Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Nemeses, Stockholm Syndrome, and New Creation

Every good protagonist has an equally awesome antagonist:

Luke Skywalker had Darth Vader

Sarah Connor had the Terminator

Rick Grimes had Shane

Professor Xavier had Magneto

Popeye had Bluto

        Jean Val Jean had Javert

        Spiderman had Venom

        Prince Phillip had Maleficent

But when it comes to ministry, who is our greatest enemy? Who is the mastermind of our undoing? Who schemes while we rest?

I'm sure many of us would jump up and yell "THE enemy is our enemy!"
And yes, I would almost fully agree.

Satan is the original sinner, the one who incited rebellion and tempted humanity in to damnation.

But that sore loser doesn't have authority over us! We have been redeemed and purified by the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He has lost.

I love reading the Old Testament! The history and stories are legendary. The heroes and battles get my blood rushing and make me excited about the God that I serve!

And the New Testament makes me feel bad.

I read the New Testament, and I'm so enlightened and encouraged, but at the same time, I read and see so many of my own flaws and shortcomings and I feel so terrible! I look inward at my heart, and Paul is right! The heart of man is evil!

I'm selfish
I'm prideful
I'm a worrier
I'm an idolater
I'm envious
I'm a loser

Well... I have the capability to be. I used to be all that. Before I had Christ.

Back then, Satan was the arch-nemesis. Sin was completely in control of my life. I only knew selfish choices. Everything I did was to help myself. My choices and actions were all dictated by my sin nature. It was all I knew.

But then Christ revealed Himself to me. And I died. Kinda.

Everything I had been was gone. My old self was obsolete. I had been made a new creation! I had been made in to the righteousness of Christ as all followers of Christ become. The old was gone, and the new had come! Everything that had defined me before no longer had control over. I had been cleaned off and given a new identity. The Spirit of God had come to reside in my heart and mind and change me from the inside and out. My whole life had new purpose and direction! Sin no longer controlled my actions!

But the danger was still there.

My chains of sin had been broken, and I was rescued from the prison of destruction!

but the prison was still there.

There's an odd condition I read about in a Stephen King book. Since then, I've seen it referenced in several movies and shows. It's called Stockholm Syndrome:

"Stockholm syndrome, or capture–bonding, is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness. The FBI's Hostage Barricade Database System shows that roughly 27% of victims show evidence of Stockholm syndrome."
-- Professor W. Pedia
I thought that sounded a lot like living in sin.

As followers of Christ, we have been set free! We no longer are bound by our sinful nature, but for some reason, we feel this old draw and pull to return to what we used to know. When things get stressful or tense, we want to slip back in to those old habits that bring us that small amount of peace and comfort and nostalgic familiarity. 

We miss our old prison cell. 

We miss the way our old shackles used to rub the skin off of our wrists.

We miss the tiny window that allowed us to see the sun fifteen minutes a day.

We miss the cold stone walls that grew mold faster than we could grow hair

We miss the way the jailer used to beat us down and spit at us.

Those were the good old days....


We have been given life! We are brand new! Everything that defined us before, all the sin, the garbage, the futility, the extra weight, the baggage is gone. It's been made irrelevant. That old person that you used to be is DEAD

Just like Christ, you have died and been given new life, you have been resurrected!

Freedom feels so good.

But so many times, we wrap ourselves up in guilt and shame and old habits and poisonous addictions because that's so familiar, and it used to bring you comfort.

As a minister and follower of Christ, YOU are held to a higher standard. We have the power to overcome temptation and sin and all kinds of evil forces and schemes of the devil, but sometimes, what we lack is the desire.

Romans 12 gives us a liberating command:

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.

We need to renew our minds. For so long our brains have worked the wrong way. 

Repentance is the term I'm looking for. A lot of times, we think of repentance as this state of feeling sorry and apologizing, but that's not entirely accurate. 

Let's do some digging! Since the New Testament was written in Greek, let's see what the Greek has to say about repentance: μετανοέω or metanoeo is the Greek word for repent.

to think differently or afterwards, that is, reconsider (morally to feel compunction): - repent

To think differently. That's heavy. To change the way we receive and process information. When we receive Christ, we must pursue the will of God, but the only way we can do that is by renewing our mind. That's why we have the bible. The Word of God is everything we need to be made new. So many times, it gets used as a text book for answers or historical text for facts, but it is living and active and good for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. Renew your mind.

Unfortunately, it's not an over night process. Rewiring the brain is like rewiring a house: it takes a LOT of time, hard work, dedication, and shocks. You may need to knock down a few walls or maybe cut some wires off completely, but you know that in the end, when it is finished, it will work exactly how it should, good, acceptable, and perfect. 

As followers of Christ, we have the capacity to be our own worst enemy, to entangle ourselves in our old ways, but when we renew our minds and fix our hearts on the will of God, we experience true freedom.

Just like God always wanted.

Nate T B