Month: May 2017

Do Not Let Anxiety Steal Your Joy

Do you struggle with anxiety? You are not alone. An estimated 40 million adults in the United States have been affected by this nemesis. In fact, so many have been affected that the healthcare industry spends $42 billion dollars a year to combat this plague. This number is 1/3rd of the total cost of mental healthcare in the U.S. Aren’t these alarming statistics?

I must admit. I am part of this statistic. I struggle with anxiety. It’s like a dark rain cloud that hovers over my psyche. It leads to high blood pressure, isolation, fear, and depression. Worst of all, anxiety steals my peace and joy in Christ.

While anxiety likes to rear it’s ugly head, it’s not invincible. It’s conquerable. Don’t let anxiety lie to you. It is prone to say, “I am who you are. Your personality is anxious. Just live with it.” But this is not true.

Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The creator of the universe told us to be calm. If we ask, He will give us a peace that surpasses all human understanding  (Philip. 4:7).

I know my anxiety is inflamed when I forget this marvelous truth–that Jesus gives us His peace. He is the Prince of Peace. This is the deep, abiding peace between our hearts and our Creator that cannot be taken away (John. 10:27-28).

Do we believe this? If so, why worry? Oftentimes, our focus is on self rather than God. We rely on our own strength. Quite frankly, it’s pride that keeps us worried because that means we are trusting in our own talents to get us through life’s constant challenges. But our talents are finite. As humans, we are broken, incomplete, and susceptible to mistakes. Trusting in self will only exacerbate the worry because infallibility doesn’t exist within. It only exists in our Creator. He is the true conqueror.

Furthermore, when the world let’s us down, we become accustomed to disappointment. We are used to trust being breached. Worry sets in because trust is replaced with doubt. But once again, our relationship with others is different from God. God doesn’t make mistakes. His promises are never empty. When he says, “Peace I give you,” this is exactly what will come to fruition.

I know it’s difficult to fight anxiety. When you do, don’t dwell on the fear. Put on the whole armor of God. Remember, our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, philosophies, and powers (Eph. 6:12).

Philippians 4:6-7 tells us exactly what to do when we are tempted to worry. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Here’s a thought. “There’s a traffic jam. I am going to be late to work. I may even get fired from my job.” How do you combat this? Be proactive. Call your employer. Tell them, “I am sorry but I will be running a few minutes late.” 99 out of 100 times, they will understand your predicament is out of your control.

What do you do next? In every situation, including your drive to work, present your requests to God. What are your requests? God, help me right now. I am feeling anxious in the car. I might be late for work. Please calm me down. Grant me your peace. You are ultimately in control. Amen.

Here are some other tips to help you overcome anxiety.

  1. Call a friend and share your inner struggle.
  2. Attend church consistently and maintain fellowship with believers who can pray for your situations.
  3. Read the Bible before you start your day.
  4. Listen to Christian radio while driving to work.
  5. Take deep breaths and count slowly from 1-10.
  6. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Enjoy life.
  7. Find a hobby or activity you enjoy doing that will replace fear and worry with recreational joy.
  8. Journal your anxious thoughts and pray for God to take them away.
  9. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.
  10. Eat a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep (7-8 hours).

Any other ideas? Please feel free to comment below!

Martin Luther Misquoted by Evangelicals

Today, evangelicals defend Luther’s pithy statement: “Justification by faith alone in Christ alone.” Here is what R.C. Sproul, founder of Ligonier ministries, has to say about Luther’s theological accomplishments.

“Luther blazed the rediscovery of justification by faith alone, and he restored the church’s focus to Christ alone.” – R.C. Sproul

But does Sproul accurately portray what Luther meant by justification, or is he, along with other evangelicals, misquoting the Reformer?

Many protestant denominations believe that God grants salvation to each person based solely on the faith of the person, apart from any action taken by that individual. In theological circles, the idea is called sola fide: saved by faith alone.

According to Luther, he would disagree with modern evangelicals on what “faith alone” encompasses. Faith shouldn’t be separated from repentance and baptism. Luther is being misquoted. For instance, in Luther’s Large Catechism, He describes the synergistic relationship between baptism and faith.

[I] affirm that Baptism is no human trifle, but that it was established by God Himself. Moreover, He earnestly and solemnly commanded that we must be baptized or we shall not be saved. No one is to think that it is an optional matter like putting on a red coat. It is of greatest importance that we hold Baptism in high esteem as something splendid and glorious. The reason why we are striving and battling so strenuously for this view of Baptism is that the world nowadays is full of sects that loudly proclaim that Baptism is merely an external form and that external forms are useless…. Although Baptism is indeed performed by human hands, yet it is truly God’s own action (1978, pp. 98-99).

While scholars differ on what Luther meant, it’s quite clear his soteriology (study of salvation) involved baptism. If salvation is dependent upon baptism, then was Luther contradicting his own theology: Justification by faith alone in Christ alone?

No. He is properly defining faith. Faith is not spiritually divorced from works (Jam. 2:24). Faith is not physically separate from our actions like Gnostic theologians would like us to believe. Faith clings to the water (Mark 16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:4-6; Gal. 3:27). Faith is faithfulness. Faith is obedience (Acts 2:38). To define faith absent from obedience is no faith at all.

Unfortunately, justification by faith alone in Christ alone has caused many to misinterpret Scripture. While we are saved by faith, our faith is never alone; it is fused with repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). And that’s why Luther himself included faith, repentance, and baptism as part and parcel of the gospel. He understood their symbiotic relationship as it corresponded to the reality of salvation. “Faith clings to the water.” – Martin Luther.

Here is a typical response when an evangelical hears baptism as part and parcel of the gospel.

“Baptism as a necessary means to secure salvation? To require baptism for a believer is adding works to the gospel, which is a foe to grace and an affront to God.”

The key difference between this statement and Luther’s is Luther did not believe baptism was a work of man. In fact, baptism is the opposite of a work. We are baptized in the name of “Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 16; Acts 2:28). We are placed into Christ (Gal. 3:27) through His death, burial, and resurrection. It’s all about what He accomplished. Baptism tells the world, “I can’t save myself. I need Christ. The flood of judgment is upon me. Place me in the ark of salvation through your blood. Call on the name of the Lord.” Baptism without faith is just going under the water, but baptism with faith is being born again (John 3; 1 Pet. 3:21).

Personally, I believe the confusion is a result of modern evangelicalism today. Instead of “repenting and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins,” we tell unbelievers to ask Jesus into their hearts for salvation.

First, nowhere in Scripture does it teach us to ask Jesus into our hearts for salvation. Secondly, the sinner’s prayer is a modern form of Gnosticism because it tries to separate the physical and spiritual realities and undermines what the Bible teaches. Thirdly, and most dangerously, if one takes the view that salvation occurs before baptism, then they are treating baptism as a work rather than a promise from God.

If you take the position that salvation comes first and baptism second, then you have to treat baptism as an act of obedience. You are putting it on the other side of the cross alongside sanctification. When you do that, you misguide people to what baptism really means.

I understand why people might say requiring baptism for salvation is a works-based salvation. It’s because evangelicals have been taught baptism is a work of man just like tithing and fasting, rather than a promise from God.

If Martin Luther were here today, I think he would be shocked how often he is misquoted. In fact, in the quote above, when Luther said the “world nowadays is full of sects that loudly proclaim that baptism is merely an external form and that external forms are useless,” I think he is talking to the modern Protestants. I find it ironic that the very ones who defend Luther’s “justification by faith alone in Christ alone” today are similar in theology to the very ones Luther objected to during the Reformation.