Five Questions to Ask to Determine Whether You are in a Spiritual Self Beat-Down
For the last several weeks we’ve been looking at the total worthlessness of engaging in spiritual self beat-downs. This is the last week for this series of articles. In concluding them, I want to give you five things to ask yourself to determine whether or not you are engaging in a spiritual self beat-down or in genuinely constructive fellowship with God.
The first question is this. Is this leading you to confess specific sin to God? One of the hallmarks of a spiritual self beat-down is that specific sin is not being confessed to God. Instead either some sort of spiritual insult of your condition is being rehearsed for your self-non-edification or you are dealing in generalities. An example of this would be God saying you are bad – or that you are a complete failure – or you’re a doofus for doing the things you’ve done. The living God, as He works through the Holy Spirit, convicts of specific offenses. He does not convict in generalities. Therefore, if you are spending your time in generalities or in heaping spiritual insults on yourself, know that this is self working, not the Holy Spirit. If you, on the other hand, are confessing specific sin – saying the same thing God’s Word says about those sins – that is the work of God. Look at the confessions of God’s people in Psalm 51 and in Ezra. As God worked, His people knew the specific ways that they had sinned against God – and were confessing them specifically.
Second question: Is this leading you to turn to God, expecting to be received lovingly by Him? A great example of this is the prodigal son. The father in this story is a type of our heavenly Father. The wayward son had turned to his father already in his heart – admitted to sin within himself – and was on his way to confess his sin to his father. What did he find as he got home? Did he find a father who received him lovingly? Did he find himself shut out and not received? Did he come to his father – only to get the cold shoulder after he confessed his wrongs? What he found was probably pretty shocking. His father was waiting for him – and when he saw him returning, ran to embrace him and greet him. Once he confessed his sin – he didn’t get the cold shoulder. He was lovingly received by his father – who subsequently threw a party celebrating his return. Too often we want to impose on God how we might receive someone else who has hurt our feelings. We hear their confession – but want to make them pay a little more for how they’ve hurt us. That is completely contrary to God’s heart and how He receives repentant sinners. He runs to us and embraces us – already knowing the change in heart that is about to issue forth in a verbal confession of sin. How does He receive us? He does so with rejoicing, with a party to celebrate repentance, and with an embrace that does not require some additional payment commensurate with the annoyance we’ve been in the past. That may be what some humans require – but God responds with grace, forgiveness, and love!
The third question is similar to the second. Is this leading you to experience forgiveness from God? The answer we get from our spiritual self beat-downs is this – eventually. He forgives me – but only after I’ve had a good quiet time. He forgives me – but only after I show that I’m going to be good, by acting right for a few hours, days, weeks, months, etc. What God says is that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. That is what is written in 1 John 1:9 – and God meant it. In the moment we confess our sin – in that moment He has forgiven our sin, no longer counting it against us. He does not hold grudges for our behavior – not even partial ones. His forgiveness and restoration to fellowship are instant! There is no required testing period where we have to behave much better. There is no confession plus penance in doing some religious stuff first. There is just forgiveness – full and complete – the moment we confess sin.
Is this leading you to live in expectancy of God’s blessing? Here is a hard one for most of us. How long after we’ve confessed sin are we in line for God’s blessing? If we see what God says in Scripture – it is immediate. We were out of fellowship due to our sin – but the moment we confess it to God – we are returned to fellowship and the blessing of God. Far too often Christians feel there is a period between getting right and getting back under his blessing. Just as forgiveness is immediate – so is the expectancy of blessing from Him. We cannot make God out to be mad and sullen – refusing to receive and bless us because, even though He has forgiven us – He still is pretty ticked about what we did in the first place. Remember . . . the Father received the prodigal immediately into his blessing – even after all he has done – all he has wasted – and all he did to shame the family name. Boy, you’d think God would make him pay for all this. But the truth of the matter is Christ Jesus paid for ALL OF IT – for ALL PEOPLE! Therefore as we come confessing sin – we are received with all the same astounding grace the prodigal was received.
The last question is this: Is this leading you to enjoy renewed fellowship and intimacy with God? Spiritual self beat-downs do not lead to renewed intimacy or fellowship. They lead to being able to talk – but it is talk where God is distant. He might say something like, “Oh, it’s you – wow, you are actually coming to talk to me?” There are numerous other ways we sadly impose ourselves on God with how we’ve been treated or treat others when we are offended or sinned against. We need to grasp something. God is NOT sarcastic with us! He does not take the “poor pitiful me” stance where He reacts with passive aggressive statements. This is a very sinful and sad representation of Him and His glory. He provided a payment for the full price of your sin. Because of this – and this alone – He hears your confession, forgives your sin, and restores you to full, complete, loving fellowship with Himself. That means that He will once again embrace intimacy and gracious fellowship with you – without you sitting in spiritual time-out for an hour or two after your confession.
What is the hallmark of God’s dealing with us when we’ve sinned? It is this – mercy and grace. First, He does not give us what we truly deserve for our sins. Second, He gives us what He Himself purchased with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ – GRACE! You may not want to give yourself grace as you come near Him to confess your sins. Know this though – that is your issue, not His. He hears, forgives, and restores – all by the grace that comes through Jesus Christ. Learn to receive that and humble yourself as His astounding love overwhelms you in its generous graciousness!