Instinct, Reactivity and Responding – Freedom in Christ - Purity 769
Purity 769 06/28/2022 Purity 769 Podcast
Today’s photo of farmland and my canine companion, Harley, thrusting his head into some roadside weeds underneath pleasant blue skies comes to us from your truly as I captured this random photo somewhere along Waite Road back on May 29th.
The power lines in the background that obscure the simplicity of this pastural scene and the fact of my doggie friend’s head is in a bunch of weeds would usually relegate a photo like this to the trash. But apparently I take more photos than I look at and this photo remained on my phone for the last month and it is oddly appropriate for what’s on my mind this morning.
My friend, Harley, follows his nose. Although he has learned to respond to some basic commands, he is still mostly pure instinct. Here his nose causes him to thrust his head into some road side weeds possibly smelling the remnants of the sent of a rabbit, another animal’s spray or waste, or something dead, all of which seem to be a dog’s nose’s bread and butter. As much as I think at times that Harley is a “good dog” who listens, sometimes his instincts kicks in and causes him to behave in ways I wish he wouldn’t.
The Best example of this is when I began trusting him off his leash to allow him to run free in those farmland fields unencumbered as he on several instances would run at top speeds with the unadulterated joys of freedom and would make his way back to me without incident. But then on Easter Sunday, his instincts got the best of him. While “running free” Harley discovered the delightful scents of cow manure and out of his pure joy and instincts, he inexplicably rolled around in said manure, putting me and him in the dog house of disappointment when his new scent was discovered back at the house.
I could imagine me asking: “Why did you do it boy?” and his silent unblinking response as if to say: “What did you expect? I’m a dog.” As if to paraphrase a line from the movie Animal House, which I will edit, “You “messed” up. You trusted us.”
But he’s a dog. Right? Surely humans should know better and learn from their mistakes and not just blindly react to situations in the ways they have in the past, especially when they have had a measure of success in overcoming their old patterns of behavior.
OOF, I wish I could say it wasn’t so. I don’t have to look far, maybe only as far as the nearest mirror, to be able to testify of the difficulty of changing the ways we behave. “Relapse is part of recovery” is a phrase because of this tendency to react rather than respond and to go back to old thought and behavior patterns when we are not diligent in renewing our minds with the word of God.
Recently, I was disappointed to hear of a teen who had success in overcoming symptoms of depression, thoughts of suicide, and acts of self-harm had an emotional relapse and reverted to an act of self-harm, cutting themselves. Their parent was dumbfounded because they had been doing so well, having successfully gone through a teen mental health treatment program and been removed from the bullying elements that had caused much of their problems.
However, this teen, who apparently only moments before been happy and interacting with their family, went to their room overwhelmed with emotions and shortly after emerged distraught with bleeding wounds. I don’t know the details but the trigger to this outburst was a text message that they had received from someone from their past. So one warped individual with no compassion or empathy decided to reach out and touch someone, and intentionally or not, caused this teen to be dragged back into depression, thoughts of suicide, and an act of self-harm.
It's very easy to place blame here: the texter is obviously at fault here but without knowing the content or context of the message we can only speculate and assume that it was a negative message of derision. But to be honest, with text especially, the message received may be different from the message sent especially when emotions are involved. Communication can be a subtle thing. “I know what you meant” “I didn’t mean THAT!”
Because of the complexity of human emotions and the difficulties of communication the possibilities for an event that would precipitate an emotional reaction and an unwise decision are endless.
As I considered this situation, I was obviously angered by the texter but as I contemplated the responses of this teen’s support group, I was a little dumbfounded by how there seemed to be little consideration of the relapsed teen’s personal responsibility in the way they chose to react to the text.
I can only assume that somewhere along the lines in this teen’s previous mental health treatment that they were given instruction or encouragement to talk to someone when they were having problems. They were surrounded by family. SO why didn’t they go to someone? Why didn’t they show someone the text? Why didn’t they tell someone what was going on in their life? Why didn’t they stop themselves when they had thoughts to hurt themselves?
And then I thought about it. We only learn what we choose to learn. We only do what is required. To get out of a mental health hospitalization, all you have to do is demonstrate that you are no longer a danger to yourself or others. You have to demonstrate through your affect, you mood, that you have stabilized and can verbally express your intention not to harm yourself or others, verbally, and agree to seek help if you are in crisis. That’s it really.
The hospital and mental health systems don’t exist to imprison people and they can not read the thoughts and intentions of the people they treat. Unfortunately, most of modern psychology has an atheistic world view and the relativistic morality that it brings paints the world in shades of gray and is hesitant to instruct clients with the wisdom of good and evil and the basic tenants of problem solving.
While the world and all that is in it, including malicious texters, is a big problem, it isn’t the problem we should try to resolve. The problem in mental health is in self perception and the way we interact with the world. A Christian worldview would insist on each of our personal responsibility for the things we say, think, and do and how that lines up with the very black and white moral principles that God establishes in His word.
Our guilt feelings, depression, and low view of ourselves may be a result of the fact that we are living independently from God and have ignored all of His wisdom and have instead decided to live by the world’s “dog eat dog, it’s a jungle out there, “I’ll do what I want” mentality.
In this instance, whatever was sent in the text and whatever it said about the teen who received it, whether it was based on facts regarding the teen’s appearance, behaviors, or past, wouldn’t overrule what God says about that teen. The “Who I am in Christ list (https://www.mt4christ.org/2022/06/celebrating-life-and-freedom-purity-766.html) which I shared recently and am sharing a link to the post in which I shared it, spells out what God thinks about us when we are in Christ. In Christ, we are accepted, significant, and secure.
If this teen knew this, they disregard the opinions of men. They disregard the opinion of some teasing adolescent bully who undoubtedly has some unresolved issues in their life if they feel the need to build themselves up by tearing someone else down.
So as much as the world sucks, and as much as people can suck, it is up to us to know that it is not the world that defines us.
Of course, this all presupposes some knowledge of, and faith in, Jesus Christ.
While we can use cognitive therapy from the world to develop better strategies to employ when we face triggers. Those strategies won’t set you free. The world’s positive affirmations are usual pretty general and won’t give you any authority to based your positive affirmations on other than man’s logic which can so easily be derailed in a world that is quite often irrational and chaotic.
So with out peace with God, through faith in Jesus Christ, there is only so much you can do: thus relapse is a part of recovery. This seemingly contradictory statement is accepted wholesale in the world because: What did you expect? You messed up. You trusted us.
Without Christ, we are in bondage to sin, we are separated from God, and all those good things that the “Who I am in Christ” list says about us, isn’t true for those without Christ, and they don’t have the authority of the maker of the universe to tell them that they are loved, significant, secure, or accepted.
Christ gives us the forgiveness of sins and life eternal but He also gives us the power to overcome. Through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, the power of Christ in us, we can say no to sin. With the word of God, we can renew our mind to change our thoughts and emotions. And we can stand on the authority of the maker of all things, to know the truth and to see it grow in our lives.
So, stop acting on instinct, stop reacting, and start responding by seeking the Lord and His ways for our lives. Step 1 is surrendering to the Lordship of Christ by making Christ our Lord and Savior. Step 2 is to surrender to the truth of who you are in Christ. Step 3 is to start living according to who you are in Christ and by the wisdom of God’s word.
While we may run off from time to time and make a mess of ourselves, when we are in Christ we know always have a home and we always have peace with our Master. And we start obeying Our Master by believing what He says about us and by doing what He would have us do, we can have one dog-gone good life in the peace of His presence.
Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.
This morning’s meditation verse is:
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT2)
18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
Today’s Bible verse speaks of receiving spiritual sight and the process of sanctification.
Here the Apostle Paul describes our new life in Christ, our transformation. We see the truth of God and then we become more and more like Him.
It’s not about perfection, it’s about progress and the more we seek to see and reflect the Lord’s glory we become more and more like Him.
Our faith was never supposed to be spent sitting idly in worship services remaining more or less unchanged. Our faith is process of change, a process of transformation that brings us closer and closer to God until we reflect His goodness, His character, and His glory.
As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.
Today we continue sharing from Clinton E. Arnold’s “Powers of Darkness”
As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Clinton Arnold’s books for your own private study and to support his work. This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.
The Angelic Fall
In the Jewish literature of this period one of the most prominent themes was the belief that demons came into the world as a result of unnatural sexual relations between angels and human beings. This belief is based on an interpretation of Genesis 6:1–2 and 4, which says:
When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.… The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them.
Many Jewish writers interpreted the reference to “sons of God” as angels (called “Watchers”), who rebelled against God. The disastrous consequence of this unnatural union resulted in the birth of the Nephilim, the source of demons and evil spirits. The Jewish apocalyptic book of 1 Enoch spends thirty-one chapters elaborating on this fall (1 Enoch 6–36). According to this account, after the physical beauty of women on earth erotically tantalized some 200 angels, led by a certain Semyaz, the angels made a joint decision to violate their divinely given boundaries by engaging in sexual activity with the women. While they were occupying the earth, they taught people many evil arts, including alchemy, astrology, incantations and warfare. The women, made pregnant by these supernatural beings, gave birth to freakish giants. These giants committed numerous atrocities, yet their deaths did not prove to be the end of rampant evil—demons came from them:
But now the giants who are born from the union of the spirits and the flesh shall be called evil spirits upon the earth, because their dwelling shall be upon the earth and inside the earth. Evil spirits have come out of their bodies.… The spirits of the giants oppress each other; they will corrupt, fall, be excited, and fall upon the earth, and cause sorrow. They eat no food, nor become thirsty, nor find obstacles. And these spirits shall rise up against the children of the people and against the women, because they have proceeded forth from them. (1 Enoch 15:8–12)
It was believed these evil spirits, which issued from the giants, would continue to corrupt humanity until the end of the age when God would put an end to their hostility and judge them. In Jewish literature this rebellion is referred to many times as responsible for the presence of demons. Meanwhile, the good angels, Raphael and Michael, have bound those angels who were guilty of this crime against women under the earth, where they will remain until the judgment (1 Enoch 10:1–14; cf. Jude 6; 1 Pet 3:19–20; 2 Pet 2:4).
We may wonder about the time before this rebellion, especially in view of the Genesis account of the serpent’s temptation of Eve. Was there some prior angelic rebellion in Jewish belief? It is clear that the same Jewish literature speaks of the existence and malignant workings of evil angels prior to the Fall. There is virtually no discussion, however, about how or when Satan and his angelic cohorts came on the scene. This literature refers to a major figurehead of evil called “Satan,” the leader of a group of angels also referred to as “Satans.” These Satans accuse people and lead them astray. Interestingly, according to 1 Enoch, it was one of these Satanic messengers, named Gader’el, who misled Eve in the garden (1 Enoch 69:6). The Jews must have assumed true some kind of pre-Adam fall in order to explain the evil character and function of this Satan and his hostile messengers (see 1 Enoch 40:7; 53:3; 54:6).
Classes and Names
Asmodaeus, Semyaza, Azazel, Mastema, Beliar, Satan, Sammael and Satanail are just a few of the names used to refer to the evil angelic powers current in Judaism by the time of Paul. While there is a certain amount of diversity regarding the specific functions of each of these powers, there is a fairly common belief in Satan as the chief. These powers of evil are represented as each having a significant measure of authority within the structured hierarchy. For example, Semyaza is identified as the chief of those angels who cohabited with women. Of the 200 angels who came to earth with him, they were divided into groups of ten, with a prince, such as Arakeb, Rame’el and Tam’el, set over each.
A similar concern to name the evil angels and classify them according to their function was typical of much of this Jewish literature. Equally prominent is the arrangement and naming of the good angels surrounding the throne of God.
In the years following the New Testament era this fascination with the spirit realm did not diminish. There are frequent references to evil angels and spirits in the rabbinic literature. Far more evil spirits are identified and described. In fact, one scholar has counted 123 different demons identified by name in the rabbinic literature!
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Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship
 Clinton E. Arnold, Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul’s Letters (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 1992), 65–67.