Much has been made of Josh Duggar’s scandals in recent months. While he is by no means alone in his moral weakness, he has been made into a spectacle. Any time a Christian icon finds himself or herself in the spotlight of shame, it is amplified. It’s the opportunity for the world to hold up the church’s failure. It’s normal human reaction, for anytime someone doesn’t feel righteous, they will target those who are supposed to be righteous and point out any failure or perceived failure. It’s an attempt at self-justification by bringing someone else down.
However, the church should be the first to bear the burdens of one another. After all, the one thing that proves to the world that we are Jesus’ disciples is our love for one another, and as the Bible says, “When one member suffers, all the members suffer with them.” How much more is that suffering amplified when every news outlet shines a spotlight on one of our member’s sins? At least when you and I blow it, news stations aren’t camped out in front of our houses.
Josh Duggar’s scandal is a symbol of what is going on in many Christian homes. But instead of the church strengthening the weak, we tend to shoot the wounded. Just look at what happened when Rick Warren’s family had the tragedy of suicide. Many who disagree with his doctrine taunted him in the time of suffering, thus shaming the name of Christ, who said our love will be His evidence to the world.
Duggar’s name showing up in the Ashley Madison scandal is not the problem. It’s the symptom of the problem. One study showed that 50% of men and 20% of women in the church admitted they were addicted to pornography. When you consider that most people don’t admit addictions until they are at the point where it is undeniable, this number could be much higher. Going to a ‘hook up’ service, like Ashley Madison is the result of sexual addictions bearing its fruit in our lives. The longer someone is in the addiction, the more it will come out in behavior.
The church is great about telling people what they shouldn’t be doing, but they do little to help people deal with the problem. The church employs shame and fear to pressure people to come out of sin because they don’t understand the power of the Spirit of Grace. Condemnation cannot defeat sin. It cannot break the bondage of addiction.
If I had the ability to give Josh Duggar advice, it would be what I’m about to write. Though I can’t contact Josh, there are many other Josh’s out there who are secretly fighting this war as well. My advice will work because it worked for me, and many men I have shared with over the years. I became addicted to pornography at the age of 9, and it ruled my life for the next three decades. It wasn’t until I received Christ that I tried to break free, but I found it was greater than my will.
Even the Apostle Paul stated that he has the will to do good and live righteously, but how to perform good he doesn’t find within himself. He wills to resist sin, but when he’s using personal effort, he ends up doing the sins he wills not to do. His personal will is not strong enough to defeat sin, nor is it strong enough to live the Christian life of righteousness.
This is where I found myself. Many sermons proclaimed, “Look at your sin. God is angry at the wicked every day. God will judge your sins.”
The fear of judgment scared me out of sin temporarily. I determined in my will to stop looking at lustful things, but within a few days I found that my will wasn’t strong enough. The cravings of my flesh took over my mind, and though I could resist for a while, the battle was always doomed to failure. Eventually I would be too weary to resist, and I would let go and let my mind binge on lust again. If this is where you are, trusting in your will’s ability to resist is failure waiting to happen. This is true whether your addiction is a tangible substance, or the substance of the mind.
Advice #1. The first advice I would give to Duggar and anyone struggling is to turn off the critics. Every person struggles with some type of personal weakness. If we compare ourselves to those who seem to have it together, we’ll be self-condemning, and there is no victory in that. The fact is that anyone trusting in their personal efforts is in hypocrisy, for we can only grade ourselves on a curve – otherwise we can’t pass the moral test either.
When I escaped my prison of addiction, the church was not exactly helpful. The addictions that once ruled me and seemed unbreakable, no longer have me in their grip. In fact, I no longer have to resist. I don’t desire those things anymore. Yet when giving my testimony, a man in the church told me that I wasn’t forgiven. He said, “You were a reprobate, and once a Christian falls into a reprobate mind, God gives them up to Satan and they can never again be forgiven.”
Apparently, God didn’t get that memo. My life is in constant fellowship with the Lord, and He calls me the righteousness of Christ. These false beliefs of condemnation come from a misunderstanding of scriptures, but that’s for a different article. However, it shows that the well-meaning but misguided Christians can make recovery very challenging. And if someone isn’t yet secure in God’s love for them, misquoted scriptures and condemning words can be discouraging.
Advice #2. Rest in God’s acceptance. The day I truly believed in God’s acceptance for me, my life began to change. In the past, when I blew it, I had the perception of God’s wrath. When I understood the Bible’s teaching that I am accepted because I am in the Beloved (which is Christ), it took the conditional acceptance of God away. The conditions are on the completed work of Christ, not on me. When I blew it, I didn’t defeat the work of Christ. If my sins could destroy the work of Christ, I am making the blood of the New Covenant a common and worthless thing. That is a greater sin than the weakness of my flesh.
Advice #3. Believe God’s declaration over you, not the enemy’s declaration about you. Unbelief is the only sin grace doesn’t defeat. Hebrews 3:12 warns that an evil heart of unbelief is one that departs from the Lord. If we stop for a moment, we can see this truth in our lives. When we don’t believe in God’s love, we depart from Him instead of drawing near Him. When I believed my sin switched on God’s wrath, I departed. Once I learned that His love was conditional upon His own promises and unchanging character, instead of my abilities, I stopped running from God when I felt defeated.
Advice #4. It’s God’s job to overcome your sin. As far back as Ezekiel 36:26-27, God foretold of the New Covenant, where He would take away our sinful nature, give us a new spirit, and would place His Spirit within us, and God would cause us to walk in His ways. Also in the Old Testament passage of Micah 7:19, God foretold of the New Covenant where He would cast our sins into the depths of the sea, and He will subdue our sins.
For most of my Christian life, I tried to subdue my sins. I failed. No one ever told me that it was God’s job to subdue my sins. Or that it was God’s job to create in me a heart that would walk in His ways. No one told me that my job was to learn of His goodness so I could learn to walk by faith. The Christian life is a life of faith – completely trusting in the work of God and His promises. His promises begin with the elimination of our guilt through the work of Christ on the cross, and they continue in the promises that He who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it.
If you study the Bible, you will find that unbelief is the only barrier God has allowed man to stand behind. To some the Bible says, “They could not enter His promise because of unbelief,” but to us, our call is to trust wholly in His love. The purpose of the cross is twofold. Your sin (all sin) was defeated on the cross and taken out of the way. To those who believe this promise, there is no barrier. We learn to walk in the truth that sin is defeated, and as we learn to walk by faith, the reality of Christ’s work for us begins to bear the fruit of holiness in our outward lives.
The second purpose is that through the cross, God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. All things that pertain to my life means I have to take no thought for my life, what will I eat, how will I live? What will I do? How will I overcome my problems? All things are given to me. And all things that pertain to godliness means my righteousness, holiness, and godliness is the completed work of Christ given to me. I don’t have to become these things; I have to learn to walk by faith in what God has declared.
Because of these truths, I am no longer an addict. In most recovery programs, we are told to call ourselves ‘recovering addicts’. But this is not so with God. Never will I say, “My name is Eddie, and I am an addict.” I now testify that I am not an addict; I am the righteousness of God in Christ. Addiction fell away when there was no room for it to remain. I didn’t overcome my addiction. I looked up one day and said, “What happened to it?” I looked in the past and saw the grave marker – Here lies the sins that once haunted Eddie.
Sometimes when I share these things, people judge and try to throw condemnation back upon me. But it doesn’t stick, because there is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ. Sin only gripped my mind because I didn’t know how to walk by faith and become a receiver of God’s power. After all, it is God who said, “The same power that raised Christ Jesus from the grave is in you, and will give life to your mortal (or physical) bodies.” Those who receive this promise cannot remain in bondage to sin or any addiction.
To those who are closely tied to an addict, I encourage you to not be hard on the addict. Jesus once asked a religious man, “Who will love God the most, the one forgiven of a small debt, or the one forgiven of an enormous debt?” The Josh Duggars of the world have a blessing others cannot perceive. If they learn to walk in the promise of the Spirit, they will have a strength of character that cannot be shaken and will have a life that stands as a trophy of grace.
One thing the family of the addict must understand is that they are not the problem. When a man has a sexual addiction that compels him to step outside of marriage, it is not because the woman is inadequate. People cheat because they are trying to find fulfillment in the flesh, which isn’t possible. This is evident because when someone pursues the flesh, the problem always escalates, and the lewdness must continue to increase. What excites for a moment quickly fades, and the addict must go deeper into darkness to find the same level of excitement the next time. This is why the behavior always escalates. The reason someone seeks an affair is because the pornography is no longer enough.
If I could give advice to Josh’s wife, or any spouse in a similar situation, it’s to realize her worth isn’t the problem. When a spouse is not happy with themselves, they will not be satisfied in the relationship. Promiscuity is the misguided attempt to fulfill what is lacking in the heart, but that lack can only be fulfilled in Christ.
The flesh cannot satisfy, so even if a spouse does everything possible, the flesh still won’t be satisfied. We were created incomplete for a reason. The heart of mankind can never rest in contentment until we are established in a thriving relationship with our Creator.
When we are in the midst of an addiction and in our darkest hours, it’s hard to believe in the love of God and the power of His Spirit. To have someone come along side as an encourager, who points to the hope before us, is someone to be treasured. It’s easy to leave someone in the gutters. Sure they deserve it, but real love creates value. It doesn’t demand value. Keep in mind that most addictions began as a trap, and bad religious advice adds to the burden.
Hypocrisy is when someone puts on the pretense of having it all together, but Christians are tempted to put on this façade because the church demands it. Religion demands conformity. It demands self-righteousness, which is replacing the gift of God with human effort. The person overcome by sin can pretend to be righteous because they are mimicking what the church requires. All who are not established in grace are wearing the mask of hypocrisy. But some sins are taboo, while others are shrugged away, but we are all in the same boat. Hypocrisy only shows the image of perfection and says, “Look at me. I am living right.” The true man or woman of God says, “In me, nothing good dwells. Look at the righteousness of God given to me through Christ. Let’s journey together and learn how to trust in God’s righteousness so it comes out in our lives.”
God loves the sinner – regardless of the depths they have sunk into. God delights in showing mercy, and transforming sinners into His image as they learn to stop trusting in human effort, and start trusting in God’s work for them.
You are the righteousness of God in Christ. May the fruit of the Spirit emerge in your life as you learn to walk by faith in His completed work, given to you as a gift of God’s love.