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Sanctification as self-improvement


  1. Howdy,
    I apologize for not posting this on the scrupe board, but I csnt figure out how to access it...
    I was wondering how, as lutherans, we are to view our "core selves" when undergoing treatment for OCD and anxiety related issues.My therapist tells me to think of my "real self" as not wanting to commit the sins that I struggle against or think the obsessive thoughts I think. These, he says, are false messages from the brain--or at any rate do not represent the "true me" and what I really want to do. I'm trying to figure out how to square this with lutheran/biblical teaching about our two natures. If I'm made up of the new man and the old man, isn't the old man with his thoughts and desires in some sense a part of the "real" me? If so, how can I think of unwanted urges and thoughts as not being grounded in the "real" me? I think this therapeutic approach makes sense, but I do want to make sure I'm approaching it in a Christian way. Thanks for all your help,


  2. If you'll send me your email address I'll add you to the group. Thereafter it's simply a matter of either posting on the site at Yahoo or writing to

    That's just it, Joe. The thoughts DON'T come from your old self. They don't come from any part of your self! We have no control over the random thoughts which go through our minds! They are background noise, and nothing more. Your broken brain latches onto a piece of background noise, and won't let go of the thought that it means something. It doesn't.

    Even with a normal brain, the more a person is afraid of a thought or tries not to think it the more often the thought will come. The more you worry about it, the more you'll think it. The thing to do is to recognize it for the meaningless background noise it is, understand that it's simply a random combination of words which runs through your mind for which you are in no way responsible, and ignore it.

  3. Thank you.
    Would it be fair to say that our regenerate self (the new man) is who we really are, and that the flesh or the "old man," is still present within us buy somehow distinct from us (ontologicaly speaking)? I'm reading a book by Jeffrey scwartz called "You are not your brain" and he makes it sound like even urges and desires that you want to be gone (inappropriate sexual desires, tge desire to drink to excess, gamble, etc) but which stick around anyway are not reflective of your true self--of what you truly value. Does that make sense? Thanks again. My email is


    1. We are both until the day we die. But God, for Christ's sake, regards our new self as our true self and we will lose our old self at death. I think Dr. Schwartz carries the thought to far. We are simul justus et peccator- at the same time sinner and saint.

      But that has nothing to do with intrusive thoughts or OCD. For the purposes of those Dr. Schwartz is right. Having a thought go through our minds and stick there is not the same as having that thought reflect our beliefs or desires. They are completely neutral spiritually and morally.

  4. Ok thanks!
    I guess I was mainly wondering because of my own struggle with obsessive thoughts that revolve around sexual sin. I get afraid of thoughts of an ordinary sexual nature becsuse I fear they might lead me to act on them,or that if I don't they'll be there forever and build to some intolerable level, and there's a strong feeling of guilt involved when I find myself actually entertaining one of those thoughts mentally--not always guolty towards God, but towards my fiance. Thats the worst part, and it kind of makes me feel out of control (even though rationally I know I'm not). I know the fear of this whole cycle is what keeps the thoughts coming so often, and that's what I'm working on presently.

  5. Joe, you're a sinner. You sin. You're male. You have sexual thoughts. You might as well accept those facts because they're going to be true until the day you die.

    Obsessive sexual thoughts don't become obsessive unless you obsess about them. So why obsess about them? They are going to happen. They don't become sinful until you start relishing them and effectively thinking of another person as an object for your gratification.

    This isn't difficult. Every male on Earth deals with it. The thoughts will come. When you find yourself entertaining them, think of something else. If it's a sin, you've repented and been forgiven, and it's done with. If it's not a sin, it's not a sin, and it's done with. The only way to keep it a problem is by worrying about it and analyzing it and terriblizing about it. That's like trying to put out a fire by pouring gasoline on it.

    By the way, you can't not sin. Your purest and holiest thought or deed in itself is contaminated by pride and selfishness. Only for Jesus's sake is it acceptable to God. You might as well try to keep oxygen from touching your body as to never sin. Of course we try to avoid offending God because we love Him. But the efforts of scrupulous people to be sinless are simply unrealistic. And obsessing about not doing the impossible is pointless.

    BTW, people with OCD DON'T act on their obsessions. They're the least likely of all people to do the things they think about.

    How you feel is beside the point. Feelings aren't reality. If a thought you're uncomfortable with comes into your mind, it's already over and done with- IF you think of something else and move on. Of course, if you choose to wallow in it and worry about it and turn it into an obsession, that's another story.

  6. Something you said about repentance just clicked with me.You've said a couple of times that when we recognize a sinful thought/attitude and think of something else, we have already repented, but for some reason I didn't get it till now. Perhaps because of my background still of seeing repentance as a feeling of deep remorse or something like that? I wish I heard more lutheran pastors expressing it as you do!

  7. Since my ocd largely revolves around real things in my relationship with my girlfriend,I sometimes don't know when to confess my thoughts/feelings to her and when not to when I feel guilty about something. I don't know if the feeling of guilt is warranted or not,because it may be because of a real slip up,but either way I know the feelings are way over exaggerated.My therapist wants me to lean in the direction of treating all guilt-feelings as ocd symptoms unless I REALLY blow it in some major way.

    1. Then don't. You're not forgiven because you perform the good work of confessing. You're forgiven by grace, for Christ's sake, through faith.


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