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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Factors Influencing Our Choices

My friend has a son who hears voices in his head, sometimes several voices at once.  One of the voices speaks a constant string of numbers, and it will not shut up.

This tragedy admits of two very simple explanations.  The first is that the young man has a demon.  Case open; case shut.  The second is that his genetic code is scrambled, and as for demons—bah!  Humbug!

The problem, however, with simple solutions is that they are often simply wrong.  Human beings are very complex, and the Bible recognizes multiple factors at work in our lives.  There are at least five of them.

1.     Our birth.  The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth” (Psalm 58:3).  There is something morally twisted or broken in all of us from the moment of our birth, but the fact that we have an inborn disposition toward one kind of sin or another does not render us guiltless before God.

2.     Our nurture.  “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).  The Bible recognizes that the things that are done to us in the formative years have a great effect on our actions.

3.     Our choices.   "If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15).  People who are capable of making choices (and that includes most of us) are responsible for the direction their lives take, no matter what other influences may bear upon them.

4.     The devil.  “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  The devil is real; the devil is dangerous, and the devil commands legions of demons.

5.     God.  The Lord works in many ways. Sometimes He gives rebels over to their own sinful choices (Romans 1:24, 26, 28), but whenever Christian people are seeking to serve God, we can say, “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

The important thing to realize is that all of these factors may come into play at once.  The devil frequently tempts us in our areas of weakness, whether this weakness is inherited, is caused by childhood experiences or is a result of our previous decisions.  God gives substantial healing to all who come to Him through Christ, but He never completely heals the ravages of sin in this life.  Final healing waits for the resurrection at the last day.

A man who is born with a quick temper may struggle with that disposition all of his life.  The devil will constantly tempt him in that area, but when he receives Christ as Savior and begins to walk in fellowship with God, the Holy Spirit gives him new resources to fight against that particular sin.  In time his temper may even be tamed.

Now let us return to my friend’s son.  There is every reason to believe that he was born with a genetic defect that surfaced when he became a young adult.  The multi-track stereo in his head may have been triggered by unusual stresses when he entered the military, or it may have been hard-wired to turn on at a certain age.  Can the devil get into his head and add a sound-track of his own?  I don’t see why not.  He attacks others in their areas of weakness, so I suppose he can do the same here.

What should this young man do?  Is he helpless before forces that are too strong for him, or does he have some responsible choices to make?  Certainly the latter.

He can gratefully accept the measure of healing afforded by modern medications.  He can refuse to blame himself for the existence of the voices he hears.  He can latch on to God’s promise, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7), and fight against every suggestion to do evil that comes from the voice of Satan.  He can look with hope for a greater measure of healing through Christ than he would otherwise experience.

Will he ever be completely free of these multiple voices?  I do not know, but if he bravely struggles on, trusting as well as he can in the power and love of the risen Christ, then on the last day the Lord will say to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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