The closest I have ever come in 26 years to being fired from my position as a pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church was in the mid-1980s, when I wrote an article for our church newsletter titled "Missions and Masturbation." I wrote the article after returning from a missions conference in Washington, D.C., with George Verwer, the head of Operation Mobilization.

Verwer's burden at that conference was the tragic number of young people who at one point in their lives dreamed of radical obedience to Jesus, but then faded away into useless American prosperity. A gnawing sense of guilt and unworthiness over sexual failure gradually gave way to spiritual powerlessness and the dead-end dream of middle-class security and comfort.

In other words, what seemed so tragic to George Verwer—as it does to me—is that so many young people are being lost to the cause of Christ's mission because they are not taught how to deal with the guilt of sexual failure. The problem is not just how not to fail. The problem is how to deal with failure so that it doesn't sweep away your whole life into wasted mediocrity with no impact for Christ.

The great tragedy is not masturbation or fornication or pornography. The tragedy is that Satan uses guilt from these failures to strip you of every radical dream you ever had or might have. In their place, he gives you a happy, safe, secure, American life of superficial pleasures, until you die in your lakeside rocking chair.

I have a passion that you do not waste your life. My aim is not mainly to cure you of sexual misconduct. I would like that to happen. But mostly I want to take out of the Devil's hand the weapon that exploits your sin and makes your life a wasted, worldly success. Satan wants that for you. ...

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October 2007

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