Mind at Rest

This message discusses the Bible’s teaching on the mind at rest. Why are people bound by anxieties, low confidence, guilt, and other struggles? The Bible gives hope and the promise of rest and peace.

 

Revelation of Grace 4 – Redemption vs. Forgiveness

Chapter 4 of this teaching series based on my book, The Revelation of Grace. This study looks at the difference between forgiveness and redemption. What does the word ‘redemption’ mean? What does the Bible mean when it says that Christ gave us eternal redemption?

Podcast – Why the doctrine of the Penal Substitution is flawed.

Was God punishing Jesus on the cross, or was God in Christ receiving and putting sin to death in Christ? This broadcast will help answer that question.

 

How the Church Should Treat Josh Duggar

Much has been made of Josh Duggar’s scandals in recent months. While he is by no means alone in his moral weakness, he has been made into a spectacle. Any time a Christian icon finds himself or herself in the spotlight of shame, it is amplified. It’s the opportunity for the world to hold up the church’s failure. It’s normal human reaction, for anytime someone doesn’t feel righteous, they will target those who are supposed to be righteous and point out any failure or perceived failure. It’s an attempt at self-justification by bringing someone else down.

 

However, the church should be the first to bear the burdens of one another. After all, the one thing that proves to the world that we are Jesus’ disciples is our love for one another, and as the Bible says, “When one member suffers, all the members suffer with them.” How much more is that suffering amplified when every news outlet shines a spotlight on one of our member’s sins? At least when you and I blow it, news stations aren’t camped out in front of our houses.

 

Josh Duggar’s scandal is a symbol of what is going on in many Christian homes. But instead of the church strengthening the weak, we tend to shoot the wounded. Just look at what happened when Rick Warren’s family had the tragedy of suicide. Many who disagree with his doctrine taunted him in the time of suffering, thus shaming the name of Christ, who said our love will be His evidence to the world.

 

Duggar’s name showing up in the Ashley Madison scandal is not the problem. It’s the symptom of the problem. One study showed that 50% of men and 20% of women in the church admitted they were addicted to pornography. When you consider that most people don’t admit addictions until they are at the point where it is undeniable, this number could be much higher. Going to a ‘hook up’ service, like Ashley Madison is the result of sexual addictions bearing its fruit in our lives. The longer someone is in the addiction, the more it will come out in behavior.

 

The church is great about telling people what they shouldn’t be doing, but they do little to help people deal with the problem. The church employs shame and fear to pressure people to come out of sin because they don’t understand the power of the Spirit of Grace. Condemnation cannot defeat sin. It cannot break the bondage of addiction.

 

If I had the ability to give Josh Duggar advice, it would be what I’m about to write. Though I can’t contact Josh, there are many other Josh’s out there who are secretly fighting this war as well. My advice will work because it worked for me, and many men I have shared with over the years. I became addicted to pornography at the age of 9, and it ruled my life for the next three decades. It wasn’t until I received Christ that I tried to break free, but I found it was greater than my will.

 

Even the Apostle Paul stated that he has the will to do good and live righteously, but how to perform good he doesn’t find within himself. He wills to resist sin, but when he’s using personal effort, he ends up doing the sins he wills not to do. His personal will is not strong enough to defeat sin, nor is it strong enough to live the Christian life of righteousness.

 

This is where I found myself. Many sermons proclaimed, “Look at your sin. God is angry at the wicked every day. God will judge your sins.”

 

The fear of judgment scared me out of sin temporarily. I determined in my will to stop looking at lustful things, but within a few days I found that my will wasn’t strong enough. The cravings of my flesh took over my mind, and though I could resist for a while, the battle was always doomed to failure. Eventually I would be too weary to resist, and I would let go and let my mind binge on lust again. If this is where you are, trusting in your will’s ability to resist is failure waiting to happen. This is true whether your addiction is a tangible substance, or the substance of the mind.

 

Advice #1. The first advice I would give to Duggar and anyone struggling is to turn off the critics. Every person struggles with some type of personal weakness. If we compare ourselves to those who seem to have it together, we’ll be self-condemning, and there is no victory in that. The fact is that anyone trusting in their personal efforts is in hypocrisy, for we can only grade ourselves on a curve – otherwise we can’t pass the moral test either.

 

When I escaped my prison of addiction, the church was not exactly helpful. The addictions that once ruled me and seemed unbreakable, no longer have me in their grip. In fact, I no longer have to resist. I don’t desire those things anymore. Yet when giving my testimony, a man in the church told me that I wasn’t forgiven. He said, “You were a reprobate, and once a Christian falls into a reprobate mind, God gives them up to Satan and they can never again be forgiven.”

 

Apparently, God didn’t get that memo. My life is in constant fellowship with the Lord, and He calls me the righteousness of Christ. These false beliefs of condemnation come from a misunderstanding of scriptures, but that’s for a different article. However, it shows that the well-meaning but misguided Christians can make recovery very challenging. And if someone isn’t yet secure in God’s love for them, misquoted scriptures and condemning words can be discouraging.

 

Advice #2. Rest in God’s acceptance. The day I truly believed in God’s acceptance for me, my life began to change. In the past, when I blew it, I had the perception of God’s wrath. When I understood the Bible’s teaching that I am accepted because I am in the Beloved (which is Christ), it took the conditional acceptance of God away. The conditions are on the completed work of Christ, not on me. When I blew it, I didn’t defeat the work of Christ. If my sins could destroy the work of Christ, I am making the blood of the New Covenant a common and worthless thing. That is a greater sin than the weakness of my flesh.

 

Advice #3. Believe God’s declaration over you, not the enemy’s declaration about you. Unbelief is the only sin grace doesn’t defeat. Hebrews 3:12 warns that an evil heart of unbelief is one that departs from the Lord. If we stop for a moment, we can see this truth in our lives. When we don’t believe in God’s love, we depart from Him instead of drawing near Him. When I believed my sin switched on God’s wrath, I departed. Once I learned that His love was conditional upon His own promises and unchanging character, instead of my abilities, I stopped running from God when I felt defeated.

 

Advice #4. It’s God’s job to overcome your sin. As far back as Ezekiel 36:26-27, God foretold of the New Covenant, where He would take away our sinful nature, give us a new spirit, and would place His Spirit within us, and God would cause us to walk in His ways. Also in the Old Testament passage of Micah 7:19, God foretold of the New Covenant where He would cast our sins into the depths of the sea, and He will subdue our sins.

 

For most of my Christian life, I tried to subdue my sins. I failed. No one ever told me that it was God’s job to subdue my sins. Or that it was God’s job to create in me a heart that would walk in His ways. No one told me that my job was to learn of His goodness so I could learn to walk by faith. The Christian life is a life of faith – completely trusting in the work of God and His promises. His promises begin with the elimination of our guilt through the work of Christ on the cross, and they continue in the promises that He who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it.

 

If you study the Bible, you will find that unbelief is the only barrier God has allowed man to stand behind. To some the Bible says, “They could not enter His promise because of unbelief,” but to us, our call is to trust wholly in His love. The purpose of the cross is twofold. Your sin (all sin) was defeated on the cross and taken out of the way. To those who believe this promise, there is no barrier. We learn to walk in the truth that sin is defeated, and as we learn to walk by faith, the reality of Christ’s work for us begins to bear the fruit of holiness in our outward lives.

 

The second purpose is that through the cross, God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. All things that pertain to my life means I have to take no thought for my life, what will I eat, how will I live? What will I do? How will I overcome my problems? All things are given to me. And all things that pertain to godliness means my righteousness, holiness, and godliness is the completed work of Christ given to me. I don’t have to become these things; I have to learn to walk by faith in what God has declared.

 

Because of these truths, I am no longer an addict. In most recovery programs, we are told to call ourselves ‘recovering addicts’. But this is not so with God. Never will I say, “My name is Eddie, and I am an addict.” I now testify that I am not an addict; I am the righteousness of God in Christ. Addiction fell away when there was no room for it to remain. I didn’t overcome my addiction. I looked up one day and said, “What happened to it?” I looked in the past and saw the grave marker – Here lies the sins that once haunted Eddie.

 

Sometimes when I share these things, people judge and try to throw condemnation back upon me. But it doesn’t stick, because there is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ. Sin only gripped my mind because I didn’t know how to walk by faith and become a receiver of God’s power. After all, it is God who said, “The same power that raised Christ Jesus from the grave is in you, and will give life to your mortal (or physical) bodies.” Those who receive this promise cannot remain in bondage to sin or any addiction.

 

To those who are closely tied to an addict, I encourage you to not be hard on the addict. Jesus once asked a religious man, “Who will love God the most, the one forgiven of a small debt, or the one forgiven of an enormous debt?” The Josh Duggars of the world have a blessing others cannot perceive. If they learn to walk in the promise of the Spirit, they will have a strength of character that cannot be shaken and will have a life that stands as a trophy of grace.

 

One thing the family of the addict must understand is that they are not the problem. When a man has a sexual addiction that compels him to step outside of marriage, it is not because the woman is inadequate. People cheat because they are trying to find fulfillment in the flesh, which isn’t possible. This is evident because when someone pursues the flesh, the problem always escalates, and the lewdness must continue to increase. What excites for a moment quickly fades, and the addict must go deeper into darkness to find the same level of excitement the next time. This is why the behavior always escalates. The reason someone seeks an affair is because the pornography is no longer enough.

 

If I could give advice to Josh’s wife, or any spouse in a similar situation, it’s to realize her worth isn’t the problem. When a spouse is not happy with themselves, they will not be satisfied in the relationship. Promiscuity is the misguided attempt to fulfill what is lacking in the heart, but that lack can only be fulfilled in Christ.

 

The flesh cannot satisfy, so even if a spouse does everything possible, the flesh still won’t be satisfied. We were created incomplete for a reason. The heart of mankind can never rest in contentment until we are established in a thriving relationship with our Creator.

 

When we are in the midst of an addiction and in our darkest hours, it’s hard to believe in the love of God and the power of His Spirit. To have someone come along side as an encourager, who points to the hope before us, is someone to be treasured. It’s easy to leave someone in the gutters. Sure they deserve it, but real love creates value. It doesn’t demand value. Keep in mind that most addictions began as a trap, and bad religious advice adds to the burden.

 

Hypocrisy is when someone puts on the pretense of having it all together, but Christians are tempted to put on this façade because the church demands it. Religion demands conformity. It demands self-righteousness, which is replacing the gift of God with human effort. The person overcome by sin can pretend to be righteous because they are mimicking what the church requires. All who are not established in grace are wearing the mask of hypocrisy. But some sins are taboo, while others are shrugged away, but we are all in the same boat. Hypocrisy only shows the image of perfection and says, “Look at me. I am living right.” The true man or woman of God says, “In me, nothing good dwells. Look at the righteousness of God given to me through Christ. Let’s journey together and learn how to trust in God’s righteousness so it comes out in our lives.”

 

God loves the sinner – regardless of the depths they have sunk into. God delights in showing mercy, and transforming sinners into His image as they learn to stop trusting in human effort, and start trusting in God’s work for them.

 

You are the righteousness of God in Christ. May the fruit of the Spirit emerge in your life as you learn to walk by faith in His completed work, given to you as a gift of God’s love.

What Was Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh?

In my book, Stop Trying to Fix Yourself, I speak of the Apostle Paul and how the thorn in his flesh put him into a position where he had to accept a physical struggle that made him weak, but this weakness became his greatest asset. He explains, “I will take pleasure in my infirmities…for when I am weak, then I am strong,” referring to the strength of the Lord that empowers us when the flesh is no longer our focus.

 

Though I don’t believe this should be controversial, it has created a bit of controversy – especially in Christian circles that believe God will never allow a Christian to have a physical problem. Since this comes up frequently, I thought it would be good to answer these objections in a post. Let’s begin by focusing on an important principle for interpreting scripture. As much as we are able, we should approach scripture with an open mind. Problems arise when we are so emotionally invested in a doctrine that we cannot accept what is plainly stated in scripture. When we impose our ideology on scripture, instead of drawing our understanding from the Bible, it becomes hard to get past preconceived ideas.

 

We all struggle to overcome this, but we should also be willing to search the scriptures to see if what we are being taught is true – and to see if what we believe is true. Many misconceptions I once held dear have died slow and painful deaths as the scriptures challenged my ideas. Some ideas I held on to, but the more I studied, the more I had to let go of beliefs that could not be supported by scripture. When I say a doctrine can’t be supported, I am referring to looking at passages in context. Nearly any belief can be proven when scriptures are taken out of context.

 

It is argued by many well known teachers that the Apostle Paul’s thorn in his flesh was not a physical problem, but rather it was the persecution he endured. The reason this is important to many is because there is a belief that God will never allow sickness to enter the life of anyone who has faith. Before digging into this, let’s stop for a moment and analyze this idea.

 

Will God allow persecution? Obviously he will, for the Bible says that any who live godly will suffer persecution. What about physical harm to the believer? Even in the Bible, we see physical pain inflicted upon Jesus’ followers. Many were killed by the damage done to their bodies. So the logic is, God will allow a sword, bullet, or whip to damage our bodies, but he will never allow an infirmity to damage our body. Is there a difference?

 

As one teacher put it, “If Jesus suffered for it on the cross, we won’t, for by His stripes we are healed.” He was beaten, so why weren’t His disciples spared this penalty? Some argue that sickness is an attack of the devil, but so is persecution. Let’s look at the passage that has bothered some people, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

Let’s first dispel the idea that persecution was Paul’s thorn. In Acts 14:22, Paul has just been stoned and left for dead, but he recovers and immediately visits the disciples to encourage them. Knowing people may be shaken by this type of persecution, the Bible says he strengthened the disciples by saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”

 

In Acts 5, Peter and John are arrested for preaching Christ, even though they performed an undeniable miracle. They were persecuted and then beaten at the stocks as a stern warning not to keep preaching, and Acts 5:41 says they left the council after being beaten and began rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ. So are we now to believe that the other apostles rejoiced that they suffered for Christ, but Paul was tormented because he was being persecuted? He first encouraged the church to be strong because persecutions were something we endured on the path to heaven, but when it came to himself, he begged God to keep him out of persecution?

 

Don’t forget that when God called Paul, his ministry began with God telling him, “I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:16) Every apostle was persecuted heavily. Every apostle except John was tortured and killed because they would not stop telling people about the new life of the Spirit through Christ. But even John was beaten, persecuted, and banned to a penal colony, isolated from the church on the isle of Patmos for his faith.

 

It’s undeniable that persecution was part of the early church, and has been a part of the church for thousands of years. In many countries, Christians are being tortured and killed for their faith even as I write. In Hebrews 11:35 we are told that many believers refused to accept deliverance, knowing they would obtain a better resurrection. Does God allow His children to suffer? Why? Not one thing that is lost in this life has value. We are giving up health, life, and possessions for the sake of Christ, knowing that what God returns to us is far better than what we lose.

 

Paul’s thorn of the flesh is NOT persecutions, though he was persecuted. Let’s go back and look at Paul’s conclusion concerning his thorn in the flesh in 2 Corinthians 12:

 9b Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

Persecutions are mentioned. So is needs. So is distress. More importantly, so are infirmities. It was the first thing Paul mentions. Infirmity is mentioned 13 times in the New Testament. 100% of the time it is referring to a physical problem. In fact, the word infirmity (astheneia in the Greek) means physical frailty, feebleness of health, illness, disease, or sickness. It does not mean persecution. By Paul’s own testimony, his infirmity was an attack of Satan, but was actually a gift of God to produce weakness so he learned to receive the strength of the Spirit – which was far better.

 

According to Paul, pride was a struggle, and so he didn’t get lifted up in pride, God gave him a thorn in the flesh. I know this flies in the face of the belief system of many who say God will never inflict a believer, but as we shall see, this is not what the Bible teaches. We’ll look at another example in a moment, but let’s see how Paul discusses his own infirmity.

 

In Galatians 4:13, Paul says that he preached to them through his physical infirmity. Some translations say ‘because of physical infirmity’, but the word is ‘dia’, which means ‘through or with’. Either way, Paul clearly says it was a physical infirmity. In Galatians 4:14 Paul again affirms this by saying, “My trial that was in my flesh, you did not despise or reject.” Let me reiterate this. Paul said, “I preached to you through physical infirmity/illness, and you did not reject the trial that was in my flesh.” There is no way to escape the truth that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a physical problem that people could see, and some rejected him because of it – but not those who believed his preaching in Galatia.

 

Paul then gives a clue as to what that infirmity could be in the very next verse. “For I bear witness that if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.” If you read the full context of Paul’s discussion, he makes it clear that the people he reached with the gospel did not turn away from Paul because of the infirmity of his flesh, but as they grew to love Paul, in their compassion, they wanted to take away his thorn, and if they could have, they loved him enough to give him their own eyes to ease his infirmity. There is no other reason they would have wanted to give Paul their own eyes.

 

Let’s throw another monkey wrench into this doctrine that limits God’s authority to use the flesh as He chooses. Look at Exodus 4:11

So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?

 

Who made the mute, the deaf, and the blind? According to God’s own word, He did. According to Psalm 139, God knit us together in the womb, and we are made exactly as God intended. Why does God allow disabilities at birth? He doesn’t always give the answer, but He does assure is that whatever we miss in this life, becomes a better resurrection in the life to come.

 

Then there is Job. Job went through immense suffering from the hand of Satan, but who began this challenge? Look at Job 1:8

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”

 

God challenged Satan to consider Job’s faithfulness, and then God permitted Satan to afflict him, but with specific boundaries. God allowed Satan to rob Job of everything, including his health.

 

Job’s friends accused him of having secret sin or some reason that this evil came upon him. They said, “God would never do this to a righteous man.” They all were very religious, and one even said, “The Lord said to me,” and then gave Job counsel from his own heart while claiming it was the word of God. All three of Job’s friends rebuked Job for claiming he was standing upon faith. Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,” and expressed his confidence that in the end, God would rescue him. The only thing Job said wrong was, “When I see God, I’m going to ask why.” Then when God appeared, God said, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” God then asks Job where he was when the earth was founded. Since Job was wise enough to question God, the Lord asked him questions and says, “Tell Me, if you have understanding. The one who corrects the Almighty, let him answer it.”

 

That was the moment Job understood that God had the right to do as He pleased. He also found out that what God permits Satan to steal, He abundantly restores. Job received ten times what he lost, for God’s goal was always to bless. Through the infirmity of Job’s flesh, he suffered, but that suffering established him in the Lord’s strength, and made it clear that all good comes through God, and Satan has no power to defeat God’s will for Job’s life.

 

To Job’s friends, the ones who said, “God would never do this,” God said in Job 42:7

And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.

 

God made Job’s friends, the ones who claimed to be wise counselors and condemned the suffering Job, to come and submit to Job. God said He would not even hear their prayers, but Job had to petition for them before they would be forgiven.

 

Similar situations happen in the church today. When my grandfather was dying of cancer, the church heaped the burden of guilt upon them by saying things like, “There must be secret sin in his life.” To my grandmother, one person said, “You are the reason he is dying. If you had enough faith, you could raise him off that bed.”

 

Is this what the Bible teaches? That we should condemn the sick? Does the Bible teach us to criticize people for not having enough faith? Or does it teach us to bear one another’s burdens. I have many friends in various healing movements. One thing they all have in common is scolding the ailing. If someone gets a cold, they are the first to tell them they shouldn’t be sick. If I had a prayer need, I wouldn’t tell them because I would hear how I shouldn’t have a need – I just don’t have enough faith.

 

Have they never read the letters the Apostles sent to the churches? Nearly every letter expresses prayer needs. When imprisoned, Paul pleaded for the church to send him a cloak before winter. He praised the Philippian church for meeting his needs.

 

What about 2 Timothy 4:20 where Paul said he had to leave one of his missionary helpers in Miletus because he was sick? Or what about Philippians 2 when Paul talks about his companion, Epaphroditus who became very sick and almost died? Or what about 1 Timothy 5:23, where Paul tells Timothy to drink a little wine because of his stomach problems, and his frequent infirmities?

 

Do you know one thing that is missing in all these accounts of sickness in the Bible? Not one time does a minister of God condemn the sick, nor do they tell them they shouldn’t be sick. Does God heal? Absolutely. I have friends that were miraculously healed. I have a relative that had terminal cancer as a baby. The doctors gave up and called the family in to say their good-byes. They gathered and prayed, and the child was instantly healed. Nearly 50 years later, he is still healthy and cancer-free. I have a friend of the family that had cancer of the mouth. She is not active in church and is not part of any healing ministry. The night before she was to go in for surgery, she poured her heart out to the Lord. When she went in the next morning, cancer could not be found.

 

Yet others pray, claim divine health, and do all the right things according to what people teach, but are not healed. Why? According to the book of James, the prayer of faith will heal the sick. I’ll also add that the elders are responsible for praying for the sick, and no where do we see the church condemning the sick. But also keep in mind that the Bible says that God deals each person a measure of faith and that faith is a gift of the Spirit. Faith is not produced by man. You can’t muster up enough human faith to do the work of the Spirit.

 

God did not explain why Paul could miraculously heal the unchurched people he encountered in Acts 28:8-9, but did not give Paul the power to heal Epaphraditus, Timothy, or Trophimus. Indeed we should pray for the sick with expectation, but ultimately healing is a gift of the Spirit and is according to a purpose we, like Job, cannot see.

 

People put God into a box, and then they have to explain away scriptures that don’t fit in that box. Because of doctrines like these, people are distracted from the truth. Instead of seeking God, they are seeking their will. Paul struggled with this. Three times he begged God to heal him, but God’s answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

 

Sadly, the teachings of some cause people to reject this. Instead of walking by faith, they are demanding their own will. Unless God gives them the miracle they demand, they are paralyzed in their walk, and if God doesn’t give them the answer they want, their life becomes one of confusion, disappointment, and frustration.

 

Expect the miraculous, but don’t forget that the miraculous might be God’s strength in your weakness. Don’t short-change yourself by demanding the strength of the physical when God is calling you into the power of the Spirit.

 

Eddie Snipes 2015