What Did You Expect? Part 2: Make Sure You're Born Again

Thursday, September 08, 2011

In all my years of walking with Jesus, discipling young men, and leading in churches, I've never met a young man who didn't struggle with sexual immorality of some kind - whether hetero- or homosexually stimulated.  That includes a whole array of immoral activities.  I could list them here, but the conscience is generally the best guide.  If you feel even the slightest tinge of guilt in your soul after you’ve committed some sexual act, then you’ve sinned.  Plain and simple. 

Getting hooked is a beast.  It’s actually more like a squid.  It wraps its tentacles around your heart when it’s small.  Just one or two acts of sexual immorality…that’s all.  Then, if not dealt with and repented of, the squid stays attached to your heart.  And it grows.  Every time you participate in an immoral activity, you’ve just fed the squid. 

It eventually grows into a giant squid, like the ones in the movies, with razor sharp claws and a huge beaked mouth.  You’re stuck.  Trapped.  Held hostage.  In bondage.  You’re owned by it. You begin to derive your existence from it.  Knowing it’s very wrong and despite the gnawing guilt, you engage anyway.  Over and over again.  And that’s because it’s become a part of you.  A part of your DNA.  You’re a slave.  And a slave needs a master to survive, just like a master needs a slave to torture.

It’s in times like these I most questioned my salvation.  Wondering day in and day out, for various seasons throughout my life, if I was really a Christian plagued me.  I couldn’t sleep.  Sometimes I couldn’t eat.  I was irritable, angry, frustrated.  I found it hard to get along with others.  All the weird manifestations that made relationships so difficult simply arose from a hidden struggle underneath the surface.  No one else could see it.  I was too prideful and ashamed to tell anyone.  So I just lived with the squid.  It fed me, and I fed it.  Meanwhile I was a miserable, two-souled wretch inside.

You can’t serve two masters.  Although Jesus was talking about money when He said this, it still applies to pretty much everything else in life.  Paul applied it to everything else in Romans 6.  “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?  You can be a slave of sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living” (v. 16).  That was me.

And if it is you right now, then it’s no wonder you don’t know whether or not you’re truly saved.  When you’re acting like you’re not, why should feel otherwise?  Especially if real repentance is not even within your grasp, much less your view!  Doubting your salvation is normal if you’re not living into it like God tells you to.   Peter described it this way. 
[M]ake every effort to respond to God’s promises…The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But those who fail to develop this way are shortsighted or blind…So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen.  Do these things and you will never fall away” (vv. 5, 8-11). 
 I’m also reminded of Paul who wrote to the Philippians to 
live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ” (1:27). 
Here then is my first counsel to young men struggling with sexual immorality:  stop at nothing to do everything possible to make sure you are one of God’s children.  If you are not, then you will not have any of the supernatural inner-working power God talks about in the Bible.  You won’t be able to stop, because you won’t have any help from God to do so.  Those who are God’s children are able to stop sinning.  They are able to repent.  Even if just for short spurts or periods of time.  They are able to say “NO!” to sexual temptation. 

Paul assumes as much back in Romans 6.  He wrote, 
Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.  Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin.  Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life.  So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.  Sin is no longer your master…” (vv. 12-14). 
Basically, if you are born again, you have a new Master.  His name is Jesus.  And you therefore have not just the ability, but the responsibility to say “NO!” to the things the old master wants you to do.  Saying “NO!” is a part of being a Christian.  If you can’t say “NO!” then you’re not a follower of Jesus.  Perhaps a more modern translation of Romans 6:1,2 would be helpful.  "Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?  Hell NO!  Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?" (MOG Translation).  It may sting and cut and terribly piss you off at me (that I'm challenging your profession of faith...or perhaps my translation).  But it’s the gospel truth. 

If you are a child of God however…  Well then, there’s much, MUCH hope for you.  You have the person of God Himself living inside of your body.  He is the Holy Spirit.  He is a person.  He is a supernatural being.  He can do anything.  He knows everything and is somehow everyone at one time all the time at any point in time.  He’s awesome and transcendant, totally separate from us and nothing at all like us.  However, He’s also imminent.  He has come near…so near that He lives inside of us.

In Romans 8 Paul describes Him and what He can do for you if you are a child of God struggling with sexual immorality. 

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.  So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death.  But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.  For the sinful nature is always hostile to God.  It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.  That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.  But you are not controlled by your sinful nature.  You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.  (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)  And Christ lives within you…the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God.  The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you.  And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.  Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.  For if you live by its dictates you will die.  But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (vv. 5-14).

If you truly are a child of God, you will be led by the Holy Spirit of God.  That Holy Spirit is Jesus Christ inside of you.  Somehow, someway, and I’ll never know how, God is living inside of you.  Jesus Himself lives inside of you by the person of the Holy Spirit.

AND…because God lives in you, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in you.  That power lives in you just like Jesus lives in you.  Now if you’ll stop just for a moment and try to imagine what kind of power that must be…to raise a dead man…  To dematerialize Him so that He can be lifted out of the inside of a rock cave where the door has been sealed shut… and then rematerialize Him.  That’s Star Trek kind of stuff, beaming people in and out of places.  That’s God-stuff.  That’s the stuff of the Spirit. 

That is supernatural, miraculous, wonderful, mighty, in-your-face power.  And if you are a child of God, you have that power.  Paul said so.  God said so.  The Bible says so.  And if you have that power, what will you do with it?  Duh!  You’ll use it!  It’s like a freakin’ magic wand!  You little Harry Potter, you! You’d wave that thing all over the place transforming everything you see into Hot Pockets, pizza, Mountain Dew, video games, and money!

And with the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit inside of you, you’ll want to wave that around and transform every temptation into an opportunity to pray for someone else, to serve and love other people like you want to be loved and served…to pray for a godly, beautiful woman to be your wife one day…to work hard and make money to provide for her and for other children in the family of God.  In other words, with that kind of power at work inside of you, you have the faith to move mountains, according to Jesus.  So USE IT!!!

But if you try to use it and find you don’t have it, then you may in fact, not have it at all.  The Spirit may not be there at all.  You definitely need to be born again.  And that’s as easy as asking to be.  Jesus told Nicodemus, in the famous “Nic at Night” passage in John 3, that he had to be born again of the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit makes you born again.  You were born the first time of your mom.  You’re born the second time of the Holy Spirit.  The first birth determines your DNA.  The second birth can actually rewire that.  That’s some kind of power, huh?

Do you have that power?  Do you find yourself helpless to quit?  Is it seemingly impossible to not look at porn one day, or choose not to masturbate, or have sex with someone…or something?  If you can’t imagine living without it, then you’re not a child of God.  If you hate it and want to be rid of it so that you can live for Jesus and His kingdom, then you probably are a child of God. 

The difference between the two is not that subtle as you might imagine.  The difference is summed up in one word: obedience.  If you are actually trying to obey Jesus and do what Paul and Peter said, in the passages above, then you are a child of God.  People who are not children of God don’t care about the stuff God cares about.  Notice I said, obedience, and not necessarily success.  Obedience is success, to be sure.  But a failure to succeed does not necessarily mean that the passion of your is no longer obedience.  In other words, if the pattern of your life looks more like obedience than it does failure, then you are definitely a child of God.  But if the pattern of your life looks more like disobedience than it does obedience, then you are probably not a child of God.
If you’re in this difficult predicament, it’s time to pull out the big guns.  Talk to your pastor, elder, deacon, church leader, or spiritual counselor… just talk to someone whom you respect as a real-deal follower of Jesus.  Don’t figure this out on your own.  Talk to God about it.  But talk to someone who follows Jesus, too.  

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