Spiritual Truths and Life Problems

As we have studied sin consciousness vs. righteousness consciousness we have learned that this spiritual condition can affect our emotional and psychological lives.  I am convinced that the more we remove the spiritual cause from the equation the easier it will be to deal with the emotional and psychological issues.  This is very important in our society.  For those of us who pastor churches it is evident that the emotional life is a weak link for most people. 

We are under greater stress today than ever before, but the bulk of this stress in inward not outward.  In the past people dealt with exhausting physical labor.  Whether it was farming or housework people spent most of their day in wearying activity.  Today we have all kinds of labor saving devices.  Paying for all these devices as well as the time they afford us to meditate on bad things can cause our minds to be under great stress.  We have more time for fear, anxiety and temptation.  Put this together and the array of emotional issues people face is staggering. The most important element in overcoming these issues is the application of spiritual truth.  Let’s look at some specifics.

We have talked about the measure up syndrome to some degree.  This is the tendency to live life trying to measure up to some standard communicated to us often by parents but sometimes by others. It is an abstract standard and for those under this pressure they can never really feel they have “measured up.  Nothing is good enough and no amount of approval satisfies their need.  The spiritual solution is to apply the truth of Righteousness.   Righteousness says that I am already “right” or approved by God, so nothing else matters.

Another very common issue is rejection.  There are so many components to this that it is impossible to list them all, but the solution is the same.  We need to build in the truth stated in Eph. 1:6 that God has made us accepted.  If we are accepted we are not rejected. 

Another major issue is a lack of forgiveness.  When we choose to hold the past against someone else we only poison our own future.  If we understand that we are forgiven, it is possible for us to forgive others. 

Marriage discord is a major problem in our world.  Two people fall in love, but they find that the differences between them make falling out of love all too easy.  The issues may be big or small, but the everyday nature of marriage can be difficult to make work.  In the end every issue can be solved if we choose to apply the lessons of 1 Cor. 13 to our spouse.  If we choose to love them in that way everything else will work itself out.  This is made possible when we realize that we are loved this way by God. 

There are countless examples that could be cited, but I hope you get the idea.  Each of these really are components of righteousness.  How do we release these things into our lives?  Counseling that leads us to understand how these truths relate to our personal life is helpful.  Sometimes the strongholds built around these problems can need deliverance which is the breaking of demonic power.  The most important element, however, is our own commitment to the Word of God.  If we want to be free we must decide to read, study and meditate in the word of ourselves. 

Rom. 10:17 tells us faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  We need to be willing to fight for our freedom by applying the Word until the faith for change is produced.  We need the body of Christ around us to help us in this process, but in the end it is the Word that will change us.  Our effort is to apply the Word.  The Word will make the change.

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Whose Opinion is Most Important

Romans 8:33 ( NKJV )
Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

In our discussion of developing a righteousness consciousness as opposed to a sin consciousness I asked the question, “Whose opinion is most important to you?”  We have discussed how the negative opinions of parents or others who hold influence in our lives can come to dominate our behavior.  Everyone needs to feel loved, accepted and respected.  When we don’t receive that from those around us it can be very difficult to cultivate a good opinion of ourselves.  It is human nature to look to others for these things.  Psychologist might say we need to cultivate that opinion within and forget about what everyone else thinks, but that is contrary to the way God created us.  We are going to be moved by someone’s opinion.  We need to realize that we can choose whose opinion to believe.

In reality the opinion we are all seeking is the one Adam felt had been corrupted in the Garden.  All others are substitutes for this one opinion.  What does the Father God think of us.  Before salvation we really have no hope of resolving that issue, but once we are saved we have an open relationship with the Lord.  If we cultivate His opinion of us we will take on that opinion of ourselves.  This may take time, but Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God has the power to change us.  The question then becomes, what does God think of us.

Many people simply assign the opinion of others to God.  They do this subconsciously, but it is very real and becomes a major hindrance to their ever walking in freedom.  Fortunately we don’t have to rely on hearsay to determine God’s opinion of us.  He wrote that opinion down in His book.  One of the most powerful studies you can do is look up all the phrases such as “In Christ, In Him, In God”, and see what it says.  That is God’s opinion of you.  One example is just after the scripture above. 

Romans 8:37 ( NKJV )
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

God thinks you are more than a conqueror.  Others may think you can’t accomplish much, but God thinks you can do anything.  You can find myriad references to His love for you, His faith in you and His desire to have you as a child.  There is not room to quote them here, but look up some of these “in Him” realities and allow them to determine God’s opinion of you.  As you do so begin to accept by faith that God can’t be wrong.  He is, after all, God!  As you let the Word of God’s opinion build in your heart you will change your opinion as well.

The scripture I quoted in the beginning is most appropriate to the discussion of righteousness.  In this scripture and the paragraph that surround it God is letting us know that it is His opinion that the price for man’s transgression is paid.  No one has the right to bring a charge against us.  I believe that this can be applied in more than just a legal sense.  I believe we can apply this to the opinions of others as well.  We must remain submitted to those in authority and teachable in spirit.  That is vitally important.  However, when someone has an opinion about us that threatens to control our destiny and draw us away from God’s opinion, I believe we have a right to resist.  Not resist the person so much as the devil behind this non biblical opinion of who we are. 

I choose to believe what God says about me. Since it is He who justified me, saved me, and qualified me as His son, I will compare the opinions of others with His opinion.  I will receive counsel and accept correction, but I will build my opinion of myself on God sees me and not on anyone else’s opinion of who or what I am.

Righteousness Consciousness 3

Hebrews 10:14 ( NKJV )
For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

This week I have been discussing the idea that we, as Christians, should not be living a “sin conscious”life  but that we should be developing a righteousness consciousness.  This stems from the transfer of as sense of guilt to all mankind as a result of the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden.  This underlying sense of guilt combines with our own life experiences and personal failures to create many emotional and psychological problems.  The solution is to clean up the “muck” of this underlying guilt, or unrighteousness, by building the word of righteousness into our lives. 

One of the central questions to accomplishing this is, “Who’s opinion is most important to us?”  In many cases the problems we face stem from someone’s opinion.  Usually it is a parent who, either through simple weakness or by forms of abuse, communicate disapproval or rejection to their children.  Although parents are the most common sources of bad opinions, it might also be a sibling, a teacher, a friend or anyone else that means a great deal to us.  The end result is the same.  The opinion of the person who mattered so much to us becomes our opinion of our who we are.  When that happens we are in for a difficult time.

Most people will respond in one of two ways.  They often try to change the bad opinion through various kinds of behavior.  Many become driven.  They work to show whoever communicated this opinion  that they were wrong.  This behavior doesn’t stop when the other person dies.  Most spend their whole life “measuring up” to a standard they cannot even define.  This will affect relationships, work and physical and emotional health.

The second tendency is to accept the opinion and simply become that person.  It may manifest in any number of ways.  If they were called stupid they become stupid.  If they were told they were useless they become useless.  If they were continually called a “bad” person, then that’s what they become.  How many tragedies have we seen develop in this way?

If we are saved, however, we do not have to let these opinions define our lives. There is another opinion that we need to cultivate.  This opinion as expressed in the Word of God has a supernatural ability to override and overwrite all other opinions.  It is the one person who’s opinion must matter more to us than any other.  Who is that person.  It is our heavenly Father, our creator and our God. 

You see even our parents don’t know us like God does.  He has seen every action and heard every bad thought.  More than that He made us.  He knows what he put into us and why we exist.  Neither our parents nor any other person can say that.  What is His opinion of us.  The above scripture tells us that He thinks we have been made perfect.  He knows we have certain things to work on, but we are in perfect relation to Him and He perfectly loves us. 

To really overcome the false opinions of others we must learn what God thinks about us.  Even if this is not a deep seated problem for you, developing an understanding of how God sees you will strengthen and encourage you.  When we allow the opinions others to become rooted in us we tend to become that person.  Imagine if we really let what God thinks of us take root in our hearts.  We will become what His opinion is. 

Tomorrow we will look into the Word to find out what God really thinks of you.

Righteousness Consciousness 2

Hebrews 10:1-2 ( NKJV )
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.

Yesterday I began to talk about how the sense of guilt and separation that was introduced to humanity at the fall of man affects us today.  I talked about the underlying “muck” of guilt from the fall and how our personal experiences get stuck in that muck making what we feel that much worse.  In the above scripture this is called a “consciousness of sin.”  The solution to the problem is found in another set of verses from this same chapter.

Hebrews 10:11-14 ( NKJV )
And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

Most people do not make the connection between what they are feeling and this bible truth.  In counseling we often dig into the past to find the root of the individual’s experience and minister to that area.  We offer wisdom from the Word, prayer, deliverance from evil spirits and even physical healing if necessary.  All of this can be valid and is sometimes necessary, however what if we simply get rid of the muck.  If we can remove unrighteousness from the equation and replace it with a sense of right standing with God, how much would that eliminate the individual’s need for other kinds of ministry?  In addition, how much would that make counseling more effective?  I believe the answer is it would help a great deal indeed.

Let’s start by looking at this section of scripture.  Under the Old Covenant the priests offered sacrifices every day.  These sacrifices did not take away sin but, in fact, served as daily reminders of man’s sinfulness.  That is exactly what most religion does.  It tries to convince us that we are sinners and that we need to apply religious practices to that sinfulness in order to gain some kind of relief.  It is also what society does by establishing norms and pointing out where we don’t measure up to them. The next statement says, “But this man.”  Christianity is not about religious practice it is about “this man” Jesus. 

This man offered up His own blood as the payment for the sins of all mankind.  When he did that he perfected those who were being sanctified.  These two terms seem at odds with one another.  In truth they give tremendous insight into how we can be free from the underlying “muck” of unrighteousness.  We have been perfected by the blood sacrifice of Jesus.  We are still being sanctified which means God is not done with us yet, but in terms of our position in God we have been made perfect. 

I don’t have to be mired in guilt or unrighteousness any more.  Although I may have some experiences that have caused me problems in my living of life, I need to know that, in God’s eyes, if I am saved I am perfectly in right relationship with Him.  This may sound simple or even naive, but if we take the Word of God and build this truth into our thinking we will stop living in a consciousness of sin and begin to believe what 2 Corinthians 5 tells us.  I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.  The more we believe this truth the more we eliminate the consciousness of sin and begin to walk in a consciousness of righteousness.

Now let me ask you a question.  Who’s opinion is the most important opinion in your life?

Righteousness Consciousness

Hebrews 10:1-2 ( NKJV )
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.

For the past few posts I have been talking about the topic of righteousness.  I have come from the point of view that the sin of Adam carried with it a sense of guilt and separation.  Romans 5 specifically says that the sin and the sin nature it produces passed upon all who were born after Adam.  (Rom. 5:12-14)  I believe that man also carried the sense of Guilt and separation that came with the sin.  This accounts for the cultural tendency to “guilt” based religions that appear in every society. 

I also believe it contributes to the tendency of human beings to suffer the kind of psychological problems we see in modern society.  From divorce to parental abuse and everything in between there are more and more people suffering emotional trauma and breakdown.  I don’t believe this is a new thing, but I do believe that the lack of a need to do what it takes to survive has contributed to the problem.  We have a great deal of time on our hands compared to other parts of the world and even other times in our own history.  I have traveled to many parts of the world where obtaining enough food or living under oppressive regimes occupies the souls of the people.  In those places these psychological issues are not on the surface if they are concerns at all.

What we see in America is that we have the time and opportunity to feel the underlying sense of separation that Adam’s disobedience brought upon man.  It’s like a sticky muck that floats under our conscious minds.  When things really do happen to us those words or experiences tend to stick in that muck. 

The experience itself is made worse by the fact that it is stuck there.  First this muck tends to make the feeling of the things stick with us for a longer period.  In some cases indefinitely.  It tends to brew in our subconscious until it becomes the defining thing in our lives.  It colors every emotion and response.

Second the muck makes the experience that much worse.  The guilt or rejection we feel connects with this underlying guilt and the whole package becomes more than we can bare.  Often the problem is with a parent but it may be many other life areas or relationships.  Something is said or done.  Mostly over a long period but sometimes it is a single incident at a critical time.  The thing itself is bad, but once it gets into the muck it becomes much worse because the muck will tend to bring guilt into the equation.  We begin to self hate, self condemn and eventually self destruct. 

How does this relate to the scripture above.  This muck is what the writer describes here.  A consciousness of sin.  An underlying sense that I have sinned, I will sin and I am guilty.  Not guilty “for”, but just guilty.  Whatever has happened to me is where I will hang that guilt.  We can spend a great deal of money in therapy getting help for this condition, but if we don’t realize that the Creator already knows and has provided a solution it will do no good. 

What can wash away my sin, my guilt, my shame?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus. 

More tomorrow.

Why Are You Hiding Part 3

Genesis 3:9-10 ( NKJV )
Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”  So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

I have been spending time in this forum talking about the affect of the fall of man on us today.  When Adam and Eve committed the sin of high treason in the Garden of Eden, the bible says that death passed upon all men.  In Romans 5 we see this truth but we also see another reality.  Life came to all by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  For anyone who chooses to receive Jesus as both Lord and savior the affect of the fall has been reversed.  We are “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”  We are back in relationship with the Father God.  All of the blessings of God’s covenant with Abraham are ours.  In fact the book of Hebrews tells us that we have a better covenant with better promises.  In the words of the book of Genesis everything is good.

In over 30 years as a pastor, I have seen countless people who were truly saved have great difficulty living in the blessings of that salvation.  I believe that a root cause is the guilt that came upon man in the Garden along with the curse.  Adam was guilty.  He had committed a terrible sin.  He knew it, that’s why when God came calling He found Adam hiding.  Not only was Adam hiding but he was also trying to cover that guilt with fig leaves.  In a prophetic act God showed Adam that there was nothing he could do to cover himself.  God had to do the covering and he did it by shedding blood and covering them with the skins of animals. 

For all of history man has tried to cover this guilt.  It is real.  We carried the guilt of what Adam did.  We carry it in the curse of rejection, discouragement and many other emotional and psychological problems that continue to plague us even after salvation.  We are forgiven by God, but there is something else we need.  We need to have this underlying sense of separation from God removed.  He has forgiven but we know that there is (or was) something really wrong.  It is an abstract thing.  It’s not that we did this wrong or that wrong, but in relation to God it is a sense that we are just wrong.  Until that is gone we can never feel comfortable in the presence of God and we will continue to try to fix this problem by religion.  It will never work.

It’s a little like the phantom police car.  That was a commercial many years ago.  Anyone who drives is aware of this idea.  You are driving along following the speed limit and suddenly we see a police car behind us.  No matter how legally we are driving we feel that something is wrong.  We fear we will do something wrong.  We are on edge until the policeman finally turns and is no longer behind us.  This is what guilt or unrighteousness feels like.  We do the best we can but it never seems to be enough.  If we do something wrong it is much worse because we are already living under an underlying sense of guilt.  Thank God He provided a full salvation including provision to eradicate this guilt.

Romans 3 tells us that God provided a solution for this “unrighteousness” by providing the payment for the sin Adam committed.  It was not a partial payment nor a false payment.  The payment each man had to pay was death.  When it was paid the individual who paid it passed into a place from which he could not return.  He remained dead for eternity.  The solution was that God himself became a man.  He was not born of a human father so he did not carry the human curse nor the human guilt.  When he died it was because he choose to identify with Adam’s sin but also with Adam’s guilt. 

Since neither the sin nor the guilt actually belonged to Jesus.  The payment made by Him could not be applied to Him.  Therefore God had the right to apply it to anyone He chose to.  He chose to apply it to all who would believe in what Jesus did.  It was legal.  Since God was the wronged party it was his right to accept whatever payment was legally obtained.  It is absolutely appropriate for us to consider ourselves completely not guilty.  Completely righteousness.

How do we walk in this?  We must accept this by faith.  How can we have this kind of faith?  Rom. 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”  We need to read, study, confess and meditate what the Bible says about our righteousness.  We can win the battle over genetic guilt but we can only do so by fighting with the Sword of the spirit, the Word of God.

Why Are You Hiding Part 2

Genesis 3:9-10 ( NKJV )
Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”  So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

Yesterday I began to look at this story and how God moved in Jesus to right what went wrong in the fall.  Man sinned and that sin broke the vital connection that God had with man.  The result was something called “spiritual death.”  This is not the end of man’s spirit.  It is the end of man’s spiritual connection to God who is life.  It put man in a condition where he could not spend eternity with God but instead he inherited the devils future in hell.  The good news is that God dealt with this situation in Christ.  He paid for man’s sin and gave every individual the right to believe in that payment and receive it for himself.  Anyone who would do that could be put back into right relationship with God and inherit eternal life in His presence.

What we want to look at today is the other side of that coin.  God paid the price.  Man is free, but he is still hiding from God.  Why did Adam hide when God came calling.  He was guilty.  He had done something wrong and he knew that what he had done hurt the Lord and caused him to be separated from Him.  The bible tells us that in the original creation God set a law in motion that said, “Everything will produce after it’s own kind.”  When Adam and Eve reproduced the “kind” of people they produced were just like them.  They carried the “spiritual death” that Adam and Eve carried.  They were in the same state of separation from God that Adam and Eve were in.  They also carried the guilt for that sin.  This same condition and guilt passed upon every descendent of the original inhabitants of the Garden. 

That guilt, I will call it genetic guilt, became a part of the human experience.  Every culture has some sort of religion and they all exist to try and deal with this sense of guilt.  Society is wrought with the evidence of this guilt.  We deal with it in various ways.  The Victorian era epitomized one solution.  Their answer was, “Do nothing wrong.”  The second part of this approach is to make doing anything wrong so socially unacceptable that the individual could not be a part of “polite” society.  Instead of dealing with the guilt they embraced it and used it to try to control behavior.  The problem with this approach is that it is based on law, and man without Christ is a law breaker.  The harder you work to be perfect the more the imperfection grows like mushrooms in the dark.  Underneath perfect and moral Victorian society lurked all the same sin that everyone else dealt with.

The next approach is epitomized by the “60’s in America.  They dealt with the genetic guilt by declaring that nothing is truly wrong.  Rules are just attempts to hinder man from fulfilling his true potential.  It is societies attempt put everyone into one mold.  If we just try not to hurt anyone then anything we want to do is OK.  I”m OK and You’re OK.  The problem is that things are wrong.  The wages of sin really is death.  Furthermore when you allow the flesh to have it’s way it will always choose excess and someone will always be hurt.

Finally we try and deal with the guilt through religion.  Religion is the form that develops around our attempts at relationship with God.  We pray, we study, we fast, we work in the church and we follow all kinds of religious practices and traditions to try to deal with the guilt passed to us from Adam.  This produces dead religion with no life or power in it.  We have a form of godliness put not the benefits of godliness.  There is no joy, no peace, no love just obligation and service.  In the end the guilt remains and is made worse by our failure to really connect with God.

The truth is that there is only one solution to this guilt problem.  You see Jesus not only paid the penalty for man’s sin, but he also provided the way to wash away the guilt connected to it.  Being perfect can’t do it.  Nor can casting off morality.  Dead religion and tradition only make it worse.  The only solution is faith in the sacrifice of Jesus.  2 Corinthians 5:21 says that Jesus who never knew sin was made sin for us so that we could be made righteous with His righteousness. We don’t make ourselves righteous.  Someone else makes us righteous.  That someone is God and he does through Jesus.   Righteousness is the opposite of Guilt.  Righteousness is the ability to come into the presence of God with no sense of guilt or condemnation.  If this is true then we can carry that from the throne room of God to the world in which we live.

More tomorrow.