Identifying Today’s Skirmish
Renewal. The final word in restoring joys to the sexually broken. Our daily renewal has three parts.
First, where is today’s skirmish? Your battle always gets fought at the next step, not all at once. “Today’s trouble” is where you find God’s aid. A clear view of what you face defines your “choice points,” the forks in the road before you. Where are you tempted, now? It might be sexual. But remember that the skirmish is not always about sex. God keeps many issues in view as he works out our sanctification. How are you handling life’s pressures? Are you complaining or anxious? Does self-righteousness make you defensive and judgmental? Are you working too hard or being lazy and escapist? Are you forgetting God? What’s your relationship with money? Whenever you skirmish well in any area, it has ripple effects into every other area of life.
Is darkened sexuality even the prime battleground today? Where is today’s choice point? The current struggle is the place where the Vinedresser is pruning. It’s where you need life support from the Vine. Making all things new is always about something going on today. Restoring pure joys is not theory. It’s what’s happening here and now. It’s not about instant perfection (I hope that’s clear).
And it’s not about yesterday. If you’re still brooding and obsessing over yesterday’s failures, then today’s choice point is “How do you handle failure?” Can you quit curving in on yourself after you fall, and begin to deal with your sins by relying on free mercies? You’ll always need your Father, Savior, and Comforter to help you, forgive you, and teach you. Today’s trouble identifies where.
Finding God in Today’s Trouble
Second, what one thing about God in Christ speaks directly into today’s trouble? Just as we don’t change all at once, so we don’t take in all of truth in one massive Bible transfusion. We are simple people. You can’t remember ten things at once. Invariably, if you could remember just one vital truth in the moment of trial and then seek your God, you’d be different. Bible verses aren’t magic. But God’s words are revelations of God from God for our redemption. When you actually remember God, you do not sin. The only way we ever sin is by suppressing God, by forgetting, by tuning out his voice, switching channels, and listening to other voices. When you actually remember, you actually change. In fact, remembering is the first change.
Here’s a simple example. God says many times, “I am with you.” Those are his exact words. How does taking that to heart utterly change the script of your sexual darkness? What if you are facing a temptation to some immorality? For starters, nothing is private; no secrets are possible. “I am with you.” “I . . . am . . . with . . . you.” Say it ten different ways. Say it back to him, the way Psalm 23:4 does: “You are with me.” Slow it down. Speed it up. Say it out loud. You’ll probably find that you immediately need to say more: “You are with me. Help me. Make me know that. Have mercy on me. Don’t forsake me. I need you. Make me understand.”
You will find that the competing, lying, tempting voices become more obvious. They are sly and argumentative. They will try to drown out God’s reality. They will scoff at what God says. They will scoff at you. They will seek to allure you or overpower you to plunge you into a dark parallel universe that has no God.
To the degree that you remember that your Lord is with you and you seek him, then those other voices will sound devious, tawdry, and hostile to your welfare. How did they ever sound so appealing? The contrast, the battle of wills, the conflict between good and evil will be more evident. Your immediate choice— which voice will I listen to?—will become stark. Remembering what’s true does not chalk up automatic victory. But we do secretive things only when we’re kidding ourselves. Every time you remember that you are out in public, then you live an out-in-public life. “I am with you” means you’re always out in the open.
The only way we ever sin is by suppressing God, by forgetting, by tuning out his voice, switching channels, and listening to other voices.
Even if you sin by high-handed choice, you will still be in broad daylight before God’s searching eyes. He’s still here. You can open your eyes, listen, and turn around in order to find help. He who loves you says, “I am with you” to awaken and encourage you.
What if you face a different struggle today? What if you feel overwhelmed with aloneness and fear, buried under your hurt, abandoned and betrayed by people? “I am with you.” “I am with you.” “I am with you.” Again, when you really hear that and take it to heart, you know you are not alone. You are safe. Someone’s manipulative and violent lust violated you; the steadfast love of God never betrays you.
Or what if you’re overwhelmed by the grime of past failures? You feel guilty, shameful, unacceptable and ask, “How could God ever accept me?” He responds, “I am with you.” God is not shocked by the ugliness of your real-time evils. He came to give his life for the “foremost” sinner (as Paul twice calls himself—1 Tim. 1:15–16). Christ truly forgives. Truly.
Whatever your struggle, “I am with you” changes the terrain of battle. You start to see the fork in the road. There is a way of life. Your choices count, and you can choose life. A good road runs uphill toward the light, where previously you only knew to stumble over the edge into the abyss.
Talking and Walking with God
Third, put trouble and God together. Start talking and start walking. We already began to do this in these previous paragraphs. It was impossible to identify choice points and to offer promises and revelations of God without starting to capture the honest human responses: faith in God and constructive love for others. Like the Psalms, put trouble and God together and talk it out. To “remember” is not a mechanical recitation of Bible verses. You are seeking help today. That matters—even though you know that tomorrow or next month or next year your battle will mutate into some new form. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, step-by-step in real life.
Walking in the light is not magic. When you can see the fork in the road more clearly (today’s skirmish), and when you see and hear your Lord more clearly (something he says), then you start needing, start talking, start trusting. And then you start making the hard, significant, joyous choice to love people today.
Go into action in today’s skirmish. That’s our final word. It gets us down to where our Savior intervenes to make a difference. It’s where our Father is making us more fruitful. It’s exactly where the Spirit of life is renewing us into his image of light and delight.
This article is adapted from Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken by David Powlison.
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