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The Battlefield Within II:

Combating anger, fear, blaming God, blaming others.

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Question #1:  

Dear Bob,

I'm not sure if I have asked anything about anger before, or maybe have had it as a part of a previous discussion, but was curious on the best way to 'deal' with anger, as it were. There is no particular case that I am pointing to or asking about, but just a general way of dealing with it and letting it go. I guess it is somewhat related to the question of 'what is forgiveness?', even though I am pretty sure what that is: choosing to let go of someone's wrong against you and not holding it against them. I'm pretty sure still being hurt/feeling hurt by it is not unforgiving, since that is an emotion we can do nothing about, right? Feelings fade in time, so forgiveness would then be a simple choice of not resenting, if that sounds about right.

Anyway, the subject of anger has always been a bit of a tricky one with me, since I can have a bit of a temper at times; though, I often manage to simply let it 'die down' or redirect it. Again, I am not talking about or particular incident, so much as just a simple day-to-day kind of anger, more little annoyances than anything else -- though these would probably be considered distractions, now that I think about it. I realize the best thing is to just stay focused on God and what is good. This question might seem a bit rambley, and I apologize for that, but I suppose I did not have a real specific question in-mind so much as a general query?

Response #1: 

I will give you some links below. We are told in Ephesians 4:26 (a quote from Ps.4:4) "in your anger, do not sin" and also, "do not let the sun go down on your anger". From this I take that we can all be provoked to being anger and upset by various and sundry life circumstances. That is part of living in the world. And it is often not possible to immediately rein in that emotion especially if the provocation is severe. It is better not to get angry, better to stifle the emotion when it does surface, better to keep in check and not act irrationally on it, and it is scripturally mandated not to allow it to produce further sin or to boil for an extended period of time (beyond "today").

I think you make a good point that there is a distinction to be drawn between feeling bad/hurt/upset about something and being sinfully angry. We are to forgive everyone, and if someone has done something significantly bad to us to make us legitimately angry, while we do want to forgive as quick as possible, we can't be expected to "feel good" about the damage – but we ought to do our best not to allow ourselves to be good and truly angry about it for very long, rather as short a time as possible.

Emotions are tricky things and very poor guides to what is really going on spiritually in this world. If we did truly see things from God's point of view, as if we were sitting side by side with our Lord and the Father and looking at what is going on from heaven, we would realize that 1) none of these things which make us angry really matter very much at all in the bigger picture: the plan of God is going forward without a hitch even if we get upset; 2) there is another dimension of spiritual warfare involved: the evil one and his minions have a lot to do with the things that provoke us and promote them in order to try and get us off track; and 3) our anger "does not accomplish the righteous purpose of God" (Jas.1:20): in other words, it's what God thinks that counts, not how we feel.

Regardless of what happens in this world, we are here to serve Christ, and like soldiers with a mission to carry out, we can't let petty personal concerns (or even major ones) stop us from doing what we need to do. If our anger puts "us" first in our thinking (which it almost always does), then we need to humbly put our faces in the dirt, ask for forgiveness for ourselves, freely offer it to others, and get moving forward again for Christ – that is the way to win the eternal rewards that glorify Him.

Here are some links on anger:

"Is anger a sin?"


Getting angry

In your anger, do not sin.

And here are a few on dealing with the inner aspect of the Christian fight:

The Battlefield within

Who controls our thoughts and emotions?

Spiritual Warfare (in BB 6A)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hi Bob,

Today I got so very angry at this false teacher. How does one deal with these emotions?

Response #2: 

We all have our own unique vulnerabilities when it comes to places where the evil one can profitably launch attacks if we are not careful. As we grow, we learn about these vulnerabilities, and, one hopes, how to make ourselves less vulnerable. If we are weak when it comes to alcohol, better not to drink, better not to have alcohol around us in our lives, better not to frequent bars, better not to hang around with people who drink – and in terms of all vulnerabilities of any kind we need to develop a complete intolerance for compromise on our parts.

Moses and Jonah had notable tempers; the latter was rebuked by the Lord, the former lost his opportunity to enter the land after forty years of wandering in the desert because of giving into anger (see the link: "Is anger a sin?").

Since X is not a family member, I don't see the necessity of ever having anything whatsoever to do with him or his writings or his followers on any level or through any medium ever again. That would solve the problem, I'm guessing.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:   

There's also a second problem, namely, that X is never ever going to face punishment for his words and is going to get away with it.

Response #3: 

I'm not so sure. The Lord has all manner of means of disciplining those who do belong to Him. So if X is really a believer, he may be (or may soon be) under discipline the likes of which we may not notice but will most assuredly sting:

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.
James 3:1 NKJV

This stricter judgment is not only here and now but also when we stand before the Lord. It's not nothing to be found wanting by the Lord before the judgment seat of Christ, to have to watch all nonsense burned up right before us. That is, as Paul tells us, what "the fear of the Lord" really is for believers (2Cor.5:10-11).

I would never want to be in the shoes of a false teacher, even if it appears that "at the moment" he is prospering.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:   

Getting a stomach act from the bad apples out there ought to be enough for anyone to move on to the next tree, but some people seem to enjoy the spiritual indigestion.

You would be surprised how powerful of a motivator fear is. Yes, grace does dictate that you can’t have behavior keep you out of heaven, but then they rely on “but if you don’t follow me, then that means that you weren’t REALLY one of the elect….” Need I go on?

Response #4: 

True, "our God is a consuming fire" (Heb.12:29), but remember that "God is love" (1Jn.4:8; 4:16).

It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them.
Ecclesiastes 7:18 NASB

We believers are absolutely secure in our salvation – as long as we persevere in our faith. But grace is not a ticket to sin with impunity (Rom.6:1ff.). We love the Lord – and we also know what it is to fear the Lord. We respect Him who is our all and our everything – on account of who He is and what He's done for us.

(1) So now, there [awaits] no judgment of condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the Law of sin and death.
Romans 8:1-2

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Hello Dr Luginbill. I pray all is well.

I was wondering what exactly does it mean to fear the LORD?

Thanks as always

Response #5: 

Hello Friend,

Good to hear from you again.

As to your question, any consideration of the fear of the Lord has to be put into the context that we are to love the Lord with all of our heart and soul and mind and might. Cowardly fear is bad (Rev.21:8); but godly reverence is good (Ps.111:10; compare 1Pet.3:2 with 1Pet.3:6 in the same context; and cf. 1Pet.3:14). The basis of godly reverence or appropriate "fear" is humility (Jas.4:4-7; 1Pet.5:5-6), a recognition of who the Lord is, His power, His perfection, what we owe Him, and very importantly who we are to Him, namely, those who belong to Him having been bought with His blood: we are God's sons and daughters, made so at the highest possible price, the sacrifice of our dear Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, and therefore we owe Him correspondingly more respect, reverence and appropriate fear of His position of authority and perfect handling of our behavior than even we displayed towards our earthly parents (Heb.12:9-10).

So "to fear the Lord" in the proper biblical way is to love and respect the Lord as we walk through this world. If we actually saw the Lord in all His glory standing before us as we walked, I think it is safe to say that we would not have call up this reverence from scripture and our consciences in the Spirit – we would naturally shy away from anything we knew to be displeasing to Him and would perhaps even more importantly be extra-motivated not to shirk doing the things which do please Him. Seeing Him visibly, however, would at the very least make for a less sure test of our free will – if not remove it entirely.

As it is, we are here in this world to demonstrate our true hearts, whether we are willing to be pleasing to Him and win the rewards He promises to those who accomplish the tasks of growth, progress and production. If we are, then operating as much as possible out of love for Him and respect/reverence/fear for Him at all times is an essential part of our spiritual approach. In other words, we don't actually see Him with our fleshly eyes, but we have to be as Moses and persevere in "seeing Him" in our hearts with the eyes of faith (Heb.11:27).

It is probably impossible to love someone for whom we have absolutely no respect; and it is also probably not likely that we will feel no love whatsoever for someone for whom we feel a tremendous amount of genuine respect. So the two facets go hand in hand and need to grow in tandem as we grow ever closer to Him. Here are some links on this:

What is a healthy fear of God?

Fear of God / love of God.

Fear in the Bible

"Don't be afraid!"

In Jesus our dear Lord whom we both love and revere,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hi Dr,

1. The word teleios, "perfect" in English, what does it mean? Does it mean to perfection as it relates to attaining spiritual maturity? Phil 3:12-15 is the scriptural context.

2. ISA 11:2 the word fear "yara" in Hebrew, does it mean reverence, awe for God because of who he is? I taught a class that defined the Spirit of Fear (of the Lord) is as follows: Helps you have reverence of God to help you be obedient and submissive life." There was a discussion that this is not fear but love. But i maintain that to fear the Lord because of who he is "deity" is the first step of loving the Lord because of the cross.

Your take on both of these will be helpful.

Much appreciated and thanks. In Christ Jesus our Lord

Response #6: 

Sorry for the delay:

1) the word teleoios doesn't occur in the context of Philippians 3:12-15 but the verb teleioo from the same root does, and, yes, it has to do in that case with a hypothetical and absolutely complete accomplishment of the mission which Paul says even he has not achieved – only Christ ever did that. There is a good deal about this in the recently posted BB 6A at the link "7. The Result of the Process: Spiritual Maturity".

2) Fear and love are related and interrelated, even though they are different of course. We can love an earthly father and fear him at the same time. In this life, there may be instances where there in nothing much to fear where an earthly father never ever disciplines, or where instead of respect there is terror because the individual is very cruel; blessedly the character of our God and Father and His Son is perfect in every way, absolute love and absolute holiness, commanding both responses of godly fear and love in a perfect way; our job is to respond to the One we both love and respect better day by day until both appropriate responses blend into one indistinguishable attitude.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Christ's death is sufficient to remove the guilt of even the most heinous of criminals. The testimony of Paul bears ample witness to that. However, in the case of "complete monsters," I think it is always more rational to conclude that any death-bed "conversion" is more likely to be empty words (or even more likely: the murders, like Barabbas, are mocking the death of Jesus Christ by putting the justice of God into ridicule): true conversion always follows through with deeds and repentance. Murder (topped with abominable acts) are such extreme sins that whoever commits them probably "made their choice" of where they would like to go after death.

Response #7: 

We often don't even have absolute confidence that beloved family members are saved, but God is capable of sorting it all out. According to the justice of God, any two year old who died of the measles would be worthy of the lake of fire – absent Christ dying for his/her sins. God's justice is uncompromising and perfect, not sentimental and preferential as human justice often is. No one gets out of this life alive, and living a thousand years in utmost bliss would be no consolation in the lake of fire. The first often become last and vice versa. In the end, everyone ends up in the correct place and with his/her just rewards.

But Abraham said, "Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented."
Luke 16:25 NKJV

So I don't think we have to worry about the truly evil "getting what they deserve". Anyone who rejects the Gift of grace, Jesus Christ, is definitely going to get what they deserve – and what in their heart of hearts they wanted: an eternity without God.

God has all these matters well in hand (even if we can't see the details here on this side).  Better that we devote our energies toward trying to make sure that we are not embarrassed at the judgment seat of Christ, sparing no effort in this short time we have in growing, progressing and producing, so as to hear "well done!" from Him on that great day of days.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Greetings in Jesus name Bob.

I'm so grateful to have stumbled into this page, I've been reading and opening so many tabs. I'm struggling with depression and anxiety. I currently left uni without finishing as I wasn't able to do the work required due to my condition. As I write this I feel the tightness in my chest and I am very anxious thinking about my future. I'm jobless. I haven't been to church for a while. I have no clue what to do at this point. Things at home are so tough and I've fallen into so many temptations and bad situations. I just want the Holy Spirit to vitalise me and show me what to do. I just feel like a disappointment to my family. I want the best for myself but I'm so lost I haven't got a clue where to start. I want to go back to university next year but I'm worried whether it's in God's will for me to continue with that subject or to go to uni all together. The past years have been excruciating. I just want to live better and enjoy my life with the Holy Spirit being my top priority. I can't deal with this uncertainty I feel everyday.

Thank you and may God bless you.

Response #8: 

It's good to make your acquaintance, although I'm sorry to hear that you are going through a difficult time.

One thing I can tell you is that getting closer to the Lord through His truth, hearing it, believing it and applying it, makes everything better. We still have problems, but we come to see them more from the Lord's point of view: He has planned everything in our lives down to the last jot and tittle.  Our job is to believe the truth of that complete control on His part, His complete supervision and superintendence of our lives for good (see the link: "No growth without faith").

(28) And we know that, for those who love God, He works everything together for good – [that is to say,] for those who have been called according to His plan. (29) For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined (i.e., foreordained) to share the likeness of His Son, so that He might be the Firstborn over many brothers [and sisters]. (30) And those whom He predestined (i.e., foreordained), these He also called [to salvation], and those whom He called, He also justified (i.e., made righteous through faith in Christ), and those whom He justified, these He also glorified (i.e., our future resurrection and eternal life).
Romans 8:28-30

The issues of life, where to live, whether to go to college, what job to pursue, etc., only start to make good sense when we begin to do what the Lord wants us to do: grow spiritually. Here are some links on that (you are very welcome to all the materials at Ichthys in your determination to do so):

Spiritual Growth

Spiritual Growth II

Encouragement, Spiritual Testing and Spiritual Growth

Encouragement, Spiritual Testing and Spiritual Growth II

BB 6A: Peripateology: the Christian Walk

Learning to listen to the Spirit is also a skill that grows with spiritual growth (see the link). We find out that it is not a spectacularly obvious thing or a hyper-emotional thing but instead it is hearing His "still, small voice" (1Ki.19:12) as He speaks to our hearts, and doing what He wants us to do instead of what we prefer (Gal.5:16-26).

Once you learn to trust the Lord more, uncertainty will not bother you as much – because you will be absolutely certain that He is with you, loves you and looks out for you, no matter what happens.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #9:  

Hi Bob,

Our friend got the books I mailed to him.

Is X worse than other sins since it has so much shame associated with it?

Response #9: 

You're a good man to help out another believer you've never met like this. Thank you!

As you know, our Lord died for every one of our sins, the ones we feel ashamed of and the ones we barely notice. No doubt guilt / shame is part of the legacy of the conscience given with eating from the tree of knowing [the difference between] good and evil. As long as revulsion to spiritual failure reinforces good behavior and helps ward off bad behavior, it is a blessing from the Spirit – but the proper approach is always to repent, confess, and then let it go, because backward-looking inordinate guilt for things forgiven is not of God.  Some links on that:

Sin, Guilt, and Salvation

Sin, Guilt, and Salvation II

Dealing with Sin and Guilt

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

Hi Dr,

I hope all is well. I have a question about perfection as it relates to our mandate as believers. Many places in the new testament the word states to be holy as I am holy as in 1 pt 1:14 or rev 22 where it states if you are holy stay holy as it relates to entering the eternal kingdom or where God tells Cain to master sin or our Lord states be perfect as my father in heaven is perfect.

I believe God standard is perfection in a believers life through the power of the Holy Spirit. The mandate of a perfect life is not legalistic if your walk is not hypocritical. Even in 1 pt where it talks about your sin nature the mandate is to be holy like the Lord. I don't see any ambiguity in the language.

My question to you and i apologize if this is brief but if the Lord says to be holy or master sin, etc which is clearly not an ambiguous language why are all the teachings saying it can't be accomplish because of sin nature? I think that is an excuse not to submit to the Spirit but still do what you want to do and use the sin nature as an example of an out. God can't be mocked and you have to take his words literally. If he says be holy, he means be holy. not try to be holy or miss the mark but be holy. If one submits "all" to Christ, then the Spirit will use you wholly as a vessel for a sanctified walk. The submissive will is the key that most don't do.

I understand the sin nature effect on us but if we say the Holy Spirit can't conquer the sin nature in a regenerate man then that means we say the Spirit is not of God and with God all things are possible.

I will write more on this later. Let me know if you need any specific prayers your way.

In Christ Jesus our Lord

Response #10: 

There is a lot about this in BB 3B: Hamartiology: the Biblical Study of Sin (at the link).

It's alright, even appropriate, to stress our need "not to sin"; but the other side of the coin is also biblical:

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
1st John 1:10

Few believers, even very mature ones, can get through the day without making any error in what they say because the tongue is difficult to tame and can never be fully tamed as James tells us – and I doubt that any believer has ever gotten through a day with a perfect record in regard to thoughts (no mental adultery, no fantasizing, no anger, no jealousy, no arrogance, no fear, no pettiness, no greed, no lust, etc., etc.). I do think there is no question about the biblical case for the need for all believers to be particularly uncompromising with themselves in steering completely clear from what are sometimes called "gross sins". Clearly, illicit sexual behavior of any kind, drugs, drunkenness, hostility especially of the physical kind, any sort of criminal behavior, are all extraordinarily dangerous from every point of view. The sin that the Lord was giving Cain an opportunity to avoid was sullen jealousy and arrogance leading to murder.

As with many things in scripture, both sides of the proposition are true and thus not to be ignored: we are to live sinlessly, but we cannot really do that. So we do our best to live sinlessly, and in particular to stay away from the more serious, more dangerous patterns of sin which destroy our witness, bring serious divine discipline and can swamp our faith. The danger in "preaching" too leniently and failing to bring up all of the passages which ought to strike a certain amount of godly terror into our hearts is that the listeners may be lead to believe that sin is not dangerous, and that is demonstrably the opposite of the truth.

However, the danger in "preaching" that it is possible to "master sin" completely is that – since in fact it is NOT possible to completely master sin – the person is going to begin redefining "what is sin" as "things I find particularly offensive and other things that don't tempt me personally"; that may help in staying away from the worst things, but it will produce in the end a horrible and absolutely hypocritical self-righteousness which can often be even worse in spiritual terms than an anti-nomian libertarianism; at least in the alternative case when divine discipline hits with a vengeance the Christian will have a good chance to see the error of his/her ways, but self-righteousness is spiritually blinding. That, after all, is exactly what happened to the Pharisees. They started with a perfect standard but could not follow it so they pretended to do so instead and also ignored as unimportant the things they obviously were not willing to fulfill.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Thanks for the quick response dr. I will response in depth later this week but one question. In the gospel, we know our Lord was without sin, when Jesus was tempted, how was he tempted by the devil? Was it not in thoughts?

I appreciate your responses.

Thanks In Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior

Response #11: 

You are most welcome.

Here is what I read in Hebrews:

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Hebrews 4:15 NKJV

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

Yes, things are moving forward. I appreciate your prayers. I'm really looking forward to moving to the new place, getting rid of whatever I don't need and reducing the cost the cost of living. It will be great to be light and keep my belongings to a minimum and I know that this is how it should be with me. This will also help me maintain the sojourner's mentality which we should all have. My dad is flying over a week today. We are both looking forward to the time together, our only plan beyond moving is to study and take some rest.

With regard to the study, I am again enjoying it.

Please feel free to give my contact details to our friend if I am able to help him in any way. Even early after I was saved I was able to recognize how few were committed to the truth, but now to see even one person who really wants to follow the Lord is a reason for great joy.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #12: 

I'm very happy to learn that your move is coming along and that you have a nice time with your father to anticipate next week. I'm keeping you in prayer on all this too.

Before I forget, thanks so much for your willingness to be a mentor of sorts to our friend. I feel that he is worthy.

I am very glad to hear that you are recapturing the joy. That is so very important (see the link in BB 6A: "Peace and Joy"). David had hard times, and he poured out his heart to the Lord . . . and went back immediately to being joyful about his salvation; and David messed up – VERY badly at times – but he repented and confessed and immediately went back to feeling joyful about his salvation (e.g., Ps.32:1ff; 51:ff.). That is because he had a very good idea of who the Lord is – loving and gracious and forgiving beyond anything we can imagine. So we are allowed to forget the past – indeed we are told to do so.

Looking forward to a bright spiritual future for you my friend, and a wonderful ministry and reward at the judgment seat of Christ.

In our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #13:   

I will write and hopefully I will be able to help him at least in some way. I will also be praying for him, there are so few committed believers.

Your example of David has helped me. Sometimes it was easy for me to think that it is just me. There is a great encouragement in the fact that those greatest believers did pick themselves up after some very hard defeats. I hope I can recapture this joy. Forgetting the past, picking myself, rejoicing in the Lord.

I would appreciate your prayers for my situation.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #13: 

Thanks for your swift help on this, my friend. Not only can our friend benefit from your experience on all fronts; it is also the case that feeling like one is alone is this fight is a hard thing, whereas knowing that there are others in the world who are "undergoing the same kind of sufferings" and handling them courageously can be quite encouraging (1Pet.5:9).

Another important perspective to hold onto when it comes to contemplating past missteps is that the Christian life resembles a war and this world a battlefield more than anything else (there is much about all that at the link in the newly posted BB 6A). And in fact that is just what it is, a fight to the finish, even though most people are oblivious to the entire reason for human life and history. That being the case, as in any battle, we can't afford to be worrying about the last encounter lest we mismanage the current one. There is no respite from the battle until we see our commanding officer face to face. Until that glorious day, our mission is to fight the best fight we can fight right now today and not be looking backwards or forwards.

All soldiers in combat for extended periods of time have had to learn to adopt that "in the moment" perspective to keep from going crazy, because there is no time to mourn losses until the battle is won and no time to celebrate successes while the bullets are still flying. If this were physical combat, we would leave the analysis of our actions to the historians and just try to fight as best we could for victory. That is really what we should be doing in our spiritual warfare as well. We have to trust the Lord to deploy us in the right place and in the right way; our job is to fight the fight today as long as "it is called today" and not concern ourselves with tomorrow's fight (we might not survive for a tomorrow) or yesterday's fight (that can only distract our attention from this mortal combat today). Our mission is to be effective for the Lord right now, regardless of the situation of our "unit".

If we make a mistake, we know the way to recover and we are well within our rights to try and make sure we don't repeat it. But whether we do or whether we don't doesn't change the essential dynamic of the situation. We are here to fight and that we can do as long as we are still alive and conscious. In any combat situation, the smallest effort sometimes makes the biggest difference. Napoleon used to talk about "the last battalion", meaning that when things are at the crisis the smallest remaining unit yet to be committed often proves the decisive element. As long as we can utter a prayer, or offer a word of encouragement, or give a small helping hand, we can contribute to the fight.

And our Leader knows precisely how to use every last battalion – every last believer – in just the right way. If we are tired or old or sick or struggling, that doesn't mean we can't prove effective in the fight. What is being tested more than anything else is our willingness to contribute, what is being tested is our faith. So keep fighting the fight, and don't let anything in the past, whether good or bad or indifferent, distract you from the mission. The side that doesn't give up is the one that wins. The believer who doesn't give up is the one who proves most useful to the Lord – and thereby glorifies Him and gains the greatest rewards.

I will keep you in prayer.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:   

Dear sir

I have not ceased and I will not cease to thank God for you. I am very greatly helped by your emails.

The trouble I had with looking back was figuring out where I may have been in error so that I will do better. But that tends to result in a great deal of discouragement and even anger against God because I find it easy to accuse Him of misleading me actively or of allowing me to be misled when my heart was set on following Him. I know that in fact He does not but then I keep worrying that I may make the same sort of mistake as before if I keep pressing on so zealously. Still, how can I stop? The cost here often feels too much but the alternative is unthinkable. Still I wish I had perfect knowledge so that I never sin.

I have a question. Does God still instruct individuals about specific issues? After an experience some years ago that ultimately led to trouble I took for granted that Hebrews 1:1-2 meant that God no longer speaks specifically to individuals to give instructions or information regarding specific issues in their lives. Is this true? Or does He still do so and we just have to make sure that whatever messages we receive through visions, dreams or, as it seemed in my case nine years ago, "impressions" of the heart agree with what is revealed in the Bible?

Yours in our priceless Lord Jesus Christ

Response #14: 

Take pains to never, ever, ever get "angry at God". He loves you so much that He gave up His only Son to die in the darkness for you. Jesus' dying for the least of your sins is worth more than the entire world from the beginning to the end of history and to an infinite degree – let alone ALL of your sins (or mine or those of the entire world). Everything He does for you is for your good.

I'm pretty sure that He led you to this ministry at the right time, and that if He had done so much earlier you might not have been ready or willing to accept it and might have let it slide by. We are all growing all the time – or should be. And we see things differently the more we grow. It is not always obvious to us personally since the change is slow, but there is a big difference between a little seed and a towering mustard tree. When we question old acquaintances after many years, people who haven't changed, we sometimes are surprised at how they could see the world in such a flawed way – but it is we who have changed from our previous faulty view. To see everything as perfectly as God sees it we would have to be perfect in our growth and spiritual maturity. No one can claim that. But we can – and should – get better day by day. That is one big reason why looking back is so pointless. We are not the same now as we were then. And tomorrow we will be different still, God helping us. This is a fight, not a game of chess where we can rearrange the board and start over in an attempt to play a perfect game. There is loss and danger and damage - - but victory in Jesus Christ for all who persevere in the truth.

I am grateful for your gratitude of course, but consider: the only way this ministry came about was through the grace of God (Ps.115:1). That is the only way I was delivered through all of my youthful folly, the only way I came to see some things and find out the right path forward, the only way I was given good mentors and comrades, the only way I made it through a grueling course of education, the only way this ministry was conceived, begun and built over so many years. As I often say, I take responsibility for it, but I am VERY well aware that all the good in it has been done by the Spirit and not by me. I am a dull axe, but the Lord is a skillful wielder. I should have done more and done better. I'm happy where things are but anxious for there to be more and better offerings. I rejoice that you consider them worthy. But that is God's provision to you. He gave you that. He's given you everything else. And there is no limit to what He will give you if you continue to walk with Him and love Him with all your heart. It may not be what the world would choose, but the truth and the means of ministering it are not to be compared with anything else in this temporary world. And I know that He will also give you everything else you need to fight this fight – including the right job at the right time.

On your question, God gives us the guidance we need when we need it. The main point I would make about that is that He never gives us anything that will conflict with the truth we find in scripture, and in my experience and observation, whenever He gives us such guidance, it will become clear in time that we could have (or did) see the same thing from the truth and that application of the truth. The Spirit confirms things and encourages us with what happens – if we are paying attention.

I'm keeping you in my prayers my friend. I'm thankful for you this "Thankgiving" time in the states.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:  

Dear sir

Happy belated Thanksgiving to you.

I'm sorry I'm only just replying. I didn't see your email until a few days after you sent it.

Whenever I felt that way, I prayed like I saw in the Psalms especially when David was distressed or how Jeremiah prayed too when he was in trouble. I believed that I should always be honest with God about what was going on inside me. If I was angry with Him, even if I knew the anger was foolish, I should still bring it to Him in prayer and trust Him to turn me from my foolishness. I didn't know how not to be angry with Him. My path was hard especially because I walked into subtle conflict with my family and with pretty much every believer I knew. So I was often troubled that although as far as I knew it was Him that I was trying so hard to follow, I seemed to be going astray and at such painful cost as well. If I was being deceived then I was in serious trouble because I couldn't see a way out of the deceit using the Bible which was my only safeguard. If I wasn't, then how long were things going to stay the way they were? Whenever it got too much for me, whatever I felt, it was to Him that I would turn. I never believed that He did a single thing wrong, at least, not consciously, but when I was angry, I turned it toward Him because He was the only One other than myself that I could hold responsible for the decisions I had taken. But now I am making an effort not to let myself blame Him for anything. That is new to me.

Still, what did our Lord Jesus mean when He said "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" on the Cross? I used to think that God never forsook Him (I don't remember why now) but that prayer baffled me. Eventually, I thought that it was like all those moments when true servants of God reach breaking point and vent all their pain on God, the only One Who can bear their full weight and restore them. What do you think, sir?

My old father told me today while we were discussing a family problem that God did not prepare the good things of this world for the evil people in the world, rather He did for the people who obey Him and follow Him in righteousness. That was part of the larger refutation of my continued position that this world is not the focus of the believer. Here in my community, competition and striving for honor and reputation in is our way of life. That anyone would choose to follow a path that makes them a "nobody" is unthinkable especially when that person is extremely talented as my family has said of me since I was a child.

This has remained the difficulty in my life. I grew up in my family under the influence of communal Bible-reading and prayer. But I've constantly found opposition to following the Bible wherever it goes. Most of us go only so far and then stop right where following through may cause some personal trouble. But I may not be judging them fairly. One only knows so much about what others are really doing and going through. What I can say is that in our conversations, there appears to be a limit to what obedience to God should mean for them. And judging by the recent reversals I have done, they seem right even if only a little.

But it seems quite obvious to me that taking the attitude that the good things of this life are the birthright of the believer is going to make us quick to eschew any sort of difficulty that comes as a result of choosing to walk with God in an evil world. Small compromises that begin in order to avoid persecution or just plain old self-denial will eventually build up into large-scale departures from the revealed Will of God which because of those small disobediences will become impossible to discern because of spiritual blindness and hardness of heart. But that attitude is normal among many believers that I know.

I tend to feel the pressure of that Tribulation setting on already because of things like this that surround me. I was always concerned that I was being too self-righteous and impractical in following Christ not least because I was told by quite a few people that I was. But it has bothered me that Christians make so much of material success and acceptance and respect from the world. In fact, it is one of the most deeply accepted doctrines at least here in my country that we witness to Christ through excellence in our daily jobs and careers. While I don't believe that any Christian should be sloppy at work, I have over the years grown very skeptical of that idea that Christians should work so hard to be successful and brilliant in order to win people to Christ or make a good witness. I worry that that pursuit of success and excellence only presents an excuse to bury oneself in the affairs of this life with little attention paid to the warfare in which we are engaged for the world to come.

I have learned from you and our mutual friend that we cannot quite help what the economy is like and the state of the world. We cannot help having to serve the people that we do. But we certainly are responsible for what we do in this life. Our work is to provide for ourselves so that we can do the work of spiritual growth and ministry, so obviously if it negates or opposes spiritual growth and ministry, it is pointless. But prioritizing spiritual growth and ministry can cost the believer the "good things" of this life. That part is what the conflict revolves around.

It's very unpleasant to have to live surrounded by people who insist that they are not trying to stop you from obeying God but who insist that you are not when you try to obey what you learn from the Bible to which they have no better explanations. And they can go farther to say that they are just as Christian as you and are no worse than you therefore you cannot be right when they as the majority agree that something else is right. If they appealed to the Bible, it would help because then I could have any errors in my own understanding cleared up but they appeal to "common sense" which these days is not always lined up with the Bible. So I end up worrying that my understanding is imperfect but I can't trust common sense without reference to the Bible so I go out with doubts.

God blessed me with your ministry because through it He has been helping me tie things together but I think that the biggest fight that I will have throughout my life is standing true to God in the midst of those who also claim to love Him but who do not place His Word above every other consideration.

Right now, I'm still worried about how to honor my father and mother while seeking to know and obey Jesus Christ as perfectly as He enables me to. Especially when they are believers who just don't agree with what I see too. Then how to love my family - my many brothers and sisters - and my community while following Jesus Christ too. It's easy to fall under accusation in my spirit that I am using Christ as an excuse to be irresponsible and headstrong. But as far as I know it is how to love and serve all these people for Christ's sake that I am trying to learn as I follow Christ.

Thank you sir for not being shy to lend yourself as blunt and weak as you are to the Lord for mine and the benefit of others like me. May your rewards with Him continue to expand and be made secure against that Day.

Yours in our precious Lord Jesus Christ

Response #15: 

It's always good to hear from you, my friend. No worries about delay. Things get busy here sometimes as well.

I find your email very illuminating, and I must say that you have developed a very reasonable analysis of your spiritual development over time. It is true – exactly as you say – when we blame God we are really only shifting the blame from ourselves to Him in many cases (and that is a mistake – just ask, e.g., Elijah). It is also true, however, that this world is not what it seems. We are living on a spiritual battlefield wherein our true heart is going to be brought out. We are here to make choices, and those choices will demonstrate what is/was really important to us. If we are being tested – and tests always come – it is very important to realize that it is not our fault . . . but that it is not God's "fault" either (Job famously made this mistake). The number one reason for apostasy is a believer (usually spiritually shallow) suffering some huge disappointment and blaming God for it – or getting mad at the whole world (with God's "responsibility" subtly woven into that bad attitude which permeates everything).

"But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles."
Matthew 13:20-21

Coming to terms with our good approach to the Word and response to the Lord versus the lukewarm approach of family, friends, traditional church – pretty much every other Christian in Laodicea – is not necessarily easy, but it is important, and it is clear that you have been and are continuing to do so. I can only affirm what you write here. There is a difference between running off to the desert to be a hermit and trying to follow the Lord correctly while still living in the world; and there is a difference between doing a good job wherever you are put as honoring to the Lord on the one hand, and selling out your soul for the sake of Mammon on the other. Any Christian who is really worth his/her salt sees this instantly and knows the difference; only those who are fatally compromised or willing to be so pretend not to see it. I do hope that you will find as you get deeper and deeper into the studies at Ichthys that you were right about the scriptures all along – they say what they say. It's just that there are some passages difficult to interpret and many doctrines which require solid teaching to fully understand. You are on the right path. It is important to remember that it is only what the Lord thinks that is truly important, even if everyone else in one's circle thinks something different – and indeed often especially so in such cases. After all, we will all stand before Him to give an account of our lives; at that moment, the fact that so many others wrongly thought different will be of no moment. Most cultures with which I am familiar (including in the ancient world) have (had) the same blind focus on achievement; some more than others, obviously, but the Greeks and Romans were mad about it, and it is in the context of that "achievement culture" that the New Testament is written and Paul can say the following:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.
Philippians 3:7-8 NIV

Here are a couple of links on this issue:

Strangers in the devil's world

Believers in the world III

Problems with the "prosperity gospel"

This life is really all about our choices, and the pressures and challenges and false values we face daily are the context in which our choices are made. When we stand before Him on that great day, we who know Him want to receive a "well done!" and the three crowns of eternal reward. At that point – and forevermore – the opinions and disapproval of this world will be as valueless as the false approbation it awards today. For all that we see down here is merely dust. But everything we truly do for Jesus Christ will last forever. So while we may look foolish to the world for putting Him first in all things, the truth is that it is the world that is foolish, and irremediably so.

You were correct about "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me": this quote was spoken by our Lord after He had already won the great victory of dying in the darkness for our sins. It was not spoken in despair but in victory and for our sake, to demonstrate "why" indeed He had been required to endure what He did in dying for the sins of the world, His spiritual death: to save us, that's "why". I have written about this in detail, so I will ask you to have a look at the links and get back to me if you have any further questions about it:

"Forsaken" in Psalm 22

Christ was Forsaken for us in Dying for us (in Bible Basics 4A:  Christology)

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?

Feel free to write me any time, my friend!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Mat 5:22-24

I assume your position is that the above is the law and we are not bound by the law, and that keeping the law can't saved us. I agree. So why does Jesus say that the solution to being in danger of hell fire is to and be reconciled. We know he meant that because he uses the word "therefore" which means this being the situation. In other words you and are in danger of hell fire this being the situation the solution is to be reconciled.

Response #16: 

All in Israel, a special nation to God, were supposed to be believers all and were supposed to follow the Law completely. But of course no one can follow the Law completely – not even close.

Not even those who are circumcised keep the law.
Galatians 6:13a NIV

The purpose of the Law was to demonstrate to all that we are lost without God's intervention, that we are lost without Christ coming to die for our sin – He and His sacrifice on the cross stand behind all of the Law's shadows.

Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Galatians 3:24 KJV

Our Lord came to a very hard-of-heart generation, many of whom were convinced that their selective "keeping" of certain aspects of the Law in the way that they deemed appropriate was going to provide salvation – but they didn't even have faith. Our Lord frequently challenges those He ministers to be perfect in aspects of the Law which are, for sinful human beings, largely if not completely impossible. But that is the point. For those who felt that ritual sacrifice was sufficient to be saved, our Lord points out in this verse you cite that in fact the attitude of one's heart and actual behavior are more important.

As you correctly conclude, a sin is a sin, and even if it were to be somehow "made up for", even if that could be done in a godly way (as opposed to R.C.-like works of supererogation), this still would not erase the fact of the sin because no human being can atone for sin: none of is worthy to do so (being imperfect), none of us is capable of doing so (being merely human and unable to stand the judgment), and none of us is really willing to do so – or at least would not be once what is involved is truly understood (and it will be eternity before we understand just what our Lord did in dying for our sins). All this points in the same direction: the only solution to sin is grace accepted through faith. The only solution to sin is Jesus Christ.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:  

You didn't answer my point if works have nothing to do with it why did Jesus say to go and be reconciled as the way to rectify it?

Response #17: 

As I said, He did so to demonstrate to those relying on the Law that it is impossible to do everything perfectly so as to be saved thereby.

Question #18: 

No he said that seeking reconciliation was the way to avoid hell. He was saying that saying such and such is the way to end up in hell. However to avoid it you should be reconciled or attempt it.

Response #18: 

You are placing an insupportable grammatical burden on the Greek conjunction oun. Here is what our Lord actually says in the preceding verse, fully quoted:

"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
Matthew 5:22 NIV

It does not say in this verse nor in the next one that the recommended action of verse twenty-three will clear up this problem of verse twenty-two. What verse twenty-three does show is that a burnt offering does not remove the problem either.

Anyone reading verse Matthew 5:23 – who is objective about it – will realize very quickly that while we might possibly anticipate or remember some things which have offended some fellow believers (so as to follow this command), 1) we can never remember them all, 2) we can never make amends for them all, and 3) we would never get 100% buy-in from everyone in accepting our efforts if we could do so (and if they don't accept us, there is no reconciliation because reconciliation is a two-way street). In other words, this passage does what everything else in this chapter does, namely, it demonstrates that no one can be righteous by their own efforts. Some things in this chapter may be good to do sometimes in some ways but no one can do them all, all the time. That is the point. The reconciliation we need to seek is with the Lord – that is the only way to be saved (2Cor.5:20), not through following the Law which no one can come close to following perfectly. I guarantee you that you have no idea of how many brothers and sisters you have offended in small ways over the years (did you ever cut anyone off in traffic?); failing to be reconciled on even one count means failure because the Law is all or nothing:

For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
James 2:10 NKJV

This is from the same chapter as your verse:

And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Matthew 5:30 NIV

There is no believer who has not done wrong by a "sin of the hand". But I know of no single case where anyone has followed this command from our Lord – and it is a command. That lack of obedience is a good thing too because cutting off a hand does not change the heart and all sin comes out of the heart (Matt.15:19), so it wouldn't do any good in any case; not to mention the fact that a person would only consider the action after sinning, and that one sin already means death and damnation – absent the blessed sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That is the point. He is the point.

"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell."
Matthew 5:27-29 NIV

Never heard of anyone doing this either – same chapter. Same principle. I would imagine that there has never been a human being who did not commit mental adultery – many times. According to the logic used in regard to reconciliation that would mean here that we would need to put our eyes to have a hope of avoiding hell – before we got around to ever committing mental adultery (or covetousness or any other myriad sins what we see stimulates). But blessedly Christ died for all of our sins!

I urge you again, as I have done in the past, to be reconciled to the Lord. Freely forgive all who have wronged you; confess to Him any wrong you have done to others. And rest on the work of Jesus Christ, and do not rely on your own works (which is the way people actually end up in hell).

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
Romans 3:20 NIV

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:  

However in Hebrews 12:14 it states without holiness no man shall see the Lord. That is practical sanctification

In 1 John 1 you admit that we have fellowship one with another is not just a reference to fellowship with the Lord but fellowship with other Christians, which requires a good reconciled relationship. So John says if we are walking in the light, we have a good relationship with God and Christians and that is the proof we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus. So not having good fellowship with other Christians would be a sign of not being cleansed.

The parable of the Sheep and Goats. Believers are rewarded for their works of faith. You say that they receive this righteousness from Jesus. While that is true there is nothing in Matthew 25 which claims that this is what is being spoken about in Matthew 25. What makes you assume that, why not a reference to the works of faith like in the letter of James?

Response #19: 

This is an old debate technique. It's called "shifting the ground", changing the subject (essentially) when things are not going the one a person would like in a debate.

But this is not a debate club. I answer Bible questions for people genuinely interested in scripture. I also take pains to defend the teachings of this ministry. That is what I did in this most recent set of emails. These new quibbles are really old business, questions which have asked and answered already in our prior discussions. You are not happy with the answers, obviously. That is your business. If you want to know my positions on these "new" things, I refer you to those previous answers. You certainly have a right to your own opinions, even if they are not biblical (that is between you and the Lord). But there is no point in repeating all that, especially since you don't really seem interested in what I have to tell you.

I do hope that you will be able to pull free of this nagging issue. As I have said many times, I don't know who offended you so badly, but the only way to heal spiritually is to forgive and forget and move on. It's no good to create an extra-biblical policy of mandatory reconciliation – along the lines of AA's five step program or worse – because that inevitably makes any believer who buys into it a slave to any legalistic person he/she has ever had contact with, making the "offender" desperate to be "reconciled", with the price to pay completely in the power of the "offended person" (who in many cases will never let them off the hook). All that has absolutely nothing to do with the Bible or the truth or grace or Jesus Christ.

As ambassadors of Christ, as though God were urging you through us, we beg you on Christ's behalf: be reconciled to God!
2nd Corinthians 5:20

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:  

I'm sorry but I don't like being told what my motives, insult someone else

Response #20: 

[no response]

Question #21:  

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Just wanted to let you know I am still out here but haven't written in a long time. I wanted to thank you for all your hard work and the wonderful studies you provide for us. I especially like the studies like today on Eschatology (BB 2B). Perhaps it is so close to the time until our Lord's return that it is most interesting. I continue to grow spiritually from reading your site and want you to know how blessed I feel having it available to me. I am sure all who have found your site feel the same as I do ; ).


Response #21: 

Thanks for your encouraging words!

It's been a great pleasure to be in touch with you over the years.

I hope that all is well with you and yours, and wish you a really wonderful holiday season ahead.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:  

[not posted by request]

Response #22: 

No worries. I never put anything out that's not anonymous, AND I always am careful to avoid putting out identifying details or the type of information you have included here; add to this the fact that I always abide by correspondents' requests not to post their texts.

You are a prize of grace, my friend! I draw great encouragement from your extended testimony. The fact that you have had things so hard in your life and for all that have resisted the temptation to blame God and have instead chosen to put your trust in Him and His Son our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ demonstrates the "salt" that is in you! Many people, perhaps most people, suffering through what you have suffered would have turned their back on Him as if He were at fault for "letting it happen". And many skeptical sorts use these experiences to denigrate our faith in Christ. But you are the living proof that such a response is not automatic or essential or predetermined – because you have rushed to the safe harbor that is salvation through our dear Lord – and, more than that, are determined to move forward spiritual and help others do the same. Good for you, my fellow Christian warrior!

It's always difficult for those of us who haven't suffered XYZ in particular to comfort those who have because we feel inadequate, not having suffered in the precise same way. So while I don't know the details (we will all have to wait until the other side for all the answers) it seems clear to me that one thing you have taken out of all this is a resilient faith in spite of what has happened to you AND the corresponding ability to comfort and minister to others with similar or parallel experiences:

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 receive from God.
2nd Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV

I'm keeping you in my prayers daily, my friend. Please feel free to write me any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.



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