Friday, December 23, 2011

The Subtle Sin of Self

I have bad news and good news. First, the bad news, we are at war. I'm a little late announcing this because actually we've been in this war for two thousand years. Paul defined it in Ephesians 6:12 as "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."

We are told we can't know the time all this conflict will culminate but I see more and more signs that we are now in a period of separation; a pulling and tearing away into two distinctly identifiable sides. This separating is a simultaneously occurring event in both the world we can see and the world we cannot see. Perhaps it is the final preparation for the last confrontation. The line is being drawn and each side can be clearly categorized as falling into groups that embrace either the things of the world that are ruled by the god of SELF or things not of the world governed by the Sovereign God's irrefutable laws. In Biblical vernacular, and a more complex spiritual understanding, this is a separating of the wheat from the tares, that have been allowed to grow up together for centuries. Putting a finer point on it, this is the separating of the Spirit of Christ from the spirit of antichrist but in the simplest terms, and for this observation, these two groups can be labeled, the Self-righteous and the True-righteous.

The True-righteous are a motley group, not always brilliant, rarely perfect by legalistic standards, but ever seekers questing for ways to get closer to Christ, to know Him, to serve Him. Their standard is willingness to humility. The hallmark of the Self-righteous, both religious and secular, is the willful determination to be right, not just seen as right, but literally empowered with "right" that cannot be questioned even when small contradictions and untruths appear as cracks in the veneer. 

This is a subtle snare of the antichrist spirit and is the worst attribute of all because, like a hidden virus, it quietly attaches itself to the weakest condition of the flesh, which is nothing more than the earnest desire to be valid. But once allowed in, the virus of self-righteousness easily takes up residence and plants itself in the tucks and folds of the innate human desire to be and do good all the while poisoning the host with the subtle drive to be right at all costs. Once it is full blown and at the helm, the virus then manifests itself all dressed up in a type of counterfeit goodness sometimes also perceived as holiness. The original basic desire to simply be cogent is soon overshadowed and then eventually absorbed within the facade of doing/being good. Thus, the end always justifies the means in the actions of an individual who is reprobated to complete self-righteousness. 

It is a common characteristic of tyrants and dictators in all places, high and low, from rulers of countries to rulers of religions all the way down to those who have never fully achieved ruler status other than over one or a handful of individuals. Regardless of the size or social status the underlying operating system of self-righteousness is the determination and conviction that oneself is always right and therefore there is no need or room for correction.

We are all subject to bouts of self-righteousness. Not even the most truly righteous among us is immune. Whether or not it infects us mildly and then is kicked, like a bad cold, or is allowed to stay and go systemic depends on the individual's predisposition to recognize the signs and exorcize it with big doses of humility. Though self-righteousness comes in many forms, without exception it always looks good on the surface and can often function as goodness until challenged which forces the dark side out to vindicate itself. 

This is a warning sign then for recognizing the difference. The Self-righteous must fiercely defend themselves against all doubt and questioning and when possible deflect and redirect accountability in order to maintain control and justify themselves and their power, which is the source of their validation. The most common tool of defense is adroit use of familiar words and phrases that instantly invoke passions and are therefore not easily debated. I call this Smokescreen Language. This is true in both politics and religion. However, with passion removed, this can be reexamined and usually redefined as nothing more than clever doublespeak. But then if the doublespeak is also challenged, no holds are barred, no tactic will be left untried, no stone left unturned, no words of intimidation, rebuke and curse or false accusation left unsaid by the Self-righteous to thwart and condemn anyone who dares question their authority and position of being right. 

Big tyrants, little tyrants, they all demand to be right but even worse, the antichrist spirit, having fully infected the host, causes them to believe they are right, a delusional condition that can stand its ground against all manner of assault and cannot be cured except for the intervention of God's grace invoked by prayer from the True-righteous. The conundrum is: the Self-righteous are hard to love, but need love the most.

And this then is the real war we are now engaged in–the ultimate battle for our souls.

For whatever reason, ostensibly because it is time, the bruised and wounded True-righteous are now recognizing and separating from the Self-righteous across the board in all areas of belief systems including politics but more specifically including those who are coming out of apostate religions of all denominations and manner. Even the smaller sub groups that have broken off from traditional religion in search of spiritual equilibrium have found themselves ensnared in more of the same in modern "goodness" based humanistic packaging or redefined legalism or eschewing idolatry even as they elevate dreams and visions into idol status in hyper-spiritual Christian mysticism.

Though this point of fact portends a bleak near future, here is the good news: The True-righteous, even the rag-tag not-quite-sure-what-just-happened faithful never have to defend their position if they choose to separate from the Self-righteous, Christ is ordained to do that. He is the Great Defender. Conversely, the Self-righteous are compelled to squander precious time in defensive mode scrambling to hold on instead of just standing in faith and trusting God to make all paths clear. Further, they can rant and rail, accuse and make short-term trouble for the righteous, but they will simply wear themselves out and then fade away, which is, of course, anathema to those who are fueled entirely by the need for self-validation.

How to tell the difference between someone who is truly righteous or just pseudo-righteous? When in doubt one should always ask the question–what is at stake? The Self-righteous would respond that maintaining "right" is the goal and will go to great lengths to prove it with copious powerful words; the True-righteous would say bearing fruit is the goal and their actions, not their words, prove it.

In summary, the Self-righteous just need to be right, the True-righteous just need good results.

(Philippians 2:1) If there is therefore any exhortation in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions, (2:2) make full my joy, that ye be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; (2:3) [doing] nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself; (2:4) not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others. (2:5) Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.


Books are published, videos are produced and websites are uploaded almost daily now, millions of words are tossed out in great passionate fervor to calculate and predict the exact timing of the end of the world. From the Christian perspective the focus is on when the Great Tribulation period begins because that defines the last seven years of the earth as we know it. Daniel’s timeline is often the basis for the development of charts and equations that prove, for the one who is predicting, the year that marks the beginning of the end. Others look to the mysterious Mayan calculations that point to 2012 as the end. Over the centuries, predictions come and pass and then elaborate excuses abound for the whys and wherefores things don’t pan out and the predictions continue without missing a beat so long as they can be contained in a future yet to be proven.

What bothers me about these kinds of predictions, based on "evidence" and precise mathematical formulas and charts is that they leave out one important factor: God created and owns time and uses it as He wishes, and He always has. Thus God is not bound by our clocks or calendars or hieroglyphics carved in ancient stone wheels. Furthermore, I think the reason God doesn't give us a specific date as defined by our earthly measurements of time is because we are so human and as such human nature causes us to obsess and focus on the precise computation instead of just depending on Him for our daily bread.

What should we do instead with this moment given to us? All God asks of us is our daily walk of faith. We don't have to spend the precious moment we are in right now trying to figure out what tomorrow might bring. He expects us to listen, obey, and trust Him today, to serve Him today knowing He could come and change everything in the blink of an eye. Do not be persuaded otherwise, we are most certainly commanded to be prepared at all times. What do you have to do to be prepared? Believe He is returning? Live as though you believe it, knowing there is a judgment awaiting us? Am I prepared? Absolutely! Come Lord Jesus! But how does my knowing the exact hour and day change what I will do in this minute? It does not. We are supposed to live as though we know He could come at midnight tonight but also as though He might tarry because that is His divine option. What would you do today if you knew absolutely that Jesus was coming at midnight? Would you stop harvesting your garden, because why bother? Would you gather your people and sit in a circle? Would you run out and warn people who would think you needed to be fitted for a tight white jacket? Would you not cook meals and feed your children or give them water all day because what is the use of food and drink? You see, knowing the exact time is debilitating and actually defeats what God requires of us, i.e., be His vessels until He comes and that means up until the very last second.

I know people who are constantly on hold, believing there is no point in starting anything because tomorrow the rapture might whisk them away. And there are others, who do not believe in pre-trib rapture, who are just as obsessed with the day/hour as well. What is the difference between those who are paralyzed by the expectation of the day of the rapture and those who obsess over knowing the year of the beginning of the Great Tribulation? My response to those who think they shouldn't live today because they might be gone tomorrow is: so what? So what if you start to build an orphanage and you can't finish it? So what if you start to gather clothes and food for the poor and the Lord comes? Would it not be better to be found in the middle of serving than just sitting and waiting, doing nothing? And that is what happens when we count on pinpointing the day and hour of Christ's return. We hedge against stepping out to serve because we fear we won’t have enough time to finish. To me, that is the work of Satan whispering in our ears that there is no point in starting because there is no time left.

God owns time. What part of that do we not understand? From the human standpoint, we are finite; we have distinct limitations based on earthly time. The flesh is given only so much time to exist. Within that constraint, if we consider ourselves true servants, why would we squander a minute of the fleeting time allotted to us wondering what day it will end?

For centuries, mankind has been fixated on when the end will come and individuals have duly arisen to pin their own mandate for determining the timeframe on Scriptures like Luke 12:56  Ye hypocrites, Ye can discern the face of the sky and the earth, but how is it that you do not discern this time? But there is often hidden agenda in the self-appointed “end days prophets” who often use this and other Scriptures, not as alerts to the wise and discerning but as launching points for the more subtle pulling into other individually defined doctrine. End days prophecy is coming increasingly hot and heavy now, especially and probably because of the accessibility and ease of reaching multitudes on the internet, but it is often used like a hook instead of a spoon. It is a simple and universal bait, a siren call to the compelling human need to know when the end will come. If the calculations, formulas, charts and definitions are proof enough to those who are desperately seeking answers to the ancient question then they also conclude everything else that is said by the one doing the calculations must be true as well. It is a process of conviction as old as recorded history. New religious sects and even cults are born and flourish because the very first thing that is disarmed is simple spiritual discernment using seemingly irrefutable conclusions; if you can believe this, then you also must believe this. Gotcha!

But ultimately, we answer to God only for how we spend the time given to us. The way is straight and narrow and the Word is always best interpreted to a humble heart by the Holy Spirit, Himself. Those who set themselves up as the only correct interpreter will have much more to answer for than the innocent sheep they lead away.

(Revelation 22:12) Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to each man according as his work is. 

One thing is true, however, time, as we define it, is destined to conclude. Christ will come and put a punctuation point on the sentence that is now being written. It could happen in my puny lifetime, or not. That is not for me to know because if I did I might not do what He wants me to do when He wants me to do it.

That is the knowledge that surpasses all understanding that I need to seek and focus on.


I am a self-imposed Christian outcast which means I have rejected churchianity, religiousity and most, if not all, of the doctrine that requires loyalty to a rule-of-law as determined and set forth by a group that has taken upon itself the responsibility to define and redefine Christianity–yet again. For the last two millennia there have been many multiples of Christian sects rise up to this onerous task and usually with one earnest and dedicated individual as the originator and guiding force. Sects come and then they go only to morph into new interpretations and incarnations. Sometimes they are so well disguised beneath layers of righteous sounding dogma they are almost even better than Christ Himself so that even the Elect could be fooled by the dazzle, and, indeed, often they are. From a spiritual stand point, one doesn't have to make a huge leap to see Satan's hand and motive in devising a new, better, improved, more sincere, more holy, more devout, more inspiring, more physically and spiritually healthy, thus even-better-at-getting-salvation, creed in order to first attract and then detract the masses. While the masses generally are more drawn to the dynamic improved doctrine that blurs the lines between human accountability and forgiveness, there are just as many seekers who are willing to embrace the more rigid, striving for perfection, self-denial based gospel. But do these not fall under the guise of "another gospel" we are warned to be wary of in 2 Corinthians 11:4 ? - For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

The point is that people are inclined to flock to whatever feels right and comforts self. While some are predisposed to sidestep the concept of sin and guilt, others desire to believe they can overcome sin and guilt by adhering to clearly delineated guidelines that promise to result in personal perfect goodness. While one offers unfettered freedom from guilt, the other devises yet new ways to feel guilty. Even at opposite poles from each other, both types of religiosity call to individual basic internal needs that have nothing to do with desire to follow Christ. The Devil is always in the details of self-interest.

Neither of these extremes or the many compromises in between work for me, nor feeds or matures me in the spirit, or draws me closer to Christ, thus I choose to be an outcast rather than travel far and wide searching for THE RIGHT church. What I learned from my now abandoned quest for True Truth, is that the concept that Christ can speak to and guide an individual who is not conjoined to or affiliated with an organized religion cannot co-exist with the self-righteous determination that the Holy Spirit only communicates with paid subscribers or their leader.

What I have discovered, in my self-imposed exile from religion, in order to regain my footing, is that I have had to go all the way back to basics starting with drastically simplifying my faith. I had to scrape off the sticky layers and fine-tune it back to the original child-like belief I had at the very beginning of my walk with Christ. I lopped off the excess baggage that I picked up on every new expedition into redefining what it means to be a true Christian. Further, I had to stop being someone who knows how to use the buzz words, the religious language, and step out of the facade of what is suitably recognized and acceptable as the personae of a born-again Christ follower. And last, but not least, I had to stop believing that everyone who calls him/herself a Christian really is. From that point, I was able to refocus and repair my frayed lifeline to Christ. That's when I had to get quiet, turn down the religious noise, open up the dark corners of my heart for God to search, and get real humble.

I once was lost but now I'm found, was blind but now I see...

In order to make my way back to the peace that passes all understanding, I had to first admit that I had been working so hard at shaping myself into a true Christian I had forgotten that becoming and being a Christian is not about me at all. As I was sorting through all this, I had an epiphany one day, while driving in my car, listening to a new CD called The Love of God by Kenny Rogers. It is a wonderful combination of old gospel songs updated with a couple of new ones. But I'm driving and listening and suddenly I am pierced to my core with a profound ache for the way things used to be; the old faith, the faith that was simple, uncomplicated, just dear hearts believing in God's promise to abide with us even when we struggle and hurt and can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Faith like the old folks who gathered on Sunday mornings and sang What a Friend We Have in Jesus and Leaning on the Everlasting Arm. These were the precious lovers of God who lived their simple faith without a script or formula, the kind that didn't need fleshly strivings to perfection mind/body/soul, thus they were not in constant internal conflict over what to do, what not to do. They weren't perfect, just Dearhearts who trusted like children that God guides us perfectly when we are willing to move over and give Him the wheel.

So, my goal now is to be less an Outcast Christian and more a Dearheart Christian. I want a simple, uncomplicated, no-strings-attached, unwavering faith. I don't need a new religion, established to satisfy a modern view, or a new interpretation founded on reinvention of old law in order to have a relationship with Christ. Neither simple nor complex, I just need an honest heart for Christ and total belief that He is willing and waiting to step in when I am ready to stop making my relationship with Him more about me than Him. I realize this decision to disconnect is a singular personal choice and not for everyone but then that is the real point. True Christianity resides within a heart that hears HIs voice and does, doesn't, goes or stays on His command alone according to His will. When we are truly tuned-in we discover each of us has a dedicated frequency.

Now that's a concept!

1 Corinthians 3:11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.


And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to [his] purpose. Romans 8:28

I know that God challenges me from time to time, to see if I really get it; to see if I have grown up spiritually so that my focus is on what is truly important.

One morning I opened my car door and thought I smelled gasoline. I had just filled the tank the previous day so I assumed that I might have spilled some and it was still lingering. I ran a couple errands and parked my PT back in the garage. The next day the smell of gasoline was heavy enough in the garage that it set off a small alarm tinkling in my head. I decided to take the car in to the local dealership just to see if maybe there was a leak in the gas line. I waited patiently for about 30 minutes and the service manager came in with a look on his face that suggested he was braced for me to swoon or something. He reported, with trepidation, that there was a leak but it was a crack in the joint where the filling tube meets the tank.

Bottomline: I needed a new tank - $650.

Okay, I admit that was not what I was expecting to hear. I also was not expecting him to say I was driving a Molotov cocktail and that I should not drive it off. They did not have the tank in stock and I'd have to leave my Vanilla PT Cruiser Time Bomb for at least a day. Fine then. I called Ron and he came to pick me up. That was on a Thursday.

The next day, late in the afternoon I received a call from the service tech. I was expecting him to say my repaired car was ready to pick up. But no. Apparently the tank that had been ordered from a central warehouse came in defective. It had been manufactured wrong. Filling tube welded on upside down. They would have to have the other two in stock inspected before having another one delivered to the dealership. Okay, obviously that meant my car would remain there over the weekend.

Fine. I wasn't stranded.

Monday came and nearly passed. Mildly aggravated, I finally called the service tech late in the day. I guess the guy just could not bring himself to call me and give me the bad news. The tanks in stock locally were defective too. The only tank in the entire United States that was available was in a warehouse in Minneapolis. It would be shipped. I asked the dumb question, actually thinking it was rhetorical. So, shipping it overnight? Oh no, it will take three days. Three days.

Fine. I wasn't completely stranded.

Late Thursday morning, I get the call, my car was ready to pick up. Finally. Ron dropped me off and we agreed he'd go on to the restaurant and I'd meet him for lunch. I paid the bill, surprise, it turned out to be more than had been originally estimated. When I left the car, one week prior, it had three quarters of a tank of gas but the empty light was glowing orange when I started up the engine. No one apologized for the delay or the faulty manufacturing of the tank, a phenomenon I have yet to figure out. I mean, think about it. You work on an assembly line welding a part to a part all day. How hard is it to correctly weld the part that has two distinct ends? A mystery never to be solved. Regardless, no one said, boy, sorry for this mix-up and having to keep your car for a week and not expediting the shipping of the tank, by the way, sorry for not giving you all your $3 a gallon gas back. As I slipped into the driver's seat I was mulling these things over, turning up the heat so they could all boil together into one big mad soup. And then just as quickly as anger had bubbled up, I suddenly thought of something else.

I thought how lucky I was to be able to pay a $700 bill for a gas tank. I thought about how lucky I was to be able to meet my husband for lunch. Lucky? Did I say lucky? Shoot no, I thought about how blessed I was to know I could go and fill my tank again. How many people are out there right now struggling just to be able to buy food or pay the electric bill? How many people would be completely, totally stranded and unable to have the repair done, perhaps on the only transportation available to them? I was so humbled and even ashamed of myself for giving the smallest amount of time or brain space to petty arrogant thoughts. How dare I? I thought as I pulled away from the dealership. Thank You, Lord.

I recently read a quote that hit me smack between the eyes that got me thinking about this whole thing and neatly summed it up for me:

If money would solve your problem, you don't really have a problem.