The Squeezings of my Brain Grapes.
Go Now, And Leave Your Life Of Sin

We’re all supposed to believe that God forgives us.  And, sure, intellectually, we do.  But, for a lot of us, that just isn’t how we feel.

Truth is, we don’t feel forgiven.  We don’t feel “free”.  No, for a lot of us, we feel dirty, used-up, and out of second chances.  We might know that isn’t true, but that knowledge doesn’t change the feeling.

If you feel that way, this is for you.

There’s an amazing moment in the Bible where Jesus comes face-to-face with a woman caught in the act of sinning.  And, I’m talking about big old embarrassing sexual sin, the kind you hope nobody ever finds out about.

Jesus says two things to this woman. First, he says, “I do not condemn you.”  Second, he says, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  (You can read the whole story in John chapter 8.)

Now, the first one - I don’t condemn you - that sounds about right.  I mean, Jesus is supposed to forgive people, so, that makes sense.

But let’s look at that second one.  "Go now and leave your life of sin."

If you asked most people what it means to leave a “life of sin”, they’d say, “Simple!  Stop doing bad stuff!”  But I’m not sure that’s exactly it.

See, sin, at its core, is about selfishness.  It’s a focus on me, and what I think might satisfy me at any given moment, regardless of anybody else.  By contrast, a life driven by God’s Spirit is a life focused on God, what God wants, and what God is doing.  (For more on this, check out the book of Galatians, and especially chapter 5.)

So, then, if our hearts and thoughts are consumed with beating up on ourselves for past sins, and trying to grit our teeth and whip ourselves to resist present temptations, sin is still the thing at the center of our lives.  We’re focused on our jacked-up mess, and what the heck is wrong with us, and how terrible we are.

Here’s what the Bible says about that:

"Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored." (Romans 8:8, MSG)

Whoa.  That does not sound good.  Ok.  So, what do we do instead?

We recognize that leaving a life of sin is about, well, leaving a life of sin.  It’s about putting something else at the center of our thoughts and energies.  It’s about having a life driven by something other than the draw and repulsion of sin.

If you want to leave your life of sin, I’ve got two suggestions for you.

First, don’t wait around for your emotions to agree with what God is telling you. He says you stand forgiven, and you do.  Waiting for 100% buy-in from your feelings…that’s a very long wait.

Second, take the focus off of yourself, and put it onto loving other people. 

It sounds funny to say it out loud, but, people who are hurting, people who are going through a rough time, they don’t care what you’ve done in your past.  The lonely kid in class who cuts himself?  If you’re willing to talk to him and be a friend, he’s not going to double check the last time you looked at porn before accepting your company.  The homeless guy at the soup kitchen who hasn’t eaten in three days?  He couldn’t care less if you went too far physically with your last boyfriend.  It just doesn’t matter.

And when you start to focus on loving other people, instead of obsessing over your sins, you’ll begin to realize, for yourself, that the sins don’t matter in the way you thought they did.  Sure, they were wrong.  Yes, we want to work on not doing them.  But they don’t define you.  They don’t tell you who you are.  And they don’t tell you what your life is about.

Beloved, leave your life of sin.  Leave your life of guilt and shame and introspection and obsession.  Jesus has a real life he wants to give you – a life following Him, a life serving others – and, I promise, it’s absolutely amazing.

I’m Tormented By Lust. What Do I Do?

Anonymous asked:
You have a beautiful picture of sex and marriage that I can hardly comprehend. I have been entrenched in to masturbation and lust for several years, even before being born again. I want the healthy, pure, and godly marriage that God has for me, but I almost don’t think that it is possible given how frequently I struggle with this particular sin. So often (I am sure from viewing pornography) when I see a girl my mind imagines her unclothed and it is a constant torment. How can I get out of this?

Jed Brewer replied:

Bro, I’m sorry you’re hurting.  I really am.

If you’re open to a crazy thought, I think it’s worth considering, even for a moment, that, just maybe, lust isn’t your main problem.

Yes, I get that you have looked at a lot of porn, given into a lot of lust, and engaged in masturbation on a regular basis.  That’s terrain I know well, and from personal experience.  And, yes, all of that is wrong.

But – and this is a very, very big but – it’s a pretty huge leap to go from saying, “I’m doing this wrong thing, and I know it ain’t good”, to saying, “Probably, God can’t bless me anymore, and I’m in torment.” 

Look, yes, mentally undressing girls is not a righteous thing to do.  It is, however, something that basically every man on the planet has done many, many times.  If God can’t deal with a serial-mental-undresser, then he really can’t deal with anyone.  All we’ve got down here are sinners.

Like I said, I don’t think the problem here is lust.  I think it’s shame.

I get the sense that you think you’re a pervert.  The problem with that thought is that you’re thinking your past (and present) mistakes define you.  They don’t.

Your identity is not “pervert”.  It’s “sinner-save-by-grace, and adopted Child-of-God.”  There’s no place for shame in that.  God knows you have issues, and he loves you anyway.

I think the challenge before you is not getting rid of lust – although that will come in time.  I think the challenge before you is accepting that God loves, desires, embraces, and accepts you today, as you are.  That he knows you’re a dude who is eaten up by lust, and he loves you anyway.  That he has enough grace to handle your failures, and enough strength to handle your weakness.

Here’s what the Bible says:

“I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” (2 Cor 12:7-9, NIV)

So what’s the answer?  Simple.  

Let God love you.  Let him embrace you.  Get a copy of the Bible in The Message translation, read Ephesians chapter 1, and choose to accept that God is talking about you.  Read the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and make up your mind that God’s talking about you.  Read the story of the treasure hidden in a field (Matthew 13:44) and decide to believe that the treasure God sold everything to have is you. 

Choke that shame out.  Show it no mercy.  Put it to death, and let God’s love for you take its place.  That love will change you, and in ways that nothing else can.

Lastly, relax.  As impossible as it sounds, let yourself relax.  Bro, you are not a super-sinner.  You just aren’t.  I work in prison ministry, and I deal with guys who have made an art form out of sinning, and God most definitely is prepared to receive them.  Well,  if God can receive my brothers from County, then he can receive you.  And he wants to, more than anything.

What Am I Supposed To Think When I See Amazing Christians Fall?

jesusandalex asked you:
Hi Jed! What does it really mean when God say he will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand? I’ve watch video of artists who seem to have a relationship with Christ falls short of His glory and never return back. Why did God allow them to be tempted to the point of despair and death? Thank you!

Jed Brewer replied:

Hey Alex,

It sucks to see that happen.  It really does.

The truth is that we each make our own choices.  And sometimes, we make really, really bad ones.

God gave us free will because you can’t have love without it.  Love has to be chosen.  But with the ability to choose comes the ability to choose wrong.

The big problem is that sin has a momentum to it.  Once we start making really bad choices, we tend to keep on making more and more of them.  There are reasons for that, of course.  Pride is one – nobody wants to admit they were wrong.  Despair is another – if you get in a deep enough hole, you start to think you could never get out anyway.  Cowardice is a third.  Sometimes we’re just terrified to look things full in the face.

But you’re wondering where God is in the midst of all that.  The answer is that he’s standing right by that person, the whole time, pleading desperately for them to just turn around.

There is no sin that God’s grace can’t cover.  And there is no sin that God’s love can’t bear.  And that means that when people fall off and don’t ever turn it around, it’s because they choose it.  And they do so little bit by little bit.

But, now, why would God allow people to be tempted in the first place?  Part of the answer is that going through trials and struggles and tests gives us the opportunity to become stronger.  And we need to be strong in order to fully take a hold of the amazing life that God created us to live.  (c.f. Colossians 1:9-12, MSG)

A smart man once said that anything with a potential for great good has with it – in a fallen world – a potential for great evil.  And we can readily see that as we look around.  Marriage, for example, can be a beautiful thing.  It can also be a vicious and abusive enslavement.  The potential for both good and evil is very large.

Well, so it is here.  Free will carries the possibility of grave consequences.  We can choose the love of God and be transformed.  And we can also wreck our lives.

You asked what that verse (1 Corinthians 10:13) means.  It means that God wants you and him to be a team.  That God gives you free will, and then you and He must work out together where to go with it – how to make good, Godly decisions.  It means that you have a role to play in living the life God designed for you, but that God will be prepared to give you everything you need to live that role out. 

One time, Peter and Jesus were talking, and Peter looked at one of the other disciples and said, “Jesus – what about him?!  And Jesus replied, “What do you care?  You must follow me.”

I mention that, Alex, to say that, in your life with Jesus, you’re going to see people slip, stumble, and fall.  That will happen.  But, when it does, your life still comes down to you and Jesus, working things out together, as a team, moment by moment.  Your life still comes down to making the right and Godly choice with what God has before you today.  Keep seeking the Lord, day by day, and you will get where you’re going.  And God will take care of everybody else.

How Do I Deal With Feeling Far From God?

snickleefritzz asked you:
Hey Jed, would you have any advice for someone who is going to a Bible school but recently feels far away from God? Not mentioning who it is or anything ;)

Jed Brewer replied:

Hey Tiffany,

Thanks for your question, sis!  And, just as a side note, I dig your photography!

The first thing I would offer, in terms of feeling far from God, is that it’s not something you need to feel ashamed of.  David, who the Bible describes as “a man after God’s own heart”, wrote both Psalm 13 and Psalm 22.  And those are pretty dang “feeling far from God” Psalms!

So, let’s take a deep breath, and set down that sense of shame.  I know that, particularly somewhere like a Bible school, there can be pressure to act like everything’s OK all the time.  Well, it isn’t, and it ain’t gonna be, so let’s just let that go.

The thing we want to determine is: where is this feeling coming from?  You and I, as human beings, are capable of having strong emotions for a wide variety of reasons.  Some of them stem from rather simple things.  Ever had a rough night’s sleep, and spent the next day pretty sure that everyone hates you?  Ever been really hungry, and you inexplicably find that you hate everyone around you?  See what I mean?  Huge emotion; small cause.

And, sometimes, our emotions are dislocated – there’s something substantial behind them, but the connection isn’t obvious.   So, in your life, family drama, a sense of uncertainty about the future, loneliness, and discouragement – just as examples – can all lead to feeling far from God.  None of those things are related to actually being far from God, but any one of them can lead you to feeling that way.

Now, Tiffany, I should note that, when Christians ask about feeling far from God, very often, they’re quietly afraid that the emotional distance they feel is the result of some secret and terrible sin, and, perhaps, one they’re not even aware of.

For what it’s worth, I haven’t found that – the secret sin – to be the case very often.  But, the generalized guilt that a lot of Christian carry around – feeling bad just cause – will absolutely, no question, mess with your head, and lead you to feel not only far from God, but unworthy of his love and grace and acceptance.  And it’s a nasty little lie.

So, what I’d encourage you to do is, first, for the next few days, get enough sleep, eat regular meals, and drink plenty of water, and see how you feel.  If you’re still feeling off, spend some time praying and journaling, and talking with a trusted friend or mentor, and try and get a sense of “where is this coming from?”  In particular, look for subjects that come up again and again.  If your parents’ troubled marriage – as an example – keeps coming up as you think, pray, journal, and talk, then that’s a good sign that that’s what you’re concerned about.  And then you can start dealing with that situation directly.

Lastly, sis, here’s what I know: God is not far from you.  Even if the worst was true, and you felt far from God because you were running away, you just turn around, and He’s right there.  That’s the kind of love he has for you.  So don’t be ashamed, and don’t be afraid.  Your Father is crazy about you.

Dear Lord,

I confessed my sins, and then I asked for forgiveness… But I still feel guilty. All the time. I mean, it’s not like I’m supposed to be happy, or even at peace, after what I did, right? On the other hand, I’m starting to realize that by carrying all this emotional guilt, I’m basically calling you a liar when you said you’d forgive me completely and unconditionally. So then I feel all guilty about feeling guilty, which is like some kind of weird meta-guilt, and I think maybe I’m going insane.

In many ways it seems like these guilty feelings keep me in line. If I was happy and pleased with myself, who knows what I might do? How would I behave, if it’s not about avoiding this crushing guilt? The only problem is, I feel guilty all the time anyway, and none of it brings me closer to you Lord. In fact, all this guilt makes me feel like running away from you. And that can’t be good.

Bottom line, I feel like I have to punish myself for what I’ve done. Yes, I know that Jesus was already punished for my sins, but why would He want to die for a sinful person like me? But then, even as I say that, I know good people don’t need anybody to die for them, so if Jesus died for sinners, it must be for sinners like me. Dang, I dunno. Could it be that you want all this guilt and condemnation out of our relationship? If so, that would be weird… and… good. So please help me work on that.

Amen

unkaglen:

softsyllables asked: Unka Glen, how do i get the knowledge i have in my head into my heart. why can’t i feel love? why can’t i go deeper everyday?

Unka Glen answered: Relationships start to get shallow when there’s a pain that we try to “work around”, rather than face head on….

What Will My Future Husband Think?

Anonymous asked:

I recently got out of a two year homosexual relationship after being really convicted by the Lord. I understand that the healing process I’m going through will take a while but, lately, all I can think about is how I’ve ruined any chance I had at honoring a future husband. How could a man of God love me when I’m so disgusted with myself?

Jed Brewer replied:

Beloved, who you are and what you’ve done are not the same thing.

When we think about “big” sins – drug addiction, sexual stuff, violence – we have a way of thinking that the things we’ve done say something about us.  That they say something about the kind of people we are.

Well, they don’t.

The only thing that your sin tells us about you is your capacity.  That, in a given set of circumstances, if we line everything up just so, you are capable of doing something you’ll later regret.  As it turns out, this is not news – that’s what it is to be a sinner.

You may have heard this phrase before: “There but for the grace of God go I.”  If you haven’t, it’s a good one to remember and hold onto.  The idea is that, when we see a “great big sinner” crossing our path, we remind ourselves that the difference between us and them are the circumstances that God allowed to occur in our lives.

I’ve never had a homosexual relationship.  But, given the right set of circumstances in my life, I guarantee you I would have.  I can guarantee you that because I know that I am a sinner, and, as the Bible says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.”

While we’re at it, I bet you have never bowed down and worshipped success as an idol, placing your health, youth, and relationships on its thirsty altar.  But I have, and, if you were in my shoes, you would have done the same thing.

So, where does that leave us?  It leaves us realizing that our sins don’t tell us who we are, so we need something else to do that.  That something is, in fact, a someone, and that someone is God.

If I may be so bold, let me offer a taste of what I think the Lord might say about you.

I see in this question a gal who has committed what Christian culture has (wrongly) made the chief and cardinal sin of our age, and who, in spite of that, finds herself wrestling with the fact that she knows God has something for her.  I don’t hear a girl who’s given up on the idea of a Godly husband, I hear a girl who knows, somewhere within her heart, that there will be a Godly husband, and she doesn’t know how that will work.

I sense a girl who, at the “height of her transgression”, knew that God was, and was with her, and sensed his gentle and insistent calling that, “Daughter, I have better for you than this.”

I see a girl who heard that, and who chose to follow.

I definitely see a girl who has made a decision to work this thing out, to not be ruled by shame, or guilt, or regret, but to walk the path the Lord has for her, and to get the help she needs in order to do that.

I sense, and hear, and see a daughter of God.  And your future, Godly husband will sense, and hear, and see the same.

Sis, there’s nothing wrong with you.  You are honoring your future husband by doing the hard work of healing you’re engaged in right now.  Live boldly into being the Godly woman the Lord made you to be – that’s who you really are.  The deeper you live into that identity, the more you’ll realize that not only did your sins never say anything about you, but, in fact, they never had that power to begin with.

What If My Guilt Is A Sin?

Anonymous asked:

I’ve been committing plenty of sins lately, I feel as if im in no stat of grace to pray. My friend told me thats when i should pray the most, but the guilt is overcoming me and hinders me from praying. I feel as if my relationship with God is deteriorating and im on the road of breaking down.

Jed Brewer replied:

Thanks for the question, anon.

Let’s ask this: what is sin, exactly?  I’d like to give you a quick-and-easy definition… Sin is anything that keeps you from God.

Given that, the feelings of guilt in your brain that are telling you, “You probably shouldn’t bother talking to God.  He doesn’t want to talk to you, and you don’t have any right to talk to him” – those feelings are massively sinful.

In fact, anon, those feelings of guilt that are directly keeping you from talking to God are, it sounds like, way more sinful than whatever naughty thing you were doing in the first place. 

And, to go further, you winding up stuck on this guilt trip was probably the Devil’s strategy all along.  Why might that be?

Let’s ask this: what does the Devil want?  The Devil wants to make sure you don’t live out the destiny for which God created you.  That’s his main goal.  If you live out that destiny, he loses people out of his camp, and that’s just awful.

As it turns out, the Devil is a pretty practical guy.  He’s only concerned with what will get the job done.  Whether you’re hooked on crack or a greed-obsessed banker, it makes no real difference to him.  In either case, you’re not living into your destiny, and he’s perfectly happy.

So, this brings us back to you.  Why would the devil want to get you wound up on a guilt trip?  I mean, wouldn’t that guilt drive you to stop sinning?  Answer: No, it wouldn’t.

The guilt will make you feel bad.  That’s all.  It will keep you from talking to God, which will keep you from getting any real strength.  Ultimately, you’ll feel so bad that you’ll need something to make you feel better, and you’ll do whatever the original sin was, again. And then you’ll have more guilt.  And rinse and repeat.

So how do we get out of this?  We start by remembering that the guilty feelings are a lie.  And we remind ourselves of the truth.

The truth is that when you were at your worst, God chose to die for you. (Rom 5:8)
The truth is that, as a Christian, there is no condemnation for you.  (Rom 8:1)
The truth is that all of the penalties and punishment you deserve have been paid-in-full by Jesus. (Eph 1:7)

And, of course, the truth is that God saw this coming, understands, and wants you to come before him with confidence and get yourself a big ole heaping plate of grace.  (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Once we remind ourselves of what God has said, we choose to take God at his word.  We go for a nice long walk and start talking to him.  We tell him what’s up.  We tell him how we’re feeling.  We ask for strength.  We ask for wisdom about why we’re getting tripped up on this particular sin.  We thank him that his love never waivers, and that he’s beyond pumped to have his kid talking with him.

And then we call up some friends, go get a cheeseburger, and do that most righteous of all things: we relax.

How can we relax?  Because He loves you, right now, today.  He really, really does.