Killing Anxiety


For a Christian, anxious thinking is illogical thinking.  

When a Christian is anxious, he is assigning more weight, more power, to his problem than to God.  This is, after all, the God He professes is sovereign and who He claims loves him.  And yet here this Christian is, worried and nervous and agitated and irritable.  

This is why Jesus commands His disciples not to be anxious in Matthew 6.  He designates anxeity a lack of faith.  Anxiety in a Christian is doubt in Yahweh.  My anxiety is a defect of trust in my heart.  

When it plagues a Christian, anxiety peppers his mind with questions and dreads that are each threaded through and through with doubt in the goodness and sovereignty of God.  

What will I do?  

What if __________ happens?  

But we can’t live without _________!

How am I supposed to do all this?

When I’m fearful and fretful about a job or a health issue or a relationship, I’m indicating that my heart believes that thing is more in control than the God of Jesus, the Lord of my heart, is.  If I’m anxious, then in my mind I’m assigning more power and authority to the problem than the Bible says it really has.  

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. 

Matthew 6:25-34

A Christian who’s anxious is giving more gravity to the thing he’s anxious about than he is to God.  In that sense, anxiety is like a check engine light in a car.  It can let me know that there’s a probelm under the hood:  A misfire in my faith. 

But by taking my mind captive and putting it under the Gospel of God and the Christian story, I can start to think of my problems and my sufferings accurately:  As trials that passed through the hands of my good Father in order to make me more like His Son.  By casting my problems and pains and fears in the light of the Gospel (hint:  by reading and believing my Bible daily), I’ll remember and believe that Yahweh is more of a determinative factor in my finances, my physical ailments, my marriage, my parenting, and my vocation than any problem I might be worried about is.  This God is good, and I can trust Him.  I should trust Him.  

Listen, for the anxious Christian, faith can always make strong what worry has weakened. Trust in Christ can restore all that anxiety has stolen.  

When we rightly view our Abba as having far more clout than our problems do, our sinful, foolish, illogical anxieties will flicker out.  Because after all, they needed doubt to breathe and smolder, and like a fire in a dies in a vacuum, anxieties can’t survive more than a few moments in the presence of healthy Christian faith.  

On Why I Believe In Church Membership

  

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 5:1-5

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 

Hebrews 13:7

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body… If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’

1 Corinthians 12:14-16, 19-21

Why do I believe in church membership?  There are probably a dozen big reasons, but I’ll summarize a few of the foundational ones in a sentence:

Because I am a part of the Christian Body of Christ, and that Body is in turn made up of individual, local bodies of Christians who are accountable to and for one another.  

This is a normative thing I see in the New Testament.  Christians are spoken of and spoken to as integral parts of individual, local churches.  Churches whom they are accountable to and churches whom they are accountable for.  So at some point I should no longer merely be visiting a Christian body; I should be one of its eyes, fingers, or ears.  If I’ve been born again, then I’ve been grafted into Christ’s body.  I should live like it.  I should be grafted in to a local body.

And this all makes sense, guys.  There’s a reason why we don’t see a lot of isolated, disconnected Christians in the New Testament.  God is saving a people, and so I know that community is both to His glory and necessary for our good.  I can’t be who I’m called to be in Christ if I’m not being prayed for and discipled by and even admonished by other Christians.  And I can’t be who God would have me be if I refuse to do the same myself for others.  If I try to live the Christian life apart from a local church I’m doing something that is disobedient, dangerous, and selfish.  

I know the pains and costs that come from being covenanted to other people.  There are great risks that come with it, and sometimes great wounds.  But our Lord knew those risks, too.  He knew them in the Upper Room as Judas Iscariot dipped his bread with Him, and He knew them when Peter forsook Him the night before the Crucifuxion.  I’m confident He knows them when I sin against Him.  And yet He chose and chooses to wed Himself to a people.  To be a Savior of the church.  Our Savior counted the cost, and chose to love and ransom and cleanse a sinful people.  

And because I love Him, I want to love what He loves.  

I believe in church membership because I need to be what I have been called to be:  A working part of the Bride and Body of this Jesus Christ.  

And so I want to give myself to her as He gave Himsef for her.  

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. 

Ephesians 5:25-30

Letter from Jesus: Laodicea

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It’s dumb and deadly to get comfort from anything more than we do from Jesus.

Jesus’ last letter to a 1st century church in the Roman province of Asia through the apostle John reads this way:

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

The Christians in this fellowship sought comfort and joy. We all do. It is a universal human trait to seek happiness, even if only in pain or self-pity. We all seek comfort and joy, even if what makes us comfortable is pain.

Now God is clear, both in Jesus Christ and in His Scripture, that joy, happiness, eternal gladness, and meaning can only be found in Him. So we are made to delight and enjoy something, just like we want to, but that something is God. When we love some other thing more, when we seek our ultimate happiness or comfort or meaning in a piece of created stuff (however beautiful), we are sinning against the One worthy treasure. Against the Kings who graciously made us to enjoy His goodness.

The Laodiceans apparently loved stuff.

They loved what dollar bills could buy more than what no bank account contains enough to cover.

At the end of the book of Revelation Jesus says, “let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” But the members of the church in the city of Laodicea, by and large, loved either clothes or expensive trips or nice wine or whatever else it was their ancient Asian money could buy them. They loved things more than Jesus Christ. They delighted in possessions or earthly pleasure more than in Him. Were excited by things more than the Savior.

Now, there are various ways God condemns idolatry (worshiping anything/anyone but Him or loving anything/anyone more than Him), but He does always condemn it. God’s chosen leader Moses commanded that idolatry not happen, the Old Testament prophets said God’s judgment would fall upon Judah and Israel for idolatry, and Jesus finally said that the allegiance of the heart had to be to Him above all.

If we’re excited about something else more than we are about Jesus, then we have something to repent of.

Very few of us recognize this as sin. I myself went years without thinking of loving TV or the weekend or even really good things like my wife more than Jesus as sin. But here Jesus reminds me and everyone else who follows Him that if we think we don’t need anything because we have stuff then we are sickening to Him. We make the risen King Jesus want to spiritually spit us out.

So what do we do?

Repent. Turn. Ask the Jesus who can change hearts and the Spirit who can make spiritually dead people alive to see the triune God (the God who is Father, Holy Spirit, and Son) as better. To cause us to want to buy His refined gold instead of the world’s sexy trinkets and trophies. We don’t just need what Jesus gives, we also need new eyes to see that we need it. And only God can make you love God.

But the encouragement Jesus gave Laodicea, and us, was and is that the idolatry doesn’t mean that it’s all lost. Our idolatry does not necessarily mean that He is certainly spitting us out right now. He says that He disciplines those He loves, and that anyone who lets Him in His friend.

So let’s turn our backs towards our greed and our faces toward the good Friend who loves us. Let’s ignore the clamoring in our flesh for more things and earthly pleasures, and ask God to make us long for the home we’re truly made for. Let’s be thankful for good things but never worship them, reserving that instead for the only One whom it’s due. Remember what the angel tells John in this same book in the last chapter:

“I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.'”