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Ending The Denial Game–Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
April 15, 2024 1:00 am

Ending The Denial Game–Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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April 15, 2024 1:00 am

We all have unfinished business—shifting blame, avoiding pain, or even living in an illusion. Why are we so willing to live in denial? In this message, Pastor Lutzer addresses the seven symptoms of denial, including emotional numbness, a lack of trust, being a selective listener, and more. God can meet us in whatever we can’t face.

This month’s special offer is available for a donation of any amount. Get yours at or call us at 1-888-218-9337. 

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. When we lead lives without honesty, we often resort to denial to get by. This causes emotional numbness, superficial friendships, and a lack of trust. Denial, that's our focus as we continue a series on pulling together in a world tearing apart.

Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, at root, isn't denial a refusal for us to be honest with ourselves? Of course, Dave, as we know, it begins by being dishonest with others until we begin to believe our own lies. I remember talking to a Christian leader who had the responsibility of counseling those who fell into sexual sin. Specifically, he was counseling Christian leaders. And one of the things that he told me was he was amazed at the ability of the human heart to lie and live in denial. Of course, all of us know that we have that tendency. That's why I've written a book entitled Living with Your Passions. It talks about denial.

It also talks about the consequences of sexual sin, which we don't fully understand, but certainly the life of David illustrates it well. There's so much that we need to know. For a gift of any amount, we're making this book available to you. Hope that you have a pen or pencil handy.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. I'm going to be giving you that contact info again at the end of this message. But let us always remember, God desires truth in the inward parts, and that truth should also be characteristic of our lives. Jesus, the friend of a wounded heart. I know that I'm talking to wounded people today, many that are here, many who are listening by radio.

Wounded people exist everywhere, and Jesus is their friend. In his book The People of the Lie, Scott Peck talks about the fact that there are those who are educated, college trained, who nevertheless perpetrate evil that is almost indescribable. And in that book which gives the horror of the evil heart, you almost feel as if when you read it you are looking into the pit of hell, when in point of fact all that you are doing is looking into your heart and mine.

Because the Bible says that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it? This morning my topic is the denial game. The denial game.

A couple of words by way of introduction. First of all, denial is common to us all. Oh, I know I'm going to be talking about dysfunctional families and refer to them occasionally, but actually all of us live in denial. There isn't a one of us here that has not at times had a great discrepancy between who we are and who we actually perceive ourselves to be. If I could define denial, it would simply be the inability or more accurately the unwillingness for any one of us to see ourselves as we are.

We all love illusion. We are all basically dishonest. It's a matter of degree. A second observation is that the greater the denial, the greater the unfinished business. The greater the denial, the greater the unfinished business. Some of you live with spouses who are living in denial, and you know how difficult it is. Did you know that there are some people who actually perceive themselves to be very loving, very kind, very caring, and actually they are very hateful, very angry, very insecure, very demanding, and they don't even know it because they built walls around themselves, rationalizations. But the greater the denial, the greater the unfinished business, and today we want to begin to take care of some unfinished business.

A third observation. When you talk about extreme kinds of denial, there are at least two different groups of people. First of all, there are those who are actually the perpetrators of abuse, those who do evil. And of course, they are sometimes the victimizers, we might call them.

But then there are the victims, those who receive the input, the anger, the hostility, the abuse, and they are the victims. Both groups really struggle with denial, both groups do. And in this message today, I'm going to be talking about various characteristics of denial and not often taking out enough time to distinguish between them, though I will on some occasion. Why is it that we all live with denial?

Why is it that we find it so difficult, so uninviting, so threatening to really be real people? The answer, of course, is that first of all, we tend to lapse into denial to avoid blame, to avoid blame. 80% of child abusers deny it when they are confronted with it.

They will not admit it. Those of you who were brought up in alcoholic homes, you know what this is all about. You know how alcoholics will blame everyone else. It's his wife's fault, it's his boss's fault, it's the children's fault, it's the economy's fault, it is everybody's fault. But remember that to the mind of the alcoholic, it is impossible for him to say, it is my fault. Because when he says that, the next question is, what are you going to do about it?

And that is one thing that he will not face. So he projects blame to everyone else. Denial, the inability to see ourselves for what we are, actually is a part of our experience to avoid blame, but also to avoid pain, to avoid to avoid pain. Because what that means is, if I see myself for what I am, it means I'm going to have to go to people whom I have wronged and ask their forgiveness.

I'm going to have to try as far as possible to make things right. And I don't want to do that. Because that means that I actually have to face myself. And many people spend their entire lives running from who they really are to avoid pain. Another reason is to avoid shame, to avoid shame. One of the most powerful human emotions is shame, because when we begin to really be honest, then we struggle with the question of whether we will still be loved.

Will people love me if they know who I am? And all of us have done things that are shameful. We've all thought things that are shameful. You know, when you stop to think of it, if our thoughts could be put on a screen for all to see, we would all be ashamed. Think of how we would feel if there would be other people who could actually see what we are thinking. And we know that in the depths of our heart, there is this shame.

And so we try to hide it and we try to cover it. Now what I'd like to do today is to give you seven characteristics of denial, seven characteristics of denial, and then we're going to find out what the answer is. How do we cope with denial within the human heart?

Seven characteristics. First of all, those of you who live in denial, you will find that you have emotional numbness, emotional numbness, because all of your emotions have to be put on autopilot. They have to be put on hold because there is no way for you to really express feelings. Feelings must be denied. That child abuser has to deny what he is doing because he cannot face what he has done to his child because again, it would bring forth all that pain that we have talked about today. And therefore, all emotions in a home like that have to be simply shoved under the rug.

There's an actress whose lifestyle I don't agree with, but she's written some incredibly accurate things about homes that are dysfunctional. She says, as a child, I was taught to ignore my emotions. Shame was put on me whenever I expressed anger, sadness, joy, or hope. I was the cause of my father's alcoholism and irrational anger. I grew up trying to be a good little girl so that my father wouldn't have to drink. In such a home, my feelings didn't count. I spent my time trying to maintain some kind of order in the chaotic home.

Now get this. The code of silence was so strong that it never entered my mind to explain my problem to the teachers. When I left the house in the morning, I could act as if I was the happiest child in the world. I was not only lying to the world but to myself. We learned to lie. We lied to daddy's boss. We lied to our friends. Though I was taught I should never lie, get this, no one allowed me to tell the truth. Since I was taught that my feelings were not important, I got into a marriage that was doomed from the start. When I told my family on a Wednesday that I was pregnant, I was married on Friday.

Quick, quick, quick, so nobody in town would know. It was the saddest day of my life. My father was drunk at the wedding.

I felt suicidal. It was silly to be married to someone who wasn't a drunk, who wasn't dysfunctional. I felt as if it was so wrong, I had to create a crisis. So I had an affair. That is very interesting because if you come from a home like that where there is all that denial, if you get into a normal relationship, you can't handle it. You need to create a crisis. And some of you are living with mates like that who cannot handle normalcy.

There has to be a crisis. But I want you to notice what it did. You shut down your feelings. Secondly, not only emotional numbness but superficial friendships. Superficial friendships. The reason for this is obvious because in good communication, communication within the family means that I reveal to you my hopes, my fears, my dreams, my disappointment, my anger.

It reveals who I am. But if all that is shut off, then of course there's nothing to do except to talk about very superficial matters and you never really feel that you know the person with whom you are communicating. Third, there is lack of trust. Lack of trust.

After all, if you can't trust people who were supposed to protect you and care for you, how then can you trust others and how can you trust God? And if you're writing that down, number three, lack of trust, add very quickly the inability to give and to receive love. Many people are in relationships like that. Their partner or their family tries to love them and they rebuff every attempt to love because once again love involves feeling, love involves communication, and love involves trust.

And they have built a wall around themselves and they say in effect, I dare you to love me and no matter what you do, I will misinterpret it as rejection. Lack of trust. Number four, manipulation.

Why? Because you must give the illusion that things are orderly. So you begin to manipulate others. If you are an abuser, you manipulate others so that they do what you want and so that you will not have to look at yourself. And if you are a victim, you manipulate because you have to give the illusion that the charade that is being acted out in your home is real.

And so you begin to use other people to accomplish the things that you would like to see accomplished and you generally use guilt to manipulate others and make them feel that whatever is wrong is their fault and not your own. Number five, selective listening. Selective listening. Here is a child who is crying out wanting his father to understand his pain and trying to understand what is really going on and the father of course has all the information that comes to him, comes through this selective grid and is interpreted in such a way that he cannot hear the child's pain.

He is immune to it. In that book, The People of the Lie, Scott Peck tells a story of how a father and a mother actually gave their son a Christmas present that was the very gun, the same gun, that his brother had used to commit suicide. And they didn't understand why it caused their son some pain and some hurt. It's because if you are living in denial you do not see other people's needs.

You are only concerned about how reality is interpreted from your standpoint. And then the last two points that I have refer primarily to the victimizers, not the victims, but those who are in denial often have a very critical spirit. They are critical of others because you see they want to minimize their own faults and they want to maximize the faults of others so that they continue to live within that sense of satisfaction. When they hear about ministers falling into sins such as we've had in the past with some of the televangelists, these kinds of people love to hear those stories because remember it is very important that they remain secure in their evil and one way to keep that security is to find others who are doing the same thing, preferably others who are even doing worse so that you can justify yourself and will not have to look into the mirror to see who you really are. Critical spirit.

Remember that story of a man who left a bar half drunk and somebody took some strong cheese and smeared it under his nose and as he walked out into the clear night air he said, the whole world stinks. In other words, everybody else is wrong but there's nothing wrong with me. Number seven, a hardened heart. A hardened heart. You tell a lie and your conscience bothers you. You tell enough lies and your conscience will no longer bother you.

It will be something like a siren that is tied to a dying battery and soon your conscience will be able to lie consistently and it will not trouble you and then you begin to live a lie and you become totally deceived. This is why the Bible says in the book of Hebrews that we should strengthen one another and we should take care of one another and encourage each other. It says, lest we be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Why is sin so deceitful? It is deceitful because we may not even be aware of our sins.

In other words, there are those who are deceived because one of the characteristics of deceit is you do not know that you are being deceived. Now I want you to think of that person who has put all these walls around him like a protective shield. His body is but the shell for a spirit of denial that inhabits him and he will not face up to who he is no matter what. His defenses are full of proof he can't get through. Nobody seems to be able to get through. The family can't, the church can't, he even thinks God can't.

Well enough analysis, enough, enough, enough. Take your Bibles now and turn to Psalm 139. Psalm 139 and I would like to outline briefly the answer to the problem of denial.

Psalm 139 where David gives a remarkable account of his relationship with God. Step number one, notice it says in Psalm 139, O Lord thou hast searched me and known me. Number one, admit you have been found out. You've been found out, your cover is blown. God knows, God knows. God knows everything. Do you realize that you can never talk about God behind his back? Do you realize that there is no way that you can ever get away from the Almighty and he has scrutinized you and he knows every single thing that you have ever thought, every lie that you have ever told, all the manipulation and the deceit of your heart that you have been even keeping from yourself is an open book to God and he sees it there in all of its ugliness and in all of its horror.

God knows. He has searched you and knows you and there isn't a single thing that you could tell him about yourself that he does not know and he knows a whole lot of other things that you don't even know about. You're thoroughly known.

In this Psalm, David says, O Lord, you have searched me completely. He says, you know my downsittings and my uprisings. He says, you see my thoughts afar off long before I have fought them.

You already know them. He goes on to say that the number of times that I sit down and stand up, the words that I say are known by you. Oh God, your knowledge of me is so infinite.

It would fill many good sized libraries if it were all written out all about me. And here I thought I was hiding. In fact, he says, not only, Oh God, do you know me entirely, but he says, Oh God, you know me continually. Is there no place where I can go to get away from God?

Must it always be that his sight is totally riveted upon me? He says in verse seven, where can I go from thy spirit or where can I flee from thy presence? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there. And if I make my bed in a shield, behold, thou art there. Oh, you say, I want to get away from God. I'm going to travel at the speed of light.

No, don't bother. David says, if I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there will thy hand lead me and thy right hand will uphold me. You say, Oh, but I do all of my evil at night.

That's what people do. Like one man I read about got up in the middle of the night and did his evil. His wife didn't even know it. He left the bedroom, left the house, committed immorality, came back.

She didn't even know about it. Look at what the text says here. Verse 11, if I say, surely the darkness will overwhelm me. It says in verse 12, even the darkness is not darkness to God. And the night is as bright as the day. The darkness and the light are the same to almighty. He sees you do it at high noon.

And you thought nobody was watching. God has found you out. He knows you continually. He knows you entirely.

He even knows you eternally. David goes on to say long before I was born, God knew all about me. He says, when I was being fashioned in my mother's womb, he says, and God was putting all of the sinews and the bones together and the Lord was embroidering me.

That's what the Hebrew text means in my mother's womb. He says, Oh God, he says, they're all in your book. All of my members were written before I was formed. You knew my hands. You knew my toes. You knew my mind. You knew how I would look. All of this was already a foregone conclusion before I was born. That's how accurate your knowledge is of me. What's the answer for denial?

Give up the game. You have been found out. God knows. God knows. My friend, this is Pastor Lutzer, and I want you to know that you have been found out.

I have been found out. As I emphasized at the beginning of this program, God desires truth in the inward parts, and there's no thought that we can hide from him. In a moment, I'm going to be praying for you, but before I do that, we are making available to you a book entitled Living with Your Passions.

I wrote this book because I recognized that the whole issue of sexuality is so critical in our culture, in our individual lives. For a gift of any amount, it is available. Here's what you do.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. If you've been blessed as a result of the ministry of running to win, it is because people just like you have contributed to this ministry. Thank you in advance. But now I want to pray. The issue of sexuality is a matter that is very sensitive.

We all struggle with it. I'm going to ask God to help us and to minister to us, even as we confront the issues that have to do with our sexual desires. Father, I ask in the name of Jesus for those who have wandered off into sexual territory that has brought them guilt and despair. I want to pray for them. I want to pray, Father, that you might protect us, protect us from the wiles of the devil. Bring about a sense of forgiveness, a sense of healing to all those who struggle. Give wisdom, Lord, even as some have listened to this message and wonder what their next step should be in dealing with issues that they have kept secret. Grant that we ask in Jesus' name.

Amen. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life. Next time on Running to Win, we'll review all seven characteristics of denial and point the way out, letting us live lives of transparency and honesty. Ending the denial game is another in Erwin Lutzer's series on pulling together in a world tearing apart. Thanks for listening. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-15 02:08:11 / 2024-04-15 02:16:43 / 9

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