Model #4 – Stand Up and Fight
Any balanced approach to dealing with addiction and life-dominating sin is going to also include a component of teaching and discipleship on the topic of spiritual warfare. As bizarre as it sometimes seems to 20th century Christians, who’ve often had our brains stewed in the pot of a materialistic philosophy and culture, the scriptures make it abundantly clear that our struggles are not just with flesh (our own and others), and just against our fluctuating emotions and physical appetites, but against an unseen, personal enemy who hates us.
What do people in sexual bondage need to be reminded of about Satan? At the very minimum, they (we) need to be reminded that:
1) he has characteristic strategies that the scriptures discuss and warn us about, and
2) God, in His love for us, has given us tools, or weapons, if you will, which are both protective and aggressive, offensive and defensive in nature and which are to be used against him.
The primary strategies that Satan employs against God’s people, according to the biblical data, are:
- Accusation and Condemnation
As deceiver, Satans’s strategy is to lure people into making wrong choices based on a distorted view of reality. He seeks, first and foremost, to distort and corrupt our view of the character of God Himself. He tries to convince us that God’s not good, that His laws don’t proceed out of a heart that has our best interests in mind, and that He won’t meet our needs when we trust Him. Satan also seeks to deceive us regarding what our true needs are.
Satan offers us broken cisterns- broken cisterns that can’t hold any water (see Jeremiah 2)- ways of quenching the deepest hungers and thirsts of our souls that don’t originate with God. We need to remind people that the Deceiver constantly whispers to us, “You’re different. This doesn’t apply to you. You can dig a cistern that will hold water. You can find satisfaction and wholeness somewhere outside of God Himself!!”
So the sexual sinner hears: “You must have this sexual practice or this relationship to survive. Your life will be too painful and too lonely and too empty without it for you to bear.”
or: “How about one for the road? Just one more experience, one more night, one more encounter. Then you can put this behind you forever.”
or: “You might as well give in. Experience has taught you that you can’t change”.
Perhaps some of you are sitting there saying, “wait a minute. I thought the lies come from within our own hearts because they’re deceptive and wicked”. Well, that’s true, too. Either way, whether you view the source of deception as internal or external, sexually broken people need to learn to listen for the lies in their lives, to pull them up into the light and to analyze them.
The second characteristic of Satan that needs to be discussed is that he is the tempter. That is to say, he knows when to offer us his bogus answer to life. Hell strategizes. Satan didn’t come to Jesus with his stones-to bread proposition at the beginning of the 40-day fast.
This is one of the reasons I think a journal is such an important tool for somebody who’s struggling with a habit or bondage or addiction, sexual or otherwise. It allows him or her to begin to look at those preconditions to failure. What was I doing? What was I thinking? What was my physical condition like?
The purpose of tracking and looking at the feeding factors is NOT to develop a strategy for avoiding the preconditions. That’s just not realistic. We can’t go through life avoiding being Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired, like in the AA acronym HALT. Rather, one use of a journal (and it’s not the only use or event the most important use, but it is one) is to develop a sort of early warning system, where we learn to run to the throne of grace to find help, and to call someone, like a prayer partner or accountability partner and say “hey, I see a window of vulnerability up ahead. Let’s talk. Let’s pray together.”
Finally, Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He specializes in demoralizing and discouraging struggling believers by heaping on condemnation, shame and despair. He seeks to cut us off from one another and from our conscious experience of the love and grace of the Father by amplifying our shame and sense of failure.
I believe sexual sinners are particularly vulnerable to this type of attack, and therefore the exhortation of James 5:16 is particularly important, as we’ve already touched on. That’s why support/accountability groups like those organized by Set Free and Exodus and Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) are often very helpful.
One reason I believe the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians was to put our individual struggles with issues and relationships into a cosmic context- that God has an eternal plan, set in motion before the foundation of the world to bring all things and all people under one head- that is Christ. And that God has set the Church, including individual members of Christ’s Body, in the center of that eternal plan.
And that God wants His people healthy and free for the purpose of fully and joyfully participating in the execution of that plan..
So to sort of liberally paraphrase Paul in Ephesians 6:12, the struggles of sexually broken people aren’t just against habits and urges, lifestyles and wounds and bitter memories, but against principalities and powers arrayed against God and His people in a war for control of this planet.
Broken, struggling Christians need to hear:
- there’s a war going on
- you’re part of the army of God
- You matter to the war effort.
- God himself is committed to getting you in fighting shape
- and one more thing—the back of the Book says we win!!