But My Flesh Still Lives [When You Know Your Heart is New]

I’ve been having a difficult time with this one. Because it means admitting something that I’ve been fairly transparent about in the past, and honestly it’s a little difficult to talk about it still being a “thing” – it’s not easy, it feels like I’ll put my reputation and my responsibilities on the line to say, I’m much, much less than the porcelain facade of perfection. Or maybe I’m being over dramatic and presumptuous about how people already see me – maybe I’m just sounding more like a broken record than a broken human.

But I’m talking today, of course, about pornography.

See, I read an article the other day about Selena Gomez’ speech at the AMA’s and one of the author’s conclusions was,

“Gomez has been open about her Christian faith and desire to follow Christ. She regularly attends branches of Hillsong Church and she recently wrote and performed a worship song titled “Nobody” at one of her concerts in the spring. That doesn’t mean she’s a role model or a perfect example, but it does mean she’s in the same spot as all of us–broken and in need of a Savior.”

And no offense to FaithIt, but first of all there is no perfect example this side of Jesus Christ, and second of all if Selena Gomez is the same as all of us and still can’t be a role model, who the hell can? Where are these superstar Christians that you’re looking up to and expecting to provide a perfect role model example?

But it’s this stigma that says ‘imperfect people can’t be role models’, etc., and the knowledge that this is such a ubiquitous sentiment in Christianity today–‘ I’m sorry, you aren’t perfect enough for us today, come back when God changes you ‘

So with enough beating around the bush to get all three birds… I’m not completely free yet. There are still fingers of this 10+ year inner conflict hanging on to me… I’m still an addict.

I guess part of this comes from a video I watched recently from a Youtuber by the name of Katie Gregoire titled “5 Steps to ACTUALLY Battle Pornography” in which Katie gives some pretty good advice about practically going ‘cold turkey’. And part of me goes “Yeah, good advice!” and another part of me goes, “But that doesn’t nearly cut it,” because you can cut off a habit but you can’t cut off a desire until something more powerful than yourself changes your mind–or maybe that’s just my experience.

But there’s been a question in the back of my mind for a long time and that is, ‘If I have a new heart, when do I start to actually see a difference?‘ and ‘Why do I keep doing things I don’t want to do?’

I’ve come to this point in my life where I know my heart is changed–I know my heart is changed–and it’s tired of doing what it hates to do, but there is still a ‘law at work’ in my body, a law of rebellion and addiction and filth, it’s just as automatic as it has always been. But my heart is changed and my mind is renewed in Father’s love and every part of me longs for Father–

–But my body is still addicted.

And this is when things become clearer to me about living a new-covenant life; greater is He that is in me than [me] that is in the world (1 John 4) O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? —Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7) and so I have a new heart; I know that now more than ever because my heart isn’t in the game and even my body doesn’t respond the same way to pornography; it’s going through the motions because that’s how it gets something–something, but what? Almost nothing anymore. The high is never like the first high – it gets lower and lower. But my heart is fixating more and more on the Most High and when that happens, all the other highs start to lose their flavor. And it happened in a very sudden and sinking moment when I realized, My body isn’t even engaging in this anymore,’ and ‘What am I doing?’

I didn’t really know what Paul meant when he said, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” or “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?(emphasis mine)

So no, FaithIt, I’m no roll model.

But I’ll try and be a little more direct about what I’m trying to get across here. My desires have changed, even more fully to be Holy Spirit’s desires–my body is just a little slow to follow, and I can feel the drag on it.

And that brings me to another full stop because I realized something: Father will change me in his own time, not mine. But he is faithful, and disbelieving that he will finish the work he started in me, is doubt in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Am I still a proponent of trying to quit? Sure. There are strategies and tactics and it’s fair to say everyone should do what they can – the Bible says flee from sexual immorality. But there’s something that has to happen in this body before the process is fully complete and it’s not going to happen until Father says ‘Okay, let’s take care of that thorn in your flesh.’ Are you striving? Stop. Paul strove, he begged God (2 Corinthians 12) and God told him ‘No.’ And there’s only one reason that makes any sense to me why God would turn Paul down about his struggle: because God knows how much bigger He is than post-cross problems, and He’s not finished with me yet – I’d be content at that to wait even until eternity begins.

But what till then? Only this: ‘My grace is sufficient for you; My power is made perfect in weakness.’

Grace Changes Everything

I’ve been thinking about changing the blog name.

I’ve been thinking about this because I want to convey something I learned some time ago – that grace isn’t really what sources the Father’s heart; love is. It’s not really all about grace, but grace comes out of His love.

But the other day I was thinking about it again and I concluded this: my documented journey is about grace. Yes, it’s about Father’s love for me, but it’s about grace and the confidence that grace gives me to learn, grow and explore without perpetual fear of damnation or of getting too far into one ditch or the other; there is no ditch on the straight-and-narrow, only the loving nudge of a Shepherd’s staff.

So I won’t be shocking my small crowd of followers by changing the blog. But all this got me thinking about what this blog has been about, where it began and where it’s gone since.

I began way back in the fall of 2013 after a couple months of increased hunger; I wanted nothing but scripture – I woke up craving it. I studied covenants and found my faith in a whole new light. And then I began to write about it. At the beginning I just spewed scripture and the glory of Jesus, I couldn’t help writing back what I was learning and re-imagining. And it’s been a long journey since then and since then my direction here hasn’t been quite so clear, particularly in recent months.

In July this summer I began delving into a study I’ve been wanting to get into for some time, that being the minutes of the 1919 Adventist Bible Conference, where foundations were set for the future of the denomination after the death of Ellen White. I’ve been wanting to share about my study through that deplorably massive document but I don’t particularly feel like this blog is particularly the place for that – I’ve been tossing around the idea of starting up a separate blog for that one, but I kind of actually have to finish the document. Frankly, it’s a big endeavor that I’m only a fraction of the way into and it would absolutely be enough for a separate project entirely.

But I’ve taken a step back lately and I’ve been spending some time checking out and getting to know one or two other authors that I really just click with – you know, when you go ‘yes and amen’ at ‘Hi it’s me again’. And it reminds me about what I started looking for earlier this year: Church community–not just the cliche ‘church/christian culture’ (which is fine if that’s your thing–I guess) but real Ephesians 4 stuff, people coming together under one love, one hope, one salvation and one Lord to grow into who He made each individual to be in His Bride. I’ve met some dear friends who remind me of that vision. And that’s not only what I hope to find, but what I hope to bring out and nurture here on this blog, around my friends and family and the people I meet every day. Living Church.

So I know, 500-some odd words later this post doesn’t have much direction – I’m just kind of bouncing thoughts and ideas around my brain because I haven’t had anyone to sit down and bounce thoughts and ideas around with for a long time, so take it with a grain of salt, or sugar, or whatever your grain is!

Nothing Can Separate

You know that verse from Romans that goes, ‘Neither death nor life nor angels or principalities–‘ yeah you know the one:

38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

– Romans 8:38-39

Here’s the thing: I used to believe there was one thing that could separate me from the love of God – me. When asked the question, “So what can separate us from the love of God,” I answered “Me.” every time.

And I grew up believing I could absolutely do something to separate myself from the love of God. Like let’s see–the “unforgivable” sin? (And what is that, anyway?) How about free will – if I just decide that I’m going to go sit in a corner and stare at the wall of unloveliness that should do it. But I believed that I was much closer to the outside of God’s love than any of those things already because of course. I’m a dirty filthy sinner and it’s only because I went and begged and pleaded at the foot of the cross where I promised on my life I could cut the burden off my own back and change.

So how about this. Maybe you’ve also heard the verse that says He [Father] sends rain on the unjust and the just. Loving on purpose whether you like it or not.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor[g] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[h] 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren[i] only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors[j] do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

– Matthew 5:43-48

Did you catch that? God doesn’t even hate his enemies. Perfect love. So what makes you think you can do anything to keep him from loving you? It’s harder than you think. It’s harder than I ever thought.

There really isn’t anything that can separate me from God’s love. There’s nothing you can do to stop Father from loving you. You can’t shade the world from the sun and the rain, you can’t stop flowers from growing or trees from bending in the unseen wind. You can’t stop the rocks from shouting about Father’s love for you. And you can’t change that he gave one son to death, Himself, so that his love could go the rest of the distance and create a way back home. There’s nothing you can do to lose God’s love for you.

But what about that unforgivable sin, anyways?

Right along with my belief in my ability to separate myself from the love of Father I grew up hearing about this thing called the unforgivable sin. To this day I’m not even entirely sure that term is even Biblical.

Actually, I had no idea what this unforgivable sin could possibly be. I mean, if God is so forgiving and gracious and kind and loving–if God is who He says He is–how is it possible there could even be an unforgivable sin? But it must be true because there are so many people teaching about it even if they are using words and language they themselves might not even understand.

It is true, but it’s not what you think.

28 “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 29 but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” 30 because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

– Mark 3:28-30

You can find the same story recorded in Matthew 12 and Luke 12 – I chose Mark’s record because it includes an explanatory note; the Pharisees had said earlier that he was acting in the power of Satan–they spoke against the Holy Spirit. And by Jesus’ allusion, they weren’t forgiven it.

But why? You can probably guess. The Holy Spirit is the seal of the new covenant which means one thing: no Holy Spirit = no new covenant. Holy Spirit also produces Jesus’ life in us; no Holy Spirit = no genuine change. Speaking against the Holy Spirit means speaking against the very power that makes forgiveness possible–not to mention the myriads of other benefits included in the new covenant (righteousness and eternal life come to mind).

But I’m willing to bet it took a very difficult, conscious and intentional choice or set of choices before those religious leaders crossed the line.

So what does all this mean? It means I’m free. It means I don’t have to worry about an angry, upset Father too disgusted with me to turn his face back on me till I repent – it means I don’t have to have faith to be loved because I already am. It means no one is too far gone to be beyond hope. It means love wins.