Spiritual Schizophrenia

Spiritual Schizophrenia
Vol: 104 Issue: 22 Saturday, May 22, 2010

Most people, when they think of schizophrenia, associate it with a mental condition called Multiple Personality Disorder.  In reality, schizophrenia has nothing to do with multiple personalities. 

The dictionary provides two definitions for schizophrenia.  The first is that of a severe mental disorder technically known as dementia praecox.  Dementia praecox is the severest condition, where the victim becomes delusional; hallucinations, voices, that kind of thing.

The second definition is a mental state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements.   That’s the working definition I had in mind when I titled today’s briefing “Spiritual Schizophrenia.” 

Every Christian understands what I mean by ‘spiritual schizophrenia’ by experience. 

There is a TV commercial running currently for an allergy medicine in which the main character, an allergy sufferer trying to decide which allergy medicine to take, talks with two tiny representations of himself, one on his left hand, the other on his right.  

The one on the left side of the screen is the competitor, the one on the right is the Their Brand.  When Their Brand’s little guy announces that they last twelve hours and the competitor only six, the little guy on the left stamps his foot angrily and disappears in a puff of smoke.

That is Madison Avenue playing off the instinctive and experiential acknowledgement of the twin natures of man.   They don’t need to explain any of it — the symbolism is instantly recognizable to any culture.

In the old cartoons, it was a little winged angel with a halo on the right hand and a little red devil on the left, each whispering contradictory messages into the main character’s head. 

It is so universally-recognized as a symbol of the spiritual schizophrenia that afflicts us all that little kids watching cartoons grasp the concept instantly.   They’ve experienced the two natures long before anybody told them about it.

But experiencing it without being able to account for it is much like suffering undiagnosed schizophrenia.  It brings much sorrow and discouragement until you know what it is and how to treat it. 

Christians who fail to understand how spiritual schizophrenia afflicts them suffer the most discouragement. 

Here you are, rejoicing in your newfound relationship with Christ.  You have turned your back on the world, the flesh and the enemy.  You are walking on air.

Jesus has taken possession of your life and opened the door to a fresh, new existence.  You are cleaner than you’ve ever felt.  The old man is crucified with Christ, the old way of sin is gone forever.  The pathway to God seems a perfect pathway to peace.

Your desire for that ‘besetting’ sin, that one habit you never seemed to be able to kick, seemingly falls away by itself.

Then, BANG! The old forces of sin come back as strong, if not stronger than before.  That besetting sin, once merely a habit, becomes almost a necessity of existence.

Your spiritual tendencies are suddenly paralyzed. You want to move in the direction of the Spirit, but you are overwhelmed by the needs of the flesh. 

You are at first amazed at the power of the flesh, then distressed by your spiritual weakness, and finally discouraged and wondering if you were ever really saved in the first place.

This is where, for many Christians, there is a departure into that half-and-half existence, concluding that having been tempted and fallen, they are back in bondage to sin. 

They no longer have any confidence in themselves or hope of winning anyone else to Christ.

Some conclude that they must not have been saved in the first place, wondering if there really even is such a thing as conversion. 

Their “brethren” reach the same conclusion, teaching that salvation without growth and change is faux salvation — they couldn’t have been saved in the first place.   

The Bible teaches that salvation is by grace through faith.  But faith in what?  Faith that Jesus existed?  Faith that Jesus died?  Faith that Jesus rose again? 

How does faith that Jesus did all that translate into saving faith?  The answer might surprise you.  It can’t. Knowing the Gospel story doesn’t impart salvation.  The Apostle James writes:

“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19)

Believing that Jesus died and rose again — by itself — is simply an acknowledgment of fact.  Satan knows that Jesus died and he certainly knows that Jesus rose again.  And he just as certainly isn’t saved by that knowledge.

Neither is anybody else.


I knew ALL that when I was a kid growing up in Catholic school. I had Catholic cathechism class every single school day.   I knew a ton about Jesus and the Cross and the Apostles and the Gospels.   

But I wasn’t saved.  And I already had lots of experience with spiritual schizophrenia — long before I came to Christ. 

Once I knew the difference between right and wrong and discovered that no matter how hard I tried, I still couldn’t keep myself out of trouble, that cartoon devil kept kicking the angel right off my other shoulder.

Saving faith isn’t faith that Jesus rose again, saving faith is found in knowing why

Jesus was the only One qualified to pay the penalty for my sin.  He paid my penalty at the Cross.  His resurrection is proof that the payment was all-sufficient and my faith, and my salvation, rests in that truth.

Spiritual schizophrenia is not just part of the human condition; it is a bedrock doctrine of Christianity.  The Book of Romans has long been recognized as the blueprint for salvation; most missionary tracts contain all or some of “Romans Road.”

The message of the Book of Romans is salvation, what it means, and how it works in the Christian experience.  In Chapter Seven, Paul outlines the doctrine that both diagnoses and treats spiritual schizophrenia.

Paul begins by explaining the Law of Moses as understood by the Jewish authorities of the time.

“Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?”  

An observant Jew had to keep the Ten Commandments — plus some 615 other rabbinical commandments derived from the Torah by the sages and religious authorities.

“For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.”

“Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law by the Body of Christ; that you should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”

We are dead to the Law by the Body of Christ.   That explains how.  I want you to see why.  “That we should bring forth fruit unto God.”  

Recall those unfortunates discussed above who, having been tempted and fallen, have no confidence in their own salvation.  They question whether they were ever really saved themselves — and they certainly have no testimony to share with others.  No fruit unto God.

That is why we are dead to the Law.  Because of our dual nature.  Otherwise, salvation would be impossible, as Paul testifies:

“For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.”

 “But now we are delivered from the law, being dead to that in which we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”

‘The work of The Law was to bring fruit unto death.’ Is that right? 

“What shall we say then? is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, you shall not covet.”

Nobody ever kept the whole Law.  The purpose of the Law was to demonstrate the need for a Savior and only He that was without sin could deliver them from that bondage.

What caused the Fall of Adam was the Law.  Adam had but one law to obey. It was too much for him.  Sin operates on the Principle of the Forbidden Fruit.

“For I was alive apart from the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.”

Something isn’t sin until it is forbidden. But once it is forbidden, the flesh can’t keep away from it.  That is the essence of the sin nature.  

Babies can’t grasp sin, so they are “alive” spiritually.  They don’t need to be ‘born again’.   Babies who die don’t go to hell, they are innocent of personal sin.

 “And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.  For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.”  

But when the “commandment comes” (they understand right from wrong) the Principle of the Forbidden Fruit kicks in, sin revives and they die spiritually.

There is no doubt that the Apostle Paul was both saved and Personally indwelt by the Holy Spirit.   But Paul also suffers from spiritual schizophrenia. 

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”

“For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”

Sounds a lot like the guy who, having once been enlightened and had tasted the gifts of the Spirit, was tempted, fell, got up, fell again, and finally concluded that he couldn’t perform as a Christian.  

“I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.”

If we were stop right here, what we would have is Paul confessing that he is discouraged by his sinfulness and looked forward to a pretty fruitless Christian testimony, if he were really saved at all.  

Here we have the diagnosis of spiritual schizophrenia laid out in plain and simple terms.

“For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”

Paul’s diagnosis is followed up with the lament of the defeated and discouraged Christian still struggling to come to grips with his disorder:

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

But then Dr. Paul outlines the treatment.  It isn’t a cure — spiritual schizophrenia is a life-long incurable condition.  But there is good news. 

Properly understood, it can be treated and its sufferers can enjoy a full and fruitful life in Christ.  

“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”

Is Paul saying that from now on, he can sin all he wants to and just serve the law of God in his mind?  No.

And neither am I.  Recognition of a condition is not justification for not treating it.  It is merely recognition that it exists.   

But since it exists, and since it is an incurable condition in this life, saved, Blood-bought believing Christians do sin after salvation.  

Some sinners seem to sin more than others, but if there is a line drawn in the sand somewhere that Christians cannot cross, the Bible doesn’t reveal where it is.  

The Bible says only that all sin is equal in God’s eyes and that all of our best efforts at good works are as ‘filthy rags’ before the Lord.

Our spiritual schizophrenia is well-known to God.   That is why our justification had to be complete — we are as incapable of maintaining it as we were of obtaining it in the first place.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”  (Jeremiah 17:9)

Because all our good works are as filthy rags before the Lord, there is only one way we can bear fruit unto the Spirit.  A full understanding of our condition demands a total reliance on faith that by His blood we are justified forever.

Our condition is not Life-threatening and we needn’t be ashamed of being in treatment. It  is a lifelong condition we were ALL born with.  

You aren’t unique.  And you aren’t hopeless.  But you are desperately needed on the battlefield.  You don’t need to go find it.  Just get up and stop nursing your wounds. The battle will find you.

“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2nd Corinthians 12:9)

That is — by itself — a testimony worth sharing. 

This entry was posted in Briefings by Pete Garcia. Bookmark the permalink.

About Pete Garcia

Christian, father, husband, veteran, pilot, and sinner saved by grace. I am a firm believer in, and follower of Jesus Christ. I am Pre-Trib, Dispensational, and Non-Denominational (but I lean Southern Baptist).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s