Spiritual Autoimmune Disorder
Spiritual Autoimmune Disorder – SAD
Humans are designed for joy. That is supposed to be our default mode of living, feeling and thinking.
When the default mode becomes infected with resistance to joy, resistance to accepting and giving love and valuing others more than myself, then I become sick with a spiritual autoimmune disorder that predisposes me to feel torture in the presence of God, because He is the origin of all love and joy.
What kind of symptoms provide indications this serious condition?
A spirit of criticism, compulsively looking for faults in others which exacerbates this condition.
Allowing negative scenarios to be the default reaction to problems strengthening this disorder.
Suspicion and obsessive fear of being deceived is a strong indication of this malady.
Viewing people who are full of joy as a threat rather than a sign of life. This is a strong clue that one has already been deeply infected with this virus.
Saul of Tarsus was infected with this autoimmune sickness before Jesus introduced Himself to him on the road to Damascus. He was on his way there intending to indulge his habit of finding fault with and assaulting people he considered too full of joy to be right with God. His strong opinions about God precluded allowing others freedom to worship Him differently than the way his tradition and religion dictated. Saul believed it was God's will for him to zealously enforce the rules of his religion and do whatever it took to impose his views on those not conforming to rigid demands expected of them.
Recovery from this serious condition is not instant. The remedy and cure for this sickness takes time and cooperation on the part of the patient who must learn how to live in joy and fellowship with others while not allowing fear to take over control of their life again returning them to an even worse state.
Trying to be in rigid control of life is a symptom of this problem, so much so that the idea of being led by an invisible Spirit who can be trusted to coordinate all of God's plans and activities on earth by directing His children individually without human interference sounds like heresy.
When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, a man long immersed in a religion of fear and control over other people's lives, informing him that he must let go of control and become like a baby again, trusting God to care for him like a mother cares for her newborn, sounded scandalous as well as terrifying. The words of Jesus about God's children being as unpredictable as a feather carried along by the wind was nearly opposite of everything religion taught about what it meant to be righteous. Such notions about giving up control and allowing the Spirit of joy and truth to take control of the life was a mortal threat to the way Nicodemus had always been taught to practice religion. But Jesus was serious about challenging the status quo thinking and practice of religion, and the same remains true still today.
After Paul spent several years having the way he thought about God and His methods and design for humanity reprogrammed, he became one of the most powerful evangelists of joy in New Testament times. Everywhere he went he sought to spread joy in his enthusiasm to spread the wonderful news he had come to see about God, news that previously he did everything to fight in his rage against joy.
Now as he traveled seeking to spread joy everywhere he could, he met similar resistance to joy and love that had been his own attitude and reactions before he encountered Jesus. He was no stranger to the mindset of fear in the face of joy, but now he had become irrepressible in his passion to demonstrate the truth that love really is greater than fear. Religion is often the enemy of truth in that it refuses to allow God access to infuse the heart with joy, for the heart is where real truth must reside.
When Paul went to new places to share the good news about a God who can be trusted and brings joy into the life, he sought to find ways to connect with people's unique interests and find ways of appealing to their hearts. He knew that the same Spirit that had transformed his view of reality could also do the same in theirs. Full of joy and the Holy Spirit (the Holy Spirit is the essence of God's joy and love), Paul and all the early believers had a power of attraction that was opposite of the power of coercion that had previously marked their ideas about how God related to people. The good news, the 'gospel' that Paul and the other believers now shared with the world was the amazing truth that God is reason for joy, not One to be afraid of but One that everyone can run to for protection from the debilitating, devastating effects of fear, shame, guilt, condemnation and every other symptom of sin.
Love and joy define the very essence of God. To be allergic to love and joy is to be allergic to the One who created us and is the only source of life that we must connect to in order to continue existing. We must have joy to thrive and grow, and joy is how God nurtures His children. To be resistant to joy is to resist the nurturing care of our Parents who long to grow us up to enjoy intimate fellowship and life with the godhead. To resist joy and living in love is to resist life itself and to prefer death over life.
This autoimmune disorder often becomes very sophisticated and deceptive in its symptoms. A person can believe they are living in the truth and are in right relationship with God while in reality actually deepening their resistant condition towards His heart for them. The very words and quotations they use to convince themselves they are right with God can actually mask a deep problem hidden in the heart that in truth they are out of harmony with principles of life and are opposed to God.
So, how can one come to even be aware that they are infected by this serious problem? How can one find healing from such a sickness if the sickness predisposes them to deny its own symptoms?
This is the work of the Spirit of God who is ever seeking to bring conviction to the heart, urging that there is something far better that God has in mind defining what healthy life looks like. Religions tend to deceive the mind into believing all sorts of alternatives as spiritual health, but only Jesus knows and demonstrates what a healthy human really looks like. Every other version is faulty, fraudulent and must be checked against the only healthy human who has ever existed, Jesus, the true Remedy for everyone.
When a person begins being cured of this autoimmune sickness like Saul was after encountering Jesus, one of the prominent features revealing that effective healing is taking place is the increasing presence of joy in the life. As Paul shared the true Remedy with more and more people and they in turn came alive in the joy of the Spirit of God, the bonding and peace and connectedness with all choosing to be transformed by that same Spirit intensified the levels of joy observed in the early church.
So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they reported the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the believers. (Acts 15:3)
This sounds wonderful, and it truly was. But the context of this was that Paul and a team of others were reporting to Jerusalem to answer charges of heresy and faulty theology. There was a significant group of people among the early believers who resisted believing that God was as 'liberal' and freedom-loving as Paul and others were making Him out to be to new believers he was bringing into the fellowship. They insisted, as many yet do today, that religious requirements, traditions and even legitimate practices ordained by God in the past, all must be adhered to in perpetuity and that God is very strict about compliance with these demands or there will be hell to pay.
It is true that the principles God designed and put in place that govern all creation are irrefutable and need to be respected and complied with in order for life and health to be enjoyed. Sin has introduced all sorts of problems resulting in suffering, malfunction, disease and death. The salvation remedy that God offers to heal and restore us is designed to return all creation back to full harmony with these principles that nurture and protect life as God designed it. In the meantime His grace prevents us from experiencing the full negative effects that would destroy us were it not for His intervening mercy and power protecting everyone from the natural outcome that our malfunctions should produce.
But the good news we must come to embrace, truth that is necessary to restore us into harmony with these laws of life, is that God is not the threat we need to be afraid of but rather the natural product of our own malfunctions violating natural laws. All of God's laws are either natural or are founded on natural principles defining reality as He designed it. To remain out of harmony with natural principles that govern reality is to live out of sync with the design of life itself. God never intended for His intervening grace to be the permanent solution for the sin problem. He will terminate the sin problem by allowing everyone to choose for themselves whether they will embrace life and joy and peace and allow Him to align them with His principles, or whether they will cling to malfunction, selfishness and fear. If they insist on choosing the latter after being made aware that they are rejecting life and grace, then He will respect their choice and allow them to experience the natural outcome of that choice and will release them to the inevitable consequences that result from violating principles of reality.
Love and joy are central ingredients of life as God designed it. When we find ourselves resistant to joy we should take that as a serious warning of a dangerous condition and seek remedial assistance immediately before our condition destroys our very ability to even desire healing. The diabolical nature of the sickness of sin works in our heart like the disease of leprosy in that it tends to destroy our very capacity to feel until it becomes impossible to even desire or choose something better.
This is why the Bible writers spoke in terms of responding to God's offer of healing in terms of 'today.' (See Hebrews 4) While we still have any capacity left in our weakened, debilitated condition of heart and mind, we still have power through our ability to choose to surrender ourselves to the emergency health care team God has in place to save and heal us. And that healing involves restoration of our trust in the God who is our only source of life, of love, of health and joy. We must come to be fully convinced that He is worthy of all our trust and that He only has our best interest at heart at all times.
There are serious frauds everywhere claiming to have remedies that can cure our terminal condition. But in the end they only contribute to our problem. Some offer a counterfeit joy through pleasures that are outside God's list of approved prescriptions for our restoration. Others insist that without generous doses of fear it will be impossible to be restored to health, ignoring the principle that perfect love casts out all fear and that without this love we cannot be healed. We must come to trust only in Jesus to provide the specific regimen we each need for our own healing, for He is the one who perfected the remedy that can effectively restore the image of God back into our lives to be reflected out of our heart.
Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. (Hebrews 5:8-9)
To be made perfect, complete, whole, fully functional again and mature means to be fully human as humanity originally was designed and intended to be. That means being restored to being active reflectors of the heart of God, for humans were originally created to publicly display what is hidden deep in the heart of God. And as we connect more deeply with the secrets of God's heart through intimate fellowship with Him and personally experience the joy of His love, everything out of harmony with the truth about Him is taken away by the fire of His passionate love within our hearts.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. (1 John 4:18)
Fear is the primary cause of spiritual autoimmunity. Fear comes from believing lies about God that arouse fear in the heart. Our heart is designed to trust in our heavenly Parents to care and nurture and protect and love us. Anything that makes it seem that God is not fully trustworthy creates fear which then leads to us feeling we have to find some alternative source to provide for our needs because we have believed the lie of the enemy that God cannot be trusted to faithfully care, protect and nurture us.
It is to cure us of the fears that keep us from living in trustful peace and joy in God's arms of love that Jesus came to expose, refute and dispel every lie of the enemy about what is deep inside the heart of our heavenly Father. Jesus is God's defense against the accusations and slander of the enemy and only He provides reliable truth about how God feels about His children. The unconditional passionate love that fills the heart of God was made manifest in human form in the person of Jesus Christ. And according to the infallible words of Jesus, joy is His goal which He intends to bring us back to in the relationship He longs to have with every one of us.
When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. (John 16:21-24)
We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-- this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us-- we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:1-5)
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)