I greatly appreciate the ministry of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF), located in Philadelphia. Their mission is to “Restore Christ to Counseling and Counseling to the Church.” Besides offering counseling services in their home office, they provide on-site training and distance education for leaders, pastors, counselors, and people with a heart for discipleship. They also produce the Journal of Biblical Counseling and host a national conference each fall.
I love the fact that they are very biblically sound and Christ-centered in their approach to counseling. If you haven’t explored their website, I’d encourage you to do so. It isn’t just for counselors—it has lots of great resources for anyone desiring to grow in their Christian walk, including this excellent article by Ed Welch, counselor and faculty member at CCEF.
Fighting Sin Hurts
By: Ed Welch
Doesn’t it seem good and right to fight against sin in such a way that it physically hurts? To say “no” when everything inside us wants to say “yes”?
And the last time that happened was . . .
Sin takes different forms such as pride, unbelief and lust. It is lust in particular— reckless desire, covetousness, I WANT!—that hurts when taken to task.
Desires that exceed God’s boundaries exist in every human heart. There is always an I WANT! that stalks us. Sex, gluttony, addictions are common ones. Look for anger and you’ll find it. Search your imagination—I WANT is there.
Now imagine saying “no” to these desires in such a way that you would feel something close to actual pain. It hurts but it’s also good. But let’s not stop there.
Imagine something even better. You say “no” and it hurts—then temptation fights back—and you say “no” again. This puts you among the spiritual elite though it is what we expect in the normal Christian life. Jesus went into the desert and said “no” to the tempter in order to demonstrate his messianic credentials and to succeed where we failed. His success grants us new power to fight as, by faith, we are joined to him.
There is a beauty in saying “no” and using those dormant muscles of self-control. And, because it is the Spirit’s power in you, you don’t become a dour ascetic, but discover hints of contentment and satisfaction. These are marks of the Spirit. And with the Spirit’s power, you have undeniable evidence that you belong to your Father. No mere mortal can persevere in a painful battle with renegade desires.
As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” (Acts 24:25)
Righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come. We don’t know what pushed Felix over the edge; it might have been the judgment. We do know that Paul placed self-control among the central features of our human dilemma, and he proclaimed a gospel that offered compelling answers. He argued that self-control was a great gift and was now available to us in Jesus. No doubt he would have emphasized self-control if most of us were sitting next to him too.
If so, no wonder Scripture calls you a holy one, beloved and mighty—you are a delight to your Father.
If so, you have made the power of God known to rulers and authorities in heavenly realms—you are a menace to the Devil.
If so, you are blessed. The battle is worth it.
If so, pray that the rest of us would have that same power.
And tell your story.