Chapel – Rev. Dr. Siang-Yang Tan

Good morning. It's good to be back here at Tyndale. I regret to tell you that I will no longer be teaching courses at Tyndale, and also at Fuller since my retirement a couple of years ago from Fuller, although I'm still a Senior Professor of Clinical Psychology there, because I'm so computer illiterate. Everything is gone online or hybrid, and I just cannot do it on the computer. So but I still preach and teach and travel around the world to mentor people, and do things in person, as long as it's not online. Also, sometimes people ask me for my PowerPoint slides and so on. I send them some outlines of my talks and so on and tell them I may have power and may have points, but I have no PowerPoints. Okay?

This morning, I want to speak on the topic of the Holy Spirit, and mental health. I've spoken on and written a lot about the Holy Spirit in counselling and psychotherapy. But this is a broader topic. In fact, it forced me to go into my concordance searches in my studies to reflect on, what does the Bible really say about the Holy Spirit and mental health. An Anglican Church in Singapore a couple of years ago asked me to speak on this topic. And so it forced me to search the Scriptures and read the books and reflect on this particular topic. So today, I want to share this with you. This is a short chapel address, it cannot cover all the nuances and points, but I want to share with you some of the major biblical texts that are relevant for consideration as we focus on this topic of the Holy Spirit and mental health. And just very quickly, as an aside, I presented another major paper some months ago at the current study centre at Fuller when they had a symposium on the future of Christian formation in spirituality, and they asked me to speak on the relationship between spiritual health, and mental and emotional health, a biblical perspective. And that was my my choice of the title of the presentation.

Just very briefly, in case I don't have time to cover this later. spiritual health, mental health, your emotional health, physical health in heaven, and that is to come. We're not there yet. The kingdom has come by it's not consummated. Yet. You all know this in this seminary and college at Tyndale, okay. One day in Heaven, you will all be in sync, we will all be perfect in Christ with physical, mental, spiritual health all in one. While on Earth in this fallen imperfect world, the three are not always in sync. Is it possible for you to have good physical health without mental health? It is possible. Is it possible for you to have good mental health without physical health? It's possible. Is it possible for you to have good spiritual health without good physical and mental health? It is possible. The three are not synonymous. They overlap tremendously. And under ideal conditions, they will all be one. But we're not living under ideal conditions right now, in this fallen sinful earth. One day there shall be new heavens and new earth, we know that, but we're not there yet. So let me just quickly say that while the Holy Spirit and mental health is a very important topic, and as we look through the scriptures quickly today, you will find that the Holy Spirit produces fruit. And he does work in our lives that come very, very close to mental health. And very often, the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, and the work of the Spirit in our lives, making us more and more like Jesus does include good physical and mental health, but not always. And in fact, the person who made this very clear, was none other than Dr. Vernon Grounds, who was here at what was used to be called Ontario Bible College when he gave us Daily lectures in 1976, and 1975. And his lectures were published in a book, small little book, that I still highly recommend for you to read, and my students at Fuller too. And it's called the gospel and emotional problems, okay, the gospel and emotional problems or emotional problems and the Gospel. And he gave his lectures here at Ontario Bible college and was published in 1976, the book is still available. And in that book, he makes it very clear that one physical and mental health and spiritual health often overlap. They're not the same thing. In fact, he made a very strong statement there. It's better to be a maladjusted, neurotic sinner, who comes to Christ, than a very well adjusted human being, who doesn't seem to think that he or she needs Christ. And of course, we don't want to split apart physical, mental and spiritual health too much, but I just want to say quickly that they are not synonymous.

But does the Holy Spirit lead to better mental health? Usually, the answer is yes. Does the Holy Spirit always produce excellent good mental health in every Christian, as you're walking in obedience to Christ, and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit? The answer is no. It is not always. It is usually, it's often, but it's not always. So that's the backdrop. Let's pray now and then we'll look into the scriptures and see how the Holy Spirit works in our lives, especially in the mental health area.

So dear God, we thank You for this Chapel. Thank you for my dear friends here. It's like coming home and I ask for your continued blessings and protection and provision for Tyndale seminary and college. And that you will just continue to fill this place with a power and presence of the Holy Spirit, that will be Christ centered, Bible based and spirit filled people, who will serve you with humility and love and grace from you. And today, we ask that you will speak to us. Holy Spirit of God, I pray you, anoint the preaching and teaching of Your Holy Word. And especially as we talk about you, and how you are connected with our mental health. We ask that you'll make us understand things a bit more clearly from scripture, and have the right biblical perspective on this important topic. So bless us now, and also bring healing and wholeness and Shalom to all of us, according to the will of God. In Jesus name we pray. Amen. Amen.

So mental health has received tremendous attention in the last several years, especially during the pandemic, although the rates of anxiety and depression and so on, went up very significantly during the pandemic. Now, the pandemic is still here, but it's not completely over rather, the COVID-19 thing but the pandemic is about over now, maybe it's more endemic rather than pandemic. But the point that I want to say is that all those statistics that they found during the pandemic, of increases in mental health problems, have kind of somewhat abated. A recent meta analysis study of quite a number of mostly rich countries around the world, not including the poor countries, and mostly adults, are not included children. So there are limits to this study, this study was published in Frontiers in Psychology. And it was, I'm sorry, it's the British Medical Journal online. And the study was actually put together by quite a number of researchers in Canada, from some really good universities. So I think the data are important, but they're limited because of the sample size and the sample characteristics. But you know, what they found, that the so called Mental Health Crisis during the pandemic has somewhat abated, it's not as great as we think anymore. The rates of anxiety and depression have fallen back to somewhat pre pandemic levels, at least for adults, don't know about children, don't know about the poor countries. But these are surveys and studies have been done all over the world, in fairly rich countries. So that is just simply to say that while the focus on mental health has been great, and he should continue to be, it is amazing that now, after three years have gone by, and time has gone by, and the pandemic has kind of slowed down and abated some, there is evidence for what is called resilience, and post traumatic growth. And it is true in previous studies that when we go through trauma, we go through some catastrophic, catastrophic experiences and events in this world, within a two year period or so, about 70% of us bounce back, we experienced post traumatic growth, and only about 30% of us continue to have lingering problems about over a two year period or so, and then develop things like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and adjustment disorders and so on.

So by the grace of God, he has made us human beings to be quite resilient people, we do bounce back. But the danger of bouncing back, as you know, is that we bounced back a bit too quickly. Right. You know, the pandemic was God's call for us to stop and to pause. And then there was zooming all over the place. And now that the pandemic has died down a bit, what's happening now, we're back again to abnormal normal. But God wants us to pause. He wants us to stop. He wants us to be still and to know that He is God. So let's look at the scriptures now about the Holy Spirit, Mental Health. is mental health important. Yes. There are many conferences now and publications and books and so on, on the church and mental health. I've been involved in speaking at some of those conferences. I've written some of the chapters. But the point here is this. The church and mental health, yes, that's very important. And another analogy is a church and physical health. That's very important, but it's not the most important. The most important thing about the church is the church and spiritual health.

The ultimate goal of the church and of the Christian life is to become more like Jesus Christ. And that's what spiritual health is all about. And does it include physical health and mental health? Often, but not always. Sometimes paradoxically, in order to grow deeply in Christ, in order to become more like Jesus, in order to experience true spiritual health and well being. We suffer some physical problems, we suffer some mental health problems, and God uses all of this for good, in the long run. But usually, most of the time, the Holy Spirit is related to good mental health. Here's some of the verses quickly, okay, without trying to proof text. Let me give you some this verses that we can find in Scripture. Second Timothy one seven is a key verse, isn't it? For the Spirit God gave us you know, that's not make us timid or fearful, but gives us power, love and self discipline or self control or sound mind. I remember memorizing this verse as a young Christian you know, King James Second Timothy one seven, right? For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind. There you are. God has given us a spirit of good mental health and sound mind. Be careful of the exegesis, okay, it might be a bit more isegesis there right? The sound mind is, that doesn't mean mental health per se, okay? It's close to that it actually means a self discipline and self controlled, mind alive. But yes, the Lord has given us a spirit, the Holy Spirit, who gives us power and love and self discipline, in that sense, a sound mind. So there you are.

Ephesians 5:18. The writer of Ephesians, or Paul, if you believe Paul wrote Ephesians, which I do, but some of my friends at Fuller are not sure who wrote Ephesians. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled, in the Greek is a present continuous tense, be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit. You don't have to be Pentecostal or charismatic to believe this. If you are biblically oriented Christian, which all Christians should be, we all should be in that sense biblically charismatic. We are to be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who converts us. The Holy Spirit is the one who sanctifies us. The Holy Spirit one day will glorify us with glorified perfect bodies in Christ. It's the Holy Spirit who does the work. Gordon Fee, you know, who passed away recently went home to be with the Lord. longtime professor at Regent college, he wrote a really important chapter in a book on spiritual formation called life in the Spirit, was edited by two people, one of whom was Jeffrey Greenman, who used to be here. And I think Jeffrey Greenman is now the president of Wheaton College. Is that right? Yeah. And in that chapter that he wrote, Gordon Fee wrote a chapter entitled, putting the spirit back into spirituality, putting the Holy Spirit back into spirituality. Because today, our emphasis, I believe erroneously, has been on the spiritual disciplines. You know, you pray, read the Bible, you know, you fast, you have solid in silence, and all the good stuff that Richard Foster wrote about in 1978, in celebration of discipline, you know, and in Dallas Willard, my good friends, all of them, and I serve on the Renova ministry team with them. And as you know, Dallas went home to be with the Lord over 10 years ago. Now we miss him deeply. But the spiritual disciplines have been, in my opinion over emphasized, it is not the spiritual disciplines per se that transformed into the image of Christ. No matter how much you pray, and how much of the Bible you read, that's not what's going to make you more like Jesus per se. If the Holy Spirit is not there, you see. So Gordon Fee lamented the the development, even at that time in 2010, and even now, that Christian circles have over emphasized the spiritual disciplines, every religion emphasizes spiritual disciplines. That's not what's unique about Christianity. What's unique about Christianity that Jesus came to give us life, not spiritual disciplines, and the life comes from the Spirit. Jesus says in John chapter six, it's the Spirit who gives life, its life is the transforming power from above that you and I don't have and desperately need. So be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit.

And second Corinthians 3:18, you know, that verse we're transformed from degree to degree, from glory to glory, into the image of the Lord, as by the spiritual disciplines, no, as by the Holy Spirit. So it's the Holy Spirit who does all the transformation. And we need to yield to Him, submit to Him, ask Him to fill us each day, be continuously filled with the Spirit, and He will then bring forth his fruit.

Then another verse, which you all have several other verses, Romans five, five, for example. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, has been given to us God's love. And love is the most powerful therapeutic force in the whole world. Love, God's love, especially. And it heals. And it brings wholeness to us by the Holy Spirit. I'm not sure what other verses we have there.

But another one is Romans 14:17. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating, and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. So you see, righteousness, peace, joy, those are mentally healthy things. Those are emotionally healthy characteristics. So by the Holy Spirit, so here, the Holy Spirit and good mental health. Yes, so far, so good. Then let's go on to the keywords here. Right.

It's Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit, Pentecostals and charismatics, like the talk of the power of the Spirit, especially the dramatic manifestations of the Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit, and praise God for tha,t hallelujah, and for that too. But we also must understand the Holy Spirit doesn't always work in spectacular ways, in dramatic ways. He oftentimes works in quiet ways, deep ways, including the gift of tears that he gives us, the fellowship of Christ's sufferings for example. But this fruit of the Spirit is as important if not more important in the gifts of the Spirit, because the fruit of the Spirit is what the Holy Spirit does in our lives, to make us more and more like Jesus, in our character, formation of spiritual formation, as well as ministries to become more like Jesus, in who we are, and to become more like Jesus in how we minister and how we serve, and how we let God use our lives in ministry. So Galatians 5:22-23, you know this, okay, you know, the Greek is singular, there's one fruit, not nine fruits, okay? But the fruit of the Spirit is love, and you can stop there. Biblical scholars will tell you that that would be an accurate exegesis of the text. But the fruit of Spirit is love, agape, Christ like love, that is also manifested and shown in the other eight characteristics. So the fruit of Spirit is love, joy, or gladness, peace, forbearance or patience, kindness, goodness or benevolence, faithfulness, gentleness, meekness, or humility, and self control, or self restraint or continence. Okay, let me read that again. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things, there is no law that can bring a charge against you. So if you look at that, look at these nine characteristics of the one fruit of the Spirit, chief of which is agape love, you will see that the Holy Spirit is really closely connected to mental health, these are mentally healthy characteristics. And so the Holy Spirit produces fruit that really are good for us, physically, mentally, spiritually. However, we also need to nuance this. I've written a book that was published in some years ago, in 1997. With Doug, Greg, Greg went home to be with the Lord earlier this year, is called disciplines of the Holy Spirit. And the reason why we wrote that book was because a lot of the books on the spiritual disciplines, up till then, and even since then, have emphasized the spiritual disciplines. And some people will say that the spiritual disciplines are what we can do, to be empowered by God to do what we cannot do. Actually, that's Dallas Willard, okay. And there I have a disagreement with Dallas. I don't believe that the spiritual disciplines are what we can do, to be empowered by God to do what we cannot do, it already artificially breaks, and separates and dichotomizes what I do and what God does. I believe that when we come to Christ, when really understand and know what the gospel is all about, by grace, only, it is the work of the Holy Spirit. I cannot do anything, you know, in the Canadian context of British pronunciation, right? I can't do it is American, the British way of saying in a Canadian race, I can't do it. I really can't do it, Lord. And when you come to the NFL, and Dallas Willard did say that the address of God is at the end of your But it doesn't work. Email weighs at the end of the is where God can be found. When it comes to the end of yourself, and you know that you cannot do it. If you can Jesus enough to die for you. No matter how competent and skilled and gifted. You are, you can't do it. Sorry, I'm American. Now. Let's be British as a Canadian. I can't do it. I really can't do it. Lord, help me fill me with your Spirit. You discover the dynamic of the spiritual life. And then you become a conduit for Christ, c o n d u i t or do it. I now become a conduit for Christ. You get it and playing around and panning with the words. You're not laughing but that's alright.

How do you be a conduit for the Holy Spirit's power? How do you become a channel of God's blessings to people? You got to get to the point your life and you realize I can't do it. And you really believe that 100%. You really believe John 15:5, it's not just a verse. Jesus says, I'm the vine you are the branches right here you are biting me and I in him or her will bring forth much food for without Me you can do nothing. Can't do it. That's the secret you see. So when the Spirit filters that way, much mentally healthy fruit is produced. However, there's a paradox here. The Holy Spirit can also at times lead us into the wilderness as he did with Jesus to encounters temptations and spiritual warfare, and sometimes this paradoxical dark night of the soul.

There's a verse in Isaiah 50:10, you know, that talks about people who fear the Lord and yet still walk in darkness. We all periodically walk in darkness, so that we, people of the light, paradoxically walk in darkness. Why? So that we learn the truth of 2nd Corinthians 5:7, that we live a walk by faith and not by sight and not by feelings. American society, Canadian society, Western society same. Very self focused, self obsessed, feelings oriented. If it feels good do it. And the unholy trinity of me, myself and I. It's a very dangerous thing that's happening in our society today. And God wants to have mercy on us, to turn us to what the real Trinity, God who is there in with us, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So sometimes the Holy Spirit will lead us, okay, into these paradoxical walks in the wilderness.

So you know, in Matthew 4:1, right? And in Luke 4:1-2, is very, very odd verse, you know, if you look at it carefully, and Jesus Christ was led by the Holy Spirit, into the wilderness, to be tempted by Satan. It's a weird verse, how would the Holy Spirit, why would the Holy Spirit to lead the Lord Jesus, and you and me, as we follow Jesus into the wilderness, from time to time, to be tempted by the devil? But yes, because spiritual warfare, and those periodic walks in darkness, and those temptation times, or times that prune and purify us, there's no other way is to follow Jesus, but the way of the cross, when you die to self and you live in the power of the Spirit more and more. And during those times, the dark night of the soul can include some experiences of dryness, emptiness, and even depression. Mother Teresa had a 50 year Dark Night of the Soul, I don't have time to get into that. And she still loved Jesus tremendously. So my friends, the Holy Spirit, mental health, yes, but sometimes the Holy Spirit and mental and emotional pain too, paradoxically, but spiritual health, are you with me? That's the paradox I wanted to bring in. That's the nuance I wanted to bring in, because if you look at the scriptures, more completely and more comprehensively, and more carefully, you cannot just say that if you are good Christian, you're filled with the Holy Spirit. You have good physical health, you have perfect physical health, a perfect mental health and perfect spiritual health. We're not there yet. That's heaven. We're still on Earth. But thank God, most of the time that Spirit does produce good physical health and mental health and spiritual health. But sometimes, we struggle physically. And we struggle mentally, by going deep in Christ spiritually. Amen. Yeah, I can say a lot more. But I, my time is up.

George, very graciously told me remember, you have limited time. So I think my time is limited. Let me let me just read one more verse for you here. Okay. A couple more verses, just very quickly. You know, that in third John 2, third John only has one chapter, so third, John 2. John says, "Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health, and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well." So it's okay to pray for good physical and mental health as your soul your spiritual health is doing well. But it's not always that way. And then, in in, in 2nd Timothy, we read about how physical exercise may profit some, but godliness, profits, eternally.

So as I pull all this together, I wish you good physical, mental and spiritual health. But I wish you more than that. I wish you the Holy Spirit's power and presence to fill you. And if physically and mentally you're struggling, that's okay. This side of the kingdom. God knows what He's doing. Pray for healing, pray for wholeness. But pray especially for spiritual health, that you may grow deep in Christ. And one day in heaven to come in, we should have a salvation there in Christ. He will keep us till the end, then what happens? We can rejoice in him. And then we will have complete physical, mental, spiritual and relational health. Amen. Amen. Let's pray.

So God, thank you for your work. We ask for your blessing and for your touch, for your Spirit's presence and anointing to be upon us. That we may experience as much physical, mental and spiritual health as we can. But that we do not mistakenly think that mental health is the same as spiritual health. Thank you. Thank you for your wholeness, and your Shalom. And one day, we will experience the perfection of God in heaven to come. We love you, Lord, we bow before you. We surrender to you. In Jesus name we pray. Amen. Amen.

I think there's an announcement up there somewhere. I don't know where it is right now about the spiritual integrated mental health care conference is coming Saturday and first 50 students free admission. Run for it. Okay. And George, back to you. Thank you. God bless you.

Chapel – Rev. Dr. Siang-Yang Tan
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