Monday, November 4, 2013

The Armory

"with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left" - 2 Corinthians 6:7

Do you want some solid weapons for the fight against sexual sin? Welcome to The Armory.

Scriptures on Sexuality: Nothing is as solid as the WORD of God. Get in the Bible to see God's heart and plan for sexuality. 
  • Genesis 1-3
  • Psalm 51
  • Proverbs 1-7
  • Song of Solomon
  • Matt 5:27-30
  • 1 Corinthians 5-7
  • Ephesians 5
  • 1 Thess 4:1-11
  • 1 Timothy 5:2
  • Hebrews 13:4

Recommended Books: Solid resources for the fight, spend the time pouring over these. 

Helpful websites: There are TONS of resources, articles, books, sermons, and video content on these websites. Bookmark them. 

YouTube songs and clips that will get you pumped: Watch them.

Internet Software and Tools: There are several methods for fighting for sexual purity online. Some programs block porn, others log your activity and send it to an accountability partner. No filter is perfect, but it's a helpful "speed bump" to slow you down and help to give time for conviction and repentance. 
  • Safe Eyes: A paid subscription filter and instant alert system
  • Covenant Eyes: A paid subscription filter software. 
  • K9 Web Protection: Free web filtering software. 
  • X3Watch: A paid subscription that logs your internet activity and alerts your accountability partners once a week of any suspicious sites.
  • Curbi: Designed for parents to monitor & protect their kids' mobile devices, there's an Android & iPhone app. 
  • Adblock Plus: removes ads on your web browser, like on the side board of Facebook. 
  • OpenDNS: filters all your web traffic on your wireless router. Highly recommended!
  • If you have an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch: You will need to disable Safari and use the custom apps (for instance, X3watch) in order for the filtering to happen. Alternately, you can use the built-in adult website filtering for Safari by going to Settings>General>Restrictions>Websites>Limit Adult Content.
  • Note that if you know the password for these filters, obviously you can shut it down and get around it.  That defeats the purpose. So consider having a close friend know the password, or if an apartment has OpenDNS on their wireless router, have 2 roommates know half the password each! 

Top shelf sermons: There are so many out there, but here's just a few of the best. Listen to them. 

Hopefully this list is helpful to YOU. But think... who ELSE might benefit from it? Share this Armory with them! Maybe pick a book together with a group of friends who are struggling and read it together. Listen to a sermon and post it on social media. Start a Bible study with some friends on what the Bible says about sex. The resources are there. Now it's YOUR turn.

ANTHEM,
The Relentless Fight

Monday, October 14, 2013

Make No Provision for the Flesh

"But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." - Romans 13:14

Do you sometimes wonder why your struggle with sin is so strong? Are you at a loss as to where your temptations are coming from? Does the fight just seem to hit you when you're weakest?

The solution to our sin is always the gospel, because no matter how many strategies we learn we are never strong enough to fight on our own. But in Christ we are new creations, and by the Holy Spirit we can fight our sin with the MANY strategies He has given us! One insight that could help turn the tide for you is beginning to see where you are making provision for sin. Sin doesn't just "happen" with no context. For our repeated struggles there is a complex structure of causes: a supply-chain. So the question becomes: Where is your supply chain? And how can you rain down destruction and interrupt that system?

We are not ignorant of Satan's schemes (2 Cor 2:11), so we can aptly prepare for those dangerous killzones. WHEN will you be tempted? Prepare yourself for those times, maybe text some friends for accountability and ask them to check in during that time. WHERE will you be tempted? Is there a particular space that often is harder? Prepare for that time, remove opportunity for temptation. Avoid situations before you even get in them. This requires wisdom.

Ask yourself: HOW are you providing for your flesh? How are you giving opportunity and creating a space for your sin to thrive? Every little bit adds up. Maybe you don't yet feel convicted by your sin because "Well, it's not TOO bad" and you're just feeding it in little ways each day. But those little things add up, and they do damage to your soul. You're making provision. You're outfitting your sin to be stronger. It's like giving them little snacks that sustain their life. We need to be starving out our sin. 

Romans 13:14 calls us to do TWO things: To remove the opportunities for the flesh, and to put on Christ instead. Basically it's the Bible's call of put off/put on.

Just get rid of things. It isn't worth it.
  • Romance books causing you to be discontent and fantasize? Throw them out. 
  • Xbox giving opportunity for escapism through video games instead of finding comfort in the Lord? Take a fast for a season and give your power cord to a friend. 
  • Struggling with internet pornography? Get a filter, and get some accountability, or simply remove your laptop, smartphone, tablets from your room altogether and give them to your roommate for the evening. 
  • Tempted to go towards food as comfort instead of the Lord? Throw out Ben & Jerry's from your fridge, and ask your roommates to keep you accountable

Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ. It IS worth it.
  • Schedule a time to get in the Word each day. If you don't feel like it, just force feed yourself the Word. Spend regular time in prayer. Create a supply chain for Jesus. 
  • Write reminders of Jesus and His promises. Write them on sticky notes, or your iPhone reminders app, or your mirror, or your desktop wallpaper, or posters around your room. Speak them to yourself. 
  • Commit yourself to regular church involvement. Not just every Sunday but connecting relationally to other church members so they can encourage and exhort you. Invite folks into your life. Hear truth preached from the Bible each week. Get involved in a deeper small group Bible study. Make provision for TRUTH and the work of the Holy Spirit. 
Just as every little bit of sin adds up in making provision for the flesh, so every little bit of putting on Christ adds up to make provision for the Holy Spirit. Do not grow weary! Endure in repentance. 

Fighting the supply chain,
The Relentless Fight

Monday, October 7, 2013

Now You Have Two Problems

"O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame" - Jeremiah 17:13

Have you ever been in this scenario? Your day is going pretty well, but then something comes up that discourages you, maybe a difficult conversation, or a bad grade on a paper. Maybe you're stressed because you realize you're late on an assignment or have failed a commitment. Perhaps you're just bored, angry, lonely, or in deep pain. And instead of turning to the Lord, you turn to your favorite idol. It promises comfort, distraction, pleasure, life... and you believe it, and you drink deeply.

But it betrays you! It promised comfort but it only lasted for a few minutes... and now you feel guilt for your sin against God, shame for the dark things you've given in to, distance from God because you've rejected Him, anger for ANOTHER failure, more discouragement as you fear you'll never change, AND you've opened yourself up to Satan's accusations and torture as he mocks you.

Crap! Now you have two problems. The initial one, and now the junk of your wrong response. In Jeremiah 2:13 God says, "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." This is what happens. We have our first original problem that has us thirsty, but instead of turning to the Fountain of Living Waters, we've turned to a broken cistern, and self-medicated with porn, cutting, food, anger, video games or procrastination. It's about as dumb as dealing with a breakup by getting drunk and fighting people. In the morning you still have a busted relationship, AND you have a busted face. Now you have two problems.

See, this is what our sin does to us! And this is how we respond to life when we try to be our own saviors. We just end up making it worse, like little children who have spilled a bucket of paint but now are trying to clean it up themselves. It just gets more messy.

Thankfully, God has provided a solution in the gospel! Your sinful second response is paid for by the blood of Christ. And the gospel ALSO fixes whatever your first problem was. It's a double-barrel shotgun, blowing away two-for-one, simple as that. Jesus forgives the guilt and cleanses the shame of your sinful response (the second problem) AND provides the resources to resolve whatever your first problem was. Such great news!

So what does this look like practically?
  1. Confess and repent for the second problem (the sinful response): Turn to the Lord, and admit that you screwed up. Admit that you can't save yourself, and when you try to... THIS is what happens. Ask for His forgiveness, and REMEMBER the gospel: God has forgiven you in Christ, God has made you a new creation, God has wiped your slate clean, and you are LOVED. He doesn't hold anything against you!
  2. Turn to the Lord for the first problem: Now think back to whatever the first problem was...  Pain? Anxiety? Loneliness? Sadness? How can you turn to the Lord in this? Perhaps there is no easy solution but simply a call to wait for the Lord and be patient (Psalm 27:14). Or maybe just cry and process with the Lord as He draws near to your broken heart (Psalm 34:18). Maybe there's some comfort that you can draw from His promises, like Philippians 4:6-7, or Isaiah 41:10. Pour out your heart to HIM, and drink deeply from His Word. 
  3. Praise God for His grace! Finally, make sure to set your heart right by THANKING God for His grace and goodness for BOTH problems. He doesn't reject you for rejecting Him. And He doesn't leave you to drown in your suffering. He is loving, caring, and meets us in our junk with HIS clean up strategy.
Fighting both problems with the Gospel,
The Relentless Fight

Monday, September 23, 2013

#GetOpen

Craig Gross is the founder of XXXchurch.com, and has been helping folks find healing from sexual sin for over 10 years. In July 2013 he published Open: What Happens When You Get Real, Get Honest, and Get Accountable.

Open is being highlighted here on The Relentless Fight because of its challenging call to radical honesty, and how it equips people with strategies for accountability. Battling sin with brothers and sisters by your side is vital in the fight, and this book tells you how to do it.

Craig Gross is a Christian and has written other books that even have Jesus in the title, however in this book Craig does not mention Jesus or explicitly build his case from Scripture. The strategies are biblical and helpful, but only AFTER you build on the foundation and power of the gospel. The motto of The Relentless Fight is to "Remember the gospel and keep fighting", and this book is an excellent resource for the "keep fighting" part by providing tactics and best practices for accountability relationships, either one-to-one or in groups.

Hopefully nonChristians will read the book and be motivated to become open with others, and strive to fight their sin. But at the end of the day, without the foundation of the gospel, there is no problem OR remedy. Without a biblical worldview, there's no problem: why should anyone STOP looking at porn or lying on their taxes or stop their unhealthy eating habits? Why introduce this time-intensive structure of accountability? Why change at all? And without the gospel, there's no remedy: our best efforts are based on OUR own strength and will quickly fail us. John Owen had incredible insight into this; he said we should by all means seek to restrain sin in unbelievers, but that it should NOT be our MAIN end for them, but rather first conversion. Owen writes, "Let men know it is their duty, but in its proper place; I take not men from mortification, but put them upon conversion. He that shall call a man from mending a hole in the wall of his house, to quench a fire that is consuming the whole building, is not his enemy. Poor soul! ...You set yourself against a particular sin and do not consider that you are nothing but sin." (Of The Mortification of Sin in Believers, page 85 in the edition Overcoming Sin & Temptation)

Once you have the biblical foundation of conviction that you need to change (that your behavior is sin), AND the biblical remedy of the gospel (that you're a new creation in Christ), one of the best weapons in the fight is to be OPEN with a few close friends who can help you in the relentless fight. Open is recommended as a great resource for strategy AFTER and BECAUSE OF the foundation of the gospel to fight our sin. You can buy the book here.

Remember the Gospel, and #GetOpen,
The Relentless Fight

PS: For more reading on being honest about our sin check out Don't Conceal...Confess And Forsake. And for getting help from others read Don't Go It Alone.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Grasping for Hope

Please welcome guest author Melissa Dorrance! Melissa works on staff for DiscipleMakers and has a passion for seeing others grow in their knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. She also loves sunshine, breakfast, and silliness. For anyone who is weary in the fight and in need of some encouragement, this post is for you. 
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“He has caused us to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1 Peter 1:3)

Sometimes it’s hard to hope.  You are stuck in your sin, you are drowning in life’s circumstances, or maybe you are just weary of fighting the same battle day in and day out.  The absence of hope is draining: it leads to exhaustion, anger, guilt, despair, and giving up the fight.  Satan seems to have won.

NOT TRUE! The battle is not over, Satan has NOT won, and you should not give up!  We have a hope to hold onto in the midst of the longest, bloodiest battles.  1 Peter 1:3-4 reminds us that we have a LIVING HOPE in Jesus Christ.  This is not a hope that is merely “personified” into an animate idea, but He, Jesus, our Hope, is actually a living, breathing real person.

Jesus as a Living Hope:
  1. Death could not bring Him down.  No matter how deep your sin seems to run, no matter how much suffering you are experiencing, you can bank on the fact that it is NOT bigger or stronger than Jesus.  If you put your faith in Him, you have hope because He will win. He is alive.
  2. It’s not just that you hope in Him, but your hope is Him. Your Hope went to a cross for you and for your hopeless times so that you would NEVER have to be without Him. And now He promises to live in you through His Spirit.  Radical.  You actually have an embodiment of hope with you always to strengthen and encourage you.
  3. Because hope takes the form of Jesus Christ we don’t have to wait for salvation, it is already here. Grasp the hope that is ready for the taking.
God’s Word is full of reminders that we have this hope.  It is filled with promises that should spur us on and remind us of the hope that we always have.  Read them, mediate on them, say them out loud to yourself and then REBUKE Satan and your own flesh (out loud!).  These hope-filled promises are in the Bible for a reason; they are there because they are deeply true. They are testified to from One who is our Living Hope.  Here are just a few:

1 Peter 1:4 “You have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” You cannot mess it up.

Philippians 2:13 “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” God has not abandoned you and is still at work!

Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” You cannot even imagine the works God is doing in your heart and in your life.  Jesus outdoes your very dreams.

Joel 2:25 “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.” What has been lost will be redeemed. 

Jeremiah 29:13-14 “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD.” God is not playing hide-and-go-seek.  He has not abandoned you.  He is there and available.

Have hope!  Jesus is alive; the promises for redemption are not just far away dreams, but immediate realities that can happen in the midst of raging battles. Jesus’ resurrection authenticates the real, tangible truths of the Bible that we can hold onto when despair creeps in.

It is not easy to always choose hope, but if we believe in Jesus it is what we are called to do and it is a gift we receive.  When despair creeps in, cling to your Hope and His promises.  You may not always believe the promises for redemption are true, but you can KNOW that the author of them is true.  And because the author is true and living it means there MUST BE hope and thus that the promises are real.  Sin is being defeated and victory is imminent.

The hope Jesus bought on the cross covers all sin and redeems all brokenness.  He is our hope for today, tomorrow, and eternity.  Drop whatever else you try to put hope in.  People: dead or dying. Money: not a living thing.  Other prophets: dead.  Jesus: ALIVE!

Painfully hoping,
Melissa

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Fight for Joy

Please welcome guest author Ian Busko! Ian is a software developer, and he blogs at Blood on the Altar. He loves scripture, Biblical preaching, and lolcats.  Enjoy this vulnerable post, and may it encourage you to fight for joy in Christ!
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I am a Christian. I walk with Jesus and talk to Him every day. Two years ago, I preached on the duty and delight of following Jesus. My sole mission is to remind people that Jesus is better than anything else they can imagine.

Confession: I feel like a hypocrite. After this self-exalting and  religious-sounding boast, my private life is characterized by depression and struggling to believe the gospel. Some days I wake up. Some days I wish I hadn't. Some days I run to God, others I run from him. It happens. I feel like I live in a pit, trapped by my own emotions.

In my struggle, I feel completely alone.

Which is not true, unless, of course, Paul is a liar.

The Christian worldview gives us reason for rejoicing. While it does reveal that we are more sinful than we could ever hope, it boldly proclaims that we are more loved than we can ever imagine. The God of grace is not only with us, but is making all things new. "This light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. (2 Cor. 4:17)."

It often feels like a struggle to believe that I should be rejoicing. Life is hard. I sin. Other people sin against me. I make bad choices. Other people make bad choices for me. I can't think of a single person I've that I haven’t let down. Some days big things happen, other days the little things seem big. There is a real fight to be joyful in God.

Too often, I go to God to feel better. What if that isn't God's plan for the suffering?

Too often we try to bandage the pain. When we do this, we ignore the chance to grapple with God and our own hearts. Scripture paints a vivid  picture of this fight in Psalm 42.

In the beginning of the Psalm, the psalmist longs for the day that he will again see the goodness of God. "All the day long, my tears have been my food!" is his cry. "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?" is his refrain. After he's done here, he keeps going for another full Psalm.

But he doesn't stop there. He isn’t content in being upset.
He's fighting for joy in The Lord.

After his lament, he goes on to remind himself of the character of God. In verses 6 and 7, he writes that his soul is cast down, THEREFORE he will remember God and his mighty works, his awesome power, and his steadfast love. While he certainly hasn't climbed back out of the pit, his refrain has changed: "hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God."

This should be our goal as well. While we may or may not feel joyful, we have a tremendous opportunity to shut up and listen to the truth. We must learn to meditate on the character of God. We can fight to find joy in God.

Ultimately, this fight is an opportunity to know Jesus. He experienced trials. He faced temptation. He poured out his life for others, expecting nothing in return. He endured the cross, despising the shame, for the joy set before Him. His joy, the goal of everything he worked and suffered for, was our redemption. It's personal.

For us, the fight for joy involves a lot of hanging on and waiting for God to show up.

If you feel like life right now is a fight for joy, I have found the following to be helpful:
  1. Don't stay silent (Colossians 1:24, James 5:16, Galatians 6:2). Use discretion, but don't let feelings of isolation become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When Paul said that we fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, I believe he meant that we as a body could relate in specific sufferings that Jesus didn't endure, like divorces, break-ups, financial failures, homework, or broken smartphones.
  2. Don't rely on your own strength (2 Cor. 12:9-10). At the end of the day, you may succeed and you may fail. Either way, God is working things out for your good and His glory. Being prideful and being 'right' might bring momentary comfort, but it won't help you find real, lasting joy.
  3. Remember the gospel (Romans 8:1, 2 Cor. 4:16-18). You are saved by Jesus and His faithfulness alone. Your destiny is eternal, this suffering is temporal. 
If you feel like this is a joyful season, praise God! But also, think about doing some of the following:
  1. Bear the burdens of others (Galatians 6:1-5, Romans 12:15). If your spiritual life is full of joy, try listening to someone who isn't feeling so joyful. Encourage them. But mainly listen. This will also benefit you later when it is your turn to need help.
  2. Meditate on the promises of God (Psalm 119:9-16, Psalm 16, 63). Life won’t always be easy, and if you don’t prepare then you will be in for an unpleasant surprise.
In closing, if you have the time, I'd also recommend taking some time to read and meditate on Psalm 88. I believe this is the penultimate psalm of suffering, but it is also the psalm that most accurately portrays the suffering of Christ on the cross that ultimately sealed God's promises for you and I, if you are in Christ. And if you aren't, I'd recommend jumping on the boat.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Breaking the Silence

Please welcome guest author Katie Mumper! Katie works on staff for UnWorthy Servants, blogs at Beauty Restored, and would describe herself as "busy living the season of life I'm in while keeping my eyes and heart open to whatever God decides to bring next." Enjoy her challenging post, and join her in breaking the silence.
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Have you ever been intrigued by the fact that a recovery program that's all about groups and sponsors would have the word "anonymous" in its name.  It's not very anonymous to stand in front of a group of people, announce your name, and then admit to being addicted to alcohol.  But perhaps some of the power of the program comes from the fact that anonymity isn't really an option.  The message seems to be: You think you're alone in this, that no one sees or understands your situation, but that's not the case; there are others who have struggled and found freedom, and they want to help you.

Have you ever wished church services were more like AA meetings...  People could stand and share their struggles without fear of judgment.  Everyone else would respond with understanding nods as they think of their own struggles.  Once you shared your story, you would be paired with someone who would be your mentor.  This person would tell you their own story of finding freedom in the Gospel, how they're still learning to walk in the grace of God.  They wouldn't be a mentor because they had it all together.  They would be a mentor because they would know how far they had come and Who had brought them that far, they would know that walking in the truth of freedom is a daily process. You would know that you are not alone and that there is hope.

Perhaps our unwillingness to be real and honest with each other about what’s going on in our lives has been detrimental to ourselves and to others. How many people go through life missing out on what God has to offer them because they're stuck in sin and pain and lies?  How many are stuck because they don't want anyone else to know what's really going on, because they fear that judgment and disappointment will be the reaction?  How many spend every Sunday morning never realizing they’re sitting next to someone who is going through or has gone through the exact same thing?

So how do we fight the silence? With the Gospel, of course!

Why do we stay silent? Because we fear the condemnation and shame that so often comes with admitting that we aren’t perfect. But the Gospel says there is no more condemnation (Romans 8:1)! When Jesus said, “It is finished!” from the cross, He accomplished what was needed so we could break the silence. He ended our need to live perfect lives in order to be saved. He ended shame. He ended our identity as slaves to sin. He ended the power of condemnation by bringing grace and forgiveness, by giving us the opportunity to be new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), by defining our identity with His righteousness instead of our sinfulness. The Gospel gives us the ability to shout into the silence, “I’m not perfect, but Jesus is! And because of Him, I’m forgiven and free from the power of sin!” Not only that, but the Gospel also gives us the ability to encourage others to break the silence by extending to them the same grace God has shown us. Because we know that we don’t stand condemned, we can respond to others’ stories with grace and love instead of judgment.

So how do we take all of that and make it happen practically? Here are three things you can do to break the silence:

  • Ask For Courage: Fear will stop you from moving forward in this endeavor. Find courage by being secure in the truth of the Gospel, the truth that condemnation is gone and there is only grace. No matter how people react to your story, God’s grace and love for you are still real.
  • Share Your Story: This seems pretty obvious, but it’s probably the hardest. Sharing your story requires humility on two levels: 1. You need the humility to realize that when you choose to talk about it, you can ask for help and find the accountability you need to make (or continue making) freedom a reality.  2. You need the humility to realize that when you choose to talk about it, you can help others to know they're not alone and that there is hope for freedom. You share for God’s glory, not your own.
  • Create A Safe Space: This level of honesty and vulnerability doesn’t usually happen in a large-group setting, and it doesn’t happen easily. There's some work required to create a space where people feel safe enough to share.  You have to be willing to get to know people, to spend time with them, to listen to them, to begin sharing some of the small things before you move into the bigger stuff.  You have to be willing to do the work of building trust so they know their story will be met with grace and love and truth instead of condemnation. 

So do you have the courage?  Whether you're just stepping out in the search for freedom or you've been walking in freedom for some time, do you have the courage to break the silence and share your story?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sing the Triumph of His Grace

Please welcome guest author Mark Fodale! Mark works on staff for DiscipleMakers, has a passion to see college students be transformed by the gospel, is a godly husband and father of four, and blogs at The Lion Unleashed. Enjoy his seasoned insight, and may it encourage you in your remembrance of the gospel and fight against sin!
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"True Christianity isn't primarily a matter of control; primarily it's overflowing fullness. That is the triumph of grace". - Raymond Ortlund, Jr.

We've all faced it, haven't we?

In the midst of the fight for holiness, we fail. Often miserably. Indeed, Jesus spoke truly when He said, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is so weak." (Mark 14.38).

And so, I fail. And then ... a disturbing pattern sets in. Its almost like clockwork. At first I am convicted by my sin, saddened by my weakness. And at that moment of sorrow, a familiar "friend" enters the scene - guilt. And that frequent companion whispers to me words of condemnation, "You call yourself a Christian?", and despair, "Things will never ever change."

Yes, its an all-too-familiar pattern.

And, in response, I typically have four reactions:

    1. I spiral downward, weighed down not only by my sin, but also by the guilt & despair over that sin;
    2. I focus inward, kicking and chastising myself for being a failure;
    3. I rest on self-discipline. That is, I promise myself I'll never do it again. I diligently think through structures and disciplines to curb my appetites and passions.
    4. And then I wait ... for the next time I fail.

Sound familiar?

Centuries ago, the prophet Isaiah pointed God's people beyond the false savior of their own guilt and discipline to the true salvation of God Himself.

You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
    for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
    that you might comfort me.

“Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation.”
- Isaiah 12.1-2

Could it be true?

Isaiah describes an amazing moment - as sin crushes us, as God's righteous anger is known, we can turn to Him with ... thanksgiving! We can rest on Him as our strength and our song! No longer do we need to sing the song of our failures. No longer do we need to feed the tune of our guilt. But we can trust that God knows us, we can rest that He has chosen us, and we can rejoice that He has rescued and redeemed us through Jesus.

That is the triumph of grace!

We do not need to make our sin all about ... us. We do not need to make our sanctification all about ... us. We are freed from the tyranny of self-loathing, self-discipline, and self-doubt.

Instead we can turn to Christ once again, knowing that He came to save sinners.

When we consider the grace of God rescuing us from ourselves, paying the penalty for all of our sins, restoring to us what we have messed up, and giving us far better than all we could ever ask or imagine, we will say with the apostle Paul, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8.31)

So, as you sin, turn to Jesus. Rejoice that He came for such a moment as this. Rest on Him by faith, knowing that forgiveness is yours. And ask Him to use even this moment to make you more like Him.

Repent? Absolutely. But let your repentance lead you to Jesus. Sing of the triumph of His grace.

"No duty is more pressed in the Bible than this, of rejoicing in the Lord always. It is no less a sin not to rejoice than not to repent." - John Trapp

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Expect a Hard Long Bloody Fight

"Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." - Hebrews 12:3-4

In the fight against sin, what do you expect? This is a vitally important question to answer, because our expectations influence our attitude and response in the midst of the fight.

It's common in the Christian life to expect our fight against sin to be easy. We can think, "Great! All I need to do is repent once in a big display of vulnerability and contrition, have God wave His magic wand over my struggles with porn, drugs, cutting, food, depression, anger, impatience, selfishness, and BOOM... healed! Just quick, easy, clean, once-and-done healing. Sweet deal!"

When this is our expectation, it sets up a very dangerous scenario. As soon as the fight takes longer than we expect, or is harder, or we fail, our world crumbles. We lash out at God. "What the heck God!? I thought you were a good Savior? I thought you were going to help me? WHERE ARE YOU? Why do I feel even WORSE than I did before?" And as the fight drags on, and more failures happen, we begin to grow radically bitter, jaded, and cynical. We begin to forget the gospel, we mistrust God, we become discouraged, and we eventually stop fighting altogether.

What if we had a different expectation? Expect the fight to be:
  • HARD, Not Easy: The fight will be hard. Up until this point in your life, you've just coddled and nurtured and aided your sin. But when the Holy Spirit stepped in, your heart was transformed. You were given NEW desires, because you became a NEW creation in Christ. For the first time, you truly FOUGHT against your sin. You went from peacetime to a state of war. This makes life harder than it was before. It means the fight has STARTED for the first time. It's going to be HARD with many painful decisions to cut off your hand, gouge out your eye, repent in radical painful ways. It will cost something. To make it, you will need to be strengthened, and properly equipped for the battle. You will need to train yourself, develop strategies, and enlist help from others. Sober up!! This is brutal. It is no cake walk. John Owen said it well of constant violence, "Always be killing sin, or sin will be killing you."
  • LONG, Not Short: The fight will be long. In God's sovereign wisdom, most of the time He allows you to wrestle with a besetting sin for longer than you would prefer. When you realize this difficult truth, you will have a decision to make, if you are going to scrap it and ditch God, or choose to rest in HIS forgiveness amidst your horrible performance. This is radically humbling. The fight will not be over in a few weeks after some 30-day Bible study program. Don't expect change overnight, or even over a year. Growth is best measured in decades, not days. It could take the rest of your life. How will you survive?? You will need the perseverance and endurance that only the Gospel can bring. That is the larger war that you're fighting, to remember and believe the gospel. Only the Cross of Christ provides the kind of empowerment that you need to make it long-term. 
  • BLOODY, Not Clean: The fight will be bloody. There will be failures. There will be compromises, betrayals, times when everything in you screams for your sinful idol to be gratified, AND YOU WILL CAVE. Expect this. Expect failure. If you expect it, you won't freak out when you find yourself slurping up the broken cistern toilet water that you vowed never to drink from again. This is pretty normal. Newsflash: You're a sinner, and you can't save yourself. That's the whole point of why Christ HAD to come to save sinners. We could NOT save ourselves. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much self-discipline you muster up, no matter how much you HATE failing, you WILL sin, you will fall, and it'll be YOUR blood on the ground. How can we make it?? You will need the encouragement of the gospel RIGHT AFTER the failure. You will need to stop going it alone, and gather brothers and sisters around you who can point you to Jesus. 
We MUST expect the fight to be hard, long, and bloody. If you have the wrong expectations, you will wind up dead, real quick. Have the proper expectations, and even when things get hard you will be even MORE encouraged. When someone tells you an experience will be hard before you get into it, somehow it becomes easier, because it's helpful to have a proper expectation. It validates your feelings of frustration and difficulty, and it assures you that you’re not crazy. It centers you and gives you a balanced mind. And it sobers you up to get hunkered down for a long-term fight. Get serious! Get sober! This is not gonna be a cake-walk to fight against your sin. Change your expectations!!

Consider three short applications out of this changed expectation:
  • Be Encouraged!: Is the fight hard? GOOD, that means you're fighting! Take that as a GOOD sign that you are nearing the enemy stronghold, you are gaining ground.True growth means a harder fight. The ONLY kind of growth is filled with bloodshed and pain. Victory is costly. You will strive and struggle for every INCH of gained ground in the fight of the Spirit vs. the Flesh. When it's hard, that means you're winning. 
  • Remember the Gospel: What is the gospel? Hard, long, and bloody. So be encouraged! Your Savior Warrior King is fighting alongside you. This is the kind of fight that HE is best at, the kind of fight that He knows. Dig in for a long term fight. Remember that the Cross is for failures, and it all depends on Christ, who has already won. When you remember the gospel, that means you're winning. 
  • Get Back in the Fight: You know what to do. What is just ONE next step you can take to deliver a shocking blow to the enemy? Take a deep breath, call on The God of Angel Armies, and keep fighting until He calls you home. Keep fighting. You're winning. 
Expecting Victory,
The Relentless Fight

Monday, July 8, 2013

Love to Eat, Hate to Eat

"their god is their stomach" - Philippians 3:19

Elyse Fitzpatrick is a prolific speaker, author, and discipler of women. She has written over a dozen books and has contributed to the Resurgence on over a dozen blog posts. Published in 1999 as one of her first books, Love to Eat, Hate to Eat is focused on helping women to break out of the bondage of idolatrous and destructive eating habits.

Love to Eat, Hate to Eat is being highlighted here on The Relentless Fight because of how it encourages, empowers, and equips women for the great fight of faith, particularly in the discouraging world of food idolatry.

The book is written to women who feel like they've lost the battle with food, either through overeating, undereating, or struggling with body image (If keywords are helpful: anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating, gluttony, eating disorders, self-image). It's designed to give women a renewed focus and identity founded in what God says in His Word, and then offers practical and relevant methods for change, along with several appendixes of resources.

One nuance to note: Often food and body image is painted as ONLY a women's struggle, similar to how pornography and lust is painted as ONLY a man's struggle. But neither are exclusive struggles for men or women, because sin is an equal opportunity enslaver. Body image and lust are HUMAN problems that both men and women often struggle with. That being said, it is generally true that many men struggle with porn and lust, and many women struggle with food and body image.

Here are some brief highlights from the book:
  • Food as an Idol: The book paints a vivid picture of food and body image as an IDOL, as a good thing made into a substitute god. The archetype of "idolatry" (wrong worship) is one of the most helpful and deeply nuanced resources that biblical Christianity brings to bear on our modern struggles with eating disorders and addiction cycles. The title "Love to Eat, Hate to Eat" describes the painful dualistic ambivalence that results from idolatry. We love our idol, and yet we simultaneously hate our idol. Why? Because we believe the enticing promises it makes to us, but feel betrayed and angry when it doesn't deliver and instead backfires with guilt, shame, and death. And food is a horrible idol! It makes crazy rules for you, and when you break them it piles on guilt and condemnation that forces you to run to a false savior. Only Jesus through the gospel can free us from this destructive cycle! "What would happen if you ran to Christ, instead of the refrigerator, to save you from your trouble?" Page 182.
  • Focus on Heart Change, not Weight Change: From a worldly perspective, it would be easy to focus on just the behaviors of eating and seek to change those. But the book goes much deeper to the heart, seeking to uncover what motivates us through our beliefs, thoughts, and feelings, and reorients our hearts back to Jesus! "Remember again that our goal isn't merely weight loss (or gain), but rather a heart and life that reflects the great goodness of our heavenly Father." page 187.
  • Detailed Strategies and Tactics for the Fight: The author is speaking out of her own personal experience of struggling with food and body image, and because of that she's able to share relevant strategies and tactics for the fight.. So AFTER you've meditated on the gospel and are ready to get back into the fight, and you're wondering "what are some good strategies?" then this book is a fantastic resource!! Elyse identifies godly eating habits through the D-I-S-C-I-P-L-I-N-E-D Eating acronym, which gives 12 questions to help you examine your own heart to see what your motivation is for eating, to bring greater awareness and sensitivity.You can view the DISCIPLINED Eating acronym on her website here
  • Remember the Gospel, and Keep Fighting: Real change takes a long time, and we often want just a quick fix, as if God would ZAP us in a spiritual microwave to make us instantly holy. So how do we make it for the long term battle? We need to keep coming back to Jesus, and endure in the fight. "The first few times you step into the ring, you might find yourself a little bloodied at the end of the round; but if you keep fighting, you'll soon find yourself standing at the bell. That's because, if you are seeking to please God, He'll be in your corner!" page 186.
In summary, Love to Eat, Hate to Eat is a great introductory resource for folks struggling with food and body image. Practical, helpful, biblical, and focused on God's word and redemption, it is highly recommended. If you struggle, read it. If you don't struggle, you should still read it in order to develop compassion and empathy for friends that struggle, so that you can help and encourage them in this fight. Buy the book here

Feasting on God,
The Relentless Fight

PS: Another helpful resource for food and body image struggles is a talk from Mars Hill Church by Crystal Munson on Gluttony.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Right After the Failure

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." - Psalm 73:26

You've just failed.

You feel horrible. You had promised God you wouldn't do it again.... but you just did. You're ashamed and don't want anyone to know. You feel the weight of guilt bearing down on you, and it makes you angry. "Why do I keep failing? What the heck? Things were going so well, but now... I can't believe I did it again." You may feel discouraged, alone, like there's no way out. You may feel like you're powerless, and it's hopeless. "I'll never change." And God feels a million miles away.

What do you do? What do you do RIGHT AFTER the failure?

What you need in this moment is the Gospel. More particularly, you need encouragement, empowerment, and equipment. And you'll get all that that from the gospel. But first, let's slow it down and take it step by step.

Here are five practical steps for what to do right after the failure:
  1. Confess: Name the sin, call it what it is. Agree with God that what you just did.... that was SIN. First confess that to God. Maybe then confess it to a close brother or sister in Christ. 1 John 1 calls us to walk in the light with other Christians, that means being honest and confessing your secret sins. Sin thrives in secret, so one of the first ways to start killing sin is dragging it out into the light. The alternative to confessing is justifying your sin and saying it's not really sin.
  2. Repent: Next, repent and turn away from that sin. This is just a decision that you're not continuing anymore. You're turning your back on this junk. You're not feeding this monster inside of you any longer. And as you're turning AWAY from your sin, you're turning TO Jesus. The alternative to repenting is pridefully digging in your heels and continuing to wallow in your life-destroying sin. 
  3. Believe: Remember the Gospel!! Remember it! And believe it! Believe that it is true! Believe that the sin that you have JUST committed is PAID for by the blood of Jesus. Remember that you ARE a New Creation in Christ, remember that Jesus has healed all your shame, remember that the Cross is for Failures. The alternative to remembering and believing the gospel is to FORGET what Christ has done and assume that it's all up to YOU.  
  4. Rejoice: Get happy! This is GOOD news! You can actually be forgiven of your sins. WOOO HOOOO!!!! Praise Jesus!! Rejoicing is the only logical response to so GREAT a salvation!! This is almost the most important part, because if you can choose to rejoice and praise God for the gospel, then it helps to push you deeper in your belief, and in the act of choosing to be joyful, perhaps our merciful God will GIVE you that true joy in Him. Maybe sing some worship songs, or shout Hallelujah, force yourself to smile, repeat to yourself these truths and THANK God for them. Choose to be grateful. Keep coming back to the gospel, believing it, meditating on it, until the joy fills your soul. PRAY that God would give you this kind of joy (Psalm 51:12) The alternative to rejoicing is the discouragement that comes from focusing on your sin as you forget the good news of Christ's redeeming work. 
  5. Fight: And then lastly, as you begin to feel joy fill your heart, as you feel the lifting of guilt from your shoulders (as it passes on to Christ!), as you feel the comfort of the Holy Spirit... FIGHT. You probably know what to do. Pick up your sword, and get back into the fight. Maybe there's some lessons to be learned from this most recent failure? Great, then write those down, figure out a wiser battle plan, and then keep fighting. Enlist some help from brothers and sisters, because you are not alone. The alternative to fighting is surrendering to your sin and getting slammed again and again and again.
So right after you've looked at porn, right after you've cut, right after you've knelt over the toilet, right after you've taken the hit, right after that anger flared up, right after the failure..... confess your sin, repent of it before the Lord, remember and believe the awesome gospel, give thanks and praise to God for such amazing grace, and then get back in the fight with joyful vengeance.

Rejoicing in the Gospel,
The Relentless Fight

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Force Feed Yourself the Word

"Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." - Deuteronomy 8:3

Sometimes you just don't want to read the Bible. Sometimes you're tired, unmotivated, just feel guilty, too busy or apathetic. It's hard to gin up the motivation to do something that feels like drudgery in the moment.

But we are in a war (Eph 6:10-20). And war requires vigilance because of the reality of constant threat. Every day we face the danger of backsliding into old sin patterns and becoming hard in our hearts. Every day we either grow more in Christ, or atrophy in our spiritual muscles. Either victory or defeat in that day's battle.  And wars are won, one battle at a time.

So what are we to do when we don't feel like reading the Word? When we lack the motivation to connect with God? When we're tired of praying? When the Bible just seems like black words on a white page... like just NOTHING is happening?

Force feed yourself the Word. 

That's right. Just simply, DO IT. Don't feel like it? Do it anyway. Just ball up and get it done. So what if it doesn't "taste good", you need to CHOOSE to put that spiritual bread in your mouth and eat it. Consider it a spiritual discipline. You NEED the Word. You'll die without it.

Consider the metaphor of weight lifting. Oodles of men and women have no problem forcing themselves to go to the gym, endure pain and sweat and tears, and CONTINUE to persevere for weeks and months in disciplining their body. Should we not have the same attitude towards our spiritual strengthening? Should we not have even MORE motivation towards Christ?? How much better and more satisfying our Savior is than a few pounds of flesh and muscle!! "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:103)

Consider also that God is PLEASED with your obedience even if it is faltering and half-hearted. Would He like you to RUN towards Him? Sure! But like a proud father of his little daughter taking her first steps, God is pleased with your failings in the right direction. To not have the faith and affection for Christ in that moment, and yet to STILL choose to pursue Christ is a glorious thing. It's like the faith underneath your faith.  It's the sense of the warrior pressing forward in the battle, even though he has no strength left.

And finally, remember the gospel FIRST as you are struggling with your lack of desire for the Word. Jesus died for the deadness of your spiritual taste buds. He forgives you for your lack of affection for Him. Even though you can't feel Him or even care right now... He isn't going anywhere. And doesn't that just make you love Him all the more? Perhaps your heart will come alive again and you will WANT to read the Word. If so, then do it; but if not, then force feed yourself the Word. 

Nom nomz,
The Relentless Fight

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sexual Sanity for Men

David White has been on staff with Harvest USA for over 10 years, as the men's ministry coordinator. He disciples men, teaches seminary courses on ministering to the sexually broken, and speaks on sexual issues. In October 2012 he published Sexual Sanity for Men: Recreating Your Mind in a Crazy Culture.

Sexual Sanity for Men is being highlighted here on The Relentless Fight because of how it encourages, empowers, and equips men for the great fight of faith, particularly in the discouraging world of sexual brokenness.

The book is designed as a small group resource, with 14 weeks of reading and 5 days for each week. Each day's reading has about 2 pages of reading and 3 questions for personal reflection and group discussion. The readings are digestible and the questions are deep.

Some brief highlights from the book:
  • The call to the relentless fight: "Nevertheless, no matter how diligent you are, please realize at the outset that you will never be free from the battle in this life...Freedom is the increasing ability to choose holiness out of love for Christ, despite the relentlessness of temptation!" page 3.
  • The exhortation to patient endurance: "Jesus will never become a quick fix for you like sexual sin." page 184. This is HUGE. Just this call to patient endurance, realizing that the fight against sexual sin will be a LONG term battle, and VERY painful. Yes, Jesus is Better, but it will FEEL at first like he isn't, and your flesh will ACHE to return to your sin.
  • The invitation to enter the fray: "The corruption of our sexuality is one of Satan's greatest triumphs, trashing a glorious gift of God and enslaving us at the same time. Your King is calling for your allegiance, inviting you to join the battle and bring the downfall of His enemy. Will you enter the fray?" page 100.
  • The need for the gospel: "Does it feel like your struggle with sexual sin is bigger than you can possibly handle on your own? Good - then maybe you're finally desperate enough to lay hold of Jesus as you never have before!" page 110 and "Our churches need to continue preaching the gospel to Christians, not offering the gospel to unbelievers and then calling the saints to live by the law in their own strength." page 151.
  • The necessity for brothers in arms"In the same way, we desperately need men in our lives who'll give us a spiritual beating when we're crazy and blind to our own folly." page 219 and "You have an enemy who is literally hell-bent on your destruction. Are you going into battle alone? If we stay together, we survive." page 144, check out Don't Go It Alone. And "The only way to find freedom from sexual sin is to be committed to ruthless honesty with others." page 205, check out Don't Conceal, Confess.
  • The challenge to humility: "Part of the reason we get stuck in sexual sin, and it doesn't seem like God is responding to our prayers for deliverance, is that God really wants us to begin battling the more foundational problem of pride." page 236 and "Men have confessed their arrogance to me, acknowledging that they would never have become Christians if not for their struggles with same-sex attraction or porn addiction." page 239.

In summary, Sexual Sanity for Men provides a fantastic balance between ruthless violence against sin, and yet an incredible nuance of peace, gentleness, and tenderness to those who are so beaten up and discouraged. David White wisely holds out the gospel as our power source for change, and points out the first steps of strategy in the fight. Highly recommended for personal study or as a church small group resource! Buy it here.

Fighting for Sanity,
The Relentless Fight

PS: For the ladies, pick up Sexual Sanity for Women by Ellen Dykas.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Don't Go It Alone

Please welcome guest author Anonymous! He is a young Christian man who struggles with same-sex attraction, and desires to share his story to encourage, empower, and equip others in the fight. Be challenged, and share with those who need to hear it!
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At the end of the spring semester of 2011 I decided to leave school and head out west.  I had gotten tired of academic culture and was looking for something more personally fulfilling as well as an adventure. I always considered myself adaptable to any situation and could handle any situation on my own, so I wasn’t afraid.  After working at a camp during the summer I fell in love with the great state of Colorado and decided to move up to Denver, to start my new life.  On one hand it was a sense of adventure, stepping out into a brave new world, and on the other I was very much the prodigal son, running from his Father.  

“Speak of the devil, and he shall appear.” - Bane.

See, I was on a search for defining what I believed.  I knew Christ, but over the last year or so I had fallen into temptation big time when it came to sexual sin. I was testing my faith on purpose, and with no one close by to keep me truly accountable I was easy prey for the enemy.  At first it started with “small things” like drinking too much with my housemate, watching porn, and just entertaining thoughts longer than I should.  Then, everything took a turn for the worse farther than I could have ever imagined.  

“All men get what they want, they do not always like it.” - C.S. Lewis

I found out about these places called bath houses, which are places where gay men go to meet other men for sex.  How I ran across these I don’t remember.  All I know is I became addicted to going to them and went there more times than I care or can remember.  In order to protect myself I even came up with an “alter ego” when I went there.  I was a man of masks and sometimes I got confused who I was and what was a mask...

After a while the cost of going to these places added up on top of bills and other everyday costs, plus my hours at work getting cut put me in quite the financial pickle.  In fact, I really was starting to ration out pasta in order for me to pay for my gas to get to work.  I also started to notice myself getting physically sick more often, not to mention starting to feel very paranoid almost every other night.  My sin was taking a toll on me in almost every way.  Like the prodigal son it was time to somehow make it home and that is what I did. My illusion of being adaptable and being fine on my own had blown away by reality.  I had run out of options, I had nothing left, the only logical thing to do was go home.

“The father saw him from far away and had compassion for his son, ran and embraced him.” - Luke 15:20

If you have ever driven across country you know there is nothing to look at, so focusing on talking to God is an easy thing.  Our conversation involved reason, a lot of yelling, and many tears.  Once I got home though, it was nothing but blessings.  He opened His arms through the support of friends and mentors who discipled/disciple me and keep me accountable.  Having brothers there to just help you stay in the Word, pray for you, text you randomly to see what you are doing at the moment, and sometimes just listen to you vent are such a blessing.  Then, having wise men of God invest in your life is just as much of a blessing.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t get home and was suddenly perfect.  It is still a huge struggle, a relentless fight, but with the help of brothers in Christ it is a totally different fight.  

I don’t write this to brag or say my sin is worse than yours, because there is no such thing as “worse” sin.  What I do want to say is BE AWARE!  There is an Oh Hellos lyric that goes, “There is no courage in flirting with fear”. We can’t do this ourselves, don’t fool yourself that you can.  I learned many things from my journey, but probably three of the main things are:
  1. Be Aware - 1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  This isn’t a game and it definitely isn’t easy.  Satan is looking to destroy us, render us completely useless to the cause of spreading the Word. Stay strong, stand firm!  A wise man of God told me one time in a story, “There are no small dragons, they are all mighty.” Develop a wartime mentality
  2. Be Courageous - Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” It is a tough battle, but “the LORD YOUR GOD is with you wherever you go”. Just think about that statement and be in awe. God has our back in everything we do, we are never alone.
  3. Brothers in Arms - 1 Samuel 14:6-7 “Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, 'Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised.  It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.' And his armor-bearer said to him, 'Do all that is in your heart.  Do as you wish.  Behold, I am with you heart and soul.'” Remember, you have allies in your brothers and sisters in Christ. Don’t go solo in this fight, it is a good way to fall quickly. Keep each other in prayer and accountable. It’s much harder to tear down a team than a solo act.
Don't go it alone,
Anonymous

Monday, March 11, 2013

Jesus Is Better

"For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere..." - Psalm 84:10

Have you ever stood in line for a good deal on Black Friday? What about hours of driving to see your favorite band? Or ditched your friends to hang out with that special person of interest? ;) We always make sacrifices for the things we believe are better. But how does this apply with Jesus and our fight against sin?

The Sons of Korah were the authors of Psalm 84, and this psalm presents a shocking claim that gives us power to fight our sin in a new way. They boldly proclaim in verse 10, "For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness." Do you see that key word? BETTER. And the comparison is meant to be staggering. Just ONE day with God is BETTER than a THOUSAND days anywhere else. 

Let's look at a few other parts of Psalm 84 to get some context. Look at the passionate desire that the song writers have for the Lord in verse 12, "My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God." Woah! That's some serious desire! Look also at verse 4, "Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!" Another translation of that word blessed is "happy", it's the same idea that Jesus uses in Matthew 5, commonly known as the Beatitudes. So they're saying, "HAPPY are those who hang out at your place Lord!" 

Why are these folks SO happy in God? How can WE be this happy in God? Let's consider some real-life comparisons of how Jesus really is better:
  • Jesus is better... than a spouse, in any comparison possible: love, commitment, beauty, soul-satisfaction, power, gentleness, provision, protection, intimacy. Marriage itself is just a parable of the deeper intimacy and commitment of Christ to His bride (Ephesians 5:32).
  • Jesus is better... than the pleasures of sex. An orgasm lasts for a few seconds, but in the Lord's presence there is fullness of joy and pleasures FOREVER (Psalm 16:11)
  • Jesus is better... than the comfort of food. Chocolate cake cannot minister grace to our souls (Hebrews 13:9), a bag of Cheetos cannot comfort our loneliness, and a beer cannot relieve the worry in our hearts. And yet Jesus is FULL of grace (John 1:14), draws near to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18), and guards your heart with peace (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • Jesus is better... than the relief of cutting. Jesus brings a better comfort to your soul (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), and HE has already bled FOR you, to purchase justification before God (Romans 5:9) and redemption (Ephesians 1:7) as a new creation in Christ. 
  • Jesus is better... than the approval of performance. Honestly your performance SUCKS (Isaiah 64:6), and Jesus' performance is PERFECT (Romans 10:4), so in Christ you can REST (Romans 4:5). 
Whatever your favorite sin is offering, Jesus offers BETTER. Give up the tin, to get the gold! Give up the toilet water, to enjoy the fine wine! The last verses of Psalm 84 are a key part to understanding how Jesus can be better than all the other things that vie for our affections; verses 11-12 say, "For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in You!" When we put Jesus in the place of highest affection, and trust Him to provide for us in the way that He lovingly and wisely decides, then we are BLESSED, and He doesn't withhold ANY GOOD THING from us!  Jesus is NOT a kill-joy, who calls us to just give up on all our dreams and pleasures. Rather, He would have us ENJOY these things in their proper place. See, if you try to go after these pleasures WITHOUT Jesus you won't get them. But if you go after Jesus as your treasure? He graciously gives us all the other things we need, and with them He gives the enjoyment of not being owned by them or devastated when they don't satisfy you. 

In closing, here are three practical applications to live out "Jesus Is Better":
  1. See the Hook Behind the Bait: Realize that you are ALWAYS sacrificing for SOME deal that you believe will make you happy. The question is, will that deal satisfy? Is it a good deal? We can never NOT sacrifice for a deal, we always are believing something and giving ourselves to it. The problem is that any deal other than Jesus is going to fail us, and end up enslaving us. That's the hook behind the bait, something that Thomas Brooks knew well. Consider what it would actually be like to have a thousand days of your particular favorite sin, or even a good thing that you enjoy... A thousand days? Do you really want that? One of Satan's happiest tricks is to fill a box with guilt, shame, slavery, and despair... and wrap it up in pleasure and promises of freedom. See the hook behind the bait. 
  2. Remember the Happy Gospel: The gospel is one of the greatest displays of how Jesus is better, and will MAKE you happy as you remember it and spend time meditating on it. David said in Psalm 32:1, "Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." Blessed! Happy! The gospel is the GOOD NEWS about forgiveness in Jesus for all the ways that we have failed to love Him better than other things. And in the Gospel, we are given a NEW heart (Ezekiel 36:26)  that has new affections for Christ! 
  3. Fight for a Superior Joy in Jesus: Don't fight your pleasure with self-discipline and harsh asceticism! Colossians 2:23 says that that doesn't work against fleshly lusts. You have to fight pleasure with pleasure. In this case, fight for a GREATER and superior pleasure in Jesus. Fight! Work hard! When you have a new love interest, you naturally cultivate your affection by meditating on their character, looking at pictures of them, spending large chunks of time with them. Do the same with Christ! DATE Him! Pursue Him! Look at "pictures" of Him in the Word, spend large chunks of time with Him in prayer! This will NOT come naturally and passively. You must be active to fight for this joy in Jesus. And it will be worth it. 
Fighting to believe that Jesus is better,
The Relentless Fight

PS: Here's an iPhone 4 wallpaper of Jesus is Better, and iPhone 5-size too!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Loving Him is Red

Please welcome guest author Sarah Monticue! Sarah works on staff for DiscipleMakers, loves to sing, and has just launched her new blog today: Loving Him is Red. Enjoy her first post, remember the gospel, and may you fall more in love with the Best Lover!


When I first heard the song Red by Taylor Swift, I marveled at her clever use of colors to describe feelings. But more than that, I was amazed at how accurately her simple use of the color red described what's it's like to be in love. All she had to say was: "Loving him was red, burning red," and I knew what she meant. Red love is the kind of soul-stirring passion that makes you feel as though you were never really alive or had ever truly loved until you've experienced it. It's the kind of love I've been longing for my whole life.

Even as I think back to my time in high school, I can remember reading Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen and feeling as though Marianne Dashwood and I were kindred spirits. In saying, "Can the soul really be satisfied with such polite affections? To love is to burn - to be on fire," she opposed the view that love must be moderated rather than all-consuming. So far, Taylor, Marianne, and I are all on the same page.

But here's where it gets complicated. During my freshmen year in college, God got my attention in a way He never had before. As I heard the Word of God preached, I realized that God wanted to be the supreme relationship of my life. He loved me so much that He entered a covenant - a marriage - with me. And so He deserved to have the primary place in my heart. But I had been giving my heart away to other things - to other lovers - and had broken my end of the covenant. God, however, never stopped loving me. Instead, He sent Jesus to pay the price for my unfaithfulness, and He did so with His life. (Ezekiel 16, Romans 6:23, Hebrews 9:26).

As my understanding of this reality continued to deepen, I became more and more uncomfortable living my life as I had before. So I started giving things up - things that I loved, wanted, thought I couldn't live without - all in an attempt to love God more than anything else in my life. And then I did the impossible. I gave up my headed-toward-marriage, red relationship and faced the scary reality that I might never get to experience red love ever again. And that was the first time I ever chose to believe that God's love could be greater and more satisfying than the love of another person.

I've been struggling to believe it ever since.

And that's where Taylor Swift and her concept of red love began to really resonate with me. Because I can't just stop myself from wanting to experience this red love that I've always longed for. Instead I can let that longing point me to the fact that I already have a red love - a love that burns so brightly that flood waters could never extinguish its flame (Song of Songs 8:7). And as I consider and experience Jesus' great love for me, my heart responds with a deeper love and affection for Him.

Like the earlier definition of red love says, until the Lord opened my eyes to how much He loved me, "I was never really alive or had ever truly loved." I was dead in my transgressions and sins. But He made me alive with Christ. (Ephesians 2:4-5). And I never really loved anyone til then. I really only loved myself. But in this new life, I no longer live for myself, but for Him, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (2 Corinthians 5:15, Galatians 2:20).

So when I really consider Jesus' love and sacrifice, I can't help but love Him in return. I've never met someone quite so kind, so generous, so forgiving, so loving, so patient, so persistent, so humble, so willing to lay down His life... Though I continually reject Him time and time again, He still continues to pursue me; He never gives up. And He's an amazing pursuer, because He's the Only One who knows everything about me and exactly how to make my heart beat faster and fall more in love with Him. He's the One who makes life worth living. He is the One I've been waiting for. Truly, Loving Him is Red.

That's why I'm writing this blog. Because I need to constantly remember that:

1) Anything my heart could ever love or long for in this life is just a shadow of my love and longing for Jesus, since loving and being loved by Him is the most fulfilling and passionate love that I could ever know.  

2) I will never regret giving up everything to make Jesus the first love of my life, because He gave up everything for me.

3) Others can benefit from what God teaches me in the midst of my struggle to love Him with all of my heart.

So I hope you'll join me on this journey to remember that Jesus is the Only Perfect Lover and that Loving Him is Red.

Here's Taylor, singing Red:



Follow Sarah's blog here: Loving Him is Red.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Matt Moore "Yes, I was on Grindr."

Matt Moore is a Christian blogger who writes about his experience of same-sex attraction, leaving the homosexual lifestyle, and struggling with obedience in the Christian life (like all of us). You can read his blog here: moorematt.com

In the last few weeks Matt chose to create an account on Grindr, an iPhone app that allows gay men to connect locally. Since Matt was known publicly on the Internet as claiming to have left the homosexual lifestyle, this was seen as a MAJOR hypocrisy and failure for a well-known Christian figure. And wow does the media love that! So the Huffington Post ran an article last week exposing and shaming Matt.

But it doesn't end there. 

Did Matt deny it? Nope. Did Matt reject Christ? Nope. Here's what Matt Moore did: He confessed, and he repented. And THAT is amazing. The next day he confessed publicly on his blog, "Yes, I was on Grindr."

Read the article. Read it and think about it. What Matt did here is an amazing testimony to what it looks like to repent and believe the gospel. Another powerful example is the interview he did with the Christian Post the next day: Interview: Matt Moore on Being 'Outed,' Same-Sex Attraction, and God's Grace.

Matt Moore encapsulates the heart of The Relentless Fight in his blog post and interview. What do we do when we fail? We remember the gospel, and we keep fighting.

Praying for Matt,
The Relentless Fight

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Freedom!

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." - Galatians 5:1

When Paul was writing to the churches in Galatia, he didn't mince words with them. He went straight for the target and rebuked them for abandoning the gospel in favor of a works-based help-yourself salvation program. You wanna see an evangelist-apostle-church-planter ex-Pharisee flip out? Tell him Jesus' cross wasn't enough.

By the time Paul gets to chapter 5 he's all worked up, and blurts out this amazing truth and challenge in 5:1, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." It seems that the sentence should have a few explanation points at the end, with some underlines... "For freedom Christ has set us FREE; stand firm therefore, and DO NOT submit again to a yoke of slavery!!!" (maybe shouted out by William Wallace).

Think about that... Truth? Christ has set us free. Application? Don't go back to being a slave. Amen! Now let's examine the surface meaning, and then the deeper interpretation based on the context.

Surface Meaning: You're Free from SIN: Christ has died on the cross to set us free from sin. The curse is broken, the old man is crucified WITH Christ, and we are now new creations. Free from sin! So stand firm in that freedom, and don't go back to your old slavery to sin. FIGHT your sin!

Deeper Interpretation: You're Free from RELIGION: If you look at the context of Paul's letter, and the surrounding verses (chapter 4 about the freedom of the heavenly Jerusalem, and the rest of chapter 5 about the freedom from circumcision-based righteousness), it is clear that Paul is mainly talking about the freedom of salvation by FAITH apart from the LAW! Or in other words, Christ has set you free from religion, meaning a human effort work-your-way-to-heaven salvation plan that performs to earn God's favor. So stand firm in God's grace! Stand firm and don't go BACK to the endless performance-treadmill slavery of religion. FIGHT to remember the gospel!

Pay attention, because this distinction is tricky, but VITALLY important: The fight to live in the freedom from religion comes before the fight to live in the freedom from sin. Do you see the order? Read it again if you have to. Because this distinction makes a WORLD of difference for how we live our lives. What might it look like? Maybe it looks like singing worship songs in joy and faith right after a failure as you are amazed at the GRACE of God in the gospel, instead of groveling before God and putting yourself on probation for a few days as you sulk in guilt, promising God you'll fight harder next time.

So yes, keep fighting your sin. But even deeper, and more primary is the fight to remember and believe the gospel! That is the relentless fight. Fight to remember the gospel, and once you do, you will have the strength, joy, and reason for fighting your sin. Your forgiven sin. The very sin that you are now free from because of the gospel.

For Freedom,
The Relentless Fight