Put away the old man, which has become evil by love of deceit…and put on the new man, to which God has given life. (Eph 4:22, 24 BBE)

Pride is the essence of the old man, while the new man is marked by trust in God. As Christians, of course, our goal is to get from the old man to the new man. But how? Martin Luther observes,

God deals strangely with His children. He blesses them with contradictory and disharmonious things: fear, the cross of the old man; and hope, the life of the new man.

Luther says that God ”blesses” us with fear. Why would that be? Here is Luther’s answer, which opens up a whole new vista for understanding our obsessions in Christian terms:

Fear is the crucifixion and execution of the old man… God frightens our conscience, and afflicts us with all kinds of troubles, so that our sinful old Adam becomes mellow and soft. Finally, by the time we die, our pride, trust, and confidence in our own efforts and knowledge are dead.

God takes fear, which is basically bad (since it indicates a lack of trust in Him); and uses it for our good, to destroy the old man. Basically, God uses fear to scare the prideful old man to death! Then there is room for the new man to take his place. In Luther’s comments about the old man, a Christian with OCD finds excellent Christian justification for performing exposure and response prevention exercises. When we purposefully stay in the presence of an obsessional fear and habituate to it, we are at the same time destroying the old man and learning to trust in God. Luther likens this process to the work of a skilled craftsman who is cutting out a new artwork.

Just as a wood carver, by chiseling and taking away the wood that does not belong to the carving, enhances the form of his work, so hope, which forms the new man, grows in the midst of fear that cuts down the old Adam.

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3 Response Comments

  • Paul  January 5, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    First off I am so thankful for Dr. O and this site. From the depths of my heart and soul, thank you. You have made an incredible difference in this journey.

    A fear that I have, and am having a hard time understanding is belief itself. Today we had a sermon on Mark 1:1 – 15. We talked about who Jesus really is, what He came to do, and why He was never plan ‘b’ for God. We talked about the necessity of repentance (turning from our sinful way) and faith (turning toward God). Afterwards I really struggled hard with “What if I don’t believe…”. The obsessional thoughts are that the Good News is for everybody else – but not for me. I then ruminate on this and it casts doubt on my worship, prayers, etc. Basically just trying to pull the power plug so nothing else matters.

    I’m really struggling and could use some thoughts. Thank you. Paul

    Reply
    • admin  January 6, 2020 at 9:42 am

      The important thing to realize is that this is a special trial that God will use for your good. If we wait and do not try to clarify the uncertainty ourselves (the trial is such that, in fact, we cannot come to certainty ourselves); then we will learn that we can trust in God when God eventually gives us the gift of faith. The trial is designed specifically to cut down the old man who relies on himself, and make room for the new man who relies on God. We have to just suck it up and wait patiently in hope, accepting that we are being tried through uncertainty.

      Reply
      • D.G.  January 8, 2020 at 11:44 am

        “Trials, tribulation, anguish, anxiety are permitted by the very One Who gives peace.”
        — Archbishop Fulton Sheen

        Reply

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