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Rescue Skills

Truth In Love 368

How do we help those who are struggling with sexual sin, especially when it comes to fighting temptations and dealing with sin and shame?

Jun 20, 2022

Dale Johnson: This week on the podcast, I have with me, Dr. Deepak Reju. He is a very, very familiar voice in the biblical counseling movement, in the biblical counseling world, and certainly in Southern Baptist circles. He’s a well known pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. He serves there faithfully as a pastor of counseling and family ministry. He received his theological training at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, both M.Div. and P.hD and he’s written several books. Today, I want to talk to him about a new book.

Last week, we talked with him about one of his books, a new book with Jonathan Holmes Rescue Plan. This week, I want us to talk about a secondary book Rescue Skills, and Deepak, I want to give you a chance to just talk a little bit about the aim and focus of these two books. You mentioned some of those things last week but I also want to give you an opportunity to catch our listeners up to the focus of this particular book Rescue skills. 

Deepak Reju: Yeah, so if Rescue Plan, which is what we talked about last week is the ‘What,’ ‘When,’ and ‘Why’ of pornography, theology of addictions, and dealing with women struggling and in specific situations in life, like dating and marriage and teenagers. Rescue Skills, we’re no longer doing the ‘What,’ ‘When’ and ‘Why,’ now we’re doing the ‘How,’ what are the specific skills you need to employ to be a faithful pastor, counselor, discipler, as you come alongside, the person who’s struggling? This book is not geared for the struggler though they can benefit from it. It’s geared for the helper, the pastor, counselor, small group leader, parent, best friend, accountability partner, and what did they need to do as they’re coming alongside the struggler. So, this is an equipping book or the helper. That’s what our goal is. 

Dale Johnson: Now, I want to recommend this to pastors, particularly counselors. You’ll definitely find it intriguing, but pastors, in particular, sometimes you think this engagement into the task of counseling or shepherding is a little difficult, maybe you’re not well trained, I think Deepak and Jonathan will really help you to understand how you can grasp what the Scriptures is calling you to and engaging people who are broken.

Deepak, you mentioned in this book that you guys wrote. I think it’s in chapter 12 an interesting phrase that you use and I want to give you a chance to talk about it, called the “Deadly Triad.” I want you to describe for our listeners, what is that you’re talking about the “Deadly Triad”? 

Deepak Reju: All right, so in the “Deadly Triad,” what I think we find within an addict is one the death of a conscience. So, repeated use of porn deadens the conscience over time. So, that the alarm bells that were there at the very beginning no longer sounding off when somebody acts out, and you know that when a gap comes in a person’s firewall, and they’re addicted. What do they do? There’s no hesitation, they immediately jump after that. Well, what does that tell us? The conscience is gone. It’s been eliminated, it has been deaden off by it. So that’s number one, the dead conscience.

Number two, dampen gospel affections. The other thing that the porn has done is dampened, the faith-driven gospel affections that were characteristic of my life, which leads to number three, ruling desires. So the desires that the carnal desires, the inordinate desires that are key to the addiction are now ruling my life because the deaden conscience is not speaking up, and the gospel affections is not setting any kind of agenda for my life. So all that’s left are the carnal desires. I think those three things come slamming together and you see what’s typical within addiction. 

Dale Johnson: Yeah, I mean that is a perfect picture of what Paul describes in Galatians 5. Walk by the spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. You’re describing the actual opposite of that when we’re giving credence to the flesh and it becomes ruling to us and it dampens those gospel affections. I think that’s a perfect picture and a really good description of really what’s happening to a person and they don’t even feel it, as if their nerves are numb to it in that case, and that does something to the conscience.

I want you to talk about sometimes engaging in this type of you know, sexual sin, sexual immorality jades our view of the opposite sex, and the way in which we think about them. Is it possible, in cases, where guys have been so far down the road and pornography to revitalize their distorted view of the opposite sex? 

Deepak Reju: Yeah, I think it is. I mean, what often encounter is we see people who are addicted. They begin to objectify the opposite sex, porn in itself is selfish by its orientation in nature. And so, we want to help people not only fight the pornography problem, but once they get through the addiction and get to a better place, we don’t want to just simply then set them up with the dating relationship in a marriage because they still carry over the remnants of a more objectified, distorted view of sex into their marriage. So, I think a key step is then helping someone come to terms with what God’s plan is for sex. The beautiful nature what God intends when a man and woman in marriage, commit themselves and experience intimacy and unity and oneness, and the real beauty that is that first comes in knowing God himself, and the beauty it is in the gift of sex to a man and woman in a committed relationship.

And so, helping someone capture that vision and move from the distorted sense of what sex is to the more beautiful vision of what God intends is something I haven’t heard that many people talk about as a key step in recovery. Otherwise, what we do, is we have these men and women in marriages and they feel the consequences of a lifetime of struggle with pornography before the marriage in the selfish nature that it comes out, or the objectifying or the using of another person. That’s not what God intends when it comes to intimacy in marriage.

Dale Johnson: Really well said. I think one of the most critical points here is guys will say, “Well, you know, I need to engage in dating. Maybe I just need to get married that’ll help me with this issue of sin.” Well, exactly what you’re talking about here is engaging in sex, even in the confines of marriage doesn’t just make that sexual immorality go away. In fact, you’re thinking about sex in terms of pleasure, what you can be gratified by engaging in sexuality as opposed to the beauty of sex in the confines of marriage is still remains about giving myself for the sake of another, and that’s the beautiful picture and that’s a part of what needs to be reformed in this person’s heart and mind. So the way they see the opposite sex in a proper way, the way that God would see them.

Now as we keep going, when we talk about these issues of sexual immorality and pornography, particularly, and engaging in all manner of sexual brokenness, accountability is a big deal. And maybe we’ve not done accountability well in the past, maybe we could say that. So, talk about what’s good about accountability and what are some of the specific ways that we can do it well? 

Deepak Reju: Yeah, so I’ll give you a picture of what I think accountability that works, elements of accountability that are helpful. I want people to be honest and vulnerable. So if you’re lying or hiding, that’s not going to help us in helping you, for the struggler. I want it to be frequent enough that we’re getting the person, so sporadic checking in for someone who is deep in a pit is not really going to help them get out of the pit. I want it to be tough and intrusive, so people feel uncomfortable asking hard questions, but if we’re going to actually help get someone out of the dilemma that they’re in, we’ve got to be willing to ask the hard and uncomfortable questions. You think about sexuality, it’s an awkward topic to begin with. Now, you’re talking about someone who is struggling with sexual immorality, and you’re having to press in on it. I don’t want to know the gruesome details of what they’re looking at, but I do need to ask them hard questions about lying and masturbation and how they’re handling their life. I need to press in.

Local. So, the difficulty with technology, is it a lot of guys I press into their lives, I find out that their accountability partner is their best friend from college that lives in another state. And you know, maybe they had a really good relationship when they were roommates, then they moved to Washington DC and because that’s the relationship they had invested in a good degree from a number of years. It makes sense that they’re still having conversations, but why not have someone in your own local church hold you accountable? Why keep someone who is not even in the same state with you, let alone the same local church with you? So, somebody who sees you every week, somebody who’s in a small group with you, somebody who’s at church with you, someone who can do life with you, go for runs, eat meals, talk about sermons. Just all the things that come with that. So, local is a really big deal.

Communal. So, we usually have a small inner circle of people who are helping us with our accountability but you’ve got to be attached to a local church. You want an entire body of believers that are holding you accountable for your discipleship. And it’s really important. Then, that’s essentially what I just described is church membership, being willing to commit to a local body of believer for the sake of your sanctification.

Broad rather than narrow. A bad habit of accountability partners is to focus just on the sexual sin, and not put it in the context of the whole person. And so, helping to understand because you know that that sexual sinner also has desires, has hopes, has probably a job. You know, has family issues, they’re all kinds of things that are going on, and so if you if you treat multiple roots in a tree and not just one damaged root, you really get to changing the whole nature of the tree, and you’ll be able to see things and help things in a much better perspective.

Gracious. A lot of people act like four-star generals or sergeants when it comes to accountability you know they’re condemning, they get hard, get down in the trench but they’re hard on the person and you know what? Why would they want to come back? If there’s much more condemnation than grace.

Faith focused. You know, the thing that’s going to change the most is not just simply put off all the sin, but faith is the wind in the sails that move someone beyond an addiction.

And then Word centered, we’ve got to be grounded in Scripture in order for this to change. That’s, I mean I could go through more, but that’s a basic dynamics on accountability, what I’m looking for, when I think it begins to work.

Dale Johnson: Affirm 100%. Now, I need to highlight several things. You said that quickly, but some beautiful things that we need to focus on. I love the focus on the local church. Listen, biblically that is where this accountability ought to happen. Another thing you said that I think is really critical, certainly Word centered. But when we think about the whole of the person’s life, you know, one of the things, Deepak, that I’ve seen in dealing with folks who struggle with sexual brokenness and sexual immorality, this is not just one issue. It is a manifestation of the flesh and their flesh in a lot of ways is unwieldy and when they’re tempted with sexual impurity, they run after it because that’s what their flesh wants. And you see that appearing, not just in temptations of sexuality, but in lots of areas of their life where we see, unwieldiness, lack of self-control that sort of thing. So, a local accountability partner. What a great point that we have to focus on because we’re talking about a fruit of the flesh, and if we think that works linearly, that’s not the way this production of sin works. So we have to deal with the whole of the person and what we see happening in other parts of their life. I think that’s a brilliant, brilliant point.

Now, I want to keep moving here and talk about this issue of shame. Anytime we talk about things that are shameful, one of the reasons, we, you know, you engage in something like this you want to hide it or you don’t do it out and open public is because we know intrinsically this, that it’s shameful but there are a couple of ditches here. If we want to just totally dismiss shame, which is what a lot of your secular psychological narratives try to do with things, is just dismiss shame, but we don’t want to, we don’t want to compound the issues of shame. We want it to have its proper effect and I think God has given us shame, guilt for proper ways when we do things that are against His law. And so, we want to be, we want to walk carefully here, to deal with shame appropriately. People have shame, how do we help them find a way home that sort of thing. So what do most people do with their shame and then how should we help them? 

Deepak Reju: Well, you know, honestly Dale, I don’t think most people know what to do with their shame. It’s this ambiguous experience that they know they fall under when they do something like sexual sin, it pops up after they’ve acted out, and they usually work through with false guilt and don’t know what to do. But if Scripture is really clear, and I think it is, in biblical categories for shame, it begins to put a lens on shame that most of us don’t walk around with.

So, for example, Ed does a masterful job in his book, Shame Interrupted, in laying out a couple of basic categories. So, naked exposed Genesis 3, dirty and unclean Leviticus 10:10, or Mark Chapter 1:40-42, rejected and outcast in Genesis 16 or John 4. And then, the category I added into that is a sense of failure which is Matthew 26:75, which is Peter, and his denying of Jesus. Right there, you got a lens, you got a Biblical lens and the first step in dealing with shame is seeing what Scripture tells us about the shame, so we don’t have to just approach it as an ambiguous experience. But then, how does Christ enter into our shame? Let me just take, for example, John 4, the woman at the well, Jesus exposes her experiences with multiple men, so, this shameful woman who comes to the well at the middle of the day because she doesn’t want to be seen with other people. So the heat of the day why is she drawing water in heat of the day. It’s a clue from the text of the shameful experience that she’s been living, but Jesus brings it out and what does he do? He brings it out in order to point to Himself and point how He’s the only sufficient man in her life. So, you know, Jesus begins to show us what it looks like to measure the shame or Matthew 8. What does Jesus do with a leper? What I love the biblical narrator shows us is when the leper asked to be made clean, Jesus with the power of His Word could have done that by just simply saying be clean and He does say that. But if you look at the narration, He also reaches out and touches the leper, which completely turns upside down all of the regulations and rules of how you deal with lepers in that day and age to show that Jesus is here to rescue sinners, to rescue the most shameful. And he’s not going to follow the cultural standards and how to deal with shame. We can go on and on through text that shows us Christ has something to say about each of those categories of shame. Scripture makes real clear how Christ uniquely helps us understand how to deal with our shame. 

Dale Johnson: That’s right. I mean, even the example you mentioned in the garden where our response often to shame is to run and hide. And that’s, that’s not biblically appropriate. We have to legitimize the shame that we’re experiencing because of the sin and guilt that we bear. But then Jesus says come to me, come to me, and He will deal with it. Now I think that’s one of the, I’ll say this in parenting. That’s one of the most important things I think that we strive to teach our kids, is they’re going to be guilty of things. They’re going to do things that are shameful, but to teach them not to run and hide, but to come to us who can help make it right, and that the eventual goal is they learn to come to Christ, and that’s what we want to do is help, is to teach people to come to Christ who covers our guilt. He covers our shame, He doesn’t dismiss it, but He deals with it and that’s the appropriate way. I love that.

Final thing, I want to talk about and we get to the nitty-gritty of fighting this issue of pornography, fighting the temptations. How do we go about doing that better, fighting against the temptations of pornography? So many people fail at this. Deepak, help us to understand how we can fight these temptations better. 

Deepak Reju: Yeah, the book has a number of things related to temptations. So for the sake of our time, I’m going to point out one thing that I think is a unique failure of a lot of people, which is I use the image of a river in the book, and if you think of a river upstream, midstream, downstream. Upstream is when you first start thinking about it, when you have that feeling when your body feels aroused, midstream is when you start scheming and planning, and even beginning to daydream about acting out, and downstream is when you act out. Most people confess after you act out, they go to an accountability partner or friend. I’m trying to press the people I’m helping to confess upstream. When you first have the thought, when you first begin to feel like you want to move towards something, when you first feel arouse, why not bring it to the light and draw us in? Why wait till after you’ve already acted out to begin to involve others? In case of some people I’m helping, they’ll act out multiple times or the course of a couple of days, and finally feel so bad they come and confess to us after several days they’ve fallen. Like no, no, no, no. You know, I’m in the trench with you. I’m killing myself to help you. Let me in as early as possible.

So very much Ephesians 5, let’s bring it to the light. Let’s expose the dreadful deeds of darkness, as Paul instructs us to, expose it as fast as possible, and it begins with just as simple as a thought, if you begin to contemplate it. Now the typical answer is like, you know, if I if I texted you every time I had a thought, I’d be texting you all day. Well okay, let’s do that. Let’s just, go ahead, and reach out to me. Let’s see what this does, because I want to reverse the momentum that’s being built up in your life, and we do that by taking it head-on. And if we’re willing to take this head-on a week, or two or three or a month into it, you’d be surprised how we begin to reverse this precedent. 

Dale Johnson: Well, I’m thinking even of a parable. I mean, when you think about a fire, an ember is much easier to put out than a bonfire. 

Deepak Reju: Yeah, exactly.

Dale Johnson: Right, as we’re trying to catch it early on. I think that’s wise. Really, really well done, Deepak. I want to recommend this book to you that he and Jonathan Holmes have written Rescue Skills: Essential Skills For Restoring the Sexually Broken. Deepak, I’m so grateful that you spent this week with us and helped us to understand a little bit more about this book. And I want to recommend it to all of our listeners as a way to engage and help those who are floundering about in a very sexualized culture, wondering how to get out of this mess of sexual immorality. Thank you, brother, so much.

Helpful Resources:

Rescue Skills: Essential Skills for Restoring the Sexually Broken

Spanish ACBC website