Decision #3: I Will Believe

Romans 8:1,2
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for the ones in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus set you free from the law of sin and death. (NT Transline)

I love this verse, and the whole chapter that follows.  It is a declaration of our freedom from sin.  God does not continue to condemn us.  Rather, He has set us free from condemnation and empowered us to walk in newness of life.  That new identity in Christ I talked about?  It’s here.  Forgiving yourself?  It’s here too.  “There is no condemnation” means that if you feel guilty and ashamed and condemned after repenting, then you are doing that to yourself, because God has forgotten your sin.

Therefore, the third decision you must make is to believe all this stuff.  We can throw Bible verses at you until we rip out all the pages.  But you have to believe it.  Paul, toward the end of his life, says to Timothy these words:

II Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the course.  I have kept the faith. (NT Transline)

In his first letter, he told him to do the same thing:

I Timothy 6:12
Be fighting the good fight of faith.  Take hold of eternal life, into which you were called and confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (NT Transline)

Interesting that while we live, we are continually fighting.  Fighting.  At the end of his life, Paul could say he had “fought” the fight.  Is this the same struggle we talked about in II Corinthians 10:4?  The struggle for which we have been given weapons of divine power?  Yes.  It is the fight of faith–the fight to believe.

There are whole books and courses on faith, so I’m not going to dwell as extensively here as they do.  But a few key principles must be understood.

The Fight of Faith
Faith is a battle.  It is a fight.  Yet another misconception floating in some churches is that you either have faith or you don’t.  If you’re a Christian, you have faith.  Some secular people even say that each religion is “a faith,” using it like a noun.  But faith is not a set quantity.  You can have more faith, or less faith.  You can have strong faith, or weak faith.  You can have the spirit of faith, or the spirit of doubt and uncertainty and fear.  Once again, Jesus taught all this.  It makes it so much easier for me when Jesus taught something.  He taught us about having the faith of the mustard seed, that this is enough to move a mountain.  That implies you can have more faith than that.  Several times He chides His disciples for having little faith, or weak faith.  He says the centurion had “great faith.”

How do you get great faith?  You have to want it, because it is a fight.  You have to fight to believe.  There are a thousand other things to occupy your mind than this, so if you don’t perceive its value and go after it like your life depends on it, then you won’t get very much of it.

You wage this battle using the weapons of warfare alluded to in II Cor 10:4, which are able to destroy spiritual forces and strongholds.  What are these weapons?  The first one is to speak the Bible out of your mouth.  Study it.  Think about it.  Be open to it.  If it says something that contradicts what you heard in church, but you’re pretty sure you’re reading it right, what do you believe?

Picture Leo and Abby from Pornified once again.  Her pastor says that “all men struggle with pornography,” so she’ll just have to deal with it.  Well, what if she had filled herself with the word of God, and knew beyond any doubt what God says?

I John 5:4
Whatever is born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world–my faith. (NAS, personalized)

If Abby knew this, she’d go to her pastor (with respect) and tell him this is what the Bible says.  By faith we have the victory over the world.  It doesn’t hold me down, but I break free by my faith and trample on the snakes and scorpions that Jesus Christ personally gave me authority over!  She’d tell him that he who lives by the Spirit walks by the Spirit, and he who walks by the Spirit does not carry out the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16).  She’d talk about Revelation 2 and 3, which tell us what awaits the one who overcomes the world and perseveres through the trials of life, that “the one overcoming will never be harmed by the second death. (Rev 2:11)”

Faith doesn’t let appeasement or pacification get in its way.  Abby could have said, “Don’t tell me to settle down, and not get so worked up about this.  Don’t tell me to just let it go, to not disturb the water.  The water is infested with leeches, sucking our fire for God from our hearts.  My husband is spiritually dying, and this is the best you can say?”

Faith comes.  The more it comes, the more you have.  And it comes much faster when you dwell in the word of God, and not as much on your cell phone:

Romans 10:17
So the faith comes from a report-hearing, and the report-hearing through a word about Christ. (NT Transline)

I like the specificity of “report-hearing” in this translation.  This word also carries with it the idea of listening and obeying.  They heard the report and they responded to it.  They acted based upon the word they heard, not based upon sight.  The more truth we hear about Christ, the more faith comes.  And there’s a whole lotta truth about God in the Bible.

Do You Really Want It?
You cannot have victory if you don’t learn your Bible.  It’s the hunger for righteousness.  Galatians and Romans talk extensively about how we are righteous by faith, and not by our works–what we do.  But if you don’t know the Bible says that, or what it means, and haven’t thought about what it means for your life, then you aren’t righteous by faith!

Wait a minute…that’s heresy.  No, I’m not talking about salvation.  I’m talking about the very reason Galatians was written.  The whole letter is written to a people who had forgotten that they were righteous by faith, set free from the Law, and empowered by grace to live for God.  The recipients of the letter had reverted to living by the merits of their performance, by their own effort.  That’s why Paul wrote the letter.  When we don’t know the incredible truth that God has declared us righteous, apart from anything we’ve done, then we will return to believing it’s all about what we do.  We’ll return to thinking God only accepts us based on our performance. And then we get insecure again, because our performance is never good enough. And then we run to things other than God to regain our security. Things like porn.

So if you don’t keep your heart saturated with the truth of the Bible, you’ll forget this, and I guarantee it, you will start living and thinking in terms of performance.  You’ll forget the power of faith, and the freedom you have in Christ.  You will return to the yoke of slavery, just like the Galatians did.

Faith comes, and it grows, but it’s a battle.  The good news is, winning this battle just takes a little bit of discipline, a whole lot of desire, and a godly perspective.  A godly perspective considers these questions: What is most important in life?  What matters most to me (eternity) and to God?  When you get that straight, you will adjust your life so that no matter what else happens, I’ve got to read the word.  I can’t live without it.  That’s the attitude of victory in this battle. God responds to this kind of faith. He does the work we can’t do. He empowers us. He emboldens us. He leads us beside still waters, and delivers us from evil.

And that’s the next key to victory.  I must have victory.  Refuse to lose.  You must be so desperate for victory that you will do anything to keep it.

Desperation leads to decisions.  And decisions lead to declarations.  You start declaring the word of God to yourself.  To the enemy.  To God.  You keep it up.  Life gets harder.  You gave up all your porn hookups.  And now you’re lonely.  It’s hard.  No one understands.  But wait, I just read about what God says about me.  I’m His child.  And He knows my needs.  He knows it hurts me, deep and prolonged, to be alone like this.  He knows my unmet, parched desires.

And you keep fighting.  No one is saying it’s easy.  But in the process, you’ll be learning things about God that you wouldn’t even know to think about if you were still jacked in to the porn machine.

I Declare
When making declarations, you don’t just declare things God has done.  That’s easy. You start declaring absurd things.  Ridiculous things.  Things far in the future that you’d be a loon to say in front of anyone else.  I thank you Lord that you will send someone to Jenna Jameson and tell her about your love.  I thank you that one day, she will stand in public and declare Jesus to be the love of her life, and to renounce all her dead works.  And she will even forgive those judgmental letter writers who steered her even farther down the wrong path.

Crazy, huh?  And that’s why it’s so good.  Because God is honored that you ask for things like this in faith.  And it builds your own confidence.  It builds you up on the inside, where true strength lies, and continually reinforces who you are in Christ.  It keeps your eyes off yourself for a few minutes, and on the world that desperately needs God’s love as much as you.  It touches God’s heart, who so loves the world that He gave His only Son for it.

Other things you can declare over yourself: I belong to God, and He loves me.  I have received righteousness as a gift.  I will stand approved before Jesus one day.  I will fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.  God fought for me.  God chose me.  I am a minister of reconciliation.  I have the fruit of the Spirit.  I am blameless in the sight of God.  I am accepted and secure in God’s love.  I will receive the resurrection power of God.  I will one day be saved from the presence of sin.  This sin will not plague me my whole life.

You can go on and on with this stuff all day.  And it’s a lot easier to think these things up when you’ve read them and know them from the Bible.

To win the faith battle, you must defeat discouragement.  Remember, this is a gateway sin.  It initiates so many others much worse than itself.  You feel yourself getting discouraged?  Learn to catch it, repent of it, and declare the truth about yourself.  I am strong and courageous.  The joy of the one who delivered me is the joy that lives inside me.  The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  But don’t skip that repentance part.

Discouragement is a sin, against the commandment of God.  Don’t get all offended at the idea of this being a sin.  And don’t condemn yourself because you keep getting discouraged.

There is now no condemnation in Christ, and I am free from the law of sin and death.  You accept it as sin and you expose it right there.  Sin flees from light.  It thrives in darkness.  That’s why confessing our sins to other people is as important as to God.  And that’s why keeping a short account prevents these sins from taking root.

Your discouragement will fade if you do this.  God says so.  I’ve lived it.  When this hit me, and I finally accepted it as the truth and started living this way, my discouragement went away.  Did I ever fail?  Of course.  Did the discouragement come back too?  Naturally.

But here’s the key.  This is why this is a lifestyle shift, and not a series of steps.

Get Back Up
Will you ever stumble in your lust or these other sins of the mind again?  Probably.  But will you become enslaved to them again?  Never.  Stumbling is not enslavement.  When you stumble, you get up and keep walking.  When you’re slave, you stop moving.  You’re confined.  The key is that when you start living and thinking this way, you rebound from your failures much faster than before.  I used to wallow for months–months!–before finally digging my way out.  Some of you are thinking, “months, that’s nothing…I’ve got years.”  All the more so, then.

At this point in my life, I rebound the same day!  I stumble, and do something I know is wrong, but I rebound that same day, cry to God to restore and save me, and I get moving again.

And every time, I believe that will be the last time I stumble in this area.  And someday, I’m going to be right.  My spirit of faith declares my freedom.  I am free.  I will not be enslaved again.  God is good, and He won’t let me.  He’s on my side.  He’s for me, so who can be against me?  He knows I’m not perfect.  He doesn’t give up on me when I stumble.

But if I just lay there and despair, and hate myself, then God has to stand there waiting for me to figure it all out again.  When you know your God, and know your destiny, you want to get back up.  You want to move on.  You don’t want to dwell on your failure.  And you are secure in God’s love enough to turn right back to Him, and away from your failure.

The American Christian
Finally, I want to share a verse from the Sermon on the Mount.  It’s a famous verse and a well-known song, but its truth guides us along the path of righteousness.

Matthew 6:33
But be seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (NT Transline)

Be seeking.  Again, an ongoing process (so the song got that part wrong, oh well).  Continually seek first the things God values most, and He will take care of your needs.  By faith, you will believe this verse, and then it will finally start to affect your life.  But only if you properly perceive the value of “His righteousness.”  If you don’t want it, you won’t seek it, and you will also not have all these things added to you.

Compare this to the parable of the sower, and the thorny soil, where the seed withers because that person is so distracted by the cares of this life.  This verse is the living testimony of millions of American Christians:

Luke 8:14
And the seed having fallen into the thorns–these people are the ones having heard, and while proceeding are being choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they are not bringing fruit to maturity. (NT Transline)

Distracted hearts, half-heartedly pursuing God.  Never producing any lasting, mature fruit in their own lives, much less anyone else’s.  Their kids rebel against them and all their arbitrary rules and superficial faith, and get lost in their own addictions, whether porn, video games, drugs, parties, thrillseeking, or all of the above.  They all call themselves Christians, and think they’re being a “witness” because they vote Republican and are against abortion.  But not even their closest non-Christian friends know they go to church, because they don’t get much out of it anyway, and are looking for a new one with better worship.  And, the now 50-year-old dad still can’t bring himself to throw away the Playboys he’s hidden in the closet the past twenty years.  He’s pretty sure his wife and kids never found them here.  He thought about tossing them several times, and threw away a few of the torn ones.  But man, this one lady is so beautiful, and he just can’t bring himself to do it.  Oh well, it’s not that bad.  It’s only a magazine, and this girl’s at least forty by now.  Probably doesn’t look that good anymore.  Let’s go see what’s on TV.

That’s not a life of faith.  That’s a wasted life.  That’s not a life I want, and if you are serious about your freedom and walk with God, it’s not a life you want either.  God didn’t save us to live like that.  We were saved by faith, and we should live by faith.

When you make this third decision and say, “I will believe,” you are deciding to pursue the truth of the gospel with all your heart, and to build up your faith until it revolutionizes your life, your walk with God, and most importantly, the effectiveness of your witness to the rest of the world.  You are deciding that you can’t live without the Bible, that you want to know and understand all it has to say about God, you, and the rest of the world.  You are deciding that God is on your side, and that you’re going to keep jumping back into His arms when you stumble, because you want to go where He’s taking you, and not get “left behind” in the lukewarm waters of anemic faith.

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