#416: How God Uses Heartache to Prepare You for Your True Calling

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Dr. Dan Allender and Cathy Loerzel join Juli to share about Redeeming Heartachea new book and tool (think Enneagram or DISC) to help you identify trauma and old wounds and move toward healing and connection with God and others. You’re invited to look closely at your own story and see how God can redeem every part of your journey.

Guests: Dr. Dan Allender & Cathy Loerzel

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Joshua Harris, Sexuality, and "Deconstructing" Christianity
Image Courtesy DOCS-ology/I Survived IKDG Recently, the evangelical world has been rocked by the news of Joshua Harris’s decision to leave his marriage and Christian beliefs. Joshua is the bestselling author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and was a well-known spokesperson for the purity movement of the 1990s. A few years ago, Joshua began a journey of listening to people who have been wounded and disillusioned by the message of the purity movement: “Save sex for marriage and God will bless you!”  Joshua Harris has joined a chorus of former evangelicals who are walking away from their Christian convictions largely because of how the church has ignored or mishandled sexual issues. Legalist, judgmental, hypocritical, misogynistic: These are all words used to describe the traditional Christian approach to sexuality.  What saddens me is not simply Joshua’s conclusions and personal choices, but the reality that thousands of men and women readily identify with his “deconstruction” from Christianity. While I’m not personally familiar with the specific details of Joshua’s journey, I’ve talked to men and women like him, and understand the trigger points of why questions about sex can shipwreck a personal faith in God. Every sexual issue is a spiritual issue. Because of the church’s historical refusal to talk openly about sexuality, many people have a disconnect between their sexuality and their spirituality. They live with an invisible wall that appears to separate their sexual choices and beliefs from their relationship with God. I believe this divide between sexuality and spirituality is an illusion. Our beliefs about sexuality begin and end with our beliefs about God. Is He trustworthy? Is His Word reliable? How could a loving God not embrace me just the way I am? As Joshua’s journey showcases, when we question God’s sovereignty and kindness related to our sexuality, we will question everything we have ever believed about Him. Deconstructing our views of sexuality will always cause us to revisit our beliefs about God. This is why it is critical for every Christian to be firmly rooted not simply in the rules of Christian sexuality, (“thou shalt not…”) but to delve deeply into God’s heart related to our sexuality.   The purity narrative has never offered a satisfactory explanation of God’s heart for sexuality. In an effort to encourage teenagers to stay pure, the purity movement presented unrealistic promises (a great marriage and sex life) to those who followed the rules, and oppressive shame (you become like "already chewed bubble gum") for those who didn’t. The larger message of the gospel somehow got lost. God is not primarily after our sexual purity; He is after our hearts. Our righteousness has never come from our sexual choices, but by surrendering to the finished work of Christ. We have not been called to “save ourselves for marriage,” but to set ourselves apart for God.     Satan's goal is not simply to destroy sexuality but to keep us from God. I have met many people, like Joshua, who have been hurt and disillusioned by the message of sexual purity. But let’s be clear: The message of “sex positivity” is also leaving a multitude of ruined lives in its wake. The purity movement was not primarily destructive because of what it taught, but because of what it often failed to teach. Following Christ has never been as simple as obeying a list of rules, nor have the blessings of obedience been primarily about happiness in our earthly bodies. The gospel is far more profound. A few years ago, I got stuck on something Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: “I resolved when I was with you to teach nothing but Christ and Christ crucified.” If you’ve read Paul’s letters to the early churches, you know that Paul taught about a lot of things, including sexuality. But his statement means that in every topic we address, we must begin and end with the message of Jesus Christ. He is our why. He is our how. He is our what. As I pondered this passage, I wondered, how can I talk about all of these sexual issues at Authentic Intimacy with the same resolve that Paul had—to teach nothing but Christ and Christ crucified? We can’t just talk about sexual purity, the dangers of pornography, sexual abuse recovery, or any other sexual issue in a vacuum. We must always ponder these issues in relationship to what it means to be a sinner saved by grace, living in a fallen world.  Teaching the principles of biblical sexuality without the forefront and backdrop of Jesus’ forgiveness and redemption of our sins is legalistic and cruel. I don’t believe that Joshua Harris or any other person has left the Christian faith because of sex, even when that is the obvious trigger. Sexual issues and questions have the power to tap into our most profound fears, insecurities, and questions. Am I loved? Where do I find truth? Who will meet me in my excruciating loneliness? If we continue to give simplistic rule-based answers to weighty questions, we are bound to see more people flee from Christianity. God has created us as sexual people. Our sexuality is a powerful and profound aspect of what it means to be human, to be loved, and to long for connection. As a result, sexual disillusionment and brokenness can send shock waves through the core of our personhood. God is the redeemer of all things, including sexuality. The journey toward truth and healing is arduous for most of us. Yet it is not only a journey toward healthy sexuality, but a journey to knowing the intimacy we were ultimately created for: Unity with our Creator Himself. My heart is to journey with you, to acknowledge the complexity of your questions, but to remember that Jesus Himself is the way, the truth, and the life. Satan will use anything to keep us from Jesus. Remember that the central issue at stake is not about sexual purity, homosexuality, or any other aspect of moral behavior. Don’t get distracted from the pivotal question that sheds light on every other concern: “Who is Jesus?” He is my why. He is my how. He is my what. He is Lord.   To learn more, check out these additional resources:  Pure Sadness and a Better Way Forward; Dr. Juli Slattery's newest book, Rethinking Sexuality; Java with Juli episode #235: How the Purity Movement Hurt Us;  #236: Pursue Wholeness, Not Purity; and #256: Who Is Jesus to You? Photo provided by I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye
Why We Don’t Experience Victory
I recently spoke with a young woman who despises herself because of her continual struggle with lust and pornography. She’s tried to obey God and run away from sin only to find herself falling into it once again. I’ve met others who feel similar discouragement in their marriage or on their healing journey. Why do followers of Jesus stay captive to sin? Why doesn’t God fix broken marriages and heal our wounded hearts? If it is for freedom that Christ came, why aren’t we free? This is not just a theoretical question but also a practical struggle. And it’s not just a struggle for those I minister to, but it’s a personal battle. I know what it feels like to want to be free from sin and brokenness but to experience it overpowering me day after day. I was recently reading Luke 18, and the Lord showed me three specific roadblocks that keep His children from victory. In this passage, Jesus is teaching about prayer – how we should appeal to the Father. He gives three separate, complementary pictures about how to approach the Father with our sin and brokenness. I’ve read this passage of Scripture before, but this time I saw it in light of how there may be roadblocks in the journey to freedom. Whether you are battling your own sin or the devastating impact of someone else’s sin, Jesus’ words may unlock victory.   Roadblock #1 – We give up. Jesus told them a picture-story to show that men should always pray and not give up.  He said, There was a man in one of the cities who was head of the court. His work was to say if a person was guilty or not. This man was not afraid of God. He did not respect any man. In that city there was a woman whose husband had died. She kept coming to him and saying, ‘Help me! There is someone who is working against me.’  For awhile he would not help her. Then he began to think, ‘I am not afraid of God and I do not respect any man.  But I will see that this woman whose husband has died gets her rights because I get tired of her coming all the time.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Listen to the words of the sinful man who is head of the court.  Will not God make the things that are right come to His chosen people who cry day and night to Him? Will He wait a long time to help them?  I tell you, He will be quick to help them. But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18:1-8) We don’t like to admit the truth that we put God on a timeline. “I’ve prayed about it, but it didn’t work.” “I’ve asked God to heal my marriage, but He’s not answering.” “I’ve repented, but I keep falling into sin again.” The healing and redemption Jesus brings is usually not immediate. I met a woman this morning who told me it took thirteen years for the Lord to heal the sexual aspect of her marriage. I don’t understand God’s ways and why He doesn’t always act immediately. However, the waiting and persistence to seek Him is often part of the journey of intimacy and maturity. In your battle with sin or brokenness, have you unconsciously given a time by which He must work? Have you given up on God because He hasn’t answered your prayers for healing and freedom? Don’t give up! Be persistent in your prayer that God would bring redemption, freedom, and healing.   Roadblock #2 – We want to maintain dignity. Jesus said, Two men went up to the house of God to pray. One of them was a proud religious law-keeper. The other was a man who gathered taxes.  The proud religious law-keeper stood and prayed to himself like this, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men. I am not like those who steal. I am not like those who do things that are wrong. I am not like those who commit sexual sins. I am not even like this tax-gatherer. I go without food two times a week so I can pray better. I give one-tenth part of the money I earn.’ But the man who gathered taxes stood a long way off. He would not even lift his eyes to heaven. But he hit himself on his chest and said, ‘God, have pity on me! I am a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went back to his house forgiven, and not the other man. For whoever makes himself look more important than he is will find out how little he is worth. Whoever does not try to honor himself will be made important. (Luke 18:9-14) This story is quite convicting. Notice that the Pharisee thanks God for how spiritual and holy he is. Although he might acknowledge some need, he brags that he has his life together. How often I have come to the Lord like this, thanking Him that I’m not as sinful and lost as others around me! God will not work in mighty ways until we are willing to come to Him in desperate humility. I recently met with a woman who struggles with sexual sin. She spent twenty minutes explaining to me how it’s not that bad. After all, she doesn’t look at porn websites; she just indulges in the occasional erotic novel and sexually fantasizes about a cute guy at work. God has been convicting her, but she doesn’t think she needs much help because “there are others who are much worse than I am.” This woman is not ready for the work of the Holy Spirit. She has not yet acknowledged what is true about each one of us: We are all in desperate need of God’s grace. God wants to get us to the place where we stop comparing and justifying and we fall on our faces begging for His strength and mercy. In fact, honest confession is an essential part of the healing process. James writes, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Resistance to openly acknowledging our brokenness before God and others impedes our growth, but God’s Word promises that confession and prayer with one another brings healing.   Roadblock #3 – We pray like teenagers. People took their little children to Jesus so He could put His hand on them. When His followers saw it, they spoke sharp words to the people. Jesus called the followers to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me. Do not try to stop them. The holy nation of God is made up of ones like these. For sure, I tell you, whoever does not receive the holy nation of God as a child will not go into the holy nation.’ (Luke 18:15-17) For decades, I’ve known this story teaching us to come to God as little children. Only last week did I realize that my approach to God is usually more like a teenager. I have raised teenagers, so I’m quite the expert at how they tend to ask for help. Here’s what I know about teenagers. They come to you when they need something, and they appear to be experts at how you can help them. “Mom, I’ve got a problem. My grades are pretty low and I need you to let me skip school today so I can catch up on homework.” Teenagers often don’t want their parents’ wisdom. They want money, their freedom, and validation that they have life figured out. By contrast, children wake up every day dependent upon their mom and dad. They don’t know what the day holds, and they don’t even know they have a problem to solve. They just trust, depend, and (hopefully) obey. What is God asking you to do in your current struggle? Is He prompting you to do something that you disagree with, like show love to your spouse (who doesn’t deserve it)? Or put strict limits on your smartphone? Or be gut-level honest with an accountability partner? Resist the urge to argue like a teenager. Trust Him like a child. We have at our disposal thousands of books, seminars, and podcasts on how to find victory in our struggle to wholeness in Christ. In the wake of information and resources, we can easily neglect the simple teachings of Jesus: Be persistent, humble yourself, and embrace child-like faith. And then remember, God’s ways and timing are different from ours. If you find yourself doing all of these things and are still discouraged in your fight against sin, let it draw you closer to the heart of God. Never stop approaching the throne of grace and laying your brokenness and failure before Him where there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.   Check out more resources on finding freedom from sexual sin here.