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Archive for the ‘Guilt’ Category

6 Tips to Reduce Stress for the Working Mom

SOURCE:  Lisa Lakey/FamilyLife Ministry

When my youngest started preschool, I took my first job outside the home in nearly 10 years. I was frazzled, guilt-ridden, and late everywhere I went.

I was in the school drop-off line one morning when the license plate of the car in front of me caught my eye. “L8AGAIN” it read. My first thought was, That should be mine. Those seven characters summed up most of my days as a working mom.

When my youngest started preschool, I took my first job outside the home in nearly 10 years. I was frazzled, guilt-ridden, and late everywhere I went. (Okay, maybe I’m still working on all three of those.) After spotting a shirt in a local boutique with the phrase “World’s Okayest Mom” emblazoned on the front, I joked with my kids and husband that that was me. The best mom ever at just getting by.

But behind the laughter of the moment, there was something else. Fear, doubt, and a hefty dose of self-pity overwhelmed me. I didn’t really want to be an “okay” mom. I wanted to be the absolute best mom. You know her. The mom who has it all together—perfect hair, perfect smile, perfect kids. She probably only feeds her family made-from-scratch, organic, non-GMO meals. She would hate to know how often I drive through Chick-fil-A. I can’t even remember what GMO stands for right now.

To be honest, I just want my kids to get the best of me, although that isn’t always what happens. But I have learned that trying to be the perfect mom will always backfire. I might not always be the best mom, but I am always the mom my kids need—me.

Thanks to some loving reminders from other working moms, I have picked up a few helpful tips along the way:

1. Plan, plan, plan.

I am a terribly late person. Punctuality is not my strong point. So naturally, one of my greatest struggles as a working mom is getting myself and everyone else where they need to be on time.

I’ve had to extend myself a bit of grace in this area more than a few times and completely reevaluate my routines. I take a planner with me everywhere I go, and I jot down appointments, parties, deadlines, etc. as soon as I can. I plan a week’s worth of meals at a time (usually) and thank God for the stores in town that offer online grocery ordering.

2. Let go of the excess guilt.

Forgot to send your daughter to school in red for spirit day? Toss that guilt to the curb. Shamed over sending a bag of cookies and juice boxes for your son’s snack day at preschool? Let yourself enjoy the fact that for one brief moment you were just a tad cooler than Luke’s mom who always sends organic carrot sticks and overpriced bottled water.

My point is, there will always be moments where our best inner mom just doesn’t shine through. We’ll mess up, make our kids mad, forget stuff, and so on. But we’ll also get so much right.

Like loving our kids. Moms, we are great at that. So don’t let the less-shiny moments bring you down. Learn from the moment if you can, then shake that guilt off, pick up your “Supermom” cape and move on. Just be intentional in the moment you’re in.

3. Ask for help.

Yep, I feel you. This tends to be a hard one for us moms. We like to sport our bedazzled capes and fool only ourselves into thinking we can do it all. But the hard truth is that we can’t. We weren’t meant to.

So don’t feel any shame asking for a little help when you need it. Ask your husband for help getting the kids to bed. See if another mom could give your daughter a ride to dance. In a culture that has all but destroyed the proverbial “village” it was supposed to take to raise our children, it’s time to rebuild it.

4. Find a working mom friend.

I adore all of my friends—working in or out of the home, kids or no kids. No matter what your life stage is, the following will always be true: We need someone who gets where we are and who won’t judge our struggles.

I need close connections with other working moms who are struggling with the dilemma of taking off for sick days and field trips. Those who can understand the horror you feel coming home to a meal you intended to slow cook all day, only to discover you didn’t plug the darn thing in. No judgment, ladies. Back to Chick-fil-A we go.

5. Stop with all the comparisons.

You can’t be Luke’s mom, so get over it. You weren’t supposed to be. I tell my daughter all the time she was “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). I don’t want her to think she has to be anyone other than the amazing girl God created her to be. So why should I?

God made you with a purpose, mom. He knew just what your future kids would need when He created you. Trust that He knows what He is doing. Just be you.

6. Find time in your busy schedule to connect with God.

When I neglect to set aside time to read Scripture or pray, all of the above points are harder. If I don’t go to God in prayer, I try to carry all my burdens myself—every ounce of guilt, all the comparisons I hold myself to, all the ways I will never measure up.

Connecting with God is the most important thing I can do not just for my family, but for myself. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden,” He tells us in Matthew 11:28, “and I will give you rest.”

One day not long ago, I was fishing through my purse for my keys before leaving the office. I found an M&M, an earring I thought I had lost, and something sticky that I didn’t waste time on identifying (it’s probably for the best).

But amid these small pieces of my life, there it was. Attached to a tangle of keys was a purple butterfly my daughter had given me—“#1 Mom,” it read. I’ll take that over “World’s Okayest Mom” any day.

4 Signs You Might be Legalistic

SOURCE:  BLAISE FORET /relevantmagazine.com

And how to escape the trap of trying to earn God’s love.

The Christian blogosphere and bookstores are filled with constant encouragements to be passionate for Jesus and “on fire” for God.

But in the midst of all of the encouragement to dive deep into a more passionate spirituality, many in our generation have found themselves burnt out by pressing in and getting bound up by legalism.

Every reformation throughout Church history focused on bringing people into a more effortless spirituality—where they find that the work of Christ more powerful and more effective than our own personal efforts. This doesn’t mean we do nothing as Christians, but it does mean we would do well to stop striving, slow down and find a renewed focus on the simplicity of the Gospel.

This very thing, in fact, is one of the hardest spiritual disciplines to accomplish. The Book of Hebrews says it clearly, “They failed to enter into my rest—because they would not believe.” It wasn’t a spiritual work that they lacked—but a spiritual rest. And that rest could have easily been gained through simple trust.

Things haven’t changed much. We, just like the ancient believers, have a hard time with simple trust and often find ourselves caught in the clutches of legalism. After years of following Jesus, I found myself stuck in legalism. Trust me, I know: the struggle is real. But, like most things, one of the first steps of becoming free from legalism is to realize that you’re stuck in it.

Here are a few signs that might help you identify whether or not you have been sabotaged by legalism:

1. Your Spiritual Disciplines Define Your Spirituality

Sure, there is something to having a disciplined life. In fact, it’s hard to get anything done if you don’t have discipline in your life.

But often, we base our worth and God’s love for us on whether or not we have spent time reading our Bible today, prayed for everyone on our prayer list, and attended the early service at Church this week.

But what if God’s view of us wasn’t based on our performance? What if He wasn’t keeping track of our rights and wrongs like we are, but is actually just looking at our hearts and our simple trust in Christ’s work on our behalf?

So of course, read your Bible and pray often, but not so that God will love you, but so that you’ll be reminded how much He already does.

2. You Separate Your Spiritual Life from Your Natural Life

Do you feel like you are doing something spiritual when you pray but something carnal when you watch a movie or hang out with friends? If so, you might be slipping back into legalism.

As Christians, we often find ourselves viewing Church activity as exclusively spiritual instead of seeing all things as spiritual. The Apostle Paul has this amazing quote in Colossians when he says, “All things are from Him and to Him and in Him.” I see this verse as an echo of David’s psalm when he says, “Where can I go from your presence and where can I escape from Your Spirit?” David says again, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it belongs to Him.” That means that there are no moments that are not spiritual moments. That’s why Paul says, “Whether you eat or drink do it unto the Lord.”

I see it like this: No matter what you are doing, do it as a spiritual activity, knowing full well that God is with you and loves you deeply in that very moment.

The way I see it, Jesus enjoys the fact that you hang out with friends. He loves it when you just have fun doing normal life. God finds pleasure in your natural talents just as much as He does in your spiritual gifting.

When we can find the presence and peace of God in all situations from the E-minor chorus of a worship night at church to the loud, off-key screams of the mom in front of us at a kid’s t-ball game, then we might be finding freedom from legalism into the liberty of the Gospel.

3. You Only Hang Out with “Saved” People

For so many Christians, being in church quickly becomes our only place of community and friendship. In our efforts to follow Jesus we often take the “no turning back, no turning back” approach to hanging out with non-believers.

Unfortunately, we find ourselves living as separatists (i.e. Pharisees) and judging those who have yet to have our level of spiritual awakening. Sure, it can be a challenge to have a deep connection with those who disagree with us on a fundamental level, but it doesn’t mean that we have to become judgmental and ostracize ourselves from them.

Jesus was often accused of being the friend of sinners. When was the last time you were accused of that?

4. You Live in Constant Condemnation for Your Mistakes

If you messed up today, well, welcome to the club. But your mistakes never have and never will define you. Sure, you can call yourself a failure, but God calls you a success. God doesn’t make failures. You can call yourself a sinner, but God calls you a Saint. Christ didn’t do a partial job when He died and rose again. He fully made you a Saint. That’s why Paul addresses Christians in the Epistles as Saints—regardless of the mistakes they have made.

Your feelings don’t define you. Christ’s work defines you.

C.S. Lewis once said, “You are what you believe.”

If you believe that your identity is “sinner,” you will live tied up and bound by sin. But if you believe what God says about you, then you might start seeing a difference in your attitudes and actions.

And even if you do sin, it doesn’t have to dictate your day. Repent, change your mind, and move forward. God’s not waiting on you to make it right before you can come to Him.

God wants friendship with you no matter where you are in your journey, so don’t let a legalistic mindset stop you from coming to Him as the clean, forgiven and loved child that you are. God’s not holding your mistakes over your head, so you don’t have to either.

You Don’t Have to Live with Guilt

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance” (Proverbs 28:13 TLB).

God is always ready to give you another chance.

That’s a bedrock piece of Christianity. We’ve all been irresponsible. We’ve all screwed up. The Bible tells us, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NLT).

God doesn’t want you living with a heavy guilt trip about all the irresponsibility in your life. Guilt destroys your confidence, damages your relationships, keeps you stuck in the past, and even hurts your health. I read a report a few years back that said 70 percent of people in the hospital could leave if they knew how to resolve their guilt.

God wants far better for your life than that. You don’t want to live with guilt.

And here’s an important truth to always hang on to: You don’t have to.

God wants you to live with a sense of promise and hope. God can even bring good out of the stupid decisions that you’ve made in your life if you’ll give those failures to him.

How do you do that?

Admit to God you’ve made a mistake. It doesn’t surprise him. And it won’t change his perception of you. I hope you’ll take this step today. When you do, here’s what you can expect from God:

  1. God forgives instantly. The very moment you admit your sin to God, he forgives you.
  2. God forgives freely. You don’t need to earn it, and you’ll never deserve it.
  3. God forgives completely. He wipes your sin absolutely clean.

If you’re mired in guilt and shame, you’ll likely perpetuate whatever problem you have. You’ll tell yourself that you blew it, so you’re bad. Since you’re bad, you believe you’ll blow it again. It’s a nasty cycle from which we often can’t seem to escape — at least not on our own.

You need a power beyond yourself.

You need a Savior.

You need Jesus.

Don’t Let Toxic Family Members Shame You into Compliance

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Holly was one of the angriest women I had ever seen in my office. She was angry at her family’s excessive expectations of her. Her mother expected her to call her every week and to accompany her on shopping trips. If there was a family function, Holly had to be there. Her father expected her to come home for Sunday dinner. Her brother expected her to come to all of his sporting events.

And if she didn’t, Holly’s family shamed her into submission.

I agreed with Holly that her family’s expectations were extreme, but when I suggested that her family wasn’t going to change and that she had to free herself from their expectations by changing her attitude, she became angry with me. She felt that if I didn’t see her as a victim, I didn’t care. I assured her that while she had indeed been victimized growing up, she had to stop allowing herself to be victimized by freeing herself from both her family’s expectations and her expectations of them.

“I don’t have any expectations of them,” she replied. “They are the ones with the ‘shoulds.’ “

“On the contrary,” I said. “you’re just like them. They say that you should come over for dinner every Sunday, and you say that they should stop pressuring you to come.” In other words, her expectation was that they should not have any expectations.

Over the course of many sessions, I tried to help her see that until she took responsibility for her own attitude that her family “should” change, she would never be free. Since I would not agree with her that her family needed to change in order for her to get well (which was out of her control), we hit a stalemate.

She could feel I was on her side if I would agree with her that her misery was their fault and not hers. I could agree with her that they had deeply injured her and were the source of much of her pain, but they were not the ones who were continuing it in the present. She was now an adult who had control over what she did and what she allowed others to do to her. But, because she felt that I was “on their side,” she quit.

When I saw her three years later, she was still stuck, still blaming her family for their attitudes toward and expectations of her.

Whenever we feel pressured by someone to do something, it is our problem [rather than] the one who is putting the pressure on. In reality, our, “feeling pressured” is our tendency to agree with the pressurer’s attitude instead of setting forth our own. We must get in touch with how we are getting hooked into saying yes and not put the blame on the other person.

Depression: Fighting Dragons

SOURCE:  /Faithgateway

Being the Hunted

What did Jesus call people who were attacked by dragons, regardless of the righteous way they were conducting their lives? Jesus called these people normal. Jesus made a few promises about what would happen to us, regardless of our faith. Here is what Jesus promised those who love Him the most:

In this world you will have trouble. – John 16:33

Jesus didn’t say, “In this world, there is a slight chance that you will go through hard times.” Jesus didn’t say, “If you don’t have enough faith, you will have trouble.” Jesus didn’t say, “If you go to church, stop cussing, don’t drink too much, and always keep your promises, then you won’t have any trouble.” Instead, Jesus said that trouble will hunt you. Period.

If you are alive and breathing, you will have trouble in this world. Either you will hunt the dragon, or the dragon will hunt you. There is no escaping it.

Jesus had every right to make this statement. Jesus believed all the right things, and He had stronger faith and loved God more than you and I will ever be able to. Still, soon after making this statement, Jesus was arrested and nailed to a cross.

Faith, belief, and love do not buffer or barricade your life from trouble and hardship. In fact, sometimes it feels like having faith and doing the right things can attract trouble.

I want to address the dragon that I most often see hunting the people around me: depression. This includes both the deep blues anyone can feel and the diagnosable imbalance that plagues so many. No one asks for this dragon, but he swallows up many people regardless. This dragon is big, heavy, overwhelming, and he has the potential to crush, suffocate, and swallow you up. This dragon doesn’t create bad days or bad weeks. He creates bad childhoods, bad decades, and bad lives. On and on, day after day, year after year, this dragon causes pain with no relief in sight.

Remember that overwhelmingly sad feeling when you learned that someone you loved died? Remember the guilt and embarrassment you felt after your biggest failure was exposed? Remember facing the biggest problem in your life and thinking that it was impossible to fix? Remember that time, as a little kid, when someone held you under the swimming pool too long, and you thought you were going to drown? Roll all of those emotions into one, carry them around with you every day from the time you wake up until the time you fall asleep, and you will begin to understand the dragon of depression.

When you experience the dragon of depression, your entire world is seen only through the lens of sadness, hopelessness, mourning, loss, emptiness, grief, pain, anger, frustration, guilt, and death. Death is always there, looming and lurking: “I can’t live another minute like this. Death has to be better than this. The people around me would be better off if I wasn’t here to hurt them. I can’t do this anymore. This is never going to get any better.”

The dragon of depression is a cyclical prison cell. It’s like a dog chasing its own tail: “I am depressed. Because I’m depressed, I can’t do what I need to do. This makes me feel like a failure. That makes me depressed. Because I’m depressed, I can’t do what I need to do. This makes me feel like a failure. That makes me depressed.”

David, the famous king from the Bible, knew these feelings well:

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of Your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims Your name. Who praises You from the grave? I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. – Psalm 6:2-6

How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death. – Psalm 13:1-3

King David wasn’t alone, and you aren’t either. This might surprise some readers, but Jesus understands what depression feels like. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Jesus was arrested, He experienced the height of His depression:

Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.” Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 26:38-39

If you read Hebrews 4:15, it is clear that Jesus had been tempted in every way that we are, yet He walked through those temptations without sinning. But somewhere along the way, it seems some biblical scholar or translator decided “depression” was no longer included in the long list of ways that Jesus was tempted.

In my opinion, it’s tough to read, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” without concluding that Jesus was struggling with depression. Jesus essentially said, “I’ve been swallowed up to the core of My being with sorrow. The suffocating weight of My sadness is about to crush My life.” Elsewhere, the Bible says this about Jesus’ time in the garden:

Being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. – Luke 22:44

There is a medical condition (hematidrosis) brought on by extreme emotional anguish, strain, and stress during which the capillaries in the skin rupture, allowing blood to flow out of a person’s sweat pores. So for hours, alone in a dark corner of a remote garden, Jesus fell down, curled up on the ground, cried, and prayed so intensely for deliverance from His circumstances that the blood vessels burst inside His skin. You can call it whatever you want, but to me it looks like emotional depression.

Jesus understood, and still understands, depression.

Weeks before Jesus was in the garden, He came face-to-face with everything I’ve just described.

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet Him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. – Mark 5:1-5

Depression can be caused by many different things. In this guy’s case, depression was caused by satanic attack or demonic oppression. The man in this story was possessed by many demons. If you’re anything like me, you immediately think of The Exorcist or some sci-fi movie, but the reality is that, all through the Bible, we read descriptions of battles being fought in the spiritual realm. The New Testament teaches that while a Christian cannot be possessed by Satan or one of his demons, he can be oppressed.

Satan continues to wage war against Christians by attacking or tempting us.

Depression can also be caused by guilt. Sometimes the weight of our downfalls and sins can cause us to grieve and mourn to the point of depression. That’s one of the reasons King David was depressed. He had just been convicted of adultery and murder, and his child was about to die. He used phrases like, “My bones wasted away… my strength was sapped… Do not forsake me, my God… My heart has turned to wax… my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth… Troubles without number surround me” (Psalm 32:3-4Psalm 71:18Psalm 22:14–15Psalm 40:12).

The apostle Peter understood depression after he denied knowing Jesus. After his sin of denying Jesus, Peter wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75). Judas understood depression after he betrayed Jesus to his death. When the weight and guilt of what he had done finally hit him, Judas decided that committing suicide was the only way out of the belly of the dragon in which he found himself swallowed (Matthew 27:1-5).

Depression can also be caused by the difficult circumstances of our lives. Life can get so hard that it makes us depressed, and that’s what Jesus was feeling in the Garden of Gethsemane. He understood why He needed to be sacrificed. He even knew the wonderful outcome that would result from His torture and death. Yet even though Jesus knew that the next few days would ultimately become the most wonderful event ever to occur in the history of the universe, the thought of them still caused Him to collapse to the ground, curl up, and cry until blood seeped from His pores.

Depression can also be the result of a physical illness. Sometimes the circumstances of our bodies can cause us to become depressed. I’m not talking about body image issues causing someone to become depressed (although that happens often). I’m talking about synapses misfiring and chemicals becoming imbalanced. I’m talking about diseases within our bodies. This can be the most difficult cause of depression to wrestle with because you can’t quite put your finger on the reason you are suffering. You’re simply suffering. More on this in a minute.

Regardless of the cause of depression, one factor remains constant: depression always centers on death and pain.

Depression is about death. The naked guy on the beach in Mark 5 lived in a cemetery. When you feel dead inside, you begin to dwell on the things of death, and eventually that place becomes your home. Depression is also about pain. The man would cry out and cut himself with razorsharp stones.

Depression has many causes, it revolves around death and pain, and it has no easy fixes.

Let’s continue with the story about the naked man on the beach:

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of Him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” – Mark 5:6-9

Later in this story, Jesus sends the spirits away and heals the man. That’s when the crowd shows up:

When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. – Mark 5:15

Jesus is bigger, stronger, and Most High over everything.

In the story about the naked man at the beach, the demon of depression recognized and yielded to the authority of Jesus. Jesus is bigger than depression. Whether you personally hunted down your dragon or it stalked and ambushed you, Jesus can set you free again.

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No More Dragons

How do you know when someone is truly sorry?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds.

Hosea 7:14

As biblical counselors, sometimes it’s hard to discern if someone is truly repentant.

Tears are often the language of the heart, but when one is crying in the counseling office, it’s important to hear what the person’s heart is really saying.  The apostle Paul speaks of two kinds of sorrow, worldly sorrow that leads to death and godly sorrow that brings repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).  As Christian counselors, it is crucial that we learn to distinguish between the two especially when we are doing couples work.

Worldly sorrow is a self-focused sorrow. It may contain great emotion, tears, and apologies, but the grief expressed is for one’s self. The person mourns the consequences of his or her sin and what she has lost. This may be a marriage, a job, a reputation, friends and/or family, or can even be one’s own idea of who they thought they were. Here are some of the things we often hear a person say when they are sorrowing unto death.

·         I can’t believe I did such a thing.

·         Why is this happening to me?

·         Please forgive me. – Implying, please don’t make me suffer the  consequences of my sin.

·         Why won’t he/she forgive me? (In other words, why can’t reconciliation be easy and quick?)

·         I’m so sorry (sad).

·         I’m a horrible person.

·         I wish I were dead.

·         I hate myself.

Judas is a good example of this type of sorrow (Matthew 27:3-5).  After he betrayed Christ, he was seized with remorse yet it did not lead to godly repentance, but self-hatred and suicide.

It is natural that we feel compassion for the person suffering such emotional and spiritual pain. However, it’s crucial that we not confuse this kind of sorrow with the kind that leads to biblical repentance, especially when we are working with both the sorrowing sinner and the one who has been sinned against.

Godly sorrow demonstrates grief over one’s sinfulness toward God as well as the pain it has caused others. John the Baptist said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8).

Below are eight things I have found that demonstrate those fruits of genuine repentance.

·         Accepts full responsibility for actions and attitudes, doesn’t blame others or situations.

·         Acknowledges sinfulness (instead of “I can’t believe I could do such a thing”).

·         Recognizes the effects of actions on others and shows empathy for the pain he/she’s caused.

·         Able to identify brokenness in detail such as abusive tactics, attitudes of entitlement, and/or areas of chronic deceit.

·         Accepts consequences without demands or conditions.

·         Makes amends for damages.

·         Is willing to make consistent changes over the long term such as new behaviors and attitudes characteristic of healthy relationships.

·         Is willing to be accountable and if needed, long term.

In my work with couples who have experienced grievous sin, I have found that it is not their sin that destroys most relationships. All couples experience sin. The destruction comes when we refuse to acknowledge it. It is our blindness to it and our unwillingness to humble ourselves to get help, be accountable, and repent that makes reconciliation and healing impossible.

How Controlling People Use Guilt and How to Set a Boundary Against it

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

No weapon in the arsenal of the controlling person is as strong as the guilt message. It’s likely you even heard one or two before in your life.

Do any of these sound familiar?

“How could you do this to me after all I’ve done for you?”

“It seems like you would care enough about the family to do this one thing for us…”

“You know that if I had it, I would give it to you.”

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. People who say these things are trying to make you feel guilty about your choices. They are trying to make you feel bad about deciding how you will spend your own time and/or resources and about having a life separate from theirs.

Probably everyone is able to some degree to recognize guilt messages when they hear them, but not everyone is strong enough to not succumb to them. Here are a few tips to keep in your back pocket for when these situations arise.

1. Recognize they are guilt messages and are given in an attempt to manipulate and control.

2. Know that guilt messages are really just anger in disguise. The guilt sender is failing to openly admit their anger at you for what you are doing.

3. Guilt messages hide sadness and hurt instead of expressing and owning their true feelings.

4. If guilt works on you, recognize that this is your problem and not theirs. If you continue to blame other people for “making” you feel guilty, they still have power over you.

5. Do not explain or justify. Only guilty children do that. We do not owe guilt senders an explanation for our actions.

6. Be assertive and interpret their message as being about their feelings. For example, “It sounds like you are angry that I chose to …”

The main principle is this: Empathize with what distressed people are feeling, but make it clear that it is their distress. Remember, love and limits are the only clear boundaries. If you react, you have lost ownership of your boundaries.

Why do people cut themselves? And how to help them stop

[The Counseling Moment editor’s note:  Although this article is written to those who minister to others with this issue, the article contains insights useful to all.]

SOURCE:  

Self-harm behaviors can be a foreign concept to many of us adults, but they are on the rise among adolescents and young adults. The National Institutes of Health indicate rates anywhere from 7 to 24 percent in teenagers, but as high as 38 percent in college-age women.1 However, these self-harm behaviors are oftentimes misunderstood by those who seek to minister to them. Given such high incidence rates, though, pastors and ministers must not only understand the motivations behind self-harm but also know how to minister to those engaging in such activities.2

Understanding self-harm

Self-injurious behaviors most frequently present themselves in the form of cutting various parts of the body, like one’s arms or legs, but may also be seen in burning oneself, picking at scabs, punching or hitting oneself, pulling one’s hair, or a host of other behaviors that cause wounds or bruises. Most often, the effects of the self-harm are well concealed behind long-sleeved shirts or long pants, but other times the wounds cannot be covered and are visible to others.

Self-harm behaviors are almost always done to cope with difficult emotions such as sadness, worry, or fear.

But engaging in self-harm does not equal suicidal. One of the most common misconceptions about self-harm is that it is always linked to suicidal thoughts or intentions. However, this simply isn’t the case. While suicidal thoughts do often accompany self-injurious behaviors, the injury to oneself is not always intended to lead to suicide. In fact, some teenagers report engaging in self-harm to avoid getting to the point where they feel suicidal.

A word of warning here, though: sometimes self-harm behaviors either intentionally or unintentionally do become suicide attempts. While we cannot assume that self-harm is always connected with or intended to bring about one’s own death, we should understand the reality that either intentions change quickly or what is meant to bring only injury accidentally leads to even greater, perhaps unintended, harm or even death.

If you suspect that someone is suicidal, or that the person has means and has stated intent, take immediate action. That may mean calling law enforcement, engaging an experienced counselor, or taking the young person to the hospital.

So what are the motivations? Most often, self-harm behaviors are engaged in to cope with difficult, and many times overwhelming, emotional struggles. For instance, a teenager may be experiencing deep sadness, and for the first time in her life, this emotion seems overwhelming. Given her lack of life experience with such strong emotions, she engages in causing physical pain to cope with the emotional pain.

Alternatively, some young people express that they feel a lack of any emotion at all, so they engage in self-harm to be able to feel something, even if what they feel is negative. Paired with this, some report feelings of emptiness, guilt, or tension, and self-harm behaviors provide an outlet for those feelings.

Dealing with emotional struggles isn’t the only motivation for self-harm, though, so we cannot assume such. I have personally heard of teenagers being “bored” and having nothing else to do, who then engage in cutting themselves. I’ve also seen a trend of self-harm leading to attention from one’s peers, both positive and negative, but attention nonetheless. While we certainly cannot assume that self-harm is merely for attention, the social and cultural reality of young people also cannot be overlooked.

Ministering to those who engage in self-harm

So how can we best minister to those who engage in these behaviors? In particular, how can we love and care for these young people well when their struggle is one we have difficulty understanding?

Seek to understand. First and foremost, try to understand. The first time I sat with a counselee who engaged in cutting, I simply asked her to help me understand where she was coming from, as I had no personal frame of reference for her actions. I genuinely wanted to understand the emotions and thoughts driving her behaviors, and she was willing to share.

As ministers, we first must listen well to understand. Oftentimes, those who are struggling in this area are dealing with strong emotions that they have difficulty understanding, or they have experienced difficulties in life that we cannot imagine. We must be willing to enter their world and hear their struggles before we can speak truth into their lives.

Look for the root of the problem. Self-harm behaviors almost always point to something deeper. Most often, it is an emotional struggle. Ask questions, and ask good questions: What is the self-harm in response to, or what is it satisfying? Self-injury is a way of dealing with life problems, so we cannot simply try to change that behavior without dealing with the underlying issue. To do so would be like trying to scoop trash out of a stream when it is continually being dumped in upstream. The trash will just keep coming until we deal with the source of the problem.

What does this look like, though? Perhaps in listening to a young person sharing his story, you realize that his self-harm is in response to a world that he feels is in chaos, and hitting himself is the only way he has of controlling his own life. But without listening, you’d only be trying to get him to stop hurting himself rather than realizing that he is in harm’s way on a daily basis and that hurting himself gives him some sense of consistency and control.

Consider good questions versus better questions. So how do we know what to ask? I mentioned above that we need to get to what the source of the issue is, rather than simply the issue itself. While good questions may elicit facts like what their behaviors are or how frequently they engage in them, better questions get at motivations and desires. Here are some examples:

Good questions: Better questions:
Why are you hurting yourself? What situations do you find yourself in just prior to hurting yourself?
What’s going on in your life? What are you most struggling with? What are you most afraid of or anxious about?
How do you feel when you cut yourself? Does your cutting satisfy a need? What is that need?
Do you want to stop? What obstacles are present that make this difficult to stop?

Provide practical safeguards. Even though we should be listening well for the root of the problem, an immediate strategy we can take is to implement practical safeguards, for instance, removing razor blades or knives from the home or ensuring there is always someone else nearby. While we can’t feasibly remove every means of self-injury, we can remove many.

We can also instruct those around the self-injurious person to be aware of times when temptations may be at their highest. While parents can’t keep a constant eye on their teenagers, they can ensure that the teenagers are actively engaged, and they can be watching for changes in the teens’ emotions. Parents can find time as well to intentionally listen to their teenagers, asking good questions and providing encouragement for daily difficulties.

Share biblically based hope and promises. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that we have a great high priest who can sympathize in our every weakness, and that includes the temptation to self-harm. People struggling in this area have a Savior who has walked where they walk, who has been tempted as they are, and who was without sin. And as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, they can confidently approach God to receive grace and mercy. Help those who self-harm grasp that Christ understands their struggle and that He is approachable in their moments of weakness, ready to dispense grace and mercy. This truth can be used to encourage them to pray when they’re tempted to cut themselves and to help them understand that Christ accepts them when they sin.

We are told as well in Scripture that we will never be forsaken by God, and because of that truth, we do not have to be afraid. While this promise shows up over and over in the Bible, in particular we are reminded in Deuteronomy 31:8, “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (ESV). Those fears that lead people to self-harm are not unknown to our God who goes before them, and He is constantly walking with them now.

Finally, because of the death and resurrection of Christ, we are also no longer enslaved to our sinful flesh, but are slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6:17–18). That means that followers of Christ can overcome the temptation to self-harm, by the power of God’s Spirit, who lives and works in them. That brings great hope to those who find themselves in the cycle of these behaviors.

The gospel message, then, has much to say to those who are struggling with difficult emotions, overwhelming guilt, or feelings of emptiness and to those who deal with those struggles through self-injury.

Pastors and ministers, we cannot forget the hope of the gospel when ministering to these young people. Like all of us, they need it desperately. They need people to listen to them well, get at the heart of the issue, help establish safeguards, and give hope through Christ. In doing so, we are able to walk with them, bear their burdens with them, and watch the Lord bring them out of these cycles of self-harm.

What Do I Do With My Regrets?

SOURCE:  Jon Gauger/Family Life Today

Rather than letting go of our regrets, we often escalate the trauma by further indulging them.

I should be dead by now. Really.

Thankfully, as a boy of 15, I underwent surgery for scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. Had my parents not opted for such a treatment, statistics say I wouldn’t be alive today because of the crushing my internal organs would have received from the twisting of my own spine. If not dead, my torso would resemble something like the fictional Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The surgery was no minor deal. First, an incision was made from my waist to the top of my shoulders (about two feet long). After straightening the spine and fastening two metal rods (each rod about a foot long) into the vertebrae, the surgeon chipped tiny fragments off my hip and then carefully placed them along the vertebrae to create a bone fusion.

Recovery was slow. Every four hours I was rotated from my back to my stomach on a circular bed frame resembling equipment from a circus acrobatic act. After nearly two weeks of rotating bed confinement, I was informed that the next day would be “casting day,” when I would get a plaster cast covering most of my upper body, allowing for near normal mobility. I distinctly recall the nurse warning me the night before. “Your incision is healing, and you’ll likely feel an itching sensation tonight. Whatever you do, don’t scratch your scar.”

But what I felt that night was more than an itching sensation. It was an itching assault. An itching warfare. I scratched (bad decision). And the scars itched more. I scratched more. And the scars itched still more. At the height of this agony (I do not overstate the moment), it was all I could do to force myself to clench the tubular steel of the circular frame bed and quote every Bible verse I’d ever learned over and over. It remains the most awful night of my life.

Who knew a scar could cause so much pain?

Regrets are scars of the soul.

We carry them around with us, and every now and then they itch. So we scratch them. We replay that thoughtless deed, that hurtful conversation. But instead of relief, we sense only a greater discomfort. Rather than let these memories go, we often escalate the trauma by further indulging our regrets.

What should we do with our scars when they assault us at night or in moments of tired reflection?

Scars, medical experts tell us, require regular and proper care (mine still itch or get occasional scabs). But what kind of care is there for scars of the soul? It’s a question we put to our contributors. Just what should we do with our regrets?

Walter Wangerin

This is simple: Pray for forgiveness. Ask the Christ who fought the devil to come and speak to our regret. Invariably, the word the Lord brings us is, “Go and sin no more. I have forgiven you. Now go on. Get up. Go back to your life and be better than you were.”

George Verwer

I read a long time ago that regret is the most subtle form of self-love. The temptation to regret comes the same way as any other temptation. What we need to do is readily embrace the gift of God’s grace. A lot of people have had their lives filled with failure, yet they do really well at the end. We need to encourage one another with that. Regarding our specific regrets, God has forgiven us. He knows how to work things out for good, so we can’t dwell on regret. We have to somehow move forward because it’s a form of anxiety to dwell on our regrets, paying too much attention to ourselves. We need to claim God’s forgiveness and grace and press on.

Kay Arthur

What do we do with our regrets? Now that’s a question I can answer readily for two reasons. One, I messed up so much before I came to know genuine salvation at the age of 29, and it had great ramifications. Second, I am a perfectionist. I battle with, “I could have done it better, I should have, I wish I had, why didn’t I?” This is where I must run to the open arms of my Sovereign God and all His promises and bring them to bear on my regrets. Also, I would add that we need to remember Satan is the accuser of the children of God (Revelation 12:10-11), so I have to stay dressed in His armor, rejoicing that He will make me “stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy” (Jude 24).

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

The first thing we have to do is thank God for grace. Go back to the cross. Preach the gospel to ourselves and realize, “I am not the Christ. I am a sinner who needs a Savior—and thank God I have a Savior.” I thank God He has not dealt with me according to my sins or as I deserve. The sum total of my life will not be about how well I performed, how well I lived up to my goals, or how successfully I overcame my bad habits or sinful patterns. When it’s said and done, the sum total will be Christ my righteousness. He took my sin—He who had no sin—on Himself. He clothed me in His righteousness, and that is the only basis on which I will ever be able to stand before God and not be ashamed. Every day I have to preach that gospel back to myself and live in the constant conscious awareness that Christ is my life. He is my righteousness. He is my only hope in life and in death.

James MacDonald

Romans 8:1 says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I believe all of our sins—past, present, and future—are under the blood of Christ, that we’re forgiven. I think we need to live as forgiven people. Second Corinthians 7:10 says, “The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Genuine repentance is not thinking about what I should have done or what I could have done. It’s thinking about what Christ has done, and living in that. When your kids were little and they would act up, what you wanted was for them to forsake the bad behavior and go forward. That’s what I believe the Lord wants for us. Not to wallow in our failures, but to revel in His grace and to give it to others.

Joni Eareckson Tada

I love to read passages in Scripture that remind me that God has a poor memory when it comes to my sin. He remembers my sin no more (Isaiah 43:25). He separates me from my sin as far as the east is from the west, as high as the heavens are above the earth (Psalm 103:11-12). That is what makes the Good News so great! God will not remember our sins. You know what? We shouldn’t either.

Michael W. Smith

You use regrets for good. That’s one reason I started Rocketown, a club for kids in Nashville. I love speaking to youth. I’m able to say, “Hey, guys, let me tell you my story.” Based on my own experiences, I have a little bit of credibility talking to some kid who is smoking dope every day and getting high, struggling with drugs. I say, “I’ve been there.” He might respond, “Yeah, whatever.” Then I tell him my story, and all of a sudden he’s listening because I have been there. I get to say, “Guys, it’s a dead-end street. It’ll take you down. This is not what your destiny is.” Regret gives me an opportunity to speak into kids’ lives because of the fact that I’ve been there.

True Guilt and False Guilt — What’s the Difference?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

What’s The Difference Between True Guilt and False Guilt?

Question: How do I discern true guilt from false guilt? I want to please God and serve others for Him, but I don’t want to give in to manipulators, either in my family or my friends.

Answer:   If a manipulator can make you feel guilty for saying no, he or she is much more likely to be successful in getting you to back down. Their strategy is to make you feel as if you are doing something wrong or you are being selfish when you won’t do what he or she wants. A manipulator’s thinking is simple. He believes, “If you love me, then you’ll always do what I want.” Therefore, if you say no, then you must not love me or you are selfish.

A two-year-old uses this tactic on his mother to get her to buy them something while standing in line at the grocery store. Most mothers are wise enough not to be manipulated by these tantrums. We know that a firm “no” to our child is the most loving thing we can do. The same is true for other relationships. Saying no to manipulation is actually taking a stand against someone else’s sin. This is a good thing.

However, when the manipulator is not our child, but our mother or husband or adult child, it’s much harder not to get sucked into his or her drama. It doesn’t help that they often accuse us of being unloving and selfish because we are not giving into their demands, and consequently, we’re tempted to feel guilty.

So what’s the way out? Let’s first look at Jesus. He never sinned, never was selfish yet he did say, “no.” He didn’t always do what people expected or wanted him to do. Jesus took time out for friendship, rest, relaxation, and prayer (Mark 6:30-31,46). When you feel guilty because you’ve said no to someone, take a moment to read Mark 1:29-39.

In this passage, we learn that Jesus went to Simon Peter’s house for a relaxing dinner, but people brought the sick to Jesus and the whole town gathered at the door. Can you imagine the pressure Jesus felt with everyone pressing in on him to do something? That evening he healed many people, but he eventually said no more and went to sleep. Those who were left behind unhealed must have felt disappointed.

While it was still dark, Jesus woke up and went off by himself to pray. Peter eventually came looking for him. “Jesus, where have you been? Everyone back home is waiting for you.” Jesus answered Peter saying, “I’m not going back to your house. Let’s go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

Jesus knew he could not do everything everyone wanted him to do and still do what God wanted him to do. During that quiet time of prayer, Jesus asked the Father to help him discern between the good things and the best things. Just like we do, Jesus had to make some hard choices – to please God or to please others. He chose pleasing God. This priority regularly cost him the disapproval and disappointment of others, including his disciples, religious leaders, and his own family (see Matthew 26:8; Mark 3:21-22).

To break free from the guilt trip, we must all learn to distinguish between true guilt and false guilt. True guilt is a God-given warning signal that we are violating God’s moral law. False guilt arises when we or another human being judges our actions, ideas, or feelings as wrong, even if there is nothing sinful about them.

So next time you’re struggling with guilt, do these three things.

  1. Go to God’s word for clarity. Am I breaking God’s moral law or is it some other human being’s law such as “Thou shall never say no to me”?
  2. Invite the Holy Spirit to search you and see if there is any wicked way in you (Psalm 139:23-24). You may find you have more guilt over feeling angry and resentful that you said “yes” when you wanted to say “no” than you would have if you had just said “no” in the first place.
  3. Ask yourself this question. If I say “yes,” am I saying, “yes” because I want to or because God asks me to? Or do I feel I pressured to say “yes” because I’m afraid to say “no”?

Remember, you are a finite, limited human being. When you say “yes” to something, you also always say “no” to something else.

When you repeatedly say “yes” to a manipulator, keep in mind that you are also saying “no” to your own needs, to perhaps your children’s needs, or to the greater good of what God wants for you. When you accept that you can’t always make everyone happy with you, (Jesus couldn’t either) then the false guilt will dissipate.

Overcoming Thoughts of Spiritual Betrayal (by God)

SOURCE: Dr. Gregory Jantz/AACC

If you have faith in God, depression can be similar to a betrayal by him.

After all, you have trusted him to care for you, yet you are still depressed.  You may have heard from your childhood that, as a Christian, you were to experience and exhibit joy, peace, patience—all the fruit of the Spirit spoken of in Galatians 5:22-23.  This sense of betrayal may haunt your sleepless nights and invade your despairing thoughts.  Feeling forgotten by God, you may even be angry at him.

This anger at God can contribute to your depression by provoking feelings of guilt.  You don’t think you should be angry at God, or you don’t think you have the right to be angry at God, so you feel guilty when you pray, the more you are convinced that he could fix it, but he won’t .  You doubt his love.  But you’ve also memorized John 3:16, which begins, “For God so loved the world…” so you’ve been told he does love you.  Looking at all of this, you conclude he’s got a lousy way of showing his live, at least to you.

Or you may think, Perhaps I don’t deserve his love.  Maybe he doesn’t change my situation because I don’t deserve joy and peace in my life.  Possibly the things I’ve done are so bad that he wants to love me but can’t because of who I am.  And if God can’t love me, then I’m not really worthy to be loved by anyone.  And if my life is to be empty of love, hope is impossible.  If you look at it this way, depression is completely understandable.

Or is it?

Have you picked up the stream of thoughts in this line of reasoning?

It takes snippets of truth—God loves you, and Christians are to live lives of joy—and twists those around into something meant to injure you, not give you comfort.  This line of reasoning is not from God; it is from the Deceiver.  Rage is a deceiver.  False guilt is a deceiver.  Abject despair is a deceiver.  Depression is a deceiver.  That is why when you are in the midst of depression, you must replace your own negative self-talk with God-talk, which is based upon truth.  This God-talk will support your positive self-talk by agreeing with affirming statements, such as these:

  • I deserve love. (“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16)
  • I deserve joy. (“Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” –Isaiah 51:11)
  • I am strong enough to learn and grow each day. (“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” – 2 Samuel 22:33)
  • I can experience contentment in my life. (“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” – Philippians 4:12)
  • I am able to respond to my circumstances, instead of react. (“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” – Romans 12:2)
  • I can look forward to tomorrow. (“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” –Lamentations 3:22-23)

How do you fill your life and your mind with God-talk?

The Bible is full of life-affirming messages.  It is, at its heart, a love story.  It is a story of a loving God, who created you to love you and to be loved by you.

Like every great story, there is a separation, which must be overcome by terrible sacrifice.  Through God’s sacrifice of his Son, Jesus, you are able to confidently say, “I can live happily ever after.”

———————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books.

You Don’t Have to Live with Guilt

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance.”(Proverbs 28:13 TLB)

God is always ready to give you another chance. That’s a bedrock piece of Christianity. We’ve all been irresponsible. We’ve all screwed up. The Bible tells us,“Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NLT, second edition).

God doesn’t want you living with a heavy guilt trip about all the irresponsibility in your life. Guilt destroys your confidence, damages your relationships, keeps you stuck in the past, and even hurts your health. I read a report a few years back that said 70 percent of people in the hospital could leave if they knew how to resolve their guilt.

God wants far better for your life than that. You don’t want to live with guilt. And here’s an important truth to always hang on to: You don’t have to.

God wants you to live with a sense of promise and hope. God can even bring good out of the stupid decisions that you’ve made in your life if you’ll give those failures to him.

How do you do that?

Admit to God you’ve made a mistake. It doesn’t surprise him. And it won’t change his perception of you. I hope you’ll take this step today. When you do, here’s what you can expect from God:

  1. God forgives instantly. The very moment you admit your sin to God, he forgives you.
  2. God forgives freely. You don’t need to earn it, and you’ll never deserve it.
  3. God forgives completely. He wipes your sin absolutely clean.

If you’re mired in guilt and shame, you’ll likely perpetuate whatever problem you have. You’ll tell yourself that you blew it, so you’re bad. Since you’re bad, you believe you’ll blow it again. It’s a nasty cycle from which we often can’t seem to escape — at least not on our own.

You need a power beyond yourself. You need a Savior. You need Jesus.

God Doesn’t Want You to Always Feel So Guilty

SOURCE:  relevantmagazine.com/Jason Jones

After my son, Jacob, died in an accident while I was asleep in the house, I struggled with debilitating guilt.

Guilt can be powerful.

For the first few years after the accident, it felt like an all-consuming force that I couldn’t let go of but one that I wanted desperately to run away from. I hated myself so much for all the things I could have done differently that day.

I felt so ashamed, angry, stupid and unworthy. I felt like a failure as a dad and a husband. The weight of carrying the guilt was something my therapist and I worked on for quite some time. Session after session, we would talk through it. There were a lot of tears and painful discussions.

Eventually, my therapist was able to help me realize some truths that slowly started to sink in over time. None of it was overnight. And none of it was like a light bulb moment to point to that instantly made me feel better.

While I refused to talk openly about these fears, the guilt started feeding shame, and shame fed more guilt, and on and on.

Therapy is like a farmer tending to his garden. You keep watering and picking weeds, and one day you show up and something starts sprouting out of the dirt. You just have to keep showing up to do the work. During that time, I learned some really important realities while working on my guilt:

We Aren’t Defined By Our Mistakes

Early on, I beat the heck out of myself over what happened. I felt like I had failed my family. Most of all, I felt like I had failed Jacob.

The shame was permeating my entire identity. This caused unhealthy behavior, added stress and was a strain on my marriage and my ability to be a father to my daughters.

Through therapy, though, I was able to realize that one accident or mistake doesn’t define who I am. I’m still a good person, husband and father.

Healing Can Start When You Accept Responsibility

This step was incredibly difficult and took a very long time for me to work through. Although I definitely felt it, I was scared to death to say that I had any responsibility in Jacob’s accident. I fought as hard as I could and as long as I could to not accept it.

I was terrified to think what it meant about me that my decisions may have led my son’s death. What does it say about me as a father? Does it mean I am a bad person? Am I a terrible father? Did I fail my family? Am I worthy of being loved?

While I refused to talk openly about these fears, the guilt started feeding shame, and shame fed more guilt, and on and on. This put me on a hamster wheel of personal torture that I couldn’t figure out how to get off of.

Thankfully, with hours upon hours of working with my therapist, I was able to get to a place where I could bear the guilt without it continuing to rule my life. Bearing the guilt meant I had taken and accepted responsibility for what I could have done to prevent this accident. There were things I could have done differently. I accept that. I bear that guilt, but it doesn’t control me anymore.

Giving Up Is Not an Option, No Matter How Bad It Gets

There were times when I wanted to die because I felt like such a failure in my guilt and shame. I thought about how I wouldn’t have to feel this way anymore and I would be with Jacob.

But, then I would quickly realize the amount of pain I would leave the rest of my family in. What a wreck I would leave behind. My therapist would tell me, “All you have to do is think about getting through each minute, each hour, then each day. Get out of bed and put your feet on the ground. Take a step, then another step. One foot in front of the other and keep breathing.”

It felt like torture at times, to keep going, but I knew inside that I could not give up. I couldn’t give up on my wife and my daughters. And I couldn’t give up on myself. No matter how hard it gets—you can’t give up.

This summer, I stumbled upon a song from a band called Colony House that really resonated with me.

Two of the members of Colony House, Will and Caleb Chapman, are sons of Steven Curtis Chapman and Mary Beth Chapman. Back in 2008, one of Mary Beth and Steven Chapman’s daughters was killed when she accidentally ran out in front of Will’s car when he was driving up the driveway at their home. It was a total accident and terrible tragedy. From interviews I’ve seen, Will struggled with a deep sense of guilt after the accident.

In the song “Won’t Give Up,” Colony House sings about those feelings. The song starts:

I wear the guilt upon my chest
Cause I feel like I’ve earned it
And keep the bloodstains on my hands
To show that I’ve done this

Oh how I wish I could escape that day
Take back time and make everything OK
But I can’t

Oh, the pictures in my head
They roll like the movies
I shut my eyes to cut the thread
But my memory shows no mercy

It was like someone climbed into my head and pulled out how I felt and then wrote a song about it.

It ends like this:

Too many dreams I didn’t want to dream
Too many nights alone where I can’t sleep
I’ve got the devil on my back
Trying to take home from me
But I see Jesus out in front
He’s reaching back for the lonely
Reaching back cause He loves me
I take His hand because she loved me

No I won’t give up now

Sometimes our guilt feels like it’s taking a hold of us and dragging us into hell. It’s like our past mistakes are yelling at us through a megaphone, constantly reminding us of what we’ve done.

But I can tell you it is possible to find freedom from what can seem overwhelming and paralyzing.

Healing can begin when we accept that we are human and we all make mistakes. And the transformative healing takes place when we accept that our mistakes don’t define who we are as a person.

Does He Need to Confess Adultery to His Wife?

SOURCE:  Russell Moore

Today I have an email that came in from someone who is writing—he is a Christian man, a member of a church, who writes and tells me that he had an affair several years ago, that this affair only lasted about a week, that he put an end to it, but he writes and wants to know whether or not now—even though he has confessed it to God, he has repented toward God, he has talked to a couple of key accountability partners in his life—whether or not he ought to tell his wife. Now, this man says that their marriage is already precarious. It has been precarious for some time. He is not sure whether or not his wife knows the Lord—or if she does, how mature she is in Christ—and he doesn’t want to jeopardize their marriage. He doesn’t want to split up their marriage and really wreck the lives of their children.

And so he says do I have to tell my wife?

Now, what I want to say is first of all I just stopped and prayed for this family because I know that this has to be absolutely agonizing.  It is agonizing for him. It will be soon agonizing for her and for the children—those who are completely innocent in this saga.

I do think that you need to tell her and for several reasons: One of those reasons being, you have sinned against her. Your having this adulterous affair is a sin against your wife, and until you have confessed to her and until you have repented to her I don’t think you are finished with the process of repenting. Biblically she has ownership—that is radical language, I Corinthians, chapter 7—she has ownership over your sexuality, and so your sin affects her, even if she doesn’t know about it. And it affects her in several ways: one of them being you have joined yourself with some other woman outside of your marriage, which has a spiritual, mysterious effect, Paul says in I Corinthians, chapter 6.

Secondly though, you have brought to the marriage a breakdown in intimacy. You are keeping a secret from her about something that is at the core of your marriage. She deserves to know this, and I don’t think you have finished repenting until you confess it to her and until you ask for her forgiveness. I also don’t think that you are going to be free from the weight of conviction that you feel from that sense of guilt that you either feel—or if you don’t feel, it’s because you have covered that over and you have a heart that is numb to that. I think that you need to confess this and get that out in the open.

Having said that, I want to say to you be prepared for the consequences of your sin.

And I think that you need to make it very clear when you confess this to your wife that she is more important to you than the risk that may come along with your confessing this to her. And so you need to own your sin. You need to communicate this to her as a sin, and do not give any indication that you blame her at all. She is already probably going to be looking for that in whatever it is that you are saying. Do not give even the appearance that you are blaming her. So whatever problems you may have had in your marriage, whatever sorts of issues that you may have with her, this is not the time to talk about those things. You have no ground to give any list of grievances to her—regardless of whether or not those things may be legitimate. She is not to blame for your immorality and your sin, and so don’t imply that she is.

And I would also say don’t take her first reaction to be necessarily her last reaction. She is going to feel betrayed. She is going to feel outraged. She is going to feel as though she doesn’t even understand what her world means right now. That is all completely natural because you have broken the covenant. You have sinned against her, and you have done so with a breach of trust. Don’t defend yourself. Don’t give excuses, reasons. And let her express the grief and the anger that comes out of this. You have been carrying this sin with you now for several years. It could feel to you almost as a relief to get it out in the open in front of her. But this is the first time she is hearing about this, and so, you can’t expect her to forgive you immediately, reconcile with you immediately, move on. She has to grieve this, and she has to express the sort of anger that she has. Let her do that, and then wait patiently for her to forgive you. Don’t expect that she owes you some sort of immediate reconciliation. You are going to have to spend in many ways the rest of your life in your marriage rebuilding the trust that is there, even when she does forgive you.

So I am really sorry about this, and I am praying for your entire family, but yeah, you need to tell her. That is the second step for you, after confessing to God, in your repentance.

How Can I Forgive Myself?

SOURCE:  R.C. Sproul

I know God has forgiven me for my sins, but how can I begin to forgive myself?

Frequently in his epistles, the apostle Paul goes to great lengths to describe what we call Christian liberty. In these matters God allows us freedom; he doesn’t set down laws prohibiting something or commanding something. The apostle warns us against being judgmental toward our brothers, giving as an example in the Corinthian community the question about eating meat offered to idols. Paul says this has nothing to do with the kingdom of God. He says, “Those of you who have scruples about it, don’t judge those who don’t” and vice versa. This is a case in which we just have to respect one another.

In those admonitions, Paul uses as his basis this statement: “We are not to be judging people for whom Christ died.” He reminds us that “your brother or your sister belongs to Christ. God has forgiven them. Who are you to withhold forgiveness from someone whom God has forgiven?”

Let’s look at it this way. If somebody sins against me and that person repents, God forgives them. If I refuse to forgive them, can you think how ghastly that is in the sight of God? God is not obligated to forgive that person. That person has sinned against God, and God has never sinned against anybody. Here I am—a person who is a sinner refusing to forgive other sinners while God, who is sinless, is willing to forgive. Have you ever stopped to think about the arrogance that’s in me when I refuse to forgive somebody that God has forgiven?

Now, how could you forgive yourself after God has forgiven you?

I’ve had people come to me and say, “R.C., I committed such and such a sin, and I asked God to forgive me. I’ve gone to him ten times and asked him to forgive me, but I still don’t feel forgiven. What am I going to do?” I don’t have any brilliant theological answer to that. I can only tell them to ask God to forgive them one more time. When they say they’ve done it, I tell them this time I want them to ask God to forgive them for their arrogance. “Arrogance!?” they say. “What do you mean arrogance? I’m the most humble man in America. I’ve confessed this sin ten times.” Doesn’t God say that if you confess a sin one time, he’ll forgive you? Who are you to refuse the forgiveness of God, and who are you to condemn one whom God has forgiven? That’s arrogance. You may not feel arrogant, you may not mean to be arrogant, you may be rolling in humility with all of your confession. But I am telling you that if God has forgiven you, it is your duty to forgive yourself. It’s not an option. You must forgive those whom God forgives, including yourself.

Guilt AND Guilt Feelings

SOURCE:  R. C. Sproul

In what way does God use guilt today?

When we talk about God’s using guilt, it sounds strange to many people in our society because there’s a widespread notion that guilt is something that is intrinsically destructive to human beings and that to impose guilt on anybody is wrong. The idea then emerges that God certainly would never use such a thing as guilt to bring about his will with human beings. If he did, that would be beneath the level of purity we would prefer in our deity.

In biblical terms, guilt is something that is real and is objective, and I think it’s very important that we distinguish between guilt and guilt feelings.

Guilt feelings are emotions that I experience subjectively. Guilt is an objective state of affairs.

We see that in our law courts. When a person goes on trial for having broken the law, the question before the jury and before the judge is not, Does the accused feel guilty? but, Is there a real state of affairs that we call guilt? Has a law been transgressed? So it is with God. Guilt is objective in the eyes of God whenever his law is broken. When I break his law, I incur guilt, but I may or may not have guilt feelings about my guilt.

I suspect that behind your question is a concern about how God uses the guilt feelings as well as the actual guilt itself.

One of the most important works of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is what the New Testament calls the conviction of sin. We can be guilty and not feel guilty. David, for example, when he got involved with Bathsheba and went even so far as arranging for her husband to get killed, felt no great remorse until Nathan, the prophet, came to him and told him a parable. The parable was about a man who took for himself a little lamb that belonged to a poor man. David was furious and wanted to know who this man was so that he could be punished. Finally Nathan pointed his finger at David and said, “You are the man.” With the realization of the full import of his guilt, David was broken instantly and then wrote that magnificent song of penitence, Psalm 51, in which he cried out in his conviction of sin before God.

What God does with our guilt and guilt feelings is to bring us to that state in which we are convicted of sin and of the righteousness we’ve fallen short of; he uses those feelings to turn us from disobedience to obedience. In that regard, guilt and guilt feelings are healthy. Just as pain is a necessary sign of the presence of disease, so guilt feelings may often be the divine way of awakening us to our need for redemption.

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Tough Questions with RC Sproul is excerpted from Now, That’s a Good Question! Copyright © 1996 by R. C. Sproul.

I MUST Forgive (ME)!

SOURCE:   Leslie Vernick

 Do You Struggle Forgiving Yourself?

Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is you.

Perhaps you have had an abortion, been involved in an extra-marital affair, done something really stupid, or hurt someone deeply through your sinful or foolish behaviors.

For some, even lesser sins or mistakes cause the same internal anguish.   We’re endlessly tormented with the thought, “I should have known better,” or “What’s wrong with me” or “I can’t believe I did that.”  Or “How could I have been so stupid, weak, blind, etc.”

When we aren’t able to move beyond our own failures, mistakes, and even sins, we can get stuck in spiral of debilitating regret, depression, and even self-hatred.

Yes, we know (or hear) God forgives us, but the problem is we just can’t forgive ourselves.  We may be told something like, “If the God of the Universe was willing to come to earth, become human, and sacrifice himself to forgive your sins, who are you not to forgive others, or your own self?”

Yet that theological truth can be difficult (if not impossible) to put into practice when you’re smack in the middle of ruminating over your stupid mistakes, missed opportunities, or grievous sin.  Although mentally acknowledged, God’s grace is not your internal reality. It’s theological truth but not transformational truth.

The way out of this internal bondage is not self-forgiveness; but rather self-acceptance.   Although it’s hard for you to recognize the true problem, the reason you can’t forgive yourself is that deep down you don’t want to have anything to need forgiveness for.  You want to be like God – perfect and in control of all things.

You believe you should know how to always do it right, to say it right, to know ahead of time what the right answer should be or what right solution will best solve a problem.  You believe you shouldn’t ever mess up, or sin big time.  Deep down you believe if only you could live that way, then you’d feel better about yourself.

But when you fail (and as a mere mortal and sinful being you inevitably will), you feel profound disappointment and shame about yourself.  You can’t believe how stupid, sinful, foolish, incompetent, scared, irresponsible, selfish, (whatever) you are. In beating yourself up, you are reinforcing your internal lie that you should have been better than that.

Before you can experientially accept God’s grace and forgiveness, you must first emotionally (not merely intellectually) accept who you are.  There is only one God and you are not him.  You are a creature: one who is called both saint and sinner, beautiful and broken.

Humility is the only path that will give you the internal freedom you crave because once you are humble – Jesus called it “poor in spirit,” you are in a position to emotionally accept who you are— a fallible, imperfect creature who doesn’t know it all.  Then you are no longer shocked, shamed, or disappointed when you see your darker, sinful, weaker side.

Friend, it is not your sins and failures that cause your greatest emotional pain. Rather it is your unrealistic expectations of yourself and your lack of acceptance when you mess up.   In a backwards way, your pride has been wounded.  You are disappointed that you aren’t better than you are.  But the truth is, you’re not.  In embracing that truth, you are also set free to embrace and experience the beauty of God’s grace.

Now the grip of self-hatred for being imperfect no longer has the same power over you.

Now that same emotional energy can be used to humbly ask for forgiveness from others where necessary. Instead of hating yourself for your sins and failures and weaknesses, now you can learn from them so you grow and don’t  continually repeat your mistakes.

Now you can fully experience what you so desperately crave, God’s love and forgiveness for your sinful, imperfect self.

One of my favorite old fashioned mentors, François Fénelon wisely wrote, “Go forward always with confidence, without letting yourself be touched by the grief of a sensitive pride, which cannot bear to see itself imperfect.”

Go forward friend and emotionally accept your imperfections.  It is in that place of humility coupled with Christ’s unconditional forgiveness will you find the freedom you long for.

 

 

Getting To The ROOTS of Failure

SOURCE:  Taken from the work of June Hunt

Causes of Failure

He gets in the way again! Peter, with his impetuous behavior, attempts to interrupt the Father’s plan for the Son. Peter cannot possibly see how the death of Jesus would accomplish anything good or positive. In fact, His death seemed to be the death of the disciples’ dreams.

Previously, Peter had rebuked Jesus for even talking about being crucified. Now in the Garden of Gethsemane, he tries to block Jesus’ arrest, the triggering event that would lead to the Crucifixion, by using violence. With sword in hand, Peter strikes off the right ear of the high priest’s servant. Immediately Jesus picks up the ear and fully restores it.

Obviously Peter didn’t “get it.” He failed to see the big picture—even though Jesus had tried to tell him. But Peter wasn’t listening.

“Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’ ”

(John 18:11)

What Are Rungs on the Ladder of Wrong Thinking?

With Peter or with any of us, wrong assumptions always lead to wrong conclusions. All inventors are well aware of the mockers and scoffers—those who just don’t “get it.” But if our mindset is correct, we won’t be controlled by naysayers. We’ll press forward with God’s perfect plan, even if it may not make sense at the time. Stopping short means missing out on the best part of all … which for Jesus was resurrection!

In 1978 the first successful transatlantic balloon flight was accomplished by the Double Eagle II. It was not the first attempt. In fact, thirteen attempts had been made from 1873 through 1978. What was the difference? Lessons from previous failures!

Success can be defined as the intelligent application of failure. Failure is a fact of life. It can lead to despair—or it can lead to increased efforts with the possibility of success.

Steps to success are usually marked with many failures. That is why your attitude regarding failures will greatly influence your future.

“God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline.”

(2 Timothy 1:7)

The result of wrong thinking often manifests itself in fearfulness.

  • Fearful of Ridicule “They’ll make fun of me if I fail.”

—  People laughed at Robert Fulton’s strange, smoking craft chugging down the river, yet “Fulton’s Folly” became the first steamboat in 1807.6

  • Fearful of Inexperience “No one will believe in me.”

—  When the great tenor Caruso first sang for his instructor, he was told that his voice sounded like “wind whistling through the window.”7

  • Fearful of Failure “I told you I would blow it.”

—  Albert Einstein failed his university entrance exams on his first attempt.8

  • Fearful of Inadequacy “I shouldn’t try.… I may not know everything I need to know.”

—  The first car Henry Ford invented and marketed did not have a reverse gear.9

  • Fearful of Change “It’s never been done—it won’t work.”

—  The Wright Brothers first offered their flying machine to the United States government but were not taken seriously. A few years later they closed a contract with the United States Department of War for the first military airplane.10

  • Lacking Confidence “I don’t think I can do it.”

—  Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, but he also hit 714 home runs.11

  • Lacking Conviction “It really doesn’t matter that much.”

—  Thomas Edison had over 1,000 failures before he found the right combination for the light bulb.12

  • Lacking Perseverance “I can’t run the risk of failure.”

—  R. H. Macy failed seven times in retailing before his New York store was a success.13

  • Lacking Trust in God “I really don’t have what it takes.”

—  When the great pianist Paderewski first chose to study the piano, his music teacher told him his hands were much too small to master the keyboard.14

How Does Faulty Thinking Produce Failure?

He was right in his motives but wrong in his timing. Peter was in an exclusive group of three, along with James and John, who were led by Jesus up a mountain for a glimpse into the heavenly realm.

Suddenly, Jesus was transfigured before them, His face shining like the sun and His clothes becoming white as light. He began talking, not with the trio of disciples, but with Moses and Elijah!

Peter gets busy, concluding that the fulfillment of the Kingdom has come and making preparations in conjunction with its arrival. “Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah’ ” (Matthew 17:4).

The Father interrupts Peter from a voice in a bright cloud, expressing love and pleasure toward his Son, Jesus, and evoking great fear in the disciples. Jesus touches them and tells them not to be afraid, and when they got up after falling prostrate in fear, they were alone with Jesus.

Obviously, there was “kingdom work” yet to do. Because Peter had faulty thinking, he therefore had faulty conclusions.

Answer the questions below to determine whether you are telling yourself lies about failure …

Faulty Thinking Test

  • Do you think you must avoid the hurt that results from having failed?

Truth: Hurt cannot be avoided in life. It gives opportunity for mental, emotional, and spiritual growth.

  • Do you think taking “chances” almost always leads to calamity?

Truth: Taking chances can lead to opportunity.

  • Do you think it is imperative to do only what is “safe,” that within your comfort zone?

Truth: Your concern for safety should be secondary to following God’s leading, following your heart, and satisfying your desire to grow and learn.

  • Do you think it would be terrible if you made a wrong decision?

Truth: Every wrong decision can teach you something of value and can be a stepping stone to making right decisions.

  • Do you think you must never make a mistake?

Truth: Mistakes are common to everyone.

  • Do you think God will reject you or be angry with you if you fail?

Truth: God knows you will fail and is pleased with your fortitude and persistent acceptance of challenges that stretch your abilities and strengthen your reliance on Him.

  • Do you think failure is an indication that you are stupid or weak?

Truth: Failure is universal, experienced by both the literate and the illiterate, the strong and the weak.

  • Do you think others will think less of you if you fail at something?

Truth: Others value you for your character traits and Christlike attitudes and actions rather than whether or not you fail at something. And remember, they, too, have failed.

  • Do you think it is a bad reflection on Christ when you fail?

Truth: Your failures provide a platform to show others that your security is in Christ, not in your successes.

  • Do you think failure is shameful and sinful?

Truth: Failing does not make you a failure. Failure is sinful only when it is a result of disobedience.

  • Do you think you must plan every action and, thus, avoid loss, pain, or disgrace?

Truth: You cannot control life, but you can trust the sovereignty of God when He allows loss, pain, and even disgrace in your life.

“ ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ ”

(Isaiah 55:8–9)

What Facts Make You a Failure or a Success?

Following a serious failure, what makes one person continue to fail and another to become a success? The answer is twofold: Who is willing to take responsibility for the failure? Who learns the valuable lessons that can come from the failure?

Peter becomes a success because his self-brashness is replaced with a heart of humility. He is able to say to fellow sufferers from his own experience, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).

Success through failure. The same words can be said about Peter’s spiritual counterpart, the apostle Paul. Prideful Paul learned this lesson well: Take responsibility for the wrong and gain a heart of humility. He writes, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).

The Apostle Paul

Facts about Paul that could have caused him to see himself as a failure

  • Fact: He labeled himself the worst of sinners.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15)

  • Fact: He strongly embraced and actively promoted wrong priorities and values in his young adulthood.

“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)

  • Fact: His life was filled with disappointments, trials, and hardships.

“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned.” (2 Corinthians 11:24–25)

  • Fact: He did not consider himself to be an eloquent orator.

“I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words.” (1 Corinthians 2:3–4)

  • Fact: His prayers were not always answered according to his desires.

“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.’ ” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9)

  • Fact: He was hindered by an unpleasant bodily ailment.

“It was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you.” (Galatians 4:13)

  • Fact: He experienced resentment and rejection.

“After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan.” (Acts 9:23–24)

  • Fact: He was imprisoned and kept in chains for his faith.

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.” (2 Timothy 2:8–9)

Facts about Paul that prevented him from considering himself a failure

  • Fact: He realized that God was the source of his strength.

“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

  • Fact: He refused to allow circumstances to crush his heart or control his life.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed …” (2 Corinthians 4:8)

  • Fact: He trusted God and accepted his own limited understanding of all of God’s plans and purposes.

“[We are] … perplexed, but not in despair …” (2 Corinthians 4:8)

  • Fact: He knew that God was with him in the midst of tough and trying times.

“[We are] … persecuted, but not abandoned …” (2 Corinthians 4:9)

  • Fact: He understood and fully embraced the fact that Jesus had called him to suffer for the sake of the Gospel.

“[We are] … struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:9)

  • Fact: He knew that things are not always as they appear and that according to God’s standard, he was strongest whenever he appeared to be weakest.

“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.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

  • Fact: He had learned from experience and his knowledge of the character of God that his joy was in God, not in his so-called successes.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12)

  • Fact: He knew his life was hidden in Christ and that whether he lived or died … whether he was considered a success or a failure, he was loved by God.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

What Is the Primary Cause of Failure?

Cocksure of himself—that’s what he is! Peter proclaims his undying loyalty to Jesus only to betray Him hours later. He then is flabbergasted at his own failure, and the characteristic cocky spirit is replaced with a crushed spirit.

It is amazing how little we know about ourselves. God has to take us through all kinds of failures to reveal the self-focused pride that lies dormant in the corners of our character. The only way we can be of any use to God is to respond with discernment to our disappointments. Discernment leads us to truth—and truth punctures our pride … all for His purpose of molding us to the image of His Son.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

(James 1:2–4)

The following acrostic on PRIDE can help you discern the truth about yourself. Are you …

Preoccupied with the opinions of others?

“They loved praise from men more than praise from God.” (John 12:43)

Refusing wise counsel?

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)

Ignoring the power of prayer?

“You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2)

Depending on self-effort?

“Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:3)

Expecting praise and personal recognition?

“Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

Root Cause of Wrong Responses to Failure

With absolute confidence he crows, “I would never do that! I would never stoop to that.… I’m stronger than that!” Then the day comes when the very act he said he wouldn’t do, he does. And sadly, not just once. Here is Peter, who stumbles and falls … Peter, who feels the piercing pain of his own failure.

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

(Proverbs 16:18)

Can you relate to Peter? Although he was a disciple within the inner circle of Jesus, he suffered self-centered setbacks that devastated him. He could have become paralyzed with despondency and despair, but one of the hallmarks of maturity is to evaluate our mistakes and wrong mindsets and learn invaluable lessons from them. This way, our stumbling stones of failure can become stepping stones of success.

The root cause of an inability to accept failure and to learn from mistakes is a wrong belief system.

Wrong Belief:

“Failure is a sign of personal defeat. I must accomplish my goals and be successful in the eyes of others to feel good about myself.”

Right Belief:

“Failure is God’s way of deepening my dependence on Him. Success is submitting to God’s goal of Christlikeness for my life—regardless of the outcome.”

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28–29)[1]

 

6 A History of Wonderful Inventions (London: Chapman and Hall, 1849), 77–78.

7 Michael Scott, The Great Caruso (New York: Knopf, A division of Random House, 1988), 6.

8 Kendall Haven and Donna Clark, 100 Most Popular Scientists for Young Adults: Biographical Sketches and Professional Paths (Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1999), 1163.

9 Nathan Miller, New World Coming: The 1920s and the Making of Modern America (New York: Scribner, 2003), 178.

10 Fred Charters Kelly, The Wright Brothers: A Biography (Toronto: Courier Dover, 1989), 153–154.

11 Ted Williams, Ted Williams’ Hit List: The Best of the Best Ranks the Best of the Rest (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003), 62.

12 Sir John Marks Templeton, Discovering the Laws of Life (New York: Templeton Foundation Press, 1995), 213.

13 Willie Jolley, A Setback is a Setup for a Comeback: Turn you Moments of Doubt and Fear into Times of Triumph (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), 26.

14 Bob Fenster, Well, Duh! Our Stupid World, and Welcome to It (Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, 2004), 286.

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[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Success through Failure: From Stumbling Stones to Stepping Stones (pp. 10–15). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

God or Guilt: Which Motivates You?

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by  Karl Benzio/Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Guilt Trip To…Nowhere

Because I teach people to make decisions based on information, not emotions, I cringe when I hear parents, politicians, ministries, or pastors using guilt to “motivate” others.

“If you loved me, you would do your chores.”

“I worked long and hard on this meal, so you better eat it.”

“We’ll have to cancel the event … unless you volunteer in the nursery to help us.”

“Look at these starving kids in Africa and all the food you throw away. Please send money.”

“See the pain Jesus went through for you? You should feel terrible; now accept Him as your Savior.”

Guilt is an incredible motivator, but that’s not the correct role for or use of guilt. I am all for pointing out injustices and needs so people can step into their roles to help these situations or make good decisions. But the issue I am trying to separate through these examples is this: we shouldn’t use guilt to motivate people.

Several subliminal, distorted and false messages can unwantedly occur when people act out of guilt. Here are some examples:

#1. I am responsible for and can control someone else’s feelings through what I do.

#2. The other person won’t feel better unless I act the way he wants.

#3. When you want a friend to do something for you, it is OK to lay a guilt trip on her.

#4. And this is probably the worst message of all, Decisions should be based on self-needs and emotions, not God’s truth, facts, and reasoning.

Unfortunately, these distorted messages subtly seep into our everyday functioning, and dramatically interfere with Godly decision-making.

Many pastors and priests try to whip their congregations into Christian action by delivering guilt-inducing sermons. Whether it’s guilting someone to say the sinner’s prayer, to give money, to volunteer, or to stop a certain behavior, the end does not justify the means. I have personally experienced these guilt-evoking messages. And unfortunately, they undermine the very foundation of grace and love, then developing the Mind of Christ that God wants to instill in a believer’s heart.

Today, take notice if you are feeling guilty about something, or if you are inducing guilt in someone else.

Stop and examine why guilt is present.

Guilt is important if you have done something wrong. So let the guilt warn you that a problem exists. But don’t let it be your decision-maker. Let reason and the Bible direct your heart and actions. Confess, repent, apologize, and ask for forgiveness.

You are responsible for your feelings and happiness; the other person is responsible for his own. Above all else, be mindful that God does not measure and judge you by the amount of good works you do. Rather He looks into your heart. God or guilt, what you use to motivate and guide you is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, I do not want to be stressed out about not “doing enough” as good Christian. I know that You want me to relax in the assurance of Your perfect love. Today help me remember that You delight in me more than I can ever imagine, that You see me cloaked in Your light and presence … and that there is no condemnation for those cloaked in You. Help me daily, Lord, to come closer to having the Mind of Christ. Help me make decisions based on Your word, not my feelings. Help me feel convicted and guilty about my wrongs, and then look to You for forgiveness, and to Your word for guidance in doing right. I pray in the name of the One who knew no guilt ‘til He bore all mine, Jesus Christ;  –  AMEN!

The Truth
I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest.  Isaiah 61:10

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  Romans 8:1-2

How God Really Sees Me: Am I Condemned? Or Not?

SOURCE:  Living Free

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2 NIV

Condemnation. A distorted reflection . . . and a lie.

We confess our sins to Jesus and He forgives us. When we become a follower of Jesus Christ, He forgives all our past sin. As Christians, when we fall into sin, the Bible promises that if we confess that sin, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us (1 John 1:9).

And yet, we persistently hang on to the guilt.

We condemn ourselves and sometimes allow others to condemn us.

If we can get our eyes off the expectations of others and ourselves and look into the mirror of God’s Word, we will see ourselves as God sees us–forgiven, clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Here are a few of the reflections found in the Bible–there are many more.

  • I am righteous through faith in Christ. (Philippians 3:9)
  • Christ made me right with God. (1 Corinthians 1:30)
  • God declares that through Jesus we have been made righteous. (Romans 3:23-24)

Look into God’s mirror. He sees you as forgiven and righteous!

Are you struggling with condemnation?

It can weigh you down, depress you, fill you with fear, and keep you from doing what God has called you to do. God wants us to repent and seek forgiveness. He wants us to try to make things right with others when that is possible. And then He wants us to move on. To learn from our mistakes, but not to dwell on them. He wants us to see ourselves through His eyes–forgiven and righteous.

Father, I thank you that Jesus paid the price for my sins. Thank you that when I repented and confessed my sins to you, you forgave me and cleansed me. Because of Jesus, I am righteous in your eyes. Please help me see myself through your eyes. Help me to walk in the peace of knowing that I am forgiven. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Seeing Yourself in God’s Image: Overcoming Anorexia and Bulimia
 by Martha Homme, MA, LPC.

The “ONLY” Way Forward –> Bringing Our Failures To God

SOURCE: Taken from  D.A. Carson/The Gospel Coalition

[Based on:  Leviticus 25Psalm 32Ecclesiastes 82 Timothy 4]

“BLESSED IS HE WHOSE TRANSGRESSIONS ARE FORGIVEN, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit” (Ps. 32:1-2).

In a theistic universe where God keeps the books, it is difficult to imagine any greater blessedness.

The sad tragedy is that when many people reflect on this brute fact — that we must give an account to him, and there is no escaping his justice — almost instinctively they do the wrong thing. They resolve to take the path of self-improvement, they turn over a new leaf, they conceal or even deny the sins of frivolous youth. Thus they add to their guilt something additional — the sin of deceit.

We dare not ask for justice — we would be crushed.

But how can we hide from the God who sees everything? That is self-delusion.

There is only one way forward that does not destroy us: we must be forgiven.

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven.” And what is bound up with such forgiveness? For a start, such a person will not pretend there are no sins to forgive: blessed is the man “in whose spirit is no deceit.”

That is why the ensuing verses speak so candidly of confession (32:3-5). It was when David “kept silent” (i.e., about his sins) that his “bones wasted away”; his anguish was so overwhelming it brought wretched physical pain. David writhed under the sense that God himself was against him: “For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (32:4).

The glorious solution?

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’ — and you forgave the guilt of my sin” (32:5).

The New Testament writer closest to saying the same thing is John in his first letter (1 John 1:8-9).

Writing to believers, John says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” There it is again: the self-deception bound up with denying our sinfulness.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” There it is again: the only remedy to human guilt.

This God forgives us, not because he is indulgent or too lazy to be careful, but because we have confessed our sin, and above all, because he is “faithful and just”: “faithful” to the covenant he has established, “just” so as not to condemn us when Jesus himself is the propitiation for our sins (2:2).

Parenting Through Guilt

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  Living Free

“A refusal to correct is a refusal to love; love your children by disciplining them.” Proverbs 13:24 MSG

One of the most difficult issues for parents to work through is realizing late in the parenting process that they have failed as a parent.  People who have tremendous guilt due to feelings of failure as a parent often give in to inappropriate behavior by their children.

One mother who had a 21-year-old son living in her home admitted that she sometimes permitted her son to abuse her verbally and physically. She also allowed him to drink alcohol in the home even though this was against her values. Why did she allow this behavior? “He had a difficult time during my divorce, and I don’t want to hurt him anymore!”

This mother had not been the best of mothers, but she had committed her life to Christ and was now involved in ministry. Nonetheless, instead of walking in the freedom of forgiveness that was hers through Christ, she allowed her past to haunt her. Guilt over the mistakes she had made as a parent ruled her current relationship with her son. In her mind, allowing him to do whatever he wanted was making up for her past mistakes. In fact, she needed to show her love by holding him accountable for his actions.

Have you made some serious mistakes in parenting your child?

Are you now allowing guilt to prevent you from holding him accountable for his actions?

Meditate on [the above] scripture. The best way you can love your child is with kind but firm discipline and guiding him in ways that are pleasing to God.

Father, I know you’ve forgiven me for my past mistakes. Help me to forgive myself and move on. Help me to love my child enough to discipline him and hold him responsible for his actions. I pray that your will be done in his life. In Jesus’ name …


[These thoughts were drawn from Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.]

Why Are You Afraid To Say, “NO!”

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Karl Benzio/Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Turn the Other Cheek … or NOT?!

In the past, it was difficult for me to say “no.”

Saying “no” to a request rarely makes the asker feel good. More often, that person feels hurt, rejected, or let down. Our natural tendency is  “going with the flow” or “not making waves.” So we become conflict avoiders … some of us a little, but others of us a lot. You see, a prime contributor to our feelings of discomfort as well as some of our baggage is that other people feel bad as a result of our actions or behaviors.

As Christians, this usually gets amplified because we are called to be “peacekeepers” or “peacemakers.” Forgiveness is a fundamental concept and action of our faith.

Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies, and to give our clothes to a thief. Saying “no” seems like a very un-Christian response to someone in need. However, God says “no” many times in the Old Testament. Jesus also said “no” many times as well … to the Pharisees, to Satan, to the demon-possessed man whom he healed, to the rich young ruler who wanted to follow Him but wouldn’t give up his possessions, to the moneychangers in the temple, and to the thief on the cross.

As a psychiatrist and former church elder, I have seen many burnt out Christians, both leaders and church members, who seem to think that more is better … believing it is un-Christian to say “no.” Their efforts become scattered and they always seem to be out of steam. But, like that Energizer bunny, they just keep on doing. Their motivation is not that the Hold Spirit prompts them to say “yes.” It’s that they are too uncomfortable to say “no.” Satan is always trying to trick you into thinking you are selfish, self-centered, or mean if you say “no.” But a loving, caring parent says “no” many times. Just think how many times God answers your prayers with a “no.”

Today, before you jump into or get stuck in the “Christian” trap … by blindly saying “yes” and adding more stress to your plate … spend time with God. Pray that you receive both direction and empowerment consistent with His will. In order to know His will … you gotta spend time in His presence. He has a specific plan and purpose for you. You need to be more purposeful in seeking it with Him and from Him. This is not a job or a task, but rather a beautiful and peaceful privilege.

Also, dig and decipher why you say “yes,” especially when you know you should be saying “no.” Why are you afraid to say “no?” Learning this answer and correcting it will bring an amazing freedom to your interactions with others, God, and life! Saying “Yes” and “No” for the right reasons is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Gracious and Holy God, I know that You designed a path for my life. I pray, Father, that You reveal this pathway to me … and that You give me the strength and courage to follow it. Help me seek Your approval, not the approval of those who make requests of me. Empower me, Father, and let me see that I am powered by You. Let me not focus my efforts on simply doing more, but let me focus on doing what You want and need of me. Help me today, Lord, to do what is within my ability to further Your Kingdom. I pray in the name of the One You sent to forgive, refresh, and empower me, Jesus Christ; – AMEN!

The Truth
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.  Psalm 16:11

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  Mark 6:31

Jesus doesn’t condemn us when we sin

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Roy Borges

Go, and Sin No More

As I lie in my bunk listening to my radio, Rebecca St. James croons, “Go, and sin no more.” The words vibrate off the four walls of my cell. If only I could erase the past and begin again.

The Bible tells a story of a nameless woman whom the scribes and Pharisees dragged before Jesus (Jn. 8:1–11). Like me, she was accused, convicted, and judged. They brought her to Jesus as He sat teaching in the temple.

In a huddled heap, prostrate before Christ, she sobs bitterly. Alone, shivering at His feet, she listens to their indictment. The charge: adultery. The verdict: guilty. The penalty: stoning.

But the undaunted eyes of the omniscient Christ see the religious leaders’ intent with a glance. They came to trap Him.

Seeming to ignore them He stoops and writes something on the ground. The circle of bearded men impatiently watches and waits. Stones are ready in their hands. Suddenly He declares: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn. 8:7).

Again He stoops to write on the ground. One by one the accusers creep away into the crowded street to hide their shame.

Alone now, Jesus looks at the weeping woman at His feet.

“Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?”

Incredulous, she lifts her head for the first time and looks into the eyes of the one who will pay the price for her acquittal.

“No one, Lord.”

“Then neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more” (Jn. 8:10–11, paraphrased).

Jesus knows everything about me. I cannot hide anything from Him. But He’s not there to judge, accuse, or condemn me. Man has already done that. Jesus is there to offer forgiveness and to bid me not to sin again.

The past can’t be erased. I have to live with my mistakes. But God can use them for good when I have a contrite heart. God’s grace not only completely forgives; it tells me I can begin again.

When I asked Christ into my heart and felt His forgiveness, like the woman in the story, I saw the greatest miracle of all. It’s more marvelous than creation, more mysterious than the stars, more melodious than a symphony, more fabulous than life itself.

God forgives a sinner like me and sets me on the path of righteousness. “Go now and leave your life of sin,” He beckons. Can I do it?

Not in my own strength. Even though in my heart I desire to please God and I don’t want to sin again, I know I will.

The Apostle Paul put it this way: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Ro. 7:18).

The devil wants me to focus on the disease so I’ll forget the power of the Physician. But God is able to deliver those He has saved. No, I am not free from sin. It will always be present in my flesh. But my sin cannot condemn me because the blood of Christ satisfies God’s justice.

When I’m overpowered by temptation, I cry out to the Lord. My cry will keep me guiltless. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).

“Go, and sin no more” is a command and a challenge. It means I can begin again wherever I am because I am trusting Him. When I rely on His strength, He will help me. That’s why He came. His love and mercy see me through whenever I pray, “Lord, forgive me for my sins and give me the strength to ‘go, and sin no more.'”

Guilt Trip To…Nowhere

SOURCE: Adapted from  Stepping Stones/Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network

Because I teach people to make decisions based on information, not emotions, I cringe when I hear parents, ministries, or pastors using guilt to “motivate” others. “If you loved me, you would do your chores.” “I worked long and hard on this meal, so you better eat it.” “We’ll have to cancel the event … unless you help us.” “Look at these starving kids in Africa and all the food you throw away. Please send money.” “See the pain Jesus went through for you? You should feel terrible; now accept Him as your savior.”

Guilt is an incredible motivator, but that’s not the correct role for or use of guilt. I am all for pointing out injustices and needs so people can step into their roles to help these situations or make good decisions.

The issue I am trying to separate through these examples is this: we shouldn’t use guilt to motivate people.

Several subliminal, distorted, and false messages can unwontedly occur when people act out of guilt.   Here are some examples:

1. I am responsible for and can control someone else’s feelings through what I do.

2. The other person won’t feel better unless I act the way he wants.

3. When you want a friend to do something for you, it is OK to lay a guilt trip on her.

4. Decisions should be based on self-needs and emotions, not God’s truth, facts, and reasoning. This is probably the worst message of all.

Unfortunately, these distorted messages subtly seep into our everyday functioning, and dramatically interfere with Godly decision-making.

Many pastors and priests try to whip their congregations into Christian action by delivering guilt-inducing sermons. Whether it’s guilting someone to say the sinner’s prayer, to give money, to volunteer, or to stop a certain behavior, the end does not justify the means. I have personally experienced these guilt-evoking messages. And unfortunately, they undermine the very foundation of grace and love that God wants to instill in a believer’s heart.

Today, take notice if you are feeling guilty about something, or if you are inducing guilt in someone else. Stop and examine why guilt is present. Guilt is important if you have done something wrong. So let the guilt warn you that a problem exists. But don’t let it be your decision-maker. Let reason and the Bible direct your heart and actions. Confess, repent, apologize, and ask for forgiveness. You are responsible for your feelings and happiness; the other person is responsible for his own. Above all else, be mindful that God does not measure and judge you by the amount of good works you do. Rather He looks into your heart. It’s your decision to allow God or guilt to motivate you, so choose well.

Prayer
Dear Father God, I do not want to be stressed out about not “doing enough” as good Christian. I know that You want me to relax in the assurance of Your perfect love. Today help me remember that You delight in me more than I can ever imagine, that You see me cloaked in Your light and presence … and that there is no condemnation for those cloaked in You. Help me daily, Lord, to come closer to having the Mind of Christ. Help me make decisions based on Your word, not my feelings. Help me feel convicted and guilty about my wrongs, and then look to You for forgiveness, and to Your word for guidance in doing right. I pray in the name of the One who knew no guilt ‘til He bore all mine, Jesus Christ;   AMEN!

The Truth
I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest.  Isaiah 61:10

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  Romans 8:1-2

We Must Take SORROWS and SINS To God

SOURCE:  C. H. Spurgeon

    “Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.”

         — Psalm 25:18

 It is well for us when prayers about our sorrows are linked with pleas concerning our sins—when, being under God’s hand, we are not wholly taken up with our pain, but remember our offences against God. It is well, also, to take both sorrow and sin to the same place.

It was to God that David carried his sorrow: it was to God that David confessed his sin.

Observe, then, we must take our sorrows to God. Even your little sorrows you may roll upon God, for he counteth the hairs of your head; and your great sorrows you may commit to him, for he holdeth the ocean in the hollow of his hand. Go to him, whatever your present trouble may be, and you shall find him able and willing to relieve you.

But we must take our sins to God too. We must carry them to the cross, that the blood may fall upon them, to purge away their guilt, and to destroy their defiling power.

The special lesson of the text is this:—that we are to go to the Lord with sorrows and with sins in the right spirit.

Note that all David asks concerning his sorrow is, “Look upon mine affliction and my pain;” but the next petition is vastly more express, definite, decided, plain—“Forgive all my sins.” Many sufferers would have put it, “Remove my affliction and my pain, and look at my sins.” But David does not say so; he cries, “Lord, as for my affliction and my pain, I will not dictate to thy wisdom. Lord, look at them, I will leave them to thee, I should be glad to have my pain removed, but do as thou wilt; but as for my sins, Lord, I know what I want with them; I must have them forgiven; I cannot endure to lie under their curse for a moment.”

A Christian counts sorrow lighter in the scale than sin; he can bear that his troubles should continue, but he cannot support the burden of his transgressions.

 —————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening : Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

When [I] Look Like Satan

SOURCE:  Adapted from a post by  John Piper

When People Look Like Satan

God made humans to reflect his image and advance the display of his glory over the created world (Genesis 1:26–28). But Adam failed in this commission.

Rather than have dominion over the serpent he succumbed to its craftiness. As Greg Beale explains, “Instead of wanting to be near God to reflect him, Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8 [so also 3:10])” (NTBT, 359).

Sin brought chaos and disorder. Things got all messed up. In fact, things became so backwards that Adam could be seen as actually supressing the image of God to reflect the image of the serpent, like a back-story to Romans 1:18–25.

Adam was the first human idolator who became something he was not supposed to become, looking more like the snake than he did his Creator. Beale explains how:

“Idol worship” should be defined as revering anything other than God. At the least, Adam’s allegiance had shifted from God to himself and probably to Satan, since he came to resemble the serpent’s character in some ways.

[He Lied]
The serpent was a liar (Genesis 3:4) and a deceiver (Genesis 3:113). Likewise Adam, when asked by God, “Have you eaten from the tree of the which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11), does not answer forthrightly. Adam replies, “The woman whom you gave me to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12). Adam was deceptively blaming Eve for his sin, which shifted accountability from him to his wife, in contrast to the biblical testimony that Adam, not Eve, was accountable for the fall (e.g., see Romans 5:12–19).

[He Didn’t Trust God’s Word]
In addition, Adam, like the serpent, did not trust the word of God (with respect to Adam, see Genesis 2:16–173:6; with respect to the serpent, Genesis 3:14–5). Adam’s shift from trusting God to trusting the serpent meant that he no longer reflected God’s image but rather the serpent’s image. . . .

[He Exalted Himself]
[Adam] not only stood by while his covenantal ally, Eve, was deceived by the serpent, but also decided for himself that God’s word was wrong and the devil’s word was right. In so doing, perhaps Adam was reflecting another feature of the serpent, who has exalted his code of behavior over and against the dictates of God’s righteous standard. But, if not, certainly Adam was deciding for himself that God’s word was wrong. This is precisely the point where Adam placed himself in God’s place — this is worship of the self.

G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 359f., headings and full biblical citations added.

Adam was a deceiver. He didn’t trust God’s word. He exalted his standard above’s God’s in the worship of himself. Humans, created to image the majesty of God, rebelled and imaged the character of the serpent. This was the fall.

And it’s not just Adam’s story, it’s our story, too.

Sin is not a thing we can just sweep under the rug. It’s not a little this or that. Oh no. Sin is most fundamentally our acting like Satan instead of reflecting the glory of God.

Think about that for a moment.

Fudging on the truth, spinning things a bit, ignoring God’s word, elevating our reason above what he’s said — these are neither struggles nor foibles, they are Satanic. It is to deny the most fundamental purpose we exist: to glorify God and bear the imprint of his holiness.

One motivation to a life of repentance is to see our sin for what it truly is.

Living With an Angry, Abusive or Violent Spouse

SOURCE:  Edward T. Welch/CCEF

No matter how bad your situation is, remember that you are not alone.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

It shouldn’t happen.

You married someone you trusted, and you gave yourself to that person. How could it be that the person you once trusted with your life now acts like the person who could take your life? Whether you are facing unpredictable anger or outright physical abuse, this is betrayal at its worst.

It just shouldn’t happen.

A quick scan of the Internet reveals that you are certainly not alone. Twenty-five percent of adult women say they have experienced violence at the hands of their spouse or partner in a dating relationship. Men, too, can be victims of spousal violence. Eight percent report at least one such incident. But since men are more often violent against women, and since women are typically weaker than angry or violent men, this article is written especially for women.

If you have experienced violence, and you are living scared, statistics are little comfort. Women who live in identical conditions don’t protect you or give you hope for peace and reconciliation. But the numbers do remind you that others know the pain of such a living situation, and that resources are available to help you.

You are not alone: There are people who want to help.

Where can you turn for help?  Where can you find a wise friend to guide you?

If you attend a church, talk to your pastor. If you don’t attend a church, find one in your area. Look for a church that is centered on Jesus Christ and believes what the Bible says about Him—that He is the Son of God who came to earth, died for our sins, rose from the dead, and is the living and powerful head of His church today. Find a community of people who worship this Jesus and who express their worship in love for one another. There you will find hope and direction.

You are really not alone: Listen to the God who hears.

Your long-term goal should be to know the personal God. This won’t magically change your situation, but you will find that knowing God does change everything. Think about it for a moment. What would it be like to know you are not alone, you are heard, and the One who hears is acting on your behalf? It would make a difference. It would especially make a difference if you knew that this person was the holy King of the universe.

The challenge, of course, is that, at this time in history, you cannot see God with your eyes. When you want real hands and feet to help you, the knowledge of God’s presence might seem to provide very little consolation, but don’t let your senses mislead you. God’s presence is a real spiritual presence. The Spirit will confirm this, and “Blessed are those who have not yet seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29, ESV).

How do you know that the invisible God of the universe is with you? Look at the evidence from the past. The Bible is full of stories about God hearing the cries of His people and coming to their rescue.

In Genesis, the first book in the Bible, a woman named Hagar and her young son, were unfairly sent from their home and left in the wilderness to die. She turned her back on her son so she wouldn’t have to watch him die, and they both wept. They thought they were utterly alone, but “God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation’” (Genesis 21:17, 18).

This is a pattern. God’s ears are finely tuned to tears. Like a mother who wakes at the sound of her child, God hears the cries of the oppressed.

We see this again when God’s people, the Israelites, cried out because of their slavery in Egypt (Exodus 2:23, 24). Like Hagar, the people were not even crying out to God; they were simply crying, and God heard. While some people can hear and do nothing, when the God of heaven and earth hears, He acts. He gave Hagar and her son water and made her son the father of a great nation. He responded to the cries of the Israelites by delivering them from their slavery in Egypt.

So don’t think that God merely listens. His listening always includes action. We may not see all of what He is doing, but, make no mistake, He is acting.

You are not alone: The God who hears wants to listen to you.

God wants you to direct your cries and fears to Him. Does that seem impossible? If so, He will help you to find the words. Psalm 55 can get you started.

“My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest…For it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng.”
 (Psalm 55:4-8; 12-14)

Psalm 55 has given a voice to human betrayal for centuries. If the words fit your experience, then you are now part of a much larger body of people who have sung this psalm and made it their own. One person in particular leads the singing. Yes, King David wrote this psalm, but he wrote it on behalf of the perfect King who was to come after him. It is Jesus’ psalm, and you are sharing in His Words (read Mark 14). He was the innocent victim of evil people. He was tortured and suffered a terrible death at their hands. To be part of His chorus, all you have to do is follow Him.

Indeed, you are not alone.

The God who hears is against injustice.

The God who came to this world as Jesus and experienced oppression and injustice also stands against it. When people are oppressed by those who have authority or physical power, God pronounces grief and judgment on the oppressors.

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.”  (Jeremiah 23:1-3)

This doesn’t mean you should silently gloat, “Yeah, go ahead. You’ll get yours some day.” As you probably know, women who are victimized usually don’t think like that. It’s more likely that you feel guilty, as if somehow you are the cause of judgment on your spouse. But neither response is what God intends. He wants you to respond by depending on Him to be your defender. He wants you to trust that He is hearing your cries and is going to act on your behalf.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

Most likely, you are numb, scared, confused, and paralyzed. If this describes you, then you might know some action steps, but taking one will seem impossible. There is no trick to taking a first step; you just have to do it.

Start by making a phone call to your pastor or a friend. You need help, and God’s hands and feet often are the friends He raises up to help you. Look for God’s help to arrive from God’s people.

You have many reasons why you don’t ask for help. One is that you don’t know exactly what kind of help you need. For example, you aren’t eager for someone to confront your husband because you are afraid he will get even angrier at you. You don’t want to leave. So what’s left to do? Your path isn’t clearly marked, and you’re not sure what to do next. That makes it even more important for you to ask for help from someone else.

Don’t let your sense of guilt or shame paralyze you.

Another reason you might not ask for help is because you are experiencing something shameful. You’re probably asking, “What kind of wife gets treated this badly by her husband?” The wrong answer to that question is, “Only a bad wife could elicit such a response from someone sworn to love her.”

The truth is that you are not to blame for the cruel anger of another person. Even if you incite anger (and that is rarely the case), there is never any excuse for cruelty.

Put it this way: You cannot make someone else sin. Sin comes from our own selfish hearts. Your spouse, when he is sinfully angry, is caring only about himself and his own desires (James 1:13-15). He will try to make it sound like it’s your fault—there isn’t a victimized woman in the world who doesn’t feel like she is somehow at fault—but his sin is his alone.

If necessary, find refuge.

If you’ve been physically hurt by your spouse, and he continues to threaten you, then you should get protection. If children are threatened, this is essential. Every county in the United States has domestic abuse hotlines that will provide you with resources. Protection from abuse orders are available though your local courthouse. Friends may have an extra room or two. As you think about how to keep youself and your children safe, please find someone to discuss this with you and guide you. God’s wisdom says that the more important the decision, the more critical it is to receive counsel from wise people.

The reality is that most women who are suffering like you don’t take these steps. Some who do quickly renege on them and go back to the abusive situation. Why? Fear of retaliation, fear of aloneness, love for the perpetrator, hope that things at home will change, and the lingering guilt that says, “It’s your fault.” These are powerful tugs that make decisive action very difficult.

With this in mind, you can see how important it is to listen for the consensus among the wise people around you. If you have fears and doubts about their counsel, voice them.

Distinguish between loving your spouse and wanting to be loved by your spouse.

Here’s a hard distinction, but it can go a long way toward bringing you sanity. Have you noticed that in all relationships we balance our commitment to love with our desire to be loved? Usually the scales are tipped in favor of wanting to be loved. Your goal is to tip the scales towards a commitment to love.

This is the way to avoid the twin contaminants of most relationships—anger and fear. When you need someone more than you love that person, you will be prone to anger, because you don’t get the love that feels so critical to you. You will also be prone to fear, because the other person has the power to give or withhold what you think you need.

When you set your sights on your commitment to love, the possibilities are limitless. Love gives you the clarity to make difficult decisions on the fly. Should you speak out or be quiet?   Love can guide you more than you realize. Even going to someone else and asking for advice and help with your difficult relationship can be an expression of love. You need help because you care about your spouse. His foolish, selfish lifestyle is not only hurting you, but it’s also hurting him because it’s spiritually self-destructive. Love wants to warn the fool. It wants to rescue, if possible, the self-destructive person from the wrath of God.

Love can be patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13). It can rebuke (Leviticus 19:17). It can stand against injustice and confront another person in their sin (Matthew 18:15-17). The challenge is to keep the scales tipped in love’s favor.

You can only do this when you remember that God always tips the scales in love’s favor in His relationship with you. No matter how moral you have been, you have not been perfectly faithful to the one who created you. But instead of withdrawing in anger, God pursues you even when you don’t want to be pursued.

Find the book of Hosea in your Bible (it’s in the Old Testament), and read the first three chapters. You will get a picture of God as the relentless lover of His people. Although His people repeatedly reject Him, He will not give them up or let them go.

As you know and experience God’s pursuing love, your love for others will become stronger than your desire to be loved. Trusting in God’s love will free you to love others the way you have been loved. After all, when we were God’s enemies, He extended His call of love to us (Romans 5:10). Since God loved us like this, we should expect that we will have the opportunity to love others in the same way. The Bible calls this overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:20).

Learn to disarm an angry person.

Outfitted with love, you have more power than you think. Love comes from the Spirit of the living God, the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. Whenever you encounter the Spirit in the Bible, you encounter power. The power, of course, is the power of wisdom and love, and there are times when it can disarm an angry man.

Because of the limitless possibilities of love, let wise friends brainstorm and pray with you. Here are some things that the Spirit of power can help you do when you are faced with an angry spouse:

    • Ask him why he thinks you are the enemy.
    • Leave the house when he is sinfully angry.
    • Go and get help instead of being silenced by your shame and his threats.
    • Accept responsibility for your own sinful responses, and not accept responsibility for his.
    • Tell him what it is like to be the recipient of his anger and hatred. Angry people are blind to how they hurt others.
    • Ask him if he thinks that he has a problem.
    • Speak with a humility that’s more powerful than anger. When in doubt, you could ask what he thinks you did that was wrong. You don’t have to defend your reputation before him.
    • If he claims to want to change, ask him what steps he is taking to change.
    • Keep James 4:1-2 in mind. You are witnessing his selfish desires running amok. Be careful that you don’t become an imitator of such behavior.
    • Don’t minimize his destructive behavior. Sinful anger is called hatred and murder (Matthew 5:21, 22).
    • Read through the book of Proverbs underlining all the sayings about anger. Proverbs like “reckless words pierce like a sword” will validate your experiences (Proverbs 12:18).
    • Remember, it is possible to overcome evil with good.

This is only a sketchy list. The details will have to be worked out within your community of counselors. What guarantees do you have? God doesn’t guarantee the momentary peace and quiet you might be longing for; instead He promises you something much more lasting. He promises that as you turn and trust Jesus Christ you will become more like Him; that His Spirit will help you love more than you need to be loved; that God will be with you, He will hear and act on your behalf; and that although the Spirit of God is the one who changes hearts, you have more power than you know—the power to both know and promote peace.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Is it wrong to leave, even if my husband is violent?   Isn’t marriage a permanent commitment?   

The Bible does emphasize that marriage is a covenant that should not be broken unless we have God’s permission (Matthew 19:6). Do you have permission when there is domestic violence? Know this for certain: God opposes such evil and intends care for the oppressed (Jeremiah 23:1-3). Such care can sometimes be found in finding a place for refuge and protection. If you need to leave and seek safety, that is not necessarily a first step toward divorce. It is better understood as a statement of hope and a desire to see change in the marriage relationship.

You are right that these decisions are difficult. Therefore, ask for help. Ask your pastor to guide you in the knowledge of what God says.

Can angry men change?

This question can be heard two ways. First, “I want a relationship. Can my spouse change?” The answer is yes, absolutely! God changes all kinds of people. If He can change us, when we see that our hearts are prone to selfishness and quickly stray from trusting Him, then He can certainly change people who are like us.

You probably already believe that God has the power to change anyone. Your biggest struggle will be to put your hope in God more than you put your hope in your husband changing. When you put your hope in God, you live on a rock. When you put your hope in a person, you will feel like a life raft let loose on the open sea.

Second, this question might be about the process of change. You might be really saying something like this, “My husband has promised to change so many times, but we end up at the same place. Can he change, or is there a deeper problem?” Sin is hard to leave, in part, because we like it. In the case of abusive anger, the angry person might like the sense of power and control. If your husband says he wants to change, then he should have a plan. This plan should include at least the following things:

    • Accountability: He must be willing and able to speak openly about his sinful behavior to others who can help
    • Confession: He must be able to understand and confess that his anger has been destructive, recognize that his behavior is ultimately against God, and learn to hate his sin.
    • Growth in the knowledge of the true God: All the best intentions are not enough to bring about deep change. The real problem with angry men is their arrogance and “hatred toward God” (read James 4:1-10), in which case they must both confess their sin against God and set out on a course of knowing and fearing Him.

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      Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF).

It is a hard fight, BUT the victory is yours

SOURCE:  Octavius Winslow

He Is Faithful To Forgive

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Deal much and closely with the fullness of grace that is in Jesus. All this grace in Christ is for the sanctification of the believer. “It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell,” for the necessities of His people; and what necessities so great and urgent as those which spring from indwelling sin?

Take the corruption, whatever be its nature, directly and simply to Jesus: the very act of taking it to Him weakens its power; yes, it is half the victory. The blessed state of mind, the holy impulse that leads you to your closet, there to fall prostrate before the Lord in lowliness of spirit and brokenness of heart—the humble confession of sin, with the hand of faith on the head of Jesus, the atoning sacrifice—is a mighty achievement of the indwelling Spirit over the power of indwelling sin.

Learn to take the guilt as it comes, and the corruption as it rises, directly and simply to Jesus. Suffer not the guilt of sin to remain long upon the conscience. The moment there is the slightest consciousness of a wound received, take it to the blood of Christ. The moment a mist dims the eye of faith, so that you can not see clearly the smile of your Father’s countenance, take it that instant to the blood of atonement.

Let there be no distance between God and your soul. Sin separates.

But sin immediately confessed, mourned over, and forsaken, brings God and the soul together in sweet, close, and holy fellowship.

Oh the oneness of God and the believer, in a sin-pardoning Christ! Who can know it?—He only who has experienced it. To cherish, then, the abiding sense of this holy, loving oneness, the believer must live near the fountain. He must wash daily in the brazen laver that is without; then, entering within the veil, he may “draw near” the mercy-seat, and ask what he will of Him that dwells between the cherubims.

Thank God for the smallest victory gained. Praise Him for any evidence that sin has not entire dominion. Every fresh triumph achieved over some strong and easy-besetting infirmity is a glorious battle won. No victory that ever flushed the cheek of an Alexander or a Caesar may once be compared with his, who, in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, overcomes a single corruption. If “he that rules his spirit is better than he that takes a city,” then, he who masters one corruption of his nature has more real glory than the greatest earthly conqueror that ever lived.

Oh, how God is glorified—how Jesus is honored—how the Spirit is magnified, in the slaying of one spiritual enemy at the foot of the cross!

Cheer up, precious soul!

You have every encouragement to persevere in the great business of sanctification. True, it is a hard fight—true, it is a severe and painful contest—but the victory is yours! The “Captain of your salvation” has fought and conquered for you, and now sits upon His throne of glory, cheering you on, and supplying you with all needed strength for the warfare in which you are engaged.

Then, “Fight the good fight of faith, be men of courage,””be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,”—for you shall at length “overcome through the blood of the Lamb,” and be “more than conquerors [triumphant] through Him that has loved us.”

Here, beneath the cross, would I breathe for you the desire and the prayer once offered by the apostle of the Gentiles, in behalf of the church of the Thessalonians: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus. Christ.”  Amen and amen.

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Octavius Winslow (1808 – 1878), also known as “The Pilgrim’s Companion”, stood out as one of the foremost evangelical preachers of the 19th Century in England and America.

Leaving The Past — Stepping Into The Future

SOURCE:  Adapted from Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Ministry

[Try] as I may, I find that my brokenness and past sin are sometimes like a huge stone hanging around my neck. Carrying that stone causes guilt, shame, weakness, and at times, causes me to avoid certain opportunities and experiences. I know and believe I have been forgiven, but I struggle with laying down that stone and walking away from it. Many people share this struggle, do you?

Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible experiences for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform those mistakes and sins, the destructive guilt and anxiety, into constructive thought and hope for a transformed and transforming future. We don’t have to hold onto distorted lenses from past wounds and mistakes. But we do have to look back and re-examine them through Godly lenses, letting God into and heal our past so we can have clear lenses to see Him, ourselves, and daily experiences that He brings into our life today.

Trusting God’s forgiveness is a big and difficult stretch … for most, myself included, really receiving God’s forgiveness takes time. For me, I had to work up to this huge step of trust by practicing, implementing, and applying trust in much smaller areas of life and in my relationship with God. Then I was able to absorb His forgiveness in the bigger areas of my life. You can, too.

Trusting Him when there is an illness … a flat tire … change of plans … someone else is in charge … a deadline is changed … a random bill comes into your life … protection for your children is needed … feeling unloved or valueless. Like any skill, starting small, practicing, and then stretching it can lead to powerful capabilities. Trust is the same way. Trusting in His power of forgiveness is one of the richest skills you can develop. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Jesus Christ.

Today, leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into your invincible future with Him. Start by trusting Him, His agenda, promises, character, and instruction in 3 small situations today. You probably already do, but acknowledge and identify it so you can apply it to bigger, tougher areas tomorrow. Your decision, choose well.

Prayer
Dear Mighty and Forgiving God, I can easily become paralyzed with shame, guilt, and fear over my past. I have hurt You … and I know I have hurt others. I am so thankful for Your promise of forgiveness – Thank You, Lord. I ask You, Father, to help me lay down the heavy stone of my past that I have been carrying. Let me remember and be accountable for my past brokenness and sin … but let it not keep me from moving toward You with freedom. I pray in the name of the one whom You sent to lift the burdens of my past, Jesus Christ –AMEN!

The Truth
But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
Isaiah 52:12

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.
Jeremiah 33:8

Totally Ungodly BUT Totally Justified AND Secure

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by John Piper/Desiring God

God Justified the Ungodly

Let’s look at four things that justification means for those who receive the gift through trust in Jesus.

1. Forgiven for All Our Sins

First, being justified means being forgiven for all our sins.

All Sin—Past, Present, and Future

Look at Romans 4:5–8 where Paul is unpacking the truth of justification by quoting the Old Testament.

5) To one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. 6) So also David pronounces a blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7) “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8] blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin.”

This is right at the heart of justification. Cherish these three great phrases from verses 7–8: “iniquities are forgiven,” “sins are covered,” “the Lord does not reckon sin against us.”

Notice that Paul does not limit forgiveness to the sins we did before we believed—as though your past sins are forgiven but your future is up for grabs. There is no limitation like that mentioned. The blessing of justification is that iniquities are forgiven and sins are covered and “the Lord will not reckon sin against us.” It is stated in a very absolute and unqualified way.

Because Christ Bore Our Sin and Guilt

How can he do that? Romans 3:24 says that we are justified “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” That word “redemption” means freeing or releasing or loosing from some bondage or imprisonment. So the point is that when Jesus died for us, he freed us from the imprisonment of our sins. He broke the bonds of guilt that put us under condemnation.

Paul says in Galatians 3:13 that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law having become a curse for us.” Peter says (in 1 Peter 2:24), “Christ bore our sins in his body on the tree.” Isaiah said, “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (53:6).

So justification—the forgiveness of sins—comes to us because Christ bore our sin, bore our curse, bore our guilt, and so released us from condemnation. This is what it means that we are justified “through the redemption in Christ Jesus.” We are released from their punishment because he bore their punishment.

Christ Only Suffered Once

And mark this: he only suffered once. He is not sacrificed again and again in the Lord’s Supper or the Mass as though his first sacrifice were insufficient. Hebrews 9:26 says that “Christ appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (cf. Hebrews 7:27). And again it says in 9:12, “He entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” This is utterly crucial in order to grasp the glory of what God did for us at the cross.

Do you see the connection between the once for all death of Christ and the totality of your sins and the sins of all God’s people? It isn’t some sins, or certain kinds of sins, or past sins only, but sins and sin absolutely that Christ put away for all his people.

So the forgiveness of justification is the forgiveness of all our sins past, present, and future. That’s what happened when Christ died.

2. Reckoned Righteous with an Alien Righteousness

Being justified means being reckoned righteous with God’s righteousness imputed to us, or counted as ours.

We are not merely forgiven and left with no standing before God. God not only sets aside our sin, but he also counts us as righteous and puts us in a right standing with himself. He gives us his own righteousness.

The Righteousness of God Through Faith in Jesus

Look at verses 21–22. Paul just said in verse 20 that no human could ever be justified by works of the law. You can never have a right standing with God on the basis of legalistic strivings. Then he says (to show how justification is attained), “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, 22) the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”

So even though no one can be justified by works of the law, there is a righteousness of God that you can have through faith in Jesus Christ. This is what I mean when I say being justified means being reckoned righteous. God’s righteousness is counted as ours through faith.

When Jesus dies to demonstrate the righteousness of God, as we saw last week from verses 25–26, he makes that righteousness available as a gift for sinners. Had Christ not died to demonstrate that God is righteous in passing over sins, the only way the righteousness of God would have shown itself is by condemning us. But Christ did die. And so the righteousness of God is now not a condemnation but a gift of life to all who believe.

2 Corinthians 5:21

2 Corinthians 5:21 is one of the most breathtaking passages about this great gift of imputed righteousness. “For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Christ knew no sin. He was a perfect man. He never sinned. He lived perfectly for the glory of God all his life and in his death. He was righteous. We, on the other hand have all sinned. We have belittled the glory of God. We are unrighteous.

But God, who chose us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, ordained that there would be a magnificent exchange: He would make Christ to be sin—not a sinner, but sin—our sin, our guilt, our punishment, our alienation from God, our unrighteousness. And he would take the righteousness of God, that Christ had so awesomely vindicated, and make us bear it and wear it and own it the way Christ did our sin.

The point here is not that Christ becomes morally a sinner and we become morally righteous. The point is that Christ bears an alien sin and suffers for it, and we bear an alien righteousness and live by it.

Justification Precedes Sanctification

Be sure that you see the objective reality of this outside ourselves. This is not yet the reality of sanctification—the actual process of becoming morally righteous in the way we think and feel and live. That too is a gift . But it is based on this one. Before any of us can make true gospel progress in being righteous partially, we must believe that we are reckoned righteous totally. Or to put it another way, the only sin that you can overcome practically in the power of God is a forgiven sin. The great gift of justification precedes and enables the process of sanctification.

3. Loved by God and Treated with Grace

Being justified means being loved by God and treated with grace.

Christ Proves the Measure of God’s Love for Us

If God did not love you, there would have been no problem to solve by the death of his Son. It was his love for you that made him pass over your sin and that made him look unrighteous. If he did not love you, he would have solved the sin problem simply by condemning us all to destruction. That would have vindicated his righteousness. But he didn’t do that. And the reason is because he loves you.

This is most beautifully pictured in Romans 5:6–8.

While we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why one will hardly die for a righteous man—though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

What God is proving in the death of his Son is not only the truth of his righteousness, but also the measure of his love.

The Free Gift of God

In Romans 3:24 Paul says that we are justified “by his grace as a gift.” The love of God for sinners overflows in gifts of grace—that is, gifts that come from God’s bountiful kindness and not from our works or our worth.

The forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of God are free gifts. That means they cost us nothing because they cost Christ everything. They cannot be earned with works or inherited through parents or absorbed through sacraments. They are free, to be received by faith.

Romans 5:17 says it like this:

If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

The forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of God are free gifts of grace that flow from the love of God.

Being justified means being forgiven, being reckoned righteous, and being loved by God.

4. Secured by God Forever

Finally, being justified means being secured by God forever.

This is the crowning blessing. Paul proclaims it in Romans 8:30. “Those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

If you are justified, you will be glorified. You will reach the glory of the age to come and live forever with God in joy and holiness. Why is this so sure?

It is sure because the effect of the death of God’s Son is objective and real and definite and invincible for God’s people. What it achieves it achieves forever. The effect of the blood of Christ is not fickle—Now saving and now losing and now saving and now losing.

This is the point of verse 32, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?”—that is, will he not also glorify us! Yes! The same sacrifice that secures our justification secures our glorification.

If you stand justified this morning, you are beyond indictment and condemnation. Verse 33: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Do you see the point: if God has justified you through the death of his Son, no one—not in heaven or on earth or under the earth—no one can make a charge stick against you. You will be glorified.

Why? Because you are sinless? No. Because you are justified by the blood of Christ.

“Bring it here unto ME”

SOURCE:  Octavius Winslow/Deejay O’Flaherty

Take Our Sorrows to Him

“Bring him here to Me.”  Matthew 17:17

In your moment of disappointment and despair, Jesus meets you with the gracious words, “Bring it here unto Me.”

And now your spirit revives, your heart bounds, at the words, and you exclaim, “Behold, Lord, I come!”

Jesus says, “Bring your sorrows to Me!” Never did the soul find so powerful a magnet, attracting to itself affliction in every form, and sorrow in every shade — as Jesus.

Standing as in the center of a world of woe — He invites every [son and] daughter of sorrow, of sin, of grief to repair to Him for support, sympathy, and healing.

As the High Priest of His Church for whom alone He suffered, and wept, and sobbed — He unveils a bosom capacious enough and loving enough, and sympathizing enough — to embrace every sufferer, and to pillow every grief.

Accept, then, His compassionate invitation, and bring your grief to the soothing, sustaining, sanctifying grace of His heart!

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Octavius Winslow (1808-1878), also know as “The Pilgrim’s Companion,” stood out as a one of the foremost evangelical preachers of the 19th Century.

Bruised and Mutilated by Sin

The Bruised Reed

SOURCE:  John Macduff (by Deejay O’Flaherty)

“A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”  Isaiah 42:3

When a human soul is bruised and mutilated by sin, He (God) casts it not away. He repairs it for its place in the heavenly instrument, and makes it once more to show forth His praise.

Look at David, the Psalmist of Israel.

Who more a “bruised reed” than he?

God had inspired his soul—made it a many-stringed instrument in discoursing His praise; but now it lay a broken mutilated thing, with the stain of crimson guilt upon it, tuneless and mute. “I kept silence,” says he; “my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me, my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.”

Does Jehovah desert him?—does He cast the reed away and seek to replace the void by another, worthier and better? Does He mock the cry of penitential sorrow as through anguished tears that stricken one thus implored forgiveness—”Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving-kindness, according to the multitude of Your tender mercies blot out my transgressions”?

No.

Hear him detail his own experience—”I acknowledged my sin to You, and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’—and You forgave the guilt of my sin.” And then he takes up the re-tuned instrument, and sings for the encouragement of others—”Let everyone who is godly pray to You while You may be found.”

In the case of some aromatic plants, it is when bruised they give forth the sweetest fragrance; so it is often the soul crushed with a sense of guilt which sends forth the sweetest aroma of humility, gratitude, and love.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

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Macduff, John Ross, a Presbyterian minister, was born at Bonhard, near Perth, Scotland, May 23, 1818, and educated at the high school of Edinburgh and in the university of the same city. He became a minister of the Church of Scotland in 1842. Among his pastorates was one of fifteen years in the city of Glasgow. In 1871 Dr. Macduff gave up the pastoral relation. He is the author of a number of volumes in prose and poetry, some of which have great practical and devotional value and have a wide circulation. Most of his hymns appeared in his Altar Stones, 1853, and in The Gates of Praise, 1876. He died April 30, 1895. The Universities of Glasgow and of New York each conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity.

Sin Must NOT Keep You Away From Jesus!!

Does sin trouble you?

SOURCE:  Charles Spurgeon

Does sin trouble you?

Then remember that it is written, “All manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.”

Remember this again, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

And hear yet again this word, “Come now, and let us reason together: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Do you know, I feel right happy to have to talk to you about this, and yet I feel a dart going through me lest I should not speak of it as I ought to do; for, oh, I would that poor troubled sinners would see that sin need not deter them from coming to a reconciled God.

The blood of Jesus Christ has already removed from before the throne of justice all the transgressions of all those who come and rest in Jesus.

If you believe in the Savior sent of God, your sin is already gone, and you are accepted in the Beloved.

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From a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon entitled “Clearing The Road To Heaven.” 

Making A Bridge Over My Past

Forget and be Fruitful

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

“The past isn’t your past if it is still affecting your present.”

A personal past. We all have one. And sometimes they are not very glorious.

In some cases, painful pasts are consequences of our own bad choices. Self-inflicted wounds.

Often however, the heartache from the past has been caused by others. Betrayal. Unfaithfulness. Deceit. Broken trust. Slander. Needle-pointed thorns that have lodged in our hearts and festered into ugly infected wounds.

It is impossible to reach and stretch for the future when we live in the pain of the past.

The book of Genesis gives us a great example of this principle. Joseph, at seventeen years-of-age, was loved by his father Jacob“more than any other of his sons…and he made him a robe of many colors.” (37:3 ESV)  His brothers “hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.” (37:4 ESV)  They then conspired against him and “sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver” (37:28 ESV) who then “sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharoah, captain of the guard.” (37:36 ESV)  Potiphar’s wife then seduces Joseph, and when he rejects her advances, she falsely accuses him and “his master took him and put him into prison…” (38:20 ESV)  Many years later, he interprets a dream for Pharoah and is released from prison and put “over all the land of Egypt.” (41:43)  At 30 years-of-age (thirteen years after his brothers sold him into slavery) Joseph is given Asenath “the daughter of Potiphera priest of On” (41:50 ESV) in marriage and fathers two sons.

What’s interesting is the names he gives his sons. “Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh (making to forget) ‘For’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all of my hardship and all my father’s house.’ The name of the second he called Ephraim, (fruitfulness) ‘For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.’” (41:51-52 ESV)

Joseph determined that he would not be a prisoner of his past. All that had happened in the “prison” season of his life was neither fatal nor final.

Make a bridge over your past. Release it. Work through it. Stretch for the future and be fruitful.

The Apostle Paul expresses the same conviction in Philippians 3:13-14, “…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (ESV)

The beauty of a past that has been healed is expressed in The Song of Solomon, “My beloved speaks and says to me: ‘Arise my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come…” (2:10-12 ESV)

Let go of the past. Press toward the future. It just could turn your life around.

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