It is undoubtedly true that God displays His Sovereignty through fallen man, of which I am no exception. Just as God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5), I have always felt His presence. For God knew I would be exposed to pornography at a young age and struggle resisting lustful temptations all my life. And while He protected me from countless dangers I could have easily fallen into as a result of my sin, He also loved me enough to not always withhold the sinful desires of my flesh just as He did for the nation of Israel (Numbers 11:19-20). For out of the depths of my sin, I have come to praise Him for loving me enough to let me suffer the consequences of my actions (Ezekiel 23:35) that I might see the damage I caused and repent.
In retrospect, I grew up with a works-based theology with topical knowledge of the most popular stories of Scripture. I knew who Jesus was, just not personally. I was a “surface” Christian with little depth of Biblical truth and my life reflected that for decades. I wish I could say I knew better, but truth be told I was simply lazy. I didn’t have the desire to do what it takes to be a man of Biblical substance, but I could talk a good game and on the outside appeared to be further along spiritually than I was. In some ways I knew better, in other ways I deceived myself, but my pride and arrogance were strong enough to make me believe I could be an effective ministry leader for Christ without a solid foundation of spiritual disciplines. As time has passed that truth has been magnified exponentially within my sanctification.
The greatest self-realization I have experienced has come through the stern rebuke of Jesus in Matthew 23 where He casts woes of judgment upon the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees. For at the same time God answered my prayer for a genuine hunger of His Word eight months ago, He directed me specifically to absolute truth that would address the core of my sin: my love of self manifested in hypocrisy, pride, arrogance and lust. In His sovereignty He knew that what I needed to rid my heart of all fleshly desires was His Word that “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). And I give Him all the glory, honor and praise because He has been faithful and just to forgive my sin and cleanse me from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) through a genuine knowledge and understanding of His Word.
Make no mistake, God’s promise to blot out my transgressions for my own sake by not remembering them (Isaiah 43:25) does not in any way excuse or eliminate the consequences of actions. Scripture declares, “The Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6), and I have not been pardoned from the pain I have caused by forsaking all others to gratify the desires of my flesh. Confessing sin and taking full responsibility for the pain my lustful desires have caused my wife especially is immeasurable. For years I failed to fully realize that my sin not only destroyed her self confidence by creating cancerous insecurity, doubt and anxiety, but more importantly it magnified my lack of Biblical character and integrity supremely needed to provide protection and security for our marriage. My sin left my wife vulnerable to a myriad of temptations and attacks of spiritual warfare because I was too foolish and self-absorbed to see the widespread destruction my sin had made against her.
Praise God for His deliverance though because I now proclaim, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). It has taken not only professional Biblical counseling with my gracious, merciful and forgiving wife who continually dies to herself by supporting me through rehabilitation and accountability with Christian brothers and Covenant Eyes, but a sincere desire and steadfast commitment to humble myself daily by dying to self. For when I love my wife as I love my own body (Ephesians 5:28), I begin to receive God’s promise to restore the years the swarming locust has eaten (Joel 2:25) and fulfill my responsibility appointed by God to love my wife as Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).
Scripture states two absolute truths that address my hypocrisy perfectly: “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6). “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27). This is the ultimate litmus test of my life now because it convicts me to not only have head knowledge of Scripture, but heart application to avoid sinning deliberately and backsliding into old patterns. My heart’s desire now is to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only deceiving myself (James 1:22). I simply want to humbly proclaim at the end of my days here on earth, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). That blessing only comes to a man who is willing to die to self, embracing the cross of Christ in repentance. And by God’s grace, the legacy I will leave one day will be unconditional brokenness and humility before a Holy God that will infinitely bless my wife and children through my commitment to not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of my mind, that by testing I may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2). “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
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This post is written by Daniel Ploof, husband of the sweetest Southern Belle God ever created and father of two precious little Southern Belles in training! You can read more of what God is teaching Daniel through his personal study of Scripture by accessing his blog: forevermine-foreverthine.blogspot.com.