All Christians bring parts of their past lives into their new salvation experience with God. If they do not see these things, they will accommodate their old practices (Ephesians 4:22), and the consequences will be awful. This case study teaches how to escape those old patterns so you can live a life for God and others.
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- The Doctrine of Repentance
- The Value of Intrusive Relationships
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Biff is an angry man. But what’s instructive is that nobody from his church would believe it because everybody knows how much he loves God. Just ask them.
Well, don’t ask Mable. She’s married to Biff. She knows the man that no one else sees. And don’t question his children either. Those who think they know Biff do not know him the way he needs them to understand him.
Biff is outgoing, the life of the party, and fun to be around. Mable, on the other hand, has felt the brunt of his anger on more than one occasion. She and the kids know the real Biff, a pleasure seeker who carefully manages his reputation.
Biff’s Two Worlds
Biff is a self-focused person. Life revolves around him. Having fun and being the life of the party comes naturally to him; it is his strength. Most of his Christian friends have not discerned this narcissistic pattern in his life. They think he’s a fun guy because God saved him from sin, and Biff loves life. Part of that perspective is valid.
Since becoming a Christian, he stopped smoking weed. For Biff, the Christian life is a “cleaner kind of hedonism.” And though he loves God, he is living a double life because the narcissism that has always been part of his life is still there, albeit sanitized by Christianity.
Biff’s public friends do not know this because they only get the “life of the party Biff.” Mable lives with Biff in both worlds. She “goes to church” with him and they serve in ministry together. And she has to live with him at home while doing damage control for Biffy and Biffina, their two children.
Biff is a living, breathing dichotomy: he is loved in the public arena while feared in the home. What is his core problem? He is an unbelieving-believer (Mark 9:24), who is unwilling to trust God with his life entirely.
The Collision of Two Worlds
Biff wants life on his terms. And when things go according to his wishes, he is an okay guy, and there are peace and harmony in Biff’s’ World. The bad news for Biff is that nobody can package their lives according to all their preferences. Life rarely cooperates the way we want it. And it’s in these “un-cooperating moments” when Biff struggles.
If only he could keep things contained, packaged, managed, controlled, and squished inside his preferred “easy come, easy go world.” The truth is that he is not God, and he cannot control his life according to his plans, desires, and wishes. The un-cooperativeness of life is antagonistic to the dream world where Biff is king, everyone is complying, and he is “living large” right smack in the middle of it.
When things begin to tilt outside of his control, he unleashes his anger–the manipulative weapon of an insecure man who feels out-of-control. When he gets mad, everything in his world, especially his family, readjust to his preferences. He yells, everyone realigns, and Biff regains conformity.
The Weight of the World
As you might imagine, this cyclic pattern of “in control, out of control, anger, back in control” can wear on anyone, and Biff feels the adverse effects of ruling his world sinfully. We were never meant to control everything in our lives.
God created us to submit and worship Him, not to turn His good things onto ourselves for our insatiable self-gratification. Biff must come to terms with this perspective, though in his heart of hearts, he does not want to give up his self-made world. He loves fun and pleasure-seeking too much to let go of it.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! – Psalm 34:8
He has lived in a self-gratifying, self-focused, all-about-me world for all of his life. After God regenerated him, Biff did not walk away entirely from his past. He kept the parts he loved while tacking Christianity onto it, which left him with a “suppressed hedonism.”
But it got worse for Biff. He married Mable and then had children, which brought more complications. He wanted it all, e.g., selfishness, Christianity, wife, and children. Biff lives in a slow burn, but you would never know it. He only gets angry when he cannot get his way. If you disrupt his pleasure-seeking, he will go off on you.
The Pressure of Being God
As you can imagine, the weight of being “god of his world” is too much for Biff. His “control, anger, back in control” wears on him, which tempts him to find escapes from the endless loop of his own making.
Biff’s response to the pressure was to add another hedonistic pleasure to his life. After he becomes weary from running his world, he takes a break, runs to his escape, which is why he does porn.
Porn not only gives him his escape, but it permits him to stay in control. Even while escaping from life, he can still rule his world because porn is a secret world, a deception that is nothing new for Biff. He can access it with minimal risk of exposure.
The “benefit,” from his perspective, is that he can alleviate his frustration and general weariness from running his world with a momentary escape into the “perfect drug” of self-gratification. Porn is the “perfect medication” for a self-centered, self-gratifying, self-focused, pleasure seeker like Biff who is not able to maintain tight-fisted control of his world.
The Cause and Cure of Anger
What’s Wrong with God?
The most vital question that Biff must answer is about his problem with God. If he’s rejecting God, which he is, someone needs to find out why he has an issue with God. Why is he choosing his way over God’s way?
When there are only two choices before you, and you choose one over the other, you’re making a clear commentary about how you think about the one you selected and the one you rejected. Biff is making a clear statement about God.
There is something about the Lord that is not satisfying to him, or perhaps there is something that he does not understand about God. Ultimately, he is not fully trusting God with his life, choosing instead to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.
(Moses chose) to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt. – Hebrews 11:25-26
Though Mable is rightfully upset with Biff, the first order of business for Biff is to straighten out his twisted relationship with God. He is refusing to trust God, and that issue needs sufficient exploration so he can repent.
Part of Biff’s problem is that he’s angry with God. His anger is one of the more subtle forms like “disappointment with God.” Many Christians live in ongoing disappointment, which makes it impossible to trust God fully. You cannot be angry, frustrated, or disappointed with the Lord and trust Him in all the ways that you must so you can have peace with Him.
Biff has not had proper discipleship. There are “pockets of ignorance” in his understanding and practice of who God is. Ignorance is a faith killer.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. – Romans 10:17
Someone must confront him and carefully disciple him into a fuller understanding of who God is so he can experience authentic joy. Biff has chosen the “lesser sublunary pleasures” of this world to satisfy him, which do not satisfy at all.
All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. – Ecclesiastes 1:8
Living In the Gospel
While Biff understands the gospel enough to become a Christian, he has not been living in the good of the gospel after God regenerated him. He got his ticket to heaven punched, but Biff was never shown how to live in the good of the gospel, post-salvation.
It’s like he came through the salvation door and sat down. The depth of his understanding and practice of God has been more about being in teaching environments than anything else. By showing up at his local church meetings and participating in Bible studies, he has learned a lot of Bible information, but he is bereft when it comes to the application of the Bible life.
Here are a few things a careful discipler needs to do with Biff:
1 – Learn to Live In the Gospel – Biff needs to understand the depth of what Christ did for him on the cross. This worldview is not a one and done teaching time. Biff needs to surround himself with gospel companions. He needs gospel-centered books, music, and people in his life. The glory, amazement, and beautiful truths of Calvary need to be his constant companions.
2 – Memorizing the Word of God – Biff needs to begin a systematic memorization plan that will allow the Word of God to wash over his soul. Christ cleanses us by His Word (John 17:17). Biff needs a severe cranial cleansing.
That he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. – Ephesians 5:26
3 – Practice Repenting – Biff needs to come to terms with what it means to repent. This opportunity is the Christian’s secret weapon. Repentance is the only means for removing sin in a person’s life.
Biff has been living in sin for so long that his conscience is dull to the realities of his sinfulness. The discipleship process must include a reorientation to how he sins and his weak understanding of sin categories. Sin is not passive or neutral. It will dull your conscience, which creates a spiritual myopia. Biff is dull.
You have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. – Hebrews 5:11-14
4 – Become a Servant – Biff’s life has been mostly about himself. He has not successfully modeled the gospel, which he can do by serving others. Biff has been serving himself.
- His fun has been for his purposes.
- Porn is sex given to oneself.
- Anger is a manipulative tactic for personal gain.
When Biff honestly comes to terms with what Christ did for him on the cross, he will experience brokenness by that cross. Once the gospel breaks him, his heart desire will be less about what he can get, but about what he can give.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45
Never Move On – It is crucial for Biff to know that he should never move on from the four things I have mentioned. While there are many more things to do, he should never move on from these four.
- The gospel is more than the salvation of your soul. It is a way of life. We will be celebrating the gospel (Jesus Christ) throughout eternity.
- Hiding God’s Word in our hearts should be a lifetime pursuit. It is a vast means of grace for sinners (Psalm 119:11).
- Biff will not stop sinning completely. Repentance will be his constant friend. What a joy to repent. Only the Christian can do this, which is one of the more stunning aspects of the gospel. It gives us the option to be cleansed from our sin.
- Once Biff’s heart is indeed riveted by the gospel, he will find a new gratification. Biff will become a servant, and this will be the position of his heart forever.
If Biff will humbly submit to God, seek help from the community of faith, and do the hard things as outlined here, he will be able to break the chains that are currently gripping his heart.
Also published on Medium.