The word addiction is open to all kinds of theories, which is one reason some Christians try to avoid it. Slavery is more specific. But the word addiction is a useful point of contact that essentially says, “I like this, or at least I once liked it, but I certainly never planned to be owned by it.”
How do you approach addictions in your church? Here are eight questions for pastors to consider.
1. Would those who are struggling or trapped in sin come to your church?
2. Do leaders in your church know what to do if someone confesses addiction to them? Does everyone know what to do?
3. Do you have enough of a relationship with local law enforcement to know what kind of addictions are in your area?
4. Do you have someone in your church who has a special affection for those who struggle with addictions? If so, how do you encourage this person in ministry? Pastors frequently ask about starting an addiction group in their church. If you are interested in one, a group usually begins with one or two people who pray together for themselves and others.
5. Is there a standard testimony in your church? Does it suggest a victorious life in which struggles are eventually behind us? This can inhibit openness. Or does the standard testimony in your church suggest that you have to hit bottom before you can really know Jesus? This can inadvertently become the prescribed way of coming to Christ. When possible, we hope for a growing cache of diverse stories.
6. Do you have conversations with other pastors about their experiences and how they approach addictions in their church?
7. What guidelines do you have for your care of those who are enslaved to pornography or drugs?
8. How is the person and work of Jesus Christ meaningful in your care of addicts? Do you use everyday language and accessible images or do you fall back on theological jargon?
I think about ladders during the Christmas season.
In the beginning, the Lord dwelled, in all his fullness and glory, in heaven. Yet he came to earth and began to fashion it into his dwelling. There was a ladder—a vertical bridge—between heaven and earth. The full project would take time, but God made visits and walked with us during those visits.
When we turned from the Lord, the distance between us became greater, and human history then became one long obsession about that distance. Life could only be found in being close to God, yet we preferred to get close on our own terms. The tower of Babel was the first of many aborted attempts to make a ladder to God in our own strength. Now, instead of towers, we try to create righteousness in ourselves by our haphazard attempts at being good or religious, but our attempts to climb the ladder still fail.
Yet God’s plan was to bridge heaven and earth, and he was still going to do it. He came close and spoke to people—Abraham, Moses, Job and others. He made promises that he would bless, which means that he must be close because blessing is dependent on his presence.
When Jacob had doubts about God’s promises, he was given a glimpse into heavenly realities. He saw a ladder, and “the angels of God were ascending and descending on it,” and the Lord stood above it. (Genesis 28:12–13). The vision is clear: heaven will, in fact, come to earth. The two will connect.
With this vision in mind, Jesus spoke to Nathaniel. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51).” The ladder is the same. Angels are freely going between two realms. What is different is that God, once seen at the top of the ladder, is now on earth. The Lord—the Son of Man, the Ancient of Days, Jesus the Christ—has descended, in all humility and love. In the weakness of a baby, he came to us and the distance between heaven and earth was forever changed.
Just one more ascent. In his death, resurrection, and ascent into heaven he became the enthroned One. From there, his first official act was to give us his Spirit, who descends and is present with us while we remain on earth. Christ did this for those who trust in him, and he did it with us. When we trust him, our life becomes wrapped into his, so we ourselves now traverse the ladder with him.
Christmas is the time we remember that God came down, which had always been the plan. The ladder, once the domain of angels, has become a level path—a well traveled highway—on which we walk freely with Immanuel.
I wrote a series of meditations for men and women whose anger has hurt others—A Small Book about a Big Problem. This, certainly, includes us all. Yet there is a version of anger that these meditations only touch briefly and recently someone raised it with me.
What about angry victims?
My first response to an angry victim would be: “Help me understand what happened.” In my experience, the problem for victims is rarely their anger. Their anger is more often a front for the pain of betrayal and harm. It is their temporary protection. When victims speak with someone who actually cares for them, their anger typically vanishes. Otherwise, I look for anger that victims might unleash on themselves: “I am so stupid. How could I have let that happen?” Or, since victims have often been coached by perpetrators to feel responsible for perpetrators’ behaviors, victims can mimic the abusers’ degrading words and actions.
But what if a victim can persuade you that his or her anger against the perpetrator is a priority? The challenge is that there are ten different ways that Scripture could help. Do you leave room for God’s wrath? Do you consider how Jesus gave matters of justice over to his Father? What about those “burning coals” Paul talks about in Romans 12:20? And so on. With so many options, the task becomes a joint venture in identifying what God says that is most important. Most likely this will include at least this one sure thing for the victim—speak to the Lord. Speak to the God who hears and who even gives you words for your misery and the oppressive acts done against you. If you are the helper and are searching the psalms for help, Psalm 5 is the first of the imprecatory psalms. Victims will recognize themselves in it. Though it might take years to master and be mastered by this psalm, they will be years in which the Lord both invites our words, shapes our hearts and brings us into his heart.
May we all grow in knowing God’s heart for the oppressed and shamed, even when they seem angry.
My son-in-law was praying before dinner at our home. Meanwhile, my four-year-old twin grandsons continued their conversation. So it was appropriate for me to say something.
“Guys, when we pray it is time to listen, not talk.” I spoke in a normal, conversational tone.
Immediately, one of the boys erupted into inconsolable tears—pitiful, barely-being-able-to-breathe silences followed by ear-piercing screams. Grief that came from the depths of his soul. He turned to his mother, who was sitting next to him, to seek some physical consolation, but he realized that was not going to help and fled to another part of the house.
Most of my grandchildren cried the first time I corrected them. We would talk about what happened, all would be fine, and by the next correction they had immunity to the thought that my correction was personal rejection. This grandson, however, has affection for me that goes deeper—even deeper than his desire to hoard his Halloween candy. For him, correction communicates that his grandfather is not pleased with something about him, and the perceived interruption of love is too much to bear.
I went and found him. “Buddy, we are fine.” The moment the words were out of my mouth, he was tranquil and smiling. I then spoke about the whole talking-while-someone-is-praying thing. He might have heard; I’m not sure. What he did hear was that the breach in the relationship had been mended, and things were back to normal. Nothing was more important to him than that.
Though my words at the dinner table were not spoken in anger, my grandson had not yet learned to distinguish between my correction and my rejection and he assumed the worst. Correction, rejection, anger—they felt the same to him, and he is not alone. If we think we are innocently saying, “You are wrong and I am going to correct you,” we might be heard saying, “I DO NOT LOVE YOU.” Add anger to correction and the message is unmistakable. Perhaps, when spoken to a four-year-old who loves you more than life itself, he will cry, and you will have an opportunity to bring healing. Sadly, most victims won’t say a word because this is not the first time. They have become accustomed to the rejection.
If your correction of your children is not offered with explicit words of love and encouragement or if you express your “legitimate frustrations” to those around you, then you are most likely saying “I DO NOT LOVE YOU.” Then it would be right for you to cry.
With the approach of Thanksgiving, I am often struck with how people—young and old alike—lack an important attribute: gratitude. I’m not looking for a warm fuzzy thank you for a gift, but a deep rich appreciation for life and what we’ve been given. Why is this? What gets in the way of gratitude?
Here are two thoughts.
First, our society cultivates discontentment. Consistently, we hear a message of want. Mass media, advertising, and holiday seasons all capitalize on the misconception of necessity and the hungering for more. There are quite literally thousands of images, commercials, and marketing ploys that are meant to create a sense of need. I “need” this new phone to be satisfied, or this new product to be fulfilled. Advertising develops a feeling of deficiency within us. It seeks to convince us that without the latest beauty product, invention or gadget, we are lacking. In Philippians 4:11-12, Paul rebuffs this message by challenging us to be content in any circumstance—in plenty or in want.
Second, discontentment is easily triggered in us because we have an underlying sense of entitlement. We believe that we are inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. I deserve that new electronic device, or that vacation, or peace and quiet when I come home after working all day. Entitlement justifies whatever self-focused response pours out of my mouth or actions. Entitled desires quickly become demands that excuse putting myself first and the needs of others last (if at all). These things, no matter how much I desire them, are not innate human rights but wants that have risen to a level of necessity in our hearts and minds. In contrast, Scripture tells us that our goal is not to look for what we deserve but to be poured out as an offering to others (Philippians 2:17). We are to “walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2).
Discontent and entitlement are strong pressures, but there are still ways to cultivate gratitude in your home. The more I teach my children to love God, enjoy each other, and to serve others, the more they come to realize that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
Here are some simple, but practical, ways to facilitate this in your family:
Remembering can be done in a variety of ways: lists, journaling, creative expressive exercises, memory boxes, gratitude jars, etc. Gratitude itself is not the end goal, but we aspire to gratitude that points to the Lord, our Provider. He is enough. He is our source of contentment, pleasure, satisfaction. All else is icing on the cake.
As you instill these ideas in your home, you will find that your gratitude grows and it will become easier to encourage your kids to follow your lead.
Gratitude does not come naturally to us, but it can be cultivated. It helps to switch us from a perspective of need to one of contentment. It acknowledges that no matter my condition, my possessions, my sufferings, or my blessings, we are rich in ways the world can not quantify.
In America we will celebrate Thanksgiving this week. It is a time to gather together with family and friends and celebrate with good food—we look forward to it. And yet the realities of living in a broken world don’t disappear because it is a holiday. As you prepare your heart and mind for Thanksgiving, do so with your eyes wide open.
Here are some of the realities you may face.
Is someone missing from your table this year? The sorrow of the passing of a loved one is a grief that will shadow all other joys. There is an empty chair. The loss could be recent or years in the past, no matter the circumstance the absence is heartbreaking. Remember, your Jesus promises to wipe away every tear. You can take both your sorrow and your joy to him. Remember the Christian life holds up both realities at the same time.
So as you enter your thanksgiving meal, aim for genuine expressions of faith in your words. Speak about your joys and speak about your sorrows. Let others help carry this burden of grief, just as your Heavenly Father carries it with you.
Will you be alone this year? Has work or school, military service, singleness, divorce, or an empty nest left you facing the holiday season on your own? Or have you isolated yourself from friends and family? When we are able to celebrate with loved ones, we easily forget that there is a lot of hype in our culture about happiness and tradition that is actually very empty. Even so, when we are alone, we can sense the emptiness more keenly. The result is often a feeling of being even more alone.
Remember, your Lord is near. You are never alone. As a believer you are united to your brothers and sisters around the world. Take time to ponder what that great feast will be like in Heaven and what it will mean to never again experience aloneness.
Is there division in your family? Are you worried about going home to judgment, demeaning looks, and harsh words? Is there a person who is unpredictable, who flips on a dime and can ruin any good gathering? Have you caused division? Broken relationships create an environment of uncertainty and fear. It makes families not want to be together. And as the years pass the hope of change fades to the past.
Don’t lose heart. Have courage. Take up the call to love, to intervene, to repent, to move toward. Pray now that God will go with you. Pray for discernment. Ask God to show you what wise love looks like and does.
Do you have much to be grateful for? Does the newness of a relationship have you relishing every moment? Are your children all at home, your heritage near and beautiful? Has the Lord restored a broken relationship once considered to be beyond repair? Your experience of God’s blessing shouldn’t end only in gratitude.
Let your joy move you outward in compassion. Be on the lookout for who you can love. Let your speech (in person and on social media) reflect a gentle compassion for the many around you who need encouragement and love. Who can you visit? Who can you call?
You do have much to be grateful for. After Jesus ascended into heaven, we as believers entered a season of thanksgiving. The Savior is reigning in heaven. Hallelujah! We have this joy in common regardless of where we come from. We are all heading to a feast that no one can match, to sit at a table with our Savior. At this feast, no one is missing. You are surrounded by other joyous believers. And peace will reign.
Whatever your circumstances, keep your eyes wide open to this final reality. Allow it to cheer you, to comfort you, to humble you, to influence all you say and do this Thanksgiving.
There is a song by dear friends to our ministry called Suppertime. David and Sharon Covington are musicians living in California. As you take time to listen to this song, notice its multiple meanings. It points to the ordinary delights of family. It references our participation in the Lord’s Supper. And it celebrates the Great Wedding Banquet to which the Lord has invited us.
Enjoy these three additional free resources:
It is hard to imagine, but try slowly dismantling your resume. What personal achievements have some importance in your life? Include health, education, weight, fitness, general attractiveness and unique abilities. If you were to boast, what might you boast about? Now, toss these out one at a time. Do some hurt more than others? What is left when the achievements are gone?
Some people don’t have to imagine. They have lost jobs to a shrinking economy, lost abilities to a body and brain that are less and less competent, or lost children, who were once their pride and joy but are now living in ways that no longer enhance a parent’s reputation. Yet—all those who live long enough will suffer losses. You will watch your resume gradually go up in smoke as no one remembers your vocational contributions, no one cares where you went to school, your physical appearance will win no prizes, and the world is gradually forgetting you.
In other words, let’s enter into the Apostle Paul’s dismantling of his own resume.
If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Phil 3:4-8)
In ancient Israel, horses, chariots and secret pacts with foreign powers were things that people would trust in rather than trust in the Lord. From Roman times to the present, we cling to achievements that can enhance our individual reputations because we can cash them in for power, sex, love, respect, money, or just some fleeting self-worth. Paul knew that achievements can so easily become our confidence, and he wanted none of it.
If we were asked to identify the primary hazards of daily life, we would first consider the ever-present possibilities for pain and failure. But Paul disagrees. Pain and failure have their challenges, but they are not the biggest threat. It is our successes that pose the greatest danger. Our human tendency is to find something that we have done that can prop up our identity. For that, we don’t need an endless resume, though we might prefer one. We will usually settle for one achievement that is a bit more impressive than someone else’s.
Paul invites us to burn those resumes now rather than have them burned later—to burn those achievements that we account as our righteousness. Only then can we know something—someone—of surpassing worth and what we receive in him will survive the refiner’s fire.
The book is called A Small Book about a Big Problem.¹ It’s fifty devotionals about anger. The question is whether or not it is impolite to give it as a gift.
To give this book to someone is akin to giving a breath mint to the person sitting next to you in church, which happens to me most Sundays when I am sitting next to my wife. So it is okay to give it. We are still happily married.
But there is actually more to this analogy. If I have bad breath, I am the last one to know. Others notice it. I don’t. Those who don’t know me well would never say a word. They would only take a step back. All people-pleasers would remain silent too, because an offer of a breath mint might cause offense. Only the one who loves me the most—and is most affected by it—brings it to my attention.
These are also the ways of anger. Other people are affected by it; the angry person is unaware. Only when a loving person speaks out is there hope for growth and change. Where the analogy breaks down is that unlike bad breath, anger is deadly. It tears down relationships and, left unattended, can take the soul of the person given to anger. So it is okay to give this book to someone, but it is best done with wisdom and love.
Here are some possibilities.
If you have seen a friend head toward anger, you can be sure that you are only seeing a small piece of something much larger. If you are the spouse of an angry person, then that anger, no matter how infrequent, is tearing down the relationship and time will not change it. In other words, anger is not a problem that we overlook. Those who love do something. Perhaps this book, even if it meets with some initial resistance, could be a way to raise a matter that can be sensitive and even frightening.
¹ The full title is A Small Book about a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace, and yes, I am the author.
² I hope this doesn’t seem sexist. I actually think it is a cute-looking book.Buy from WTSBooks
What do you think when someone you know is diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder? Or has started to take a psychoactive medication? Do you say to yourself, “Finally, he is getting the help he really needs!” Or do you feel skeptical about either the diagnosis or the solution (or both), and wonder if what the person really needs is simply to trust in Jesus more?
It doesn’t take too many conversations in the church to realize that there are widely divergent views regarding the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues. Like many, you may find yourself falling into one of two camps. Let me call this the Goldilocks Principle. What do I mean?
You may be someone who is “too cold” toward psychiatric diagnoses. Perhaps you’re highly suspicious of using these labels. You believe that they are secular understandings of the person that compete with biblical categories and solutions. At best you don’t think they’re helpful, and at worst you believe they are harmful and dehumanizing.
Or perhaps you are “too warm” toward psychiatric diagnoses. You may embrace them as nearly all-encompassing explanations of the person’s struggle. You may gravitate toward medical solutions and diminish the relevance of the biblical story for these particular problems. But is there a third way, a balance between these two extreme tendencies?
Similarly, you may be “too cold” toward psychoactive medications. You’re extremely wary of ever using them. If you’re honest, you believe that Christians really wouldn’t have to take psychiatric medication if their faith were robust enough. And what about those side effects—why risk it? Or you may be among those who are “too warm” toward psychoactive medications. If a Christian has no problem using Tylenol for a headache, why shouldn’t she use an antidepressant when she is depressed? And about those side effects—they are invariably worth the benefit. But is there a third way, a balance between these two extreme tendencies?
That is one major goal I had in writing Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical View of Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications: to help you move from either extreme—too cold or too hot—toward a view of psychiatric diagnoses and medications that is hopefully “just right.” Perhaps you don’t tend toward one of these extremes but you are looking for the biblical and scientific framework that allows you to maintain that third-way position. That’s exactly what I hope this material will do. I want to take seriously what help psychiatric categories and medications provide but also recognize their limitations.
There is no doubt that many people suffer greatly with emotions and patterns of thinking that bring grave hardship to them and to their loved ones. The pressing issue is how best to know and understand their struggles. And then, having understood, how best to provide compassionate and wise help. After all, we are called to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Psychiatric diagnostic classification and psychoactive medications provide a way to understand and help those who are burdened in particular ways. This book assesses the limitations and benefits of understanding and helping people using that lens.
I have written this resource primarily for helpers in the church—pastors, counselors, elders, deacons, youth workers, men’s and women’s ministry coordinators, small group leaders, and other wise people who may not have a formal title or ministry job description but are actively engaged as intentional friends in one-another ministry. You are on the front lines of pastoral care and, no doubt, you have cared for and will continue to minister to people who struggle with mental anguish, who are diagnosed with psychiatric disorders, and who may be using or have questions about psychoactive medications.
This resource is in no way meant to be a comprehensive guide to helping those diagnosed with a mental illness, nor will it discuss the multifaceted approaches that exist for helping those who are suffering in this way. I simply want to provide a foundational biblical framework for understanding psychiatric diagnoses and the use of psychoactive medications. Ultimately, I want this book to help you to think wisely and compassionately about these struggles so that you are just a bit more equipped for this important work of burden-bearing and counseling.
(Adapted from Michael R. Emlet, Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications [Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2017],
[Jesus] told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations. (Luke 24:46-47)
No wonder pastors enjoy preaching. The way to God has been opened and it is through Jesus. Repentance and forgiveness are preached in his name. Your task as a pastor is to present this good news in a way that is beautiful, engaging and persuasive.
Preach what has spoken to your own heart. But it gets even better. Not only do you preach truth that is attractive, you preach truth that has come alive to you amid the ups and downs of your everyday struggles. Preaching includes an implicit contract: the text has reached your own heart, and now you offer it to those you love.
With this in mind, preparation might begin with an email to your congregation. “Please pray for me today. I plan to spend some time working on my sermon on Romans 5. I want the Spirit and the Word to come alive for me.”
Preach the truth about God. You are preaching to people with real problems and needs. Guilt is, indeed, a real problem, forgiveness is a real need. Yet competing with these is a popular myth. It suggests that Jesus is nice. But the father—he is persistently peeved. He is just waiting for us to get out of line so he can vent a little of his wrath. To borrow a biological image, his resting state is one in which he is suspicious that we will sin very soon and he is already upset about it. I mention Romans 5 because it can potentially silence this myth by taking us directly into the character of God. Though the practical living sections of Scripture have their allure, it is here—knowing God truly—that sermons have their impact.
So though Scripture does speak of God’s wrath against sin, it is not the main emphasis. Scripture’s emphasis is that the triune God is inclined, by his very nature, to forgive. That is his resting state. His plan has always been to turn his wrath away from us and onto another, and he does this as an expression of his character rather than a response to our contrition.
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:8-11)
Love comes to sinners. Wrath has been turned away because God—Father, Son and Spirit—want it that way. Sin separates us from God no longer. He has attached himself to us. We cannot argue with the blood of Christ shed for us.
How can we discern whether or not this reality is pressing in and reshaping us? Life under a persnickety god is joyless. Life under the God who has revealed himself most fully in Jesus feels like hope rising and joy is our calling. Perhaps a simple “thank you” will keep us headed in the right direction.
Preaching starts with our own everyday struggles and the Spirit’s lively work in our hearts. Preaching then moves toward other people and their everyday struggles. From there, it always aims to surprise us with the character of God displayed ultimately in Jesus. Here we find that the triune God delights in communion with his people, and he has made the way for that through forgiveness in Jesus.
Sex is like fire. When it blazes in the fireplace, a good fire warms and brightens the room, enhancing joy and companionship. But when fires ignite in the wrong places, the house burns down. Is your sexuality igniting in the wrong places? Are you treating sexual sin casually? How do you know when this has happened? Let me offer a few tests that can rouse your conscience.
If you are being nonchalant about your sexual sin, I hope that my list arouses a proper sense of unease. Fires are burning outside the fireplace. Is something not right with your sexual behavior? You are a child of light—don’t walk in darkness! God’s point of view is good, right, and true. He beckons you. Walk as a child of light—for the fruit of light is found in all that is good, right, and true. The God who invites us into what is good also warns us off what is bad. You may be sure of this: everyone who is sexually immoral has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Don’t let anyone deceive you with empty words. Because of these things, the wrath of God comes on the disobedient. That’s the gist of Ephesians 5:5–9:
For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true).
Take it to heart. Don’t let peer pressure or the culture deceive you. By the mercy of Christ, you will live a brighter, more loving, and more fruitful life.
How do you change? There are many facets of that big question, but I will point to four. First, the starting point for change is to say, “What I am doing is wrong.” That acknowledgement gets you pointed in the right direction.
But God doesn’t just tell you to shape up. The second step is to realize “I need mercies from my Father. I need him to love me and forgive me. I need his strength and forgiveness.” Recognizing wrong leads to awareness that you need something that only God can give you—something he freely gives. He gives himself in Jesus Christ.
The third step in changing is to act on this. The Lord calls you to seek him, to find him, and from him to receive what you most need. Psalm 25:11 brings this to life:
For your name’s sake, O LORD,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Cast yourself on the care of your Father. Find grace and help from outside yourself. Seek, and you will find the mercy you need.
The fourth step is not really a step, it’s a lifestyle. It’s learning to walk out what those “good, right, and true” things look like. This has many different aspects that work out in our lives at different times. Choose to spend time with different companions. Put filtering software on your screens. Set up real accountability with someone you trust. Make the kind of lifestyle changes that get you out of the path of where you’ve gotten yourself into trouble. Jesus uses a vivid picture of how to deal with our own evil. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. He shocks us into a radical amputation of evil. And, of course, none of these battles are one-and-done. God intends to work in you a committed resolve to take seriously what’s wrong, to need him, to pursue what’s right. It’s an ongoing fight.
Here is one of the most helpful things I heard early in my Christian life. Think of your soul as a room. When you’re in sin, that room is full of dark forces, dark people, and darkness. There are two ways you get rid of darkness in your soul. One way is to cast it out, fight it, resist and reject it. The other way is to fill the room with light. As your life fills with better people, better things to do, and more reasons to live in the light, then there’s less room for the darkness.
Jesus Christ gives a beautiful call. He invites you to live a radical life. He challenges people who think that it’s okay to do wrong. He challenges people who think they have moved past outmoded cultural values. He challenges people who think that current cultural assumptions are good, right, and true. Don’t go along with the crowd. Don’t drift with the culture. Do what Flannery O’Connor said we should do: “Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you.” Live out in the daylight, not in the shadows and darkness.
Finding the mercies of Christ and learning to walk in his light is courageous. It has an impact on people around you. You demonstrate the Lord. That’s bigger than any one of us individually. In a world where the light is going out on sexual rights and wrongs, you have an opportunity to turn on the lights.
This letter originally appeared on the Crossway website.
David’s book, Making All Things New, was released by Crossway in August 2017. Purchase your copy here.