THE CHILD OF GRACE DRAGGED BY THE FLESH

THE CHILD OF GRACE DRAGGED BY THE FLESH

J.C. Philpot

“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” — Romans 8:4
A person may be “IN THE FLESH,” as indeed we all are, and yet not “WALK AFTER IT.” To walk after it implies, a setting it up as a pattern, and walking in accordance with it. But a person may be dragged after another, as we see sometimes a child is dragged unwillingly along by its mother, who does not willingly walk with her. The child is not walking after its mother, nor hand in hand with her, nor side by side; but is compelled against its will to go a road which it hates, as to go to school when it gladly would go to play.

So in a sense it often is with the child of grace; he is often dragged on by the flesh. He does not go after it willingly; he does not sin willfully, but is entangled by the strength of the flesh, dragged on contrary to his best wishes, and sometimes in spite of his earnest cries, tears, groans, and desires. He does not walk after it as in Alpine countries tourists walk through the snow after a guide, setting his feet deliberately in every step which the flesh has made before him.

The saint of God, therefore, though he is in the flesh, does not walk after the flesh; for if he so walked he could not fulfill the law of love, and therefore the righteousness of the law could not be fulfilled in him. But, as enabled by grace, he does from time to time walk after the Spirit, for as the Spirit leads, he follows; as the Spirit prompts, he obeys; and as the Spirit works, he performs. When the Spirit reveals Jesus, he loves him with a pure heart fervently; when the Spirit applies a promise, he believes it; and when he makes known the truth of God to his soul, he feeds upon and delights in it.

A Return to Modest Apparel

modest-apparel

A Return to Modest Apparel

Jeff Pollard

Reformed Practice – Modesty and Dress

“For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” [1 Cor 6:20]

Vicent Alsop observed, “That the present generation is lamentably intoxicated with novelties and as sadly degenerated from the gravity of former ages can neither be denied, nor concealed, nor defended nor, I fear, reformed…even ‘the daughters of Zion’ have caught the epidemical infection.” Likewise, an epidemic of immodesty infects our churches today. The principles by which most swimwear fails the modesty test should be applied to everything we wear. We need to realize that some “coverings” do not really cover: tight clothing brings out the “body underneath” in the same way swimwear does. While we must not be ashamed of the body itself as if it were an evil thing, we must properly cover it to preserve chastity of mind and spirit, especially in the corporate worship of our holy God.

Above all, we men must learn how to govern our hearts and eyes as well as to teach our wives and children the proper principles of modesty. Although women are vulnerable to wearing lavish or sensual apparel, their fathers and husbands are ultimately responsible for what the women in their homes wear. Christian men and women need to study this matter and fervently pray about it, for we truly need a return to a Biblical modesty.

Why do we dress the way we do? John Bunyan put the question this way: “Why are they for going with their…naked shoulders, and paps hanging out like a cow’s bag? Why are they for painting their faces, for stretching out their neck, and for putting of themselves unto all the formalities which proud fancy leads them to? Is it because they would honor God? Because they would adorn the Gospel? Because they would beautify religion, and make sinners to fall in love with their own salvation? No, no, it is rather to please their lusts…I believe also that Satan has drawn more into the sin of uncleanness by the spangling show of fine clothes than he could possibly have drawn unto it without them. I wonder what it was that of old was called the attire of a harlot: certainly it could not be more bewitching and tempting than are the garments of many professors this day.” The same could be said today, dear reader. Examine your own heart. Why do you dress the way you do?

The cry of the Satanist is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” The cry of the 60s was “Do your own thing!” The cry of the Feminists is “It’s my body, and I’ll do what I want.” The cry of the modern Evangelical is “It’s my liberty, and I’ll do what I want.” Nevertheless, the declaration of Scripture is this: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” [1Co 6:19-20]. You are not your own, if you are a Christian. Your whole being—body and soul—is the purchased property of Jesus Christ; and the price paid for your body was the breaking of His: “This is my body, which is broken for you” [1Co 11:24; Mat 26:26]. Your body belongs to Him! He redeemed it with His precious blood on the cross of Calvary. We must consider how we adorn His blood-bought property.

No doubt, some will cry at this point, “Ahhh! But this is legalism!” It is not legalism to urge God’s children to cover themselves because modesty is the command of Scripture. The desire of the regenerate heart is to honor the Lord Jesus and to do whatever brings Him glory by keeping His commandments. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me…He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings” [Joh 14:21, 24]. The glory of God and love for Christ should be the primary motives for everything we say, do, and think, which includes what we wear.

I have given you the Scriptures, and…I trust that these [articles] have provoked you to thought, as well as to love and good works. However, as mentioned above, if you find the definition of modesty inaccurate or the conclusions in [these articles] unbiblical, then wrestle and pray until the Lord gives you something better. But pray! For the love of Christ, pray! It is never legalism to call God’s children to obey Him according to His Word!

Pray meditating on the very eternal purpose of Almighty God: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son” [Rom 8:29]. This earth, this whole universe exists for one reason alone: the God of grace intended to save His people from their sins and make them like His holy Son, Jesus Christ. He poured out His blood on the Cross of Calvary to pay the debt for the sins of His people. By faith in Him alone, their sins are pardoned for all eternity. Christ saves them, cleanses them, and makes them like Himself. And what is He like? “Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” [Heb 7:26].

So then, how shall we properly govern ourselves with regard to this difficult issue? Let us consider these principles:

1. The glory of God must be our primary aim—”glorify God in your body” [1Co 6:20]; “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” [Col 3:17].

2. Love for Christ must be our motive: “We love Him because He first loved us” [1Jo 4:19].

3. Remembering that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and that we are not our own must be our corrective. “Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you…and ye are not your own” [1Co 6:19].

4. Love for others, the preservation of purity in them and us, and the desire not to provoke them to lust will be our resulting aim. “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” [Rom 13:10].

May the God of mercy grant us repentance where we have sinned in this matter. Be honest with yourselves and your God, dear reader. Have you ever really given this issue serious consideration? Have any of you fervently asked the Lord how a holy child of God ought to dress? If not, I urge you to do so with all my heart. Repent of whatever worldliness you find in your hearts. Repent if you dress for the gazes of men and not for the glory of God.

Today many are again valiantly holding forth the Gospel of God’s sovereign grace; they are plainly declaring in many quarters the glorious truth of salvation by faith alone through Christ alone. These wonderful, transforming truths should produce a holy, humble, and modest people, distinguishable from this lost and dying world. Hence, my fervent prayer is that we ardently love Jesus Christ and one another, that we strive together for the unity of the faith, and that we lead lives that magnify the saving grace of our blessed Redeemer.

May we live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world [Ti 2:11-14]; and may we never deny these precious truths that we love by clinging to the forms and fashions of this present evil world and its sinful nakedness. Let us glorify God in our bodies, and in our spirits, which are His [1Co 6:20]. And for God’s glory and the love of the Lord Jesus Christ, let us return to Christian modesty.

ADDICTION TO PORN AND THE DELIVERANCE IN CHRIST

 

Frightened woman looking at the computer screen in the dark with the light coming from the computer

WHY ARE SO MANY CHRISTIANS ADDICTED TO PORN?

Luke Gilkerson

According to a recent survey by the Barna Group, 21% of Christian men say they have thought they were “addicted” to porn or said they weren’t sure. This is more than two times what non-Christian men said (10%). Interestingly, 64% of Christian men say they view porn at least once a month, but a higher percentage (71%) of non-Christian report doing this.

 Why are Christian men more likely to feel the term “porn addiction” applies to them?

Another recent study from Case Western Reserve University confirms this. Researchers concluded that there is a strong relationship between strong moral and religious convictions against porn and the perception that personal porn use is an “addiction.”

 Definitions of Addiction

In my opinion, the chief sources of the discrepancy are the conflicting definitions of addiction. What does it mean to use porn “compulsively” or “regularly”? For some folks, “addictive” use of porn might be once a month, once a week, once a day, or many hours in a day. Others would measure addictive use by how much it disturbs their lives: has it cost them money or significant relationships? For the most part, surveys are not standardized around specific definitions or descriptions.

For instance, take the survey results published in the Porn University survey:

  • 42% of men (7,065) said that they “regularly” visit sexually explicit websites or chat rooms, read sexually explicit magazines, or romance novels.
  • Yet 64% of men (10,622) said that they spend at least some time each week online for sexual purposes. About one in five of these said they spend 5 or more hours every week.
  • Furthermore, 19% of men (3,187) said they feel “controlled” by their sexual desires or fantasies of romance.

Clearly, what is considered “regular” use of pornography, or being “controlled” by it, are not the same across the board.

 So what makes someone feel “out of control”? One contributing factor that psychologists give is religion. Pioneering sex therapist Michael Quadland has studied those who feel “out of control” with their sexual behavior. He found the patient’s and therapist’s beliefs about what is sexually “normal” the biggest controlling factor in whether the behavior is deemed compulsive or destructive.

So if a Christian’s value system leads him or her to believe that any sexual gratification outside of marital intimacy is wrong, then any amount of compulsion to look at porn could be deemed “out of control.”

 Christians and Addiction Language

 The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders doesn’t use the word “addiction” for anything—not drugs, alcohol, nor any behavior. The language of addiction is largely shaped by culture—not medicine. Christian counselor Ed Welch explains:

“In popular use, addiction has become a very elastic and ambiguous category that contains everything from the frivolous (added to the six o’clock news) to the grave (addicted to alcohol). It also includes the unequally yoked categories of disease and sin. Given its ambiguities, there is a growing sentiment that we need a different word” (Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, p.11).

On top of these cultural ambiguities, addiction language in Christian community is also shaped by sin language. A year ago I heard Ed Welch give a talk at a conference in Philadelphia entitled, “Addiction, Temptation, & Voluntary Slavery.” He spoke about how so often the “Big Book” used by AA members seems so much more alive to them than the words of the Bible. Why? One reason is the Big Book uses “addiction” language. The Bible does not.

The recovering alcoholic needs to understand the language of the Bible. The Bible doesn’t talk of “addiction,” but rather “slavery to sin.” The Bible doesn’t speak of the root of habitual sin as merely a “disease,” but as “idolatry.” Once these categories are understood, many portions of Scripture can and do come to life for the struggling addict.

Biblical language levels the playing field between the so-called addict and the non-addict. The Bible speaks of a slavery to sin that has affected the whole human race. For the addict, this slavery has impacted his or her life in a particular, more demonstrative way; in fact, the conference in Philadelphia was called “The Addict in Us All,” to highlight this very point: we are all addicted to self, addicted to sin, and as Christians we are all being redeemed from that life of sin-slavery.

 Do Christians and Pornography Mix? Are Christians More Prone to Porn Addiction?

Definitional differences aside, could it be that Christians actually have a more difficult time battling addictions? I am not aware of any studies or surveys that suggest this, but there are at least two “theological” factors at work in Christian communities that might serve to escalate addiction:

 1. Teaching higher standards makes rebellion more appealing (i.e. the hot stove principle).

Being raised in Christian community, I know that teaching a high moral standard didn’t make me want to sin less: rather, I wanted to sin more. The apostle Paul wrote, “[I]f it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness” (Romans 7:7-8).

This is the hot stove principle: Tell a child not to touch the hot stove, and the forbidden act suddenly seems all the more attractive; the biblical motto of the harlot reiterates this conceit: “Stolen water is sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant” (Proverbs 9:17).

In a real sense, those who embrace Christian values can find pornography all the more appealing merely because it is demonstrably forbidden by their commitment to God.

 2. Failing at higher standards makes sin all the more novel and intoxicating.

We are wired to love novelty—it is an essential part of our development. When we encounter a new experience, our bodies release an extra dose of pleasure-producing chemicals, a mechanism which encourages us to experience and explore new things.

For me, the draw of pornography was largely a draw to novelty. Pornography, especially Internet pornography, keeps us coming back for more because it promises a veritably endless source of sexual novelty. Each new picture or video clip promises a new sensation. This is why porn-addicted men don’t simply log on, quickly find one appealing image, and gratify themselves. We keep searching. We can spend hours online. Why? Because it’s not about the climax; it’s about the search, the options, and each one is a novel sexual escapade. This desire for novelty is also the reason why we move from less graphic to more graphic pornography over time: the downward spiral is fed by a desire for novelty.

For the Christian who engages in pornography, typically there are added dimensions of guilt and paranoia. These have a way of compounding the novelty of each experience. This leaves a deeper emotional rut in the mind, as it were. Over time, guilt can become chronic—even a way of life. The guilt can become an essential ingredient to the addiction. There came a time in my life when feeling guilty was the only way I could feel normal.

 So, What is the Answer?

At first glance it would seem the conservative standards are the problem: get rid of the rigid moral code and the rest goes away, right? But when we seek to rid ourselves of Christian morals for the sake of keeping addiction at bay, we are playing fast and lose with theology. Christian morality is not merely an idea about how to live; it is based on real history—the belief that the Creator of heaven and earth has actually revealed Himself in human history. We desire to follow biblical morals because we are convinced that Jesus is the Christ, the revelation of God.

No. Instead of discarding our morals, we need to embrace the One who gave them:

 1. Teaching higher standards should point people towards their need for a new heart.

The goal of teaching Christian sexual ethics is not encouraging people to “try harder.” Merely highlighting the hotness of the stove is not the point. To know better is not necessarily to do better. Instead, recognizing our inward pull towards rebellion, we are to be driven to a place of utter neediness: I cannot change myself.

When I was entrenched in addiction, I knew that acknowledging my depravity was par for the Christian course, but something in me always wanted to “graduate” from that place of utter neediness. I sincerely believed that spiritual growth meant moving from spiritual poverty to self-sufficiency. I never would have said it that way, but that was my attitude.

But the great promise of Scripture is not that our “flesh” will get better, but that God can bring about great internal change despite our rebellious nature. He does so, not by enforcing an external code of conduct, but by implanting a new internal drive in His people, what the Bible calls a “new heart.”

Just as sure as pornography stirs up lustful cravings in us, the Holy Spirit is a source of new, holy cravings. Romans 8 tells us all true Christians have the Spirit of Christ within them (v.9). Galatians 5 says we are given the “desires of the Spirit” (v.17), and when we keep in step with these desires (v.16) the lusts of the flesh (leading to sexual immorality, impurity, and sensuality) will not have their way in us.

This is what the old Scottish minister Thomas Chalmers called “the expulsive power of a new affection.” Laws, rules, and regulations can only tell us what is bad and why it is bad, but they do not change our desire for sinful things. These sinful longings can only be conquered by implanting new “affections,” new cravings, that counter our sinful cravings. This is what the Spirit does in us: He shares His own desires with us, changing us from the inside out.

 2. Failing at higher standards should drive us to the cross.

The addict often finds himself in a cycle of abstinence, temptation, sin, guilt, penance, and back to abstinence. How do we break the cycle?

As we have seen, guilt is a big part of the addiction cycle. Guilt is that feeling of self-reproach, the feeling that one is culpable for some offense. When we feel guilt we desire absolution and reconciliation. Out of this longing, just like the pagan religions of old, we invent modes of penance that sooth our consciences: rituals that we hope will make us feel right with the powers of the universe again. We try to “get clean” by doing something good, to “make up” for the moral lapse. For some Christians, it is renewing a commitment to more prayer, more activity in the church, or donating more time or money to some worthy cause. For others, it is merely time: an extended track record of victory. For me, it was the emotion of worthlessness—a sort of mental flagellation; long hours of beating my heart to a bloody pulp. These are modes of penance that we hope will fuel greater obedience in the future.

This is where a proper understanding of the cross is critical. Yes, my sin means I deserve the lowest hell. But (in love) Christ experienced my hell on the cross. He experienced the agony of God-forsakenness, the curse of my sin. The Father channeled His just wrath for my sin into His Son. The cross is God’s altar to fully extinguish His anger, and, as a result, I am fully pardoned.

Furthermore, to prove Christ’s sacrifice was not in vain, God raised Jesus from the dead three days later. Weeks after this, His disciples saw Him ascend into the heavens, and there, we are told, He entered the holiest place of heaven. He poured out His Spirit on His people, and by His Spirit He can “purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14).

Knowing this, we should denounce all systems of penance as shallow cross-replacements. Knowing that my condemnation has been taken away, this grace from God breaks the cycle. Instead of guilt moving me to penance, guilt can, rather, move me to confession and praise. Instead of penance moving me to hollow abstinence, I am, rather, moved by real worship to experience a higher pleasure of God’s friendship.