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Dealing with Sin and Guilt

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Question #1:  

Thank you for your kind words. I have backslid again into sin. I promised God so many times I wouldn't do this again but now I committed the worst sin ever. I told God "Lord I give you my word and if I break it, it means I renounce you" again to assure myself I wouldn't fall. I feel desperate and empty. I feel demonic oppression, always having problems with scrupulously and blasphemous thoughts. I don't know what to do or pray anymore. I feel so lost and alone, I'm so depressed. The devil is constantly mocking me and my thoughts. I've fallen so hard this past year because of so many broken promises, I have lost so much faith and gathered so much unforgiveness. Please help me

Response #1: 

I have been praying for you, my friend, and will continue to do so. If you haven't already done so, please read the posting: "Sin according to the Bible". I receive many emails from our fellow believers who are struggling with sin and, more particularly, misapprehensions about what the Bible really has to say on the subject. You are believer in Jesus Christ and as such you are safe and secure in Him, "who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1Pet.1:5 ESV). God forgives you whenever you sin. Jesus died for ALL of your sins – and for the sins of the entire human race. Think about that. No sin is to great to be forgiven because Christ covered every one of them with His life's blood, His spiritual death on the cross. So please be encouraged and know that since you are truly repentant that if you confess your sin to Him He will forgive you just as He has promised. Believe God's promise to you: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1Jn.1:9 NIV).

Of David. Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel:
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.
Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.
Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, my soul.
Psalm 103:1-22 NIV

A word of advice to a fellow Christian warrior. God does not ask us to make promises and vows to Him. In fact, Jesus has told us to stay away from anything more than "yes" and "no" (Matt.5:37). I understand how many believers are upset with themselves about certain behaviors and are thus led to do that sort of thing, but in my observation and experience it is always a mistake. We are very weak creatures, infested with a sin nature and under attack by the evil one. Better not to do than to promise not to do. Better to look forward than back. Better to fight the fight than agonize about previous losses. This life is a war for Christians, and we have to fight it one day, one step at a time. If we are moving forward spiritually, we will get better in battling against sin (please read Peter #30: Sanctification at the link). No artificial defense (such as making promises we may not be able to keep) will ever replace growing closer to Jesus and in our love for Him through His Word day by day.

Be of good courage, my friend! Jesus loves you more than you can possibly understand at present – He gave up His life for you and has already died for this and every sin you will ever commit. He forgives you whenever you confess, and welcomes back every prodigal son and daughter with open arms.

Time to move forward and stop looking backward.

Do feel free to write me back.

In Jesus who is our all.

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer me, and so fast. I am trying to go through each day, but the way I feel right now is without energy and hope. I Don't feel God's presence, and I don't know if he is temporary missing or if He has left ne completely and given me over to a reprobate mind and selfish heart. I used to care so much for the people around me, and put them first, but now I just feel so alone, selfish and proud, like I can't control my feelings. All kind of evil thoughts and feelings invade my mind and I feel so distant from myself and God. Because it's so hard to forgive myself, I feel so much unwanted pride, and distance from God, and feeling bad, and evil like a punishment, feeling like I cant find my way back to Jesus. I have broken so many promises, always asked God for repentance because I was sorry, but never made any real effort to change, and so much willful sin. What if God is done with me, and He will unleash His wrath upon Me? I don't feel thankful anymore and grateful for all He has done for me as I used to. I feel such an unwanted hate towards me and others. I want His love again, but I don't know if He will come back. I don't want to go to hell, but I feel like such a hypocrite when I say more than this I don't want to live Without Jesus. Thank you Bob for taking your time to pray for me. I hope it's not too late, though my hope is so small right now and my faith too. I wish I could turn back the time and change my past, but then again, what's done is done, and the future is only known by Him. I wish I'd have more faith, and feel more repentance. I feel so cold and my heart so hardened. I am nothing without Jesus. thank you again Bob, I wish you joy and peace from above.

Response #2: 

You're very welcome, but please do have another look at the previous email and also the links included. There is no reason for you to feel bad . . . once you have repented of the past and confessed past sins. In fact, feeling bad about the past is probably the single biggest mistake Christians make. We are told not to do it (Phil3:13), told not to worry (Matt.6:25ff.), told we are forgiven (1Jn.1:9), but many if not most Christians spend all their time looking back at where they've been instead of keeping their heads up and eyes forward concentrating on where they should be going. Whether on the road or in the Christian life, that is a sure-fire way to end up in the ditch. God wants you to have peace in Jesus Christ. Jesus wants you to grow and progress and produce for Him. You are the only one "feeling bad" and it is doing you no good whatsoever. After a while, this sort of thing is detrimental to faith – because it is essentially not trusting in God that He forgives you when He says He does. God is the One who ladles out the divine discipline, not us. If He punishes us, it is as a loving Father and for our good dealing with children of His own whom He dearly loves beyond measure. We don't have to worry about that and we are making a big mistake when and if we do.

The "secret" to solving all these problems is spiritual growth. That is not a simple thing or a quick thing or an easy thing, but it is the only thing for those who want to grow close to Jesus Christ. You have to learn to "go with what you know" and not "reel from what you feel". You are a born-again, saved child of God. That ought to make you feel "good" – indeed! But to do so requires knowing all the ins and outs of what that really means, aggressively thinking on those truths when you feel emotionally pressured, and learning through experience to put your emotions right when they are telling you things that you know from the Word of God are not true. It is a fight, and the only way to win that fight is to start fighting it.

Fight the fight.

Here is one additional link which I think you will find helpful in your present predicament: Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?.

Be encouraged, my friend! God has given you eternal life in Jesus Christ! You are only still here in this world to honor Him and to be rewarded for all your good efforts in doing so. Every day you have left is a great opportunity, not a burden. Make the most of it – and do feel free to access Ichthys and also to write me any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Hello Dr Luginbill,

I pray all is well with you and your ministry.

How is Ecclesiastes 7:28 best translated into English? Is Solomon saying he has not found one good woman? This would be the ironies of all ironies if that is the case, especially since he had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

Thanks as always brother Luginbill.

Response #3: 

Hello Friend,

Even if we take Ecclesiastes 7:28 in the traditional way, "one out of a thousand" is statistically not really any better than "zero out of a thousand" and confirms what Solomon says in the next verse: "This only have I found: God created mankind upright, but they have gone in search of many schemes" (Eccl.7:29, NIV) – which seems to me to say that no man (or woman) is upright. So even if we indulge the traditional translation, the point is not that "men can be upright but women can't", but rather that no one is upright. In fact we know from scripture overall that no one is upright (e.g., Rom.3:23). That is why we need the righteousness that God imputes to us when we believe, because there is no other way to be righteous or "upright" in His sight, even if a person devotes his/her all to "keeping the Law" (Gal.2:16).

So your point is certainly well-taken, and anyone who tries to use this verse to denigrate women vis-ΰ-vis men is missing the whole point of the passage. That said, I don't think this is what the verse actually says. The LXX translates "Although my soul sought yet I did not find one man from a thousand did I find, or a women among all these I did not find", and that is a fairly literal rendering of the Hebrew. Solomon's Hebrew in Ecclesiastes in particular is deliberately couched in "wisdom literature" verbal rhythms, so that the repetition of "did I find" is in my view merely a nod to that rhythm and cannot be made to reverse the meaning of the verse – just as the next verse in the chapter shows clearly shows. A better rendering:

Though my heart kept searching, yet I did not find one man – [not] one in a thousand did I find, nor any women among them all did I find [who was righteous].
Ecclesiastes 7:28

Thanks for your prayers!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

My question is if God knew what was going to happen with Adam and Eve why would he let it happen in the first place? He is God and perfect why would he let sin happen when he could of stop it before it happen. Why not just create a perfect world and get Satan out before all this happen. I know your not to question God but I'm very confused. I do believe that Jesus walk this earth and die for me but why would God put us though this if he could of stop it in the first place. He created everything even Satan.

Response #4: 

Good to make your acquaintance.

As to your question, this is the genius behind the plan of God. God certainly could have done as you suggest, but not and also give us genuine free will – without which we not in any important way resemble who we actually are now. Free will without the opportunity to choose is not free. The brilliance of the Plan of God is that it allows creatures given the most amazing gift, the very image of God, the ability to use that image, that free will, to self-select to heaven or hell. Those who want to be with Him are willing to accept His will – all it takes is to accept the Gift of Christ instead of insisting on one's own works. Those who do not want to live in a universe with God, who are not willing to bend their will to His in any way, and who are not grateful for the Gift of Christ nor willing to accept it, would actually rather be in hell. Please don't misunderstand: no one wants to go to hell, but the majority of the world's population from the beginning to the end of history have preferred that to making any adjustment of their own will to God's WILL. They want heaven . . . without God. They want blessing instead of cursing . . . without God. Unfortunately for them, there can be no New Jerusalem without God, and since all blessing comes from God, there can be no blessing without Him. Being apart from Him is the worst sort of cursing, but unbelievers prefer to have nothing to do with Him and so their future is a place without Him, the lake of fire. And they would make the same choice if they had a thousand lifetimes to choose.

This is a very brief synopsis of a complicated subject. If interested in the details, please see the following link where you will find the topic treated in depth: "God's Plan to Save You".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #5:  

What does the Bible say about suicide and if you are saved does that mean you go to hell any way? I had a friend that died of there own hand and I thought they were saved does that mean they went to hell? Feeling very confused about a lot of thing. I want to believe they didn't but we was bought up with one kind of preaching.

Response #5: 

Only unbelievers go to hell. Believers are saved.

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:18 NKJV

I do worry about people who are contemplating this first for the obvious reason that it is a horrible thing to do – to themselves and to their families – but also because of what it may reflect about their faith. I think it is clear that plenty of believers have committed suicide in the course of human history (one thinks of the example of Saul), but they are in heaven today nonetheless. Mind you, while we are here on earth after salvation to win rewards that glorify Christ (see the link), people who take their own lives demonstrate a very low spiritual state, and it is doubtful that anyone who was spiritually mature and moving forward with and for Jesus would ever do such a thing – but that is a different matter. If your friend still believed in Jesus Christ, he/she is saved and with the Lord right now.

Here are a number of links at the site where this issue is discussed:

Suicide and Good Works

Resisting the Devil

Recovering from Sin

Addicted to sin

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Hello Sir,

I just discovered you site a few days ago. Thank you for all the time and effort you have put into making the difficult understandable. I will get right to my question. I accepted Christ many years ago. I carried into that relationship an addiction to __. I struggled alone for many years before finally confessing to my pastor and eventually to my wife and after much prayer, counseling and tears, God has given me victory over habitual sin. My struggle now is with condemnation. I came to your site looking for an explanation of Hebrews 10:26. Which was very helpful. I have just read your piece on apostasy which has me very concerned. I have frequent bouts of depression and despair that God will not forgive that sin because I continued after salvation. In my heart I know that there's no sin that I can commit that is greater than the blood of Christ but now I'm wondering if these frequent doubts about his willingness to forgive me are in fact apostasy. I'm not running from God. I'm faithful to my church, bible reading and prayer. Is this normal? What is your advise?

Thank you in advance for your reply. You have been a huge blessing to me already. God bless

Response #6: 

Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks for your good words about this ministry.

As to your question, your experience is not at all uncommon. It is far from unusual for Christians to stray far from the Lord when they are young and return to Him later and live good, productive Christian lives. In fact it's probably more of the norm. Also not uncommon is guilt for past failures and sins. However, such feelings are inappropriate, provided that one has confessed to the Lord. We know that we are forgiven when we confess (1Jn.1:9), so that doubting God's Word on that point is a sort of subtle arrogance in reverse. It also bespeaks an imperfect understanding of His grace, goodness, love and mercy. God is not trying to condemn anyone – quite the contrary. The Father judged the Son in our place to save us: He sent Jesus into the world to save the world, not to condemn it, because He wants all to be saved (Jn.3:17; cf. 1Tim.2:4; 2Tim.2:24-26; 2Pet.3:9). If that's not love! So the problem (of damnation) is one of people being unwilling to accept the Gift of Christ, of stubbornly refusing to bend their will to God's will, even when the offer is so generous and so much the opposite of onerous. It is very simple. Believers are saved; unbelievers are not saved:

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:18 NKJV

So as to apostasy, that is a case of person who was a believer casting aside his/her faith in Christ so as not to be a believer any longer. It is not some dire, secret, horrible sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of anyone who stole apples out of their neighbor's orchard as a teenager (or whatever). All sin (Rom.3:23). The question is not a question of sin, since Christ died for all the sins of all. The question is whether or not we belong to Christ by being willing to be His. Believers are saved; unbelievers are not saved. If an unbeliever changes his/her mind and believes, he/she becomes a believer and is then saved. If a believer changes his/her mind and renounces faith so as not to believe in / be faithful or loyal to Jesus Christ and willing to belong to Him in anyway anymore, he/she has become an unbeliever and is not saved:

Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Romans 11:22-23 NKJV

If you read over any of the materials on apostasy at Ichthys objectively – filtering out the guilt feelings – you will see that they all say the same thing. Apostasy is rebelling from Christ so as to not believe any longer:

"But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away (Greek: 'apostatize')."
Luke 8:13 NKJV

Guilt is a powerful emotion, but it usually leads us in the wrong direction as Christians – at least more often than not in my experience and observation. Christians need to grow up spiritually to get to the point of "going with what they know" to be true from the Word of God rather than "reeling from what they feel" especially since it does not line up with scripture. We all make mistakes (Jas.3:2). A big part of the successful Christian life is to learn to put past failure behind us and move on to make a difference for Christ (Phil.3:13). That means growing spiritually from learning the truth of scripture from the Bible (and from an orthodox teaching ministry), believing it, applying it, walking in it, and helping others do the same. That is what the three crowns of reward are given out at the judgment seat of Christ (see the link).

So please be encouraged, my friend! Put the past behind you (beyond making a mental note not to fall into similar traps again), and make every effort to get moving in this race for Jesus Christ.

Yours in our the dear Lord and Savior who has already paid the price for all of our sins.

Bob Luginbill

Question #7:  

Hello, I stumbled across your site and wondered if you could help me with some issues I've been facing. I guess I should start at the beginning.

I have been a saved Christian for a number of years now. I was sort of raised Christian by my grandmother, and have had my beliefs deepened and solidified through a number of spiritual experiences and understandings, so I cannot say exactly when it was I got saved, but I know it's been years. I'm just out of my teens presently, if it matters at all. Unfortunately, my Christian walk has been a bit of a rocky one, with highs and lows throughout. Just a few months ago, I was heavily steeped in sin because I was convinced I could do no better. Through it all, I still believed in my heart that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Lord, and that through Him I was forgiven of my sins and reconciled to the Father. All the same, some people would be surprised when I would tell them that I am a Christian, which would make me feel guilty of my actions. One day, I had a horrible thought that scared me straight. It's a thought that might have been considered blasphemous, and I don't want to express the details of it in any medium. The fear I felt for thinking such a thing, combined with the guilt and dissatisfaction I felt at my sinful lifestyle lead to me attempting to "clean up my act", in a way. I think that the guilt and dissatisfaction part of that was conviction from the Holy Spirit, and that encouraged me to keep going strong....For a time.

Now I have more issues. I'm still plagued with awful thoughts daily, that's actually a more recent issue, but though they shake me up sometimes, I've learned to mostly dismiss such thoughts. On top of those thoughts, however, lies a host of other issues. See, I do a lot of Bible study, or attempt to. Some things I can't understand and interpret on my own, so I often seek out commentaries and devotionals or I will hope something is said in church that's relevant to my questions and worries. But the more I root around in these resources, the more I'm seeing a pattern. There's a common saying: "No true Christian WANTS to sin. True Christians HATE their sin, and they would never be inclined to it." The most prominent scripture that usually accompanies this assertion is Hebrews 12:6-8. The verse deals with chastisement, and says that those without chastisement are bastards and not sons. I believe I was chastened and lead out of my old ways into spiritual renewal, a few months ago. I now find that there are times where I'm tempted to do or say things I know I probably shouldn't. Regardless, I find myself *wanting* to do those things. In effect, there are times when I find myself *wanting* to sin. And to couple with that, I'll make excuses that alleviate the guilt of that desire. I'll remind myself that sin will not cause me to lose my salvation, or that God has forgiven all my sins, or that we all sin so it's normal and I'll come back up out of it at some point. But....Aren't these all just excuses? And some people will say that it's the old flesh nature that spurs those inclinations, the "old man" that still wants to leap into those old bad habits, but I think I've felt the lusts of the flesh and oftentimes it feels more carnal and impulsive than what I experience. These inclinations feel like they come from *me*, and it feels like *I'm* making the excuses, but according to most people, no true Christian should think or behave that way. I'm in tears even as I write this to you.

And some of these sites I go to, these commentaries and devotionals I read, accuse me of not being saved outright. They say "you're not saved because you don't believe enough" or "you're not saved because you don't have the right works to show for it" or "you're not saved because of your attitude towards someone else" or even "you're not saved because of the extremity of your current doubts" But I know that once a person is saved, they're eternally secure. I know that I have believed on Jesus Christ as my Savior, and deep down this is what I still believe. So, why am I so anxious? Where do all these thoughts and doubts come from? Do you think my doubts, my search for answers, indicates I'm not saved? Is there any advice you could give to calm my troubled mind? Any help at all would be much appreciated.

Response #7: 

Dear Friend,

Your story is very typical of many I receive all the time. First, please know that you ARE saved if you believe in Jesus Christ:

This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
1st John 5:4b NIV

God doesn't want anyone to be lost (1Tim.2:4; 2Pet.3:9), and He does absolutely everything so that everyone might be saved . . . short of violating anyone's free will. The truth of this principle is seen in the fact that Jesus died in the darkness for every single sin of every single human being – so the offer of salvation is legitimate for all: Christ has already paid for all of our sins. For that reason, all believers are saved; only unbelievers, those who have not or refuse to believe in Christ, who refuse to accept the Gift God offers them, are not saved:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

Neither "pins and needles salvation" (i.e., the wrong notion that you can lose your salvation by sneezing), nor "once saved always saved" (i.e., even if you disavow, reject and stop believing in Christ and give yourself over to the devil you can't lose your salvation) are true. The truth is that believers are saved and unbelievers aren't. If you are believer, you are saved, and you will continue in that status to the end unless you willfully reject Jesus Christ and stop believing in Him. That is called "apostasy" and no Christian falls into apostasy quickly or accidentally or unawares or against their own will; there is also, however, a thing called "the sin unto death" wherein believers involved in a pattern of spiritual degeneration and gross sin are eventually taken out of this life in a painful way if they refuse to repent and change their ways (see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"). Like so many of us, you got "the wake-up call", and responded in the right way (blessedly).

It is not at all uncommon for a believer to wander far when younger and eventually to turn around and come back to the Lord. In fact, that is probably more the rule than the exception (only the manner and method of wandering differ). But God is very pleased when any lost sheep is found and returns to the fold, happier than with the 99 who didn't stray. That is the point behind our Lord's parable of the prodigal son:

"And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ "But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate."
Luke 15:21-24 NASB

In Jesus' name, welcome back!

Now that you have returned, you are also doing the right thing, namely, seeking out the truth. The truth is the ONLY thing that can give you peace and spiritual forward progress. Spiritual growth, through prayer, Bible reading, and what is of the most critical importance, accessing good, solid, in-depth Bible teaching, learning what you are taught, believing it and applying it to your walk with Jesus is the answer to all things. You will get better at resisting sin as you grow, and you will know more about it as you learn from scripture (on that point, please see by way of introduction the posting: "Sin according to the Bible: Hamartiology I" – it deals with all these questions in more detail).

For now, let me assure you that . . .

1) Jesus has already died for whatever sin you may commit;

2) God stands ready to forgive you based on that payment just as soon as you confess your sin (1Jn.9);

3) Nothing you can say, do or think will ever surprise or shock God (even if surprises and shocks you);

4) All Christians have to fight this same mental warfare you are fighting (see the link: "The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle"); only the particulars vary;

5) Being tempted is not a sin; yielding to temptation is what is a sin (Jas.1:14-15).

You are in the position of someone waking up in the middle of a raging battle and realizing they missed basic training. Get yourself trained. Things will get better after you do.

You are certainly welcome to all the materials at Ichthys, and do feel free to write any time.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #8:  

Thank you very much for your reply, it's helpful and encouraging in a number of ways. I only disagree with your position on eternal security (once saved, always saved as some put it), because the extreme scenario that suggests a true Christian would ever go full apostate seems to me to be hypothetical. A true believer would love the Lord too much, and would fear Him too much, and would understand the consequences of such an action too well, that they would never consider such a thing. Wouldn't you agree? It seems more likely that such a person never truly believed to begin with, and were quite possibly Christian in name only, without any of the conviction or faith behind it.

That being said, confident as I am in the eternal security of true Christian believers, doubts have a way of plaguing my mind and causing me to doubt *my* salvation. And these doubts afflict me to the core. Sometimes a works-based teacher will have me considering what they say though I know it to be folly (and will soon thereafter disprove their teachings by Scripture), sometimes it feels like there is in fact *something* to do on my part, and sometimes it just seems so hard for me to fully put my faith in Jesus Christ and rest in Him completely. Because of this anxiety, other horrible thoughts enter my mind. Thoughts like "you don't really believe, you're only fooling yourself" or "see what you're doing right now? It's just another form of rejection. You're not saved at all."

I know Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, who died for my sins and reconciled me to the Father. So why do these thoughts and doubts persist? Why do I worry so much? I will look over some of the resources you've supplied, but any advice you can give that applies directly to my situation would be much appreciated. Thank you for your time and patience.

Response #8: 

You're very welcome, friend.

As to "why these thoughts and doubts persist?", that is a little like a person who hasn't done any exercise in ten years asking why he gets cramps when running the first week of trying to get back into shape. It's like what my old OCS major replied when asked what might help with that: "Sit-ups". Things will get better as you start to get back into spiritual shape. Your part is to trust the Lord that it will get better. And it will, provided you start and keep doing the things necessary to grow spiritually. The more truth you know and believe, the more closely you will find yourself walking with Christ, and the less these sorts of things will trouble you. You will find you have scriptures and principles of truth that apply directly to the lies the devil is trying to feed you (so that you will just need to hang tough with those truths under pressure), and at other times you will be able to rely on the growing confidence you have in the Lord and His truth and your relationship with Him that flows from that spiritual growth.

(4) For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but are powerful for God, for the destruction of strongholds, (5) destroying sophistries and every presumption that raises itself up against the knowledge of God, and taking every thought prisoner so as to obey Christ, (6) being ready to reprove every disobedient thought once you have come into the fullness of mature obedience [in respect to guarding your thoughts].
2nd Corinthians 10:4-6

From your correspondence, you seem to me, despite present complaints, to be starting from a pretty good base. When you say, for instance, "A true believer would love the Lord too much, and would fear Him too much, and would understand the consequences of such an action too well, that they would never consider such a thing", this represents to me a pretty advanced view of our relationship with the Lord; more than that, no one would even be thinking in such terms if they weren't not just a believer but a pretty serious one at that. So I think YOU are secure . . . because your faith is secure. The problem with habitual sin is that it undermines and stymies spiritual growth on the one hand (making improvement of one's position problematic if not impossible), and tends to erode faith on the other (because of the doubts that excessive carnality causes to arise and the alienation from the Lord it produces on both sides of that relationship).

As to the fact of apostasy, however, you have some links on that. Let me just leave you with one passage, words of our Lord Himself:

Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
Luke 8:13 NIV

There is a category who receive the Word with joy; their faith plant sprouts into life, watered by the Word, but later on it dies . . . so as to be dead. It dries up because of persecution, opposition, and in many cases disappointment in life which is then blamed on God. The English (and the Greek) clearly state that these types did believe; but later they "fall away". The Greek here is aphistantai, the verb that supplies the root for our English noun "apostasy", and represents a complete rebellion, alienation, falling away from someone or something. Falling away from faith, from Christ, is the loss of salvation. I hasten to add that you are in no danger of this, but it is a very large mistake to assume about the others that "they weren't saved in the first place" (that is the typical hyper-Calvinist position), because that false doctrine of "hyper-eternal security" has a great tendency in some people to embolden them toward sin, even though there are dozens of passages in the Bible that it make it very clear that our choices in this life after salvation do matter (cf. Matt.10:33; Lk.14:34-35; Jn.15:5-6; Rom.11:17-23; 1Cor.6:9-11; 10:6-12; 15:2; 2Cor.13:5; Gal.5:19-21; Eph.5:3-7; Col.1:21-23; 1Tim.6:9; 6:20-21; 2Tim.2:12; Heb.2:1-3; 3:6-19; 10:35-39; 2Jn.1:8-9, just for example).

Finally, on the issue of works, this is another greatly misunderstood topic (and a long one). Suffice it to say here that on the one hand many things qualify as legitimate Christian works that many who are not properly trained in the Bible would not recognize as such (e.g., prayer - - I am sure you have prayed for people). James singles out for praise Abraham and Rahab when he speaks on the topic of works in chapter two of his epistle – not for giving money or witnessing or washing dishes at the church social, but for acts of faith. What you should consider is that there are twelve gates in New Jerusalem, each of which represents a level of achievement in spiritual growth, progress and progression; the last three gates are reserved for those who win all three Christian crowns. We are left here after salvation to produce for Jesus Christ, His way, not in the way many legalistic and traditional groups assume. Every day is thus an opportunity to "store up treasures" in heaven, and you will never regret the least bit of effort you expend in doing so. That is the way you should be running, running to win.

(24) Don't you know that all the runners in the stadium run the race, but that only one receives the prize? Run in such a way so as to achieve what you are after. (25) And again, everyone involved in competition exercises self-control in all respects. Those athletes go through such things so that they may receive a perishable crown of victory, but we do it to receive an imperishable one. (26) So as I run this race of ours, I'm heading straight for the finish line; and as I box this bout of ours, I'm making every punch count. (27) I'm "pummeling my body", one might say, bringing myself under strict control so that, after having preached [the gospel] to others, I might not myself be disqualified [from receiving the prize we all seek].
1st Corinthians 9:25-27

Here is a link on that which has plenty of detail: "Christian Rewards"

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Dear Bob,

I had a question I've yet to seen addressed, at least as far as I've read thus far, and it's about owing money. Obviously, we're not to hold debts and give generously without asking for repayment for expecting as such, especially if the person proves incapable of paying said money back. What do we do in situations where the person wants to repay us back?

Recently, some relatives have borrowed much money from me, all of it completely necessary (bills, power, would have lost the house, etc.), and while part of me would like to get the money back, I also know that I am not to hold them to it, and obviously won't. They are capable of it, over time, but I am wondering if I should even take it? Granted, I'm in a situation where it's put me in a financial disadvantage, but I will be getting a job soonish, and will be able to replenish it over time, myself. I made it clear to them (at least I hope so, since I do bring it up to them) that they don't have to pay me back, especially if it puts them at a disadvantage, or just are simply not able to. They both seemed determined to do so, though, so.. should I accept it?

I want to give generously, and I'm in a mindset where I don't wish to hold them to it, and won't expect them to, but I also have a 'it would be nice if I could get it back' mind, you know? I know the Lord will provide, either way, but just wish to know what my actions should be about this.

This may seem like going back to basics, but I was curious if there was a particular method to praying for forgiveness. Does it need to specifically be the Lord's prayer, or would praying at all in repentance suffice? My inclination is to believe that the Lord's prayer in specific isn't required to repent or be forgiven, since thinking it is so may give the impression of forgiveness only coming from a ritualistic gesture, rather than genuine repentance. Am I right in this line of thinking, or does the Lord's prayer need to be done?

Response #9: 

I don't think there is anything at all wrong about getting money back that was loaned from someone we loaned it to who now has the means of repayment and is willing to do so. Certainly, there doesn't seem to be anything in the Bible as far as I know which would even suggest that this is a problem.

As to forgiveness, prayer is a conversation with God. If you had wronged your best friend, you would certainly know what to say to him/her. It is God whom we have offended with our sins (Ps.51:4), and God is closer than to us in Jesus Christ than any earthly friend. He knows already what we've done and what we plan to do about it. There is no set formula for a reason. This is not ritual. This is reality.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

Dear Bob,

I wanted to ask another question real quick, since I can't seem to get it off of my mind. So long as we do not fall into sin, and know that this world is dust and do not get invested in it, are we fine with doing some stuff, like watching some movies or playing some games? I know this might sound a bit extreme, but lately I haven't been able to get into these activities a lot because I'm not entirely sure if we're allowed to or not. I don't want to word it 'are we allowed to have fun', since that suggests that we're not allowed to or something along those lines, or I am just going too far in the other direction and too timid to do hardly anything. My line of thinking is, so long as we're playing by God's rules and making sure he remains the center of our lives, of our decisions, etc, then we're free to have some downtime to ourselves in terms of recreation. Am I right in thinking like this?

Response #10: 

I think you are on the right track with this. If the monastic movement of medieval times accomplished one thing it was to demonstrate that Paul was correct when he said we can't "go out of the world" (1Cor.5:10). Many cults and many legalistic churches and denominations have attempted to outlaw various activities which are not necessarily sinful in and of themselves – and yet they have done nothing to prevent sin (and indeed have promoted sin in the form of legalism by so doing).

These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
Colossians 2:23 NASB

The Bible makes it clear what sin is. Even when things are not listed in scripture, our conscience ministered to by the Holy Spirit makes it clear to us what is sanctified behavior and what is not. If we are not sure, we are told to "stay away from anything that even looks like it might be evil" (1Thes.5:22). Between what is unquestionably sinful and what is obviously sanctified (as in Bible reading, prayer, acts of ministry and love), there is a wide range of activities which really don't fall into either category. We have free will, and thus we have some measure of latitude in our actions, more narrow or wide depending upon the times and circumstances of our lives. How we choose to employ our free will is what the texture of our lives is all about. Things which tempt us into sin are better avoided. Things which compromise our good Christian behavior and applications are best avoided. Few people can get through this life (or even a day) without doing or saying or thinking anything in conjunction with the activities of the world which are negatives rather than positives (whether or not they cross the threshold of sin). It is impossible to be perfect in this respect, and in my opinion anyone who strives for perfection by attempting to chop out of his/her life anything which might not be completely and totally sanctified is likely going about this the wrong way. That is like trying to steer your car on the freeway by focusing six inches ahead of your front fender.

Rather than making, e.g., football, into a personal sin – and scrupulously avoiding anything to do with it and feeling very bad if ever it is thought of or watched or spoken of to any degree – better to realize through spiritual growth that it is a pointless activity of no worth whatsoever to the Lord. Spending a few minutes or even perhaps a few hours watching it – if recognizing it for what it is – will certainly not bring the world to an end (or devastate the believer-in-question's spiritual growth). However, becoming a football junkie who not only spends an enormous amount of free time on it (i.e., well beyond what might be termed legitimate and even necessary time for recreation and relaxation) but, even worse, who begins to take it seriously and see it as something important, will have a negative impact on spiritual growth, progress and progression (not to mention damaging relationships and possibly even negatively affecting job performance).

I single this example out because I do enjoy watching it from time to time and have done so in the past [not this season, however, for obvious reasons], but I try not to get too wrapped up in it or in anything having to with sports – just as an example. There are innumerable things in this world which we could plug into this same paradigm. The problem with singling one thing like this out is that it might seem to let some who don't like, e.g., football off the hook – whereas almost anything which is not directly related to the necessities of making a basic living on the one hand or of spiritual growth, progress and production on the other could well be just as potentially bad. That goes for gardening (which I enjoy), and exercise (some of which is certainly wise and healthy) and cooking and cards and games and socializing and music and television and the internet and daydreaming and model-railroading and stamp collecting and dogs and cats . . . and even spending so much time enjoying your Christian friends and family (some of which is good and godly and necessary) that you either stop doing your day job well or start shorting the time and effort you should be spending with the Lord.

There is a proper balance to these things which will be different for every single person. It will depend not only upon their individual areas of weakness and strength, but also to a large degree upon just how eager we are to please the Lord by winning the crowns of victory promised to those who "strive for masteries" (as the KJV puts it: 2Tim.2:5). Success in this regard will never come from personally legislating against some select, specific activities (and disaster will result if person X starts to see non-inherently sinful activity Y as "wrong" or "evil" and begins to find fault with others for indulging in it). Success will be the result of seeing these things for what they really are – choices. The more we choose the better part (as Martha's sister Mary did: Lk.10:42), the more we will have reason to rejoice on that great day of days when the Lord evaluates every decision we have ever made and makes very clear what was "gold, silver and precious stones", and what on the other hand was "wood, hay and stubble" (1Cor.3:12-15).

But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."
Luke 10:41-42 NASB

He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep."
John 21:17 NKJV

This life is a fight from the new birth to our Lord's return (or our return to Him). After choosing for Him, it's not one decision that counts. It's the millions and billions of choices we make after salvation that will add up to the totality of our life for Christ here in the devil's world.

Keep fighting that good fight, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Hi Bob,

This is such an embarrassing incident that I would like for you to never share it.

[details omitted; email deleted]

Response #11: 

Everyone sins (Jas.3:2). We are disciplined when we do – but as beloved children of a Father who loves us so much that He gave His one and only Son unto death to ransom us from our sins. And so we are forgiven when we confess. I have no doubt that if we could all see things perfectly from a heavenly perspective it would become clear to us that some sins we have committed which don't bother us or which seemed to us so insignificant that we didn't even notice them at the time or immediately forgot them are actually much worse than things like this which, as you say, continue to "bug us" long after the fact. Looking back with remorse is never a good thing. Look forward. Move on. If you must look back, let it be for the purpose of thanking the Lord for His great benefits.

As to salvation, here is a place where the truth has to surpass all emotional upheaval to the contrary:

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:18

You believe in our Lord, and according to His own words that means that you are not under condemnation. We are saved by grace through faith, not on account of our behavior or works (Eph.2:8-9).

Yours in Jesus Christ who died for us not to condemn us but that we might be have eternal life through faith in His Name, if only we are willing to accept the Gift of Gifts.

Bob L.

Question #12:  

Dear Bob,

If it is alright with you, I wanted to go back a little bit to the last couple of times I've emailed you, since I think I'm starting to root out another source of my problems.. I think? I feel as though I can't get 'in' to anything, like anything I used to enjoy (movies, video games, etc.) because I get no joy from them anymore. I begin to feel (that word again) bad about them, since my mind starts to think "I could be better spending my time right now", like I'm wasting time. These thoughts come to me even late at night, such as right now, when is probably the best time to 'loosen up' and relax a bit. It may very well just simply be depression (I haven't gone to a doctor yet), but I do know I have had so many different things on my mind lately. Like my attention is divided among several different things. My thoughts are always 'somewhere else' and I find joy in nothing anymore (the emotion joy, to be specific).

I am not sure if it is linked/related, but I'm also having difficulty finding the source of my anxiety. I mentally know I am saved, that all who call on the Lord are saved, and that there are no 'exceptions' to this, but I keep on thinking (more like feeling, again) that I am. I was reading Ichthys, and some of the things I read seemed to speak to me and worry me. This may be the/another source of my concerns? I think it was from the study on salvation.

"Given the vast reach of human arrogance, it is but a small step from not wanting to have anything to do with God to believing one does not need Him, from wanting to be independently sovereign to thinking one is in some way His equal, and from wishing to control one's fate in every way to imagining that one can actually "do something" for Him.

More than that, the perfection of the historical process as God has constructed it makes it abundantly clear that all unbelievers would live forever without God if they could, that many would force Him to share His power if they could, and that some would even dominate Him if they could: the will is there; all that is missing is the ability and the opportunity.

That is really the essence of the unbelieving mind-set, and so it will be revealed to have been in the case of each and every unbeliever at the Last Judgment (cf. Lk.2:34-35). Good people, nice people, friendly people, nondescript people (as well as the expected crowd of the evil, criminal, atheistic etc.) will be shown to have harbored these things in their hearts. God made them, but they wished to unmake God. That, praise God, is an impossibility, as natural revelation makes abundantly clear to all. Yet they would if they could, and would continue to embrace that way of thinking if given a hundred-thousand life-times to reconsider. In the face of death, judgment, and condemnation, the unbeliever is unwilling to relinquish to God the sovereignty over his will even for a moment, no matter the cost. Believers submit to God on His terms: through Jesus Christ His Son our Savior. Unbelievers may "worship" Him, but as Cain did, only on their own terms. They worship a god of their own making, God as they wish Him to be, someone who does not interfere with their personal desires, someone with whom they share equal privileges, someone whom they can manipulate to be and or do anything they please at any given moment, but definitely not someone to whom they must submit their own free will. And in all these matters, it is the truth that is the key. In order to maintain his/her sovereignty against the Sovereignty of God for this short span of years on earth, the unbeliever must resist, reject, and pervert the truth into a different "truth". In some religions and in many manifestations of pseudo-Christianity there may seem to be some similarity to the true gospel. What is lacking in each case, however, is any true willingness on the unbeliever's part to accept the gospel as it truly is on God's terms. What is lacking is genuine faith in Jesus Christ.

They said to God: "Leave us alone! What can the Almighty do to us?"
Job 22:17 NIV"

The top two aren't the whole paragraphs they came from. The third one I think is the entire paragraph.

So what bothers me is that I think part of me thinks in this way, or wants to. Sometimes I find myself wanting to do more for the Lord, action-wise, but this is out of Love for Him, at least I would hope so. I obviously know I could not and would not want to dominate Him, or try to 'force' Him to see 'my way', and in fact most of these do not apply to me or I had even considered...but there is a part of me that wishes 'to be left alone', as it were. I most certainly am worshiping and following the Lord on His terms, so I know that is not it, either. And I know for a fact we are not equals. When I read the part about 'if they could live their lives without Him, they would', and I think sometimes I feel like I could do something 'for' the Lord, but I think this is more in service to Him, not a 'I can do something you cannot' kind of attitude.

At the same time, the thought of living life without the Lord is also disturbing, since that is essentially living life alone, separated from God. Could there be two conflicting sides within me? Is the side that feels bothered or 'wants to be left alone' in me just my sin nature? I think fearing living alone/separated from God means I really do not want to be 'left alone', and that it is just my sin nature. I think I am letting my feelings affect me too much again. Perhaps I am just overthinking or making something complicated that needs not be. Much of this does stem from the whole 'I am the exception' to salvation feeling, but I do mentally know that such a thought is ludicrous and I do not even entertain the thought. I don't think that way (I at least hope I do not), and I know that the Lord is truth, and that He does not lie, and that when He says "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord is saved" that He really does mean EVERYONE. Why do I keep feeling excluded? This isn't even stemming from my past (aka "I've done something too terrible"), but just rather an overall feeling of exclusion, like I'm outside, a third party, which doesn't make any sense. And then I feel horrible since such thoughts/feelings are blasphemous and/or doubting the Lord's word.

I know 'feelings' are a very poor indicator of anything, which is why I'm trying to ignore them, but they do seem to keep coming back over and over. Is this because the devil knows this is the ONE weapon that seems to work reliably on me?

Response #12: 

I think you have analyzed all these things correctly. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and the sin nature obviously resists doing all manner of things that are good to do. When we "don't want" to get up out of bed and go to work or "don't want" to do any number of things which are good and necessary to do, clearly this is the fight between our spirit weighing the truth in our heart and the sin nature which struggles against our conscience might and main (often with the cooperation of the world and the evil one's minions). Again, these are temptations. If we do not in fact get up and go to work we are going to suffer the consequences. Being tempted, tested and tried on this score on any given morning is nothing but a victory if we end up getting up and going to work after all. There is nothing good in the flesh, and there is no person on earth who is not tempted by it all the time. If we let ourselves get depressed about the fact of being tempted we are going to be very depressed all the time – to no purpose. What is needed is the truth about this issue (which you have), and then to believe it completely and put it into practice (this is always a process). Clearly, if the evil one's agents can't get a purchase on a believer on this score on one flank then they will hit the other flank. It takes some spiritual maturity and some practice in the application of truth to recognize that all these attacks are one and the same thing in reality. Jesus loves us no matter what, and forgives us our sins – if we really do sin (as opposed to being tempted to sin but then refraining) – whenever we confess. The objective for us is to embrace that love, mercy and forgiveness, and then not abuse the grace of God but instead make the most of our opportunities to push forward in growth, progress and production in order to win the crowns which glorify our Lord. If we are operating at, say, 20% efficiency, we can do better, but if we get so down on ourselves that the percentage then drops off to zero out of frustration, fear and misapprehension of the truth, where is the spiritual profit for anyone? Instead we should be happy for what have achieved spiritually and should be trying every day to do better without at the same time being so overly critical of ourselves for not being as good as we might theoretically be able to be that we end up doing worse than we certainly could do.

Keep fighting the fight, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:  

I will do what I can then, now 'armed' with this knowledge that I really can just try to shove them aside and not let these thoughts weigh me down. Again, I thank you for your help in these matters, and for your patience with someone as slow to learn (or perhaps even stubborn in some ways) as I am. You really are a great help, and I thank God for you and that He allowed us to meet through your website. I know what I have to do, I think I just need to learn how to do it and exercise it.

Response #13: 

You're very welcome.

In all these things, the aggressive pursuit of spiritual growth will also pay wonderful dividends.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

Dear Bob,

I remember reading Ichthys some time ago (I think it was the same page we discussed in the past couple of emails), and I remember marking this down to ask you about later on. When you wrote, "Faith is impossible without repentance; genuine repentance never occurs without being followed by faith.", and I'm not entirely sure what to think of it, especially the second part. What this makes me think about is my anxiety over my thoughts, how even feeling anxiety to begin with after confessing our sin (or in my case, these thoughts) isn't showing the Lord much faith. I think I may be taking this out of context though, and we've already gone over how I'm going about this situation with my thoughts is all wrong.

I know that I am probably being too hard on myself, almost to the point of it being ludicrous, perhaps? I get down on myself or feel the need to repent for even thinking the words, such as the devil or hell, which I don't even want to think about to begin with since I immediately get uncomfortable, still. Whenever a cuss word comes to mind I feel the need to repent, or other blasphemies which may come to mind either when I'm trying not to or am trying to praise God in my mind. Can this be as serious as me not trusting the Lord to forgive me? These past few weeks I've been so fixated on this I can't seem to focus on anything else or let up on myself. Like I want to or feel like I need to be hard on myself.

I think I don't want to get to the point where I am not hard of myself and let myself sin without repenting, but then I seem to overcompensate for it by being like this. I know I am forgiven, I know the Lord loves me and is with me. What if I am just too reliant on feelings? Well, this clearly is the case, but I am not sure how to stop. Have I just lost trust? I don't want to lose trust. I don't want to take sin as lax and ignore it, but I can't seem to stop being too overbearing on myself. I apologize for once again coming to you with this, but it seems this is the one 'big problem' I have, at least that comes to mind.

Response #14: 

That quote comes from BB 4 B Soteriology, and has to do with salvation. It is meant to show that if you do believe, it means you have changed your mind about not trusting God; and that if you do change your mind about not trusting God, you will then put your faith in Him through His Son.

I think that the problem on this one probably has to do with the loaded nature of the word "repentance" as it is currently used in modern day evangelical circles. Repentance is not something one "does" in the sense of working up some emotional reaction. Repentance is a state of mind, namely, being serious about changing as opposed to only giving it lip-service. Here are some links on that:

Repentance (in BB 3B)

Repentance (in BB 4B)

If you confess honestly and legitimately, then you don't have to worry about "doing" anything else. In fact, trying to "do" anything else is adding to the mix and takes grace out of the process. Jesus Christ died for whatever sin you are confessing (and for many more you don't even realize you've committed). You are forgiven plain and simple on the basis of His work. Thus confession should be followed by joy and relief – not by angst and doubt. You believe in Him. Believe also in His promise of forgiveness and restoration whenever you confess.

As to the mental aspect of Christian warfare, here are some links:

Sin, Fear and Forgiveness

Sin and Spiritual Transformation

The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle.

Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?

Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness: Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground

Spiritual Warfare IV: Demons, Demonic Influences and Satanic Methodology<

Spiritual 'ups' and 'downs'

I know for a fact that once a person stops being overly neurotic about occasional thoughts which do not in fact reflect that person's true heart, they will become easier to dismiss:

Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
James 4:7b NKJV

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
1st John 3:20 NKJV

In Jesus Christ our Lord who called us to peace.

Bob L.

Question #15:  

I understand, and thank you for your reply. I think part of this comes from my mind trying to reason, going 'is it really that easy?', and I need remind myself that it indeed is. Jesus Himself said specifically that He wanted His load to be light, his burden not heavy. I think this mentality comes from the fact that I feel the need to 'prove' to God that I am indeed honest and legitimate in my confession, that if I am not hard on myself that it isn't 'real' or 'doesn't count'. I think I've always had that mentality, but these last few weeks I've just taken it to a possibly unhealthy extreme. It may even be causing me health problems, which isn't helpful in the slightest.

Last night a new thought came to my mind, one about 'choosing' to go to the other place, if you know what I mean. This thought obviously is not my own or what I really think or want, certainly, but it did bring up a concern in my mind. Is such a thing even possible? To 'choose' to go there would be to stop being a believer, which isn't possible, the two are mutually exclusive, the only 'choice' would be to stop believing, which I will never do. This thought seems to be the most odd-ball and almost insane one I've had to date, but I do feel compelled to bring it up and ask you about it. I reminded myself that Jesus has my back, that I'm covered by His blood. It's not for me, so this thought didn't bother me too much, but it has lingered and I haven't quite been able to move on from it. I really hope this doesn't sound crazy.

Response #15: 

There's no percentage in not grabbing hold of the peace Christ offers us (Is.26:3; 57:2; Jn.14:27; Rom.5:1; Eph.2:14; Phil.4:7; Col.3:15; 2Thes.3:16; 1Pet.1:2).

On hell, the issue is not heaven or hell. The issue is God who can only be approached through accepting the Gift of Christ. Willingness is at the core in the case of all who believe; unwillingness to bow the knee to God by accepting His Son's death on their behalf is at the core of the thought process for all who refuse to believe in Him. That's the choice.

You have fled to Jesus Christ for safety, and enthusiastically so. That is the hallmark of every believer (as opposed to the unbeliever exemplified by the poem "Invictus" at the link):

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
Psalm 61:2-4 NIV

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

Thank you for your reply, and I'll try to keep these in mind should these troublesome thoughts keep assailing me. I want to apologize again for 'going on' about seemingly the same thing for awhile now, but this 'battle' for my mind has been really difficult. It's hard not to let my feelings affect me, since as you've said, our emotions are powerful and often the first thing we listen to. I hope one day to eventually be able to 'dull out' feelings, over time, through spiritual growth. I should think that by now I would have been better about this, but thoughts such as "I'm going to h" and "choosing" too (which I think was more of a "Did I just think that?" thought) still seem to rattle me.

Response #16: 

You're welcome. Yes, we all need to remember to stand fast with the truth at all times and not let our circumstances or personal feelings be allowed to influence what we believe and know to be the truth through faith in the Word. As our Lord said,

"Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life."
John 5:24 NIV

Yours in our dear Savior Jesus Christ who has already paid for our sins in toto.

Bob L.

Question #17:  

Dear Bob,

Over the past few days I have been doing better overall, and moving forward more confidently than I had been before. I may have even found a root of the problem, maybe even THE root of what has been ailing me, and I wanted to ask you about it, and maybe even seek a little bit of comfort from the conversation. I maybe have 'seen' this before but not quite recognized it as such, or maybe I have in terms of it being the sin nature.

I think there is this part of me, and what I'm hoping/thinking is that it is my sin nature, the flesh, constantly looking for a 'way out'. This part of me that's just waiting to read something seemingly conflicting, or reading something that seemingly 'proves' that "a ha! I knew it! This isn't real at all!" or something like that, and this thought is upsetting as I don't like it, I don't want it. As I said, what I think and am hoping is that it is just the sin nature in me? Are these thoughts just of 'the flesh' and not the spirit?

The other part of it is that, like with scripture, part of me (the same part?) is constantly analyzing (probably even over-analyzing to the point of seeing things that are not there? I don't know) myself, looking for any kind of doubt or stray thought to go, "a ha! See? You're not a believer at all!"

The second one I know is unproductive and unhelpful, as we''ll all have down-times and times of minor doubt, or where things seemingly don't quite make sense, right? At least those who aren't as mature and solid in their spiritual walk. The first part is probably what concerns me more. This might be related to the previous email or two, which is why my thinking is that this is all just my flesh, the sin nature in me, conflicting with the spirit, and I'm mistaking it for something that it is not? Oddly enough, in one way, while this is worrying, I am also feeling better, along the lines of 'I think I found it. This is it. This is the root of it all." kind of feeling or mindset, you know? I look forward to hearing from you again, and was wanting to keep you 'up to date' for a little while longer on my progress in this matter.

Response #17: 

I think we are finally "to it" here. Everything really always boils down to spiritual growth. Trying to conquer problems like this without the daily intake of substantive Bible study to produce such growth (Bible reading is essential but not a substitute) is like trying to fix a highly computerized car with a pair of pliers and a flat-head screw driver: you can only do so much good before you start to do damage – and it's very much a "treat the symptoms / ignore the actual disease" approach.  To continue that analogy, it's no good getting a prescription from a doctor and then not taking the medication.

Many of these things resolve themselves in the process of growth. The more a person really does take in of the truth, believing it as well as hearing it, learning it well and meditating upon it, the more that truth starts to drown out the drivel of the world which the sin nature has a tendency to amplify. This is true in the short run in terms of momentum (i.e., one sees the effects on a day by day basis depending upon how intensely one is concentrating on Bible study day by day) and also in more absolute terms (i.e., the mature believer who continues to grow sets down an ever deeper and more stable base of truth which levels out the daily ups and downs more and more). Essentially what this means is the development of a pattern of thinking which more and more approximates the way God looks at things – as opposed to the way most people look at them, being enmeshed in a worldly perspective inflamed by the sin nature. The more we trust the Lord in all things – because we know Him better day by day – the more we are likely to let such problematic matters fall by the wayside in our walk with Him.

There is no substitute for growing spiritually the right way. To that end, you will always be welcome at Ichthys and welcome to any and all of the series and posting in your noble endeavor to life for Jesus Christ, walking closer to Him day by day.

Keep running your good race, my friend!

In Jesus Christ who is our life and life eternal.

Bob L.

Question #18:  

I'm not quite sure how much I should study, since most of my study has been reading the Word itself, as I read Ichthys fairly sporadically. So far, I've continued with the plan of reading two OT chapters a day along with two NT, and wanted to read the OT more than just one time. I think after I'm done with this 'run through' of the OT, I should focus just on a couple of books, such as Psalms, or the story of David? What kind of daily study do you recommend? I know it's different for everybody, but I know that the general rule is about half an hour a day is good, right? Also, I remember some time ago you told me that the NASB was really good and the one you recommended to me. Is this still the case today? I remember I started with the NLT my friends (the ones who first came to me about Christ) gave me, and then I eventually switched over to the NASB.

Response #18: 

The NASB is OK (couldn't recommend NLT).  However, I would recommend reading the studies at Ichthys along with the Bible. Asking which is more important is a little like asking whether food or drink is more important in keeping the physical body alive and healthy – we need both Bible teaching and Bible reading. Concentrating on the latter to the exclusion of the former will result only in some reinforcement of what is already known and believed, but also many unanswered questions; concentrating on the former to the exclusion of the latter often results in people being enslaved to "ministries" which are really not very solid or not truly interested in the spiritual growth of those who come to them. We need both, and so I commend both. If not Ichthys, then some serious and substantive Bible teaching ministry should be accessed regularly (daily ideally). Please see FAQ #7: Recommended Use: How can I best benefit from these studies?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:  

Dear Bob,

As for myself, a quick update: I have been doing better over the past few days, though I've had a couple of rough bouts. I have a natural tendency to question myself and question if I really do believe, even sometimes seeing doubt where there (hopefully) is none. One common thing I notice is that, after some time has passed and I 'cool down' from whenever my emotions start to bother me, I always remain in faith and unbroken. These emotional/mental bouts or attacks have an immediate effect, but I seem to keep going after I settle down. I can't seem to let go of the idea of some thoughts being sin, but I am focusing on moving forward more than anything else.

From these emails I must sound like a very emotional person, while I suppose I am. I think my challenge is that my emotions are always so strong, or I am seeking strong emotions, or something. As you've noticed, I tend toward the direction of extremes, which I'm learning to stop doing. I need to remember that it is very much possible to keep on over-analyzing yourself to the point where you can find fault in any little thing and 'call foul' as it were, which isn't the same as examining your overall general behavior and finding something you've been doing wrong. Is it possible to 'see things' that are wrong with you when it isn't necessarily so? Being so hyper-critical of yourself that you start to see faults that may not necessarily be there?

Response #19: 

All human beings are emotional.  That is why advertising works (e.g.).  We just show it in different ways.

As to your situation, I wouldn't say it's entirely a question of making up faults; rather it seems to be a question of taking faults too seriously. It's good to be intolerant of sin. However, it's a mistake to focus that intolerance backwards when it only does any good at all focused forwards. Another problem is, as mentioned, lack of proper proportion. On the one hand all sin is bad; on the other hand, murder is worse than getting momentarily upset in a traffic jam. If we really did realize just what all sin was and how ubiquitous, we would not have enough hours in the day to fret about what we did yesterday, let alone last week. Over-focusing on one sin or type of sin is problematic just as placing too much emphasis on things which may only be temptations is not spiritually healthy or productive. But I can't overstate vehemently enough that the solution to all these things is truth, both in terms of specifics (which combat directly false ideas stoked by guilt) and generally (by leading our thoughts up there on the plane where our Lord is, coming more and more to see things His way in a closer daily walk with Him).

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossians 3:1-2 NIV

Keep walking with the Lord, my friend; know that He loves you and has your best in mind.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:  

Dear Bob,

What I've decided to do is to temporarily stop reading the Word itself, since I have read the Bible in it's entirety, and especially the New Testament several times over. Not for long, but I figure for a few days or so, so that I may focus my efforts on actually learning and teaching on Ichthys. I feel as though there is not a lot I can learn from the Word at the moment, and I really want to know more, and crave more knowledge. I wanted to bring this up to see if this is a right line of thinking in my current situation? I know proper spiritual growth comes from both reading the Word and proper teaching and instruction, but I think at the moment I need more of the latter.

As for today, at least as of writing this, I feel absolutely wonderful after reading more of Ichthys for awhile. I think what I need to do was to go back to basics for a little while, 'back to the milk' as it were, as much of my stress was from reading and studying about the Tribulation and the time to come. I think, for now, my heart needs affirmation and needs to reoriented so as to not feel apart from all of this, and no longer feel like a stranger to the Lord. I can't say my thoughts have been 'dying down', but as of this moment there has been a considerable reduction of my anxiety and many of these thoughts. Today I read 'How to Be Saved', and tomorrow I will read some of 'What it means to be Saved'.

I hope this is not a step backward in my spiritual growth, but I think I need to regain my confidence in the Lord, and for that I need to be 'reminded' for awhile of who He is and just how far His love goes (or at least getting 'some idea' of it, since His love is unimaginable). I know that I will still have low points, at least for quite awhile, and that this 'high' is only temporary, but I really hope that this approach is what will finally help me in my walk and help my "road" become more paved and less pot-hole-filled. What particularly helped me was what you wrote at the end of "How to be Saved":

"All we have to do is to choose for Jesus and to keep choosing for Jesus Christ, day by day. All we have to do is not say "no", for all the promises of God are a resounding "YES!" in Jesus Christ our dear Savior (2Cor.1:20)."

I needed to be reminded that choosing for Jesus is not a 'one and done' deal, that we essentially have to keep choosing for Jesus day by day, even if that is in the literal sense. I apologize once again for seemingly (and hopefully not literally) flooding your inbox, but I really think you would want an update as to how I have been doing since the last few emails. You and Ichthys are my "go to" sources of information whenever I have questions and concerns.

Response #20: 

Thanks for your encouraging note. Apologies for just getting to your recent messages. Saturday is "posting day" for me, the day I try to put up a new email response page for readers to have something for Sunday fare (so I often don't get to late Friday emails until Sunday evening).

Concentrating on Bible teaching is, I would agree, a good idea, and I am pleased that you find the materials at Ichthys have been helpful for you in getting all these matters straightened out. I think if you merely read the scriptures provided in the studies (and also the references – with "Reftagger" they come up automatically when mouse-highlighted if accessed online), you will still be getting a lot of "Bible" (but I wouldn't suggest swearing off of pure scripture reading; as we've both acknowledged, that's helpful and needful too; see the link: "Read your Bible!").

One other thing to mention, although I do so in a vacuum since I have no idea of your day to day routine/schedule, is that a daily regimen that is kept "tight" with self-discipline usually also proves to be helpful with these sorts of issues. A job or something else that makes regular hours the norm, a dedicated time for prayer and for Bible study, regular exercise, etc. are all pluses in maintaining a good walk. Naturally, no one is perfect in these matters, and life being what it is militates against perfection in any sort of disciplined routine, but striving to maintain one – to get the most distance run out the time the Lord has given us (even if and when we need a good deal of "down time") – is conducive to spiritual growth in my experience and observation.

Keep running that good race, my friend! Therein is great reward when you finally break the tape.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:  

Hi Bob,

Why does Ezekiel 45:15 state that the purpose of these sacrifices are to make atonement? The verb kaphar is in the piel form, which means that it's causative.

Sincerely,

Response #21: 

If you are asking about the grammar, the verb chaphar doesn't occur in the qal; the vast majority of its occurrence in scripture are in the piel. The base meaning of the stem seems to be "to cover" so that the piel here would probably signify as is usually the case in this stem an intensification (hiphil is usual the causative stem). Atonement is an interesting English word but may be misleading – depending upon what the reader thinks it means (it's not a Bible word per se, and it has picked up many misleading connotations in the past century or two). The verb here at Ezekiel 45:15 in Hebrew means in terms of soteriology to "effectively cover" so as to blot out the appearance of the sin (which the blood obscures). So "make atonement" or "atone" is fine, as long as the image of someone else paying the blood-price of our sins is understood – and that is what our Lord's sacrifice in the darkness on the cross in bearing our sins in His body was all about (1Pet.2:24).

If you're asking about sacrifice in the Millennium, we know from Hebrews that it was "not with the blood of goats and calves" that our Lord entered the most Holy Place – this animal blood spoken of in Ezekiel 45:15 is merely symbolic of "the blood of Christ" who is the Lamb of God "without spot or defect" (1Pet.1:19). Physical blood of animals represents the inestimable price Jesus paid by dying for our sins in Calvary's darkness. In Old Testament times the animal sacrifices represented and symbolized this coming deliverance from sin; in the Millennium they will celebrate it as a remembrance of Christ's victory. But actual propitiation for our sins (or atonement) could only be done by our Lord standing judgment for them as our Substitute.

Yours in the Name of the One who made us and bought us with His blood, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #22:  

Hi Bob,

I recently learned that the shooter was interested in Wicca and shot only the Christians in the head, yet he was also unemployed, alone without friends, and lived with his mother.

Why? What was going on in the shooter's heart to possibly urge him to think that he was doing good? More importantly, to what extent can we separate the actions of the person from the person himself?

It's very common to think "what an evil man" in these kinds of situations, but I am incapable of issuing condemnation of the person (while I certainly believe that his actions were evil) while knowing that he was in a position of great suffering.

I would like for you to read the following article about "love the sinner, hate the sin" and give me your guidance as to the wisdom contained therein:

http://www.kencollins.com/discipleship/disc-31.htm

Sincerely,

Response #22: 

Everyone has a great potential for evil. All a person has to do is to lose his/her fear of God and God's delegated authority. No one is "good", from the biblical point of view. Only the one who has entrusted him/herself to the Lord and who perseveres in the truth of the Word of God has any chance of approaching any sort of standard of sanctification that God would call "good" (whatever the world may think), and even for us it is often quite a struggle. The surprising thing is probably not that this sort of terrible event took place but that it doesn't take place far more often. And indeed "it" does – just in a variety of different ways that are as multifarious as the sin natures humanity collectively possesses.

None of us can really know this side of heaven what went on in this person's heart, except to say that he gave into sin and evil and demon influence to a degree beyond the norm – which allowed him to override the natural restraints of conscience and fear of law and God that otherwise restrains most human beings from doing everything the sinful mind conceives. It all boils down to arrogance – manifest in a personally unique way – accelerated and confirmed through the process of hardening the heart (cf. Pharaoh for the classic example of that process). For how is it not the epitome of arrogance to superimpose one's own will over another's to such a degree as to take theirs away through murder? We all "hurt" inside (if we are honest); Jesus is the only good solution to that hurt; on the other hand, projecting that hurt on others in a violent way is the worst and most contemptible sort of "solution".

On the article, I'm always reluctant to comment broadly on sermons (or the equivalent) which throw a lot of things out on the table and leave them flopping around without coming to firm conclusions (that's one of the things that is so wrong with sermons). What I gather though reluctant to say it is that this person believes that evangelists should always preach fire and brimstone out of honest love for sinners. However, different people respond to different approaches. Our responsibility in giving the gospel is to make the issue clear that salvation only comes through faith in Jesus Christ but does so through simple faith by the grace of God. Sin, death and judgment are the universal constants of which every human being is aware – that is the motivation God has instilled to dispose human beings to look to Him for a solution to these otherwise insoluble problems, the "eternity in our hearts" which leads inevitably to Him for all who are willing (Eccl.3:11). I don't have any problem reminding unbelievers of these things they already know quite well (i.e., that they are sinners, that they are going to die, and that they will have to face the righteous judgment of God with no answer for their sins), but hitting them over the head with those truths has a tendency to obliterate the much more important issue of grace and the solution of salvation through the gracious gift of Christ – and turn them off to truly "good news".

If this person who committed this heinous act you write about had chosen to respond to God instead of to the devil in his pain of heart, he would be our brother today awaiting the Messiah's return – instead of being in hell awaiting judgment for rejecting Christ (a choice proven quite clearly by his crimes and sins). This is about choice. This person made his choice.

Yours in the One who died for all the sins of all human beings that all might be saved through faith in the One who bought us with His blood, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:  

Hi Bob,

Are we qualified to judge anybody else's sins?

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." (Luke 6:37)

Not one of us has the authority or the wisdom to say whether or not this person went to hell, as bad as his actions may have seemed. I am not saying that he is in heaven, but that we cannot sit on Christ's great white throne.

Sincerely,

Response #23: 

We may not be able to see into a person's heart, but we can see well enough what they do. There's a difference between condemning a person for words and actions where the motive is in doubt and correctly evaluating conduct where the evil is beyond doubt. I'm not condemning this person nor would I if he were still alive. However, that doesn't mean I have to pretend ignorance in clear cases. Christians are commanded to be discerning; we had better be able to spot con artists, for example, and not plead unwillingness to judge as an excuse for falling for scams. I can't even concoct a scenario where this person might not be in torments (nor do I wish to try to do so).

In our dear Lord Jesus.

Bob L.

Question #24:  

Hello brother hope all is well. I was wondering if you any studies on indwelling sin adamic nature. I hear so much that we are born with it many say we are a born sinner.

Response #24: 

Yes, there is an entire section in BB 3B Hamartiology on this subject, "The Sin Nature" (see the link).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25:  

One last thing, I read all your Peter series about trials, sufferings and divine discipline. Can this be categories as divine discipline or categorized as God using my own consequences as a trial for increased spiritual maturity? I am confused about the nuance.

Thanks and I will leave you alone. In Christ our Lord.

Response #25: 

As soon as we return to the Lord after sinning (through turning from our wrong ways and confessing our sins), whatever discipline we may have remaining is for blessing and can indeed be part of testing for growth. David is the example here. His adultery and subsequent murder netted him fourteen years of severe discipline on the "installment plan" – which shows also, by the way, that the Lord will not throw everything at us at once but only what we are capable of bearing up under. The bottom line is that we don't have to worry or feel guilty about any such suffering that may be the result of discipline as long as we are "right with the Lord" here and now: He disciplines us out of love as beloved sons and daughters (Heb.12:1ff.). In fact, staving off guilt and resentment is part of the testing that such residual discipline often brings. But God does not withhold blessing in the midst of testing, regardless of the reason, real or imagined, for the test. David was inordinately blessed even in his darkest days, and was given to have his experiences recorded so as to be a blessing to us all. All the more reason to keep our heads up when we are in hard times; everyone has some skeletons in their closet to which they might very well attribute whatever difficulties come upon them. But we know that our Lord is good and gracious and loving and forgiving and compassionate – without any nuance whatsoever. Therefore we need to trust Him, rely on Him, and appreciate His blessings to us in the midst of trouble – with no nuance in our faith at all.

Your friend in Jesus Christ and fellow prayer warrior.

Bob L.

Question #26:  

Dear Bob,

During my years of jogging I've almost always avoided/not gone out during thunderstorms, but then today (when one was possible), I started to ask myself just why? We are protected by God, and He is in control of everything, but at the same time we are told obviously not to test Him, but I don't have enough wisdom to figure this out. I'm not sure if I should stay indoors not to test Him, or if by going out I am relying on Him? The thing is, when I think about this, what comes to mind are people who do potentially dangerous things, expecting God to protect them (say, rock climbing, going into dark alleyways at night, etc). I only bring this up because it directly relates to me, and I am generally inclined to think that "we are protected from the devil, from evil. I'm pretty sure thunderstorms are not on that list.", but I'm not 100% sure if this is correct.

Response #26: 

This sort of thing is an area of application of the truth where extremes on either end would be out of line. Clearly, jogging on a golf course during a raging thunderstorm holding up a lightning rod would be an instance of testing God: there is no reason to do it except to test Him (akin to throwing oneself down from the roof of the temple as the devil tempted Christ to do); on the other hand if there is an emergency and the only way we can get help for someone is to dash fifty yards to the car in a downpour, staying inside to avoid "testing God" would really only be an excuse for a coward. We do the things we reasonably ought to do, even if they are dangerous, trusting God that He will keep us safe. We avoid doing things there is no reasonably need to do, if they are insanely dangerous, knowing that we are here to accomplish God's purpose for our lives not our own desires. When it comes to some of the other things mentioned, many of them fall into the gray area of application that may differ from individual to individual and from time to time. If I am an experienced mountain climber and it is my profession in my 30's, then climbing up a precipitous rock face a thousand feet above the valley floor may be a different proposition from a 60+ year old deciding to do so for the first time (e.g.). We have plenty of decisions to make in this life, and we will waste our time and much of our life if we get too hung up in worrying about being too far off the road to the left of the right. Driving straight on as best we can – by learning and applying the truth of the Word more and more day by day – is the best way to have our vision focused on the goal and thus to avoid both extremes in most things at most times.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

 

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