Psukhē: An Introduction to Biblical Psychology
[3 October 2009]
Have you ever heard the expression, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste?” Do you know why this is true? There could be as many as 100 billion neurons (nerve cells) in your brain, totaling more than one quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) neural connections—and to think that the Lord God engineered that! Psychologists are scientists who study mental processes and behavior in order to better understand why we humans do the things we do. Unfortunately, most psychologists, like much of our world, ignore the greatest authority in regards to human nature: God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. In this four-part series entitled “Psukhē” (pronounced “su-kay,” Greek for “mind,” “soul,” from which the word “psychology” is derived), we discuss the human mind from a Scriptural point-of-view. The man-made discipline of psychology has limitations; God’s Word does not!
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To begin our discussion, let us look at this question: What does the Bible mean when it says Adam was “made in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27)? Of course, God was a Spirit and not a man, so this statement must be referring to something invisible, and not a physical resemblance. Adam in his original state was absolutely perfect: he had a brilliant mind, a complex seat of emotions, and a spirit that enabled him to communicate and fellowship with his Creator, the LORD God. Yes, the first man Adam was made in God’s image!
However, the Bible tells us that after the fall of Adam, man’s makeup changed drastically. In the day that sin entered man’s body and mind, mankind died spiritually, resulting in broken fellowship with the Lord. Over 900 years later, Adam died physically (Genesis 5:5). Because of our genetic link to Adam, we have inherited his sin nature, born spiritually dead, and this is why we are born enemies of God (Romans 8:6-8; Ephesians 2:1-3). Consequently, Genesis 5:3 says that we are made in “the likeness and image of Adam.” (The Lord Jesus Christ has given us the chance to be reconciled with God via His finished work of Calvary). The prophet Jeremiah (17:9) writes that our hearts are “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” As the Lord said in His earthly ministry, it is this wicked heart and it evil thoughts that precipitate (produce) our sins (Matthew 15:18-20; Mark 7:20-23).
God equipped us humans with a seat of emotions that respond to our environment. When God the Son became flesh, and dwelt among mankind, He cried, He felt righteous anger, He prayed in agony, and so on (Matthew 8:24,25; Mark 3:5; Luke 2:52; Luke 22:43,44; Hebrews 5:7,8; et al.). There is nothing wrong with emotions, and even anger is not sinful if properly handled and righteously justified (Matthew 5:22 KJV; Ephesians 4:26; cf. Christ’s righteous anger in Mark 3:5). The problem is that our sin nature has distorted our feelings and emotions. Emotions can exploit our circumstances, and deceive us by giving us a false view of reality. One example is when you a going through a period of great trouble, you may “feel” like God has abandoned you. However, we take it by faith that God’s Holy Spirit never leaves us if we are believers in Christ, regardless of whether or not we “feel” His presence (Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30).
Relying on our emotions instead of God’s Word is obviously unwise, but it can also be life threatening in some cases. One instance we may be extremely happy; the next moment we feel hopelessly depressed. People get so “down in the dumps” for so long, they may contemplate suicide. We cannot live our lives based on our feelings because our feelings change, sometimes instantaneously (God’s Word, on the other hand, never changes). If we let them, our emotions and feelings will cloud the truth of God’s Word. This is the very reason why we cannot depend on emotional highs, even in “worship” service (we focus on the emotions, and therefore lose sight of the Lord Jesus Christ). Unfortunately, many people today are placing too much emphasis on emotions in church services.
Next week, we will discuss how to manage your feelings and your emotions. We will discuss how you need to allow the Lord to “renew your mind.” This is the key to living the grace life that God has for you as a member of the Church the Body of Christ!
Psukhē II: Biblical Repentance
Shawn Brasseaux – firstname.lastname@example.org
[11 October 2009]
In our introduction to biblical psychology last week, we learned that human nature is evil. Our thought processes and actions are opposed to God. By default, we are lost sons of Adam, enemies of God from day 1. But, the Bible says that the solution to man’s sin problem is the God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, and His finished work on Calvary’s cross. Prior to each of us coming to the knowledge of salvation, we were serving the devil, “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1-3; cf. Colossians 1:13).
The only “wisdom” we had was that which we inherited from Adam, and that was foolishness. But, the Holy Spirit illuminated our darkened hearts with the “glorious light of the gospel of Christ,” and after we took that Gospel by faith, we became “a new creature” (2 Corinthians 4:3,4; 2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV). Just like the moment when we were saved, God changed our desires and thought processes, He must continually keep our minds from returning to those old, carnal thought processes. Now, in part II, we will look at biblical repentance.
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Remember, when we discussed the “Grace Lifers” and “Reflection” series weeks ago, we learned from the Scriptures that we believers have two natures. For a refresher, see Galatians 5:16,17. The indwelling Holy Spirit is opposed to our sin nature, and vice versa. As Paul said Romans chapter 7, he wanted to do right, but evil would always surface in his inner man. We still live in these unredeemed human bodies of sin, so we constantly feel the pull to go back to our old lifestyles that we had prior to salvation.
How can we have victory in our lives over temptations to sin if all we think about is sin? As the Bible would say, “repent!” Before we continue, we need a biblical, not a religious, definition of repentance. Consider Romans 12:2 KJV: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Now, see Ephesians 4:23 KJV: “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Biblical repentance is a “change in mind,” a “rethinking.” For instance, when God promises something, He will never break that promise because He will never change His mind (Romans 11:29).
As Christians, we can continue thinking the foolish thoughts that come naturally, or we can go to God’s Word and gain and apply His wisdom! The lost world around us is steeped in gross sin because all it knows is what comes natural. Lost people do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide and enlighten them. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12 KJV). The only source of true wisdom is God’s Word: our “wisdom” will always lead to death! Remember when Adam and Eve ate, how they “reasoned” it was okay to eat, despite what God told them? The result of their sin was death!
Let us look more at biblical repentance, as Paul wrote about it in 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 KJV:
“4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but might through God to the pulling down of strong holds;
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.”
Everything we learn in life must be evaluated on the basis of God’s Word. Ask yourself: Does the Bible support or refute this idea?
When we take God’s Word by faith, everything else—human viewpoint, philosophy, and tradition—takes a “back-seat” in our mind. God’s Word becomes our Final Authority: biblical repentance is your thought processes being conformed to God’s Word. According to Romans 12:2, once your mind is transformed with God’s Word, your life will have some drastic changes! The result of biblical repentance is your life bringing glory and honor to the Lord; you are no longer a servant of sin, but a servant of the Lord!
Human viewpoints such as philosophy and religious tradition are unreliable. The power of God can only be found in His written Word (the King James Bible), and it is this power that is needed to bring us to biblical repentance. Our thought processes must be enlightened with God’s Truth. How are we enlightened? When we study God’s Word, rightly divided, of course, the Holy Spirit will interpret the Scriptures for us: “Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things” (2 Timothy 2:7 KJV). Yes, you can understand God’s Word, without a seminary degree!!
“The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psalm 119:130 KJV). We need to be thinking on the Holy Scriptures as often as we can, so that the Holy Spirit can use them to work in and through us (1 Thessalonians 2:13). This is the key to transforming our vile minds inherited from Adam; once our inner man has been dealt with, our outer man will reflect the inward transformation. Over time, our views will change to match God’s view… that is biblical repentance!
Psukhē III: The Key to Leaving the City of Self-Pity
Shawn Brasseaux – email@example.com
[18 October 2009]
In our introduction to biblical psychology, we learned that emotions sometimes cause us to see distorted reality. Emotions are quite strange. Feelings we had years ago during a difficult time resurface as if the incident is occurring right now. Our minds and hearts can deceive us (remember Jeremiah 17:9). The second installment focused on biblical repentance, or a change in mind brought on by the indwelling Holy Spirit. In this third article of the Psukhē series, we will look at depression, and how it can be solved with biblical repentance.
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According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 20 million Americans suffer from depression. Depression can be brought on by conditions beyond a person’s control (hormones, chemical imbalances, et cetera). If you are struggling with depression, please know that we are here for you and we want to encourage/edify you using the Holy Scriptures, and that the Lord would most definitely want you to seek medical help if it is life-threatening. Our purpose in this study is to inform you as to how we should view depression and how to handle it as the Holy Scriptures instruct.
Just about everyone knows the story of Job found in the Old Testament. The Lord allowed Satan to afflict Job; if anyone felt depression, Job did (Job 3:1-ff.; Job 7:11). Or look at Moses, who would get upset and discouraged when leading the murmuring, ungrateful Israelites through the wilderness. Paul and his co-workers in the ministry knew about depression (2 Corinthians 1:3-11). The twelve apostles of Israel faced opposition and depression, too. Do you think Noah felt depressed during the 120 years that he built that gopher ark, with the lost passing by, gawking and mocking? Even the Lord felt depression in His earthly ministry, when the unbelieving Jews lacked faith in Him as their Messiah-King, and when He had to go Calvary’s cross (Mark 14:33-36; Luke 22:42,43).
New Christians who have abandoned vile lifestyles have a hard time forgiving themselves. As “new creatures in Christ,” they remember their past mistakes and dwell on them. In your past, you might have done something of which you are ashamed. Maybe you feel like God hates you, or that He still holds it against you. If you have already come to God by faith in His Son Jesus Christ, He has already forgiven you “in Christ” (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 2:13). Do not let your emotions and feelings distort reality and make you feel depressed or worthless—no matter how you feel, God’s Word says you are forgiven… forever!
Whatever you did, God is a God of second chances. Fortunately, His grace covers our failures and weaknesses: “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20,21). God’s love for you in Christ can never be rescinded. He is there to scoop us up when we fall and destroy ourselves in self-pity. He consoles us, gives us peace and joy, even in the direst circumstances (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). We might have deliberately made those mistakes, but He is still there for us when we need Him the most. Thank you, Lord! Remember, let us never take advantage of grace by sinning all we want, with assurance of getting away with it (Romans 6:1,2).
Everyone will experience depression at one time in life, so we need solid Bible teaching to learn how to cope with depression. Whenever we forget the truth of God’s Word, we seem to fall into a state of self-pity, or feeling sorry for ourselves. This will lead to depression, so we have to stop the wrong thinking before it grows worse.
This past summer, I went through a period of intense emotional trouble. Instead of allowing it to overcome me (though it came close), I thought on the Lord’s Word, and how I thank Him that I survived it. He brought us through all those low points and difficult times our ministry faced these past three-and-a-half years. Occasionally, those memories still resurface, and the more I dwell on them, the more it upsets me. Yes, it is easier said than done, but you need to control your thinking. Cry, grow angry, or laugh, but do not let your emotions go out of control because they will get the best of you. As we discussed before, do not live your life placing much emphasis on your emotions because your emotions change. We need to rely on something that never changes: God’s Word.
If you are going to serve the Lord, you will be opposed on every side. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12 KJV). You can let it drive you crazy, or just let it “slide off like water on a duck’s back.” A favorite Bible passage of mine to support this is 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 KJV:
“8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”
We are not going to allow self-pity to distract us from doing the Lord’s work. Let the critics say what they want, but they cannot change God’s Word.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think of these things” (Philippians 4:8 KJV). Like we learned in part II, biblical repentance is the key to having victory over our natural, evil thought processes. The power in God’s Word can and will purge our wicked minds, replacing our foolishness with His wisdom.
Do not allow depression to control you: think on everything that God has provided for you in Christ—justification, sanctification, reconciliation, redemption, eternal life, forgiveness, grace, love, joy, peace, temperance, spiritual blessings, to name just a few! As long as you keep your mind on these things, you feel gratitude, not self-pity. Never cease from thanking the Lord for everything He has done for us!
Gratitude to God is the key to depression: a thankful heart has no reason for feeling self-pity!
Psukhē IV: Not Brought Under the Power of Any
Shawn Brasseaux – firstname.lastname@example.org
[25 October 2009]
Prior to salvation, our minds were slaves of the devil. Today, if we have experienced salvation, we need to be careful in regards to other types of bondage. As Christians, should we involve ourselves with hypnosis, meditation, and drugs and alcohol? Setting aside bias and treating this article with utmost care (without condemning anyone), we conclude the “Psukhē” series by answering this question.
Hypnosis can be defined as “a trancelike state of heightened susceptibility to the suggestion of others.” In other words, when someone is hypnotized, they are not in absolute control of their mental processes. The person’s mind is now open to any and every suggestion, no matter how false (unscriptural) it is. Hypnosis leaves room for false teaching, opening you to the devil’s influence. Thus, hypnosis has no place in the Christian life. Instead of God’s Word “working effectually in us that believe,” we run the risk of people influencing us contrary to Scripture. “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12 KJV). By the way, that word “expedient” means “profitable/beneficial.” Although we are under grace, and not under the Mosaic Law like Israel was, this does not give us license to do anything and everything we want (that is, a careless lifestyle). Titus 2:11,12 KJV say: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”
Meditation is a technique practiced by religious people—religion is counterfeit, resembling God’s Word but actually being anti-Bible. Repeating one word—a “mantra”—numerous times is supposed to refocus your attention, which results in an altered state of consciousness. Reciting rosaries and “breath prayers” are two forms of meditation in the realm of religion, something the Bible never supports. Meditation is used to relieve stress, or used to bring solutions to life problems. God’s Word can relieve stress and God’s Word has the solutions we are seeking. Meditation, on the other hand, is mindless repetition, and like hypnosis, it has no role in the life of the believer because it attempts to replace God’s Word. As the Bible says, “we will not be brought under the power of any!”
DRUGS AND ALCOHOL
Should Christians smoke cigarettes? The American Cancer Society’s website says: “Cigarette smoking is the major single cause of cancer mortality (death) in the United States.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported as many as 43.4 million American adults were smokers in 2007—almost seven percent of the United States population! People smoke for a variety of reasons: relieve stress, try something new, or because they simply cannot quit (due to nicotine, one of the most addictive substances known to man). But again, we have God’s Word to relieve stress!
Marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy have destroyed so many lives, especially young lives. Many months back, a classmate confided in me that he had drug problems in the past, but he was praying to quit. If you are a Christian today trapped in the clutches of drugs, God does not want you to live in bondage. I love you in the Lord, which is why I urge you to stop smoking cigarettes and/or doing other drugs. I will not condemn anyone, but we need to be caring for our bodies. The Christian’s body is a temple of the Holy Spirit: your body has been set apart from mainstream mankind (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Christians consuming alcoholic beverages can be quite controversial. Setting aside any bias (from me or anyone else), we go back to the verse that brought us to this article: “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12 KJV).
Why do people drink alcohol? Like other drugs, alcohol brings about a “high feeling.” Actually, alcohol may give you a “high feeling,” but alcohol is a depressant—it actually slows down your nervous system, weakening your inhibitions (self-control). Although there are some Christians who drink alcohol and think nothing of it, this is unwise. As members of the Church the Body of Christ, we should not compromise with the world. Alcohol does not have any place in our lives. Even in small amounts, alcohol alters your mind (that is why designated drivers are told to abstain from all alcohol).
Alcohol use is widespread among students in middle school, high school, and college (trust me, I know). How can we reduce drug and alcohol use? It goes back to biblical repentance. We need to analyze drug and alcohol use from the Bible’s standpoint. Our main goal is not to point fingers of judgment, but to point to God’s Word as the final authority. We need to have sober, clear minds, as the Bible says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV).
Ephesians 5:16-19 KJV tells us:
“18 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;”
Alcohol and drugs cloud responsible thought processes, just like religion, hypnosis, and meditation. Yes, religion can be thought of as a drug, too. The good news is that the Lord can break all bondage, whether religious chains or addiction to drugs and alcohol!
Alcohol, drugs (including cigarettes), mediation, and hypnosis should not be influencing our thought processes. We should not be allowing something to control us. Instead, we need an intelligent understanding of God’s Word. The power and feelings brought on by drugs are temporal; God’s Word brings eternal results. God’s Word can comfort us—we do not need drugs! God’s Word brings eternal life—drugs cannot!
The fruits of the Holy Spirit found in Galatians 5:22,23 KJV are far better than anything drugs can provide: “…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Drugs promote the opposite: hate, depression, strife, quick-temperedness, harshness, wickedness, unbelief, pride, and incontinence (no self-control).
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In concluding the Psukhē series, I urge you to take care of this tool God has given us. Watch what you put into your mind. Do not believe everything you hear. Align everything with God’s Word (King James Bible) “rightly divided,” and let that be your guide. Memorize Bible verses (especially the verses in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon), and let the Lord’s Word work effectually in you as you believe it. Let the Lord continually renew your mind, biblical repentance… that is just one part of our “reasonable service” (Romans 12:1 KJV)!
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”