The Vital Need for True Heart Change
It’s easy to deceive ourselves about where we are at in terms of sexual purity. This can be especially true for those who don’t believe they’ve gone as far as others who have sinned worse than they have. But as Nate and Ed Buch discuss in today’s interview, not only is this attitude very wrong, but it can allow the enemy a foothold into our lives that can take us further than we could ever imagine. (from Purity for Life Episode #494 - Babylon: Evil Seed on Noah's Ark)
Nate: In this interview, I want to key in on a different types of people and speak to them so that they can see what it means to live in victory. The first one I thought of was a young person growing up in a pretty conservative home. Their parents are really creating a protective barrier around them. So, they're not going to have access to promiscuity or pornography or sensual imagery on the television. But if they're indulging in fantasy or even self-gratification, what's the danger here for that person?
Ed: From my perspective, the danger is the lies that he's believing. He believes essentially that he's not that bad and that others are doing much worse. He's aware of some of the things that others are doing, and he believes that he's fine because he's not doing what they're doing. But he's still feeding his flesh and indulging in some forms of sexual sin in this scenario that you've created. And he's still walking in the wrong direction. Even if his steps are very slow and measured in that direction, he's still headed in the wrong direction.
He even likely believes that masturbation isn't a sin. So that would be another lie that he's believing because God is not OK with masturbation as a lot of people want to believe. Every sin is a sin that we need to repent of fully and let only the blood of Jesus cover. This man can't escape the need to repent for his sins. Even if he doesn't feel like it is sin, it still is. And if he's not broken and repentant over these kinds of indulgences, eventually they're going to lead him into the place where he wants more and more. Where he feels the need to go further and deeper into sin. He's eventually going to want something more sensuous, more graphic and more real – even perhaps to feed the sexual sin in his life and the habits that he's formed.
The old saying is so true that says, “Lust will take you further than you intended to go, it will keep you longer than you intended to stay and it will cost you more than you intended to pay.” We treat that unfortunately like it's a tired old cliche because it's been around for years and talked about and used in many contexts. This has led those words to no longer have the kind of alarm for us that they should. Lust is a dangerous thing that takes us further and keeps us longer and costs us more than we reckon for. And a man indulging in any type of lustful behavior is going to have to deal with that at some point and really take hold of the truth about the lust in his heart.
What's going to happen when he leaves his home environment that has strict boundaries, where a lack of opportunity was primarily keeping him from going further. Believe me, we've counseled a lot of young men in both the Overcomers at Home Program and the Residential Program that come out of those kinds of settings. And then they went off to Bible College or they got into a serious dating relationship and suddenly all this lust that had lain dormant in their heart unchecked for years, suddenly starts to emerge, and shows up in various ways and leads to deeper forms of sin.
Nate: Yeah. While you were talking, I was thinking about how many times I've heard in one of our graduation speeches from our Residential Program, “And then I went off to college,” or, “And then I went into the army.” And then all of a sudden, all the barriers that they thought they had in their life and the control they thought they had is all gone. And then years in the future they finally are coming to their senses. That's horrible.
Let’s move on to the second scenario that I thought about where a young man or young woman have already indulged in sexual sin, but then they realize they don't want to live like that anymore. So, they put a bunch of safeguards in place like internet filters and accountability. Maybe they let somebody track their location on their phone and they are making gains in terms of overcoming the outward sin. They're not looking at pornography and they're not going to strip clubs. But maybe what’s really going on in their heart is waiting for a new set of circumstances to bring out what’s been lying dormant for years inside of them. What are warning signs that these people could look for that would say, whoa I'm not actually dealing with my heart, and this is going to come back around at some point?
Ed: I think there are probably a number of diagnostic questions that I would want to ask that person if I'm counseling them or they can ask themselves even. How are they really doing? In other words, how effective are these safeguards that they have put in place? Are they really working? Is this person testing all of the boundaries and trying to get past the safeguards or are they kind of just in the background holding them accountable? And if the person ends up at a hotel room or a relative's house where some of those same safeguards don't necessarily exist, what happens there? Are they being kept from their sin in those scenarios? Do they have intense struggles, or do they give over to their sin in some way when they see an open opportunity?
Answering these questions themselves will tell this person where their heart is at. Do they have victory over self-gratification? I think that's really a good barometer generally speaking of where someone's really at in terms of victory. It's not foolproof, but it'll tell them a lot, especially if they are giving over to their sin to some degree that their heart really isn't where they would like it to be or where it needs to be. On the other side of things, some of the questions would be, have they replaced sexual sin with some other unhealthy behavior? Maybe chasing after comfort foods or overindulging in some hobby that they really enjoy. When they are watching television or movies do they gravitate toward a particular kind of movie that might help stir or stimulate sensuality or fleshly behavior?
In biblical counseling we speak of the need to pursue the putting off of our sinful behaviors. We talk about a need to renew our mind and bring it into agreement and alignment with the Word of God and we need to put on godly behaviors that take the place of those sinful behaviors. So, when I hear you talk about someone who is the way you described at the outset, it sounds like he or she has done a good job putting off the outward behaviors of sin. But where are they at in terms of the actual renewing of the mind or the putting on process? Because that has to be part of it.
Is there any evidence that the Word of God is actually changing the way they think about sexual sin in general? It has to be something more than just God says I can't do it, because that won't keep any of us. In fact, that only seems to stir us and make us want it more, right? So, that's never going to be enough given the way that we're wired. We have to better understand why God sets the standards and boundaries that He does and we have to ultimately come into an agreement in our mind and our heart that sexual purity is better than sexual immorality. So, I would look for some kind of evidence of that in terms of dealing with where they are at in their heart.
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As far as the putting on process, I look at what this person does with their idle time. Does any of it go to the Lord? Is there a tug inside of them that is drawing them to invest in their relationship with the Lord at all? What does he or she seek out for pleasure? How much of the world's sensuality and carnal pleasure is this person really exposing themselves to? What efforts are there in really investing in a relationship with the Lord? How much time and effort goes into studying the Bible? One of the keys to me in this area would be what their prayer life is like. How long is it? Is it consistent? Is this person spending time in dedicated prayer every day? And do their personal issues take up all that prayer time or are they really spending the majority of it interceding for others? Those sorts of things tell us a lot about where a person's heart is. If a person is trying to measure where their heart is at or get a sense of whether they are in danger or if they are doing OK, the real question they have to ask themselves is if the pull towards sexual sin over time is increasing or decreasing. That should tell them whether they are really dealing with their heart issues or not.