Christian Warfare and Depression (Welch)

 Satan and his wicked army often attack Christians and try to get us to believe lies.  Sometimes we believe the lies and our lives go downhill in various ways.  We stumble into sin, we hurt someone, we go through a period of depression, and the list goes on.  What do we do when Satan attacks us with lies and his other strategies?  Ed Welch gives some good direction on this topic:

…What happens in our lives when we simply say to Jesus, ‘Yes, I trust you,’ is that we also trust in his power to stand firm against Satan’s attacks.

  1. Remember you have an enemy.  Follow the lead of wise people who begin each day by actually saying, ‘Today, I must be alert that I have an enemy.’  Realize that you are walking where rebels are known to be in the area.  Their lives are devoted to your destruction.

  2. Assume that warfare rages.  Don’t even bother looking for signs of warfare.  Just assume that you are in the thick of it.  …Are you listening to wise counsel and Scripture? …Listening is a mark of humility, and Satan can’t successfully fight against it.

  3. Don’t think that your case is unique.  This popular lie questions God’s care: all sufferers are tempted to believe that their suffering is unique.  This lie immediately renders all counsel irrelevant because no one understands and no advice applies.  The result is that the aloneness you already experience is now an established fact, and you are given ever more permission to despair.

  4. Know Christ.  Satan’s energies zero in on one point: the truth about Jesus.  If you are growing in an accurate knowledge of Jesus Christ, you are winning the battle.

  5. Humble yourself before the Lord.  Humility is different from feeling low.  It is lowering ourselves before God, and accepting his sovereign will.  Humility says, ‘God owes me nothing.’  ‘He is not my servant; I am his.’  ‘God is God, and he has the right to do anything he wants.’

There is quite a bit more to Welch’s discussion, especially as he relates it to depression in the Christian life.  I’ve summarized these points quite a bit, so I recommend reading the entire section for excellent biblical direction in fighting Satan’s attacks, especially when going through a period of depression.

Here’s where you can find it: Ed Welch, Depression: A Stubborn Darkness (Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2004) p. 68-71.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

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Talking To A Fellow Christian About His or Her Sin (Welch)

Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love Christians are not loners who plow through life by themselves – at least they shouldn’t go it alone!  Since we believe in the fellowship of the saints, there are times when one Christian has to talk to another Christian about his or her sin.  If it is done out of love, if it follows biblical patterns (e.g. Mt. 18), and if it is aimed at repentance, restoration, and spiritual growth, talking to a fellow Christian about sin is a blessing.  It’s not easy and it does sometimes sting, but it is a good thing!  Here is some advice from Ed Welch on talking to a fellow Christian about his or her sin.  He says we need to do so with humility and patience:

Humility means that we already see our sins as worse than others’ sins, so we have no reason to defend ourselves when someone points out our sin (Mt. 7:2-5).  This does not mean that we must publicly identify our own sins before we talk about sins in others.  It means that we live as redeemed tax collectors (Luke 18:9-14) who have no confidence in our own righteousness but live because of God’s lavish forgiveness and grace.

Welch is exactly right.  If we have any sort of arrogance or pride when we confront a brother or sister about their sin, the discussion will usually go downhill rather quickly.  Have you ever had an arrogant person point out your flaws or shortcomings?  It’s not easy to hear since it sounds like what it is: someone who thinks he’s better than you reminding you that you’re beneath him.  Here’s Welch again:

“Patience is humility’s partner.  It is one of the identified fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and it is a central feature of love (1 Cor. 13:4), so it is essential to our ability to be helpful.  It means that the one we are speaking with is like us – he does not respond perfectly, he changes slowly, and he needs a patient helper.  …Patience is interested in what direction people face.  Do they face toward Jesus?  Patience is more interested in direction and less interested in how fast people are changing.

Again, this is helpful.  Sometimes iron sharpening iron (Prov. 27:17) takes more than a few days!  In other words, sanctification doesn’t happen overnight.  Sometimes God works slowly in a person’s heart and mind, so we need to be patient with God’s timing.  Granted, there are exceptions to this (if someone is physically in danger, for one example), but generally it is very wise to be patient as we talk to another Christian about his or her sin.  God is patient with us, so of course, we should be patient with one another!

The above quotes are from chapter 15 of Side By Side.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI

 

The Most Powerful Thing We Can Say

Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love “Sin weighs a lot.” So Ed Welch says in chapter four of his helpful book, Side By Side.  He explains that sometimes suffering might feel like our biggest problem, but it’s not.  Sin is.  “Sin is the heaviest of weights; forgiveness is the greatest deliverance.”  It isn’t always easy to own up to our sin – especially those heinous sins hiding privately in the corners of our hearts.  But opening up and confessing our sin to God (and sometimes others) brings blessings.  Though there are more, Welch lists three and explains them.  The first two are (minus his explanation):

  1. Seeing the weight of our sin drives us to Jesus.

  2. Seeing the weight of our sin brings humility.

Blessing #3 is “Seeing the weight of our sin is the beginning of power and confidence.”  Here’s how Welch unpacks the statement:

“…Spiritual power feels like a struggle, or weakness, or neediness, or desperation.  It is simply, ‘I need Jesus,’ which is the most powerful thing we can say.  It means that our confidence is not in ourselves or in either our righteousness before God or our reputation before others.  Our confidence is in Jesus, and that confidence cannot be shaken.”

“Just imagine: no more hiding from God, no more defensiveness in our relationships.  When we have wronged others, we simply ask their forgiveness.  Our security in Jesus gives us the opportunity to think less often about what others think of us.  It gives us freedom to make mistakes and even fail.  No longer do we have to build and protect our own freedom.”

“Sin weighs a lot, but those who can see their sins see something good.  When we confess these sins, knowing that they are forgiven, we see something better – Jesus himself.”

Ed Welch, Side By Side, p. 45.

Shane Lems

The Fear of God vs The Fear of Man

  The fear of man (a.k.a. peer pressure, the disease to please, addicted to approval, etc.) is something with which all of us struggle – some more, some less.  Proverbs 25.29 is clear: “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety” (NLT).   Here are a few self-diagnosis questions on this topic for you to consider (based on my reading of Ed Welch’s excellent book, When People Are Big And God Is Small).

Do you get embarrassed easily?    Do you protect your reputation by using little ‘white’ lies?  Do you second guess yourself all the time because you’re worried what others might think of your decision?  Do you get a hair cut or purchase clothing based on what your friends will say?  Do you find yourself saying “yes” all the time because you want people to like you?  Do you avoid rebuking others when they sin because you don’t want conflict?  Do you stress out, cleaning your house furiously before visitors come – because you don’t want them to think you’re a slob?  Do you fish for complements by putting yourself down?  The list goes on, of course.

The fear of man is all mixed up with selfishness, pride, and idolatry, among other sins.  Welch puts it this way concerning idolatry.

“As in all idolatry, the idol we choose to worship soon owns us.  The object we fear overcomes us.  Although insignificant in itself, the idol becomes huge and rules us.  It tells us how to think, what to feel, and how to act.  It tells us what to wear, it tells us to laugh at the dirty joke, and it tells us to be frightened to death that we might have to get up in front of a group and say something.  The whole strategy backfires.  We never expect that using people to meet our desires leaves us enslaved to them” (p. 46).

 I really can’t recommend Welch’s book enough.  The fear of man is even prevalent in churches: some water down their worship and sermons so as not to offend anyone.  Others avoid church discipline because they want people’s approval, not rejection.  Christians sing quietly in worship because they don’t want others to hear them if they’re off key, and some Christians never pray with their brothers/sisters because they don’t want to sound stupid in their prayers.  And the list, of course, goes on.  This – the fear of man – is one of those sins we need to be attacking all the time!

Another book very much worth reading on this topic is Lou Priolo’s Pleasing People: How Not To Be An Approval Junkie.  I enjoyed both books, and will certainly use them often in my studies.  I do have to say, though, that I think Welch’s remedy’s for fighting the fear of man was more grace filled than Priolo’s (which is the subject of another post). 

Feel free to mention other such books if you know of any.  I’ve also read John Flavel’s book on fear, but that was more about fear in general (though it was an outstanding book!).

shane lems

sunnyside, washington

Making Decisions Biblically

One thing in the Christian faith that amazes me is how often my decision-making process is straight up unbiblical.  I’ve talked about this with other Christians recently, and they admit the same.  How often do I (we?) make difficult choices with a quick prayer, ultimately doing what will benefit me (us?) the most?  After contemplating this and recently working through this with a few others making choices, I summarized the steps on making a decision with biblical principles in mind.  Matthew 22.37-39 is a key text. Here are a few questions to ask (pretty much in this order) while wrestling over a big life-decision (i.e. taking a new job, moving, college selection, marriage, switching churches, bio-ethical decisions, and so forth).  These should be “bathed” in prayer.

1) Which of the choices will glorify God the most (1 Cor. 10.31)?  We glorify God when we believe in his Son, when we obey his commandments, and when we worship him.  Which choice will help our faith, obedience, and worship – things which glorify God?  The “chief end” of our decision should glorify God.

2) Which of the choices will show my neighbor the most love?  We first think of how our choice will affect other Christians (Gal. 6.10; cf. Heb 13.16).  Our choice should benefit other Christians – family, friends, and Christ’s church.  Our choice should strengthen other Christians’ faith in Jesus, their obedience to his commandments, and promote their overall well-being.  Also, this secondarily means our choice should help and benefit unbelievers as well.

3) Which choice will make my light shine before men, so that they glorify God (Matt 5.16, Phil. 2.15)?  Which choice will show unbelievers that we love Christ more than this world and the stuff here?  Which choice will show unbelievers that we love the church more than the things we own?  Which choice will help other Christians let their lights shine?  All our choices should show everyone that we are pilgrims and strangers on earth.

Anyway, these are very basic considerations, and should be expanded upon.  Notice that our choices should be self-less, not selfish; our choices should show that we fear God more than we fear men and their opinions of us.  Also, I very strongly recommend talking to your pastor, elder(s), deacon(s), or other godly/wise Christians to help make decisions.  (It is a sign of pride if we think we can make tough decisions on our own.)  I recommend summarizing these three (or something similar) and memorizing them so you have a “knee-jerk” biblical response to major decisions.  It will also help you assist others in making biblically sound choices. 

One more thing: don’t look for answers to tough decisions in some quiet whisper from God or handwriting on the wall.  Look for answers in the Word by applying its principles in prayer and through wisdom of other Christians.  One huge benefit of following the principles in the Word is having a clear conscience before God (which helps us in turn face the sometimes difficult outcome of a hard choice).

I realize this post is a tad different than normal, since I didn’t directly quote a book or books.  However, the above is a summary of things I’ve read in David Van Drunen’s book on bioethics, Thomas Watson’s book on the Ten Commandments, the Heidelberg Catechism’s exposition of the Ten Commandments, and quite a few of Ed Welch’s books (including this one, this one, and this one), along with other CCEF stuff.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

Reading…

I’ve been on a reading kick lately (more than usual), so I have many books about which to blog, but not enough time.  So I’ll note a few now, and come back to them some other day.  I also hope to finish my notes on David VanDrunen’s Natural Law and Two Kingdoms book very soon.

Though I’ve heard of J.B. Phillips’ Your God is Too Small, on Saturday I had the privilege to read it for the first time.  Though I have a few quibbles with some of his terminology, overall the book was great.  It reads a tad like C.S. Lewis and is a good book for those of us interested in defending the faith (while strengthening our own!).  I was reminded once again that distortions of who God is did not originate in the last 10 years with Dawkins or Oprah or Osteen.

Last week Friday I read Jason Stellman’s new book, Dual Citizens.  I see this one sort of like a greatest hits album.  Stellman nicely weaves together some of the insights of guys like Mike Horton, Darryl Hart, Meredith Kline, William Willimon, and others to argue for an “ordinary” sort of Christianity – ordinary in the way of word, sacrament, and pilgrim living in the already/not yet.  This one is good for those just getting into confessional Reformation theology – it harmonizes well with Modern Reformation and the White Horse Inn, for example.

Over the past few weeks I also enjoyed Marilynne Robinson’s Home.  It is a sort of companion to her Gilead.  Each of these cover the same time period (roughly the 60s or so in a small Iowa town) and each focuses on a different pastor from this town.  I do admit that I liked Gilead much more than Home, but I recommend these books for anyone who likes good writing – and Pastors or church leaders will especially identify with them.

I’m just finishing up Os Guinness’ outstanding work, God in the Dark.  This is a brilliant book that wrestles with doubt, faith, certainty, and knowledge.  It is a perfect companion to some of Newbigin’s works, along with my other favorite, Bavinck’s Certainty of Faith.  I’ll for sure post on this one later, as it has seriously helped me deal with some of my own doubts.  I love this book.

I am nearly finished with Stanley Hauerwas’ A Cross Shattered Church.  Reading Hauerwas (for me) is like reading Barth: sometimes it makes you want to dance and sing and laugh, and other times it makes you want to stomp and cuss and cry.  Actually, if you read Hauerwas, you won’t have to cuss because he does so for you (yes, there are a few cuss words in this book).  But he is always worth reading (even though I am not a pacifist-anabapstist, nor do I sympathize with Roman Catholic theology), because of statements like these: “The great challenge of not how we can fit Jesus into the story of the Enlightenment, but how the story of the Enlightenment is to be judged by Jesus” (p. 39).  It is a relatively easy and short read, but I only recommend it to those who are solidly standing in a robustly confessional faith.

One more: I’ve enjoyed reading through the OPC’s Book of Church Order.   Solid presbyterian church government is a beautiful thing, a thing from which other churches can certainly benefit.  Here is a statement of presbyterian beauty: “All governing assemblies have the same kinds of rights and powers,” yet at the same time “all church power is only ministerial and declarative, for the Holy Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice.  No church judicatory may presume to bind the conscience by making laws on the basis of its own authority; all its decisions should be founded upon the Word of God” (chs XII.1 and III.3).  And kudos to the OPC for a handsome little booklet that is inexpensive at the same time! [Side note: I’m wondering why they still use the KJV in certain places of the BCO and the suggested forms.]

On my “to read” shelf are these three, among others: 1) Ed Welch’s Depression, a Stubborn Darkness, 2) K. Scott Oliphint and Rod Mays’ Things That Cannot Be Shaken and 3) William Edgar’s Lifting the Veil: The Face of Truth.  Stay tuned!

shane lems

sunnyside wa

Fear, Worry, and Anxiety in the Pilgrim Life

I’m really enjoying this one by Ed Welch.  It is an easy, clear, straight forward yet penetrating discussion of what fear, worry, and anxiety do to us in our pilgrim life.  Welch has studied humans and their fear and he’s studied scripture, which makes for a practical read.

Part one covers the following: 1) Fear and worry that run deep in us all, 2) Fear and worry have meaning and they tell us something, 3) Fear and world have to do with a dangerous world, and 4) Fear and worry reveal some of our deepest loves and values in life (sometimes in a way we hate to see!).  I just finished part one, so I’ll post a couple pieces from it.

“Any time you love or want something deeply, you will notice fear and anxieties because you might not get them.  Any time you can’t control the fate of those things you want or love, you will notice fears and anxieties because you might lose them.  Good insurance policies might help, but they only lessen the risk on things that aren’t our real worries.  They can’t insure that our loved ones will outlive us or keep us from the ravages of age.  Control and certainty are myths” (p. 28).

Welch also has a great discussion showing that money is quite powerful.

“If we need what money can give us, we will notice rising insecurities whenever we do the bills.  …With money we can get adequate medical treatment, love, respect, and care in our old age.  Nothing else in creation can offer so much control and power.  Without it we are vulnerable and powerless.  No wonder our fears attach themselves to our net worth” (p. 41).

This has been a helpful book so far, even though I’m not finished.  I do wish it had a scripture index and a topical index, but this doesn’t rob the content at all.  Running Scared would make a great book-club selection, as it would be easy to read and discuss together.  Welch even has some questions scattered throughout the book for further reflection.   I’ll post more some other time, but for now, get the book (it’s less than 11 bucks!) if you want a practical and biblical “attack” on your worry, fear, and anxiety.

shane lems

sunnyside wa