Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘perfection’

What’s Wrong With Me? I keep On Sinning !!

SOURCE:  R.C. Sproul

If the Holy Spirit lives in us, why can’t we live perfect lives?

Let me suggest to you that we can live perfect lives.

Now that may sound like the most outrageous thing you have ever heard, because one of the few things you’ll get both Christian and non-Christian to agree on is that nobody is perfect!

What the New Testament teaches, as I understand it, is that once the Holy Spirit comes into my life, once I’m indwelt by the Holy Spirit, I have living within me the power to obey God. The Holy Spirit gives me the power to obey the commandments of God, and the New Testament says there is no temptation that has ever befallen me that isn’t common to every person, and with the temptation God always provides a way of escape.

I don’t think anybody does, in fact, live a perfect life. But I think that God’s grace makes perfection a possibility.

I would say that I have opportunities to sin literally thousands of times a day. Every time I’m confronted with an opportunity to sin, there is a battle within my soul.

The indwelling Holy Spirit is inclining me toward righteousness and obedience. But remember that the Holy Spirit is living in me, in R. C. Sproul; he’s indwelling an imperfect creature, one who has not been totally cleansed of evil inclinations. So given the manifold opportunities to sin that I have and knowing that there’s warfare with every one of those opportunities between what the Bible calls my flesh and the Spirit, statistically it’s virtually inevitable that I’m going to sin and be far less than perfect.

If we look at them one at a time, we realize that in each single circumstance the power has actually been provided by God to resist that temptation. That’s why I can never stand before God and say, “God, you will have to excuse me; the devil made me do it” or, “The Holy Spirit was not powerful enough within me to have resisted that sin.”

So even though I believe that not even the apostle Paul ever achieved perfection in his life, it’s not because of any lack of power or ability or inclination of the indwelling Spirit.

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

Tough Questions with RC Sproul is excerpted from Now, That’s a Good Question!

Advertisements

“Help! I’m Wrecking My Kids!”

Why you’ll never be a perfect parent—and why you don’t need to be

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Carla Barnhill

If you’re a parent, you’ve received “the look.” You know which look I mean. It’s the one you get from the kid bagging your groceries while your three-year-old is coming unglued in the cart. It’s the one you get from that older woman you pass in the aisle at Target at the exact moment your five-year-old says “fart” in her outside voice. It’s the one you get from your mother-in-law when your six-year-old runs across her new carpet in his muddy shoes. It’s the one that says, “You are the most incompetent parent on the face of the earth.” And it might not bother us so much if we weren’t secretly afraid it were true.

Every parent I know—including me—is terrified that he or she is somehow messing up.

Take last month, when I realized I had neglected to sign up my son for kindergarten. (Please don’t ask how this happened. It’s a long and embarrassing story of maternal brain drain.) Because of my forgetfulness, it looked like he wasn’t going to get into the school our daughter attends—the school we’d been telling him he’d go to, the school all his friends were going to. So for several very tense days, my husband and I brainstormed and pursued our limited options.

Finally, the school called and said they were able to fit our son in. All was right with the world once again. But during those few days of uncertainty, I could hardly look at my sweet son. I tried telling myself

I was good at the things that really matter to my kids—loving them, caring for them, teaching them. And that worked until I reminded myself that school is one of those things that really matter. I felt horrible.

Not that this was the first time I felt I’d failed my children. No, that happens at least once a day. Even as I write this, my five-year-old is watching more TV than he should, and my one-year-old is in her crib crying because she’s just woken up from her nap. And I’m trying to squeeze out five more minutes to finish this paragraph. That’s right, I’m placing work ahead of my kids.

And these are just the little failures. The ones that really scare me are the ones I don’t even know about, the ones that won’t show themselves until my kids grow up. I can’t watch Oprah without worrying that one day it will be my adult children confessing to Dr. Robin that they can’t hold a job or stay in a marriage or stop robbing banks because of something I did—or neglected to do—that scarred them for life.

NO MAGIC FORMULA

If you’re a parent, you’ve likely experienced similar fears. This parental paranoia drives us to do everything possible to ensure that our children turn out OK. We read them children’s Bibles and teach them bedtime prayers and haul them to Sunday school every week to make sure they develop a faith that will carry them safely into adulthood. We read all the parenting books and listen to all the parenting experts and go to all the parenting classes in the hope that someone will give us the magic formula for raising happy, healthy children.

I hate to be the one to say this, but there’s no such thing. People who were raised by lovely, godly people still find ways to mess up their lives. And many wonderful, faith-filled adults grew up in homes where God’s name was only uttered in vain. There is no formula. There are no guarantees.

The idea that parenting is an “if…then” proposition (if you do everything right, then your children will reach adulthood unscathed) is deeply flawed—and dare I say unbiblical. It’s flawed because no one makes it to adulthood “unscathed.” It’s unbiblical because it takes the ways God can work in the life of your child right out of the picture.

Trying to live up to the myth of the perfect family leaves us stressed and anxious, and it’s no picnic for our kids either. When we judge ourselves by our children’s behavior, we tend to see all of their mistakes and few of their successes. We miss developing a relationship with the people they are because we are so focused on the people they aren’t.

How can we escape the cycle of fear and anxiety? Perhaps the solution is to start thinking differently about parenting.

TRANSFORMED PARENTS

I’d like to suggest a shift in perspective that recognizes that there is far more to parenting than making sure your children don’t swear at their teachers or sell drugs to the neighbors. It is a perspective of parenthood as a spiritual practice.

We tend to think of spiritual practices as those activities intended to draw us closer to God: prayer, devotions, worship, and so on. Yet when we expand our view a bit, we realize that God can use everything in our lives to form us into the people we were created to be. Think about the ways you’ve been formed by your marriage, your relationship with your best friend, or your work. We may not always respond to each person and situation very well or very quickly, but the more we practice loving our spouses or being patient with irritating coworkers, the more we are becoming like Christ.

The same is true in our relationships with our children. As we choose to stay calm when they push our buttons or show them mercy when they make mistakes, we are practicing the character of Christ. Even our missteps can become places where God is present and active and can shape us. I take great comfort in these words of the Apostle Paul: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Ro. 8:28). I am changed a little bit—for the good—even by my mistakes.

Let’s carry this perspective a step further. If we believe God uses everything to shape us, to heighten our resemblance to His Son, then our sense of proportion about parenting is also transformed. The momentary messiness of raising kids (supermarket tantrums, overlooked school enrollments) need not equal long-term failure (that appearance on Oprah). God, who is ever active in our lives and our children’s lives, is bigger than that.

TRANSFORMED CHILDREN

Did you catch that last bit of truth? God is active in our children’s lives. He is shaping them just as He is shaping us: in the daily ups and downs of life—at school, in the living room, wherever.

Just as God created us with love, care, and a purpose (Psalm 139), so He created our children. They carry the same image of God that we all do. They are filled with the gifts, passions, dreams, and quirks God gave them, and God has a deep, intimate love for that customized package.

Sure, our children will make mistakes. They will falter. They will fail. And they will do all of this despite our best efforts as parents because they are human, complete with all the maddening willfulness that makes them, well, human. But throughout that process, God will love them and care for them and provide for them in ways we can’t begin to imitate.

That’s really what makes parenting such a blessing. We get to be present for the creation of a human being. There is no other relationship in which we are there from the very beginning. And as that child develops, we get to watch her discover who she is and what God has in store for her.

In those moments when I doubt God’s presence in our lives, I only need to look at the way my children are changing every day to be reminded that God is ever-active in their hearts. I watch my daughter help a hurt classmate or stick up for her brother. I was once moved to tears as my son carefully carried a cup of water across the lobby of our doctor’s office so that he could give it to his sick sister. And they are both blossoming in the presence of our new baby, showing gentleness and maturity I never knew were there. These are not gifts I have given them; these are expressions of the character God placed in them. They are the result of God’s hands forming them, shaping them, and changing them.

When we see God as present in the good and the bad, we can take each success and failure at face value. Our daily missteps no longer need to trip us up because we know that God is working with a far bigger picture, one that we can’t mess up. Parenting is no longer about what we have done right or wrong, but about what God is doing in our lives and the lives of our children. We are freed from fear to embrace the wonder and beauty of raising our children—those agents of God’s love and grace who enrich our lives.

Handling My Mistakes

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article at  Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Since every [one of us] makes mistakes regularly, the categories [in which we can find ourselves] are:

1. Make a mistake, get down on yourself, follow it up with another mistake, don’t learn from either mistake, continue in a minimal growth process imposing a glass ceiling on your potential;

2. Make a mistake, follow it with corrective or atoning action, then learn from your mistake to improve and grow yourself and your skills, and achieve your maximal God-given potential.

Even the most mature Christian’s faith falters at times … we all make mistakes. But this must not be thought of as failure. None of us are perfect … we don’t have the total functioning mind of Christ now.  We will be fully sanctified when we are with Him in heaven. Until then, we will stumble at times … not always believing and acting on the truths we intellectually know are true.

Peter’s faith faltered when he was walking on water, even in the presence of the Lord. When your faith does falter, do as Peter did, reach for Your Lord’s hand. Peter was able to use that situation as an opportunity to draw closer to God … to use God’s lenses to examine his heart … to see where he mistakenly placed his trust instead of in God’s teachings, promises, and character.

So too, when you put your faith or confidence in something other than God … like others’ opinions or approval … your finances or possessions … skills or intellect … looks or status … you will falter. Confess your sin … that in that moment you are worshipping another false god.

Today, receive God’s forgiveness and instruction. Examine how life would be if you put your confidence and faith in God instead of yourself or the things of this world. Growth, peace, and awesome worship of God will be your reward when you seize this opportunity instead of wallowing in shame, self-pity, and wasting God’s power to transform your life. When your faith falters, don’t follow it up with another mistake. Instead, confess your mistake and learn why your faith was in yourself or this world.  Your choice, so why choose to struggle if you don’t have to?

Prayer

Father God, my Lord, when my faith falters, remind me that I have not totally failed. When Peter’s faith faltered, he reached out to You, Lord, the only One who could save him. When I am afraid, I look to You, my Savior. I take Your hand as You reach out to save me. Thank You, Jesus. Help me remember each second that You are the only one who can really help. I pray that You touch me with Your healing power. Help me, Lord, to maintain my faith when situations are difficult. Help me keep my eyes on Your healing power rather than on my inadequacies or Satan’s masquerading idols. I pray this in the name of my safety net when I stumble, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said,”why did you doubt”

Matthew 14:30-31

 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Hebrews 12:2-3

Marriage As It Was Meant to Be

Adapted from:   Different By Design by John MacArthur

Ephesians 5:22-33, Luke 1:38, Genesis 2:24, Deut. 22:6
Our entertainment-saturated society helps feed all sorts of illusions about reality. The fantasy of the perfect romantic and sexual relationship, the perfect lifestyle, and the perfect body all prove unattainable because the reality never lives up to the expectation.

The worst fallout comes in the marriage relationship. When two people can’t live up to each other’s expectations, they’ll look for their fantasized satisfaction in the next relationship, the next experience, the next excitement. But that path leads only to self-destruction and emptiness.

Marriage is the capstone of the family, the building block of human civilization. A society that does not honor and protect marriage undermines its very existence. Why? Because one of God’s designs for marriage is to show the next generation how a husband and wife demonstrate reciprocal, sacrificial love toward each other.

But when husbands and wives forsake that love, their marriage fails to be what God intended. When marriage fails, the whole family falls apart; when the family fails, the whole society suffers. And stories of societal suffering fill the headlines every day.

Now, more than ever before, is the time for Christians to declare and put on display what the Bible declares: God’s standard for marriage and the family is the only standard that can produce meaning, happiness, and fulfillment.

Divine Directives for Wives

One of the most explicit passages of Scripture that outlines God’s standard for marriage is Ephesians 5:22-33. Wives often bear the brunt of that section, but the majority of the passage deals with the husband’s attitude toward and responsibilities for his wife. Nonetheless, here’s the wife’s responsibility before the Lord:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything (vv. 22-24).

Submission in no way implies a difference in essence or worth; it does refer, however, to a willing submission of oneself. Wives, submission is to be your voluntary response to God’s will–it’s a willingness to give up your rights to other believers in general and ordained authority in particular, in this case your own husband.

Husbands aren’t to treat their wives like slaves, barking commands at them; they are to treat their wives as equals, assuming their God-given responsibility of caring, protecting, and providing for them.

Likewise wives fulfill their God-given responsibility when they submit willingly to their own husbands. That reflects not only the depth of intimacy and vitality in their relationship, but also the sense of ownership a wife has for her husband.

Keep in mind that the wife’s submission requires intelligent participation: “Mere listless, thoughtless subjection is not desirable if ever possible. The quick wit, the clear moral discernment, the fine instincts of a wife make of her a counselor whose influence is invaluable and almost unbounded” (Charles R. Erdman, The Epistles of Paul to the Colossians and to Philemon [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966], 103).

Elisabeth Elliot, writing on “The Essence of Femininity,” offers a fitting summary of God’s ideal for wives:

Unlike Eve, whose response to God was calculating and self-serving, the virgin Mary’s answer holds no hesitation about risks or losses or the interruption of her own plans. It is an utter and unconditional self-giving: “I am the Lord’s servant … May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). This is what I understand to be the essence of femininity. It means surrender.

Think of a bride. She surrenders her independence, her name, her destiny, her will, herself to the bridegroom in marriage … The gentle and quiet spirit of which Peter speaks, calling it “of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4), is the true femininity, which found its epitome in Mary (John Piper, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood [Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1991], 398, 532, emphasis added).

Divine Directives for Husbands

After giving the divine guidelines for the wife’s submission, Paul devotes the next nine verses of Ephesians 5 to explain the husband’s duty to submit to his wife through his love for her: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church” (v. 25). The Lord’s pattern of love for His church is the husband’s pattern of love for his wife, and it is manifest in four ways.

Sacrificial Love

Christ loved the church by giving “Himself up for her.” The husband who loves his wife as Christ loves His church will give up everything he has for his wife, including his life if necessary.

Most of you husbands would give verbal assent to that–literally dying for your wife is such a remote possibility for most of you. But I would speculate that it is much more difficult to make lesser, but actual sacrifices for her.

Husbands, when you put aside your own likes, desires, opinions, preferences, and welfare to please your wife and meet her needs, then you are truly dying to self to live for your wife. And that is what Christ’s love demands.

Purifying Love

Christ loved the church sacrificially with this goal in mind:

That He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless (vv. 26-27).

Love wants only the best for the one it loves, and it cannot bear for a loved one to be corrupted or misled by anything evil or harmful. If you really love your wife, you’ll do everything in your power to maintain her holiness, virtue, and purity every day you live.

That obviously means doing nothing to defile her. Don’t expose her to or let her indulge in anything that would bring impurity into her life. Don’t tempt her to sin by, say, inducing an argument out of her on a subject you know is sensitive to her. Love always seeks to purify.

Caring Love

Another aspect of divine love is this:

Husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church (vv. 28-29).

The word translated “cherishes” literally means “to warm with body heat”–it is used to describe a bird sitting on her nest (e.g., Deut. 22:6). Husbands, you are to provide a secure, warm, safe haven for your wife.

When your wife needs strength, give her strength. When she needs encouragement, give it to her. Whatever she needs, you are obligated to supply as best you can. God chose you to provide for and protect her, to nourish and cherish her, and to do so “as Christ also does the church.”

Unbreakable Love

For a husband to love his wife as Christ loves His church he must love her with an unbreakable love. In this direct quotation from Genesis 2:24, Paul emphasizes the permanence as well as the unity of marriage: “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh” (v. 31). And God’s standard for marriage still hasn’t changed.

Husbands, your union with your wife is permanent. When you got married, you had to leave, cleave, and become one with your wife–never go back on that. Let your wife rest in the security of knowing that you belong to her, for life.

Just as the body of Christ is indivisible, God’s ideal for marriage is that it be indivisible. As Christ is one with His church, you husbands are one with your wives.

Paul goes on to say, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (v. 32). Why is submission as well as sacrificial, purifying, and caring love so strongly emphasized in Scripture? Because the sacredness of the church is wed to the sacredness of marriage.

Christian, your marriage is a testimony to the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. Your marriage will either tell the truth about that relationship, or it will tell a lie.

What is your marriage saying to the watching world? If you’ll walk in the power of the Spirit, yield to His Word, and be mutually submissive, you can know that God will bless you abundantly and glorify His Son through your marriage.

What does repentance look like? How do you know they’ve changed?

SOURCE:  Counseling Solutions

Repentance should not be hard to discern. Simply put…repentance looks like Christ. Jesus is the template or bench mark we need to compare ourselves to. If a person is repentant, then there is a conscious effort to continue to grow into and look like Christ and all that they understand Christ to be.

(Though their understanding of Christ may not be completely accurate, a repentant person will be humble enough to receive the adjustments you bring into his/her life.)

For example, you would see the evidence of Christ through what Paul called the fruit of the Spirit. (See Galatians 5:22-23) You also see another picture of repentance in Luke 15:17. This is the story of the Prodigal Son where beginning in verse 17 he repented and then began mapping out a plan for his repentance.

Repentance should not a mystery. It should be obvious, objective, and measurable. All you or I need to do is hold up the person’s life to the mirror of God’s Word and he/she should be imperfectly seeking to learn how to be like Christ because Christ is the perfect representation of what all of us should be.

It is important to note that you’re not looking for perfection, but you are looking for objective evidences that would signify change from Adamic ways to Christlike ways has begun. Minimally, you should see embryonic manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit.

What reasonable repentance should look like

I have listed for you some components of repentance: humility, sincerity, transparency, and honesty. These character traits accompany anyone who is sincerely seeking to live out the Christ-life. A repentant person is a humble person and a humble person receives the empowering grace from the Spirit to be transformed into Christ. (James 4:6) The repentant is empowered, illuminated, and enabled by the Spirit of God. Though God does resist the proud He does not resist the humble, but chooses to give them grace for change, which is what repentance is.

It is important for us to also know that repentance is NOT a one time event, in that I repent at regeneration and never have to repent again. The Christian life is a life of repentance and on-going repentance. This is key in understanding what genuine repentance looks like. Our life is progressive in nature, which is what theologians have termed “progressive sanctification.” I have often said that our life should resemble the “stock market,” in that we should always be trending upward, though there will be dips all along the way.

We have the power to live out imperfect perfection

If the Holy Spirit is indwelling any person and the Word of God is active and powerful, which He is and it is, then there should be objective evidence of this in a person’s life. The Christian life begins by being RE-generated (born again from above). This is a gift from God. The Father has given us a new life in Him and with that life is power to change. This is what happens to dead people. (Eph. 2:1-10) When Lazarus came out of the tomb it was quite obvious as to what happened to him. He was alive and appropriately animated. It was observable and measurable.

Though there will be imperfections in exhibiting certain manifestations of the Christ life, there should be some things that accompany anyone who has authentically repented. Again, I’m not looking for the person to act like Paul when he went from Saul to Paul, but the little things that I look for in people who have repented and are repenting would be the following, though this is not an exhaustive list:

  1. Teachability: a humble person is teachable. I’m not really concerned about how “on fire” they are for God. I don’t see that as much an evidence of repentance as much as a person’s personality. In fact sometimes the folks who are “on fire” for God flame out the quickest, because their enthusiasm is not genuine or God-motivated. But if the “on fire” guy and/or the “ain’t got no fire” guy is teachable, then that is a very good sign.
  2. Open to correction: this is a huge one as far as I am concerned. When I correct a repenting Christian, and they receive that correction with humility, it is a pretty cool thing and a definite sign of repentance. I don’t enjoy correction, but when I am corrected and receive it, I know that God is working in me. He gives grace to the humble. However, when I bow-up (resist correction), then I have not truly repented.
  3. Change happens: each new encounter with a repentant person, especially in a discipleship context, should be a “step up” from the previous encounter. I’ve used the analogy of “walking up steps” as a metaphor regarding what change should look like. True repentance should look like the person is walking up steps, i.e. getting higher, moving forward, progressing, etc. In short, they should be changing from week to week, even if only small ways, e.g. Baby Steps. (I had to say that.)
  4. They ask more questions rather than make more statements: the repentant person is an inquiring person. They are anxious to receive from you rather than telling you why they do whatever it is they have done. The proud person talks a lot, makes statements, where the humble person will ask more questions and seek to learn because they want to change and grow.
  5. The light has been left on by God: I don’t know how to explain this one except to say that a repentant person is being illuminated by the Spirit of God. They get truth. They understand the Bible. The biblical concepts and truths you communicate to them make sense to them. I’ve counseled folks who seem more like a concrete block in that they don’t get the truths I’m communicating. I’m aware that I can be a poor communicator, but I’m also aware that the Spirit of God speaks clearly to the spiritual and if there is a sinful (lack of repentance) impediment in the way then He will not be effective.
  6. They are not resistant: this one is huge. The humble person does not push back from your counsel. Even if you are wrong or don’t say it exactly right. They are open, kind, receptive and willing to learn. They are not sitting there with their “Bible bullets,” waiting to shoot the next words that come from your mouth.

I have counseled many people through the years who exhibit these character traits. In many cases they exhibit them in far greater ways than I do. In such cases it has been a joy to watch the Counselor (Spirit of God) do His thing with such humble Christians who are serious about change.

Tag Cloud