Monday, June 30, 2014

3 Steps in Ministering to Others

We live in a hurting world. We have pain inside us, pain around us, and sin seems to soak everything. Everywhere we turn, others are struggling in their own ways with sin and suffering. For those who are in Christ, we are called as ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) to incarnate Christ into this world and minister God's grace to hurting people. How do we do this?

You have to do 3 things, sometimes it feels like all at the same time:

1. LISTEN (encourage): The first step is to really seek to understand what they're saying. What are they going through? What's most difficult about this? How are they feeling? Where do they feel God is in the midst of it? How have they responded to their pain so far? What are they struggling with? If you are lost, try asking some of the most basic questions: Who, what, when, where, why, how? As a first and last response, PRAY.

2. GOSPEL (empower): Listening by itself is encouraging, but it isn't empowering. We need to remind our brothers and sisters in Christ of the glorious gospel. You can either ask them "How does the gospel encourage you?" or speak directly to them: Your guilt has been washed away, your shame has been cleansed, you have a new identity now in Christ so this sin doesn't define you. Christ has entered into our world and identifies with suffering, and has faced every temptation as we have, so He knows our pain. We are adopted as sons and daughters into the kingdom and are set on a trajectory of holiness and victory. REMIND them of these truths. Preach the gospel to them. Secondly, try to guide them towards gospel solutions, meaning: options and "end of the story" mindsets that are distinctively shaped by the gospel. Often in our despair we say things like "it's hopeless, I'll never change, etc." But the gospel solution is: Christ has transformed you, you do have hope, by His Spirit you are changing and you WILL change. The gospel gives us hope-filled resources. Pray that God helps them SEE the gospel.

3. FIGHT (equip): Lastly, help them to make it practical. It's not enough just to give them the gospel, you have to show them how to wield it. Give them tools, weapons, resources. Do they need Scripture? Do they need accountability? Do they need help in their repentance? Do they need comfort? Where can they make an effort to remove provision for their flesh? Where can they practically pursue holiness? Help them to do this. Help them brainstorm. Help them PRAY and ask the Spirit for His help in fighting their sin, or peace in the midst of suffering.

Seeking to help others,
The Relentless Fight

PS: For those who know the model of Love, Know, Speak, Do (from Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands) here's the connection: The basic point of Love/Know is to listen and understand the person. The most important part of speaking is the glorious truth of the Gospel. And in this scenario, the Do (call to action) is to fight against our sin.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Battlefield

You know your fight. But do you know your battlefield?

Your battlefield is the context for the fight, the where and when and how of your temptation and failure. You can know the fight but miss the battlefield, which means you're going to get hit again and again from "out of nowhere". It'll remain a mystery. This blog post aims to dismantle that mystery and give you a tactical map for your temptation, so you can ready up and fight with wisdom.

Think through each of these categories, dissecting and analyzing your sin:

  • WHAT? What particular sin are you struggling with? Don't just use a casual cultural term or water it down, rather use a biblical word. "Lookin' at junk on the internet" = sexual immorality. "Just talking too much" = selfishness & pride. "Obsessing over this guy" = lust & idolatry. "Frustration" = anger. Identify the sin for what it really is! Name it and bring it before the throne of God. 
  • HOW? How do you get to your sin? Is there a method, an access point, a provision for it? If it's internet porn, what device do you use? If it's cutting, what items do you use? If it's food, is it stuff in your fridge, pantry, or out to eat? 
  • WHERE? Where do you usually get tempted? Can you notice any patterns? Is it almost always in your dorm room? Is it at a certain store? Is it at the gym? With your family at home? 
  • WHEN? What time of day are you usually tempted? Is there a certain day of the week? Is it usually in the evening after your roommates are all in bed? Is it in the early hours of the morning? Is it on Sunday afternoons? What is it about that time of day that is more challenging, are you tired or discouraged or lonely?
  • WHO? Are there certain people that feed into your sin? Maybe a family member or an old friend from your past or a certain roommate? Is there a hot girl that you always hope is near you at the gym so you can check her out? Do you have a friend circle that celebrates sin and entices you to join?
  • WHY? What is motivating you to run to this sin? Are you feeling lonely, angry, hungry, tired, discouraged? Are you feeling like you've worked hard and now you deserve to enjoy a break? Do you feel like God has cheated you and this is your way of getting what you NEED? Why are you running after THIS particular sin? What is it offering you? Pleasure? Power? Identity?

Now that you've identified what the battlefield looks like, it's time to respond. Get serious about fighting and defeating your sin. Write it down. Ask a roommate or a friend for help if you don't know the answers. Then create a battle plan based off insights you see from your battlefield. Share that plan with close friends so they can ask you specific questions and hold you accountable. You're not alone in the fight. Maybe you need to make some changes in your schedule and habits to avoid some of the most common pitfalls. Maybe go to bed a little earlier, maybe pray before you go to the gym, maybe get accountability for Sunday afternoons.

Identifying your battlefield is one of the fastest ways to know how to make no provision for the flesh like Romans 13:14 talks about. Basically, what is the supply chain for your sin? Get some insight into how you're failing. From where and when are the enemies coming? From that clump of trees to the west? Then let's set up some fences and artillery, it's stupid not to. Don't you want to be free from this scourge? Then know your battlefield.

Making war,
The Relentless Fight