Editor's note: Our sister site Christian Bible Studies offers a Bible study on confronting sexual addiction, based on this article and two others.
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 Verweras it does to meis 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. But you don't!
What broke George Verwer's heart back in the 1980s, and breaks mine today, is not that you have sinned sexually. It's that this morning Satan took your 2 A.M. encounterwhether on TV or in bedand told you: "See, you're a loser. You may as well not even worship. No way are you going to make any serious commitment of your life to Jesus Christ! You may as well get a good job so you can buy yourself a big widescreen and watch sex till you drop."
I want to take that weapon out of his hand. Yes, I want you to have the joyful courage not to do the channel surfing. But sooner or later, whether it's that sin or another, you are going to fall. I want to help you deal with the guilt of failure so that Satan does not use it to produce another wasted life.
God Makes a Way
The backdrop of Colossians 1-3 is Colossians 3:6: "On account of these the wrath of God is coming." Hanging over the whole world is the holy, just, unimpeachable anger of God at sin and rebellion. His wrath is coming, and the salvation spoken of in Colossians 1-3 is the only rescue from it. No one wants to meet the wrath of "the Lamb" when it comes (Rev. 6:16). So God in his mercy provides a way out.
Christ did something in history before we existed that obtained and guaranteed our rescue and the transformation of all who would come to trust in him. The distinctive and crucial thing about Christian salvation is that Christ accomplished it decisively, outside of us and without our help. When we put our faith in him, we do not add to the sufficiency of what he accomplished in covering our sins and achieving the righteousness that counts as ours.