Monday, March 4, 2013

An Insanity Only Christ Can Cure

Over the past few years, I have become convinced that one of the greatest gifts we can ever give to someone we love is to show them, with patience and great clarity, how the gospel of Jesus Christ applies directly to the particular pains and sorrows that make up life this side of eternity. As opposed to allowing loved ones to remain confused about the soaring promises offered up by Jesus in Luke 4:16-21, it seems to me that we should point to these six verses as many times as it takes for clarity to take shape:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
  because he has anointed me
  to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
  and recovering of sight to the blind,
  to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
  to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
Oftentimes, it seems as though the healing message of Jesus gets "pushed aside" in favor of spending our time and effort trying to resolve the Problem of Evil as an abstract religious concept, or even in an attempt to argue minor points of theology that confuse and distract. Certainly, when one's heart is not ready to address the deeper issues, it's far easier to focus on "religion as an intellectual effort" than confronting the evils that have taken up more-or-less permanent residence in our own hearts. I have more than once needed to abruptly turn the topic of conversation from the intellectual exercise of something akin to "Should we support infant baptism?" to the more-pressing reality of one's inability to keep his trousers on throughout the course of any given day.

Let's face it; we live in a culture that worships sex. The fact that pornography is currently choking us all to death should be no surprise, really, if you've read Romans 1:18-32. It would seem that our society has been given exactly what we have been asking for since the dawn of the "sexual revolution" in the 1960's. It's pretty straightforward, I think, to draw a line from the individual who simply cannot - or does not want to - stop viewing pornography to Paul's matter-of-fact indictment in verse 24: "Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves."

We desperately need to stop kidding ourselves about this. It's certainly not just "the pagans" who are enslaved to pornography. All too often, more than we might care to admit, pornography has fastened its death grip on those who claim Christ, men and women alike.

As members of Christ's church, I often wonder if we have collectively ceded the battlefield of sexuality run amok to the enemy, thereby quietly denying the power of God to change the heart of someone addicted to "entrenched" immorality. We would never deny the power of God like this out loud, to be sure, but in everyday practice I confess I am sometimes tempted to believe that any effort I expend for the sake of Christ "has a better chance" of yielding fruit as long as the sinner is not, in fact, a lifelong sexual sinner. Even the apostle Paul seems to call sexual sin unique. In 1 Corinthians 6:18, the New Living Translation says, "Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body."

Early this morning, I was not at all prepared for Scotty Smith's entry for March 4th in Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel-Centered Faith. I share it with you as a strong reminder that the gospel of Jesus Christ truly is more than sufficient to tear down satanic strongholds, especially those that we might have given up on long ago. I urge you to begin praying regularly for those you know who are trapped in the dark, unholy power of pornography. Whoever just came to mind as you read that last sentence, please pray for Jesus to thwart any and all attempts that person is making to find true joy apart from Him. Amen!
A Prayer for Friends Struggling with Pornography
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ... There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Romans 7:21-24; 8:1-2 
Jesus, my heart goes out today for friends and their spouses whose lives are being assaulted by the ravaging and enslaving grip of pornography. I know of no other power sufficient for the task but the gospel. This is why I run to you today with grave concern, but also with great hope.

Oh Lord of resurrection and redemption, bring your mercy and might to bear in stunning fashion. Things impossible for us are more than possible for you. You have come to set captives free and to heal the brokenhearted. Pornography is creating an overabundance of both.

Jesus, for friends somewhere in the pornography continuum of titillation to addiction, we ask you to reveal yourself in the deepest place of their hearts. We ask for the holy gift of godly sorrow, not for the short-lived remorse of worldly sorrow. For your noncondemning love has great power to deliver those who cry, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?" (Romans 7:24)

Lead them to that cry, Jesus. They need a lot more than embarrassment and fear; they need contrition and hope. Where pornography has desensitized our friends, resensitize them so they can see and feel the horror of their entrapment and more so - much more so - the wonder of your deliverance.

For our friends who are married to someone in the talons of pornography, dear Jesus, theirs may be the greater pain and struggle. No one but you can help them with the anger, the disgust, the wound, the shame, and the mistrust that goes with this story. Help us walk with our friends who are right in the middle of this dark vortex. Show us how to validate their feelings without confirming hurt-driven conclusions. Bring patience and perspective, forbearance and faith.

Only you can rebuild the trust. Only you, Jesus, can bring a willingness to hope again. Only you can heal the places in our hearts that have suffered the greatest violation and harm. Absolutely no one understands all this like you, Jesus, and absolutely no one redeems these messes but you. We pray with hope, in your great and glorious name, Amen.

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