Lust and Holiness, Part 3
I‘m dealing with the concept that grace is the power that breaks the chains of lust, and I’m suggesting that Peter describes this power in 1 Peter 1:13-16. But I wonder if anyone is asking the question, “Doesn’t Paul give us three steps to follow that will enable me to be on my way and live happily ever after?” Well, I suppose we might interpret his message like that, but it may be a bit simplistic. There are three steps to follow, and Paul describes them in 2 Timothy 2:22–Run from, Run to, Run with. But if it is that easy, why are so many sincere followers of Jesus struggling so much with sin? There must be something missing! I suggest that there is something missing and I’d like to illustrate it by discussing the last step – run with.
Counselors report that they have never worked with a man who was enslaved by pornography who successfully broke free without being in an accountability group. Accountability breaks the three-legged stool of accessibility, affordability and anonymity, for when you are accountable you are no longer anonymous. 2 Tim 2:22 clearly teaches accountability, so in obedience to the Word of God, we need to work on accountability. But when we meet with our accountability partners, what is it that really happens? Here is the testimony of one Christian leader.
Every week, before we meet, we fill out a sheet that asks a variety of questions: have I been faithful to pray for the men and women of the church this week? Have any of my financial dealings failed to be filled with integrity? Have I given sufficient time to my family? Have I fallen into any kind of sexual sin? Did I take a day off this week? Though this is a helpful way of examining my week, looking back to see evidence of sin in my life and evidence of God’s grace, I know that my heart is often motivated more by a desire not to confess sin to other men than it is to honor God. In other words, I am often motivated more by fear of man than I am by a fear of God.
What a subtle trap. Technically, we can rejoice if fear of man keeps us from being enslaved to sin. But is that really a solution that deals with the issue? I think not. There is the need for something more. But this is not the only trap. Here is another one. For those who genuinely fear God and come to their accountability group with genuine confession, there is often a neglect of Peter’s clear admonition to set our hope on grace. Instead, we focus on everything else. One leader even counsels men who are struggling to get free from pornography to actually avoid accountability groups.
Instead, link up with believers radically focused on encouraging one another in the gospel of grace. Well, maybe this is a bit of an overstatement against accountability groups, but the point is that often accountability groups turn into focusing on sin rather than experiencing the gospel of grace. You don’t just want a group that kills, but gospel-driven community that gives life. Men’s groups I’ve been a part of in the past tend to focus more on the experiences of failure the week before, not the event of God’s grace in the death and resurrection of Christ 2,000 years ago.
Don’t get me wrong: Christian relationships should engage in confession of sin (James 5:16), but they are also meant for encouragement in grace (I Thessalonians 5:14). The author of Hebrews reveals that the key to not being hardened to the deceitfulness of sin is daily encouragement, not an excessive concentration on sin (Hebrews 3:13). The use of accountability software between brothers to keep one away from online pornography is helpful, but grace-oriented encouragement between brothers is best.
These are the messages we often get in accountability groups. The motive may be good, but the execution leaves much to be desired, and even leaves out the real power. When Peter held his readers accountable for the lust and passions of their former way of life, what message did they get from him? Notice Vs. 13, 15 and 6
set your hope fully on grace (1Pe 1:13 ESV)
but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1Pe 1:15-16 ESV)
In this passage Peter mixes God’s grace with God’s holiness, and therein is the power that breaks the chains of lust. I’ll elaborate on how those two concepts meld together next time.