Taming the Animal

We’ve spent time—hours upon hours of time—watching things we shouldn’t have been watching, reading things we shouldn’t have been reading, and doing things we shouldn’t have been doing. Let’s be real, our generation struggles. Perhaps not everyone’s secrets are all the same—but they’re still secrets. 

“Confess your tresspasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed . . .” Imagine a small group of five young Christian men on a public university campus, the majority addicted but all willing to do just what that verse instructed, meeting together one early morning, pleading with God for deliverance. Together they confess their mistakes, pray with one another, and make new commitments to cut off their bad habits. Week after week they meet, some convening daily to encourage, pray with, and at times even fast with and for each other. Months elapse, and some recover from their addiction. Others don’t. What makes the difference? 

This situation is a reality on numerous campuses—Christian, secular, even Adventist, perhaps more than we may like to admit. In my own experience as a high schooler in the midwest, I saw the devastating effects of addictions in the lives of my friends and family. Even more troubling is the fact that I’ve witnessed people energetically engaged in church activities while living double lives. Early morning prayer sessions, powerful sermons, and even diligent, passionate work for souls may create a buzz of activity, but so long as we aren’t experiencing private victory, true revival will never be the result. We can ask God all we want for revival and reformation, but sooner or later we will have to face the reality that without total consecration, revival will remain an elusive dream. 

Perhaps you’ve asked yourself, “What is hindering revival in my life, my family, my school, my church?” Many who ask this question may initially find no meaningful conclusion, but often the culprit is secret sin. As Christians, we might be studying our Bibles, doing evangelism, even praying unitedly, but still lack the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible clearly warns us that this problem will plague God’s remnant people in the last days, so we really need to know what to do about it. 

We return to the scene: two of these earnest, revival-seeking men hike up to a grassy knoll one starry evening, look up at a crystal clear night sky and remember God—the One who made the galaxies and promised that if they call upon Him, He would answer, and do “great and mighty things.” Right there, underneath the heavens, they get down on their knees and beg the Lord for an answer to their cries. The Lord hears.

 . . . 

Have you spent daily time alone with the Lord this week? 

Have you been faithfully meditating day and night on at least one verse? 

Have you looked at anything you know God would not want you to look at? 

Have you committed any actions that God would consider wrong or immoral? 

Have you been completely truthful? 

All five questions are listed on the slide for the teens class one Sabbath morning. The teacher, realizing addictions to be a growing problem among the rising generation, challenges his class to use them. Among his students are the five struggling brothers, at this point totally oblivious to the reality of corporate struggle. They know one another as friends on campus but they’ve never been so bold as to challenge one another on the topic of secret sin. One of them begins asking the questions among his classmates and he’s surprised at how many he finds struggling or least having previously struggled with various addictions. The majority he tactfully questions have at some point battled addiction, and at least half are actively engaged in some compulsive behavior. 

Addictions, especially lust, ravage society today, and these snares are more prevalent among our generation than we often care to admit. Secular research shows nearly 70% of youth today have viewed explicit content; and furthermore, we have emerged from a major pandemic, when “use [of explicit content] increased even more.” Thankfully, however, there is a difference between the world’s youth and God’s youth, for we believe God gives us grace to obtain something better: victory. 

Our intrepid brothers learn valuable lessons—lessons of trial, triumph, relapse, and recovery—over the course of many months. They may also apply to you, struggling student. To you, striving parent, faithful pastor, or consecrated leader. They might apply to you, earnest Christian. And they’re important lessons because as we implement them, the Holy Spirit will bring transformation that could never be otherwise. 

First and foremost, they learned they had to surrender everything. When God gives freedom He is able to do so only because, through His grace, we chose to give up all. Repentance, surrendering everything—or anything—is impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit, but the choice is still completely ours to allow Him to work in our lives. Furthermore, that choice is one we must make every moment of every single day. We must get down on our knees and make thorough work of repentance. We must choose to give up everything that could even lead us down the road of unfaithfulness—to cut off our right hand if it causes us to sin. In many a young man’s story, this may mean surrendering ‘gateway drugs’ like video games, YouTube, movies, or your entire digital life for a time. We must especially surrender isolation; with careful spiritual discernment, building bonds of accountability. The Bible says if we are to experience healing we must “confess [our] sins to one another, and pray for one another.” 

Furthermore, if we find ourselves “overtaken in any trespass” we may require mentorship if we desire restoration–these brothers did. For well over a year, one of them continued his college experience without a smartphone and the simple prayer “God be merciful to me, a sinner” shared with only his closest mentors. 

Second, they learned the importance of consistent exercise, no days off. Whether joining a running club, finding a walking buddy, or best of all, engaging in a physically-demanding job, consistent, vigorous exercise is a decisive factor in overcoming addiction. Even those struggling with media addictions who have completely cut off their access to visual stimulation still find unhealthy ways of satisfying desire when they skip this second step. Physical labor and exercise help one to maintain a balanced mind, and thereby strengthen us to avoid temptation. 

Last, they learned the necessity of watching their diet. Nearly all who are battling addiction must first overcome in diet if we expect to overcome in the greater lusts. Instead of the burgers, fries, sugary sodas and pies, try a plant-based burrito or haystack. Fried eggs for breakfast? Go for the hashbrowns and fruit. And that late-night greasy pizza? Don’t order it. “This kind of food—eggs and animal flesh—feeds and inflames the animal passions. This makes it very difficult for them to overcome the temptation to indulge in the sinful practice of self-abuse which in this age is almost universally practiced.”

 Many victims of temptation have a hard time implementing these three steps without accountability. They may try for a few days, but without consistency in all three areas, especially the first, a fall is almost inevitable. However, in the experience of many recovery groups, when individuals encourage one another in following all three steps, total surrender, regular exercise, and a simple diet, God makes the way of escape and souls are much better able to resist temptation. His promises always prove sure; in praying for each other, we will be healed.

. . .

Some may think I’m daring for venturing to address such a topic, but in reality countless souls are struggling to triumph over the flesh, and I pray this compilation of stories gives hope that they can. We need to be tactful yet open about these challenges. People may think us too bold for having such candid conversations, but I find it concerning that we aren’t having more. Ignoring heavy topics isn’t the way to overcome them—we must rather prayerfully meet them head on. So what if there’s more that God would have us do, especially within our educational systems, to facilitate recovery and promote spiritual growth? True, overcoming addiction, as in any spiritual pursuit, is primarily between us and Christ, but in these last days as we seek for true revival and corresponding reformation, is there a specific role God would have our institutions play? 

“With the present plan of education a door of temptation is opened to the youth. Although they generally have too many hours of study, they have many hours without anything to do. These leisure hours are frequently spent in a reckless manner. The knowledge of bad habits is communicated from one to another, and vice is greatly increased.” 

We as students often complain of too much homework, but is the Spirit of Prophecy saying the door of temptation is open merely because we are too busy? The opposite: Ellen White says there’s too much time in students’ schedules “without anything to do.” In order to constructively fill our dangerous leisure hours, she offers the solution: 

“These evils, which exist in the schools that are conducted according to the present plan, might be remedied in a great degree if study and labor could be combined. The same evils exist in the higher schools, only in a greater degree; for many of the youth have educated themselves in vice, and their consciences are seared.”

To many people, the work-study programs of our early schools were applicable only in the agrarian and industrial ages of the past, but that’s not the whole picture. God has given us the industrial plan of education “[in] order to preserve the balance of the mind . . .”, which is precisely why “labor and study should be united in the schools.” If we want revival in our schools, we must put away sin, and the principles of true education were given to help us do just that. 

Dear friends, the Lord longs to revive us, but He can’t pour out His Spirit upon those of us who are walking in known sin. He promises to us who humble ourselves, pray and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways that He will hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our land. Furthermore, as we cooperate with Christ in breaking the yoke of worldly education, He empowers us to obtain that victory that God longs to give us. Indeed, “Before we can carry the message of present truth in all its fullness to other countries, we must first break every yoke. We must come into the line of true education, walking in the wisdom of God, and not in the wisdom of the world.” Oh how He longs to finish His work in us, that through Him we can finish His work. 

Are we ready for revival? Are we willing to break every yoke? Are we willing to surrender all? 

Are you?

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