13. Freqently Asked Questions
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions, answered by the Hazards of Being a Man author, Jeff Miller.
Q1 [“What’s required for salvation: faith, repentance, baptism, all of the above?”]
“Do you believe that the combination of faith (believe that Jesus is Lord, died on the cross and was raised again), repentance and water baptism are all necessary to become a Christian?”
I believe that salvation is accomplished by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-10). But salvation is more than a formula and more than “asking Jesus into my heart.” We consider the cost and we jump full in or we don’t jump at all. One of my mentors said it best: “Three things will surprise me in heaven: Who’s there; who’s not there; and that I’m there.” I think we’ll be surprised especially by all of the vacancies in heaven we thought would have been filled by people we knew who claimed to know Christ (Matthew 7:21-23).
On the other hand, while I emphasize and administer water baptism in my church (and I was baptized in my teens) I do not believe that water baptism plays a role in salvation. Although water baptism is sometimes mingled with salvation language in the New Testament; sometimes it is not included at all in salvation language in the New Testament. I would encourage you to listen to my sermon (or read it, someone has transcribed it) called “Baptism: A Flood of Confusion” on www.bible.org at this link (and we may have to agree to disagree on this one):
Q2 [“What can I do about my porn problem?”]
“I have been watching porn for years. And have tried to stop for years as well, without success. I resist for a period of time, but then I go back again. I feel like I am caught in a trap, and will never be able to stop or get free. In fact, sometimes I wonder if I have demons.”
First, I appreciate your vulnerability and honesty in your question. I truly think that acknowledging the problem is half of the solution. I would recommend, however, recruiting a real live Christian man in your life to hold you accountable. For all intents and purposes, I’m anonymous since you don’t know me. Accountability goes a long way when you know someone will be asking you hard questions every time you see them. Draft 6-10 questions that will help you, and ask a mature Christian man in your life to ask you those hard questions on a regular basis (such as “Have you been mentally faithful to your wife?” and “Have you looked at pornography since the last time we met?” and “When was the last time you masturbated?”).
Second, I think you need to evaluate and eliminate the venue for pornography in your life. If you’re looking on the internet, remove internet service from your home and/or get x3watch free monitoring (visit www.x3watch.com). If you’re getting on cable or satellite or other bonus TV, discontinue the service that provides those channels, and be honest with your wife about why you’re doing it. If you’re subscribing to magazines or video services, discontinue the subscriptions and ask your accountability partner to hold you accountable.
Finally, begin a rigorous discipline of memorizing Scripture. It is the single best thing you can do to see victory in this area, but it is hard work. Scripture memory not only assists in resisting temptation but it also re-programs the mind--and we men need both of those benefits! I don’t think you are possessed by demons, per se. But it is very possible that you are being influenced by the demonic world. Scripture memory will help you battle the Evil One. Begin with Psalm 119:9-11; 1 Cor. 6:18-20; 1 Thess. 4:3; 1 Cor. 10:13; Job 31:1; Rom. 13:13-14; 1 John 1:9; Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 10:5; Matt. 5:27-28.
Hang in there. Pray. Confess when you fail. Pick yourself up again and ask the Lord for strength to resist temptation the next time. Don’t get paralyzed by your guilt. Read James 4:7-10. Note that submission to God precedes resisting the Devil!
Q3 [“Is separation in marriage ever an option? What is taught in 1 Cor. 7?”]
“I heard a Christian leader teach that according to 1 Cor 7:10-11 a Christian partner can leave their Christian partner as long as she does not re-marry. Is that true? Your comments would be much appreciated and some clarity on 1 Cor 7:10-11 and the idea that “separation” is a legitimate situation for Christian couples.”
In rare instances I recommend biblical separation in a marriage, and always with a time limit to come back together. Sometimes we need a brief time of space to regroup and gain perspective--and seek the Lord. However, as you learned from my sermon series Marriage on the Rocks (http://www.bible.org/viewseries/230), I do not believe 1 Cor. 7:10-11 is talking about separation, but divorce. The passage reads as follows: “ … the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.”
The message in this passage is that divorce is not desirable. This and dozens of other passages that I noted in my messages state clearly that one “should not” get divorced (Malachi 2:16; Matt. 5:31-32; 19:3-9; 1Cor. 7:10-13). Indeed, why would Paul grant the wife to divorce her (presumably) believing husband in 1 Cor. 7:11, and then forbid her from divorcing her unbelieving husband in 7:13? Elsewhere in Scripture, God says not to commit murder, and follows this command by describing the consequences “if someone commits murder…” The same is true of 1 Cor. 7:10-11--the consequences of disobeying God by getting divorced is a life of singlehood (or reconciliation with one’s spouse). Anyone using 1 Cor. 7:10-11 as a passage that encourages divorce is doing serious damage to the text.
God’s will is that the two of you reconcile and remarry. Having said that, your legal divorce is still a divorce. Although (in my opinion) you are not still married even in “God’s eyes,” nevertheless you are not free to marry another until the door legally closes on the possibility to reconcile with your spouse (i.e., until she gets remarried). Until then, God’s will is for you to remain single and pray for reconciliation (1 Cor. 7:11).
Q4 (“If remarriage is a sin, why are remarried couples often blessed?”)
“I would like your comments on the fact that many Christians get divorced (and not for unfaithfulness) and then marry another Christian. Doesn’t the Lord say this is adultery? Yet these folks still seem to be blessed.”
You surface a difficult dilemma--why does God continue to bless people who seem to be living outside of His will? The question is complex and we’re certainly only guessing at answers. Proverbs is loaded with rhetorical questions: Why do the righteous suffer and why do the ungodly prosper?
Part of the answer rests in the character and nature of God. He does not base all of his blessings on our obedience. In fact, the existence of common grace indicates that God even blesses the unbeliever beyond what he “deserves”--See Matt. 5:45. God prefers the world not to operate on a cause-effect equation, that if we are good He will bless and if we are bad He will withhold blessing. Instead, he wants us to acknowledge that blessings are His alone to distribute--with no strings attached.
On the other hand, divorce for unbiblical reasons is a sin that can be repented of. And repentance after remarriage does not mean getting a divorce; it’s a change of heart. I often say that God’s will is for you to stay married to the person you’re presently married to--even if that marriage was born outside of God’s will (i.e., remarriage after unbiblical divorce). God may be blessing a penitent sinner--which describes most of us.
That leads back to the dilemma, and the terminology we use to describe it: God blesses all of us despite our sin, never because of it. I think that’s the best I can do!
Q5 [“I’m searching for God, but He seems to be hiding …”]
“I am searching for God. I am searching for Jesus. I knock on doors and I ask, but all I find is inner struggle. I hear that a lot of people are finding Christ. That is wonderful! How do they do it? What do they experience? What do they know/do/belief that I am not yet knowing/doing/believing?”
I don’t think many people have a “bright light” experience with God that knocks them off their horse. I think the process for most of us is similar to yours--an ever-growing restlessness that eventually takes you to a decision. At some point you realize that you must either say yes or no to Jesus; he will not let you off the hook without giving him an answer. And soon after that you realize that saying “no” to God is not a realistic option. You’ve gone too far to do that, having moved closer to the yes and farther away from the no. Then you have to say to Jesus with the man who’s child was attacked by demons: “I believe. Help my unbelief.” (see Mark 9:24 and its context). We do not move from “unbelief” to “belief” in one breath, or even in a lifetime. It is a lifelong transition that begins with a kernel of faith. It sounds like you have that faith.
Why are you searching for God? Because God is drawing you to Himself. It’s not because we are smarter or better or more worthy than the next guy. It’s God’s pleasure to woo some of us into a relationship with Him. That’s why I said that it sounds like God is pursuing you as much as you think you might be pursuing Him (although with his track record, He’s not losing as much sleep as you are).
You’re concerned about your behavior, or “outer changes” as you call them. That’s fair. It’s somewhat counter-intuitive how this works. When we become God’s children, our behavior does change, but that doesn’t mean that we have to change before becoming His child. And I don’t think that our behavior changes against our wishes. Rather, God changes our wants so that we want our “outer life” to please Him. In other words, are you okay if God changes your “wants” (and then, subsequently, your behavior)?
So why not do it officially, as I’ve coached hundreds of people like you to do: Get on your knees and say something like, “God, I think I believe in you. Help my unbelief. I am a sinner in need of your grace. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior because of His work on the Cross for me. By receiving Christ, I’m now and forevermore your child and you are now and forevermore my Heavenly Father. Thanks for forgiving my many sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be, and make me want to be that kind of person. Amen.”
Then, open your Bible and begin a lifelong, satisfying study of God’s Word. He did not leave you to figure it out all alone. He has given you a “lamp unto your feet” in the Bible. The Bible itself claims that you will grow in faith the more you read and meditate upon the Bible. Begin with the Gospel of John, if you like. And maybe check out some more free resources on www.bible.org, begin with the ABCs of Christian Growth.
Q6 [“Can a Christian marry a non-Christian?”]
“I am a Christian lady who is in love with a man who is not saved. I have never loved anyone else this much. Please advise me what to do and how to do it.”
In this case, if you are a Christian and the man is not a Christian, then the Bible is very clear that you should not marry him. In fact, I normally counsel people of faith not to even date or court with unbelievers, so that they do not fall in love with them and have to break off a relationship (studies show that you will usually marry someone you’ve dated …). The principle passage for this is 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, which says, 6:14 Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 6:15 And what agreement does
Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever? 6:16 And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 6:17 Therefore “come out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome you, 6:18 and I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the All-Powerful Lord.
I’m sorry to deliver this bad news, but I suspect you knew all along that marrying this person would not honor God. I pray you will make the right decision.
Q7 [“Is remarriage ever okay? Does God ever recognize divorce?”]
“Some Christians teach that that someone who is remarried to someone else is committing adultery with that person as long as their ex-spouse is still living. Is that true?”
If you haven’t listened to my series on marriage that includes messages on divorce and
remarriage, that’s where I’ll point you for a fuller treatment of the topic: http://www.bible.org/viewseries/230
On the remarriage issue--if divorce has varying opinions within the church, remarriage has twice as many. Fundamentally, some believe that legal divorce does not equal spiritual divorce. They believe that one is still married “in God’s eyes” even after the courts say the marriage is over. I disagree. When Jesus says, “What God has joined together, let no man separate” I think He implies that it is, in fact, possible for a marriage to be “separated.” [in the same way, I do not think that sexual relations equals marriage in God’s eyes; instead, covenanting before God equals marriage; renouncing the covenant--often through legal divorce proceedings--equals divorce in God’s eyes] Furthermore, a strange passage in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 speaks to the issue of remarriage--even if we’re not inclined to apply all of the ceremonial law today. According to this passage, once someone is divorced and remarried, if they are divorced again they are not permitted to remarry their original spouse. Strange, but God must have some reason for this. In the least, the passage teaches that legal divorce is, in fact, divorce “in God’s eyes.”