[back-story omitted at correspondent's request: difficulties in ministry and personal application]
First, please rest assured that I will not use anything you have written to me in your email (what I write here is probably something others need to hear too at some future date, however).
I want you to know that you are certainly in very good company when it comes to having a variety of "sins that easily beset" (Heb.12:1) – no doubt that is why it is in the Bible. I can share with you a few things I have learned from scripture and also from personal experience and observation:
1) Try to take it one day at a time. That is what scripture tells us to do (your verses: Matt.6:34). Every day has enough evil of its own without worrying about tomorrow OR looking back at yesterday. In fact, it is best not to look back at all (Phil.3:13). When we look back it is either to beat ourselves up about some prior failure or to pat ourselves on the back about some past success. The one destroys our morale and tends to make us sit down in the mud and do nothing; the other tends to make us think we are something special so that the "rules" don't apply to us, and the next thing you know we are failing in spectacular fashion. Both false perspectives keep us from what we should be doing: putting our heads down and pushing forward in the here and now "as long as it is called 'today' ". Christians need to have short memories about the past – except to remember the cross, and to have blinders on about tomorrow – except to anticipate the rewards and glories of eternity. God forgives us our past mistakes, provided we repent and confess; God expects us to look forward to the benefits of serving His Son, and not anticipate the pleasures of this world.
2) Try not to be concerned with particulars. No matter how much we have, human beings that we are, it will never be enough. No matter how little we have, God being who He is, it will always be enough. Therefore our life "does not consist in the abundance of [our] possessions" (Lk.12:15 NIV), but God is superintending our lives in just the right way. Would we do more with more? Maybe. Or maybe we would do less. And probably we would do less relatively speaking. God is evaluating us on what we do with what does He give us. If He gives us five talents, He expects another five, not another ten. The widow who threw in the two mites will be rewarded more than those who threw in much more. We do not determine or pick the battlefield on which we are to fight this Christian life. God does that for us. Our job is not to choose the particulars of the struggle. God picks them. Could they be different? Sure. But would they ever be easy? Not as long as this is the devil's world. If we had more money, we would have other problems. Our job is to trust the Lord to help us through the particular set of problems He has given us. Daniel apparently had all the comforts of life and lacked for absolutely nothing. On the other hand, he was tossed into the lions' den. The Lord delivered him "because he had trusted in his God" (Dan.6:23 NIV). Our problems are different, but God is the same God. He will deliver us. Our job is to stay faithful and to do the best job we can in serving Him day by day come what may. Our job is to keep our eyes on Jesus, not the particulars of the life with which we have been entrusted. This is not easy to do, but it is an essential part of the application of the mature believer.
3) Try to remember who owns our will. We are made in the image of God. That means we have a free will. This is the most dramatic and the most important thing in the universe outside of the sacrifice of Christ, and in fact it is integrally related to that sacrifice because we have been given free will to respond to Him. The world is full of noise. The world is full of pain. The world is full of pleasures – although for a genuine believer these easily turn to trouble if they pass beyond what is good, appropriate and prudent. But everything that is in the world is only so much dust. What this world is about, what it is really about from the correct, divine point of view, is the sum total of decisions made by all of us who have free will. That is why we are here. To make choices. That is why the world is here – so that we can have a place and a time to make these choices. What we choose is so very important. And it is the totality of our choices as Christians that determines our eternal rewards. We are in charge of what we think, what we say, and what we do. That is a fundamental fact and it is incredibly important that we face it and accept it . . . and revel in it. We can, God helping us, do whatever we have been called upon to do, both in the pursuit of sanctification (staying away from sin) and edification (growing up in Jesus through the Word). It may be hard. But it can be done. We have to take responsibility for everything we do or fail to do.
4) Try to be realistic. While it is true that we should stay far away from sin and give all we have to the Lord, we are flesh. We do fail. When we do, we know the drill: repent, confess, move on. Honestly, I have met so many Christians who let past failures dictate the future course of their lives. No baseball player bats 1000. Every "golden glove" outfielder has committed more than one error. Even the best of the best are not perfect, and that certainly goes for believers (name one great Bible believer who didn't fail at one point or another). This is not a personal business. We are all here on earth in the army of Jesus Christ, and this is a team effort. We all need to look at the bigger picture and do our part for the team and not allow our own opinion about ourselves good or bad to get in the way of the simple execution of the Christian life. Part and parcel of that is seeing our role realistically. It is very easy to run away from the things we ought to be doing, and just as easy to run after things we shouldn't be doing. Whatever God has truly given us, to that we need to remain faithful. We should not run away from a challenge, but we also should not let ourselves be duped by the evil one into abandoning the true areas of ministry to which we have been called for the sake of something that may not even be of God. But by the same token we should make it a point to hang in there in the day by day grind of caring for the "few sheep" the Lord has given us (1Sam.17:28). If we are "faithful in the little things", we can be sure that the Lord will put us in charge of greater things when we and, more to the point, when He is ready for that (Matt.15:21). And when it is definitely coming from Him, there will be no mistaking it.
5) Try not to take it all personally. Jesus told us that if they call "the head of the house Beelzebub", we, the members of His household, should certainly expect no less.
Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.
John 15:20 NIV
We are saved. Believers in Jesus Christ. So why are we still here? Why didn't the Lord take us to be with Himself long before now? Of course, we are here to serve Him. It is all about Him. It is not at all about us. Unbelievers are left to live tranquil lives. Believers who are only marginal and who are not trying to make any sort of difference for our Lord are rarely bothered by the evil one. But just let a Christian start to try truly living for Jesus, just let a believer begin to grow, and the evil one takes notice. How much more is that not the case for those who are honestly trying to minister to the flock of Jesus Christ? Anyone who attempts to serve the Lord in an honorable way will most definitely be tempted, tested, persecuted and opposed to a far more serious degree than the rank and file, especially the lukewarm rank and file. It is easy to forget this. I often forget it myself. It is easy to get down about disappointments, setbacks, failures, losses, needs, troubles, etc. But remember, the greatest of the great did not have a red carpet rolled out for them. Paul didn't lounge around in a feather-bed. Indeed, his "resume" is chock-full of the most intense sufferings imaginable. But what did he say about all this?
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2nd Corinthians 10:7-10 NIV
(12) I know how to handle humiliation; I also know how to handle prosperity. I have learned by experience in each and every way how to handle being abundantly provided for and being impoverished, being in prosperity and being in a state of deprivation. (13) I have the strength to endure all [extremes] in the One who empowers me to do so.
Never was there a man of sinful flesh who did more with less than Paul did. And that was part of the Lord's point. Because it is not about us but about Him – and nothing is impossible for Him.
So hang in there, my friend. I know that you are experiencing difficult times, but I also know that the Lord is able to deliver you through them. Keep on being faithful in the little things, walking humbly with Him step by step, and He will bring all His will for you to pass in just the right way at just the right time. We know this well as Christians. Let us grab hold of it firmly by faith and wait upon the Lord.
You are in my prayers daily.
In Him who is our all and everything, dear Lord Jesus Christ,
First, I absolutely love you website. I am so thankful for your willingness to share your knowledge of scripture and allow people like me learn from your expertise. I must say, it is both a enjoyable and painful to read your words. Enjoyable because of the educational benefits, painful because of the standard which you set and the self-examination it forces on me because I, too, want to be where you are with knowledge of scripture. Please know that I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your site, your work, and your diligence.
With that, I would like to ask you a question. About 6 years ago, I was reading something that now escapes my memory. I don't know if it was a commentary, an article, or an essay. It had something to do spiritual maturity and stated that by taking the "time-line" into account, we could reason that the Apostle Paul expected three years to spiritual maturity. Not to say we become all we can be in three years, but that we should no longer be "babes" after three years. The only scripture that comes to mind is 1 Cor 3. Anyway, from what I recall, it had something to do with from the time Paul visited the place (like Corinth) till the time he wrote the letter was a three year period; therefore, we can reason that Paul would expect us to reach maturity in three years. Having said that, I don't know that it was 1 Cor 3, but do you possibly know the time-line or the reasoning to which I am referring? For the last couple of years, I have really struggled with not finding what I read.
Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated.
Good to make your acquaintance. Thank you so much for your encouragement. It means a lot. Please know that the truth of scripture is a bright light which illuminates the weak points and failings of us all – and that certainly includes myself. But as Paul says at Ephesians 5:13 ". . . all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light" (NASB); meaning that just by allowing ourselves – our thoughts, words and deeds – to be held up to the scrutiny of the perfect light of truth is a cleansing exercise. The realization of how short we fall from God's perfect standard provides motivation to improve (or should). But without the light, without the truth of scripture, there is no influx of specific guidance about what we ought to be thinking, doing and saying. The Spirit works with what we have learned and believed. If we are willing to do God's will, that is wonderful, and it is possible to have a responsive conscience with little information; but the refinement of the Christian life requires a similar fine-tuning of our consciences in order to have a clearer idea of what of the will of God really is, both in general terms but also more particularly in regard to our own lives.
Therefore I entreat you by God's mercy, brothers, to dedicate your bodies as a living sacrifice, well-pleasing to God – [this is] your "priestly-service" spiritually performed. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by this renewal of your thinking, so that you may discern what God's will for you is, namely what it is good, well-pleasing, and correct [for you to do].
This is an important segue into your question, because spiritual maturity really does entail both of these crucial aspects: information and willingness. The two are in fact very difficult to disaggregate. After all, there is a significant amount of willingness necessary to learn enough of God's truth in the first place in order to become spiritually mature, not to mention to believe it and begin to apply it to one's life. The best way to explain the two aspects is from the negative point of view. There are Christians and have been many such in the history of the Church who for one reason or another have not been much interested in the details of the Word and the systematic truth which lies behind every verse of scripture, yet they have been willing to do God's will in other respects to some degree. These individuals are hampered in their growth by a dearth of spiritual information, by a lack of truth. And it often turns out that such individuals end up "zealously" doing the wrong sorts of things (or failing to do what they should be doing) because of their relative ignorance of what the Bible actually teaches. They may be "gung-ho for God", but their unwillingness to learn about Him and His truth cannot help but hinder their relationship with Him in every way. As a result, they never reach spiritual maturity.
Then there are Christians and have been many such in the history of the Church who are very interested in the Bible and in all of the details of the Word and the systematic truth which ties everything together, yet for one reason or another have not been reluctant to actually believe the truth of what they have read or been taught and/or to put into practice what they have learned and believed. These individuals are hampered in their growth by a relative lack of willingness to believe the truth or to follow the truth once believed. It may be a case of resistance toward giving up patterns of behavior which are sinful, or it may be a case of reluctance to engage in any positive efforts for Christ and His Church, or it may be a case of a general lack of willingness to accept and believe what they are learning and being taught so that the information in their heart never becomes accepted as truth and thus usable by the Spirit. As a result, they too never reach spiritual maturity.
(11) Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (12) in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work, that the entire body of Christ might be thus be built up, (13) until we all reach that unifying goal of believing what is right (i.e., "faith", Greek: πίστις, pistis) and of giving our complete allegiance (Greek: ἐπίγνωσις, epignosis) to the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity whose "attainment" is defined by Christ; (14) that we may no longer be immature, swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit, (15) but rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects with Christ, who is the head of the Church, as our model. (16) In this way, the entire body of the Church, fit and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
In the verses above, proper teaching prevents being "swept off course" (the occupational hazard of the willing but poorly informed believer), while at the same time builds us up individually and collectively in our relationship with Jesus Christ and our applying of the truth to our lives (failing to do which adequately is the occupational of the informed but unwilling believer). Salvation is instantaneous for all who put their faith in Jesus Christ, but becoming mature takes some time and effort. The "standard of perfection" set out by Paul above is the highest one, namely, becoming "Christ-like". Clearly, that is not an easy thing to accomplish nor a quick thing either, and most of us with any sense of humility at all would be quick to say with Paul, "not that I have already attained myself" (Phil.3:12).
All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.
Philippians 3:15 NIV
I use the word "mature" in these studies to indicate the status of a believer who is "no longer immature" (Eph.4:14 above); a person who has learned, solidly digested, believed, and become experienced in applying the essential truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and who has become accustomed to allowing the Spirit to guide him or her in accordance with that truth. Asking only "what does God say?" and "what does God want me to do?" and "what is the right thing according to God's Word?".
But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:14 NIV
This does not mean that spiritual maturity equates to spiritual perfection. None of us has completely mastered every aspect of the gospel, every truth of scripture, come to believe it all perfectly, hold it our hearts with perfect understanding and put it perfectly into practice with complete consistency. And none of us, no matter how zealous we may be for carrying out God's will, is sinlessly perfect. Not only that, but for most of us, even among the number of those who are unquestionably "spiritually mature", there is capacious room for improvement – and the amount of improvement possible while large in every case is different from case to case.
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:4 NIV
Rather than describing spiritual maturity as a wonderful goal we strive to attain and may then luxuriate in our accomplishment, scripture, I would argue, presents it as an expected development, most notable by its absence in the case of those who do not do what they are supposed to do in growing up in Jesus as fast as possible. That is to say, spiritual maturity is no grand achievement – it is expected of all believers. Spiritual immaturity is what we should strive to overcome as quickly as we can, and it is a shame not to do so. All this is so even though it is true that true spiritual maturity seems to be increasingly rare in our day and age.
The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
Luke 8:14 NIV
On the far side of spiritual maturity is spiritual production. As in the verse above, we believers are "planted" with the seed of the Word and the Lord expects a crop from us – as any husbandman would – and rightfully so. But in many cases there is no crop at all because the testing which lies between becoming mature and becoming productive has not been successfully passed. While we are yet immature, it is of course due to our Lord's graciousness that we are not tested beyond measure. But once we have achieved a basic level of maturity, we believers are pruned, we are refined, we are tried and tested in order to purify our faith, and it is in the process of passing these tests and after passing these tests that we come into our full production for the Lord.
Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you."
Genesis 21:1-2 NASB
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, "IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED." He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.
Hebrews 11:17-19 NASB
As discussed in "The Judgment and Reward of the Church" (see the link), the four sides of New Jerusalem correspond to these four levels of achievement in life: 1) saved but not reaching maturity; 2) reaching maturity; 3) passing significant tests; 4) producing a significant crop. Clearly, in every Christian life these things are intermingled to some great degree, and it may be unclear to us personally precisely when one major phase ended and another began (after all, many of us are not even sure just when it was we first came to believe in Jesus so as to be saved). But in the case of every believer it is certainly preferable that a day will come when it can clearly be said "so and so is no longer an immature believer". God is the Arbiter of the truth of that statement in each case, but it is clear that believers who are habitually disinterested in the truth of the Word or who are chronically mired in all sorts of questionable behavior patterns or in other ways give evidence of a poor Christian witness when fairly examined are most likely not going to come in for such a vote of confidence by any fellow believer doing an honest assessment.
Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.
1st Corinthians 3:1-2 NIV
To go back to Ephesians 4:11-16, immature believers by definition have not yet properly availed themselves of the spiritual apparatus and support of the Church (vv.11-12). As a result they do not yet "believe what is right" (= not learning; v.13a) and do not give their "complete allegiance to the Son of God" (= not being willing; v.13b); they are not yet acceptably following Christ or acceptably modeling Christ (v.13c). Instead, they are easily swept off-course from the right path (a result of no proper grounding in the truth; v.14a), and carried headlong down the wrong one (a result of a lack of willingness to obey the truth; v.14b). They have not obeyed the truth (learning/believing; v.15a) or given themselves over to following example of Christ (willingness; v.15b). As a result, they are not participating effectively in the work of the Church for mutual edification: they are not pulling their weight (described in v.16). And while it is true that, until a person not only becomes mature but also passes the requisite tests and adequately prepares for and engages in ministry, that believer will not be doing his or her "job" in the full sense of the word, from maturity onward everyone will be doing at least something positive for the Church of Christ and, ideally, will be "pulling on the rope" with greater strength (learning) and greater effort (willingness) day by day.
How long it takes to learn what needs to be learned, to believe what needs to be believed, to apply what needs to be applied, and to brace oneself to be willing to do whatever the Lord requires is an open question. I would say that for some individuals the process is incredibly rapid; for others it is incredibly slow. Some stop and start; some take a long to get started then take off; some start well but then bog down. Some are steady from start to finish whatever the pace. Learning is limited to some degree by the teaching ministries to which the individual has access; then again, the Lord has never allowed an ounce of enthusiasm for His Word to go unquenched. Willingness is limited to some degree by life circumstances many of which are reflective of choices, bad and otherwise, which we have made in the past; then again, nothing is impossible for God and He is certainly able to provide – "to will and to do" – for all who are at all willing to let Him do so (Phil.2:13).
So I don't think time is much of a factor. There is a famous story about a general who was remonstrating with Frederick the Great about the need for experience in learning how to be a good soldier. Frederick pointed to the pack train rambling along behind the fellow and said, "Do see that mule? He has been on every one of my campaigns but is none the wiser or the better for it yet". Time in grade doesn't produce spiritual maturity. Hearing and genuinely believing the truth, then being willing to put that truth into practice regardless of consequences is the stuff of spiritual maturity, and there is no substitute for it.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Hebrews 11:6 NASB
In hope of and prayer for your continued spiritual advance and bountiful production for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Thank you so much for your answer. Most would have answered with a quick thought or opinion, but your answer took time, thought, and preparation. I am grateful. May God continue to bless you, use you, and equip you for your very useful ministry.
You are most welcome.
Please feel free to write any time.
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
I felt the Holy Spirit guiding me and convicting me of sin and he was a big part of my life! Then one day I was at work and this thought popped in my mind, "I know the bible says the devil can be the great deceiver I sure hoped he hasn't deceived me into thinking I'm saved." then immediately after I felt no more remorse for sin no more conviction and no more guidance I haven't felt him in two weeks since it happened! All I want to do is serve the Lord and I want Him to use me for the kingdom! I'm offering all myself to Him I want Him to use me! But I feel like he is done with me! Please right back soon I'm so discouraged.
The Holy Spirit's name tells us quite a bit about His role and function in the plan of God, just as Jesus tells us:
"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
John 3:8 NIV
The name "Spirit" in Greek is pneuma and means, literally, "wind". Wind is powerful and palpable – but it cannot be seen. Such is the ministry, or really "ministries" of the Spirit (please see the link: in BB 1 Theology "The Holy Spirit").
The Holy Spirit most certainly does guide believers, but how does He do so, given that we cannot see Him or audibly hear Him, and, unlike in the case of the wind, cannot even physically feel Him? The answer is that "the Spirit testifies to our spirit" (Rom.8:16). The Holy Spirit is the One who makes it possible for us to understand the truth (see the link: in BB 4B Soteriology: "Faith Epistemology"), and the Holy Spirit is the One who remonstrates, prods, convicts and guides us . . . by means of that same truth interacting with our consciences (please see the link: in BB 3B Hamartiology: "The Conscience"):
I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit.
Romans 9:1 NIV
In my experience, most believers who have problems with this issue have the opposite experience from what you report. That is to say, instead of feeling that they are no longer being convicted by the Spirit, they sometimes are unsure when they feel a pang of conscience whether it is really the Spirit prodding them. It takes the achievement of a certain level of spiritual maturity to be able to sort these things out in a correct way (Rom.12:1-2; Eph.6:5-8; Phil.1:9-11; 1Thess.4:3-7; and see the link: in BB 4B Soteriology: "Transforming our Thinking":
Solid [spiritual] food is for the [spiritually] mature, those who by [diligent] practice have trained their [moral] perceptive faculties to [properly] distinguish between good and evil.
The main point I would like to make here is that "how we feel" is not only unimportant – it can actually be a very misleading indicator of all things spiritual. We may "feel bad" about something for all sorts of reasons which have nothing to do with the Bible or the truth; conversely, we may "feel good" about something for all sorts of reasons even though from the standpoint of the Bible and the truth it is not "good" at all. Christians who wish to attain spiritual maturity, to make progress in their spiritual lives, and to serve Jesus Christ effectively through the gifts they have been given cannot afford to be slaves to their emotions. Our emotions may or may not respond to the truth in the correct way, and there are many reasons for this (our corrupt sin nature being prime among them). The only way to verify that it is really the Spirit who is guiding us to do or not do something is by comparing every putative "pang of conscience" we may feel with the truth of the Bible. If the truth we have learned and believed from our personal Bible study and our attention to orthodox teaching lines up with what we are feeling, then well and good we should follow that "feeling" – but not the feeling, actually, rather the truth to which the Spirit acting in concert with our conscience has alerted us. On the other hand, if we are doing something we know is wrong, know because we have a very good idea that it is a sin, the fact that we are not "feeling convicted" is of no import whatsoever. We certainly don't need special guidance from the Spirit to refrain from things we already know are wrong. Gaining a certain mastery over our emotions, teaching them to be subordinate to the Word of truth we have studied, been taught, and have believed, is usually the result of a long process of learning but is a necessary part of growing up spiritually. Resisting this process – just like resisting the Spirit's guidance – only retards our growth and reduces our usefulness to the Lord.
Do not put out the Spirit's fire.
1st Thessalonians 5:19 NIV
The big mistake many believers make in these matters is in reacting to their emotions rather than learning how to make use of them. Our emotions are like a half-tamed horse. Ideally, they will allow us to ride them and in doing so they can be a great help to us on our journey. Often, however, they want to pull us in another direction or are unwilling to go where we want them to go. So sometimes we have to rein them in; sometimes we have dismount entirely and pull them along. But there is hardly a bigger mistake a Christian can make than to give into the emotions and let go where they will. Inevitably this will lead to being led entirely in the wrong direction (please see the link: "Who controls our thoughts and emotions?").
It seems to me that if you already know something is a sin, then you do not require any conviction that you have sinned if you sin this sin, and you don't require any guidance on the issue of needing to turn away from such sins. I do not know the details of your situation, but it is certainly worth pointing out that the more a person ignores the still, small voice of the Spirit, the less audible it will become over time (i.e., eventually the heart hardens). And indeed, this is one of the ways the Spirit has of getting our attention, namely, the contrast between a close communication with our consciences and one which is demonstrably less so. Maybe this experience you report is the Spirit attempting to get your attention and to help you to do what you ought and not do what you ought not. In all these matters, it is very important to add, there is a critical need for spiritual advance in addition to sanctification in order to be successful in the Christian life. Defense can only get you so far. The spiritual capital the Spirit uses to guide us more precisely is the "solid food" of Hebrews 5:14 quoted above, namely, the truth of the Word of God properly learned, completely believed, and in this way ready to apply to our lives: that is how believers become good at "discerning" what God's will is in any given situation. Many believers nowadays want emotional "highs", lots of praise, worship and celebration, but are unwilling to do what God requires in order to get beyond spiritual infancy, namely, to grow spiritually (achieved by studying, being taught, learning, believing, and applying the truth of the Word). Only through growth is a believer ever able to deal with these sorts of problems effectively and get to the point of being useful to our Savior in spiritual production in their own ministries which our Lord has already determined for all who call upon His Name (see the link: "No Growth without Faith").
I hope this will prove to be of some help to you. Please be encouraged and know that the Lord cares for you, regardless of how you may feel at present. He has not abandoned you but loves you dearly (Heb.13:5; cf. Rom.8:39). Everything happens for a reason, and perhaps the reason for all this is to lead you to a better understanding of the truth for the purpose of your own growth, progress and production in Jesus Christ.
Please feel free to write me back about any of this.
This has helped me out a great deal! I realized after I felt like he left I have almost been yearning for him more. Its almost like now I'm fearless to go out and witness to people! I just want Him to use me to reach people! but your right I knew something was sin and I did it anyways and why should he convict me if I already know its wrong but since I stopped and completely turned away since it greatly scared me to no longer feel him the last thing I would want him to do is leave me. I just want him to use me anyway he can, but I need his guidance to do that please pray for me
I'm scared I might have committed the unpardonable sin.
I have said a prayer for you, and I do encourage you to aggressively pursue spiritual growth as this is the solution to all problems of this sort.
On the unpardonable / unforgivable sin, this is another area where there is much misunderstanding and incorrect teaching. The unpardonable / unforgivable sin (otherwise known as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit: Matt.12:31) is the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior:
I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." He said this because they were saying, "He has an evil spirit."
Mark 3:28-30 NIV
Our Lord's enemies were accusing Him, Jesus Himself, of "having an evil spirit" when in fact the Spirit was the One testifying in His behalf through the miracles that demonstrated that He was the Messiah. So by denying the Spirit's witness, by blaspheming against Him in this way, these individuals were of course rejecting the Spirit's communication of the gospel. That is to say, they were refusing to believe the Spirit telling them that "Jesus is the Christ". Although "all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them", no one can be saved who fails to accept Jesus Christ as Lord, and all those who actively reject Him as Savior, denying the veracity of the Spirit's witness about Him, already stand condemned (Jn.3:18). Jesus Christ died for all the sins of all who ever lived or ever will. There is only one sin for which He obviously could not die, namely, the sin of refusing to accept Him as Savior, the Substitute who was judged for all of our sins. That is the unpardonable / unforgivable sin; that is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Please see the links:
The Unpardonable Sin and Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
Have I committed the unforgivable sin?
Believers are saved and have passed over from death to life (Jn.5:24; Rom.6:13; 1Jn.3:14). As long a believer maintains his faith in Jesus Christ, he will not come under judgment. For that reason, maintenance of faith after salvation is of absolute importance, and the best way to ensure that we build up our faith instead of allowing it to deteriorate to the point of falling away is, again, the way of spiritual growth. Here is a link to the Peter series which deals with all such issues from an introductory level:
The Peter Series
In our dear Lord Jesus whose we are forevermore as long as we hold fast to our confession firm unto the end.
Wow, thank you so much this has helped me tremendously, specially when I read john 3:18! It all makes since now! Thanks for your help. I think the Lord might be teaching me to trust him and to walk by faith not by feelings! I just hope the Holy Spirit will continue to guide me in ways I can understand so I can follow!
You are very welcome. Keep on taking in the pure milk of the Word of God. As you do, and as you make its truths your own through believing what you read and learn, you will become thereby a "man of God . . . thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2Tim.3:17 NIV).
Stay in the Word.
In Jesus our Lord and Savior,
I Hope you are fine? Suddenly I had an anxiety attack day before yesterday, till now I am not completely fine. I was getting all irrational thoughts: God won't help, I won't see God after death, this situation will never get over, and stuff like that. I had no idea that this was anxiety. It was bad. I felt I was forced to think in such a negative way. I kept on saying to my self "my Lord WILL help, he is right here with me, and I believe in Him", but there was no peace of mind. It was a NIGHTMARE. Now I am feeling bad that my faith is weak, I thought it was stronger.
I had to see a Dr. Because my B.P was high and wouldn't come down. A few tests were done, ECG and Blood sugar, everything is normal.
I am praying so that he gives me strength, and that he tells me why it happened.
When it happened, I was not able to control my thoughts much, although I kept on remembering him. I was hanging on to whatever faith was left
Sir, how to cope with it? how should I spiritually prepare myself better? I am really sacred this time.
I think of you often and pray for you every day. Please know that you are not alone – you have many brothers and sisters around the globe, and all of us face the trouble of the world and opposition of the evil one.
As our Lord Jesus told us: "In this world you do have tribulation. But be courageous. I have overcome the world." John 16:33
And as the apostle Paul told us: "For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction." 1st Thessalonians 3:4a NASB
I would guess that the reason for the opposition you are facing is that you are diligently pressing forward with God's plan for your life. The evil one always opposes Christian advance. In my experience, observation, and analysis of scripture, it seems to be the dedicated Christians who come in for special attention of this sort rather than those lukewarm individuals who are not amounting to very much in the plan of God. Therefore to the extent that you are continuing to learn the truth of the Word of God and to prize above all other things it and the One who gave it, to that extent you have the right, nay, the responsibility to feel good about being attacked. To the world this is craziness, but to Christians who know their Lord it makes entire sense: opposition is a compliment of sorts, because it is a verification that we are on the right track. As one individual remarked in a humorous vein, "I know I must be getting close to the target because of all this flak I'm getting!" From the Christian perspective, that is absolutely true. No Christian has ever been greater than the apostle Paul, and no Christian ever suffered greater opposition and persecution (cf. 2Cor. chapters 6, and 11-12). This is why our Lord told us to "count the cost" of our decision to follow Him (Lk.14:28), because after salvation we are not removed from the world; rather, we are left in the world as a witness to it and given the greatest of all opportunities: the opportunity to glorify the Master who bought us with His own blood, and to earn eternal rewards by following Him in the way He wants us to do, in spite of the world's opposition.
"I have given them Your word, and the world hated them, because they are not of the world just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. For they are not of the world just as I am not of the world. So make them holy by means of Your truth – Your word is truth. And just as you sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. I am consecrating Myself for their sake, so that they too may be made holy (i.e., "be sanctified") through truth."
Most believers are wasting their time in this life and squandering their great opportunity to glorify the Lord through spiritual advance, progress and ministry. To the extent that anyone is suffering spiritual problems resulting from a lack of faithfulness, neglect of the scriptures and Bible teaching, failure to believe and live the truth, disdain for personal ministry, to that extent spiritual turmoil is to be expected and is of no benefit to that person or to the Lord (except if it causes the person to change his or her ways). But it is a grave mistake for any of us to judge a fellow believer's troubles as necessarily being the result of sin or spiritual slovenliness. That is what Job's "friends" did, and they couldn't have been more wrong. Job knew that he had not done anything worthy of the trouble he was experiencing, but he apparently forgot the principal that the evil one opposes all advancing Christians – and he was perhaps the most outstanding believer of his day. When we personally experience troubles, we do need to examine our lives and confess any sin or wrong-doing on the one hand and correct any omissions or deficiencies on the other. But we must always keep in mind that if our general trend is clearly positive in growing in the Lord, believing and applying the truth of His Word, and in doing our best to help our fellow Christians do likewise, then the underlying reason for exceptional or notable suffering is indeed likely to be not any defect on our part but the natural opposition that comes to all who belong to Jesus Christ and who are trying to do what He wants us to do:
Indeed, all who are willing to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
2nd Timothy 3:12
When such things happen, it is very important not to get down on ourselves but to rejoice instead that our Lord has found us faithful enough to bear up under the trouble that comes our way. For while we may find such things unbearable, in fact Jesus will never place anything upon us we cannot bear – even it does not seem that way at the time (1Cor.10:13). When we read the book of Job, we know that God was paying him the highest possible compliment, using him to reproach Satan and to prove that there are men of faith on the earth who would choose for the Lord and not for the world even in the face of severe, undeserved suffering (Job 7:4).
"When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions."
Job 7:13-14 NIV
Job did not see or hear what went on in heaven before he was subjected to his difficult trials, so perhaps he has some small excuse (though no justification) in attributing to God what was really coming from the devil, but we do have the benefit of knowing these things ahead of time – it is only necessary for us to remember and to believe.
I want to speak to you about the love of Jesus Christ. Remember that our Savior loves you with a perfect love, that He loved you before He made you, before He breathed your spirit into you when you born. He loved you when you were yet His enemy, and He died for you. He died the most horrible of deaths, going into the darkness on the cross to cover all of your sins with His blood, purging them clean in the terrible fire of judgment alone in the dark, giving you His body to eat and His blood to drink. He died so that you might live. Having done all this for you before you were even born, having saved you at the greatest possible price, does He not love you with a love beyond understanding? And loving you as He does, will He ever let you down? Will He ever let anyone snatch you out of His hands? Will He not comfort and deliver you in His perfect timing? Only be strong and courageous, my dear friend, put your trust in Jesus, and stand still and watch the deliverance of the Lord (cf. Jn.10:28; Rom.5:6-12).
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV
In Jesus for whom and through whom we live,
Your friend in Him,
I am feeling much better today. When I was a little child, I remember, sometimes I used to get scared. After a very long time I am experiencing the same thing. I think this is the first time it has happened after I have believed in the Lord. I don't want to go to a psychiatrist, they will speak all secular things. The Holy Spirit is the greatest counselor. I pray that He heals me soon. I need healing soon. Sir, thanks for the encouragement.
I will write back to you in a few days when I come to know what exactly and why exactly is this happening. One of my family is actually very close to a person who is a very close accomplice of Satan, a psychic who very well knows I am not fond of her deeds. She has been doing and saying a lot of things which are coming true. Satan is trying everything he can through her. I haven't given up and I will not give up. I wrote to u about her a few times. I don't think those Emails reached you. Anyways, just thought it would be better I shared it with you.
I pray for you.
In Jesus our dear Lord,
I am happy to hear that you are feeling a bit better, but eager to hear of your complete deliverance. And I know that our Lord and our God is fully able to deliver you and heal you, and that is my prayer for you. I certainly agree that the Spirit working through the truth we have committed to our hearts is absolutely the best Counselor and Comforter, and I know that He is with you.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
2nd Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV
As to the other matter, no, I never did receive any other emails about this person or this subject. Thanks for sharing this with me. It reminds me what a difficult road you have to travel, and how much you need the help and support of your fellow Christians – and our prayers.
I will endeavor to be faithful, my friend. And thank you so much for your prayers – they mean a lot to me.
In Jesus, who will see us through all our earthly tribulations and bring us safely home to the New Jerusalem in His perfect time,
Thank you very much sir. I am glad I have a friend like you.
It's certainly mutual on this end!
I'm hoping to hear good news of your complete deliverance very soon.
In the meantime, keep on fighting the good fight of faith. What happens down here is so short and so unimportant – except where Jesus Christ and His truth are concerned, because our attitude towards Him and His truth determine everything to come.
In my prayers,
[back-story omitted at correspondent's request: worried about being saved; addicted to pain medications; having demonic hallucinations]
I do indeed remember you, and I have been keeping you and your family in my prayers day by day (although not for this present problem of which I was unaware – I will most certainly pray for you about it now).
To take the last first, please consider the following:
(5) You too should have this attitude which Christ Jesus had. (6) Since He already existed in the very form of God, equality with God was [certainly] not something He thought He had to grasp for. (7) Yet in spite of this [co-equal divinity He already possessed], He deprived Himself of His status and took on the form of a slave, [and was] born in the likeness of men. (8) He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even [His] death on [the] cross [for us all]. (9) Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name (10) that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth (11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
For it is not to angels that He subordinated the world to come (which is our present topic), but someone testifies at some point saying, "What is Man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels, you crowned him with glory and honor. You made him sovereign over all the works of your hands, you put everything under his feet" (Ps.8:4-6). For in subordinating the world to Him, He left nothing that was not subordinate to Him. However, we do not now yet see the world in subordination to Him. But we do now see Jesus crowned with glory and honor on account of the death He suffered, even Him who became "a little lower than the angels" [for a brief span] so that by the grace of God He might taste death on behalf of us all.
Whatever may or may not be true of other believers, it is crystal clear from the above (and from many other passages of course) that our Lord certainly didn't have it easy. He had it the hardest of any human being who has ever lived, and He was not helped in His course by His deity so as to circumvent a single human hardship. Not only did He have to prepare for the ministry of ministries under what must have been the most difficult circumstances and satanic opposition, not only did He face the most intense opposition "by sinners against Himself" in those three and half years of ministry, not only did He have to run the gauntlet of gauntlets in order to get to the cross – but hanging there in the darkness He was judged for the sins of the world; He burned and was not consumed until He had covered all of our sins with His blood. And that is why and how He has won the "Name which is above every name". And He is our role model. So beyond all argument greater opposition comes to those who are really doing things God's way, and greater reward comes to them in eternity if they persevere. There are many who seem to "have it good" with no problems. But: 1) Are they even believers? 2) If they are, are they really living for Jesus? 3) If they are, do we really know what they may be suffering – about which we may have no clue?
Therefore, do not make judgments before the time, until the Lord shall come, who will illuminate the hidden things of darkness, and reveal the intents of every heart.
1st Corinthians 4:5a
In the spiritual life as with all other things, the best defense is a good offense. Because of the nature of your plight, I am not going to mince words. Whatever else you need and need to do, I would advise you strongly to put spiritual growth at the top, middle, and bottom of your personal agenda. And while I often allow for individual approaches and avoid giving specific advice (and since you clearly have some affinity for this ministry), I would counsel you make Ichthys your new "home away from home" for the foreseeable future. There are many places to start, but one place you might consider is the extensive section in CT 6 which deals with our eternal rewards at the link: "The Reward and Judgment of the Church" (see the link). I am positive that if you begin to focus on the good you can still do for Jesus just in learning to trust Him again and in growing through believing the truth of His Word, it will help you in all other ways, both directly and indirectly.
For whoever wishes to draw nearer to God must believe that He exists, and [must believe] that He will reward those who earnestly seek Him.
For not only are you not going to be condemned to hell because of these problems – you still have ample opportunity to make a difference for Jesus Christ by continuing to grow up in Him. This I would advise you to make your number one priority and I recommend this website as an exclusive option if only because of the dire situation and the necessity to move on this rapidly.
Believers are saved. All believers. Since you are a believer, you are saved and safe as long as you maintain your faith in Jesus Christ. And all believers can look forward to an eternity filled with presently unimaginable blessings of which we are currently largely unaware. But we do know that we will all have eternal life, a perfect body, an eternity with Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior along with a full share in Him, an eternal inheritance with all that word entails and much more, a place in the New Jerusalem, and the fellowship of the entire Church with whom we shall be one in Christ forevermore. On top of that, we are still here on earth after salvation for the express purpose of serving the Lord whereby we are meant to earn "over and above" rewards which will glorify Him and bless us for all eternity. So from a strategic perspective, you are not losing your salvation (as long as you continue to maintain your faith in and allegiance to Jesus Christ), rather you are losing your opportunities. In this, it might be argued on the one hand that perhaps you are not much different from most believers today; but on the other hand, I know from our previous correspondence that you do love the Lord and are uncommonly interested in the truth of scripture. And in my view, the root cause of the opposition you are facing is the desire of the evil one to get you off track and to keep you there, lest you grow, progress, and engage in successful ministry for the Lord. In my own personal experience and observation, this is the really the "norm", namely, "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2Tim.3:12 NKJV). I have personally experienced (and am personally experiencing) and have seen (and am seeing in others I know) that true principle: the evil one does not waste his time opposing those who are already hors de combat. He saves his best punches for those he knows will otherwise begin to make a difference in the Plan of God. So in one way the trouble being inflicted on you is a compliment. No doubt you were on the point of growth, on the point of progress, on the point of identifying and entering into whatever ministry you were meant to fulfill. No wonder the devil wanted to bring you down and has expended such prodigious efforts on you.
I recognize that you are "in a hole" at the moment, and I certainly see no point in sugar-coating that in any way, but there are certain basic principles that apply at this point. The first is the age-old truism which if not biblical in its precise language is certainly consistent with the Word in its meaning: "If you find yourself in a hole, first, stop digging". You know what you need to do. I know that you feel you are incapable of it, but, believe me, God will help you if you are willing to take responsibility and fight.
Since then we too [like the believers of chapter 11] have such a large audience of witnesses surrounding us [both men and angels], let us put off every hindrance – especially whatever sins habitually affect us – and run with endurance the race set before us, turning our gaze unto Jesus, the originator and completer of our faith, who, for the joy set before Him, endured the shame of the cross, treating it with despite, and took His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Keep in mind all the terrible opposition He endured against Himself at the hands of sinful men, so as not to grow sick at heart and give up.
Don't give up. You are the only one who controls your heart. And you do not have to give in to the negative feelings and emotions that are at present so inflamed (please see the link: "Who controls our thoughts and emotions"). I am not saying this is easy. Believe when I say I very well understand that it is not. But the second principle to keep in mind here is equally important: the deeper the hole, the less the margin for error in the methods we will need to employ to get out. By that I mean, you are going to have to get incredibly hard on yourself – not in a self-destructive way – but in developing a complete disregard for trouble, pain and circumstances as any sort of excuse for doing what you have to do. You have to learn not to take any of this personally; you have to re-learn that this is not about you: this is about Jesus Christ to whom you belong, and that is why you are a target (see the link: "Strangers in the Devil's Realm"). There is no time, no margin, no safe path for dallying any longer. You are going to have to forget yourself and know only Jesus Christ. That is what I mean by a good offense. When the chips are down like they are, it takes absolute and total resolution to focus not on self but on the truth in order to pull out of that negative gravity. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak under the best of circumstances. But when the flesh has us "pinned", the only way to reverse its hold is to grab firm an absolute disregard for self and circumstances and do what is required come what may making no allowance for the flesh", being completely intolerant of any and all excuses that bubble up from our emotions. You are going to have to stomp to bloody death anything that even carries a whiff of self-pity, put fear and worry to the sword, and do what you know has to be done with no quarter for your emotions or anything else. And when you do, you will find that the Lord is your Helper, that He has been "tapping His foot in anticipation" of that moment of deliverance all along, so that slowly, perhaps even hesitantly at first, but eventually, gradually, and ineluctably you will start climbing out of that hole. Once you commit to this process in earnest – of spiritual growth and sanctification come what may – you will find that all of these other issues will resolve as well:
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
James 4:7 NKJV
So I say to you my friend, resist! No believer can possessed by a demon. You are a temple of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit will not allow it. Believers can of course be tormented as you are being tormented (see the link: "Satan's Tactical Methodology"). But – especially if we are moving in the direction God means us to go – we will never be tested beyond what we can actually endure, whether it seems so to us or not (1Cor.10:13). And the moment you rally your faith and turn, you will be going in the direction God wants you to go. Do not fear the evil one or any of his minions. They cannot touch a single hair of your head without the Lord's express permission – and He would only allow such a thing except for a good purpose (as in the case of Job). So to the extent that you are suffering for Jesus, take pride in that and do your best to give a good witness in so doing; to the extent that the suffering is self-induced, take responsibility for it, confess it, turn your back on it, and forget it (Phil.3:13). This last part is crucial. Don't waste your time and torture yourself worrying about what is over and done. Today is the day the Lord has made, and today you have an opportunity to fight the fight for Him. That is what He has called you to do, wants you to do, and will reward you for doing, but all too many Christians completely waste their lives looking back. Don't do it. Remember Lot's wife. Corollary to that is the importance of not letting false starts and slip ups knock you out just because they knocked you down. You made some good decisions about getting out this mess in the past. The fact that you stumbled and regressed is not at all uncommon for any believer in any area of sin and temptation. It is also, unfortunately, not uncommon to let such a slip-up define one's future out of frustration and fear. That is exactly what the devil wants: he is a master of the counter-attack for the very reason that it is often just so successful. We have to learn to deal with "now" wherever and whatever "now" is, look forward, not back, and begin again to live only for Jesus, making it our most solemn intention to get back up and into the fight no matter how many times we get knocked down – even as we are equally intent never to get knocked down again (fine and good if it turns out that way; but whatever mistakes we may make in future, we need to be absolutely resolute about not letting them define us).
I am convinced that all these terrors you report will begin to stop afflicting you the moment you determine to press back to and up the right road, the high road to Zion, regardless. "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" and "nothing [even all the forces of hell] will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus".
Jesus loves you. Love Him back – and demonstrate that love by embracing spiritual audacity, having absolutely no mercy on your own flesh (even as you are completely confident of God's ineffable mercy on your spirit).
I do recognize that none of this easy, that none of it is without pain and tears, and that the road back is a long and difficult one which will only be regained one hard step at a time, sometimes two steps forward and one back. But this is the only way – because Jesus is the only Way – the truth and the life.
As to professional help programs, I know very little about them except to say 1) far be it from me to say that this is not what you need (although I do know that you also need everything mentioned in the body of this email), and 2) there are a multiplicity of Christian-based programs out there; out of ignorance I could not recommend any, but this is a growth area in modern evangelical Christianity (my old seminary has a school of psychology associated with it which is greatly concerned with such issues). Whatever you decide, in my personal view it is more an issue of will than anything else. God gave us free will – and that is the most important possession any of us has here on earth – the very image of God. We have a right to exercise it however we wish, and how we do is what being here is all about. Clearly, there are physical obstacles that often cannot be overcome without help and I would certainly not wish to suggest that you are not in such a situation or should not seek some sort of professional help – that is a personal decision only you can make and I would never second guess you (especially given my vast ignorance about the details of such things). But I do think I have the Spirit of God when I say that none of these types of programs are "magic": they will only be as successful as you resolve for them to be. The decision comes from you, and that exercise of your free will is the most powerful thing committed to us as human beings. Use it for good. Use it for Jesus. Use it to save yourself from this predicament. Stop abusing it and start using it with your eyes focused beyond the darkness of pain and tears that is this world on the brilliant glory of the eternal rewards that will be yours from living the rest of your life for Jesus Christ.
Apologies for the very frank tone of the above. This letter was written in love for you, my brother in Jesus, and I do hope that you will receive it that spirit. You will be in my prayers for victory in all these things. I look forward to hearing the good news of your total deliverance.
In Jesus our dear Lord and merciful Savior for whom nothing is impossible.
First off, sorry about sending a second email when you still are probably going through them and responding to the first, but I felt like I wanted to talk a little bit more about my past. Looking back to the time prior to my angry outburst, I was shocked to find myself having been in an attitude of complacency, and even some contempt towards the bible. Back then, for a time period of a few months (3, 4... I don't know) I had been clinging onto faith alone and hadn't really been reading or studying the word, or seriously applying it to my life (I had only mildly done so until that point). When I got into an internet conversation concerning the bible, sometime prior to my outburst a few months ago, I referred to the bible as 'inconsistent' and even 'a stupid thing', saying stuff like I was still a believer because I didn't read it and that the fastest way to become an atheist is to read it. I'm looking back to this behavior now, and I'm shocked at all of this. I mean, the entire time I still was a believer, I still believed, but... I had false beliefs about the bible being possibly faulty because it was written by man. I thought I was 'smart', but spoke out of ignorance and laziness, and... maybe even contempt.
I try to feel comfortable in the Lord's grace and forgiveness for my past, but when I look back at these, I can almost hardly believe they came from me... but they did. I know the Lord has forgiven me (although I again don't feel it, yet), but I guess.. I'm just disturbed by just how far down I had gotten. I mean on the surface, one may even misconstrue what I was saying was coming from the mouth of an unbeliever in that one particular discussion, but it was never my intent to actually reflect that. I believed back then, but it was more 'background' than it is now, and I feel guilty for it. We should always be looking forward, I realize that, and am pretty sure I've been forgiven... but for some reason, this still bothers me, but probably only because I had recently gone back to read it all. God forgives all, and I guess I need to know if there's anything I can do about it. I can delete my posts from back then so no one would ever read them again, but I feel damage has still been done, what was written was written. God forgives all, and.. I guess I'm asking if he forgives even my behavior from back then?
I'm pretty sure this is the last 'trip to the past' email I'll write you, and I apologize if I seem to still be lingering on it or seem to have difficulty moving on. I guess when I went back and read what I wrote in that conversation all those months ago, these feelings of guilt just rise up.
Also, I could use some guidance/help on a situation that... isn't new, it's been going on for awhile, but after reading some more of your website, and coming across a part where we shouldn't associate with people who live a life of sin or crime, I thought I'd come to you for help. I remember before you told me we can't control other's in their walk, and everyone's walk is personal. [backstory omitted]. What can be done here?
No problem. It is a very rare Christian indeed who cannot look backward and remember thoughts, words and deeds of which he/she is now ashamed. I certainly do not belong to that rare and possibly hypothetical group, and I would venture to guess that most if not all of the great believers of the Bible were likewise able to vex themselves with thoughts of past conduct – if that had been their pleasure. We know about some of these, of course. Paul persecuted the Church of Jesus Christ, torturing believers to get them to blaspheme the Lord, and participating energetically in their judicial murder. David committed adultery with one of his most trusted subordinate's wife, then saw to it that the man himself was murdered. Moses spent his first forty years living as an Egyptian and murdered a man when he had a change of heart about that, then spent the next forty years in a secular life-style married to a woman who may not have even been a believer. Yet these three men were three of the most grace-oriented people who have ever lived, and if they do not constitute the absolute top three in order of eternal rewards it would certainly be difficult to see how they are not all in the top ten (or very close). Moses never seems to have looked back – and he is called the most humble man on earth as a result (Num.12:3). David confessed his sin in true repentance (2Sam.12:13; Ps.32:5), but thereafter gives no indication of torturing himself over these grave offenses: in spite of the fourteen years of severe discipline which ensued, he continued to be overwhelmingly joyous in his fellowship with the Lord (as the Psalms testify). And Paul mentions his offenses only to make a point (1Cor.15:9; Gal.1:13), but likewise was ever after looking forward and not backward, the very policy we should all adopt:
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14 NIV
If we have sinned, we should confess that sin in genuine repentance, confident of God's promise to forgive us whenever we do come to Him. Continuing to beat ourselves up about the past is not a humble thing. Rather, it is a form of subtle arrogance. It assumes that what we have done in sinning is more important than what Christ has done in dying for that sin. It is also inconsistent – because we have in fact committed far more sins than the ones which continue to bother and disturb us (and no doubt many of them were far worse in God's eyes). It is arrogant because it places how we feel about the matter ahead of what God says about the matter. Last but by no means least over-focusing on the past and scratching at the wound so it cannot heal has the extremely deleterious effect of rendering us hors de combat, taking us "out of the fight" to one degree or another. Or rather we are actually taking ourselves out of the fight by allowing our feelings on these points to have a say in how we think about them and judge them (rather than honoring God's opinion as expressed in His Word). The important question is not how we feel about it but what God thinks and says about it. He has promised to forgive us, and we know that He disciplines us like a loving father when we require it (Heb.12). We should accept His discipline with warm appreciation and should never think to add to it ourselves. So while it is fine to remember how we have failed in the past for the purpose of never allowing ourselves to fail in that way again, it is self-destructive in the extreme to allow the evil one and our own guilt to torture us to the point of rendering us ineffective for Jesus Christ. Eventually, if we are determined to give our full attention to the truth and not what we see, hear, or feel, our hearts will come around in every respect as well. But if we refuse to allow the truth to mold and shape what we think and judge and feel, we will ever be mired in the past, will miss out on making the most of the present, and will compromise the reward we might otherwise receive in the future. Here are some links on this issue:
Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?
Sin, Confession and Forgiveness.
Categories of Suffering (and the issue of feeling guilty): Peter #4
"Strangers in the Devil's Realm"
As to your other issue, I am always reluctant to give people specific advice for the rather obvious reason that no third party can know all the facts (many of which have to do with what is actually going on in the hearts of those involved). It does seem to me, however, that when a person loves someone else, and especially when some commitments have been made or are understood, that should trump many other things. We can't dictate to other people whom they will or will not like. But even if we do not appreciate all of the choices those to whom we owe some measure of loyalty may make, that loyalty ought to carry more weight than any quirks of behavior we find annoying – we all have these, after all: even you, even me. I understand economic pressure and difficulties (believe me), but it does seem to this very poorly informed third party that making a major change over this minor issue is something that you should think twice about. Sometimes when people we love express uneasiness about people and situations that may not bother us, it is a case of better intuition on their part (we all have our own spiritual gifts after all: 1Cor.12:28). Please take this with at least a "grain of salt" inasmuch as there are doubtless a myriad of related circumstances of which I am unaware.
Hoping and praying for a swift and successful resolution to your difficulties, my friend.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord whom we are here on earth to serve,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
Thank you for your enormous work. I have finished your treaties on Revelation, am almost finished with the Peter series and have in between read many articles and emails as well. The Peter series has left me with without much Scriptural hope for my situation and so far have not been able to find any on my own. So briefly here is my case:
As a young man I was saved, baptized and active in a small Baptist Church for a couple years. A few issues with the church led me to walk out of a Wednesday evening prayer meeting and I have not been back to a church for over 45 years. Almost a year ago now is when I started regretting my life and what I had done with it and asked the Lord for help and forgiveness. I somehow felt His Hand saved me from almost certain catastrophic situations many times and has kept me in good health all these years. The Peter series has shown me that my repentance now may be a bit late. It feels awkward now when I am in my 70's to ask the Lords' forgiveness (I do everyday nonetheless) now that I am in the 11th hour of my life and somewhat useless for His service. Sort of like trying to purchase a good life insurance policy now. 2 Peter 2:21 is the one that "worries" me the most.
Severe family problems and relationship difficulties finally brought me to realize the error of my ways. The only "hope" I find in the Scriptures from casual reading (other than studying) is that God is patient and loving.
If you could provide any Scriptural passages that may help - it would be of tremendous help to me. If not I understand and will continue until the end to study and have a "closer walk with Him" - my favorite hymn "Just a Closer Walk with Thee.
Very good to make your acquaintance. However, I do confess to a certain amount of puzzlement about your statement regarding the Peter series. It's not finished, of course, but its purpose is to provide perspective and encouragement to believers undergoing suffering and testing. As we grow in Jesus, we will be tested, and if we really do put Him first, we will be given to "share the sufferings of Christ" (see the link), intensive opposition which hones our spirituality to a fine point – if we are willing to "let patience have its perfect work" (Jas.1:2-4).
I think I do understand, however. Whenever a person turns back to the Lord, one of the first things that happens (after a flush of enthusiasm and relief) is the "guilt attack". Believe me when I say that the last thing the evil one (or whichever of his minions is assigned to your "case) wants is for you now to go on happily serving the Lord, recovering from all your past mistakes and self-inflicted wounds, growing up spiritually, communing joyously with the Lord, advancing, progressing and helping others to do the same so as to earn a wonderful eternal reward. That is exactly what Jesus wants you to do, but Satan will oppose it, now that you are on his "radar screen" (so to speak). One of the most effective satanic attacks in the playbook is the guilt attack. No one can live in this world very long and not have something in their past which they regret. And, people being people, the odds of us not having a whole portfolio of incidents ready-made for guilt are very low – especially if we took our time before getting serious about the Lord (or if we took a long hiatus from Him and from what we ought to do). This is so common as to be standard. The number of Christians who after salvation went straight to the mark without any slips or slides is a very small "set" (probably a "null set"). And even in the case of those saved late in life, just because the horrible things done were done as unbelievers does not change the fact that they can be made to feel guilty about them. It is true that Christ died for what we did before and when we are saved we are cleansed. So why can't those Christians believe that? The same, however, is true for those of us who have lapsed after salvation: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1Jn.1:9 NIV). Being unwilling to accept God's mercy is arrogant; failing to believe His promise of absolute and unconditional forgiveness is blasphemous. Yet guilt is a very powerful emotion, and the evil one knows just how to manipulate it. Feeling remorse about something we ought to make right is just a correct response to conscience. Continuing to beat ourselves up with guilt over things done in the past of which we have repented, for which we have done what reasonably may be done to make right, and of which we have been forgiven through confessing them is wrong – it is also incredibly common. Our emotions, coupled with the natural pain and consequences of things we've done wrong, manipulated by the devil to torment us can, if we are not careful, send us into a spiritual tail-spin. So it is very important to remember what the Christian life is: it is a fight to the finish, not an exercise in perfection. Show me a great believer in the Bible who was without sin and I will show you either 1) some failure you have not considered or 2) an incomplete record. Paul, for example, persecuted the Church – he tortured Christians in order to get them to renounce Christ. If anyone had something to feel guilty about, it was Paul. But what is his advice on this subject?
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14 NIV
We are still here after salvation to push ahead – not to look back. This is a war, and a far more important one than any human conflict which has ever taken place. We can't afford to get taken out of action by regrets about how we fought the last battle. If we get hung up on our past mistakes, we are likely to lose the present battle. No military campaign was ever fought without casualties. If we resist the devil, we will be bloodied (Heb.12:4; cf. 1Pet.4:1). Part of growing up spiritually is developing a hard outer-crust that shrugs off what we see, what we hear, and, perhaps most importantly of all, how we feel. As I often say in these cases (it is a very common situation), we need to learn to "go with what we know" from scripture to be true, leading our emotions with the truth of the Word of God, rather than looking to them for leadership and allowing ourselves to "reel with what we feel" as a result. Please see the links:
Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?
Sin, Confession and Forgiveness.
Categories of Suffering (and the issue of feeling guilty): Peter #4
"Strangers in the Devil's Realm"
After all, Jesus loves you. He died for you, for all the sins and failures you feel guilty about (and for all those that don't bother you as well!). Would He be happier if you had not come back to Him? Of course not. He welcomes you back like the prodigal son – the very parable that applies directly to your situation and that of so many of us who "went to a far country" after we were saved (Lk.15:11-32). Trust me on this: having come back to Jesus is very good, and we are not only within our rights to "feel good" about it but allowing ourselves to "feel bad" about having left Him in the first place is not only a waste of our most precious resource on this earth, namely time, but is also a horrible mistake.
Rejoice that you have come back. Whatever hardships and consequences resulted from past mistakes were provided for you by a loving Father who treats you as a son, not as an enemy (Heb.12:5-10). The angels rejoice over the one lost sheep found more than the ninety-nine never lost – and they rejoiced over you.
Don't worry about the time past. Moses was 80 before he even got cracking in ministry, and was not without his own grave mistakes (before and after). Peter failed, Paul failed, David failed, Elijah failed – but they all got back up off the deck and got moving forward again, not looking back. That is the path to spiritual greatness. Believe me, if you are due any more divine discipline, the Lord will make sure you receive it – and you can receive it in the knowledge that it is meted out in love.
Don't beat yourself up about the past. Make the most of the present. As I also like to say at such times, there are only three days the Christian should consider: yesterday is the day Christ covered our sins with His blood: we are grateful for that and are mindful of only that as we look back (everything else we forget); today is the day the Lord has made for us to do what He would have us do: grow, advance, help others according to our gifts in the ministries he calls us to (everything else must be subordinate to that); and tomorrow, when Christ returns, resurrects us and rewards us (nothing of the stuff of worldly worry will matter when that wonderful day comes to pass as it surely will).
Keep running the race, my friend, looking forward to the track ahead and pressing for the tape to earn a good reward. Don't stop, don't look back, don't get off into the weeds, rather, make the most of the time remaining in the service of Jesus Christ. In this there is great reward (see the link: "The Judgment and Reward of the Church")
In our dear Lord,
This is perhaps an idle question, but I was wondering if there is an answer. How long does our cleansing from all unrighteousness last before we are once again guilty of the entire law as James says? I'm thinking of the guy in church who raises his head from his once-again cleansing prayer of habitual weekly remembrance of his continuing-sinful state and looks at the female pastor in her position of dominance and his mind wanders, (like mine) and what is the cure to stop thinking about hippopotamus? Or is it really, actually, as Paul says in Romans 7; there is no cure, as is his witness. Or...is it that this described, *cleansing from all unrighteousness* can, because of our, manifestly impossible to change, body and spirit, not happen at all until after our death, because, what would be the use of cleansing which lasts maybe five seconds at the most? I may not have done a very good job in making my question clear. Thank you very, very, much for your thoroughness and patience.
Good to hear from you. It seems to me that you have two questions here (and please feel free to correct any mis-impressions on my part): 1) what is the relationship between the absolute forgiveness we have in Jesus and the need to confess sin after being saved; and 2) what can Christians do about controlling what goes on in their minds. I have written on both of these subjects fairly extensively. For the first one, please see the link: Sin, Confession and Forgiveness. The gist is that we are justified and forgiven all sins when we believe in Jesus, but our fellowship with Him in this life requires confession of our sins whenever we err. Just as our Lord tells us in the "foot-washing" analogy, we have all had a bath (once and for all cleansing through the blood of Christ), but as our feet get dirty in this dirty world they need to be washed as well (forgiveness of believers and "cleansing from all unrighteousness" for the restoration of fellowship). We are all sons; but sons make mistakes and are disciplined for them by their Father. To be restored to fellowship, we need to confess, but this is an "all in the family" cleansing whereas the justification at salvation is the initial "entrance into the family" cleansing which changes our essential status from enemies to sons of God as those born again by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
On the second question, the human mind or heart or "soul" is the interface between the fleshly, corrupt body and the eternal spirit which are our two essential "parts". Since the sin nature and the Spirit are "fighting it out" on this battleground continually (e.g., Gal.5), coming to a complete dominance over our thinking is even harder to achieve than a complete dominance over our tongues (and James is quite good about explaining how difficult that is). As I often say, Christian "thought control" is in many ways the "Mt. Everest" of Christian sanctification. And the only sure-fire way to achieve any progress in sanctification of any kind is through spiritual growth: growth is the offense which empowers our sanctified defense. There is much in scripture about what we ought to think, and that is really the key to this issue: deliberately thinking "right things" forces out more and more our natural proclivity towards thinking "wrong things". Progress in this area of any meaningful sort only comes from the inside-out change that occurs as we grow in the learning, acceptance, belief and application of the truth. For an overview of this issue and additional links please see "Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions" and in BB 4A "Our New Orientation as Reborn Believers".
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind (i.e., your emotions), be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
1st Peter 1:13 KJV
Yours in Jesus Christ, our dear Lord and Savior,
What do you think of the possibility that we are attacked daily in our minds. That is satanic forces influence how we think and weakness is seen at an early age.
I hope this makes sense.
Good to make your acquaintance. This is a question I think all believers who are serious about their walk with the Lord have sooner or later. From a biblical point of view, it is certainly true that we are often told to take an active approach to gaining control of our thoughts and emotions:
Therefore since you have been resurrected [positionally] with Christ, be seeking after the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your hearts (lit., minds) on the things above, not the things on earth.
The flip-side conclusion to be drawn from this model of "perfect application" to which none of us is likely to come particularly close (although we should improve with time and growth), is that without active, positive engagement in the fight to control the inner-life of our minds/emotions we are likely not to be thinking what we should think:
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
2nd Corinthians 10:5 KJV
This and other verses present personal "thought-control" as a problem we have to work at, and since we are commanded to "think aright", we can be sure that the devil and his cohorts are actively involved in getting us to do the opposite.
When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
James 1:13-15 NIV
Temptation of one sort or another is one of the most readily recognizable areas in which we find ourselves "not thinking what is right", and most Christians understand that while the devil plays a definite role in temptation, it is not as if he didn't have a very powerful ally right inside the walls, so to speak, namely, the "sin nature" which infests the natural bodies of us all (please see the link: in BB 3B: "The Sin Nature").
How precisely Satan and his agents work their wiles upon us is not spelled out in scripture in as great detail as we should like – unquestionably for good reason lest we give too much attention to the side of "spiritual warfare" we can neither see nor directly affect (see the links: "Spiritual Warfare II", "Spiritual Warfare" and "Resisting the Devil"). It does seem clear that the devil and his followers can suggest certain things to us, although distinguishing between the natural lusts of the sin nature un-prodded from without on the one hand and incited by demon influence on the other is probably impossible for us to do (after all, the world is the devil's system [see the link], so that much of his work is done for him by the things of the world which are impossible for us to ignore altogether). What we must recognize, however, is that we are responsible for how we deal with these negative thoughts and emotions once they surface.
My advice to Christians is: 1) not to be overly concerned with the surfacing of negative or disturbing thoughts in the first place (since only a very long "re-programming" through consistent spiritual growth will be likely to affect this phenomenon for the good and will never completely shut it off), 2) to begin to take responsibility for what we think and feel and address this issue, though – importantly – taking care not to be thrown off by failures, especially in the early going. As I have said before, control of what we think and feel is in many respects the "Mt. Everest" of Christian spiritual application; it is the stuff of spiritual maturity, and perfection herein is no doubt more difficult that complete control of the tongue; 3) to dedicate themselves to a disciplined and consistent pattern of personal spiritual growth and advance, for it is only by growing up through faith in the truth that genuine and meaningful progress in this area of a more sanctified inner-life is going to be achieved (or in any other, for that matter).
I hope this gives you a good starting point for answering this question. Here are some other links which may prove helpful in this regard:
Who controls our thoughts and emotions?
Sin and Spiritual Transformation.
The Battlefield (in SR #4)
Please feel free to write me back about any of the above.
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
Robert, just as an aside question, what advice would you give to someone who was always afraid of having an unwanted or unholy thought when trying to take every thought captive to Christ? Like for example when praying or reading scripture. Like always being worried about it so its always in the back of your mind.
This is a question I think all Christians have – I know I get quite a lot of questions about it, and it really bothers some believers more than others. Everything we think is a choice, but our minds/hearts are the crucible where flesh and spirit come together. Gaining complete control in the governance of our thoughts, therefore, is in many respects the highest of all the hills we're called upon to conquer. To really get to the point of "being in charge" at all times is the stuff of very advanced spiritual maturity. That is because it requires a near complete understanding of all of God's truth, firmly believed, along with the habit of cycling that truth in a disciplined way, contemplating God's Word rather than all the things that worry us, cause us concern, interest us, or just bump into our consciousness in the process of living life in the world. And, of course, having lived in the world a long time, we have a full store of images and thoughts and experiences et al. that gurgle back up to the surface from time to time. Add to this the sin nature, the temptations of the world, and active interference of the evil one, and it is no wonder that most Christians have a difficult time keeping their eyes on Jesus at all times.
My main advice on this to all and sundry (myself included) is 1) keep growing up spiritually through an ever greater attention to learning and believing the truth, because that is the fundamental step without which any measure of godly control of the inner-man that truly comes from the Spirit is impossible; 2) in the meantime, concentrate on doing better with thinking about Jesus and all the positive things scripture gives us to think about, and make a practice of trying to recover quickly whenever a "bad thought" makes you realize that you are out of the pattern of walking with Him in your heart; and be happy about being able to walk with Him rather than getting down on yourself that you are not perfect: pro baseball players who hit .333 are pretty happy about it, even though it's not perfection; realistically, it will be a long while before we are doing better than that; 3) whenever real failure occurs to the point of sinfulness, recover in the same way that we are always told to recover, namely, confessing any and all sin, turning our backs on it even as we turn back towards God, and making a mental note to do our best not to fall into the same trap a second time (eventually we will be done with "second times" if we are consistent with our approach). Delighting ourselves in the Lord is the objective, and it is only by fulfilling this positive goal through mental, spiritual offense that we are going to make the kind of headway in our mental, spiritual defense that all of us aspire to.
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Psalm 1:1-2 NIV
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
Philippians 4:8 NIV
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Colossians 3:1 NIV
I have written some things on this topic. You may find the following links of some help:
Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?
Techniques of Virtue Thinking
Walking with Jesus
Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,
I wanted to both ask a small question, but also give you a quick update. First off, the more and more I read the bible, the more and more I find myself just getting excited. I don't even know what I'm getting exited for, a lot of the time, but as I find out more about Jesus, the more comfortable I get and even excited and joyful I become. Although, I did have a question, so I'll get to it: what do you think of thoughts? I realize we are (or should be) in control of all of our words, thoughts, and actions, but what about random and.. well, unwanted (even dark..?) thoughts? Not so much forethought as the 'background' thoughts can you can lose track of, if this makes any sense? Cause while I'm in control of myself most of the time, sometimes (especially under duress) thoughts will come to the back of my mind, even while I'm focusing on something else -- almost like.. thoughts before thought, if that makes sense? Is this just the sin nature fighting against us wanting/trying to do what is right? There is s story involved in this if you want/need to hear it, but wanted to see what you thought without the need to bother you with it.
Am I right in assuming this is just a matter of spiritual growth?
I'm very happy to hear that you are making spiritual progress. It is a matter of spiritual growth in that the more we know and believe and the more mature we become, the better we can potentially be at this, but it is also a matter of actually engaging in the fight to "think about the thinks above, not the things below" (Col.3:1-2), and that is a fight that all believers at all levels ought to take on at all times (and which even very advanced believers are often not as consistent about doing as they should be). Getting in control of what we think and what we feel is, as I often say, in many ways the ultimate "high ground" of Christian application of the truth to this life. Whenever believers mess up, even great believers, it is usually because of a momentary let down in "capturing every thought into captivity for Christ" (2Cor.10:5). One thinks of Moses' anger in striking the rock or Elijah's fear at receiving Jezebel's threat – and these are two of the greatest, the two witnesses of the coming Tribulation. I have written quite a bit about this in various places. The best place to look for the most concentrated information at Ichthys would be at the following links:
The Battlefield (in SR #4)
Satan's Techniques of Temptation
Our New Orientation as Reborn Believer (in BB 4B)
Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?
Techniques of Virtue Thinking
Walking with Jesus
Keep up the good work for Jesus Christ!
For the most part they've gone away, but I still have these random and highly-unwanted thoughts. I hope you don't misunderstand or take this the wrong way, because they really are unwanted, and I don't even understand where they come from. These again, aren't on the forethought of my mind, but in the very faint background where it feels like I almost can't control them. The thoughts are (forgive me for even repeating them), well, along the lines of 'D--n God' and 'D--n the bible. It started wit the latter but then went to the former, and I don't understand why such thoughts enter my mind. I don't think like that at all, and don't WANT to think like that, at all. Is this just the sin nature in me fighting, or trying to cause me to turn away? Is it maybe the evil one trying to get to me? He isn't capable of forcing his way into your mind in such a manner, right? Any thoughts on this would be helpful: I want to live a Godly life and serve the Lord, and it irritates me that something like this is going on.
This is a very common thing you report. Certainly, the devil's minions track positive believers and "whisper in their ears" I am sure (although the world-system the devil has set up veritable shouts these things [see the link]). Here is what James and Peter say about that:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
1st Peter 5:8-9 NIV
So a couple of quick observations: 1) we have to have faith that God will win this fight for us; 2) we have to fight this fight in God's power, not our own; 3) we actually have to engage in the struggle, taking responsibility for our side of the equation. What that means is being confident that God is helping us, being confident that He knows quite well that this "stuff" is not coming from us, being consistent in thinking about Him and the truth of the Word and using those positive thoughts to oppose all negative thinking. Generally speaking, all manner of sinful or pointless or foolish thinking is the result, at least in terms of immediate causation, of us letting our guard down and not walking closely with Jesus at that moment. Now no one is anywhere close to being perfect about this, so we have to deal with ourselves on this matter in a reasonable way. I would say that if a Christian's only behavioral concern is policing their own thinking, that such a person has made serious spiritual progress. On this one, I would remind you that the Holy Spirit indwells you, and that He will control you if and when you give yourself over to His control. So you – and we all – can relax about such things, because much "greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world". Relaxing on this point (by trusting Him) and striving to think of all the wonderful "things above" is the way we "resist the devil", standing firm in our faith and our confidence in the truth that it is an easy matter for our Lord to rout the adversary in this and in every other sort of invisible attack.
Yours in the One who is in us and with whom we will be forever, the Head of Body, our dear Lord Jesus Christ,
Your reply brings me great relief, and on top of that, I have another update on this very matter. I think (through faith in our Lord) have managed to get a much better monitoring/policing of my thoughts down, and while it wasn't easy, I know I'll have to keep my guard up in the future. I think the unsureness of the source of the thoughts was being used against me, and I was partly worried about it being a problem solely with me. Now that I know it's merely yet another tool in the evil one's belt, I'll be able to fend off these moments more easily, by remaining steadfast in Christ. I found out something odd in this last incident: the more I actively tried to not think them, the more I tried to control myself and fight it myself, the more it was happening... but the moment I relaxed, and relied on my faith in the Lord and accepted that he knew where my heart and mind truly were, they started to go away on their own. Again, thank you for answering, and it's good to hear from you again.
You're very welcome! I'm happy to hear of your success. Your experience in this matter, namely, of not trying to "think about a pink elephant" when someone tells you "don't think about a pink elephant", is also a very common one. I am pleased to hear that leaving it to the Lord has moved things in a positive way. It always does.
Keep on fighting the good fight of faith!
In Jesus our dear Savior,
Regarding the 'circumcision of the flesh', could you please clarify a few verses from Col 2:
11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
You wrote that uncircumcision of the flesh refers to our sinful nature, but it's still not clear to me what specifically does circumcision, used in this sense, refer to. Paul says mentions 'removal of the body of flesh' - but we still have to live in our sinful bodies having accepted Christ - what does he mean then?
This is another excellent question on another thorny topic, namely, just how "new" are Christians when they are "reborn"? I have recently covered this in some detail at the link in BB 4B: "Our New Reorientation as Born Again Believers", and here is the passage where these verses are referred to:
This is the essence of the fundamental reorientation we receive at the new birth, the newfound ability to understand so as to be able to believe, apply and follow the truth of the Word of God. No longer is our previous status of spiritual death a hindrance to us, for now we are spiritually alive (Rom.6:11; 8:10; Eph.2:5; Col.2:13; cf. Lk.15:24; 15:32; 20:38). No longer is the sin which dwells in us an absolute barrier to receiving, believing and living by God's truth (Jn.8:32; Rom.6:6), for now we have the Spirit dwelling in us as well, and He is well-able to overcome this barrier whenever we choose to follow Him instead of our own lusts (Rom.8:5; Gal.5:16-18; Jas.4:5). No longer are the sins we have committed and the lies of the world we have believed veiling our view of the truth and blocking out the light of the Word through their darkness (Acts 26:18; 2Cor.3:15-18): at salvation we are forgiven and our slate is wiped clean (1Cor.6:11; Tit.3:5-7); we are given a "new heart" in the sense of being completely cleansed from everything old which obscured our view of the truth (Heb.10:2; 2Pet.1:9), a "circumcised heart" in the sense of having everything old which blocked our view of the truth completely removed (Col.2:11-14).
The heart is the perceptive and cognitive inner "us", and its circumcision thus refers to the empowerment of our spiritual faculties. That part of the flesh of our sin nature which blocked our perception and appreciation of God's truth has been "cut away" making us now sensitive to the truth and potentially receptive to the Word of God.
I have another question for you.
I have read your answer and your postings on this subject, but the 'lead us not into temptation', or 'don't bring us into trial' part of the Lord's prayer is still not completely clear to me.
The concept of 'delivering from the evil one' is clear, but the first part of the sentence is still one of the passages I keep in the back of my head and desire to understand.
You pointed that 'temptation' is here better rendered 'trial', and 'leading' is better rendered 'bringing', but that makes the logic of the whole sentence a little more difficult to comprehend, and this is where your explanation will be very much appreciated.
a) If the second part says 'but deliver us from the evil one', then why doesn't the first one also refer to something related to the 'evil one'?
For example, the meaning of: 'Don't bring us to the evil one, but deliver us from the evil one' - is clear.
But in the sentence: 'Don't bring us into trial (and trial doesn't mean evil, since God doesn't tempt us), but deliver us from the evil one' the link between the two parts is less evident - could you clarify it?
b) If we know that we are never tested beyond what we can take and that the testing of faith can help one draw closer to the Lord (James 1:2, 1:12), then why would we ask God 'not bring us into the trial' in the first place?
c) Finally, I wanted to ask about the relationship between the free will and this passage. You wrote:
"Don't let us go into", the other way one could have phrased this, really would be wrong because 1) it would be asking for our free will to be negated altogether, and 2) it would suggest that our free will has more than one possible orientation (i.e., instead of towards God or not towards God, it could be, theoretically, away from God, which is not at all how we are designed, in purpose or in function).
I understand point number 1, but not number 2 - why would 'don't let us go into' suggest that our will has got multiple possible orientations?
d) Associated with this is my next question. You wrote:
By saying "Don't bring us", Jesus both acknowledges for us that God is the One who is directing our path, not ourselves, and that it is even more important to ask Him to help us with that direction than to worry about it ourselves as we put our feet forward. And of course we are responsible for how and where we "walk", but asking Him to steer us out of danger ahead of time is even more important since, obviously, we are seeing very little of what is truly going on around us in the spiritual realm.
I still find it difficult to understand how God is on one hand directing our path, on the other how we are responsible where we walk. The concept is, at a general level, not so hard to comprehend - the world was created by God and everything that happens is decreed by Him and we have our free will. But the passage says 'bring' and I don't know how this fits with our free will, I would appreciate you describing the specifics of this.
With constant prayer for you and your ministry and in our Lord Jesus,
Here is what our Lord said in Gethsemane on the night before the crucifixion:
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."
Luke 22:42 NIV
The gist of this is that it is very legitimate for us to ask God's deliverance from all trials – but we also need to accept that some are necessary. If we make it a habit of praying as in the Lord's prayer to be delivered from trials, then we will have all the more confidence that only those which are necessary will come upon us. So when we are tested, we don't need to worry that perhaps "this" could have been avoided (whatever the "this" may be), for we have been praying for God's guidance and for God's shepherding of us through whatever may come. In this way, we may genuinely have confidence that though we find ourselves "walking through the valley of the shadow of death", nevertheless the Lord is with is to guide us and protect us. The "rider" attached to the prayer in Matthew 6:13 is a good but not a necessary one (it is not found in Lk.11:14). It means, "assuming that we are not delivered from a particular trial and that said trial is necessary, then by all means protect us during that trial from the attacks of the devil". This additional expression gives us complete confidence that we have "done everything we can do" in protecting ourselves through prayer, and have done so precisely in accord with the express Word of God. After we have "done everything", we can have confidence of God's deliverance and so of our ability to withstand whatever we may face in that valley of the death-shadow, no matter how ferocious the assaults of the evil one may be.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything (i.e., everything good and necessary as in saying this prayer daily), to stand.
Ephesians 6:13 NIV
So we are most definitely exercising our free-will faith properly in praying this prayer and in having confidence that the Lord hears all of our prayers. We are also properly exercising our free-will faith in accepting thereby the reality that some testing and trials must come, and that our lives belong to Him and not to us. We believers are all left here on earth to be good soldiers for Jesus Christ. In the analogy, a soldier is sometimes not told everything he would like to know about the purpose of every operation wherein he will be risking his life – indeed, in most military forces he is almost never told the specifics. He has to have "faith" that those higher up have some idea what they are doing – and that faith has, over the course of human history, often been misplaced. We Christians, however, can and should have absolute confidence that our Commander in Chief not only knows everything and not only is working out the perfect strategy for the perfect final victory, but that He has our actual best interests at heart in all that He asks us to do. More than that, Jesus has actually been here personally on this very battlefield and not only endured more than we can imagine in the human realm so as to be completely and experientially sympathetic to the difficulties of whatever we are called upon to do but also did something so spectacular that we can only superficially limn its depths: He died in the fiery darkness to expiate all of our sins. A good commanding officer never asks his men to do something he would be unwilling to do himself: our Lord did for us what we were unable to do in the smallest part if we had all eternity to attempt it, and did so at the highest possible cost imaginable. So it is important in our visualization of these matters to remember that we are a part of special team led by the perfect Commander, and that there is a much bigger picture out there than we can see from our own little "foxhole". Everything we are called upon to do and endure is part of that much bigger whole, and it is very helpful for our personal objectivity to keep that perspective in mind (lest we start thinking that we are more important to the Plan than we are). Our actions are important, because it is the collective total of all of our good free-will faith decisions which is the basis for our eternal rewards – which in turn glorify our Master then even as they please Him now. The Lord's prayer is an important means of orienting our perspective to these unseen spiritual realities day by day. It teaches us the right way to view the present (with courage since God is providing for all of our needs: "daily bread"), the past (with confidence in putting aside all guilt since our sins have been forgiven and any current ones will be as well – as long as we walk in that forgiveness), and the future: if we are walking close to Him, He will keep us out of unnecessary trouble – and He will deliver us from the clutches of the evil one in all that which for His glory we must endure. And all this is a matter of free-will faith too, because nothing is forcing us to say this prayer, or, more to the point perhaps, to consider when we do what it means. By saying this prayer, we are reminded of how we should walk and how we should behave, to the end, God helping us, that we might actually find ourselves in that spiritual "sweet spot" where what we are doing is really what God would have us to do, and the only trouble we encounter is the sort designed by Him to train us and glorify Him.
In our dear Lord Jesus and in anticipation of standing together in glory at His return,