Identity: Positive or Negative?

The way in which we identify ourselves is pivotal in the thinking process of various choices we make concerning our behavior and the focus of our thought lives.  This week I was reading When Good Men are Tempted by Bill Perkins, and in his introduction he suggests that the core issue of a man with sexual sin is not his behavior, rather it is how he identifies himself.

I want to suggest that the way we indentify ourselves directly contributes toward our behavior and life choices.  We have heard the statement “once and alcoholic, always an alcoholic,” and though I understand what is meant here is that a person who has developed a dependence or addiction to the abuse of alcohol can never drink alcohol again or he may ruin his sobriety; if one thinks of himself as an “alcoholic” his thinking and behavior can contribute to relapse.  If one were to think of himself as a “sex addict,” even if in recovery, his thoughts and behaviors are that of a sex addict.  In both of these examples the person identifies with the negative behavior.

Consider if we change our identification from the behavior toward something more positive, for instance, instead of identifying with “sex addiction,” we identify with being a “man of God with sexual integrity.”  Now when we encounter life situations instead of the struggle through the thought process of a sex addict, we think “how does a man of God with sexual integrity think in a situation as this?” or “What would a man of God with sexual integrity do in a situation like this?

Our identification becomes a positive one instead of a negative one.  Our identification contributes to a decrease in relapse and an increase in sobriety.  It is my hope that when people see the Clean Heart for Men logo, they think, “those are men of God with sexual integrity,” not those are the sex addicts or any other negative connotation.  It is my hope that men can wear the Clean Heart logo with pride and not hide it with shame.   It is my hope that when a single woman see’s a single man wearing the Clean Heart for Men logo, she thinks “that is the type of man I would like to get to know,” when women see one of their friend’s husband wearing the Clean Heart for Men logo, they think, “she is one blessed woman.”

You see, when we come to know Christ, we no longer identify ourselves with sin but with Jesus.  We pattern our lives and thoughts after Jesus Christ.  When we become part of Clean Heart for Men, we pattern our lives and thoughts after a man of God with sexual integrity.  What do you identify with?

How Far to the Bottom?

As I prepare for our upcoming class on “When Good Men are Tempted,” I have obviously been reading the book.  In chapter 7 (p. 96), Bill Perkins writes, “Any man can find freedom from sexual compulsion.  But he will only do so if the pain of continuing in his addiction is greater than the pain of stopping.”   This is true with any compulsive behavior, be it, food, spending habits, social skills, and countless other areas.  Another form of Bill Perkins quote is, “people must hit rock bottom before they will change.”   I sometimes wonder, “how far must some go to hit their bottom,” while other times I think, “Why do we always have to hit rock bottom to improve ourselves?”  

As a kid I grew up in church, was involved in our youth group, attended Sunday school, went to youth camps, and youth conventions, and attended many other church type functions and many times we would hear from people who had gone out and lived a life like the younger brother in the Parable of the Two Lost Sons, Luke 15 (also known as the parable of the Prodigal Son).  I am sure those presenters had  the intentions of giving God praise for saving them from their lifestyles and at times the consequences of their lifestyles, but in reality, it came across as making a bigger deal about the many sinful choices and acts the person committed.  I have very few memories of people telling us how they chose to follow God’s Word and how they chose not to hit “rock bottom.”  I realize we all have sin and we all need a savior, but can we make wise choices and adhere to the pleas of a wise old man and a wise God.

We find in Scripture, many times, a plea for us to just take God’s Word for what it is from the perspective of a God who loves us and wants the best for us.  One such plea is found in Proverbs 7 (NLT):

1Follow my advice, my son; always treasure my commands.  2Obey my commands and live!  Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyes  3Tie them on your fingers as a reminder.  Write them deep within your heart.  4Love wisdom like a sister; make insight a beloved member of your family.  5Let them protect you from an affair with an immoral woman, from listening to the flattery of a promiscuous woman.

Here we have Solomon expressing the importance of the advice he is about to give, yet we tend to think, “Who was he to try and give advice?”  We have lost the value of hearing from an older, more seasoned, man passing down wisdom to a younger man or boy.

My question for you is, do you really have to hit “rock bottom” to change?  Does the pain of the consequences of your thoughts, your life choices, your compulsions, your sexual sin, have to be greater than the pain of stopping, in order for you to stop, in order for you to change, in order for you to get help?

Solomon tells us at the end of Proverbs 7 that the path with an adulterous woman “is the road to the grave.  Her bedroom is the den of death (V.26, 27).”

Is it possible for us to just hear the words of wisdom and follow them without having to compromise our character, our marriage, our ministry, our career, our witness?  Be encouraged, it is possible to live life with integrity in a sexualized world.