Monday, July 8, 2013

"Grace and 423 Men"

The following is an email reprinted here with permission by one of our 423 Men leaders, Joel Day.  It is his response to the question of grace and the process of recovery from sexual addiction. Joel well articulates our need and utter dependence upon the grace of God in our fight for purity: 
"I too have felt that our group is often soft on guys, but I wouldn't define it as Grace so much as tolerance, or worse, indifference. The recovering Pharisee in me used to think that it was too much Grace. Only recently am I coming to understand and articulate what is actually going on. It is not a matter of too much Grace, but too little Gospel.

"We need to be "speaking the truth in love" (Eph 4v15) to the guys in a way that they will grow in maturity of their faith. I used to think that meant saying really difficult things to people, even when they don't want to hear it. I am now coming to understand that "the truth" is found in the person and work of Jesus. So, speaking the truth in love is another way of saying "Speak the Gospel to one another." We are to be speaking the hope, the life, and the truth of Jesus. We can't say a really hard word to a guy that has nothing to do with Jesus and expect him to grow up into maturity in Jesus. We need to speak into the guys in a way that they will grow up into maturity in Christ. We need to be speaking the truth of Christ into every situation. The only hope for growing up is not more (so called) "truth", but more Jesus. Not just the Jesus who saved us from hell, but the Jesus who, by his Holy Spirit, is saving us today.

"The gospel is God's power to save everyone who believes. (Rm 1:16).  It is not our works for him, but our faith. The righteous live by faith. (Rm 1v17).

"Simply put, the Gospel is God's power (God's works) to save and the people of God are those that live by faith.

"God is a God of love and his grace abounds. But He is also a God of wrath (Rm 1v18).

"Grace does not mean saying "It's no big deal" and I think that is what happens a lot in our group. God would not just sit back and say "It's no big deal, I don't really care, do whatever you want..." He is angry about it. Showing Grace to a guy does not mean at the expense of our sisters. I love my wife. If some guy started hitting on my wife, or worse, I'd be pretty angry. A God of love must be a God of wrath because he loves us and he hates it when we are evil in our hearts and rebel against him and take advantage of others. He hated it so bad, his son had to die for it. If he didn't hate it, then why did he suffer?

"I believe the reason the guys (myself included) are struggling is because of a lack of faith and trust in God's power to save. We are measuring our own standing before God, by our own works, and our own ability and we live in shame because we know we don't measure up to a holy God. It is hard to love and accept what Jesus did for us. We want to try and fix ourselves and manage our sin so that we can be acceptable before God. There is still part of us that wants to take credit for our righteousness. We are in need of the cross. Without Jesus we are hopeless. Trying to perform or manage our sin, is simply our unbelief in the gospel. We are trying to please God instead of trust God. We don't believe that God is sufficient enough to makeup for our mess.

"What we have done has been taken care of at the cross and what's been done to us can be healed in Christ and what we have to do is live by faith, not by works.

"From my perspective, this is a typical example of what happens in group each week: 

"I express my unbelief in the gospel through sharing (confessing) my week. I say something like, "I blew it, I feel really bad about it, I'm ashamed of myself, etc..." I am waiting for everyone else to say "It's okay, It's no big deal, you're forgiven, etc..." so I'll feel better because the group has absolved me. Then I say to myself, "Whew! I don't want to do that again because I don't want to be ashamed and have to confess to the group again."  Now, my accountability to the group is going to increasingly give me motivation to not want to be embarrassed, so out of my desire to not want to be embarrassed anymore, I'll try harder to stop sinning.

"That is not Grace, that is massaging the idol of my heart, which is people pleasing. So, I am not really set free from sin, I am just using a different sin to not sin. My people pleasing is now motivating me to not look at pornography.

"The point is not for guys to simply stop looking at pornography, it is for their heart to be set free. I don't want to live for the approval of others and I don't want any guy in my group to live for my approval. I want him to know that he is accepted, loved and forgiven, because that is going to be a greater motivation for not acting out than me. The love of the Father is way more motivating than my opinion of him, because mine is not going to be consistent. The Father's love is.

"When I would act out, it made me feel embarrassed and ashamed and caused me to pull away from God and others (isolation). It often took days (or longer) for me to get to the point where I would come back to the foot of the cross, praising Jesus for his amazing grace and forgiveness. Meanwhile, I was busy beating myself up saying "What Jesus did for me on the cross was not sufficient" and I needed to crucify myself.  Who is glorified in that? Me!

"'Speaking the truth in love' has the goal helping others grow up in every way into Christ. Guys need to get to a point where the moment they act out, they fall to their knees, praise God and thank Him for forgiving them for what they had just done. If they get to that point, then they probably wouldn't be acting out anymore. Most of us are so stuck in Romans 7 that we never get to the last 2 verses or even on to Romans 8.

"...Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rm 7v24-25).

"We need to get to Jesus in our sin, not away from Jesus. The problem with our sin is that it drives us away from God. The heart of sin is "I'll do this on my own for myself" so Satan tells us to keep doing it by ourselves. The gospel tells us that we can't do it by ourselves. We need to get back to the cross and exalt in what Jesus has done for us.

"The penalty for sin has been taken care of. We can sin and God's grace will abound. It's CRAZY! But it doesn't give us a license to sin (Gal 5v13). The more we experience grace, the more we want Jesus. The more we want Jesus, the more we don't want sin. The more we don't want sin, the more we want to live for his glory. The more we live for his glory, the more holy we are in all areas of life because we are set apart for Him in everything, not just some things.

"Every sin and issue is a Gospel issue, since sin is the outcome of unbelief in the person and work in Jesus (John 16v9). When a guy is sharing his week and confessing his sin, he is expressing his unbelief in the Gospel. We need to regularly ask "How does the Gospel address this?", "What about the Gospel am I not believing?", "Who is Jesus what has He done?" or "What idol/god am I putting my trust in?" As we become more aware of the people or things that have become idols and compare them to Jesus – Jesus becomes more satisfying, more reliable, more trustworthy, more...

"Jesus is our only hope."


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