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.

1 comment:

  1. Steve, I heart this post (and your blog in general). I feel like this insight has been vaguely present in the fringes of my thinking but I've never been quite able to stare at it long enough to articulate it well.

    Thanks for doing that for me. I'm sure I'll rip this off and use it in a Large Group talk or group discussion down the road.

    Curious - what passages (if any) helped shape your thinking about this?