“The Bible is ‘Inspired’. What Does that Mean?”

breathed

Ok folks……I’m back into serious mode.

This weekend, I read an article on a Church Leaders website entitled “5 Things I Wish Christians Would Admit About the Bible” which was…..well…doctrinally problematic, to put it mildly. I am not familiar with the writer, John Pavlovitz, but the main problem in this piece seemed to be:

  1. He doesn’t correctly understand the Literal-Historical-Grammatical method we use to interpret Scripture; and
  2. He completely misunderstands what is meant by Scripture being “inspired”.

I’ll address the first issue in a later post, as I am teaching on basic principles of hermeneutics next month. (In my comment on the article, I explain point-by-point what was wrong with the author’s reasoning.) But first, understanding that the words of the Bible originate with the Holy Spirit, and not with the falible men who penned them, is the foundation on which we need to build any correct biblical interpretation.

Back in 2013, when I finished my Master’s course in biblical counseling, I wrote the theology and counseling sections of the ACBC (then NANC) exam/dissertation. The first question reads:

“The Bible is spoken of as “inspired.” What does this mean?” 

Several lectures were devoted to this topic, as well as the inerrancy of Scripture (not the same thing). This was my answer (now formatted with sub-headings):

“When the Bible is spoken of as being “inspired”, it literally means “God-breathed”. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul explains that “all Scripture is God-breathed” – meaning that it is the writings, not the writers which are “inspired”. The Greek term which translates to “given by inspiration of God”, theopneustos, appears elsewhere only once in Scripture – in Job 32:8, where it is translated “breath”: But it is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding.” This indicates that what is given as biblical revelation is straight from the mouth of God, and is not subject to the personal interpretation of those recording Scripture (as more liberal denominations may teach).

“Is it Literally ‘God’s Word’?”

Yes. Jay Adams notes that “inspiration” would be more correctly translated “expired”, in keeping with the “breathing out” meaning of the Greek term. This verse tells us that the Scriptures are “every bit as much God’s Word as if you could hear them spoken audibly (by breath).” (Jay Adams, notes on lecture four, “The Use of Scripture in Counseling”.) Therefore, to claim an extra-biblical writer as “inspired” (speaking for God) is actually heretical, since such a claim would put a non-biblical source on par with Scripture. Additionally, 2 Peter 1:19-21 affirms that while men prophesied and wrote Scripture, the origin was never with them – they were “moved” or “carried along” by the Spirit, the Divine Author. The Apocrypha, the additional texts written in the inter-testamental period, are thus not considered “inspired” since they contain geographical, historical, and even theological errors. (These books were never quoted by Christ or the Apostles, nor were they ever a part of the Jewish Torah.) Only the 66 books of the Canon may accurately be described as “God-breathed”.

Why Does this Matter?

The implications of the inspiration of Scripture are important to understand in relation to counseling, because after building his case for Scripture’s source of authority – God Himself – Paul goes on to state why biblical truth is therefore reliable: it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (vs. 16-17; emphasis mine). Because it is divine in origin, Scriptural injunction is trustworthy and therefore effacious for training in holiness. Paul affirms that the Bible is a useful book, for teaching (revealing what God requires); for convicting (showing us where we fail to measure up to these); for correction (helping us get out of the problems we get into); and disciplined training in righteousness (helping us stay out of them in the future while obeying God).

Having established the “God-breathed” nature of Scripture, it follows that acceptance and adherence to the principles outlined therein are non-negotiable. Our sin nature will cause all of us to attempt to rationalize, justify and otherwise excuse behavior that is contrary to the commands of God given in the Bible, but if we believe Scripture is “God breathed” – coming verbatim from Him – we are not free to add to, ignore, or subjectively interpret what has been dictated by God (Rev. 22:18-19; Matt. 7:26; 2 Pet. 1:20).

The 15 Weirdest Things Patients Have Asked Me (or Asked Me to Do)

cupcakesBy Marie Notcheva ©

Let me start with a disclaimer: I love being an interpreter. I love having a career where I can combine my love for linguistics with my love for people (true confessions: I’m kinda an extrovert); and best of all, get paid for it. Getting up at 4:00 am (occasionally 5 or even 6:00 am) to fight Boston traffic is a small price to pay for the satisfaction I get out of helping Bulgarian immigrants navigate the medical and legal system, and often have some nice interaction.

My (mostly elderly) clients inspire me. Well into their 60’s and 70’s, most are working hard to learn English – often while caring for grandchildren and trying to assimilate into American culture. Their friends are in the villages back home, and they have few opportunities to talk to someone outside their immediate family.

The Interpreter’s Role

According to the ethics of our profession, “cultural brokering” is part of an interpreter’s role. (For example, when a non-translatable term finds it’s way into the dialogue between patient and doctor, part of our job is to explain it – without personal bias or subjective narrative). But in my experience (roughly 15 years, give or take) in Boston’s finest hospitals, most of the fun “cultural brokering” takes place in the waiting room.

Between me, Bulgarian-Speaking-American-Chick – and (mostly) Elderly Bulgarian Grandma or Grandpa.

Second disclaimer: I love these patients. They are adorable. Most of them have been “frequent fliers” for years, and look at me almost as a member of the family – a daughter of sorts, onto whom they can unload their burdens. I don’t mind, and enjoy listening when I can help. Of course, the bounds of professionalism prevent me from getting overly-involved in their lives; but I have socialized outside of work with several of them. (Hey, I am in my 40’s yet have many close friends in their 20’s. Why shouldn’t I gain from the experience and wisdom of a lady in her 60’s or 70’s?)

What makes it fun noting the difference in what constitutes a “polite question” (obvious to me, as someone who lived in Bulgaria for years). So today, after a week of fielding particularly weird questions, I give you The Top 15 List of some of the most bizarre (by American standards) questions my Bulgarian patients have ever asked me – as their interpreter.

Pragmatics

1) “Can you fix my cellphone?”

Short answer: “No, I cannot. I am a linguist; unfortunately I know very little about cellphones.” (My teenage son probably could; or my husband, since he’s a telecommunications engineer…but alas; I cannot fix your cellphone.)

2.) “Honey, can you put my eye drops in? I forgot earlier.” (in hospital waiting room)

“Mr. D, I really don’t feel comfortable doing that. Here, let’s wait and let the doctor do it. We’ll be going in any minute.”

3) “Oh, your husband is Bulgarian? Nice.” (Two seconds of silence). “What does he do for profession?”

“He’s an engineer.” (Bow head; hunch over Smartphone. Pretend to do something really important while scrolling Facebook).  Brace for next question (related to #3:)

4) “What kind of car does your husband drive?”

“Uhh…it’s like…some kind of a Volkswagen. Why?”

5) “Do you live in an apartment or a house?”

“House…..out in a rural area…..probably you’ve never heard of it, it’s called ‘Rutland’ and it’s like 2 hours away from Boston…”

         5a) “Aha!! Really? And how much did your house cost? Just        asking…informationally!”

“Yeah…..you know, I really don’t recall. You’d have to ask my husband!” (NOTE: Only time in life I pull the “Helpless Female” routine. But it’s better than saying, “None of yer business”!)

6) “Can you pick my mum up for surgery and drive her to the appointment? And drive her home afterwards? I’ll pay you.” (Asked by patient’s adult son)

“No, sadly I cannot. I’d get fired by the hospital. It’s a little thing called “liability issues”. However, I’ll gladly call a taxi for her.”

Religion

Bulgarians are endlessly fascinated by the topic of religion, despite the fact that relatively few of them believe in God. Discussing religion doesn’t hold the same social taboos as for Americans. Still, I’ve had some wonderful discussions as a result of inquisitive thoughts.

7) “Dr. K….is he a Jewish doctor? Because I’ve heard all the best doctors in America are Jewish!”

 8) (Closely related to #7): “What do you think this doctor is, by nationality?”

(Patient’s adult daughter, dying of embarrassment): “Mama! You don’t ask such questions in America!”

9) “Marie, Are you Bulgarian Orthodox?”

“No I’m not – but thanks for asking! Isn’t it wonderful what the Lord has done for us?” (Not a joke, by the way. On occasion, a patient will ask me about my family’s church, faith, and religious practice and I am happy to share when asked. Knowing I am a Christian, I have even been asked by terminal cancer patients to pray with them, which I count as a precious privilege. But many times, religion is simply a topic of curiosity.)

Personal

10) “How many children do you have?”

“Four.” NOT a weird or personal question…but it leads to all kinds of sub-questioning, such as:

11) “Why are you so skinny if you’ve had four kids?”

I get different variations on this one a LOT. Just this week, on Monday- Macedonian grandmother (approvingly): “Ahhh…you have fixed yourself! You look good.” (Balkan grandmother code for, “You’ve gained weight and look better.”)

On Tuesday – Bulgarian grandmother (incredulous): “How are you so skinny? I don’t eat, yet I am fat. You must not eat at ALL.”

Disclaimer 3: Yes I eat; yes; my weight has been stable for 2 decades. No need to worry about me, thanks for your concern!

12) “Do your children speak Bulgarian?”

Seemingly innocent question, but it is loaded with judgement. What if they don’t? Actually, the younger ones don’t. We taught them Cyrillic after they learned to read in English, but guess what – American public education and all else being equal – we had to teach them more important things (although agreed; knowing another language is a highly valuable skill).

When our younger son, Stefan, was in AWANA, at age 7, he won an award for memorizing the most Bible verses (38!) in his age group. (By the way, I didn’t care then and I care even less now.) But can your grandson do that? No? Then I rest my case.

13) “Who takes care of the children when you’re at work?”

I smile sweetly, because I know where this is going. “I take care of them. You see, my husband and I managed between us until they were all in school, and now that they’re big…well, they all help out. My 9-year-old daughter is learning to cook!”

Not the expected answer, because most of my patients are here in the United States to care for their grandchildren, 24/7. The idea of a working mom taking care of her own children – without the assistance of a live-in “Baba” (grandmother) – is something alien to them. Still, I greatly respect and value their experience, input and wisdom in childrearing, as they are far more experienced than I.

And tired. They are much, much more tired from raising their grandchildren than I am from managing my household.

Politics

Much like religion, Bulgarians candidly discuss issues of a political bent without the American straight-jacket of etiquette prohibiting this. I personally have never been offended by this and find it quite enlightening.

14) “So, did you vote for Obama?”

“No.” (Awkward silence.) I use the silence to keep scrolling Facebook.

15) “What does your husband think of Obama?”

I have actually been asked this several times, and I don’t know if (perhaps) the expectation is that if A) he is Bulgarian; then B) he must be a liberal; but the reality is vastly different. My (very much Bulgarian) husband is also a Christian, politically conservative, with common sense in spades. His answer (and I quote): “There is only one thing I do not like about Obama….he is a socialist. I left Bulgaria to get away from the ‘socialists’ and their ideology. I did not like them in Bulgaria, and I like them even less here in America.”

And as George Carlin famously said,

That seems to satisfy their curiosity.”

“Where Are You in my Sorrow, God?” (Guest Post by Julie Ganschow)

This excellent look at seasonal (and clinical) depression originally appeared on Julie Ganschow’s blog, Biblical Counseling for Women on September 14, 2015. I am re-posting it here with Julie’s permission.

julie

Where Are You in my Sorrow, God?

by Julie Ganschow

This time of the year begins to usher in greater feelings of depression for some people. As the daylight hours get shorter and the weather gets cooler, we spend more time indoors and simply have more time to think about our problems and woes.

There seems to be plenty of sorrow these days! I have a couple of friends who are very ill, some others are facing the loss of their jobs, families are blown apart because of sexual sin, and the general mood tends toward fear, depression, and anxiety brought on by situations that feel out of control. I can truly relate to these emotions.

Oh God, where are you in my sorrow? Where are you in my distress? Where are you with answers and help? Oh God I need you. I am washed over with grief and sorrow, my heart is failing within me. Oh God, comfort me in my distress this morning! Lift up my countenance bring me hope and joy! Remove these dark clouds of despair from my heart and mind. Each time I think the darkness can grow no deeper I am brought lower into the abyss of sorrow and mourning. My life has taken jolting twists and turns and I fear I do not know where I will wind up in the end. It is as though I am on a runaway cart in the darkest cavern and I am holding on for dear life. Where can I find You Lord? Where do I go to bask in Your goodness and light? I wish to hide myself in Thee, in the folds of Your magnificent train. Comfort me in my distress Oh Lord, for I am weak and failing to stand.”

You can hear my grieving heart in this excerpt from an untitled psalm I wrote years ago. In those days there were times my emotions wanted to sweep me away and I was a person in deep distress. Perhaps these sentiments describe where you are today.

When I was struggling with depressive feelings I had no shortage of people suggesting I begin taking medication. I languished in this place for about a year and I have to admit, that when I was “washed over with grief and sorrow” day after day medication was a tempting (but fleeting) thought. No one likes to suffer, no one likes to feel sad, and if there is a way out of it, then what is the harm in taking it? I did have to grapple with those questions during those dark days when it seemed I would never genuinely smile again.

While I have not experienced anything like that since then, there are still occasions when I get down in the dumps over one thing or another. Like you, I still have problems and trials that assail me. When I am in that place of emotional turmoil, all I want to do it sit and stare at the wall. I could spiritualize it and say that I am “being still before God,” but in my heart I know what I am doing has little or no spiritual benefit. I know that what I am really doing is meditating on my problems and ruminating on my sorrows.

How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Psalm 13:2 (NASB)

When the Psalmist says he is taking counsel in his soul it means he is thinking about his problems. This is resulting in having sorrow in his heart all day long. Perhaps you can relate to this as well. Do you find that the more you meditate on your problems the deeper you sink into sorrow?

I would like to offer you something that may help. First it is important to understand that our emotions are the physical experience of our thought life. In other words, our feelings and emotions are the responses of the things we think about that either please us or displease us. The billions of thoughts we think each day often provoke emotional responses that relate to what we call happiness, hope, well-being, sorrow, despair, fear, or anger.

Our thoughts come from what the Bible calls the inner man, which is the place of reason (Matt. 13:15), feelings and affections (Ecc. 7:9; Isa 35:4). Our will, desires and belief system also resides in the inner man (Ps. 25:12).

Thoughts are obviously a function of the brain. The brain is an organ that serves the body and almost always functions as it has been created to operate. The brain carries out and reflects our hidden inner thoughts, or what we can call the hidden desires of the heart. Thoughts in the inner man bring about chemical reactions in our physical body. The brain is constantly receiving information, taking in data and converting it through amazingly complex series of chemicals and electrical impulses into vision, smells, motion, emotions and sounds the body makes.

The connection between the inner and outer man cannot be separated. When we think positive or negative thoughts, we experience emotions and our bodies go along for the ride. So thinking is both an inner man activity and a bodily function. God has created us to be both distinctly human and distinctly spiritual beings. We are the only created beings that are like this! This is why the Psalmist says “we are fearfully and wonderfully made!” (Psalm 139:14)

We could say, our feelings reveal our hearts to us. I have come to realize that most of the time my feelings and emotions are my responses to things that a sovereign God has brought into my life. He allows hardship through financial reversal, He allows rebellious children who throw away all the truth that has been poured into them, He allows job loss, He allows our husbands to sin against us, He allows our bosses to treat us unkindly, and a host of other negative things to enter our lives. How we respond to these or any other things that take place in life reveal what we believe about God.

In our humanity, our deceitful hearts take us places we don’t want to go. This is why the Spirit of God must be leading the charge for change. I have a hard time discerning what is in my sinful heart because I lie even to myself! But God who sees and knows all; He is completely aware of all of the contents of my heart and only He can help me to overcome.

So many times women have told me what a huge change they have made as a result of doing the following exercise: the next time you find yourself feeling down, take a piece of paper and write down what you are thinking about. This should help you understand why you are feeling the way you are feeling. Once you identify what you are thinking, then get your Bible out and compare your thoughts against the truth of Scripture and see if is measures up to God’s unchangeable Word. See if you can identify what you are desiring or worshiping in your heart. You should be able to determine if you are practicing some form of idolatry, and once you know what you are wrongly worshiping you can repent and return to worshiping God alone.

The Embrace that Never Lets Go: Praying on Behalf of those too Weak to Pray

Originally published on the Biblical Counseling Coalition

The-Embrace-that-Never-Lets-Go-Praying-on-Behalf-of-Those-Too-Weak-to-Pray

by Marie Notcheva ©

A well-known biblical counseling ministry’s website has the slogan, “There is no hopeless situation or helpless person.” Although the citation does not come directly from the Bible, it might have made a good subtitle for Jesus’ healing ministry as recorded in Matthew. If we look closely at several of His miracles, we see an additional factor that should encourage us both as biblical counselors and as Christian friends: the power of intercession.

In Matthew 8:13, Jesus heals a centurion’s servant, marveling at the Roman’s faith. A few chapters later, Jesus encounters a demonized boy who could not be helped by His own disciples. His rebuke for their lack of faith is well-known, but what is easy to miss in this passage is that Jesus accepts one person’s faith on behalf of another. The son, like the centurion’s sick servant and the Canaanite’s daughter in chapter 15, was utterly helpless to seek the Lord himself. These people desperately needed healing and deliverance. And in His compassion, Jesus honors the prayer offered in faith for another’s well-being.

“Don’t Give Up!” (Luke 18:1)

What are the biggest hindrances to prayer? When we want to help others in their situation, we may feel we are completely “competent to counsel,” and be quicker to dole out advice than to hit our knees. “I’ve got this one covered, Lord…I know just what to tell her to ‘put off’ and ‘put on.’” This is, of course, pride.

Busyness is another hindrance. Failing to see “results” also causes us to give up—sometimes just before God moves. I have been amazed to see God restore broken relationships after I had quit, writing the situation off as “hopeless” in my mind. This is exactly the lack of faith for which Jesus chides His disciples. His hyperbolic statement about the “faith that moves mountains” (Matthew 21:21) is a direct reference to persistence in prayer—how often do we give up praying for a loved one’s salvation, a broken marriage, a strained relationship—because it seems impossible that God will change things? In the Gospel accounts, it appears that the only thing to disappoint Jesus is a lack of faith.

There are times when a sincere believer may be too weak to pray. Severely depressed counselees feel paralyzed spiritually. “Sometimes, you just don’t have the strength to even open the Bible,” one woman confided.

Many of us have had friends or teen children who have gone through a season in their life where they felt stuck in a dark pit, unable to pray, their faith shaken and damaged. Trapped in a suffocating, hopeless void, they need someone to stand in the gap.

We grieve with them. We would counsel, but they often are not ready to hear it. The only way we can sit next to them in the “pit” is to pray—and let them know we are doing so earnestly, often, and on their behalf.

When we are praying for another’s needs, we are taking their hand and entering the Throne Room of God together, in a kind of unseen fellowship that bridges time and geography. Yes, they may receive a measure of comfort simply by knowing that a friend is praying, but more importantly, interceding acknowledges that God alone is in control. Our faith is exercised as we pray; it is strengthened both when He answers and as we wait on Him.

Many times, I have actually felt the deep, assuring love God has for the friend I am lifting up to Him, even when the other person is still struggling. “I don’t know how You are going to do it, Lord, but please wrap Your arms tightly around so-and-so tonight. Hug my friend for me, and somehow let this person know that it is You. Please give some unmistakable encouragement that could only come from Your hand.” I have prayed this many times, not knowing how God was going to answer.

The Privilege of Prayer: Participating in the Embrace

Admittedly, it can be discouraging to intercede for someone who seems “spiritually unconscious.” In more cynical moments, I have questioned whether prayer was really just a way to feel like I was helping without actually doing anything. I once told a friend, “You can get the whole world praying for you, but if you’re not doing your part, it’s not going to help.”

Personal responsibility is definitely a biblical concept, but even in the case of a fellow believer being caught in sin, we’re still to pray: “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life” (1 John 5:16).

However, very often it is not a “sin issue” for which a believer needs prayer. He or she may be hurting, maybe by the sin of another, sometimes by life’s circumstances, the sting of rejection, or suffering a great loss. Just as the father knelt before Jesus to plead for his son’s healing, we feel helpless begging Him to heal a friend’s broken heart. When we really trust that God will heal, we start to see this as a privilege.

And yet, we are not helpless. Neither are those for whom we are interceding—God is working behind the scenes. Crying out for those who are too weak to do so themselves is one of the greatest ways we “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). Even when it doesn’t seem to be “working,” a faith-filled prayer offered on behalf of another greatly honors and pleases God.

Jesus did not respond to the Canaanite woman immediately—in order to illustrate what persistence looks like. When my counselee isn’t changing right away, my son’s sanctification is stalled, my friend’s heart is still broken, I need to remember that God is still listening. And He has those for whom I pray encased in His love, “wrapped in an embrace that won’t let go,” as a friend described it.

Throughout Scripture, believers are instructed to pray—to honor God, to guard ourselves from sin, and for one another. While God is Sovereign and knows the end from the beginning, we know that prayer changes things. How these truths work together remains a mystery, but one of the most straight-forward promises that God honors prayer comes from James 5:16:

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

People we care about need our prayer even more than our counsel. There are few joys greater than seeing someone for whom you have prayed earnestly emerge from a spiritual fog, walk away from doubts, and again start serving the Lord.

Join the Conversation

How can intercessory prayer become a central part of your biblical counseling ministry?

Review: The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness (Conclusion)

"Forgiven" by THomas Blackshear
“Forgiven” by Thomas Blackshear

This is the Conclusion of a 3-Part review and analysis of the points raised in Dr. John Macarthur’s “The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness”. You may read Part II here.

by Marie Notcheva ©

After laying the groundwork of the Atonement as the basis for our unmerited forgiveness, Macarthur opens his chapter “Just as God Has Forgiven You” by using the December 1997 Heath High School shooting in Kentucky as an example of Christians extending unilateral, Christ-like forgiveness. The Paducah students were meeting for prayer in a school corridor when a fourteen-year-old freshman opened fire, killing three students and seriously wounding five more. Macarthur notes that many of the survivors and families of victims expressed forgiveness and no desire for vengeance, including a girl with a severed spinal cord who sent the following message from her hospital bed: “Tell him [the assailant] I forgive him.”

This is unquestionably a case of Christ-like behavior on the part of those injured, but it was an interesting example for Macarthur to choose. A different aspect of the story undermines a condition for forgiveness, and was, in fact, unscriptural.

Not long after the shooting, I remember reading an article in the Reader’s Digest questioning the validity of the outpouring of forgiveness at the school following the murders. The author, an Orthodox Jew, made the valid point that the students immediately hanging up posters and signs in the high school proclaiming “We Forgive You” actually had no right to do so – the crime had not been against them. Furthermore, he asserted, it is not in God’s nature to let such a gross crime and unrepentant killer go unpunished (God is an avenger of injustice). If there were to be forgiveness, he contended, it could only be extended by the victims or families of the casualties themselves.

That Jewish journalist was absolutely right.

Macarthur lays out situations under which unconditional forgiveness is not appropriate, or even possible biblically. He writes:

“There are times when it is necessary to confront an offender. In such cases, unconditional forgiveness is not an option. These generally involve more serious sins – not petty or picayune complaints, but soul-threatening sins or transgressions that endanger the fellowship of saints. In such situations Luke 17:3 applies: “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” In such cases, if a brother or sister in Christ refuses to repent, the discipline process outlined in Matthew 18 applies….”Some take the position that this [Eph. 4:32 & Col. 3:13] teaches forgiveness should always be conditional. Their rationale goes like this: God forgives only those who repent. Therefore, if we are going to forgive in the same manner as we have been forgiven, we should withhold forgiveness from all who are unrepentant. Some fine teachers hold this view. For example, Jay Adams writes:

‘It should go without saying that since our forgiveness is modeled after God’s (Eph. 4:32), it must be conditional. Forgiveness by God rests on clear, unmistakable conditions. The apostles did not merely announce that God had forgiven men…Paul and the apostles turned away from those who refused to meet the conditions, just as John and Jesus did earlier when the scribes and Pharisees would not repent.’ (page 34)

“There is some merit in Adam’s position. There are times when forgiveness must be conditional, and we shall discuss that issue before the close of this chapter.” (see below)

“I have great respect for Adams and have recommended his book on forgiveness as a helpful study on the subject. On this issue, however, I must disagree with the position he takes. To make conditionality the gist of Christlike forgiveness seems to miss the whole point of Scripture. When Scripture instructs us to forgive in the manner we have been forgiven, what is in view is not the idea of withholding forgiveness until the offender expresses repentance.”

A fellow Christian wrote (in response to the above – I’m re-posting the quote in full): I agree with Adams’ stance, especially in view of the Luke passage where Jesus say “IF” your brother repents then you are to forgive him. I don’t think we are precluded from forgiven an unrepentant person, but I also don’t think we are required to forgive someone who is not remorseful. For example, everyone says to forgive the 9/11 terrorists, but they wouldn’t even seek forgiveness had they lived.

Absolutely “forgiving” the 9/11 terrorists falls outside the biblical parameters, for several of the reasons listed below. On top of everything else, this was a matter of criminal law and the courts have the God-ordained authority to sentence them. However, generally these aren’t the types of situations where we’re tempted to be unforgiving.

Macarthur spends a full chapter discussing church discipline, emphasizing that it should always be done in love and seeking to restore the wayward Christian – it is not punitive or vengeful. I don’t want to spend time discussing the church discipline process, except to add that I completely agree with it, and if it were done correctly there would be fewer lukewarm believers and scandals in churches. However, for the purposes of this series on forgiveness, I’d rather focus on the interpersonal implications. So here are some guidelines for when confrontation is necessary, and things must be set right for forgiveness to be extended:

 If you observe a serious offense that is a sin against someone other than you, confront the offender. Justice does not permit a Christian to cover a sin against someone else. I can unilaterally and unconditionally forgive a personal offense when I am the victim, because it is I who then bears the wrong. But when I see that someone else has been sinned against, it is my duty to seek justice. (Exodus 23:6; Deut. 16:20; Isaiah 1:17; Isaiah 59:15-16; Jeremiah 22:3; Lam. 3:35-36.

– When ignoring an offense might hurt the offender, confrontation is required. (Gal. 6:1-2).

– When a sin is scandalous or otherwise potentially damaging to the Body of Christ, confrontation is essential. (Hebrews 12:15).

– When there is a broken relationship between Christians, both parties have a responsibility to seek reconcilliation (Luke 17:3; Matt. 5:23-24).

Again, Macarthur emphasizes that Christians should be prepared to suffer wrong rather than cause reproach. Most of the cases where we are unforgiving are over personal affronts and hurt feelings; not over matters of eternal significance. (This theme resonated with me – this is the type of unforgiveness I’m prone to carry). Even knowing that the offender must ultimately repent to get right with God, in view of the enormous grace poured out on us, we should be ready to lay aside our grudges and “starve” those bitter feelings – even without a formal declaration of repentance. Confronting every little thing (even repeat offenses) will cause more relational problems than it will solve – just think of this dynamic in a marriage. (“Honey, you left your socks on the floor again. That’s the third time this week. You need to repent and seek my forgiveness.”)

Choosing to Lay Aside the “Right” to Vengeance

When I think of a gracious response and the ultimate “covering” (as opposed to confrontation), I recall Christ’s first post-resurrection words to the disciples in the Upper Room, after they had all left Him high and dry: “Peace be with you.” (If someone pulled a stunt like that on me, you’d better believe they’d be hearing about it!) Although the disciples were certainly repentant, we have no reason to believe Jesus brought up their cowardice to shame or confront them. He graciously forgave and instantly restored. That is to be our model, insofar as it depends on us (Romans 12:18).

Is it not possible that Christ’s words from the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” (Luke 23:34) stunned and softened the hearts of the soldiers and enraged crowd (many of whom repented and were saved 7 weeks later, on Pentecost)? Could not Stephan’s amazing plea in Acts 7:60 “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” so impressed the complicit Saul that he later would recall what selfless forgiveness looked like?

Undeserved forgiveness – when we willingly give up our “rights” for Christ’s sake – is often a way in which God will glorify Himself. In his sermon “Forgiveness Made Easy“, Spurgeon declares:

“Brother, the most splendid vengeance you can ever have is to do good to them who do you evil, and to speak well of them who speak ill of you. They will be ashamed to look at you; they will never hurt you again if they see that you cannot be provoked except to greater love and larger kindness.”

“Self-pity is an act of sinful pride. The wounded ego that cannot rise above an offense is the very antithesis of Christlikeness.” (Macarthur, p. 168) “Forgiveness frees us from the bitter chains of pride and self-pity.” (citing Joseph’s reaction to his brothers) Satan takes advantage of an unforgiving spirit and “devours” people. Sometimes, believers rationalize their unforgiving spirit over relatively minor offenses by reasoning that God (who hates injustice) would never want them to suffer injury and forgive offender unconditionally. But Christ had another point of view for His followers: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first….No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:18, 20).

Sin is an attack on the moral government of God; not just a personal affront. Yet Christ Himself was willing to lay aside His right to vengeance (the only One who truly had a claim to justice) on Calvary. Although He never relinquished His deity, He deferred judgment in order to glorify God – through some of them repenting and coming to salvation. That’s the perfect model right there (and we endure far less injustice than the Lord did in His suffering). Spurgeon says, in the same message:

“And this forgiveness on God’s part was most free. We did nothing to obtain it by merit, and we brought nothing wherewith to purchase it. He forgave us for Christ’s sake, not for aught that we had done. True, we did repent, and we did believe, but He gave us repentance and faith, so that He did not forgive us for the sake of them, but purely because of His own dear love, because He delights in mercy and is never more like Himself than when He forgives transgression, inequity, and sin.”

Repeat Offenders – Enough is Enough! 

I don’t know that I’ve ever had someone sin against me and then come back contrite, only to do it all over again….but hypothetically speaking, how would I react? As a former addict (set free only by the sheer grace of God, I might add), I have been on the receiving end of this kind of mercy myself, and therefore can easily concur with Macarthur on this point:

“Someone might ask, ‘Who in the world would commit the same offense seven times in one day and then profess repentance after each time? Here’s the point: this sort of behavior is precisely how we sin againstGod. We sin; then we express sorrow for our sin and seek God’s forgiveness; then we turn around and commit precisely the same sin again. Anyone who has ever been in bondage to a sinful habit knows precisely what the routine is like.

Does God forgive under such circumstances? Yes, He does. And since His forgiveness sets the criterion by which we are to forgive, the standard is set blessedly high. What may seem at first like an impossibly unfair and unattainable standard is in fact wonderful news for anyone who has ever needed to seek the forgiveness of God for repeat offenses. Jesus is teaching here that the forgiveness we extend to others should be as boundless as the mercy of God we desire for ourselves. That shatters all the limits anyone would try to place on human forgiveness.” (page 102).

Jesus understood and seemed to be alluding to the human propensity to want mercy for ourselves, but judgment for others. Hence His warning, “By the same measure you judge, you will be judged”.

Additional Benefits of Forgiveness

Towards the end of the book, Macarthur devotes a chapter to the blessings of forgiveness, although as stated at the beginning, emotional benefits to the obedient servant should not be the focal point of forgiving one another – submission to an all-holy God is the issue. He attributes all kinds of physical/social problems in an individual to unforgiveness, which he compares to “a toxin”. Macarthur candidly states that most of the counseling cases he has seen are related in some way to unforgiveness in the life of the counselee. Lastly, before an excellent appendix on correct understanding of the Atonement (why the Ransom and Governmental Theories are heretical), Macarthur includes a chapter entitled “Answering Hard Questions About Forgiveness.” He deals with queries such as “what is the difference between true repentance and a mere apology?” (genuine repentance entails an admission of wrongdoing and a plea for forgiveness); “To whom should we confess our sins?” (to God and the affected person or people); “should I confess my affair to my wife?” (yes); and “how should we handle repeat offenses?” (read Luke 17:3-4).

Quite honestly, I was a bit disappointed in this last chapter, as none of the questions seemed particularly “hard” to me and he just covered the same ground Jay Adams had in “From Forgiven to Forgiving“. I could think of much harder questions about forgiveness to ask, but fortunately the Bible (and Macarthur’s helpful exposition of key passages and principles) has helped me to answer them on my own. Overall, “The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness” is an excellent book, not only for biblical counselors but for all Christians to add to their libraries.

Review: The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness (Part II)

"Forgiven" by THomas Blackshear
“Forgiven” by Thomas Blackshear

This is the second of a 3-Part review of Dr. John Macarthur’s “The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness.” You may read Part I here.

Marie Notcheva ©

Picking up from where I left off yesterday, let’s continue with a biblical look at horizontal forgiveness (“forgiving one another, just as in Christ God has forgiven you”, Eph. 4:32.  Beyond being obedient, or being painfully aware of the huge debt that was forgiven us by God, a form of forgiveness can be done for purely selfish reasons. To be free of anger – simply to be free of it – for yourself.

This is a point that both Macarthur and Jay Adams in “From Forgiven to Forgiving” touch upon. Prevailing “wisdom” in the Church today maintains that forgiveness is “a gift you give yourself” (Joyce Meyer et. al.) and is for the benefit of the giver, not the receiver. While it’s true that emotionally one will have an easier time if he/she is not nursing a grudge or cultivating bitterness, that is not the primary reason we are called to forgive. So what IS the impetus to be lavishly forgiving? Because God said so. He lays it on as a command.

Love that is Neither Humanistic nor Self-Serving

To make forgiveness into something we do to bless ourselves is to undermine the authority of God in our lives. It is to downplay the sovereignty of Christ. Turning a God-ordained command into a suggestion for feeling good about ourselves (self-esteem gospel, anyone?) is to cultivate a humanistic, man-centered outlook rather than a Christ-centered one. Adams, in particular, attacks the notion that we extend forgiveness to benefit ourselves. Again, let’s start from this premise: God commanded us to forgive. God’s in charge; not us. Therefore we do what He says and forgive.

When you resolve in your heart to obey God and forgive, don’t feel badly if you lack warm fuzzy feelings for your nemesis; just resolve in your heart to let the offense go and allow God to deal with both him and you. It is important not to let bitterness grow. Forgiveness is not a feeling – it is a deliberate choice that runs counter to our bitter feelings, which tell us to dwell on an offense.

Wow, five paragraphs in and I haven’t even gotten into specifics of the book yet. Let’s start with this quote:

“For a Christian to be willfully unforgiving is unthinkable. We who have been forgiven by God Himself have no right to withhold forgiveness from our fellow sinners.” (p. 97)

The Rod of Discipline

Macarthur then devotes 10 pages to exegeting the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:23-27). The point of that parable is the infinite enormity of our sin debt to God, how the “debt” our fellow sinners “owe” us pales in comparison, and how we are to reflect the King’s gracious character out of sheer gratitude. Since God’s judicial forgiveness is not conditional upon a sinner’s subsequent behavior (He does not “withdraw” salvation), the severity of the king’s punishment here actually illustrates how God will discipline unforgiving believers.

“Though the guilt of sin is forgiven so that it will never be an issue in eternal judgment, God may permit the consequences of sin to be even more severe, in order to motivate a sinning believer to obey. Because unforgivingness is so completely foreign to what Christians should be, Christ applies this threat particularly to that sin (v. 35).”

Scripture upholds that God does, indeed, discipline as sons those He loves.

Here are my notes on that chapter:

Parable of unforgiving servant – “10,000” (talents) – derived from same word in Greek as “myriad” – expresses idea of incalculable debt. Underscores infinite amount of debt, as in our sin-debt to God. We can’t repay it. King’s reaction = the very picture of what God does on behalf of every sinner who repents. When we realize the enormity of our debt, the hopelessness of our true spiritual condition before the King, the only appropriate response is to do as the servant did – fell prostrate before the king, in desperate plea for mercy (which neither he, nor we, deserve). King elevates him to position of unmerited favor (this is definition of grace).

So…unforgiveness of others represents lack of appreciation, an awareness of what we’ve truly been forgiven. We underestimate our own enormous debt to God, freely and compassionately forgiven, by “choking and demanding” our fellow sinners repay us. By the world’s standards, we do have a legitimate and rightful claim on what is “owed” us. Forgiveness makes no sense. But when we really see ourselves as the first servant, guilty of an infinitely more grave debt to the King, debts against us pale in comparison. It’s when we move away from the feet of the King – or the foot of the Cross – that the unforgiving, fleshly spirit which demands it’s “rights” to restitution sneaks in. Scripture makes clear that God takes this seriously.

This grace from God should make us “profoundly grateful, and also profoundly merciful” (p. 106) “In effect, the unforgiving servant had placed himself above the king….God Himself will employ harsh measures when necessary to correct a disobedient Christian. The harshness of His discipline is a measure of His love for His people and His concern for their purity.”

The “torturers” = rod of God’s discipline. So the lesson of parable is this: Christians who refuse to forgive others will be subject to the severest form of discipline until they learn to forgive as they have been forgiven. (pp. 110-111)

“Christians who fail to show mercy will be subject to divine chastisement without much mercy. That is the whole message of this parable. I am convinced that multitudes of Christians who suffer from stress, depression, discouragement, relationship problems, and all sorts of other hardships experience these things because of a refusal to forgive. Forgiveness from the heart would liberate the person immediately from such “torturers” – and glorify God in the process.” (P. 112)

Is Forgiveness Unconditional?

Now we need to tackle perhaps the toughest issue, and the one that has historically been the biggest obstacle to me: biblically, do we need to forgive when the offender does not repent? In a sense, yes; although there are certain situations where unconditional/unilateral forgiveness is not possible.

Macarthur and Adams somewhat differ on this point, as Adams views forgiveness as a bi-lateral transaction of sorts. He contends that “forgive as you have been forgiven” indicates that without repentance, no forgiveness can take place (no one would argue that repentance is a condition to our receiving God’s mercy and divine forgiveness). However, Macarthur points out that the point of that command, as well as similar exhortations throughout Scripture, is to be lavish and abundant in our forgiving (as our Father is), and thus glorify God. Furthermore, he points out, “covering another’s transgression is the very essence of forgiveness.” (p. 121). Mark 11:25-26 speaks of immediate, unilateral forgiveness – no formal meeting/transaction required. As Bill Fields writes, “God does NOT forgive where there is no repentance but God does show common grace and mercy as HE invites sinners to HIM through Godly repentance.”

This is probably the most difficult aspect of forgiveness to accept and allow to manifest in our lives. However, Scripture makes it clear that it is better to suffer a wrong patiently for the sake of righteousness than to exact re-payment. Before reading these two books, I was convicted on this point from a biblical counseling worksheet that listed all the verses dealing with anger, forgiveness, and how we are to relate to other people (believers as well as non). Although the word “forgiveness” does not appear in many of them, it is abundantly clear from the wording how God expects us to treat our enemies – with love and forbearance.

Where Macarthur and Adams Differ…..

The main difference between John Macarthur and Jay Adams’ view of forgiveness is that Macarthur believes, in the majority of cases, the Christ-like standard compels us to forgive unconditionally whether the offender repents or not. He is careful to explain that the offender is still under God’s judgment, as all sin is ultimately against God; but we are expected to relinquish him or her in our own hearts.

Macarthur points out that usually offenses are injurious to our pride and are personal disputes that an outsider might consider petty. Sometimes, particularly in the Body, it is necessary to confront in love, but in Macarthur’s view the vast majority of times confrontation is neither necessary nor desirable. The Bible urges us to “cover in love” such occasions. Jay Adams, the founder of the nouthetic counseling movement, takes a slightly different stance. He points to the Matthew 18 process as a standard for interpersonal confrontation (Macarthur says it relates primarily to the church discipline process) and believes loving confrontation followed by sincere repentance is a prerequisite to forgiving.

To be sure, while Adams contends that true forgiveness cannot take place until there is repentance (and it is technically not possible for a non-Christian to repent), the “to forgive or not to forgive?” question almost becomes a matter of semantics, because nowhere does he advocate shunning or mistreating an offender. Nor does he rationalize holding onto a grudge, nursing bitterness, or repaying in kind. To do so would, of course, be patently unbiblical. So, while he dismisses apologies as meaningless and precludes true (horizontal) forgiveness from the unrepentant, he would agree that we are to love our enemies and do good to those that hurt us.

The Heart of the Matter

On the surface, Adams’ “formula” sounds like a good loop-hole for the unforgiving…but riddle me this: how, exactly, do we love on the offender, do good to him or her, and refuse to allow resentment to take root in our heart, while not forgiving? Sounds pretty much like forgiveness to me, even if Adams chooses not to call it such. No matter how you slice it (and we are using the Sword – the Word of God to do the slicing), we cannot get around our call to love, pray for, and refuse to harbor ill will towards those who hurt us.

Tomorrow I’ll lay out circumstances where unconditional forgiveness does not apply. However, since most offenses we have to deal with are of the personal variety, I felt it important to discuss why God gives us no justification for being unforgiving over such affronts. (Even the “eye for an eye” command was given to prevent civic justice from becoming excessive; it was later perverted to apply to cases of personal vengeance.) It was this misapplication that Jesus was addressing in Matthew 5:38 when He laid down the Law of love.

Conclusion coming tomorrow…

Review: The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness (Part I)

929965The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness (Dr. John Macarthur)

by Marie Notcheva

Some time ago, I read John Macarthur’s book on forgiveness, along with several appendixes and sermons on the subject by Charles Spurgeon and Alexander MacLaren.

This will not be a typical book review, as I’d like to get into some of the topics Macarthur brings up in a bit more depth and compare/contrast his views to what other Bible teachers have to say. As always, our ultimate authority is to be the Scripture, and fortunately systematic theology is an area in which Macarthur excels. Scripture must always be interpreted in light of other Scripture; a key point when discussing a matter such as forgiveness. Cherry-picking verses from here and there can give us a skewed view of God’s will. Unforgiveness and the human desire for vengeance is an age-old scourge – as much a part of our fleshly nature as it was 2,000 years ago.
In the first chapter, Macarthur lays out the truths of God’s mercy and justice as great virtues, and how through the Atonement both are satisfied. This is presumably not new to his readers, but it is impossible to get an accurate view of just how much we’ve been forgiven without looking at divine redemption. As Jerry Bridges writes elsewhere, ‘sin is cosmic treason’ and we are accountable to a thrice-holy God. Unable to seek God on our own initiative, God initiates and obtains the sinner’s reconciliation, while extending the offer to all.

All Are Called and Offered Mercy

Admittedly, Macarthur is more staunchly Calvinist than I (try as I might, I cannot become a true 5-pointer; it seems somewhat unbalanced to emphasize Romans 8:30 to the expense of Acts 2:2, John 5:40 and 2 Peter 3:9). It was very tempting to get caught up in the mental gymnastics of monergism vs. synergism once again, but the best explanation I’ve heard so far is that it is a mystery how our will works within the confines of God’s sovereignity. He elects, calls and does all of the saving; we are responsible for our own response and repentance. He gets all the glory, as repentance is a gift freely given anyway.

God has laid out very specific commands to His children in His Word, and understanding the nuances of Limited Atonement, fortunately, isn’t one of them. However, if we accept so great a salvation as fact, talking doctrine will get us nowhere in a hurry. Applying it (namely, forgiving as we’ve been forgiven) is a must. And NO, I’m not saying sound doctrine doesn’t matter – it’s crucial. But the main reason it is so important that we be doctrinally sound is so we can BE the salt and light God requires, from a heart that is pure, undeceived, and fully devoted to following Christ.

1 Peter 2:24 reminds us that God has redeemed us in order that we may live righteously. In view of this, and in light of the substitutionary atonement (linger at the Cross), unforgiveness = extreme ingratitude. My words; not Macarthur’s. In fact, I will probably quote him extensively as I write this series, but mostly the impressions God laid on my heart were insights into the deeper application of the truth he lays out. After discussing imputation (God put Christ’s righteousness to our credit), he states:

“That means our forgiveness is not dependent on some prior moral reform on our part. Every believer is forgiven immediately, just like the thief on the Cross. No works of penance are necessary, no meritorious rituals. Forgiveness costs us nothing, because it already cost Christ everything.”

He then goes on to explain how a true conversion will inevitably result in a changed life, as we are conformed to the image of Christ. The Bible makes no allowance for what’s sometimes called “cheap grace“, although naturally we still fall and require constant forgiveness. He discusses the need for ongoing forgiveness in light of 1 John 1:9 onward. The difference between judicial forgiveness (when we come to God for salvation) and parental forgiveness (restoration of fellowship, the “foot washing” Christ discussed at the Last Supper) is the fact that God does discipline His children in love. The difference between God’s wrath and fatherly displeasure should be apparent to the born-again believer, so I won’t spend extra space on it.

“As Christians, we should be obsessed with forgiveness, not vengeance.” 

After making the case for how much and how unilaterally God has forgiven us, Macarthur makes this striking statement. Looking at the whole of Scripture – not just the New Testament – we see that it is better to suffer a wrong for righteousness’ sake, not take offense, and be quick to forgive. Why? Because it is a reflection of the very heart of Christ, Who is One with the Father.

“Whereas Abel’s blood (and the blood of other martyrs) screams for vengeance, Christ’s blood pleads for mercy.”

Forgiveness is not a feeling – it is a deliberate choice that runs counter to our bitter feelings, which tell us to dwell on an offense. Tomorrow I want to discuss when forgiveness should be instantaneous and unilateral, in what sense it applies to unbelievers, and what Matthew 18 and Luke 17 mean. Stay tuned.

Menyrat se si Pornografia po të Shkaterron

Mucaj_Alb_pic_2
Ju po lexoni pjesën e dytë të një shkrimi nga Kristian Mucaj, mik i blog-ut. Kristian është 20 vjeç, nxënës i Jezusit nga Shqipëria. Ai studion Sociologji në Universitetin e Tiranës.

Menyrat se si Pornograpfia po të Shkaterron

Nga Kristian Mucaj 

Në postin e parë, “Pornografia – Mekati me Kthetra”,  bera nje prezantim shume te shkurter per pornografine si problem global modern, gjithashtu edhe per pikepamjen e Zotit per pornografine dhe pse ajo eshte e ndaluar.

Ne kete artikull, do te shkruaj arsyet me kryesore se perse pornografia eshte e demshme per perdoruesit e saj, ne aspektin e shendetit mendor, fizik dhe marrdhenieve shoqerore. Nese ti je i krishter, dhe vuan nga pornografia, duhet te ndalosh menjehere! Efesianeve 5:3 thote, “Po ashtu si u ka hije shenjtoreve, as kurveri, as ndonje papasterti… te mos zihet ne goje kunder jush.” Pali po i qorton besimtaret ne Efes, pasi ata ishin perzier me lloj lloj mekatesh seksuale te pista, qe listohen ne vargjet e tjera te kapitullit 5. Nuk ka pra, as edhe nje lloj justifikimi per te parit pornografi, eshte nje mekat shume i demshem dhe i turpshem, qe duhet trajtuar me kujdes sepse rikuperimi prej saj nuk eshte i thjeshte. Te heqesh dore nga pornografia, eshte nje proces ndonjehere i gjate dhe i veshtire, por per kete do me duhej te shkruaja nje shkrim tjeter.

Fizikisht.

– Demtim te trurit.

Ekspertet kane zbuluar se pornografia te shkakton ankth social, depresion, ankth ne performance, dhe crregullime obsesive mendore. Nje fiziolog i njohur i quajtur Gary Wilson, me ane te nje eksperimenti te quajtur “Eksperimenti i Madhe i Pornografise”, doli ne perfundime se pornografia ndikonte me shume efekte ne tru. Shikimi i pornografise cliron dopamin (hormoni i kontrollit te kenaqesise), dhe nese perftohet me shume se cduhet dopamine, niveli i saj natyral tejngopet, me rezultate : 1. Ndryshime fizike te trurit, qe shkakton nje mpirje e cila ben qe intimiteti i vertete, te duket jo-plotesuses.  2. Krijon Hiperaktivitet ndaj pornografise, qe do te thote se sa me shume te shihet, aq me i uritur do te jesh per te, vullneti i lire do ta humbasi fuqine, dhe gjithcka ka rendesi, eshte akoma me shume pornografi.

Shendeti mendor.

Krijimi i varesise.

Njerezit qe shikojne pornografi, ndahen ne dy kategori : 1. Ata qe e kane shprehi,  dhe 2. Ata qe e kane varesi. Nje nga dallimet e shprehise dhe varesise, eshte shpeshtesia e kryerjes se veprimit. Studimet thone se nje person i varur quhet ai qe sheh me shume se 8 here ne jave pornografi. Ata e kane quajtur pornografine “Droga e re e mijevjecarit”. Shume prej studiuesve sugjerojne me rezultat e tyre se pornografia krijon me shume varesi sesa drogerat si heroina apo kokaina, duke funksionuar njesoj si nje droge kimike, vetem se me me shume force pasi ajo infekton te menduarit dhe imponon veprime pasuese si mastrubimi apo edhe duke ndikuar ne semundje te tjera si “pedofilizmi”.

-Te transformon.

Shume njerez qe shohin pornografi, do te thonin qe ata kurre nuk do te abuzonin nje femije te mitur, por ne fakt, duke pare pornografi, ata mundesojne krijuesit e pornografise per te shkuar tej  e me tej, me krijimin dhe diversitetin e saj. Ka rreth 100.000 web-site zyrtare qe ofrojne pamje seksuale me femije te mitur. Shume prej pedofileve te arrestuar, kane listuar ne deshmite e tyre, se pornografia ka qene nje varesi e tyre qe ne vogeli, dhe me kalimin e kohes kishte evoluar ne menyra me brutale, pasi uria qe rritej cdo dite e me shume, i detyroi per ti provuar ne te vertete ato qe kishin pare. Gjithashtu, sa me shume pornografi te konsumohet nga njeriu, aq me i hapur dhe kurioz do te ndihet ai, per te pare lloje te ndryshme pornografie , (si pornografia homseksuale apo pornografia zoophilie). Statistika te ndryshme tregojne se nje perqindje e konsiderueshme e homoseksualeve, pohojne se te parit pornografi homoseksuale, ka qene faktori numer 1 ne ndikimin e kthimit te tyre ne gei, apo lezbike.

Shkaterrimi i imazhit tend per seksin.

Pornografia eshte nje genjeshter. Videot pornografike jane te ndertuara nga profesioniste filmash. Ajo eshte e krijuar per te qene nje biznes terheqes, i kompletuar, per ta kenaqur klientin. Cdo aspekt ne te eshte fallco. Nuk ka dashuri midis aktoreve. Pornografia portretizon nje imazh te gabuar per intimitetin midis ciftit. Transformon perceptimin per seksin. Marrdhenia seksuale u eshte dhene njerezve per qellime te shenjta, riprodhuese dhe kenaqsie. Ajo na u dha si nje pikture perfekte nga Zoti, por njeriu e zhgarraviti, e grisi dhe e ndoti.

-Shkaterron martesat.

Nje bashkeshort qe gjen ngushellim te imazhet jo reale te pornografise, eventualisht do te filloje te humbas cdo ndjenje per bashkeshortin tjeter. Intimiteti martesor behet pak e me pak permbushes. Me kalimin e kohes ata do te ndalojne se pelqyeri njeri tjetrin, do te ndihen te vetmuar dhe martesa e tyre do te shkaterrohet. Dr, Jill Manning, per senatin e SH.B.A , deshmoi se “56% e ceshtjeve te divorceve permbanin interese *obsesive* per web-site pornografike”. Fakti i hidhur eshte se shume prej viktimave te pornografise vendosin qe te ndajne bashkeshortin e tyre, ne vend qe te heqin dore prej pornografise.

-Shkakton degradimin e imazhit femres/mashkullit

Vlera e femrave dhe meshkujve do te vazhdoje te bjere per mendjet e njerezve qe shohin pornografi. Shikimi i saj nga meshkujt promovon degradimin e femres. Ajo shihet si nje objekt, i perdorur vetem per qellime seksuale, te cilen mund ta trajtosh si te duash vetem per te marre kenaqsine per te cilen ti lengon. Fatkeqsisht, trilogjia e famshme Best Seller e “Fifty Shades of Grey”, po ndikon cdo dite e me shume ne mendjet e lexuesve te saj. Rreth 100 milione kopje jane te shitura kudo ne bote, dhe kohet e fundit libri u cilesua ne 10-shen me te shitur te New York Times, gazetes me te famshme ne SH.B.A . Libri i E.L.James mund ta kete bere ate multi-milionere, por ajo ka ndihmuar ne vete degradimin e mendjeve te cdo  lexuese femer, pasi libri tregon anen “perverse dhe kafsherore” te seksit, duke mashtruar cdo femer lexuese, me nuanca sado-mazokiste, qe mesa duket, autorja amerikane qenka me e interesuar per ti percjelle imazhin e gabuar te seksit cdo lexuesi te saj.

Asgje nuk do te ndryshoje, nese NE vete nuk fillojme te ndryshojme qendrimin tone ndaj pornografise. Deshira ime per cdokend qe e lexon kete shkrim, eshte qe te nxitet “urrejtja” ndaj ketij problemi kaq grabitqar dhe te pameshirshem. Te sfidoj ta hapesh kete teme, pershembull ne kafe diten tjeter, me miqte e tu te mire. Mund te ndihmoni njeri tjetrin duke keshilluar per te hequr dore njehere e mire. Ju mund te ndikoni ne nje ndryshim qe mund te shpetoje nje martese ne te ardhmen.

How Pornography Destroys You

You are reading the second of a 2-part article on the dangers of pornography, by guest blogger Christian Mucaj. Christian is a 19-year-old follower of Jesus from Albania. He studies sociology at the University of Tirana.
You are reading the second of a 2-part article on the dangers of pornography, by guest blogger Christian Mucaj. Christian is a 19-year-old follower of Jesus from Albania. He studies sociology at the University of Tirana.

How Pornography Destroys You

By Christian Mucaj

In my first post, “Pornography – The Sin with Claws”, I gave a very brief presentation of pornography as a modern, global problem, as well as God’s view of pornography and why He has prohibited it.

In this article, I will discuss the main reasons why pornography is harmful to its users, from the aspect of mental health as well as physical and social relationships. If you are a Christian and suffer from the use of pornography, you need to stop immediately! Ephesians 5:3 says, But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints,” Paul rebuked the believers in Ephesus, because they had mixed with all kinds of filthy sexual sins, which are listed in other verses of chapter 5. There is therefore no excuse whatsoever for viewing pornography; it is a very aggressive and shameful sin which must be handled carefully as restoration is not easy. Repenting from the use of pornography is sometimes a long and difficult process, but I would have to write another article dealing with this.

Physical Health

– Neurological effects.

Experts have discovered that pornography causes social anxiety, depression, performance anxiety, and obsessive mental disorders. A renowned physiologist named Gary Wilson concluded in an experiment called “The Great Porn Experiment” that pornography causes many effects in the brain. Viewing pornography releases dopamine (the hormone that controls pleasure), and if more dopamine than needed is released, its natural level is suppressed. The result is two-fold: 1) Physical changes to the brain, causing a numbness that makes true intimacy seem unfulfilling; and 2) a “hyper-activity” towards pornography is created, such that once it is viewed, so much the greater is the hunger for more of it; the subject’s willpower is weakened and lost; and all that matters anymore is more pornography.


Mental Health – Creating Addiction

People who view porn fall into two categories: 1.) Those for whom it is a habit; and 2) those who have grown dependent upon it .One of the differences between habit and addiction is the frequency with which the action is practiced. Studies show that a person who views porn more than eight times per week would be considered “addicted”. Pornography has been called “The New Drug of the Millennium”. Many researchers suggest in their findings that pornography creates more dependency than drugs like heroin or cocaine, and mimics a chemical drug in the way it functions – only with more force when it infects the thinking and leads to subsequent life-dominating sins such as masturbation and “pedophilia”.

– Porn changes you.

Many people who view pornography will say that they would never abuse a minor, but in fact, while watching porn, they enable its manufacturers to go further and further in its content and diversity. There are approximately 100,000 official websites that purvey sexual depictions of minors (“kiddie porn”). Many arrested pedophiles have recorded in their testimonies that pornography had been an addiction of theirs from an early age. Over time, it had evolved in a more brutal manner because their craving increased every day and drove them to act out in reality what they had viewed. Likewise, as much more as pornography is consumed by people, so much more the curiosity is opened to feel and view different types of pornography (such as homosexual porn or bestiality). Various statistics show that a significant percentage of homosexuals state that gay porn was the number 1 factor in impacting them to turn to the gay or lesbian lifestyle.

– Destruction of your image of sex.

Pornography is a lie. Pornographic videos are built by professional filmmakers. It is designed to be a completely alluring business in order to satisfy the customer. Every aspect about it is fake. There is no love between the actors. Pornography portrays a wrong image for intimacy between couples. It perverts perceptions about sex. The gift of sexual relationship was given to people for a holy purpose, both reproductive and pleasure. It was given to us by God as a perfect picture, but man has torn, defaced, and polluted it.

– Porn destroys marriages.

A husband who takes comfort in the unrealistic images of pornography will eventually begin to lose any feelings of attraction towards his spouse. Marital intimacy becomes less and less fulfilling. As time goes on, the spouses will stop feeling affection for each other; begin to feel lonely; and their marriage will be destroyed. Dr. Jill Manning, of the US Senate, testified that “Fifty-six percent of divorce cases included ‘obsessive’ interest in pornographic websites”. The bitter fact is that many of the victims of pornography decide to share their spouse, rather than refrain from pornography.

– Porn degrades the female/male image.

The value of both women and men will continuously drop in the minds of people who view porn. Its male viewers promote the degradation of females. She is seen only as an object, to be used for sexual purposes, whom you can treat as you wish – only in order to take the pleasure which you crave. Unfortunately, the bestseller trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey” is affecting the minds of its readers more every day. Around 100 million copies are for sale around the world, and recently the book was ranked in 10th place by the New York Times, the most famous newspaper in the USA. E.L. James’ book may have made her a multi-millionaire, but it has helped in degrading the minds of every female reader, after the book shows the “perverse and bestial” side of sex. It is defrauding every female reader with sado-masochistic nuances; presumably the American author was more interested in conveying the wrong image of her gender to every one of her readers.
I challenge you to open this topic with your close friends, for example, over coffee one day. You could bring about a change that might save a marriage in the future.

Pornography – The Sin with Claws

Mucaj_Eng
You are reading the first of a 2-Part guest post on the dangers of pornography, written by Christian Mucaj. Christian is a 19-year-old follower of Jesus from Albania. He studies sociology at the University of Tirana.

Pornography – The Sin with Claws 

by Christian Mucaj

E lexoni artikullin në shqip ketu 

This is not the first time that I’ve written about pornography, and I don’t believe that it will be the last. The reason that I’m again writing about it is that these days, this problem is spreading and its roots run deep within each individual who has grown dependent on it.

Viewing pornography in today’s society is considered perfectly normal since almost everyone has internet access in their homes, their cellphones, or internet centers. It is a given fact that every child in today’s society is exposed daily, deliberately or inadvertently, to pornographic images on the Internet or other media. This is from advertising, modern films or video clips or material containing sexual elements. Despite Albanian parents’ abilities to stop and block the child from any possible contact with pornographic material, the result has always been that the child would find a way to view porn due to its extensive global reach. From Digitalbi in the year 2000 (for many of my friends), to home Internet; to recent years when mobile phones with Internet access have become common. [Editor’s note: Digitalbi was a cable TV package with two password-protected channels that featured pornographic movies. The password was very easy to figure out. “That was the first presentation of us kids with porn movies,” Mucaj said.]

What is pornography?

Pornography is depicted sexual material, with the individual’s sexual arousal as its primary goal. A hundred billion dollar business has grown out of this, and it is increasing every day. For every click that is made on their sites, they profit. On the Internet, 1 in 8 searches is connected to erotic content. Presently, being a porn actor is legal work in many US states, and one is paid several times more than a teacher or a policeman. So, in essence, you are making someone rich, in exchange for a few minutes of viewing pornographic images.

Why is God against pornography?

In the Bible, there are no concrete verses that speak directly about pornography, as the term didn’t yet exist – although there were other “art forms” similar to porn dating back to that time which depicted sexual imagery. See here for more clear facts: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_erotic_depictions)

However, we can draw a clear conclusion in the face of other problems which can clearly be applied to the problem of pornography. Let’s look at some applicable verses:

  • Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (NASB)
  • 1 Corinthians 6:18: “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.”

As we see, the text says “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  When porn, nudity and sexual material is viewed, not only do we feel lust and greed, but lust and greed are given more opportunity to enter our heart and mind, always making us more and more withdrawn. This is clearly sin. The Bible strictly prohibits sex between two unmarried persons (as is usually depicted in pornographic videos).

Likewise, the Bible strictly prohibits homosexuality and lesbianism, whereas in fact these types of relations make up a large percentage of pornographic material. In addition, the Bible categorically forbids exhibitionism (the display of nudity). Well, if we try to justify nakedness by saying “it is not porn”, the argument doesn’t stand because, again, such displays are wrong and encourage one to sin in his mind (as seen in Matthew 28 above). Someone may try to justify it with the fact that nudity is called “art”, but nudist art is completely different from photographed nudity. In art, the nude form is considered a work of beauty; whereas in pornography, the nude form is considered an ‘object’ for the purposes of greed and feeding the sexual appetite.

Conclusion

If you have not yet viewed pornography, stay far away. If you have occasionally been exposed to it, I counsel you not to look at it again; and if you look at it regularly I urge you to stop for many reasons I will list in the next post. Pornography is nothing compared to the liberating joy you can have through surrendering in prayer to God. In fact, no sin compares to the love God has in order to heal us.

No one is perfect. You are not sick! Every second, God is calling you to purify your mind and body from any impurities, so do not hesitate. Decide to be clean today. If you need help, I am ready to talk with you; to discuss things together; and help you to invite Jesus to cleanse you. This may also be your pastor if you are a member of a church, but you should know that everything lies in your desire to be a better person and closer to God. No one likes to be imprisoned!