangerous to my growth in Christ.  Yet neither do I feel safe confessing these problems to most Christians because my experience has taught me most Christians believe in the myth of righteous perfection though they live in the reality of struggling with sinlessness like everyone else.

Why do we have to live lives of silent desperation, where our reality faces us daily but we’re unable to cope or speak for fear of bringing hellfire and damnation on us?

Because we’ve missed the point of the body of Christ.

The only way a man lusting after power or porn will conquer it is if he can confess it to the body of Christ without condemnation.  It’s strange that though the Scriptures say  there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, we take it to mean if they are sinless and have no faults.  Our ability to be sinless is nil, non-existent and a fallacy perpetrated by the father of lies.  I’m not excusing sin, justifying it or saying we shouldn’t work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, rather I’m saying this side of glorification, we will all struggle with sin to varying degrees, with some more successful than others.

That’s why I’m grateful for ever single day my sin doesn’t dominate me for it shows that I’m growing in Jesus.  What I mean by that is:  I may go two days strong in the Lord, then lose to the temptation on the third.  Confessing that I sinned and turning to Jesus (which is turning away from the sin by default) as the only answer guarantees forgiveness and restoration.  Even if I don’t go to that naked picture but lust after it in my heart, I still sinned, isn’t that true?  Which is worse:  the picture or the desire for it?  There’s nothing wrong with naked women for the world is full of them under the clothing and elsewhere, and God made them originally to be so anyway.  Where the sin comes in is my lust.  Even if I don’t step on people to get to the top but covet that career letting envy and jealousy eat me alive, I’ve still sinned as if I did the other.

Where these sins dominated me everday years ago, some now have a less tenuous hold on my life and attention.  Some people might consider it to be a natural result of age, but I don’t think so.  I believe God has changed my desires to the point that I no longer want to think that way.

Of course, I keep slipping back into it from time to time because I’m a sinner saved by grace.  But the miraculous change of mind happening in my life and thinking grow directly out of my turning everyday, every moment and every time I fall, to Jesus.  I want to be faithful in washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, valuing women as more than orgasmic dolls and taking care of business.  But, prepare yourselves, I’m not consistently faithful to these things.

I can’t excuse it, though I know grace covers it.  At the same time, I know God doesn’t approve of greed, self-ambition and lust, so I confess I have these faults to you in order free you to be honest with God and those who, in Christ, struggle to be righteous as well.  In our struggle against sin, we haven’t resisted to the point of shedding our blood—at least I haven’t, may by you have, I don’t know.  I’m a fallen creature saved from a dark pit by a Master so loving He died to save me before I even had any desire to be saved or knowledge I needed it; and He now works tirelessly to change my awful habits one baby step at a time. 

Did you get that point?  One baby step at a time!  We only consider progress as such if it happens by leaps and bounds.  That’s a complete crock!  If a person admits something as sin, that’s a huge step in the right direction.  If they confess Jesus as right and their actions, attitudes or opinions as wrong when it disagrees with Him, they have made another huge leap toward wholeness—another word for perfection.

For those of you disappointed by the fact that I’m a sinner:  Please examine your own hearts before you start throwing stones.  If your husband struggles with being a workaholic, change your attitude and give him a better reason to be home than out in the field or at the office.  That’s the way Jesus works with us.  If your husband lusts after other women through porn or affairs, make sure you are not the exacerbating the problem; in other words be a good wife and sexual partner so he won’t have any excuse for his choices in that direction.  Husbands if your wives drive you nuts by nagging for help with the kids or housework, change your method by joyously jumping in to work for them and create a fun atmosphere where heaven can enter in.  If your boss is riding you hard, work to the best of your ability within balanced reason then refuse to be a whipping post or workaholic just for the sake of pleasing men (or women).

God is our Boss, Master, Savior (knight in brilliant armor), first love, God, Creator and source of contentment.  He alone justifies and forgives, who can condemn us if the Master of the universe says differently?

There are no losers in Jesus, only losers without Him.

Yes, every day that I live a positive life in Jesus makes me grateful to belong to him.  Every day I can turn to Him and say,  “I’m sorry, I was wrong, please forgive me” is a day worth living.  He is definitely a God worth serving.  Every day I see victory gives me courage the next time I fall to sin’s deception to turn to God in humility and admit He is the only way, truth and life for me.

Yup, I’m very grateful…

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4 Responses to “The Joy of Growth”

  1. tlc4women Says:

    And here I thought you had it all together! 🙂 No one is perfect and we all have our areas of weakness where we are constantly struggling, falling and getting back up. That’s the beauty of the Lord and grace. He gets it. He waits.

    Lust is an interesting word but often misdiagnosed in the church. That word means to look upon someone for the purpose of obtaining for one’s own. A single man is supposed to lust after a single woman, that’s how things get started towards a relationship. A husband is supposed to lust after his wife. Lust is only bad when we are trying to obtain for ourselves someone that belongs to someone else or when we ourselves belong to someone else.

    We need to teach more on that. I think there are a lot of young people out there especially guys who think they have a lust problem but don’t even understand what that means.

  2. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    Yeah, I would think so. I contrast the words healthy desire and lust for the purposes of teaching the positive and negative.

    Sexual urges are good because God made them. Sexual urges acted upon before one is in a committed relationship is unhealthy, therefore bad—i.e. sin.

    Wanting a truck and saving up to buy it is one thing, lusting after it to the point of jealousy, envy and coveteousness is another.

    We simply must understand the nature of desire. If it follows the proper channels, it’s healthy for all involved; if not, it hurts not only those who receive it out of context but us as well.

  3. tlc4women Says:

    Agree! Such important concepts that I wish church would teach more about. I remember an older woman once who was teaching the young married women about NOT wearing lingerie saying, “You don’t want your husband to fall into the sin of lust do you?” That was exactly what we wanted without the guilt of any sin since it wasn’t present. How do we so get so far away from the concepts of God’s teaching?

  4. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    Because we forget that God created joy, pleasure, fun, tastebuds, orgasms, touch, smell, friends, families…need I go on?

    We get so worried about sin we become the Mishna, a rabbinical book that clarifies the law. I’ve read the law and it’s pretty clear about what is required but someone thought “wow! we have to get tecnical about it” so they added all these addundums. I guess what I’m saying is we don’t need much more than “be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth” to know God wanted us to go have lots of sex, eat and be productive

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