Freedom From False Guilts

Freedom From False Guilts

Chapter Two

Freedom From False Guilts
The Sweetest Word In The World! 16 'The Accuser Of The Brethren' 20
The Condemnatory Voice Of An Overly-Sensitive Conscience 17 The Basis Of Confidence 21
Learning To Practice Self-Acceptance 18 Discussion Questions 22
Living In 'Earthen Vessels' 19    

Isaiah 40:1-5

The Sweetest Word In The World!

I have a friend who, when I first met him, was at the height of his career as a research scientist. My friend, by nature a personable, generous, good-humored man, came to my office many times during a lengthy and dark period in his life. Broken-hearted and guilt-ridden, tears surfaced much of the time as he poured out his heart regularly to me. He told me that one of the biggest problems of his life was his overwhelming sense of guilt. Guilt as a result of his wife leaving him, causing multiple psychological and social problems in the lives of his children. Guilt because of his past over-involvement in his work which he felt was a contributing cause of his divorce. Guilt resulting from his ambivalent feelings associated with his hard decision to put his parents in a nursing home. Also, his former work as a scientist in biological and hereditary research involved some moral and ethical problems which were in conflict with the Christian beliefs which he was taught as a child and youth. In addition to these various guilts associated with his relationships with his wife and children and parents and job, there was the recurring guilt that surfaced to his conscious mind to plague him – the guilt caused by his wartime experiences during World War II.

Some would give almost anything to be rid of their plaguing sense of guilt! To many people, the word 'Forgiveness' would be the sweetest word in the world!

In thinking of guilt, three classes of people come to mind. First, there are those who are guilty, but who think that they are innocent. These people need conviction of sin. Second, there are those who are innocent, but who think that they are guilty. These people need comfort and reassurance. Third, there are those who are guilty and they know they are guilty. These people need forgiveness and cleansing.

Christ has the answer to those who should feel guilty and don't. He has the answer to those who should feel innocent and don't. He also has the answer for the many who feel guilty and should. Through the Holy Spirit's convicting, forgiving, and comforting ministry, the needs of all persons can be adequately met.

Because many sincere believers find it easy to be plagued with guilt feelings, for no apparent reason, we must take time to deal with False Guilts. Living the Spirit-controlled life means effectively dealing with False Guilts. We must look at both the causes and the cure, in our treatment of false guilts. There is comfort for the people of God!

"Father, help me to distinguish between real and false guilts in my life. Help me to expose myself to the cleansing blood of Christ when I am truly guilty of sin, and to the comforting presence of Christ when I am needlessly swallowed up in unfounded guilt feelings."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will commit my accusing conscience to the verdict of the cleansing blood of Christ and the comforting presence of the Spirit.

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Romans 14:1-23

The Condemnatory Voice Of An Overly-Sensitive Conscience

Among the many causes of false guilts is the condemnatory voice of an overly-sensitive conscience, seeking to accuse, even though there is no Biblical or objective basis for such condemnation. Sometimes this overly- sensitive conscience is developed in one's childhood. Children can develop notions and impressions that some things are wrong or evil, even though the things which are producing guilt feelings are not wrong at all. Such false guilts need to be thrown aside and a new confidence with God and man regained. God is greater than human ideas and notions, and in God's sovereign love am mercy He will calm human doubts and deliver from false guilts.

Perhaps a few illustrations will help make this point clear. Some have said that sex feelings are sinful or that attraction to the beauty of the opposite sex is sinful. These feelings and attractions are not lust or sin but are part of our normal, healthy life – everybody has them. Lust is sin, but not sexual attraction.

Some have imposed false guilt on conscientious persons by saying that self-love is sinful. Self-love is not sinful! Self-love is assumed in Christ's commandment to love one's neighbor as one's self. To act as if you had no self-love is to act dishonestly, Self-centered love is sinful, but not self-love. Loving Christ supremely, you are to love yourself subordinately and others sincerely. But to love others sincerely, you must love yourself truly. You need not feel guilty because you love yourself!

Some have imposed false guilts on teenagers by saying that ambivalent feelings by teenagers toward parents is wrong. During adolescent development, it is normal for young people to experience ambivalent feelings towards parents at times, for these feelings are part of the unconscious struggling for adult status am independence.

Writes J. B. Phillips, "All religions, Christianity unfortunately not excepted, tend to excite in certain people an artificial sense of guilt, which may have little or no connection with a man's actual standing before God. Probably Pharisaism, which Christ attacked with bitter scorn, represents this tendency at its highest… The danger of such a system, am the reason why Christ attacked it so violently, is that its values are artificial. The proud am correct feel 'right with God' just when they are not, and the sensitive humble man feels hopeless am overburdened for the wrong reasons." (The Newborn Christian; pg 174) As C. S. Lewis says, "We may create scruples. And scruples are always a bad thing – if only because they usually distract us from real duties." (The Joyful Christian; pg 170)

"Father, awaken my conscience to discern the sinfulness of real sin and the innocency of manmade scruples. Help me to deposit in the moral wastebasket all false guilts which are robbing me of peace of mind and joy in living. I want to live abundantly!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The Son has made me free, therefore I will not burden myself today with the needless baggage of false guilts!

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Romans 8:31-34

Learning To Practice Self-Acceptance

Many feel guilty because they cannot accept themselves. Some sincere believers cannot accept themselves because their overly-sensitive conscience has been wrongly trained to condemn them. The conscience, by itself, is not always a reliable guide to determine right or wrong actions or attitudes. The conscience simply stands guard over the values that one puts into his moral nature, and therefore the conscience itself cannot determine the objective rightness or wrongness of a moral value. One must refer to an objective moral standard (a standard not dependent upon cultural, social, or personal preferences) to determine the actual rightness or wrongness of moral values.

Where does one find the right moral values to feed into his moral nature, over which the conscience merely stands guard? The Holy Scriptures, carefully applied to the believers' mind by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit applies those Scriptures to one's life through the channels of prayer and meditation and counsel. One must always evaluate his conscience to determine the source of its training – whether or not the trainer of the conscience is reliable. It is important to look to Jesus, rather than primarily to others, for a standard for Personal Convictions. (See Romans 14:5, Romans 14:22)

Some believers have a hard time accepting themselves because of a sense of personal unworthiness in light of the great personal sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. There are those believers who feel guilty because they know they are partly responsible for Jesus' death on the cross. To counter this false guilt (if it can be called that), one must recognize that he is made worthy and acceptable 'in the Beloved' and he has been made an inheritor of the riches of grace. In response to these unspeakable blessings, let him be full of gratitude and full of good works (Titus 2:14), not full of guilt and self-despising.

Some feel guilty because of their failure to live up to someone else's expectations, or because of failure to live up to their own expectations. "Much of our tension and anxiety can be traced directly to a fear of inadequacy. We should meet this fear… by learning to accept ourselves. We probably are Not adequate for all our ambitious schemes, and only at the cost of enormous nervous energy can we succeed in becoming momentarily what we really are not… Suppose we accept ourselves good-humoredly, realizing our limitations and how much we have to learn, with cheerfulness and without envy of those who are, or appear to be, more adequate than ourselves." (The Newborn Christian; pg 129; J. B. Phillips)

"Father, deliver me from the self-imposed tyranny of forcing unrealistic expectations upon myself and of pursuing overly ambitious plans which are the inventions of my own unsanctified imagination. My perfectionist standards have caused undue strain and drain in me, inflicting in me needless guilt and causing me needless envy of others whose attainments are higher than mine. Give me a faith, sane estimate of myself and of my abilities and potential."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The gift of God's peace can only be received when I have ridden myself of my over-mastering desire to appear bigger than I really am!

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2 Corinthians 1:8-11; 2 Corinthians 4:7-12; 1 Kings 19:1-9

Living In 'Earthen Vessels'

Because the treasure of God's salvation is contained in 'earthen vessels', the emotions of even Christians can play tricks on them. Christians are not exempt from bouts with depression caused by physical and mental weariness. Believers must remember that they were not saved by their feelings, nor do they remain saved by their feelings! We walk by faith, not by sight or by feelings! Therefore we must not gauge our spiritual lives by the tone of our feelings. We must continue to live by faith, based upon the commitment of the will, and not live by emotions which are greatly influenced by changing circumstances and by changing health.

"Many of the greatest saints have witnessed to the fact that there were times in their lives when it seemed that they had no faith at all. They tell us that Francis Asbury used to preach with great unction and power, and then go to his room and have spells of melancholy until he would feel that he was lost and there was no hope for him at all. Now this feeling came from the fact that his body was exhausted and his nerves frayed.

"I think that the same thing must have been true with Elijah when he went off under the juniper tree and had such a spell of the blues. It was the physical reaction that came after his great conflict with evil on Mt. Carmel. His spiritual condition was not changed, for God went out to him am helped him." (Earthen Vessels; pg 44,45; John Church)

How can one counter problems of guilt feelings, because of weariness? First, get rest. Such a person in this state needs not to struggle in prayer, but he needs to sleep and rebuild his body, or perhaps to re-create himself through exercise and leisure. Second, this person needs to keep living by faith, not by feelings. "If you expect to live by your feelings, you will find yourself in a constant state of doubt am uncertainty am you will always live an up-and-down life. You will find that your feelings fluctuate and go up and down like a window shade, but thank God that does not have to be true of your spiritual state and standing in Jesus. The Fact that you are in Jesus Christ is a fact that was established by a deliberate choice of your will, and that fact can only be changed in one way, and that is by a choice of your will." (Ibid; pg 45,46)

"Jesus, Thou are all compassion. Amidst my changing emotions, you remain steadfast and faithful to me. In my sadness, you are my gladness; in my loneliness, you are my companionship; in my depression, you are my hope; in my sinning, you are my forgiveness. Amidst the changes and chances of life, your resources are infinite to meet all my needs! I am profoundly thankful!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My faith is fixed on the fact of God's trustworthy character – a fact that keeps my feelings intact!

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Revelations 12:7-12

'The Accuser Of The Brethren'

In Revelations 12:10, Satan is called 'the accuser of the brethren who accuses them before our God day and night.' Satan is able to disguise himself as 'an angel of light' (2 Corinthians 11:14). Satan is the accuser of the brethren, who appears at times as an angel of light – seeking to produce a condemning conscience in the Christian. This is one of the common sources of 'false guilts'. Satan enjoys accusing the believer of things of which he is not guilty!

Believers can be thankful that against this darkening, confusing, subtle force stands the powerful and merciful Spirit of God who comforts believers and who stills the accusing voice of Satan.

The Scriptures tell us how to counter this dreadful accusation of Satan: "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." (Revelations 12:11)

Satan hates the blood of Christ, for it is Christ's blood which cleanses from all sin. (1 John 1:7) Satan also hates the testimony of the humble believer, for that testimony declares Christ's power – the very power that will ultimately vanquish Satan altogether!

In speaking of Satan, there are two traps to avoid. First, it is possible not to take Satan seriously at all. There are those who outrightly deny his existence, which is a great and dangerous mistake! There are others who are ignorant of his evil devices, and thus they are often entrapped in his subtle snares. Paul warned us not to be ignorant of Satan's devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). There are others who believe that if they never think of Satan or mention Satan by name that Satan will leave them alone. All of these responses are responses which show that the persons involved are not taking Satan seriously.

There is a second trap to" avoid in dealing with Satan. It is possible to be overly-preoccupied with Satan. Someone wisely said, "What gets your attention, gets you!" Don't give credit to Satan if you can help it! Don't give Satan undue attention by talking too much or too often about him. Don't focus your attention or interest on Satan; instead, focus your attention on Jesus Christ! Glance at Satan but gaze on Jesus Christ! Recognize that while Satan's power abounds, 'Jesus' power superabounds! Be knowledgeable of Satan's tactics, but be more knowledgeable of the Holy Spirit's works! Never forget that you do not work for a victory, but that you work from a victory – a victory which was won on the cross and through the empty tomb!

"Father, help me to distinguish between your voice of true conviction of real sin in my life, from Satan's disguised voice of false accusations. Help me to arm myself with the Word of God and learn to resist the devil, as I remain steadfast in the faith. Victory is mine, through the Lord Jesus Christ! Thank you. Thank you!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Satan's head has been crushed! Satan's death sentence has been pronounced and his execution date has been set! He is a defeated foe!

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1 John 3:18-24

The Basis Of Confidence

Listen to the apostle John's wise advice: "My children, let us love not merely in theory or in words – let us love in sincerity and in practice! This is how we shall know that we are children of the truth and can reassure ourselves in the sight of God, even if our own conscience makes us feel guilty. For God is greater than our conscience, and he knows everything. " (1 John 3:18-20 Phillips)

Notes John Stott, "The suggestion seems to be (from verse 20) that it may not be either an unusually or an infrequent experience for the Christian's serene assurance to be disturbed. Sometimes the accusations of our 'conscience' will be true accusations, and sometimes they will be false… In either case, the inner voice is not to overcome us." (Tyndale Bible Commentary; The Epistles of John; pg 145)

Stott continues, "Our conscience is by no means infallible; its condemnation may often be unjust. We can, therefore, appeal from our conscience to God who is greater am more knowledgeable. Indeed, He knows all things, including our secret motives am deepest resolves, and, it is implied, will be more merciful towards us than our own heart. His omniscience should relieve, not terrify, us. So it is knowledge which alone can quieten the condemning heart, our own knowledge of our sincere love for others and supremely God's knowledge of our thoughts am motives. Stronger than any chemical tranquillizer is trust in our all-knowing God." (Ibid; pg 146)

The one who experiences the divinely-imparted love can be assured that he is of the Truth, am therefore he can have a tranquil heart. "It is the mind's knowledge by which the heart's doubts may be silenced… Love is the final objective test of our Christian profession, for true love; in the sense of self-sacrifice, is not natural to man in his fallen state. Its existence in any man is evidence of new birth and of the indwelling Spirit, and it shows itself' in deed'. 'There are actual things we can point to – not things we have professed or felt or imagined or intended, but things that we have done.' (Law) If we thus love 'in truth' (v. 18), we may indeed have full assurance in our hearts. 'The fruit of love is confidence.' (Wescott)." (Ibid; pg 145,146)

Suppose the condemnation which you feel is because of real sin in your life, and is not the result of false guilt? Then recognize that the Sovereign mercy am love of God is still 'greater than your heart' (1 John 3:20). God knows your heart and can judge rightly. Whatever the source of condemnation – be it false guilt or real guilt – God is greater than the condemnation and can restore the believer to true confidence!

"Father, restore unto me the joy of my salvation. You are the source of my joy, for you are the solution to the problem of my guilty feelings which have stolen away my joy. You came to earth, rot, to condemn, but to save – to save me from the real guilt of my sins and from the false guilts resulting from my inadequacies. Thank you for your total provision!

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: He who is greater than my heart will stand guard over my heart, delivering me from all guilt – both real and false!

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Discussion Questions On 'Freedom From False Guilts'

  1. In thinking of the subject of 'guilt', three classes of people come to mind. Name those three classes, and briefly tell what the basic need of each of those three is.

  2. Are you sometimes plagued with 'guilt feelings' for no apparent reasons? How do you cope with such feelings?

  3. Do you believe that it pleases God for believers to feel guilty? Why? or Why not?

  4. Name and describe some of the false guilts which believers have had imposed upon them, and share how you would help such believers to identify and to cope with such false guilts.

  5. What are scruples and why are scruples always a bad thing.

  6. Why is the conscience not always a reliable guide to determine right or wrong actions or attitudes?

  7. Where can one find the right moral values' to feed into his moral nature, by which he may determine what is really right and wrong?

  8. How can one effectively deal with his sense of inadequacy, the feeling of which brings guilty feelings?

  9. What is the relationship between 'Feelings, Faith, Fact' in living the Christian life and in dealing with guilt feelings?

  10. How can one distinguish between feelings which are the result of false guilts and real guilts, especially in light of the fact that Satan is 'the accuser of the brethren' (Revelations 12:10) and is able to incite feelings of guilt?

  11. When one's conscience condemns him, what should he do in order to see his confidence restored (according to 1 John 3:18-24)?

  12. If, as a believer, one recognizes that he has actually and really sinned, thus incurring guilt, what should he do, according to 1 John 1:9-10 – 1 John 2:1-2?

  13. Share a personal experience in which you found wonderful victory over either a false guilt of a real guilt.

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Introduction Battling Life’s Multiple Temptations

Introduction to Battling Life’s Multiple Temptations

Introduction To Book Four – Temptations

By

Ron Christian, Compiler

There is an effective way to cope with temptation. We must recognize the source of temptation, maintain the right attitude toward temptation, recognize the nature of sin and temptation, and use the right weapons against temptation.

James writes, "A man must not say when he is tempted, 'God is tempting me'. For God cannot be tempted by evil, and does not himself tempt anyone." (James 1:13, Phillips)

Satan is the source of temptation. Evil is not an abstract entity, but evil is a personified power. The Bible speaks of evil in terms of a spiritual person who is in opposition against God and man. The Bible speaks of Satan – man's adversary. The Bible pictures Satan as the 'Prince of the power of the air', and he is said to be the leader of a demonic kingdom which is constantly plotting evil against man. Satan is also called the Devil (Matthew 4:1), which means the slanderer par excellence. He is called the Accuser of the Brethren (Revelation 12:10). Satan is called the Tempter (Matthew 4:3) who seeks the ruin of mankind. In John 8: 44, Satan is called a murderer and a liar. Satan is described as the roaring lion in 1 Peter 5:8, and he is called the Wicked One in I John 2: 13. In Revelation 20:2, he is called the old Serpent -reminiscent of Satan's first appearance to man. He is a Robber, stealing the seed of God's Word out of the heart of man (Luke 8:12).

The power of Satan in the world is not illusionary but very real. While Martin Luther was in his room in the Castle of the Wartburg in Germany one day, he felt the power of Satan so greatly that he threw his ink-pot at the devil! Robert Louis Stevenson was convinced that Satan was a personal, active power of evil. He said one time: "You know the Caledonian Railway Station in Edinburgh? One cold, east windy morning, I met Satan there." It is said of Jesus that he "suffered being tempted" (Hebrews 2:18). On several occasions Jesus personally encountered Satan (Matthew 4).

It is important that believers maintain a right attitude toward temptation. It is helpful to note that the Greek word from which we translate 'to tempt' means 'to test' far more than it means 'to tempt' as we understand the word. Satan tempts us with one purpose in mind – to seek to seduce us into sinning. However, we must not look at temptation from Satan's viewpoint, but rather from God's viewpoint. God looks at the temptations we endure as mere tests of our character and loyalty. If we look at temptation from God's viewpoint, then temptation becomes not a stumbling stone, but a stepping stone to God. Sometimes it is only in the crucible of life's difficult experiences that man can be purified. Oftentimes it is only after man has been triumphant in life's challenging tests that he can meet life with maturity and strength. Life's tests are for the purpose

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of purifying character. To pass one test successfully is to increase ones strength for the next test.

"Yield not to temptation, 
For yielding is sin, 
Each victory will help you, 
Some other to win." 

The man who has been successful in life's test is the man whom God can use greatly in His service. "If metal is to be used in a great engineering project, it is tested at stresses and strains far beyond those which it is ever likely to have to bear. So a man has to be tested before God can use him greatly in his service." (Daily Study Bible; Matthew, vol, 1; pg. 226; William Barclay)

For instance, sorrow is not meant to make you bitter, but it is meant to make you sympathetic and understanding and tender-hearted. A difficult life experience is not meant to make you cowardice, but it is meant to make you more courageous. Suffering is not meant to develop self-pity, but it is meant to develop pity and compassion and empathy for other fellow sufferers. When life's tests force you to choose, you are given an opportunity to choose the pathway which leads to greatness and nobility. Life's tests give you an opportunity to choose good instead of evil, truth instead of falsehood, bravery instead of cowardice, generosity instead of selfishness.

When a child is given an arithmetic test, he is given the opportunity to demonstrate his knowledge. The test is not given to him to cause him to fail; it is given to him to demonstrate to him that he is allowed to progress to more advanced math and more difficult tests. God permits us to be tested in order to demonstrate our loyalty to Him and to better prepare us for greater service for Him.

It is important for believers to recognize the nature of sin and temptation. There are various definitions for sin, but one of the most revealing is the following: Sin is a perversion of natural, legitimate desires. Satan seeks to twist and to pervert that which is wholesome and natural. Let us note some specific examples. Self-preservation is an inherent instinct in man, but it can be- misused and abused. There are times that it is better to die than to live. Example: To be loyal to Christ and to die rather than to reject Christ and to live is to be victorious. (In the 20th century there were more persons who died as martyrs for their Christian Faith than who died as martyrs in all the previous centuries of Christianity put together!)

The desire for social approval is natural but it can be misused. It is most natural to have the social urge (i.e., the desire to be acceptable and accepted by others), but this basic urge can be twisted and abused, resulting in sin. An obsession to be accepted 'at any cost' can lead to a sacrifice of ones witness, a compromise in ones standards, and even

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a surrender of one's integrity. The story is told of President Garfield who was once urged to take a profitable, but a dishonorable, course of action. It was said to him, 'No one will ever know". His answer was, "President Garfield will know – and I've got to sleep with him."

The desire for success is natural but it can be misused. God wants us to be creative in our work and diligent in our labors. However, to desire success and advancement at any cost is a temptation which a believer must resist. An obsessive desire for success can cause one to disregard other people, can cause a sacrifice of personal integrity, and can result in succumbing to secular and materialistic values.

The desire for sexual fulfillment is natural and God-approved – if such fulfillment is experienced within the sacred confines of marriage. Too often this basic instinct and drive is perverted, resulting in sin. Man can change love into lust, the beautiful into the ugly, the sacred into the profane. Satan wants man to treat sex lightly, but sex is not a sensual toy. Sex is a God-given pleasure to be used under God's control. "Sexual sin is never right: our bodies were not made for that, but for the Lord, and the Lord wants to fill our bodies with himself… That is why I say to run from sex sin. No other sin affects the body as this one does. When you sin this sin it is against our own body." (1 Corinthians 6:13, 1 Corinthians 6:18, Living Bible)

The legitimate desire for food can be misused, and the result is gluttony. The natural desire for ease and pleasure must be guarded, lest one misuse time, develop laziness, or spend money needlessly on excessive and indulgent (and even harmful) entertainment. The inquisitive (curiosity) urge is normal, but it too can be misused and abused. The result? The horrible sin of gossiping and tale-bearing! Christians must carefully guard themselves from the misuse of natural desires, for Satan seeks to exploit and to destroy mankind through the perversion of natural instincts.

Vigilance is important because of the subtle forms which temptation takes. Wrote Peter (who bad himself fallen into terrible sin when he denied his Lord three times): "Be self- controlled and vigilant always, for your enemy the devil is always about, prowling like a lion roaring for its prey." (1 Peter 5:8)

One must be vigilant because Satan is a lying deceiver. One observer noted that Satan promises a crown but gives shame, promises 'heaven' and 'happiness' but gives a 'hell' of a life!

One must be vigilant lest Satan attack him at his weakest point. A chain is no stronger than its weakest link; no Christian is stronger than at his weakest point. Satan attacks one at his weakest point. One must guard against bitterness during times of unexplained sorrow. One must guard against skepticism if he finds it hard to accept the unique and the miraculous. One must guard against compromise if he is a person who is easily led

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by the 'crowd'. One must guard against egotism and pride if he is an unusually gifted and talented and capable person. If one is a very affectionate type of a person, he must guard against undue intimacy in some relationships. If one finds discipline hard to exercise; he must especially guard against-the wasting of time.: One who- has a vivid- imagination must guard against wandering thoughts. If one is inclined to look on the dark side of life, he must especially guard against pessimistic and negative attitudes. If one is unusually ambitious and energetic, he must guard against the temptation to be domineering (exploiting others for his own 'gain').

It is important to realize that Satan not only attacks one at his weakest point, but that often times also attacks a believer at this strongest point. Notes William Barclay, "We must always remember that again and again we are tempted through our gifts. The person who is gifted with charm will be tempted to use that charm "to get away with anything". The person who is gifted with the power of words will be tempted to use his command of words to produce glib excuses to justify his own conduct. The person with a vivid and sensitive imagination will undergo agonies of temptation that a more stolid person will never experience. The person with great gifts of mind will be tempted to use these gifts for himself and not for others, to become the master and not the servant of men. It is the grim fact of temptation that it is just where we are strongest that we must be for ever on the watch." (Daily Study Bible; Matthew; Vol. 1; pg. 59). Simon Peter (the 'natural' leader of Jesus' twelve disciples) was known for his courage and forwardness and boldness, and yet Peter's greatest strength failed him in the most critical hour of testing. The result of his overconfidence was horrible! Peter denied his Master three times! Overconfidence has been the downfall of many believers. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10: 12)

It is important to recognize the difference between temptation and yielding to temptation. Jesus was severely tempted on several occasions, and for as long as He lived, Satan would tempt and then depart "for a season", only to return later to tempt Jesus again. There are conscientious Christians who wonder why they cannot come to a spiritual level in their experience in which they are no longer tempted. But Jesus never came to any such level, for as long as life endures on this 'fallen planet', the Christian must be engaged in 'spiritual warfare' – in the fierce battle against sin and the 'evil one'. Jesus was tempted, but Jesus did not yield to temptation. It is not sin to be tempted; it is sin to yield to temptation. Having evil suggestions come to one's mind is not sin; meditating upon them and cherishing them is sin.

Believers must be prepared to use the 'right weapons' against temptation. The Bible exhorts believers to 'resist Satan'. "Give no opportunity to the devil" (Ephesians 4:27) "Resist the devil and he will flee from you."(James 4:7) "Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist

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him, firm in your faith, knowing that tile same experience is required of your brotherhood throughout the world." (1 Peter 5:8, 1 Peter 5:9)

Christians must arm themselves with the Word of God. Jesus always resorted to the Word of God in His resistance of Satan. He said, "It stands written" (Matthew 4). What God said in the prophets of the Old Testament many years ago is established truth! God's Word is relevant for today's battles! The Bible is forever 'contemporary'! The Psalmist said, "Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee." (Psalms 119:11) "And take the helmet of salvation; and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." (Ephesians 6:17)

Christians are commanded to submit themselves into the hands of Almighty God (James 4: 7) "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." (Deuteronomy 33:25) Promised strength for one day at a time! "Because Jesus Himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted." (Hebrews 2:18) "He is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing." (Jude 1: 24)

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The Mind That Was In Christ

Equip me for the war, 
And teach my hands to fight; 
My simple, upright heart prepare, 
And guide my words aright. 
Control my every thought; My whole of sin remove; Let all my works in thee be wrought; Let all be wrought in love.
O arm me with the mind, Meek Lamb, that was in thee; And let my knowing zeal be joined With perfect charity.
With calm and tempered zeal Let me enforce thy call; And vindicate thy gracious will, Which offers life to all.
O may I love like thee, In all thy footsteps tread; Thou hatest all iniquity, But nothing thou hast made.
O may I learn the art, With meekness to reprove; To hate the sin with all my heart, But still the sinner love.

By Charles Wesley

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Model Humility and Confidence

Model Humility And Confidence

Chapter Three

Model Humility And Confidence
Conquering The ‘Giant’ Of Pride 44 ‘The Accuser Of The Brethren’ 52
Walk Humbly Before Thy God! 46 The Basis Of Confidence 54
Humility In The Life Of a ‘Great’ 48 Living In ‘Earthen Vessels’ 56
The Condemnatory Voice Of An Overly — Sensitive Conscience 50 Discussion Questions 58

Daniel 4:27-37; Acts 12:20-23

Conquering The ‘Giant’ Of Pride

Of all the ‘enemies within’ which are difficult to ‘conquer’, it is ‘self-centered pride’ which is the most difficult of all. The Bible says much about pride and humility. First, remembered that the ‘Fall’ of Satan (Isaiah 14:12-15), as well as the origin of human sin, is attributed to this sin of pride!

Second, remember the serious consequences of ‘self-centered’ Pride. Pride is man’s attempt to steal the glory away from Almighty God – a very serious sin, indeed. Eventually, the God-ordained judgment of God falls upon the prideful and the arrogant and the boastful person! History demonstrates this fact time and time again! Recall the story of Nebuchadnezzar, and the story of King Herod (today’s Scripture readings).

Third, recognize that one of God’s ‘basic requirements’ for mankind is humility. “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8)

Fourth, compare yourself, not with others (which often leads to pride), but compare yourself with Jesus Christ, and you shall always remain humble. When I and my family often returned from visiting my parents-in-law in Nebraska, we would travel the flat lands of eastern Colorado, returning to our home in Fort Collins, Colorado. Eventually, on the horizon, we would view the “slight outline” of the Rocky Mountain range, which appeared so very small. The closer we got to our city, the larger the mountain range appeared – and, in contrast to the mountains, the smaller we felt. So it is with your relationship with Christ. The closer you draw to him, the more realistic will be your understanding of reality – and the “smaller” (more humble) you will feel!

Fifth, realize that all of your moral and intellectual achievements were given to you from God. Wrote Paul to the arrogant (carnal) believers in the Corinthian Church: “What are you so puffed up about? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if all you have is from God why act as though you are so great, and as though you have accomplished something on your own?” (1 Corinthians 4:7, Living Bible)

Sixth, realize, at the end of your successful life, you are still an “unworthy servant” (Luke 17:7-9). Karl Barth, considered by many to be the greatest Christian theologian of the 20th century, writes: “When once the day comes when I have to appear before my Lord, then I will not come with my deeds, with the volumes of my ‘Dogmatics’ on my back. All the angels there would have to laugh. But then I shall also not say ‘I have always meant well. I had good faith.’ No, then I will only say one thing: ‘Lord, be merciful to me, a poor sinner!'”

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“God, help me to remember who I am – a ‘servant’ obeying the Master, a ‘subject’ submitting to the King, a ‘creature’ reverencing the Creator, a ‘son’ honoring the Father! I am not worthy of the least of Your ‘favor’, but thank you for loving me so!

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall!” I choose to walk humbly before my God all the days of my earthly pilgrimage!

– Ron Christian –

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Mark 9:33-37; Luke 22:24-27

Walk Humbly Before Thy God!

When my grandson, who at the time was two years old, took regular nature walks with me, he loved to listen for the sounds of birds. When he heard the mourning dove, he thought it was an owl. Interested in the owl, I would repetitiously say to him on our hikes: “Lucas, the owl says ‘Who, Who, Who are you?'” What one imagines the owl says is a good question for each of us to ask of ourselves: “Who, Who, Who are you?” In spite of what our God-rejecting society says about the ‘importance’ of the ‘Ego’, God declares that you definitely are not a self-sufficient, self-made person who can make it in life without God and without anyone else! You must determine, by God’s grace, to conquer pride!

Seventh, realize that you are totally dependent upon God. for both your physical and spiritual life. Wrote Paul to the intellectually sophisticated Athenians: “God himself gives life and breath to everyone and everything, and satisfies every need there is. He created all the people of the world from one man, Adam, and scattered the nations across the face of the earth. He decided beforehand which should rise and fall, and when. His purpose in all of this is that they should seek after God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him – though he is not far from anyone of us. For in him we live and move and are!” (Acts 17:25-28, Living Bible) The Lord of Heaven is not only the Creator, but he is also the Savior who gives and who sustains all spiritual life. Said Jesus: “Yes I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit. For apart from me you can’t do a thing.” (John 15:5, Living Bible)

Eighth, remember that “God resisteth the proud” (James 4:6). Who, in his ‘right mind’, wants to experience the ‘pressures of God’s resistance’ against himself? A ‘losing contest’ for sure! But, remember also that God will eventually ‘exalt the humble’ (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6)!

Ninth, learn from your own past experiences of humiliation (as a result of God’s ‘chastening’ of your sinful pride ) never to be self-sufficient and proud again. Peter learned his ‘lesson in humility’ the hard way, but he became a humble disciple!

Tenth, realize that God did not create you to be independent, but to be interdependent. You need other believers, for you don’t possess all the ‘spiritual gifts’ (Romans 12:4-8).

Eleventh, learn to “count your many blessings”, all of which come from God. A spirit of gratitude is a great’ antidote’ against pride.

“Father, deal with me ‘tenderly’ and yet ‘decisively’. Kill the remnants of self-centered pride in my life, and resurrect me to a Christ-centered life of genuine humility!”

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When I bow at the feet of Jesus, then I can stand tall in life with ‘confidence without pride’, and I can experience ‘humility without humiliation’!

– Ron Christian –

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James 4:6; Peter 5:5-7; John 13:1-4

Humility In The Life Of a ‘Great’

In a most interesting issue (February 2000) of the insightful magazine ‘Christian History’ the” 10 most influential Christians of the twentieth century” are featured, with Billy Graham as the ‘most influential’! For more than 50 years, Billy Graham has preached to more persons than any other person in human history! When history is written a thousand years from now, the name of Billy Graham will be recorded as one of the greatest evangelists of all times!

It is my privilege to share a friendship with Ralph Bell, one of Graham’s associate evangelists for the last 35 years. Ralph has preached in crusades in many locations. Also, for many years, Ralph sat on the platform at many of Graham’s crusades (to act as his ‘back -up man’ in the event that Billy would be unable to preach because of illness, etc.). At the weekly men’s luncheon, where I often visit with Ralph, I asked him a few questions regarding the character and ministry of this world renowned evangelist. Ralph shared several facts with me. Billy has been most gracious through the years, always loving and kind and personable, giving full attention and total ‘eye contact’ to every person with whom he is speaking; caring deeply for his staff members from whom he readily receives counsel and input (such as sermons illustrations and commentary on contemporary events from men like John Wesley White, his associate evangelist who had two PhD degrees). He has been careful to avoid conflict with the news media and with ‘ultra-conservatives’ who have criticized Graham’s co-operation with some liberal churchmen. Graham has long told his associate evangelists that their call is to preach the simple gospel, not to be drawn into needless controversies. He remains loving toward his opponents and critics. It is his purpose to unite the body of Christ, not to be divisive. Ralph said that Billy readily acknowledges that there are thousands of other preachers who can preach better than he can, but (even if there are kings and presidents and theologians in his audience) he has always preached the ‘simple gospel’. He knows he has been given the gift of evangelism, so he does not attempt to involve himself in ‘apologetic debates’. When a TV talk host (Larry King) recently pointed out that Billy Graham had long been chosen (year after year) as one of the most popular persons in almost all of the polls, Billy responded that he did not feel he deserved such ratings. During his preaching Billy points out that he will only make it to heaven because of the’ grace of God and the shed blood’ of Christ, not because he has performed ‘good works’ (including the fact that he has preached to countless millions of people). I asked what was the ‘secret’ to his success, and Ralph answered “Prayer”. Why has “the most influential Christian of the 20th century” remained so ‘humble’? Because he owes everything to Christ’s atonement and the empowering presence of the Spirit!

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“Father, enable me in all my relationships – as a spouse, a parent, a friend, a worker- to be a ‘loving servant’, not a ‘cruel tyrant’. Help me to use the ‘towel and basin’.”

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Increasingly I want to be like Jesus who came to earth, not to be served, but to serve!

– Ron Christian –

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Romans 14:1-23

The Condemnatory Voice Of An

Overly — Sensitive Conscience

Among the many causes of false guilt is the condemnatory voice of an overly-sensitive conscience, seeking to accuse, even though there is no Biblical or objective basis for such condemnation. Sometimes this overly-sensitive conscience is developed in one’s childhood. Children can develop notions and impressions that some things are wrong or evil, even though the things which are producing guilt feelings are not wrong at all. Such false guilts need to be thrown aside and a new confidence with God and man regained. God is greater than human ideas and notions, and in God’s sovereign love and mercy He will calm human doubts and deliver from false guilt.

Perhaps a few illustrations will help make this point clear. Some have said that sex feelings are sinful or that attraction to the beauty of the opposite sex is sinful. These feelings and attractions are not lust or sin, but are part of our normal, healthy life. Nearly everybody has them. Lust is sin, but not sexual attraction.

Some have imposed false guilt on conscientious persons by saying that self-love is sinful. Self-love is not sinful. Self-love is assumed in Christ’s commandment to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. To act as if you had no self-love is to act dishonestly. Self- centered love is sinful, but not self-love. Loving Christ supremely, you are to love yourself subordinately and others sincerely. But to love others sincerely, you must love yourself truly. You need not feel guilty because you love yourself.

Some have imposed false guilt on teenagers by saying that ambivalent feelings by teenagers toward parents is wrong. During adolescent development, it is normal for young people to experience ambivalent feelings towards parents at times, for these feelings are part of the unconscious struggling for adult status and independence.

Writes J.B. Phillips, “All religions, Christianity unfortunately not excepted, tend to excite in certain people an artificial sense of guilt, which may have little or no connection with a man’s actual standing before God. Probably Pharisaism, which Christ attacked with bitter scorn represents this tendency at its highest. The danger of such a system, and the reason why Christ attacked it so violently, is that its values are artificial. The proud and correct feel ‘right with God’ just when they are not, and the sensitive humble man feels hopeless and overburdened for the wrong reasons.” (The Newborn Christian; pg. 174) As C.S. Lewis says, “We may create scruples. And scruples are always a bad thing – if only because they usually distract us from real duties.” (The Joyful Christian; pg. 170.)

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“Father, awaken my conscience to discern the sinfulness of real sin and the innocency of manmade scruples. Help me to deposit in the moral wastebasket all false guilts which are robbing me of peace of mind and joy in living. I want to live abundantly!”

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The Son has made me free, therefore I will not burden myself today with the needless baggage of false guilt!

– Ron Christian –

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Revelation 12:7-12

‘The Accuser Of The Brethren’

In Revelation 12:10, Satan is called ‘the accuser of the brethren who accuses them before our God day and night.’ Satan is able to disguise himself as ‘an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14). Satan is the ‘accuser’ of the brethren who appears at times as an angel of light – seeking to produce a condemning conscience in the Christian. This is one of the common sources of ‘false guilt’. Satan enjoys accusing the believer of things of which he is not guilty!

Believers can be thankful that against this darkening, confusing, subtle force stands the powerful and merciful Spirit of God who comforts believers and who stills the accusing voice of Satan.

The Scriptures tell us how to counter this dreadful accusation of Satan: “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Revelation 12:11)

Satan hates the blood of Christ, for it is Christ’s blood which cleanses from all sin. (1 John 1:7) Satan also hates the testimony of the humble believer, for that testimony declares Christ’s power – the very power that will ultimately vanquish Satan altogether!

In speaking of Satan, there are two traps to avoid. First, it is possible not to take Satan seriously at all. There are those who outrightly deny his existence, which is a great and dangerous mistake! There are others who are ignorant of his evil devices, and thus they are often entrapped in his subtle snares. Paul warned us not to be ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). There are others who believe that if they never think of Satan or mention Satan by name that Satan will leave them alone. All of these responses are responses which show that the persons involved are not taking Satan seriously.

There is a second trap to avoid in dealing with Satan. It is possible to be overly preoccupied with Satan. Someone wisely said, “What gets your attention, gets you!” Don’t give credit to Satan if you can help it! Don’t give Satan undue attention by talking too much or too often about him. Don’t focus your attention or interest on Satan; instead, focus your attention on Jesus Christ! Glance at Satan but gaze on Jesus Christ! Recognize that, while Satan’s power abounds, Jesus’ power super abounds! Be knowledgeable of Satan’s tactics, but be more knowledgeable of the Holy Spirit’s works! Never forget that you do not work for a victory, but that you work from a victory – a victory which was won on the cross and through the empty tomb!

“Father, help me to distinguish between your voice of true conviction of real sins in my life, from Satan’s disguised voice of false accusations. Help me to arm myself with the

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Word of God and learn to resist the devil, as I remain steadfast in the faith. Victory is mine, through the Lord Jesus Christ! Thank You. Thank You!”

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Satan’s head has been crushed! Satan’s death sentence has been pronounced and his execution date has been set! He is a defeated foe!

– Ron Christian-

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1 John 3:18-24

The Basis Of Confidence

Listen to the apostle John’s wise advice: “My children, let us love not merely in theory or in words – Let us love in sincerely and in practice! This is how we shall know that we are children of the truth and can reassure ourselves in the sight of God, even if our own conscience makes us feel guilty. For God is greater than our conscience, and he knows everything.” (1 John 2:18-20, Phillips)

Notes John Stott, “The suggestion seems to be (from verse 20) that it may not be either an unusual or infrequent experience for the Christian’s serene assurance to be disturbed. Sometimes the accusations of our ‘conscience’ will be true accusations, and sometimes, they will be false… In either case, the inner voice is not to overcome us.” (Tyndale Bible Commentary: The Epistles of John; pg. 145)

Stott continues, “Our conscience is by no means infallible; it condemnation may often be unjust. We can, therefore appeal from our conscience to God who is greater and more knowledgeable. Indeed, He knows all things, including our secret motives and deepest resolves, and, it is implied, will be more merciful towards us than our own heart. His omniscience should relive, not terrify, us. It is knowledge which alone can quiet the condemning heart, our own knowledge of our sincere love for others and supremely God’s knowledge of our thoughts and motives. Stronger than any chemical tranquillizer is trust in out all-knowing God.” (Ibid: pg. 146)

The one who experience the divinely-imparted love can be assured that he is of the Truth, and therefore he can have a tranquil heart. “It is the mind’s knowledge by which the heart’s doubts may be, silenced… Love is the, final objective test of our Christian profession, for true love, in the sense of self-sacrifice, is not natural to man in his fallen state. Its existence in any man is evidence of new birth and of the indwelling Spirit, and it shows itself ‘in deed’. ‘There are actual things we can point to – not things we have professed or felt or imagined or intended, but things that we have done.’ (Law) If we thus love ‘in truth’ (v. 10), we may indeed have full assurance in our hearts. “The fruit of love is confidence.’ (Wescott)” (Ibid; pg. 145, 146)

Suppose the condemnation which you feel is because of real sin in your life, and is not the result of false guilt? Then recognize that the sovereign mercy and love of God is still ‘greater than your heart’ (1 John 3:20). Go knows your heart and can judge rightly. Whatever the source of condemnation – be it false guilt or real guilt – God is greater than the condemnation and can restore the believer to true confidence!

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“Father, restore unto me the joy of my salvation. You are the source of my joy, for you are the solution to the problem of my guilty feelings which have stolen away my joy. You came to earth, not to condemn, but to save – to save me from the real guilt of my sins and from the false guilt resulting from my inadequacies. Thank you for your total provision!”

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: He who is greater than my heart will stand guard over my heart, delivering me from all guilt – both real and false.

– Ron Christian –

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2 Corinthians 1:8-11; 2 Corinthians 4:7-12; 1 Kings 19:1-9

Living In ‘Earthen Vessels’

As a believer, one temptation which you will often confront is the temptation to ‘judge’ your own degree of spirituality by the kind of ‘feelings’ which you are experiencing. Living by ‘feelings’ rather than by ‘faith’ is a ‘trap’ which you must avoid if you are to grow dynamically in your Christian life. Because the ‘treasure’ of God’s salvation is contained in ‘earthen vessels’, the emotions of Christians can play ‘tricks’ on them. Christians are not exempt from bouts with depression caused by physical and mental weariness. Believers must remember that they are not ‘saved’ by their feelings nor do they remain ‘saved’ by their feelings! You are called by God to walk by faith – not by sight or by feelings! You must not gauge your spiritual life by the tone of your feelings. You must continue to live by faith, based upon commitment of your will to Almighty God. Do not live by your emotions which are influenced by changing circumstances.

“Many of the greatest saints have witnessed to the fact that there were times in their lives when it seemed that they had no faith at all. They tell as that Francis Asbury used to preach with great unction and power, and then go to his room and have spells of melancholy until he would feel that he was lost and there was no hope for him at all. Now this feeling came from the fact that his body was exhausted and his nerves frayed. I think that the same thing must have been true with Elijah when he went off under the juniper tree and had such a spell of the blues. It was the physical reaction that came after his great conflict with evil on Mount Carmel. His spiritual condition was not changed, for God went out to him and helped him.” (Earthen Vessels; John Church; pages 44, 45)

When you are mentally and physically exhausted, you can easily be plagued with’ guilt feelings’. This kind of guilt is not caused by sin (i.e., breaking God’s moral laws). Wisdom would dictate that you need to ‘be kind to yourself and not give ‘counsel’ to your feelings of ‘false guilt’. You need, for a short time, to ‘get away from ministry’ and simply rest your body and renew your mind with proper ‘diversions’ (i.e., exercise, leisure, entertainment). “If you expect to live by your feelings, you will find yourself in a constant state of doubt and uncertainty and you will always live an up-and -down life. You will find that your feelings fluctuate and go up-and-down like a window shade, but thank God that does not have to be true of your spiritual state and standing in Jesus. The fact that you are in Jesus Christ is a fact that was established by a deliberate choice of your will, and that fact can only be changed in one way and that is by a choice of your will.” (Ibid; pg. 45, 46) You are ‘secure’ in Christ, regardless of feelings!

“Jesus, thank you for remaining steadfast and faithful to me, amidst my changing emotions. In my sadness, you are my gladness; in my loneliness, you are my companionship; in my depression, you are my hope. Amidst the changes and chances of life, your resources are infinite to meet all my needs! I am profoundly thankful!’

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My faith is fixed on the fact of God’s trustworthy character – a fact that keeps my feelings intact!

– Ron Christian –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Tell why you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: “Of all the ‘enemies which are most difficult to ‘conquer’, it is ‘self-centered pride’ which is the most difficult of all!”
  2. According to Micah 6:8, what basically does God ‘require’ of all persons?
  3. In light of 1 Corinthians 4:7, why is it so foolish (and wrong) for any individual to boast of his personal accomplishments.
  4. On whom are all human beings dependent for both physical and spiritual life? (Note Acts 17:25-28 and John 15:5)
  5. According to James 4: 6, what is God’s reaction toward the proud (arrogant) person? How does God respond toward the truly humble person? (Note John 4:10 and 1 Peter 5:6)
  6. From the life of the apostle Peter, what can you learn about the dangers of overconfidence, self-reliance, and boastful pride? (Note 1 Corinthians 10:12)
  7. Give your personal explanation and interpretation and application of the following statement: “A spirit of gratitude is a great ‘antidote’ against pride.”
  8. Is it Biblically accurate to state that every believer should live with ‘confidence without pride’ and with ‘humility without humiliation’?
  9. What kind of divinely-sent punishment has sometimes come to wicked persons who have attempted to ‘steal’ the glory away from Almighty God through their boastful words and actions? (Note Daniel 4:27-37 and Acts 12:20-23).
  10. Why is it such a dangerous thing for a believer to gauge the degree of his own spirituality by the kind of “feelings” and “emotions” which he experiences? (Note 1 Kings 19:1-18)
  11. When a believer experiences feelings of discouragement and despair and depression should he conclude that he has spiritually backslid and that God is looking upon him with great disfavor? Why or why not? (2 Corinthians 4:7-12)
  12. Share some specific “issues” in your personal life which have become the occasion of causing you to suffer some needless and groundless and false guilt. Share steps which you have taken to distinguish between “false” and “real” guilt, and share ways in which you have ridden yourself of “false” guilt.

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  13. According to Revelation 12:10, what is the source (cause) of some feelings of “guilt” which are not the result of violating objective (God-given) moral laws? (Note 2 Corinthians 11:14)
  14. How can a believer effectively deal with his feelings of guilt, imposed upon him from an outside source and force? (Note Revelation 12:11; Matthew 4:1-11; James 4:7; (Peter 5:6-9)
  15. What are two “traps” to avoid in one’s attempt to deal realistically with Satan?
  16. According to 1 John 3:18-23, what should a Christian do when he realizes that his serene assurance and peace is greatly disturbed (either by real or by false guilt)?

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