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Covenant means to separate from all others and commit to one, i.e., marriage or the Lord. For example, in marriage, you do not separate from interacting with all women in the world—if you’re a man. The same goes for women. It means that nobody from the opposite sex will have power over you, or you won’t have more love for anyone more than your wife. You may engage all of humanity—male and female, but none of them will gain your affection more than what you have for your spouse.
There could be some wisdom in separating from some women or a certain woman—if your heart lusts after one of them. That kind of “separation from the world” is not legalism, but wisdom—practically applied. The vital idea to keep in mind is that the evil in play here is not the other woman but the passion in the heart (James 1:14-15; fire in the bones). To miss this point is to miss the origin of the sin, its cause, and where you should place your focus.
The wrongheaded perspective is to say it was that woman who is the cause of these passions so I must stay away from them because they are the cause. This view will make you socially awkward, out-of-step with the culture. It will also keep you from addressing the real issue, and you won’t change. You will separate from all women and still not find a cure for the problem. The sin, lust, passion continues to be there, looking for ways to express itself.
Let’s suppose that you have removed yourself from every woman in your world. Thus, there is no object for you to place your lust. In that case, you will address the passion in your heart another way, through some other form of gratification, whether it’s sexual or another option, e.g., binge-watching, overeating, spending money.
A man told me years ago that he gave up porn and gained thirty pounds. He did not fix the problem but redirected his lust in another direction. The legalist who believes the problem is “out there somewhere” will do similarly and go through similar cycles of addiction: stop, start, stop, start. Anytime you externalize sin’s cause as being out there somewhere, you may choose to retreat from all those temptations while missing the source of the allurement.
There is wisdom in separating from specific things or people if those things stir up the pre-existing sin in your heart. But if you place the primary accent on that thing or person, you will miss sin’s origin. The point of separating from certain things is because you know what’s in your heart, and you’re going to address what’s wrong with you—not’s what’s wrong with that thing or person out there somewhere.
As you move inward, realizing that the fountainhead for all sin, temptation, and stumbling blocks rise from the heart and attach themselves to various “precious” subjects in the culture, you’re in the right place to interact with the problem. It is possible to kill life (mortify) out of those heart idolatries, and you can engage those former “tempting objects” in the future.
Alternately, it could be that your mortification will be a life-long process, which is an exercise in humility and strengthening from the Lord, as you lean into Him in your weakness to gain His strength. It’s like a recurring skin disease—eczema. You put a topical ointment on the problem, knowing it recurs, and you have to keep applying the medication. You don’t despair because there is a daily cure, though not permanent until you get a new body.
Whether you find a permanent or temporal cure, you do have a prescription. Sometimes our solutions are not how we would prescribe them, but the humble heart receives the Lord’s mercies with gratitude and active obedience. This type of teaching is for those who have ears to hear, and if you do, you’re on the path to more extraordinary transformation.
Let me circle back to “active obedience.” It is accurate to say that the Lord shapes us into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). We call this passive obedience. You want to relish in the truth that God changes you. But we’re not inactive recipients of God’s transforming power. Active obedience is a thing, too. We have a responsibility before the Lord to work out (Philippians 2:12) what He is working in us (James 1:22, 4:17).
The remainder of these Show Notes speaks to the need for the person who is addicted to something to respond with humble, unashamed, courageous, active obedience. You do this as though your life depends on it. In one sense, your spiritual life does depend on it. You must throw human wisdom and self-reliance to the wind and embrace the radical, transforming doctrine of grace as you engage God in a way that changes your life.
If you’re not serious about change, which you can measure by responding to this path forward, nobody can help you change. You’ll live in a cycle of purity, sin, regret, purity, sin, ad nausea.