THE CONCEPT of sin is very unpopular. Sin might be defined as our personal self-enhancement, self-propulsion, and self-will pursued at the expense of or neglect of God and others. It's when we're sitting on the throne of our own lives, calling the shots, acting as our own boss, daring God or anyone else to interfere or get in the way.

It's actually more an attitude of the heart, a commitment to live in autonomy from God. Hardly anyone can escape sin's consequences. As a result, we're weighed down by shame, guilt, and fear, much of which has been self-induced but which also has been produced by the actions of others against us.

Most of our ministry here involves helping people with a history of sexual sin or those affected by the choices of loved ones regarding sex. This latter category include those whose husbands are into pornography or homosexuality - or even those who have sons or daughters who have declared themselves to be gay.

The truth is that today an increasing number of us struggle with all forms of fallen sexuality including pornography, Internet sex-chat rooms, unwanted same-sex attractions, or other sexual addictions. We live in despair, loneliness and hopelessness.

We've tried hundreds of times to just stop it: Just quit doing what we're doing, giving in to the overwhelming pulls of our hearts to these things. It can be an attempt to fill a void and cling to something which brings a sense of life and excitement.

It's also a search for a sense of well-being and calm, much of which is temporary, eventually eroding and corroding the soul.

Now here's the good news. People really can be free from the power of destructive and compulsive pulls of the heart. We have a loving God who cares about these painful issues of the heart and, seemingly, unconquerable problems. This stuff is not new to Him.

If you've not read the New Testament, I encourage you to begin reading it. Start with the Gospel of John. You'll see the mercy and grace that Jesus has for broken and struggling people. You'll see that He desires to enter the "fray" and pull us out of our pit.

The unique message of the Bible is that God, in Christ, reached down to us. As a man he struggled through and suffered the penalty of sin, separation from God, for us, even though he was entirely sinless. This is what grace is all about. It's God reaching down to us, offering us forgiveness and a new life, because Jesus Christ took the fire for us-in our place. It's understanding this and incorporating what that means into the fiber of our being which changes us, and gives us the desire and power to be different people with a new purpose.

Equally passé and quite unpopular is the concept of repentance. Repentance is basically agreeing with God about the bankrupt state of our hearts and determining to get off the throne of our lives, to cease to call the shots, giving that "boss" status over to God.

A friend of mine has said that repentance is "killing that which is killing me, without killing myself." You see, only when we give over ownership of our hearts to the one who made us can we get the courage to begin addressing the deadly stuff of our souls which we know has been killing us.

This is especially true about enslaving habits of the heart to which we cling. A relationship with Jesus Christ enables us to let him woo us with a love we've never know and to show us how much we're loved. *

Editor's note: John Freeman is president of Harvest USA, a ministry that seeks to educate and equip the church to minister the Gospel to those impacted by sexual sin and addictions. For more information, visit its Web site at www.harvest