When news stories break about the moral failure of yet another Christian leader (like Ravi Zacharias or Carl Lentz), it is shocking to some, sad to others, and paints an incongruous picture to the watching world of what it should look like to follow Jesus and lead His Church.
I don't fall into the shocked camp anymore. I've been working in full-time ministry to sexually broken people for nearly 20 years. I've heard it all, even from pastors and church leaders.
But even if I'm not shocked by what I hear these leaders share, my heart breaks for what these stories of sexual brokenness mean for them, their families, and the many lives affected by their positions of leadership.
Leadership, by definition, has consequences.
When leadership is good, followers prosper.
When leadership is bad, followers suffer.
When leadership is deceitful about their sin and weaknesses, followers are devastated by such betrayal of trust.
No leader is perfect or without weaknesses. We must be careful of elevating anyone to such a status of "untouchable" in the church (or any institution). That is certainly a recipe for disappointment, or worse.
It is right, however, to have some expectations of what makes one a quality leader. After all, there should be a measurable difference between good and bad leadership, for the sake of both the followers and the leader.
The question I am trying to answer here is how are Christians, those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, to respond to the moral failure of church leaders? How do we understand and process such betrayal? And in our response, how do we care well for those hurt by such leaders while also upholding the sanctity of the gospel and the goodness of ecclesiastical authority?
Above Reproach: God's Expectation of Church Leaders
The standard for pastoral leadership in the Church is spelled out plainly in Scripture:
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
1 Timothy 3:2-7 (see also Titus 1:5-9)
God's standard for pastoral leadership is that he be someone "above reproach." This can't mean "perfect," for then no one could be in pastoral leadership. But it can certainly mean a man whose life pattern reflects the morality and maturity of a faithful follower of Christ.
When we hear terrible news of the moral failure of a pastor or church leader, we should count such news as awful because of the disregard such a leader showed for God's standard for them. Somewhere along the way compromises to integrity were made and deceit was employed to hide the truth.
At the same time, we must also remind our own local pastors and church leaders of the important and necessary standard God has for them. Let us be an encouragement to those who are living above reproach in their desire to honor Christ and serve His Church. Not all church leaders are living double lives.
Accountability: No Church Leader is Above Church Discipline
Because God does have a standard for leaders in His Church, and because such leaders are imperfect men, there is need for accountability of those in leadership. And when there are stumbles and missteps in their lives or leadership, discipline is necessary.
No church leader is above church discipline!
Where I believe most error occurs in these stories of leaders who end up being front page news for their moral failures is lack of accountability from peers and/or overseeing bodies of authority (i.e. elders, board of directors, etc.).
So much heartache and division could have been mitigated (but not eliminated) if these leaders had simply submitted to their fellow believers when they first started drifting toward sin. Or if the governing leaders pressed in and asked hard questions when they saw or heard things that gave them suspicion of hidden sin.
One of the most insidious lies of the enemy is convincing Church leaders that their position is more important than their character. When leaders stay silent about their sin, the Church suffers far more than if they confess and submit to redemptive discipline.
When a church leader does confess and repent, they need other leaders around them to support them and hold them accountable to a plan for reconciliation (and possibly restoration).
The Differences between Repentance, Reconciliation, and Restoration
In order to understand how to respond to the moral failure of church leaders, one must understand God's desire to redeem all that is broken in creation, and how that redemptive process works in the life of a church leader struggling with immorality.
Biblically, there is a kind of "3-step process" for fallen church leaders to follow in order to participate in God's redemptive plan: Repentance, Reconciliation, and Restoration.*
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Cor. 7:10)
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight.
The only way that healing can occur in a church leader who has violated their office is through repentance. Unless there is true brokenness and "godly grief" over their sin, change cannot happen.
To repent is to "change one's mind" about an action taken. It is more than simply confession. To confess is to "agree with truth," but to repent is to respond to truth with a willful desire to change.
When those closest to the church leader who has fallen learn of his sin, they need to call him to personal repentance. There will be a time for dealing with the effects of his sin on other people and the consequences he must face as a result, but he first needs to know that without true repentance over his sin he cannot experience the cleansing forgiveness of God that leads to hope and joy. (Ps. 51:7-12)
This is no time for excuses from the fallen church leader. Excuses, blame shifting, or other attempts to minimize what happened are sure signs that the leader has not repented. Stand firm on this point. While those wounded by the leader can heal and move forward even if he doesn't repent, God commands repentance from all who sin against Him.
One final note on repentance: it happens both in a moment and over time. There can be powerful moments of contrition and brokenness; the Holy Spirit can crush the pride and break open great floods of "godly grief" and remorse. But it also takes time to cultivate an "attitude of repentance," a desire to keep one's mind open to the instruction and correction of God and His Word.
Patience is required at every stage of this kind of healing.
Only when there has been repentance can there be reconciliation (and eventually possibly restoration). So, if a fallen church leader remains unrepentant these next two stages of healing and transformation remain "on hold." In such cases, instruction from Matthew 18 can provide guidance for how to handle the leader's unrepentant heart.
There are several key relationships that need reconciliation once repentance is genuine:
Whether the leader's wife was aware of his indiscretions or not, there will be a need for reconciling. There is no such thing as a "righteous" marriage when one spouse (or both) is living a double life.
Professional counseling is highly recommended for this stage of healing.
There may also be other family relationships that need reconciling: kids, parents, in-laws, and others. Focus on the nuclear family first, working out to other layers of relatives as necessary.
Those in leadership over or around the fallen church leader must implement appropriate church discipline. The repentant church leader then needs to pursue personal reconciliation with each leader to whom he broke trust.
This is about personal reconciliation between leaders, not restoration of the church leader's former position. Whether or not the church leader ever holds another ministry leadership position, there are personal relationships that need to be healed.
Trust was violated. Betrayal was felt. Anger, confusion, hurt, and disappointment need to be processed. Eventually, forgiveness must be granted to the repentant church leader. This all takes time.
One can't live a double life without hurting friends. The whole premise of keeping secrets is lying. At some point, everyone gets lied to by a person living a double life. This includes friends.
Most likely when the news of the church leader's failure becomes public, everyone close to the church leader will take a few steps back. They are hurt, confused, and angry. It makes sense that they would want some space. And that's ok.
In my view, it doesn't matter who makes the first move to try and reconcile the broken friendship. Regardless, the church leader must still be repentant and allow his friends time to grieve.
Over time, as the leader grows in humility, friends can forgive and hopefully establish a new foundation for a friendship built on truth and grace. Again, all this takes time and good counsel, a lot of it.
Reconciliation with followers is often very difficult and very sticky. These are people who exhibited voluntary trust in the leader. They chose to follow him. They were under no real obligation; they freely submitted. Then the lid came off.
It's hard to describe this kind of pain. In some ways, it can feel like the betrayal of a spouse (I'm not saying these are equivalent). And the closer the followers were to the leader (either in proximity or in relationship), the violation penetrates deeper.
Reconciliation with followers can take the longest and really isn't the first priority for the fallen church leader. The main task of caring for the followers needs to fall to the elders or governing body of the organization. Counseling, support, and prayer with grieving individuals and families is critical during such a season.
After the church leader has exhibited true repentance and been working on healing family and leader relationships, there may be an opportunity for reconciliation with followers. This needs to be at the direction and wisdom of the elders or governing body (assuming there was no collusion by such individuals with the leader's duplicity). Much gentleness, patience, and care is needed for this stage of healing.
Keep in mind, reconciliation is distinct from restoration. To be reconciled is to heal the personal damage done by the leader's sin and deceit. This does not mean the leader will (or should be) restored to their ministry position.
Is it ever right for a fallen church leader to be restored to their ministry position? It depends.
Each church has to determine what to do about restoring a church leader to their ministry position after living in secret sin. While there are not concrete biblical mandates on how to do this, there are some principles to guide our thinking.
Type of Offense (Legalities)
Not all sins are equal in their effect, even though all sin is a violation of God's holy standards. Some sins cross legal lines and need to be dealt with accordingly. In cases of criminal offenses, it would not be possible or wise to restore a leader to his ministry position.
For "lesser" offenses there might be the possibility of a restored ministry position, but that needs to be at the discretion of a governing body and in light of how the leader engages all the other aspects of healing and growth we have highlighted in this article.
Of incredible importance is understanding that restoration to ministry is not the goal! Upholding the gospel of Jesus and working toward the healing of all parties affected by the leader's sin is the primary concern. We are called to unity and holiness in the body of Christ; people are more important than positions.
Length and Severity of Deception
How long the leader has been living a double life is also a factor in determining if restoration to ministry is possible or prudent. The difference between a few months versus many years can play a huge factor in the kind of response the leader has to church discipline and the kind of damage done to the church and members.
Was the leader's deception willful or avoidant? Did he actively orchestrate elaborate ways to ensure his sin remained secret or was he passively "keeping his mouth shut" hoping no one would notice. Neither case is right or good, but understanding the degree of deception can help in knowing how damaged or seared is the conscience of the leader.
A church leader who has devolved into patterns of serial narcissism is likely unfit for any future office of leadership in the Church.
Repentance and Attitude of Leader
A huge factor in determining whether a fallen church leader is able to be restored to ministry is their attitude and heart for repentance.
When King David was confronted by the prophet Nathan concerning his adulterous and murderous actions, David responded with contrition and repentance. (2 Sam. 12:13, Psalm 51) He didn't deflect responsibility. He didn't blame. His soul was crushed and he poured out his heart to God in hope of mercy.
But even if a leader is truly repentant of their sin, this doesn't automatically mean they should be restored to church leadership. Remember, the goal is not reacquiring a position, the goal is unity and holiness in the body of Christ, the Church.
The Lord must ultimately be the one to determine if the repentant leader is once again fit for a ministry position, and the governing body must pray for wisdom to hear clearly the Lord's instruction on the matter.
Safety and Wellness of Church Members
Finally, it is vital that the safety and well-being of the entire church membership be taken into account when considering the restoration of a fallen leader. Elders are charged with "shepherding the flock." Many factors must be taken into account across the entire congregation before moving toward restoring a fallen leader to a position of church leadership.
Restoration requires lots of time, lots of prayer, lots of wisdom, lots of patience, and lots of faith. In the end, it is God's call on whether a fallen leader can once again serve in church leadership.
When done well, these are typically the developing characteristics of restored leaders:
Holding the Tension between Truth and Grace
Possibly the hardest thing to do when we learn of the moral failure of a Christian leader is to hold the tension between truth and grace, between justice and love. Only Jesus has ever held this tension perfectly.
What makes holding this tension so difficult is that both responses are correct from God's vantage point. It is correct to respond to a church leader's sin with righteous anger, a clear call for justice. He has violated the trust of his followers and sullied the Name and Word of God.
But love and mercy are also the correct response. Who of us can stand before another person as a sinless judge? In the same way that we cry out for mercy regarding our own sin, we must extend love to the sinful church leader.
This is what Jesus did for all of us on the cross: He displayed both justice and love. God's justice was enacted by punishing our sins that were laid on Jesus' back. God's love was displayed by it being the sinless Jesus who bore that penalty on our behalf. Justice and love came together in the beaten, bloody Jesus who cried out: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)
Sin demands justice. We cannot ignore potential charges when a church leader's sin violates the law. We cannot ignore the pain inflicted on followers and the trust that has been broken. There are consequences to sin.
But God also desires mercy. When a church leader (or any fellow believer) is repentant, Christians are commanded to forgive. (Matt. 18:21-34)
Will any of us hold this tension between truth and grace, justice and love, perfectly? No. Does this release us before God from trying? No.
Jesus Christ was "full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) As His followers, we too must strive to walk in step with him, holding that same tension between grace and truth as we navigate responding to moral failures in church leaders (or any fellow Christians).
Proclaim the Gospel throughout the Aftermath
What often gets lost (or reframed) in the aftermath of the moral failure of a church leader is the gospel of Jesus Christ. After all, since church leaders are to be ambassadors of the gospel message, it makes sense that the gospel takes a hit when a church leader violates God's standard for their position.
Enemies of Christ shout all the louder that the gospel isn't true; that the so-called Savior can't actually save and transform lives. After all, just look at the fallen church leader.
Some Christians will walk away from their faith, convinced that their trust in Jesus was in vain since the leader they followed has proven himself a fraud. Their pain and anger become the lens through which they view the gospel.
But Christians must not allow the failures of men to nullify or reshape the clear gospel message of Jesus Christ.
The Good News of Jesus stands on its own because it is God's message of salvation for all who believe. No person can ultimately thwart the redemptive plan of God.
Therefore, never stop proclaiming God's message of salvation during the aftermath of a church leader's moral failure. When people are hurting and angry and confused and swimming in doubt, bring them back to the simple, pure message of Jesus Christ. He is the one they need to look to for hope and salvation, not the fallen church leader.
Sometimes when these devastating events take place it reveals where one's true hope and confidence was placed. Was it in Christ alone or in the church leader? Did followers even understand the gospel, or were they just swept up in the charisma and "talent" of the leader?
With gentleness and wisdom, use this season of healing to clarify the gospel:
When any church leader lives a double life of sin and deceit, it is painful and heartbreaking when the truth comes out. But the gospel of Jesus Christ is not reliant on whether or not human agents carry that message perfectly (none of us do). But we must all humble ourselves before God, repenting of our own sin before Him, and striving to live as faithful witnesses to a lost and dying world.
Of one thing we can be sure: Jesus Christ never fails; He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb. 13:8) Let us praise God for this truth and continue to call others to put their trust in Christ, not church leaders.
*See book Unpunishable by Danny Silk
How often do you use this word or even think about it? What is desire?
Desire is defined as: “a conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment.”
Desires are part of being human and woven into our created nature. But what we desire can often trip us up -- and I believe that’s what James was warning us about when he wrote:
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)
The world we live in fuels those deadly desires. Media, TV, movies, commercials...it’s everywhere. Gotta have the best car, house, clothes...on and on and on. All these things pollute and push out (or at least set aside) the desires of our heart that God our Father would have for us.
Human desires became broken when Eve bought Satan’s lie and Adam failed to fend off his deceit.
As part of the redemptive plan of God in Christ Jesus desire is in play. Human desire was one of the parts of mankind that was broken in the fall in the Garden of Eden. Before the eating of the fruit man and woman were unaware of evil; having an evil desire was not in the mind or heart of humanity.
Then the crafty serpent deceived the man and woman, the lie was bought and evil desire entered the human mind and experience. The very deadly desires that James warned about.
The plan to redeem
Psalm 37:3-5 Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
James 4:2-3 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
God gave you the capacity to desire; to experience "a conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment." In God's plan, desire was intended to lead us to good things; to places of goodness, truth, and beauty that really would produce joy and contentment.
But since the Fall in the Garden, two huge questions remain:
What do I do now with the truth of God's good design?
And how can I change my broken evil desires?
Good questions. The good news is that desires can be changed by the grace and power of God. So, let's talk about a few practical things you can start doing today to effect that change.
I know this: Life change happens when heart change happens. Changing evil desires and shaping new and right-minded desires is an inside job.
Identity and Beliefs
Here are two areas of life that can really trip you up: identity and beliefs. How you see yourself shapes your belief system about yourself. What does that mean?
People tend to see circumstances how they want to see them, not as the circumstances actually are. What that means is we tend to see life through a "me-shaped" lens; we will see the world around us through a reflection of ourselves.
Optimists see circumstances differently than pessimists. Skeptics view circumstances generally...well..skeptically. If you’re in a tough situation then that difficulty usually impacts how you view things around you. See what I mean?
So, if our self-belief systems are polluted by wounds, addictions, bad relationships and a host of other things, what we believe about ourselves, our value and identity will likely also be negatively impacted.
Here’s where a right perspective of identity is profoundly important. In a saving faith relationship with Jesus Christ, we have been given the right to become children of God (John 1:12). We are saved by grace, through faith (Eph 2:8-9) and not of any good deed or work we do.
In that moment of salvation through faith Christ Jesus, your identity is forever and eternally changed. You have just become a beloved and adopted son (or daughter) of the Most High God. Did you get that? You are now a prince (or princess) in the Kingdom of God the Father; the Creator who's image you bear.
When you choose to believe that and receive it in your heart, soul and mind it can change everything! Is this change instant? No, but I sure wish it was.
I believe this is part of the sanctification journey we are on as Christians. We need to choose to believe our new identity in Christ. Remind yourself of this truth daily (or however often you need).
In light of this truth of your immense value as a child of God, you are free to open yourself up to the work of God's indwelling Spirit to change your broken desires to Christ-like desires. You don't have to obey the lies of the enemy anymore.
The redemption of your Garden-of-Eden-fractured desires is part of God’s plan to redeem the whole you. Start this process by recognizing your true identity given to you in Christ Jesus, by God the Father.
With your identity framed in the right perspective (knowing your true value and worth to God), you can begin to change your desires with a new heart and the “new creation” God declares you to be.
For additional help on your journey, visit the links below:
As an adult looking back on the images and experiences that shaped your sexuality, does it seem like some important elements were missing? As you encountered various things related to sex did you have to navigate them on your own? Did the lack of God-honoring information and the abundance of misinformation leave you vulnerable and without anyone to turn to?
The majority of parents I speak with would say yes, yes, and yes.
You may not have had anyone to process your experiences with. You may not have been protected well. You may not have received the support and information you needed. But you can forge a better way with your family today.
Several days after giving my Allies* talk to a group of parents, one of the attendees reached out to thank me. She said the timing was truly God’s as her twelve-year-old daughter had come to her sobbing and with a confession. She’d been looking at people having sex online. She was simply curious about sex, but once she’d found the videos, she continued to seek them out (which is a common response to discovering porn). She was riddled with fear, guilt, and shame.
As this mom held her sobbing daughter the thought “Be her ally” immediately came to mind. Those three words changed everything about the way she and her husband responded.
Instead of reacting with condemnation and consequences, this mom began empathizing with her child’s feelings of curiosity and arousal as well as the temptation to watch again. Soon after, Dad joined the conversation, sharing about his own struggles with porn around her age, empathizing with his child’s interest as well as her shame.
Now they’re reading good materials together and talking more openly. Their daughter is choosing healthy alternatives when the desire to view porn returns. God is using all of this to wipe away the shame and to prepare the way for more and better conversations.
These parents are creating an atmosphere in their home that will encourage their child to turn to them rather than hide from them as she encounters new challenges related to sexuality. They’re becoming her trusted resource for the information she needs. They’re becoming her ally.
What Satan meant for evil in this child’s life God is using for good. (Gen. 50:20) The darkness will not win because the light dispels it. An ally brings truth wrapped in grace, and truth sets us free.
What about your child? Would he or she feel safe talking with you about tender topics like sexuality or sexual sin?
Of all the good things you’ll teach and model for your child, very few will be as important as God-honoring sexuality. There’s nothing to fear because God will lead you. He goes before you to prepare the good works He has for you, and we at Be Broken would like to help you become the ally your child needs.
Where to Start
Just like the mom and dad I spoke of earlier, you can do this too, starting right now.
If you’re uncertain about how to begin conversations, especially with an older child, consider talking in a setting where you’re not face to face such as while hiking or sitting outdoors. You could begin with something very broad like this:
“I’ve been thinking about how things were when I was your age. Tell me what it’s like to be a ___-year-old today.”
Listen well, resisting the urge to lecture or judge. Eventually steer the conversation around to something related to relationships, bodies, porn, or sex, and then share something related from your own childhood, for example, “When I was about your age some friends showed me porn. I was kind of fascinated but instinctively I knew it was bad. But I didn’t feel safe talking with my parents about it.”
By being vulnerable first, you’ll begin to win your child’s trust.
Remember that it takes courage to talk about bodies, porn, or sex. Be encouraging of small first steps.
Gently explore what might be the root of any resistance on your child’s part. Even resistant children will appreciate the fact that you care and your desire to help. Perhaps a humble acknowledgment of the lack of conversation so far may be needed. You can even admit that it’s a little awkward for both of you but that it will get easier.
Children appreciate authenticity. Share how a lack of information impacted you and your current desire to do better for your child.
Remember, you’re building something very good, and good things take time. You’re growing a relationship founded on authenticity and grounded in truth. You’re becoming a safe place, a port in the cultural storm.
Conversations may have been missing in your home growing up. They may be lacking in the Church today. But there’s really only one way to change that, and that’s by starting conversations in our homes right now.
Be her ally.
Be his ally.
Know that you have an ally in Christ who will provide all you need for this leg of your parenting journey! Also, if there’s resistance on your part please check out the many resources Be Broken offers.
We are here for you, and if you’d like more information about bringing a presentation like Allies to your church or community, please contact us.
Schedule a Personal Ministry Consult with Anne
A Personal Ministry Consult is a 1-time confidential conversation with a member of our staff to help you gain insights and assistance from someone who has personal and professional experience in this field of ministry.
*Allies: Parenting in a Sexualized Culture is a 90-minute event for parents of toddlers through teens that presents a compassionate, relationship-based alternative to “the sex talk.” Allies is for grandparents and caregivers as well.
Photo by Michał Parzuchowski
If you are human, you face temptation. Every day. Multiple times a day.
But just because you are tempted doesn't mean you have to give in to temptation. You are made in God's image and therefore your life is meant to reflect Him in all of His goodness and righteousness. And through faith in Him you can do just that.
The following are 13 Bible verses* to help you resist temptation and live in the freedom and victory God offers you through Jesus Christ. In Him, you don't have to say yes to temptation ever again. Praise God!
1. There is a way out!
1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
There is no such thing as a "unique" temptation. Also, there is no temptation for which God cannot provide a way out. So, when tempted guard against thinking that you are being tempted so uniquely that even God can't get you out of it. Look for His promised way of escape. Then take it!
2. Jesus knows how you feel.
For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Even though Jesus never sinned, He did know what the weight of temptation felt like; he was "tempted as we are" and "suffered when tempted."
The next time you feel the burden of any temptation, remember that Jesus knows what that temptation feels like and how to carry its weight -- and He is standing ready to help you in that moment. Share your burden with Him.
3. Submit to resist.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Satan is called the accuser and he uses temptation as a way of bringing accusation against you to try and convince you your life isn't worth loving. Every time you give in to temptation he "tattles" to God about you and tries to rub your nose in your failure. But Satan is no match for God; his authority is subservient to God's.
Therefore, if you want to win the fight with Satan you must submit to God first. Then, from such a position of humble allegiance you can tell the enemy to get lost -- and have the full backing of God when doing so!
4. Pray for deliverance.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray for deliverance from evil. I think it's safe to say, then, that this would be a good thing to pray. Daily. (Probably even multiple times a day...)
5. Don't blame God!
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
Some temptations can be so incredibly strong. It can seem as if there is no possible way to resist. In such moments it can be easy to "blame" God for these temptations, almost as if to say, "God, whatever happens next I can't help because you don't seem to be around right now. So, I guess this is on you."
But God cannot tempt anyone to do evil. This is antithetical to His holy character. We must own our temptations and cry out to God for help in our weakness. He is faithful to help us when we humble ourselves before Him.
6. Stand firm (together) in your faith.
1 Peter 5:9
Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
The devil is said to "prowl around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." That's what temptation is trying to accomplish: your destruction. But you are called by God to resist him by standing firm in your faith and remembering that you are not alone in this fight.
Calling to mind (or on your phone!) your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world is a great and powerful encouragement in your battle to resist the temptations of the roaring lion who is trying to devour you. Just like in the wild, if you stay in the herd you are much safer against the lion's attack.
7. Walk by the Spirit
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Do you want a guarantee for victory over temptation? This verse gives it to you. To "walk by the Spirit" is mutually exclusive from "gratifying the desires of the flesh." Therefore, when temptation strikes, call out to the Spirit of God who dwells within you and follow wherever He leads you.
8. Carry God's Word in your heart.
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Memorizing Scripture is good, but chewing on it until it becomes part of your heart and soul is even better. Notice in this verse the direct link between carrying God's Word in the deepest part of your being (heart) and how that affects whether you will give in to temptation. When your heart beats to the rhythm of God's Word, you will resist temptation
9. Put on the armor!
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
Resisting temptation is a battle; a war! You would never dream of going into physical battle without the right equipment. Fighting temptation is no different. Gear up with the full armor of God:
Along with all this armor you must "pray in the Spirit." Be battle ready against all the wily schemes of the enemy.
10. Make a covenant.
Job 31:1 (NIV)
I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.
A covenant is a serious commitment that carries specific consequences if broken. In your battle against temptation, get serious about your areas of weakness and consider making a covenant like Job did. He wasn't flippant about what he would allow himself to look at with his eyes. He took his gaze seriously.
What aspects of your heart, mind, and body might you need to make a covenant in order to resist temptation more successfully?
11. Love (and obey) Jesus.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. -Jesus
The most powerful force against temptation is not willpower, it is love. When you understand the depths of God's love for you through Jesus, your love for Him will grow. And the evidence of your increasing love for him will come through greater obedience to His commands.
The barometer of our love for Jesus is our obedience to His commands. And His commands are not burdensome. His commands lead us away from sin and toward righteousness. His commands are good and help us resist temptation. Trust and obey...
13. Ask for help!
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
By God's grace we have access to all the help we need for resisting temptation -- if only we will ask! When you are tempted, don't waste time trying to "figure it out" or do it on your own. Instead, "draw near" as fast as you can to the Lord, eager to receive mercy and grace as you battle temptation.
These are just a handful of verses to help you resist temptation. Dive into God's Word every day so that you might know Him more and learn to walk in His ways. Over time, your faith will grow and you will experience more and more victory over temptation.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Click the icons below to find more resources to help you resist temptation and live in step with God's design.
*Unless otherwise noted, all Bible verses are from the English Standard Version translation.
It is very common for parents to tell us during workshops on talking with kids about sex, “I’m worried I will ruin my child’s innocence.” In fact, this is one of the more common fears parents have related to talking with their kids about sex. Since this concern comes up so frequently it is worth talking about.
Does talking with our children about sex or pornography ruin their innocence?
What Do We Really Fear?
When I ask parents to explain this fear they often respond with a concern that they would put dangerous ideas in their child’s head. They worry it might make their child curious about sex and go look online for answers. They worry it might put ideas in their child’s head to go experiment with on their own. Other parents worry about traumatizing their child with information they didn’t expect and were not ready to hear.
In other words, parents are worried that talking honestly with their children about sex will either traumatize their child or entice them to seek out some form of sexuality to interact with. These are fears about unintentionally putting our child in some kind of danger.
It is easy to understand wanting to protect our children from danger. The question then becomes, does talking to our children about sex and sexuality put them in danger?
The Real Danger for Children
The real danger children face is not hearing from their parents how God designed human sexuality to work.
Danger comes when a child is exposed to sexualized content while unprepared and ignorant about sex.
All children will come in contact with sexualized media or information outside of a parents’ control. The only question is, will they be ready and will they know what to do when this happens?
Children learn about sex from each other. Learning about sex for the first time can feel a bit world-altering for a child, no matter how old they are. A whole new reality has just been revealed to them, although they still barely understand it. Children process new and important information the same way adults do—they want to tell others what they just found out. Very often children will tell all their friends everything they just learned, even friends much younger than they are.
Children learn about sex from pornography. One of the most common stories we hear about first exposures to pornography is when a child clicks on an ad that looked interesting while doing homework or playing a video game. In many cases the child had no idea what pornography was or that anything like it existed. This is a particularly dangerous scenario today as first exposure to Internet porn often consists of hundreds of videos of deviant sex acts appearing on the screen at once.
Children learn about sex from non-pornographic sources. In my case, I found my mothers nursing books on the family bookshelf, which contained many photos of naked people. Their eyes were blanked out, but that is all that was blanked out. These were not images of sex, but my parents had never talked to me about nudity or body parts and I didn’t quite know what to think. I was only eight or nine at the time but I went to my friends, not my parents, to talk about what I’d seen.
When we as parents refrain from talking with our kids about body parts, sexuality, and even pornography, we leave them vulnerable, unprepared, and unprotected for when they do come across that information. Talking with our kids about sex is a way to protect them, not ruin them
When Do I Talk?
Knowing when to talk to our children about sexuality is perhaps the harder question. It is easier when we approach such conversations as a means of protection instead of just education.
Several counselors, authors, and speakers who focus on helping parents talk with their children about sex met in 2020 to discuss this very issue; when do we talk with our children about sex?
Here is the advice that came out of that meeting:
That might seem really young! However, we as parents typically view our children as younger and more immature than they really are. They are often ready for conversations long before we think they are.
In addition, children today are exposed to information about sex much younger than we realize. It does not matter if a child goes to a Christian school or even is homeschooled, they probably have been introduced to more ideas about sex than a parent will realize.
A homeschool boy came up to me after a presentation and volunteered this information, “My dad didn’t talk with me about porn until three years after I first saw it. I was already kinda hooked by that time.”
We cannot give a definitive roadmap for when to have what conversation with your child. Each child is different and there is no “best age” to have a conversation that works for every child. However, here are some very rough guidelines:
Take Your Next Step
What age is your child? Which of the conversations above have you not had with your child? Our suggested next step for you is to pick one conversation and set a date when you plan to have it with your child.
Need help? Honest Talk: A New Perspective on Talking to Your Kids About Sex has conversation guides to walk you through many of these conversations.
For even more resources, visit our
Family Care Resources page
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5 Core Values:
Since 2003, Be Broken Ministries has existed for a singular purpose: "Helping individuals and families move from sexual brokenness to wholeness in Christ." It is a simple mission with profound impact.
Our desire is to see every person who wants freedom from sexually destructive patterns to realize that desire through the recovery process of healing and growth. And we are delighted to say that we have seen many gain the freedom they desired.
Over the years, however, there have been many distractions to maintaining focus on the mission:
But time and again we return to the core values that God placed in this ministry from the very beginning: Grace, Honesty, Purity, Community, and Endurance. These are the foundation from which we build every resource, every podcast, every workshop, every website, everything.
We believe for anyone who wants to effectively minister to someone struggling with unwanted sexual behaviors, these are the core values that must exist. Therefore, let me share what these core values mean; to us, and to the process of recovery.
"No one is too broken to love."
When anyone reaches out for help with compulsive unwanted sexual behaviors, the most important response they need is one of grace; the undeserved kindness of a friend.
We believe this grace originates from God, who loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sin (including sexual sin). God didn't wait for us to get "sober" or cleaned up or "on the right path." Instead, "...while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8b) That's grace!
Many sexually addicted people, however, are not greeted with grace when they finally decide to seek help. They are often met with condemnation, rejection, or rigid rules. This causes the person to falsely believe that their worth is based on their performance, so if they just learn how to "behave" they will find the love and acceptance they long for. But that's not how grace works.
If you want to effectively minister to a sexually broken person, you must lead with grace; extending compassion, kindness, and warmth even while they are still drenched in the muck of their addiction.
It is a soft touch, not an iron fist, that draws a broken sinner out of the dark and into the light of hope and transformation.
"Everyone's full story is worth hearing."
Sex addicts (or any addicts) are excellent liars. They often have a history of not only telling lies, but also being told lies. In fact, every sex addict I have ever met learned to tell lies by being told lies, whether from a parent, older sibling, or the media they consumed in childhood. And lies beget lying.
The predominant teacher of lies for sex addicts is usually pornography. It teaches a young person a host of lies; about sex, about love, about relationships, about life.
Once a kid has bought porn's lies, it becomes easy to travel down the road of deception -- of others and self. Eventually, this person wakes up in their late 20's or early 30's and realizes "I'm living a lie!"
Therefore, to help a sexual addict break free from a life of lies, you must introduce them to truth. Truth comes from God, for Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life..." (John 14:6a)
For an addict to overcome their self-deception, they must encounter Jesus. This requires getting into His Word, the Bible, and reaching out to Him in prayer. As one draws closer to Jesus, the line between lies and truth becomes clearer.
But freedom for a sex addict doesn't just happen because they come to see the difference between the truth and a lie. Real freedom only begins when they honestly share their full story and commit to a life of radical honesty.
There is no true freedom if an addict never shares their whole story. All of it must come into the Light in order for them to experience total release and hope.
If you want to effectively minister to a sexual addict, create a safe place for them to share their story; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Encourage radical honesty in a "shame-free-zone," reminding them that their worth is not based on their behavior, but on the God who loved them enough to send Jesus to the cross even before they ever acted out.
"A journey of better reflecting Christ."
No one is perfect, except Jesus.
The Bible says, "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." (Ecc. 7:20)
It also says of Jesus, "For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Cor. 5:21) Jesus was perfect in every way, without sin. In other words, He was pure. We, however, apart from Him, are not.
Certainly someone wanting to break free from sexually addictive patterns must take steps toward purity. After all, pure is the opposite of impure. However, these steps are not toward a purity that we can conjure up within ourselves, or maintain perfectly. Remember, there isn't a righteous person on earth who does good and never sins. Therefore, purity must come from the only One who is pure: Jesus.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:13-16)
If you want to effectively minister to a sexual addict, lead them to a deeper dependence on Jesus for their purity. A life of sexual integrity is one that reflects the image of Jesus.
"Enjoying the fruit of healthy relationships."
The ultimate vision we have for sex addicts in recovery is to become "whole and holy." And the environment where this transformation takes place is in community. We desire addicts to one day adopt the very heart of God, a heart which loves freely and richly.
It is hard for anyone to get close to an addict; to really know them. They hide and lie and naturally push people away with their self-absorbed lifestyle. Everything about them points inward, to their brokenness, their pride, their lust.
In essence, porn and sex addicts are always only about themselves. Not only do they not engage in real community, they can't because their eyes never look away from their own image.
When a sex addict finally has their "rock bottom" experience that jolts them awake to the reality of their self-centered life, they must (re)learn to connect with others in healthy ways. This involves telling the truth, listening, exercising empathy, serving with proper motives, and accountability. This is no small task for someone whose life has only been focused inward, but it is still the path to true freedom and joy.
If you want to effectively minister to a sexual addict, welcome them into a loving community where the truth is told in love and faithful friendships can blossom.
The eventual place an addict needs to arrive for their freedom to be realized is a place where giving and serving others is of higher importance than receiving anything in return.
"Finishing well is better than starting fast."
Effective ministry to sexually addicted individuals is not something that happens quickly. The tentacles of such strongholds run deep and grip tightly to the heart, soul, and mind of the addict.
Therefore, a long-term vision of recovery must be established. Programs that promise transformation in mere days or weeks are setting their patrons up for disappointment (and probably even relapse).
The desire to see porn and sex addicts living lives of "wholeness and holiness" is one that requires a greater emphasis on finishing the journey well, rather than just starting fast. Recovery is a lifelong journey of learning and growing, not just a few weeks or months of "detox."
Think of the recovery journey like you would think of nutritional health. If someone is overweight and physically unhealthy, a quick fix diet might help them to feel better for a few weeks or months. But in order for them to experience the best possible physical health they must engage a paradigm shift that involves not just their behavior with food, but also their mindset regarding their whole body (i.e. exercise, sleep, support, etc.).
If you want to effectively ministry to porn and sex addicts, you must help them embrace the long vision of recovery. Invest in their lifelong journey, celebrating small and large milestones along the way.
When the finish line becomes the focus, the steps to reach it make more sense.
The greatest joy in recovery is investing these core values into a weary addict just looking for help...
If you would like to connect with other like-minded leaders in this field of ministry, visit SexualIntegrityLeaders.com.
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I don't know anyone who finds being corrected pleasant. By its very nature, correction is difficult because it is revealing something that needs to change because it is either wrong or unhealthy or dangerous.
And change, especially change of the heart, is hard.
But if you are a follower of Christ, or curious about following Christ, then correction is part of the journey. After all, the reason we need Christ is because we have "all sinned and fallen short of God's glory." (Rom. 3:23)
Through faith in Jesus Christ we are declared forgiven of our sins before God and made a member of His heavenly family. This is Good News!
But trusting in Christ for the forgiveness of sin doesn't instantly remove the battle with temptation and sin. Your standing before God is eternally rectified through faith in Christ, but how you live the rest of your life on earth is now a process of transformation so you look and live more like Jesus.
Sons and Daughters of God
This is where correction comes in.
Think of parents and their kids. The child was born into the family (that's grace). They have all the rights and privileges of being a family member. But they don't immediately (or automatically) know how to live as a member according to the family values, rules, etc.
This is how it is when you become a member of God's family through faith in Christ: you have all the rights and privileges of being a member of the family, but you must now learn how to live as a son or daughter of God.
If a kid in an earthly family needs correction and discipline to learn the family values and rules, how much more do you and I need correction and discipline to learn to reflect our perfect heavenly Father?
What Needs Correcting
We may understand intellectually that sinful people would need correction by a holy God, but what exactly needs to be corrected?
The original sin is said to be pride. When God's prized creation, Adam and Eve, succumbed to Satan's temptation to defy God's one rule to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, sin burst onto the scene of human history.
At the root of pride is the desire to operate autonomously from our Creator. We live like the perpetual 2-year-old who wants her toys and no one else is allowed to touch them (completely unaware that all her sustenance and safety is graciously provided to her daily by her parents!).
If you and I are to live as God intended, our pride needs correction.
Wandering Eyes (Heart)
Often when God wanted to describe the unfaithfulness and disobedience of His people He would use the sexual metaphors of adultery or prostitution. He was portraying how the wandering eyes (and hearts) of His people was a deep and profound betrayal of His covenant love.
I think for most us it is easy to understand the pride issue; we can't deny how often we want to live our lives our way without regard for God and His ways. But the wandering eye, the wandering heart, is much more difficult to spot. Therefore, it can be more dangerous to our souls.
In our ministry, we deal a lot with wandering eyes as it relates to sexual lust. Rarely does a person wake up in the morning and say in their heart: "Today my entire goal is to commit sexual sin." Temptation is far more subtle than that!
The wandering occurs little-by-little throughout the day with a glance here or a click there. These little wanderings are setting us up for eventual unfaithfulness to and disobedience of the Lover of our soul.
If you and I are to live as God intended, our wandering eyes (and hearts) need correction.
Finally, what I am calling "worldliness" also needs correction. Worldliness is simply choosing to live with a secular worldview rather than a godly one. It is living from an earthly mindset rather than a heavenly mindset.
Worldliness may be even more subtle and dangerous than wandering eyes and hearts. You have probably heard the old "frog in boiling water" example.
It is said that if you put a frog in boiling water it will immediately jump away to safety because it is fully aware of the danger. But if you put that same frog in lukewarm water and slowly turn up the temperature it will cook to death.
Worldliness is the lukewarm water we learn to live in. But over time, the more comfortable one gets, the heat is slowly turned up. Eventually, there is little awareness at all that their life is ebbing away and their communion with God is all but gone.
If you and I are to live as God intended, our worldliness needs correction.
How to Love Correction
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof (correction) is stupid.
When my kids were little they giggled at this verse because it has the "S" word in it: stupid!
I love God's sense of humor and His effective motivational tactics often seen in the wisdom sections of Scripture.
In this verse, God as our loving Father is saying to us, "My child, don't be stupid by stiffening your neck to the correction of Wisdom. Love the discipline and correction needed to live a life that reflects me well."
It is not enough that we simply "take our medicine" of correction and be "obedient little kids." No, to really embrace the fullness of God's correction, we must cultivate a love for His correction and discipline that leads to true life and freedom and peace.
Here are 4 keys to loving correction:
1. Admit Ignorance
A child doesn't intuitively know how to live as a member of their family. They must be taught. In other words, their ignorance must be corrected.
If we are to look and live more like Jesus, we must confess our ignorance. We need to admit that we don't know how to live like Him and we need His power to do so.
This kind of confession directly combats the pride that dwells deep within us. When pride rises up and declares we can do x-y-or-z on our own, we must confess our ignorance and humble ourselves before God, asking Him for wisdom and guidance by His Spirit within us.
When you and I admit ignorance, our pride is corrected and humility grows.
2. Pursue Wisdom from Others
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. -Proverbs 13:20
You don't have to be a Christian to know that wisdom isn't gained in a vacuum of isolation or independence. There is no such thing as a wise Lone Ranger (even the Lone Ranger had Tonto!).
We need wise people in our lives who can share their knowledge and point out our blind spots. Such mentors are more than mere guides, they become friends and confidants in whom we can trust. They mature us and help us grow into all that God designed us to be.
When you and I pursue wisdom from others, our independent thinking is corrected and authentic community is formed.
3. Be Grateful for Truth's Scalpel
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
In our human, sinful condition we like to keep secrets. We don't like sharing the thoughts or motives of our hearts that would make us look like the broken, sinful people we are. So we hide them.
But God's Word knows how to expose our secrets. It is a scalpel that is so precise it can discern not just our thoughts, but also our intentions. There is no hiding from the Truth.
We should be grateful that we can't hide from God. He knows us and loves us more than anyone. Therefore, to be "exposed" by Him is to be given an opportunity to change and grow as His children.
Shame and deceitfulness grow in secrecy. They gnaw away at your soul, convincing you that to expose the truth about your brokenness is the equivalent of death itself.
But God's Word doesn't do "surgery" on the secrets in your soul to destroy you. No, God's Word is the Truth that heals and liberates your soul from the grip of shame and lies. Thank God for the razor's edge of His Word.
When you and I are grateful for truth's scalpel, the deceitfulness of shame and lies is corrected and true freedom is realized.
4. Live a Teachable Life
The proud cannot be taught.
(Marinate on that thought for a minute.)
To be truly corrected requires that you be teachable. To be teachable means you are humble enough to know you don't know it all and eager enough to learn how God designed you to live best.
But teachability isn't contained in a classroom. A teachable spirit is one who puts knowledge to practice in everyday life. What you learn, you must do.
This is the goal of correction: maturing faithfulness to God in word and deed.
When you and I live a teachable life, our pride and wandering hearts and worldliness is corrected, and mature wisdom bears eternal fruit.
Don't stay proud. Discipline your wandering eyes. Reject the subtle simmering of worldliness.
Humble yourself before God and others. Praise God for His surgical Word. Stay on a lifelong growth mission to mature in faithful godliness.
If you would like help and encouragement on your journey to love correction, please contact us.
No one truly enjoys suffering. When pain enters our lives, we instinctively seek relief. This is a right and good response. But often in our quest for relief we mistakenly assume that emotional, spiritual, and relational healing and growth can (and should) happen quickly. They don't.
But before you get too discouraged, let me try to show you why it is far better to focus on finishing well rather than just starting fast on this journey of healing and growth.
Here are 4 reasons why finishing well is better than starting fast when it comes to true life transformation.
Finishing Well Reminds You that Change is a Journey, Not a Destination
Thousands of men have contacted us over the years to get help for their unwanted sexual habits. They reach out for many different reasons, but almost all have the same fundamental desire: change.
They don't want to keep doing the things they are doing. Mainly because they are finally waking up to the reality that what they're doing is harmful to themselves and others. They want out. But they want out NOW!
It is understandable to want quick fixes when the effects of a sexual addiction are finally admitted and revealed. It's a mess. It hurts. It's heavy and complicated. To want freedom from such bondage, and peace instead of chaos, is right and good.
But change, true life change, never happens instantly. Period.
Real transformation, the kind that God works in us through His Spirit, takes a lifetime to come to full maturity. Therefore, focusing on finishing well rather than starting fast reminds us that change is a journey, not a destination.
There isn't a magical point in time where you can say, "I've arrived! All that must change and be completed in my life is accomplished. There is no more healing or growth needed." This "destination" is called heaven, and we only arrive there after death. (And even in heaven there will be no end to our exploration and wonder of the eternally infinite God...)
So, when it comes to life transformation, finishing well is better than starting fast because it keeps you focused on the lifelong journey of growth rather than constantly trying to achieve an unreachable and unrealistic goal of perfection this side of heaven. There is much freedom and peace that come when we focus on finishing well.
Finishing Well Leads Toward Practical Outcomes, Not Merely Idealized Possibilities
It is easy to "dream big" when considering how to start the journey toward life change. It is something else entirely to actually live out the day-by-day grind of such transformation. Finishing well is about establishing real goals with real results.
When I began my journey of recovery from sex addiction back in 1999 I had lots of hopes and dreams (fantasies, really) about what a "changed life" could look like. But all those dreams existed way out in the unrealized world of "possibilities," not in my actual life.
The best possibilities for transformation never happen if there isn't concrete goals and actions attached to them. And this is actually what it takes to finish well. To keep dreaming and dreaming and dreaming about all that "could" change is to stay stuck forever at a starting line you never leave.
If I was going to experience actual life change I was going to have to do something, not just dream something. I had to call a counselor and set up appointments, find a support group and attend faithfully, dig into God's Word and follow wherever His Spirit led me, and many other tangible actions that required my will, not merely good intentions.
One of the most practical outcomes of a finishing well attitude has been the relationships developed with other men for encouragement, accountability, and support. Had I only just "dreamed" about a changed life without ever doing something about it, I would still be alone, isolated, and probably completely enslaved to my addiction (if not dead).
Finishing well involves taking concrete steps toward different outcomes. Faithfulness and perseverance grow because you are committed to actions over the long haul that produce change, not just ideas floating around in the dreamland of possibilities.
(For help taking concrete steps, we have resources for Men, Women, and Families.)
Finishing Well Produces Righteous Character
So what is the actual "goal" of life transformation? If it's a journey and it requires actions, what is this process actually intended to produce?
The short answer is the life of Jesus.
We are made in God's image; we are made to reflect God in the world (Gen. 1:26-28). Jesus Christ was the exact representation (image) of God (Heb. 1:3). Because of sin we are separated from God and do not reflect Him rightly (Rom. 3:23). However, through faith in Christ we are reconciled to God and made truly alive; in Christ we are able to reflect God properly. (Eph. 2:8-10)
The Bible calls this process of maturing in our ability to accurately reflect God's image in the world "sanctification." And it is simply the process by which we "look" more and more like Jesus.
The metaphor that is often used to describe this process is fruit. In Galatians 5:22-23 we read, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." God's Spirit in us is about the business of producing the fruit of these characteristics of Jesus.
Fruit doesn't manifest instantly. This is why we say finishing well is a lifelong process. What God is producing in us, the character of Jesus, is not instant. It takes time to grow and mature.
Just think of a few of the characteristics listed above and how time is woven in to their very definitions: patience, faithfulness, self-control. One could even argue that love and joy and gentleness require time to mature because they are experienced in relationship to someone or something else.
Finishing well keeps us on a growth mission over time. As God reveals areas in our lives that do not align with the character of Jesus, He refines us through pruning and discipline (John 15:1-11).
By contrast, starting fast stays focused on self. It's all about making yourself look good without any actual transformation of character. It is shallow and unsustainable. It also comes crashing down when storms come. (Matt. 7:24-27)
Finishing Well Pleases the Lord and Grows God's Kingdom
Finally, probably the greatest reason why finishing well is better than starting fast is because it pleases God.
Jesus told a parable of a master and his three servants in Matthew 25 to help his followers understand what the kingdom of heaven is like. The master gives each servant a different amount of money and then leaves. When the master returns, he goes to see what the servants did with the money he entrusted to them.
Two of the servants had used the master's money to double the amounts. The third servant did nothing. Listen to the commendation the master gave to the servants who increased the amount given:
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. (Matt. 25:21)
The servants who multiplied the investment of the master in them were commended. They were welcomed "into the joy of [their] master." This is a picture of heaven. Jesus (the Master) is returning and He will be asking what you and I did with the investment He made in us through His Spirit. He is expecting a return on that investment; a return that enhances and expands His kingdom.
How will you answer?
Did you "start fast" with a bunch of possible ideas that never really got off the ground and were mainly intent with cutting corners to just make yourself look good and not really show any desire to actually change?
Or did you set your heart and mind on finishing well, on humbling yourself to God's Word and Spirit and engaging the long journey that unfolds step-by-step, day after day, in the trenches of character development and authentic community?
Is change difficult? Of course it is. Is it worth it for the sake of a new heart and mind, healthier relationships, and the hope of hearing "Well done" upon entering the joy of the Master? Most definitely!
If you would like help on your journey of finishing well, please contact us.
Founder & President
For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.
-1 Corinthians 4:20
He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
God's economy of personal growth and transformation is not like the world's. The world's system is about speed and efficiency and minimal discomfort. God's way is often quite slow, terribly inefficient, and almost certainly involves pain of some kind. No wonder so few in the church today are experiencing any real transformation.
But there is good news! God will not abandon you -- if you are in Christ, He is committed to you forever, and will complete what He began in you. Hallelujah!
If you want to experience the fullness of the life of Jesus in you as a Christian, what will that process look like? And how can you surrender more completely to it? And what will be the worldly obstacles that will try to prevent you from such transformation?
I want to share with you 4 key differences between God's "slow growth" model and the world's "quick fix" model when it comes to life change. And why God's model is exponentially more powerful (and beautiful) than the world's.
1. God's Way is Organic -- the world's way is man-made
The language Jesus often used to describe the transformative process in the believer's life is organic; seeds, yeast, fruit, etc. But each of these organic elements need to be mixed with something for their "power" to be unleashed. A seed needs soil. Yeast needs (no pun intended) dough. For growth to happen a combination of sorts is necessary.
When one places their faith in Jesus Christ as their only hope of forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God, the Spirit of God is joined with their spirit and new life is created.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. -2 Cor. 5:17
It is important to note that the transformative power in the believer's life is external to them. In other words, we do not possess the power within ourselves to change our sinful patterns. We need a different "seed" planted in us for that kind of transformation. That seed is Christ and His Spirit.
The world, however, says that you have everything you need within yourself to change your life. But the more one tries to change their life by relying on their own power, the more futile and fruitless their life becomes. A man-made solution cannot solve a God-sized problem (i.e. sin).
2. God's Way Takes Time -- the world's way says NOW!
The new life in Christ is implanted in seed form, so when the Bible speaks of sanctification (i.e. spiritual growth) it is communicating that the transforming effect of Christ's new life in the believer is not instantaneous; seeds don't instantly become trees or bushes or flowers. Organic, gospel-powered growth and change, takes time.
Sometimes it is easy to get discouraged when the changes we hope for and want don't come quickly. We might doubt God's power or goodness or even His presence. We are so accustomed to the world's way of instant this and instant that, so when God's way is taking awhile, we grow impatient.
But imagine the foolishness of expecting a tree or piece of fruit to grow at the same rate of expectation we have for personal character or emotional and spiritual maturity. We would never expect to plant an acorn today and have a mature, mighty oak tomorrow. We know such growth takes time! Yet, so often we expect godly, Christlike maturity to sprout in milliseconds.
I believe we expect this unrealistic speed of change because we are daily conditioned in our world to expect everything NOW. Instant coffee, instant news, instant entertainment, instant pain relief, instant everything!
The world's way of change is "3 easy steps" to your "best life now." And, sadly, millions of us buy this lie wholeheartedly. And when the latest fad or "diet" to transform our lives ends up not working, we immediately take the bait of the next instant solution. Then 10 years goes by and you wake up (maybe) to the realization that you are fundamentally stuck at the same point you were ten years ago.
The world's method of "now" never produces a better "later."
3. God's Way is Dependent -- the world's way says "You can do it!"
Remember, it is Christ's life in us that produces the change we need. We are not the source of our own transformation. Jesus said it plainly: "Apart from me, you can do nothing." (John 15:5b) Just before this statement, He gave us a vivid picture of the relationship between vines and branches when it comes to producing fruit:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. -John 15:4-5
Did you catch that? "The branch cannot bear fruit by itself." This isn't optional. It's not like the branch can "choose" to bear fruit without the vine. It is impossible for the branch to bear fruit by itself!
God's way of total life change is total dependence on Him. There is no other option. It isn't some kind of formula, such as "give me a pinch of Jesus, a dash of Oprah, and a scoop of me." No, that's the world's way. God's way is 100% dependence on Jesus, otherwise there is no fruit.
This idea of total dependence is repulsive to the world. Humility and dependence are not celebrated. Instead, the world lifts up self-reliance and self-importance. The drumbeat of the world's way of change is "You can do it!" But the cry of the Christian is, "Lord, you must do it, for I cannot."
We abide, Christ produces the fruit.
4. God's Way Reproduces -- the world's way is selfish
The beauty of God's way of life change is that it always leads the believer to reproduce the fruit of God's Spirit in others. For what God produces is nothing short of spectacular -- how could a person experiencing the transforming power of God not pass along such life-giving fruit to others?
The stark contrast between God's way of change leading to reproduction and the world's way leading to selfishness is seen in Galatians 5:19-23,
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The world's way says live for yourself, indulge every urge, pursue every whim and craving. But God's way produces His fruit in His time for His glory. And there is no limitation to the reproductive effect of such fruit.
The Power of the Seed
Let me close with an illustration to highlight the power of God's way of transformation versus the world's way, and how it is counterintuitive to man's wisdom.
I selected the picture for this blog post very carefully. It's a "delicate" flower sprouting through cold, hard concrete. This picture is an image of what I've been trying to convey in this article.
A flower seed versus concrete seems like no contest in favor of the concrete, right? But if that seed is planted in fertile soil below the concrete, then given enough time the power of the seed will break through the seemingly impenetrable concrete and blossom in an unexpected, yet vibrant display of stunning beauty.
God's "slow growth" model of transformation works similarly in our lives. He has planted the life of Christ within us. Over time, as we abide in the Vine, there is power flowing through us and breaking beyond the seemingly impenetrable forces of selfishness and pride and envy and greed and lust. As the life of Christ grows in us, a sprout forms and eventually we blossom in unexpected and beautiful ways that previously might have seemed impossible. (Eph. 3:20)
And when your life blossoms with the beauty of Jesus Christ, you will be compelled by love to freely share the fruit He produces through you with others. The world cannot offer such hope and joy. This kind of life and power is only found in Jesus.
Will you press in to this "slow growth" process of total transformation? The results are worth it...
Founder & President
No parent wants to think about the possibility of their child experiencing sexual abuse. This is a very real concern, however, as 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused in our world today. Instead of just being afraid, however, there are very practical things you can do to reduce the risk of abuse to your child.
An Obstacle for Some Parents
There is an obstacle that prevents some parents from better protecting their children from sexual abuse. Ironically, that obstacle is the fear of ruining a child’s innocence by teaching them about sex. But when we refrain from talking to our kids about sex we are not protecting them, we are putting them in danger.
I am speaking from personal experience. I am one of the 1 out of 6 men who were sexually abused as boys. My abuse started at five years old and continued until I was fourteen. The following are the things that could have prevented the abuse I lived through.
Teach Names of Body Parts
A counselor friend shared with me a story of a little girl who told her mother, “Mom, the babysitter keeps poking me with his stick.” That sounded odd to the mother but not alarming, so the mother replied, “Well, tell him to stop.” It was weeks later, after several other babysitting times, when the mother finally realized the babysitter was sexually abusing her little girl.
The mother had never taught her little girl the names of male and female sex organs, so the girl had no words to explain what had happened to her. This girl suffered sexual abuse much longer than if she knew how to tell her mom what had happened.
Ask What Your Children Do and With Whom
Most of us know that when sexual abuse happens it is often between people who know each other well. A 2017 study found that for every adult who abuses a child there are seven children who sexually abuse another child. More specifically, the demographic who abuses children the most is boys ages 11 to 15.
This aligns with my story. My abuser was twelve when he started abusing me at age five. His family was close with ours and they attended our church. We moved when I was eight and another boy who was fourteen began abusing me. His family was also close with ours and attended our church. But abuse can also happen between children of the same age, when one coerces another into doing sexual things.
My parents never asked what I did at either older friend’s house or questioned why we were so often alone and out of sight. That put me in great danger.
Teach What God Made Sex For
My parents never told me anything about sex or sexuality. Not once. I knew what to call body parts by age five but we lived on a farm where I had seen animals mating and I had a lot of questions.
Had I known what God created sex for and how it worked I would not have brought those questions to a boy twice my age. Had I known God’s plan for sex I would have told a parent when someone tried to get me to do something outside of God’s plan. My lack of sex education did not create innocence but vulnerability.
Teach About Sexual Temptation and Desire
Teaching about sex must include talking about sexual temptation and what to do when we feel tempted. The Bible teaches us to tell each other when we are tempted and kids need to learn to tell their parents when they are tempted, even sexually tempted.
Kids need to know before they reach puberty that they will experience sexual desire, and that is good. However, we must coach them to manage their sexual desire. Kids need to understand what to avoid doing with their sexuality that would be harmful to others or themselves.
My own sexual abuse awakened my sexuality too early. Counselors call this “hot-wiring.” By the time I was ten or eleven I was experiencing sexual temptation and desire. I needed someone to teach me what to do with temptation and desire. When my parents opted out of my sex education they handed that over to the world. The world gave me two teenage boys and pornography as educators.
Discuss the Reality of Pornography
Our kids need to know what pornography is and what to do when they see it long before they do. The average age of exposure to pornography today is eight. That means half of all kids in our country see pornography before age eight. That means children today need to know how to react to pornography at age seven. This is protection, not corruption.
I was introduced to pornography at age nine by the teenager abusing me. Pornography is very often used by abusers to make children feel that the sex acts they are asked to do are normal. If people take lots of pictures of it, how wrong can it be? Pornography was used on me to get me to comply.
Afterward, I remember wondering if my dad had ever seen pornography as a boy. I wanted to ask him but I was afraid to. This would have been another helpful conversation that could have cut short my abuse by several years.
Make Sex a Calm Conversation
Kids don’t want to talk to a parent who is anxious or agitated. It is imperative that any time we talk about sex or porn we remain calm and pleasant. Our kids need to experience positive conversations about sex and sexuality so they aren’t afraid to talk to us about sex or potentially abusive situations.
When I was nine I actually tried to tell my mother what the older boy was doing with me. I was afraid, so I hinted by asking if it was normal for boys to do certain things. My mother got visibly agitated and upset so I changed the subject and assured her everything was fine. I never said another word about what was happening to me, and the abuse continued, getting progressively worse, for five more years.
Teaching Healthy Sexuality Prevents Abuse
You may have noticed that everything in this blog is part of teaching God’s design for healthy sexuality:
Teaching God’s Design for sex in this way also protects our children agains sexual abuse. Ignorance is not innocence, it is dangerous in today’s culture.
Dr. Juli Slattery, author of Rethinking Sexuality, puts it this way:
“In what world is knowing God’s design for sexuality ruining anyone’s innocence?”
Knowing God’s design for sex protects our children from abuse.
Director of Training