by Jonathan Daugherty
Recovery is a process of healing from compulsions and growing in our God-given identity, for the purpose of serving others with similar struggles.
There is a process to recovering fully from sexually addictive patterns. It is simple: Heal --> Grow --> Serve. In a previous post I wrote about what healing looks like in this process. In this post I want us to explore the next stage: Growing. This stage focuses on three primary areas of growth: emotional, spiritual, and relational.
No one struggling with sexually addictive patterns is emotionally healthy. You might want to pause and reflect on that statement for a moment. You might even want to argue with it. But in my many years of hearing thousands of life stories of sexually addicted men, I have yet to meet one who exhibited emotional health in conjunction with their addictive lifestyle. Emotional health and addictive lust just don't go together.
Therefore, it is essential that emotional health be a high priority when seeking to grow into a man of sexual integrity. This means "growing up" and leaving childish ways behind.
1 Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
Most sexually addicted men act like children emotionally. This is largely due to the fact that lust teaches a man to be self-centered, controlling, ill-tempered, angry, and deceptive. Just like a 2-year-old. But in order to be a mature man of integrity, he must give up such childish ways.
Often, counseling can be very helpful in understanding and overcoming childishness. Also, getting into a group of mature men can help sharpen these emotional skills.
The bible promises that if we walk by the Spirit of God we will not gratify the lusts of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). But how do we "walk by the Spirit?" By deepening our intimate relationship with God through Jesus. We must grow in our dependence upon God.
Most of us know the things to "do" when it comes to "spiritual growth," but few engage these activities in the way God had in mind. We know to pray, read our bibles, feed the hungry, care for orphans and widows, and serve the poor. But too often we engage in these disciplines with a "box-checking" mentality, not with a heart eager to know God.
Spiritual growth never occurs through activity alone. God is a Person, to be related to intimately, not as something we do, but rather as Someone we know.
"And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Spiritual growth is about knowing the Way, not as a religious ritualistic journey, but as one knows a Person. Jesus is THE WAY! On this journey of growth as a man of integrity, you must know Him. May this change how you engage prayer, bible study, and fellowship with others. These are not means to an end, they are ever-present points of contact with the living Jesus.
Every sexually addicted person has damaged relationships. Lust and love are not synonyms. Therefore, in order to move forward to a life of integrity, you must grow healthy relationships. You must learn to relate well with others.
1 Peter 4:8
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Healthy relationships require stuff that doesn't exist in addiction. Stuff like sacrifice, forgiveness, sharing, communication, honesty, faithfulness, patience, and lots and lots of love. These are not characteristics that tend to come naturally, especially if you have had lots of practice being a self-centered, addicted jerk. But there is good news! These are skills, therefore, they can be learned.
The best context to grow relationally is -- in relationships! Duh. So, talk to your wife. Spend time with your kids. Share your story with someone. Connect, connect, connect. Don't worry about "messing it up." There is no such thing as a "perfect" relationship. But you can have healthy ones, if you will work on growing in the area of relating well with others.
Growing is essential in becoming a strong man of integrity. There are no shortcuts on this journey. But from a solid foundation of healing, you can grow into the man you always wanted to be. And from there, well, some pretty amazing things can happen...
by Gerard Terry
Yesterday, I met a man who had engaged in unlawful sexual behavior involving pornography for a decade. He described his anger at God for not providing him a wife after years of prayer. Today, I sat thinking of a woman I met two years ago who engaged in unlawful sexual behavior following anger at God for not providing her a husband. Both felt justified in their “self help” conduct to feel better when their expectations of God went unfulfilled. I often feel the same way.
My Unmet Expectations, My Sin
I next considered how my disappointment with God has played a role in my pornography use. While I cannot identify a 1-1 correlation, I can recall a much stronger tendency to involve myself in sexual sin when God’s provision has not met my expectations. I recall thinking “why not sin and feel better?” In this “self help” mode, I felt that God was unlikely to punish me worse. Conversely, when I had joy in seeing the expectations of my wants and needs met, I avoided pornography because I didn’t want God to withdraw the blessing.
Unmet Expectations May Occur For a Greater Purpose
When our expectations of God or life are unmet, we first assume we are being punished or that we’ve been abandoned by God – that He does not care. The Bible doesn’t support this assumption. First, our loving Father disciplines those he loves – not punishes. Jesus already took the full punishment for our sins on the cross, once and for all. Next, God’s discipline is a loving “care” for us, not an abandonment of our well-being. We can’t always see behind the scenes. Look at the bigger purpose behind Job’s tremendous loss and suffering. Stephen was not being disciplined when stoned for his faith, was he? Joseph was sold into slavery while doing nothing bad. At another point in his life, he was put in prison for running (literally) from sin with Potiphar’s wife. Looking back now, we can see God’s plan to save a nation through Joseph.
The Bird’s Eye View
You and I rationalize sinful conduct to feel better in our circumstances. We think that our anger and pornography use is justified because God has not given us a spouse, or because He took one away. When chewed out by a boss or lied to by a close friend, we justify conduct to make us feel better. Yet, only by trusting in Jesus to accomplish His good purpose in both our joy and our distress will we keep our sanity. Like Joseph, we simply don’t have the bird’s eye view to see where God is taking us through our “good” and “bad” experiences.
I have known several clients who lost their jobs after being falsely accused of wrongdoing. In most every instance, after a period of suffering, they drew closer to God in dependence. Then, they ended up with even better jobs than before. What outsiders might have seen as discipline for wrongdoing, looking back, I now see discipline for the sake of refinement and eventual blessing. In some cases though, like Stephen’s stoning or the death of a child from cancer, we may never know God’s purpose.
Expectations of God and Others
My wife recently told me that my frustration with family members and friends is based on my expectations of them. She counseled me to have lower expectations of others in order to experience less disappointment. She was right on track. With changed expectations, I have less disappointment and hurt.
Can we apply this principle to God? Is it fair to have expectations of what our creator should and should not do?
“But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'" Romans 9:20
While we have promises from God in the Bible, they are not real specific. Perhaps we will suffer less distress and disappointment if we only expect His great love for us. Beyond that, we get into deep disappointment when we impose our expectations on Him. In this disappointment, we tend to lose perspective on life. Then, in an attempt to feel better, we engage in harmful behaviors like pornography. As the man and woman I mentioned above, long-term disappointment with God can result in progressive anger toward Him. Carrying prolonged anger can even result in our justifying unlawful sexual behavior to make us feel better.
I want to suggest that our expectations of God and others creates a good share of the disappointment we experience. In many cases, these expectations are unfair to the freedom others enjoy to manage their lives as they see fit (both good and bad). They are also inconsistent with God’s authority over us, His creation. When we come to accept this and adjust our internal expectations accordingly, we will have a lot less disappointment and pain in life. With less pain and disappointment, we will find less need to medicate with pornography or other destructive habits.
by Jonathan Daugherty
I'm not a biologist, but I struggle to think of anything in the animal kingdom that thrives (or even survives) alone. I believe humans especially suffer when left alone. More so than maybe any other creature on the planet we need each other. Yet, so often the wounds we carry from the difficulty and cruelty of life are carried alone. This is no way to thrive (or survive).
Having lived a life of addiction myself, I can predict a common question that might come from those drowning in the self-deception of compulsive thoughts and behaviors that seem impossible to shake: "What are the benefits of togetherness?" In other words, what's in it for me? (By the way, this is the way an addicted person thinks about everything: me, me, me.)
Well, I have good news. There is a LOT in it for those who are willing to step into the realm of community and engage the process of doing life together with others. The following are just five such benefits that I believe make doing life together way better than doing it alone.
Together we find comfort
Ecclesiastes 4:11 - ...if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?
Living alone is painful, and cold. And I'm not talking about not having a roommate, or a spouse, or living in a cave on the side of a mountain. I mean that living detached from others emotionally is painful. And many live like this, especially addicts.
But in recovery, an addicted person finds that they are wanted, embraced, even loved in spite of their brokenness. This brings great comfort to a lonely, broken heart. There is a warmth felt in relationship that can't be replicated in aloneness. God made us to soothe one another, to "keep one another warm," when the difficulties of life press in on us.
Together we protect each other
Ecclesiastes 4:12 - And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
We are more vulnerable physically, emotionally, and spiritually when we live alone. We need friends, family, a community to help protect us against the harms that swirl about us in life. Temptations do not have the same power over us when we have a brother or two to fight alongside us. But if we are alone, as the verse above states, we likely will not stand.
But we don't just need relationships so we can be protected, we also need them so we can protect others. It's just as important for our brothers that we are in the foxhole as it is for us that they are there. When you have someone specific to fight for, rather than just a concept or principle (i.e. purity), you become quite a bit more invested in the battle. You realize that there are actual lives on the line, and they need your presence to help them be victorious.
Stand up and fight -- together!
Together we learn
The longer a person is isolated or disconnected from relationships, the more prone they are to delusional thinking. We rarely come up with brilliant ideas alone. How do I know this? Try bouncing one of your "brilliant" ideas off someone else, or better yet several someone else's. You are likely to get some push back on your ideas, maybe even causing you to realize that they weren't even good, let alone brilliant.
Proverbs 18:17 - The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
We need each other to help us learn and grow and be accountable. This requires humility, acknowledging that we aren't as smart as we think we are and that there is good that comes from sharing ideas. Surely, the Word of God contains the most important ideas, and we must be willing to wrestle with the truth that sets us free, even when it demands that we change our ways.
The best context for such learning is in community with others who also desire to grow.
Together we multiply good
Ecclesiastes 4:9 - Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
The point of fellowship and togetherness is to multiply good; to pass along the blessings we have received to those struggling. As we stumble through life, we do so together. We pick each other up when we fall, helping one another to move forward and not get stuck -- in addiction, depression, shame, etc.
Which is more encouraging:
When you fall, someone hands you a book to read.
When you fall, someone lifts you up by spending time with you.
(It's rhetorical; the answer is obvious!) This is how we multiply good. When someone has cared enough to lift you up through their time and presence, you feel compelled to demonstrate the same care and sincerity, not only toward them, but also toward others who fall.
Together we love
1 Corinthians 13:13 - So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Our chief aim in all of life is to love -- both God and others. At the core of our being we were made for relationship, to love one another with all our being. Love cannot be fully expressed or enjoyed alone. It makes no sense. Love must be shared.
The deepest need we have is to be known and loved. You cannot be known if isolated and disconnected from others. And if you cannot be known, you certainly can't be loved. To love someone is to know them; the good, the bad, and the ugly. We long to be loved, and we are made to love others.
Don't live any more of your life alone. Reach out to others around you and start the journey of knowing and loving one another. The greatest joys in life only come in relationship.
We are better together!
by Jonathan Daugherty
I'm not upset at those who focus on behavior modification in recovery. After all, it makes sense to look at what addicts are doing and freak out a little. Rarely does a person look at an addict's behavior and say to themselves, Yeah, that's rational. More likely, their eyes pop out of their heads as they scream (at least in their mind), "Are you crazy?!"
Unfortunately, though, what I see happen over and over again with addicts who endeavor to focus solely on behavior modification in their recovery is that they never actually change. They may not "act out" anymore because they have all sorts of "tools" in their lives to make sure that doesn't happen, but fundamentally nothing has changed in the one place where change matters the most: the mind.
What we think matters, not just in addiction recovery but in life as a whole. Thoughts are the basis of everything we do. I dare you to try and come up with one decision you make without using your mind. Sorry, you lose. You just had to use your mind to understand the dare. The mind is the engine behind our actions. So, using the car analogy, if you want to change how your life "runs," you must change your mind, not your paint color (i.e. behaviors).
I'm not going to pretend like I know everything about how thoughts form. (I'm not that smart!) And especially for addicts it can become a difficult exercise in futility to try and completely figure out which is feeding which; are the thoughts feeding the behaviors or are the behaviors feeding/reinforcing the thoughts? My answer? Yes, it's a big mess! But rather than focus on origins (which are important) I want this post to focus on solutions (which is what addicts really need).
Transformation: Renewing Your Mind
Regardless of how you became addicted, the long-term solution, the route to finding freedom and joy, is by transforming your mind.
Romans 12:2 - Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
If we start from the premise that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Deut. 8:3, Matt. 4:4) then we must see His Word as the authority on how we are to live. As such, we see that the way we discern and live out God's will is by rejecting what the world offers (lies) and embracing what God offers (truth). Where this transference takes place is in the mind.
The first thing we must acknowledge is that even as believers in God we can be fooled by the lies of the world. God would not instruct us to not be conformed to this world if it were impossible for us to be conformed to this world. Therefore, transformation is not a gift of God, it is a discipline of ours as a follower of Jesus. Change will take work!
The Truth is a Person
John 8:31-32 -
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Transforming your mind is a discipline, a daily skill that requires attention, effort and repetition. Don't think (pun intended) that you can spend a few days focusing on some bible verses and praying and expect to totally replace whatever lies and patterns you have embraced in the dark for years. You are on a journey of change, one that demands you train your mind with truth; day by day, moment by moment.
A key ingredient to effectively changing your mind, and thereby changing your actions, is to never train alone. Your history has proven that you are no match for your enemy (Satan) when trying to go it alone. He is too cunning and patient for you to handle on your own. He also employs horrible tactics such as shame and doubt and self-reliance. If you try to change alone, you will fail. Period. Locks arms with other followers of Jesus and pursue transformation through engaging the Truth.
A New Mind, A New You
There is a great promise for those who seek Truth, who pursue Jesus. We will be like Him!
1 John 3:2-3 -
by Jonathan Daugherty
Today I was reading in Romans 7, a place in God's Word that has always brought both comfort and conviction. But I saw the passage in a fresh way. I saw the exaltation of Christ rather than the profound, ongoing struggle with sin.
Verse 18 says that there isn't anything good in us, that is, in our flesh. We may want to do good, but we don't have the ability to do it. This is a huge indictment against "working harder" theology. We too often assume that because we desire to do good that we just need to try harder and we will do the good we want. But we can't.
Then Paul writes his famous "I-keep-doing-what-I-don't-want-to-do" passage, which is the comforting part for me. I mean, hey, if Paul continued to have such an ongoing struggle with sin, I don't feel so "odd" for having my own struggle! But then he says something weird, something that didn't fit with my former theology of "new creation."
v. 24a - "Wretched man that I am!"
Shouldn't that read, "Wretched man that I was?" My former understanding of us being a "new creation" in Christ was that we should no longer see ourselves in language like this. But Paul seems to have no problem with such brutal honesty. He sees his sinfulness that is present in him -- even now. How, then, can he have hope in his battle with sin?
v. 24b-25a - "Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Who do we look to in our current sinful state; in our ongoing, daily battle with indwelling sin? We look to our Savior, Jesus Christ, the One whose sinless sacrifice offers us a permanent place in the family of God. By His grace, we are His; messy, broken, wretched. But we are still His!
Maybe walking with God isn't so much about defeating sin as it is about humility, honesty and highlighting our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:1 - There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
I just recently learned about "end of day" glass from an alumni of our Gateway to Freedom workshop. He shared how in studios that work with hand blown glass there is quite a mess made during the production process. Shards of glass of all different colors and shapes are strewn all across the floor. But rather than simply sweep up the glass and toss it in the garbage, the glass artist gathers all the pieces together, melts them back down, and blows them into a vessel of unmatched color and patterns.
I think "end of day" glass is a beautiful analogy to what God does with sexually broken people. Their lives have been shattered into pieces, strewn across the floor. Then they see God coming toward them with a broom and a sudden wave of panic crashes over their soul. Is this it? Is this when God's grace finally runs out for me? What's going to happen? Scrambling around, trying to gather up all their broken pieces, they hope to produce something that they think is acceptable to God. But this only leaves them with bloody hands and more brokenness.
Then it happens.
God gently sweeps together all the brokenness; the shame, the fear, the wounds, the lies, the sin, the anger, all of it. He lifts this broken, helpless child of His and places him in the kiln -- then turns up the heat!
Wait a minute! That's not where I was expecting this story to go. Can't we jump forward to the beauty and color and unique patterns? Not without the fire.
Recovery is God's kiln. Trials are God's kiln. Suffering for the name of Christ is God's kiln. While we are all "end of day" glass, we cannot take the beautiful form of a vessel bursting with color and vibrant patterns without first being melted down into a malleable form. This requires heat. In the case of glass, it requires at least 2000 degrees! For us, it requires the crucible of God.
Once "melted," God takes this liquid life and pours it out into a vessel of His making. The shape, size, and purpose is of His determining. He is careful, precise, with the picture of ultimate perfection in His mind's eye. When finished with His masterpiece He gazes in admiration; the beauty is stunning and utterly unique to all the other vessels He has made. Now, what was once merely the chaotic mess of brokenness is now the glory of the Master Artist. He makes all things beautiful.
Are you a broken mess? Do you feel ashamed, unworthy, purposeless? Don't run from the broom of the Lord. He is not coming to punish you, but rather to make you into an "end of day" masterpiece that sparkles and shines, proclaiming the grace and majesty of the Artist. Although the kiln is hot, the work of the Artist is Love. May you know His love and embrace His grace; because to Him, you are worth saving...
by Jonathan Daugherty
At our 3-day intensive workshops for men I make a guarantee to all the guys in attendance. I loudly and slowly proclaim,
"You will fall on this recovery journey. Not, you 'might' fall, or it's in the realm of possibility a fall could happen. No, you WILL fall."
Thankfully, that isn't my closing word of encouragement to the guys at the workshop. But I want the point to be clear: no one recovers from secret sexual sin without stumbling. No one.
What, then, is a person to do when they fall? If it is inevitable, what is even the point of trying? Why would anybody sign up for more failure? It seems like "recovery" is pointless if it involves failing.
It may seem that way, until you examine more closely the process of true change and growth (i.e. maturity).
How many of us have achieved success (at anything) without failure? Anyone? Anyone? I didn't think so. Personal growth, especially spiritual growth, is never achieved apart from falling down. If you learned to walk as a child, you did so after falling down over and over and over again. If you made the team in school, you did so after missing thousands of shots or "getting it wrong" innumerable times. Whether it be art, science, business, or politics, success is only achieved on the tail end of lots of failure. But the difference is in what those who succeeded did in response to each failure: they learned from it.
I don't remember learning to walk, but I know that I've never been a big fan of physical pain. So, I'm pretty certain that every time I fell down in my attempts to walk and scuffed a knee or bumped my head on any immovable object, the resulting pain became a lesson for the next time I would be brave enough to give walking another try. Bump after bump, and bruise after bruise, I discovered balance and motor skills. In essence, each failure provided an opportunity to learn something new about what I was actually trying to achieve: walking! (And, today, even as an "expert" walker, I haven't walked perfectly my whole life; I still stumble at times, especially after reclining for hours in front of a football game.)
What is the goal of sex addiction recovery? Is it never falling? If so, everyone who has ever attempted recovery has failed. Repeatedly.
What if the goal of recovery was growth in community; living an unhidden life in open, transparent relationships with those we love? If that's what "running" looks like for a sex addict, at what stage do they start this journey? Marathon champion? Hardly! They're infants, immature in both the process and the understanding of living a life of purity and integrity. Would you expect a baby to run a marathon without first learning to walk? Why, then, do we expect a sexually addicted person to develop healthy, loving, transparent relationships without first learning to "walk?"
The grace of God affords us everything we need for this difficult recovery journey. By grace, we are invited to come out of the dark and into the Light. By grace, we are free to be honest about our struggles; even our failures. By grace, our progress is not measured by our falling, but rather by choosing to get up and keep trying. By grace, every bump and bruise of failure is turned into an opportunity to learn and grow and mature. By grace, we can walk and not faint, we can run and not grow weary. (Isa. 40:28-31)
But not without stumbling along the way.
Will you embrace grace? For yourself as well as those you pass judgment on for falling? May the grace of God give you a new compassion for the many spiritual infants stumbling and falling all around (even yourself). May you see the hand of Jesus reaching out, and His gaze of encouragement and joy cast upon those who have stumbled, saying, "It's okay. Everybody falls. Let me pick you up so you can try again..."
by Jonathan Daugherty
“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Romans 6:16
Do you wonder sometimes if there is a “payoff” for obeying God? I mean, doesn’t it seem like everything He asks us to do just flies in the face of what the culture promotes and even demands? It often feels like swimming upstream without any relief in sight. What is the payoff, if there even is one?
The good news is that God isn’t a killjoy. In fact, He is just the opposite. Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) Abundant life doesn’t sound like a downer! But with all these boundaries that God expects us to live within, what benefit derives from faithfully obeying His restrictions? In a word, righteousness.
There are certainly many additional benefits to obeying God, but I really want to focus in on righteousness because it is becoming less and less familiar in our world as our attentions are drawn away toward all that appeals to our fleshly appetites. We often don’t even realize how distracted we are, and the terrible consequences of the enslavement to sin and death.
Righteousness is defined as “the quality or state of being morally upright.” How can anyone be in a state of “moral uprightness” apart from God, the supreme moral Lawgiver? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way…) If we are incapable of righteousness apart from God, then what connects us to God? Faith! “The righteous will live by faith.” (Rom. 1:17b) And faith in God is not disconnected from our obedience to Him. In fact, our faith is expressed through our obedience. Take a look at how this beautiful progression works:
What a beautiful process that paints a clearer picture of what Jesus meant by “abundant life.” This isn’t a self-seeking life or life merely of pleasure, but rather a life of righteousness born out of faith in the Creator God. And as we are “enslaved” to obedience a rich harvest of righteousness is produced in us. What a payoff, here and in eternity!
What are you “enslaving” yourself to, sin or obedience? Cast off all your lusts and self-pleasing desires and embrace obedience to God’s Word. As you are shackled more tightly to obeying the Lord of heaven and earth, a righteousness from God will be produced and your faith will grow. And the payoff is a beautiful thing…
by Jonathan Daugherty
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” 1 Peter 1:1-2 (emphasis mine)
We were not made to call the shots in our lives. We were made to obey God. We were made for following, not leading. Obedience is at the heart of faith in God. In fact, it is through our faith in Christ that we can fulfill our purpose of obeying God and magnifying His glory.
Adam had it good, being the first man and all. He was perfectly designed and had quite a special connection with God. The bible tells us that Adam would “walk with God” in the afternoon throughout the garden of Eden. Think about that. Just walking around the woods with the Creator of the universe! No sin in the world, no division in fellowship, no shame. What a cool thought…
But Adam wasn’t made for himself. Adam (and subsequently, the rest of humanity) was made for God. We were made for His pleasure and purpose. And God graciously gave us a choice. After all, a true love relationship cannot exist without free will. But even so, God was merciful to Adam in the fact that he only gave him ONE RULE to follow: don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
God didn’t have to be that nice. Him being the rule maker, He could have set up dozens or hundreds of rules for Adam to obey. But He didn’t. Just one. And as with any law, there are consequences. In Adam’s case, obey and live, disobey and die.
From the beginning, our relating with God comes with His expectation of our obedience. And He has the right to have such an expectation. He made us, we didn’t invent Him. He has always desired us, that we might be intimately connected to Him in a love relationship forever. Despite our disobedience He even made a way for us to enjoy such a connection through faith in Jesus. He took the initiative to pay our penalty for disobedience. Folks, He really does love us!
But too often I think Christians falsely assume that within this idea of God making us for Himself that salvation alone is His end purpose, that somehow once we are saved there are no expectations that God has of us. Not true. God’s gift of salvation to us is so that, in a way, we might “return to the Garden.” And in the Garden, obedience was expected, even in that perfect, sin-free state. We are still made for obedience.
This doesn’t need to scare us. I have come to realize that my exercise of faith through obedience to God’s Word brings exactly what God promises: life and peace. It is amazing to me that I am sometimes astonished that God’s ways work (what an embarrassing confession!). But I am grateful for His patience and grace in my life as I learn to fulfill my purpose of obedience to His will.
Are you fulfilling your purpose?
by Jonathan Daugherty
Obedience – the act or practice of obeying; dutiful or submissive compliance. ¹
In order to get off to a good start on unraveling this characteristic of obedience, it is important that we understand its basic definition. Therefore, I have included a very standard definition (above) that simply states what obedience is. This should be the end of today’s post, right? Should be, but it’s not.
The definition above just doesn’t satisfy. Sure, it is direct, understandable, even possible to perform if one were so inclined. But it is also incomplete because it doesn’t really get to the heart of the fundamental essence of obedience: authority! If you look at the definition of “obedient” you might come across some more direct statements regarding authority, but even then you are left guessing at what authority means or where it comes from. Authority is essential to obedience, especially as God has structured things.
God is the original Authority. There is no authority apart from God, for God is sovereign over all that He has made. Everything in all creation is ultimately subject to the word and will of God. Therefore, any authority established on earth is really subject to God’s overall authority. The bible even declares this:
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1
If authority is essential to understanding obedience, and all authority has been established by God, how does this expand our definition (if at all) of obedience?
I suggest that a more complete definition of obedience would be “the practice of submissive compliance to established authority, out of reverence and love of God.”
Let’s assume this is a good definition. (Who knows, I could be wrong…) If it is, how might this change your attitude and perspective toward all authority around you? Does it change your view toward government officials, police officers, pastors, parents, employers, etc.? If all authority flows down from God, and if God has the expectation that we obey Him (and He does), what changes might this affect in our thinking, our attitude, and our actions toward those in authority over us?
I know this is convicting stuff. I’m not even that thrilled to write it (is that too honest?). But there is a reason why God’s Word is called a Sword. (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12) Truth is meant to cut, to slice away all that is not pure, all that doesn’t come from our perfect Father above. I believe if we allow the proper definition of obedience to penetrate our hearts, we will ultimately come to a place where we find peace and joy because we are humbly resting under God’s authority as He has seen fit to establish it over us.
Who in authority over you is God challenging you to view in a different light? Can you trust God enough to submit? Unless those in authority are demanding you break God’s law, absolute obedience is expected…and rewarded in eternity.
¹ “obedience.” Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 14 Sep. 2009. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/obedience)