Selected highlights from this sermon.
We know about diseases of the body, but did you realize that there are diseases of the soul as well?
Bitterness. Guilt. Resentment. Defilement. Regret. Deep hurt. Shame. Fear. Anger. Emptiness. Mistrust. All of these bring about a sense of disconnectedness from one another—and from God. We feel that He is angry with us, or we feel that He’s irrelevant and distant.
And no area of our lives spawns more diseases of the soul than the misuse of sexuality. Ask yourself: how often do I think about the holy Trinity of God? And now ask yourself: how often do I think about sexuality?
It’s time for all of us to understand our struggles—how they come about and why they can be so painful. And then we need to take that first step of restoring our souls—through the blood of Christ.
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Just as it is possible to have a disease of the body, so it is also possible to have a disease of the soul. When David said that the Lord was one who forgave all of his iniquities, and who healed all of his diseases, he was not thinking of physical diseases. He was thinking of diseases of the soul. For some people it may be guilt, bitterness, resentment or defilement. It’s like one woman, who was taken advantage of by a man, said, “I feel defiled.” For some it may be regret. It may be deep hurt, shame or fear. These are diseases of the soul, and as a result, if those diseases are not dealt with, there’s a sense of disconnectedness–disconnectedness from one another, disconnectedness from God, feeling that God is angry, irrelevant and distant. And the question is, how are those diseases to be healed?
There’s no area of our lives that spawns more diseases of the soul than the misuse of sexuality. As a matter of fact, when boundaries are crossed, there is anger, there is pain, there is emptiness, there is guilt, there is mistrust, and all of those diseases of the soul are spawned by disobedience.
I would say that the church historically has done a fairly good job of warning and preaching against the sins of the flesh, and there certainly is a place for that. As a matter of fact, in the second message in this series, I’m going to be speaking about that–the warning signs, the lies that you and I believe. But the problem simply is this: If all that we do is focus on the “Thou Shalt Nots” and give the warnings, we do not deal with the deeper issue of the appetite and the desires of the body and the soul.
You may say, “Well, why are you addressing this topic of restoring the soul?” Let me give you a few reasons. First of all, I’m going to speak to you men because I want to ask you a question. I am working on two messages on the Trinity, which I’m going to be preaching, God willing, at the end of this month. In fact, I’m learning all kinds of things about the Trinity and how the relationship of the persons in the Trinity is to be a model for us, and so forth. There’s much in the Word I did not know.
But let me ask you a question. How often do you think of the Trinity? How often in daydreaming does your mind go to the niceties of the doctrine of the Trinity? Now let me ask you a different question. How often do you think about sexuality? Do you see the difference? These are things that all of us think about. As a matter of fact, our nation is drowning in a sea of sensuality.
I heard it on the news. It’s hard for me to believe, but I’m only quoting what was said, and I assume it’s authentic. More money is spent in America on pornography than is spent on basketball, baseball and football combined, so you can see here that we have deep diseases of the soul that must be addressed.
There’s another reason why I speak about the topic, and that is to better understand our struggles, and to understand sexuality in such a way that we might know why it is that these diseases come about, and why they can be so painful. For example, if you are dealing with those who have been abused sexually, those of us who thankfully have been spared such indignities might be tempted to say, “Well, why don’t you just get on with your life? I mean, this happened so long ago. Why does it still hurt now? Okay, so you were betrayed and you had this happen to you! Get on with it!” What we need to do is to understand why many people can’t get on with it, and why healing sometimes does take time and why it hurts so much. A biblical understanding of these things will help us. And so I want you to know today that it is in the realm of sexuality that we are either blessed or cursed. We are either restored or we are destroyed.
There’s another reason why I speak on the topic, and that is that at the end of the day it’s only God who can really restore us. He’s the one who has the ability to cleanse our consciences. We do not. He is the one who is able to go down so much deeper even than human therapy. God is the one who is able to take the emptiness and to fill it. He’s the one who is able to take the pain and grant the ability to bear it. God is the one ultimately who heals the diseases of the soul.
What you’re going to find in these messages, God willing, and there will be perhaps seven or eight of them, is that it is my intention not just to condemn but to instruct. It is not just my intention to cut. It is also my intention, by the grace and the love of God, to heal.
Now to analyze all of this and to begin today, I want you to take your Bibles and turn to Genesis 1. We will be returning to Eden, to Paradise, perhaps a number of times in this series because it’s amazing how things got off track back here, and the implications are profound indeed.
First of all, we speak briefly about creation. I’m in Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” Verse 27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
It’s interesting why God says, “Let us make man in our own image.” Probably it’s a reference to the Trinity, because what we’re going to discover is that God, when He uses that word us is referring to the Trinity, and then it says that He created them male and female. Just like in the Trinity there is unity and individuality, so in the male-female relationship there is unity and individuality. As a matter of fact, as I’m discovering, the Trinity becomes a model for fellowship beyond the marriage relationship, and really a model for fellowship for all of us. Perhaps I’ll have an opportunity to preach on that sometime. But when God says, later on, that man and woman will be together, and it says in Genesis 2:24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh,” the word one in Hebrew, ahad, is the same word that is used when God says, “Behold, the Lord God is one Lord.”
The bottom line is that sexuality not only lies at the base of who we are as persons, but rather in Jewish understanding of the Old Testament (which I happen to think is correct interpretation) the sexual relationship should be the more glorious, intimate relationship that really mirrors our relationship with God to the extent that the Holy of Holies is where the high priest entered in one day a year, communing intimately with God. The Holy of Holies was referred to by the Jews as the bridal chamber, because here God was meeting with His people. In the very same way, in the intimacy of the marriage relationship, God is always there as we will see also in a future message. God is always there. He is present. This is to be a divine encounter.
Are you beginning to understand the sensitivity of this issue? What that really means is if you are involved in a sexual relationship outside of the man-woman relationship of marriage (if you are involved in any other kind of sexuality), it’s like barging into the Holy of Holies and desecrating the place. And even though you can receive forgiveness later, the fact is that there is furniture that has to be repaired, and there are boundaries that have to be rebuilt because there are some people who, once their temple is desecrated, have no boundaries. They have no ability to say no because of the desecration.
Do you understand now why some people just can’t walk away from away from it and say, “Well, it happened; it was a physical event”? No, it was a profoundly spiritual event, and as a result of the fall it is not (now) holy but also polluted. And this explains, by the way, how that no matter how many rationalizations you can have for sexual relationships outside of marriage, the simple fact is that those rationalizations fall to the ground in the midst of anger and in the midst of guilt and mistrust and emptiness. Why? It’s because we are violating that which is most holy, that which God created as most sacred. Well, the Bible says that Adam and Eve were naked, but they were not ashamed. It says in verse 25: “They felt no shame.”
So much for creation! Now let’s talk about the Fall. You know, of course, that the Fall polluted everything, and we won’t go into the details because you are well acquainted with this passage. But I want you to notice in Genesis 3:7 and 8 after Adam and Eve sinned it says: “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
As a result of sin, hiding is going to begin–hiding from one another and hiding from God. The secret life is now going to be very important, and much psychological energy is going to be absorbed in this business of hiding. Furthermore, appearances are going to be important–how you look, how the fig leaves that you wear look, how much should be exposed, how much should be covered, how much you pay for your fig leaves. All of that is going to be now something with which people are going to be absorbed. But more than that, shame will now enter into the world. And as a result of that shame, people are going to hide even better.
Let me say that, of course, there is an important aspect to shame. Part of the problem in our country is that people don’t even blush. There is no way for them to overcome their shame so they flaunt their shame. They take delight in their shame, and we have a lot of that. In fact, in the Old Testament God said to the nation Israel, “One of the problems is you no longer feel shame, you’ve gotten so used to your sins.
Lewis Smedes wrote, “A healthy sense of shame is perhaps the surest sign of our divine origin and human dignity. We are all closest to health when we let ourselves feel the pain and bend the lead to do something about it.”
This is objective shame. But as a result of the Fall, where everything becomes polluted, there is also going to be what is called subjective shame. Subjective shame is the shame that is imposed upon us by others. It would be interesting to take a vote here today and see how many of you were brought up in an alcoholic home, or an abusive home. What you find is tremendous shame. And of course, you can’t speak. You have to keep the family secrets. What you find in excessive parental control is sexual abuse. If you were in a home where there was ridicule and blaming, you have that sense of shame. I feel so sorry for homes where shame is used as kind of a weapon to make kids shape up, so natural sexual curiosity is shamed. And the parent thinks he’s going to keep his child from sin, and does not realize he is beginning to feel desires that the shame is going to eventually try to work out.
What are the effects of shame? First of all, it imprisons the soul. Adam and Eve were not looking for God, believe me. They were running from Him. The Bible says they were hiding from God. It imprisons the soul where people then begin to withdraw because they withdraw from healthy relationships, which is absolutely necessary for their wholeness, but they withdraw and they retreat within themselves, and the shame begins to feed on itself. It imprisons the soul. It diminishes the soul.
Obviously when we come before God we are unworthy, but this brings about the destructive unworthiness, the belief that one is somehow fatally flawed, and that there is no hope for oneself, and that even God is not able to intervene, because after all, we are so terrible. And so it diminishes the soul.
Could I say also that it focuses the soul, because you begin to think about what caused the shame, and it becomes an obsession? It becomes a preoccupation. I was counseling a woman who was abused as a child physically and sexually. She said that as she would go to school she thought for sure that all of the other students could see within her soul and could see the abuse and the tremendous shame. She said, “It was as if I had an “S” branded on my forehead – shame, shame, shame, shame!” And you can imagine the healing and the years of healing actually for her to overcome that shame.
Do you understand now that when it focuses the soul that it actually fuels addictions? And as a result of that, people tend to do over and over again the things that they know that they shouldn’t do. Why? Their temple has been desecrated. The boundaries have been violated. The pig has been brought into the sanctuary. And so there’s no use trying to do better because they are imprisoned with this shame, and the shame keeps fueling the thing that produces more shame.
You see, that’s why men, who are obsessed with pornography, don’t feel free to tell their wives about it because they think that all that they will get is more shame. And the shame that they deal with begets that which produces more shame. That’s why women who have had an abortion, and maybe their husbands don’t even know about it, have kept this secret to themselves, living with it, saying, “Well, you know, I’m forgiven by God.” Yes, they are forgiven by God, but you cannot be whole until you have a relationship with other people of acceptance and knowledge where others know you and accept you and affirm you as a human being. And so even though they are forgiven by God, somehow it’s always there.
What is God’s answer for shame? Well, you know, the Bible says… And now we’re looking in chapter 3 actually of Genesis. Notice verse 21. I believe that this is so wonderful. It says in verse 21: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us.’” And then they are expelled from the Garden. But the point is that they have garments of skin. Where did the skin come from? Obviously it came from the animals that God must have killed. And this is in anticipation of the coming of Jesus Christ where we will be covered, you see, with the righteousness of Christ. But even better than that, in the Old Testament you have all of that imagery of sin being taken away. Remember the goats on which sin was confessed, and one of the goats went into the forest and was never seen again? What is God trying to say? He was trying to say, “When I deal with sin it’s not just covering it. It’s actually removing it. It is taking away the shame. It is taking away the guilt. It is putting it in a place where you no longer have to look at it.”
Rodney Clapp, in an article that I quoted from, from this pulpit some time ago, in a wonderful article entitled Shame Crucified, said that the most dreadful thing about dying on a cross was the shame. In fact, the cross was called a tree of shame. And Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law having being made a curse for us, the Bible says, so that we might become His righteousness. And then in the article he goes on to ask the question, “How did Jesus handle the shame?” He said, “Does shame bind us? Yes, it does, and Jesus was bound. Does shame destroy our reputation? Yes, Jesus was despised and rejected. Does shame reduce us to silence? Yes, ‘He is led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb so He opens not His mouth.’” Does shame lead to abandonment? Yes, He was forsaken by God, and He was forsaken by His friends.
The Bible says in Hebrews 2, “Who for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising its shame.” In effect He was saying, “I’ll take the shame. I won’t bypass the shame because what I want to do is to shame shame, so that shame may no longer overpower my people. I will rob shame of its power. I will take it away so that nobody has to be permanently paralyzed, imprisoned by shame.”
Because of Jesus Christ’s victory over shame, we can now be a community in which we can accept one another despite our shame, because all of us have done things of which we are ashamed. We can create an atmosphere in which people can confess their need, and can know that there is hope not just to be forgiven by God, which is the first step, but also to be received and accepted by others in a wholesome relationship that takes away the shame.
It is seldom that my messages do any good before I preach them, but in this instance evidently there is a difference. Many months ago when I told the people at prayer meeting that I was going to speak on the topic of restoring the soul, a young woman in prayer meeting began to think about her own secrets, her own molestation that she experienced at the age of eleven in an alcoholic home where the mother was disconnected and not taking care of the protection of her children.
She wrote to me and told me she began to share with a believer her great need and what happened to her. She said, “I put that believer through torture. The more he knew about my ugly secret, the more I hated him. I feared that I would be viewed as an ugly secret.” In fact, she said, “I called him up and told him that I hated him for what he knew, but he replied that he would keep praying for me and not hate me in return.” She said, “That night I called on God’s name as I had never called on Him before. I prayed and I said, ‘Tonight I’m calling You something that I have never called You before.’” She was speaking to the Lord and she said, “I’m going to call You my Father.”
She said, “I prayed and I said, ‘I know You as creator, king and Lord, but tonight I need to know that I’m not just your servant. I am your daughter.’ She said the very next morning she was able to see the hand of grace. She said, “I felt the cord that began to sew up my wounds. Satan no longer torments me about my past. I yelled back, ‘I am still a child of God, saved by grace.’ Your series of messages need prayer and fasting because of people like me. We are afraid that our tears will show.”
I hope here at The Moody Church you are never afraid to cry. But she said, “We are afraid that our tears will show. We are afraid of our stitches-that the stitches will tear. We are afraid that others will find out. I wish I had the courage to give you this letter in person, but just writing this to you is all the courage that I can muster now.”
So the letter was given to me, but last Sunday evening she came to me and identified herself. And that’s when I asked permission to read this letter. I’d have never read it apart from permission because the last thing people who have been living in shame need is more surprises and betrayal.
But this is what she said to me. She said, “I had a choice to make. Either I would be an ugly secret, or I would be the daughter of God.” That’s the choice that some of you face. Do you want to be an ugly secret or do you want to be the daughter of God?
A couple of years ago, a student of mine gave me this story, which I will read to you.
In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room with walls covered with boxes of index files stretching from floor to ceiling. One box was labeled People I Have Liked. I opened it, and to my surprise, each card had the name of a person I knew. Then I realized where I was. This was the catalog file of my whole life. All the details, big and small, were recorded.
Both curiosity and fear stirred within me as I began to randomly open the files. Some brought back wonderful memories. Others triggered shame so intense that I glanced over my shoulder to make sure that no one was watching. The files included books I have read. Another television programs I have watched. There was one lies I have told and comfort I have given. Then there was things done in anger and another file, times I have cursed. There also were files titled people I have helped and prayers I have prayed.
I was overwhelmed with the sheer volume of the cards. There were hundreds of boxes and each contained hundreds of cards. I timidly opened the people I have hurt file, and was amazed at its depth, yet each card had my name and my signature.
I was drawn to the file, people I have shared the Gospel with and was embarrassed that the box was almost empty. When I moved on to the file people I’ve not forgiven I was surprised that the box was almost full. I did not have to look at each card because I knew intuitively that these files were accurate. No mistakes here!
I glanced up and the file I dreaded most, lustful thoughts, was in front of me. A shameful chill ran through my body. I opened the file, but only for a moment, not willing to test its bulk and its size. Out of the corner of my eye I saw another file on various sexual sins. I pretended not to notice and turned away.
I was obsessed with destroying the cards but found that I could not. Though they were thin, they were as strong as steel. In fact, I could not even dislodge them from the file cabinets they were in. By now only one thought dominated my mind. No one must ever see these cards. No one must ever enter into this room.
Tears came to my eyes. I sobbed so violently that I began to shake. I fell on my knees and cried, humiliated and afraid. I must lock the room and hide the key. As I wiped my ears away and was about to stand up I noticed that someone had entered into the room. I glanced up at His face and then I saw Him. No, not Him! Not Him! Anyone but Jesus!
I turned away, burning with shame. Then He began to open the files and read the cards. He went from box to box and when I glanced up I saw sorrow on His face that was just as deep as my own. Why did He have to look at them?
After a few moments He walked over and put His arm around me. He said nothing but just cried with me. Then He began to systematically go through the files one by one from beginning to end, signing His name on each card. “No, no,” I sobbed, “You can’t do that.” I was amazed at how quickly He went through all of the boxes, and when He was finished He showed me some cards up close. And I noticed that on each was His signature, signed with His own blood, covering my name. I turned away and cried.
By now He was standing beside me. He put His hand on my shoulder and said, “It is finished.” He waited in silence for me to dry my tears, and then He led me out of the room. Suddenly a verse I memorized in Sunday school flashed into my mind: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” Together we walked down the hallway, but the door was left unlocked. My life was not yet over, and there were cards that still needed to be written.
A minister friend of mine who committed adultery and destroyed two marriages–his own and that of someone else’s… I rode with him in his car. I know I’ve told you this story before. As he put on the stereo as loudly as we could bear he played:
Calvary covers it all,
my past with its sin and stain (It could read shame.), my guilt and despair, Jesus took on Him there.
And Calvary covers it all.
The first step in healing is to be cleansed by Christ’s blood. The decision that many of you here today, and listening by radio or by other means, have to make is this: Will you be an ugly secret or a daughter or a son of the living God?
Let us pray.
Our Father, we thank You today that You are indeed the healer of souls. You bind up the broken-hearted, Your Word says, and You bind up their wounds. Today, Father, we’ve opened some wounds. Today, Father, some people have been awakened to a past, and we ask today, Father, in the name of Jesus that You will grant them the ability to first of all receive Your cleansing and then, Father, to speak to someone in their small groups, one of their friends, to tell them their story and be affirmed, and in that forgiveness the shame might be removed.
We pray for the deliverance of those, Father, struggling with pornography, those who are in immoral relationships. Even now as they are listening we ask today, Father, that you will give them the desire and the strength to do what needs to be done to rebuild a desecrated temple. Oh Father, we cry up to You today. Come and heal Your people. Forgive them and set us free.
Before I close this message, how many of you say today, “Pastor Lutzer, today I accept Christ’s cleansing for my past?” Would you raise your hands please–throughout the auditorium? We thank God that many hands are raised–more than I can count. Today accept Christ’s cleansing. Calvary covers it all.
Father, for those who have raised their hands, and those who should have, we ask today for Your cleansing and Your forgiveness and Your healing. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
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