Months ago I listened a most fascinating and challenging sermon by one of my favorite teachers, Tim Keller. The sermon was called “How to Change”. Do yourself a favor and find it on iTunes immediately. His talk tackled the fruit of the Spirit as addressed the book of Galatians. Keller quoted the wise Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards who in one of his books was quoted as saying “There is a concatenation of the graces of Christianity”. Concatenation. It’s a weird word but it’s packed with meaning. Basically, Edwards was saying that there is a deep interconnectedness between the fruit of the Spirit, so that you can’t truly have one without the others. If you experience peace, but no humility, what you really have is a shell of peace, a façade that will show itself to only be circumstantial in the end. True peace must necessarily be partnered with humility because a truly peaceful person is someone who admits that God, and not they, is in control and that they submit to His will for their life. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are all close relatives of each other. You can’t say your in the family and not be around all of them. Kinda like Everybody Loves Raymond. :) Over the past few years of observing myself and those around me, an idea has been developing in my mind about a different type of concatenation. But first, some things you may not know about me.
Fact #1: From the age of 9 until about 7 years ago, I was deep in the trenches of porn addiction. Yep, for the better part of 10 years of my life my identity was wrapped up in my lustful habits. At the worst point I was looking at pornographic material every day, often never leaving my room except to go to school.
Fact #2: From the age of 9 until about 7 years ago, I was severely overweight. In fourth grade I weighed 116 lbs. I was a 36 waist by the time I was eleven. In high school and college I weighed about 260 lbs.
All of that changed by my sophomore year of college. God gave me a number of decisive victories over lust that year, and eventually 1 week of freedom turned into 2, turned into 3, and then one day I just never returned to internet porn. It was such a burden lifted. Interestingly, at the exact same time my gluttonous eating patterns began to change. I was saying “no” to overeating, and pound by pound the weight began to fall off. In just a handful of months I lost almost 70lbs. I went from a 42 waist to a 34. I even dropped a shoe size! It occurred to me recently that these two victories happening simultaneously might not have been mere coincidence. Could it be that in some odd way, there was a link between the two and that by crippling one, the other crippled as well? Perhaps spiritual fruit isn’t the only thing that is concatenated. Perhaps our sins can be too.
By this point, you might be confused by what I mean. Let me give a couple more examples. I have two friends, both who struggle with lust (manifesting in a pornography addiction). As the battle with lust increased in Friend A, so did his battle with his weight. He would stumble by looking at porn and console himself by eating a meal. Conversely, he would gorge himself on food, and as sure as the sun rises would go to his room and get on the internet. On top of these two issues, slothfulness showed up to play. This man who was once very disciplined in his lifestyle was now sleeping past noon most days. Lust, gluttony, laziness, all manifested in his life at about the same time.
Friend B has two foibles: A constant losing battle with lust and a constant losing battle with dust. The dude is just a slob. Disorderliness and uncleanliness mark his existence. It is my opinion that for both of these men, there is a deep connectedness, a concatenation, of sins in their life.
My point is this: Lust, gluttony, slothfulness, uncleanliness, drunkenness, are members of the same family: Self-indulgence. They can no more be separated than Siamese twins who are connected at the heart. If one is in your life, it is incredibly easy for the others to show up. Consequently, if the victory you experience over one is a real, Jesus-given victory, the others will have a much harder time sticking around. I’ve seen this in my life and in the life of many folks around me.
The reason I am writing these things is to provide one more round of ammunition in your arsenal against sin. I don’t believe this truth is all you need to find victory. In my next blog I’ll be tackling what I believe the ultimate problem and solution are to the sin of lust. That is not what this blog is about. But this can still be ammo for you. Perhaps you are in the throes of lust and addiction and are desperate for freedom. Consider this counsel. Heed the words of Paul, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27). By taking control of one part of your “body” you might be able to reign in the others. I wish I would have known this long before seven years ago. Perhaps I would’ve experienced victory sooner.