We commonly use our perception (or should I say misperception?) of God for our own purpose and to our personal advantage. The Bible says, “No one has ever seen God, not so much as a glimpse” (John 1.18 The Message), and yet we plaster God’s face all over our private agenda by wrongly crediting Him for the plans of our own making, and later blaming Him and others (anyone but ourselves) when they do not work out. Dependency on God is tricky because of the obvious truth contained in this (and every) myth. I must depend upon God, but not to the exclusion of taking the action He requires of me. God-dependency becomes a false precept when used as an excuse for inaction in the face of clear and godly direction.
When Peter stood on the boat’s edge in the dark morning hours on a choppy Galilean sea, Jesus issued a command to “Come!” Matthew records, “And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus” (Matthew 14.29 HCSB). God did not push Peter out of the vessel, nor did Jesus grab the disciple’s hand and pull him into the turbulent and murky deep. It was Peter’s call to faith and action, and his alone. No one, not even Jesus, could take that step of obedience for him.
When I was in college at the University of Washington, I took a class in Geology. I did not care for the subject matter, and so chose not to study. As a new Christian, I assumed God was going to take care of everything for me. I still cringe at the memory of what I am about to tell you. During the final exam, I prayed asking God to guide me to the correct answers. I guessed on every single test question. To add to my pitiful academic laziness, I decided to “witness” to the professor and wrote notes in the test margins: “God bless you, teacher” and “Jesus loves you” and “God is good.” Why I thought that type of messaging would be helpful, on any level, is still a mystery to me. I hate to think of what must have gone through my college professor’s mind as he placed the large red “F” on my final exam. My religious stupidity must have made for a good laugh at the faculty cocktail party.
Whatever happened to simple obedience? I am not playing a chess game with the Almighty. There is no need for me to create a strategy, analyze my moves, or anticipate His. I am not equal to God. Why should I consult myself or consider my preferences before taking the action He requires of me? According to the Bible, “…whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4.17 ESV). Christ’s query resonates in my soul as both a fair question and one that inspires fear: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6.46 NIV).
As it pertains to sexual sobriety, could God’s will for a man or woman be any clearer?
“For this is the will of God… that you abstain from porneia.” I do not need to think about it, I just need to do it. “Abstain from porneia.” How much easier it is to hold to my pseudo God-dependency, making Him responsible for my obedience, or blaming him for my disobedience.
Consider, for example, Paul’s infamous “thorn in the flesh.”
I’ve heard men and women explain that porneia was their “thorn in the flesh.” These people justified their sin by attributing it to God. “I pleaded with the Lord three times to remove my overactive libido, but I still want my sex drug. Obviously, God has not taken this ‘thorn’ from me, so pornography must be my ‘cross to bear.’ I wish I didn’t have sexual addiction in my life, but Jesus allows it to remind me that His ‘grace is sufficient’ and His ‘power is perfected in my weakness’ for sex. Giving in to temptation is God’s way of keeping me humble by reminding me I am still not perfect. Therefore, I guess I will accept this defect as a part of His plan for me.”
Does this interpretation of Scripture sound suspect? Well, it should because it is; and I should know, because I’ve used it myself.
It has been said, “Without God, I can’t. Without me, He won’t.” I have a responsibility which I cannot shirk. It is mine, and mine alone. Jesus cannot obey God for me. Obedience to the will of God is the role I am called to play in the story of my own recovery.