Tag Archives: sin

Church and Psychology

A “friend of mine”:http://jtf02.wordpress.com has started blogging. In his “first entry”:http://jtf02.wordpress.com/2007/08/31/church-and-psychology/, he shares his thoughts on the Church and psychology and the current tension between the two.

bq. For years the Church has tended to deny that psychological problems really exist. Some have openly stated that psychological problems do not exist, only sin exists and that what some would call psychological is actually sin. Others would claim that sin does exist but that psychological problems also exist apart from sin and at times with sin.

Go give a read, and better still, leave a comment and add to the discussion.

Belligerance

Christians can be so hard-nosed and bull-headed sometimes about returning to fellowship with Christ. I know – I’m one of the worst offenders in this regard. You can see a brother or sister in the faith struggling to win out over temptation and sin or simply walking in it, regardless of the consequences. You can plead and urge and cajole, and still they will not be moved. Their choices, their actions, their decisions can inflict deep pain on those they love and do great damage to the cause of Christ, and still they will not be shaken from their lifestyle of sin. And then one day, it all changes suddenly, and they fall on their face before Almighty God, repent, and return to the fold, leaving those who pleaded with them for so long in confusion as to what finally made the difference.

Part of the answer to this question is that the individual must _want_ to change and must want it enough to be open to answers and to facing their own inward ugliness. It’s one thing to want to change just a little bit, yet still not actually change because you have not yet come to the end of yourself, have not yet completely hit bottom. And it’s one thing to want to change enough to start making changes but then quit when the going gets rough because you are not relying fully (or even partially) on the power of God to work.

I have a theory about another part of this answer, and you can tell me what you think about it. I think that part of this, maybe even the biggest part of it is that some of these people have not yet encountered something that fully meets their need. For instance, say that a particular believer has fallen into habitual sin. This individual desires a life-altering change and has, in fact, attempted to change at several points in the recent past. This individual has been unwilling or unable to completely yield control of their life to God, for whatever reason, and has had trouble letting go of the sinful indulges they have been seeking out. Yet, this individual is miserable and wants something to change. In short, this individual feels stuck, unable to move forward in their spiritual walk. This individual also knows all the Scripture verses that apply to their situation, has heard all the traditional responses by church folk, such as “Give it God,” “Get on your knees and pray for forgiveness and God will rescue you from your sin,” “Get some good biblical counseling; that’ll help,” and countless other bits of wisdom. This individual tries all these things at some point or another and yet sees no change in their heart or their life.

Then this individual encounters something new. Maybe it’s a personal encounter with a friend or a respected elder. It could be a seminar that presents truth in a different light. It could be a song that speaks powerfully into this individual’s situation. Whatever it is, it speaks directly to this individual’s need, to the emptiness in their own heart, to the longing that the individual tried to fulfill in their pursuit of sin. It is the sort of thing that might tell them something they already knew but through an entirely fresh, new, and clean perspective that addresses the longing of their heart exactly and completely. This, then, makes all the difference in the individual’s life. It is like being able to get a cold, crisp drink of water when you have been dying of thirst. It’s like a cool breeze that suddenly springs up on a scorching summer day. It soothes the burning itch, the searing passion, the smoldering need in that individual’s heart that nothing to this point has been able to quench or satisfy. It is, in fact, the Holy Spirit’s arrival via this unique message at exactly the right moment in this individual’s life when they are ready to receive it. It is the combination of the seeker seeking ((and yes, I believe that even Christians can be seekers, albeit of a different kind.)), the heart softening, and the message arriving at the right time and in exactly the right way to meet the innermost need of the individual. It is a wholly beautiful event that brings the lost lamb back into the fold and imbues the lost-now-found one with an excitement, energy, and richness of faith that was once thought lost forever.

Some Christians never experience this, choosing rather to follow their own desires ((at which point one has to question whether or not they were ever truly a follower of Christ to begin with.)) or endlessly pursuing solutions that never fully or completely speak to their need. To some extent I think that the Church’s lackadaisical attitudes these days has contributed to the problem of lost sheep who cannot find their way back to the fold. We have carved out too many cookie-cutter answers that allow us to keep our distance from other people rather than getting intimately involved in the lives of our brothers and sisters and tailoring answers to their needs that speak powerfully to their hearts. I can only hope that we will soon shake ourselves of this indifference and begin to do more to minister into the lives of our brethren than we have in recent days. I cannot do anything about anyone else, but I know that I will strive to shake free of my own indifference and aloofness and allow Christ to speak powerfully through this vessel. May it ever be so.

Why Does God Love Us?

“Rob”:http://www.unspace.net has been sharing a series of articles about a friend of his that has had a significant impact on his life. “Part 3”:http://www.unspace.net/2006/03/deb-3-struggle-on-a-golf-course/ of the series received the following comment:

bq. Sorry, but I’m not okay with someone loving me in spite of their belief that homosexuality is wrong. God loves me because I’m a flawed human being, not in spite of it. ((“http://www.unspace.net/2006/03/deb-3-struggle-on-a-golf-course/#comment-1118”:http://www.unspace.net/2006/03/deb-3-struggle-on-a-golf-course/#comment-1118))

I realize, first of all, why a homosexual would object to being loved by someone despite their belief that homosexuality is wrong. Naturally, it isn’t so much the affection that they object to but the belief itself. No one likes to be told that they’re wrong. That’s part of why we tend to make friends most easily and most commonly with other people who believe like we do. So, of course, homosexuals don’t like to be told that their way of life is wrong, and they take offense at such beliefs. This is probably not helped along by the fact that there are many people, both Christian and non-Christian alike, who have a deep, abiding hatred of homosexuals.

Now, say for example, you know of someone who disagrees with you on one of the most fundamental tenets of your worldview, someone who insists that they love you in spite of that difference. I would imagine that this love is perceived (and received), then, as pity rather than genuine love, due to the knowledge that this individual disagrees with you. And since you feel like you are receiving pity for a perceived difference, that in itself adds to the intial offense, compounding it to painful levels. At least, I think that’s the way I would probably see it and react to it.

The major problem with the above comment is its poor theology. God loves us first and foremost because we are His. He made us, and so He loves us _because_ He created us. We are His handiwork, a reflection of Himself. He never intended us to become sinners, even though He knew we would. Therefore, He most certainly _does_ love us in spite of our sin, in spite of our flaws. He will one day redeem His children, those who believe in Him and have accepted as Savior, and renew us by making us perfect and sinless again.

So, much as the sentiment that God loves us because of our flaws _sounds_ nice, it’s actually an inaccurate and dangerous view of God.

I do wish that more Christians could be like Rob, though, and reach out to the homosexual community with love and understanding. Doing so does not mean that we accept their lifestyle as good and acceptable, but it does mean that we view them just as God views them, as sinners like ourselves, in need of salvation and redemption. It would mean that we could break the cycle of hatred and violence and work to bring more of the homosexual community to Christ. Isn’t that what we are here for, after all?

First, Remove the Plank

Ales Rarus – A Rare Bird, A Strange Duck, One Funky Blog » Have Christian Bloggers Lost the Plot?

Funky Dung, over at “Ales Rarus”:http://alesrarus.funkydung.com/, considers an “interesting point”:http://alesrarus.funkydung.com/archives/2197:

bq. My grandfather used to say that the habits or faults of other people that annoy us the most may be ones we are also guilty of.

He follows it up with a very good question:

bq. How can I reprove others for a sin I’m just as guilty of?

This is a question I’ve wrestled over many times before finally coming to terms with an answer that I believe is both balanced and biblical.

I think it is only natural that we most quickly identify and point out those habits or faults in other people that most annoy us, habits of which we may also be guilty. It’s a basic principle in social psychology. Those are the habits and faults that are most salient to us, most readily identifiable, most recently active in our own minds. They are the ones over which we struggle most strongly and about which we feel the greatest amount of shame. So, naturally, we see those habits and faults more quickly than others in everyone else.

The tough question is how can I possibly reprove someone else for something of which I myself am guilty? If it is something with which I am struggling and seeking at no point to actually correct, I don’t offer reproof. I hold my tongue, for to say something would make me a true hypocrite, something of which I have, justifiably, been accused in the past. If I am making no attempt to better myself and correct my own errant behavior, then I have no right to attemp to correct another in the same vice.

If, however, I am actively seeking to draw closer to God and deny the inappropriate behavior, then I do, I believe, have a biblical right and obligation to offer correction to another if I see it. I can, in Christian love, point out the error and offer fellowship to my fellow struggling brother. I can indicate that I, too, struggle with the same weakness but that I wish to overcome it and so give all the glory to God. We can share in the journey and the struggle, and while one or both of us may fall, the struggle is made easier in the sharing of the experience. Along the way we may find others who so struggle, and in joining with them, we strengthen our ranks, share the burden, and fight together with greater resolve. One or more of the strugglers may fall away, as is often the case, but the brotherhood of the struggle bonds us as a “three-strand cord”:http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=25&chapter=4&verse=12&version=31&context=verse that is not easily, or quickly, broken.

Is it hard to confront another about a like problem? Indeed, it is, and it is often done with lowered eyes and burning face. It is a commendable initiative, though, and one of which far too few of us partake. I believe that if more Christians would be willing to face each other with our problems with correction as the end goal, we would see a stronger, more effective Church. I also believe that sometimes it is those who struggle most similarly who are most able to help one another because they share similar weaknesses and are better able, then, to understand the trials that must be undergone to triumph over such weakness.

So, share in the struggles, carry one another’s burdens, and uplift one another to greater fellowship with God and with each other.

“Hey, I think you’ve got something in your eye…”

A response to this blog entry:

Christ calls us to be in the world, yet not of it. The difficult part of this directive is that by being in the world, we are subject to its influences. In this case, infidelity, divorce, and sexual promiscuity are becoming ever more accepted and commonplace in our culture. Such practices also appeal to our sinful desires, even as believers, thus making it that much more difficult to resist. I am afraid that the failure of the church in America to defend marriage and sex as holy is due, in large part, to the failure of the church to live righteously through the development of a strong relationship with God and to develop unity among itself. We have become so divided, and we have become so lackadaisical in this culture where we have plenty that we have forgotten what it means to rely on God for our everything, and as such, we have then allowed sinful practices to creep into our churches and into our worship, tainting and spoiling our testimonies and what influence we could have on our culture. Ultimately, if we wish to defeat this monster and set it in its place, we have to first get back to our place of right relationship with God and with each other, shunning sin, no matter what the cost, and embracing that which is holy. This begins in our churches and in our families and in our personal, daily walks with Christ. If the church cannot live righteously, how can we expect anyone else to do so?

Death – James 1

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

Sin brings death. Initial thought is that of the garden, Adam and Eve, their sin and the death resultant from that. Their death was immediate spiritual and eventual physical–and it is the pattern for today. Some sins, by their very comission, end in physical death for one person, or
several. But there is not only physical death. Then often emotional death, where people become hard and cold and unfeeling. There is spiritual death, when an individual strays away from God. When the sin is rationalized away, mental death occurs. There is also relational death, when social relationships are damaged or destroyed. The solution?

21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.

Live by the Word and die by the Word.