Serving and giving back to God is enjoyable. It’s great to be able to help others, use our gifts, and invest our lives in eternity.
There’s another side we must be careful of. Ministry can be used as a drug; something we get a hit off of. If our hearts are empty or in the wrong place, we can use the appreciation of others for what God is doing to get a fix for our broken sense of self-worth, cover up our inadequacies or failures, or, in worst case, shoot up on pride.
It gets toxic when we add porn or sex addiction to the mix. A man who’s in bondage to sexual sin is self-absorbed, spiritually blind, distant from the Lord, critical, and miserable (leading the double life takes a toll). Such a man is more flesh-driven than Spirit-led; his motives are distorted and he tends to do what his ambitions tell him to instead of checking with God for direction. He’s a mountain-charger, not a Christ follower.
If he gets his sense of self-worth from ministry, it warps into something ugly. He gets obsessive about it; ministry becomes bigger than his relationship with the Lord and his family. It is now an idol.
In spite of all of the church’s teaching about grace, there is still a we-must-do-good-things-for-God message to please Him (or really, people who are more about rules than the relationship with Him) that runs through it. Spending 24 hours alone with the Lord just to seek His face is considered a waste of time. Well-meaning Christians ask what our vision, goals, and plans are. It’s all about us and what we want to achieve. This runs contrary to Scripture where God prepared Jospeh for ministry with two years in prison, Moses with 40 years tending sheep in the desert, David with years of running from Saul in the wilderness, Jesus not stepping out until He was 30, and Paul spending years of his time in prison.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
The message of strive-in-the-flesh encourages the Christian sex addict to use ministry as a drug. Every compliment or success becomes more toxic, until he pursues ministry for life and joy as much as he does for his porn binges.
Here are every married man’s top two priorities:
Number 1: Love the Lord Your God with everything you have (Matthew 26:37).
Number 2: Love your wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25).
Some might say that “love your neighbor like yourself” is Number 2, but “love your wife as Christ the loved the church goes way beyond “love your neighbor as yourself;” Jesus died for the church.
Christian men who are in ministry while in bondage to sexual sin and think they’re okay because of their flesh-driven works are delusional. Whether they’re a pastor, elder, teaching Sunday School, or running a para-church ministry, there’s no way they’re living out their God given priorities.
As one who struggled with sexual sin for 20 years, I know that my relationship with God was distant, guilt-ridden, and choked when I was serving lust.
My relationship with my wife? I was a jerk at home whose mind was constantly somewhere else. I didn’t take care of her needs, and certainly didn’t love her with the single-minded devotion of a man who would die for her. (A man who’s into porn is committing adultery.)
My real priorities were more like: lust, me, the things that I wanted and liked, God, and my family. By the time I got to #4 on my list there wasn’t much left.
My advice to those who are in bondage to sexual sin and are in ministry is as follows:
1. Get out of ministry. Take a leave of absence, quit, do whatever it takes. God wants you, not your flesh-driven offerings (see the story of Cain and Abel), and He doesn’t settle for second place. When I made ministry an idol in the past, the Lord took me out of it for four years to so some serious heart surgery. You can get out of ministry the graceful way and bow out on your own, or let God do it for you the hard way, which for some might mean a public spectacle.
2. Come to terms with the reality of your life. Quit trying to fake it. Stop lying. Take a hard look at yourself and quit judging others, especially your wife. Don’t blame other people for your sin and mistakes. Ask your wife to rate your marriage on a scale of 1 to 10, and don’t get defensive when she tells you why. Never blame her for your sexual sin.
3. Realign your life to match your God given priorities. This begins by taking no-holds- barred action to deal with anything that might be between your relationships with the Lord and your wife, including sexual sin, ministry, workaholism, all of your pride and self-absorption, sports, hobbies, etc. Go to support groups, counseling, change your work schedule; take radical action steps. Quit talking about making changes; do it.
4. Make God first. Soak your mind in His word. Do what He tells you to do. Be a doer of the word. Making spending time with Him a daily priority. Get radical with your relationship with Him; go to a Christian retreat alone for or two days. Make your focus on getting to know Him and get your eyes off yourself and your problems.
5. Make your wife #2. Ask her what you need to do to make her feel like the biggest priority in life, second only to God. Date her once a week (yes, I said once a week). Be a father to your children, and get involved in your wife’s life again. Show her by your actions that you mean business. If your relationship is dying she probably doesn’t believe your words anyway.
All of this sounds hard core; maybe even a little harsh. Those who are in bondage to porn or sex addiction build a hard exterior of denial, pride, and justification around their heart that is hard to pierce. The truth is that any man who’s serving porn and ministry is living a lie.
In closing, I will leave you with some of the most frightening words in Scripture:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles ?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’
There are many who will step into eternity and be shocked to find that they’re on the wrong side of it.
God wants you.
If you get your first two priorities right, the rest will fall into place.