In January, I celebrated 14 years of marriage. I am truly amazed that God gave me the gift of my wife when I was so young. I always say I married up!
The longer I’ve been married, and served as a pastor, I’ve seen how easy it is to stop leading out of our singleness or marriage. We forget that who we are is more important than what we do. They’re meant to flow out of each other.
We get off track when we lose the 1 Corinthians 7 vision for singleness and the Ephesians 5 vision for marriage — and how that is meant to be the proclamation of the good news to the watching world.
I want you to think with me why Paul connects our status to our gospel vocation? It’s a big deal, that’s why! As you ponder what Paul communicates, do you function from that place?
Sexual integrity is one of the most challenging parts of leading like Paul describes. It was challenging in his day, and it is still challenging in 2018. The churches he writes to in Corinth and Ephesus battled with personal purity and holiness.
Their cultures were hyper-sexualized like ours. Yet as we seek to walk with Jesus, this area of our life must be handed over to Him daily. How do we walk in sexual integrity in a world that promotes the opposite?
Create a battle plan
Our vocation, by nature, makes us susceptible to temptations due to stress and spiritual warfare. Working with people in a caring profession will wear us out. We will have our hearts broken many times. That’s why we need to have a plan of attack.
One of the most game-changing pieces of technology came in 2007: the invention of the smart phone! It gave us the ability to be instantly connected to all the information we could ever want. It also brought vulnerability: seeing images (both wanted and unwanted) and the inability to shut our minds off because of our constant desire for a like or share.
Many of us, unwittingly, have been taken captive by our phones and the illusion that they give us true rest. They’re a tool to be used, but often they use us. We turn to them for comfort, instead of running to the arms of Jesus and trusted friends.
Some of us need to get rid of apps that tempt us (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.). Each of these have images that can tempt. There is nothing wrong with being tempted, but how do we fight it? Jesus says we should cut off that which causes us to stumble.
Have you considered making your smart phone a dumb phone by disabling your internet browser and letting a trusted friend set that code? This is war. The temporary rush will only provide temporary relief. It’s time to move past the temporary and seek the eternal.
Set boundaries with the opposite sex.
Russ Butcher, who I interned with when I was a college student, made it a policy never to meet with the opposite sex alone. His reasoning was to protect all parties involved. In our current culture, this is so needed.
I know many may be uncomfortable with this. The question isn’t whether it is right or wrong, but rather what is the wise thing to do? Wisdom is the ability to put into practice what we know to be true and best. This has served me well over the years and has truly honored my wife.
Confess early and often
You’re going to sin; that’s never the question. The question is how you respond when you realize you’re in sin. Confess; don’t let blame and shame get in the path of healing. Healing will only happen through a place of repentance.
One of the most heartbreaking parts of the current American church, and our cultural climate, is that we don’t know how to confess. We must be willing to walk with people through the mess that is life. Everyone is broken, but we like to pretend we aren’t. As we confess, be specific with what is happening.
Vulnerability is the vehicle of healing
If someone confesses to you, may you speak to them as Jesus speaks to us. The gospel says, “You’re loved despite your mess, but God doesn’t want to leave you this way. He wants to bring healing. I know because He has done this for me.”
I want you to be ready for the war that is coming your way! We play to win when we battle the sin within.
Make your own battle plan
In order to create your own battle plan it will be helpful to answer the following questions:
- How do you cope with stress and pain?
- What tempts you?
- When are you most tempted?
- Have you confessed and communicated the need for help to your spouse (if applicable) and trusted friends?
As you go to work on your battle plan, ask God to grow your love and passion for Jesus and your spouse on a daily basis. We can’t win this war in our own power and might.
Published January 25, 2018