A Different Theological Angle on the Bible

Paul wrote a letter to the Small Group in Corinth.  He actually wrote several letters.  Two of them made it into the Bible: 1 and 2 Corinthians (we don't get very creative when it comes to naming biblical books).  And Christians believe that the Bible is the word of God.  We treat it like God's very words in our Small Group. 

But how can that be?  How can the Bible be both the word of God and written by men?  I've been wrestling with this question all week (see yesterday's post) and it has huge implications for Small Group leaders.

When wrestling with theological questions, start with Jesus and then work from there.  Karl Barth described this technique this way:
Everything that deserves to be called knowledge in the Christian sense lives from the knowledge of Jesus Christ

And, in this situation, starting with Jesus really helps.

Word of God, Word of Men

Inspiration is 99% perspiration and 100% God.

One of the big struggles when we think about the Bible is how it can be both "the word of God" and "written by men."  Most of us don't want there to be any perspiration associated with our Bibles.

The biblical doctrine of inspiration is wildly unique in the realm of sacred scriptures.  The two others with which I'm most familiar approximate it, but don't even come close.

Adherents to Islam believe that Allah's exact words are captured in the Koran (passed without error through the angel Gabriel and Muhammad).  Muhammad passed these words along to a small group of men who passed them along over and over again.  Eventually, they started writing the words down.  Muhammad was a scribe.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believe that Joseph Smith found the plates containing the text of the Book of Mormon (with the help of God, Jesus and some angels).  Joseph Smith then translated the plates (with the help of some God-given implementation).  Joseph Smith was a translator.

But the Bible claims that it's authors are authors.  We believe that Luke wrote Luke.  We don't push for him to be the scribe or the translator, but the author.

In what sense, then, is the Bible the word of God?  If the Bible is just the word of Men, why should it have a prominent place in Small Group?

The Bible is not a perfect book (yet we read it in Small Group)

The Bible contains continuity errors.
The Bible contains huge omissions.
The Bible is unclear at times.
The Bible is unaccessible to some.
The Bible is not a perfect book.
Yet, we read it in Small Group.

(These, also, happen to be the problems people found with the recently-ended television series, Lost, which I greatly enjoyed)

Why are those sentences so hard to write?

Read away the contradictions (Small Group, Discipling, and Books)

Yesterday's post reveals a sticky point in the nitty-gritty of our ministry model.  I hate contradictions and try to avoid them whenever possible and whenever advisable.

In advising Small Group Leaders to focus on the Bible, rather than contemporary Christian books, I probably had a head nod or two from any of our leaders who are reading.  We've gone over this time and time again.

But I wonder if the folk who meet with me one-to-one notice the contradiction.  With many of them, we read non-Biblical books.  Not anti-biblical books, just books that aren't the Bible.  Can we do that?  Should we do that?

There's a long, ancient tradition of extra-biblical reading in the Christian community.  Early on, they designated books into three classes: holy, heretical and helpful.  Most of our struggle with extra-biblical reading in the evangelical community comes from our unwillingness to label things as merely "helpful."  We talk about John Piper and NT Wright and one of them is angelic and the other demonic and, in reality, they probably agree with each other in their writings quite a bit.  We need the "helpful" category.

But that doesn't answer the question of discipling/mentoring content.  Why read the "helpful" when you can read the "holy"?

4 Reasons to Study the Bible (and not contemporary Christian books) in Small Group

We study the Bible in Small groups.

We don't study anything created by John Piper, John Eldridge, or John Mayer.  Why is that?  I'm a big fan of all of those Johns.

Here are four reasons to study the Bible (and not contemporary Christian books) in Small Group:

4) Fight chronological snobbery
3) Lower the barrier to invitation
2) Develop life-long skills and disciplines
1) Give God first place

5 Reasons to Pray with your Small Group

Here are 5 Reasons to Pray with your Small Group

5) Provides a controlled/guided outlet for sharing
4) Allows for immediate application of the Bible Study
3) Easily accesible for people of varying degrees of spiritual maturity
2) Deepens the relationships of people in the Small Group
1) God responds in special ways to communal prayer

What if we're restricted so we can be free?

My son passed the two week threshold.  I think that that means that I can include him in my blog without being the slightly annoying daddy-blogger, especially if I make it a short one.  Right?

Shortly after Will was born, a nurse carried him over to a warming bed to get his vitals.  As soon as his back touched the bed, he threw his arms out, stretching to his full length.  His arms flailed as he yelled and squealed and squeaked.

For the last two weeks, Will only really seems happy when he's swaddled.  Now, I didn't know anything about swaddling until we got ready to have a baby, but it's amazing.  A blanket or two, wrapped strategically around a baby, acts like Vicodin.  I don't know what Vicodin actually does, but it sounds like something that would make Will really happy.

Being straight-jacketed sounds like something that would inhibit freedom and make someone miserable.  Not for children.  The restriction on freedom of movement that comes from swaddling allows for other freedoms: freedom to sleep, freedom to use calories for growth, freedom to do whatever else it is that babies are doing when they're swaddled.

I love the freedom that God gives us.  But sometimes I wonder if he isn't restricting some freedoms to free us up for others.  Maybe the path of greatest freedom is also the path of greatest freedom.  Maybe that's why they call it "the narrow path."

Surfing the waves of disillusionment

I've been hit by a wave of disillusionment lately.  It doesn't have anything to do with campus, but I think it does have something to do with this stage of life.  People in their twenties are especially prone to disillusionment.  We haven't been there, seen that, done it all and become jaded, yet.

I wish I knew how to avoid becoming jaded.  I've got lots of people who'd love to know that secret.

Disaster looms when the waves of disillusionment swell.  Things that seemed stable start to rock.  Foundations erode.  Clean, clear waters turn muddy and dark.  The straight and narrow path can disappear into the tangling mist.

I remember one Large Group at Duke, hearing a Div School student whose name I can't remember, but I played basketball with him and was shocked to find out that he was in the Div School.  He asked us to close our eyes and read us Matthew 7:24-27.  Then he asked us how many of us had pictured houses: "house on the rock" and "house on the sand."  Hands went up.  Then he asked us how many of us had pictured men: "like a wise man who built his house on the rock" and "like a foolish man who built his house on the sand."  Not a single hand went up.  Electricity roiled through the room.  "The passage is about these men" he said.  And I don't remember anything else he said.

Last night, I read "The Obstinancy of Belief," another great essay by Lewis where he details how relationship with Jesus the Person provides grounds to continue to trust God in the midst of doubt. 

This morning I wanted to read Matthew 7.  I feel like one of those men in the story, like someone Lewis was reaching out to.  The rain is coming down, the streams are rising and the winds are blowing and beating against the house.  Will it stand or will it fall?  It's built now.

This is why we build our houses on God's word, not on anything else.  We sling the brick and mortar of Jesus' words in Small Group and in preaching and in discipling and in our worship, deepening our relationship with him with every layer and layer.  We do it because the rain is coming, the streams will rise and the winds will most surely blow and beat against the houses we build.  And we want our houses to stand.

Far more desperate posts in the Great Battle

Last night, I started reading The World's Last Night, a collection of essays by CS Lewis.  Lewis has been a nearly constant companion for me over they years, especially when I'm in the midst of transition.

The first essay is titled "The Efficacy of Prayer."  A lot of the thoughts in this essay appear elsewhere in Lewis' work, but he does have one bit that I thought was really moving.  Lewis proposed (to significantly simplify) that as we become more and more mature in our faith, we see fewer and fewer answers to our prayers.  Lewis, here, is trying to grapple with Jesus' prayer in Gethsemanae.  And here is what he says:
Does God then forsake just those who serve Him best? Well, He who served Him best of all said, near His tortured death, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” When God becomes man, that Man, of all others, is least comforted by God, at His greatest need. There is a mystery here which, even if I had the power, I might not have the courage to explore. Meanwhile, little people like you and me, if our prayers are sometimes granted, beyond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our own advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver, we might be sent, with far less help, to defend far more desperate posts in the great battle.

Far more desperate posts in the great battle...I love that phrase.

Being remembered and doing right

How do you want to be remembered?

As I've been preparing to leave Washington and Lee, I've been wondering what my legacy will be.  I want to be remembered as kind, attentive, godly, patient, funny.  Things like that.  Will that happen?  Well, things didn't quite work out for a Staff good-bye here on campus, so I'll have to keep wondering.  A legacy usually takes a while to come to the surface anyway.  I find that maddening.

I'd love to know now what kind of legacy I'll have, as a Staffworker, as a Small Group leader, as a friend, as a husband, as a father.  But that has to wait for later.  I want to know now because I want to control my legacy, to do the sort of things that get remembered fondly.  But the desire to control is a dangerous, Edenic desire.

The desire to control your legacy can backfire.  Desperation.  Compromise.  Pick your poison.  Better to do what's right than what's designed to be memorable.  Perhaps the right will be remembered, but even if not...

LaFe 10 Conference Website

The website for the InterVarsity's LaFe 10 Conference is finally live: lafe10.org.  It took me a couple of days to design and is definitely in the "Simple, but trying to be cool" category.

We've been working on the LaFe 10 Conference for almost two years now.  It's crazy to think that it'll be here soon.  My experience at LaFe 07 was so incredible: worshipping God in Spanish and English, thinking about how my ethnic identity fits into God's call in my life, seeing some folks in my Small Group become Christians.

If you know any Latino students, help get them to this conference.  It's going to be amazing!

How to get someone to do something they're supposed to do

Crystal and I had an excellent time talking about Large Group today.  She's going to be a phenomenal Large Group Coordinator.  She has energy and vision and, I think, enough organization that she could actually pull off some of these crazy ideas we've been talking about for years and years.

We've dreamed about Large Group serving as an on-ramp for Small Groups.  For those of you unfamiliar with our ministry model, Large Group is a one-a-week gathering that is open to the whole campus, advertised, and that includes the entire GCF community.  We sing songs to praise God, pray and hear some teaching from God's word. 

The easiest thing to do with Large Group is to treat it as something like a church service for college students.  And that's a really valuable thing to do.  But in GCF, we are all about Small Groups.  We believe that changes lives through Small Group communities.  We believe that our best hope for a renewed campus comes from an expanding network of transformative Small Groups.  We believe that the best environment in which to develop the sort of people who can change the world is a Small Group environment.

So, we want Large Group to serve as an on-ramp to Small Groups.  We want people who come to our weekly Large Group gatherings to have a desire to connect with a Small Group, maybe because they want to grow some deep and meaningful friendships, hopefully because they want to experience a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God.

But we have a problem.  Crystal identified it, sees it and knows what to do about it.  The problem is that many of our Small Group Leaders have a hard time making it out to Large Group consistently.  If they aren't at Large Group, the whole on-ramp thing won't work.  People will come to Large Group but never make the relational connections they need to make the Large Group to Small Group jump.

Showing up at Large Group is something that's expected of all of our Small Group Leaders.  It's an opportunity for them to grow their Small Groups.  It's a responsibility.  From another angle, it's a duty.

How do you get someone to do something that they're supposed to do?

Hospitality is opening your life, not your living room

We love having a full house.  For the past two years, just about every Wednesday night, we've crammed 10-20 people into our little living room for Small Group.  Most weeks we've provided dinner (on good weeks, April provided dinner).  We've done our best to be hospitable. 

Hospitality is a big deal.  At Small Group Spring Training a couple of weeks ago, Anna brought up how difficult it was to create an experience of community in a Small Group if you didn't have a house or apartment to invite people into.  Without hospitality, Small Group shinks to just Bible Study and before long becomes Another Meeting I Have To Go To.  The warmth of a home, food and drink and snacks, a softer space makes a ton of difference.

This value of hospitality isn't some new, nerfy, post-modern thing we're pushing on Small Group Leaders to help them connect with a lonely generation (well...it's not just that).  The cost of being inhospitable has always been high.

In the Bible, being inhospitable was enough to separate you and your family from the big things God is doing in the world and in history.

Don't leave empty

I moved to Virginia 6 years ago, single and able to fit all my stuff comfortably in the back of my Jeep.  When I move again this summer, I'll be accompanied by a wife, a son, two dogs and enough stuff to make a Jeep crack its axles. 

All around Lexington, students are packing up and preparing to relocate, some for the summer, some for a bit longer.  A lot of us have a lot more stuff upon leaving than we had upon arriving.  We're full.

What if the opposite was the case?  What if I left, if the students left Lexington feeling empty?

I do have days when I feel empty.  I wonder if God's ignoring me.  I wonder if my friends thought about me.  I wonder if I'll be missed.  These days are often selfish days, pity days.  They are rarely good days.

But I'm not the only one who has days like this.

Repetition, chiasmus and names...if only Shakespeare was Jewish

I went on a Shakespeare-reading frenzy last Fall.  Macbeth, Hamlet, several Henry's, two gentlemen from Verona and Romeo (and his lady, Juliette) rested on bedside table.  These plays have great rhythms, some of the same rhythms we hope to see in Small Groups.  The action rises and falls. Loves and friendships form and are tested.  Conflict flares and then resolves.  Speeches are made.  Not everyone likes the speeches.  You learn a little.  You grow a little.

Shakespeare might have written the Book of Ruth. 

Adding the Read More

In order to make the blog a little more scannable and a little easier for you, I'm experimenting with the "Read More" option.  I'll try to get to the point where I give you a taste of what I'm going to blog about and, if you're interested, you can click on the link and "Read More."  If this isn't helpful, I'll abandon it (the same way I abandoned guitar playing, harmonica playing and drumming on the Worship Team...if it doesn't help, I won't do it).

Stay away from the ruthless Proverbs 31 Woman

My mother asked me the other day if I thought the woman from Proverbs 31 represented a real woman and, given the Spring Term discussion that's been happening in the Upperclass Women's Small Group (one of our fantastic Small Groups on campus), I thought I might have something on my hands to blog about. 

The Proverbs 31 Woman, as she's sometimes called, pulls a heavy load.  Her description flows from vague praises of her value (v. 10-12) to vivid images of her vocational prowess (v. 13-22) and standing in the community (v. 23-31).  This is the wife a king should look for, the wife any man should look for.

But this presents a difficulty.  The P31-W is a highly advanced model, hardly human.  What woman would claim that she is already a woman of noble character?  Find her, and I'll bet she's not married.  Marriage has a way of bringing our faults to light.  We discover over and over again the depth of our selfishness and immaturity.  That selfishness and immaturity falls away from us over years of marriage and we become more and more like the men and women God always meant us to be.

A "wife of noble character" might become a wife of noble character over time.  Might.  But does that really happen?

"So yeah, I'm a dad now."

We have had a pretty wild week.  Our son, Will, decided to arrive a month early.  He's healthy, amazing and hungry every 2-3 hours.  Pics are up on Facebook.

From time to time, but not often, I'll probably cave to the temptation to write about my son or about fatherhood.  I know it won't necessarily be relevant to my readership (who are mostly college students), but I always start with the real and try to find the relevant from there.  That's actually a great life principle: start with The Real, then (and only then) try to find The Relevant.

Over the next couple of days, I'll try to get back in the blogging rhythm.  If there's something you'd like me to write about, let me know.  The summer is almost upon us!

You look like someone who's interested in Small Groups

You are the kind of person who would join a Small Group.

What do you think? What sort of person joins a Small Group?

Likes people, likes arguing
Needs friends, needs help, needs to help people (Shephard)
Bible nerd, Bible know-nothing
Single, Married, Double-income no kids, Is a kid
Selfish, Selfless, Shellfish allergic, Lactose intolerant, Racist

One of the main reasons people don't connect with our Small Groups is because they don't see themselves as the sort of people would would join a Small Group. This is a problem. It's actually two problems: people have a faulty view of themselves and people have misunderstood Small Groups.

People make decisions on the basis of identity all the time. Seth Godin, an extremely insightful blogger, wrote a great post on this idea a while back. A woman received a vacuum as a gift from a friend (one of those sweet-looking Dysons) and loved it. But when it broke, she broke down and bought a more traditional vacuum. She didn't see herself as a Dyson-buyer. The ARE a quirky bunch.

I'm eating a sourdough roll from Nix's Kitchen and Garden, partly because everything April makes turns out delicious and partly because I see myself as one of their biggest fans. I'm blogging because I see myself as a blogger. I'm at the hospital because I see myself as a husband and a soon-to-be-father and if Amy's here, I'm here.

Identity impacts decision making. How can we leverage this truth? Should we leverage this truth? What would it mean for our Small Groups.

God wants everyone in a Small Group

We are all about Small Groups in GCF.

Here's some crazy (but potentially true) theology...

God wants everyone to have an opportunity to be a part of a Small Group.

That's a bold statement, I know. It borders on ignoring the "don't take the name of the Lord in vain" suggestion from Exodus (the most commonly misunderstood suggestion from the 10 Suggestions Moses brought down from the mountain).

Mis-hearers could think I'm saying "God wants everyone to join GCF" or "God wants everyone to sit in the circle formation and share their feelings." They might hear me saying "forget the church, join a Small Group" or "Mega-churches are demonic."

But that's not what I'm saying at all.

When God rescues us from the realm of sin and death and transfers us from darkness into his marvelous light, we find ourselves united to Christ. Our union to Christ is the core of the Christian gospel. When we are united to Christ, we are immediately united to other Christians. All other Christians, in fact. Every single one of them, from the nutjobs who embarrass us on TV to the saints who died in Nero's fires. We become the Church.

The Church is universal, magnificent and invisible. She is scattered across the globe and stretched through history. One day, she will be seen in all her beauty, on display like a bride at the altar, but until that day, the Church universal remains the Church invisible.

But the church exists now, today. You can find her in small pockets, gathering for worship and prayer and ministry and service. And this is where Small Groups come in.

I believe that God desires that all would be united to Christ. This means that God desires that all would also be united to the Church (since one cannot be united to Christ and not, through him, the others who are united to him). Small Groups form the cells of the body of Christ.

All churches have Small Groups. Already. And we are all part of Small Groups. Already. This may come as a surprise.

All churches already have Small Groups, but they might not be very good. One Small Group might be the cluster of people who always sit on the left and grunt approving grunts during the special music. It's not a great Small Group. It's actually a horrible Small Group, but it's a fledgling community. Small Groups don't have to be official. They don't have to be structured or sanctioned or strategic. They CAN be all of those things, but they don't HAVE TO BE.

The question isn't "Will the church have Small Groups or not?". It's "Will the church have good Small Groups or horrible ones? Intentional Small Groups or accidental ones? Helpful Small Groups or harmful ones?"

We were recently at a church that had a Small Group for Women, one for Youth, one for 20somethings, one for people who like to go to church on Wednesdays, one for people who grew up going to Sunday School and like their Small Groups to be called "Sunday School", one for folks over 50 who like to pray, one for parents with children, one for people who love to gossip, one for Board Members and one for people who love April Nix's creations at Nix Kitchen and Garden.

We're all about Small Groups here. We're all about Small Groups because we love the Church and because we love the God who brings the Church into existence.

Renew

Yesterday, I mentioned the necessity to put off the old self and to put on the new, to remove and replace.

But removing and replacing isn't enough. Something has to be done to cut off the source of sin. Something has to be done to fix our hearts. This is why we must be renewed.

At the seminar today, one of the guys asked how our hearts could be renewed in the arena of pornography. We could come up with ways to (at least temporarily) remove porn from our lives and we could come up with meaningful and constructive replacements for the consumption of pornography. But how can we be renewed?

Theologically, we can say that renewal is God's work, it's what he and he alone can do. But I'm not sure that that answer helps.

It sounds overly simplistic, doesn't it? Renewal's the most important part of this whole thing, but you need to focus on removing and replacing. That just doesn't sit right. If renewal is the most important part, we feel like we should help. Or if we can't help, we should at least pay attention.

This is why the gospel continues to remain important to us, even after we become Christians. As Jon said in the seminar today, the gospel isn't the "abc's" of the Christian life, it's the "a to z's". The gospel provides a window, a story that allows us to see into God's renewing work in us. Our continued attention to this story is vital if we're going to continue to "remove and replace."

God's renewing work jump-starts our other efforts.
God's renewing work directs our other efforts.
God's renewing work fuels our other efforts.
God's renewing work sustains our other efforts.
God's renewing work perfects our other efforts.

Remove, replace and renew. Renew, renew, renew us, O Lord.

Remove and replace

We have a history of groundhogs here. They dig under my house, terrorize my dogs, and threaten me with frogs in my nightmares (long story...don't ask).

Over the years, I've set non-lethal traps in the yard, captured the groundhogs and relocated them. Problem solved.

Sins are not like groundhogs. Relocating doesn't help. Removing isn't enough. Replacement is necessary.

Over and over again throughout Scripture, this pattern emerges. Remove and replace. Remove and replace.

Put off the old self and put on the new. Remove and replace.

Stop lying and tell the truth. Stop stealing and work so that you have something to give. Don't let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what it helpful for building others up. Remove and replace.

Removing without replacing doesn't work. The sin comes back worse. It grows and morphs. It must be dealt with at the source (more on this tomorrow) and it must be replaced. This requires a ton of creativity and work. It doesn't always feel connected and helpful, but it is necessary.

Sin boldly

Sin boldly.

Martin Luther, in a letter to his friend Philipp, penned those words: "Sin boldly."

The vastness and hugeness of God's grace makes it possible for us to sin boldly.

Now, this sounds strange to us. Sin is the evil evidence that we are broken people, bent horribly and crippled beyond all but the most miraculous repair (which we receive through Jesus). We want sin removed from our lives. We want it torn from us, violently if necessary. And not only from us, but also from all whom we love.

But we cannot accomplish this ourselves. And God's help sometimes comes more slowly than we'd like. Some sins linger.

So, we do what any rational person would do. We hide our sin. We justify it and explain it away. We attribute it to our environment. "I only did that because I was hungry, angry, lonely, tired, she deserved it, it was just once, your should have seen the other guy, I didn't do it, you didn't see me do it, you can't prove anything." Sin becomes "stumbling" or "struggling." And we become afraid.

Luther's push to sin boldly isn't a push to take pride in our sin or to treat our sin like it's good. Sin boldly is about honesty. It's about not hiding. It's about not being afraid.

Luther referenced 2 Peter 3:13 in his letter, speaking of the new heavens and the new earth and our anticipation that we will be finally and totally cleansed from our sin on that day. If that day is surely coming and God's grace will surely carry us there intact, then why should we hide?

What would happen if we were honest? vulnerable?
What would happen if we lived like we had nothing to hide, confident in God's great grace?

Someone is behind this

So, I was going to write a little bit about Luther's "sin boldly" concept tonight, but that will have to wait for tomorrow.

Tonight, I got a call from one of our Small Group leaders. I'm surrounded by people who instinctively seem to know how to connect God's word with the lives of the people they're leading. I think Someone is behind this.

My Small-Group-leading friend, hanging out with a bunch of freshmen women, honed in on the David and Goliath story out of 1 Samuel. As she shared what the Small Group got from the passage, I could feel my jaw incrementally dropping. I've preached on David and Goliath a half a dozen times over the years and I'd never noticed some of this stuff. Some of it was really central to the bigger story. Some of it connected eerily with my story.

This isn't a rare occurrence for me. I remember the first time Joe connected Daniel 1 with the college freshman experience. I remember Mallory and Hilary's study of Galatians. I remember Nikki leading us through Ephesians 2. Clicks and snaps.

God's word is beautiful. Today is one of those days when I can see myself reading the Bible for the rest of my life and never getting bored.

How can familiar territory continue to surprise me? I just noticed a shiny spot on our front door today, a place where someone touched up the paint. I've been through that door thousands of times over the last four years and I never noticed that spot.

God's word is becoming familiar territory for me, but that doesn't empty it of its capacity to delight. Despite the saying, familiarity does not breed contempt. In fact, the more familiar it becomes, the more capacity it has to create delight. When a passage like the David and Goliath passage connects with my life today, this hour, it's stunning. How can something that familiar be that relevant?

Someone is behind this.

The Myth of Before

No one ever told me "Sanctification happens quickly and easily," but that was what I heard. Mythic.

What if the thing you were struggling with, feeling ashamed about, overwhelmed with guilt, wasn't the thing God was working on in your life?

You see, we assume that we set the agenda when it comes to sanctification. A particular sin catches my attention, is not well-received by my immediate community, so I root it out. Or try to. I do this all the time. So do we all.

We focus time and energy on particular areas. We strain and strive. We stake our sense of victory and value on our pursuit of holiness in these areas. If we have a good day, we're good. If we have a bad day...

It doesn't matter what the area is. Not really.

Pick from the laundry list: pornography, promiscuity, lust, greed, gossip, envy, slander, malice, anger, cussing, not doing your quiet times, tithing, whatever.

If I were to try to lure you away, to sing a siren's song in your ears, I'd do it this way. Subtly.

I would have you struggle and struggle against a sin. I'd have you focus on "it", to the exclusion of all other "its". So much so that you will only talk about "it", only think about "it", only share about "it", only confess about "it", only pray about "it".

I would keep you so focused on "it" that you'd never ask what God was doing. I couldn't risk that. I would hide God's agenda, pace and plan for your sanctification behind the horrible and shame-inducing "it". When you're focused on "it", you want to keep your thoughts away from thoughts about God. If you start thinking about him, he'll find out about your failure. That you are failing.

So trapped, I'd isolate and demolish you. The rest of the evil in the world would corner and overwhelm you while your attention was diverted to "it". And I wouldn't really care what "it" was, so long as "it" held your attention.

For college men, "it" is pornography. Almost exclusively. What captures our attention and overwhelms us, it's the thing we call "every man's battle" or "every young man's battle" or "every married man wearing gray socks' battle".

The Myth is this: You must conquer porn before you can move on to other sins.

You must conquer "it" (whatever "it" is) before you can move on.

"Before" is a dangerous word. It is a word that rattles hollowly in our framework of sanctification. "Before" is an agenda-setting word. It makes it sound like we're the ones coming up with the plan.

God operates with "now's" and "today's." Now, I am ridding you of this sin. Now, I am weakening the hold of this in your life. Today, we're working on this. Today, I'm changing this part of you to look more like Christ.

Don't believe the Myth. Don't give up the war to win the battle.