Our Nasty Attitudes Toward God

Every believer experiences deteriorating attitudes toward God sometimes. Some believers are out of touch with their “inner man” and live with their heads in the spiritual sand. As a result, they may not recognize this tendency within themselves (and that is tragic). Denying reality is an old coping mechanism, but a dishonest one. Perceived or not, the attitude problem within us is real. Here are two issues related to these attitudes.

One sad but common sight is what I call “Christian brats.”

By “Christian brats,” I mean individuals who have been brought up in Christian homes, continue to attend or be involved in an evangelical church, but resent their faith as confining. They secretly wish that they had been born into a family of unbelievers so they could experience what “everyone else” is doing and not miss out on the fun. On one hand, such individuals may not have been born again by the Spirit of God; they are spiritually indifferent. On the other hand, I am convinced that many do know the Lord.

Being brought up in a fine Christian home has both advantages and challenges. Even with godly parents, children are not robots that can be programmed; they must choose to follow the Lord or not. We pray, hold our breath, and hope for the best. So much is in God’s hands.

We should not fool ourselves into thinking that resenting the lifestyle of the lost is new. Proverbs 23:17 warns us: “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day” (ESV).

Once we begin to envy lost people, we are in the danger zone. This is perhaps more true in the case of “compromised Christians,” for they claim to “understand.” We need to remind ourselves that not all who have professed faith and know the information are the real deal

When we begin to resent the restraint of God’s Word, we begin viewing our faith as a straight jacket; following Jesus is no longer about our animated walk with God; it has disintegrated into rules and restrictions. We view the truths of the Bible as restricting our joy and freedom. Solid devout believers are reinterpreted as killjoys.

Part of the problem arises because some believers know nothing of the joy the Lord. For some, I Peter 1:8b is a mystery: “you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (NIV, italics added).

Sometimes Christians begin to envy sinners later in life. Detours from the straight and narrow can surface at any age. Whom you envy creates a subconscious goal for your own personal direction. Ultimately, we should envy the character of God and wish it were ours! Paul challenges us: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children” (Eph. 5:1).

Another problem common to all is the battle within.

Believers experience the struggle between their new nature and their old nature (or the lingering sin principle). The battle is particularly intense in regard to our relationship with God. David struggled with two natures. In Psalm 86:11, we read, “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (italics added). David would not pray for an undivided heart unless he needed one. His heart, like ours, was divided. It is so easy to be a different person in a different environment.

The natural man wants nothing to do with the true God (Rom. 3:10). He may be interested in religion or a redefined god (Rom. 1:21-23). Our normal human nature is hostile toward the real God. Romans 8:7 reveals that “the sinful mind is hostile to God.” I Corinthians 2:14 tells us, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (italics added).

Since a lot of “Christians” are ignorant of the Bible, they claim to believe in the God of the Bible. But this is not always true. Many folks believe in the God their mother told them about, for example. But that God does not always fit the criteria of Yahweh in the Bible; He is often an “edited, sanitized, Yahweh.”

Those of us who are drawn to the true God and His Word acknowledge that we do not like everything about God. For example, I do not like His wrath or rage. I do not like that He condemns the lost to an eternity in the Lake of Fire. I do not like the idea that most people are on the road that leads to destruction while only a few are on the road that leads to life. Matthew 7:13-14 reads, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Sometimes the God our mothers tell us about seems like a nicer God. And some folks feel no twinge of conscience about adjusting Him to make Him more likeable.

This is complicated by the distance issue. We think God is going to bless us in ways we deem important if we walk with Him. All will be well, no disappointments, no heartaches, no letdowns. When we find ourselves disappointed, let down, frustrated, we distance ourselves emotionally. It happens in marriages, friendships, and in family relationships. “Distancing” is how we protect our hearts from more emotional hurt, but it is also an attempt to get back at the one who has disappointed us. Yet we are foolish to use this tactic with God.

It is not that we cannot hurt God. We can. The Bible exhorts us: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30, italics added). But distancing ourselves affects us negatively. We need God; God doesn’t need us. He loves us and wants to use us, but He doesn’t need us. Without Him, we wouldn’t even exist. Without us, He would be just fine. We need to remember that.

The problem is not God’s; it is mine. When I don’t “like” things about God, the problem is with my affections (Ecc. 9:3b). However, despite things about God that I do not like, despite my tendency to pull back when I don’t get my way, despite a sinful nature that is hostile toward God, I love Him and am irresistibly drawn to Him. When I pray to Him, my heart warms. When I read His word, something stirs within me—not always, but often.

Why is this? The answer is simple: because I also have a new nature, a work of the Holy Spirit, a nature that is drawn to God. Because I have a new nature, I am no longer indifferent to God’s Word and the things of God. It seems as though God has plopped this new nature atop my old nature. Sometimes that old nature—that natural man—gets the upper hand. At other times, I walk in the newness of life God intends. Galatians 5:17 describes the conflict within us: “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.”

The sinful nature is not capable of reform. It is dark, self-serving, controlling, demanding, and arrogant. In some, the lust for control takes a religious bent (who does not know a control-freak Christian?). In others, it shows itself in manipulation or temper tantrums. When our sinful nature’s demands are not met, we somehow get even—if not outwardly, then in our minds.

Paul admonishes us to habitually reject our old nature and choose our new life in Christ. He set an example: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

When God forces us to face the ugliness within our souls (an ugliness within each one of us), the experience is painful but blessed. Like Isaiah when he saw the Lord (Isa. 6), David after he had been confronted about his sin with Bathsheba (Psa. 51), Peter when he denied Christ (John 18:24-27), or Miriam who demanded equal authority with Moses (Num. 12), a good dose of reality is an eye-opener. Even if the reality is this: we have an ugly element within us!

After struggling with the ugliness within, we can experience a higher level of spiritual victory. Paul presents himself as an example in Romans 7:24-25a:

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (ESV)”

Our attitudes need work; our struggles are not ours alone, nor are they new. Fortunately, God knows what He is doing. By pursuing Him, we can experience victory. He has been in the business of filling lives with joy in the gloomiest of times and of helping His children to walk in His Spirit.


Ed Vasicek was raised as a Roman Catholic in in Cicero, Illinois. During his senior year in high school (in 1974), Cicero Bible Church reached out to him, and he received Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone. Ed later felt a call to ministry and enrolled at Moody Bible Institute (B.A., Pastoral Studies/Greek). After graduating, he served as pastor of Victory Bible Church of Chicago (a branch work of Cicero Bible Church) and married Marylu Troppito. In 1983, the couple moved to Kokomo where Ed began pastoring Highland Park Church, where he still serves. Ed and Marylu have two adult children, Hannah and Luke. Ed loves to write. He has written over 500 weekly columns for the opinion page of the Kokomo Tribune, published articles in Pulpit Helps magazine, and populated his church’s website with an endless barrage of papers. You can access them at www.highlandpc.com.

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There are 12 Comments

Joel Tetreau's picture

Ed,

Excellent article. The next time you're in Phoenix, I may want you to preach this at SVBC! Very good!

Straight Ahead!

jt

ps - cool you came out of the birth-place of the IFCA. I pastored Mildred Bible Chapel (Backus, MN) back in the 90s - We were a member of an IFCA association - Northern Gospel Mission (today it is called the Northern Gospel Fellowship). Amazing you've been at your church sense 83! Wow!

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I needed the reminder, Ed. Get to feeling a little bratty sometimes!

Joel Tetreau's picture

Aaron,

I was going to say after Ed's post, "Wow....this sounds like Blumer" but decided to just not tell anyone. I'm glad you've responded to Pastor Ed here. Amen and Amen....no doubt this is for all of us Smile

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

... I was thinking of you, too. Cool

Ed Vasicek's picture

Joel Tetreau wrote:
Ed,

Excellent article. The next time you're in Phoenix, I may want you to preach this at SVBC! Very good!

Straight Ahead!

jt

ps - cool you came out of the birth-place of the IFCA. I pastored Mildred Bible Chapel (Backus, MN) back in the 90s - We were a member of an IFCA association - Northern Gospel Mission (today it is called the Northern Gospel Fellowship). Amazing you've been at your church sense 83! Wow!

The next time I am in Phoenix would be the first time! But I might get down that way sometime! I am just plain independent these days, but not that far from IFCA in many ways. Yes, I am getting broken in here at Highland Park Church. I hope to continue on by God's grace here, but only the Lord knows the future (which is why we have to say "Lord willing"). Thanks, Joel and Aaron, for your encouraging words.

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Ed, I recommend that your next first time in Phoenix be between December and February. I was a little, little kid last time I was there... it sure wasn't winter in Michigan! (Or Illinois either)

Steve Newman's picture

I think we can go even farther than to say there are "bratty Christians". I recall back in the early '80's reading of Christian rocker Larry Norman that he branded himself as a "Christian rebel". It was a label that he embraced. Honestly, there are a great many Christians today who do the same or worse. Now, to me that makes as much sense as "Christian crack dealer", but there are a lot of them in our congregations.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Steve Newman wrote:
I think we can go even farther than to say there are "bratty Christians". I recall back in the early '80's reading of Christian rocker Larry Norman that he branded himself as a "Christian rebel". It was a label that he embraced. Honestly, there are a great many Christians today who do the same or worse. Now, to me that makes as much sense as "Christian crack dealer", but there are a lot of them in our congregations.

Hopefully, by "them," you meant rebels, not crack dealers! Smile I was not a rebel, but I have to confess being an old Larry Norman fan!

"The Midrash Detective"

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Oh boy- I grew up a church brat surrounded by church brats. Kids who went faithfully to church, memorized all the verses and completed all the assignments, won 'Christian character' awards... and yet were not saved! The longing for the world was the natural desire of an unregenerate heart- but one lesson you learn quickly is that if you can exhibit all the right behaviors, you can fly under the radar for a very long time. Only the 'bravest' kids were as outwardly rebellious as they were inside, and these kids were viewed with secret envy.

IMO a basic reason for the perseverance of church brat-ism is a dysfunctional view of authority- "I am The Authority and you will shut up and do as I say" or you are a rebel. This leaves no room for kids to struggle, ask questions, admit difficulty, and be ministered to. Even if they know they are lost, they don't want to talk bout their lost condition because they know their parents will not stop nagging them until they get saved. If they are saved, they know that if they talk about temptations they are facing, hysterics will immediately ensue and they will be grounded until they are 30. They've thoroughly grasped that if they don't make waves, they can get by without too much muss and fuss.

Over and over again I see in Scripture folks admitting to and repenting of their faults, and we have instructions to restore each other, to bear each other's burdens and minister to those who are weak....to have a genuine humility because any of us can find ourselves in the exact same situation if we don't guard our hearts. I did not see this modeled when I was growing up in SotL type churches. As was said- we cannot reform the old man- Biblical training and church attendance and Christian schools are not rehab for the old nature. But we often can't seem to differentiate between addressing heart issues and engaging in behavior modification.

I appreciate this article, Bro. Ed- as you can tell, it really strikes a nerve for me. Smile

Ed Vasicek's picture

Susan, Jonathan Edwards, in "The Religious Affections" does an awful lot of speculating to try to distinguish the attitudes of the tares from the wheat. I think he over analyzes, myself, and gets too speculative.

We all want to guarantee that our children or those in our care will walk with the Lord, but we cannot.
Susan said

Quote:
IMO a basic reason for the perseverance of church brat-ism is a dysfunctional view of authority- "I am The Authority and you will shut up and do as I say" or you are a rebel.

I think this is one reason for "bratism." Another is the opposite: youngsters given too much of a say too early. I think authority should be exercised firmly with younger children, and, as they approach the teen years, lessened and graduated to influence by relationship as adulthood approaches.

Dysfunctional families, inconsistency of profession and lifestyle of parents, etc., all get into the mix. Certainly peer pressure, the media, neighborhoods, best friends -- all this stuff gets into the mix.

I don't know where your beliefs lie when it comes to election and sovereign grace. IMO, this means that the salvation of these children are ultimately out of our hands. God may use us, but we cannot coerce regeneration, as desperate as we are to see our kids follow the Lord. We can only create an environment that showcases the Gospel.

I think we can put up with too much nonsense in an attempt to gain a hearing for the gospel or appear winsome. In the process, we cheapen everything.

I am sure there were plenty of "brats" in the early church, too. I wish the epistles addressed this issue in more detail. We have admonition like Ephesians 6:1-3 or verses in I John challenging all ages. And the problem is acknowledged indirectly in Titus 1:6. Still, the conversion of the children growing up in the church is a painful and sometimes disappointing subject.

The problem of wheat and tares has long troubled the church, but I think we have harvested an awful lot of tares in past decades, so even adult tares are showing their true colors.

"The Midrash Detective"

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Susan, Jonathan Edwards, in "The Religious Affections" does an awful lot of speculating to try to distinguish the attitudes of the tares from the wheat. I think he over analyzes, myself, and gets too speculative.

We all want to guarantee that our children or those in our care will walk with the Lord, but we cannot. ... youngsters given too much of a say too early. I think authority should be exercised firmly with younger children, and, as they approach the teen years, lessened and graduated to influence by relationship as adulthood approaches.


I agree that we should strive for balance- I'm not a proponent of the child-centric home, but I do believe that children should be treated with respect and allowed to have dignity. IOW, punishment should always be appropriate for the violation and not involve humiliation (not talking about feeling shame), and it should be calm and loving but also be a 'painful' deterrent (whether the child is spanked or loses privileges). The parent can be angry and grieved, but they should also be a model meekness and humility, not hysteria and violence. I think respect for authority should be taught, but authority should be mature enough to handle it when a child has questions and not always interpret doubts and confusion as the sign of a budding serial killer.

I don't want to take the thread off-topic and into child-training, but I think the way we approach discipleship and discipline has alot to do with how we view earthly authority, which affects how we perceive Heavenly Authority.

Quote:
I don't know where your beliefs lie when it comes to election and sovereign grace. IMO, this means that the salvation of these children are ultimately out of our hands. God may use us, but we cannot coerce regeneration, as desperate as we are to see our kids follow the Lord. We can only create an environment that showcases the Gospel.

I think we can put up with too much nonsense in an attempt to gain a hearing for the gospel or appear winsome. In the process, we cheapen everything.

I agree- we are to give our children as many tools as possible (spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical) for them to live happy, productive lives- but regeneration is one thing we are not guaranteed, nor can we force it through humiliation or extortion. We also can't enforce our ideas of holy living either. If we don't inspire people to love God and appreciate His holiness and worth, then we will continue to paint the outhouse and think we've made a difference.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Susan, I like the way you think because you agree with me Smile Of course, that works vice-versa as well. At least on this issue.

"The Midrash Detective"

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