The Watchman's Bagpipes: Real Spiritual Warfare

In my book, "Redeemed from the Pit", I touch on the unbiblical basis of "deliverance ministries" that promise instantaneous healing and deliverance from all manner of sins, including eating disorders and other addictions. Usually rooted in the heretical Word of Faith movement, as sensational charismatic theology increases in popularity, so do these bogus "quick fixes" promoted by people often claiming to be "prophets".

To be blunt, ministries promising instant deliverance and freedom from demonization to women suffering from eating disorders can do far more harm than good. When the woman returns home and the initial euphoria wears off - and she is again caught up in the binge-purge cycle - she may despair and even lose faith in God.

She would have done better to have stayed in His Word, continuously seeking His strength and counsel to battle her anorexia or bulimia. If she had, she would have seen that the road to being free from sin is one devoid of short-cuts. No one can "claim" a "deliverance" for you; you must commit daily to seeking Christ and obeying Him. As you do, He will break those chains!

The obvious rebuttal to "casting out demons" of born-again Christians is that believers cannot be indwelt by the Holy Spirit and demons simultaneously. That is not to say that the devil cannot tempt, harass or even oppress believers to some degree, (and clearly all sin originates with Satan, the enemy of your soul), but claiming to perform what amounts to an exorcism on a blood-bought child of God puts a "ministry" on very shaky theological ground, to say the least.

Secondly, instant deliverance from a spiritual issue (such as bulimia)has absolutely no Scriptural precedent. We see Paul, John, Peter, James, and Christ Himself exhorting God's people to continuously turn away from sin; resist the devil; stand their ground; put on the full armor of God; repent; hold each other accountable; admonish each other; encourage and rebuke one another; pray without ceasing and practice self-control.

NEVER do we see a case of sensational deliverance from a habitual sin.

God intends for us to grow in sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit, and this involves a day-by-day, conscious decision to turn away from sin and to the Cross. We are to "put off" the deeds of darkness and 'put on' holy living; we are NOT told that our 'demons' of bulimia can 'be bound in Jesus' Name'. That is a bastardization of the New Testament practice of casting out real demons.

Spiritual warfare is real, but so much of what is taught and practiced in Pentecostal camps today is grossly unbiblical and is essentially superstition. Blogger Glenn Chatfield has written a great review of Hank Hanegraaff's "The Covering". If you have questions about what's wrong with "deliverance ministries" or are confused about the nature of biblical spiritual warfare, I encourage you to check it out by clicking on the link below.

The Watchman's Bagpipes: Real Spiritual Warfare


When Shame and Compassion Meet

"The Prodigal" by Ron DiCianni

(Text seen on a Christian message board...have you ever felt like this?)

I have turned from my Fathers love, provisions and protection to go it on my own. Once again I have failed miserably; finding myself worse off than before.

I need to return to my Father, but what will He say? Will He receive me back after all I have done?

I could see He might receive me back if this was the first time but my second, third, fourth? How many times will I test His patience? Why have I been fighting against Him?

“Ah Father, I'm so sorry. I have been such a fool.”

Will He accept my plea? Will He turn away from me?

I have nothing left to lose, but to ask, as this shame is more than I can bear.

“Father I'm coming home. I pray You will receive me. I'm walking back Father to the place where I left You. I am scared You won't receive me. Have I gone too far this time?”

I'm on my knees now as the shame and guilt are weighing heavily upon me. I cannot take another step as I'm not deserving of His love.

Maybe if I reached out with an outstretched hand I could just touch His feet. I know I cannot look Him in the face as I have let him down again and again. I have disgraced Him. How can He ever look at me again?

I am face down in the dirt with my outstretched hand praying to just touch His feet, though I am so unworthy even to touch His sandals.

“Father forgive me. I am so sorry, will You forgive me? Can You?”

The sorrow is so great I feel as though my heart will burst from the pain.

“Wait... what is this that I am feeling? Father is that You? Is it really Your presence that I am feeling? Father, no, please do not ask me to look up at You. I am so not worthy. The shame is too great. Father, please can't I just lay prostrate at Your feet?”

“My child NO! Please do not fight me, but feel the love I have for you. Receive it like you never have before. Look, not only up at me, but rise! Your sins are forgiven. I hold no condemnation over you. I love you My child, the shame and guilt are more than you are to carry. Lay them down.”

“Hold fast to me and keep your eyes upon me, feel My love for you and sin no more.”

Welcome Home My child, you have been missed.

John 8:7b-12 (NKJV)
7 and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience,[b] went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her,[c] “Woman, where are those accusers of yours?[d] Has no one condemned you?”
11 She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and[e] sin no more.” 12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Romans 8:1 (NKJV)
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,[a] who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.


"When the Darkness Will Not Lift"

John Piper has a wonderful little e-book which I've just this morning discovered - and have read half of already. It is called "When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God - and Joy" and it is available, free, through the Desiring God website.

He discusses the problem of spiritual darkness and depression in a child of God, and what to do, how to pray, and how to keep your eyes focused on Jesus during your seasons of doubt. Most of us have experienced a "Dark Night of the Soul" at one time or another, whether it was brought on by the bulimia, another addictive sin, or has a more ill-defined origin.

An excerpt from the book:

"Gutsy guilt means learning to live on the rock-solid truth of what happened for us when Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again from the dead. It means realizing that in this life we will always be sinful and imperfect. Therefore in ourselves we will always be guilty. This will prove emotionally devastating if we do not discover the reality of justification by faith, that is, the secret of gutsy guilt. This is not the only weapon with which we fight for joy in the darkness of discouragement, but it is one of the most foundational and the most important."
On forgiveness when we confess and turn from that sin that's blocking our fellowship with God:

We can hold fast to our sin, keep it secret, and “groan all day long” in darkness—or we can confess it and experience the stunning experience of “the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity.”

The almost incredible hope of confessing and renouncing sin is that the Lord does not then rub it in our face but cancels it. He does not count it against us. From this side of Calvary, we know how God can do that with justice. Christ bore the wrath of God for that sin (Gal. 3:13). We don’t have to. The accounts are settled. Therefore, we should not fear to confess and let go of any cherished sin. The shame will not haunt us. Christ clothes us with his own righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).

It only takes a second to download, and I highly encourage you to prayerfully read it - you'll be blessed!


Low "Self Esteem" Does Not Cause Bulimia

I am truly weary of the secular humanist "self-help" stripe of literature that discusses eating disorders in somber, condescending tones akin to the panic over the H1N1 virus outbreak. According to contemporary "wisdom" of self-proclaimed "experts" in the field, low self esteem (not thinking highly enough of oneself) is at the root of bulimia, and the poor victims of this terrible "disease" need to learn to accept and like themselves more if ever they are to "recover".

That's a load of baloney, plain and simple.

The problem is, as I've written before, we who have been down the road of disordered eating think too much of ourselves. It is pride that drives one to long for attention, not necessarily the negative attention that results from the addiction itself - but more likely, admiring glances for being the thinnest. Ah yes; seeking the approval of man (or other women) is a sure snare of pride.

Let me say it a little louder this time: EATING DISORDERS ARE NOT CAUSED BY "LOW SELF-ESTEEM". They are caused by a multitude of sinful attitudes which become a meditation and cause weight and food to become idols of the heart. When our minds are not set on things above (Gods priorities), we are rebelling in one way or another. Bulimic behavior (gluttony), or any other self-destructive activity, is in fact rebellion against God (in Whose image we were made).

Fixation on oneself (for whatever reason) is not healthy, nor is a sign of "low self-esteem". The Word of God commands us, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." (Phil. 2:3-4; emphasis mine).

Nothing in there about self-esteem; only a command to put others and their needs first.

Some have tried to claim that Jesus' command to love others "as you do yourselves" in Matthew 22:39 tells us to love ourselves, but in doing so they miss the whole point of the passage. Jesus is presupposing that we already, by nature and instinct, have a self-centered worldview and are less concerned with others than we are ourselves; God's Law of love demands just the opposite. This is emphasized again by Paul in Romans 12:10: "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves," and his prophetic statement to Timothy about the last days: "People will be lovers of themselves" (2 Timothy 3:2).

God loves us, and in turn expects our full devotion - first to Himself, then to other people. All of our needs have been met by Him in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). "Self-esteem", or holding a high opinion of oneself, is a trap of the devil that can actually keep us more deeply enslaved to our flesh-pleasing sin (including addiction). Only by recognizing our true, helpless and sinful state can we ever hope to be free. This realization is what drives us to our knees to fall on the mercy of the Savior.

All sin is, in one way or another, rooted in pride. Seeking to be our own master, to live as pleases us, to take refuge in some illicit pleasure - all are ways we put ourselves and our own desires before God. Whether the battle is with an eating disorder or some other stronghold of sin in our lives, what we need is a higher view of God and thus more "Christ esteem", certainly not more "self esteem".

Esteeming ourselves more highly than we ought is what got us into this mess in the first place! (Romans 12:3; Psalm 107:17).


Post-Bulimia Nightmares

Something I forgot to mention in my manuscript - so I'm bringing it up now - is an interesting phenomenon you may experience as God leads you out of your bulimic (or anorexic) prison: nightmares about bingeing.

When I was starving myself, it was not unusual to dream about food. This was commonly reported among POWs...starving during the day, they would often retreat into dreams of steak dinners and mountains of potatoes at night. The brain knows when the body is malnourished.

Later, during my bulimic years, it was nothing out of the ordinary to dream about binges. Since I spent my waking hours engaged in either planning my next binge or in the middle of one, it made sense that the preoccupation invaded my sleep. The "nightmare" version of these recurring dreams was that I was unable to vomit.

During the six month period God was setting me free from bulimia, I would occasionally dream that I was bingeing...with an inevitable purge to follow. Even in my sleep, I recognized the horror of this scenario - I knew I was no longer bulimic; that I had been set free. I knew this, consciously, even while asleep. However, the old, familiar, out-of-control feeling seized me and I didn't realize it was just a dream. During my vicarious, frenzied eating, I was dismayed and guilt-stricken - as if I were betraying God by falling back into my "old man" (Romans 8).

Imagine my relief when I awakened!

It was just a nightmare. I was not that person anymore.

These "bulimia nightmares" decreased in frequency, but every so often the landscape of dreamland takes me back to that dark place. Since I know, six years into restoration, that I will never again succumb to that particular temptation, it doesn't throw me anymore. Don't let it concern you, either; it's a normal part of being made new.

I do not believe that such dreams are "attacks from the enemy". Satan cannot get into your mind and is not tormenting you in that way - much of charismatic "spiritual warfare" mythology amounts to sensationalized scare-tactics. Likewise, the Freudian precept of the "subconscious" is completely unbiblical; your dreams do not arise from such "hidden chambers" and do not dictate your "real self".

It may be that you are under more stress than usual (often, stress triggered binges in the past) or have had a fleeting moment of temptation which you dismissed. Last night, I dreamed that I started drinking again. After six years sober, where did that come from? As I slept, I apparently imbibed glass after glass of wine and was much relieved to wake up this morning stone-cold sober. Thinking back on it today, I remembered last Sunday: we had had guests over for a roast pork dinner, and they and my husband each had a glass of Merlot. When I opened the bottle, I noticed the pleasant aroma and thought it was quite appetizing, although it's been so long now it wasn't a real temptation. Later that night, my husband had a glass while we watched a DVD and ate some Roquefort cheese. It still smelled delicious, even as I sipped my non-alcoholic "Fre". I don't think I've thought that much about wine in half a decade, and it was only a passing observation.

It was enough, though, to worm its way into my dreams.

Winter has arrived in Massachusetts. We lit the fireplace today, and I am cooking pork and saurkraut. I associate the smells with the whiskey and wine I used to drink.....before God and I came to an understanding.

If you have such nightmares, do not read too much into them. Expect them, dismiss them, and praise God that you are no longer that out-of-control person. There is no reason to place special spiritual importance on dreams.


Stop Seeking to Find Your "Identity" - Even in Christ

I hope it's not overly-narcissistic to link to your own post, but earlier today I wrote an entry for my general theology blog on why contemporary thinking about the believer's "worth" or "value" (even with the disclaimer "in Christ tacked on) is off-base. It has particular significance to Christian bulimics and anorexics trying to escape the yoke of bondage, and needing to put on the yoke of Christ.

Welcome to my other blog:

Musings from a Theo-Geek: "In Christ" Does Not Mean Seeking One's "Identity"

Here is the text of the entry in full:

I have not written much these past few weeks, as I have been trying to wrap my mind around understanding where my view of God is flawed. He brought some correction through the constructive criticism of a well-known author and biblical counselor, who I contacted about writing the foreword to my book. She requested I send her the chapter entitled "Your Identity in Christ: What the Believer is Worth and Why" (which I posted here), suspecting we might have some "differences".

We did. She suggested I read a particular chapter from one of her books, entitled "Psychologized Man Most High", which covered the same ground as my own writing on the false assumptions of Sigmund Freud and Abraham Maslow (who invented the man-based "Hierarchy of Needs"). Confident that my thinking remained purely biblical and uninfluenced by secular psychology, I completely affirm her statements about the man-centered, humanistic basis of psychology and the myth that a Christian must "love him/herself in order to love others" (which I've heard in several women's Bible studies). Then, implicating "Christian" psychology, she wrote: "A Christianized psychological version of a self-actualized man would be described as a mature Christian who is confident of his worth "in Christ" or who loves himself so that he can, in turn, love others."

I was stopped in my tracks.

The first part of the sentence is what grabbed my attention - the "worth in Christ" part. Loving one's self is antithetical to the Gospel, and I have always upheld this view. However, it had been my belief that understanding one's personal "worth" in God's eyes, and realizing one's "identity in Christ" were key components in overcoming sin and fulfilling His calling on one's life. The problem here is the whole emphasis: on man, rather than on God, where it belongs. Unbeknownst to me, the "identity needs" philosophy was developed by Freudian psychoanalyst Erik Erikson. By tacking on the suffix "in Christ", integrationist Christian counselors have sought to legitimize this thinking - that we somehow need to develop an "identity", and seek a source of "value" or "worth".

How this man-centered twist to a biblical truth (we ARE "in Christ") snuck into the Church is a reflection on our me-centered, narcissistic society. The Bible does not uphold the notion that we need to validate ourselves by seeking our "identity"; rather, we are to seek ONLY God's glory and ascribe all honor to Him.

The author explains:

"Erikson's theory of personality development is also the Christian psychologist's model for teaching that your "identity" is in Christ. If we can just understand who we are in Christ, we will realize our identity and no longer be depressed or anxious or feel badly about ourselves....this is a perversion of the true biblical teaching that Christians are "in Christ". Our union with Christ is a precious truth. We should love it and believe it, but not twist it into something God never intended - a formula to solve emotional problems or make man feel worthy."
I can't say "oops" emphatically enough. Although I certainly wouldn't have phrased it that bluntly, this feelings-based, sanctified "I'm okay; you're okay" rubbish is the trap I was falling into.

We Were NOT "Worth So Much that Christ Died for Us"

"We frequently hear Maslow's hierarchy of needs "Christianized" through sermons and books that tell us "God loves you, you're special, you're worthy - your significance is in Christ. If you were the only one, Christ loved you so much He would have died for you. Once you understand that your identity is in Him, you will feel better about yourself."
This morning, I saw the following from a fellow Christian on Facebook:

"Jesus knows our flaws, but He also knows we were worth dying for...choosing to love and see the beauty in every flawed, unique, amazing, worth-dying-for person."

I cringed...not because the bottomless love of Christ is in question, but because the whole view is upside-down. He loves because HE is all-loving and all-worthy; infinitely compassionate and abounding in mercy. NOT because we people are "worth dying for" (we most certainly are not). Human beings are valuable because we are made in the image of God; not because we have any intrinsic value of our own.

So what does it mean, then, to be "in Christ"? The author provides this definition, taken directly from Scripture:

"To be "in Christ" means literally to be "in union with Christ." "...just as he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:4). This is a supernatural union that takes place at the moment of salvation...it is not because we were so special, worthy, and valuable or because salvation makes us so special, so worthy, and so valuable that Christ died for us. Prior to salvation, we were "dead in our trespasses and sin" (Ephesians 2:1) and were considered "enemies of God" (James 4:4, Romans 5:10).....Our sin was, and still is, far worse than we realize. God is the One Who is special and worthy. We should not even think in terms of how wonderful, special or worthy we are. Certainly all of God's creation, including mankind, is magnificently wonderful because God, the creator, is wonderful. The focus, however, must be on God. Christ died to vindicate "the worth and glory of His Father", not the worth of sinful man. It is blasphemous and dishonoring to God and Christ's atoning work on the cross to attempt to elevate man to a "Most High" status. Only our holy God is "Most High".

I know these verses and what she is saying here is so plain as to be common sense. Yet somehow, even in our worship (as has been pointed out many times in analysis of modern "worship" songs), what we are really saying to God is not "I love You", but rather "I love me, and since You love me, that's great!"

Next, I read 1 John to note how often the term "in Christ" (or some variant thereof) occurs. This helped me solidify the correct understanding - everywhere John uses the description, it is in reference to obedience (vs. 3:24; 2:28; several others). Needless to say, John is not talking about viewing our position as a way to meet our emotional needs. What I'm thinking is that "identity in Christ" is sort of a loaded term - I need to strike it from my vocabulary because of this man-centered thinking associated with it. "In Christ" refers to our justified position, and carries with it the implication of obedience and being conformed to the character of Christ - not seeking to find "meaning" or personal fulfillment. That makes sense.

Naturally, now I will have to go back and re-write that entire chapter in my book, but I'm not quite sure how to go about it.I am on solid ground with discussing the fact that, if we are truly "in Christ" (regenerated by Him), we are not slaves to sin any longer, yet still must battle daily with the old nature. The mistake some make of essentially trying to "redeem themselves to the Redeemer" is futile, and sanctification is an ongoing process. But everything I wrote about our having worth because Christ died to redeem us is problematic.

What I really wanted to get across in this chapter to the eating-disordered reader is that God deeply loves her. The parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 is precious to any Christian struggling with addictive sin, because it reveals the Father to be longing for her return - with outstretched arms and a kiss for the repentant sinner.I want to dispel the notion that God is disgusted with her, and the mental image of Him with crossed arms and clenched jaw (metaphorically speaking), waiting to punish her shameful behavior (and no doubt, it IS shameful and He IS to pure to countenance such evil). The bulimic is typically so demoralized by her own sin that she's afraid to bring it to God, and many (if not most) of the women I've counseled fear that they have lost their salvation. Consequently, I have tried to hammer home the fact that she is loved and cherished by the Father and, I suppose, there is a sense in which the Lord Jesus would have died for her alone if she were the only sinner on earth (Spurgeon has a great sermon in this).

Since His love is infinite, it extends to her individually. However, I've inadvertently gone too far the other way - I cannot say, 'you are a worthless sinner' as she (the reader) will then give up hope. As I wrote in the book, Romans 2:4 has deep personal meaning to me: it truly was God's kindness that lead me to repentance. I realized the grievous nature of my sin, and it crushed me - but it wasn't fear of hell that made me change. It was His love. Once you're tasted that love, you can't help but be changed by it.....as you know, you don't want your sin anymore, because it grieves and offends the One Who created and died for you.

But does this great truth give us "value" or make us "worth" something? No. This is what I'm learning. It says NOTHING about us - it says EVERYTHING about Christ. HE is the One Who is worthy, beyond value, with infinite compassion, mercy, and love. Why He would condescend to redeem and even love worthless creatures like us in unfathomable - and He does it with an infinite love that surpasses our understanding. It is not grudging or conditional. But we must be careful in not thinking that His love gives us worth or makes us lovable. To Him alone belongs all honor and glory; not to the creation.

Digesting this correct understanding of our position before God has been a bit difficult, not only because I've had to "unlearn" some of my thinking and have more work yet to do on my book, but because it's allowed old doubts to re-surface and again twist a correct understanding of God. "If I'm not special to Him, what's the point of praying? If I'm worthless, why should He want me around?" If I pursue this (equally unbalanced) line of thinking, it causes me to view God as distant and impersonal. Repeatedly in Scripture, we are affirmed of His closeness and intimate fellowship with the believer (which He desires - again, see 1 John and John 14). God's love is a constant, and we need to consider it a settled matter.

The reason doubting this is sin is because, quite simply, we're not taking God at His Word when we ask such questions and struggle with unbelief. (Come to think of it, Spurgeon has a hard-hitting message on that, too). Even a cursory reading of the Bible should clear the matter up for us - God chooses to love us. End of story. (I've been thinking and praying about this a lot lately; it's not a new idea, but setting it up against the introspection many books throw at us is helpful in pinning down exactly what the proper view of God is). Furthermore, the seeking affirmation from Him and requesting assurance that He loves us personally is a way in which we try to use Him to "meet our emotional needs". It should never be necessary - "Does God love me" shouldn't cross our minds; or it's corollary: "Is God mad at me?" I think asking ourselves if we have grieved God is a fair question (and a necessary one, in order to confess our sin to Him), but "Is God mad at me?" is not - the focus is still on "self" and it leads to another sin - self-pity.

The problem with the phrase "identity in Christ" isn't the "in Christ" part; it's the implication that we should be seeking our "identity needs" to be met. Our true needs - for forgiveness and salvation - were completely met at the Cross.

* All quotations taken from "Attitudes of a Transformed Heart", by Martha Peace. I greatly appreciate her pointing me to this valuable resource, and how it has helped correct the errors in my thinking.