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Summary: Part 1 in the series "What’s Holding You Back?" Three things every Christian needs to take into consideration in order to experience victory over sin and live a life pleasing to God.


What’s Holding You Back? – Part 1

June 26, 2005

This morning we will be starting a new series called “What’s Holding You Back?” What is holding you back spiritually? What is preventing you from becoming all that God wants you to be and all that you know you should become? What is keeping you from making spiritual advancements in your life?

Perseveration is a brain condition that causes people to get stuck in a particular pattern of behavior. Perseveration is what led a German pilot named Manfred von Richthefen, to pursue a British pilot far beyond the limits of safe flying and prudent dogfighting. If you don’t recognize his name it is probably because you know him better by his nick name – The Red Baron. The Red Baron was a legendary World War I ace pilot. On April 21, 1918 he flew his red Fokker triplane straight into enemy airspace, allowing aircraft and ground fire to shred his plane to ribbons and kill him with a bullet to the chest.

Why was the Baron so careless on this particular occasion? For most of his career he was a careful fighter who achieved legendary status with more than 80 kills – more than any other World War I pilot. The problem began when he suffered a traumatic brain injury in a dogfight nine months before his death, and researchers now believe that this caused a dysfunction to develop.

Perseveration is a brain dysfunction that causes people to persist in a task – to carry on in a completely illogical way, even when the chosen strategy is doomed and could lead to death. Today, the Air Force would have made him DNIF – Duties Not to Include Flying. But back in 1918 his headaches, airsickness and fatigue were all ignored. And so The Red Baron kept right on flying, until that fateful day in April when he flew himself straight to his own death. “He had target fixation and a mental rigidity,” says clinical psychologist Daniel Orme. The Red Baron “flew into a shooting gallery, violating all kinds of rules of flying – rules from the manual that he himself wrote.”

Perseveration can be a problem for us as well, even without the dogfights – or catfights. Fatal fixations can pop up in our work, our parenting, our friendships and our lives, causing us to pursue strategies that are doomed and even dangerous. Fatal fixations can even cause us to violate all kinds of rules for living as found in God’s Manual for Effective Living – the Bible.

Think of parents who work like slaves to provide for their families, only to put in such long and exhausting hours that they end up with little of themselves to give to their family members. It is a fatal fixation.

Think of Christians who put such effort into being righteous that they end up being self-righteous and in so doing they turn off the very people they are trying to reach. It is a fatal fixation.

Here is a more current example of a literal fatal fixation that was reported just this week by WorldNetDaily. A twelve year old school boy from Western Russia named Sergei who was addicted to computer games died as a result of his fixation. Sergei’s parents allowed him to go to a computer club as a reward for getting good grades in school. After playing computer games for almost 12 hours straight he suddenly collapsed to the floor and began to convulse.

He was taken by ambulance to the hospital where he was diagnosed as suffering from an epileptic seizure. He had difficulty breathing and was placed on a ventilator, but eight days later he died from a stroke. Alexei Sulimov, a senior doctor said, “Brain hemorrhage took place due to sustained emotional stimulation of the brain… This was the result of emotional stress because he was obsessed with the games… He was dying but could not tear himself from the game.” (WorldNetDaily, Thursday, June 23, 2005)

Did you get that last part? The doctor said that the boy was dying but still he could not tear himself away from the game. That is a fatal fixation. How many of us are just like Sergei? We know it is wrong, but we still sin. We know that it life isn’t turning out they way we wanted but we keep on making the same mistakes and we keep on committing the same sins. We plow ahead with our fatal fixations, traveling in dangerous directions that lead to serious sinfulness.

Paul wrote in Romans 6 about some so-called Christians that were so fixated on sin that they even came up with spiritual sounding arguments to justify their continued lifestyle of sin. They said, “Let us do evil that good may result” (Romans 3:8, NIV). Does that sound crazy to you? It may surprise you to learn that their justification of their behavior was based on the scriptural teachings of the apostle Paul. Paul said, “As people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful kindness became more abundant” (Romans 5:20). So their argument went like this: “We keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more kindness and forgiveness” (Romans 6:1). They also said in Romans 3:7 (TM), “If my lies serve to show off God’s truth all the more gloriously, why blame me? I’m doing God a favor.” They were basically saying this: When I sin grace is increased. Therefore the more I sin the more grace is increased. And since God’s glory is shown by this increased giving of His grace, my sinning is actually doing God a favor. Their motto was, “We are sinning for the glory of God.”

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