Biblical Foundations of Theophostic – What we BelieveNovember 20, 2007
One of the core teachings of Theophostic Prayer Ministry (TPM) is that lie-based thinking contributes to many of the toxic decisions and reactions we have in life. Later in this series, we will talk about how the enemy of our souls contributes to the formation of lie-based thinking, but in this first teaching, I want to give a biblical basis for how our internal beliefs are formed in life.
In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul gives us his now-famous “ode to love” wherein he lists all the action attributes of love: Love is Patient, Love is Kind, Love does not seek its own etc. As lovely as this list is, and for all its popularity at weddings, it is a mocking list. You read through it and, if you are honest, you come away thinking “that sounds wonderful. It sure isn’t the way I live”. I don’t believe God ever puts things in the Bible to mock us. So, the inclusion of this list of love’s characteristics is supposed to spur us on to desire better things through the power of the Spirit.
In that context, verse 11 stands out. It reads, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. As I’m becoming a man, I put away childish things”. There is so much in this verse to ponder and consider and much of it relates to lie-based thinking. Leaving aside the first phrase in the verse “I talked like a child”, we come to the second phrase “I thought like a child”. The word for thought in the Greek language that the Bible was written in is “phroneo”. In all the lexicons, this word means “to form an opinion, or come to an understanding”. In all the textbooks on child psychology, we recognize that children begin this process of forming opinions about themselves and the world around them somewhere between ages 4-5. That is why we see the emergence of the question “why?” so much at that age. They want to know and understand and relate to this wondrous and scary world around them.
As the child reaches these conclusions, they are rarely accurate in their assessments. This is because they lack experience to tell them that what they’re observing does not always apply to all of life. For instance, a little boy may have big ears in first grade. It seems about that age that all boys have big ears. I think their heads grow faster than the rest of their bodies. At school, a few of the boys make fun of the ear situation. That causes the child distress and horror. There are people in this world that don’t like them. They may even hate them, they do hate me, I am hated by people, I am hated by many people, I am hated by everyone. This may be the thought process that they go through before ever arriving at home. The problem? It is not true. The entire world has not met them yet. How can everyone hate them?
But their first sentence upon bursting through the door to mom is “Everyone hates me!”. The tears flow and mom tries to stem the flood with cookies. But no matter how much mom tries to reason with the boy, he still firmly believes that everyone hates him. This is lie-based thinking. There are several different ways that we can believe lies. This one is the lie of Universality: Attributing an isolated incident to the rest of life. Other lies may include lies of Content: What we thought was happening was not happening. That may happen if a child assumes that a parent who leaves the home did so because the child was naughty the day before; lies of Context: What a child thinks was directed at them was actually directed at someone else (e.g. Dad saying “I hate my life” meaning “I hate my job, my health, etc.” taken to mean that he hates the child). There are other kinds of lies that children believe, but we must come back to 1 Corinthians 13:11.
Paul’s decision is that in order to be mature, man-like, he must put away childish things. The Greek word for “putting away” is actually much stronger than it sounds in the NIV. The word is “katargeo” and it means to render something useless, to destroy it or to destroy something by taking charge over it. For instance, the word is used in Hebrews 2:14 when he says “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil” The word “destroy” is “katargeo”. It means to destroy something by taking authority over it. Light does this to darkness. The police do this to a criminal. Paul is seeing a situation where childish things do not automatically yield to the more mature. They must be confronted. They must be dealt with and destroyed.
And it isn’t only childish observations and understandings that must be destroyed. He also says in v. 13 “I reasoned like a child”. The word for reason is “logidzomai”, which in many cases means to “come to a conclusion or course of action based upon logic”. So a child makes faulty observations of life and draws conclusions from those. Out of those conclusions come decisions and courses of action that may affect the rest of that child’s life, even into adulthood.
Let’s come back to our situation with the poor big-eared boy. Concluding that he is universally hated, he must now decide how to deal with this at school the next day. Suppose he takes the innocuous course by wearing a hat. It’s not such a bad thing to do psychologically, and it certainly beats out some of the alternative “logidzomais” such as becoming aggressive, living in fear, hiding away, becoming the class clown, or any other decisions. So, he wears his protective hat. And he keeps wearing that hat long after he observes that not everyone hates him. He goes through life wearing this baseball cap. Now, he is 25 years old. He is sitting at a bar stool and a man accidentally knocks off his hat. He becomes incensed and starts beating up this innocent man. The police are called and he is sentenced to Anger Management classes. As he sits in my class, I ask him “So what’s with the hat?” He doesn’t know the connection. Rarely do we think about why we have some of the reactions we do as adults. We just put it down to having a bad day, or explaining that this is the way we’ve always been.
Paul takes a much different approach. He decides it is time to eradicate these childish ways. This is what Theophostic attempts to do. Knowing that we have this ability to believe something deep inside and also accept theoretical truth in our minds, we have a problem. There is a childish belief that leans one way and an adult belief that goes the opposite. We find when we are in a crisis, we resort to the childish belief. We can’t just cover up that belief with more and more teaching, because it is in the crisis that our true beliefs are tested, not in the classroom or the church service. This is why so many Christians can learn so much propositional truth and inexplicably cannot put it into practice in certain situations.
The lies need to be conquered, not smothered. They need to be gone, not ignored. That is what TPM does.