The following is a guest post by Chris Royce, a senior in the pre-seminary studies (pastoral track) program at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota.
Aside from small repairs and simple fixes, my family and I have never really been a family of elite handymen or “do-it-yourselfers.” Some people have great abilities when it comes to repairing appliances, fixing cars, and building things (and if you are one of these people, I must say, I envy this gift that you have) so for the most part, when something needs fixing in our house, we find the right person to do the job. When our dryer went last month, we called the dryer repair man. If the car springs a leak, we’ll have it at Fleet Farm for service the next day. When we want a new piece of furniture, we simply go to the store and buy it.
Lately, though, I’ve been trying to become more “hands-on” around the house. One way I tried to achieve that this past summer (besides watching HGTV) was by designing and building my own bed frame. (Note: it won’t be winning any awards at a fine woodworking show, but for a first endeavor into woodwork it turned out pretty nicely!) In doing this project, I learned more about different tools, how to use them, and the different purposes they served. It was vital to use the right tool and to use them properly; otherwise the project could be ruined.
Regardless of our experience or inexperience with fixing things, many of us work hard to be the “handyman” of our spiritual lives. When we have a certain pet sin, bad habit, or addiction that wages daily warfare in our hearts and consciences, we try fixing it with a DIY method. To try and make ourselves feel better about the rut we are living in, we try and talk ourselves through it. Do any of these sound familiar?
- “I’ll quit doing this tomorrow.”
- “I haven’t done _____ for awhile. I’ve been pretty good lately, so I can treat myself this time.”
- “I’m not harming anyone, so I don’t really see what the big deal is.”
These lines, and many similar ones, can be summed up into one thought that serves as the “mission statement” for our struggle against sin:
“I can fix this myself. Even if I’m going to struggle with this, I will get out of this on my own someday, somehow. There’s no way that I can bring someone else into this. What would they think of me? They’ll think I’m disgusting – they’ll be repulsed. I would let my family and closest friends down. I can’t burden somebody else with my petty problems.”
Friends, this is dangerous. Addictive sins (like pornography) are very difficult, if not impossible, to conquer singlehandedly. When we keep our addictions and bad habits bottled up inside our hearts and consciences, we are only giving them a place to keep growing. When we fall to the struggle and sin against our Savior, we easily bog ourselves down with guilt and shame instead of opening our eyes to the Gospel.
Many of us make daily efforts to make external changes. If I want to control my weight and stay in shape, it would be best to faithfully use a gym membership and a diet plan. Additionally, having a workout buddy would help me get my butt off the couch and get active. I could say: “I don’t want to spend the money on a gym membership or drag someone with me to exercise, I can do it myself.” – but so often Netflix and Doritos have greater appeal than a treadmill. If I want to do better in school and improve my grades, I’ll find a quiet study space, set aside my electronics, and study with a friend, to stay on task. But when I say “I can study on the couch with the TV on, but I’ll be productive,” my eyes are often more fixed on Monday Night Football than on that paper due the next day. In these scenarios, the best way to fix our external problems is with outside sources, like the gym membership and the library study buddy. When we leave it to ourselves to create perfect change in our lives, we often fall short of our hopes and goals. The best way to fix our internal faults, like the struggle against addictive sin, is with outside help. Luckily, God has given us two tangible resources we can use in this great struggle against sin – his precious Word and our brothers and sisters in the faith. If we are motivated to call on outside help to improve our bodies or our grades (as illustrated earlier), how much more should we be motivated to use the Word and fellow Christians to help eradicate a recurring sin in our hearts, the part of us that God looks at intently?
In Paul’s letter to the believers in Ephesus, he addressed the sin of sexual immorality head-on. In Chapter 5, Paul strongly urges these Christians (and us today) to completely abstain from this impurity. In addition to the urgent call to avoid this sin, Paul insists that these “unfruitful works of darkness”(5:11) should be exposed to the light. He goes on to say in verses 12 and 13: “For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible.” Porn addiction can be brought to light by sharing the struggle with a close friend, a family member, a pastor or a counselor. Our fellow Christians, as well as called workers who serve our churches and schools are blessings from God in the daily struggle against good and evil. They can pray for us, and we can pray for them. They can share the Gospel with us, and we can share the Gospel with them. They can forgive us, and we can forgive them. To neglect this fantastic source of strength, comfort, and hope from God would be a waste of an incredible blessing he has given to us.
While Paul mentions that is “shameful” to mention these sinful thoughts and feelings of the heart, he doesn’t stop there – and he breaks out the magic word “but.” “But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible.” A popular reason for keeping our sexual sins to ourselves is the “EW!” factor we connect with it. Many of us feel that porn and lust are more revolting sins than gossip, stealing, or taking the Lord’s name in vain. But God sees all sin as “EW!” Porn, lust, gossip, stealing, and cursing God’s name are all disgusting sins to God, but all of these sins (and many more) were paid for when Jesus died on the cross and took our place. There is no sin so great and revolting that was not on Jesus’ shoulders on that very first Good Friday.
Speaking of the Gospel message, let’s not forget the other important tool that God has given to us to fight sin and grow in faith – his holy Word. In one of Paul’s letters to Timothy, he emphasized what great power the Holy Scriptures have. Paul says “All Scripture is God-breathed as is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16). The Law portions of the Bible will show us our sin, and the Gospel message will show us our Savior. The Bible is the perfect source of comfort and encouragement in a world where sin lurks all around us. When we slip into sin, we can read of other men and women who were forgiven by God for their sins, and we can hear God speaking to us. Often, we will use God’s Word with our brothers and sisters in Christ when they need help or encouragement, and vice versa. When we slip in our struggle and go to a friend for help, they will encourage us with the Gospel.
Every day, we need to use the right tools to get through life. Whether it’s using the right tools for an elaborate project or for sparking life change, using them properly is the key to success. If we do not bring our sin to light through use of the Scripture or our comrades in Christ, we are going to make it very difficult and most likely impossible to escape our rut. Thanks be to God that he has given us resources in the fight against sin and Satan. He has won the great victory for us, and with his help we can achieve victory every day.