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.

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