Resisting Spiritual Growth

The nature of biblical counseling is such that we often times deal with people in crisis. Their crises seem to be heaped one upon the other and so they go from crisis to crisis. Upon questioning I generally discover there is a resistance to spiritual growth; either blatant or because the person is self-deceived it is unknown to them.

The question of whom or what is controlling the counselee’s life such as emotions, thoughts and activities is the critical question to understanding a resistance to spiritual growth. The answer to the worship question is a great revealer and can often times unlock the whole problem of spiritual stagnancy.

How do we determine what the counselee is worshipping?  Worship is revealed by our sin life. What a person is willing to sin to get or have is a great revelation of whom or what they worship. We see these as external or fruit sins, and they include things like lying, anger, fear, bitterness, depression, drunkenness, anxiety and excessive debt. They are evidence of disobedience to God.

We call them bad fruit and they are not really the problem, but the evidence of the problem. They are the result of what the person thinks, desires, believes, and want in their heart.

The real problem is what we call the root sin. It is the sin beneath the sin that causes the fruit sin. It is the heart-act of refusing to have Jesus Christ as your heart’s desire. 

When a person does not have Jesus as their heart’s desire, something else has taken His place. Typically, a person seats themselves on that throne of worship and begins to idolize themselves.

When this happens then thoughts, beliefs, and desires like those that follow become front and center: often the women will tell me that she “needs” privacy, freedom from stress, and personal liberty or freedom in order to be content.  She may also demand to be in control and have standards of perfection in order to be happy.  When a woman worships herself she will also demand approval, affirmation, love and relationship in order to be content. 

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these types of evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group. Galatians 5:19-20 (NLT)

It is important to note that not all desires are necessarily sinful. Good desires become sinful desires when they become demands.

In truth, we all have this worship disorder. A worship disorder is a sin disorder and were it not for grace, we’d all be doomed to be idolaters. It is clear we can underestimate our tendency for idolatry and we do not see that our own desires, perceived rights, passions, lusts, beliefs are often bent on having our own way. We do not understand our own sinful hearts.  Even when a person does understand, they often don’t know and do not know how to break free.

The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? Jer. 17:9, ESV

Pastor Tim Keller says, “Our worship disorder is the very heart act of refusing to have Jesus Christ as our heart’s functional trust, preoccupation, loyalty, service, fear, and delight (security, contentment, and joy).”

This is why, as sinners, we are easily led astray and are easily bent on having our own way, living for our pleasures and having me, me, me at the center of my universe.

Those who begin to see the trap they have walked or fallen into will often seek psychological counseling or seek medication.  Sadly, this often results in masking the true sinful issues that drive the problem (heart issues)

 These remedies amount to little more than rearranging the flesh. Tomorrow we will look at the biblical alternatives.