Exercising hurts. It requires us to break down muscles, often that we do not use or don't use enough. If we don't use something, it tends to atrophy. In other words, it weakens through lack of use. There are many today who not only do this physically, but Spiritually as well.
In “exercising” God-given faith, God actively trains us into the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This process, which we will discuss below requires discipline just like everything else in life worth doing requires discipline.
But how does God "build" us or "train" us?
God uses various means to fashion us into the image of Jesus Christ. Sometimes God uses trials and tribulations in His permissive will to give us opportunities to be stretched, broken down and to bring us to the end of ourselves so that we hunger and thirst for Christ. Sometimes he uses the opposite of tribulations, and he allows us to have many blessings to see the goodness of God, all the while we can be tempted to begin to trust in those riches and blessings as if we deserved them or were in a position to be owed those blessings. God uses relationships and all manner of seemingly chaotic situations at work or at home to provide opportunities to grow in faith.
So, according to the Word of God, what must we do in order to grow? Because many people face all manner of trials and tribulations everyday, but are not any closer to Jesus, rather further away when it is all said and done.
In order for us to get through this life, God gives us a few tools to learn to be like Christ. In Matthew 6 we read about the tools. We learn 1) what these tools are (Giving, Prayer and Fasting) and we learn 2) How to properly use prayer and fasting.
*Our lives must be lived with the Triune God before us at all times. Consider in Matthew 6 how each of the disciplines Jesus mentions must be done in secret and only to be done for God!
Think about the various things in life that are no longer done without huge fanfare (early morning exercises, online degree programs, food, restaurants new cars, etc.). We live in a society that loves to parade all aspects of their "good" life before men. Well, the pharisees loved to parade their good works before men, and Jesus said, "you have your reward." The hypocrites misused these tools (giving, prayers and fasting) in order to be seen by men in because they wanted to be praised. So Jesus teaches us to do differently!
a) Jesus talks about giving to the needy in secret.
These hypocrites wanted everyone to see how they were giving to the less fortunate. They really didn't care about the less fortunate per se. They wanted others to see how much they cared for the poor. Jesus points out their hypocrisy and notes that they have their reward already. And then He instructs us on how we should give, not making much about the act, but doing it with the right motivations, to be seen of God.
People sacrifice in various ways to give to the needy—and the needy are not necessarily always who we think. There are many many needs around us today, need for the homeless in our various communities. There is a HUGE need to stop human trafficking all around us, children who need foster homes with caring people, and the list is endless…How are we providing to meet needs around us? And do we feel the need to post about our giving on instagram, or facebook, or talk about how wonderful we are because we gave?
b) Jesus talks about praying in secret
Proud hearts, arrogant hearts, hearts that love self before all others will not be burdened for others who are broken, nor will they be content with doing it privately. Those who are humble before God will pray with a right heart, moved by the needs of those around them.
But what is prayer? Prayer is a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God. Prayer is critical in our ability to grow into the person God is calling us to be- to be like Christ. As we learn the value of private, personal prayer time, it will change what we do with our public lives. For us to be shaped by prayer, we must practice it with great intention and right motives. It is a discipline.
“Prayer is like any other work; we may not feel like working, but once we have been at it for a bit, we begin to feel like working. We may not feel like practicing the piano, but once we play for a while, we feel like doing it. In the same way, our prayer muscles need to be limbered up a bit and once the blood- flow of intercession begins, we will find that we feel like praying” (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, 3rd ed. [New York: Harper Collins, 2003], 45, Kindle edition). When praying is hard to do, you need to pray the most. Keep at it and you will yield the fruit of your labor through knowing Christ more deeply than you did before you started.
c) Jesus also teaches us about fasting (in secret). It is not a command, but it is expected and it is to be given voluntarily. At the same time, God assumes we will do this. Fasting is the practice of denying the body food with the purpose of pressing into God. As a discipline, fasting is something people often avoid for various reasons, but it has been present in the church from the beginning. Tony Jones writes of the history of fasting: “In the early church, the apostles were known to fast regularly, and by the time the Didache was written around A.D. 60, Christians were observing every Wednesday and Friday as fast days. Just as Yom Kippur was an annual fast of repentance for the Jews, Christians observed a repentance fast in the days leading up to Easter. Although it started as only two days, by the fourth century it had expanded to the 40 days we now know as Lent. In the East, three more periods of fasting were added, including Advent (the four weeks preceding Christmas), the Fast of the Apostles in June, and the Fast of the Theotokos in August” (Tony Jones, The Sacred Way).
Notice too, that this is to be done in secret. We are not to display or hint at the fact that we are fasting. We do this alone for God to show how much we are hungering for the True Bread, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
We also see that all through the Bible, men of God would fast before very important spiritual events. Anytime we are preparing to do a work by the grace of God for the sake of His Name and His Kingdom, we should voluntarily give ourselves to fasting for a time before beginning that task. It shows several things: 1) Respect/Reverence for God and 2) Complete Dependence on Him for His Spirit's filling and the ability to follow His Methods to fulfill His Mission on earth as in Heaven.
Conclusion: Are our eyes on the Triune God alone? Or do we do things to be seen of men and made much of by others? In praying and fasting, we are to do those things in secret, showing our utter and complete dependence on Him for His working in our lives and in this world. When we do this, we will begin to experience a greater Life Reformation for His glory and by His grace!
I am so thankful that I am able to provide Biblically sound writings on topics that are "taboo" but are so important for those looking to experience Christ's Life Reformation through the Gospel. For many men (and women) pornography has been a life-long battle. Today, we need this post which reminds us to look to Jesus, our "Christus Victor" in our most vulnerable times. A big thank you, to Ryan Minkler, the author of this post! Please visit his website and ministry to learn more about battling sinful sexual desires.
The enemy loves to condemn us, especially as true Christians. And we might not admit it, but we love agreeing with the Devil's condemnation and we condemn ourselves after another failure of lust and porn use.
So, what can we learn from Psalm 3 in the first few verses which will help us when we fail in lust or porn? Well, first let's read the verses and then explain a little background and context, and then we will make application.
O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah
3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head. --Psalm 3:1-3 ESV
The first thing we learn about this Psalm is that it was written by David and it is a prayer to the LORD, all caps which represent this is the covenant name for God, Yahweh. It is a name for God which indicates that he has, he is, and he always will be the Great Covenant Keeping God who comes to us through Christ and desires intimate, real, and special relationship with us as Father God. He loves his children with all faithfulness and steadfast love which can never be broken, thanks be to Christ and the New Covenant of his blood which we entered into when we were regenerated and believed upon Jesus as our Substitute.
However, we learn more. This Psalm was written when David was fleeing Absalom and his wicked followers in 2 Samuel 15-18. Absalom was David's son, but he was wicked and had a prideful and evil desire to usurp his father as King and destroy him. So David decides to flee and at some point writes and prays this Psalm to the covenant-keeping God, Yahweh.
Now, notice how David starts the Psalm and where his attention, thoughts, and fear is: How many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, 'There is no salvation for him in God." Selah.
I find it interesting that when David writes about these foes, that are many and rising against him, when they make their accusation David has been forsaken, they do not use the covenant name of the Lord. This is important because they unlike David do not belong to Yahweh.
You see, this Psalm in many ways points to the greater David who is yet to come, Jesus Christ, and Satan's desire to destroy Jesus and remove him as King by using certain people to condemn Jesus to a cross. Judas and the Pharisees being the some of the offenders. Many would say as they did to the lesser David, the same thing to Christ even while he was on the Cross fulfilling the plan which was set before the ages to redeem sinners like you and me.
So in Psalm 3 we have a couple of antitypes. David is the antitype of Jesus and what he would face from his enemies in the future grace of God. I believe we also have Absalom and his wicked followers, whom some were once friends with David, as antitypes of Satan, his wicked servants, their schemes and affects. Sometime before Genesis one, Satan and the angels that followed him, tried to depose the Lord as King of heaven and when they were cast down to the earth, Jesus saw them fall like lightning. So their next plan was to destroy Jesus as Savior King. When that didn't work because Jesus was resurrected, his next plan is to accuse us as believers.
Now, Charles Spurgeon interprets Psalm 3 as all of it pointing beyond David to the Greater David, Jesus Christ, and if it is good enough for the Spurge, it is good enough for me.
But don't think that this didn't have application for David or has no application for us, just because he attributes the Psalm to Jesus. As a matter of fact, it only intensifies the application.
First, though, notice the Selah after verse two. Selah essentially means pause, think, meditate on that which was just said. So, as I meditated on these two verses, I immediately thought of how many enemies I have in my life, which essentially say, after my failures, "There is no salvation for him in God." We have essentially 3 enemies in our life. The world, Satan, and our flesh. All three of these stand in opposition to God and opposition to our position in Christ, just like Absalom and his wicked servants condemning David.
Most times, not all, but most often, Satan's accusations can be accurate. We do fail. We have failed. We will fail again. But when Absalom and his servants say, "There is no help for him in God", they are not just attacking David but calling into question God's saving purpose and grace toward David which is an attack on the renown and name of God himself. David initially felt overwhelmed in his prayer but when he recalled the person of God, the power of God, and the promise of God over his life, he turned his mind away from his attackers and turned to the Lord in divine warrior language. He says the Lord is his warrior (Ex. 15).
"shield" -- this means more than a shield but more like a shield wall surrounding David all around, above, and beneath.
"my glory" --God's glory would be the triumph over his enemies which are also David's enemies. God will not give his glory to another or allow his glory to be shamed.
"the lifter of my head" -- when David would hold his head down in sorrow, the Lord would be the one who would lift it up, and he David would behold the work and glory of the Lord on his behalf which would stir his faith and grant him confidence the Lord would fight on his behalf.
And, this victory David would experience, the greater David, Jesus Christ would later experience to a much greater degree, on our behalf, which means this victory over the condemnation of the enemy is for us as well. The basis for it is not found is us, but in Yahweh, the covenant-keeping God, the same God who sent his Son to die and rise again to free us from condemnation, wrath, and judgement in the second death. The second death is the lake of fire where all the evil Absalom's and Satan himself with his wicked servants will be thrown into at the final judgment.
So why is the good news to me when I fail in lust in porn? It is good news to you because only the good news of the gospel is powerful when your Absalom and his wicked servants and their schemes, and affects come to condemn you for another failure. When you are tempted in your flesh to say the same, you do not agree with them, but rather turn your mind, heart, focus, and faith to the Lord as your shield, your glory, and the lifter of your head which is the gospel of your salvation. You say this instead of saying what the enemy says.
Psalm 3 is really an antitype and pre-commentary of Romans 8:1 ESV:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Now if we receive this by faith and have this promise in Christ, because of the New Covenant, how much more powerful would Psalm 3:3 be before we give Satan any reason to condemn us? But thanks be to God, that even when we do fail, because of what Yahweh, the Lord, has accomplished in the New Covenant, we are no longer under condemnation and our Absalom of porn failure cannot effect the covenant faithfulness of the Lord to us, through the gospel. The Lord is our warrior and our keeper.
Just a word to encourage you to not listen to the lies and replace them with the truths of God's Word this week, even if you do fail. Preach this to yourself. Don't let the enemy mock the saving work of Yahweh.
Standing With You Even in Failure,
Founder of Christ Kills Porn
I am a great sinner saved by far greater grace. God has blessed me with a wonderful family and a beautiful Gospel congregation at Twin Lakes Bible Church.