The Christian Worldview & Personal Change

As you know, I work in the healthcare field. One of my roles is to help design programs to help people change their lifestyles and improve their personal health. So I spend a lot of time looking at various wellness programs and employee health insurance programs trying to understand what works and what doesn’t. Frankly, most programs in most organizations don’t work very well for most people. There may be many reasons why not, but one thing I’ve noticed is that typically these programs are designed from the wrong worldview.

What’s a worldview? One online dictionary has these definitions:

  1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.
  2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.

For our purposes, I suggest defining a worldview as “how things are” or “how things work” in the world. You might liken a worldview to a computer’s operating system. If you want to program the computer or add an application, you had better understand what operating system you’re dealing with. Trying to install Microsoft Office for Windows on an Apple Mac just isn’t going to work. Knowing the computer’s operating system allows you to use it properly. Similarly having the right worldview allows you operate effectively in the world. In our case here that means to design an effective personal change process.

There are many possible worldviews, but as followers of Jesus we should have a distinctly Christian Worldview (CW) as revealed to us from God through the Bible. However, in America that’s an uncommon position compared with what I call the American Secular Worldview (ASW). Let me compare and contrast some elements of these two worldviews:

ASW: People are just here. This world is all there is. Let’s make the best of it while we’re here. People have a right to be independent. My behavior, habits, choices are my own business.
CW: People are created by God. There is an unseen spiritual world and we should live in harmony with it and God. People are made to be in relationship with God and with others. God has an interest in my behavior, habits, and choices.

ASW: People are rational agents and human nature is inherently good. Given good information, people will make good choices. Social problems/bad circumstances cause people to make poor choices. People simply need more knowledge, tools and resources to live better lives.
CW: People are inherently flawed. Sin is the root of our poor choices and social problems. Most social problems can’t be “solved” through large-scale programs. Jesus is the answer for sin. Self-control is fruit of the Holy Spirit. Transformation and better lives happen “by the ones.”

ASW: Structure, discipline and constraints are bad. More choices and more freedom are good for people.
CW: People by and large can’t handle freedom. Most individuals are not in good control of their behavior. Accountability to a group is a practical necessity. Constraints and discipline are helpful in living a good life.

ASW: Physical illness is an independent event. People just get sick. There is no underlying reason. Mind and body are connected but it’s not that important. We can cure illness (even lifestyle illness) with more research, better drugs, and new surgeries.
CW: Illness exists because sin has entered the world. Most illness is lifestyle related and, in general, we bring lifestyle illness on ourselves through sinful behavior. People are generally not in good control of their behavior because they are not emotionally and spiritually well. Mind, body and spirit are inseparable and completely interdependent. No physical treatment will cure an illness of spiritual cause.

ASW: Better technology is the answer. If we have technology we should use it. Knowledge comes from science. With enough research we will solve all of our problems.
CW: Wisdom and true knowledge come from God. Man is prideful when he believes he can solve all problems. Just because man has a technology doesn’t mean he should use it.

ASW: A person knows what is good for him- or herself. Their choices should always be supported.
CW: People often don’t know what is good for them.  We may deceive ourselves about our own poor choices.  Our call as Christians is to love others. We should always act out of love, which may mean not supporting others’ choices.

You can see how these two worldviews have very different implications for our thoughts and actions on personal change. This is foundational stuff. Study it. Do some additional reading on the Christian Worldview, and think about which worldview you typically operate from. I’ll be returning to these concepts in future posts.

Understanding God’s Love and Power Eases Anxiety

My pastor is currently preaching and teaching from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, so that’s what I’ve been reading lately. I’ve been struck by this passage right at the beginning where Paul writes:

I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called – his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.  (Ephesians 1:15-19 NLT)

That’s just what I need – a fuller knowledge of God and an understanding of his love and his greatness.

Like many of us, I tend to worry about a lot of stuff – my children, work issues, the economy, politics, and more. Our media-saturated culture tends to reinforce this with many fear-inducing stories to keep us tuned in. Consequently, it’s easy to live in a perpetual state of low-grade (or high) anxiety, and that anxiety can fuel a lot of unhealthy behaviors. Stress eating would probably be one for me. Others might turn to alcohol, drugs or sedation with TV.

But really, what do I have to worry about? God loves me and God has all power! He can do anything! I know how much I love my children; I would give all I have to help them. And God is a much better and greater father than I. If I could just get that through my head, I could relax and let the worries go. But I just can’t do it by myself. God will have to help me.

So I’ve started praying a version of Paul’s prayer for myself: God help me to know you better and grant me an understanding of your great love for me and your unlimited power. Help me to relax in that understanding and to trust that you’ve got all of my issues under control.

I hope for you to be granted the same.

Following Jesus and Changing My Lifestyle

“Jesus came to save us.”  All Christians would agree with that statement, but too often it stops there.  A Christian might say, “I’m saved,” meaning that through their faith in Jesus they expect to go to heaven, but what about their problems here on earth? What about their sinful desires and actions, their bad habits?  Jesus also came to change us here and now.  He came to give us a rich, rewarding and meaningful life – now!

Dallas Willard has described the change we are to make in following Jesus as “regeneration.”  The idea is that we should be changing for the better, here and now, in all aspects of our lives.  Here’s how Dr. Willard expressed it, “Faith in the living Christ raises us above merely being delivered from the consequences of sin. We need a doctrine not only of justification but of regeneration.  We need a picture of our life in God that does not leave most of our life untouched.”

The point is that Jesus wants us to change.  The love of God makes it okay to admit our problems, faults and sins, but we are not to just stay stuck with them.  I believe we are supposed to get better – not perfect, but better. We do that by becoming “disciples” of Jesus or “following” Him.  Obviously “following” someone is not a passive process.

Again, here’s how Dr. Willard explains discipleship, “A disciple is a person who has decided that the most important thing in their life is to learn how to do what Jesus said to do. A disciple is not a person who has things under control, or knows a lot of things. Disciples simply are people who are constantly revising their affairs to carry through on their decision to follow Jesus.”

I have found that, as I follow Jesus, I have developed an increasing love and respect for myself – not pride, but acceptance and gratitude mixed with a desire to be a better person.  Along with this has come an urge to be a better steward over my own physical and emotional health, and I’ve come to realize how much of “the world” is antithetical to Jesus, God and my own personal health and wellness.

A desire to live differently has been building inside of me, and I have received the inner strength to make positive changes. Be assured that the world pulls at me too, but I am learning to separate myself from people and things that will drag me down.  I am becoming a different person, a healthier person, in mind, body and spirit.

What about you?  Are you getting healthier?  Personally, I don’t think God wants people to have lifestyle diseases. And I am sure that God will help you change your lifestyle for the better.  That’s what Health Discipleship is all about.