I just saw this article on CBN News:
It was written by Josh McDowell and Ben Bennett. They are two powerhouses of the faith, especially in the realms of apologetics and doctrine, especially to a secular age overwhelmed with anti-Christian sentiment.
The headline poses a worthy question: why are leaders in Christendom falling into sexual sin? Why is there this explosion of sexual perversion in the church, or at least so it seems?
Ravi Zacharias, Carl Lentz, Josh Duggar ... the list goes on. Why do leaders continue to fall into extramarital affairs, sexual abuse, and porn?
Why is this happening? Some research suggests that 40% of Christians are still struggling with porn addiction. This is in the Body of Christ! What is going on?
The aftershocks have been devastating, causing feelings of betrayal, deep pain, and trauma that make life in this new normal even more unbearable, uncertain, and confusing. This pain has led many into skepticism resulting in abandoning their faith.
I do understand the feelings of pain, but betrayal? Honestly, fellow believers in the Body of Christ need to stop putting their hope and trust in their pastors, in other people. This is a magnified problem. We are called to One Person: Jesus Christ. We are not called to princes, pastors, or potentates. We are called to One Prince of Peace.
Are these crises simply a matter of broken human nature, and might we be just a moment away from similar acts? Or is the reality more complex?
We would like to propose that many people suffer from a significant growth gap—a tendency to focus more on spiritual activity than spiritual identity. Many churches have a typical growth model where people are thought to grow primarily by external activity–-serving in church, praying, and Bible reading. There is a better way: one of internal maturation spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. We must deal with our pain and the unhealthy relational and family dynamics we grew up in, move from isolation to connection, and grow into who God has made us to be so that we will be able to love Him and others.
This is a profoundly correct assessment. Too many of us will think that someone is spiritually mature because they are doing a lot of "stuff." The issue is indeed identity! Who are we?
Do we see ourselves as Beloved Children of the Living God?
"And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God." (Romans 9:26)
Do we know that we are accepted (highly favored) in the Beloved Son, Jesus Christ? (Ephesians 1:6)
I submit that many Christians do not know this, or they do not believe it:
"And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." (1 John 4:16)
How often do we hear about God's love for us preached? How often do we hear about Jesus in our churches and in our pulpits?
After being sexually abused as a child and experiencing pain from my dysfunctional family, I (Josh) harbored deep hurts. When I became a Christian many things did improve, but eventually my unresolved pain caught up to me. Even though my ministry thrived, I didn't. I found myself exhausted, angry, and struggling to cope with unhealed emotional wounds. For example, whenever my mom complained about the abuse she received from my father, I bore the responsibility for stopping him and carrying the burden of my mom's emotional distress. Rescuing loved ones became one of the few ways I could gain my family's acceptance and love. Unfortunately, this behavior continued into my adult life; the world's problems were mine to solve. I remember this growth gap well. Do you find this familiar?
Notice how Josh McDowell talks about trying to earn acceptance and love. That is so contrary to the Gospel. We ARE already accepted in Christ Jesus! That is amazing! It takes time for our minds to be renewed to othis revelation. (Romans 12:2)
Although rescuing gave me temporary value and a counterfeit version of the acceptance God longed for me to experience, I was emotionally a wounded little boy in many ways. I had not outgrown that survival mechanism even when I was well into my fifties. My emotional growth was stunted because I hadn't dealt with unresolved parts of my story; this inhibited my relationship with God, myself, and others. Angry, exhausted, and struggling to go on, I needed serious healing.
Abuse in childhood leads to so much wrong believing in adulthood. Yes, indeed.
Similarly, I (Ben) grew up struggling with deep wounds, confusion, and trauma. I felt that I couldn't meet my dad's expectations, and I often faced his disapproval and intense anger. In addition, I was constantly bullied for being overweight and a Christian. Despite the decision I made to follow Christ at a young age, somehow I became a hostage to spiraling fear, anxiety, and depression that, at times, caused me to dissociate from the present.
There is so much condemnation, even in churches. There is such a focus on getting people to change their behavior (i.e. spiritual activity) rather than metanoia, i.e. change one's beliefs, one's thinking (i.e. spiritual identity).
Then came my struggle with food, porn, and alcohol, which unfortunately lasted through my first couple of years in full-time ministry. Although I constantly prayed, studied Scripture, and faithfully served at church, my struggles only escalated. Suicidal thoughts joined the cacophony of chaos inside my head. Could God really heal me and set me free? Could things ever really improve?
Yes, but He changes us, not we ourselves.
Our stories aren't anomalies. After 75+ years of combined ministry, we've seen so much brokenness, hurt, and addiction. The world is in crisis, and we need a radical move of God to heal our brokenness and bring about abundant wholeness. However, we won't experience this better life until we confront the root cause of this widespread brokenness. This is one of the reasons we developed the Wholeness Apologetic Model. Through research and biblical truth, this model details how we heal, experience freedom from unhealthy behaviors, and mature spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. Together, we are on a mission to help others break Free to Thrive—to live the abundant Christian life.
Now here come my concerns. There is all this talk about our living the Christian life. Christ is our live. We are called to a Person, folks. Not to principles, precepts, or programs.
Though I (Josh) had a theological degree, best-selling books, and a global ministry that reached millions annually, my own spiritual growth was stunted. On the outside I may have looked like a spiritually mature Christian leader, but that was a superficial appearance. A key principle of the Wholeness Apologetic Model explains that our spiritual maturity isn't determined by our level of knowledge about God nor by the number of good things we do or how much we pray, read the Bible, serve, or go to church. Rather, spiritual maturity is a product of our love for God, ourselves, and others, unmistakably resulting in Christ-likeness. Stated another way, mature Christians are emotionally and relationally whole Christians.
This paragraph is completely wrong. Our maturity is not based on our love for God.
Spiritual maturity is based on our revelation of God's love for us! We need to understand more of how much He loves us!
This theme could not be made any clearer in Scripture, throughout the New Testament!
"We love because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19)
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10)
"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not." (1 John 3:1)
Notice that John wants us to behold the Father's love for us! It's not about our love for Him. It's all about His love for us.
And consider -- if someone is bogged down in addictions of some kind, John gives the reason why:
"15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." (1 John 2:15-16)
Why do men and women in ministry still struggle with all kinds of issues, hardships, mental anguish, bondages, and addictions? The love of the Father is not in them.
It's not "The Love for the Father." It's about His love for us!
I am so frustrated that there are so many men and women of the Faith who are not focusing on Jesus and all that He is providing for us. There is such a strong insistence on putting more effort, more work, more struggle on the believer. "You need to love God more!" "You need to do more for God, and not just do more!"
And all this time, they are still missing the basic, wonderful wisdom of God's Word to resolve all these issues.
And let us never forget that Christ is our Wisdom, too, first and foremost! (1 Corinthians 1:30)
In the Bible, we see this model illustrated by Jesus in Luke 2:52: "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." In addition, Jesus shows the direct connection between our relationship with God (spiritual), ourselves (emotional), and others (relational) when he sums up the law: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind ... And ... 'Love others as much as you love yourself'" (Matthew 22:37, 39 CEV).
That is the law. That is not grace. That is not the New Covenant. Oh, foolish and slow of heart to believe! (Luke 24:25) It's so frustrating that so many preachers do not rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15). We are no longer under law, trying to relate to Daddy God based on rules and regulations. It's about relationship, and it is about reality.
So many Christians do not understand this wonderful movement, this wonderful transformation. They want to live under law, they want to still earn goody-goody points, when that is not of faith!
Bottom line, if we don't deal with our own stuff, other people will have to. What isn't healed will be revealed: Whether we knowingly hide our sins and unhealthy habits or are just unaware of the unresolved, unmet needs and pain from our past, everything will be brought to light—possibly with the devastating consequence of having God's name and our unhealthy brokenness publicly strewn across news headlines. Luke 8:17 conveys this principle best: "For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all" (NLT).
Who said anything about us dealing with our own stuff? If we could deal with our own stuff, Josh and Ben, then Jesus would not have needed to die on the Cross in the first place!
All this man-centered pop-psych is causing the church to go "Pop!"
After constantly feeling on the verge of emotional and physical exhaustion, I (Josh) finally hit my breaking point. I called Dr. Henry Cloud, a close friend and the best psychologist I know, and we began meeting weekly. Dr. Cloud helped me understand my heart's deep, unmet longings, which had been compounded since my childhood. Although I thought I had moved beyond my issues, I discovered problems I had buried alive and the wake of destruction that I had left behind.
Those unmet longings are met in Christ. Do they not see Him as real? Do they not recognize that Jesus is alive and is caring for them actively? We need to see more of Him, and know that He is for us. We need to stop doing more, and ask the LORD to help us see more!
"17That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints," (Ephesians 1:17-18)
"16That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." (Ephesians 3:16-19)
I thank God for providing a friend and therapist to kickstart my journey toward healing and freedom. Henry helped me quench these unwanted behaviors in healthy, satisfying ways. Over several years, God healed me and gave me eyes to see myself as He did. And I also learned how to set healthy boundaries—to give and receive love and acceptance from God and others.
Let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with seeking out a Christian counselor to help deal with serious emotional pain. But connection with other people should at its core and mission point people to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of Faith (Hebrews 12:1-2)
After hitting bottom, I (Ben) also decided to go all in to overcome my past struggles. After years of trauma therapy, recovery groups, and counseling, I saw God bring understanding, healing, and freedom. My hurts from previous relationships found healing in healthy, new relationships as God and others began to meet my hunger for acceptance, safety, and love. Over time, I was set free from lifelong struggles with food, porn, and alcohol.
I submit that more people need to hear about Jesus. They need to hear about His perfect, unconditional unending love for all of us. They need to understand that God's love for us is not based on fancy or feelings, but is a real, rugged, righteous hug from the eternal Loving Father. We are not in love with a vision statement or a principle. We are called into loving family relationship with Jesus!
Jesus's invitation to us is to seek health and healing today. In turn, our goal is to create healthy communities that value who we're becoming over what we're doing. Finally, remember that Jesus's words tell us to not simply make converts but rather create disciples—"teaching them to obey everything I have commanded" (Matthew 28:20). Therefore, let's endeavor to reproduce mature disciples who are growing spiritually, emotionally, and relationally into the full measure of Christ.Jesus is our health. Jesus is our healing. It shocks me to what extent men and women in the church still talk about all these other ideas and programs for helping people, when the truth is that we need to see Jesus. We need more favor, we need to understand the full extent of our new righteous standing, identity, and future in Christ Jesus.