You love Jesus
…but are tormented by unmanageable feelings or sexual images?
Let us start somewhere else altogether… namely with ”Holiness” …what a peculiar thing that is!
For many the expression ‘Holier than thou’ has become an insult… A word you use when people aren’t ‘down for something’ – an expression used in peer pressure or to convince people to ‘go a little further’ than they want to.
But do you know what being holy actually means? The word holy comes from the German word “heilig”, which is derived from the word ‘whole’ meaning ‘undamaged, healthy’… Quite the interesting meaning, which I will get back to. The meaning of the word “holy” is associated with piety, with church, and with God, but deeper in the concept you also find the fear of God and deep purity. God says in the Bible in Leviticus, something which Peter refers to in the following:
…even just in the name “Holy Spirit”, holy appears rather centrally, because He might as well be named “God’s Spirit” or something like that, but holiness is such a significant part of the nature of God that the name is “Holy Spirit”. So I think we can conclude with some certainty that God is, in fact, holy… and described in more ‘accessible’ terms, it means that God is pure, good, and just. God is so holy that he can’t abide sin – He has to separate Himself from all things that according to Him are dark and wrong.
…but did you notice in the Bible verse I quoted that God actually COMMANDED US to be holy as well…? It wasn’t even a request, but a straight-up command – a demand that Peter even refers to in the New Testament. If we keep reading, we see that the congregations the apostle is writing to have understood the message very well. Therefore, Paul refers to or ‘greets’ the Christians like this:
Colossians 3:12 (NIV)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, HOLY and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience..
So, you see, God also wants us to live as holy and pure lives as we possibly can. And you know what? Living a very clean life is actually possible. Of course we are tempted time after time, but the closer to Jesus we choose to live, the easier it is to turn our back on sin.
When, we as Christians choose to turn from sin and then is baptized to belong to Jesus Christ, sin no longer has power over us. HOWEVER – this does not mean that Satan can’t plant sinful thoughts in your head.
I experience SO many Christians, who in their “thoughts” are plagued by egocentric thoughts and feelings, anxiety, sexual images, swear words and curses, to the point where it almost brings you down completely, because you think you’re the only person in the world who has thoughts like these, and because your heart’s desire is to have nothing to do with those thoughts. The “funny” thing is that nobody talks about it, because everyone thinks “I am the only one who feels this way” – and for that reason, Satan uses it a whole lot… and the closer you get to Jesus, the more Satan will try to influence your thoughts in the hope of having you “fall in the trap” and giving in to the thoughts – or having you start condemning yourself with shame. Many experience being set free from the extreme pull they experience from “the chains of sin” when baptized AFTER their conversion, but the thoughts will always try to come in, because Satan always goes after our weaknesses. And once you get these thoughts and feelings, you’ll feel anything but holy – more like impure and filthy – and that makes you pull away from God, because you don’t feel worthy.
Once I was on fire for Jesus almost six years ago, I was also plagued constantly by anything and everything… from sexual images to curses and swear words about God, about Jesus, or about the Holy Spirit. I really felt that those of my feelings that are rooted in my ego – e.g. “being hurt” etc. were tried to the max…! But I made a choice! – because I KNEW that my heart was in a totally different place from my thoughts. I often experienced praying about something completely different, and smack… next thing you know, there was an image in my mind I definitely didn’t want – or in the middle of talking to others, I would be knocked off track by doubt about EVERYTHING about God. Satan was really trying to get me to wallow in shame and guilt! So I CHOSE not to recognize all of this as my own thoughts or images. Instead, I began to praise God every time I was under attack: “Jesus, thank you for knowing my heart. Thank you that these thoughts/words/images aren’t mine at all. Thank you because I can stand before you holy and pure, and that your spirit in me sets the agenda for my life. Jesus, thank you because You love me, and thank you because You have freed me from the chains of sin. Thank you that I am Your child and that I am growing in You day by day”.
…And the more I was able to avoid owning it as “shame”, and instead just praise Jesus in the middle of it all, the more I experienced that Satan was forced into the background. Because he certainly didn’t want for his “thoughts” in my head to be used to praise God instead.
Remember…! There is a huge difference between getting a thought/image that doesn’t come from you and that you don’t want… and allowing yourself to be controlled by what you get. Paul says it so well in his letter to the Romans:
Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.
When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord
Before being baptized and surrendering to Jesus, you are a slave to sin… to the thoughts that appear in your head… but after you allow Jesus to transform you – get baptized – you surrender 100% to Jesus in EVERYTHING, so you are no longer a slave to it, but rather it is up to YOU if you want to turn your back on it, so you can continue a HOLY life for God, or what you want to do with the thoughts you get.
God wants us well. He wants to take care of us like a LOVING father. This is precisely what makes the meaning of holiness very deep: “safe and sound”. By living a holy life with God and saved from sin, we will not be “hurt”. Everything we are not allowed to do by God is actually to protect us, but unfortunately, it is often our own egotism and pride that gets in the way of God working. And what exactly do I mean by that…? Let me give you some examples.
Somebody has treated you unfairly, and you are furious…. Because your toes were stepped on. But that kind of anger is a sin. Why? Because God wants to take care of you, and after a rage like that, everybody feels bad and sad – and you suddenly allow bitterness and jealousy to fester, which damages you even more.
– It is often your own egotism that makes you react that way. The feeling of: “I have the right to defend myself”. Of course, we need to set boundaries and protect ourselves, but not in anger!!
Another example: You have done something wrong and cover yourself with a little white lie. Why? To save your own hide – again, egotism, which only results in feeling bad inside… until you have done it so many times that you don’t care. But a little white lie isn’t white – in the eyes of God, it is black as tar.
Or… e.g. clairvoyance, yoga, martial arts, deep meditation, and other idolatry, where you open up for “spiritual energies”…. You feel you have a right to it and close your eyes to the spiritual aspects in it. Because YOU will not part with your own idea of what it all is… but the only problem is that it separates you from God, because God does NOT want to share you with others. Either it is God or it is not God at all… There is no such thing as ”both and”, because then you are not allowing God to take care of you. God is ”jealous” and doesn’t want to share you with others….
Exodus 20:5a The Living Bible
You must never bow or worship it in any way; for I, the Lord your God, am very possessive. I will not share your affection with any other god!.
And this is precisely why Jesus later says:
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Therefore, we need to understand that if we truly believe in Jesus, it also means that we must choose to obey him in ALL things. If, instead, we allow our own “pride”, “understanding”, “interpretation” get in the middle, we’ll have judged ourselves. In fact, Jesus says it quite clearly here:
John 12:47 The Living Bible
If anyone hears me and doesn’t obey me, I am not his judge—for I have come to save the world and not to judge it.
And Paul confirms it again in his letter to the Hebrews:
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
It is not enough to simply believe that Jesus existed as a historical figure. Nor is it enough to believe that He was God’s son, but you also need to OBEY Him, if you want to go all the way to Heaven the day you die. Simply, this means: Believe, turn from sin, be baptized (full submersion) and be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Then your walk with Jesus can really START, where you start to obey God and receive the FREEDOM Jesus bought you at the cross. You also need to read the Bible actively, so you know WHAT Jesus said, and WHAT to obey… and if, on the other hand, you choose NOT to obey Jesus, you are judging yourself, and your “faith” is in vain!!
And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day”.
…What is your own ”right to be right” actually worth? I for one would rather ”lose face” and humiliate myself on this earth and then have fellowship with Jesus in all eternity, than to “assert my right to be right” about humanism and liberalism, because the Bible is NOT humanism, but God’s word is power – and we should fear God in respect (reverent fear)!
Galatians 5:19-21 The Living Bible
But when you follow your own wrong inclinations, your lives will produce these evil results: impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, spiritism (that is, encouraging the activity of demons), hatred and fighting, jealousy and anger, constant effort to get the best for yourself, complaints and criticisms, the feeling that everyone else is wrong except those in your own little group—and there will be wrong doctrine, envy, murder, drunkenness, wild parties, and all that sort of thing. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
So… live a holy life…! Accept that you can, in fact, get closer to Jesus, if you want to. Sin and willfulness separate you from everything Jesus has for you! Don’t consider all the things you can’t do as a condemnation, but rather as loving guidance from a FATHER who TRULY loves you and who wants fellowship with you, IF you turn to Him.
Translated from Danish
by Lisbeth Agerskov Christensen