Knowing God Might Mean Knowing a God Whom You Don’t Currently Know

An article that might mess with you, which, aren’t they the best kind?

“The God of Hebrew Scripture is not depicted as immutable, but repeatedly changes his mind about things (for example, he regrets having made man). He is not all-knowing, since he’s repeatedly surprised by things (like the Israelites abandoning him for a statue of a cow). He is not perfectly powerful either, in that he famously cannot control Israel and get its people to do what he wants. And so on….

“The ancient Israelites, in other words, discovered a more realistic God than that descended from the tradition of Greek thought. But philosophers have tended to steer clear of such a view, no doubt out of fear that an imperfect God would not attract mankind’s allegiance. Instead, they have preferred to speak to us of a God consisting of a series of sweeping idealizations — idealizations whose relation to the world in which we actually live is scarcely imaginable.”

Oswald Chambers on Christ’s Standards

“When once we realize that through the salvation of Jesus Christ we are made perfectly fit for God, we shall understand why Jesus Christ is so ruthless in His demands. He demands absolute rectitude from His servants, because He has put into them the very nature of God.

“Beware lest you forget God’s purpose for your life.”

Addiction Can be Overcome

Overcoming addiction can be a struggle and this should not surprise us. But the hardness of overcoming certain compelling sins does not grant excuse or an “oh well, whaddaya gonna do?” attitude.

Unfortunately, this has been lost. In admitting that overcoming sin is a struggle, some assume that since they are struggling they are fine. Or worse, that since it’s a struggle God doesn’t really expect us to overcome it. “If God wanted me to do it, it wouldn’t be this hard” kind of a thing.

Christians too often assume that faith means open doors and open doors mean everything is smooth like buttered glass, no hindrance or obstacles.

“Fight the fight of faith” means something. Primarily, it means that faith is a fight, it’s not an easy road, which is why few find it and fewer travel on it.

Through the power of the Spirit, the chastening of the Father, the life in Christ, and the corrective nature of God’s living Word, the believer can indeed overcome sin.

One must never lose sight of the victory ahead. Unfortunately, many have given in and grown content with struggle. “This is the way it has to be, Romans 7 says so.”

I do believe Romans 7 is indeed talking about a believer who struggles with sin. I also believe there is victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Addictions can be overcome, and when they are, new addictions will be revealed that need battling next.

It is through the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the Body. As our spirit interacts with God’s Spirit, growth occurs. Two errors arise now:

1) God does it all. This is the “let go and let God” crowd. The idea that we passively sit by and let God do stuff. If you sin, it’s only because God didn’t prevent you from sinning. You just need to try not to not try to sin and as you don’t try you overcome. It’s a self-defeating circle of not trying to not try, which, ironically, focuses your energies on you and your not trying.

2) You do it all. God saves you, gets you out of hell, but you’re on your own now, buddy. You have to isolate yourself from everything, live in a hole, beat yourself, sleep on the floor, it’s all about the body triumphing over the body. Make the list, keep the list, do penance when you break the list.

Faith is often demonstrated in taking two opposing ideas and combining them. In Christ we have all we need to be reconciled with God, to have sin forgiven and inherit eternal life. We are also crucified with Christ, which means we are crucified to the world and we are dead to sin.

At the same time, our flesh is very much alive and still leaning toward sinful tendencies ingrained in us over all our years of fleshly living. There is a part of sanctification that is our doing. But it’s not us doing what we can; it’s us utilizing what Christ has provided.

Yes, Christ makes you dead to sin and alive unto God, but then we have to yield ourselves as instruments of righteousness and not instruments of sin. We have choice. We have sowing and reaping. There is self-control and disciplining the body.

Overcoming sin by faith is not a passive deal. It’s an active usage of the instruments of warfare provided us by Christ. Sin can be overcome. Don’t forget this and don’t give up. Christ didn’t just die to get you into heaven; He died to free you from sin’s power.

Pornography, Christian Advice and the Bible

When it comes to sexual addiction, pornography is Enemy Number One. This is a big deal in our society where sexuality is flaunted everywhere. Pornography is sin. There is no other way to look at it (pun intended).

But let us also know that looking longingly at that girl in the t-shirt ad is also sin. Pornography does not have to be blatant to still be sin. Men are stirred up with pictures; women, as far as I understand it, get stirred up more with dragged out, blah, blah, blah, romance, talky stuff.

So whether you get stirred by t-shirt ads or two hour long romance movies, it’s the same thing. (Although it is interesting there are no adultery commands concerning what a woman thinks in her heart about a man. Oversight or possible point? Or perhaps another proof that we shouldn’t ask too many questions?)

Pornography is addicting. Brain scans show that it releases certain chemicals that drive a guy crazy and makes him want to feel the crazy over and over again. The growing pornography addiction is one that Christianity feels a need to address, and rightly so. But, once again, seems to miss the mark.

Christian porn-defeating advice takes one of these approaches:

1) “You can defeat your porn addiction when you see Christ as your fulfillment in life. When you see that Christ truly answers all your longings, you will defeat porn.”

Is salvation really about Christ fulfilling my fleshly lusts? I don’t think so. I suppose there is some truth in this, but frequently the truth is not communicated well. When I see a t-shirt ad in the sidebar on the weather page, my problem is not that Christ does not fulfill my needs, my problem is that there’s a woman who looks rather attractive and all come-hitherish, and boom, I’m hooked.

2) “Women are created in God’s image and they deserve better treatment.”

Yes, and God is beautiful. The Bible describes certain women as “very fair to look upon.” Which loosely translated means, “she looked hot.” Notice the Bible does not describe all women this way! It’s just a fact, even a biblical fact, that certain women are more good to look at than others. My being in Christ does not change this fact! A spirit-filled man wrote that she was fair to look upon! Even God realizes how good some women are to look at. There is nothing wrong with admitting this fact (although it may be insensitive depending on how such a fact is communicated). Women do deserve better treatment, and, at the same time, women who routinely go out of their way to trip up men should cut it out! Women posing in pictures for the express purpose of stirring up a man are getting the treatment they asked for. This does not get me off the hook, however, but it’s still a fact.

3) Pornography messes with the marriage relationship, general view of women, leads to stupification, and usually ends with guilt and emptiness.

Pornography may mess with you in many ways. I don’t think heaping up guilt on guys who probably already feel guilty is much of a deterrent. They already know this, but when Miss. Come Hither flaunts her goods, a guy isn’t thinking about such things. The power of an addiction is that it overrules rationality. These things are all true and a rational guy knows this, but rationality has little to do with it.

4) Think of the pain you cause your wife. If you loved your wife you wouldn’t do this.

It would be hard to prove that viewing porn was demonstrating love to your wife (although I’m sure some have given it the ol’ college try), but seeing a woman who is fair to look upon does not mean I don’t love my wife, it means I see a woman who is fair to look upon. There is nothing akin to love going on when it comes to porn. This charge is equivalent to telling a wife that when she desires to call the pizza place for yet another supreme pizza to satisfy her pizza craving she is not loving her husband who normally cooks for her. Porn is a physical reaction to a physical urge just like eating, sleeping, lounging, or any other physical urge. It has little to do with loving your wife and much to do with physical lust. (This may make sense to you, but it probably doesn’t to your wife.)

5) Just believe in Jesus really, really, a lot and you will be set free.

Covered this one yesterday.

So, if none of these are the answer (and I’m not fully convinced they are not, or aren’t at least part of the answer), what is the Bible’s answer? It’s the same answer it gives to all sin: stop it!

Defeating sin is a battle. The Bible says we’re in a war, we require spiritual armor. Temptation is the big enemy in addiction. Flee youthful lusts. Know the time and place where this kicks in and avoid it. Stay away from tv, books, computer, whatever it is that kicks you into your spiral and flee, run, resist, get away.

Confess it to someone. Battle it. Flee from it. Resist.

This is the Bible’s counsel on the issue. Why doesn’t it get more air time? Because it’s too hard and practical. We’d rather deal with psychological, feel better about Jesus mumbo-jumbo than do something hard. As Hebrews 12 says, we’re wimps “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” Man up and fight!

(The problem I see is that most men who battle pornography don’t really want to defeat it. Wanting to defeat it is a good beginning point, and probably where 2, 3, and 4 above can be helpful.)

Plenty of other people have overcome sin, the great cloud of witnesses, so you fight it, too! No one likes this, sounds too much like works and self-righteousness. Nope, it actually sounds like sound biblical counsel. Sin is a big deal, lay aside every weight of it that slows down the race of faith.

Have you ever strived against sin to the point of shedding blood to flee it? No? Then you’re not doing all you can. Christ is faithful, the Spirit is powerful, the Father is willing to forgive, and you, you who are in the Body of Christ, are fully equipped to resist, so resist!

Everyone wants the magic rabbit’s foot that immediately cures all struggle. Not gonna happen. Fight the fight and run the race, and run it to win, which means controlling your body. Self-control means there’s some control the self has over itself. Self-control is part of the Spirit’s fruit. The Spirit enables the believer to control the self, but it’s not automatic, it’s a battle. One worth fighting. Never stop fighting. Never assume you’ve conquered the addiction–pride goes before the fall. We’re in a war; act accordingly.

Addiction, Christian Advice, and the Bible

Addiction is a tough enemy, one of the toughest I think. Addiction, according to me, is any sin that trips you up regularly. Smoking and drinking get most of the attention, closely followed by pornography, in our addiction ranking system, but eating, anger, bragging, lying, coveting and many other more “innocent” sins are just as destructive as the Big Three.

Christian advice on addiction lacks a certain something. Usually it’s a certain something called “The Bible.”

Perhaps the worst bit of advice is telling the story of your conversion and “after I truly believed, I was set free of smoking. If you truly believe you will be set free, too.”

Couple points:

1) I am glad this worked for you, but your experience is not the Bible. Don’t assume that your experience is normative. Peter was addicted to impulsiveness his entire life even though he believed the Gospel. I know people who tell me that when they got saved they stopped drinking immediately, but still did other sins regularly. Don’t make overcoming one of the Big Three a substitute for all addictive sin. Coldly telling someone to “just believe” makes a mockery of severe trial this person might be going through.

2) Whatever is not of faith is sin. Telling people to “just believe” might, in fact, be true and helpful. Lack of faith is what all sin is. But the just live by faith. We walk by faith, not by sight. Overcoming sin with faith is never once recorded in Scripture as a one-time event with permanent sin-beating properties. Faith is always treated as an ongoing race or battle, not a past tense, dead and gone event that magically cures all ills.

3) It is my contention that initially believing the Gospel begins your battle with sin, rather than ends it. When you truly believe the Gospel, you begin to see sin for what it is. You begin to see how far you fall short of God’s glory and how evil your common behavior actually is. Believing the Gospel does not immediately cure all sin, it opens your eyes to truly see what it is so you know what to overcome. When you eliminate one, you have eyes to see another. Yeah, conversion may have cured your alcoholism, but getting drunk is not the only sin in the world. Your body is filled with many others. Don’t quit the battle before it’s even begun.

4) Those who have overcome A sin at conversion bludgeon all comers who struggle with sin. I’ve run into this enough to know whereof I speak. Why is it that those who overcome one of the Big Three think they have arrived spiritually? Some tell me they know they are saved because Jesus got them to quit smoking. What about Muslims that quit smoking? Are people saved by not smoking? Again, I’m glad it worked for you, but you do not get spiritual guru status making you an expert on everyone’s sin problems. Relax a little. (Maybe go smoke a few.) The fact that so many use overcoming one of the Big Three to buck up those who aren’t quite as arrived as them, is a sign that there’s something very wrong with this advice.

Patience in Spiritual Growth

Being perfect is tough work, trust me, I know.

Being perfect is tough because we live in an imperfect world, just becoming serviceable is pretty tough in this pit.

Christianity has some pretty high ideals: love, forgiveness, grace, charity, sacrifice. We all love those things being shown to us, but when we are asked to do it for others is when we flip.

We make some progress, we slip, we progress, we slip, we get frustrated, we quit, we pull ourselves back up, we progress, we slip, we slip, we get discouraged.

This whole thing is quite tiring and has even caused some to quit and just chuck it for fleshly pleasure.

It is said that for a person to achieve mastery of any skill, 10,000 hours of dedicated practice is needed. That’s a lot. Patience is the word. Seeing the guitar master play an awesome tune is inspiring, we pluck a few strings and give up in desperation. “There’s no way I can do that.”

Growth in Christ is the same thing. It’s another “skill” that requires practice. I know, the Spirit is the one who grants everything we need, but putting it into effect requires something on our part, what Paul referred to as “bringing the body under subjection.”

It takes a long time. Frustration merely shows how highly we view ourselves. Faith in Christ and in His work should be marked by patience. “Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Be patient with the expectations you have for yourself, and especially with those you have for others. Growth takes time. Be patient. Plants grow out of a dead seed, but that plant doesn’t grow to maturity over night.

I write this for me!

Self-Actualization and Jesus

“Self-actualization” is one of those phrases that you hear and maybe use even though you don’t know what it means. To actualize something is to have that thing exist in action, not just potential.

Therefore, self-actualization is you living up to your potential, whatever that may be. Some may even say it’s using what God has given you to its fullest, or being a good steward of the gifts God has given you.

Such phrases are fine attempts to make self-help doctrine seem like biblical doctrine, but I assure you Jesus isn’t interested in your self-actualization.

Rather than being self-actualized, the Bible would have you be Christ-actualized.

We are called to deny self, die daily, be a living sacrifice, and to be crucified with Christ and living the life of Christ.

To be Christ-actualized is to put in action the potential of Christ, which may sound like “be holy as I am holy.”

Your self has no potential apart from Christ, therefore, there is nothing truly worth actualizing in you. Begin by actualizing your crucifixion with Christ, being dead to the world and the world dead to you.

Then follow it up by actualizing the resurrection and living the new life in Christ Jesus that puts to death the old life of the flesh. The Gospel isn’t just what Christ did for you; it’s what Christ is calling you to join Him in.

Oh, if we could actualize that! That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death. This is Paul’s desire; let it be yours.