14 Spiritual Disciplines

Seven Disciplines of Abstinence — Letting go – (I Peter 2:11- putting off)

  1. Solitude – Spending time alone with God. In our incredibly busy times, we need to prioritize alone time in the audience of One. This is indispensable to spiritual growth. Perhaps we must let go of some of our busyness.
  2. Fasting – Abstaining from food to express our dependence on God. Fasting is meant to be an act of humbling oneself before God to seek His help and deliverance. It is often associated with repentance (Deuteronomy 8:3-5; Matthew 4:2;6:16-18).
  3. Denial – Intentionally denying yourself certain legitimate pleasures to find your sufficiency in God and/or a higher fulfillment in God (Matthew 16:24-26).
  4. Sacrifice  Giving of ourselves and our resources beyond what seems reasonable to express our dependency on God (time/service/money). C.S. Lewis has written: “… if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”  (see: Matthew 6:24; Luke 17:10)
  5. Secrecy – Living before an audience of one and doing things without others knowing about it (Matthew 6:5-6; 25:34-40; Philippians 2:3; Hebrews 6:10).
  6. Simplicity – Learning to live with less. Meeting basic needs with joy and contentment (see: Proverbs 30:7-9; I Timothy 6:6-8). “We resolve to renounce waste and oppose extravagance in personal living, clothing and housing, travel and church buildings. We also accept the distinction between necessities and luxuries, creative hobbies and empty status symbols, modesty and vanity, occasional celebrations and normal routine, and between the service of God and slavery to fashion. Where to draw the line requires conscientious thought and decision by us, together with members of our family.” (Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, March 1980).
  7. Silence – Talking less and listening more. Being quiet before the Lord and others (Psalm 23:2; Isaiah 30:15; James 1:19). This is a lost but needed discipline.

Seven Disciplines of Activity—Engagement– (Romans 13:12-14; Ephesians 6:10-12– Putting on)

  1. Study – Reading, meditating on and investigating the Scriptures. Nourishing your soul on God’s Word (Deuteronomy 8:3; Psalm 19,119: I Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12). Study Christ — in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:2–4).
  2. Worship – Offering wholehearted praise to God (contra. Matthew 15:8); giving God glory; exalting God by declaring His excellencies/praises (I Peter 2:9; Psalm 95:6-7; Revelation 5:11-14). Use psalms, hymns, spiritual songs – “singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:18-19).
  3. Prayer – Pouring out your heart to God in: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication (Ps. 62:8; I Peter 5:7; Phil. 4:5-7; Hebrews 4:16 –  invitations to come to God. “Draw near to God…” (James 4:8; see: Psalm 73:25-28)
  4. Fellowship – Mutual caring and ministry in the body of Christ. Trying to live for Jesus disconnected from a body of believers is to neglect a key resource for spiritual growth (Ephesians 4:11-16; Hebrews 10:23-25).
  5. Submission – Humbling yourself before God and others–being accountable (Psalm 51:17; James 4:7; I Peter 5:5-6; Hebrews 13:17)
  6. Service – God intends for us to find our greatest joy in giving our time, talent and resources for the benefit of others (Mark 10:45; Luke 17:10; John 13:13-17; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:16; Philippians 2:3-8).
  7. Witnessing –– Inviting others to believe on Christ. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me – so send I you” (John 20:21; See also: Matthew 5:13-16; 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).

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  • Spiritual discipline is essential for spiritual maturity. Although we don’t reach maturity in our own strength (it is the work of the Holy Spirit, II Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 3:2-3), we are not passive recipients of God’s work in us (Philippians 2:12-13).
  • Spiritual maturity is the by-product of a spiritually disciplined life that is lived in constant dependence on God (Ephesians 6:10-12).
  • There is no easy path to spiritual maturity but the rewards are deeply satisfying.
  • Challenge yourself in these disciplines and you will develop a deeper love for God.

Steve Cornell

Top 5 Arguments against eternal punishment

Along with great emphasis on God’s love and mercy, Scripture presents God as the Judge who sends some people into hell.

Jesus warned his followers not to “… fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Jesus referred to hell as a place where God sends people (Matthew 25:41,46).

The Bible doesn’t describe a pleasant end for those who reject God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. But what type of judgment falls on them?

Is it eternal suffering or eternal annihilation? Eternal in consequence or in duration? Part of the debate centers on whether ‘eternal’ is meant as a consequence (i.e. eternal punishment– not eternal punishing; the result being eternal destruction,) or as a duration (i.e. never ending, on going punishing).

Five arguments against eternal punishing

1. The fire is metaphoric

The late John R. W. Stott (a teacher I hold in highest regard on most subjects) suggested that, “The fire itself is termed ‘eternal’ and ‘unquenchable’ but it would be very odd if what is thrown into it proves indestructible. Our expectation would be the opposite: it would be consumed forever, not tormented forever. Hence it is the smoke (evidence that the fire has done its work) which ‘rises forever and ever’ (Rev. 14:11; cf. 19:3)” (Evangelical Essentials, David Edwards, p. 316).

But how does this same approach apply to the burning bush of Exodus 3:2-3 which “burned with fire yet was not consumed”? Consistency of metaphor would lead one to think that smoke rising forever and ever indicates something is burning in the fire.

2. The matter of justice:

Sins committed in a finite realm should not suffer an eternal consequence. Justice demands punishment in proportion to the crime. This argument may sound appealing on the surface but it fails at the Cross of Christ. Why did the infinite, eternal God have to come and die for the sins of finite creatures? Sin against an infinite God is infinite in consequence. Are we implying that people can sufficiently pay the consequence of sin against God? I am sure we are incompetent judges of the penalty sin deserves.

“The Bible does not present us with a God who chances upon neutral men and women and arbitrarily consigns some to heaven and some to hell. He takes guilty men and women, all of whom deserve his wrath, and in his great mercy and love he saves vast numbers of them. Had he saved only one, it would have been an act of grace; that he saves a vast host affirms still more unmistakably the uncharted reaches of that grace. Hell stands as a horrible witness to human defiance in the face of great grace” (How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil, p. 92).

“Unless we come to grips with this terrible doctrine (of hell), we will never even begin to understand the depths of what Jesus did for us on the cross. His body was being destroyed in the worst possible way, but that was a flea bite compared to what was happening to his soul. When he cried out that his God had forsaken him, he was experiencing hell itself” (Tim Keller).

3. Conditional immortality of the soul:

This is argued by the late Philip Hughes in The Image Restored, pp. 398-407. He taught that immortality belongs to God in the purest sense and to believers only through Christ (I Tim. 6:15-17; II Tim. 1:9f). This seems to be based on a limited understanding of death as total extinction of existence. But, if spiritual and physical death do not result in cessation of existence, why would the second death? (Eph. 2:1-3; Heb. 9:27; Rev. 20:6; 14:21:8). Scripture does not equate death with non-existence. The evidence points in the opposite direction.

4. Luke 16:19-31 is a parable (and should not be considered a literal source of information)

This text is not identified as a parable, but even if it is parabolic in nature, treating it as an unreliable source ignores the one who is telling the story. Should we believe that Jesus Christ would use speculative imagery on such a serious matter? If this refers only to a temporary intermediate state ending in a judgment of annihilation, the judgment seems like it would be a welcomed end. This is clearly not the point Jesus is making.

5. The problem of eternal dualism:

Philip Hughes wrote: “With the restoration of all things in the new heaven and the new earth, which involves God’s reconciliation to himself of all things, whether on earth or in heaven (Acts 3:21; Col. 1:20), there will be no place for a second kingdom of darkness and death” (p. 406, The Image Restored).

The lake of fire is certainly not a Kingdom. Ongoing punishment itself would be a continuous testimony to the defeat of evil. The reality of victory over death secured by Christ is not threatened by hell (Heb. 2:14-16; I Cor. 15:54-55; Rev. 20:14; 21:4).

What does Scripture teach?

All humans will be resurrected (Jn. 5:28-29; Dan. 12:2; Acts 24:15); all will be judged by God (Heb. 9:27; Rom. 2:4-10; 14:10-12; Rev. 20:11-15), and all will be separated between two distinct eternal destinies (Mt. 25:32,41,36; Jn. 3:36; 14:1-3; Rev. 21:3-8).

Where people go after death

Theologian Millard Erickson offers a six-point answer to the question of where people go after death. His points are worthy of careful reflection.

  1. All humans are sinners, by nature and by choice; they are therefore guilty and under divine condemnation.
  2. Salvation is only through Christ and his atoning work.
  3. In order to obtain the salvation achieved by Christ, one must believe in Him; therefore Christians and the church have a responsibility to tell unbelievers the good news about Him.
  4. The adherents of other faiths, no matter how sincere their belief or how intense their religious activity, are spiritually lost apart from Christ.
  5. Physical death brings an end to the opportunity to exercise saving faith and accept Jesus Christ. The decisions made in this life are irrevocably fixed at death.
  6. At the great final judgment all humans will be separated on the basis of their relationship to Christ during this life. Those who have believed in Him will spend eternity in heaven, where they will experience everlasting joy and reward in God’s presence. Those who have not accepted Christ will experience hell, a place of unending suffering and separation from God (The Evangelical Mind and Heart).

Steve Cornell

See: Hell bound?

Two essential movements in a Church

Centripetall-vs-CentrifugalTwo motions or forces of movement serve as helpful illustrations of the function of a healthy core group in any organization.

  • Centripetal movement/force draws something or someone toward a central point.
  • Centrifugal movement/force pushes something or someone away from the center.

These movements are helpful ways to understand and build the interior life of a local Church (or other organizations).

  • Centripetal force is an assimilating dynamic. It refers to the centering effects of the core commitments of a core group.
  • Centripetal force is a dis-similating dynamic. It refers to the purging effects of the core commitments of a core group.

Like the water draining from a tub, centripetal magnetic effect draws toward a central place by collective motion. In a Church, the core group provides this motion as it holds core beliefs and values and functions to draw others toward them.

For example, if a core commitment is to remain positive and solution focused, the core group will function to draw others toward this way of seeing things. But if a person determines to remain negative, the core group also creates a centrifugal force by purging out attitudes and perspectives that contradict the core commitments. 

If a core commitment is to avoid gossip, the centrifugal force of a core group will be felt by the person who gossips among them. The hope, of course, is that group dynamic can draw others toward godly attitudes, speech and actions. But protecting the health of a group will likely require both assimilating and dis-similating dynamics.

This same dynamic occurs in athletics. During a game a teammate who “gets his or her head out of the game” is typically surrounded by teammates who draw them back into focus. Those who are “head cases” will either not make the team or be purged from it. 

In a local Church, I put this under the plan outlined in Ephesians 4:11-16 where the leaders equip the people and the people become established in the truth in a way that produces collective stability and maturity. When opposing forces try to sway those who have been equipped, the core group protects the internal life of the Church in ways illustrated by centripetal and centrifugal movement.

The function of centripetal force is illustrated in Hebrews 3:12-13; 10:24-25.  The function of centrifugal force is illustrated in Romans 16:17-18.

Have you seen these two motions/dynamics in your Church, team, group or organization? 

Steve Cornell

Get perspective!

It’s easy to lose perspective in a fallen world. Have you ever had a time when processing life became difficult? A time when you found it hard to keep a good and godly perspective?

There are many examples in Scripture of godly people who lost perspective about God and life.

Servants of God like Job (Job 3:10-13,16); Moses (Numbers 11:13-15); Elijah (I Kings 19:1-4), and Jonah (Jonah 4:1-10), all lost perspective so badly that they wanted to die.

Perspective (or how we choose to see things) can make a big difference in the quality of life.  We can’t always choose our circumstances but we can usually choose our perspective toward them.

Some life-controlling perspectives

1. Discouragement

Maybe you’re discouraged. Life has been hard and you’re having trouble seeing through your difficulties. Discouragement, at a deeper level, is a loss of perspective.

2. Negativity

Do you expect the worse to happen? Do tend to see the dark side of things first? Perhaps through setbacks or disappointments, you’ve even become very negative, cynical and sarcastic. You’re looking at life through the lens of pessimism but you feel like your just being realistic.

3. Anger

Are resentment and anger your primary lens for life? Perhaps you always have a slow burn under an outwardly pleasant veneer. Anger can erupt at any time and rule your life. Is anger an occasional disruption or the way you process most of life?

4. Complacency

Have you become complacent? Perhaps you’ve just stop caring because you feel that caring doesn’t help and often leads to hurt. Maybe you’ve drifted from God and you no longer take spiritual matters very seriously. 

5. Self-absorbed

Are you all about yourself? Is life about how you feel and what you want and you, you, you? Does it always have to be your way and about you?

All of these involve perspectives — ways of seeing things or construing life. What is your general outlook on life? Does you feel like your attitude is caught in a bad flight pattern? If you’re stuck in one of the perspectives above, you might need some counseling to help you move forward (some perspective sessions).

And please remember that your perspective not only affects you. All of those who must relate with you or who are under your influence are affected by your perspective.

How to keep a good and godly perspective

My recommendation for maintaining a good and godly perspective is as simple as it is profound. And it might change the way you approach the Bible and thus change your whole outlook on life in a way that conforms to God’s will.

We simply must recognize that all Scripture was given for perspective formation.

Consider what the Apostle Paul taught about the origin and role of Scripture: 

II Timothy 3:16-17

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to:

  1. teach us what is true and
  2. to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.
  3. It corrects us when we are wrong and
  4. teaches us to do what is right.

God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (NLT)

God’s Method

God’s method for changing you is that you “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Ephesians 4:23 describes it as being “made new in the attitude of your minds.” God is committed to changing your outlook, attitude or perspective! (cf. Philippians 2:3-5).

Romans 14:13 specifically challenges us regarding this:

“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about (προνοιαν) how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” 

The italicized words in english come from a greek term which means “a pro-visionary way of thinking.” Another translation says, “make no provision for the flesh” (NASB). Another says, “don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires” (NLT)

To overcome sinful attitudes, perspectives and emotions, one must see things differently. One must “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” How does an appropriation of Christ to one’s life (clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ) offer a different pro-visionary thinking? How does it provide a gospel-based outlook that counter-veils the wrong way of thinking?

Two Provisions from God

Perspective is often closely associated with personality or temperment. Transformation in this area doesn’t mean that we all become the same personality type or temperament, but that we all yield our personalities and temperaments to the transforming influences of two divine provisions:

  1. The Spirit inspired Word - all Scripture.
  2. The Spirit indwell community - the reinforcement of godly perspective through connection with our local Church.

Notice that the Holy Spirit is the agent of spiritual transformation (see, II Corinthians 3:18) and His two primary instruments are the Word (Scripture) and the Church — the community of believers (see, Hebrews 3:12-13; 10:24-25).

We believe that Scripture is God’s revelation of Himself and His ways of dealing with His creatures. Apart from it, we’re reduced to subjective human opinion and speculation about God, life, suffering, death and eternity. We would have nothing that offers univocal and universal authority transcending human culture and opinion. We would have many human stories but no original story to shape perspective. The Bible provides this for us!

Of course, the Bible was not originally written to us – but it was all written for us. And it presents God’s dealings through different times of history — which means we do not apply all of it the same way. We must “rightly handle it” (II Timothy 2:15).

So when reading the Bible, some things relate specifically to the original recipients (and seem foreign and strange to us) —-but from the text emerges truths that transcend time and culture! (Examples: II Corinthians 1:3-5, 8-9; 4:16-18; 12:7-10; James 1:1-5).

When you enter the Bible, I am encouraging you to see it as a “perspective formation session with God.” Your personal devotions offer a time to get perspective or to maintain godly perspective. 

Again, all scripture is given for perspective formation.

Three unique perspectives 

What the Bible offers is different from positive thinking books or other material in that it confronts us with:

  1. Vertical truths for the horizontal issues of life
  2. Eternal truths for the temporal circumstances of life
  3. God-centered truths for the self-centered default mode of life.

The Bible also answers really important questions about origin, meaning, morality and destiny. 

Remember that behind actions, emotions, and attitudes are ways of thinking (perspectives) that fortify the actions, emotions, and attitudes.

Why do I do this? (you’re struggling with habits and actions). Why do I feel this way? (you’re struggling with emotions). What we need is counter-veiling ways of thinking (perspectives) to confront ways of thinking that hold us in destructive ways of life. This is the role the Bible fulfills.

Loss of perspective must be challenged by daily perspective forming sessions with God.                                        

Don’t try this alone

We cannot do this alone. God designed that we flourish in community not in isolation. We must allow others to speak into our lives to reinforce vertical, eternal, God-centered perspectives. The Church is God’s ordained place for this to happen. 

When we lose perspective, we’re tempted to travel in the company of those who share our outlook. “Misery likes company.” To maintain good and godly perspective, we need to travel with people who reinforce it (see: Hebrews 10:24). 

Steve Cornell

The advantage of Christian counseling

In conversation with a medical doctor, he expressed frustration about the number of times he diagnosed significant levels of anxiety or depression only to be told by a patient that her pastor or friend warned against medicine and suggested that her problem was spiritual.

“This kind of five Bible verses and you’ll be better approach is far more common than many realize.” The doctor said.

He’s right. And Christians lose credibility in this area when they actually have far more too offer. In my conversation with the doctor, I suggested the following perspective:

Perspective on Christian counseling


When I counsel others, I usually begin with an assumption that they have a full line of moral credit. I treat them as individuals who can accept and pay for their debts. Out of basic respect for their dignity as beings made in the image of God, I relate to them as responsible, capable, culpable and accountable.

Yet I realize that life is not so easily reduced to raw choosing. We must guard against a tendency within the Church to make all of life a matter of choice; of obedience or disobedience. We must apply compassionate consideration to how complex life can be. Far too often believers approach people one dimensionally, as if humans were only spiritual beings in need of salvation.

Yet, according to Scripture, there are four dimensions of human life. We are…

  1. physical beings with bodily needs.
  2. social beings with relationship needs.
  3. psychological beings with cognitive needs.
  4. spiritual beings with a need for God.



Christian counselors have a unique advantage of being able to approach issues holistically based on these dimensions. I use the word “advantage” because many other disciplines will not consider that spiritual dimension. If we find it inadequate to leave out this dimension (as we should), why do we do the same thing with the other dimensions?

A thorough biblical understanding of humanity protects us from simplistic reductions because we know that God has made humans as physical, social, psychological and spiritual beings. Each of these dimensions must be considered when understanding and counseling behavior.

Unlike other disciplines, Christian counselors do not treat people as products of impersonal chance. Since we know that there is a personal creator, we call people to more than human perspectives about life.

The mistake Christians often make is being overly zealous to offer quick answers for the issues that trouble people. “After all,” we’re told, “the Bible speaks to every issue of life.” “So,” it seems to many believers, “all I have to do is find a verse or two of Scripture that applies and share them with the person who asks for advice.”

This approach is typically based on careless listening. When we’re more interested in our answer than in understanding a person’s problem, we need to learn patience by listening more compassionately. We don’t want to be the fool who answers a matter before hearing it. And we should always try to ways that the four dimensions might relate.


Some clarification

I am not suggesting that we encourage people to avoid responsibility for their actions. Playing the victim only binds people to more destructive life-patterns. But superficial diagnoses typically lead to inadequate remedies.

When counseling others, for example, it would be horribly simplistic to overlook or  minimize the effects of a deeply troubled upbringing. When children (who are intended by God to be lovingly nurtured and brought to maturity under the responsible oversight of parents) are neglected, poorly guided or abused, it profoundly affects their personal lives and relationships.

In many cases, one must look back to better understand the influences that shaped their current approaches to life. Our story is not meant to be one formed in isolation but in a social context — for better or for worse. Each persons story has been significantly shaped by others.

We shouldn’t look back to blame, excuse or justify, but to understand and find a clearer plan for change.

What we’re saying is that one’s sociology (relationships and life circumstances) plays a significant role (by divine intent) in shaping one’s overall life. This must be considered by those who counsel the whole person holistically (based on a full biblical perspective of humanity).

Wisdom then calls us to consider a wider perspective of life as we help individuals address their deepest needs. When counseling deeper life issues that hold people in patterns that are not flourishing in God’s will, very often a person’s social history and context must be explored as part of the diagnosis. This is validated by the fact that a key component to flourishing in a blessed life is our associations or those we are in company with (Psalm 1:1-3).

Another example is the use of medicinal aids for behavior or moods. Many medicines are helpful for addressing actual physical needs but use of them should not preclude responsibility and accountability in seeking resolution to negative behaviors and moods. The need for medicines should temper our approach to people with large doses of compassion and mercy, but only in a context that preserves the dignity of an individual exercising as much responsibility as possible — in a context of truth.

I suggest that counselors and doctors should never view medicinal aids as a solution for neurologically based needs. We are more than bodies and brains with physical needs. Other dimensions of our being (spiritual, emotional, social) must receive thoughtful consideration in our battle for health.

There is a tendency among some Christian counselors to react with suspicion toward medicinal aids. This is sometimes a reaction to a common negative posture found in secular psychiatry and bio-psychiatry toward spiritual dimensions of personhood. But we must not allow misguided assumptions (no matter how condescending) to cause knee-jerk reactions among Christian counselors. Nor should we carelessly dismiss research and findings in these fields.

A biblically-based holistic approach to counseling respects all dimensions of personhood created by God in the full context of a narrative of creation, fall, redemption, sanctification and final restoration.

Christian counselors should use the widest possible lens for understanding and addressing human behavior. This provides counselors with a unique advantage for being holistically honest in dealing with human problems.

Christian counselors have a unique advantage of being holistically honest in dealing with human problems. A theologically grounded vision of humanity protects counselors from simplistic reductions. Each dimension of life must be considered when understanding human behavior. And we also take seriously the profound affects of sin on each dimension. Diagnosis and solution that does not take seriously this painful truth will be superficial at best and ultimately harmful.

Steve Cornell


When words cannot restore trust

Among people who have been loved by God, “love covers a multitude of offenses” (I Peter 4:8).

Forgiven people forgive others. Where minor offenses occur, forgiveness and reconciliation will restore relationships to true unity. Those who withhold restoration over minor grievances are not behaving consistent with gospel-based love (see: Ephesians 4:32-5:1). Where such love is lacking, immaturity and manipulation often threaten unity.

But when we have been deeply or repeatedly sinned against, forgiveness does not necessarily require immediate restoration of the same level of relationship with an offender. Even when God forgives our sins, He does not promise to remove all consequences created by our actions.

Being forgiven, restored, and trusted is an amazing experience, but it’s important for those who significantly hurt others to understand that their attitude and actions will affect the process of rebuilding trust. Words alone are not enough to restore trust in such cases.

When a husband speaks harshly to his wife in a way that is out of character, his acknowledgement of sinning against her should be received with forgiveness and restoration. If he repeatedly speaks this way, he should expect his acknowledgements of wrong to be more difficult to receive. If the pattern continues, his wife could appropriately tell him that she forgives him but will not accept his harshness in the future without consequences.

When someone has been significantly hurt and feels hesitant about restoration with her offender, it’s both right and wise to look for changes in the offender before allowing reconciliation to begin. This is especially true when an offense has been repeated.

See: Seven signs of true repentance and Instruments of godly sorrow

Steve Cornell

Freedom is impossible without limits

At the deepest level, the culture of America is disintegrating because we’ve become a people who demand freedom without limits.

Our obsession with equal rights has created an entitlement mentality that is threatening the very freedom we think we deserve.

As one example of this entitlement attitude, our greatest problem is not the number of illegal immigrants living here, most of whom are working very hard to find a better life. We should be far more concerned about the large numbers of legal citizens who refuse to work and actually think that everyone else owes them a free ride through life. 

Let me be very clear that I am not talking about those who genuinely need assistance but about the hundreds of thousands who are taking advantage of the system and have the audacity to claim an entitlement to the hard-earned tax dollars of working citizens. The current administration operates as an irresponsible parent who enables this sense of entitlement. 

Another example is the demand of a tiny percentage of citizens for our nation to reject the long-held understanding of marriage as meant for a man and a woman. This is being demanded under the notion of equal rights for all. Some are even trying to make it a civil right rooted in nature. Rights and entitlements are demanded without limits. How far can a society take this notion before it implodes? 

“In our limitless selfishness, we have tried to define ‘freedom’ as an escape from all restraint.” (Ken Myers, Mars Hill).

But we will never escape the fact that humans were created as dependent beings meant to flourish within creaturely limits. From the beginning, God set boundaries for life. When our original parents chose to live outside of those boundaries, they experienced the ultimate kind of limitation – death. This explains much of the sad side of the human story (see: Romans 5:12). 

In our delusional effort to escape life under authority, we’ve rejected limitations and boundaries – preferring self-rule over submission to divine authority. Our irrational bid for autonomy has produced a kind of bondage to corruption that could become the destruction of our existence. 

“We are free not merely because we can choose, but only when we choose well. For to choose poorly, through folly or malice, in a way that thwarts our nature and distorts our proper form, is to enslave ourselves to the transitory, the irrational, the purposeless, the (to be precise) subhuman” (David B. Hart, Atheist Delusions).

Steve Cornell

A service of mercy

“When another Christian falls into obvious sin, an admonition is imperative, because God’s Word demands it. The practice of discipline in the community of faith begins with friends who are close to one another. Words of admonition and reproach must be risked when a lapse from God’s Word in doctrine or life endangers a community that lives together, and with it the whole community of faith.”

“Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin. When we allow nothing but God’s Word to stand between us, judging and helping, it is a service of mercy, an ultimate offer of genuine community. Then it is not we who are judging; God alone judges, and God’s judgment is helpful and healing” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible, trans. Daniel W. Bloesch, Augsburg Fortress, 1996, 105).

Beware of the jerks (and jerkettes)

Are you a pushover for predatory jerks?

In Don’t Let the Jerks get the Best of You,” Dr. Paul Meier warned, “we are living in a jungle and its full of hungry jerks.”

If you need advice for dealing with difficult people or some instructions on the art of psychological defense against jerk abuse, this book will help you.



Let’s be honest enough to confess that we all act like jerks on occasions. Being a jerk simply means being selfish. It’s an inborn quality that starts with earliest childhood and must be corrected. The Proverbs warn that, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child…” (Proverbs 22:15). When a child doesn’t receive correction for selfish behavior, he develops an inordinate sense of entitlement or jerkishness.

Without large doses of consistent, loving discipline, a child thinks he lives in a world where he’s always supposed to get what he wants. Children “need to learn boundaries and limits because they think they rule the roost. When their little desires are not met, they can get angry—very angry. Their sense of entitlement is at its height” (Meier).

All the software for being a jerk is in place at birth and the tendency never completely disappears. We don’t need to offer instruction on how to act like a jerk. Of course, when jerkish behavior appears in children, it’s a little less disturbing than adults who act like jerks or adults who don’t correct jerkish behavior in their kids.

We all have to confront this tendency to be a jerk. “Reality says I am going to be a jerk to some people and they’re going to be jerks to me. That’s not necessarily okay, but it is reality” (Meier).

Before getting too worked-up about others, let’s acknowledge our own tendencies to act selfishly and take advantage of others. Jesus taught his followers to, “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).

And must I even say that jerkish behavior is not gender limited? Men are often more quickly labeled as jerks but based on extensive research, Dr. Meier suggests, “there are an equal number of women who are jerks—or, if you prefer, ‘jerkettes’.

Yet, as Dr. Meier indicates, we are not all the same kind of jerks.

  • Forty percent of us are First-Degree jerks who are mildly to moderately selfish.
  • Another forty percent are Second-Degree Jerks who are seriously to acutely selfish.
  • Ten percent of society is made up of the most dangerous type: Nth-Degree Jerks. These people are severely to sociopathically selfish. They’re the sickos who lie, cheat, abuse, and even kill, all without guilt or remorse.

What about the other ten percent?

“Somewhere out there,” wrote Meier, “there are folk who have practically conquered all their jerky tendencies. We call these people Mature Adults. To become a totally mature, loving, caring adult should be everyone’s goal.”

The goal of Dr. Meier’s book is to help us get there. He analyzes each type of jerk and includes a practical questionnaire to help you know if you or someone you know fits the category. He also offers protective strategies to safeguard you from Second and Nth Degree jerks.

Equally helpful is the section on people with masochistic tendencies. These are people who tend to put themselves in positions where they continually get hurt, mistreated, or taken advantage of. They have a strong pull toward self-destructive behaviors and attitudes.

Dr. Meier presents fifty questions to help assess the degree of masochism in yourself or others. He admits that he and his wife had definite leanings toward masochism. As an example, early in their marriage his wife’s philosophy was, “Great men have great faults, and great women learn to live with them.” She has changed her philosophy to: “Great men have great faults and great women point them out—in a tactful non-jerky way, of course!”

This is a move from masochism to maturity. To help make that move, the second half of the book offers six steps out of masochism to maturity and closes with an in-depth maturity test.

  • Are you tired of letting the jerks get the best of you?
  • Do you want to gain freedom from the destructive effects of selfish behavior and enjoy mature relationships free of jerkiness and masochism?

According to Dr. Meier, you must learn, “some simple psychological judo holds and throws that will allow you to face predatory jerks with confidence, gain the advantage and deal with them lovingly, or at least in a civil manner that let’s them know you will not be manipulated, controlled, or abused anymore.”


Steve Cornell


See: Warning: Dangerous People