Spring of Life, or Concrete Block?

Posted: Feb 16, 2024

Last week we saw that if we want deep healing, freedom from bondage to sin, and to experience the abundant life Jesus offers, we must go Into the Valley of the Heart. This week, after having stepped into the valley of our heart, we face the wounds that need healing and the pack of lies that are attached to them that keep us bound. Break these strongholds, and your life will change.

Spring of Life, or Concrete Block?
From The Road to Grace, Finding True Freedom from the Bondage of Sexual Addiction.

By Mike Genung

The Heart:

“The vital center and source of one’s being, emotions,
and sensibilities. The repository of one’s deepest
and sincerest feelings and beliefs.”
– The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

“The seat of the affections or sensibilities,
collectively or separately, as love, hate, joy, grief,
courage, and the like; rarely, the seat
of the understanding or will;—usually in a good sense, when no epithet is expressed; the better or lovelier part of our nature; the spring of all our actions
and purposes; the seat of moral life and character;
the moral affections and character itself; the individual disposition and character; as, a good, tender, loving, bad, hard, or selfish heart.”
– Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary

“Watch over your heart with all diligence,
for from it flows the springs of life.”
Proverbs 4:23

“As in water face reflects face,
so the heart of man reflects man.”
Proverbs 27:19

I recently had lunch with a guy named Tom. A Christian for most of his life, Tom was married, the father of two children, and had been in an active ministry position in his church—until he voluntarily exposed his 18-year porn addiction to the leaders of his church… and his wife. Tom’s life was in pieces.

After talking for a few minutes it became apparent that Tom was extremely insecure; he spoke at an almost manic pace, and apologized when he changed the subject (which was often). Tom admitted that he was hypersensitive to criticism, and to cope he’d mastered the fine art of manipulation and control. His marriage was under stress because he played a continuous game of cat and mouse with his wife in an attempt to avoid criticism at all costs.

Tom had learned how to say all the right words to impress others, especially in church settings. He had plenty of Bible knowledge, and enjoyed the approval and acceptance that came from being the “guy with the answers.”

I asked Tom about his relationship with his father, and he revealed that his dad, a pastor, had been extremely harsh and critical of him during his childhood years. Tom’s inability to measure up to his father’s impossible standard of perfection had left him feeling unworthy and insecure.

“How do I stop the things I’m doing?” he asked. “How do I stop being so defensive, and how do I deal with this overwhelming insecurity?”
My answer was straight and to the point: “Accept God’s grace.”
Tom quickly changed the subject, and I knew I’d hit home. Eventually the topic of conversation turned back to God’s love.

“Tom, growing up, you were brought up to believe that you had to be perfect for your father to love and accept you. But since perfection is impossible, deep down you bought into the idea that you couldn’t be loved as you are. You’ve spent your life trying to be the perfect Christian in order to impress others and find acceptance, and you’ve bought into a lie that you have to be perfect for God to love you. All this time God has been holding out the big gift of His grace to you, but you’ve been saying ‘I can’t accept it; I’m not good enough.’  Unlike your father, God sees how messed up you are, and accepts you, flaws and all. In spite of all the theology you know, you don’t believe that God loves you.” Tom’s eyes teared up, and his voice broke, “It’s true, I don’t even know how to accept God’s love… I don’t know how to get my arms around this….”

In his book Breaking Free, Russ Willingham, a former sex addict and counselor who works with others struggling with sexual sin, writes: “I have yet to work with a sex addict, homosexual or troubled spouse who understands God’s grace.”

After being around those who struggle with sexual sin since 1991, I know Russ is right. In our men’s groups, the topic of grace is often what the men most want to discuss—and have the hardest time accepting. I’ll never forget the look on a man’s face one night as we talked about the story of the prodigal son. When we discussed the part where the father threw a party for his son’s homecoming, one of the guys, with a pained look in his face, asked, “How do you imagine God throwing a party for you?” The idea that God would ever throw a bash for him was too painful for him to imagine.

Deep in their heart, those who struggle with sexual sin do not believe that God loves them. Their actions are proof of this, because the person who’s had their heart filled with the love and peace of Christ has no desire for the sick counterfeit of lust. Those who turn to the sewer of sexual sin for love reveal they believe that “porn is as good as it gets for someone as worthless as me.” No matter what they say, what ministry position they’re in, or how much theology they know, if a man or woman turns to sexual sin they prove there is a dark place in their heart that’s hidden from God’s grace.

A common mistake we men make is that we “think our feelings”; we try to equate knowledge with belief.  Webster’s calls the mind “the intellectual or rational faculty in man; the understanding; the intellect; the power that conceives, judges, or reasons.” The mind is an analytical processing machine, not the “spring of life.” We don’t experience the joy of love or the pain of rejection in our head—what man tells his wife, “I love you with all my head?” Many men “think their feelings” because they’re afraid to face the pain within.

It is our heart—“the seat of moral life and character”—where our “deepest and sincerest feelings and beliefs” reside, that determines whether we “move to the right,” like the wise man, or veer off to the left into sin. The beliefs in the heart determine if we can receive love from people and God or whether we will turn to lust.

You can process all the Scripture you want, but if your heart isn’t able to accept the wonderful truths in God’s Word, all your Bible study will have a boomerang effect. After the mind hears about God’s grace, it analyzes it, computes “this is good,” and then zips the message down to the heart. But the corruption from a virus of lies prevents the truth from getting through, and a “not worthy to receive” error is kicked back. Rather than looking into the heart, many try to fix the problem by resending the message or trying to process more truth.

How does a heart get infected with lies? Often our parents, who themselves may not have received God’s grace in their heart, play a major role. Although some men experienced rejection from their mother, for many the roots lie in their relationship with their father. As Brennan Manning wrote, “When a father’s love is withheld, a child will struggle with issues ranging from shyness and insecurity to a profound and crippling shame over his or her very existence.”

If the love we experience from others (especially the two people whose opinion mattered the most growing up) was conditional at best (or abusive at worst), the “springs of life” in the heart will be muddied with the lie that “this is what love is about.” If we spend years polluting our heart with the shame from sexual sin, “porn is as good as it gets for me” as a way of life takes hold. Satan does his part by whispering, “You’ve sinned too much for God to love someone like you, look at what a hypocrite you are… God will never accept you until you clean up your life. You’re hopeless, this is what you deserve.” Eventually the heart dries up and resembles a concrete block instead of a spring of life.

The following are some of the lies many buy into:
1. I am worthless and defective.
2. Because I am worthless and defective, God doesn’t love me.
3. I cannot be accepted as I am.
4. I must do something to earn God’s love.
5. Sex, women, and/or porn can fulfill my emotional and spiritual needs.
6. I’ve sinned too much for God to forgive me.
7. If I am involved with ministry, or can abstain from sexual sin for long enough, God will love me.
8. God doesn’t hear me; I’m on my own.
9. If I know enough of the right theology, I have accepted God’s grace.
10. I can have a pure heart (true freedom from sexual sin) by something I do.

When a man is rejected, abandoned, neglected, or abused, the Father of Lies pours acid in the wound: “You’re hopeless, fit only to be used by others; you’ll never measure up; no one can love someone like you.” In time, these lies set in the heart, and harden. When a man who struggles with “shyness and insecurity over his existence,” like Tom, hears that God wants to throw a party for him, he can’t accept it. He responds with apathy (it’s hopeless, I can’t have it), anger (enraged that others have what he can’t), depression (anger turned inwards), or manic busyness (to avoid the pain of the core message of his life). It’s like telling a parched, sunburned man in the middle of the desert that he can have water,—if he can make the 200 mile journey on foot, alone, to the nearest oasis.

The lies of worthlessness are often buried (or have been stuffed) deep in the heart, making them hard to get to. Sometimes the pain of rejection is entwined with rage, bitterness, unresolved sin or depression… all of which must be carefully unwound before the strands of worthlessness can be untied. (We’ve dealt with these issues in the previous chapters.)

So how do we go from being a “head Christian” to one who “loves the lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind?” (Matthew 22:37). How do we receive that which we hunger for but don’t believe we can have?

First, it’s important to understand what we’re after. From birth, our hearts are “more deceitful than all else and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9) and filled with “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness and slanders” (Matthew 15:19). This sickness of the heart isn’t something where we can work two programs, get a little counseling, and feel better in the morning. We’re after nothing less than a new heart and there’s only one Master Surgeon who can provide it:

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a
new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone
from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
Ezekiel 36:26

Set your hope on the Master Surgeon. Ask God to reveal what you really believe, expose every lie within, remove them, and then fill your heart with His love. I suggest that you stop right now and go one-on-one with God; ask Him for the new heart you desire.

As the Lord exposes the root lies, write them out in your journal, and share what He’s revealed with your accountability group. Ask them to pray that God would root out the specific lies you’ve bought into, and replace them with the truth.

Those who know us best can see our blind spots more clearly. Your spouse is the one person in the world who knows you intimately; listen to what they have to say without being defensive. Years ago, Michelle joined me in a session with a counselor. When he asked her why she thought I had a hard time receiving love, without hesitation Michelle said, “Because he doesn’t believe he deserves it.”

My wife hit the nail on the head; unfortunately, I wasn’t in a place where I could hear it. Listen to your spouse. God has given her or him to you for a reason, and they can play a powerful role in the healing process.

Assuming you believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, let’s look at how God sees you. Get alone with God, and ask Him to speak to your heart as you absorb the following. Read carefully and slowly, realizing that the following words are for you:

Your parents or others may have:

Been disappointed in you








God isn’t disappointed in you, His child, no matter what you’ve done. In fact, He’s waiting to throw a party for you.

Read the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11–32. The son deeply insulted his father by asking for his inheritance up front, which was the same as saying he wished his father was dead. The son then blew all of his inheritance on prostitutes and partying. In spite of this, when his son returned home his father threw a party for him! Although the son had messed up badly his father loved him deeply; not one word of disappointment or judgment was spoken. No matter where you are today, God is waiting for you to come to Him so He can shower you with an extravagant party of grace.

Been distant







God has always been close to you.

“But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge.”
Psalms 73:28

You may have been neglected growing up. Perhaps one of your parents died and you’ve always wondered “where were you God?” You struggle with the idea that God is around… or that you matter enough for Him to be around for you. He has always been near, and He’s close to you now. Ask Him to reveal His presence to you.

Been unapproachable






God wants you to come to Him.

“Let us therefore draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16

God wants you to come to Him because He loves you and wants to help you. He’s not like broken men and women, who get irritated, impatient, and short tempered if we don’t have it all together, or mess up. Mercy and comfort await you at the throne of grace; you need not be afraid to approach Him.

Been absent







The Lord will never leave you.

“…for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:15“Am I a God Who is near, declares the Lord, and not a God far off?… Do I not fill the heaven and the earth?”
Jeremiah 22:23–24God is not a workaholic father or mother who is never around. You matter to Him, and He is here for you, now.
Rejected you









God has completely accepted you because of the cross of Christ.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 8:1

“Therefore accept one another just as also Christ accepted us to the glory of God.”
Romans 15:7

The cross is the most powerful event in history. At the cross Jesus wiped the slate clean and provided abundant entry into heaven for those of us who believe in Him. His acceptance of you is not based on anything but His sacrificial death, and your sin can’t erase His acceptance of you. He will not reject you if you approach Him.

Abandoned you










God has taken you up.

“For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.”
Psalms 27:10“A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation.”
Psalms 82:3“…for He Himself has said ““I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.””
Hebrews 13:5Maybe your parents divorced, and you assumed that “Mom or Dad didn’t stick around because of me.” Perhaps you were adopted, and suffer with the idea that you were cast aside, unwanted and rejected. Or maybe you were abandoned to the streets at an early age. God will never abandon you, and I believe He’s drawing you to Him right now.
Been a perfectionist, demanding the same from you for their approval or love.









God knows you’re a mess (Romans 3:23) and can never be perfect, and has showered you with the free gift of His grace.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God.”
Ephesians 2:8

“and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Romans 5:5

God knows you’ve sinned and will never be perfect. He doesn’t point fingers, reject, bash you with Bible verses, or demand perfection, like other broken, imperfect men and women have done. You can stop trying to measure up to an impossible standard and accept the big, brightly wrapped gift of grace God has for YOU.

Abused you





God wants to comfort you, if you let Him.

“I, even I am He Who comforts you.”
Isaiah 51:12

He comforts the traumatized, the abused, and the neglected. You won’t get hurt if you approach Him; He’s not out to use you. He will comfort you, if you will take a chance and drop your guard.

Failed to love to you in word or deed.













God loves YOU passionately:

“But God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses made us alive together in Christ.”
Ephesians 2:4

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.”
John 15:9

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”
John 15:12

“But I would feed you with the finest of the wheat and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
Psalms 81:16

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
John 3:16

“Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life.”
Psalms 63:3

Anyone who would send His Son to be butchered for another person either hates his Son, or passionately loves the one who He sent his Son to die for. Since we know that the Father loves His Son, Jesus Christ, the only possible answer is that God loves you deeply.

The problem has been that you’ve bought into the lies that God’s love is conditional, or impossible for you to attain, or that you’ll get hurt if you’re vulnerable, or that you sinned too much for God to love you. None of this lines up with God’s word.

You may be imprisoned in shame because of a sexual crime; maybe you’ve raped, molested, or killed someone. The cross is infinitely bigger than your sin, and God accepts you. Or maybe you’ve committed adultery and lost your family. The blood of Christ has wiped out your debt, and there’s a party waiting to be held in your honor.

Forget about how you feel and the lies you’ve bought into; look at the truth. The door to your prison of shame and worthlessness has been swung wide open, and you need only to walk out into the light. There’s no hoop to jump through, no test to pass; just the acceptance of a gift. You have to decide if you will accept the truth that He loves you passionately, or if you’ll remain in the prison of shame and condemnation.

Perhaps you’re broken by the realization that you’ve been saying, “I don’t believe you love me God; it can’t be true.” Speak to Abba now and confess that you’ve been turning Him away; allow Him to comfort you. Mercy and love await you at the throne of grace.

If you’re still struggling with accepting God’s love, don’t worry. The Father doesn’t stop waiting for you to come home “because you didn’t get it right the first time.” The sanctification process isn’t often a one-time slam dunk event; a little more time may be needed for Him to dig deeper and loosen the roots. Or there could be something you’re still holding onto that is keeping you from accepting the gift of grace (we’ll touch on this in chapter 13). Keep seeking The Master Surgeon, and don’t give up; He’s got a party waiting for you….

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