How to Be a Good Citizen [Podcast]

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America has been scandalized recently by a rash of unusual and unexpected events: A Charlottesville, Virginia terror incident and displays of hate that led to one dead protester and several injured. There was also a high number of public property damage incidents where various locations in the United States were defaced by people angry about the intention of certain US Monuments having a relationship (or even no relationship) to the Civil War.
Following these was a genuine outside threat to American sovereignty by a new terror strategy: the using of radicalized Islamist children, claiming to be American, who have been featured in ISIS propaganda videos.


Summary of Threat
https://youtu.be/328nCKsUYWc


Content Warning ISIS has stooped low before, by having radicalized children fight for the terror group, and to participate in terror by executing soldiers and others in the name of Allah. Content Warning


All of these challenges to America and the American Way of Life leads to an important question in our time:
What is required to be a good citizen?
What does it mean to be an American citizen? Meant for people of all our 25+ nations who currently listen to Podcast Seminary, this is a message targeted to Americans– but a discussion that all citizen Christians should ask. The question being posed in this podcast episode is simple: “Is there any legitimate expectation of citizenship that we should give and receive from our fellow countrymen?” There was a time not long ago that it was an expectation for all American citizens to show indications of loyalty to country. Now that is an open question. This issue is what we will discuss in this podcast, related to the reasonable and scriptural expectations of being a good citizen.


LISTEN AND LEARN HERE


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Source:
Dave Anderson, Jan 26 2016-https://www.listland.com/top-10-reasons-immigrants-should-be-required-to-learn-english/

Understanding Islam and Extremist Terror

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Understanding Islam and Extremist Terror


In this special episode, Podcast Seminary Dean, Dr. Freddy Cardoza, answers the questions:

What does Islam teach?
What do Muslims believe?
Why are factions of Muslims frequently at war with one another?
What is Sharia Law?
What are the Five Pillars of Islam
Who was Muhammad?
What was Muhammad’s Night Journey?
Is the Quran Inspired?
Who is ISIS? Al Qaeda? Boko Haram? Al Shabaab?

And much more!
Also, over 30 hours in the making, get the 90 slide presentation on “Understanding Islam and ISIS” at http://podcastseminary.download


Listen Now to this Extended Session


Barcelona Terror: ISIS and Muslim Extremism [Podcast]

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On August 17, 2017 on the famed Las Rambla in Barcelona, Spain, a raging terrorist drove a windowless white van 60mph down the pedestrian-filled walkway, killing or injuring nearly 100 people.
In this timely podcast, Podcast Seminary Dean, Dr. Freddy Cardoza, addresses the Barcelona ISIS Attack, exploring terror sentiments among Muslims around the world from the latest Pew Research report (August 9, 2017), along with a close look at ISIS and other terror groups.


Listen Now


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Source: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/08/09/muslims-and-islam-key-findings-in-the-u-s-and-around-the-world/

How to Make Good Choices [Podcast]

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Little is more important in life than making good choices.
And daily we find ourselves making dozens and dozens of choices.  In fact, a recent study by Cornell University reported that the average person in the United States makes 227 choices daily– just involving issues related to food!  Some estimates are that we make, through big and small choices, up to 35000 choices daily.
Wow!
Whatever the number, we make a lot of choices.  And our choices should be good ones.
In this important episode, Podcast Seminary Dean, Dr. Freddy Cardoza, helps you build a decision-making model based on scripture.  He names and explores three categories informed by God’s Word, then explains what each is, followed by examples of each, and exactly what believers should do in making decisions in each category.
Prepare to learn about:
1) Matters of Conviction
2) Matters of Conscience
3) Matters of Choice


Listen Now!

 

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How to Make Good Choices [Blog]

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How to Make Good Choices

Our world is a complex place. Life’s choices have become increasingly challenging to make.  Discernment is harder than it used to be.  Rather than life presenting us with clearly black and white issues, it seems that society lives more in the marginal grays– where what is right and wrong, or best for us, isn’t always obvious.
That led me to begin searching to find out how many choices we actually make in the course of a day or week.  What I found surprised me.
Every day we make an enormous number of decisions.  So many, in fact, that the matter has caught the attention of social scientists.
It may surprise you that, according to researchers at respected Cornell University, a whopping 226.7 decisions are made each day by the average American… on food alone!  (Would you like fries with that?) What’s more, when taking into consideration all of the choices we make– whether conscious, subconscious,impulsive, logical, and complex decisions– up to a staggering 35,000 choices overall are reportedly made every 24 clock hours of the day for the average person! 

We Make “How Many” Decisions Everyday?

Possibly 35,000.  And if you think about it, it makes at least some sense.

After all, we decide things like when we will get up and whether we will snooze the alarm or not.  choice of toothpaste, if and when to brush our teeth, whether to use mouth wash, when to use mouth wash, and what brand of mouthwash to use– and how much.  Then there’s what we’ll wear.  Considering the fact that the average person wears at least 8 articles of clothing, that racks up another 6-8 decisions, depending on how you count it.  And that’s just before breakfast!
So if this 35,000 choices per day statistic is even remotely true, that calculates to past 2 Million in the average lifetime!  And even if it were much less, you’re still talking in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands per person!

Making Good Decisions is Critical. But How?

With this many choices on the line, we had better learn more about how to make good ones.  This is especially true for the Christian, as we are told in scripture to be discerning about everything (Phil 1:9-10) and to pay close attention to our thinking (2 Cor. 10:5). With these truths in mind, let’s look at some helpful perspectives on how to make decisions as a disciple of Jesus.

1. Identify Whether the Issue is a Matter of Choice, Conscience, or Conviction

2. Then determine the correct course of action, based on the following decision-making grid.


Though I have heard a number of approaches to decision-making, I felt more work needed to be done to help us in areas where believers often disagree and where important life choices must be made.  Decisions, overall, and issues of ethics and morality in particular, are becoming tougher and tougher to discern.
There seemed to be times when the choice models to which I’d been exposed simply didn’t get the job done.  Either the situations required so many exceptions and entailments that the issues overwhelmed the model– or the categories provided for decision-making weren’t a good fit.  Here’s an alternate decision-making model I hope will help.
Everything begins by figuring out what type of decision is being presented to you.  That is what dictates how you will approach the situation.  And if this seems complicated– it really isn’t.  This simply involves working to classify everything into one of three simple biblical categories.  Let’s look more closely at the grid I created that builds off of earlier models I have seen.  What follows isn’t inerrant, but it’s a start and the best insight I have at this point in my thinking.
Here we go.


Three Classifications of Choices

I separate choices into three categories: Matters of Conviction, Conscience, and Choice.  I think these closely mirror what we see in scripture.

  1. Matters of Conviction are issues that the Bible addresses clearly and/or explicitly, and where prohibitions or principles are obvious to Christians who take the Bible seriously.  In these cases, there is no discernment needed as to God’s Will or what to choose… just the decision to be obedient.
  2. Matters of Conscience are issues that may or may not be addressed explicitly in scripture, or that are left purposefully without specific prohibitions or commands, and are especially instances when ‘principles’ need to be clarified and weighed out.  Often these are issues that depend on a myriad of circumstances or mitigating factors that, when those variables are taken into consideration, make a decision a good one or bad one.  But because discernment is needed, and since believers are all at different levels of maturity and Bible knowledge, these are issues where devoted believers can differ (especially when certain groups’ teachings on these issues seem to conflict with scripture) and when, despite the issue being clear to our understanding, a significant group of Christians can knowingly differ on the issue.
  3. Matters of Choice are issues where scripture is silent or provides no directives. It is when the Bible’s teaching is not obligatory and when believers seem to be given permission to do as they choose.

These are quick sketches of each of the three categories explored below.  Their brevity is helpful in some ways, but the simplicity itself raises more questions.  So let’s do a deep dive in each category to see how this approach might help our decision-making, so we can make better choices!


Making Good Choices in “Matters of Conviction”

Matters of Conviction are clearly important.  These are issues where we have genuine and deeply-held beliefs.
Matters of Conviction involve decision-making on issues of moral or theological importance.  Non-moral or theological choices aren’t relevant here because, since they aren’t moral or theological– they do not rise to the level of a biblical conviction.  That is why these matters are so important.
Two Components of a Matter of Conviction
Matters of Conviction are issues that the Bible addresses clearly (say it with me) “when proper Bible interpretation occurs.”  So there are two issues that dictate what I consider to be a Matter of Conviction: (1) Any serious Christian would consider the issue to be one clearly addressed in scripture.  The Bible addresses the matter and teaches on it, usually explicitly– or in such an implicit way that the biblical teaching can’t be missed. That’s the first issue: That the issue is clearly addressed in scripture, be it by implicit principle or explicitly.
The second issue (2) related to a Matter of Conviction is that, when proper biblical interpretation occurs by persons who have a high regard for the authority of scripture, the issue is considered clear to all.  Note that, because of the continual, even incessant assault on the authority of scripture in society and, indeed, in our pulpits and even some seminaries, matters that should be considered clear issues of “conviction” are harder to identify than they should be.  Even so, the position taken in this blog post is that scripture is authoritative and binding, specifically inspired, infallible, and yes– inerrant.  This model of making choices begins to break down when scripture is questioned, simply because the standard is then relativized and the goal posts are moved.  So let’s assume, at least for the purposes of this discussion, that scripture is “true” (an assumption, by the way, that I always make).
Matters of Conviction include a great number of decisions in life.  These “should be” easy for Christians, and are for committed Christians.  These “Matters of Conviction,” being both clearly taught in scripture AND when understood by a person who holds to the authority of scripture, are nothing more than areas of obedience or disobedience to scripture. There is no real question as to whether the action or issue is moral or immoral, right or wrong, good or bad.  There is no question whether the teaching or doctrine should or shouldn’t be honored, because it is explicitly taught from the authoritative source of Christian revelation: scripture.
Possible Examples of Matters of Conviction
Any list such as this is bound to cause some people trouble.  That’s the nature of such things.  But leaving the issue to guessing is even worse.
One can only speak from his or her own perspective, so following is my personal perspective on what would constitute a Matter of Conviction and, as the Apostle Paul says, let each be “convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).

  • Matters of Conviction includes areas where certain behaviors are scripturally forbidden, such as in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). It doesn’t get much clearer than “Thou shalt not…”   And of course, there are others.  The Ten Commandments are not the only behaviors or issues specifically forbidden or prescribed in the Bible.  A great number of other behaviors are also identified throughout scripture, things such as human sacrifice, practicing divination, being a medium (all in Deuteronomy 18). In these cases, both the explicit thing forbidden and things that flow from them, are clearly considered Matters of Conviction.  So, in this instance, it would be clear (a) in explicit and implicit scriptural teaching and also (b) to anyone committed to the authority of scripture, that everything directly forbidden (cold-blooded murder, theft, adultery, and others) in addition to those things explicitly implied in scripture (fraticide, cheating, consulting a spiritual medium, and the like) are legitimate Matters of Conviction.  But there are others.

 
Ten CommandmentsSource: ucg.org


 

  • Matters of Conviction aren’t only issues that are “illegal” and “immoral.”  Sometimes the Bible considers certain things wrong that are civilly legal.  The fact that these exist show how far culture has “slouched toward Gomorrah” in the words of former Supreme Justice nominee, Judge Robert Bork.   In this case, some laws (or absence of laws) in our society allow certain behaviors that, for Christians, are Matters of Conviction and clearly beyond the pale.  These, though sometimes debated by some, would include issues legal in some places, but nevertheless in clear or implicit violation of scriptural authority, like: marijuana use and the abuse of drugs and medication, drunkenness, abortion on demand, suicide or doctor-assisted suicide, unfair business dealings, sexual activity with deceased persons (on the rise in some places and not always outlawed) or the like.

Interestingly, agreement by Christians on what constitutes a Matter of Conviction isn’t necessary– though most Christians happen to agree.  This is seen in Galatians 2, and can be extrapolated in other instances, where scripture was clear but believers’ behavior and convictions differed.  In that passage, Paul challenged Peter who was “clearly in the wrong” and whose actions were hypocritical, in that Peter’s actions threatened Christian fellowship and even Christian doctrine.  Scripture was clear– and the issue was one of obedience, not a crisis of conscience.
Sadly, it’s not uncommon for believers to differ on issues like these which should be “slam dunks” scripturally, but disagreements still happen. Even so, when the Bible is clear about certain issues, choices, or decisions, no discernment is needed.  Christians should be obedient to scripture and to the Lord, and stand one’s ground, in spite of whether others disagree.  The Holy Spirit will settle the rest.  No one made that more clear than the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:15 who said, “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”


 

Making Good Choices in “Matters of Conscience”

The second category in making good choices, it seems to me, are Matters of Conscience.
Matters of Conscience are as follows: (1) decision-making issues that may or may not be directly mentioned in scripture, and that (2) Christians may feel very strongly about, but that (3) reasonable Christians can conclude are either not explicit nor clear in scripture, requiring patience and humility toward others on such matters.
It’s important to keep in mind that Matters of Conscience are very much “important.”  The fact that devoted believers may disagree on some of these issues does not lessen their importance most of the time. These are issues where right and wrong are (or apparently are) in play. These are deeply personal issues of one’s conscience and stir our hearts profoundly in some cases.
When a Matter of Conscience exists– even if a person might agree that “good Christians can disagree” on the matter, that does not require the believer to weaken their own conviction…. but it does require us to “live and let live.”  In other words, these are issues that require both personal conviction on one’s values and interpersonal grace and humility at the same time.
Matters of Conscience are issues that trigger the conscience and that good biblical Christians can differ upon. These are areas where important issues are involved, including issues that may have some moral connotations, but that lack sufficient biblical clarity, or where nuances of language, cultural considerations, or challenges of interpretation might exist or are perceived to exist.
The danger here is that, because of people’s increasing lack of conviction about the authority of scripture in some areas of Christendom (among believers, churches, and theological institutions), there are those who would like to push nearly every issue into this category or lower.  Some Christians have even relegated things like “Jesus being the only way to God” (John 14:6) to an unnecessary and unbinding issue.  Even so, lest we drift into moral subterfuge and amorality, this category should be clearly defined and carefully understood.
On Matters of Conscience, the individual believer isn’t or shouldn’t be confused.  Because they are matters of “conscience,” the issues are mostly straight-forward, at least in our mind.  They evoke and stimulate our consciences, so we feel strongly about these issues.  That is not the issue.  The issue is that “our conviction is not shared by most/all.”  And, if pressed, a mature believer would admit that there may be room in these issues where scripture “could have been more clear” and, because it isn’t, there was an intentional decision to leave them as they are.
Possible Examples of Matters of Conscience

  • In the New Testament, though scripture seemed to be clear to many, still other believers with a different background had different opinions.  Some believers, primarily Jewish, sought circumcision (Galatians 5:1-4) while others did not.  Another instance was where some believers felt free to eat meat sacrificed to idols (Galatians 2:11-16) and others didn’t.  In other words, their consciences were each triggered differently about the same issue.  Though scripture was, over time, understood and increasingly clear, there was a time when devoted Jesus followers did not share the same view.  Both loved Christ and were committed to scripture.  Both thought they were right about the issue, but they generally gave other believers freedom of conscience.  And that’s why these are called Matters of Conscience.

Other issues about which Christians disagree, though scriptural teaching in some form or another exist, are:

  • Choices about social drinking
  • Tithing
  • Dancing
  • Immigration issues
  • Some (perhaps not all) political planks in different political parties’ platforms (minimum wage-fair wage disputes, social justice causes, etc.)
  • Recycling
  • Psychiatric Care issues
  • Stances on ‘Climate Change’ as an ideology
  • About a million more.

Personally, I have strong convictions, one side or the other, on these issues.  And I believe that scripture touches these matters.  But I also understand these issues, at least “some of them,” can be understood differently by other well-meaning and devoted believers.  And while they may strongly believe I am wrong on some of these choices, and me-them, I still extend to them courtesy, mercy, and grace– even though these can remain areas of disagreement and even debate.
What should we do in these instances?
Believers should:
• Know their positions on these issues
• Uphold-live their beliefs and honor their consciences
• Be prepared to discuss their positions
• Patiently give love and honor to those who differ (1 Cor 8; 1 Cor 10:29)


 

Making Good Choices in “Matters of Choice”

The final category in my thinking about “making good choices” is called “Matters of Choice.”
In Matters of Choice, we are faced with issues where no clear scriptural issue is at play. These are general issues of importance to some people, including strong importance, but that are not addressed in scripture or that scripture gives freedom of expression. Some people feel strongly enough about these issues that they seek to elevate their status to higher levels, but in truth, they aren’t.
Note here that– being a Matter of Choice doesn’t mean that these aren’t important, or that they’re not worth sweating, or that I am undervaluing them. Indeed, almost every (not all, but many) decisions– even Matters of Choice– are important, at least to the person making the choice…. but here, I’m not saying “Matters of Insignificance,” but rather, Choice.  And as such, this simply means that there are no explicit or implicit scriptural prohibitions or commands that require our obedience.
Think of it this way.  God leads us in choices.  Sometimes God even gives us freedom in what to choose, without much or any direction.  But these can still be important decisions.  Where OR IF you go to college, for example, is an important decision. But it’s not a scriptural one.  What you wear is important– but it is a matter of choice.  Only if issues of modesty enter in does it move to another category, such as a Matter of Conscience or Matter of Conviction.  Normally, things like these, though important, are matters of choice.  You are free to do what you want.  And as the Apostle Paul said, these things shouldn’t all be taken lightly (though some choices can and should be taken lightly).
Paul’s admonition was to say:

“I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial (1 Cor. 10:23).

Possible Examples of Matters of Choice

  • Whether women wear pants or skirts/dresses or makeup or jewelry (some take issue with this based on certain scriptural passages that are misunderstood as prohibitions)
  • Whether you buy expensive items or not (meaning, cost of something isn’t necessarily a sign of materialism in and of itself)
  • Choosing to be vegan-vegetarian (or Paleo or any other version of food intake) (Mark 7:15-19; simple video explanation on why it is a choice and not a doctrinal issue of conviction or conscience)
  • The choice of using “paper or plastic or a reusable shopping bag” at a grocery store (as some have made all environmental issues issues bearing more importance than given in scripture)
  • Celebrating Christmas and one’s position on Santa Claus (important to many, but not scriptural issue per se)
  • One’s approach about handling the Easter Bunny issue with their children or church (important to many, but not scriptural issue per se)
  • Dressing up or not dressing up for Halloween (important to many, but not scriptural issue per se)
  • Where you go to college and if you go to college (not a true moral issue, but an important decision or matter of choice)
  • Whether you go to one Bible-believing church or denomination or a different Bible-believing church or denomination
  • Whether you use one type of Bible translation or another (any situation where a ‘translation’ is seen as the accurate one that “cannot ever be changed” like was discussed with the ESV recently and that is held by some KJV-only groups)
  • And all other issues of choice

What to Do: Believers should:
• Ensure the issue is indeed only a matter of choice (Rom 14:5)
• Live in freedom (Gal 5:1)
• Don’t allow your freedom in Christ to be taken by others who self-righteously judge your legitimate freedom in Christ Col. 2:16-17
• Personally decide if and when to temporarily and situationally suspend your freedom for weaker Christians (1 Cor 8:9)
• Be patient with immature believers and don’t argue over the issues (Rom 14:1)
• Don’t accept or tolerate the self-righteous judgment of others in these areas where no accusations should exist (Rom 14:10)
• Central in all these issues is that Christians love one another (John 13:34-35) and not judge one another (Col 2:16-17)


Summary

These are principles of how to make good choices.  By using this one or by creating your own that corresponds with scripture, you can quickly assess how to approach different decisions, especially when you have the opportunity to think about choices that need to be made.
By simply asking yourself, “Is this a Matter of Conviction (a truly non-negotiable biblical truth issue), a Matter of Conscience (an important issue that the Bible addresses, but that we must carefully weigh using our conscience and discernment of broader biblical principles), or a Matter of Choice (either a trivial issue or a more important issue, but one that the Bible provides no compelling prohibition or command for, providing you the opportunity to decide for yourself, without the need for others’ condemnation),  you can then go into each category and use the suggested principles to help you in decision making– so you can make good choices!
If you found this helpful, please share it!
 


Sources
Food and Other Choices Made Daily: (Wansink and Sobal, 2007)
Total number of choices daily: (https://go.roberts.edu/leadingedge/the-great-choices-of-strategic-leaders)
 


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[PODCAST EPISODE] Why You Behave the Way You Do

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Podcast, Why You Behave the Way You Do by Freddy Cardoza of Podcast Seminary


Why do you behave the way you do?

How do you have a clear conscience? Human behavior confounds us– and even the scientific community. This is because of fundamental confusion about the nature of humanity.
Because human nature is misunderstood, the reasons for behavioral problems (habits, behaviors, addictions, issues, dysfunction, etc.) are also misunderstood– simply because they are related and one follows the other.
In this instructive podcast, Podcast Seminary Dean, Dr. Freddy Cardoza (Ph.D., Leadership) will use his 20 years of experience as a pastor and 22 years as an academic professor at the graduate and post-graduate level to explore this vital topic.


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Why You Behave the Way You Do [Blog Post]

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Why You Behave the Way You Do

If you’re sometimes confused and even surprised by the things you do (especially the bad things), you’re not alone. Perhaps the only thing more shocking that why we behave why we do– is why others behave the way they do!
People everywhere feel the same. Not only now, but for millennia, human behavior has been a topic of discussion and concern. Civilizations throughout history have wanted to understand human behavior and its motivations. Good behavior is no problem. It enriches the world and only makes things better. It’s the bad behavior that concerns people. That’s because of the toll that bad behavior exacts on people, communities, and society at large.
In response to bad behavior, ‘laws’ are created, along with civil, meaning “state” or government punishments. But all laws only discourage behavior, not necessarily prevent it. Civilized societies discovered a long time ago that we can legislate behavior, but that we cannot externally change the human heart.
In fact, as long as a person is willing to deal with the odds of either getting caught and/or the consequences of their decisions, ‘laws’ and other external forces meant to curb behavior have little or no effect. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t have laws– we should and must. But it’s important to understand that laws operate at the lowest level of personal character– external behavior, rather than at the root of behavior, which is its source: the human heart.

Human Behavior is a Wild Card

That leads us to the problem. The problem is that human behavior is a wild card. It’s not always predictable. And that’s because people have free will. We call ‘free will’ “agency.” Agency is the ability to make choices freely, according to one’s own desires. So people are “agents,” and we have the God-given ability to choose what we want to do.
God’s made it that way, even though free will comes with the necessity that we can choose something other than ‘good.’ After all, “free will” wouldn’t be free if people couldn’t ‘will’ “freely.” In other words, if the only choice is “do what is right and good,” then there’s really no choice– then choices are actually determined, not free. So that’s the conundrum of free will– that, to get it, we have to open the possibility of bad behavior.
It isn’t as if God didn’t know that when He conceptualized and, in His inscrutible wisdom, choose to give us free will. There simply was no middle way: logically it wasn’t possible to create free will without the possibility of bad behavior. But God (apparently) deemed it “better” to offer free will or “personal agency” to us than to create a world of wound-up, determined robots going through the motions of a mechanized world. So it was either that– or freedom…. or to just create nothing at all. So, because God is greater and infinitely wise, He created an equitable system where, by the end of it all, He’d work out every injustice and circumvent every illegitimate human hurt, through His great providence, purpose, and wisdom.
So that takes care of part of the issue– that, ultimately, justice for bad human behavior will be addressed, and that God will redeem every injustice and give us everlasting bliss as believers– but FOR NOW, we still have the temporal and troubling daily issue of dealing with our, and others, free will– and the decisions and behaviors that go with it.
That said, the problem is that, sometimes, what we want to do has negative ramifications. Freedom has consequences– and it can produce both positive and negative outcomes.

The Apostle Paul Nailed It

An often-quoted statement from the Apostle Paul in the New Testament nails it:
“I am a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. In my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the sin at work within me. (Romans 7:14-21 excerpts, New Testament)
How much clearer could it be? Written thousands of years ago, we find ourselves sitting beside Paul, with our own hands gripping his ink-dipped quill, helping him write these words.
Paul was dealing with a profoundly important and personal issue we all face: our behavior.
Fundamentally, we behave the way we do because of the two or three causes or mitigating factors: Human behavior can be largely explained by these three factors:
Human Behavior is affected by the fact that we have moral agency– the fact that we have “free will.” I prefer the phrase ‘agency’ but free will is more common of a term and more broadly understood. Some of us who traffic in theology feel there are better ways and more exacting ways to communicate it, but for the simplicity of the discussion, let’s go with “free will.”
Human Behavior is affected by the fact that we have a fallen nature. Our human condition is compromised. We are broken. More about that in a minute.
Human Behavior is mitigated by the possession of and response to factors that include the activity and our response to the Human Conscience (in all people) and the presence or absence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life (Christian believers).
Now, let’s go back to the topic of this post (behavior) and to the current series– How to Have a Clear Conscience, and see how these relate to human behavior.
Theologians call this problem “Original Sin.” And sometimes it’s also called the Fall of Adam.
The Bible speaks about it in Romans 5:12, through the Apostle Paul. He writes: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.”
Here the Bible is speaking of the fact that spiritual brokenness entered the human experience (“just as sin entered the world”) through Adam, the Original Human Being (“through one man”), that sin brought physical and spiritual separation from God (“and death through sin”). And because of this Original Sin of Adam, that condition of being spiritually and physically separated from God was from then on inherited by all people, everywhere (“and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned”).
Wait! What Do You Mean We Have “Original Sin?”
I know, it’s startling. The idea that all people are broken is hard to swallow. Even harder is the idea that every person, when they are born, have something deeply and intrinsically wrong in their personhood. Just the idea– we don’t like it. And on that basis, many people simply reject the idea of Original Sin as being over the top.
So I realize that it’s a sobering concept, but I also believe the existence and reality of Original Sin is demonstrable in several ways. I like to think of it this way…

Indications of Original Sin

When a child is born and is only moments old (this is going to be tough to read, so brace yourself), we already know that, embedded within that child’s humanity is the condition of being mortal. In other words, when a child is born, we know that that child (and every child who ever lived) has a date of terminus– the child, whether he or she grows up or grows old, will ultimately die.
This is true, even if we could keep that person from any physical or medical threat. In such a case, even if no tragedy befell them, we KNOW that even that person would ultimately die of, if nothing else, “old age.”
Mortality affects 100% of people. And mortality itself is a direct result of Original Sin. And so is aging. If Original Sin didn’t exist, it seems that aging, disease, dying, and the like simply wouldn’t make a lot of sense. Why, after all, would or should anyone necessarily die? What explanation might be given for aging and dying of old age, if not Original Sin?
But in addition to this, consider another really obvious indication of “Original SIn.” Specifically, the idea that every person is “born with” a negative moral condition of being fallen. And it seems to me that this is demonstrably true.
Consider this: No good parent ever taught their child to do anything wrong. But kids do wrong things sometimes– even frequently. In fact, not only do we “not have to teach children to do ‘evil,’” they choose to do it quite naturally. In fact, kids often exhibit bad behavior IN SPITE OF the fact that we teach them constantly about good behavior!
What’s more, the very fact that we feel that we NEED to teach people to “behave” shows the implicit realization we have that people, left to themselves, will not always behave very well.
That’s a tacit admission that we innately realize that people carry an inherent brokenness. Meaning, functionally speaking, everyone– deep down– knows that all humans are not only capable of doing bad things– but that people can and will do bad things at times, out of their own volition, even when they are taught to do otherwise. In fact, even with the threat of punishment or pain, people of all ages, including children, naturally and quite easily choose bad behavior at times.
This isn’t meant to be negative— it’s just to establish an important theological truth: That Original Sin exists and that, inherently, we know it– even though it’s hard to admit.

Understanding Our Broken Nature

And because our human nature is broken, we do things we shouldn’t. We do things we don’t want to do. We do things others don’t want us to do. And we do things that, as a result, harm us… and others. These things harm us in all kinds of ways– sometimes emotionally; sometimes relationally; sometimes mentally; sometimes physically– and sometimes our behavior harms us in all of those ways.
So it’s important to understand human behavior and to get this figured out because it affects us (and others), including the ones we love, on a regular, even daily basis.

What Original Sin Does

It’s pretty clear that Original Sin is a serious thing. It has contaminated us. By that Original Sin passing from Adam on to us, we now have the natural predisposition to do things we shouldn’t do. We are, if you please, hard-wired in a way that we sometimes gravitate toward becoming unruly and even rebellious.
Let’s go just a little deeper.
First, I should say that I realize some people won’t or don’t like this idea. In fact, some are even ‘offended’ by it. That, plus it seems counterintuitive.
Didn’t God Create Us as Perfect Beings?
The reasoning against Original Sin goes something like this:

  1. God is perfect.
  2. God created a perfect world (as seen in Paradise or Eden, Genesis 1-3).
  3. In that perfect world he placed perfect people.
  4. These people were created in His image and, as such, must have been perfect and therefore– fundamentally good.

Well, almost.
On the surface it sounds perfectly logical. And it’s almost correct. But there’s more to it than what’s at face value.

  • God is perfect. That part is right on the money.
  • Also, God did create a perfect world. Again, good.

And in that perfect would, God created perfect people. Here, we have to say both, “yes” and “not exactly.” When God created Adam and Eve, they were “functionally perfect” in that they were newly created and had not sinned. But that did not mean they were completely perfect in terms of their human nature.
Don’t miss this.
Adam and Eve were created and were without sin. But because they were created, and finite, they were fundamentally different than God. And as created beings, though they were made “in God’s image,” they were not capable of receiving a completely incorruptible human nature. So while they were created as innocent and without sin, they were given free will and this (coupled with the fact that they were human and not God Himself) made them vulnerable.
Then, ultimately, Lucifer was expelled from Heaven due to his rebellion against God– he exploited this human vulnerability (free will or agency) and the corruptible (but then-innocent) nature of people was tempted and humanity fell.
This fallenness has been passed on, since that time, to all of us. It is the root cause of our estrangement from God, our personal issues, our bad behavior, and our moral weakness, in addition to a host of other things.
And if we take that issue, Original Sin, and add it to on-going human agency, our free will takes us places. And that… is why we behave the way we do.


Learn more about this truth by listening to our similarly-themed but different podcast series (www.podcastseminary.org) and our vlog series (http://www.podcastseminary.net).

Getting Rid of Guilt Once and For All: Why You Still Feel Guilty (blog post)

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Getting Rid of Guilt Once and For All: Why You Still Feel Guilty

It’s sad!

One of the saddest realities of human existence is the fact that so many people carry around the unbearable weight of guilt from past mistakes.
The existence of guilt is one of the primary reasons psychologists, counselors, therapists, physicians, pharmacists, and florists stay perpetually busy. People all around the world seek to assuage their guilt through so many things and yet, for the most part, people remain locked in the grip of either ‘guilt’ itself… or the toxins and captors that promised freedom from guilt.
I doubt if this is overstated.

People truly are riddled with guilt from past mistakes and besetting sins from which they just can’t get free.
It’s really, really, really time for that to end.


Freedom From Guilt is on God’s Terms, Not Ours

But it isn’t automatic. Freedom from the pain of guilt is available to all, but receiving such freedom (emancipation, really) comes on God’s terms, not ours.
For a person, any person, who wants to truly be free… freedom awaits. But the process of being forgiven cannot be short-circuited, otherwise we remain in its suffocating grip.
Let’s explore what I believe are the six scriptural principles of freedom from guilt. And our failure to comply with these six biblical principles is “Why You (We, or I) Still Feel Guilty.”
You can also find a full discussion of these truths on this video version of this discussion, given originally in a Facebook LIVE event.


6 Tips to Getting Rid of Guilt Once and For All

1. To Get Rid of Guilt, We Must Have Awareness of Sin

-We have to become aware that what we’re doing displeases God
-We have to know the difference between right and wrong
-This involves paying careful attention to our hearts. This includes, listening to our conscience. And if you’re a Christian, listening to the Holy Spirit. Half the battle is obeying your conscience, so it doesn’t become abuse and silenced, and then failing to make you aware of sin.
Scripture: Rom 3:20 ESV: For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.


2. To Get Rid of Guilt, We Must Have Acknowledgement of Sin

We must admit or acknowledge it—otherwise we’re keeping secrets from ourselves and we can’t go any further into freedom without acknowledging our sin (individually, not only as a whole set of sins ever committed—at some point, if things are bothering us, we must confess those singularly, one by one).
Scripture: Ps 32:5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
This passages comes from the “Man After God’s Own Heart” (the person God said pursued Him the most in his own time in history) who had to come to grips with this important principle. So, if the Man After God’s Own Heart had to come to grips with acknowledging it—so might we!


3. To Get Rid of Guilt, We Must Have Contrition

To have contrition means we regret something. I’m not a big fan of when people say “I have no regrets in life.” Really? I mean, really, really?
Unless a person has lived sinful perfection, I can’t imagine saying that. Now, people often mean “I learned something valuable” so they wouldn’t take an action back. The only problem with that is that “it’s not all about us.” In other words, the reason regret is important isn’t just because of US… we should have regret because that makes it clear that we recognize the pain we have caused OTHERS. Only a selfish view of our actions would keep us from having regrets.
And regret is the essence behind the concept of contrition. It means that we feel bad about it. We could have, should have, done otherwise.
Scripture: Psalm 51:17 New International Version: My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.


4. To Get Rid of Guilt, We Must Confess

Confess means to “declare the same thing” or “to repeat.” When we confess, we declare to God that His conviction of our action is accurate. It means we repeat that accusation and conviction back to Him… that we agree with it and declare it.
Proper biblical confession holds nothing back. It fully owns what we’ve done. It doesn’t restate the sin to our own liking, but instead restates it just as God has shown it to us. When we say the same thing about our sin as God does, we can be forgiven. When we shirk responsibility by confessing “to a lesser charge,” we remain in spiritual bondage. It’s as simple as that.
Scripture: Ps 32:5 “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”
Scripture; 1 John 1:9 “If we are faithful to confess our sin, God is faithful to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”


5. To Get Rid of Guilt, We Must Repent

Repentance means to change one’s mind. It means to do an about face. It means that we are going in one direction, wrongly, and we recognize and acknowledge that, and then “respond” by changing our mind about what we are doing and the direction we are going… resulting in a change of mind and, after repentance, a change of behavior.
Note that repentance is not the change in behavior exactly—it’s the change of mind. It’s the change of heart. That change and repentance begins to work its way into our behavior and our livestyle. God works His will into us and his transformation from the inside out, which is why it’s mostly about what is going on inside of us. Then, that inward change, results in outward behaviors. But repentance is getting our heart and head right, and that causes a change in our lives as a result.
Scripture: Acts 3:19 –repent that times of refreshing should come from the Lord


6. To Get Rid of Guilt, We May Have to Give Restitution

Genuine repentance leads to a desire to do whatever we can humanly do to right the wrongs in our past. This is what “restitution” is.
Restitution takes many forms. It may mean to approach someone and offer the grace of an apology. It may mean serving a person we’ve violated in some way. It may mean a type of action where we demonstrate penance—and not in “that” way… but to demonstrate to a person we’ve wounded or violated that we are “doing something” as a way to visibly show our contrition and apology. Restitution sometimes even involves cash payment, though that’s when the punishment fits the crime (like when stealing or embezzlement, etc. has occurred).
So what about restitution?
Sometimes restitution is necessary, and sometimes it isn’t.
Sometimes restitution is possible, and sometimes it isn’t.
Sometimes restitution is practical, and sometimes it isn’t.

Now, it should be clear that—even when restitution isn’t practical, it may be necessary. So “impracticality” isn’t in any way an indication that restitution isn’t needed. Impracticality simply makes it harder to do. But, just as it wasn’t “easy” for Jesus to manifest in human flesh in order to die on a cross for human sin—we can’t use the excuse that showing restitution for our wounding of another person is “impractical” or isn’t “easy.” That’s beside the point.
[Want More Details? Watch The Live Video Talk]
Even so, even if it IS possible, and even practical—that doesn’t mean God always wants us to do it in every situation.
Want to learn more about this principle? See my live video talk.
If you have received forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ, all of your sins are forgiven, whether or not you have been able to make restitution for them. But IF YOU DON’T FEEL FREE FROM A PARTICULAR SIN—ask God to reveal to you if restitution is needed then follow through.
Scripture: Exodus 22:1-14; Leviticus 6:2-5; Matthew 5:23-24
Matthew 5:23-24: “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift (of worship to the Lord).


What Happens When We Do These Things?

When we biblically deal with our guilt, God responds.

  1. God forgives our offense and restores fellowship with Him (and sometimes others)
  2. God cleanses our lives- and continues to make us holy (like Him and for His use), increasing the spiritual power in our lives, enabling His mighty work in our lives.
  3. He removes emotional guilt (Ps 32:3-5). That results in the end of self-loathing. It means finally having the grace to forgive ourselves and to stop allowing ourselves to be condemned by Satan and to live under the crushing weight of others’ disapproval.

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