Many Christians are basing much of their hope, happiness and personal identity in their material possessions, individual accomplishments, personal relationships and the opinions of others rather than who they are in Christ Jesus. Christians who strive for a sense of purpose, contentment and positive personal identity in this way often struggle unsuccessfully to overcome strongholds such as: depression, anger, unforgiveness, anxiety, perfectionism, pride, shame, fear, lust, and many others. These strongholds take root when we have not truly understood the complexity, and the utter futility of our humanistic and performance-oriented mentality.
What do you mean by “performance-oriented mentality?”
As created beings, we quite naturally have needs and wants. But, it is crucial to understand that in almost everything we do, we have an inner motivation which fuels our actions and that this motivation frequently does not reflect God’s purpose for us. Our motivation is usually to fulfill our own self-directed, self-centered desires. Throughout our lives we have been programmed by society to do what we do primarily because we believe, on some level, that our behavior will result in personal benefit. The result is a misguided and unfulfilled striving to fulfill the temporary gratifications of our wants and desires. We form and follow these self-centered motives for behavior very early in life because we are born as fallen creatures with sin-damaged souls.
What was the original design?
God’s original plan, as initiated with Adam and Eve, was that we would understand that our self-worth is determined entirely by the fact that we are created in God’s image. Before sin, mankind was designed to discover personal value and purpose through the fact that we were created in His image and through His unconditional love for us. Man and woman were originally designed to find fulfillment of every need and want through relationship with God. They would not feel that they needed to compete with one another in order to feel acceptable. There would be no competition with one another, no problems with feelings of low self-esteem, low self-worth, jealousy, insecurity etc.
God’s plan hasn’t changed! But, because of sin, man has changed in his relationship to God and his attitude toward God’s plan for his life.
What dynamics have arisen in our relationship with God because of sin?
Our sin-based self-centered personalities have encouraged a shifting away from reliance upon God and a deterioration of trust in His purpose for our lives. Instead of trusting God, we find ourselves repeatedly depending upon self-centered behavior as we attempt to reduce our personal insecurity and compensate for the loss of the realization of God’s unconditional love. We find ourselves feeling compelled again and again to rely upon ourselves in an attempt to find compensatory fulfillment through the gratification of self. This has become our life-habit. We are, habitually, to borrow a phrase, “trying to find love in all the wrong places.” We have become essentially self-determining, self-reliant creatures. We are unable to find spiritual rest, because we are almost continuously striving to bolster our self-esteem by gaining affirmation from man by seeking his personal approval in the form of love, recognition, admiration, respect, etc.
God’s power has been made available to us to sanctify our souls through ongoing repentance, bringing us into the dynamic of real spiritual rest by transforming our character into the likeness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Yet, the unfortunate truth is that because of the deeply rooted dynamics of unrepentant self-sufficiency in our lives, we are virtually unable to consistently believe and depend upon God’s power to free us from the repetitive strongholds of sin.
How do we find freedom from these behaviors?
When we are truly willing to closely examine how and why we have come to trust self-effort more than we trust God, we begin to be able to access the necessary power of the Holy Spirit which can steadily bring us freedom from the sin-based strongholds in our lives. Until we are willing to do this, we will continue to suffer from a lack of faith caused by unbelief.
Within Christianity, unbelief is oftentimes described as a lack of faith in God. However, I think unbelief is essentially having too much faith in ourselves – trusting in ourselves and our own ways more than we trust God at any given moment in our lives.
This misdirected faith in ourselves keeps us from the peace, joy, and spiritual rest, which are meant to accompany our sonship in God’s holy family.
The solution to this dilemma can be accessed through our commitment to a deliberate process of Spirit-led discovery, prayer and repentance regarding the roots of our self-reliant, performance-based mentality.
That process and the resulting inner transformation is what this ministry is about.