An analysis of “Step Seven” of the seven steps promulgated in the book, “STEPS TO FREEDOM IN CHRIST,” by Neil T. Anderson.Mr. Anderson was also a primary contributing author to the book, “Christ Centered Therapy: The Practical Integration of Theology and Psychology,” published by Harper Collins Canada in 2000. The extensive use of “Steps To Freedom in Christ” in the area in which I live, and the employment of the approaches it advocates by one of its larger churches, awakened my interest in what it presents. I consider this volume to be an encroachment upon the Christian community. Because the seventh point is a kind of pillar in the whole system, I have focused upon it. The principles presented in this book cannot stand if this point is not true.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Given O. Blakely, 5/17/2008
Quotation from the Program
“Curses vs. Blessings
“The next step to freedom is to renounce the sins of your ancestors as well as any satanic assignments directed toward you or your ministry. In the Ten Commandments, God said, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments (Exodus 20:4-6).
“The iniquities of one generation can adversely affect future generations unless the sins of the ancestors are confessed and renounced, and your spiritual heritage in Christ is claimed. You are not guilty for the sin of your ancestors, but because of their sin, you may be predisposed to certain strengths or weaknesses and influenced by the physical and spiritual atmosphere in which you were raised. These conditions can contribute to causing someone to struggle with a particular sin. Ask the Lord to show you specifically what sins are characteristic of your family."
Comments by Given O. Blakely
In this step, those in Christ are presented as being subjected to demons, and therefore found in consequent bondage. This bondage is traced back to being dominated by spiritual influences resident in preceding generations, and exerted upon the individual when they were young. The position is taken that this bondage remains dominate in those who are “in Christ” until “the sins of the ancestors are confessed and renounced,” and their “spiritual heritage in Christ is claimed.” This will occur when the person asks the Lord to show the purported victim “what sins are characteristic” of their family.
With great care this system affirms that those in Christ “are not guilty of the sin” of their “ancestors,” but “because of their sin . . . may be predisposed to certain strengths or weaknesses and influenced by the physical and spiritual atmosphere in which” they “were raised.” Then the poor soul is counseled, “Ask the Lord to show you specifically what sins are characteristic of your family.”
NO REQUIREMENT FOR THE CONVICTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Thus, in a convenient and highly philosophical manner, the one who developed this system frees certain sinners from the guilt of sin, obviating the necessity and effectiveness of the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus affirmed that when the Spirit came He would convince the world “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” With great pungency He then identified each of those components.
1. “Of sin because they believe not on Me” (John 16:9). This is the paramount sin, which can never be separated from unbelief, for the one who overcomes the world is specifically identified as “he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:5). However, this is not how “Seven Steps to Freedom in Christ” presents the case. In this system, the one who is NOT overcoming is a helpless victim who must take measures to identify some ancestral sin that is exerting dominance over him.
2. “Of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you see me no more.” (John 16:11). That is, righteousness is exclusively associated with Jesus Christ, who returned triumphantly to heaven. It is from there that righteousness is administered and maintained. The realization of righteousness, which is the absence of the guilt and power of sin, is owing to one’s identity with Christ Jesus, who is “made” righteousness to us, by the God who put us into Him (1 Cor 1:30).
3. “Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” (John 16:11). That is, Satan cannot hold those in Christ within the circumference of sin. When Jesus “put away sin” (Heb 9:26), he also “destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14). But the seventh step of this system does not trace the presence of sin to the devil, or announce that the one continually sinning has been “taken captive by him” (2 Tim 2:25-26). Instead, it credits a constant struggle with committing sin to a “predisposition” inherited from ancestors, making no mention of Adam, the ultimate ancestor, as the Scriptures do in Romans 5:12-19.
WHERE IS THE FREEDOM FOR WHICH CHRIST HAS FREED US? Jesus declared that if He made us free, we would be “free indeed” (John 8:36). In His discourse, the Lord said that enslavement to sin was brought about by committing it, not by a relationship to sinful ancestors: “Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). However, this system represents enslavement to sin as the result of being “predisposed to certain strengths or weaknesses and influenced by the physical and spiritual atmosphere in which you were raised.” In this statement, the actual committing of the sin is brushed aside as something that could not be helped – and we are speaking about Christians.
The Galatians, who were in a state of spiritual retrogression, were admonished: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” NKJV (Gal 5:1). The NIV reads, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Notice that “a yoke of slavery” is said to be one from which Jesus freed us. Any recurrence of that “yoke” is not traced back to ancestral associations, but to the fact that the person “let,” or allowed, themselves to be burdened by it again. In other words, they did not “stand fast” or “firm” in the liberty by which Christ freed them. Thus, this system maligns the work of Christ, whether intentionally or unintentionally, by completely ignoring the freedom that is realized in Christ Jesus. It speaks of “regaining” freedom, without tracing a lapse into sin with the neglect of that freedom.
THE CORRUPTION OF SCRIPTURE. The contrived “Steps to Freedom in Christ” also wrest the Scriptures, doing violence to them. Having no fundamental understanding of the Law, step seven cites this statement from Exodus 20:5: “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations.” The truth of this saying is also embodied in the proverb, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge?” (Ezek 18:2). However, this is by no means something that has been carried over to those who are in Christ Jesus. First, the statement in the Law refers to it being fulfilled in “that hate Me,” not in Christians who are struggling with sin!
But there is more to this than that. God also told Israel that a time was coming when this proverb would no longer be spoken. Something was going to happen that would change the situation. That something was the coming, accomplishments, and ministry of Jesus Christ – the era of the New Covenant. The verse following Ezekiel 18:2 reads, “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel” (Ezek 18:3). The prophet then gives a rather lengthy proclamation of the fact that each person will become responsible for their own sin, not the sins of their fathers (Ezek 18:4-32). Referring to a generation that sinned, verse 14 says, “If, however, he begets a son Who sees all the sins which his father has done, And considers but does not do likewise . . . he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live” (Ezek 18:14-17).
Jeremiah speaks of this same thing, associating the obsolescence of the proverb with the coming of the New Covenant, which would be one differing in manner from the Old Covenant. The New Covenant is stated in these words: “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer 31:22-34). In leading up to this statement, Jeremiah refers to the proverb stated by Ezekiel, saying that it would no longer be said. “In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge” (Jer 31:29-30). The very next verse chronicles the establishment of the New Covenant: “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah” (Jer 31:31).
Now, even though both Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied that this proverb would be said “no longer,” the seven steps to freedom in Christ actually depend on it being currently in force. I do not know how the seriousness of such a departure from the truth can be satisfactorily stated.
GRACE TEACHES US. Rather than searching for ancestral defects, the Holy Spirit informs us that the grace of God teaches us to effectively reject sinful inclinations – which means there is no justification for them dominating us – sinful ancestors or not. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” NKJV (Titus 2:11-14). There is no way that text can be blended with this statement: “You are not guilty for the sin of your ancestors, but because of their sin, you may be predisposed to certain strengths or weaknesses and influenced by the physical and spiritual atmosphere in which you were raised. These conditions can contribute to causing someone to struggle with a particular sin.”
THE REVEALED ANSWER TO THE PREDISPOSITION. So far as any predisposition to sin is concerned, the Word of God traces it back to Adam, not ones personal family linage. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world . . . through the offence of one many be dead . . . the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification . . . one man's offence death reigned by one . . . by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation . . . one man's disobedience many were made sinners . . .” (Rom 5:12-19). This predisposition is addressed in the Person of Christ, to whom all righteousness is traced: “ . . . much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many . . . but the free gift is of many offences unto justification . . . much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ . . . by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life . . . so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom 5:15-19).
There is no reference to any ancestral handicap, or some manner in which sin – any sin – can be addressed independently of what is realized (not merely available) in Christ. The grace of God is declared to have “abounded unto many.” Those in Christ are said to “reign in life” – something quite different than being “ influenced by the physical and spiritual atmosphere in which you were raised.”
WHEN BELIEVERS NEVER FAIL. When men remain in the grip of sinful influences, and struggle without triumph over sin, they do not need to be told to ask for the Lord to help them identify the sins of their fathers. They are rather to engage themselves in growing up into Christ, as Peter admonishes. In this effort, the promises of God, NOT the secrets of the past, are the means through which we become participants in the Divine nature: “His divine power has given us EVERYTHING WE NEED FOR LIFE AND GODLINESS through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” NIV (2 Pet 1:3-4). The resources come to us “through our knowledge of Him,” NOT our knowledge of the past. The objective is to participate in the Divine nature, not break loose from our ancestors. When we are raised up, and made to sit together with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6), we are put out of the domain of our ancestors, and into the realm where Jesus reigns. Even the devil himself cannot touch or harm us there (1 John 5:18), to say nothing of those from past generations.
Further, sinful tendencies are addressed in the new birth. It is then that we receive a “new man,” which “was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” NKJV (Eph 4:24), and is “renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” NKJV (Col 3:10). Now, as we “put off the old man,” and “put on the new man,” sinful inclinations are subdued, being nailed to the cross, or crucified, as Galatians 5:24 affirms: “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” Holman’s Christian Standard Bible Now those in Christ are told, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” NKJV (Gal 5:16).
With these realities in mind, Peter gives the secret to acceptable living. “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 1:5-8). Peter goes on to say, “for if you do these things you will never stumble” NKJV (2 Pet 1:10).
But what of those who do NOT do these things – those who fail to add these essential traits through their faith and in their knowledge of the Lord. Do they have an ancestral problem? Do they need assistance in identifying sinful proclivities to which they were subjected in their youth? Indeed, and emphatically, this is not the case. Peter reveals the real cause of enslavement to sin. “The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted, and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins” Holman Christian Standard Bible (2 Pet 1:9). The Amplified Bible read, “For whoever lacks these qualities is blind, [spiritually] shortsighted, seeing only what is near to him, and has become oblivious [to the fact] that he was cleansed from his old sins.”
In his book, Mr. Anderson suggests the following statement in a “declaration” to be made during this seventh step. “I cancel all demonic working that has been passed on to me from my ancestors . . . I renounce all Satanic assignments that are directed toward me and my ministry, and I cancel every curse that Satan and his workers have put on me . . . I now command every familiar spirit and every enemy of the Lord Jesus that is in or around me to leave my presence forever, and I commit myself to my heavenly Father, and to do His will from this day forward.”
THE HOLY SHORTCUT. In comparison with this psychological nonsense, here is a word from heaven: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). You may have observed that Mr. Anderson completely omitted the resistence of the devil, having the individual make an announcement to the devil. After that, he has the person submitting to God – and he makes no reference to the devil fleeing. James put submitting to God first.
Peter also addressed the matter of resisting the devil, tracing the effectiveness of it to steadfastness in the faith. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Pet 5:8-9). He does not say our predispositions inherited from our ancestors are lurking all around us, but that the devil is “seeking whom, he may devour.” He does not advocate addressing the devil, but resisting him by remaining “steadfast in the faith.” He makes no reference to the peculiarities of the things against which we may contend, suggesting they are traced to our childhood, but states that “the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”
For all who may have the book of reference – “Steps to Freedom in Christ” – I advocate a book burning, something like that which took place in Ephesus (Acts 19:19). This book is a sterling example of the approach to controlling the flesh that was soundly denounced by Paul in Colossians 2:8-23). It completely ignores the fact that real believers are “dead with Christ,” and presents a circumstance that aligns them more closely with their ancestors that with God and Christ. In approach, it is actually much like the Law of Moses, although vastly inferior to it.
To have this book and choose to follow its suggestions is an error of significant proportions. To promote it among those who profess to be followers of Jesus is a transgression of gargantuan proportions. It is sending men to the well of nature to account for sin, and to the wisdom of men to resolve it. Like all humanly devised patterns, it is a thorough and reprehensible exercise in vanity requiring neither faith nor hope. Also, the fact that it chooses to employ the words of Scripture to buttress its claim to validity, is something that cannot possibly be a mere mistake or expression of innocence.
Given O. Blakely 5/17/2008