We determined to live no longer in fear of the world,
believing that God's victorious control
turns all that is against us into our favor,
bringing advantage out of sorrow and order from disaster.
In Step 10 we dealt with those things which had ruined our past relationships. In Step 11, we face the great enemy which hinders the development of present friendships--fear!
Fear has made many of us lonely and miserable for a long time. Some of us have been terror- ized and isolated by our own sexual feelings. We have avoided getting close to any attractive person of our own sex for fear our friendship might end up in bed. Some of us even used marriage as a way of fleeing persons of our own sex and the anxiety their society aroused. This only served to guarantee that our unmet, same-sex, parent-child emotional needs remained unmet. Thus we remained stuck in our homosexual struggle. We felt empty and lonely and these feelings virtually drove us into homosexual activity in a desperate but misguided attempt to meet out needs. We found fear pushing us into the very things we had hoped our anxiety would help us avoid!
Others of us were not so much afraid of ourselves as of others. We lived with feelings which bordered on paranoia, fearing that someone would find out about our struggle and reject or expose us. So we kept everyone at emotional arms' length. We never let anyone really know us. We lived double lives, seeing to it that our straight friends knew nothing of our struggle and our sexual partners knew nothing of the pain we felt because of our homosexual activities. The result was a feeling of utter aloneness, gnawing at our souls, driving us to substitute physical intimacy for the emotional intimacy for which we were hungering.
Some of us were crippled by the fear that we would fail to measure up as a "masculine" man or a "feminine" woman. For many of us, this fear sprang from a disruption in childhood of our relationship with our same-sex parent. We were hurt in some way in that relationship and detached emotionally. Many of us said in our hearts, "I don't want to be like him/her." This robbed us of adequate role models to help us develop a healthy gender identity. We found it difficult to identify with others of the same sex who we perceived to be like the one we had rejected. Some of us found little acceptance from children of our own age and sex, and most of us, even if accepted, somehow felt we were outsiders. Thus longings for acceptance from persons of the same sex fused with feelings of anger and anxiety and continued to do their destructive work in our hearts, leaving us with tremendous feelings of inadequacy in our roles as men and women.
Some of us failed to develop the gifts or interests that would enable us to fit in with persons of the same sex, while others accepted extreme stereotypes leading us to think we had to be a muscle man or a cover girl to be truly masculine or feminine. We compared our inner anxiety with the outward confidence we saw in others and thought that no one else had ever felt the kind of fears we were experiencing. We told ourselves, "I just can't be a 'real' man or woman," and then wondered why we felt so uncomfortable in the company of the "normal" men and women with whom we thought we could never compete. Some women strugglers had the added fear that if they "succeeded" in becoming "feminine", they would be treated like sex objects by men who would behave like brutes!
As you read these words, you may be thinking, "Fear has devastated my life and will continue to do so unless I overcome it. But how?"
The biblical answer to fear is faith in our loving, sovereign God! In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul challenges believers to be strong in the Lord and to prayerfully put on the whole armor of God which includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, and the helmet of salvation; "above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one."
As we worked Steps 1-7, we were given an appreciation of the nature and trustworthiness of our God. Working Steps 8-10 led to experiences that confirmed our faith in His love and care. We actually saw Him working in our life and in the lives of others, "bringing advantage out of sorrow and order from disaster."
In Step 11, we make a final assault on the stronghold of fear which has kept us enslaved to that which, by God's grace, we have come to hate. Working this step is the key to building healthy friendships (Step 12), drawing ever nearer to God (Step 13), and being equipped to reach out to others (Step 14). Working this step will remove the barriers which have kept us for so long from finding freedom from homosexuality.
1. Does the Bible teach that fear is always wrong?
"Virtually all cultures, religions, and ethical systems place a high priority on openness.... Yet from the first moments of awareness, we receive mixed messages about revealing ourselves to others.... If the ability to conceal ourselves were all negative, it would have dropped out of our repertoire long ago. No trait persists through the siftings of the generations unless it has some positive value.... The ability to conceal one's thoughts has a valid place in the human drama, just as the ability to share one's feelings has.... All self-disclosure is not uniformly good. The purpose of self-disclosure is to deepen the foundations of intimacy by sharing something signifi- cant with someone significant. The purpose of self-disclosure is to...lay claim to one's secrets in a way that promotes awareness and well-being." [Marie Lindquist, Holding Back: Why We Hide the Truth About Ourselves, p. 17,21]
"Fear, per se, is not wrong. God implanted all emotions in man.... Fear of dangers (e.g., falling over the cliff) that leads one to take necessary precautions is right and holy so long as it rests upon and grows out of a faith and trust in the providence of God. In this sense Jesus undoubtedly entertained the sort of precautionary concern that is necessary for righteous living." [Jay Adams, The Christian Counselor's Manual, p. 415]
"The fear of the Lord...is not the slave's dread of punishment. It has no 'torment' and is compatible with childlike love." [E. H. Plumptre, "The Book of Proverbs," The Bible Commentary IV, p. 530]
"It is that affectionate reverence, by which the child of God bends himself humbly and carefully to his Father's law." [Charles Bridges, An Exposition of Proverbs, p. 3-4]
"What God is inspires awe; what God has done for His people commands affection." [William Arnot, Laws From Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 19]
II Corinthians 7:1
"The fear of God...consists in awe, reverence, honor, and worship..." [John Murray, Principles of Conduct, p. 236] "The fear of God is the soul of godliness." [ibid., p. 229]
"I asked (Dr. Paul Tournier) how he helped his patients get rid of their fears. 'I don't,' he said. 'Fear has a purpose.'" [Bruce Larson, Living Beyond Our Fears, p. 9]
"There is nothing Christian about the denial of reality. The courage of the Christian doesn't come without fear. When you don't have any fear, you don't need any courage. Courage can only be defined in the context of fear. If you never know fear, you will never know courage." [Stephen Brown, No More Mr. Nice Guy!, p. 133]
2. Does the Bible teach that fear is always good?
"Among Christians there is a wide variety of views about anxiety. At one end of the continuum some...are almost indistinguishable from the existentialists, emphasizing man's search for identity, self, and meaning, and the resulting existential angst. They seem to deemphasize both Scripture and the idea of a personal God who holds the answers to the human condition. On the other end of the spectrum are...writers who focus upon the sins of fear and doubt of God's pro- vision, calling people to repentance, deliverance, and an end to anxiety through prayer and meditation.... Those in the middle accept the Christian ideal of a life free from worry as well as the fact of fallenness in ourselves and the creation.... They would agree that even though anxiety may not be desirable, the route to eliminating it is not repression and denial but rather the acceptance of our anxious feelings as real.... As it was with the Israelites (e.g. I Sam. 17:47), our 'battles are the Lord's.' If he is for us, why should we fear? Yet knowing this intellectually is only the first step. The Holy Spirit must work into believers God's peace. This peace results from a relationship with him..." [Dale Simpson, "Anxiety," Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology, p. 67]
"Fear is perhaps our oldest and deadliest enemy. Fear causes illness. It kills. It stifles creativity. Fear prevents love, disrupts families, and causes addiction to alcohol, drugs, work, hobbies, and food. Fear of life and of other people can result in an abnormal desire to with- draw, leading to mental illness. Extreme fear of the future prompts suicide.... Thousands of years ago, the philosopher Seneca said, 'If we let things terrify us, life will not be worth living.' In 1840, Thomas Carlyle wrote, 'The first duty for a man is still that of subduing fear. A man's acts are slavish until he has got fear under his feet.' Thirty years later, Ralph Waldo Emerson remarked that 'He has not learned the first lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.'..." [Bruce Larson, Living Beyond Our Fears, p. 3-5]
"Tender-handed stroke a nettle
And it stings you for your pains,
Grasp it like a man of mettle,
And it soft as silk remains."
[Aaron Hill (1685-1750), "Words Written on a Window," in Leadership, p. 34]
"Andrew M. Greeley, in his book The Friendship Game, argues that fear is the major barrier to friendship." [David Smith, Men Without Friends, p. 138]
"Anxiety is: 1. Fear in the absence of real danger. 2. Overestimation of the probability of danger and exaggeration of its degree of terribleness. 3. Imagined negative results." [William Backus and Marie Chapian, Telling Yourself the Truth, p. 68]
"Getting rid of your anxiety means to (1) minimize the danger you tell yourself you're in (remember, your fears are exaggerated); (2) realize you create your...anxiety (you create your own misbeliefs); (3) dispute these misbeliefs, challenge them ('is this really as terrible as I'm telling myself?'); (4) replace the misbeliefs with the truth. Don't worry about how weak you think you are. Jesus said, 'My strength is made perfect in weakness.'" [ibid., p. 76-77]
"There is nothing in the Bible to make any man fear who puts his trust in Jesus. Nothing in the Bible, did I say? There is nothing in heaven, nothing on earth, nothing in hell, that need make you fear who trust in Jesus. The past you need not fear, for it is forgiven you. The present you need not fear; it is provided for. The future you need not fear; it is secured by the living power of Jesus." [C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XV, (1869), p. 189-190]
II Timothy 1:7
Paul Tournier points out that "men's loneliness is linked with fear. Men fear one another, fear to be crushed in life, fear to be misunderstood.... Fear breeds loneliness and conflict; loneliness and conflict breed fear. To heal the world, we must give men an answer to fear and restore among them the sense of community." [Escape From Loneliness, p. 26,27]
3. Are there people I should not trust?
"...A Christian would be wise to avoid, where he decently can, any meeting with people who are bullies, lascivious, cruel, dishonest, spiteful and so forth. Not because we are 'too good' for them. In a sense because we are not good enough. We are not good enough to cope with all the problems which an evening spent in such society produces." [C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, p. 71]
"Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig." [Paul Dickson in Leadership, p. 139]
"A man never discloses his own character so clearly as when he describes another's." [Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825) in Laurence Peter, Peter's Quotations, p. 100]
"Remember, you can't make a race horse out of a turtle." [Hans Selye in Leadership, p. 219]
II Corinthians 6:14-18
"Clearly all association is not forbidden, and so it is probably best to understand Paul's injunction here to prohibit only those relationships in which the degree of association entails an inevitable compromise with Christian standards of conduct." [James Davis, "1-2 Corinthians," Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, p. 990]
"...As long as the world is what it is, the Christian life can only maintain itself in an attitude of protest. There always will be things and people to whom the Christian has to say No!... The separations which an earnest Christian life requires are not without their compensation; to leave the world is to be welcomed by God!" [James Denney, "The Second Epistle to the Corinth-ians," The Expositor's Bible V, p. 776-777]
"Why follow empty philosophy when we have all fullness in Christ?" [Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary II, p. 126]
4. Are there people I should trust?
"Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as 'Careful! This might lead you to suffering.'... To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one... Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable." [C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, p. 168-169]
I Corinthians 13:7
"Love looks for opportunities to give; it asks: 'What can I do for another?' Fear keeps a wary eye on the possible consequences and asks: 'What will he do to me?' Love 'thinks no evil'; fear thinks of little else.... The enemy of fear is love; the way to put off fear...is to put on love." [Jay Adams, The Christian Counselor's Manual, p. 413-414] "Fear and love vary inversely. The more fear, the less love; the more love, the less fear." [ibid., p. 415]
"We cannot live by Christian love alone. We also live by wisdom... We are moved by just- ice.... These will put checks and balances on love's readiness to believe. In our world love needs such balances. But in the long run we are far better off trusting people too much than trusting too little. Being taken in now and then is a small price to pay--if it has to be paid--for not letting a neighbor down. Besides, trusting people is training for trusting God." [Lewis Smedes, Love Within Limits, p. 110-111]
II Corinthians 7:2
"...Adults abused as children....have difficulty trusting... Trust is basic to human relationships, and its absence makes finding and keeping friends...difficult, if not impossible. When one can- not trust, a vicious cycle begins. The less you trust, the less likely you are to have...intimate relationships. The more isolated you become, the less you can trust others. When...you cannot seem to make friends, you may think that there is something wrong with you. Thus you feel more...in need of guarding yourself rather than trusting enough to be open." [Eliana Gil, Out- growing the Pain, p. 32] "To change these behaviors, you must begin to take risks slowly, but purposefully, by giving yourself the opportunity to test your trust with trustworthy people." [ibid., p. 33] "Protecting yourself when you were a child was appropriate. It helped you survive. But these same behaviors as an adult separate you from others...and keep you from getting what you want.... You...do not need to protect yourself from everyone. Detecting real danger, rather than having a reflex reaction to potential or assumed danger, is a skill to be learned and developed." [ibid., p. 39]
Deadly Secrets is the story of Scott Cameron, a young man who believed in Christ but found himself overwhelmed by homosexual desires he was too ashamed to reveal to family or friends. In despair, he abandoned himself to the lifestyle until "...the discovery that he had AIDS derailed public life and private struggle from parallel tracks and sent them crashing together in a blinding, shuddering, smoking mass." [Karen Schalf Linamen and Keith A. Wall, Deadly Secrets, p. 174] Exposure brought "...some rejection. But (he wrote) I've discovered friends who really love me, and there really is nothing I could do to make them stop loving me. And that really motivates me to live for God." [ibid., p. 222] Scott came to believe that his lack of openness had kept him from what he had yearned for all his life. One friend's reaction to his struggle "was the exact kind of response--the exact kind of love--that Scott had yearned for in those first years--when every trip to a gay bar or bath, every one-night stand, every lusty party left him devastated over his failings... If only Tony had known the truth then...but Scott hadn't given him the chance. Scott hadn't given anyone the chance..." [ibid., p. 155] He began to see that perhaps he "...had betrayed them all by laughing on the outside and crying on the inside. But he'd never thought of it that way. All those years of silent suffering, he thought the only one who was getting hurt was Scott Cameron." [ibid., p. 188] Being honest helped Scott feel "...whole. Not perfect, mind you.... But whole. For the first time in his life he was facing his struggles as one person, not as two. He was being honest about his imperfections, honest about his lack of answers, and honest about his quest to find a way to live holy despite his frequent failings." [ibid., p. 197]
While it would be unwise to share our deepest struggles with everyone, our search for freedom from homosexuality will be seriously hindered unless we can share our difficulties with several people who have shown themselves worthy of trust.
I Peter 1:22,23
"Formerly, like other unrenewed men, they had 'lived in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.'... But that old tempestuous disorder of the heart had been calmed in the presence of the heavenly Lamb.... They had thus become at once more capable of loving, and more worthy of each other's love.... The great change that had been wrought in each could have no other issue than...love without a mask..." [John Lillie, Lectures on the First and Second Epistles of Peter, p. 83-84]
5. Are there places and things I should avoid?
"Three things kept Joseph pure--duty, honor, and faith. First, temptation assailed him when he was doing 'his work' (v.11).... He did not go a step out of his way to meet it, and when it came...his mind was...intent on other...things... The temptation which comes to meet us...is not half so difficult to overcome as the temptation which we...seek. Faithful and honest work, which keeps head and heart and hand busy, is a...shield against temptation... Second, honor keeps Joseph right. He does not forget for a moment that an exceptionally kind master has... confided in him implicitly. To...return him evil for good would be unspeakably mean; it would be to deserve the name of traitor.... Third, Joseph is saved by faith.... Joseph has a light from heaven flashed upon his temptation...in which he sees it to be the hideous thing it is, and...he shrinks from 'this great wickedness,' he shudders at 'sin against God'.... It is the Bible that makes the moral sense pure and strong--a light to guide, a voice to warn, a spirit to control.... Joseph 'fled forth' from the presence of his temptress... All wise men counsel flight from allurement to sins of passion. It is fatal to dally with temptation..." [James Strahan, Hebrew Ideals in Genesis, p. 290-293]
Alcoholics Anonymous says, "If you don't want to slip, stay away from slippery people, places, and things!"
"Paul turns from 'self-sacrifice...to...self-indulgence'..., from ...'love' to that perversion of it called 'lust.' The Greek words for fornication...and impurity...cover every kind of sexual sin... To them Paul adds covetousness..., the coveting of somebody else's body for selfish gratification.... Verse 4 goes beyond immorality to vulgarity. ...Filthiness means obscenity, and...silly talk and levity are...an allusion to coarse jesting... All three refer to a dirty mind expressing itself in dirty conversation.... Christians should...avoid vulgarity,...not because we have a warped view of sex and are...ashamed or afraid of it, but because we have a high and holy view of it as being in its right place God's good gift, which we do not want to see cheap- ened." [John Stott, God's New Society, p. 191-193]
"Many reasons are given in the New Testament why Christian people should abstain from immorality. There is...the trinitarian theology of the human body as created by God, belonging to Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit...in I Corinthians 6:12-20. ...There is the intrinsic inappropriateness of unholy practices in the holy people of God;...sexual license is simply 'not fitting among saints' (verses 3-4). And now there is the fear of judgment.... For those who fall into such sins through weakness, but afterwards repent..., there is forgiveness. The immoral or impure person envisaged here is one who has given himself up without shame or penitence to this way of life.... Such people, whose lust has become an idolatrous obsession, will have no share in the perfect kingdom of God." [ibid., p. 196-197]
"Sexual jokes can be used to recruit new sexual partners. Sex addicts can gauge the reaction of a person hearing their sexual joke, and if that reaction is favorable, the level of sexual engagement might be taken one step higher." [Mark Laaser, The Secret Sin, p. 59]
"Live fish swim against the stream; dead ones go with it." [Alexander Maclaren, "Psalms," The Expositor's Bible III, p. 9]
II Timothy 2:22
"Negatively, Timothy is to 'shun youthful passions.'... Positively, Timothy is to 'aim at' the four essential marks of a Christian--'righteousness, faith, love and peace'--and he is to pursue these in good company (maybe to compensate for the company he will have to avoid if he is to 'purify himself from what is ignoble'), the company of those 'who call upon the Lord from a pure heart'..." [John Stott, Guard the Gospel, p. 73-74]
6. What principles should guide me in making these decisions?
"...The conflict...is not initiated by Jesus but by the religious leaders who are offended by the disciples apparent lack of concern for cleansing rituals.... Jesus drives the debate inward in the personal realm of choice and intention, angrily excoriating the religious leaders for locating religion in the outer realm of...man-made traditions that set aside the commands of God.... Jesus declares...that it is not external things that defile a person, but what proceeds from the heart." [Royce Gordon Bruenler, "Mark," Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, p. 778-779]
"The wickedness of man is often attributed to bad examples, bad company..., or the snares of the devil. It seems forgotten that every man carries within him a fountain of wickedness. We need no bad company,...no devil to tempt us, in order to run into sin. We have within us the beginning of every sin under heaven.
"Let us...understand...that our Lord is speaking of the human heart generally. He is not speaking only of the notorious profligate, or the prisoner in the jail. He is speaking of all mankind.... The seeds of all the evils here mentioned lie hid within us all. They may lie dormant all our lives. They may be kept down by the fear of consequences,...the dread of discovery,...and, above all, by the almighty grace of God. But every man has within him the root of every sin.
"How humble we ought to be, when we read these verses! 'We are all as an unclean thing' in God's sight (Isa. lxiv.6). He sees in each one of us countless evils, which the world never sees at all, for He reads our hearts. Surely of all sins to which we are liable, self-righteousness is the most unreasonable and unbecoming.
"How thankful we ought to be for the Gospel, when we read these verses! That gospel contains a complete provision for all the wants of our poor defiled natures. The blood of Christ can 'cleanse us from all sin.' The Holy Ghost can change even our sinful hearts, and keep them clean and changed. The man that does not glory in the Gospel can surely know little of the plague that is within him.
"How watchful we ought to be, when we remember these verses!... At the head of the black list of our heart's contents stand 'evil thoughts.'... Thoughts are the parents of words and deeds. Let us pray daily for grace to keep our thoughts in order, and let us cry earnestly and fervently, 'Lead us not into temptation.'" [J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Mark, p. 142-144]
This word "leaves untouched the question, what restrictions may be necessary for men who have depraved and debased their own appetites.... Nevertheless the rule is absolute: 'Whatsoever from without goeth into the man, it cannot defile him.' And the Church of Christ is bound to maintain, uncompromised and absolute, the liberty of Christian souls." [G. A. Chadwick, "The Gospel According to St. Mark," The Expositor's Bible IV, p. 861]
Thus, the first principle which should guide us in making these decisions is the realization that the problem is not really out there, but with the corruption in our own hearts.
"The reference is...to that restrictive law of food which constituted one of the most striking points of difference between Jew and Gentile, and one of the most operative means of separa- tion.... The...distinction of food served...as...(an) emblem of a moral difference, the Gentiles being to the Jews, in this respect, what unclean animals were to the clean." [J. A. Alexander, Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, p. 395]
"Hitherto there had been a distinction between clean and unclean, both in meats and persons. Henceforth there could be none: for what had been unclean for ages by divine authority was now pronounced clean by the same; and what had thus been constituted clean could not be rendered common by...any human power or authority." [ibid., p. 396]
"The Law of Moses was a wall between the Jews and the Gentiles, and this wall had been broken down at the cross (Eph. 2:14-18)." [Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary I, p. 445]
"Ceremonial distinctions may at times appear arbitrary. Such is the case with the classification of clean and unclean meats..., for hygienic explanations are apparent only in some...instances. But the very arbitrariness of these stipulations made them the better tests of submission to the sovereign word of the Lord.... It is God's creative word that gives to all things their definition and meaning, and man must interpret all things according to the interpretation God assigns them. In this respect the Mosaic dietary rules resembled the probationary proscription of the fruit of the tree of knowledge in Eden..." [Meredith G. Kline, Treaty of the Great King, p. 87]
Thus, the second principle which should guide us in making these decisions is the realization that God alone decides what is clean or unclean, right or wrong, and that He reveals His decisions in His Word the Bible.
I Corinthians 6:12
"All things are lawful unto me....was probably a statement which the Apostle had himself made; at all events, the freedom which it expresses was very dear to him, and it may have been misused by some as an argument for universal license. St. Paul boldly repeats it, and proceeds to show that it is a maxim of Christian liberty which does not refer to matters which are absol- utely wrong, and that even in its application to indifferent matters it must be...guarded by other Christian principles." [T. Teignmouth Shore, "The First Epistle to the Corinthians," Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible VII, p. 304]
"The real question is not whether an action is 'lawful' or 'right' or even 'all right,' but whether it is good, whether it benefits." [Gordon Fee, 'The First Epistle to the Corinthians," The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p. 252]
"People suffer from sexual obsession when sexual thoughts control them rather than being able to control the thoughts." [Earl Wilson, Sexual Sanity, p. 15] "To be controlled by anything other than Jesus Christ is idolatry and therefore sinful." [ibid., p. 18]
I Corinthians 10:23
"A woman in a white dress was denied entrance to a coal mine she wanted to explore. 'Why can't I wear a white dress into the mine?' she asked. 'Lady,' replied the gate man, 'there's nothing to hinder you from wearing a white dress into the mine but plenty to keep you from wearing a white dress out of the mine.'... 'All things are lawful,' (I Corinthians 6:12) but many things are not expedient; they do not edify and they may enslave us. We do not come out as we went in, and our garments are spotted." [Vance Havner, Seasonings, p. 40-41]
"'Does this act tend to my own spiritual profit? Does it tend to build up others?' should be the practical rules of Christian life." [Gordon Fee, 'The First Epistle to the Corinthians," The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p. 325]
Thus, the third principle which should guide us in making these decisions is the realization that, even with those things which God permits, we must ask if our action is likely to help or harm us or others, given our situation, and choose only that which brings blessing.
"Ye are indeed called unto liberty, and you ought to assert the liberty unto which you are called..." [John Brown, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians, p. 284]
"When the Judaizing teachers press their principles on you, ask for their authority; request them to show you the sanction of Christ; and let them know that He is your master, and that ye are not, and will not be, 'the servants of men.'" [ibid., p. 253-254]
Thus, the fourth principle which should guide us in making these decisions is the realization that even when we have decided that it is best for us to deny ourselves things which God permits, others are free to decide differently, and we are free to change our minds as our situation changes.
"Keep your liberties...; for Christ's sake and for truth's sake hold them fast, guard them well.... But take care how you employ your freedom; 'only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh.'... At this point Paul throws in one of his bold paradoxes. He has been contending all through the Epistle for freedom... But now he turns round suddenly and bids them be slaves: 'but let love,' he says, 'make you bondmen to each other'." [George G. Findley, "The Epistle to the Galatians, The Expositor's Bible V, p. 893-895]
"The gospel offers a powerful and uniquely balanced vision of the individual's worth. The Bible pulls no punches about our depravity and rebellion outside of Christ. We deserve judgment. Yet, Christ loved us to the point of dying for us while we were still his enemies. Jesus' death and resurrection mean that we never need to see ourselves as worthless again. But we need .... to see ourselves more as people in community than as individuals. The fact is, the more we chase after a positive self-image, the more elusive it seems. Yet, when we cease focusing on feeling good about ourselves, and move towards recapturing the dignity of being a servant to others, then we actually discover a far deeper sense of personal worth and satisfaction." [Mark Strom, The Symphony of Scripture, p. 215]
Thus, the fifth principle which should guide us in making these decisions is the realization that the freedom we enjoy is not to be used for selfish gratification, but to enable us to better serve God and others.
"What sort of regulations are these which the elemental forces impose? Completely negative ones: 'Don't, don't, don't.' There may be a stage in children's development when they must be told not to do this and not to touch that, before they can understand the reasons for such prohibitions. But when they come to years of discretion and can appreciate their parents' point of view, they are able to look at life from a responsible angle and do what is proper without having to conform to a list of prohibitions such as are suitable and necessary for the years of infancy. These would-be guides were trying to keep the Colossian Christians in leading strings; Paul encourages them to enjoy the liberty with which Christ has set them free." [F. F. Bruce, "The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians," The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p. 126]
"Moreover, these taboos are not divinely ordained: they are imposed 'according to human com- mandments and teaching.' Behind this phrase lies...Isa. 29:13 where...God...says of his people 'their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men learned by rote.' ...When Paul echoes the prophet's words...it is with the implication that these taboos frustrate the pure teaching of God with its emancipating emphasis." [ibid., p. 127-128]
"Christians use expressions like 'spiritual' and 'unspiritual,' 'the Lord's work' and 'worldliness' to justify the things they will and won't do. Phrases like these sound spiritual, but often they hide an avoidance of the real challenges of following Christ in the normal day-to-day experiences of life. Such people refuse to climb outside their ghetto to live authentic and involved lives in a dying, hurting world." [Mark Strom, The Symphony of Scripture, p. 215]
"The power of Christ in the life of the believer does more than merely restrain the desires of the flesh: it puts new desires within him.... The harsh rules of the ascetics 'lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence' (Col. 2:23 NIV). If anything, they eventually bring out the worst instead of the best." [Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary II, p. 132]
"Researchers...tell us that the worst possible way to deal with fear is to avoid the frightening and to choose a life of inordinate safety and insulation..." [Bruce Larson, Living Beyond our Fears, p. ix]
"Most of the time...you'll find that gaining something valuable in...life will depend on being willing to tolerate distress, anxiety, discomfort and discontent. Your greatest achievements are often won because you are willing to put up with situations which are...down right unpleasant." [William Backus and Marie Chapain, Telling Yourself the Truth, p. 89] "It is not wisdom that causes a person to refuse risk. It is fear--fear of losing...security, safety, familiarity, comfort, predictability, control, power." [ibid., p. 129] "By actually doing the thing you fear, you over- come the fear of it." [ibid., p. 138]
Thus, the sixth principle which should guide us in making these decisions is the realization that we must not allow rules made by men (ourselves or others) coupled with fear to hinder us in our search for freedom and in our efforts to help others.
Dealing with fear is a complex matter. Recovery, like life, involves risk. If you take inappro- priate risks, you take a chance of falling into sin and experiencing the pain that brings. If you refuse to take appropriate risks, you take a chance of hindering or even sabotaging your recovery. Proceed with caution, but proceed!
7. How can I distinguish appropriate risks from inappropriate risks?
"...We shall often find it to our advantage to advise with many; if they agree in their advice, our way will be the more clear; if they differ, we shall hear what is to be said on all sides, and be the better able to determine." [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible III, p. 852]
"See... 1. What...keeps a fool from being wise: His way is right in his own eyes; he thinks he is in the right in everything he does, and therefore asks no advice, because he does not appre- hend he needs it.... 2. What...keeps a wise man from being a fool; he is willing to be advised ...and hearkens to counsel..." [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible III, p. 858-859]
"He that is so proud that he scorns to be taught will certainly be abased." [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible III, p. 865]
"If men...are so confident of their own judgment that they scorn to consult with others, they are not likely to bring anything considerable to pass; circumstances defeat them which, with a little consultation, might have been foreseen..." [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible III, p. 878]
If anyone is to give us good advice, they must have full knowledge of our situation. This means we must be completely open and honest with those from whom we seek counsel.
To seek advice is not to relinquish responsibility for our lives. We must prayerfully decide whether what we hear is good advice or not. We will sometimes receive conflicting advice and must decide which course of action is best for us.
We, and we alone, are responsible to God for our decisions. We are the ones who must live with the consequences of our choices. If we accept bad advice or reject good counsel, we must take responsibility for our choices and live with the results.
While we must not let these thoughts paralyze us (to fail to choose is to make a choice), they should sober us. Choose, but choose prayerfully and in accordance with Scripture. And remember, "Our wisdom lies in...at least leaning to the suspicion that we may be wrong." [Charles Bridges, An Exposition of Proverbs, p. 213]
"The words of men are to be heard...with allowance, but there is not the least ground to suspect any deficiency in the word of God.... It is sure, and therefore we must trust in it..." [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible III, p. 965]
8. What truths will help me take wise risks in trusting myself and others?
"All heaven is waiting to help those who will discover the will of God and do it." [J. Robert Ashcroft in Baker's Pocket Book of Religious Quotes, #996]
"Alexander, when they said that the Persians were as the sands of the seashore, replied, 'One butcher is not afraid of a whole flock of sheep.' So let it be with us. Let us feel that we are men of another mold than to be afraid, that believing in God we do not know how to spell 'cowardice.'" [C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XII, (1866), p. 358]
"When I became a Christian, I understood that Jesus took my sin away. What I have never heard from Him was that He intended to take my backbone away. The Christ I know does not destroy boldness, bravery, and challenging purpose; He enhances them." [R. C. Sproul in Stephen Brown, No More Mr. Nice Guy!, p. 12]
"If you miss seven balls out of ten, you're batting three hundred, and that's good enough for the Hall of Fame. You can't score if you keep the bat on your shoulder." [Walter B. Wriston in Leadership, p. 206]
"We must go out on a limb in order to experience God's faithfulness." [Belva Murphy, At Home With the Murphys, p. 36]
"...The richest source of healing our loneliness is for us to begin to give ourselves in love.... Until we move outside ourselves and focus outward toward others, we will continue to be empty, self-pitying, lonely human beings.... At base man must give himself away or remain pathetically empty and alone." [Robert Williams, Journey Through Grief, p. 81]
"A neighbor's dog was very fond of visiting my garden, and as he never improved my flowers, I never gave him a cordial welcome. Walking along quietly one evening I saw him doing mis- chief. I threw a stick at him and advised him to go home. But how did the good creature reply to me? He turned round and wagged his tail, and in the merriest manner picked up my stick, brought it to me, and laid it at my feet. Did I strike him? No, I am no monster. I should have been ashamed of myself if I had not patted him on the back and told him to come there when- ever he liked. He and I were friends...because he trusted me and conquered me. This is just the philosophy of...faith in Christ. As the dog mastered the man by confiding in him, so a poor guilty sinner does, in effect, master the Lord himself by trusting him, when he says, 'Lord, I am a poor dog of a sinner, and thou mightest drive me away, but I believe thee to be too good for that...and I trust myself with thee.'" [C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XXIII, (1877), p. 297]
9. Does faith in God help people overcome fear?
II Chronicles 32:7,8
Albert Einstein, an agnostic, was compelled to bear witness to the power of faith in Christ as he saw the courage it gave Christians to stand up to Hitler. "Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks.... Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing the truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly. [J. Milton Yinger, Religion in the Struggle for Power, p. 194]
"Sometimes we are unduly excited when things go well, and at other times we are too alarmed when things go badly.... We ought to establish our hearts firmly in God's strength, and strug- gle, as best we can, to place all of our hope and confidence in the Lord so that we shall be like him, as far as...possible, even in his unchanging rest and stability." [B. Jordan of Saxony in The Wisdom of the Saints, p. 57]
"I would trust...God as...Alexander trusted his friend who was also his physician. The physi- cian had mixed a medicine for Alexander who was sick, and the potion stood by Alexander's bed for him to drink. Just before he drank a letter was delivered to him in which he was warned that his physician had been bribed to poison him, and had mingled poison with the medicine. Alexander summoned the physician... When he came in, Alexander at once drank the cup and then handed his friend the letter. What grand confidence was this! He would not let the accused know of the libel till he had proved beyond all dispute that he did not believe a word of it." [C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XXV, (1879), p. 654-655]
"A Swiss-French pastor imprisoned by the Nazis recalls his spiritual reaction to the evil situation thus: 'I was not able to stand firm except by remembering every day that the Gestapo was the hand of God--the left hand. The worst of tyrants and the least of cowards will only end by accomplishing Christ's will.'" [Carroll E. Simcox, They Met At Philippi, p. 52]
"The opposite of faith is fear. Fear makes us withdraw, hide, play it safe.... When you stop running and face your fear head on with faith, you find God. It is his presence and power that move us beyond our fears--past, present, and future." [Bruce Larson, Living Beyond Our Fears, p. 150]
"Fear knocked at the door; faith answered; nobody was there." [Old English proverb in Stephen Brown, No More Mr. Nice Guy!, p. 140]
MY EXPERIENCE WORKING STEP 11
About six weeks after I came to Reading for help with my struggle, I wrote in my journal, "On Wednesday, after walking home from work, I went into the kitchen (of the rooming house where I was living) to fix myself some lemonade before going to sleep. One of the men who has a room here was in the kitchen fixing himself something to eat. I spoke to him and, while I was at the sink mixing lemonade, he asked me if he could come to my room or if I wanted to go to his room to 'play around,' telling me that he would do anything I wanted him to do.
"I was stunned! I felt an erection beginning. In panic I said, 'No thank you,' retreated to my room, and locked the door. I lay in bed all that night, trembling, fighting the temptation to go looking for him. I usually sleep soundly, but I slept poorly that night and for the next three nights.
"Several things disturbed me... (1) Why did he make the offer to me? I had never seen him before, and I had said nothing, done nothing, so far as I knew, to provoke the suggestion. Is there something about me that gives it all away--that makes a stranger think I'd be interested? If so, what? How can I change it? (2) ...My erection frightened me. I felt that my body was somehow against me. I could not control it. I was afraid that the man might see the erection, be emboldened to persist (he had been drinking), and that I might yield.
"I was not happy with my response. I do not feel it was entirely right. It was not the response Christ would have made in the same situation. It left the man without help and me locked in my room struggling with feelings of guilt, shame, temptation, and terror. While I know that there is corruption in me...that was not in Christ, and therefore I must be careful, I also believe that the grace of Christ should enable me to do more than I did. I would rather flee than fall, but I want to be able to do more than just run!"
I talked the matter over with my counselor, agreed to keep in close touch with him about the matter, and decided to take a different tack. Ten days after the incident, I saw the man standing alone outside our rooming house and brought up what had happened. As I wrote in my journal: "He looked very uncomfortable and professed not to know what I was talking about. I don't know whether he blacked out because of the drinking or if this was just shame, but I told him that I was not interested in a sexual relationship, but that I did want him to know that I was willing to be his friend if he needed one. He thanked me but continued to look uncomfortable so I wished him well and went my way."
Though this man and I spoke cordially when we saw each other ever after, nothing more came of the situation save in my own heart. There, this experience wrought a mighty change! Never again have I felt paralyzing, debilitating terror when faced with temptation. When my only sexual fall in the program occurred a number of months later, I was able to face it and work it though so that the man with whom I fell and I have been able to remain good friends for many years without further sexual involvement. Far from being a snare to each other, we have been enabled to be a mainstay in each other's life.
This one small triumph paved the way for a new openness to others and a new courage with which to face life and take the healthy risks necessary to find an ever-increasing freedom from homosexuality. It has enabled me to face my struggles, not in a spirit of fear, but in the God-given "spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" (II Timothy 1:7 NIV).
HOW YOU CAN WORK STEP 11
1) Listen to the tape Mastering Fear under "STEP 11" and read the brochures Once Gay...Always Gay??? under "FOR THOSE WANTING TO GIVE OR RECEIVE HELP WITH HOMOSEXUALITY" on the "HA Book Ministry" list. Read Experience, Strength and Hope up to Step 12 and continue reading the book your step coach recommended to help you with Steps 8-14. Continue to work you your workbook. Journal what you learn from all this and share your findings with your step coach.
2) List in your journal those areas of your life where fear has been hindering recovery. Include your sexual fears, the people you have been afraid to let really know you, and the things a godly heterosexual person would do that you have been afraid to try.
3) Go over your list with your step coach and pick one fear you have determined to over- come. Develop a plan to do so gradually. That might mean telling someone you should trust, but have been afraid to be open with, one of your secrets. It might mean going to the gym in your gym clothes, some weeks later changing in the locker room, and finally using the showers. Go beyond your present comfort level but don't try too much all at once. Take one step at a time. Keep open and honest with your step coach about your progress and/or any problems you are having.
4) Talk with your step coach about ways fear has kept you from relating to people in an emotionally intimate way. Together agree on someone other than your step coach who has show himself or herself to be a trustworthy person. Make a list of things you can begin to share with them as you seek to be vulnerable in your relationship with them. Share one item on that list one week, another the next week, etc. Go beyond your present comfort level but don't try too much all at once. Keep open and honest with your step coach about your progress and/or any problems you are having in this area.
5) Memorize one of the verses you found helpful in this chapter.
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
"Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed:
I, I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
"When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
"When through fiery trials my pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
"E'en down to old age all my people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.
"The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake."