The Joys of Living in Victory Over Sexual Sin
In this segment, Steve Gallagher teaches how the fruit that someone is living in victory is shown in how they do not willfully sin and also how gratitude leads us to contentment and contentment leads us into a life that opposes lust. (from Podcast Episode #454 - |Victory| Persevering with a Pure Heart)
Nate: We're talking with Pastor Steve Gallagher about the fruits of living in victory. Pastor Steve, we believe that Victory isn't just about not looking at porn anymore, or visiting prostitutes, or not committing other forms of illicit sex. Victory is being filled with the love of God because it's the love of God that changes our hearts and gives us something completely new inside. It's the love of God that bears the fruits of righteousness.
I want to talk about the fruits of living in Victory today and obviously the first thing that people are looking for in terms of fruit is purity, sexual purity. I'd like for you to talk about purity of heart, because I wonder if some people are thinking, “Is it really even possible to live in purity in this immoral culture?”
Pastor Steve: Well regardless of the culture, having a pure heart is a mega challenge, especially when you've been in sexual sin. But we need to clarify something about this when we’re talking about purity, because we have a fallen nature and as I've said many times before, my fallen nature is just as rotten now as it was 40 years ago when I was totally giving over. It has not changed, it still desires the same horrible things. So, when you're talking about purity of heart, you've got this aspect of our nature that is horrible. It's just perverse and wants perversity. So that's one of the challenges I think a lot of guys struggle with thoughts like “man, I don't feel like I've gotten anywhere in this battle.”
Nate: And they’re saying “I still have these thoughts, I still have these desires.”
Pastor Steve: Exactly! Those things are still there. I talked about it recently, about being on autopilot. For instance, when you go into a lapse in thinking, when you're not intentionally thinking, you're almost daydreaming. And when you're in the right place with God and you're daydreaming or fantasizing about sex and then come to your senses and realize what you've been doing, there's this reaction inside that says “No, I don't want to think like that.” I still go through that. We've got a side to us that has almost a default thinking in perversity. Purity of heart, from my standpoint, , is that you are no longer intentionally lusting, or intentionally fantasizing.
The Bible talks about intentional sins and unintentional sins, I would call that an unintentional sin. Wet dreams or that kind of thinking can occur when you're not really thinking. But there are intentional thoughts and that leads me to believe that I am basically living in purity of heart, because I do not intentionally lust, I do not intentionally fantasize and I do not intentionally look at women to think about sexual things. I believe that as you are progressing in this life of mercy, which is really just the Christ-life, then you will get to a place where you have that kind of freedom in your daily life.
Nate: Okay, so one thing I know you've said in your book At The Altar of Sexual Idolatry is that freedom comes slowly for a reason. Maybe we could say that purity of heart comes slowly for a reason. You already kind of spoke about how the process of purity will grow in us over time, but why does it grow slowly?
Pastor Steve: For a number of reasons that I talked about in the book. But one of the most important things the Lord needs to do in us is humble us because pride is an enormous thing inside of an unbroken person. One of the most important things God wants to tackle is getting us to humble ourselves. If He just gave us freedom right away, we would use it for self-purposes, or we’d use it to exalt ourselves over other people. That alone is one huge reason why God doesn't give us instantaneous deliverance or instantaneous clear thinking.
Nate: So the main point of that is just to teach us to never quit fighting?
Pastor Steve: Yeah, really, that is the Christian life. Absolutely.
Nate: Okay, so what you're saying is that we can really get to the place where we're not driven by lust anymore?
Pastor Steve: Yeah, I am saying that. I'm saying, first that we're no longer purposing intentionally to think that way. But even a step before that there is a drive inside of us for sexual gratification. I would say one of the real important aspects of getting to a place where we are not driven this way is when we learn how to live with a grateful spirit and a grateful heart. When you're going through life and the Lord's doing His work inside you and you're becoming increasingly more grateful about everything in your life, that is just breaking the hold of lust, because it's bringing you into a place of contentment. And when your content, you're not lusting for something you shouldn't have, it is the opposite.
Lust is the opposite of contentment and contentment comes from gratitude. So, it really is part of a flow that the Lord is wanting to bring us into, to live with a grateful heart. Paul constantly spoke about being grateful or being thankful for everything. It's a very important part of Christian living that most people don't realize.
Nate: It's interesting that you talked about the connections that people make and how they don't really connect gratitude with purity and victory. Another thing like that is humility. We don't really understand the connection between humility and living in victory. Rex Andrews said something interesting, he said that humility is an inability to lust or to covet, because essentially humility is the knowledge of how to give all that you have and knowing that you don't have anything apart from God. Could you talk a little bit more about humility and victory and the fruit of that?
Pastor Steve: Let me just start with addressing a misunderstanding about what humility even is. It's typically thought of in the same way we would think of a modest person, someone who is quiet and reserved by nature, and always seen as such a humble man. From my experience, people like that are sometimes the most prideful people, because they may not show it outwardly, but inside they're full of themselves, only think about themselves, and that's all they care about. So, when we're talking about humility from a spiritual standpoint, we're not talking about human modesty. We are talking about the breaking down of the self-life, and as the self-life is broken down through the processes of sanctification and the Holy Spirit's work inside of us, that creates more of what you could picture to be a vacuum inside for the Holy Spirit to fill.
The more broken we become in life through disciplines, through hardships, through sometimes humiliating experiences, all those kinds of things that thwart the self-life, the more we are breaking free from that selfish existence that lust thrives in. That's what Rex Andrews is referring to, being emptied of self. That is poverty of spirit, and that makes way for us to be filled with the Lord and with His way of thinking. And that way of thinking is of course the opposite of lustful thinking.
<pull-quote>The more broken we become in life through disciplines, through hardships, through sometimes humiliating experiences, all those kinds of things that thwart the self-life, the more we are breaking free from that selfish existence that lust thrives in.<pull-quote><tweet-link>Tweet This<tweet-link>
Nate: As you're talking what I hear is not what we’d first thin. We think so linearly. “If I do this, then I get this.” But it's more circular. The more you live in gratitude, the more you experience gratitude. Or the more pure in heart you are, the more purity you experience. It’s kind of a circular thing.
Pastor Steve: And it's all interconnected too. We're not like robots that you just go in and fix one part of, it's all interchanged and interconnected.
Nate: Let's bring it back to purity of heart, because Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Can you just talk about the fruit of this mercy life, which is a deeper walk and knowledge of God?
Pastor Steve: Yeah, I would say that knowing God is what the Christian life is all about. It’s about relationship. That's what Jesus said. He said that knowing God is eternal life, and it's true. Also, Paul constantly spoke about knowing the Lord and in the Old Testament, especially in Psalms, you hear it said a little differently, it’s called “seeking the Lord.” These are all different ways of describing the same thing: having an earnest, sincere desire inside you to really know Him, and to know Him means relationship.
It's not like reading a book about someone, it's a relational connection with God. That is the ultimate fruit of this process that God takes His people through. He is bringing them into Himself. He's folding them into Himself and that is eternal life. It's the life of God that he's bringing us into. And some of these things you just can't figure out with human logic. This is a deeply spiritual, deeply profound, mysterious concept of what it means to be in relationship with God and in the church. But we’ve turned it into this mechanical formula. You say the prayer, you go to church, and do all of these outward things. But there becomes no real reality of God involved in so much of what happens in the evangelical church. Many people who claim to know God really don't know him, but His heart is still to bring us into Himself.
Nate: Let's talk about one last thing that you mention from time to time, and that is that one of the fruits of victory is living in spiritual authority. And I'm not sure that people really know what you mean by spiritual authority. Can you talk about what that means and why that's a fruit of living in victory?
Pastor Steve: All spiritual authority comes from the throne of God; He is the sovereign God of the universe and of all mankind. To walk in spiritual authority can only mean that you are a delegated agent of the King. You're an agent of the King to the degree that you are in His Spirit, you are one with His will, you are one with His purposes, and in what He's wanting to do on Earth. For instance, the President of the United States has an ambassador to Russia. Well, that ambassador is living in a complete Russian culture, but he is there representing the President of the United States, and he is there to accomplish what the President wants, and what he wants him to communicate to the Russian authorities. That's a picture of what it means to have spiritual authority. It’s when you are one with Christ in a real way. And when you represent Him, you are doing it accurately, consistent with what His wishes are. That's spiritual authority, and it's absolutely something that we can and should come into at some level.
Nate: I'm just thinking about how we can understand it by looking at the converse, because we know what it means to be at the whim and the wish of the devil. We live that way. If he wants us to lust, we lust. If he wants us to be in pride, anger, or bitterness, then we're just driven by those things. What a wonderful thought that we could be driven and compelled by a much sweeter Spirit. The only sweet Spirit.
Pastor Steve: Absolutely. It's kind of funny to me to think back to 40 years ago when I was deep in my pride and in my ignorance. Back then I really thought that I was walking in spiritual authority. When I first was getting free, I was so full of myself. I didn't know the first thing about it, hardly anything. But I do remember how easily I could be led astray or lead into sinful thinking. It’s exactly what you're describing. For many years the Lord put me and Kathy through a lot of discipline and I've had to go through very painful experiences myself. I thank him for all of it now. It wasn't so much fun at the time, but it is through those kinds of disciplines that the Lord takes us through. Those seasons are bringing us into a life in God that's real, into a relationship with Him that is vibrant and into spiritual authority like we’re discussing. It is through these experiences that we are talking about that God accomplishes that in His people.