Jim Bakker: “I Was Wrong”

Book Review & Spiritual Insights

By Grantley Morris

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Jim Bakker:
“I Was Wrong”
Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jim Bakker:
“I Was Wrong”
Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jim Bakker:
“I Was Wrong”
Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jim Bakker:
“I Was Wrong”
Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Net-Burst.Net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim Bakker:
“I Was Wrong”
Book Review

This webpage is helpful even if you choose never to read I Was Wrong by Jim Bakker.

Despite living on the other side of the world and never having heard Jim Bakker preach or seen any of his television, secular newspapers and television news made it impossible for me to remain unaware of the scandals embroiling the televangelist. If you were too young at the time or would like to recharge your memory, see my very brief outline.

Jim Bakker’s name has become so contaminated and controversial that I could lose readers merely by mentioning him. I don’t review books. Yet I now find myself doing just that.

Detailing my reasons for this risky venture will take a while, but basically it is because, regardless of one’s view of Bakker, the book explores in a fairly entertaining way a number of issues of significant importance to many Christians. Moreover, many of those who would benefit from the book would never read it without such a review.

The diverse topics raised by the book that I will explore with you below include:

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Obstacles to Reading Bakker’s Book

    1. Many people have felt too hurt or betrayed by Jim Bakker to read anything by him

      “Why open old wounds?” people ask themselves. If, however, after all these years it is still a sensitive issue, something is disturbingly wrong. The wound must be infected and need re-opening to be cleansed and allow healing.

    2. Doubts about how ruthlessly honest the book is

      (1) Although Bakker admits to being guilty of many things, he insists he was not guilty of the crimes he was imprisoned for.

        Could the courts and most of the secular and Christian media really have gotten it so horribly wrong? It seems hard to believe. Nevertheless, the book ends with this publisher’s note:

          On July 22, 1996, shortly after Jim Bakker had completed the writing of this book, a federal jury ruled that PTL was not selling securities by offering Lifetime Partnerships at Heritage USA. The jury’s ruling thus affirms what Jim Bakker has contended from the first day he was indicted and throughout this volume.

        If you can access Jim Bakker’s book but are too convinced of his guilt to be inclined to read it, I suggest you at least read the assessment of Bakker’s case by Professor James Albert, an exceptionally distinguished legal expert. Despite not sharing Bakker’s religious beliefs, the professor invested, without charge, enormous time and effort into examining Bakker’s conviction with a view to writing an article about it (480-481). Albert’s conclusions, in his own words, appear on pages 522-526. In addition to pointing out evidence of unacceptable bias in the way the judge conducted the case, it includes this:

          I have read the transcripts [of Jim Bakker’s trial] and, for the life of me, I can’t see the intent to defraud in them. I have also seen the fund-raising brochures and the solicitations mailed to the PTL contributors and each of those solicitations contains a very plain legend that the money received would be used for any of the ministry’s purposes. And I have read the November 6, 1991 decision of United States Bankruptcy Judge William Thurmond Bishop which concluded that the premise upon which the government convicted Jim Bakker in that courtroom in Charlotte was simply invalid. As you know, Judge Bishop found that “[i]t was not contemplated that Lifetime Partners would be entitled to a specific hotel room, condominium, or unit on the premises nor more importantly, were Lifetime Partners promised availability of rooms or any other benefits for the use of their partnership.” He also found that “the benefits of the Lifetime Partner memberships were being delivered and provided” by Mr. Bakker.

        If reading more of the professor’s assessment further raises your interest, I suggest you read that entire chapter and, if still interested, see also chapter 31.

      (2) I was initially skeptical after reading early in the book Bakker’s claim that his act of adultery that was eventually made public was the sole occurrence.

        Come on! Nothing else escaped the public eye? It was a twenty minute aberration? Reading page after page after almost nauseating page littered throughout the book about his feelings for his wife, however, compelled the conclusion Bakker was so in love with his wife that he bordered on being besotted with her. Thinking adultery could win back his estranged wife was not only immoral but nothing sort of stupid and a despicable act upon a vulnerable young woman. Nevertheless, I eventually found myself convinced that Bakker’s book is honest about it.

    3. The book is huge

      My copy is well over 600 pages. (It was later abridged to 512 pages.) I’m a poor reader and I doubt whether, besides the Bible, I have ever read from cover to cover such a wordy book. Should you wish to read only portions of the book, I will try to help by drawing attention to relevant page numbers in the original edition (indicated simply by a number in brackets) or citing certain chapter numbers.

      Despite originally resenting the length, however, by the time I reached its end I actually wished it were much longer by continuing with Bakker’s story beyond the period covered. Moreover, I ended up valuing what initially annoyed me as trivia because it ushered me deeper into Bakker’s mind.

    4. The book is no longer news and so is less publicized

      Nevertheless, as of 2015, it continues to be in print after nine years, which is testament to its abiding value. Indeed, the truths it highlights are eternal and the book remains a modern, entertaining way of seeing these truths fleshed out in human form.

      Moreover, the book’s age means that if you worry that obtaining the book might add to Bakker’s income, you should be able to pick up a second hand copy.

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The Value & Rarity of Honest Christian Biographies

Not just recounting triumphs but learning from people’s mistakes is one of the primary ways the Holy Lord uses to teach us in his Word. No matter how fanatical I am about giving precedence to the Bible, I am forced to admit that this principle extends beyond the Bible. Despite me continually refusing to study church history and focusing instead solely on Scripture, someone I admire as knowing God better than me insists that church history has much to tell us. And I will never forget learning in my early twenties from a highly intelligent and godly Christian leader who emphasized the importance of reading biographies as a source of significant wisdom.

A serious issue, however, is the false impression that Christian biographies frequently provide. Seldom is this done with malicious intent. In fact, the most common reason is a misguided belief that the distortion glorifies God. As I wrote years ago:

    Who would have guessed that a religion stressing lofty morals would cram into its holiest book the slimy details of King ‘Peeping Tom’ David, ‘lover-boy’ Solomon, fish-breath Jonah, sleazy Jacob, and two-faced Judah (Genesis 38:11-26), to mention just a few of the seething swarm of con-men, backstabbers, rapists, murderers and whores that fill the Word of God?

    Few Christian biographies are as fiercely honest as Scripture. If there were more books that gently peel the plastic off famous Christians, it would be easier for us to realize that we belong in the big league. . . .

    We cannot idolize our heroes without falling into heresy, such as the satanic lie that being used by God is a reward for living an exemplary life. Service – like salvation, holiness and every other spiritual gift – is always an undeserved gift received by childlike faith (Galatians 3:2-5). . . .

    Yes, our character flaws grieve and defame the Holy One. Yes, we must move heaven and earth to root out our shame. And yes, as impossible as it sounds, God’s holy power can trickle through flawed, sin-stained channels to a thirsty world.

    God does not use synthetic saints petrified in stained glass or mummified in strained biographies. If the paper people squashed between book covers or exhibited in special Sunday services seem real to you, you’ll love the Easter Bunny. . . .

But is Jim Bakker’s book an exception or yet another gloss job? Here’s another reason to be added to those already cited why further reading removed my initial skepticism: I’m known for exploring subjects Christians tend to sweep under the carpet and some of these issues, such as mental illness and the one I am about to mention, Bakker bravely discusses on a very personal level.

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Sexual Molestation

I have written much about sexual abuse. My lament, however, is that male victims are particularly misunderstood and loathed to reveal themselves.

Child sex abuse frequently involves seduction rather than physical force. In the absence of violence or terrifying threats, the usually unavoidable physical response is pleasure; leaving young victims appallingly guilt-ridden and confused. See, for example, The Dilemma of Feeling Pleasure When Abused and links. Confusion is magnified even more when the offender is the same sex as the victim.

That Bakker reveals his sexual assault in prison and his childhood sexual abuse (Chapter 42, My Worst Nightmare and 43, My Darkest Secret) is impressively honest, especially since he had previously told no one – not even his wife. “ . . . for over forty years,” he wrote, “I lived with the fear of exposure. I never told a soul about what had happened to me as child and how it had impacted my sexual identity” (447). Moreover, despite being heterosexual, scandalously false claims that he was homosexual had been shouted around the globe. Who would want to throw more fuel on the flames engulfing him? Instead of guarding his secret he has told the entire world. If only more men were as brave as him, countless others living in needless shame would be helped.

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Spiritual Abuse

This webpage is in my Spiritual Abuse folder not only because Jim Bakker’s actions have spiritually wounded many people but because Bakker himself has suffered enormously from the words and actions of churches, ministries, Christian leaders and average Christians.

Vast numbers of precious people have been hurt by Jim Bakker’s failings and by what the saga seemed to reveal about other televangelists. Still more were hurt by Christians and secular media misreporting the events. Even today, many victims of the fallout remain spiritually damaged. Nevertheless, God declares that all things work together for good for those who love him. Can this be true even of this disaster?

In my already cited book, Waiting for Your Ministry, I wrote, “Throughout history, God has elected to see his precious name blackened rather than lose first place in the hearts of his loved ones.” As an example, I cited an instance involving Youth With a Mission (YWAM). Bakker would whole-heartedly agree that the same principle was at work in his saga.

It is clearly an act of divine love in the lives of the key players, although even they are likely to be reeling in bewilderment and initially feel appallingly let down by God. Bakker certainly was. It begs the question, however: what about the collateral damage? What about the innocent bystanders whose shaky faith is shattered by the fallout?

We humans must nurture the capacity to tolerate mystery if we are to maintain a close relationship with the Infinite Lord. This is one such mystery. Nevertheless, I might be able to shine a flicker of light on it.

As highlighted in Jesus’ parable of the sower (Matthew 13:18-23), right from the commencement of spiritual life we are subjected to hazards that threaten our spiritual survival. Incidents like the falling of spiritual giants or the exposing of wolves in sheep’s clothing (neither of which should come as any surprise to those who take biblical warnings to heart) are just some of these hazards.

In Life’s Mysteries Explained I explain the rather surprising spiritual advantages of suffering temptation. In such webpages as The Surprising Joy of Trials and Why Hard Times Bless Christians I expound the spiritual benefits of suffering hardship and all sorts of apparent disasters. In the case of the fall of spiritual heroes and the exposure of frauds, the benefit is in driving us to focus on our perfect Lord, rather than idolizing fallible humans.

Yes, sadly, some will fall away. The parable of the sower is just one biblical proof that not everyone will make it. My guess, however, is that if it had not been precipitated by one event, then something else would have precipitated it.

The Almighty is not nervous about challenging our faith. Those who are truly sincere will rise to the task and end up stronger because of it. Jesus himself was prophesied to be the great stumbling block (Matthew 21:42-44; see also Romans 9:32-33; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Peter 2:6-8). Many were offended by his behavior (such as healing on the Sabbath, instead of waiting the few hours to sundown, (when the Jewish Sabbath ended) and by the way he taught. He could have toned it down and explained himself better but he refused. For example, Jesus could have explained himself and used less offensive language when declaring that the key to eternal life is to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Many of his disciples were so bewildered and offended that they ceased following him (John 6:51-66). The twelve, too, were shell shocked but they nevertheless clung to Jesus. “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve?” responded Jesus. Even then, he had to add, “Yet one of you is a devil!” (John 6:70).

Despite himself being a stumbling block:

    Luke 17:1-2 Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. . . .”

And Scripture insists we must avoid offending a weaker Christian brother (Romans 14:1-15:3; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 ;10:24-11:1).

Whilst we are still to pray “hallowed be your name,” (Matthew 6:9), we must not try to take things into our own hands by engaging in a cover-up. That was a key element in Bakker’s undoing.

A significant reason why Christian leaders can hurt so many people is discussed in the next section.

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Righteousness versus “Anointing”

One of Jim Bakker’s serious errors that he identifies in his book is expounded in chapter 44: What went wrong at PTL? He says he sometimes extolled and publicized ministries on his show and promoted people in his organization, not according to how godly they were but how talented they were (464).

Citing Mark 13:12 and Revelation 16:14 (note also 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11), he writes:

    Because I was so enamored with talented people and laid such emphasis upon the ability to perform, I now realize that I was setting people up, preconditioning them to accept an Antichrist who will be able to perform great miracles. But the power source for those miracles will not be God.

I initially objected to Jim referring to some of these people as “anointed.” Even such spiritual gifts as words of knowledge can be faked by someone skilled at picking up clues from such things as body language and combining them with high-probability guesses and generalizations to give the illusion of being able to read someone’s mind. As I thought of the biblical meaning of “anointing,” however, I zeroed in on King Saul and found it illuminating. Saul was anointed by God as king. That means he was divinely selected and appointed for that role (1 Samuel 9:16; 10:1) and spiritually empowered for the task (1 Samuel 10:5-6, 9). Later, however, Saul went astray, was rejected by God and even ended up with an evil spirit (1 Samuel 15:10-28,35; 16:14; 18:10-11; 19:9-10). Despite all this, for a long while, God allowed him to remain king. Perhaps the Lord was mercifully giving Saul opportunities to repent. Perhaps it was because David was not yet ready to be king. Perhaps even a critical part of David’s preparation was what he learned through being attacked by Saul. Whatever the reason, even though Saul had blown it and was seeking to murder his divinely chosen successor, David respected the calling that was on Saul’s life and refused to attack him. Despite having what his friends concluded were divinely given opportunities to save himself by slaying Saul, David not only refused that path but honored Saul (1 Samuel 24:3-22; 26:7-27:1).

So although I agree with Bakker that he had been wrong to promote talent – or even genuine anointing – above Christlikeness, we must be as loath as David – the man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) – to attack God’s anointed who have gone astray. After being subjected to devastating attacks himself, Bakker learned this well.

Bakker’s healing from the spiritual abuse he has suffered began with the harrowing discovery that he was far from being as blameless in God’s eyes as he had presumed (more examples are provided a little later in this webpage). For all of us, our healing starts here.

It is terrifyingly easy to remain so fixated on how greatly we have been sinned against that we lose sight of our own desperate need of divine forgiveness and mercy, without which we can never even get to base camp on our healing journey.

    1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

    Matthew 7:5  . . . first take the plank out of your own eye . . .

Bakker’s moral/spiritual failures ended up hurting people. The spiritual damage was greatly magnified, however, by people spreading and distorting the news by being eager to gossip, exaggerate and believe slanderous lies about him. If so, many of those who self-righteously considered themselves better than Bakker were, in fact, blinded by their own hypocrisy. Moreover, those whose faith was as it should have been – in Jesus rather than in a man – were little affected. If, as stated earlier, the Word of God uses the mistakes of others to teach us, one of the most obvious lessons is not to be surprised when a spiritual leader falls. Even those offended by the money side of the Bakker scandal would be little bothered if they considered that they were giving to God, who saw their heart and would reward them, regardless of what Bakker did with the money. It was those who were giving to get who particularly felt cheated. In Jesus’ famous words, “Let he that is without sin cast the first stone,’ (John 8:7).

As I have written:

    Nothing stirs divine compassion more than people overwhelmed by their own depravity. As air rushes to fill a vacuum, God rushes to cleanse and exalt such people. Conversely, nothing saddens, disgusts and infuriates God more than the arrogant self-righteousness of someone who thinks himself morally superior to the most despised sinner. The same Jesus who was ever so tender towards those acutely aware of their sin, tore strips of the self-righteous. (How to be Righteous and Win God's Approval).

Like Adam, our tendency is to run from God and hide and, when cornered, accuse the Holy One and blame others, when we should have run to our merciful Lord and sought his forgiveness so that he can begin the restoration process.

The remainder of the healing journey is outlined in the next section.

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Loving those who have Hurt Us

In the acknowledgements section, where Jim lists those to whom he dedicates the book, he wrote, “To the kind guards, who helped make life a little better, and the unkind guards who drove me closer to God.” That sums up everything that can ever touch a Christian and highlights the beautiful spirit Bakker eventually developed through his ordeal.

Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8; Proverbs 10:12). Moreover, pouring out love on those whose sins have hurt us covers our wounds like a healing balm and protective bandage. For years, my wife has suffered horrifically because of the betrayal, hypocrisy and selfish thoughtlessness of Christians and people calling themselves Christians. One day, as she reeled in pain, she asked the Lord how he copes with all the hurt he suffers from all the people who let him down, falsely accuse him, turn against him or otherwise hurt him. He replied, “Love heals.”

In the second half of chapter 34, God Meant It for Good, Bakker explains how he was helped on the journey towards full forgiveness by a Malcolm Smith book and especially by a book by R. T. Kendall. For much more help with forgiving others, see Lord, Make Him Regret What He Did To Me! A Healing Experience.

For even more about spiritual abuse, see Spiritual Abuse: Its Cause & Cure and links.

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Material Prosperity

Jim Bakker says he had been sincere in his conviction that Christians should believe God for material prosperity (535). I am convinced that the same is true for most others who preach this message and I feel particularly warmly towards them. Nevertheless, Bakker writes:

    I realized that for years I helped propagate an imposter, not a true gospel, but another gospel – a gospel that stated, “God wants you to be rich!” Christians should have the best because we are children of God . . .

    My heart was crushed to think that I had led so many people astray. I was appalled that I could have been so wrong, and I was deeply grateful that God had not struck me dead as a false prophet. . . . (532-533)

In addition to Bakker’s book being titled “I was wrong,” one of the last chapters of his book (Chapter 48) is also titled “I was wrong.” This suggests that the chapter focuses on what he considers to be his gravest error(s). The entire chapter is devoted to what its opponents label “a prosperity gospel” – a term Bakker says he used to wear proudly (532). He notes that he had been considered by some “as a primary propagator of the prosperity message in the twentieth century” (541).

The impression that this is what he considers to be his greatest mistake is further reinforced by his introduction to the book (cited below).

By reversing his position on this controversial issue, Bakker was alienating all the Christians and powerful leaders who had previously agreed with his teaching – the very Christians most likely to support the now intensely unpopular man who needed every friend he could get. Nevertheless, he was so convicted that his previous understanding of Scripture was dangerously mistaken that he emphasized it in the very first words of the introduction to this book:

    The words, “I was wrong” do not come easily to me.

    For most of my life I believed that my understanding of God and how He wants us to live was not only correct but worth exporting to the world. One reason I have risked putting my heart into print is to tell you that my previous philosophy of life, out of which my attitudes and actions flowed, was fundamentally flawed. God does not promise that we will all be rich and prosperous, as I once preached. When I really studied the Bible while in prison, it became clear to me that not one man or woman – not even prophets of God – led a life without pain. God does promise that He will never leave us or forsake us, no matter what trial or pain we go through . . . whether it be loss of reputation, loss of position or power, financial calamity, addiction, separation, divorce or imprisonment.

Bakker says his reversal on this teaching began with a profoundly vivid dream in which he was handed a sliver of Jesus’ eye, like a contact lens, and told that he needed to see everything through Jesus’ eyes. This led him to a prolonged and intensive Bible study in prison of every word Jesus uttered (235-236). Eventually, this study led Bakker to the crushing conclusion that his view of prosperity had been wrong. He says he was not only “amazed” but “deeply concerned” by this discovery.

    As the true impact of Jesus’ words regarding money impacted on my heart and mind, I became physically nauseated. I was wrong. I was wrong! Wrong in my lifestyle, certainly, but even more fundamentally, wrong in my understanding of the Bible’s true message. Not only was I wrong, but the teaching was the exact opposite of what Jesus had said. That is what broke my heart; when it came to the awareness that I was actually contradicting Christ, I was horrified. (532)

“Such arrogance! Such foolishness! Such sin!” he said of his previous espousal of the prosperity message (532).

    I had allowed the quest for material possessions and the deceitfulness of riches and the lusts for other things to choke the Word of God in my own life and in the lives of my family members and coworkers. . . . (533)

Commenting on Jesus saying that anyone wanting to come after him must deny himself, take up his cross and follow him (Matthew 16:24), Bakker wrote:

    This verse dramatically illustrated the stark contrast between what Jesus taught and what I had been teaching. I had taught that Christians could have the best of both worlds, the best this world had to offer and heaven too. Jesus said, “Deny yourself.” . . .

    Tragically, too late, I recognized that . . . I had been doing just the opposite of Jesus’ words by teaching people to fall in love with money. . . . (534-535)

He added:

    Many today believe that the evidence of God’s blessing on them is a new car, a home, a good job, etc. But that is far from the truth of God’s Word. If that be the case, then gambling casino owners, drug kingpins and movie stars are blessed of God . . .

    It’s time the call from the pulpit be changed from “Who wants a life of pleasure and good things, new homes, cars, material possessions, etc to “Who will come forward to accept Jesus Christ and the fellowship of his suffering?” Jesus calls us to come and die, die to ourselves and to the world, so that He might give us true life. (541)

He concluded:

    In retrospect, one of the main reasons I slipped into believing and preaching a prosperity doctrine was because of my lack of understanding of what it really means to allow Jesus be Lord of my life. . . .

    Although I was committed to following Jesus, I wanted to do it my way rather than His . . . I wanted Jesus to be in my life, to be the engine, the power in my life, to be the motivator and the enabler who supplied the resources to do great things on earth and eventually take me to heaven, but I wanted to keep my hand on the controls. . . .

    God was teaching me that I must “die” daily and that the process would continue for the remainder of my life. . . .

    I truly believe that one of the reasons God allowed me to go to prison was to learn this principle. . . . (543-544)

For more on this topic, see Forgotten Christian Secrets of Prosperity.

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The Critical Importance of Dying to Self

According to Jesus and the rest of the New Testament, being crucified with Christ, taking up your cross, denying yourself, losing your life, dying to self, or whatever a particular portion of Scripture calls it, is fundamental to spiritual life. As shown in some of the quotes above, Bakker rediscovered this.

Despite the radical, revolutionary impact of this on-going experience, one of my favorite series of webpages, Spiritual Secrets: Making Sense of Jesus and the Bible, explains why this is liberating and not nearly as scary as it seems.

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Misreading the Bible

What convinced Bakker that he was wrong was the very same Bible he had always revered, always believed and was convinced he knew so well; the divine guidebook he had always taught, had always inspired him and that he thought he followed to the letter.

None of us is immune from getting it horribly wrong and missing or distorting critical truths in the Bible we esteem. And those particularly vulnerable to this grave danger are all of us who think it couldn’t happen to us. For insight and help, see The Spiritual Essentials for Accurate Bible Interpretation: Down to Earth Help.

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Surprising Insights into Emotional Factors Sustaining Addictions

Though not an addict himself, while in prison Jim Bakker was asked to collate information about cigarette addiction and help lead a course for prisoners wanting to quit.

Perhaps what Bakker shares in chapter 21 about the information he gleaned is not new to you, but some of it is to me – despite many of my webpages focusing on healing of emotions and despite writing a webpage emphasizing the link between sex addition and feeling unloved and presenting a deeper awareness of God’s love for us as a solution (Sex Crazed).

Understandably, we Christians focus on spiritual factors affecting addictions and besetting sins. We might even be tempted to pooh-pooh emotional factors as irrelevant, or develop a macho attitude by dismissing as wimps people suffering emotional problems.

There are not only practical implications to downplaying our emotional side, but theological ones. The latter are perhaps best highlighted by considering, the heresy of Gnosticism opposed by early Christians. “. . .  Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [emphasis mine] is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. . . .” (1 John 4:2-3) seems directed at this heresy.

At first sight, Gnosticism seems very spiritual: it downplayed the physical – sometimes even to the extreme of denying that Jesus had a physical body – and considered everything physical is inferior or even evil. We must be careful not to edge in this direction when it comes to the emotional. Just as God created the physical and cares about it and has answers for physical problems, so it is with the emotional.

Bakker’s approach was that the object of people’s addiction becomes so important to them that to no longer have it in their lives is emotionally akin to the loss of a loved one. They can therefore, he concludes, expect to have to work through the five stages of grief identified by Kübler-Ross – denial, anger, bargaining, depression (which, asserts Bakker, is anger turned inwards) and acceptance. To help with anger, Bakker suggested strong physical exercise.

He added:

    Research done by a group in Minnesota discovered that smokers consider their cigarette a “buddy,” but it is a buddy that will always let you down. . . . When that buddy is gone, the grieving process sets in. (222)

In addition, an addict wanting to quit is likely to be subjected to emotional pressures from friends, family and peers who might prefer to keep their addiction in common or fear that the person is changing too much, such as getting too strong for them to manipulate, or they might have other questionable motives for wanting to undermine a person’s motivation to quit. Sometimes, “friends” can end up harming a person more than an enemy. For example, Bakker reminded his audience that most of them ended up in prison because of “friends” who encouraged them to break the law.

Bakker said that quitting is “about learning how to develop an entirely new mind-set about life,” (219).

As I myself emphasize (How to Change Your Self-Image), he told them, “Your self-image controls you. Everything you do . . . is consistent with the image you hold of yourself.” He added, “If you see yourself as a smoker, you will be a smoker,” (219-220).

He writes:

    I quoted studies to show how our minds go to work trying to fulfill our words. “So we need to careful what we say to ourselves,” I told the class. “Even comments such as, ‘I really want to quit smoking’ or ‘I am going to quit smoking,’ are counterproductive. You are reinforcing that you are a smoker. Instead, . . . say something such as, ‘I really love being free from smoking.’ Or, ‘I am enjoying tasting food, and it so delicious.’ Or, ‘My cough is gone!’ . . .

    Never give up! Don’t even think about failure. Avoid tempting situations by spending time with other nonsmokers. Winners want complete victory. You can make it! God is on your side.”(223).

To help them break their addiction, Bakker worked on changing their self-image by emphasizing that they are valuable. He rightly said, “God’s love and forgiveness are the bridge we can cross from low self-esteem to high self-esteem,” (221).

Another of his points was the benefit of helping others quit. “What you sow you will reap. All successful people help people,” (223). In fact, Bakker confessed in his book that what he learned in preparing this course, and then repeatedly reinforcing it by teaching it, helped him deal with the deep emotions he wrestled with.

For more help in breaking addictions and besetting sin, see Becoming a Winner! Beating Temptation.

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Understanding Christian Suffering

Sentenced to forty-five years, Jim Baker lost not just his freedom but his ministry, his reputation, his dignity, his self-esteem, his mental health, many friends, and his beloved wife (who ended up divorcing him and marrying his best friend whom he had trusted to support her). He even, at times, lost most of his faith in God. He was exposed to humiliating strip and body cavity searches over and over and even subjected to attempted homosexual rape. And there were still more torments, such as the emasculating agony of knowing his loved ones were suffering because of him and having to stand by helplessly; not only unable to offer the slightest financial support but unable even to be with them to offer emotional support, encouragement and protection. Separated not just by bars but by hundreds of miles, visits were rare and often emotionally harrowing. He was convinced he was hated by almost the entire Christian and secular world.

Upon incarceration, Bakker’s relationship with God plummeted and remained abysmal for a long while because his sufferings were in direct contradiction to his firm convictions as to how God allows committed, faithful Christians to be treated.

Bakker had entered prison not only certain that he was innocent of the crimes he was jailed for, but that before the Judge of all humanity he had nothing to repent of. Yes, he had once committed adultery but that was long in the past. Years before the media made money out of it, he had fully repented and returned to being steadfastly faithful both to his marriage and to his understanding of how he should serve God.

He eventually discovered to his horror that he was not nearly as innocent before God as he had supposed and that he desperately needed his incarceration to finally be off the giddy ride long enough to see his spiritual poverty and errors. It was not the act of a vengeful God but of a deeply compassionate God; an act of divine mercy for which Bakker ended up deeply grateful. Nevertheless, it should never have been even a fleeting blow to his faith. Far too many of us have somehow closed our eyes to the fact that God not only works together for good even the most devastating, satanically orchestrated events, for those who love him, but that the best possible Christian can, like Jesus himself, suffer horrifically on earth.

This critically important truth and the matchless spiritual benefits are expounded in such webpages as those listed in God & Suffering: Understanding the Goodness of God.

Elsewhere in my already quoted book I again found myself contrasting the Bible with many Christian books. After describing Moses’ confrontation with magicians, the war between the unrighteous Benjamites and the rest of the Israel, and Jesus’ crucifixion, I commented:

    In Pharaoh’s court, occult powers miraculously produce many times more vipers than God. In the time of the judges, God’s forces are routed by an army of inferior strength. At Calvary, God’s Son is dead.

    How I thank God for the Bible! Few other Christian books tell it as it really is: you can be flowing in the power of God, following his instructions to the letter in absolute purity and be routed by Satan’s puny forces.

    But only for a season.

    Aaron’s rod swallowed up the sorcerers’ rods. On the third day, Israel crushed the Benjamites. Jesus, on the third day, swallowed up death, having crushed the devil.

As an oyster, instead of ejecting a detested irritant, transforms it into an exquisite pearl, the infinitely good Lord suffers acts that disgust him and, in staggering patience and breath-taking genius, fashions them into love-filled masterpieces of divine beauty. We end up so awestruck by the finished masterpiece that it is hard to realize that the initial elements were not acts of God but satanically-inspired manifestations of ugliness that crushed God’s heart and repulsed him. We must recognize the process, lest in our confusion we defame our Lord by supposing he instigated things that were utterly contrary to the perfection of his love and goodness. On the other extreme, evil is so obvious early on, that one can mistakenly suppose the good Lord is nowhere to be found. Faith in God’s goodness is the one thing that will save us from the danger of seeing only the obvious and being thrown by circumstances.

* * *

Final Thoughts

This is a book I recommend even to people who disagree with Bakker or conjure other excuses for not opening it. If your personality is such that certain parts initially irritate you (as is so often the case in getting to know people in real life), I expect that as you mount those hurdles you will not only warm to the book but end up urging friends to read it, too.

I have read/heard nothing else by Jim Bakker and so can make no comment on anything other than this book. This one, however, leaves me admiring Bakker’s humility, honesty and beautiful, forgiving spirit. He needed divine help in getting there, but don’t we all? In Bakker’s case, it involved losing almost everything, but this should hardly surprise us in the light of such Scripture as:

    Matthew 6:19-21 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

    Matthew 13:45-46  . . . the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

    Mark 10:17,21 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” . . . Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

    Luke 9:23-25 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? . . .”

Life is no picnic. We live in a spiritual war zone in which eternal destinies are at stake. Unless we realize this we have no chance of understanding God’s dealings with us.

I pray I don’t need such a painful and prolonged time as Bakker did to become as wise and Christlike as it made him but who could put a price on Christlikeness? It is of infinite, eternal value. If that is what it takes, Lord, bring it on!

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Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 2015. For much more by the same author, see www.net-burst.net   No part of these writings may be copied without citing this entire paragraph.

 

 

 

 

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Jim Bakker:
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Jim Bakker:
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Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jim Bakker:
“I Was Wrong”
Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jim Bakker:
“I Was Wrong”
Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jim Bakker:
“I Was Wrong”
Book Review