There's a reason why self-help books are so popular. Who doesn't want to be free from worry, anxiety, negative thinking, lack of motivation, and other debilitating pitfalls? We want, so desperately, for someone to tell us what worked for them, what formula, what changes in diet, exercise, or routine, will cause us to stop being what we don't want to be.
And there's no shortage of self-affirming, positive-thinking programs for change. We've figured out that it takes more than just changing up what we are doing, but what we are thinking. And yet, with all that encouragement to realign your thinking, we so often still miss the true paradigm shift...the one that's presented here in Chapter 8 of Because He Loves Me. And here it is:
"We're dead to sin and alive to God; we've been set free from slavery to sin and endowed with the ability to submit to him." (p. 126)
In this chapter, we are brought face to face with how unbelief, "...not simply an atheism but rather a refusal to believe that here is a holy, loving, merciful, and gracious God who has willingly done for us what we could not do for ourselves" (p. 128), is the root of all sin in our lives. Unbelief is what causes us to worship something else--comfort, perfection, routine, success-- as the means for us to find rest, joy and peace.
You see, we were meant to treasure and find absolute confidence in Christ, but when we disbelieve that He is who He says He is, and has accomplished what He has already fulfilled, we set ourselves up for the cycle of idolatry and sin:
"If we treasure, value, and love anything more than his kingdom and his righteousness, we'll be forced into slavish fear and beset with worry...Can you see how a simple command to simply stop worrying isn't enough? Our worry is the result of other grave sins: unbelief and idolatry. Until those sins are dealt with, we'll never get at the real causes of our anxieties." (p. 131)
"Simply put, we worry because we don't spend enough time treasuring what he has already done." (p. 132)
"Our anger and conflicts are a gospel problem...Because although we've been betrothed to Christ, we are chasing around after other lovers who deceive us into believing that they can make us happy. This is unbelief and idolatry." (p. 134)
We might be tempted to be discouraged when we find ourselves responding in unbelief and worship of false idols in our lives, but we need only look to God's promises and what we've come to know as our identity, to rest our minds on the truth:
"I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean...and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules...And you shall be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezek. 36:25-28)
As Elyse says in this chapter,
"Only a deep appreciation of all he has done for us in Christ will motivate us to pursue true happiness...At the heart of every one of our sanctification problems are false worship and lies about the source of real happiness." (p. 136-137)
I don't know about you, but that is good news...that it is not adherence to any formula or positive thinking that will cure me of my sinful tendencies, but a response to the greatness of my Redeemer that will lead me to pursue happiness in him...which in turn, will cause me to bear fruit.."to transform hateful rebels into adoring children." (p. 139)
And adoring children are worshipers of who HE is...the Holy God we can put our trust and full confidence in for what He has done and what He will continue to do in and through us. Praise God!
Now let's talk about it...
1) If Christ is to be our chief joy, in what areas of your life do you seek to find happiness apart from Him, and find the result discouraging and debilitating?
2) In what ways do you recognize that your sanctification struggles are rooted in unbelief and idolatry?
3) In what ways has this chapter helped you to consider how to "put off" sin and self-sufficiency, and "put on" Christ?
I'd love to hear your thoughts! You can do so in two ways...
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