The Power of Deception

In my particular ministry calling, my passion is to help men develop an authentic personal relationship with Christ, and help them understand the significance of meeting consistently with other men for the purpose of deeper spiritual growth and accountability.  This requires an approach to ministry that is very relational and very intentional, and the reasons for this are obvious.

In many cases, even the best traditional efforts to minister to men in the most effective ways, still fall short with respect to addressing the real needs of men, and providing a genuine path of healing for them when caught in the power of deception and the snares of their wounds.

When thinking about our own deceptive behavior as men, we tend to think in very narrow and technical terms.  Our own selfish interest and rationalized thinking erases any feelings of guilt or concern for the need of accountability.  This narrow view of deception helps us maintain a positive self-image, and makes it easier to mislead others.  Our deception of others and even ourselves will go unnoticed.  

Deception for the most part is not just telling outright lies, but is most effectively accomplished by what is being left unsaid.  A close friend in ministry once told me that deception will be normal behavior if you believe that you are free to live your life unnoticed by God and the enemy of your soul. 

"See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ."  -  Colossians 2:8

The enemy knows our weaknesses as men and uses them to deceive us in very creative and enticing ways.  There is something inside of us that wants to believe our deception is acceptable or even true.  We all struggle with temptation as men, but the enemy will deceive us to give in to temptation and hold us in bondage to our sin... self-deception.

The tragedy of self-deception is that we do not even know when we are self-deceived; if we did, it would not be deception.  When this happens we find ourselves on a downward spiral of moral decay.

When one digs below the surface of the wounded and broken areas of men’s lives, deception will become exposed.  Today there is one particular deceptive issue inflicting major casualties, doing more damage than any other issue… sexual addiction.  

Astounding numbers of men, both Christian and non-Christian, are struggling with an addiction to on-line pornography.  They feel alone and deeply wounded with fear and shame.  Consequently they don’t know how to break free from the chains that hold them captive, and therefore live a life enslaved to this deceptive “drug” of choice. 

This issue has reached epidemic proportions and has become all too common in my ministry work with men.  It is devastating almost every area of men’s lives, while destroying marriages, families, and careers.  Trust has been shattered and relationships have been broken.  This is not the way it was meant to be.

Sexual addiction and on-line pornography is a symptom of broken masculinity, that requires us as men to explore the deeper heart issue of inordinate passions and misplaced spiritual hungers.  In order to do this we will need to be intentional, doing whatever it takes to break through the barriers created by pride, ego, and denial, and boldly fight to defeat our self-absorbed isolation, deception, and shame.  

"The need today is for a company of overcoming saints who know how to wage war for the release of those under the enemy's deception."  -  Watchman Nee

Simply trying harder to resist temptation or making a commitment to change your behavior is not enough.  God is not interested in behavior modification, only heart transformation, and the critical issue of sexual addiction is deeply rooted in the heart.

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” – Matthew 15:19

The good news is that Jesus came to transform our hearts and to bring freedom to those held captive.  Only by working together as men, will we be able to break the chains and win this battle for purity.  The journey will not be easy, but the first step is being vulnerable enough to reach out to another trusted brother in Christ for help.  Your healing begins at that very moment, and God will use every barrier along the way as an integral part of building the bridge of grace to your freedom.

Written by Steven Fessler
Priority One Ministries

Listen and Learn to Love Well

Has your heart broken over the lives lost in Aleppo? Have you mourned over the tragic deaths of black men and women and police officers in our country? Have you listened to the stories and experiences of those who feel marginalized and oppressed?

The summer after my freshman year of college, I spent 11 months living and serving in a local church in Chicago. I taught adult literacy classes and volunteered with an after-school program at the local library. For the first time in my life, I was the minority. Prior to that year, I thought everyone had equal opportunity in life if they just worked hard. I didn’t understand the disparities between suburban schools and inner city schools. I didn’t understand why everyone didn’t trust police officers. I didn’t realize how difficult and uncomfortable public transportation could be. As I listened, observed, and learned from my new friends, I realized I had so much more to learn.

That journey of learning continues.

But to be honest, it’s hard sometimes. It can be so much easier to organize around comfort and security and not take the time to try to step into someone else’s shoes and see the world through their eyes. It can be confusing when it isn’t what you or I have experienced. It can be overwhelming.

I continue circling back to God’s call to love my neighbors. My neighbors aren’t only the people who shop where I do, look like me, send their kids to the same school to which I send mine, share the same political affiliation, or even attend the same church—at least not according to Scripture.

Jesus shared the parable of the Good Samaritan to teach us who we should consider our neighbors and what it means to love them. Tim Keller shared the following in Generous Justice:

What was Jesus doing with this story? He was giving a radical answer to the question, What does it mean to love your neighbor? What is the definition of “love”? Jesus answered that by depicting a man meeting material, physical, and economic needs through deeds. Caring for people’s material and economic needs is not an option for Jesus… He said it means being sacrificially involved with the vulnerable, just as the Samaritan risked his life by stopping on the road. But Jesus refuses to let us limit not only how we love, but who we love. It is typical for us to think of our neighbors as people of the same social class and means (cf. Luke 14:12). We instinctively tend to limit for whom we exert ourselves. We do it for people like us, and for people whom we like. Jesus will have none of that. By depicting a Samaritan helping a Jew, Jesus could not have found a more forceful way to say that anyone at all in need—regardless of race, politics, class, and religion is your neighbor. Not everyone is your brother or sister in the faith, but everyone is your neighbor, and you must love your neighbor. (Keller, 2010, p.67-68) [emphasis added]

When training to become a counselor, my fellow classmates and I learned and practiced active listening skills. This can be a helpful starting place for all of us as we continue this journey of learning to love others who may be different than us. Active listening involves asking questions, reflecting, summarizing, etc. all for the purpose of seeking to truly understand the other and his or her experiences. You try to enter into the world of another, not dismiss or diminish their beliefs, perspectives, or experiences.

Listening is an outward sign of inward love and humility. It isn’t easy and can be uncomfortable and disruptive, but that’s OK.

If you find yourself in a place of not being willing to listen, ask yourself why not. God extends enough grace to wrestle through what’s going on at the heart level for you. A starting place might be consistent prayer asking God to help you see the world and others like He does.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 16, at 6:30 p.m., Greater Shiloh Church will host an event with the theme “Dr. King: Dream Come True, or a Dream Deferred?” The evening will include a speech rendition from a young man in the church, a performance by the Temple Covenant of Peace Youth Choir, remarks from dignitaries, and a panel discussion. This event is an opportunity to take a practical next step in your journey of learning to love your neighbor, right here in Easton.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). May we be a people committed to loving one another across racial, political, denominational, and socioeconomic lines. And may we image God to a hurting, watching world by our love for God and our neighbor, even if that neighbor lives in another neighborhood, country, or practices another religion. 

Keller, Tim. (2010). Generous Justice. New York, NY: Penguin Books. 

IMG_9194.jpg

Written by Hannah Wildasin, MA