It is one of the challenges of being a human being – we have a tendency to get it wrong and cause ourselves all sorts of grief and trouble. As Christians – we don’t focus enough on equipping people to self-edify or build themselves up. Often, because of a lack of clear understanding on the subject on our part, we leave people to try and find their own way through life – often regularly self-destructing as they do so.
It is so true that we can be our own worst enemy. The Bible is full of examples of men and women who had a chance for something different and pleasing to God – and missed that opportunity. The ultimate examples are our first parents, Adam and his wife Eve.
Adam and Eve’s Self Destruction
Adam and Eve were created in the image of God – as a couple together they reflected the Imago Dei. That is the theological term which means reflecting the Image of God – in their case through their one flesh union. The image of God is beautifully reflected by a man and a woman in a God-appointed and sanctioned relationship together. The task they were given, as a couple, was to usher in the reign of God in this world together as its custodians and governors. They were unique in that they could share face to face communion with God – walking with God in the cool of the evening.
Sadly Adam and Eve fell into bondage to sin through the guile of the tempter, the devil, and their own lust for the forbidden fruit and all it promised to them for self-realisation and self-fulfilment. They sinned and instead of becoming like God – they self-destructed. That same story has been repeated all too often throughout human history. If the story ended there – then the human race would be without hope.
God’s answer to human sin and self-destruction is for people, outside of Christ, who are not yet Christians to become a New Creation in Christ. Only Jesus can renew our self-destructive nature through salvation bringing a renewed, living, loving relationship with Father God as a result. This involves Redemption – our past dealt with through faith in Christ, and the ongoing progress of Sanctification – our present and future being progressively renewed. As we are renewed through the agencies of the word of God, His Spirit, His love, mercy and grace, our fellowship with other believers, worship and witness to Christ – we become saints. Christ’s reign is established on the throne of our hearts.
Christians also Self-Destruct?
As a Christian we are a new creation living in a new day. We have the hope of pleasing God and living a life of usefulness to the Master. Yet, we quickly find that we are still battling with temptation and our sin. As I said above, the Church is not great at equipping people to live an overcoming, victorious life when they have to face the reality of all the pressures and tests of this world, self, sin and Satan. Many Christians self-destruct and take weeks, months and even years to find the door of repentance and true restoration enabling them to once again grow and mature in the faith.
How Do We Self-Destruct?
At the heart of our self-destruction is temptation and sin. Temptation takes various forms. If we yield to the temptation then we sin. Sin separates us from fellowship with our brothers and sisters, stops us walking in Christ’s light, stops us worshipping and giving, witnessing and serving the Lord. Please see the blog on 30 April for a detailed look at our battle with temptation and the various forms of sin: https://telfordelim.com/the-battle-with-temptation/ and remedies to enable us to resist and overcome the temptation.
As we consider ourselves – what sort of things, in us, can cause us to self destruct? I have listed some that I have encountered in my years of ministry. Some of what follows is closely related – other points are quite different, but all have this in common – they lead us to sin and self-destruction:
- Complacency sets in and we think we are now okay – ‘I can make a success of this Christian life.’ God allows us to be tempted, tried or tested to reveal our true state before Him – and sometimes we yield, sin and end up condemning ourselves for our stupidity and lack of integrity.
- We get blasé and think we have seen it all before, are unimpressed because we have tried different things and followed different advice in order to change – but nothing has really helped us to grow spiritually. Instead of applying the Christian disciplines and keeping on taking up our cross and following Jesus – we stop and allow unbelief to reign in our hearts. We waken up one day and realise that we self-destructed just before the breakthrough to a new spiritual strength and vitality had the chance to come in our lives. ‘If only we had kept on following the Lord and stayed in fellowship in our church…’
- Things are going great, we are making progress, there is that sense of good things happening – then we get complacent, happy with ourselves, and then in that comfortable state we succumb in a moment of happiness and weakness to temptation.
- We have a poor view of ourselves, low self-esteem or a lack of inner security and react in the same old self-destructive way to our failings, our sins, or to other people letting us down leading to same old results.
- There are certain people in our lives and when we spend time talking to them, or being with them, it always leads to negative outcomes for our mental, physical, relational and spiritual health.
- We look at other people who seem to be so much more spiritually able than we are – we envy them and begin to speak in negative terms about them. At this point others notice it and begin to back off not wanting to talk to us nor spend time with us because of our faith-destroying attitude. At some point we begin to recognise what is happening, blame ourselves, or them, and self destruct.
- We believe that a position, person or something is ours by right – I am not talking here about our marriage, or a courtship or a job which is legally ours – but about something which may not be ours in reality, only ours in our own heads. At some point we see someone else taking that position, that person, that thing away from us and jealousy comes to the fore and starts to consume us. Because someone else, or some other organisation, has now got something which we believed was ours – we get angry and begin to lash out self-destructing thereby.
- Our weakness is vanity and we need other people to speak well of us and reinforce our fragile view of our own worth – someone ignores us or says that we are performing poorly – we self-destruct as the confidence drains away leaving us empty and feeling worthless.
- Sex is our problem and we watch something that takes us on an unhealthy journey – begin to flirt with someone – allow something in our fantasy life to get a hold of our imaginations – are subject to a period of temptation and we yield. We feel dirty, unclean and unable to approach God for cleansing.
- Money is our weakness and is how we assess our worth, or our standing. We know it is our weakness and so try to be careful around it – but a period of testing comes to see how genuine our new found sanctification is in this area and we yield…we get consumed by the old issue, money becomes our security again and we self-destruct because we end up trusting in money instead of in Christ.
- Power is our weakness and we begin to feel sidelined or disrespected in a family, community, work or church setting – so we respond by beginning to exert our power to gain authority and it starts going wrong. Since power is our issue, we try to exert more power to make people change to do what we want or think they should. It only takes one godly person to confront us in the power of the Spirit and our power trip is confronted by the power and authority of God. We lose and are broken thereby leading us into a downward spiral of self-recrimination.
- Pride is our weakness and don’t need anyone to tell us how good we are at a job, or relationship, or in any given situation. We master it for months and then the period of testing comes to see how much progress we really have made in sanctification – and we yield to the old arrogance and fall.
- Sensuality is our weakness – we get our self worth and security from the things we own or possess, the experiences we have through holidays, nights out, and the homes we own. The time of testing comes after good progress and we stumble. Idolatry is always the great spiritual weakness in this area – the worship of people, things, designer labels, or marquee badges.
- Control is our issue. Unless we are in control or at least feel we are – then we feel unsafe and vulnerable. We are challenged and proven to be trusting in our control instead of in Christ. We break and end up in a vicious cycle, in our own heads, of either gaining control back or off losing control. It destroys us emotionally and exhausts us physically – we self-destruct.
Peter is an example of a person who sinned deeply and self-destructed even after walking so closely with Jesus for three years. Though he had spent all that time walking with the Lord Jesus – Jesus was the perfect Imago Dei as God Himself incarnate as a human being – seeing and hearing for himself the ministry and power of Jesus, Peter still denied the Lord three times. He went out from that betrayal in that courtyard a broken man – I wonder what he felt the next morning seeing Jesus on that cross? It doesn’t bear thinking about the depths of his self-loathing. The night before he had been a man who had been afraid to stand with Jesus and own Him as his own closest friend.
The amazing thing to read in the story is that in spite of Peter’s betrayal – Jesus quickly sought him out, ‘and Peter,’ and worked at bringing him to a point of restoration. Jesus did this in a beautiful, forensic way – He didn’t labour on the betrayal; rather, He focussed on the call on Peter’s life: ‘feed My lambs and My sheep.’ This restoration was so wonderful that Peter was able to take his place as a leader among the disciples. Within a few shorts weeks Peter was filled with the Spirit and preaching and ministering for His Lord in front of thousands of people. Jesus moved Peter from a place where he could easily have self-destructed to a place of complete surrender and commitment to the cause of Christ, even in spite of the danger to his own life.
Jesus still seeks out His children and works for their repentance and restoration. His work enables us to hear His call, take up our cross daily, and deal with our sin in God’s way which is:
- Recognise we have sinned
- Confess it to God, and perhaps also to a mature fellow believer if we are trapped by it over a period of time so they can pray for our deliverance and healing
- Go through the process of Genuine Repentance
- Forgiveness is received and given if needed
- We step out once again in Faith accepting fully that we are forgiven
- Step out again following Jesus by the leading of the Lord’s Spirit and word without condemnation or recrimination. This is His love, mercy and grace at work through the Spirit and word leading to us truly mature in faith and grow in our spiritual understanding. We are then useful in any given situation for the Master’s service and witness. Hallelujah.