How Christians Become the Worst Version of Themselves-

 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead- Acts 17:30-31 ESV

We all know that person.

The man or woman who has somehow managed to achieve the unenviable feat of becoming the very worst version of themselves imaginable. 

Perhaps the person is hostile, mean, judgy, bitter, prideful and/or self-serving. (Hebrews 12:15, Hebrews 3:12, Philippians 2:3, Colossians 3:8-9). It could be they are just so oblivious to the needs and feelings of others they just go around unknowingly causing the poor hapless souls unfortunate enough to be caught in their orbit immeasurable hurt and pain. It might be they are sexually immoral in some way. Perhaps they are addicted to pornography or they cheat on their spouse or they just sit around indulging in lecherous thoughts about the opposite sex all the time. They might lie or cheat or steal or go around boasting about their own awesomeness to anyone who will listen. Maybe they drink themselves into oblivion routinely or are addicted to drugs. To some degree the sordid details of their behavior is less significant than the fact that they have chosen to indulge their very worst tendencies and character traits.    

No one is exempt from becoming the worst version of themselves (1st Corinthians 10:12). It happens all the time. It happens to famous mega-church pastors like Mark Driscoll, Carl Lentz and Ted Haggard. It can also happen to local pastors, ministry leaders, their spouses as well as your average Joe or Jane church attenders. It’s horrifying anytime anyone becomes the worst version of themselves. It’s extra gross when it happens to a Christian.   

Here’s how it happens:  

The whole messy mess starts out innocently enough, just like almost every other messy mess on planet earth. The slide begins with a subtle shift in behavior or attitude that gradually transforms into a habit.  The person knows what they’re doing or thinking is sinful. However, because no one says anything and nothing truly catastrophic happens they keep doing their thing in spite of any reservations they may have.  

Then God gets involved in His indirect but distinct little God way. 

The person hears a guilt-producing sermon, or a reads a convicting blogpost, or perhaps a friend or spouse, gently, or not so gently confronts them with the problem. At this point things go one of two ways: the person might choose to get offended. When a person chooses offendedness  its not long before they begin the process of actively shutting out anyone who is isn’t either one-hundred-percent supportive of their behavior or willing to ignore it.

  Sometimes, the person just goes into full-on denial mode concerning the seriousness of their behavior. They assure the person challenging them they have a handle on things.  Then the sinner slowly convinces him or herself their behavior isn’t really a problem. The same behavior might be a problem for other people but not for them.  They have so many other awesome qualities they are above being destroyed by the petty little sins that doom other Christians. Besides, they tell themselves: they’re a Christian, God loves them. If God wasn’t okay with what they’ve been up to He would force them to stop.  He hasn’t so He must be okay with it.

So, the behavior or attitude persists.  

At this point, things get interesting, in a very bad way. Blindness sets in and the behavior takes firm root. They spend more time looking at more porn, they think more lecherous thoughts more frequently. They get to the place where can’t tell the difference between the truth and a lie. They go into full-scale addiction. They lose the ability to even muster up false humility.  At the same time, they become increasingly more oblivious to the effect their behavior is having on others. They become harsher and meaner and less concerned with the feelings of others.  Ironically, at the same time they become much more judgmental towards other people, especially towards those who have the same problems they do (Matthew 7:2-3). They become a twisted version of what they could have been, a parody of their sin and a sad joke to non-Christians. 

So. Here’s the thing:

No Christian is doomed to becoming the worst version of themselves. It is a fully preventable tragedy.  However, we have to understand that the devil wants more than anything in the world to see every Christian on earth become the very worst version of themselves possible (Ephesians 4:27). Satan loves it when Christians fall into this trap. It ruins the believer, their ministry opportunities and their Christian witness. This is a triple win for Satan.  To avoid this trap, we must understand that even in our redeemed state we are capable of great sin and self-deception. To avoid the self-deception that makes becoming the worst version of ourselves possible we have to make every effort to grow in our knowledge of God and nurture the Christian virtues of faith, goodness, humility, godliness and self-control in our lives (2nd Peter 1:3-10). We must make a regular practice of examining ourselves honestly before the Lord (1st Corinthians 13:5) and we must listen when other people try and speak truth into our lives. 

The Underlying Belief at the Root of Most of our Stupidity-


Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools- Romans 1:22 KJV

The enlightenment era is sometimes called the “great age of reason”. During that time people began to understand the natural world is governed by rules, laws and forces rather than powers, magic or happenstance. Thanks to enlightenment academics we understand objects fall to the ground due to the natural law of gravity.  It is microbes not demoniac forces that make us ill and its recessive genes rather than bad luck that causes children to be born with red hair seemingly out of nowhere. 

The enlightenment age is at the root of the logical, methodical and organized approach to life and problem-solving we are all familiar with today. The enlightenment was a big-stinking breakthrough in human civilization. 

However. 

The Enlightenment age did create some issues that are now coming home to roost. For one, the Enlightenment conditioned us to believe there is always a formula to solve a problem or accomplish a task—we just have to find it.  As a result, modern humans are firmly entrenched in the mindset that the key to solving any problem is simply finding the right set of principles to apply to said problem.

Sometimes it works.

The systematic analysis of microbes led to the invention of antibiotics, antibiotics solved many vexing health problems. Modern farming techniques more-or-less eliminated the problem of wide-spread starvation. The methodical evaluation of human behavior led to modern psychology. Psychology has effectively explained the why of what people do thus solving many mental health issues.   

However.   

The ability to solve some problems using science generated a belief that all our most pressing problems can and should be solved using our known understanding of a given subject. When our wisdom doesn’t solve the problem at hand we go into a weird kind of denial where we keep doing the same things over and over again hoping at some point we will get the result we think we ought to be getting (Proverbs 3:5-6). 

COVID-19 is a real-world example of this. Medical professionals and scientists were originally convinced COVID would be beaten through a combination of contact tracing, masking, social distancing and social isolation (lockdowns). Those methods failed. Covid continued to spread like wildfire even among those who were resolutely following “the rules” of covid. When a vaccine became available initially the new solution was to vaccinate at least sixty percent of the population. That solution failed. Some of the most vaccinated countries on earth (Israel, Ireland, Gibraltar) are still recording a record number of covid cases. We are now fully in denial and doing all the stuff we’ve already done harder and faster (metaphorically speaking). This means even more vaccinations, even more masking, even more social isolation and in some places more lockdowns. The prideful and stanch belief we know everything about covid has us caught in a peculiar loop. We just do the same things over and over again expecting a different result. 

Sigh. 

Christians who place their confidence in formulas can easily fall into a kind of practical atheism.  They profess to be Christians but live as if God is irrelevant to their lives.  The say they love God but do everything in their own power depending entirely on human methods to get the job done. Instead of fostering a relationship with God and loving Him simply for who He is. They seek God solely for solutions to their problems. When He doesn’t provide the desired solutions, they turn away from Him altogether or remain in the church but become perpetually angry at God for His lack of willingness to bless the formula. 

Confidence in formulas can lead to serious issues with pride, self-reliance and stubbornness. When Christians believe that doing everything “right” or according to the “formula” will ALWAYS lead to the “correct result” they become angry or go into denial anytime there is a “bad” or “unexpected “outcome. This causes them to keep doing the same thing over and over again or give up rather than seek additional wisdom from God.  Belief in formulaic solutions can cause Christians to become very judgy towards those who experience “failure” in their childrearing, finances, marriages or other relationships. Unwavering confidence in formulaic solutions leaves no room in our thinking for free will or the free agency of human beings (Matthew 7:1-4, Deuteronomy 30:19).   

In a fallen world there will not always be solutions to all our problems (Genesis 3). Sometimes people get sick and don’t get better. Kids who were raised right still go astray and sometimes you do everything right and everything still goes terribly wrong. That’s where God comes in. We must seek Him, not for what He can do for us but because it is in Him we find peace, joy and rest for our souls in the midst of an uncertain and scary world (Jeremiah 29:13).