This study discusses how the worldly aspects of our lives are an obstacle to true Godly comforting. It asks us to examine our conformity to the world, our habits, and our addictions for the sake of deepening our relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is a portion of God’s call to righteousness, which will be discussed when we get to the blessing that has to do with hungering and thirsting after righteousness. Each blessing is interwoven with others, so it is natural that the topics will overlap somewhat.
Regardless of our Christian maturity, we all have improvements to make when it comes to overcoming the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, the pride of life, and the participation in worldly thinking and worldly behavior. Scripture clearly calls us to examine ourselves and to turn away from lusts, pride, and worldliness so that we can become holy as God is holy. This is not hyperbole, but a call to be set apart into the name and character of Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 1:13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
There is a great temptation that calls out to all people in the kingdom of heaven and to all people of the world. The temptation is to try to comfort and medicate ourselves through our own efforts when we face mourning or the pain of loss.
Jeremiah 8:18 When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me.
In my search of scripture, I did not find any support for the common practice of comforting one’s self. The preceding verse shows us that self-comforting activities will be fruitless and will ultimately weaken us. Self-comforting is a path of false comforting. It damages our relationship with God and tears apart the Body of Christ. It rejects submission to the Holy Spirit and teaches people to live with independence from God.
In the preceding study, we learned that we are called to mourn and be comforted by God, and that we are called to comfort one another through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the narrow path of true Godly comforting. The comfort we receive through the power of God is the blessing that comes to those who are willing to mourn over their losses and their sins. True comfort comes from God. False comforting comes from our own works of the flesh. Godly comfort comes through the Holy Spirit in response to the deeply painful experience of mourning, but false comfort is manufactured by men and Satan to help people to avoid the pain of mourning.
The Blessing of God’s Comforting is Conditional
God will comfort those who mourn. However, His blessing is conditional. We must be willing to feel the pain of mourning and grieving. We cannot skip over the pain and jump to the blessing. There is Godly order in each of the eight statements of blessing from the Sermon on the Mount. First we are broken and have poverty of spirit; then we enter into the kingdom of God. First we mourn; then we are comforted. This seems rather simple, yet this principle is frequently overlooked in many church organizations today.
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
We are not comforted just because we are Christians. Godly Comfort comes to those who mourn. Many Christians will not mourn and grieve over their sins and their losses and so they forgo God’s comforting. Instead, they rely on psychological defense mechanisms and worldly distractions to avoid the pain of their mourning. In doing so, they keep God at a distance. Many even use scripture to justify the avoidance of mourning. I can’t possibly count the number of times I have heard the following verse quoted as proof of why a Christian does not need to mourn over past losses or feel the pain of his or her recent sins.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Yes, we become a new creature when God gives us a new heart. However, if we were missing an arm or leg when we were saved, we do not automatically regrow the limb at the moment of our salvation. Similarly, the festering emotional wounds of the past do not cease to exist because we have become a new creature in Christ. The emotional wounds of the past are not automatically erased, but will be removed through our ongoing sanctification. Sanctification is the work of the Christian that extends throughout his or her life. Many prefer to deny this work by saying that sanctification is only a one-time event that happens at the moment of salvation. We are most certainly sanctified when we are saved, however, the Holy Spirit continues to work upon the true Christian and continues to reveal formerly unconscious areas where sanctification is now required. This is the progressive aspect of sanctification.
Acts 26:16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; 17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
We are sanctified by faith. When we first repent for our sins and believe in Jesus, we are sanctified. However, faith and belief are not one-time events. If faith and belief are to continue throughout the life of a Christian; then our sanctification also continues from day to day and year to year until we are called home. We are sanctified by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit of God, which brings truth to bear upon every aspect of our lives.
John 17:16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
We are sanctified as we read the word of God. This is a lifelong process. Jesus said that He sanctifies himself. We are to follow in His footsteps, thus we are also to sanctify ourselves. Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to lead us in this work of purification. Sanctification is not optional, but is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
We saw in the previous study that Christians are expected to mourn, and we can expect God to meet us in our pain. If we refuse to mourn, then we close the door on the comfort that the Holy Spirit wishes to give us. We are not just closing the door on comfort, but we are also closing the door on the blessing that comes from mourning. A person who truly mourns will be met by God, and will be forever changed by the encounter. He will become more Christ-like, sanctified and holy.
When we mourn, we are humbled before God. Those who will not be humbled will find it very difficult to mourn. Those who will not be humbled and mourn, will not be blessed.
Self-Comforting is not Godly Comforting
Those who are adept at self-comforting disregard and usurp the role of the Holy Spirit, who is to be our divine comforter. They do this by using self-indulgent and self-satisfying behaviors to avoid the pain of mourning. It is a sin to reject the role of the Holy Spirit and to replace Him with self-indulgent behaviors. Within the Body of Christ, we will find many who teach others how to become self-comforters. They teach others to do the sins that they have perfected for the sake of avoiding the pain of mourning. Thus they teach others to do their sin, and do so to their damnation.
When we tell a brother or sister, “Don’t cry.” “Don’t grieve.” “Don’t take it so seriously.” or “Let’s look on the bright side…” we are opposing God and His rightful function in the life of a Christian. When we say, “Here, have a cookie,” “Let’s go out and get a drink,” or start telling jokes to try and cheer-up a person who is mourning with the intent of making them feel better, we are quite often serving our own interests not theirs. We all need to examine ourselves on this point.
Failure to Mourn
Most people in America cannot emotionally tolerate witnessing the pain of those who are mourning. This is often because they have refused to mourn over the losses in their own life. When they witness the mourning of other people, it triggers a release of their own unresolved pain, which makes them very uncomfortable. In far too many situations, they continue to deny the old grief related to their own losses, which makes them incapable of helping others mourn. Instead, they help others avoid grieving and mourning.
As we have seen, Godly comforting comes through the Holy Spirit, through scripture, and through loving contact with brothers and sisters in Christ. As we will see, ungodly comforting comes through the use of activities and habits that distract us from the pain of our mourning or medicate the pain so that we become numb to it. We give ungodly comfort when we help turn people away from the pain of their mourning, because we are turning them away from God. When we encourage other people to just “look at the positive” or to engage in activities that distract their attention or suppress the pain of their mourning, we are leading them away from depending on God. We are leading them away from God’s role as the comforter by helping them to deny their need for God’s comforting touch. This practice inevitably leaves people emotionally bound up and emotionally unsupported. These are the exact conditions that Satan seeks, because they represent an open door through which he can assert his deceptive influences.
Leading People Away from Mourning is Witchcraft
Witchcraft is rebellion against God, and is one of the most common sins practiced in church organizations today. When we distract or prevent people from mourning, we are practicing a form of witchcraft, because we are attempting to control the emotions, thinking, and behavior of others. Witchcraft is the sin of controlling other people for our personal benefit. The benefit may be the avoidance of witnessing the pain of others, the emotional satisfaction of being praised for being a good helper, or even material/financial gain that comes from performing ministry duties. Regardless of the personal benefit that is achieved, when we interfere with God’s call to mourn, we are sinning against God and man. When we put ourselves between God and a brother or sister in Christ, we help to open the door to the establishment of a relationship between man and Satan. Satan will gladly step into the position of God if we turn a person’s attention away from the one true God.
1 Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft
Addictions are also Witchcraft
Christians and the lost people of the world both use various forms of addictions to distract themselves from the pain of mourning. Our addictions disconnect us from our pain, our losses, and our need to be humbled and comforted by God, because we are comforting ourselves. Addictions are powerful obstacles to the experience of Godly sorrow, true mourning, and Godly comforting. God calls us to be broken and contrite, and to mourn over our losses. Addictions prevent us from having these Godly experiences. It is the purpose of witchcraft to prevent us from having true Godly experiences and to teach us to depend upon ourselves and Satan. When a person consumes addictive substances that give comfort, or participates in self-comforting addictive activities of the mind or body, then the person is resisting becoming humble before God. The result is that the person is not willing to feel the fullness of his or her pain, and therefore is not ready or able to mourn. Those who do not mourn will not experience the fullness of God’s presence in their lives.
When Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted,” He stated a powerful spiritual principle. However, He was also giving us specific instructions about how Christians should live. In this verse, Jesus is telling us that we must be humble and mourn. We must have a broken and contrite heart and experience the depth of our sorrow and pain. He is promising us that we will be comforted by the comforter, and it will be the comforter who meets us in our pain and delivers us from it. His blessing is a powerful alternative to worldly distractions and addictions that are used to escape the pain of mourning.
As Christians, we are called to turn our hearts to God as we mourn, so that God can comfort us in the heaviness of our sorrow. God’s comfort gives us true rest.
Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
One of the great problems in the church today is the preoccupation with the avoidance of mourning. The modern church says “eat, drink, and be merry,” because Jesus saved you and He will keep on loving you no matter what you do. In other words, don’t worry about your sins, your worldly distractions, and your addictions. Don’t worry about mourning – life is good – God is good – go ahead and enjoy everything that God has given you, because all your sins have been forgiven. Christians urge one another to avoid mourning and to practice exactly what God is condemning in the next scripture.
Luke 12:19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
As with every false teaching, there is some truth. Yes, we should enjoy the gifts of God. However, any gift can be abused to the extent that it begins to destroy us. We are called to be rich toward God. This means to have a deep abiding relationship with God and not with the things of the world. The danger is that the things of the world that flow into our lives as gifts from God can be turned into idols, and we can begin to worship them instead of worshipping God.
This is how God describes His proper place in our lives:
Exodus 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Exodus 34:14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
Mark 12:30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
Addictions are Idolatry
Addictions are a form of idolatry. The things that we turn to during times of mourning and stress are our idols. The things that we reach out and grab to avoid the pain of mourning are our idols. An idol is anything that we seek after and that we must possess or use in order to avoid pain. An idol is anything that a person uses to manufacture false comfort and to create self-indulgent peace and rest. Our God is a jealous God. He refuses to share His throne with anyone or anything. He rejects the practice of turning to idols in any form. He is completely intolerant of anything that promises to deliver a counterfeit version of what only He can truly provide. When there are things in our lives that we must consume, must do, or must possess in order to experience comfort and feel at peace, we have turned away from the true God and are seeking after idols.
These are some of the common idols for the people of the world and for the people of God: alcohol, drugs, addictive foods, sexual self-stimulation, thrill seeking, accumulation of money and possessions, gossiping, workaholism, and even religious activities. These are all forms of idolatry that commonly replace the need for God in our lives.
God does not Comfort those who Worship at the Altar of Self-Comfort
When we knowingly tolerate the existence of any sin or any form of addiction, we are being double minded. We are saying that it is OK for me to worship the true God and at the same time to turn to my favorite addictions and to worship at the altar of self-comfort whenever I want to! Our God is a jealous God and He will not accept such behavior under any circumstances. He will not only reject those who participate in such behavior, but He will also curse them as well as their descendants. Those who worship the gods of their addiction are in serious trouble with God. They will be cursed and not comforted. God perceives any form of idolatry as hatred of God.
Exoduses 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
Deuteronomy 4:24 For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.
Joshua 24:19 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. 20 If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.
The Demigods of Self Comfort
The gods that we worship at the altar of self-comfort have easily recognized names. They all require us to bow down and trust them and depend upon them. The demigods of addiction can be substances that we use or people that we idolize. Some of the specific names of the demon gods of addiction are alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, morphine, cocaine, adrenalin, gluttony, refined sugar, refined flour, pornography, astrology, divination, witchcraft, pharmaceutical drugs, physicians, hospitals, pastors, church buildings, power and control, narcissism (self-love), codependency, enabling the sin of others, wealth, etc. Any of these false gods can take control over certain aspects of our lives. Any of these gods can lead us to destruction. Any of these gods can prevent us from being humble, broken, and mourning over our pain. Every one of these idols will gladly keep us locked in a pattern of self-satisfying comfort for the rest of our lives on Earth.
To voluntarily submit to any of the idols of addiction is also the sin of pride. An addicted person believes that he or she has a right to be comforted. The grand demon of pride tells us that we are special and deserve to be comforted. It is always a sinful choice to place other gods before the one true God. This is idolatry. This is sin. This is the path of vanity and the path of false comforting, and puts us into the position of trying to live without submitting to the true shepherd.
Zechariah 10:2 For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain: therefore they went their way as a flock, they were troubled, because there was no shepherd.
We have been warned about serving idols.
Psalm 106:36 And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them.
We have been warned about the power and danger of addiction.
Deuteronomy 21:19 Then shall his father and his mother lay holdon him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; 20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. 21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
We have been warned about the snare of fearing man, which today is called codependency. The fear of man is self-idolatry. On the surface, it can appear as the humble giving of preference to the needs and desires of others, but in actuality, when it is driven by fear of man and not of God, it is all about protecting one’s self from conflict and pain. It is also the sin of pride. If we value our reputation and self-image more than we value speaking truth, then we are living by the sin of pride. Fear of man and pride are self-seeking sins, by which we deceive ourselves and others. These sins are a deception and a snare. We may believe that we are living safely in the comfort zone of our own creation, but we are actually denying the comfort that comes directly from trusting God.
Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.
Turning Away from Addictive Idolatry
We need not feel hopeless and helpless about the idols and addictions that we have been turning to for ungodly comfort. Christians can be set free from the bondage of addiction through the power of the Holy Spirit! Today, true Christians have been given the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can exercise control over the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life, which are the driving force behind addictions and idolatry. These scriptures describe the alternative to addiction and idolatry.
Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
Romans 13:14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
We are commanded to turn away from the sin of idolatry and the lusts of the flesh. We are commanded to turn to God and be filled by the Holy Spirit.
Joel 2:12 Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
Psalm 119:76 Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.
When the people of Israel were in the desert, God prevented them from using food and drink to ease their pain. He wanted to turn them away from the lusts of the flesh and to be completely sober so that they would know that He was the one and only true God.
Deuteronomy 29:6 Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God.
We are commanded to Turn Away from our Idols
The root of idolatry is lust and pride. Lust and pride go hand-in-hand with idolatry. As we turn away from our flesh satisfying lusts and the self-comforting habits that result, we begin to cut ourselves off from the idolatrous worship of things of the world, and we draw closer to God.
Romans 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
Titus 2:12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
1 Peter 2:11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;
1 Peter 4:1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. 3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:
1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
Lusts and Idolatrous Addictions Prevent People from Being Transformed by Scripture
Mark 4:19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
Paul gives us another way to look at our addictions, lusts, and idols. He uses the language of power and control. Paul calls us to examine everything in our lives and to turn away from anything that has the ability to exercise power over us. He was intolerant of being controlled by anything other than the Holy Spirit of God. He removed the discussion from “following the law” and focused it on fleeing from things that would control him. He calls us to do the same. He calls us to examine ourselves and to refuse to be brought under the control of anything other than God.
1 Corinthians 6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
Escaping the Bondage of Addiction
How do we overcome the idols and addictions in our lives? The answer is found right here in Matthew 5:3-4. We humble ourselves, repent, and mourn. We repent for our idolatry. We repent for our sins of self-comforting. We repent for the self-medicating behaviors that we are using to take us away from our pain. We repent for trusting in substances and activities to give us relief from our distress. We repent for refusing to depend upon God. We repent for preserving our addictions and worshipping at the altars of our favorite gods of addiction. We repent for choosing mirth over mourning.
Ecclesiasts 7:4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
If the power of our addictions is greater than our willingness to repent, then we must cry out to God and ask that He give us the strength and willingness to repent and mourn. We can pray for Him to show us His sorrow over our idolatries and addictions and pray that He will heal the wounds that are being medicated by our addictions. We can ask Him to meet us in the depth of our pain and to give us the true Godly comfort that heals all wounds. We can ask that He show us the lies that we believe, which are preventing us from mourning. We can pray for the willingness to examine ourselves through the power of the Holy Spirit to reveal the lies that we believe about God, the lies that we believe about other people, and the lies that we believe about ourselves, so that the Holy Spirit can bring correction. God’s truth will set us free from all things that bind us to the world and keep us controlled by Satan. However, we must be willing to turn away from our addictions. We must be willing to do whatever it takes to surrender the desires of the flesh. We must be willing to pray, fast, and study scripture in order to bring about this fruit.
Joel 2:13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
Lusts and Idolatry can cause others to Stumble
Our lusts and idolatries can cause brothers and sisters to stumble. We have a responsibility to be living examples of righteousness, which can inspire others toward pursuing righteousness and holiness. We are not to encourage others to share in our addictions, in our worldiness, or our sins. We are to protect our brothers and sisters by being cleansed and sanctified. It is one of the ways that we can show our love for others.
Romans 14:21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
The preceeding scripture stands in direct opposition to worldly thinking. The cornerpost of the pigpen of worldly thinking states: “I am free to do my thing and you are free to do your thing. Don’t judge me and I won’t judge you. I am not hurting anyone so just leave me alone.” Sadly this type of worldly thinking is common among the people who participate in church organizations today. The truth is that we don’t live on a desert island and our lives are visible to others. For Christians, our lives are an example to others in the Body of Christ whether or not we want them to be. Our indulgences, our distractions, our addictions, set the standard for other Christians. Ultimately, scripture sets the mark of perfection. However, the outworking of faith and our interpretation of scripture is transparently revealed to others by the way we live our lives and the choices we make concerning how we spend our time and our money. Do we live like the world lives? Or, do we turn away from worldly living and choose a different path?
The people of the world are watching the life of every Christian. The people of the world have come to associate the word “hypocrite” with Christianity. They look at the lives of people who say they are Christians, and compare it to what they know about Christianity. When they see that the lives of Christians look just like the live they live, with the exception of church attendence on Sunday morning, then they are happy to spit forth the word “hypocrite.” If the quality of our lives does not reveal that we are different from the world, and that the difference is rooted in our relationship with God, then we have nothing to show the world that will bring glory to God. Being a member of a church organization by itself does not bring glory to God and is not a testimony to the world.
If our lives are filled with worldly self-comforting behaviors, then how can we tell anyone about the blessing of Godly comforting? Who will believe the hypocrite who talks about Godly comforting when he or she persues the same self-comforting activities and addictions that the people of the world persue?
Paul’s advice to Timothy should ring true in the heart of every person who claims to be Christian. It should spur us into action and to cause us to turn away from our addictions and our idols. Please take some time to meditate on the following verse.
2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.