Spiritual Sicknesses: Causes and Cures
Echoes from the Past
“But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:30-32
A. L. Muir
In speaking of those that are “righteous,” our Lord was referring to those that were “self-righteous” as represented by the scribes and Pharisees. They thought themselves to be “whole” because of their prestigious and holy position, but Jesus wanted to reveal to them that they were not of a condition worthy of His calling. On the contrary, Jesus was interested in sinners who were in a repentant condition and recognized the necessity of a Savior. They would be receptive of Jesus and desirous of his instruction.
The condition of the scribes and Pharisees has existed all through the ages. The conditions of the current world include an attitude of self-sufficiency, pride and intellectual independence. Scripture study can become an intellectual challenge rather than a spiritual hungering and spiritual desire becomes secondary or is lost entirely. When truth touches the heart, sanctification should be the result. Truth is provided for those who seek for spiritual benefit and when truth is used as an intellectual project, void of the true purpose, spiritual sickness results.
The Natural Man
The natural man is often alerted to a health problem because he experiences symptoms. Some of these symptoms might be weariness or exhaustion, indigestion, headaches, high blood pressure, infections, pain, etc, effecting various parts of the body. When the natural man experiences symptoms of illness, he seeks relief from his discomfort through remedies, medications or perhaps a visit to the doctor. An accurate diagnosis from a trained physician may be necessary before steps can be taken to relieve the patient from the illness. These natural symptoms of illness can serve as an example of the spiritual symptoms that may serve as warning signs to the new creature regarding his spiritual health.
Examples Of Spiritual Sickness
The new creature, one who is begotten and quickened by the Holy Spirit, can experience spiritual sickness. For example, spiritual weariness may manifest itself with symptoms of preferring to be in the company of those who are not new creatures and loss of enthusiasm as a soldier of the cross. Just as weariness is a symptom to the natural man, it should serve as a warning of spiritual illness to the new creature. In this condition the new creature may forsake opportunities to witness and strive less to make his calling and election sure.
Another example of sickness to the natural man is eye infection. The eye records events that occur in life. When the natural eye is infected and vision is impaired, the natural man suffers. Not only is pain endured, but total life style is limited. Normal everyday functions become difficult or impossible.
In comparison, the spiritual eye of faith records the daily experiences and lessons gained in the Christian walk to strengthen and encourage the new creature. The spiritual eyes are able to discern the truth and allow one to gain wisdom in daily decisions. However, if an infection occurs, spiritual loss results and vision or understanding of the scriptures becomes limited. Ultimately, the new creature must turn to the Great Physician for relief of spiritual illness and trust in His overruling power for a cure.
As the loss of vision effects the spiritual condition so also does the loss of hearing. The hearing of faith strengthens Christian character and increases oneness with the Lord. If a loss of hearing is experienced, the scriptures or teachings of our Lord may not be heard properly causing a loss of scriptural knowledge and limited spiritual development.
Again, the heart condition also reflects the spiritual health of the new creature. Only the great physician can properly diagnose the heart condition. Just as the natural heart may need medication and\or a change in diet, so the Great Physician provides the proper prescription for the cure of heart illness.
Go Unto Perfection
“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgement.”—Hebrews 6:1
When spiritual sickness is experienced, a revival and review of those basic principles which initially brought one to the Lord is necessary. These may be elementary doctrines or principles of truth which were applied in past experiences. Sometimes problems of spiritual sickness are the result of negligence in applying the scriptures to daily experiences. Rather than merely learning truths, a review will reinforce what has already been layed as a foundation of faith and the Christian is ready to proceed to maturity by adding to his foundation of faith.
The word “repentance” in Hebrews. 6:1 means reformation. Not only is repentance involved, but an actual reformation. In Acts 3:19, the apostle Paul says, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out . . .” He is referring first to repentance and then reformation. Our faith is the practical application of repentance and reveals a reliance upon the foundation of truth as a basis of life. An honest assessment of character must be made realigning it with the foundation.
Christ says he is the way, the truth and the life. By following him and feeding upon his words, Christian development automatically develops. This is medication for the new creature in Christ. A transformation occurs—a reformation of character takes place and faith is aligned with truth. The power of truth sanctifies. With the blessing of everlasting truths, proper application provides spiritual growth and good health, allowing clearer vision and focus on spiritual goals. By the Lord’s grace the fight of faith is fought. In yielding to God or submitting to His will— that is “leaving” (Hebrews. 6:1) the principles of the doctrine of Christ—a condition of trusting in God’s power, sanctification results. Therefore, when feelings of spiritual sickness—pains, aches, infection, weariness, etc.—manifest themselves, go quietly before the Lord as the Great Physician and review those truths which at one time brought the blessings of spiritual knowledge and closeness with the Lord.
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”—2 Corinthians 7:1
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteouness.”—1 John 1:9
Cleanliness is associated with the flesh in the sense that all mankind is born under the fallen condition of Adam. The new creature manifests the new mind in a fleshly body, but if the mind becomes influenced by the filthiness of the flesh a cleansing process is necessary through the precious blood of Jesus.
A personal and sincere examination determining the condition of faithfulness must be made. In recognizing faults and confessing sins an attitude of repentance is attained. Repentance is required. With this condition of heart, the throne of grace must be approached and a renewing of faith is received from the Great Physician, allowing the Christian to proceed to perfection of holiness. Fellow new creatures can assist and encourage one another with this cleansing process by participating in studies and sharing experiences in testimony meetings.
The Healing Process
“And grieve not the holy spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:30-32
A process is described in these verses. Bitterness comes from suppression of feelings, which eventually leads to passion or wrath controlled by this bitterness. Expression of words follows in the form of anger and violent words reveal the original bitterness in the form of malice. This describes a possible practical experience of a new creature. This type of behavior belongs to the flesh as inherited in Adam.
Likewise, upon consecrating, the old man is buried replacing the “old man tendencies” with kindness, tenderheartedness and the thrill of forgiving, which is the spirit Jesus had. There is a progression in the growth of each new creature while striving to attain perfection. The truth gathered by the new creature sanctifies and prepares him for the inheritance of the saints.
Jesus taught his followers to pray “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matt. 6:12) Sins are forgiven to the extent that forgiveness is offered to others. God is gracious to forgive. With recognition and confession of sin, a spirit of compassion, sympathy, generosity, understanding and helpfulness toward others develops in the new creature.
“But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” 1 John 2:27
“The spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Romans 8:16
Jesus frequently went up to the mount and left the crowds behind and sought privacy with his Heavenly Father. He would spend all night in prayer. Following this example, the new creature needs to take time to speak with the Heavenly Father in prayer and seek knowledge of Him by studying His word.
Time is required to permit the child of God to learn God’s word and apply it in daily experiences. Proof of the anointing is in the character of the new creature which reflects spiritual growth and wisdom.
A Balanced Life
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” — Matthew 11:29, 30
This yoke may be described as a bar or scale. When using it to carry materials, it must be perfectly balanced or the carrier will feel awkward and fatigued, possibly causing him to stumble. The things that are burdensome are due to imbalance; that is untruths or influences of the world distract the new creature from spiritual truths.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” — Matthew11:28
By communing with God, peace of mind is attained. The power of truth works in the heart and mind and burdens become light when put in proper perspective with God’s plan. Through experience the new creature appreciates the necessity of maintaining spiritual health and learns to watch his daily affairs, always going to the throne of grace in time of need.
“The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”—Romans 8:18