Monday, August 31, 2015

"God, I thank you that I am not like those people with an Ashley Madison account."

It's discouraging to see, almost daily, more and more names of recognizable figures added to the list of those who have been "discovered" to have had an Ashley Madison account. When the news came out that 37 million usernames would be released, my initial response was, "I'm so glad I never created an account on that site."

And I am glad that I never created an account on that site. But my reaction was very much like that of the Pharisee in Luke 18. "God, I thank you that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector."

The reality is that, in my flesh, I am like them. 

Don't think of yourself as having been spared if you're living in hidden sin, just not on Ashley Madison. You may not have been discovered by man, but your sin lays bare before God, which is a far scarier reality.

Through middle and high school and into college, my life was marred with hidden sexual sin. But what I've found is that my shame was a gift from God. Having what is hidden become seen is good. When my mom tried to discretely warn me that she'd seen the internet history when I was in middle school, that was good. Having what is secret become known is gracious. When, in high school, Anna saw something on my computer that I thought I'd covered up, that was gracious. Having the darkness come into the light is redemptive. In college, when I confessed a struggle with internet pornography to several accountability partners, that was redemptive. Guilt, shame, regret, and vulnerability don't feel good in the moment, but they are wonderful things if we allow them to drive us to repentance and faith in the cleansing, renewing blood of Jesus.

It may hurt our reputation for a while, but our reputation is not nearly as precious as the condition of our soul.

I'm no better than any Ashley Madison user. I've been in those pits of destruction and chased fleeting pleasures, and I've found that that's all they are, fleeting. And from a purely rational perspective, it makes no sense because no sin is rational. It's an invitation to risk your life for a moment full of lies. Sexual sin over-promises and under-delivers more than any presidential candidate you'll ever see. And there are far too many of us buying into the lie.

There's been a suggestion, I guess to make us feel better about it, that the number of user accounts on Ashley Madison, 37 million, is an inflated number because only a portion of those accounts are real people, but the reality is that there is a real person behind every fake account. And the more deafening reality is that most of the people living in hidden sin online are doing it in some place other than Ashley Madison, so it's not unreasonable to think that the number 37,000,000 pales in comparison to the true number of those wallowing in the darkness of addictions and perversions on the darkest side of the internet.

So I'm inviting you, begging you, to come out of the darkness. 

Don't take 1 John 1:6,8 lightly when it says, "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth....If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us." The reality is that if we keep our sin in the darkness, we should have absolutely no expectation of salvation. 

But while we shouldn't take 1 John 1:6,8 lightly, please, please, please don't miss the gracious invitation of 1 John 1:7,9. "If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin...If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Initial confession is hard. And beyond the initial confession, it stays hard, but it gets easier because the Holy Spirit empowers us to kill sin as He forms us into the image of Christ. Every day is a new opportunity and responsibility to continue clinging to Christ, to continue repenting from the sinful inclinations within us that tempt us with lies like, "You won't get caught," or, "It's not that bad," or even, "It's worth it."

So find a believer that you know and trust, and confess your sin. And ask them to watch over your soul by holding you accountable and by helping you establish consequences and practical helps for fleeing sin. For example, I don't have a data plan so that I won't be faced with nearly as many temptations from my cell phone as I could be. I have had accountability reporting software on my computer that tracks and reports my internet history. I've asked friends to make sure I leave my career in ministry if I ever fall back into certain sins. Perhaps cutting off data from your cell phone seems inconvenient. Perhaps risking your job for a mistake seems radical, but I want to do everything I can to make sure Satan does not gain a foothold in my life again. Don't make any provision for the flesh. Put walls up between you and your sin, and run to Christ for satisfaction.

I'm certainly not free from temptation, and none of us will obtain perfect obedience on this side of death. But I fight hard every day for purity in my heart and mind and actions. By the Spirit, we will put to death the deeds of the flesh.

My prayer is that God will use all of us who have come out of sexual sin to bring others out of it as well and perhaps even, by God's grace, prevent many others from entering into it at all. Satan wants to use the Ashley Madison hack to steal, kill, and destroy marriages and men, but God will use it to bring about repentance and faith and new life. 

In Romans 13:14, Paul says, "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts."

Do this every day. Every day, die to your flesh, and every day, live in the righteousness of Christ that you've been given in the cross. 

You're looking at the horizon, and the sun is at the crest. Will you look to Christ and let the Light of Day give you life, or will you turn back to your sin and see the darkness of night come upon you?

There's hope in Jesus for the adulterer, the exhibitionist, the pervert, the homosexual, the porn addict, and every other person trapped in sexual sin. Come out of your sin, and come to Christ. He will make you new.