Ordinary believers should see God's power demonstrated regularly in their lives. Here's how to make sure you do.
Once when my children, Daniel and Madison, were small, our family visited Los Angeles. Both the kids were acting their age, poking each other in the back seat of our rental car and making accusations such as “Mom, he looked at me!” and “Mom, she breathed on me!”
I pulled into a service station to fill the car with gas before returning it to the car rental agency. As I did, a young man approached—he was wearing a bandana, had a bucket in his hand and started washing my front window. My first reaction was not very spiritual. I was about to tell him to go away when the Holy Spirit intervened.
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Jesus commands us to forgive, yet most of us treat His words as suggestions. We must learn to release all offense.
All of us have been wounded at some time in our lives, many of us deeply. And it's not something to take lightly. People experience real pain when they or those they love are hurt by another person. Yet we know that the Bible commands us to forgive--and that extending total forgiveness to our offenders is the only way we will ever find true freedom and release.
Certainly if our offenders would put on sackcloth and ashes as a show of repentance, it would be much easier to forgive them. But remember, at the foot of Jesus' cross no one seemed very sorry. There was no justice at His "trial"--if you could even call it that. A perverse glee filled the faces of the people who demanded His death: "'Crucify him!'" they shouted (Mark 15:13, NKJV). Furthermore, "those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, 'Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!'" (vv. 29-30).
What was Jesus' response? "'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do'" (Luke 23:34).
This must be our response as well.
Jesus could have said, "I forgive you." But such words might have been misinterpreted and wasted, like casting His pearls before swine (see Matt. 7:6). Instead Jesus asked the Father to forgive them, a far more grand gesture.
Asking the Father to forgive them showed not only that Jesus Himself had forgiven them and released them from their guilt but also that He wanted His Father to refrain from punishing them. It was not a perfunctory prayer; Jesus meant it. And it was gloriously answered! These offenders were among those who were converted after Peter's address on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:14-41).
God has given us a mandate in His Word regarding forgiveness: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you" (Eph. 4:32). "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Col. 3:13, NIV).
It's not a suggestion. We must totally forgive those who hurt us.
Totally forgiving someone doesn't necessarily mean you will want to spend your vacation with him or her, but it does mean that you release the bitterness in your heart about what the person has done. We can take our example from the way God treats us.
How does He forgive? Unequivocally and unconditionally. He never holds our sins, which are many, against us or tells others what we did. In practical terms, total forgiveness encompasses all of the following aspects:
1. Being aware of what someone has done, and still forgiving. Total forgiveness is not being oblivious to what an offender did; it is not covering up, excusing or refusing to acknowledge what happened. Total forgiveness is achieved only when we acknowledge what was done without any denial or covering up--and still refuse to make the offender pay for his crime.
Total forgiveness is painful. It hurts when we kiss revenge goodbye. It hurts to think that the person is getting away with what he did and nobody else will ever find out. But when we are able to fully acknowledge what he did and still desire in our hearts that God bless him in spite of his wrong, we cross over into a supernatural realm. We begin to be a little more like Jesus; we begin to change into the image of Christ.
2. Choosing to keep no records of wrong. The Bible says that love "keeps no record of wrongs" (1 Cor. 13:5). Love is a choice. Total forgiveness is a choice. It is not a feeling--at least at first--but an act of the will. It is the choice to tear up the record of wrongs we have been keeping.
We clearly see and acknowledge the evil that was done to us, but we erase it--or destroy the record--before it becomes lodged in our hearts. This way resentment does not have a chance to grow.
We must learn to erase the wrong rather than file it away in our mental computer. When we do this all the time--as a lifestyle--we not only avoid bitterness, but we also eventually experience total forgiveness as a feeling--and it is a good feeling.
3. Refusing to punish. Refusing to punish those who deserve it--giving up the natural desire to see them "get what's coming to them"--is the essence of total forgiveness.
Our human nature cannot bear the thought that someone who hurt us would get away with what he has done. It seems so unfair! We want vengeance. But vindication is God's prerogative alone. In Deuteronomy 32:35 He tells us clearly, "Vengeance is Mine, and recompense" (NKJV).
4. Not telling what they did. There is often a need to talk with someone about how you have been hurt, and this can be therapeutic if it is done with the right heart attitude. But if sharing is necessary, choose the person you tell very carefully, making sure that person is trustworthy and will never repeat your situation to those it does not concern.
Anyone who truly forgives, however, does not gossip about his offender. Talking about how you have been wounded with the purpose of hurting your enemy's reputation or credibility is a form of punishing him. We divulge what that person did so others will think less of him.
When I recall that total forgiveness is forgiving others as I have been forgiven, I remember:
* I won't be punished for my sins. **Nobody will know about my sins, for no sins that are under the blood of Christ will be exposed or held against me.
5. Being merciful. When it comes to being merciful, this is our Lord's command: "Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful" (Luke 6:36). In the Greek language, mercy is the opposite of wrath or justice. One difference between grace and mercy is that grace is getting what we don't deserve (favor), and mercy is not getting what we do deserve (justice). So when we show mercy we are withholding justice from those who have injured us, and that is one aspect of godliness.
There is a fringe benefit for those of us who show mercy: We will also be shown mercy (see Matt. 5:7). This shows that total forgiveness is not devoid of self-interest. "The merciful man does good for his own soul" (Prov. 11:17).
6. Showing graciousness. True forgiveness shows grace and mercy at the same time. There is an interesting Greek word, epieikes, that means "forbearance" or "tolerance." In Philippians 4:5 this word is translated "gentleness."
It comes down to our English word "graciousness." It implies an exceedingly rare act of grace. It cuts right across a legalistic spirit, which is what comes naturally to most of us. This concept is quite threatening to those of us who think that being inflexible for the truth is the ultimate virtue.
Graciousness is withholding certain facts you know to be true in order to leave your enemy's reputation unscathed. Graciousness is shown by what you don't say, even if what you could say would be true.
Self-righteous people find it almost impossible to be gracious; they claim always to be after "the truth," no matter the cost. Total forgiveness sometimes means overlooking what you perceive to be the truth and not letting on about anything that could damage another person.
7. Letting it start in your heart. Total forgiveness must take place in the heart or it is worthless, for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matt. 12:34). If we have not truly forgiven those who hurt us, it will come out--sooner or later. But if it has indeed taken place in the heart, our words will show it. When there is bitterness, it will eventually manifest itself; when there is love, there is "no cause for stumbling" (1 John 2:10).
Because forgiveness takes place in the heart, reconciliation is not a necessary prerequisite. Those who believe they are not required to forgive until their offender has first repented and been reconciled to them are not following Jesus' example on the cross. If He had waited until His enemies felt some guilt or shame for their words and actions, He never would have forgiven them.
8. Relinquishing bitterness. Bitterness is an excessive desire for vengeance that comes from deep resentment. It heads the list of things that grieve the Spirit of God (see Eph. 4:30-32). And it is one of the most frequent causes of our missing the grace of God. "[Look] carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (Heb. 12:15).
We must, therefore, begin to get rid of a bitter and unforgiving spirit; otherwise, the attempt to forgive will fail. Relinquishing bitterness is an open invitation for the Holy Spirit to give you His peace, His joy and the knowledge of His will.
This is extremely important when it comes to the matter of reconciliation. If I have totally forgiven a person who has hurt me, I will have no bitterness, and I should not feel the slightest bit of guilt or shame for not wanting a complete restoration of that relationship.
Even if there never had been a friendship in the first place, if someone has greatly wronged me, I can forgive him and yet see it as totally reasonable not to invite him to lunch every Sunday.
How can we be sure that there is no bitterness left in our hearts? Bitterness is gone when there is no desire to get even or punish the offender, when I do or say nothing that would hurt his reputation or future, and when I truly wish him well in all he seeks to do.
9. Forgiving God. Although we often do not see it at first, all of our bitterness is ultimately traceable to a resentment of God. Why? Because deep in our hearts we believe He is the one who allowed bad things to happen.
Only a fool would claim to know the full answer to the question, "Why does God allow evil and suffering to continue when He has the power to stop it?"
But there is a partial answer: He does so in order that we may believe. There would be no need for faith if we knew the answer about the origin of evil and the reason for suffering. I know only that it is what makes faith possible.
God can turn evil into blessing. He causes things to work together for good. God did not send His Son into the world to explain evil but rather to save us from it and to exemplify a life of suffering. Jesus suffered as no one else has or ever will.
One day God will clear His own name from the charge of being unjust, but in the meantime, we need to trust Him and take Him at His Word that He is just and merciful.
If we will patiently wait for God's purposes to be fulfilled, in the end--this is a guarantee--we will say that He has done all things well, even in what He permitted. He was never guilty in the first place, but because He sometimes appears to us to have been unfair, we must relinquish our bitterness and wholly forgive Him.
10. Forgiving ourselves. There is no lasting joy in forgiveness if it doesn't include forgiving ourselves. It is as wrong as not forgiving others because God loves us just as much as He loves His other children, and He is just as unhappy when we don't forgive ourselves as He is when we hold a grudge against others.
Put simply, we matter to God. He wants our lives to be filled with joy. That's why He commands us to forgive even ourselves.
Total forgiveness brings such joy and satisfaction that I am almost tempted to call it a selfish enterprise. In fact, studies show that the first person to experience delight when forgiveness takes place is the one who forgives.
So, for your own sake, obey God. Let go of your hurts by forgiving--totally--those who have wounded you.
Of his more than 3,500 sermons, R.T. Kendall says the message in his book Total Forgiveness is the most vital.
A noted Bible teacher and former pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, England, R.T. Kendall has given his share of sermons. But he says the message in his book Total Forgiveness (Charisma House) has garnered an overwhelming response. He spoke with us about what it means to release offense.
What prompted you to write this book?
It was born in the greatest trial of my life at the time. An old friend, Josif Tson, said to me: "R.T., you must totally forgive [those who hurt you]. Until you totally forgive them you will be in chains. Release them, and you will be released." Nobody had ever talked to me like that before. But it was the greatest single word anybody ever said to me.
How can someone know whether he or she has totally forgiven?
We do not tell people what "they" did to us; we will not let them be afraid of us; we will not let them feel guilty for what they did; we let them save face, as God lets us save face; we assure them that their secret is safe with us forever; we do not do it once--total forgiveness is what we do every single day as long as we live; and finally, we pray for them--as Jesus did, that they will be forgiven, let off the hook.
What are the consequences of not forgiving totally?
Spiritually, we grieve the Holy Spirit. Physically, holding a grudge can cause high blood pressure, arthritis, kidney disease and other ailments. Emotionally or psychologically, it will shape your personality so that you become unpopular with people; they avoid you because you are a constant complainer.
What would you say to someone who feels they have been hurt so deeply they cannot forgive?
I would assure them I do understand their hurt. But not forgiving is always counter- productive. They are hurting themselves more than they realize.
How has this message changed you personally?
Totally forgiving those who have hurt me is the greatest thing I ever did in my life. I cannot exaggerate this. It has shaped my personality, my marriage and my preaching.
Is it possible to forgive and forget?
Total forgiveness is not forgetting. We do not play games with ourselves. We never forget what they did, nor are we required to. In fact, it is not true forgiveness unless we know what they did but still forgive.
What would you say to those who struggle with forgiving themselves?
Not forgiving ourselves is a combination of self-pity and self-righteousness, and we must come to terms with the fact that God wants us to forgive ourselves.Those who are hardest on themselves are usually hardest on others. And the closer we come to forgiving others, the easier it will be to forgive ourselves.
How have others responded to this message?
Of all my sermons on record (about 3,500, if you can believe that), my message on total forgiveness brings the greatest response of all I have ever preached.
How has unforgiveness hindered the body of Christ?
Immeasurably. Forgiveness is almost certainly the greatest need in the church today. Unforgiveness divides members, marriages, pastor and deacons, pastor and pastor, friends. It destroys unity, grieves the Holy Spirit and delays revival.
What are the benefits of forgiveness?
It can in some cases hasten the baptism of the Spirit. It will save homes. It will bring mental health quicker than 1,000 hours of psychiatric counseling (and I am not against this). The sooner a person forgives, the sooner they can live with themselves, like people, be liked and enjoy God's presence.
R.T. Kendall pastored Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. He is the author of more than 30 books, including The Word and the Spirit, The Sensitivity of the Spirit and Total Forgiveness, all from Charisma House.
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People who resist the gospel almost always use one of five generic excuses. Here's how you can respond.
All of us who follow Christ are called to the task of evangelism. Sadly, witnessing to unbelievers about the Christian faith is a scary prospect for many churchgoers.
I often hear their worries expressed like this: "But what if I get into a discussion and don't know the answer?" or "What if they get angry with me?" or "What if I end up looking stupid?"
We all struggle with the fear of being rejected. We also are afraid we will "lose" the argument. But we must understand that evangelism is not arguing.
First Peter 3:15 says: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (NIV).
In Philemon we are encouraged to "be active in sharing [our] faith, so that [we] will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ" (v.6). Note that both of these verses are intended to be applied within the context of active evangelism--not passive religious discussion or arguing.
Jesus never argued with anybody. He certainly had His differences of opinion with the Pharisees, but He didn't fight with them.
The Bible says we are called to be witnesses--not debators. To be effective in evangelism we must simply learn to rely on the Holy Spirit's power--and be prepared to respond to the questions others have about our faith.
In my many witnessing experiences on college campuses, I've learned to lean on the Holy Spirit for guidance in my conversations. I've also learned that most people have the same common excuses.
But rest assured, God is not looking for expert witnesses who have doctorates in theology. He is looking for faithful witnesses who are willing to share their faith with others. Here are five of the most common objections people will express when you share the gospel with them:
1. Don't all religions teach basically the same things but just use different names for God?
Because of my father's job with the Canadian Embassy, I have traveled to and lived in more than 40 nations. I encountered a number of world religions, philosophies and ideologies in my own search for truth.
Looking beneath the surface similarities, the world's religions are significantly different. One major difference is the contradictory view of the nature of God.
For example, some forms of Buddhism do not teach about God at all. Hinduism teaches that multiple gods exist and that even rocks, trees and animals are part of these gods. Christianity teaches that God exists but that He is separate from all creation.
Because various world religions offer mutually exclusive definitions, they cannot possibly be descriptions of the same God.
Most religions see Jesus as a prophet from God but not as who He claimed to be--the incarnation of God Himself. The Bible describes Jesus in an unprecedented fashion found in no other sacred text--as "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14).
Other religions also deny that Jesus' mission was to give His life on the cross as a payment for our sins. Jesus is unique in that He not only claimed to be God but also proved it through His resurrection.
People who think all religions are the same usually ask, "As long as you are sincere, what difference does it make what you believe?" Consider Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson and Osama bin Laden. Were these men not sincere? Sincerity is never a measure of truth.
And sincerely believing something doesn't make it true. You can be sincere and wrong at the same time.
2. Isn't it narrow-minded for Christians to think they're the only ones who are right?
I hear the "Christians are narrow-minded" argument all the time. Modern pluralists say they want a "tolerant" society that embraces all religions and lifestyles. They want a world where anything goes.
Yet Jesus never talked about tolerance but rather commanded His followers to demonstrate a far higher objective--to show love to all people. Though it is possible to tolerate someone without loving him, the reverse is impossible.
Jesus was not a model of tolerance. He was so intolerant of our lost condition, in fact, that He came to Earth to do something about it! He was intolerant of a number of things, including sin, hypocrisy and selfishness.
The issue is not really with us. It was Jesus Himself who said: "'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me'" (John 14:6, NKJV).
Jesus claimed to be the unique pathway to God and to eternal life. The important question is whether or not we have good reason to accept His position over all the other options.
I say this to people who think Christianity is narrow-minded: "Do you believe that 1+1=2? Do you believe that water boils at 212 F at sea level? If so, should you be considered narrow-minded, or do you have good reason for believing these are the only acceptable answers?"
3. I don't believe the Bible. It is a book of myths and legends put together by pre-scientific men marked by superstitions and fears.
When people bring up this objection, I usually ask them, "Have you ever read the Bible?" Unfortunately, most haven't. If they respond positively, I ask them, "How much of the Bible have you read?" Typically they have read very little.
If they claim to have read the entire Bible I ask them, "What do you believe the central message of the Bible is?" At this point most get it wrong. The vast majority of people who have a negative opinion of the Bible have formulated it before reading the text.
We must remember, however, to be gentle when reminding people of their inconsistencies so that we don't discourage them from further dialogue as we direct them toward the cross.
The Bible stands head and shoulders above any work of antiquity for both trustworthiness and bibliographical accuracy. The New Testament, in particular, offers a greater number of surviving manuscript copies (about 24,000) and a shorter time span between copies (about 50 years) than any other bibliographical work in the world!
Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix comment in A General Introduction to the Bible, "For all practical purposes the modern critical editions of the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible represent, with their footnotes, exactly what the autographs (original documents) contained--line for line, word for word, and even letter for letter."
The Bible tells us that "above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:20-21, NIV). Like most other sacred texts, Scripture claims to be divinely inspired.
The uniqueness of the Bible is that it is the only holy book in the world having substitutionary atonement as its core belief. Jesus satisfied the demands of justice from a holy God, enabling the guilty parties (you and me) to be forgiven and experience true freedom through His death and resurrection.
No other religion in the world can offer you that. As you read the Bible, the Holy Spirit makes the text come alive, giving new understanding and revelation in a personally applicable way.
Because it is divinely inspired it consequently is authoritative to all areas of life. It speaks beyond the intellect to the depths of the heart, empowering us to make positive inner choices (repentance and faith) that produce beneficial lifestyle changes (regeneration and sanctification).
4. If a loving and all-powerful God really exists, why doesn't He do something about the evil in the world?
This is a difficult question. We must come to the realization that evil is not just some vague force that hovers around somewhere; instead it is personal and lives within each of us. If God wanted to get rid of evil, He would have to get rid of us as well!
God created us with a free will because He loves us. We can each choose to love and follow Him or to reject and turn away from Him. Without free will there would be no love.
We all have chosen at various times in our lives to rebel against Him and follow our own inclinations. Realizing we are part of the "evil" that people say God "should do something about" gives us a new and humble perspective.
With free will comes consequences for the things we choose. We live in a culture that cries out for freedom of choice but hates the responsibilities that come with it.
Consider the many lawsuits that have been initiated against fast food restaurants because people chose to eat there but then got fat. This "passing the buck" mentality is symptomatic of our fallen nature (see Gen. 3).
If God were to limit the consequences of evil, our free will would disappear, and moral consequences would become a mere game. Suffering often teaches us life's greatest lessons. In fact, the Bible says that even Jesus learned through what He suffered (see Heb. 5:8).
The Bible does tell us that God is both "just" and "merciful." In His mercy, He is patiently giving us time to turn to Him and receive the forgiveness and life He offers. God also promises that He will put an end to all evil and one day will execute final judgment.
Ironically, the existence of evil should lead us toward belief in God, not away from it. Without God there would be no standard of right and wrong.
The concepts of both "good" and "evil" are moral values or judgments that denote the existence of a moral governor (God). Without God, we would have come into existence by chance, and whatever we do would have no meaning or moral value, positive or negative.
Some people claim to believe this is the case, but their responses to life often reveal inconsistencies in their own convictions. As soon as they complain about some "injustice" or "unfair" situation or claim that someone has "wronged" them, they are making moral judgments about what is "right" and "wrong."
These judgments betray their belief in standards that are ultimately above us all--standards that come not from us but from God.
5. I don't believe in God. What kind of proof can you offer me that He exists?
Science points to the highly complex order in the universe. We also see complexity and order in the human body. Elementary logic tells us that any type of design demands a designer.
At this point another question often arises: Where did God Himself come from?
According to the Bible, God is the uncaused cause of all things. He has always existed.
In the Bible, His existence is considered an axiom (a self-evident truth). Because of the abundant evidence of Him in nature, He in no way attempts to justify that He exists.
But evidence is found in written history. Jewish, Roman, Greek and other sources all support the miraculous events of Jesus' life. Examples include His fulfilling more than 330 specific prophecies recorded hundreds of years earlier and performing numerous miracles.
The single biggest reason I know that God exists is that 23 years ago He changed my life in a way that was humanly impossible. I found that in spite of doing well both academically and athletically, there remained a distinct lack of overall purpose and direction to my life.
The ultimate fulfillment I sought was finally realized when I accepted Christ. His forgiveness and love has completely altered the course of my life. His peace and joy are now a daily reality.
Like me, most Christians have a testimony about the ways in which Jesus has changed their lives. If you learn to share your story effectively and to answer the objections unbelievers may pose, you will find evangelism easy and will bring many souls to faith in Jesus.
Darwin Dewar is associate pastor of Church on 99 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He is also a chaplain at the University of Alberta.
Month after month, one particular article on my Web site receives an unusually high number of hits: "Overcoming Sexual Temptation." Many Christians, such as the reader quoted below, find sexual temptation a difficult struggle and walk in constant condemnation.
"I have failed God many times in the area of sexual lust. I find myself thinking about impure thoughts. I confess my sin, ask forgiveness and repent. I do OK for a few days but find myself back where I started. I feel out of control. How can I break this cycle?"
Here are the steps:
1. Stop sexual thoughts. Think on things that are pure, as the Scriptures command (see Phil. 4:8). You can control where your thoughts go by making a mental choice to focus on something nonsexual.
2. Remove sources of sexual temptation. Identify the things in your life that are contributing to the problem. Then remove them as sources of temptation. Areas to check include:
Movies: Avoid ones that encourage lust and erotica. They make it impossible for you to "flee from temptation."
Television: It may be time to rethink channel and program choices.
Magazines: The visual images can be arousing. The stories and suggestions often encourage lust.
Books: Reading steamy romance novels won't help you focus your thoughts on what is pure and virtuous.
Peer group: What values are reinforced? How explicit and graphic is the talk? Is being a virgin considered weird? Are your friends committing adultery?
Family: Some families don't model appropriate sexual behavior, limit sexual exposure or have good sexual boundaries. Know what's right and what isn't.
Computer: The Internet gives easy access to pornography. Put on parental controls or a filter system or unsubscribe if you can't seem to resist.
Alcohol: More illicit sex happens under the influence of alcohol because inhibitions are removed. Don't indulge.
Job environment: Resist pressure to be part of the group, go to bars and engage in sexual talk. And watch those opposite-sex friendships. Many affairs begin with an understanding, sympathetic, listening co-worker.
3. Purpose in your heart to follow God's Word. Don't be ruled by passion. No matter what you feel, act with your brain and not your emotions.
4. Don't put yourself in tempting places. In the same way that a recovered alcoholic would shun going into a bar, you must avoid going to places that make resistance tough (for example, X-rated movies, strip joints, bars). When Satan tempted Eve, she engaged him in conversation instead of telling him to go crawl somewhere else. We all know the outcome of her choice!
5. Resist with the Word. When Satan came to Jesus, His defense was to speak the Word. Satan did not argue with Scripture; he left.
6. Don't lie to yourself. Many Christians think they can handle a lot more sexually explicit material than they can. We aren't aware of the subtle influence it has and the desensitization that takes place as a result of regular exposure.
7. Keep your walk with the Lord strong. Develop an intimate relationship with your heavenly Father. Difficult times come when we get out of fellowship with God. He doesn't leave us; we stop relating to Him. It is imperative that we stay connected.
8. If you fall, don't live in condemnation. Recognize your mistake, ask God to forgive you and turn from sin. True repentance involves a turning from the behavior. I have worked with a number of people who repent but go right back to the behavior because they haven't made necessary changes, aren't ready to give up the immediate gratification that accompanies lust or don't exercise their spiritual authority over sin.
Finally, if you still have difficulty, speak to a therapist or minister. There could be a spiritual, emotional or psychological root that requires more intense work. Getting free from lust is not impossible, but it will require significant changes in your thought life and behavior.
There is nothing more painful than a relationship breakdown. Here’s how you can find healing and restoration when strife takes its toll.It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I felt as if I were watching a train wreck in slow motion, and I couldn't do anything to stop it. A great friendship was breaking up.
We had been close at one time, but our relationship had become strained. Words of peace somehow got warped. Confusion and suspicion whispered lies. Then suddenly, a firestorm of words ensued. It was over.
If you've ever experienced the pain of an unexpected relational meltdown, you've probably encountered the spirit of separation. You are not alone. Relationships in the church are under attack. The last decade has set records for divorces and separations, even among Christian leaders—and in the midst of headline-grabbing revivals.
Ephesians 6:12 tells us that our struggles are not with other human beings but with the devil and his demons. Satan, the enemy of our souls, attempts to defeat us with strategy and deceit through well-laid plans and deception.
But the devil is a liar. Jesus called him "the father of lies and of all that is false" (John 8:44, The Amplified Bible). He tells us things about ourselves, people and circumstances that are just not true. He does not, however, tell us the entire lie all at once.
He begins by bombarding our minds with a cleverly devised pattern of little nagging thoughts, suspicions, doubts, wonderings, reasonings and theories. He moves slowly and cautiously. He has a strategy for his warfare—he has studied us for a long time.