But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
I have a precious friend whom I met 15 years ago at a meeting we were both attending. Immediately our hearts were drawn to each other. Over the years, our families have been knit together in love, as we have visited and had fellowship with each other many times since then. He is a perfectionist, and like Paul, had to solve his self-problem, or die. I want to share with you his amazing story.
My friend had an insatiable quest for perfection, which began twenty years ago in Campus Crusade. He decided that if he could memorize three verses a day then he could memorize the entire New Testament in seven years.
Accomplishing this feat, would in his mind, mean that he would be perfect. After memorizing one third of the New Testament, it overwhelmed him and he gave up.
Then the drive to perfect himself resurfaced in other forms. He went to Christian seminars over and over again trying to change himself. The patterns that they presented for Christian living killed him. He tried very hard to work the principles and make restitution for his past sins. A lot of what he learned was very good, but as he says, most of it was somewhat morbid. His quest to be Gods perfect man drove him to the seminary, where he diligently studied Greek and Hebrew. However, because he couldn't live up to his own ideals, he left after a year and a half, angry and depressed. He, like every earnest Christian, had great passion and drive for righteousness, and rightly so, for I believe that it is the common heart cry of everyone who loves the Lord.
The teachings he had learned were not wrong in themselves, but as long as a person has Christ and a "me" to perfect, then he has a false self that is bound to make law from outer teaching. All outer teaching has the possibility of becoming law to us; doesnt the Bible itself appear law to
some, and grace to others? Until we know what it means to be dead to the law (Romans 7:1-4) we are always bound by some outer teaching.
Finally he heard the liberating truth of who he is in Christ, and began to make a real turn away from perfectionism. He began to learn the walk of faith and experience release. Yet the final truth of his humanity was still unknown to him. He knew that Christ lived in him, but what about this human form? What was his responsibility as a human? The answer became clear when he understood the function of the container, the human.
My friend reminded me of Paul in Romans 7--his desire was right, but how to perform, he could only say, I find not. After a few years, my friend began to refocus on Satan and sin. What if I'm in sin, maybe it's unbelief? He became centered in on himself which led to depression as he tried to deal with his feelings of dissatisfaction and anger. His quest led him to a Christian group which propagated the 12 step program of AA, Co-Dependency, Adult Children of Alcoholics, and other related programs as part of their answer for recovery and progress. Around and around he went into the whirlwind of self-analyzing--"Maybe if my father had not left us children, then I wouldn't be like I am...What were the dysfunctions in my family?...My temper is out of control, maybe if I believe hard enough I can be released...I have strong sexual pulls, maybe I'm a sex addict, could that be my hidden sin? How can I purge myself of sin?
He got worse instead of better because he recreated a false world that had already been crucified in Christ. The more he saw how dysfunctional his family had been, the more he hated and loathed his past and himself. This way of restoration was not healing at all, because it re-created a false reality. The truth is that Christ has redeemed our past and designed it to work together for our good, not our destruction. The 12 step programs are somewhat spiritual in nature, but my friend made them just another formula. He got worse and worse trying to make the 12 steps work, as he analyzed and re-analyzed himself. Finally, in despair and anguish, he contemplated suicide.
There is a time appointed by the Father for each of us to be introspective and self-searching, for it is in the identity level that we have been so deceived. And it is right there in our self that we discover our true identity. That time is a radical and valuable time for the Spirit to teach us who we are not, which conditions us to see who we really are. The very nature of this darkness usually isolates us from friends and family. Only in darkness and aloneness can God unite our divided consciousness from a separated striving self, to a released freedom, that only a right self can experience. I learned years ago not to touch this sacred and holy time, for it is a severe mercy. The great mystics called it, The alone with the Alone. This is a far cry from what is offered to us today through psychology.
It is amazing to me how much psychology has inundated the Christian Church as a means of perfection. I heard a man of God recently say, Psychology is a diversion from the leap of faith. His call was for Christians to return to the simple faith of our Fathers: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Peter and Paul. Psychology leaves people majoring on their problems, instead of leaping into the solution. Christ risen as us is our only hope, yet we Christians are putting our hope in false fleshly answers. There is only one hope, and that is Christ in us (Col. 1:27).
The highest form of human mentality is rational understanding, and psychology elevates understanding as a solution to inner healing. If we can understand ourselves, then we can discover ways to master ourselves. This is still flesh trying to master itself through self-effort. God crumbles our false hopes by saying, Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (I Corinthians 15:50). For it is: Not by (our) might, nor by (our) power, but by my Spirit saith the Lord (Zech. 4:6).
A friend of mine from England, Barbara Rodgerson, once wrote this in a letter to me: The more I seemed to dig and explore on a psychological level, the more elusive the 'root' to my problem became. I was like an onion with endless peels and no end in sight. Just tear another layer and more strong odors appeared, and that smell, more often than not, reeked of shame. I had to finally give it all up in place of the finished work of the Cross, where I found my final resting place.
While psychology may help us get within hearing distance of the truth, it cannot satisfy our empty hearts. Faith requires us to leave understanding behind and leap into Christ as the redeemer of our past, and the perfection of our present-tense life. Sharon, a Christian friend of mine who is a social worker, said to me the other day, A leap of faith requires a death to our understanding, while psychology explains our lives away. If faith alone was good enough for Jesus, Paul, John and Martin Luther, then it is good enough for me.
Although the 12-step program has truth in it, it cannot be our deliverer. For some people are making psychology their new religion and substitute deliverer. Let us not make more of the process than we do of the person of Christ. How can we analyze God's creation? We are too complex to compartmentalize. What is man, that Thou are mindful of him? Or the Son of Man, that Thou visitest Him? Thou madest Him a little lower than the God; Thou crownedst Him with glory and honor, and didst set Him over the works of Thy hands (Hebrews 2:6-8). We are made in His image, yet like the snowflake, none of us are alike. Only the Creator really knows His creation. Can't we trust the God who created us to put the fragmented pieces of our psyche back together? Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it (Psalms 127:1).
Isn't it interesting that the Bible tells us that, The body of sins has been done away with (Romans 6:6) and, they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts (Galatians 5:24). Yet we try to work out of us what the Cross accomplished for us two thousand year ago. No wonder Paul calls the Galatians foolish and bewitched for trying to perfect themselves through self-effort.
What we need is a fresh approach to how this truth can become a living reality in us today. Only when we dare to possess our possessions, by taking a quantum leap of faith, believing that we are right just as we are, can we say with David, My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise (Psalms 57:7).
Yet all of us try as my friend did, and in a since we must try, because the death of trying conditions us to see the final liberation of our precious humanity. Can we dare accept ourselves as having a right humanity and catch the glory of being God's asset instead of His liability? My friend has, but it took a great death to his way of perfection, his rational understanding, and his clever reasoning powers. Aren't we glad that God is more clever than we!
Finally, after trying to purge himself from supposed sin through psychology and self-analyzing, my friend ended up in a psychiatric ward on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Soon after this, I contacted him by phone. His first words to me after five years of no contact were, I cannot be contrite enough before the Lord. His voice was so low that I thought he would collapse just talking to me. I simply asked him several questions. Do you really think that you are in sin? Maybe the reason you cannot be contrite enough, is, because you haven't really sinned. What does your heart tell you? My heart? he said, I'm not sure--I've been in my head so much that I don't know. Then I asked him one last question that really started him thinking: Haven't you searched yourself for sin enough; haven't you searched every fiber of your body?
Soon after that he came for a visit, and the Spirit was not long in illuminating him to the truth: It pleased God, who separated him from his mother's womb, and called him by his grace, to reveal his Son in him (Galatians 1:15&26). My friend's past was perfectly designed by God and ordained as the perfect negative background to bring out the real truth and reveal the very Son of God in my friend's precious humanity.
All the while he had really been a kept person. God's faithfulness had kept him from sin, but not from temptation. I wonder how many of us are confessing sin because we are feeling so condemned, when all the time it is temptation we are experiencing. These grave clothes are the false guilt we take because we think we have a failing self that needs improvement. My friend finally learned the difference between sin and temptation. He was falsely assuming that negative responses could not be in the life of God, and therefore were sin. Didn't Jesus say, My soul is exceedingly sorrowful unto death, yet we know that He never sinned. The good news that came to my friend after years of self-abasement was that negatives such as weakness and darkness are right, and not wrong as he previously supposed. He could finally accept himself as a right self with right weaknesses.
When he would feel depressed, I would say to him, Well then, be depressed. Then when he would accept and not fight or try to figure himself out, he experienced a great release. When we embrace our negatives, it takes the bite out of Satan's temptations. What we fight, fights us. But when we praise the Lord and accept ourselves as right and relax, the inner word from the Lord comes naturally and easily in us.
My friend has truly walked through the valley of the shadow of death, but now he doesn't fear evil anymore. God has anointed him with the good news that he is a right self and is, by faith already perfect in Christ. For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified (Hebrews 10:14). A great release came to him, which brought rest to his soul and powerfully quickened his spirit. His life is a tremendous testimony to the resurrection power of the Spirit, which is ours by faith alone.
by Sylvia Pearce - from Treasures of Darkness - Isaiah 45:3