Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Perils of Self

For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, (Philippians 3:03, NKJV).

Separation from the world (a circumcised heart holding on lightly to the things of this life), devotion to God from the inside out (worshiping God in spirit and truth), joy in the Lord (rejoicing in Christ Jesus), and sincere humility born of an accurate view of self (having no confidence in the flesh); that is what it means to be Christian. Its opposite is entanglement in the world, devotion to self, dedication to self, and self-confidence. Do you sense a pattern?

I think pretty highly of my self when I don't look too closely at what goes on in my will, brain and heart. Why, I can't understand why some people just don't seem to be perceptive enough to see how all my excellent qualities far outweigh my minuscule imperfections. What's up with that?

The truth is, It is impossible to really know and love Jesus without eventually obtaining a clearer picture of who you really are underneath all the trappings and casual self-deception. You can't look at Him in all His goodness, mercy and love, and then back at yourself, without doing what every other human in history has done when directly confronted with the Lord's glory: fall on your face in shame at yourself and awe of Him. If you aren't responding in that fashion, you aren't really looking. It's as simple and pathetic as that.

That's where the perils of self come into play. If you're self-absorbed, self-centered, self-justifying, and chock full of self-esteem, you are blinded to the truth of God. You are ignorant of the fact that for God to even be able to look at you, let alone allow you into His presence for all eternity, He had to send is Son, the most honorable, honest, loving, pure, brilliant, just and excellent Person to ever exist, to DIE in your place. There was no other remedy. You were/are that bad.

We humans generally pay a lot of lip service to the tragic and untimely death of good people, but we do not have a clue of what we're talking about. The single most unjust act in all the Universe was Christ's death on the Cross. He who knew no sin, became sin for us. He who was sinless and utterly innocent, died in the place of the utterly guilty: you and me. The fact that this obtained eternal life and forgiveness for those who believe does not mitigate the inherent injustice of the murder of Jesus in the slightest. That infinite good resulted was only because God ordained it so from before the foundation of the world. Otherwise, it is a wonder that the cataclysmic earthquakes, darkness and upheaval that occurred at the moment Christ laid down His life did shatter the very fabric of all space, time and matter. That, too, is God's goodness.

Self-focus blinds you to the profound nature of God becoming Man, to become you on the Cross, so that you could become like Him through faith. Self-absorption is deadly, like a man walking blithely over a cliff thinking he can float, or not even being aware of the cliff in the first place. Self-centeredness as a way of life is akin to the educated elite in the Dark Ages living as if the earth were the gravitational center of the cosmos. Once the initial premise is so egregiously wrong, everything else that follows can't possibly be right. Just look at the convoluted orbital diagrams invented from that period to explain the so-called perturbations in the various planetary orbits. Yet, once the sun was properly placed at the center, all that misunderstanding and willful misperception vanished, replaced by the elegant brilliance of modern orbital dynamics.

So it is with God's Son. When He becomes the center, everything in your life, and about your life, falls precisely into place. The light of His word illuminates your path, and causes your true helplessness and hopeless to be accurately perceived so that you come to Him, your Savior, in utmost gratitude and love, because you now know He loved you so much that He laid down His life for your sake. And in so doing, purchased you from an eternity of darkness and pain, far exceeding the shock and destruction of falling unawares from a great height.

Self-esteem is an obstacle to the proper esteem of God, your Creator and Redeemer. And of course, the temporary ruler of this world, the very Enemy of each and every unsaved soul, has influenced the world to believe that the very thing that will ensure your eternal destruction is what you most lack. There is a reason he is described as diabolical.

The cure for self-esteem, and all other perils of self, is to pursue the apostle's brief exhortation in the verse above, by becoming the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.