Thursday, January 15, 2015

This is a Spiritual Health Warning: Faith-Myopia is on the Rise

There is a deadly epidemic that is currently sweeping the Church. The condition primarily affects the heart, mind, and soul of its victim, and can lead to serious, even fatal, spiritual health problems if left untreated. Today, millions of Christians in America are at risk of developing faith-myopia. The implications of this have the potential to be catastrophic. Faith-myopia will continue to spread if not contained. Please read and distribute the following spiritual health warning below.

Faith-Myopia is the spiritual manifestation of nearsightedness. Unlike spiritual blindness, which only affects unbelievers, faith-myopia has been detected in a significant and growing number of Christians. The term, myopia (from the Ancient Greek, μυωπία or muōpia), refers to a condition of the eye in which light does not directly focus on the retina, but in front of it, causing distant objects to be out of focus while close objects are in focus. When faith becomes myopic, it causes spiritual nearsightedness meaning victims focus almost exclusively on their immediate surroundings without seeing the bigger picture. As a result, victims tend to view God's truth through the lens of their own circumstances as opposed to viewing their circumstances through the lens of God's truth. Those suffering from the condition might fail to develop a biblical worldview, might lack spiritual discernment, and might be more easily misled by false teaching or worldly temptations. They can often become self-centered as opposed to Christ-centered.

Cases of faith-myopia range from mild to severe, limiting a believer's spiritual sight to varying degrees. Any Christianeven a pastor, layperson, theologian, missionary, or long-term believeris vulnerable to developing the condition. And most Christians will show symptoms of faith-myopia during at least one period in their lives—indeed, many may be struggling with one or more of its symptoms right now.

(1) Limited perspective; victims focus largely on what's happening to them in the here-and-now, being unable to clearly see the bigger picture of God's sovereign will, His unchanging goodness, and His unfailing love for them. In other words, victims struggle to see the woods for the trees, so-to-speak. They also fail to see the larger context of God's redemptive plan for humanity, tending instead to focus more narrowly on the pettier issues of day-to-day life, which are thus blown out of proportion causing undue stress and anxiety. This weakens their faith because their trust in God becomes contingent on what is happening to them personally at any given moment, causing them to lose sight of God's faithfulness and His unfailing promises. Victims are less likely to pay mind to the suffering of persecuted brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, because their field of vision isn't wide enough to encompass such issues. Therefore, their limited perspective often leads to the subsequent symptom of self-centeredness.

(2) Self-centeredness; victims might become self-centered rather than Christ-centered and are often blinded by myopic pride. In their churches, they might behave more like consumers of faith-based goods and services than disciples of Christ and investors in God's Kingdom. Therefore, they can treat church more as a social club than a spiritual family. They can lack a vision for self-sacrificial service and for discipling others, remaining preoccupied with their own needs and concerns. And so, they aren't often outreach-minded or missional, and are prone to forming church cliques.

(3) Wordlinessvictims might become worldly because they lack the spiritual foresight to see beyond their earthly circumstances to view their lives in light of Eternity. This leads to selfishness and often to hedonism because they have difficulty distinguishing that which is of spiritual and everlasting value from that which is temporal and earthly. In severe cases, therefore, victims hoard material riches and indulge increasingly in fleeting worldly pleasures, having lost sight of the heavenly riches that await them. As a result, those showing this symptom become less like foreigners and exiles in an alien world (1 Peter 2:11). In fact, they begin to look and behave more like the world and less like Christ whom the world has rejected.

(4) Lack of discernment; victims might cherry-pick Bible verses to suit their immediate needs rather than reading the Bible in order to sincerely grow in their knowledge of God. Because their view of God's truth is blurry and out of focus, they have a hard time discerning the difference between biblical and false teaching. They are, therefore, vulnerable to being led astray by false teachers, like those preaching the "prosperity gospel," for example.

(5) Spiritual superficiality; victims might gravitate towards quick-fix spirituality rather than substantive biblical teachingThis is because they have lost an appreciation for that which is spiritually profound and theologically sound. They often shy away from thinking about or discussing matters of spiritual substance, preferring to stick to safer, more lightweight topics that leave their hearts and minds unchallenged and unchanged. They tend to feel uncomfortable when they are around people who act "too Christian" and they prefer to avoid addressing polarizing issues of right and wrong in our culture.

(6) Fruitless faith; victims night suffer from feelings of emptiness, guilt, worry, and insecurity because their faith doesn't bear the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-26). Because they are not walking in the light (1 John 1:7), they do not possess the peace that passes understanding (Phil 4:7), which requires their spiritual eyes to be enlightened to see the hope to which Christ has called them, and the riches of His glorious inheritance (Eph 1:18). They often lose sight of how much God loves them individually, which causes them to desperately seek the approval of others and measure their own value by the world's standards. This can lead them to have an identity crisis. In severe cases, it can lead to a fruitless faith.

The following are common risk factors for faith-myopia:

1) Failing to stay in the Word. Reading and reflecting on Scripture daily enables the believer to view life through a biblical lens and to see things in light of Eternity. Without a biblical perspective, a believer is more susceptible to developing faith-myopia.

2) Failing to stay in prayer. Prayer is a powerful change-agent in the life of a believer. Surrendering everything to God in prayer, rather than trying to stay in control, protects a believer from the delusion of self-dependency, which leads to pride, self-absorption and, ultimately, to faith-myopia.

3) Failing to stay in fellowship. As members of the Body of Christ, it is important to live in close relationship with wise, mature believers who will point us back to Christ when we lose perspective. Trying to live out one's faith in a vacuum can too easily lead to faith-myopia. Similarly, if believers surround themselves with spiritually superficial friends, they are at risk of exposing themselves to, and contracting, faith-myopia.

4) Failing to die to self. Continuing to walk in darkness, rather than in God's light, causes spiritual stagnation, a precursor to faith-myopia. John said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:24). Dying to self allows a believer to see with spiritual, not just fleshly, eyes.

There is only one known cure for faith-myopia: it is to live in the Spirit. In order to do so, believers should put on the full armor of God daily (Eph 6:13-18) to protect themselves against faith-myopia. This involves:

1) Wearing the belt of truth buckled around the waist (v 14a). Being armed with the knowledge of God's truth protects believers from being deceived by wolves in sheep's clothing.

2) Wearing the breastplate of righteousness (v 14b). Turning from sin, and embracing righteousness in Christ 
fortifies the heart and will protect the believer from being susceptible to worldliness.

3) Having feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace (v 15). The believer will be protected from stumbling around blindly when his or her feet are guided by the gospel of peace. The believer will be equipped with the peace that passes understanding amid life's trials
a peace that comes from a clear view of the gospel.

4) Taking up the shield of faith (v 16). Walking by faith, not by physical sight, protects the believer from faith-myopia by maintaining his or her spiritual eyesight and ability to view life in light of Eternity.

5) Putting on the helmet of salvation (v 17a). Remembering that salvation is in Christ alone, that it is a gracious gift from God, and is not from ourselves, protects the believer from being blinded by myopic pride.

6) Taking up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (v 17b). Staying grounded in God's Word, which is living and active, enlightens the believer's spiritual eyes to discern truth from falsehood.

7) Praying at all times in the Spirit (v 18). The importance of prayer in the life of the believer cannot be over-emphasized. Praying in the Spirit without ceasing allows the believer's stream of consciousness to reflect a continual dialogue with God. By maintaining an interactive relationship with God in this way, the believer's faith grows and is protected from becoming myopic.

Chances of a full recovery are guaranteed for every believer afflicted with faith-myopia as long as the above treatments are administered according to the Great Physician's instructions.

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