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Sunday, November 06, 2005

SELF: ish or less

A great emphasis is being placed on the self. Self-help, self-esteem, self-consciousness, self-awareness, self-reliance, self-confidence, self-respect, self-realization, getting to know ourselves.

Self-help: In such an ungiving world no one will help us. In our attempt at self-help we should
help ourselves to whatever we want.
Self-esteem: Who is worthier than we to be regarded with respect, to have a high value set upon them? After all who is more important than we are? We are above all.
Self-consciousness (self-awareness): What other knowledge do we need but our own? What do we need to be aware of but ourselves, our wants and needs?
Self-reliance (self-confidence): We can’t trust anyone to provide for us, or depend on them to be there for us. Only we will provide by our own strength.
Self-respect: Though no one respects us, we must respect ourselves because we are worthy, even if we respect no one else.
Self-realization: We must realize our true selves, our limitless potential. We must realize the wonderful people that we really are deep down.
Getting to know ourselves: We must get to know ourselves because we are a mystery to ourselves. The terrible things we do are not the real us. Deep down we are good, even divine.

Is there really a need to get to know ourselves? After all who have we been since the day of our births but ourselves? We say that we need to get to know ourselves when in reality we do know ourselves, we just dislike who we are and what we see when we look at ourselves honestly. We tell ourselves that it couldn’t possibly be the real us, we tell ourselves that hidden deep down inside we are good people. Not so, we are who we are right now, not the wonderful person that we used to be, or the wonderful person that we plan to be at some point in the future.

True self-realization is looking at ourselves honestly, to realize that we are the person we dislike, the lazy, angry, petty, sad, lost person or even the so-so person.

True self-consciousness is having the inward knowledge about the fact that we are lost sinners in need of a savior. Therefore, how can we expect self-help, when we prove to ourselves that we cannot help ourselves in any sort of permanent way. How can we rely on ourselves, when we constantly let ourselves down? Moreover, how can we have any sort of self-respect and have any right to self-esteem.

All these concerns for the self add up to selfishness. This self-involvement is the origins of original sins, the sin of the father of sins, the sin that caused one third of the angels to fall.

Consider the lesson taught by Jesus concerning pride:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this
tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I posses.’ The tax
collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but
beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man
went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts
himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke

It seems that one of the main difference between the Christians and secularists, saved and lost, goats and sheep is that while we all look deep within ourselves and see the same things this self-realization produces very different results.

When some people see what is really there the filth, the sin, the wrong, the evil, they tell themselves that this cannot possibly be the real me they are sure that deep down inside they truly are good people, though all evidence is to the contrary. Some consider themselves divine, therefore in seeing their true selves they are sure that they have been corrupted by this world from their lofty position as higher beings.
In these cases a person seeks further and deeper within to find their true selves, this often involves all kinds of occult exercises and beliefs. Moreover, because deep down they are good and divine beings they place themselves in the position of ultimate authority. They are the ones who decide right from wrong, good from evil, even the nature and actions of God, if, they choose to believe in a power higher than themselves. They decide between all things by their emotions, by pure subjectivity. This is especially true of the new age beliefs of the enlightened.
Yet, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Others have the very same experience of looking within and finding the very same things yet they will see the truth which is that deep down there is nothing more than more filth. In this case they are honest enough to admit that they do not belong in the place of ultimate authority, that they are not at all divine, and that there is no salvation to come from the Self but is to come from the Lord God Almighty Jesus Christ. We are all God’s creation, however we are not all God’s children. We are not basically good people who do some bad things, rather we are basically bad people who do some good things.

My wife and I did not have to teach our children to be greedy—we had to teach them to share. We did not have to teach them to lie—we had to teach them to be truthful. We did not have to teach them to cry until they get what they want—we had to teach them to be patient and understanding.
Some look to themselves for the ultimate answers to life, death, sin and the divine. Others look to God who can, will, and does answer all these things and more. Yet, it is we who must ask.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).

The Rise and Fall of lucifer:
Sometimes our selfish ambition comes from being down in the dumps, sometimes from being high and mighty and feeling as if we pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps. Sometimes it’s from being high and mighty but feeling as if we are not high enough. “Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty (disdainfully proud), and before honor is humility” (Proverbs 18:12).

Once a Holy angel of God, Lucifer had not only all that the world had to offer, but all that the one living, giving, loving, God has to offer. Regarding Lucifer’s status, sin, outcasting, and eventual demise, God reveals through Ezekiel:

“You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created.
You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of the fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. By the abundance of your trading you became filled with violence within, and you sinned; therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God; and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones.
Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, that they might gaze at you. You defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your trading; therefore I brought fire from your midst; it devoured you, and turned you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who saw you.
All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; you have become a horror, and shall be no more forever” (Ezekiel 28:12-19).
God also reveals through Isaiah details regarding Lucifer’s sin and demise, when he is finally stripped of his self-image as an all powerful, vicious, beast, when all that will be left is a pathetic, defeated, little dark angel:

“Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, and the sound of your stringed instruments; the maggot is spread under you, and worms cover you. How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’
Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit. Those who see you will gaze at you, and consider you saying: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world as a wilderness and destroyed its cities, who did not open the house of his prisoners?’

All the kings of the nations, all of them, sleep in glory, everyone in his own house; but you are cast out of your grave like an abominable branch, like the garment of those who are slain, thrust through with a sword, who go down to the stones of the pit, like a corpse trodden underfoot” (Isaiah 14:11-19).

Why am I badgering self-concern, and all the selfish issues I’ve been going on about? Notice how many times Lucifer aggrandizes himself with his “I will” statements. Pride is war against God, a fight we have lost the moment we take up its cause. “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:16).

God often warns us of the dangers of this self-concern, and voices His displeasure towards it because it take the thanks and esteem from whom it rightly belongs, the Lord God Himself.

Nebuchadnezzar “was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. The king spoke, saying, ‘Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?’ While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you!…until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses’” (Daniel 4:29-32).

“The Lord said to Gideon, ‘The people who are with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against me, saying; ‘My own hand has saved me’” (Judges 7:2).

“Do not think in your heart, after the LORD your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘because of my own righteousness the LORD has brought me In to posses this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out from before you” (Deuteronomy 9:4).

YAHWEH-YIREH: The LORD Will ProvideJesus the Messiah said, “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The whole of human history shows how God provides for us. His love and giving to us is beyond comprehension. To list even just the things that the human mind could actually conceive of we would have to use all the worlds oceans as ink and cut down all the trees on earth to make pens.
We would fill the planet with writings giving thanks and praises to God yet, we would still fall far short of expressing the glory He deserves. He is the only one who can and does truly deliver, He is the one to rely on, the one to get to know, to be conscious of, to esteem highly. “Adonai is my strength and shield; in him my heart trusted, and I have been helped. Therefore my heart is filled with joy, and I will sing praises to him” (Psalm 28:7).[1]

God not only provides the little things like the universe, a habitable planet under our feet, and life. He established a day of rest. He provided a ram to be sacrificed in Isaac’s place. He provided freedom from slavery in Egypt, and escape through the Red Sea. During the Exodus God provided cool shade by day as a cloud-pillar overhead, and warmth and light by night as a pillar of fire. He provided food, water, and kept the clothes from wearing out.
He provided victory in battle when the Hebrews relied on Him. He provided a land flowing with milk and honey, “A land with large flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant” (Deuteronomy 6:11).

Solomon relied on God as He prayed, “…Give therefore your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between right and wrong for who is able to judge this great people of yours” (1st Kings 3:9). God provides, “Behold I have done according to what you asked. I have given you a wise and understanding heart…and I have also given you that which you did not ask for, both riches and honor, so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings” (1st Kings 3:12-13).

The ultimate provision made by God is payment for the sin of the world. When men could not be relied on to live godly lives God Himself humbled Himself to dwell among us and become the sacrifice for the sin of the world. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall never perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
When the apostles could not be relied on to provide for the needy, Christ takes it upon Himself to feed the multitudes. When the experience fishermen could not catch a single fish, Christ shows them where to throw the net. Christ promise to give us rest from this world of entropy, from work, pain and sorrow. Christ gives us the Holy Spirit to renew and empower us.

Consider the following, a mere 20 verses of scripture and yet a wonderful example of God’s concern, provision and protection. As well as warnings against arrogance, selfishness and taking credit for that which God has done.

“Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers. And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.
So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bred alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you. Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.
For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; A land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; A land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.
Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His Judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, Lest-when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; And when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; When your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock;
Who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end-Then you say in your heart, ‘My power and might of my hand gained me this wealth.’ And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 8:1-20).

A popular saying is money is the root of all evil. How could this be since money is just something that humans give value to; gold, goods, sea shells, etc. The Bible thus properly states, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1st Timothy 6:10).
But apparently, selfishness is the root of all evil. The self esteem movement is perhaps the most dangerous movement in the world. It produces undeserved kudos. It tells us to feel good about ourselves even if, in reality, there is nothing to feel good about.
It tells us that we are good people, whether or not the preponderance of the evidence would disagree. It is a psychological fa├žade. A sociological charade. It promises rewards that are undeserved. It bestows exaltation without merit.
Isaiah 53:3, prophesying Jesus states that “…we esteemed Him not.” Let us turn from esteeming ourselves to esteeming Jesus as John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

“For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope”
Jeremiah 29:11

[1] David H. Stern, The Complete Jewish Bible (Clarksville, Maryland: Jewish New Testament Publication, Inc., 1998), p. 815

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