Monday, December 24, 2012

Jesus Came to Rescue

"The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." - 1 John 3:8

What is Christmas all about? If people would visit America, walk around, and take a guess from what they saw displayed and talked about, what would they say? Maybe at first they'd talk about the Big Red Guy in the suit with a white beard and domesticated flying deer. Perhaps they'd share about gift giving and a glad spirit of generosity among the general populace. But what about the churches? What do you see in Christmas cards? What about the songs? Wouldn't you see again and again the image of baby Jesus in the stable, surrounded by adoring shepherds, beaming new parents, and the soft glow of Thomas Kinkade? Isn't Christmas about the birth of Jesus?

True, but there have been many births, and many great men and women throughout the ages. Why celebrate this man's birth? What was so significant?

Jesus explains why He came in Luke 4. Right after successfully resisting Satan's temptations in the wilderness He enters a synagogue in Nazareth and proclaims that He is fulfilling a 600-year old prophecy from Isaiah. He reads from Isaiah 61:1-2, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives,and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn..."

Do you see why Jesus came? We were poor, brokenhearted, captive, and bound. Jesus came to bring good news, to bind up wounds, to proclaim liberty, and to set prisoners free. In other words: Jesus Came to Rescue.

The birth of Jesus marks the incarnation of the Conquering Messiah, an invasion of the Returning King who has come to liberate His people from bondage to Satan, sin, and death. This is VERY good news!

Do we not live in a broken world? Disease, famine, war, and injustice. And are we not broken people? Depression, split families, addictions, wounds, anger, and selfishness. We try to heal ourselves and fix our world but these problems seem to keep coming back, no matter how hard we try. We desperately need rescue. Not another self-help program, not more religious white-knuckling, not more government funding, and not legislation to manage or educate us out of our brokenness. Let's admit it: We need RESCUE. And Jesus has COME. He has come as our Rescuer.

Here's the challenge: Think differently about Christmas. It’s not about Santa and reindeer and presents and snow and elves on shelves and the seven levels of the candy cane forest. Though all those things are fun.  What is Christmas all about? It’s about the Rescuer Jesus coming into a broken world. It’s a landed invasion from heaven to bring hope and light and healing to a dark world. That’s what Christmas is about. Rescue.

Grateful for Rescue,
The Relentless Fight

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Celebrating One Year of Relentless Fighting

One year ago today The Relentless Fight blog was launched!

Glory to God for all that He has done this past year. Just some statistics to put flesh on the bones: 22 posts, over 6,000 blog views, 151 Facebook page likes, 347 tweets, awesome t-shirts. And hundreds of folks who have been encouraged, empowered, and equipped in the great fight of faith.

May God continue to bless this endeavor, glorify His Cross, and give strengthening to His people to fight their sin by the power of His Holy Spirit.

All glory to Christ,
The Relentless Fight

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Look at Jesus

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
- Psalm 27:4 ESV

In the midst of your sin you feel some mix of discouragement, failure, frustration, and sadness. It is at this point that you have a critical choice to make: WHO will you look at?

There are only two options: Look at yourself, or look at Jesus. Who you choose to look at it will be what you talk about, what you think about, what you speak to yourself, what you feel, and in a deeper way it reveals who you trust and love.

Here's what those two options look like:
  1. Look at Yourself: You are very aware of what you should DO and how you have NOT done it well. You have failed. You rehash what you did wrong, how it happened, what led up to it, what you should do now (confess, repent, talk with others, read the Word, pray, maybe read a book to learn more about your struggle), and what you can do in the future to do better next time you're tempted. You are focused on the FIGHT part. 
  2. Look at Jesus: You are very aware of what Christ has DONE and how we has accomplished it well. He has succeeded! It is finished! You meditate on His glorious salvation, how it happened in the cross, the great love of the Father that caused Him to send His Son to die in your place. You praise Jesus and thank Him for His forgiveness, for His cleansing of you, and for His never-failing love. You think of how He promises to never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), and continue His good work in you until completion (Philippians 1:6) so you are confident of His help next time you're tempted. You're focused on the GOSPEL part. 
The main point of this blog is that the Gospel part MUST come before the fight part. "Remember the Gospel. Keep Fighting." If you invert these, or skip the gospel, you aren’t thinking biblically, and you are inevitably going to fail and be ever more discouraged as you discover that your strength is insufficient to fight. You NEED Jesus! You can’t do this! So for every look at yourself take 2 or 3 or a HUNDRED looks at CHRIST. Instead of looking at yourself and saying "Oh man, I’m so bad, I need to change, look at how I did the same dumb sin again, I’m such an idiot!" instead look at JESUS and say "Oh man, look how much He loves me!! Look at how He has set me free, look at the forgiveness and wrath-absorbing sacrifice He made! Look at how He loves me faithfully even though I've sinned for the billionth time! Look at how He loved me and gave Himself for me while I was still a sinner (Galatians 2:20), look at how wise and loving and gracious and kind and steadfast HE is! Despite how wicked I am! What GRACE!! WOOO HOO!!!!"

Three practical applications for further consideration:
  1. Look at Jesus More Deeply: Make it a normal part of your life to often read about Jesus and the Cross, learn about Him, and look at Him. Fill your mind with images of Jesus, truth about Jesus, and diligently cultivate your love for Jesus. Some books that could help: The Glory of Christ by John Owen, and The Cross-Centered Life by CJ Mahaney. And don't neglect regular reading of the Scriptures, particularly the historical narrative accounts of Jesus' life, teaching, death, and resurrection.
  2. Be Prepared For Emergencies: Have songs, articles, favorite verses, and sticky notes at the ready to remind you NOT of what you have to DO, but of what Christ has already DONE! These are especially helpful during "emergencies" when you are tempted, or especially when you have recently failed and Satan is pummeling you with guilt and shame. Some suggestions: Consider this popular YouTube clip Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus by Jefferson Bethke, or How He Loves Us by David Crowder with sermon selections from Matt Chandler and John Piper. Maybe right now pick a favorite verse about what Jesus has DONE and write it on some sticky notes. Put them on your bathroom mirror, your desk, the fridge. 
  3. Help Others Look at Jesus: When a brother or sister in Christ confesses sin to you, and you can see that she is deeply discouraged, how should you counsel and encourage her? Not first with a list of questions to see what she did wrong, and then another list of relevant suggestions for resources and strategies to do better the next time around. Rather, give to her FIRST the life-giving and all-satisfying GOSPEL. Remind her of the love of Christ!! Remind her that there is no condemnation for those in Christ. Remind her that she doesn't need to do ANY work to gain God’s favor, it is ALL of grace. Remind her that God is FILLED with steadfast love, covenant faithfulness, mercy, and LOVE for her. Keep beating this joyful truth into her mind and heart and soul until she wells up in thankfulness and gratitude to her marvelous Savior!
Looking at Jesus,
The Relentless Fight

Monday, November 26, 2012

When Should You Repent?

"Repent and believe in the gospel." - Mark 1:15

What is the key to long-term spiritual growth and change? Is it Scripture knowledge? Strong self-discipline? Perhaps a good family upbringing? Maybe seminary? All these things are good, but one thing stands out as the golden key to growth: repentance.

This theme rises to the surface across Scripture: "Repent" is the first part of the core message of Jesus in Mark 1:15 when He started His ministry. "Repent" is an oft-repeated exhortation by the prophets of old to backsliding Israel (ex: Ezekiel 14:6). "Repent" is the explicit command of Jesus to many of the churches in Revelation (ex: Rev 2:16). John the Baptist called his listeners to "bear fruit in keeping with repentance" in Matthew 3:8, and even Peter needed to be rebuked by Paul and called to repentance in Galatians 2. And finally: God desires all to repent (2 Peter 3:9) and calls all to repent (Acts 17:30).

What exactly is repentance? Pastor Ben Stuart describes it as "one motion, in two parts", turning FROM our sin, and turning TO God Himself. You could also say that repentance is admitting you are wrong, stopping your wrong behavior, and beginning to live differently. It's that definitive moment of humble admission, "I am wrong. God is right."

So when should you repent? Answer: REPENT RIGHT NOW. Continually. Immediately. It doesn't matter how much you've sinned, or how little, you should ALWAYS repent the instant God grants you the conviction and realization that you have been sinning against Him. This is the gift that God gives by His Holy Spirit, repentance that leads to refreshment in His presence (Acts 3:19-20). Your sin is killing you, it's a fast poison that requires immediate attention. The first step towards life and healing is repentance. And it's not a once-and-done act. Continual repentance is THE mark of the Christian life. Consider Martin Luther's famous first thesis in 1517, "When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

Sometimes we think that we shouldn't or can't repent RIGHT NOW. Either we think we're repenting "too soon" because we convince ourselves we're not really sinning or we sinfully don't WANT to repent until we've received the promise that sin has offered us. OR we fear we've waited "too long" to repent, and it's too late. We've gone too far, God won't accept us back, not again for the thousandth time. Both are wrong! We've never gone too far in our sin to not be able to repent, and there's no safe amount of sin that we can try before we need to repent. Consider the example of David in his sins with Bathsheba and Uriah in 2 Samuel 11. David could have repented at ANY time in that whole chapter. Consider each verse as you read it, right THERE could have been the moment of repentance! But each time David chose to continue in his sin.

So let's get practical. Here's some examples of what repentance RIGHT NOW could look like:

  • A few seconds after you've said something angry and hurtful to a friend, repent. Apologize for your unkind words, ask for forgiveness from God and your friend. 
  • Porn on the screen and your hand in your pants, repent. It's never too late! Turn away from this broken cistern, there is no life here. 
  • Tears in your eyes and the knife in your hand, repent. God is welcoming you to drink deeply from His fountain of Living Waters! His blood has been shed in your place. 
  • Scooping ice cream in the bowl, repent. Yes you chose to grab the ice cream, but you don't have to eat it. God is gently calling you to rest in Him. 
  • After you've already been sexual active before marriage, repent. Yes you have sinned but God still calls you to repent. It's not "too late". It's never too late to repent. God is honored by your obedience in walking in purity, even after your failure. 
  • When you realize you've been complaining and grumbling, repent. Start praising and thanking God for all His amazing blessings. Maybe even write a list of 100 things you're thankful for
Where is God calling you to repent RIGHT NOW? Is the Holy Spirit convicting you of a particular sin? Repent. Do not hesitate. Be swift in your obedience. Do it. "Repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15) God waits with open arms to cleanse you of your sin and welcome you back! Run to Him in repentance. Right now. 

Fighting for Repentance,
The Relentless Fight

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fighting for Gratitude

"give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." - 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV

One of the most powerful weapons in the fight to overcome sin and temptation is gratitude.

Does that sound strange to you? Something happens in our hearts when we become aware of God's blessing and erupt in thankfulness. It cuts our sin off at the root and weakens whatever self-justifying structure we had built up for our sin. The opposite happens when we choose to not give thanks, and instead become bitter and angry and grumble. Remember the Israelites in the wildnerness? Constant grumbling, constant sin. They're connected.

Gratitude sets our hearts in joy and thankfulness towards the Lord, recognizing His good gifts, and framing our sufferings as smaller in comparison to the weightiness of God's blessings. Suddenly our momentary feelings of loneliness one evening aren't so bad when we remember and praise God for the multitude of family and friends and church community that God has given us. Suddenly our momentary anger at not getting a parking place near Panera is cooled and seems insignificant when we remember that we own a car, have a credit card, are walking with functional legs, and are about to enjoy a fantastic meal. All God's gifts!

So here's the challenge: This Thanksgiving, write down a list of 100 things that you're thankful for. Sound like too many? Don't worry, it's easy once you get going. Here's a few categories to get your list started:

  • Physical health and body function (heart works, legs work, eyes, ears, smell, taste, brain, memory)
  • Blessings in the Gospel (forgiveness, sanctification, adoption, cleansing from shame, gifted righteousness, eternal life, justification)
  • Family and Friends (comfort, joy, fun times, events, meals together, giggles, hugs, kind words, cards, Facebook)
  • Material things (house, car, cell phone, laptop, food each day, clothing, books, money, technology, job, YouTube, pets)
  • Immaterial things (living in a free country, liberty, joy, motivation, purpose, passion, energy, creativity, belonging, pleasure in your work, positive emotions)
  • Metaphysical Realities (for the geeks: gravity, laws of physics, chemistry, space, time)
  • Existential Providence (God has sustained your life thus far! Think of the many risks you've experienced that have not resulted in death like car crashes, falls, dangerous situations, dumb decisions)
  • God Himself (knowing Him, joy in His presence, the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the pleasure of seeing His glory, the privilege of joining in His mission)
And then when you are tempted to grumble and complain, look at the list. When your temptation to self-medicate with porn or cutting or alcohol gets strong because of the stress or pain in your life, look at the list. When you're angry with where God has you, and very conscious of the things He has chosen to NOT give you, look at the list. And give thanks :)

Fighting for Gratitude,
The Relentless Fight

PS: Why not start right now by naming 5 things you're thankful for today in the comments below, or comment on the Facebook post?

Monday, November 12, 2012


"Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry."
1 Corinthians 10:14 ESV

Sometimes the Scripture calls us to stand our ground and fight back against the Enemy, like in Ephesians 6:13. But when we are facing temptation, the Scripture doesn't tell us to stand there and take the punches. No, the command is to FLEE. 

Does this strike you as strange? Wouldn't you instead expect the Scripture to say something like, "When you face temptation, just be strong and trust that God will help you fight it." Right? But that's not what the Scripture says. Multiple times we have the command to FLEE. Here are a few examples (emphasis added):
  • "Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body." - 1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV
  • "So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." - 2 Timothy 2:22 ESV
  • "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." - 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV
Don't be a hero in the fight against temptation. Jesus Himself warned the disciples, "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) Basically, plead with God to not even allow you to get into tempting situations, because YOU ARE WEAK. You will fall. All you need is a push. Just given the right circumstances....and you'll cave. 

See, there's this prideful streak that we have in our hearts that make us think, "Oh, I'm fine. When temptation comes, I'll just say no, right? I'm a strong person." But biblically, that's just not true. It's like what Gandalf says in the mines of Moria about the Balrog, "This foe is beyond any of you. Run!"

What does it look like to flee? Perhaps the story of Joseph in Genesis 39 is a helpful case study. Potiphar's wife was hitting on Joseph nonstop, trying to get him to sleep with her. Every time Joseph refused, and in Genesis 39:10 it says he wouldn't even be in the same room with her. Finally, she grabs hold of him, basically forcing herself on him. What does he do? RUNS AWAY. Apparently he has a hard time getting away because in the process of getting out of there she manages to rip off some of his clothes. Yikes! Joseph FLED. He got out of there. He knew that temptation was a dangerous foe too strong for him to fight. So he ran. Not as a coward, but as a wise godly man.

So what might be some applications?
What does this look like practically in our lives to obey the Scripture and "flee"?

  • When you feel temptation begin to increase and you're alone in your dorm... LEAVE your dorm. Go to the computer lab, the student union building, a friend's room. Anywhere, just leave, now. 
  • When you're hanging out with your significant other and you're alone, and things start to get tempting, the engines begin firing on all cylinders... LEAVE. Go anywhere. How about Sheetz? They're open 24 hours a day. Get some MTO, it's delicious. But the point is to LEAVE. You are weak, and you're not gonna be able to stop yourself. 
  • When you're talking with a friend, and it starts devolving into an argument, you start feeling the temptation to say some things out of anger... just stop. Leave the conversation. If it's on the phone, hang up. Facebook? Close the window. Texting? Just power off that phone, baby. FLEE. 
  • Another application for "fleeing" is to enlist the help of some brothers/sisters by walking in the light (1 John 1) and confessing our temptation. This could be as simple as a text, "Hey sister, could you pray for me? I'm really feeling tempted with _______ right now." 
  • Can you think of a way to flee? Share it in the comments below, or comment in the post on Facebook.

Running away,
The Relentless Fight

Monday, November 5, 2012

Jesus Heals Our Shame

"This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: 'He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.'" - Matthew 8:17 ESV

The Cross of Christ goes deeper than we expect: Jesus died not just to forgive the guilt of sin, but also to cleanse us from the shame of sin.

Shame is a complicated thing, and seems much deeper than the feeling of guilt. When you do something wrong, you feel guilt because your actions, words, behavior are wrong. But shame makes you feel that YOU are wrong. You're a wrong person, you're defiled, stained, marred, there's something that you carry around with you that causes you to hate yourself. This kind of shame is not easily resolved like guilt would be, because with guilt you can just stop those behaviors, but with shame you can't stop being YOU. And to further complicate matters, shame comes in two forms:

  • Sins that we've done: There is a sense of shame that comes from the sins we have done. Defiling sins that we hide from others like cutting, sexual addiction and brokenness, drug use, secret partying, eating disorders, constant evaluation of body image, and the feeling of being "poisonous" in relationships as we consistently hurt others while desperately trying to not do so. 
  • Sins done AGAINST us: Sometimes we feel deep shame and self-hatred because of the sins done against us, things that we are victims of and never have chosen to experience. This can be as "simple" as the common experience of being made fun of when we were children on the playground. We can often minimize such experiences and discard them, "Oh, doesn't everyone get made fun of?" But this kind of sin against us has profound effects. Often when we are treated as ugly, worthless, stupid, dirty, or cheap we begin to believe that we ARE those things. Sins against us include bullying, physical abuse, verbal or emotional abuse, sexual assault and rape, and other mistreatments. These leave a stain on the soul and "speak" lies to us that we internalize and believe. They leave us feeling ashamed of who we are, perhaps with an identity of "damaged goods".

So how does Jesus heal our shame? What hope does the Scripture give us? How do we begin to walk in freedom and newness of life? The answer is the Cross, which is one of the most extreme examples of shame. Authors Justin and Lindsey Holcomb write, “The story of Jesus on the cross is a story of victimization and shame. He was sentenced to death in the most shameful manner possible – naked and on a cross outside the city gates. Crucifixion was for the scum of the earth, and Jesus voluntarily became a part of the dregs himself.” (Rid of My Disgrace, page 95). Jesus identifies with the ashamed, providing solidarity to victims with the empathetic comfort that He Himself knows the experience. But more than that, the Cross is THE solution to our experience of shame, because of the cleansing that it accomplishes in two ways:

  • Cleansing from sins that we have done: 1 John 1:7 says "the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." We have been washed clean by the Holy Spirit of God, and no longer bear the stain of our sins against Him. Our record is clean! We are new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17)! The old has passed away, crucified with Christ, and now we walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4). We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Rev 7:14), and are found BLAMELESS in His presence (1 Thess 5:23). 
  • Cleansing from sins done AGAINST us: The Bible is not in denial when it describes the awful experience of sins done against victims. Without minimizing the ugliness of these horrors, the Scripture provides firm hope for the victims of shameful sins. Christ is spoken of in Isaiah 61:1-4 as binding up the brokenhearted, comforting those who mourn, bringing vindicating vengeance to all the abused and hurting, and even replacing sadness with gladness, replacing brokenness with restoration. To use a metaphor, Jesus is the stronger man (Mark 3:27) who defends us from the bully, and disgraces the shame (Hebrews 12:2). He is our Defender, Protector, and Champion (Psalm 35:1-4). In Colossians 2:15 it says of Christ, "He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him."

So then how should we live? How can we walk in the newness of life that Jesus offers in cleansing our shame? Here are three practical applications:

  1. Remind Yourself: We so often forget the healing that Christ has accomplished for us. Make it a daily habit to remind yourself of the cleansing that you have in Christ. You are CLEANSED from the sins you have done. And your identity is NOT what others have done to you, but is superceded by what Christ has done for you! Remind yourself of His words and actions of love in the Cross. Write sticky notes and hang them on your bathroom mirror. Put up posters in your room. Make Scripture verses the background on your laptop. Make it a daily habit to read the Word to HEAR the loving words of Jesus to you.
  2. Walk in the Light: 1 John 1:7-9 claims that if we confess our sins and walk in the light (being honest about the things we are prone to hide) then we actually have fellowship with one another, because the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin and shame. Practically this may look like sharing your struggle with a trusted brother or sister in Christ, and beginning to walk together on the road of healing. It's a hard road, and a long one, but what a comfort to know that we are not alone! Establishing this kind of accountability relationship enables us to have an "emergency 911" resource: someone we can call, text, or email when we're in a low spot and need encouragement and comfort. 
  3. Share this hope with others: Look around you, and begin to see the world as God sees it: full of broken hurting people who are desperate for healing and hope. Now that you know this amazing news of cleansing in the gospel, how can you NOT share it with others? Share it with fellow Christians, share it with family members, share it with classmates, share it with your children, and especially share it with those who have not yet heard it. We have the medicine, we have the healing balm... for a hurting world that aches. Give it out for FREE! And do it with JOY!
The good news of the gospel is that Jesus heals our shame and cleanses us from all unrighteousness! But it is a daily battle to believe this truth and fight against the lies of Satan as he continually tries to enslave us again and again to the prison of shame. It is a fight - a relentless fight - to remember the gospel and walk in the pure cleansing that Christ has purchased for us. May God strengthen you today to walk FREE, with the blood of Jesus cleansing your shame.

Healed and healing,
The Relentless Fight

PS: For further study on how Jesus heals our shame, check out the excellent book Rid of My Disgrace.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What is The Relentless Fight?

"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you..." - 1 Corinthians 15:1 (ESV)

You've just failed. You're discouraged and feeling guilt and shame wash over you.

As you begin to retrace your steps, you realize (so obviously) how you made the same mistakes and wound up back in the same cesspool of your same besetting sin. So frustrating!

So you resolve to fight... "Yeah, I'm gonna fight. Fight this sin. Fight it HARDER. More accountability, more Scripture, more prayer, more books and sermons and seminars and conferences. More discipline! I'm just too weak, right? Need to be sober-minded, need to be more vigilant, need more boundaries or protection or something."

Let me say this as gently as I can: You're fighting the wrong battle, Christian.

All that guilt, all that shame, all that anger and frustration is motivating you to fight your sin harder. And sure, fighting sin is good, but it is SECONDARY. If you expend your energies fighting your sin, you will wear yourself out. You will lose energy and motivation long before you see your sin dead at your feet. It's immensely difficult to pick the sword back up and run into battle when your guilt and shame and discouragement are so overwhelming.

Here's the primary battle: Fighting to remember the Gospel. 

That is FIRST. That's the most important fight. That's the only one that really matters in the end. The fight to remember the gospel: That's the larger war. Fighting the sin? Heck, that's just the little battle skirmishes here and there. They come, they go. But remembering the GOSPEL is the crucial victory that will turn the tide.

Here's what it practically looks like: Let your guilt DRIVE you to the cross to receive the forgiveness that comes through Christ's blood (Ephesians 1:7). Let your shame DRIVE you to the cross to receive the cleansing and washing that comes through Christ's blood (1 John 1:7, Revelation 7:14). Run back to the HUGE promises that are found in Scripture about your new identity (2 Corinthians 5:17), about your adoption by grace as a son (Ephesians 1:5), about how God WILL bring about your sanctification (Philippians 1:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:24), and about how God's grace super-abounds greater than your sin (Romans 5:20). Repeat these truths back to yourself. Scream them out loud!! Claim them with defiance. Call a brother or sister and beg them to preach the gospel of salvation for sinners to your sinful heart! Pray that God restores to you the joy of your salvation! (Psalm 51:12) Fight this battle relentlessly, with endurance and passion and everything in you. Fight like heaven.

So what is The Relentless Fight? It's the never-ending, hardcore, raging battle for REMEMBERING THE GOSPEL. Once the gospel has been secured, the encouragement and endurance and motivation to keep fighting will return to you, but this time with all the POWER and JOY of the Cross fueling it. It's primarily a fight to believe the gospel. Not to fight the sin. That's why the motto and anthem of The Relentless Fight is: Remember the Gospel, Keep Fighting.

Remember the Gospel brothers and sisters,
The Relentless Fight

Monday, October 15, 2012

You Are A Champion In Christ

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Corinthians 15:57 (ESV)

Have you seen the Old Spice commercials on YouTube for their new Champion deodorant and body wash? They're pretty funny. so make sure to check out the video below if you haven't seen them yet.

In the commercials, a puny little guy listens to the deodorant speak to him encouragements and truths about himself. As he listens and repeats these he actually BECOMES what he is speaking. And he grows a beard by the end of swimming a lap. It's hilarious.

But there's a larger spiritual lesson that Old Spice is picturing here very well: We tend to believe what we listen to.

And if we listen to the Scriptures, they will have a profound effect on how we live our lives. In fact, as we listen and repeat God's truth, we will actually BECOME what we are speaking - not because hearing and speaking it has any power - but because what God says IS TRUE, and if we line ourselves up with that truth and live in the truth, it will work! (There's nothing magical about "speaking things into existence", the Bible is not The Secret, c'mon...)

So here's an example:
You're hanging out in your dorm doing some studies late at night, and you're stressing about a few items due that week. Traditionally this has been a difficult time for you, because you're tempted to go to [insert favorite idol here: food, video games, porn, cutting, Facebook, alcohol] as your stress-reliever and comforter. Satan starts telling you that it's no use resisting this temptation, because you're a failure anyway, you're an addict, you're a slave to your sin, and you my-as-well just have a little fun. How do you respond? Speak the truth of God's Word, like Romans 6:6 "We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin." You are NOT a slave to sin! You are FREE! As you repeat these truths, you are re-energized in your fight against sin, and call a friend to pray with you....
So here's the application: plug your headphones into the Bible, and start repeating back the truth you're hearing. Renew your mind as Paul says in Romans 12:2. Believe what God says, that "we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:37), believe that God has set aside our record of debts and taken care of it through the Cross (Colossians 2:14), and believe that God has equipped you with everything you need to fight your sin and live in godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Listen and speak and believe God's truth... and then you will live it.

We are the champions,
The Relentless Fight

PS: The Old Spice ad can be viewed on YouTube below. Enjoy.

T-shirts are Here!

Great news! Just received The Relentless Fight t-shirts.

Want one? Here's how to get it:
  1. Fill out the order form. And if you would, please take a minute to give your feedback on two simple questions about the blog. Click: T-shirt Order Form Link
  2. Cost is $13. We'll figure out the best way to get you your shirt and for you to make payment. Low-tech :) 
If there's a ton of interest and we run out of shirts, then we'll make a second round order!

Wearing the reminder,
The Relentless Fight

Monday, October 1, 2012

Punch Satan in the Face

But He answered, "It is written..." - Matthew 4:4

How do you fight temptation? It seems to come to us when we're weakest. Sure, we talk a good game when we're feeling strong. But when that temptation comes? Same failure. Again.

Jesus gives us a great example in Matthew 4, when Satan comes to Him with three temptations as He's fasting in the wilderness. How does Jesus respond? Three times He says, "It is written" and quotes specific Scripture that counteracts the lie with God's truth. Eventually Satan leaves Him.

Very simply, let's take a lesson from Jesus for when we face temptation. There's two parts to this strategy:

  1. Figure out what your specific temptation is. It's not always clear, so think about it and write it down. Maybe ask a friend to help you see what it is. 
  2. Research what specific Scripture speaks to that temptation (search on or ask a godly friend who knows the Bible). Think about it. Write those Scriptures down. Memorize them.
As you're thinking through your temptations and your Scriptures, you can pair them up to look like this:

So next time you're tempted? Punch Satan in the face. Quote specific Scripture and make him run. To quote E.V. Hill, "hit 'em!!".

Keep Punching,
The Relentless Fight

Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Review: Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices

Banner of Truth Trust is an organization founded in 1957 committed to re-publishing solid biblical works from the Reformation and Puritan eras of Church history that otherwise would be lost in our feel-good Christian book market of prosperity and humanistic self-improvement. First published in 1652, Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices was written by Thomas Brooks, a classic Puritan preacher known for drawing his illustrations from the Scriptures themselves and classical literature.

Precious Remedies is being highlighted here on The Relentless Fight because of its rock-solid strategies for fighting sin and temptation. Here's a sampling of 3 highlights from the book:
  1. Satan Presents the Bait and Hides the Hook - Satan loves to feature and display the promised benefits of sin. "Porn will make you feel good! That chocolate cake will be delicious! Cutting yourself will make the pain go away!" But Satan works overtime to hide the consequences of the sin: addiction, isolation from God, discouragement, condemnation. Says Thomas Brooks, "He promises the soul honor, pleasure, profit, but pays the soul with the greatest contempt, shame, and loss that can be." (page 30) What then is the remedy? SEE the hook! Keep a distance from sin instead of toying with it, and remember that sin starts sweet but turns bitter in the end. Yes, our sin promises great and lofty things, but after we've taken that bite it gives us only sorrow, loss, and death. 
  2. You're Not Happy? You Must Not Be a Christian - In this life we have ups and downs. And Satan, like a total jerk, loves to hit us while we're down. One strategy he uses is to convince us in our depressed state that we're not a real Christian, and any joy we used to have is NEVER coming back. It's hopeless. The remedy? Remember that the loss of comfort doesn't mean the loss of GRACE, there are a host of examples in Scripture of God's chosen people suffering deeply (Psalm 88, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10) even Jesus Himself in Matthew 26:36-45! Meditate on the joys that are still yours in the Gospel, and strengthen yourself with perseverance... the end is so near in sight! God will provide the comfort in the end, and will sustain you UNTIL the end.
  3. Sin Dies Slowly. So Remember the Gospel and Keep Fighting - Satan loves to bring the simple charge, "You're still struggling with the same sins. Therefore God is not at work and you're still a slave to sin." Yet in God's sovereign wisdom, He is pleased to give sin a death-wound BUT not completely remove its presence from the lives of His saints, "something is still left as a monument of divine grace, and to keep us humble, wakeful, and watchful, and that our armour may be still kept on, and our weapons always in our hands." (page 167) God makes no promise to His people that they are not capable of falling into the same sins again and again in THIS life. Indeed, there is something that He desires to teach us in the midst of our besetting struggle: To keep us humble, to depend more on the Lord, to become disgusted with this fallen world and long for heaven, to better understand the NECESSITY of the Cross, and to have compassion for others who also struggle. How then are we sustained amidst the discouragement of constant battle? We must remember the hope-filled gospel of Christ's promise of "No Condemnation!" (Romans 8:1) and then persevere in our fighting of sin in THIS strength until God ends the fight
Want more? Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices can be purchased on Banner of Truth Trust's website, or WTS Books, or Amazon. One note to the reader: It was written 360 years ago, so the English can be a challenge to read. But it's worth it.

Fighting to not be ignorant of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11),
The Relentless Fight

Friday, July 20, 2012

Taking Down the Paterno Statue is about Atonement

Right now there are rumors and opinions flying around about what should be done with the Joe Paterno statue outside of Beaver Stadium at Penn State University. Some say take it down, and others say keep it up, but neither side is apathetic.

What is it about that statue that makes folks want to tear it down? Why are people discussing the NCAA putting the Death Penalty on PSU football? Why were Graham Spanier and the late Joe Paterno fired in the Fall? Why did Nike remove Joe Paterno's name from their child care center last Thursday?

These are complex issues, with no easy answers, but perhaps we can examine a few of the biblical themes that are swirling around here:

  • Righteousness: Joe Paterno did many good things for the Penn State community, donated millions, and contributed to the wealth and blessing of thousands. And yet this one sinful omission destroys his record, and THIS scandal is what he is remembered for. All of those righteous acts seem to be erased in the public's eye. Like an ink blot on a wedding dress, our eyes are drawn to this imperfection. 
  • Justice: Justice must be done for these victims! Folks are outraged at the coverup from the highest Penn State officials. What should be done? No amount of money or apologies or firings will restore the broken lives of these children, or clean up the shame that has come upon the University. 
  • Atonement: And so something must be done. SOMETHING. Metaphorical "blood" must be spilled. Heads must roll. People know and see these things intuitively, and this statue is one of the first items chosen for atonement. It represents the man, and by tearing it down, it is a punishment for the wrongs committed. Wrong has occurred, and justice must be done. 
Do you see how CLOSE people are to understanding the gospel?? 

We may have done many righteous things, but whatever wrong is on our record overshadows all the good. We can never measure up! In the courts of God, compared to HIS perfection, we stand condemned. And so justice must be done! We have failed God's standard, we have rebelled against Him, and we have belittled His glory and His name. What must be done to atone for these great sins? We must die. Our blood must be spilled. Atonement must be made. 

And here is where the gospel of Jesus begins to shine so brightly! Jesus was the only human ever to live that was completely RIGHTEOUS. Oh how we long for a leader that is GOOD! Jesus never committed rape, never covered up sin, never slandered, never lied, never lusted, never was prideful, and never was selfish. And yet! He did not receive the just blessing that He deserved, but rather suffered unjustly the death of a criminal by crucifixion on the cross. He was shamed, humiliated, even though He was the only one worthy of receiving true honor. But Jesus' death on the cross was the atonement for OUR sin. He dies our death, His blood is spilled in our place. This is the gospel! We get His righteousness, He gets our justice, and His death is our atonement. We are forgiven and reconciled to God! 1 Peter 3:18 says "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God"

Here's the challenge: In all this talk of righteousness, justice, and atonement, please see the gospel. Remember the gospel. See how these themes are wrapped up in the cross of Jesus Christ. Give Him glory for how He has saved YOU, and then in your joy share that amazing good news with others.

Glorying in the atonement of Jesus Christ,
The Relentless Fight

UPDATE 7/23/12: Wow, so much has happened since this post on Friday 7/20. Mainly the removal of the Paterno statue on Sunday morning (empty space pictured below), and the NCAA sanctions this morning, the latter which resulted in students' jaws literally dropping in shock.

What do we make of these new events? What biblical themes do we see afresh?

  • Punishment without Restoration: The removal of the statue and the NCAA sanctions are swift and severe punishment. Yet our hearts are not healed. It shows that we demand a penalty for the crime. But! It doesn't heal. It doesn't restore, and folks sense this emptiness. Yes, "blood" has been spilled, but it just doesn't seem enough.... It is justice with no mercy. Consider the contrast in the Cross: God punishes His Son for OUR sin, thus delivering justice. Yet this justice is restorative to us, as the Cross sets aside our record of debt, reconciles us to God, and gives us new life in Christ.
  • Injustice and Scandal: Many students' reactions seem to focus on the injustice of punishing the student athletes, the school, the town economy. It's a scandal! And yet, let's consider this in contrast to the Cross. With Penn State, one man's sins are being paid for by many people who had no involvement. But what is the Cross? ONE truly innocent Man is unjustly punished for many sins! You wanna talk about injustice and scandal?? The God whom WE sinned against bears OUR punishment and is murdered by an angry and envious mob. He didn't just have his statue taken down or his alma mater affected... He was shamed and stripped naked. He had nails driven through His hands and feet. He had a spear thrust through His side. THAT is a scandal. And yet it's the greatest news in the world, that through the scandal of the Cross we might be forgiven of our many sins. 
  • Idolatry and Worldly Sorrow: The great critique has been that the PSU leadership upheld the glory of the football program to such an extent that they were willing to sacrifice children and cover up abuse. Is this not idolatry? Does it not remind you of the child sacrifices to the Ammonite god Molech? Idolatry requires sacrifices. Even the NCAA recognizes that there is a culture of honor and protection for the football program that led to the coverup of this abuse. But here is the deeper sadness of this idolatry: Now that the idol has fallen, people's hearts are unchanged! Yes, people are sad, tears are being shed, but doesn't it seem like this whole thing is STILL about football? The apostle Paul makes a distinction in 2 Corinthians 7 between worldly sorrow and godly grief. Worldly sorrow is when our idols fail us and we are left devastated. End of story. Godly grief is when our idols fail us and we recognize that we have been foolishly worshiping a false god, which causes us to repent and turn back again to the living God in contrition, appealing for mercy. Only the Holy Spirit is able to bring godly repentance, and so let us PRAY earnestly that God would use all this sadness to cause some to turn back again to the living God. Because of the Cross, we are able to cast away our idols to receive forgiveness and freedom.

Here's the challenge, again: SEE the biblical themes. SEE the superior glory of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Rejoice in it, and share it with others. 

More and more amazed at the glory of the Cross,
The Relentless Fight

Monday, July 2, 2012

Put OFF/ Put ON

"in reference to your former manner of life... lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit... be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." - Ephesians 4:22-24

For those who are in Christ, they are no longer who they used to be, but have been remade as new creations! Sometimes we fall into the danger of only doing half of this command: put off the old, put on the new.
  1. Put OFF the old: Stop looking at porn. Stop overeating. Stop idolizing academics. Stop living in fear. Stop your harsh words. Stop your boasting. Stop your selfishness. These things are killing you!
  2. Put ON the new: Start walking in sexual purity and begin to honor your spouse (present or future). Start honoring the Lord with your eating and begin to be thankful. Start exalting Christ as God instead of your grades and begin to work hard as an act of worship to Him. Start living by faith and begin to take bold steps for His kingdom. Start listening and begin to use gentle speech just as God has done with you. Start to boast in the cross and begin to grow in humility. Start to serve others and begin to have a heart of love and sacrifice just as Christ has served His enemies. These things will give you LIFE!
What God calls us to is radical transformation! In the very areas where we have been weak, and wrong, and sinful, He calls us to be strong, be right, and be holy. Imagine the transforming effect this would have on the world, if liars became champions of truth, if adulterers became standards of marital faithfulness, if gossipers became spreaders of encouragement?

But you may respond, "Okay, gotta buck up and get to work. STOP being dumb and evil, START being good and holy. Right, got it." And perhaps you're only seeing the moral command: stop being bad, start being good. What is wrong with that? Simply: we can't do it. The only motivation and empowering that we will have to walk in newness of life is to realize two things: 1. The sin that we are putting off has been REMOVED from us by the death of Christ (nailed to the cross!), and 2. The righteousness that we are putting on has been GIVEN to us by the grace of God (gifted justification!). So the command to put off/put on is really just a command of: LIVE how you really ARE in Christ already.

Here are three questions for your own application: What do you need to put off of your old ways? And secondly: What do you need to start to put on? And always check your motives and heart: Am I being motivated by moral self-improvement and guilt? Or the grace and redemption and FREEDOM of the Cross?

Thankful for God's transforming redemption,
The Relentless Fight

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Vulnerable Lion

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellows
hip with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin."
(1 John 1:7 ESV)

Have you ever experienced this? You're in a small group after church, discussing application of the sermon. It was hard-hitting, and yet nobody is willing to admit that they're really struggling with sin. The air is light and fluffy, shallow almost, but there's an underlying tension of, "I'd be willing to share... but I'm scared."

But then someone, maybe the leader, or maybe just that shy girl who doesn't talk much, opens her mouth. She tentatively shares that she is really struggling, even has some big questions of how this relates to God's sovereignty. She wonders if she's really forgiven, since she keeps failing.

Immediately the air in the room changes! The tension is released and folks start to open up. They struggle too! The conversation buzzes, and different people around the circle begin to encourage one another, correct defeatist thinking, and share their own experiences. Grace is emphasized and the cross is exalted.

Praise God! Wouldn't it be great if this could characterize most of our small groups? Our one-on-ones? Our men's groups? Deep, vulnerable sharing, with the comforts of the gospel. But how can we enjoy this sweet fellowship?

Enjoying this honest grace-filled culture requires a "Vulnerable Lion", a bold forgiven sinner who is willing to be the first to admit, "I've got brokenness. I've got darkness. But I'm trusting in the cross of Christ. (And you can too)." How can you be a vulnerable lion? Perhaps 1 John 1:7 provides the answer, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." That choice to enter the light, to be known, to be exposed is a BIG risk. But because of the gospel, we find two amazing comforts in the light: 1. Jesus' blood COVERS our sin, 2. We GAIN fellowship (not rejection). What glorious promises! And the reason why we, as sinners, are able to be vulnerable lions is because of Jesus. He is the ultimate Vulnerable Lion who had no darkness at all, yet exposed Himself to shame, disgrace, and rejection, so that guilty sinners might be cleansed by His blood and transformed to be vulnerable lions like Him.

Here's the challenge: Be a bold and vulnerable lion. Take that first step to admit your need for the Cross. And it will give LIFE to others.

Praying that you would walk in the light,
The Relentless Fight

Monday, May 7, 2012

#Jesus2012 Let's Make Jesus Famous

#Kony2012 was a viral marketing masterpiece, exploding on the social sphere in mere hours. The YouTube video had over 74 million views in ONE week. Invisible Children accomplished their initial goal, they have made Joseph Kony famous.

But let's think about this in a bigger picture view. Let's say, best case scenario plays out. What happens? We raise huge global awareness, we find him, and we bring him to justice. What happens the next day? 10,000 wicked men and women sprout up to take his place. Same thing with the sex trafficking industry, "If we rescued every victim today, we'd wake up to a demand for 100+ million new slaves tomorrow." It sounds depressing, but the reality is that something is deeply, profoundly wrong with the human race. Our hearts are sick, broken, twisted, and it seems hopeless to stand against the stream of injustice, hatred, and violence that is laying waste to our globe.

Should we give up? No. But perhaps we should shift our gaze and make a distinction between primary and secondary issues. Here's the point of this post: Kony is secondary. All social justice issues are secondary. All humanitarian missions, all awareness campaigns, and even every church pot luck, they're all secondary. The ONE thing that is primary is the fame of Jesus, gloriously displayed in the gospel of Christ crucified for sinners. 

If this glorious gospel takes second place, we LOSE whatever we've placed on the throne where only Jesus belongs. We lose justice. We lose righteousness. We lose HOPE. But if we keep Jesus in the place of primary honor, and labor with our lives to make HIM famous, not giving up the secondary issues but letting them be motivated BY the primary issue, we will win not just the battle for justice with Kony, but the larger war against injustice everywhere. Do you see the difference? Justice for Kony is a fruit that comes from the tree of justice and righteousness that grows out of the gospel.

Our deepest problem is the human heart is sinfully wicked. We have rebelled against our good Creator, and the fallout from that treason has devastated us for centuries. If ignorance and lack of resources are the problem with the human race, then awareness and mobilization is the solution. But if sinful broken relationship with the holy God is the core problem, then the reconciling, forgiving, atoning, sanctifying Cross of Jesus Christ is the core solution. Don't confuse the fruit with the tree. You must go deep enough to fix the real underlying problems.

So for 2012, here's the challenge: Let's make Jesus famous. #Jesus2012. Because here's His best case scenario: We preach the gospel to the ends of the earth and then Jesus comes back! Not only will redemption, reconciliation, mercy, and justice begin to coat this earth in healing WHILE we preach the gospel, but when we accomplish our task, and Jesus is truly famous among every tribe and tongue and nation, then we shall have our Returning King. On that day we will celebrate true and lasting justice, joy, and redemption. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

Making Jesus famous,
The Relentless Fight

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Cross is for Failures

"To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect." - John Owen

It has been stated that all the major world philosophies basically teach the same thing: be nice to people, don't kill each other, do good, seek justice, the Golden Rule. This includes non-theistic philosophies such as secular humanism and atheism.

Although this moral similarity is sometimes an argument AGAINST Christianity, perhaps it's the first step in a powerful argument FOR Christianity? Let's assume this overlap of morality between all philosophies. We all agree that we should be good people! Fantastic, let us begin. But this immediately leads to one very simple question: Do we do this? 

Do we succeed at our own morality? Consider the simple Golden Rule: treat others as you would want them to treat you. Pursue the joy and success of others with the same gusto and commitment that you pursue your own joy and success. Could you accomplish this even for 1 day? This leads to a devastating question for all of us no matter our philosophy: What happens when we fail? 

This is where Christianity stands apart. Whereas other philosophies would encourage us to pick ourselves up and keep trying, Christianity inverts the whole economy. Rather then placing the burden on us to morally improve ourselves, Jesus Christ enters human history and takes the burden FOR us. Rather than us working our way towards a perfect standard, The Perfect Standard worked His way to us.

And so Christianity emphasizes not our work but Christ's work. Not our perfection but His. Not our ongoing performance but Jesus' finished work. See the difference? It is not Jesus' teaching that saves us. Far from it! No, it is Jesus' WORK that saves us. His righteous life lived in our place, and His sinners' death died in our place. Paul wrote, "And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness" (Romans 4:5 ESV). It is all about Jesus and His Cross.

And so let us boast in the cross and resurrection on this Easter Sunday! Hallelujah! We are failures, and that does not damn us, but rather causes us to become eligible for GRACE. God saw our pitiful state, and sent His Son as our atoning sacrifice in our place. The Resurrection proves the victory of the cross of Jesus; and the victory of the cross is good news for failures.

Boasting in the Cross,
The Relentless Fight

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Post-Event Crash

Have you ever had this experience?

You go to a Christian event. Maybe it's a Bible study, a big weekend conference, a church service. You get all pumped up, feel so encouraged spiritually, your heart is stirred to serve the Lord, you see all your favorite friends...

Then you get home. And you CRASH. 

You're tired, feeling spiritually dead, and tragically you turn to any number of idols to give you comfort: food, video games, anger, porn, or just dark discouragement. "Dang it!" you think. "All that great stuff I learned, and now look at me. Not applying one word of it! Pathetic..."

This experience is far too common among Christians to just be a fluke. It's almost a guarantee that after you have a big spiritual high you face the temptation of a big spiritual crash. It happened to Elijah after Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18... he was in utter despair and felt alone. It even happened to Jesus after his baptism... He faced 40 days in the wilderness tempted by Satan, in Luke 4.

Here are three practical suggestions for how to turn to the Lord and beat the post-event crash:

  1. Anticipate the Crash: Recognize and anticipate that you WILL crash after the event, so don't be surprised by it. Consider the story of Jesus in Luke 4, Satan attacked him at His weakest state. Expect it. Plan for the temptation. Text your friends for accountability. Set up safe-guards. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:11 that we are not ignorant of Satan's schemes.
  2. Remember the Gospel: When you're crashing, you're coming off of a high that you couldn't sustain. You start to feel the distance between your actions and what you were just learning about. Normal life starts to set in. You have laundry. And those unfinished dishes you left. So what you had felt at the event (excitement, "yeah I can do this!") has now turned into discouragement ("I'll never be able to do this...") And just there, you've forgotten the gospel. See, here's the great news! It's not up to you. Yes you're a hypocrite, yes you're a failure, but Christ came into the world to save sinners, hypocrites, and failures. Come to Jesus, look to His forgiving wounds, cling to His cross, and receive the new life that He gives by GRACE. 
  3. Keep Fighting: As you remember the joy-filled gospel of God's grace, you will become motivated and hopeful. "God can change me!" So get some sleep, write down some of your applications from the event, and then get up tomorrow morning ready to fight for God's glory. Whatever God was stirring in your heart... DO IT.

May God strengthen you and be your comfort, in the darkest of times.
The Relentless Fight

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Don't Conceal... Confess and Forsake

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
(Proverbs 28:13 ESV)

So simple. Only 17 words in English. And yet here we have a weight of truth; here we have freedom held out. These words are priceless.

We tend to think that if nobody knows about our secret sins, then we can handle it. We can make it. Basically, we think we'll prosper. But what does Proverbs 28:13 say? We won't. When our hidden sins are covered up and hushed up we think we're getting away with it. But these sins are killing us inside. Imagine the distance relationally between you and a friend, when you're interrupted by her phone call during a binge. "Hey, just wanted to call to see how you're doing" and you choose to answer "oh fine...." You are hiding! You are in the darkness, because of the terror that you have of others discovering your sin. You can't let anyone know. It would ruin you...

But there is hope. The second half of this verse provides amazing promise for those who would believe it. This verse says don't conceal... but instead confess and forsake. Let's unpack those:

  • Confess: Admit that you are wrong! Agree with God's assessment: this is sin. Be honest with others about the reality and depth of your sin. Speak clearly, don't soften the language.
  • Forsake: Turn away from your beloved sin. Don't embrace it any longer, but cast it away as the poison that it is. Don't hold on to it. Run! Betray your idol!

And what is the result that Scripture promises if we would confess and forsake? We will obtain mercy. Mercy! Oh, all of our fears are blown away! We thought that if we would confess our sins that we would be shamed and hated. We thought that if we would forsake our sins that the LIFE they were giving us would be cut off and we would shrivel up. But no! We obtain mercy, acceptance, and new life. We prosper

How is this possible? How can we obtain mercy and life when justice would demand our punishment and death? The answer: The unjust death of Christ. 

At the cross, our sins (known and hidden) were placed on Him, and He bore the penalty for all of our transgression. Therefore, when we confess our sins, we are not fearful that God will punish us. We have confidence that He has ALREADY punished Christ! There is no wrath left, only LOVE. And that is what motivates us to confess and forsake our sins. We confess them to the God who has already forgiven, and we forsake them so that we might run to His loving arms. 

Confessing and forsaking,
The Relentless Fight

Monday, January 16, 2012

The God of Entertainment

Our culture in America, especially among younger people, is focused on self-entertainment. This is one of the reasons why the smartphone industry has exploded, along with Netflix, Redbox, YouTube, live online console gaming, and a thousand other media services. We WANT to be entertained, all the time, anytime. With anything we want. And in high speed so we don't have to wait more than a few seconds.

When we don't have it, we get angry. "What? Your wifi is down? I'm going to Starbucks across the street..." or "Dang it! My iPhone doesn't have 3G service out here, and I'm down to whatever that lame EDGE is or something... sooooo sloooowww.... ugh..." We give our time and energy and money to this pursuit of entertainment. When we're tired, or angry, or aimless, or sad, we go to entertainment to be... entertained! Distracted, amused, to waste time and just "dink around" online...

This affection for entertainment, the anger at its absence, the amount of resources poured into it, all are characteristic of a heightened love to the level of worship. This entertainment thing is an idol! It has taken the place of God. It consumes our affections, and we run to it for satisfaction and comfort. That fiery Old Testament prophet Jeremiah speaks to this kind of substitute worship and idolatry:

Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the LORD,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
(Jeremiah 2:12-13 ESV)

We have forsaken the Lord, and have pursued something ELSE to slake our thirst. This is idolatry. We can do it with anything, but it seems that this god of entertainment is a personal favorite of many.

And here's the really dangerous part: this entertainment idol is largely under the radar, and just sits in the darkness of our unawareness, thriving and growing and throbbing in its strangle-hold over us. Its roots are deep in our selfish hearts that long for SELF-pleasure. We don't want to love God, we don't want to serve others, we don't want to have to suffer the pain of an unfulfilled desire in NOT having immediate pleasure. And in our impatience and prideful DEMAND for entertainment we sacrifice our time, our money, and even other people in our worship of OURSELVES at the altar of entertainment. This comes out in a thousand different ways: video games, movies, porn, Facebook, Twitter, FailBlog, overeating or indulgent eating, Funny or Die, YouTube, Netflix, etc.  This is disgusting, and we need to repent of our hedonistic gorging of SELF and instead gorge ourselves on the Only One who can truly satisfy us! Sure, we could fight against these little demon predator drones, but they're just flying out of the mothership of selfishness and entertainment idolatry. Let's attack the mothership :)

Thankfully Jesus Christ has come to take the punishment for selfish self-worshipers like ourselves. He died our death, He atoned for our sin. And in doing so, He has set us free from our bondage to self-worship and has liberated us to be true worshipers of our Father in Heaven! In His presence is fullness of joy and everlasting pleasures (Psalm 16:11) that FAR surpass the silly little pleasures of a 20 minute sitcom.

Let us look to the freedom that Christ offers, and fight against our selfish lusts!

Fighting for joy in the Lord,
The Relentless Fight

PS: Not for self-entertainment ;) but for some TRUTH to energize you... Check out this YouTube clip by John Piper, "Is God Better Than Sex?"