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Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Purity 285: Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship


Purity 285

Good morning!

Today’s photo comes from a friend who caught this great shot of the moon near their home in the Chatham area of upstate NY in Columbia County. 

I share it because even in the darkest night God can give us hope.  As I reported yesterday it has been a week since asking for prayers for my parents, Kathy and Matt, who both caught Covid-19.  Dad is on the other side of quarantine and considers himself recovered. My mother reports that she has improved to the point where the doctors will take her off oxygen soon and track her progress in anticipation of releasing her from the hospital.  My mom says, “the prayers are working”. So thank you to all who have prayed. 

As much as we strive to establish our lives individually, there is nothing like an illness in the family to remind you that you are a part of something bigger than yourself.  Whether you like it or not, your family is your family, for better or worse.  Sometimes families are very close and sometimes very estranged from one another.  As significant or insignificant as our familial relationships are in our lives, the Lord calls us to be in His royal family and makes no bones about who comes first.   God does.  

I mention this because its true and because even though our families can be a great source of comfort, they can also be less than that and even be a great source of pain. 

Recently, I counseled a parent of adult children who reported that they were continually accused by one of their children for not providing an equal amount of love to them as their siblings when growing up.  This parent also reported that this issue had been apologized for and apparently resolved more than once, even though they honestly didn’t think there was any disparity of treatment by them with their children.  Another crisis had hit the family, and like a broken record that keeps playing the same song, the accusations and complaints came up once again, leaving them defensive and seeking an answer of how to put this business aside for good.  

While I couldn’t guarantee that the child would ever forgive them for the real or perceived lack of love or attention, I knew someone who could: Jesus.  The resolution of personal and spiritual conflicts can only come from God.  

I advised the parent, that as a Christian, we are called to forgive others because we have been forgiven for all we have done because of our faith in Christ.  So in regards to the situation with the child I advised that the parent should ask the Lord to reveal the truth about how they had interacted with the child through the years and now and to ask the Lord for forgiveness for any wrong doing or bitterness that they have done.  But most importantly, after doing this, I advised the parent that they had to accept the Lord’s forgiveness and declare that “it is finished”. As far as God is concerned, they have resolved any “sin” or wrongdoing that they were responsible for.    They have done their part with the Lord.  

As for the child, because the parent had asked for forgiveness previously and received it, the parent needs to understand that the child is troubled and will only find resolution to their issues with the Lord. The fundamental problem here is that the child either doesn’t know the love of the Lord or has forgotten it. 

All the love or attention that a parent can give, pales in comparison to the love of the Lord.   The child has wrongly based their self-worth on pleasing and receiving love from the parent when they should base their self-worth on their identity in Christ.  If they did this, they would forgive the parent for any pain, neglect, or lack of love the parent was guilty of, and they would certainly cease bringing up the real or perceived wrongs from years in the past.  

However, if the parent believes asking the child for forgiveness will help them or the child get past this recent crisis, they should do so. To not resolve issues that we could is prideful.  We, as Christians, are called to be peacemakers.

But what if, the child continues, this repeating cycle of blaming the parent? 

This is where our maturity is tested.  Knowing that we have been forgiven of all wrong doing by the Lord, and because we understand the child is troubled, if the parent stands in faith, they will dismiss any thoughts of accusation or condemnation and instead do their best to forgive the child for their lack of maturity and show them love in whatever way they can.  

If these patterns are toxic, unhealthy, and unsafe (which is not the case here), we can offer forgiveness and make amends to make things right but when we realize that there will be no peace, we can take a break from interacting with the other person, or cease the relationship altogether while praying for the Lord to change the other person.

The only way to rise above earthly familial dysfunction is to identify with your heavenly father and to live your life sharing His love and living according to His ways.  

 

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This morning’s meditation verses were:

1 John 1:8 (NKJV)
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

 Today’s meditation verse is perhaps the most favorite verse of “Christians” who aren’t free.

 “See we’re all sinners! I told you! Now stand back, as I continue to live a life full of hopelessness that comes from my love/hate relationship that I have with my sin. Thanks for forgiving me Jesus, because I really need it today and I will really need it tomorrow too.”  

 That may seem silly to some, but that was me! After most of my life spent in bondage to my addictions to alcohol, drugs, and sex, I figured there was no way to be free and that’s what faith in Christ was for: endless forgiveness.  And it is!

 However, if you read the New Testament you learn that Jesus also calls us not to sin.

 John 8:11 (NKJV) 

11 She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."  

 “Say what? Wait a minute, Come on Jesus. From the way I understood it, You do the forgiving and I do the sinning… unless I got that wrong?”

 I did get that wrong. Although 1 John 1:8 and other verses in the Bible point to the reality that even Christians can and will sin, we are forgiven, and we are to endeavor to live out our freedom over sin.  In fact, if we read the entirety of 1 John, we would see that John’s epistle is all about overcoming our sin.   

 Before you get depressed, like I was, you have to realize that when you came to faith in Christ it wasn’t because you were a good person, you did enough good things, or you were deserving. You were chosen for eternal life because Jesus wanted you.   

John 5:21 (NLT2) 

21 For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants.

I don’t know why, but for some reason, Christ wants you.  That’s the only reason you are saved.  Christ chose you.  He loves you and, just like when we love people who make horrible decisions with their lives, He knows there is a better life for you: a life without the sin that gives some pleasure but eventually causes you pain. 

Christ loves you so much that He gave His life for you and has granted you eternal life but He also gave you the power to turn from the wrong things you do in your life and  overcome them. 

So go to the Lord and repent of the sins that seem impossible to live without and ask Him for the wisdom and strength to stop and abandon the sin that so easily besets you.  If you walk and talk with Him, God will lead you out of your personal darkness and show you that those things you did don’t define you.  He does.

He made you, chose you to know the truth and to live forever with Him. He has a better life filled with peace, love, and joy but living with darkness in our lives will only keep us from it.   Trust in Him and follow where He leads. His path leads to glory. Take the first, or another, step toward it today.    

Today we continue chapter 5 of Anderson & Baumchen’s Finding Hope Again, where the authors discuss how anxiety is a battle for the mind and the fact that we must discern the origin of “our” thoughts and oppose any thoughts that contradict our identity in Christ.

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Anderson’s books for your own private study and to support his work:

Anxiety as a Battle for the Mind

The second standard of mental health is to be relatively free from anxiety. Anxiety is fear without an apparent cause. Fear is not the same as anxiety, in that it is actually identified by its object. For instance, we fear other people, death, snakes or enclosed places, etc.

Many people are paralyzed by fears that seem to be irrational to others because they don't see the object of the fear, or they question its validity. When people fear something that others can't hear or see, it is usually called a panic or anxiety attack because they can't identify the object of their fear.

Again, such cases often prove to be a spiritual battle for the mind. These thoughts are very disturbing and very real. Others can't see or hear what suffering persons are going through because the object of their fear can't be seen or heard in a visual or auditory sense. Remember, we wrestle "not against flesh and blood" (Ephes. 6:12). In other words, our enemy does not materialize in the physical realm because the battle is spiritual. It is also very, very real.

The Origin of Your Thoughts

It is critical to distinguish between deceiving thoughts from the enemy and thoughts that are truly yours. If you think that tempting or accusing thoughts are your own, then you are going to draw some very bad conclusions about yourself. Understand that God cannot tempt you, but the devil will. "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" (James 1:13). Jesus will never accuse you, because there is "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). But the devil "deceives the whole world" (Rev. 12:9), and accuses the brethren day and night (see Rev. 12:10).

A very mature and godly pastor's wife discovered that she had cancer. Her doctors immediately put her on chemotherapy. Then she became very fearful. When I visited with her, she said, "I'm not sure if I am a Christian." I asked her why she would even question her salvation, and she said, "When I go to church I have these blasphemous thoughts go through my mind, and many times I struggle with evil and perverted thoughts."

"That's not you!" I told her, "Scripture teaches that you, 'joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man'" (Romans 7:22).

If such thoughts originated from the woman herself, then what would she logically conclude about herself? She reasoned, If those thoughts were actually coming from my own nature, then I must not be a Christian. Consequently, she was frightened about the prospect of dying. After all, how can a Christian think those kinds of thoughts? Any Christian can choose to think them, but these thoughts don't originate from who they are in Christ. Because of this woman's maturity, I was able to help her get rid of those thoughts within an hour. She never questioned her salvation again.

False Identity or True?

Every Christian has tempting thoughts, but many don't understand the battle for their minds. Suppose a young man had a sexually tempting thought about another man. At first he may be a little surprised and would probably just brush it off. He certainly is not going to tell anybody. If the thoughts persist, he may start wondering why he is thinking these thoughts. "If I am thinking these thoughts, then maybe I am homosexual," he may conclude. If so, he just bought a false identity, and it could be years, if ever, before he shares what was going on in his mind. People struggling with depression are plagued with myriad thoughts that are not true.

True mental health is characterized by "the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension," guarding "your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7). It begins with a true knowledge of our heavenly Father and a true knowledge of who we are in Christ. If you knew and believed,

That your heavenly Father loved you (see Ephes. 3:14-19);

That you now have eternal life in Christ (see John 3:16);

That you are spiritually alive right now (see 1 John 5:11);

That He would never leave nor forsake you (see Hebrews 13:5);

That He has completely forgiven you (see Col. 2:13, 14);

That He would supply all your needs (see Phil. 4:19);

That you were a child of God (see Romans 8:16);

That there was no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (see Romans 8:1);

That you have an eternal purpose for being here (see Ephes. 2:10);

That you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (see Phil. 4:13);

That God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline (see 2 Tim. 1:7);

That the peace of God was guarding your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus (see Phil. 4:7);

then you would have the foundational beliefs necessary to establish mental, emotional and spiritual health.

The most common deception associated with mental and emotional illness is a distorted belief in God and yourself. If you don't think that is true, then go to any mental ward in a hospital and you will find some of the most religious people you have ever met. But when you question them about their beliefs in God or themselves, you will quickly discover that what they believe is riddled with distortions and deception.


Finding Hope Again: Overcoming Depression.

------------------------------more tomorrow--------------------------

 

God bless you all! 


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