Saturday, March 1, 2008

Habits of Life or Destruction

Last weekend at the Awaken the Dawn conference, I conducted a workshop for men who were seeking to find victory in the area of lust, pornography and shame. It is my desire and prayer that my testimony may offer a glimpse of hope that could serve as a catalyst to bring about change in the lives of men reading this blog and beyond. Please prayerfully consider forwarding this link to men that you know so that they may be encouraged in their battle against sensuality, lust and perversion. This blog posting illustrates the necessity of taking our thoughts captive before they have the ability to become engrained habits that ultimately determine our destiny.

After sharing my testimony at a meeting for men, I encountered a broken man. This man was profusely weeping as he shared with me his struggles—I was the first person he had EVER shared this with after 15 years of losing this perpetual battle. My story gave him hope for the first time ever. As I heard this man’s brokenness, I silently said to myself, “It was worth the hell I went through to have victory in this area of my life, even if it was just for this one person to have hope again.” I’m well aware that there are many more men out there like this person, struggling within a silent prison—I want my story to be a means of hope for others who are struggling with these issues. Who do you know that needs to read this story today?

Habits of Life or Destruction

Is it plausible to suggest that the fulfillment of the calling upon your life is determined by the habits that you form? Habits are more powerful in determining long-term success and impact than simply our perceived intentions or motivations. Many have desired to change the world—yet few have done so in a manner that they intended to. Why is this so? One possibility: They didn’t have the necessary inner fortitude to bring about the God-ideal future into reality. Godly habits beget desirable outcomes that are in alignment with heaven’s will for our lives.

In fact I would venture to say that each single person changes the world based on their habits, whether they realize it or not. We all have habits. As the old cliché asserts, we are creatures of habit. However the question remains: Are my habits life-giving (reinforcing my God-ideal future) or are they impeding my desired long-term outcomes? Bad habits (i.e., elevating self at the expense of others, lusting in your heart, lying, negative self-talk, procrastination, laziness, etc.) will impede and undermine all that the Lord desires to do in us and through us. The world is changed for the better or for the worse as a result of the habits that we formulate—hence, the need for Spirit-inspired habits in our lives is paramount.

How do you define habit? Here is my working definition-in-progress: What you do consistently day-in and day-out that reveals and determines who you really are. I’m sure many of you have read the following that has proven to be so true in the course of history:

Your thoughts influences your choices; your choices will determine your actions; your actions will become your habits; your habits develop your character; and your character will determine your destiny.

Note the progression: Thought life-Choice-Actions-Habits-Character-Destiny. Furthermore, it can be rephrased: "Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” This is in alignment with the biblical principle of sowing and reaping.

There isn’t anything more devastating than a believer who has become passive and apathetic in the pursuit of the Lord. Often those ensnared in the vice of lust and pornography have become lethargic in addressing the call to holiness in their lives. I can attest to this from past personal experience. Think about it. It starts as a thought not to take action within a given context such as a quick glance (seemingly innocent) at a magazine rack or a commercial during a football game. Or possibly a double take when an attractive woman walks by at the mall or in the hallway. Or it could be an "innocent" click on a Foxnews "news" article concerning a celebrity. No harm done. Nobody even noticed.

Meanwhile the thought life is suddenly experiencing a barrage of enticing thoughts—it seems so harmless, just a quick, passing flashback about an immoral past experience. Over time you find yourself consistently drawn to scantily dressed women on the Internet. It seems that images easily trigger an adrenaline rush that is quite intoxicating. You feel so alive. Upon the completion of the lust binge, you quickly “repent” afterwards with much worldly sorrow, but fail to take measures to address the sin issue. Soon you are repeating the very thing that you vowed not to do again.

Disillusionment kicks in.

Shame becomes a constant companion as passivity reigns supreme. On “good days” you manage not to indulge in your secret habit—however, the constraint was aided by a desire not to be overwhelmed by shame. Callousness of the heart is evident. Ability to empathize with those hurting is compromised because the soul is bitter, numb, and passive. What was once something that you thought you had “under control” is now a habit that has taken on a life of its own—it now controls you.

In time your character is defiled. Lust abounds. Although suppressed when appropriate, your inwards rage all the more for the illicit, forbidden fruit of lust. When you do partake of it, it seems to temporarily relieve you of your misery—a moment of bliss—only to quickly abandon you when the time has passed. Lust is never satisfied—lust breeds more lust. The past echo of momentary pleasure rings hollow, exposing the shallowness of one’s vain pursuits—yet the pain of death never seems to subside. Again, you find yourself confined to hell on earth.

Interestingly, sleeping giants slumber within, awakened when confronted. The inner rage is at full tilt, tipping at the point when responsibility is demanded of the passive man. Without fail, passivity comes alive with a vengeance when confronted with the truth of the man’s sin. The hidden shroud of self-pity is fully exposed, thus it seeks to take shelter under the guise of a tongue lashing that spews venom. Now the destiny of the man is looming towards destruction.

However, it doesn’t have to end in a destiny forfeited. What was once deemed as impossible (a life of integrity and purity) can become a reality through the redeeming work of Christ. Hence, one must count the cost to determine if they are willing to pay the price for restoration, freedom, self-control, and character—namely, the inner fortitude of Christlikeness.

It is a process. It is grueling. It is painstakingly slow.

Foul thoughts constantly bombard the mind. Fantasies swirl uninhibited, bemusing its captivating strength to allure the downtrodden. The seemingly forsakened man trudges along in spite of the constant feeling of no hope. Over time thoughts are increasingly taken captive—slowly but steadily—as the soul in anguish cries out to God, "God have mercy on me!"

Despair and desperation lock head on—desperation in the grace of God prevails. The prayer of the subdued changes. No longer is the prayer to remove the temptation—rather, it is something of this effect, “Strengthen me to overcome the temptation!

Hell stands still.

No longer is the man passive, seeking the easy way out—instead, he has chosen to ask the Lord to give him what delights His heart: A life that possesses the inner fortitude of Christlikeness. It is a process to be conformed to the image of Christ. Inner strength begins to grow as thoughts are consistently taken captive. Slowly the desires of the heart began to reflect God’s desires. Albeit the change is the occasional stumbling, however, the righteous man is quick to get up with godly sorrow that brings about a heart of repentance. It is a stumbling forward facedown before the Cross.

It is a broken man, pliable in the hands of the Almighty.

Truly it is a confrontation of colossal proportions: broken, weak man in the strength of the Spirit of God confronts the giants that once loomed large in his life. The man who trembles before the Word of the Lord becomes the conduit in which all of hell trembles. The process of trembling is the very process of the Word becoming Incarnate in the man's life. The once passive man becomes a champion for the Cause of Christ, slaying the giants of perversion, lust, and self-centeredness that dominates the cultural landscape.

The image of the forbidden that once seared the conscience is now replaced by the image of Christ in the man. Shame has turned to delight; mourning has become joy; selfishness; and lust has been trumped by the love of God.

Choice after choice, day in and day out, begins to formulate the bedrock of humility, hope, faith, holiness, gentleness, and the like—it is the emergence of the image of Christ fully demonstrated in a weak, trembling man. It is the broken man who is able to overcome the temptations of the flesh because faith, hope, and love overcame him. Brokenness wrought forth in the once passive man reveals a stunning display of the triumphant God-man, Christ Jesus—“Christ in you the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

My Closing Throughts

Today is the day to start moving towards this place of restoration. Don't be like the man that I heard about today. At the age of 89 years old, he was on his deathbed in the hospital. A young friendly, caring nurse attended to his needs to ensure that this man could die with a measure of dignity. Sadly, this man boasted to his family that this woman was flirting with him because she desired him sexually. Huh? He erroneously mistaken the actions of a gentle, kind nurse as some indicator of sexual attraction. This was a man who had given his life to a constant intake of pornography. Don't allow pornography to take you to your deathbed with a hellish grip on your life. May it be said that you lived well (i.e., set apart, consecrated, holy, pure, righteous) so that you may die well. Don't waste your life. Repent now and do what it takes to walk in victory over this sin.

For the Cause,

Brian Francis Hume

Here are two other articles I wrote on this subject that might be of interest to you.

Produce the Fruit of Purity

Is Lust Nullifying Your Voice?

No comments: