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Mike Answers

February 15, 2008

9th Grader Seeks Humility
“I’m a homeschooled 9th grader. I have a question not related to child training. Is it possible to be humble, but confident at the same time? It seems that whenever I try to be humble, I lose all self-confidence and self-esteem and get so depressed... to the point where I cut [verbally]  myself. But then, that’s not very humble, is it? When I’m confident, I’m often prideful, and it shows. If there is any way to be both humble and confident, please let me know how to do it. I’ve prayed and my mom has prayed, but that’s about all.” —Becky

Michael Answers:
Humility is not the trait of thinking of self as being of less worth. Humility is not thinking of self at all, whether good or bad. Humility is thinking of others and seeking their advancement. For you to be thinking about your condition and trying to be humble is pride itself, for it is valuing yourself above others, that is, measuring yourself against what you perceive they are thinking about you. Stop considering your humility and use your energies and confidence to help others.

There is nothing wrong with doing something well and knowing it—like music, art, sports, etc. Pride would be to use your successes to put others down and make them feel of less worth. It is fine to say, “I am the best violin player in the orchestra,”—if it is well known to be the case; but then you should use your skill and influence to raise the skill level of others and to encourage them. Then, if one of the others should surpass your skill, true humility would acknowledge that you are now second best, and you would rejoice in their abilities while continuing to improve yourself.

Bad-mouthing anyone, either yourself or others, is pride. Lifting everyone up―others first and then yourself―is true humility. But then, the truly humble person usually does not know he is humble, nor does he care. To strive for humility and believe you have reached it is to arrive at pride. To strive for humility and not reach it is to wallow in self-pity and condemnation, which is just another expression of pride.

Pursuing humility is like pursuing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It moves when you move and can never be attained. If one did pursue humility and actually attain it, it would be because he had forgotten his own personal aspirations while serving others, and he would be unaware of having achieved humility. Wow, this is rather philosophical for a ninth grader. Hope you can understand it. I must say, you caught my interest. With tongue in cheek, I say, “Let me know when you get to be humble.”
Your friend, Michael Pearl

Pulling The Baby Apart
I am in a blended family (marriage has been rocky since the start) and believe that my husband degrades and humiliates my daughter. Is it my job to continue to be his help meet and trust that God will protect my daughter?

My husband and I have participated in counseling, and I have been told by 3 of 4 counselors that my husband is very controlling. No surprise; I lack boundaries. I am having difficulty finding the balance of doing what God has called me to do in terms of my relationship with my husband, protecting my daughter, and not losing myself. My husband is a bit of a dictator regarding parenting, and I am a love and logic kind of parent. My daughter’s counselor, who is a Christian, has stressed that what I am modeling for my daughter is not healthy. Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Michael Answers:
You are too sweet and passive, and your husband is too hard and cold. The child is caught between. This is a recipe for disaster. You pull one way, and he is pulling the other. The more he is hard and controlling, the more you try to bring balance by acting in the opposite manner. Likewise, he sees your lack of boundaries and discipline, your passive acquiescence, and he tries to bring balance by being tougher and more demanding. Each of you is making the other act in a more extreme way. Neither of you will allow yourself to moderate in the other direction, because of your perceived need to keep balance. You are pulling against each other, and the child is going to be pulled in two. Both of you are immature, each trying to find your own balance in life. It is time to give up your personal struggles and think of the child.

How is this to be accomplished? You must come to the peace table with your husband and discuss without anger or accusation the difficulties the two of you have caused. Until both of you see your deficiencies and agree to seek a Godly balance, you will continue to pull the baby apart. Talk. Discuss. Analyze. Both of you need to moderate your convictions. If you have a partner who will not talk and is so competitive that he is jerking the child in only one direction, then your road will be harder, but there is still hope. If you can find balance and get good results because of it, in time he will see the wisdom of your approach and come on board with you. When you stop pulling against him, he will stop pulling against you. It is better to release your end and leave the baby intact than to keep the contest going.

Hard Speech
I have had something on my heart for some time now that I was wanting to share with you. It is a question, really. But first, I must start by saying just how blessed our family has been because of your family! THANK YOU! I thank God often for leading me to your materials. I have so much respect for you and Debi and the work that you do.

As you can tell from my above statements we have been blessed and have found IMMEASURABLE good in the materials that you write. However (my question), I feel that in your writings, you often say things in a way that comes across very harsh. I appreciate your being clear and direct, but I disagree and do not understand when your anger/disgust seems not to be just for the sin, but for the sinner as well. Jesus tells us to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). I know that you know His word very well, so I was wondering what you thought about that verse? I feel able to take the immense amount of good from your materials and overlook the harshness that I feel is inappropriate, but what saddens me is that I do not feel as free to share it with others as I would like to, because many are not able to overlook these things. I know you are a very busy man, but I would greatly appreciate hearing your response if you are able. Thank you so much.

Michael answers:
If my personal manner of communicating were like James Dobson’s, there would be no need for my ministry. I am an ordinary man who speaks my heart to ordinary men and women. I do not seek popularity.

“And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?  But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses” (Matthew 11:7-8).

Sin disgusts me, as it should any Christian, and I make that fact known in a small measure. We live in a day when the church normalizes sin by responding to it “in love and understanding.” This was not Jesus’ response. While he was preaching, he called those “religious” leaders who heard him fools, blind, liars, hypocrites, whited sepulchers full of dead men’s bones, blind guides, serpents, a generation of vipers, and he advised them that they were of their father the Devil and were doing his will, and that they could not escape the damnation of hell (John 8:44, 55; Matthew 23 :13-33). I feel like a compromising pantywaist compared to him. If you have been offended again, you should listen to my taped message, When Forgiveness is a Sin.

Food on the Floor
I was reading one of your articles about emotional self-control. My 3-year-old daughter is constantly throwing her food on the floor. As you can imagine, it makes us very angry. We have yelled at her and given her time-outs (neither of which have worked)! Do you have any suggestions on how we should handle this?

Michael answers:
Never yell unless they are about to step in front of a moving vehicle. Yellers are never trainers; they are competitors, the other side of the street fight. Parents are cool, confident, poised, always in control. Kids yell at each other if they are not trained. But then, if it’s the parent who is not trained…. Never give time-outs. Time-out is what you do for fruit when you want it to ferment. Time-outs are statements that you are not in control and that you have called for a truce, hoping the other side (a little 3-year-old!) will deal with the problem before you are both in the same room again. No, I cannot imagine that her throwing food on the floor makes you angry. You had to tell me that, because getting angry at a child for doing what you trained her to do should never make anyone angry. I suspect very much that you are often angry over many things, not just the child’s behavior. Anger is a personal issue that must be resolved with God’s help. It is not caused by someone else, especially not a small child.

Now that I have scolded you sufficiently, I will tell you how to train the child not to throw food on the floor. This is profound. Don’t pick it up and don’t give her any more food. And don’t show any emotion one way or the other. Just grin, and go about your eating, because you know that you are going to win. When she discovers that this is not a game with two players, that all she is doing is depriving herself of food, she will hang on to every morsel. If she comes to the table hungry and you put before her only what she can and will eat, she will not throw it away. Her innate selfish instincts will lead her to be protective of her food. Now, if you are prone to feed her sweets or greasy snacks between meals and after meals, then I can understand perfectly well why she throws broccoli and spinach on the floor. Smart kid. She is entertained and empowered when you get mad and scream. It’s fine with her as long as she gets the sweets later. But if you limit her food to healthy fare that she only eats at meals, it would not be in her interest to leave the table hungry and have to wait until the next meal.

Imputed vs. Imparted Righteousness
There is a man in my community who claims to be a preacher. He is preaching that Romans 5:9 means that he is perfect. Now I know this is not true, but he has others believing this. I don’t want to see these people burn in hell because they believe this. I would appreciate any information you can give me on this matter.

Michael Answers:
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. Romans 5:9

I do not know what this preacher is trying to say regarding Romans 5:9, but I will attempt to clarify popular and prevailing conceptions regarding Biblical salvation. No matter our theological persuasion, we all start at the same place: a conviction that the entire human race lies in sin and is lost without some act on God’s part. Man cannot remake himself into a condition that would make him acceptable to God. This you surely believe, and presumedly the man in question also believes.

righteousness-mp3-cd-290x3601But doctrines diverge at the point of how the grace of God works to save a sinner. There are all shades of differences, but basically two opposing positions. The one belief that is most popular—believed by 99% of Christianity—is that the grace of God works in our hearts to bring us to repentance of sin and faith in his son, Jesus, transforming us into obedient children, thereby making us acceptable to God. This we can call Imparted Righteousness. That is, God by his grace imparts to our experience his righteousness so that we are changed into sons and daughters of God. This is the Roman Catholic position as well as what most Protestants believe in practice. It is also the position of most Plain people, Mennonites and Amish. Since this view is based on God transforming the individual, no one can ever say for sure that he has been sufficiently changed so as to be in a saved state. The sinner must be constantly engaged in repentance and confession, trying to maintain a proper humility and fear, keeping his sins confessed, making sure he doesn’t die with any unconfessed sins, and not daring to presume that he has arrived at that place of unqualified acceptance. The person under this system cannot know that he is saved. He lives all his life in doubt and confusion. Such a one is often the most religious and devout among us, and they make great neighbors, for they labor for their own salvation. Sad to say, this belief is a vain hope. It is purely human in its basic precepts, and it is dead wrong.

The contrasting view, held by very few, was the belief of the early church and of the reformation fathers. In contrast to Imparted Righteousness, we call this position Imputed Righteousness. That is, God sees us as too sinful to be transformed into anything that could remotely be acceptable. We are without hope in our sin, but God sent his Son Jesus to take our place as a son of Adam. Jesus received our sin upon himself as if he were the sinner. God “imputed” our sin to the perfect God/Man Jesus. He died as if he were the sinner and was raised from the dead because he was indeed righteous. God now imputes the righteousness of Jesus to all who will believe upon him. This is called “the gift of righteousness.” (Romans 5:17).

Here is the contrast between the two positions: Imparted righteousness changes the individual so as to make him righteous. Imputed righteousness just changes the man’s legal standing with God. Imparted righteousness is the man’s own experience. Imputed righteousness is God’s experience of righteousness placed to the account of the sinner as if it were his. Read 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

You can listen to my Righteousness set of CDs and get this message in detail. The single message Imputed Righteousness discusses this subject in detail. If you want it in print, the last half of my book Divine Design covers this subject quite well.

Now, back to your preacher who claims to be sinless according to Romans 5:9. Anyone who claims to be sinless is a liar (1 John 1:8-10) and you need listen to him no further unless you just want a laugh. That is not the same as claiming to overcome sin, as did the Apostle Paul. All believers have the power to sin not, and it is normal for a believer to sin not—but the power to sin not is not the same as being sinless. To claim sinlessness is to claim to NOT BE ABLE to sin. A Christian is able to SIN NOT on a moment by moment basis, but he will always be ABLE to sin until he gets rid of this fleshly body.

Could it be that the preacher actually said something like this? “Based on the imputed righteousness of Christ, God sees me as sinless. God counts me as if I have never sinned. It is a free gift of perfect righteousness that God reckons to me.” If so, he is correct.

Any preacher worthy of the name should boldly profess to be enjoying the complete gift of God’s righteousness, and he should also testify that God is delivering him from the acts of sin on a daily, moment-by-moment basis.

God made Jesus to be something he wasn’t—sin―so that he can make us something we are not—righteous. Just as Jesus received our sin in an act of faith, we receive his righteousness in an act of faith. My sin took Jesus where he did not deserve to go—death and hell—so his righteousness can take me where I do not deserve to go—eternal life and heaven.

See my gospel tract God Made Jesus to be Sin. It is free and downloadable from our website.

I am a homeschooled teenager involved in several of the local public high school’s programs – track, math, etc. I have a tremendous opportunity to witness to my unbelieving peers. Last year, I tried many times to witness to my teammates, but their hearts are so hard. They became angry, or didn’t listen, or took it all at a purely intellectual level. I can’t blame them, though. Oftentimes, I find that my own fear, pride, and stubbornness prevent me from speaking to them when I should. I pray for them often, but nothing I say to them, nor how I try to stand apart from the spirit of the world seems to affect them. I am thinking that I, being a “weird homeschooler” (at least in their eyes), am tainting their view of who God is. How can I effectively witness to my non-Christian peers, especially when they have such alien worldviews and anti-Christian attitudes?Michael answers: There are two ways to witness. The first is the most direct and is similar to what a street evangelist would do. You get right to the point, discussing sin and righteousness and the consequences of dying without Christ, challenging them to repent toward God and believe the gospel. You can expect most of them to reject your message, but you keep fishing, knowing that out of the hundreds, there may be one who will be prepared by the Holy Spirit to believe your message. This is not normally the approach you take with co-workers, fellow students, next door neighbors, or family members.

If you have the time, the most effective method of reaching someone for Christ is to:

1. Treat everyone you meet as if they are Christian brothers and sisters who are dear to you. In short, love them as they have never been loved.

2. Be continually joyful. Everyone is attracted to joy, and no one will fault you for it. They will want what you have.

3. Be successful. Be the best at whatever you do. Everyone admires success and sincere effort. They will respect you for it.

4. Be helpful. Pour something into the lives of everyone you meet. Make them feel better about themselves in a clean and pure way.

5. Be generous. When others see you giving, they will recognize God in it.

6. Be gracious and cheerful in your righteousness. Don’t be prudish and standoffish in your convictions. When you decline to participate in sin, don’t do so in a way that says “I am better that you, and you are a dog.”

7. Be open. People are scared of the unknown. Let people get to know you and see that you don’t bite, you’re not “preachy”, and you don’t have any secrets.

8. Don’t do religious things to be seen of men. Let your righteousness be purity of heart and intention.

9. Speak of God and Jesus occasionally when it is spontaneously true. For instance, you might say,  “Isn’t it a beautiful day God has made?” or “God has blessed me with good health.” Upon occasion, you might say something like, “If it were not for Jesus Christ, I would be on my way to hell.”

10. Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in knowing who is ready to receive the message. In time, someone will open up to you and ask a question like, “Why are you always happy?” or “Why don’t you XXXX?” Answer them honestly, telling of your commitment to Christ and of your conversion. When the moment seems right, tell them the gospel story in detail. Win just one person, and it is all worth it.

Don’t think in terms of impacting the entire school. Just one needy soul is enough. And when you have one convert, it becomes much easier to impress others with Christ.

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5 comments on “Mike Answers”

  1. In the article
    "Imputed vs. Imparted Righteousness,"you state a "Christian is able to SIN NOT on a moment by moment basis, but he will always be ABLE to sin until he gets rid of this fleshly body." However, in your Romans series, you emphasize the part of scripture that explains that our body of sin has been put to death. So hasn't Christ rid a Christian of his "fleshly body" through the shared history of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection? So then, how can a Christian sin if this reality is exercised by faith? We teach that righteousness is imputed rather than imparted, but we also teach that a man can "sin not" by simply believing that he was co-crucified with Christ. We teach that a Christian may in fact sin simply by disregarding his faith as it applies to this matter, and that doing so is nothing more than an ignorant and/or selfish act of the will. However, a Christian may in fact enjoy a life free of sin by believing in the reality of his co-crucifixion with Christ. The scriptures seem to plainly teach that "sinning not" is normal for a Christian, and so we teach accordingly. Are we correct in what I have summarized here?

  2. Wow... So much good information and related to real life people experiences. This article was spot on for me as I am fairly new in my journey and have so many questions. I agree people sometimes need a dab of harshness with the love and compassion you offer. I do. Its a wake up call to the fact that this is serious stuff and not just fluff. Loved this site and will return.