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As a Psychologist, I see much of Christianity as being an altered state of mind and as a result the vast majority of healings "wear off" and most Christians I come across are as bad as everyone else committing the same sins when they are not on a "church high". The same experience can be replicated by a hypnotist.
Thank you for your question. It is a very perceptive question, and I understand exactly where you are coming from, so it is great to have an opportunity to address the issues you bring up. Without wishing to make the answer to your question too simplistic, my advice to you is going to be simply this: don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! In fact, you have really given yourself the answer to your question even in the way you have asked it, but let’s take a look in some detail at what you have said.
Firstly, I want to recognise the reality of the psychology you bring up in your question. The human mind is very complex, as you may well know far better than I do, and it is certain that the mind can be easily deceived into believing something is true when in reality it is not. You use hypnotism as an example, but there are many other more normal, everyday ways in which a person can be convinced of something when it is actually false. If you simply tell someone that something is true enough times, and they have no objective way of proving you wrong, then there is a real possibility that they will end up believing what you have said regardless of its authenticity. To add into that, our emotions can also play a big part in what we believe - it’s not uncommon for us to convince ourselves that something is true simply because we want it to be true so much.
So, in the light of that let’s look at the two areas you have raised:
1. Healings ‘wearing off’. In some areas of Christianity there is a huge focus and preoccupation on healing. You can’t really blame people - who wouldn’t want to be made well when they are sick? However, this can lead to some of the difficulties that you speak of. If a healing meeting is set up, then people have to be healed, or the meeting is clearly a failure. There is also a kind of a status symbol to having been healed at one of these meetings. All this unfortunately can lead to a meeting where everyone is hyped up, and in the ecstasy of the moment, healings can be proclaimed that are not healings at all, and simply a result of over-emotionalism. The majority of healings aren’t instantly and obviously observable, and so a person may genuinely be convinced that they have been healed, but the effects, as you say, wear off after a time, because they were never real in the first place.
However, as I’ve said, you phrase your questions interestingly in that you say the ‘vast majority’ of healings wear off. Have you considered it in this way - to proclaim healing as a genuine reality in the Christian faith, all you need is one undeniably real healing to take place? You say that most of the healings that take place don’t last - that may be an overstatement, and I don’t want to argue over proportions - but what that says is that there are some healings that do last, and in doing so they proclaim that despite all the negative examples, there is real power at work in the Christian church.
I personally haven’t seen numerous healings in my own experience, but I have seen enough to know that it really does take place, and that I serve a God who is more than able to reach in and heal our bodies at any time.
2. Secondly, you speak of Christian’s whose ‘different’ lifestyle doesn’t last much beyond the last ‘church high’ they have had. The answer to this is in effect the same as the last point, albeit in a slightly different way. You say that most Christians end up committing the same sins as everyone else, so by implication there are some Christians who don’t commit the same sins as everyone else. As before, it's to this last group that I would look first for evidence of the reality of the Christian faith.
You see, just as a healing requires real power to take place, so the Bible says that for a Christian to live a holy and pure life, real power is also necessary. The Bible makes it plain that a person can try all they want to live the way they think God wants them to, but if they simply try with their own strength then they will fail miserably to live up to the standard that God requires. Maybe you can even identify with that - if not, then just try and live the next 24 hours perfectly, and see what happens! Jesus Himself said to His disciples that without Him they could do nothing (John 15:5), but He also promised that when He left this world He would send a helper, the Holy Spirit to come and dwell within His people (John 16:12-15) to give them the power they needed to live the life He had called them to.
What it really means to be a Christian is not just to attend a religious club every week, but it is to have had spiritual heart surgery, and to have been given new life. It's supernatural, mysterious, and hard for us to even explain, but this is what the Bible presents as a reality for every true believer in Jesus, and it’s when this has taken place that a person is truly able to live differently.
There could be a couple of reasons why you have seen people who profess to be Christians fall way short of what you might expect from them. Of course there is a possibility you are being a bit harsh in your assessment - no Christian will ever reach perfection in this lifetime, but assuming you are judging them fairly, here are two possible reasons:
1. They never became a Christian in the first place. Anyone can live a certain way for a time off the back of an emotional 'high', as you put it, and unfortunately that is what church can become for some people. Great music, great friends, and an inspiring message can perk anyone up when they're feeling down, and of course they then decide to go out and try to live a better life for the week to come, only finding that they can't actually manage it beyond the first few days. That kind of lifestyle doesn't take any more willpower than what every human being already possesses - it’s to live this kind of life consistently that requires the power we spoke of above. What these people have done is to become identified with the church as an organisation, but it's highly possible that they have never truly had the faith and humility needed to become identified with the head of the church, Jesus Christ. The Bible itself says that many people will come to God on the day of judgement and tell him all the great things they did for Him, but He will turn to them and say "depart from me, I never knew you" (Matthew 7:21-23). There is so much more to being a Christian than just trying to be better - real Christianity is about having a relationship with Jesus Christ, and it's in that relationship that we become the people God wants us to be.
This brings us to our second reason for what you have observed in the lives of professing Christians:
2. These people you have seen may simply not have learned to live by the power God has put inside of them. In writing what I have above, in no way do I want to give the impression that every Christian who doesn't quite live up to the standard we might expect of them is not a Christian at all. Just as human beings grow, mature and develop at different speeds, so some Christians mature more quickly than others. It is very possible to truly be a Christian and still be trying to live off the emotional high you get at church, and to not have learned how to tap into the power that God has given you. Our place isn't to judge people here, but simply to help them on their journey towards and with Jesus.
I again want to close this section by urging you not to discount the real because of what you have seen that might seem fake. As before, it only really needs one example of a real change in the life of a Christian to show you that God really is in the business of transforming people from the inside out.
In closing, we have seen that your question leads us to recognise firstly that there is sadly much in the Christian church which doesn’t reflect God in authenticity, but we’ve also recognised that there is much that gives evidence of the reality of God in the lives of those who call themselves His people. Every healing that genuinely takes place, and that lasts beyond the emotion of a moment, is evidence that God is real. In the same way, every story of a man or woman who has been genuinely changed by God is yet more evidence that God is real. My hope is that the reason you have asked this question is because you are genuinely considering the Christian faith and so, on top of what we’ve already looked at, I want to finish this answer with the ultimate evidence that God has given us to show that He is real - His own Son The Lord Jesus Christ.
You see, to look at the church as evidence that God is real is important to do, but if that's all you look at you are likely to be disappointed. The church, even those who truly belong to God still get things wrong, and don't always portray God like they ought to, but that is not the case with Jesus. The church can let you down, but Jesus never will. The church is imperfect and flawed, but Jesus is absolutely perfect. If you want a true reflection on Christianity, look to Jesus.
The Bible tells us that roughly 2000 years ago the ultimate evidence of the reality of God was born - God Himself was born of a virgin. Jesus, the God-man lived a perfect life for 33 years, and once He became a travelling teacher at the age of about 30 showed over and over again proof of a His deity. He taught with great authority, commanded the wind and waves with equal authority, and also showed His power over sickness, demons, and even death.
You would think the world would embrace a man with such power, but we didn’t - Jesus stirred up much opposition against Himself from jealous religious teachers, and eventually was illegally tried and put to death though He was innocent of any crime. The Bible tells us though that as Jesus died He was paying the penalty that you and I deserve because of our sin - the wrong we have done against God - so that we could be forgiven. Jesus gave His life because He loves you, and didn’t want you to be apart from Him forever. He died, so that if you trust Him you could come into a relationship with God and know complete forgiveness for all your past, present and future. The story doesn’t even end there either - Jesus rose from the dead three days later, and with reliable historical evidence pointing to the reality of this event, Jesus showed us without a shadow of a doubt that God is real, and that He really can give us hope that goes beyond death.
So the question I will leave you with my friend is this - will you acknowledge the evidence that we’ve looked at over the course of this answer? The God who created you and me and all we see around us - the One who flung the stars into space is waiting, and even longing for you to come to Him and trust Him. He’s given you proof that He is there, and one day you will meet Him face to face (Acts 17:31), but He doesn’t want to meet you with you having rejected Him, but having accepted His free gift of eternal life in Jesus for all those who will trust and follow Him.
In closing I want to encourage you to take your questions to the leaders of a church that is local to you - I’m sure they would welcome the chance to help you with these issues. If you do not know of a local church near to you, then our church finder may well be able to help you to find one, and I encourage you to do so to help in your journey towards God:
Meanwhile, we invite you to engage some more with our Interactive Answer Matrix and maybe even pose another query. Our helpful staff are daily waiting and prayerfully ready to try and bring a Biblical response to your sincere questions, and will be delighted to tell you more about Jesus Christ the Lord, the Saviour of the world.
Here are some more Bible Verses for your further consideration:
- Acts 2:22-41
- Romans 6:1-14
- Matthew 8:5-17
*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
*If anything in this answers affects you directly, then please feel free to call our confidential prayer line in the UK on 0845 4567729, where trained Christian volunteers will take your call and pray both for you and with you. If you are outside of the UK then you may submit your request for prayer on line at http://www.ucb.co.uk/prayerline
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