[This article is adapted from an article I wrote recently for a Christian magazine in Florida USA. It gives a brief overview of factors contributing to Mental Health.]
Good mental health? How is it possible? Our enemies in life have to be recognised and strategies adopted to give us victory over them. Well, what are the enemies in life that all humans face?
Amazingly we get one of the best explanations as to the enemies we all face as we look at the teaching in the Baptismal and Confirmation services of the Church of England (Anglican, Episcopal church.) The services are of course based on the biblical teaching on these subjects. In these services, three enemies of humans are recognised which need to be renounced as being dangers to us. They are, the World, the Flesh and the Devil. In the words of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer the wording is as follows: “DOST thou renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow nor be led by them?” Answer. “I renounce them all.”
How do these enemies seek to influence us, and how can we gain victory over them?
I]. THE ENEMY AROUND US. The World. The World And Its Influence On Us
Jesus spoke of “the world” as being the people who do not know God and who do not submit to Him. He warned His disciples that they would suffer misunderstanding and rejection by the world, “I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:18-19.
What is needed by humans is a trans-formation, not continued con-formation to the world’s values and ideas. St Paul wrote that humans can have new mind-sets. They need to have them in order to understand God’s will for humans. Rom 12:2. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
New ways of thinking can lead to new ways of behaving. Correct behaviour in the sight of God will prove to be good and acceptable and perfect in the experience of humans.
II]. THE ENEMY WITHIN US. The Flesh. Our Fallen Human Nature.
Some religious teachers asked Jesus a question about what makes humans impure. His answer shows that evil comes from within people, not just from their response to their external environment, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:20-23.
St Paul expressed the same truth in describing the characteristics of our fallen human nature, the flesh, as, “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these… .” Gal 5:19-21.
How can we have victory over the impulses of our fallen nature? By allowing God to fill us with His Spirit. Then and only then will the fruit of the Spirit be continually manifest in and through us. Gal 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” These characteristics remain as we remain open to His Spirit, as Paul describes in Gal 5:25 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Responding to His leading and to His empowering by His Spirit brings radical mental and behavioural changes to those who do it.
III]. THE ENEMY AGAINST US. The Devil.
Satan [the Evil One] has always been against God, His purposes and His people. He works through deception as he attacks the minds of humans with his lies. He is “diabolos [διάβολος] the word for “Devil” which means the “accuser.” He besieges the minds of humans with accusing thoughts. But three things are helpful in gaining victory over him.
i]. One is that he has power but it is limited power. He has been disarmed, “He [God] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Col 2:15. He may be like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour but you can “resist him, firm in your faith.”1 Pet 5:9.
ii]. The second is that his lies, deceptions and accusations can be overcome. How? By bringing our thought life into obedience to Christ, “We … take every thought captive to obey Christ”. 2 Cor 5:5. The Lord can free us from the power of the damaging thoughts and accusations Satan plants in our minds. It is wise to ask the Lord to help us discern the origin of the thoughts that come into our minds by handing them over to Him. He can help us by His Spirit to discern whether it is a thought from within ourselves which may be true, partly true or untrue; or whether it is from Satan who tries to sow lies and deceits as well as accusations against the people of God; or whether it is the Lord trying to get our attention. In the last case, what He puts in our minds is always in accord with His revealed truths in His word the Bible.
iii]. The third is that we can be assured of our identity in Christ when the accuser [or other humans he may use] try to tell us we are no good. All of us have had thoughts such as “You are not good enough!” “You are nothing and you will never amount to anything.” “You are just a hypocrite!” “How could God possibly use you in any way. You’re hopeless!” “You may call yourself a Christian but your life certainly doesn’t show it!” And so on!
Jesus doesn’t condemn us. He died for us. He was raised so we could be made right with God, “[believers] to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Rom 4:24-25. Not only that but at the present time He is interceding for us, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
We belong! To Him! We are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us!” Rom 8:39, as we keep on handing every aspect of our life over to Him.
Knowing AND acting on these truths will bring us into better mental health! Jesus said, “The truth will set you free” but it is only the truth that is acted on, that will bring us the peace of mind and the freedom we desire and need to have.
Blog No.270. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Friday 16th March 2018