Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Anxiety and Lust

I saw Batman v Superman a few months back and really enjoyed it. It was a fun popcorn flick. It's wasn't Nolan's Batman, but it was pretty good. I also saw Captain America: Civil War and really enjoyed it. It was a fun popcorn flick. It also was not Nolan's Batman, but it was pretty good. 

Both movies were overloaded with heroes. There were superheroes in every scene. Both were the sort of movie we'd expect for our ADHD society. I don't look at either as significantly better than the other. I liked BvS more, simply because I like those characters more than any Marvel characters and because the Black Widow and Iron Man are pretty insufferable and I wish they'd write off those characters. DC is also a lot darker and willing to take more risks than Marvel. #Spoiler Alert# Marvel couldn't even kill off whoever Iron Man's sidekick is and DC is putting Superman in the grave (for now). 

But critics hated BvS and have loved every Marvel movie ever made. I do not understand this. Anyone who looked favorably at Avengers 2, Ant-Man or Iron Man 2 & 3 should have no trouble giving BvS a favorable review. They're all the same type of movie made to the same quality. Why people judged BvS more harshly than any Marvel movie is beyond me....though I have a sneaking suspicion it's tied to Disney and their fascist control of reviews and people's brains (just a joke). 

The church criticizes and judges lust far more severely and actively than it does anxiety. 

You know how I know this? Because people get upset whenever I say this and I've heard and read more about the sin of lust (porn, gazing too long, masturbation, etc) than I've ever heard or read about anxiety. When's the last time you heard someone say that anxiety is a sin? 

Maybe right now you're rationalizing anxiety. You're trying to figure out how it's not a sin to be anxious even though our Lord says,
Matthew 6:25-34The Cure for Anxiety 
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
How much worry is ok? I don't know. How much lust is ok? 
"But Tim, you don't understand. I can't help it. It's not like I want to worry."
Oh trust me. I understand. Any man understands what it's like to feel like you have no control over your mind. 

And this is undeniably a male/female issue. Males struggle with lust. Females with anxiety. Yes, there are exceptions and yes some struggle with both or perhaps neither. Blah blah blah. If you don't struggle with either, then stop reading. I'm not talking to you. Stop getting hung up on exceptions and let's move on.*

Let's play out some scenarios:
Guy tells a friend he's struggling with lust. He's out of control. It's affecting his daily life and his walk with God. 

Guy's friend rightly tells him to stop lusting. 
Guy who is lusting asks friend for accountability, prayer and patience.
That's good. Real good. 
My hands suggest I'm saying something profound

Girl tells a friend she's struggling with anxiety. She's out of control. It's affecting her daily life and her walk with God. 
Girl's friend rightly tells her to stop worrying.
Girl who is worrying tells her friend she's offended, that she can't help it and she didn't come to her to be judged! 

That's bad. Real bad. 
'Dat right! I'd rather
die from an overdose than be
told I should stop by a
caring friend!

Let's try flipping those:

Guy tells a friend he's struggling with lust...
Guy's friend rightly tells him to stop lusting.
Guy who is lusting tells his friend he's offended, that he can't help it and he didn't come to him to be judged! 

Girl tells a friend she's struggling with anxiety...
Girl's friendly rightly tells her to stop worrying.
Girl who is worrying asks friend for accountability, prayer and patience. 

Are we seeing how the church treats these problems differently? One is completely unacceptable to struggle with (lust) and the other is very much tolerated and often times treated as not really a sin at all. Think about how unlikely it would be for a man to publicly confess he struggles with lust but how perfectly fine it is for a woman to publicly confess she struggles with anxiety. 

I understand there's a perverted element attached to lust. We all get that. None of us should be proud to publicly admit any of our sins. Publicly admit that I am a sinner in need of forgiveness from the one true and holy God? Absolutely. Publicly admit I struggle with lust? Not a chance! And I'm not even saying we should be broadcasting which sins we struggle with (certain denominations won't agree with me on that!). But we have to acknowledge that anxiety is a sin which is very much tolerated in the church. 

I'm not saying this to be hard on anxious women or to alleviate any justified guilt a lustful man may have. Both are sins and all sins are a reproach against God and deserving of damnation. Christ died both for the man who lusts and the woman who worries. My lustful thoughts and your worrying thoughts both brought the wrath of God onto Christ. 

If you want to get bogged down in medically diagnosed anxiety and all that stuff, go ahead. Whatever. That's a whole different issue, sort of. But I don't think most people who worry are medically diagnosed as having some verifiable medical condition that affects how their body reacts. Could some men have some medically diagnosed condition where they lust an insane amount? Sure. Blah blah blah. Another disclaimer. You happy now? Ok, good. 

You know what I tell myself when I feel the incredible urge to lust?
"Stop! Stop it! Just stop! Control your body! Control your mind! Christ died for this despicable sin! You don't have to lust! You're not a slave to sin!"

And either I stop lusting and give thanks to God or I lust anyway and then ask God for forgiveness for sinning against Him. 

What if instead of that I said to myself:
"Stop if you can. Ok you can't. Just go ahead and lust. It's just how you are. Woe is me. I'm lustful. Poor me. I'm just an innocent victim of my selfish desires. Poor me. I'll never conquer this sin for which Christ died and told me I could overcome." 

I want people to stop lusting and I want them to stop worrying! I don't want any Christian to feel enslaved to sin, especially a specific sin. Of course you'll still lust or worry from time to time. You still have your flesh. The point is that you don't have to! That's what it means to be free! We are free to obey Christ! We are freed from the bondage of sin! 

To act as if we can't conquer worry and actively kill that sin is to, by implication, take a low view of salvation. And taking a low view of salvation means we're taking the cross too lightly We're taking the work of the Holy Spirit too lightly. We're saying that God can regenerate Saul and turn him into Paul but He can't take me from a worrier and turn me into a warrior; He can't take me from a pervert and turn me into a purveyor of purity. 

Worrying stems from a lack of faith in God.
"Tim, that's sooo mean! You're so mean! That's too harsh!"
I know, I know. It sounds harsh but it's true. ALL sin stems from a lack of faith in God. If a man lusts he's lacking faith in God. He's saying that God doesn't know what He's talking about when He says not to commit adultery. That's a lack of faith in God's judgment of right and wrong and good and evil. Anxiety is a lack of faith in God's sovereignty and holy dominion over your life. 

Hit hard against lust. Tell it like it is. It's a sin and it's ruining lives. But also hit hard against anxiety. The 21st century church has gotten awfully soft in its treatment of women. They aren't given rich theology. They are typically given gobs and gobs of junk about how wonderful and lovely and beautiful they are and how important a healthy self-esteem is. They are given every indication that God is going to give them private revelation **coughjesuscallingcough** or have some romantic encounter with them **coughannvoskampcough**. And we're doing a great disservice to women by covering up God's view of anxiety.
Worrying is a sin.
God forgives that sin.
Jesus also gives us the power to overcome that sin.
What good is the Helper, the Holy Spirit, if we're unable to defeat sin even after we've been born again and freed from the bondage of our sinful wills? 

*That we can't ever make any general statements without issuing these detailed and inordinately precise exceptions is a big reason why we can't have fruitful discussions. General statements and labels aren't evil. They're just economical. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Orlando in Light of the Cross

What is the single worst event in the history of mankind? What stands out as the nadir of human depravity? 

Was it 9/11? Was it Orlando? Was it the Holocaust? Armenian genocide? Slavery across the globe? The sex trade? 

Each of these odious examples are immensely evil and the product of deeply corrupted and hardened hearts. 

So which one is the worst? Given the theological bent of this blog I think you probably already have an idea. The crucifixion of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the worst event in the history of the world. This isn't my opinion. It's historical fact. He's the only innocent person to ever live and He was tortured and killed. 
Consider   Isaiah 53:3-5:
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
Take a moment to ruminate how Jesus was the recipient here; how He is the object to the verbs. These are things being actively done against Him and to Him. 

 Truly heinous acts made infinitely worse because He was infinitely good and wholly innocent as is stated in verse 9:

His grave was assigned with wicked men,Yet He was with a rich man in His death,Because He had done no violence,Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
So what? So this was the worst act ever, now what? Where was God in all this? What answer can Christianity give when such terrible and awful things happen? 

What is the secular left saying? Their hope is in man-made legislation. Their hope is that evil, wicked people will solve the problem of evil, wicked people. 
What is the secular right saying? Their hope is in guns, bombs and aggressive military strategy.
What is the religious left saying? They have a low view of God. Their god is impotent, reactionary and unconcerned with justice or even his own holiness. Their god isn't God. 

But what are we saying? The answer is actually quite profound and it's found in Isaiah 53. Read through it again and see where God was in the midst of the worst event in human history. God was sovereign over the worst act in human history. In fact, He ordained it. God was pleased to crush His own Son. 

Was God evil for doing this? May it never be! God's design to save sinners required blood and only a perfect, sinless Lamb could do. Hebrews 9 clearly states that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." Jesus, the one who rules all things and by Him and through Him all things were made, offered Himself up as this sacrifice. He was both the priest and the offering. 

What happened in Orlando was not outside of God's sovereign design. Did God Himself act in Orlando? No. But He did allow it to happen. And this shouldn't cause us to distress but to have hope.

Acts 2:22-24“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of Godyou nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
When Christ died the disciples were distressed because they failed to recognize God's sovereignty. They thought things were falling apart and everything was pointless. But it wasn't! They had too low of a view of God. They failed to see Him as sovereign and couldn't understand how the death of His Son could possibly be a good thing. 

Luke 22:21-22But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”
(Side note: Though Jesus' death was prophesied and foreknown we also see that God still holds those who carry out the act responsible for the act. How do we reconcile these things? We don't! That's not our job!) 

When was it determined? When did the Trinity decide Christ would have to die for sins He never committed? 
1 Corinthians 2:6-8
Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory
This was all decided before the ages. The first prophecy of Christ's substitutionary death was known to this world in Genesis 3:15 but it was known to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit prior to the creation of this very world. 

Unfortunately (at least to our carnal minds) we'll likely never know why God allowed Orlando to happen. But there is something we do know without a doubt and it's that the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was simultaneously the worst event in human history and the greatest event in human history. 

That's what makes Christianity so compelling. It offers a message that is truly good news. The Gospel isn't based on feelings but on fact. And that fact is the fulfillment of promises God made long ago. Promises, dear friends, that remain true today. Whoever believes on the name of the Lord will be saved. This whoever without distinction means that slaves, prostitutes, homosexuals, straights, murderers, thieves, blacks, whites, criminals, police officers, straight 'A' students and drop outs can all be granted forgiveness if they repent of their sins and trust in Christ and Christ alone for salvation.

It's not enough for God to just be merciful and gracious. He HAS to be sovereign for anyone to have any hope of salvation. If He's not sovereign over the fall, the cross or Orlando, then we have no basis in which to hope. There cannot be hope. Our hope would go from "God keeps His promises and in this I have my hope and this is why I go on" to "I hope God can keep this promise He made to me." What a contrast! What a demoralizing difference! 

If God is sovereign over the death of His Son, then He's certainly sovereign over everything else.