Children of God Let Go of Fear

Children of God Can Let Go of Fear

Neil AndersonBy Neil Anderson10 Minutes

Excerpt from Letting Go of Fear: Put Aside Your Anxious Thoughts and Embrace God’s Perspective by Neil T. Anderson & Rich Miller

Chapter 1
Restoring the Foundation

In reality, the foundation upon which every one of us has built our lives is a mixture of truth, half truths, and outright lies. Adam and Eve were formed by God and placed in a perfect environment. The only fear object they had was God. The rest of humanity started out as “strangers and aliens” in a fallen world (Ephesians 2:19). We weren’t children of God; we were children of flesh and blood. We had no prior knowledge of God and His ways, so we naturally conformed to this world, relying on our own strength and resources. We learned to fear many things, but had no fear of God. The apostle Paul describes the nature of the natural person in Ephesians 2:1-3:

You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

Introducing a person to Christ is not helping a bad person become a better person. It is helping a spiritually dead person become one who is alive in Christ. That person was alienated from God and is now united with Him.

Believers are no longer “in Adam”; we are now” in Christ” (1 Corin­thians 15:22; see also Romans 8:9). God “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new crea­ture; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). ”As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). “So then you are no lon­ger strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone” (Ephesians 2:19-20).

If all that is true, then why do born-again believers often struggle with the same old fears and anxieties?

Everything we learned while being conformed to this world is still programmed into our minds. Unfortunately, there is no delete button, which is why Paul wrote, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2 NIV). Paul implies that after conversion we can continue being conformed to this world. We can fill our minds with the same old media, believe the same old lies, and live according to our old nature ( the flesh). But Peter also advises otherwise: ”As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance” (1 Peter 1:14).

Stages of Human Development

How we conform to this world is different for every person. We are all shaped by our environment, and every child responds differently to it. We naturally learn the language of our parents and adopt most of their attitudes, which are more “caught” than “taught.” How we personally interpret the events of life lays the foundation for specific fears and anxieties.

What has been learned has to be unlearned. Irrational thinking has to be replaced with rational thinking. Lies have to be replaced with truth. A crumbling foundation has to be rebuilt. Secular theorists are aware of this, and seek to rebuild people’s foundations by helping them get in touch with reality and think rationally. The most common intervention is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT is based on the premise that people are feeling what they are feeling and doing what they are doing because of what they have cho­sen to believe. Therefore, if you want to help people change how they feel and behave, you need to help them change what they believe. We basically agree with that premise, because that is the central theme of repentance. (Repentance literally means a change of mind.) But CBT is not enough by itself for three critical reasons.

First, “natural people” can change how they feel and how they behave by how they think or what they believe, but that doesn’t change who they are. The problem is, “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Paul warns us to “walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:17-18). If you want the truth to set you free, you have to know who the Truth is, not just what it is. Even a Christian therapist applying CBT with the words of Christ but without the life of Christ will not be lastingly effective.

Emotions are essentially a product of your thoughts, and every behavior is a product of what you have chosen to believe, because every action is preceded by a thought. You don’t do anything without first thinking it. The thought process may be so rapid that you are barely aware of it. “For as he thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7). The mind is the control center, and you are transformed by renewing it. People don’t always live according to what they profess, but they all live according to what they have chosen to believe. James says, “I will show you my faith by my works” (2:18).

Second, we are not the Wonderful Counselor. We can’t set a captive free, nor can we heal the wounds of the broken-hearted. Only God can do that. The presence of God is the basis for Neil’s book Discipleship Counseling(Bethany House, 2003). God is the one who “may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, hav­ing been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:25-26). The Holy Spirit can lead people into all truth. Nothing will be complete or lasting if God isn’t an integral part of the process. Rebuilding the foun­dation with better sand won’t help a house last against the storms of life. The house has to be built upon the rock.

Third, no use of CBT will be complete or effective if we ignore the reality of the spiritual world. Irrational fears are rooted in lies, and Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). If you are paying attention to a deceiv­ing spirit, you are believing a lie. Tearing down mental strongholds is a spiritual battle. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to mal<:e it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV).

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