Women rulers, fearful of weakness, mistake cruelty for strength. —B.B. Warfield
What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” (Zechariah 4:7)
Our time is full of challenges that, like great mountains, seem insurmountable. The condition and rapid decline of our society is discouraging.
- There is a crusade against biblical sexuality. Godly femininity and masculinity are constantly mocked, despised, and attacked.
- Marriage rates are down, broken or single parent homes are common, the most wicked forms of sexual immorality are being normalized—even right down to the cartoons our little children watch.
- People are taught from their youngest to view themselves as victims. They refuse to take responsibility for the outcomes of their decisions, and instead blame it on their dad, on society, on some vague systemic form of oppression. We have become a nation of excuse makers.
- And our government is out of control. It constantly overspends and overreaches. It meddles in matters that are so far outside of God’s design that even unbelievers see it clearly. We live under the tyranny of an overbearing administrative state which believes it can close businesses and churches at the whim of the governor.
- Worst yet, we are seeing churches and Christian leaders imbibe and reflect all these same mentalities—but do it under the guise of faithfulness to God. We see churches either explicitly or implicitly bowing down to the false idols of our day. We see them claiming or implying that having “white” skin somehow makes you inherently a racist oppressor. We see them excuse the violent and destructive behavior of riots, and recast them as mostly peaceful protests by people who have right to be angry at white Christian males. We are seeing them, not just as individual churches, but even as whole denominations, soften their approach to homosexuality, having women who function as pastors in their congregations. We are seeing them close their doors on Sundays for months at a time, because the government told them that they must neglect worship. And when they finally do reopen, we see them require all members play along with the facade of this pandemic. They operate from a posture of fear, and if you don’t do the same, they shame as if you hate your neighbor.
These are just a few of the “mountains” before us.
Again, it’s very discouraging to see once great institutions being reduced to smoldering piles of ashes. The West is in a rough state. The challenges are huge.
But God can turn a mountain into a plain. So we remain optimistic. God can take a woman like Sarah, with a dead womb, and make her the mother of a nation. God can take a few fishermen, and start a movement that turns the world upside down.
The nation of Israel and the church had small beginnings. So it is with times of restoration.
Onward Christian soldiers. God made us for these times. We know, because we are living in them.
Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing…” This command is similar to the one in v. 4, to “rejoice in the Lord always.” It is a command that deals with our internal state. Our mindset.
Most of us can deal with commands that are more external: don’t steal, don’t neglect gathering yourselves together, don’t worship idols. We know we have the power to obey those commands. It cannot be denied.
But we tend balk at commands that deal with our internal state: don’t covet, rejoice always, be anxious for nothing. These sort of commands are often despised, even by Christians, because we have it in our head that we have less or no control over our internal state. “I can’t control the way I feel.”
But Scripture disagrees.
We are held accountable not just for actions, but for attitudes. The believer is a new creation in Christ. God gives us a heavenly mind which is to be cultivated—and that includes putting to death ungodly attitudes, while putting on godly attitudes.
There is a sense in which this command to be anxious for nothing is directly connected to the previous couple of verses. After all, what causes divisions and robs us of joy more than anxiety? Anxiety taxes our relationships, and it draws our eyes away from joy-giving realities.
But what is anxiety? What does in mean to be anxious?
The same Greek word is translated as worry in the Sermon on the Mount. There Christ says, “Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?” So, in a generic sense, it means a state of worry or concern—but a closer look at the Greek draws out the fuller meaning, because the connotation of the term is of being drawn in opposite directions:
“divided into parts” (A. T. Robertson); (figuratively) “to go to pieces” because pulled apart (in different directions)
In other words, it describes an internal division of mind. It is a state of mental unease that comes from a mind being divided against itself. It is worry or concern or fear that pulls you apart. It is the feeling of going to pieces. “I feel like I’m losing my mind.”
Now where is the first instance of worry in the Bible? Surely it is in Genesis 3—right after our first parents fell in sin.
They heard the sound of Yahweh God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh God among the trees of the garden. But Yawheh God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
Where did Adam’s fear and worry come from? It came from a divided relationship with God. He rebelled against the command of God, and in doing so made himself the lord of his own kingdom.
This is very important for understanding the origin and impetus of the sort of anxiety that Paul commands us against: it is a state of mind that we enter into when we are living as if we were our own kings, rather than submitting to God as our King. This is why Jesus, in Matthew 6, says, “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.”
This shows us two things:
- There is a type of worry that is okay. Jesus says, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” It’s okay to have basic concerns about present dilemmas which you can do something about. We don’t want to shame people for having these sorts of concerns.
- There is a type of worry that is not okay. This sort of anxiety could rightly be defined as over-concern. It’s when you’re scared and worried about things over which you have no control.
This latter kind of anxiety is at the core of many mental disorders and pathologies. When you forget that God is king, and that he rules over everything and loves you, you will start down the path of anxiety. And this anxiousness leads to an internal chaotic state. A state of internal confusion.
Now, there are some people who want to make anxiety merely a “spiritual”—or, if you’ll allow it, “mental”—issue. They treat any manifestation of anxiety as identical with a manifestation of sin.
This is a mistake.
There can be no doubt that anxiety often has a physical component. This is self-evident to anyone who has experienced it. A lack of sleep, for example, can both be a cause and/or a symptom of anxiety. Having too much caffeine can exaggerate an anxious state—yet drinking coffee is obviously not, in itself, sinful. Cutting back on coffee, and getting more sleep, will also go a long way to resolving anxiety…because it helps you to refresh and calm your body, and gain clarity of mind in recognizing the base spiritual issue causing your anxiety.
There is always a spiritual aspect to it. But there is often a physical one too. We are far too quick to sharply divide the spiritual from the physical. Man is not made as a ghost in a machine. We are a spirit-body composite, and while how these two elements interact is often difficult to parse, there is no doubt that there is an inter-relatedness. Listen to how David connects them in Psalm 31:
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
My eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow
And my years with sighing;
My strength has failed because of my iniquity,
And my body has wasted away. (Psalm 31:9–10)
Do you see how they interact? There is a gnostic attitude today that seeks to deny the essentialness of the body. We fall for it by denying the connection of the spiritual and the physical.
We can follow the command “to be not anxious” in part by addressing the physical issues. Don’t feel guilty for doing that. However, be sure to address the underlying spiritual or internal issue. It is a both/and situation—not an either/or.
There is also a clear spectrum for many mental disorders or illnesses, where the disorder is really just an extreme version of something that otherwise is normal to some degree. Autism, for instance, is often described as having a hyper-masculine brain. ADHD is a bit similar. Because it is faddish, and because of the intense lobbying of pharmaceutical companies, and because of hyper-feminine conditioning, these kinds of disorders are massively over-diagnosed. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Bnonn struggles with symptoms of ADHD and autism. He hasn’t been diagnosed. He doesn’t care to be. Is it weird wiring in his brain? Sure. Is it also weirdness in him? Yes.
Everyone is prone to different weaknesses, and everyone needs different amounts of work and grace to overcome them. It is a fundamental mistake of our age for Christians to view the mind and the body as sharply and utterly different things. How many people will use the excuse of “it’s just my genes” when they have some physical problem, like obesity—but if someone else has a mental problem, that’s because he’s sinner.
That’s not how it works.
You can be prone to obesity, and still be in sin by being obese…and you can be prone to be anxious, or an antisocial jerk, or whatever, and still be in sin by indulging that too. But equally, some people really might be unavoidably obese, and the best they can do is get down to a BMI of 27 by the time they clock out; just like some people might be unavoidably antisocial, and the best they can do is get down to having pleasant conversation by the time they clock out
The comments above were adapted from a discussion on Tyrannus Hall. We are taking new members if you’re interested in joining.
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New content this week: #
- Aaron Renn interviews us both about our new book, It’s Good to Be a Man - YouTube
- Bnonn has a new series up on his blog about the religious and symbolic significance of what we’re seeing with Covid:
- Most Men Cave…Jesus Didn’t - YouTube. Jon Harris talks about the book “Ordinary Men,” which illustrates the fact that most people do the wrong thing when forced. He relates this to the current situation, and encourages men to know their convictions and stand with others who have proven themselves already. This is a sobering reminder of something that anyone who has gone through institutional conflict caused by abusive leadership knows: most men are cowards, and will stab you in the back or throw you under the bus to save themselves. If you don’t factor this into your analysis of our present cultural situation and its trajectory, and if you don’t soberly assess your own weakness and commit to fear God only, the coming years are going to be very, very dark for you.
- Escaping the Cult of Nice | Blog & Mablog. “Like the Jews of Jeremiah’s day—who cried out the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord!—these people cry out Romans 13, Romans 13, Romans 13! That particular passage is one to which they claim overt allegiance, but I would make three observations that would seem to indicate their allegiance is spurious. First, chanting something is not the same thing as studying it. Second, if they were seriously committed to a view of authority that absolutizes any authority that Scripture recognizes, then they would teach wives to submit to their husbands the way they tell all of us to submit to the state. But they don’t. They turn themselves inside out to avoid doing that. They would rather be dead in a ditch than do something like that. So this means that they are not functioning with biblical categories at all. When they talk about submitting to Romans 13, they are lying. And third, these exegetes who claim to understand Romans 13 this way are not to be trusted until they have been arrested, flogged, and imprisoned by the authorities as many times as the author of Romans 13 was.”
- Loyalty Is the Coin of the Realm (Newsletter #58) - YouTube. Aaron Renn does a masterful job of explaining the importance of a concept that also appears centrally in the Hebrew Scriptures as chesed, covenant faithfulness and love. He covers how our society has replaced such loyalty with contracts and lawyers, how Christians now even consider loyalty a negative thing, and how extraordinarily destructive this has been. (For the more theologically-minded, there are some interesting connections to Bnonn’s article, Works-righteousness: a square contractual peg in a round covenantal hole.)
- Michael stopped by Canon Press the other day and snapped this pic:
These are paperbacks, but the book you get will be hard-bound in canvas, with foil lettering. A piece you can be proud to display on your bookshelf. If you haven’t pre-ordered yet, you can get it 10% off by grabbing Canon’s three-book Dominion Bundle:
Pre-order the Dominion Bundle
Or you can get it solo here »
We haven’t the slenderest notion of what a male bowerbird really thinks of his display. But we do know that he does not waste time or make a fool of himself chasing after the ladies. Instead, he gathers up the blue objects of his world and lays them out. He designs. He builds. He sings. He dances. The female, with great acuity, marks his efforts. Sharp, attentive, creative? If she likes what she sees, she offers him her body. And so it goes. —Jennifer Ackerman, The Genius of Birds
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Talk again next week,
Bnonn & Michael