Sin

The Gospel in 5 Words and 5 Verses

Creation

“Then God said, Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” – Genesis 1:26

Sin

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 6:23

Love 

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”- Isaiah 53:5

Grace

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God; not by works, so that no one can boast.” -Ephesians 2:8

Life

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 2:38

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Slaying the Dragon: How to Counsel Porn Addicts with Grace

Case Study: Let’s say your friend, whose name we will call Erik, admits to you his need for help in the area of porn addiction. He discovered it on a trip out of town when some of his friends showed it to him on their phones. Since then, Erik has frequently looked at pornography.

The problem got worse when he went to college and had no internet restrictions on his laptop computer. A few days ago, Erik felt convicted by God that as a Christian he must begin to deal aggressively with this sin. He even told his dad about the problem. His dad doesn’t know what to do and they have decided to seek counseling from you. What would you do? 

Erik has admitted his need for counseling because of his struggle with pornography. My first goal would be to reassure Erik that he made the right decision to seek help. By confessing his sin to dad and a counselor, he has followed James 5:16. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Now Erik is able to put off his sin nature and put on the righteousness of Christ since others will keep him accountable. 

After gathering data about Erik, my first advice for him would be to memorize Scripture pertinent to his struggle. Because people often feel powerless to overcome porn addiction, Erik should know this is a lie from Satan. The Scripture teaches in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 

As Erik memorizes this reference, which is a sword that fights against sin, the Bible will prepare him to win this battle. For example, if Erik is on the computer and no one is around, he may be tempted to go to a bad website. However, it’s no longer his fear of being caught that drives him. The Word of God will convict him now since he knows there is “a way of escape.” The fear of being caught is not a strong enough motivating factor for repentance. It has to be your conscience condemning you and godly sorrow that leads to true change in a person’s heart.  

Another important tool Erik should use to overcome his battle against pornography is the concept of “putting off” and “putting on.” Jay Adams calls this dehabituation—habits to put off, and rehabituation—habits to put on. Breaking a habit is a two-sided problem that requires the process of replacing our bad habits with good habits.[1] That’s why the Apostle Paul said “not to conform to this pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:1).”

A porn addict has several habits. To hide his addiction, he may lie about where he is going so he can quickly sin while no one is watching. After he is done, he may cover up his sin by deleting browsing history. So not only does the “lust” need to be dealt with, but the sin of lying is an issue. A verse that may help Erik to put on a good habit is truth rather than falsehood. Psalm 52:3 states, “You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth.” Erik will now need to be honest with people or God will convict him. 

In the life of a porn addict, Erik may have went from curiosity to experimentation, and from experimentation to obsession. He may be preoccupied with thinking about porn all the time and looks forward to having temporarily relief when he performs this lustful action. Erik now has to “put off” the habit of idolatry. An idol is anything that gives you ultimate fulfillment or satisfaction apart from God. It becomes a false savior. What most porn addicts find out is this momentary satisfaction leads to guilt and shame. In order to put off idolatry, Erik needs to put on worshipping the one true God. Matthew 6:33 states, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Because Erik has been exposed to multiple pictures and videos of sexual immorality that degrade women, He will need to put off how he views and treats women. No longer should Erik be flirting with women or having dirty thoughts. Instead, he needs to rewire his brain through the grace of Jesus Christ to look at women as God’s holy creation, not objects of sexual worship. Erik should “put on” this verse in his mind: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Lastly, Erik needs to know that pornography is not just a sexual addiction. Pornography causes people to lie to cover up their sin. Porn treats women with disrespect. It’s degrading to them. Porn addicts worship and serve the god of pleasure and fornication rather than the God of the Bible. Porn is a big issue. It destroys marriages and friendships.

If you or someone you know is struggling with this sin, get them help. It’s not too late. The good news is that Jesus Christ can help you overcome this sin. He can also heal you from the scars of shame and guilt left behind from many years of this addiction. Pray and ask God to help you now. If you have anything else that you think would help Erik overcome this problem, please feel free to comment below. 

            

 


[1] Jay Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual, p.188-189.

Limited or Unlimited Confidentiality in Biblical Counseling?

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Confidentiality in biblical counseling is when another person entrusts a counselor with sin issues they are struggling with. The Bible informs us to confess our sins to one other and pray for healing (Jam. 5:16). The purpose of this essay is to talk about the kind of commitment to confidentiality a biblical counselor should make with a counselee, when it’s appropriate to limit privacy rights and report a confession to civil authorities, and how a counselor should cooperate with the authorities about these issues.  The ultimate goal is to restore the counselee to a proper relationship with God.

When an individual entrusts their private sins with a counselor, it’s important to be clear with them the exceptions to confidentiality. There are at least three cases when privacy can be breached: (1) If the individual indicates an intention to harm him or herself or someone else. To protect the community, it’s important for another person or agency to be involved. (2) Has recently committed sexual or physical abuse or been abused by a perpetrator. The counselor is bound by the civil law to report any type of abuse, especially towards minors. (3) Has done something that violates the law.[1] Please use proper wisdom here. There is a difference between using an illegal substance like Marijuana and confessing to a murder. Both are violations of the law, but one is more severe than the other. In my opinion, if a person has been clean from drugs for at least 2 weeks and vows not to return to their addiction, you should not report them. However, if an individual confesses to a murder, even if it was 10 years ago, you are obligated to report this crime to the police.

How should a biblical counselor cooperate with the authorities? The Bible informs us that every person should place themselves under the authority of the government. There isn’t any authority unless it comes from God, and the authorities that are there have been put in place by God (Rom. 13:1). Furthermore, the civil authorities are placed there by God; they are agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer (Rom. 13:4). Thus, Christians should have a strong relationship with the government in order to maximize proper justice. That being said, I think the church has an advantage over the government to properly heal, restore, and rehabilitate sinners to a relationship with the Creator.

Confidentiality has been convoluted in recent years. It takes wisdom, discernment, and a tedious methodology to decipher whether or not a counseling session should remain private or be reported to proper authorities. I think our motive should always imitate the way God treats us according to Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This is the same attitude biblical counselors should have when healing broken hearts. Thoughts? Please share.

[1] Deepak Reju, “Strict Confidentiality?” Biblical Counseling Coalition Blog (October 20, 2015). Available at: http://biblicalcounselingcoalition.org/blogs/2012/06/12/strict-confidentiality/

Should Spiritual Warfare Affect our Biblical Methodology in Counseling?

The Temptation of Christ Ary Scheffer, 1854

The Temptation of Christ
Ary Scheffer, 1854

Ever since the Fall of Man, humanity has struggled with the operations of the devil. He is our adversary, the god of this world, who blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4) and seeks to destroy followers of Christ (1 Pet. 5:8). Satan, along with his demonic forces, have an agenda to hide the truth and love of God. In order to understand the devils agenda, it’s vital to familiarize yourself with what the Bible teaches concerning him and the tactics he commonly uses to deceive humankind.

The Bible asserts Satan was the originator of sin. He was a murderer, a liar, all from the beginning (Jn. 8:44; 1 Jn. 3:8). His name comes from the Hebrew word that means adversary–arch enemy of God (Job. 1:6; 1 Chron. 21:1; Zech. 3:1). He has been called other names too–the devil (Matt. 4:1; Rev. 12:9), serpent (Gen. 3:1; 2 Cor. 11:3), Beelzebub (Matt. 10:25; Lk. 11:15), the ruler of this world (Jn. 12:31; 14:30), the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), and the evil one (1 Jn. 2:13). He was once a good, angelic creature called Lucifer until iniquity was found in him. He attempted to dethrone God and as a result was kicked out of heaven. Since then, his entire agenda has been to pervert God’s word and make humans question His existence.

One might ask, “Is there a difference between unbelievers and believers regarding the activity of the devil?” I believe so. For instance, unbelievers are blinded by the truth and in many cases, don’t even realize they are in a spiritual battle. They may continue sinning and enjoying the pleasures of this world without being convicted. On the other hand, Christians believe their struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12). Therefore, it should be evident to every believer that there is a powerful force that seeks to destroy and manipulate.

As Christians, it’s imperative to realize the enemy has been defeated by Jesus when He died on the cross for our sins. By his sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection, Satan’s power has become defeated (Col. 2:15; Rev. 12:7), restrained (II Thess. 2:6), and rendered powerless over believers (Heb. 2:14). In fact, the Apostle James tells believers that when they submit to God, the devil will flee from them (Jam. 4:7). These truths should instill confidence and hope to believers since they have overcome the evil one (1 Jn. 2:17) through their relationship with God in Christ.[1]

If it is true that spiritual warfare exists, how does one respond to the demonic in the context of counseling? First, there is no biblical reason to think demon possession can occur in the life of a believer. The Holy Spirit who dwells within makes it impossible for an unholy being to torment their thoughts.[2] I find it troubling and dangerous when supposed Christian counselors preoccupy themselves with the occult by casting out demons. Movies like The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a perverted view of biblically based counseling. Furthermore, people may use the demon possessed cop-out to say: “The devil made me do it,” instead of taking personal responsibility for their wrongful behavior.

Nevertheless, is it possible for demon possession to occur in the life of an unbeliever? In my opinion, I believe so. The Bible gives scriptural warrant for it. For example, Jesus casted out demons from a man who lived among the tombs in the hill country of Gerasense. Night and day this man would cut himself with stones, he had supernatural strength to break chains, would yell incessantly, and even admitted there were many demon spirits living inside (Mk. 5:1-20). There are several stories like this in the New Testament (Matt. 9:32; Lk. 4:33-36; Lk. 22:3; Acts 16:16-18). Today, there are people who practice witchcraft, delve into the occult, perform satanic rituals, and experiment with hallucinatory drugs; all of these invite unclean spirits into the person. The good news is that when someone comes to faith in Jesus Christ, these unclean spirits are immediately vanquished. If you read about the Gerasene demoniac, it only took a few words from the authority of God for the man to return back to a right mind.

Much wisdom is needed to articulate a more accurate view for how the devil works in today’s world. There are two extremes one should avoid: a mentality the devil is responsible for all the wickedness in the world and a hasty attitude the devil is a mythological creature. The third and biblical option is the belief in a supernatural devil who literally influences people, but humans who have a free will and are held morally accountable for their wrongdoing. It is my hope that more conversations on this topic will help a Christian better decipher through the spiritual realm as it relates to human psychosis and Christian counseling

[1] Jay Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual, (Zondervan, 1986), p.126

[2] Ibid. 128

The Consequences of Unconfessed Sin

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Sin. It’s lethal, disastrous, wreckful, deadly, and it’s like a virus. If it’s ignored or unattended for too long, it will get worse. For example, the common cold is a curable virus. There are notable signs and symptoms like sneezing, coughing, and fever that inform your body to rest and drink plenty of fluids. However, if you don’t take care of yourself, the cold can lead into pneumonia and become fatal. The same is true when we allow the virus of unconfessed sin linger in our hearts and minds.

When the prophet Nathan pointed his finger at King David and told him his sins were known by God, it shook David to his core. He was ignoring the signs and symptoms of his sins for a while, but no longer could he hide the fact that he had committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah.

David later realized the consequences of unconfessed sin and wrote about it in the Psalms. First, he experienced physical distress. He said “When I kept silent my bones grew old through my groaning all day long.” How many of you have experienced physical distress when you don’t confess your faults to God or others? When you hold guilt inside, it’s like shaking up a soda can with the top on. It will eventually blow up.

I remember when my brother and I got into a heated argument when I was in college. I got angry with him and tackled him on the ground. For the next couple of days we didn’t talk to each other. I felt like my insides were being eaten alive by guilt and stress. My pride kept me from admitting my fault, but the pain of our fractured relationship motivated me to repent. Finally, I confessed my sin to him and God. I felt like David who said, “Let me hear joy and gladness, let the bones that you have broken rejoice.” When we confess our sins, it not only brings healing to our souls, but it brings restoration to those whom you have sinned against. Today, there are only three people that I can talk to on the phone more than an hour: My wife of course, my Mom, and my brother Brian. I am so grateful that our relationship has been restored.

Perhaps you’re at a place in your life where your prayers seem to go nowhere. You pray, and it appears that God does not hear you. Could it be that you have unconfessed sin in your life? The Psalmist states, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Any sin harbored in our lives will build a wall between us and God.

The Word of God says in 1 John 1:9 “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” This is why he sent Jesus to die for our sins. Jesus died for all sins, past, present, and future. So if you find yourself praying and not receiving answers, examine your heart before God. Ask him to reveal any unconfessed sin so that you might receive forgiveness and then press onward.

What are some benefits to confessing our sins to God and others? When we confess sin to someone it is no longer ignored but brought into the open. A brother or sister can keep you accountable and help you get through whatever struggles you are facing. When we confess sin, it becomes reassuring when you find out that others are also struggling with that same sin. You are able to relate to each other more.  Lastly, confession helps you realize you have a close connection to God and have received His grace. What can be better than knowing your relationship with God is healthy as a result of your honesty and integrity before Him?

You can pray or confess sin where you are.  You don’t need to go to a confession booth or consult a priest. If you are a believer you have direct access to the Father through Jesus Christ. He is our High Priest, our Mediator. I encourage you to pray to Him now and share your burdens. Amen.

What is the Spiritual State of the American Church?

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We are living in exciting times for the growth of the Church. There is no doubt about that. Large churches are growing all around the United States, adding 1,000s to worship Jesus on Sunday morning. In 2008, an American evangelical denomination reported that 2.5 million decisions were made for Christ. Yet, with all the excitement about the contemporary church in the United States, it seems that the statistics are revealing a darker side.

An American Barna group study found that 45 percent of those who profess to be born-again Christians believe that gambling  is morally acceptable. 41 percent also think the Bible, Koran, and the book of Mormon are all different interpretations of the same spiritual truth–despite the book’s vastly contradictory teachings on truth, salvation, the nature of God, and the afterlife. Is there something wrong with this picture? Jesus warned us that in the last days, many false prophets and religions will appear and deceive many people (Matt. 24:11).

The darker statistics continue. Almost half of professing U.S. Christians believe that living with someone of the opposite sex before marriage is morally permissible–despite the Bible’s prohibition against it. Promise Keepers, an organization for men and women devoted to maintaining sexual purity, found that 53 percent visit porn sites every week. More alarming, an internet survey of 6,000 Pastors conducted in 2002 found that 30 percent of pastors had viewed internet porn in the last 30 days.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians, “No sexually immoral person will enter the Kingdom of Heaven?” Is that you today? Are you letting a harlot visit you through the television or computer screen? Are you flirting with a co-worker in the office who is not your spouse? Are you reading fictional Romance, even Christian ones, that are distracting you from your own husband? If so, remember Proverbs 5:

“For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.”

Think for a moment about these sobering facts and figures. Here we have millions of “believers” who profess Jesus as Lord, and yet their theological understanding, ethical views, and daily lives are evidence they don’t know God. The shocking fact is that these statistics are not based on the unbelieving world–It’s not the culture outside of the walls of the church; it’s talking about the people sitting in the pews and at the pulpit. That means some people who are reading this message might possibly be the ones described in Matthew 7:21-22, who don’t enter Heaven, but are cast into Hell.

“Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but He who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? And Jesus will declare to them, “I never knew you, depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”

Think about how seemingly spiritual people can be and still not make it to heaven. They called Jesus Lord, they weren’t ashamed to prophesy or cast out demons. These people seem to be more spiritual than the average churchgoer, and yet they will be rejected on the day of Judgment by the Lord Jesus Christ.

What is the solution? Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith ( 2 Cor. 13:5). Are you producing fruit or are you an empty branch? The fruits of the spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Do these virtues describe you? Are you trusting in Christ? If not, then critically analyze whether you have been born again.

You are not saved by doing good works, but your good works help you identify whether God’s spirit is in you. James said, “Faith without works is dead.” Let me make it clear that we are saved by grace through faith. It’s a free gift from God, not of works, lest any of us boast about our spiritual maturity. All of us have sinned and we fall short of the glory of God. With that all said, it’s still important to be honest about your relationship with God. If it’s not there, then you should repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. Seek the Lord now, while He may be found.

Overcoming Anger

Anger Controlls Him

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back (Prov. 29:11).” 

In the spring of 1894, Boston hosted a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles that ended in a disaster. Infielder John McGraw, also known as Little Napoleon and Muggsygot into a fist fight with the Boston third basemen. Within minutes, all the players from both teams ran out of the dugouts and joined in a free-for-all brawl. The battle royal quickly spread to the grandstands. The fighting frenzy went from bad to worse. One of the fans set fire to the stadium and the entire ballpark burned to the ground. The firefighters couldn’t contain the flames, and it spread to 107 other Boston buildings as well.

Anger is an epidemic issue. Christian counselors report that approximately 50 percent of people who get treated for problems struggle with anger. Anger can fracture communication with others, tear apart relationships, and rob the joy and health of many. It can also be self-destructive. My professor in college used to say, “Anger tastes good until you find out that what you are eating is…yourself.” How then, can we handle anger biblically?

First, it’s important to mention that anger is not always sinful. The Scripture teaches that God is a righteous judge who feels indignation, getting angry with the injustices of the world and the wickedness of man (Ps. 7:11; Mk. 3:5). Jesus, the God-Man who calls us to love our enemies, gets angry with the Jews for defiling God’s temple in Jerusalem (Jn. 2:13-18). They were turning the house of worship into a marketplace for profit. Don’t you get angry with the injustices that happen in our world today? That’s because you desire to see truth, justice, and peace reign on the Earth.

4 WAYS TO HANDLE ANGER EFFECTIVELY 

1. Count to 10 – Thomas Jefferson once said: “When angry, count to 10 before you speak; if very angry, 100. As time passes, your arousal for anger diminishes. Moreover, why you are mentally counting, meditate on Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is noble, whatever is right, what is pure, whatever is lovely, think on these things.”

2. Forgive – Even if you feel betrayed, manipulated, or wronged, forgiving a person who has provoked you to anger is an excellent way to subdue it. Scripture teaches, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Harboring anger in your heart will lead to bitterness, and bitterness will lead to a hardened heart that is hostile toward God.

3. Don’t deny that you are angry – A study in the journal Emotion conducted by Ricky Pond, a PhD student at the University of Kentucky, reported that people who admit their anger temptations are less likely to resort to aggression or violence than those who deny it. Isn’t denial always the first sign that someone has a problem? God’s word pronounces, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (1 Jn.1:9).”

4. Write about it – Writing or journaling the circumstances that led to your outburst of anger will help you to think through how you reacted, what you can do to change it, and prepare next time to slow down and think through how you want to respond next time when the temptation comes. The apostle Paul writes to the Ephesian church, exhorting them to not allow their anger to last until the sun goes down (Eph. 4:26). Journaling is a great tool because it forces someone to write it out, think about it, and repent from it.

CONCLUSION

If only John McGraw would have thought about his actions before he reacted abruptly, then there wouldn’t have been a fight between the teams, the fans, and over a hundred buildings destroyed by the small anatomical piece of our body that we call the tongue. James warned us that the tongue is a small part of the body, but like a tiny spark, it can set a great forest of destruction on fire. My prayer is that you allow the Holy Spirit to control your anger so that you can have victory for the Kingdom of Heaven!