Yesterday’s message …
- Connected Galatian relapse with modern day human trafficking;
- Suggested that the sickening demand fueled in part by Christian men leads to the traumatized supply of girls trapped up modern day slavery;
- Reminded people who want one giant leap that God more often sends 12 small steps;
- Landed at this bottom line: Your vulnerability is the prelude to your victory.
One of the many interesting things to me about human behavior is the degree to which we choose the fake instead of the real. The imitation over the authentic. It goes from the deeply personal – like the blue tinted contact lenses I ALMOST wore today to convince you that I’m really Swedish – to the more whimsical. The cubic zirconia instead of diamonds. The fake Rolex. The faux mink. The imitation Kate Spade.
The way that when you get glitter, it gets everywhere, all in your stuff, your skin, your clothes, your hair and it’s like it will never come off. And some people just remain convinced that everything that glitters is somehow gold, even though you know it’s not. All that stuff looks like, feels like, what’s real … it’s just much quicker and much less expensive to obtain.
And then it becomes quite a bit more destructive. You know what is so common in this search for the fake high? Debt. What is debt – whether it’s credit card, consumer, or even some student loan – but fake income? It’s fake income that, as a lot of you know all too well, traps and ensnares and enslaves. The lure of what is cheap and quick and easy and phony holds a lot of lives down in this place.
That place of enslavement is where Paul finds the churches in the region of Galatia as he gets to chapter 4. It’s so interesting – and kind of depressing – that just AFTER Paul issues his clarion call of the freedom that is the source of this series in 4:7 –
7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
READ!! – he says this in 4:8:
8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.
Ah, the ultimate in phony is the gods who were in actuality NOT GODS. We’ve got some images here of the kind of idols they worshipped in Galatia before Jesus invaded their lives: AV. Having just come from India, I can tell you in the most loving way possible that the active worship of NOT GODS is alive and well today. So much like the gods and goddesses you may have learned about in high school when studying Greek mythology. And look at what those NOT GODS do: they enslave. They overpromise and underdeliver. If you offer this food, if you give this harvest, if you sacrifice this child, then all your dreams will come true! Nope. By their very fakery, their innate faux-ness, they trap you.
So: Paul has just told the Galatians that they are NO LONGER SLAVES because they’ve traded in the lure of the fake for the love of the real and so the next section should be good, shouldn’t it? 4:9 should build on the promise and that decision with progression towards wholeness, shouldn’t it? It SHOULD but it doesn’t.
Instead 4:9 is one of the saddest verses with one of the most plaintive questions in all of the biblical library:
9 But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces[d]? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?
You know what this is? Relapse. How, Paul wonders, after having escaped those NOT GODS and being embraced by the ONE GOD, are you going back? Maybe in this case it was a return to the statuettes and practices of idol worship. More likely it was a departure to some of the stale practices of ancient Judaism that the Galatians had been fooled into thinking were necessary to add to Jesus. Whether rank idolatry or extra doses of Judaism, the fact remains that they were adding to Jesus. Out of a conviction that Jesus wasn’t all good or all sufficient, they added what was easy, quick, cheap, and fake. They’d had a taste of freedom, they’d partaken of what was real and good and authentic and then decided, “nope, no more gold, give me some glitter. No more diamonds. Cubic z.” The lure of the fake led inevitably to the pain of relapse. You have to imagine some of them looked around and asked, “How did I end up back here? Why’d I do that AGAIN?!”
Huh. I bet those Galatians are not the last ones to feel the lure of what’s fake and then the pain of the relapse. It’s why some of you here had five good years without a cigarette, the smell was FINALLY out of your clothes, your car, and your hair, and then this week in a moment of great tension you lit up. The taste & smell & buzz you’d sworn off was so delicious. And when you were done you were like, “Why did I do THAT?!” Others, you thought you had that shopping under control but then you wanted to celebrate how good you’d been and Amazon makes it so easy – just one CLICK!!! – and BAM. Back in debt, getting shipments of a bunch of stuff you don’t need. Enslaved.
It’s why with that alcohol, you had your 90 days, your 180, you knew the beauty of serenity, you FELT that God was SO MUCH THAN ANY BEER-SOAKED CHILL but then one whiff and it all came tumbling down. You’d felt the love of God, you know the healing of the Holy Spirit and his community, but the lure of the quick, the rush, the cheap, the fake and MAN. The pain of relapse. I hear it all the time.
And then, for the purposes of this series and this project, there’s one more that has everything to do with human trafficking. Because guys here – some women, too, but more guys – know the beautiful design for married sex, the joining together of body, mind, and soul, where your partner is not a tool for YOUR PLEASURE but is instead a SOUL YOU TREASURE. You know what it’s like in the context of a covenanted, committed marriage – or you know the purity of waiting for it – and yet, and yet, you’ve relapsed into the NOT GOD of porn. The idol of a strip club. The faux reality of a relationship you pay for. And guys get enslaved.
Yeah, guys get enslaved. In the way that porn and sex create certain neural pathways in the human brain, what I’m talking about is every bit as addictive as crack, meth, booze. The percentages seem to be relatively the same for guys in and out of church – over 50% they tell us – it’s just that church guys, thankfully, are much more likely to see it as a problem that needs addressing rather than a reality worth accepting. But I’m telling you this as part of this series because the pull of what’s phony and the pain of the relapse leads to the sad truth that IF NOT FOR THE SICKENING DEMAND OF CHRISTIAN MEN, THERE WOULD NOT BE SUCH A TRAUMATIZED SUPPLY OF TRAFFICKED GIRLS. There is a demand – Xn men part of it – that has led to the supply. The very supply that both globally and locally we want to help rescue & restore.
It’s not JUST church men, mind you. What a bizarre interview John Mayer (AV) gave a few years ago. You know, rock star. Means, in the ways of the world, has many women at his beck and his call. And he said in the interview he prefers pornographic sex to the real thing. Less demanding, less emotional, fewer strings. Chooses the fake over the real. Or even this that I saw: TWEET screenshot about US being both top producer AND consumer of child porn. Bleh. Bleh. Bleh. And the women & girls caught up in what I’m talking about – each one in truth a daughter of the King! – are part of a system that gives cheap, momentary thrills to a whole lotta guys and a few women and the aftermath is a bitter pill of shame and regret. The thing that a lot of you brought with you today, and so many of you have struggled, fought, white knuckled and got good and then, and then, found yourself at the screen again, falling into the porn vortex. Afterwards, you were like “Why did I do that AGAIN?!”
A lot of you who are single, you know the authentic joy of premarital purity and if you’re married you’ve had covenant joy with a real mate and yet the pull of what phony and the pain of relapse is so real and so heavy. Enslaved men enslave women.
And so that’s heavy and that’s difficult and that’s truthful and that’s squirm worthy. And it’s devastatingly accurate. But listen: there is no secret in this place that God doesn’t already know. I don’t want you to grovel in shame from this; I want you to grow towards health. For YOUR sake AND for the sake of the girls YOU are victimizing. For your soul and the lives of that traumatized supply that your demand has created. And to do that, look at where Paul goes next in Galatians 4:12-15:
12 I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. 13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, 14 and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15 Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.
Now: at first glance, that’s a bit ho-hum. He has been together with theses folks in Galatia, they had sympathy for his physical condition, Paul was likely sick in his eyes (malaria?), and in all that there was much sharing of life. Yet in what looks boring and mundane there is actually the key to escaping the lure of the NOT GODS and the pain of the relapse. It’s the process of being together, of vulnerability with struggles, of sharing issues and ick and hopes and dreams with one another. See so many of you who are caught up in the kind of life I’ve talked about, you want DELIVERANCE! Snap me, Lord, and give me BREAKTHROUGH from this enslavement! And by and large it doesn’t work that way! It’s not a moment; it’s a journey. It’s not magic, it’s work. You want one leap and God, in his goodness, sends 12 steps. The Rx for the kind of health and freedom I’m talking about – where the REAL GOD is so near and so lovely that all the NOT GODS lose their appeal – comes with open and honest sharing. Here’s what I mean, whenever the lure of the fake converges with the pain of the relapse: Your vulnerability is the prelude to your victory. Yeah, that’s it, guys. Our collective victory over human trafficking & the rape-for-profit industry happens at the same time as your victory over the NOT GOD of fake sex in your life and in your mind. Your vulnerability is the prelude to your victory.
Do you know what that looks like? A bit like this from Max Lucado:
Confession does for the soul what preparing the land does for the field. Before the farmer sows the seed, he works the acreage, removing the rocks and pulling the stumps. He knows that seed grows better if the land is prepared. Confession is the act of inviting God to walk the acreage of our hearts. “There’s a rock of greed over there, Father; I can’t budge it. And that tree of guilt near the fence? Its roots are long and deep. And may I show you some dry soil, too crusty for seed?” God’s seed grows better if the soil of the heart is cleared.
Your vulnerability is the prelude to your victory.
Or, maybe even more particularly, it looks like this note I received from a guy:
Thanks for insisting I get a counselor and find a recovery group. I kept trying to do it on my own and it wasn’t working.
And sometimes it looks like Paul’s final question in 4:16:
16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Who has permission to tell you the truth? Is it your LifeGroup? Is it your counselor? Is it your friend? It is your spouse? Who do you allow the privilege and the proximity of truth telling? To which you don’t respond with half truths or full lies?
See, this is why I believe what we’re doing on Friday night with Counselor Jim Cress matters. We want that even to open up all kinds of vulnerability – even on issues having nothing to do with trafficking or sex – so that guys can live lives of victory, not victimizing. It’s why I’m encouraging you to sign up on your phone even right now. Food, friendship, conversation, spot on teaching, all leading to REFRAIN among the men of this church. Your vulnerability is the prelude to your victory.
Because I long for the day when the men and women of GS abandon every NOT GOD, especially the ones involving fake sex and embrace the vulnerability of each other. In that vulnerability – here’s what I’m going through, here’s how I struggle, here’s how you can check on me – is victory over what corrodes.
Because wouldn’t it be great, wouldn’t it be marvelous, if tonight and the night after and the night after, before settling into bed you did what they call a searching and fearless moral inventory of your day. And you looked back over your dad and you hadn’t snapped at your spouse or your kids. You hadn’t kicked the dog. You hadn’t given half the peace sign to the guy cutting you off at the Buster Boyd bridge. And … you hadn’t sent a flirty text. You hadn’t checked on a iffy website. You had removed Tindr from your phone. You hadn’t wasted hours of God-given time devoted to the NOT GODS of internet images. All you had done was live whole and free. You were neither enslaved nor enslaving. And with that clear conscience, all you wanted to do was sleep well, get up the next morning, and do it all over again. That’s my prayer. Your vulnerability is the prelude to your victory.