Complain Right Here

Complaining-ManComplaining is probably one of the most respectable sins among people who claim to know Christ as Savior, next to things such as gossip, an occasional use of profanity or white lies. We usually don’t see it as someone who is complaining-it is usually the person with a bad attitude. After all, it does not seem that bad of a thing or that big of a deal because. everyone complains. We are only human. But this cannot easily be brushed aside as some small sin and Christians need to consider their attitude because it really exposes what they think about God.

Do you realize that this sin was severely punished under the Old Covenant?  It was the most common sin of Israel after they left Egypt (Ex 15:24; 16:2; 17:3; Num. 14:2, 29).  Paul says to the Corinthians: “You must stop complaining, as some of them were doing, and were annihilated by the destroyer.” (1 Cor 10:10 ISV).  Annihilated? Yes.  You are terminated.

It makes you wonder how with all the blessings we have in the New Covenant how God views complaining. Since everything described in the New Covenant is “better” (Heb. 8:6).

It should be very clear: there’s nothing wrong with going to God directly in prayer and pouring out complaints before Him. He knows our thoughts before we think them and our words before we speak them (Psalm 139). Asaph prayed, “I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble.” (Psalm 142:2). We are allowed to come and complain directly to the Lord (Psalm 77:2-3). BUT what we should not do is complain to others, look for self pity or grow a huge attitude about something that we should be directing to God in prayer. That is third-party complaining. It is bad enough when we think about how rough our lives are but when it starts dripping out of our mouths in muffled tones like spiritual sewage there is a problem. Stop walking around talking to yourself about how mistreated and misunderstood you are. God can hear you and He does not like it. All this is about is you wanting to have a one sided conversation with a total disregard for God’s input.

Complaining is having a grievance against God that results in cynical distrust in God’s ways. God asks, “Why do you complain…how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? …How can you say God ignores your rights?” (Isaiah 40:27NIV/NLT). This is when a person mumbles bitterly against God. They are unhappy with Him and the way he does things. They are miserable because of conflicts with people or circumstances. They are resentful for what they see as being unfairly treated by God. But they maintain a veneer of religion and worship. Yet, they accuse God of wrongdoing under their breath. They make sure their complaining is heard but not too loud. They insinuate against the Lord’s character and make sure they make some kind of dig at God without him noticing. They do not scream in protest but as one man puts says they have, “the whispers and looks of discontent.” (Wagner). Complaining hints that God is not in control or it suggests he does not care for his own people. It diminishes God’s glory.

Complaining is a deep rooted heart condition that is seen as a cynical attitude. Complaining is the habit of those who have had difficulty gaining a biblical  mindset and godly perspective on the trials of life-because their expectations are unrealistic and unwise. So they are angry and depressed. Eventually their issues with God manifest in other ways. You usually see complaining where people are unfulfilled and unhappy creating an atmosphere charged with nitpicking, arguing and negativity that eats away at relationships (James 4:1-3). In 1 Corinthians 10 it is the last step before the cliff of total rejection by God of an entire generation of people and Paul intends to warn and threaten the church at Corinth with this truth.

You say, “Wow, that is ugly.”

Indeed it is. Especially for Christians who claim to love and obey God.

The New Testament teaches, “Do everything without complaining and arguing.” (Phil 2:14). Well there it is-everything. There is no amnesty where you can get away with a chronically bad attitude. It can ruin your life and your soul. My suggestion to cure this sickness of the soul is to talk to God in prayer and ask him to forgive you. Ask him to help you to learn contentment by trusting that he is faithful to his promises and will give you the strength to endure hardship. Study the lives of people in the Bible and read the biographies of Christians who suffered and remained faithful to God. Find mature Christian’s who have endured difficulty and talk to them about your challenges. It will encourage you to know that you are among people in a fellowship of sufferings that desire to identify with Christ (Phil. 3:7-10), who want to grow in his grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18) and have a better resurrection (Heb 11:35). Ask God to make you a testimony to others so that you can help others with the comfort you have received from God (2 Cor 1: 3-7).

© 2015 Soul Health Care Ministries. Come on now, give credit where credit is due.

SIN IN THE CAMP

sin-in-the-camp“But there was sin among the Israelis. God’s command to destroy everything except that which was reserved for the Lord’s treasury was disobeyed. For Achan… took some loot for himself, and the Lord was very angry with the entire nation of Israel because of this.”  (Joshua 7:1).

This has become one of the most archaic and avoided terms in the present day church: “sin in the camp.” The actual term is developed from Joshua chapter 6-7. It was early in Israel’s military campaign against the land of Canaan. Israel just experienced a tremendous victory against Jericho. God instructed his people that after the battle there were certain things were to be left in Jericho they were not to be brought into the camp of Israel.  Those things were to be devoted to destruction, they were cursed by God and taking them would bring destruction upon Israel (Joshua 6:18).

The Bible goes on to say, “But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel.”  

Notice what it says Israel committed a trespass. Israel betrayed the Lord. It did not say the double-dealing Achan sinned but it said Israel as a nation sinned because one person sinned. Israel did not even know about this.  In many ways this was not the nation of Israel’s fault.

Yet, we should point out that Israel went to battle against Ai without seeking the Lord. If they would have prayed God would have spoken to them about this issue. But they saw Ai as a small easily defeated city but God wanted to make it clear to them that all their victories came from him not by their swords. So because of their arrogance and their ignorance their battle against Ai was a miserable defeat and thirty six men died. Then of course, they prayed and that is when God revealed to Joshua that Israel sinned (Joshua 7:7-13). So Joshua examines all the families of Israel one by one and Achan confessed to the crime. He stole a Babylonian robe, 5 pounds of silver, and 20 ounces of gold and buried them.

Without reading much into this it would seem that only one of these items-the Babylonian garment was under the ban of God. The other things were silver and gold they were of value but the point was is that he took them for himself instead of setting it aside for the Lord’s treasury (Joshua 6:19). So Israel had to exterminate him and his family and everything he owned and God’s anger was extinguished against Israel. It was an awful price he paid for his sin.

So this is what sin in the camp is: one individual’s unrepentant sin brings open defeat to God’s people.  Sin in the camp is referring to someone who is practicing a sin that is unknown to the church body. It is a sinful practice or false doctrine that is affecting the community of the church spiritually and hindering its ability to fulfill their call in operating in the gifts of the Spirit, worship and reaching the lost. I believe this is why so many Christians and churches are frustrated and lacking today and it makes me weep.

We are not talking about a person who struggles with sin or some thing in his or her life that he or she is attempting to get help for. This is not talking about a person who is grieved over their sin and desires freedom.  Galatians 6 tells us what to do with such a person. We are to help them, encourage them bear their burdens until they are able to walk maturely in the Spirit on their own. But in the church of today there are many people who have no understanding of how their actions affect the testimony of the people of God (1 Cor 12:25).  WE ARE TO HAVE A GOOD WITNESS IN THE SIGHT OF THE WORLD.  God is serious about the corporate purity and unity of his people and the Bible says, “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Cor. 3:17).   People should realize that what they do as individuals they do as a church.

In Bible days, people claiming to be Christians were visiting the temple prostitutes in Corinth. Paul reprimands them, “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh.  But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own.  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Cor 6:15-20).  The church has failed to insist continually and dogmatically that we do not belong to ourselves. We belong to Christ and his body, the church.  The church is made up of individuals that are not islands to themselves (1 Cor 12).

It is important especially during the time of the Lord’s Supper that the church prepares and examines the mettle of their hearts corporately. God offers forgiveness and healing through the celebration of the Lord’s supper.  THE LORD’S SUPPER IS ONLY FOR PRACTICING CHRISTIANS. It is an opportune time to have people embrace in love their brethren and check their hearts. But like any principle, this can be abused by overcritical legalistic, fault finders and we want to avoid that. But it is my firm belief in the scriptural teaching of the apostle Paul that people should be banned from the Lord’s Supper or asked to leave the fellowship of Christians (after a proper careful application of Matthew 18) until they are willing to repent for their sin. Then they are restored without question.  This is not referring to the uncommitted unsaved person. Paul says there is no other choice! Anyone who calls themselves a Christian and refuses to repent of open sin even after the hard work of others lovingly and patiently confronting them should be expelled from the community of believers. So there will no longer be sin in the camp and we can do our job as a Church.

 © 2014 Stephen S. Gibney

The Conveyor Belt of Guilt

The picture that you see is an X-ray of a unnamed 36 year old Norwegian man who passed out and curled up into a fetal position on a baggage claim belt at a very busy Rome airport in August 2012, and inadvertently received this full body scan in the process.

He had arrived at the international terminal with a backpack and a can of beer in his hand and when he went to check in for his flight he found nobody on duty at the airline desk. So, he jumped over the counter and went to sleep.

Eventually, the belt began to move and took the man for a ride. It is believed he traveled for 15 minutes before his body was spotted by shocked officials in an X-ray image on their screens.

Officials say it was difficult to wake up the snoozing traveler, who was still clutching his beer as he went through the scanner and traveled 164 feet on it before anyone noticed.

If you have any kind of sense of humor this is quite the story to tell around the office.

But as I heard about this story I immediately began to think of how we are laying in a fetal position on a conveyor belt of  another kind. Did you know that when a certain people suffer extreme trauma or distress, they resort to a fetal position. It seems this is a natural reaction of the brain and the body to protect itself  and when they are no longer able to cope-the mind just shuts down for a time. Drug addicts during withdrawal or even people suffering from extreme anxiety resort to a fetal position.

This is the dangerous conveyor belt of guilt and misguided self examination on which some believers in Jesus have been crippled and traumatized by the wrong view of God and sin.

Paul says this, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Cor. 7:10NIV 1984).

There is a godly sorrow. There is a worldly sorrow. There is a sorrow that results in repentance and salvation. There is a sorrow that results in death.

There is a healthy repentance and there is a toxic regret and remorse. Repentance is a special grace, a gift of tears, a result of seeing our sin in light of the Cross. Where sin abounds grace abounds even more. The gospel offers God to the ungodly and forgiveness to the unforgiven. Repentance is a God-kind of change. Your thinking changes and the direction of your life changes as a result. You were moving away from God and His love brings you back home.  It is the gift that God gives when He releases the human will from the confinement and chains of sin and enables a person to turn to Christ for salvation.  That is repentance after a godly manner. It is a change only God can bring about.

Many Christians due to bad teaching have a caricatured view of God, a distorted view of sin and a toxic view of obedience. They actually should repent of their thinking when it comes to who God is! That is the deepest repentance one can have. They way you see God must be through the scriptures especially in light of the finished work of the Cross and New Covenant. God loves you and it is not his will you walk about in sorrow all the time.  He has forgiven you and offers a clear conscience to you and complete open access to him and his gifts.

You do not have to live in regret and call yourself a sinner all the time. Do you think that pleases God? Walking around all day thinking how unworthy and undeserving you are? It does not please God at all  that you are going around and around on this conveyor belt with the baggage of guilt. God is not hostile to you, nor does he treat you like a stranger. You are a warmly welcomed, dearly loved child of your Heavenly Father.

All this is real change is it not. It is a changed life, with a changed heart and a changed destiny.

Sadly, some Christians are dominated by a guilty conscience and consciousness. They attempt to earn forgiveness and acceptance with God by saying, “I am sorry” over and over again confessing their sin as if they were an legal accountant and there is always simmering in their heart a sense of guilt and hurt because they think God will reject them when they fail. It seeks to make such an account of sin that it must name each individual sin specifically to satisfy their conscience and God. But can one confess sin perfectly? We always leave some sin out. We cannot even do this  correctly. I get exhausted just thinking about the way I used to confess sin. This so called form of repentance is “worldly”  it is spiritually suicidal  not Christ-centered nor founded on the biblical fact that God offers forgiveness at the point of failure and mercy when we crash and burn. He gives beauty in exchange for ashes. He takes off your dense heavy overcoat of sorrow and replaces it with the light linen fabric of joy! All you need do is ask and he has answered “forgiven” before the words are on your lips.

Some of the oldest “Christian” churches in their tradition are nothing more than a mill for legalism. The conveyor belt of guilt is incorporated in their rituals. They are taught to ask for God’ mercy over and over again as if by mere words and repetitive chanting God will hear them. Ever wonder why legalistic people are so mean? Because people who feel unloved get angry. Oh that they knew they were loved by God!

We may criticize the Roman Catholics for their sacrament of penance or Eastern Orthodox for their view of Penthos but we have our Protestant penance we call it revivalism. We think by our efforts we will bring the church back to life do we not? There is only one problem- we end up looking like we are trying to kill the people who are alive. We are attempting to satisfy God and please God by our own efforts and there is no need to do that. God is at rest and reposes on the work of Christ his perfect Son on the cross. He calls us to lean with all our soul on the cross and what Jesus did for us.

The sad truth is there are so many Christians who are alive but they are wrapped in a shroud of guilt, they are camouflaged in the legalistic uniforms of remorse and joyless living that must be unwrapped by the teaching of God’s generous grace. God is rich in mercy and he has thrown open the door to his throne room of grace! He has already shown it powerfully in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Son of God. Yet there are people who say they are saved and born again who never find any relief or rest in their hearts and they live in a fog of uncertainty about where they stand with God. It is a mindset that is hard to break and only understanding God’s generous grace can unravel the slavery of guilt fear and anxiety.

Don’t allow your guilt and disobedience to overshadow God’s grace! Repent!  You have become nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that you have been cleansed from your past sins  (see 2 Peter 1:9). You do not need to morbidly and constantly confess in the name of spirituality or godliness.  Your sin consciousness is working in reverse cornering you in sin and your attempts to keep the law is reinforcing sins grip over-making you feel dead. Like the shocked officials who found this man on the conveyor belt, may this article find those who are in the fetal position of guilt and wake you up out of this stupor of  remorse and regret!  Christ has given you a new life, a new heart and a new spirit.  It is time to move ahead.  God wants us to build on what he has started in us by grace! We mature spiritually not by riding in a helpless fetal position of the conveyor belt of keeping religious rules but by actively maturing and growing in the fruit of the Spirit.

© 2012 Soul Health Care Ministries. If you use this article tell people about us and where you found it. Don’t plagiarize.

Afraid of the World?

ss-090427-swine-mw06_ss_fullRecent comments from our Vice President about the swine flu or A1-N1 caught my attention as I am sure it did yours.  The Whitehouse had to rephrase his comments (of which I am sure they will do again)  about avoiding subways planes, or any close areas and head for an open field and calm the fears of people when it came to this flu which has hit the world in  pandemic proportions. Now it seems that the swine flu is old news and we hardly hear about it.  But I saw the analogy in many Christians relationship with the world, meaning the people of this world.

You always have to be careful to the way you define the world. The world can be the actual planet on which we live which the Bible teaches belongs to the Lord (Ps. 24:1; Isaiah 66:1-2).  The word “world” also can be translated age or a time period. The  Bible calls this present evil age  in which the the small “g” god of this age Satan, rules over the minds of unbelievers  (Gal 1:4; 2 Cor 4:4).  In fact, the world can also refer to the order and arrangement of the system of evil or the “age of this world” that seeks to seduce people away from God and attempt to hinder the cause of Christ (Eph 2:2-3).

It is obvious that it is the world system that is controlled by Satan and his lies that with which we should be concerned. Although, people who do not know Christ as Lord and Savior are living lives controlled by sin, we are to love them and lead them to the Savior, not to be afraid of them or catching something from them.

Because such were some of you… 

In these areas I see people who say they are Christians going to several extremes.  Either they feel they can have one foot in the world and one foot in the church, meaning that they want to be able to say they are Christians and believe at least some of the tenet’s of the Christian faith. But they have made a grave error which is submitting to the “world system” that is controlled by Satan and his lies (Eph 2:2-3).  You cannot ally yourself with this world system or you end up being an enemy of God (James 4:4). But the Bible makes it clear that we need to stop acting like people who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior (Jer 10:2; 1 John 2:14-16).

Then there are those who act so afraid of the world  they seem monastic and pietistic in their approach to it.  They even develop an attitude which says, “I am holier than you” (Isa. 65:5). I think at times we treat unconverted people  as though they were going to infect us with a virus of  sin.   This kind of Christianity is anemic and weak and they need to reexamine their lives in light of scripture.  We forget that we are still tainted with sin ourselves and were it not for Christ we would be in slavery to its power.

Jesus said that he overcame the world. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).  He did not say that we would be free from trouble and suffering. Bright sunshine and hard rain still falls on the righteous and the unrighteous. The scripture insists and that we must go through “much tribulation” before we reach our heavenly home (Acts 14:22).

It is only “in Christ” and in his his words that we can have peace. There is a rest that comes to us knowing that the welfare of our souls are in the hands of the one who said,  “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29). 

This phrase “in me” is a loaded phrase. We are “in Christ”  the last Adam, the new life we have because of him as opposed to “in Adam” or the old man, the previous way of the sinful life.  The word “in” means a location or position. We are in Christ spiritually. What could this mean? We are positionally in Christ, God has saved us in Christ before the world began. That means that we were in him, together in him, joined to him before the very foundation of the world. That gives me peace in the midst of the storm.  What seems bad or what seems good to us does not matter when we know God in his sovereignty and providence is causing all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28).

What does the Lord require? Faith and trust in him. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5). Through the eyes of faith we see Christ as Victor seated at God right hand far above everything in this age and the age to come! We are in the victors seat with him and we do not have to be afraid of the world.