PART 4 GOD’S ABUNDANT LIFE
PART 4 GOD’S ABUNDANT LIFE
WHAT INHIBITS THE BELIEVER FROM EXPERIENCING GOD’S ABUNDANT LIFE?
While there might be more reasons than the ones presented here, I think that these four are the most prominent or intrusive in terms of inhibiting a believer from experiencing God’s abundant life. But before we take a look at them, I’d like to tell you a story.
After my conversion, I became overwhelmingly saturated with God’s abundant life in my soul for three full days. Unfortunately, this experience of God’s presence would soon wane, and I was once more impacted by the feelings and thoughts which had characterized my mind and soul when I was an unbeliever.
So, what was it that had stopped my life from being impacted by God’s fellowship?
Over time, God directed me to an assembly of believers where His presence (anointing) was evident and impactful. However, it seemed like every time I attended worship and praise services and subsequently left to go home, instead of thinking thoughts about the message which I had just heard, I was back to thinking about worldly thoughts and imaginations. The awareness of God’s abundant life permeating through my being was no longer apparent. I was back into the prison of mental and emotional captivity.
I didn’t understand what the divine prescription for my spiritual dilemma was but as time went on, the teachings by the pastor unveiled to me what was causing my spiritual distress and what would uplift me from it. So, let’s take a look at the four things that were inhibiting me from experiencing God’s abundant life on a consistent basis.
A. The Sin Nature
Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
The first one is described in this verse by the word flesh. This word in Greek means the sin nature. Every one of us is born with it. Some might also call it the fallen nature. What characterizes this nature?
This is a nature that is void of the influences and promptings of the Holy Spirit. It yearns after desires which are both morally good and bad. Some of these inclinations, passions, or propensities can be more aware to us than others. For a better term, these lusts can incite an individual of whom they are residing of wanting to commit a certain act or actions which they feel compelled or drawn to perform.
B. Personal Associations
1 Corinthians 15:33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
The words evil communications means don’t have close contact or companionship with those who deny the resurrection of Christ. The word corrupt could mean ruin. And the word manners describe an excellent character or sound faith. This is a difficult area to discern. Be careful when listening to those who continually deny the absolute doctrines of the faith.
1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
Likewise, stop associating with fellow believers who habitually practice sinful actions, such as fornication (sexual immorality), covetous (greedy), idolator (gives homage to idols), railer (slanderer), drunkard, and an extortioner (taking something from others by abusing one’s authority).
All of us have fellow Christians, religious acquaintances, friends, relatives, people we work with, etc., that are saved or unsaved. And as such, some may operate in a mindset that is earthly, sensual, and devilish. So, be on our guard. If we’re not careful, our walk with God could be severely impacted depending on the extent of our involvement with them.
C. Demonic Influences
I think that for most of us, we’re unaware of the forces of evil working against our behalf. And if they are, how would we be able to recognize them?
John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
Some commentators ascribe the word thief to the Devil. One of the meanings of this word in Greek is that he’s described as the thief of souls; he whose pretension to be a way to God is based on no inward and eternal reality.30 He advocates any pseudo-spiritual avenue, which would advocate that there are many avenues to God other than responding to the gospel of Christ. If perhaps an unbeliever responds to this gospel, then there’s another verse that tells us what else the Devil and his minions will try to do next.
2 Timothy 2:26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
The Devil’s modus operandi is to take them captive to do his will by using a snare. A snare? The preceding verse indicates what this snare could be.
25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
There were those in the church who oppose themselves. In other words, they were in disagreement with the doctrine taught. They were instructed to repentance. Repentance from what? Here repentance means the giving up teachings and doctrines that are contrary to the gospel, together with a corresponding change in behavior.31 So, now we know what the words snare of the devil were all about.
How many of us have come out from a religion that was contrary to the doctrines pertaining to the gospel, such as the deity of Christ, the incarnation of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, etc.? And what is it about our behavior that we don’t want to address? So, false teachings and inappropriate conduct are two of the snares of the Devil.
With that said, hopefully, most of us won’t ascribe to him these avenues in our Christian walk. And as such, his deceptive and destructive ways will be recognized by us and confronted by putting on the pertinent aspects of the whole armor of God.
Being religious could mean to try and please God in our own power with a fallen mindset. This could be as damaging to our spiritual walk as our sin nature. Why? This is because, in some instances, the teachings of the church that we’re attending might unintentionally support the thoughts and feelings that are perpetuated from the sin nature. What I mean by this is instead of addressing worldly affections, the emphasis is placed on obedience to a religious format of dos and don’ts.
Members are instructed to do certain things, which the leadership says will please God. They might advocate that they avoid alcohol consumption. They might insist that they tithe ten percent of their income. They might advocate that they abstain from committing certain overt sins. They might strongly recommend that they stop going to movie theatres. They might even state that everyone must help those who are less fortunate.
I’m not saying that every one of these actions is wrong. What I’m saying is, in this environment, there’s little or no awareness as to how a believer can address their worldly thoughts and motivations. While their actions might change and appear godly, this doesn’t mean that how they think about themselves, others, or the trials of life will be any different than when they were unsaved.
Doing good works doesn’t necessarily translate into experiencing God’s abundant life. It just means that our behavior has changed to try and live up to what is considered proper church conduct without operating in the divine life that God has given us. There’s a verse of Scripture that illustrates what we’re talking about here.
2 Timothy 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
There are those who will have a form (an outward appearance) of godliness (an inward living power32; the life of God in their souls33) while denying the power (denying that such life or power is here to be experienced or known34) of such. We’re told that there are those in the church who either are void of the indwelling Spirit or, if He resides within them, they have no idea how to access His abundant life.
This is where I was in my walk with God. He had come into my life. I had experienced His beautiful presence, but I was still bound to my sin nature, bound to personal associations whose lives gravitated toward sinful thoughts, words, and actions, and bound to religious practices that had been instilled in me from my youth.
So, how was I to break free from these hindrances and learn how to walk in the Spirit?
This is what we’ll take a look at in the following chapter. Are you ready to find out how I was able to break free?
But before we go there, I want to leave you with an article about how damaging religion is. I chose this hindrance because if we’re involved with sound teachings and a Spirit-filled church, we’ll learn how to address our sin nature and our associations with other people. And we’ll also learn how to address religious abuse that can come in many forms and which this commentary is all about.
Does it mean that the church leaders who exhibit such aren’t born again?
No, but what it could mean are a few different things. It could mean that the church teachings don’t instruct the members on how to grow spiritually. It could mean that church doctrine is based on misinterpreting Scripture. It could also mean that false teachings are propagated to ensure allegiance from its members, to exercise control over them, and to support ungodly behavior. Ultimately, if the majority of the abuses listed are predominant in the church you are attending, then it should be pretty obvious that religion is at its core.
25 SIGNS OF SPIRITUAL ABUSE
I don't like writing this kind of post.
It's so sad to me that we [even have to] describe what spiritual abuse looks like.
When I first started serving in vocational [ministry,] I always messed up (or so I thought). So many [times,] I thought I wasn't submissive. I asked God to help me be a woman of grace in the midst of my independent ideas. I begged God to make me [meeker], [kind,] and gentle.
Then I learned that what was happening was actually spiritual abuse. Is that even a thing? No … these people that know the Word of God better than me, that went to seminary or [had God-blessed platforms,] wouldn't be abusive. Dismiss the idea. Keep working on me. I must be dying to self.
If you've gone through spiritual abuse from someone in authority over you [or even from a dominant friend] you may feel like [you’re] all alone. You may wonder if [you’re] crazy, being [oversensitive,] or making too much of the things that rub you wrong. You may be the only person who sees or knows the truth. If you share it, no one may believe you. But it doesn't make it any less true. You may endure persecution. You may lose friends or even credibility.
This is especially hard when it's a [high-ranking] leader. They seem amazing until they are [exposed,] or you confront them. They try to make it your fault. Or shame you into thinking [you’re] the one who is unhealthy. And you have no one to bring it to because they don't have anyone over them. [So, they’re] allowed to continue deceiving people. And that is so hard to manage in your own thoughts and emotions.
In the course of [four weeks,] I learned about [four] Christian leaders I knew personally … or have sat under their teaching … who have been exposed [to] various areas of misconduct. Two were men who were more than inappropriate with their female [staff, which] is terrible in itself. But the common thread is that all of them were also bullies, [controlling,] and manipulative with people.
That is what spiritual abuse is. Control. Manipulation. Bullying. It may be physical as well, but I'm not going to address that in this particular post.
[I’ve] had to guard my mind [lately,] too … At my core, [I’m] a justice person. I want to defend my friends. I want to warn others. It's so hard to be still and know [He’s] God in these situations. But the best thing I can do [is give] you a list of warning signs.
I want to highlight [twenty-five] signs of spiritual [abuse,] so you know [you’re] not alone. And after this list, [I’ll] share some brief tips on how to get through it all in a way that honors God, [yourself,] and others.
Signs of Spiritual Abuse
- Spiritually abusive leaders twist the truth to make themselves look better. And you end up [questioning,] if you heard them correctly or were misinterpreting something.
- Spiritually abusive leaders demand respect instead of earning it.
- Spiritually abusive leaders betray your confidence and share your [information] with others.
- Spiritually abusive leaders say you need to give up your free time for [Jesus’] sake. And shame you if you don't agree.
- Spiritually abusive leaders don’t allow themselves to be held accountable or corrected. And bully anyone who disagrees.
- Spiritually abusive leaders avoid your request for conflict resolution but are quick to confront you. If you try to bring up things they are twisting, [you’re] seen as unteachable or [blame shifting].
- Spiritually abusive leaders make you feel you can’t change [churches,] or you’ll miss what God has for you.
- Spiritually abusive leaders demand their way over your free will. And scare you with threats to your reputation if you don’t comply. Or shame you by bringing up your past failures.
- Spiritually abusive leaders demand to be served instead of [serving].
- Spiritually abusive leaders silence their critics by making them the bad guy.
- Spiritually abusive leaders don’t give you credit for your ideas and successes but take the credit for themselves.
- Spiritually abusive leaders bully, [shame,] or tease you into breaking your communicated boundaries.
- Spiritually abusive leaders dismiss you when you no longer serve their [needs].
- Spiritually abusive leaders accuse you of stealing their message when you grow beyond them.
- Spiritually abusive leaders gaslight you into thinking you are crazy.
- Spiritually abusive leaders can’t admit fault but use the knowledge of [others’ faults] to cause fear and intimidation.
- Spiritually abusive leaders have their minions do their dirty work and isolate, intimidate or manipulate those who don’t comply.
- Spiritually abusive leaders surround themselves with the elite and don’t interact with the sheep.
- Spiritually abusive leaders use their charisma to create a cult-like following that would defend them when they are questioned.
- Spiritually abusive leaders create a culture of a popular inner circle. If someone raises a [concern,] they are put out of the [clique,] and other inner circle people are afraid to speak up.
- Spiritually abusive leaders surround themselves with only people who praise them, fear them or submit to them.
- Spiritually abusive leaders convince people they can’t understand the deep things of God and need their help.
- Spiritually abusive leaders don't help you overcome sin in your life but discard you if you make them look like a bad leader.
- Spiritually abusive “leaders and churches view those who bring up legitimate issues as enemies. Those who were once friends/allies swiftly become enemies once a concern is raised. Sometimes these folks are banished, told to be silent, or shamed into submission.” Mary DeMuth
- Spiritually abusive leaders lie without a conscience. They see their platform as worth protecting for the sake of the gospel.
What to do if you are under spiritual abuse
My advice to those who have been seeking my counsel would fill a book. But here are a few brief things [I’d] like to say [to those] who are facing these kinds of trials. I truly believe that love will win. And spiritually abusive leaders will ALWAYS be exposed – eventually.
In some instances, it's clear that you need to leave. In cases of sexual abuse, you need to go to the authorities. [I’ve] heard of way too many cases where criminal activity was covered up by [churches,] and you need to know it's [okay] to leave. Other than that, you need to make sure [you’re] following the right way to confront an [issue,] according to Matthew 18. Let God show you what He sees. Find out what is your responsibility and what isn't.
Seek wise counsel.
If you're on [the staff of a church,] it can be a different scenario and much more complicated. [So,] seek wise counsel. Even with spiritual abuse, [there’s] a right way to handle it and a wrong way. You want to be sure you are in a good place in your heart so you can approach even the spiritually abusive person in love. I'd offer one word of warning … depending on what level of abuse it is … they may not be safe to confront alone or at all.
Move on well.
If you choose to leave the situation or [church,] remember those who don't believe you or are still supporting the abusive person aren't those you are called to walk with anyway. End well by not gossiping or sharing your pain with those who may stay. It will only bring more division to the body. Give people who don't understand what you went through the grace to be where God's called them to be.
Find your inner peace.
The truth always comes out. Guard your [mind,] and don't let it take up space anymore. Guard your words and speak the truth with humility, grace, and mercy. Give God every reason to defend you. Think upon things that are lovely and good (Phil 4). [You’ll] become what you think [about,] so use your thoughts wisely. Don't let bitterness take over. Forgive and find peace.
Pray for them.
[Remember,] it may not be known to the masses yet because God is still giving them time to repent. Be like Stephen and pray for those who are stoning you – they may end up converting like [Saul,] who became the [awesome] Apostle Paul. And at some point – it's ok to not pray for them at all. [There’s] no need to [stay] emotionally tied to a place God released you from.
Don't feel bad.
Be prepared that they may not repent or change … and if they are exposed … it's not your fault. Their choices put them in that position. Not you. Even if you feel like you should've done more, remember God wants you to manage [yourself]. He isn't in a pickle because you weren't strong enough to stand up to the abuse. Because … when it comes as a surprise … no one is strong enough.
If you think you are under a spiritually abusive authority, find someone experienced to talk to. Often times confronting that person won’t make it better right [away,] and you need a strategy. You need to decide if it's worth confronting or not. If you confront [it,] you need to be prepared for their response. If you decide to walk [away,] you still need to be prepared for their response. Having someone help you walk through it will benefit you in more ways than you can imagine right now.35
New Covenant Ministries - Ministerios NuevoPacto
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Harbor Church, Block Island
30The Pulpit Commentary Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006, 13 December 2021 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
31 UBS New Testament Handbook Series Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005. BIBLESOFT. WEB.
13 December 2021 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
32 The Pulpit.
34 Adam Clarke