The Search for Significance by Robert McGee

This book was a recommended read before a Christian counseling session. I like the pattern this books takes, it talks a whole chapter to take about an issue that people have (such as guilt), then takes a whole chapter to talk about a principle of the Christian theology that counters it. This version also included a workbook in the back. Here are the items I underlined:

When Christ told His disciples, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32 KJV), He
was referring not only to an intellectual assent to the truth but also to the application of truth in the most basic issues of life: our goals, our motives, and our sense of self-worth.
Perhaps we want to be “good” Christians, and believing that good Christians don’t have problems, or feelings like ours, we deny the existence of our emotions.
Some of us have deep emotional and spiritual scars resulting from the neglect, abuse, and manipulation that often accompany living in a dysfunctional family (alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce, absent father or mother, excessive anger, verbal and/or physical abuse, and so on), but all of us bear the effects of our own sinful nature and the imperfections of others.
Many of us mistakenly believe that God doesn’t want us to be honest about our lives. We think that He will be upset with us if we tell Him how we really feel. But the Scriptures tell us that God does not want us to be superficial in our relationship with Him, with others, or in our own lives. David wrote, “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place” (Ps 51:6 NIV) The Lord desires truth and honesty at the deepest level and wants us to experience His love, forgiveness, and power in all areas of our lives. Experiencing His love does not mean that all of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors will be pleasant and pure. It means that we can be real, feeling pain and joy, love and anger, confidence and confusion. The Psalms give us tremendous insight about what it means to be honest with the Lord.
One reason for this spiritual and emotional inertia is a sense of hopelessness. For various reasons (family background, past experiences, poor modeling), we may have negative presumptions that determine our receptivity to love and truth. In some cases, God’s light may have revealed our pain and wall of defenses, but it may not yet have penetrated to our deepest thoughts and beliefs about ourselves.
I find it amazing to discover Christians who believe (at least intellectually) that value, purpose, and significance are unimportant to life. These individuals ususally have deadened themselves to their own feelings to the point that they have many relational problems they do not even recognize.
From life’s outset, we find ourselves on the prowl, searching to satisfy some inner, unexplained yearning. Our hunger causes us to search for people who will love us. Our desire for acceptance pressures us to perform to gain praise from others. We strive for success, driving our minds and bodies harder and further, hoping that because of our sweat and sacrifice others will appreciate us more.
Like falling on a jagged rock, these comments hurt deeply. Lisa began to doubt herself and wonder if she were capable of building a successful marriage and family. Feeling like a failure, she reasoned that perhaps she deserved a broken marriage; perhaps her problems with Brad were her fault and God was punishing her for her sins.
Their lives began to reflect that strange combination of hopelessness and compulsion.
John 10:10 also reminds us of how much God treasures His creation, in that Christ came so that men might experience abundant life. However, as Christians, we need to realize that this abundant life is lived in a real world filled with pain, rejection, and failure. Therefore, experiencing the abundant life God intends for us does not mean that our lives will be problem-free. On the contrary, life itself is a series of problems that often act as obstacles to our search for significance, and the abundant life is the experience of God’s love, forgiveness, and power in the midst of these problems.
However, it often seems that unsuspecting believers are the last to know this battle is occurring, and they don’t know that Christ has ultimately won the war. They are surprised and confused by difficulties, thinking that the Christian life is a playground, not a battlefield. As Christians, our fulfillment in this life depends not on our skills to avoid life’s problems but on our ability to apply God’s specific solutions to those problems. An accurate understanding of God’s truth is the first step toward discovering our significance and worth.
One of the tragic implications of this event is that man lost his secure status with God and began to struggle with feelings of arrogance, inadequacy, and despair, valuing the opinions of others more than the truth of God. This robbed man of his true self-worth and put him on a continual, but fruitless, search for significance through his success and the approval of others.
Teaching that man has meaning totally apart from God, humanism leaves morality, justice, and behavior to the discretion of “enlightened” man and encourages people to worship man and nature rather than God. Living without God’s divine truth, humanity sinks lower and lower in depravity, blindly following a philosophy that intends to heighten the dignity of man but instead lowers him to the level of animals.
If we base our worth solidly on the truths of God’s Word, then our behavior will often reflect His love, grace, and power. But if we base our worth on our abilities or the fickle approval of others, then our behavior will respect the insecurity, fear, and anger that come from such instability.
He understood the agony his wife had carried for so many years and lover her in spite of her past. It was Stacy who could not cope at this point. Unable to accept Ron’s forgiveness and knowing she had failed according to society’s standards, Stacy felt unworthy of his love. She refused to forgive herself and chose to leave her husband. In this case, Stacy fell victim to one of Satan’s most effective lies: Those who fail are unworthy of love and deserve to be blamed and condemned.
Perfectionists can be quite vulnerable to serious mood disorders and often anticipate rejection when they believe they haven’t met the standards they are trying so hard to attain. Therefore, perfectionists tend to react defensively to criticism and demand to be in control of most situations they encounter. Because they are usually more competent than most, perfectionists see nothing wrong with their compulsions. “I just like to see things done well,” they claim. There is certainly nothing inherently wrong with doing things well; the problem is that perfectionists usually base their self-worth on their ability to accomplish a goal. Therefore, failure is a thread and is totally unacceptable to them.
The focus of the Christian life should be on Christ, not on self-imposed regulations. Our experience of Christ’s lordship is dependent on our moment-by-moment attention to His instruction, not on our own regimented schedule.
Avoiding risks may seem comfortable, but it severely limits the scope of our creative self-expression, and service to God.
…the experience of many parents who have pleaded with a child to try harder, not realizing that the child cannot risk trying harder because he or she would then have no excuse if he or she failed.
If people believe they will fail, they have no reason to exert any effort. The pain they endure for their passivity seems relatively minor and acceptable compared to the agony of genuinely trying and failing.
There is nothing quite as miserable as being angry at yourself, having self-hatred. Unfortunately, your anger is not limited to yourself but it also directed toward God. This does nothing more than alienate, isolate, and destroy the potential hope that you could receive something from God. It is not that He is not prepared to help you. It is that your anger keeps you from receiving that help. As long as we operate according to Satan’s lies, we are susceptible to the fear of failure. Our personal experience of this fear is determined by the difference between our performance standards and our ability to meet those standards.
Either He really knows who you are or He doesn’t. Playing with words this way keeps us from experiencing the reality of who we are. It also dishonors who God is. The second question is, if you think of yourself differently than God thinks of you, who is mistaken, you or God? How often do we allow our minds to overrule what God says is true? Keep in mind, you were made by and for God. He has placed within you needs that only He can meet. If we try to have these needs met by another person or persons, we will end up frustrated, angry, and unfulfilled.
Some of us only know our faith as a series of rules or steps. In order for you to experience what Christ has provided through justification, you must receive it through your relationships with Him, not be performing some ritual.
As we grow in our understanding of His unconditional love and acceptance, we will be better able to grasp that His discipline is prompted by care, not cruelty. We will also be increasingly able to perceive the contrast between the joys of living for Christ and the destructive nature of sin.
In today’s society, we have lost the concept of doing something because it is the right thing to do. Instead, we do things in exchange for some reward or favor, or to avoid punishment.
We obey God because:
1) Christ’s love motivates us to live for Him
2) Sin is destructive and should be avoided.
3) Our Father lovingly disciplines us for wrongdoing.
4) His commands for us are good.
5) We will receive eternal rewards for obedience
6) He is worthy of our obedience
He longed for the approval of others and believed that by agreeing to their every wish he would win that approval.
Many people have admitted that their experimentation with drugs or sex is reaction to their need to belong.
“The deep need of a man is the need to overcome separateness, to leave the prison of his aloneness.”
For the most part, our modern society has responded inadequately to rejection and loneliness. Our response has been outer-directed, meaning that we try to copy the customs, dress, ideas, and behavioral patterns of a particular group, allowing the consensus of the group to determine what is correct for us. But conforming to a group will not fully provide the security we are so desperately seeking.

… rejection and guilt are only effective motivations as people are near us. This is why certain parental techniques of guilt motivation produce results only until the child matures and gains more freedom. With freedom, the child is able to remove himself or herself physically from the parents. Unrestrained, the child then can do as he or she pleases.

They may interact with others, and they may be considered socially adept because they know how to make friends easily; but their friends never really know them because they hide behind a wall of words, smiles, and activities. These people are usually quite lonely in the midst of all their so-called friends.
Can God accept a person who is unacceptable (because of sin) or does He have to make that person completely acceptable (through salvation) first?
Our unconditional acceptance in Christ is a profound, life-changing truth. Salvation is not simply a ticket to heaven. It is the beginning of dynamic new relationship with God.
Often, we look only to other believers rather than to Christ Himself. We learn to use the right Christian words, claim divine power and guidance, and organize programs, and yet so often, our spiritual facade lacks depth and substance. Our spiritual activities become human efforts lacking the real touch of the Master. In effect, we live a lie.
God intends for parents to model His character to their children.
Many of us, however, have not receive this parental model of God’s character. On an extremely wide spectrum, some of us have had relatively healthy relationships with our parents while other have experience various forms of neglect, condemnation, and manipulation. Still others have suffered the deeper wounds of sexual abuse, physical abuse, or abandonment. The greater the degree of dysfunction (or poor modeling) in a family, the greater the potential for emotional, spiritual, and relational wounds. Put another way, the poorer the parental modeling of God’s love, forgiveness, and power, the greater our difficulty in experiencing and applying these characteristics in our lives.
Those who have receive poor parental modeling need new models – loving Christian friends to experience the love and grace of God. Through His body of believers, God often provides us with models of His love so that our perception of His character can be slowly reshaped into one that is more accurate, resulting in a healthier relationship with Him. Then our deep emotional, spiritual, and relational wounds can begin to heal, and we can more fully experience God’s unconditional love. Some of us are already involved in strong relationships with people who are understanding and patient with us; some of us haven’t yet been able to cultivate relationships like these, and we are still looking.
We must first understand that while God often demonstrates His love and affirmation for us through believers and nonbelievers alike, His desire that our relationships with others will enable us to know Him more fully. His work through others, is, in part, to serve as a channel by which he can better understand His divine love and acceptance of us. Sadly, we are all prone to miss His message and mistake His messenger(s) as the source of our fulfillment. When this misperception is carried to an extreme, we can fall into emotional dependency…
Healthy relationships are turned outward rather than inward. Healthy relationships encourage individuality rather than conformity and are concerned with independence rather than emotional dependence. Healthy relations point one’s focus to the Lord and pleasing Him rather than toward the friendship and pleasing one another.
Pray that God will guide you to relationships that will encourage you to be honest, practice the truth of His Word, affirm you, and thereby help you develop an appropriate love for yourself and compel you to focus on Him as the gracious provide or your needs.
We tend to make two major errors when we punish others for their failures. The first is that we condemn people not only for genuine sin but also for their mistakes.
A second major error we often make by condemning others is believing that we are godly agents of condemnation.
We are correct in recognizing that sin is reprehensible and deserves condemnation, yet we have not been license by God to punish others for their sins.
Beginning with the eldest, all of the accusers walked away as they remembered their own sins (John 8:3-9). In light of their own sinfulness, they no longer saw fit to condemn the sins of another.
…if others are rude but never realized it because we passively accept their behavior in an attempt to avoid upsetting them, at least two things usually happen: We develop resentment toward them, and they never have to come to terms with their negative impact on others. They then miss an important opportunity to change, and we effectually prolong their hurtful behavior.
Because He is holy, God’s aversion to sin is manifested in righteous anger. However, God is not only righteously indignant about sin, He is also infinately loving. In His holiness, God condemns sin, but in the most awesome example of love the world has ever seen, He ordained that His Son would die to pay for our sins. God sacrificed the sinless, perfect Savior to turn away, to propitiate, His great wrath.
God the Father loves us with the love of a father, reaching to snatch us from harm. God the Son loves us with the love of a brother, layind down His life for us. [God the Holy Spirit loves us with the love of a friend, standing by our side and being with us through the situations of life.]
the Dake Study Bible, which lists 1,050 commandments to the Christian in the New Testament alone. Try putting that list on your refrigerator and condeming yourself every time you violate any one of the 1,050 commandments. This would be a sure way to love any sense of joy that God wants you to experience.
Revelation 12:11 – And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death.
He needed someone he could talk to openly so that he could express his feelings without the fear of being rejected.
Perhaps there is some security in accepting ourselves as much less than we can become. That minimizes the risk of failure. Certainly, if we expect little from ourselves, we will seldom be disappointed!
Our past relationships may involve the intense pain of neglect, abuse, and manipulation, but if we do not begin the process of healing, we will be unable to experience the joy, challenge, and, yes, the potential for failure int he present.
Proverbs 16:25
Any change in our behavior requires a release from our old self-concept, which is often founded in failure and the expectations of others.
Our greatest obstacle to experiencing regeneration is that we don’t look different and sometimes we don’t act much differently. As we recognize the results of justification, reconciliation, and propitiation, we will find it much easier to hold to the fact that we have undergone regeneration.
But if the redemption we enjoy is complete, why do we so often fail to see the changes we long for in our lives? Why do we wrestle day after day with the same temptations, the same failings, and the same distractions we have always fought? Why can’t we break free and move on toward maturity?
Perhaps we fear that God can’t really accept us until we have spiritually matured or until “our problem” is removed. Perhaps we just want to feel better without having to struggle through the process of making major changes in our attitudes and behavior. Motivations such as these may be mixed with a genuine desire to honor the Lord, but it’s also possible that deep within us is a primary desire to glorify ourselves. When self-improvement, rather than Christ, becomes the center of our focus, our focus is displaced.
This inordinate preoccupation with self-improvement parallels our culture’s self-help and personal-enhancement movement  in many ways, Personal development is certainly not wrong, but it is misleading and can be very disappointing if we make it our preeminent goal. If it is our goal at all, it should be secondary. As we grasp the unconditional love, grace, and power of God, then honoring Christ will increasingly be our consuming passion. God wants us to have a health self-awareness and to analyze our lives periodically, but He does not want us to be preoccupied with ourselves. The only one worthy of our preoccupation is Christ, our sovereign Lord, who told the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9)
The second problem with depending on our feelings occurs when we believe that our emotions are a primary means of God’s communication with us and are therefore signs from God that indicate His leading. The conclusion may compel us to make authoritative statements about God’s will (for both ourselves and others) that are based on little more than how we feel. As in the first extreme, the Scriptures may take a backseat as we sometimes justify foolish and even immoral acts by this false “leading from the Lord”.
We also need to develop a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading that goes beyond emotionalism. This sensitivity takes time to develop and is an awareness of His conviction of sin, what He wants us to say and do in certain situations, His prompting to share the gospel, and so forth. Discerning whether or not an impression is of God comes from three primary sources: the clear teaching of the Scriptures, previous experiences of learning, and the agreement of mature believers. If an impressions is from God, it will not violate biblical principles.
Paul wrote to the Galatian Christians: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). As we respond to the love of Christ and trust His Spirit to fill us, these characteristics will become increasingly more evident in our lives. The filling of the Holy Spirit includes two major aspects: our purpose (to bring honor to Christ instead of to ourselves) and our resources (trusing in His love and power to accomplish results instead of trusting in our own wisdom and abilities).
Like Spencer, out own willingness to be filled with the Holy Spirit is a direct response to the magnificent truths centered in the cross and the resurrection of Christ and our participation in relationships in which we sense His love for us. We are deeply loved and completely forgiven by God, fully pleasing to God, totally accepted by God, and complete in Him.
When you have an infection, your body increases your body temperature. One of the uses of that mechanism is to alert you that you are sick. We would never take medication that would eliminate this process from occurring, as we could become deathly ill without knowing what was happening. However, many of us have a preoccupation with finding ways of avoiding all hurtful emotions through alcohol, drugs, or some form of activity that keeps us active and way from thinking about what is bothering us.
Situations -> Beliefs -> Thoughts -> Emotions -> Actions
Someone may have squeezed you once, and out of you may have come responses that were really ungodly, maybe even embarrassing. You blame another for your responses, but you have to understand that what came out of you is what was in you. Often, God allows us to undergo troubling circumstances so that we can see what is inside of us.
Playing softball is not necessarily destructive, but playing softball to avoid being at home with one’s family is.
It may seem odd to you that we would talk about confessing and repenting for being deceived. Confession means that we agree with God that what He says is correct.
Repentance meant that she was to turn from relying on these old false beliefs and begin to live by what God says is true.
Therefore, our model is to identify, confess, reject, and then replace.
The Father is busy in our lives even when we are unaware of His activities. He wants us to find freedom in this life. He is determined that we have a chance for this freedom. Although we will never experience absolute freedom this side of heaven, if we are willing to cooperate with His plan, we can experience much more than we could ever imagine. This will be a process. It will occur only as we are willing to go to a deeper level in our relationship with Him. There will be struggles and many failures along the way. However, the Father does not get tired of being there to bring us to victory. The only question is, Are we willing to go with Him?

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