Series: The Ego Papers
|Recently five friends and I were studying the gospel of Matthew together. In the discussion time, I gained everyone's attention by announcing that I was god. No one was the least bit impressed! One by one each agreed that they, too, thought they were god! Each of us felt entitled and in charge of our lives and destinies. Our discussion led to a discussion of default religion in today's world. We could not each be god. We had to coexist so we'd negotiate boundaries with all the other gods.|
I often wonder how the one true God manages to rule over all the affairs of our planet when earth is packed with several billion anarchists each wanting to run his or her own life--each wanting to be "god."
I can see this deep-rooted delusion of wanting to be my own god repeatedly in my own life. It crops up often. The fact that I am a powerless and puny god frustrates me, but does not bring about my easy abdication in regard to the "ego on the throne" problem. Pride has two faces--outward arrogance or inward stubbornness--adding to the problem of us becoming humble persons.
I am aware that I know less and less about reality as I grow older. That makes me an even more inept tin god when it comes to running my own life, let alone in influencing others. Does this awareness of my true impotence drive me to the real God for help and strength? Not always! The core of self, and pride, runs very deep in my soul.
Our American culture still promotes the myth that one can achieve just about anything one sets his heart upon doing with his life. Compounding this is the false notion that we each have all sorts of "rights" we supposedly were born with. Our personal "happiness" is supposed to be more important than the well-being and fulfillment of spouse and family. The call to self-sacrifice for the good of the other, or the good of the nation, is fast fading away as a viable concept. It ought to be normative principle in a civilized society, and it once was in our nation not many years ago. Everyone today seems to ignore the fact that "we are all bundled up [together] in the bundle of the living" (1 Samuel 25:29). All our actions, public or private, affect everyone else for good or for ill. But who cares anyway?
In his commentary on Romans, James M. Boice lucidly describes the many ways we all try to hide from God. For instance, "religion" is but one invention of fallen men in our many attempts to redefine God into someone or something other than He really is. Our own view of history and our opinions about ourselves are flattering, neat and tidy compared to the way God sees us. The Lord's descriptions of our race and our continuous deterioration towards oblivion, tell quite a different story.
It seems natural for us all to live in deep denial about the real life and death and sin and judgment issues we ultimately must face whether we like it or not. Even dedicated Christians seem to readily adjust their behavior downward to the lax group norms of the present lukewarm church, irregardless of what God is asking of us. But, "there is no one hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:13). "it is written: 'As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.' So then each of us shall give account of himself to God." (Romans 14:11-12)
The New Testament calls this deep rooted desire we all have to run our own lives "THE lie." It is an old lie. It is the lie of the Garden.
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; "but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'" Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. "For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. (Genesis 3:1-7)
It is too late for us to say "no" to the very first overture the tempter made to our race. The fatal disease of sin and death was something we have all inherited. It is naive to suppose that this deadly disease is cured instantly when we receive Jesus into our lives and allow Him to make us into new men and women from the inside out. For the rest of the our lives our "old self"--the flesh--keeps knocking on the door, wanting to be back in charge all over again.
For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:15-24)
Our race as a whole is actually in full scale rebellion against our Creator and our Judge, the God who is holy, just, and righteous. We even dare God to interfere with any of our hopes, dreams and plans. All this means that Jesus Christ is the most hated man who ever lived This hatred arises because Jesus' life shows us how God intended all men to life--He alone is righteous. Our self-righteousness does not come anywhere near to being good enough for God to put His stamp of approval on how we live these days.
God accepts us as we are when it comes to redemption, but then He begins the long, hard process of turning us inside out--from self-centered to self-giving. I find this knock-down, drag-out, bloody-battle--which the Bible calls "sanctification"--quite uncomfortable at times. I admire Jesus and how He lived, but please God don't make me live like that. ("Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.")
One of my friends noted awhile back that Jesus actually made a huge demand on His disciples at the last Supper when he said,
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you" (John 13:34)
What is new in this commandment is not the part about loving one's neighbor, that is old news, it is the requirement that we love one another in the same way Jesus loves us. We can not come anywhere near to that standard without dying on the cross and surrendering daily to the indwelling Spirit of God.
In my life time I have seen hidden hatred and blasphemy against God come out of the closet and in the clear light of day. One of the characteristics of our age is surely, "There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:18) The Apostle Paul's words to the church at Thessalonica explain that truth heard and rejected is what causes us to default into the lie of the garden and become outwardly opposed to God and His work in the world. Ray Stedman writes,
The coming [literally the parousia, "the presence"] of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)
You may be thinking that these verses do not apply to you.
You are born again and you are going to be caught up before this
happens, therefore it does not concern you. But remember that,
in Verse 7, Paul says "the mystery of lawlessness is already
at work." These verses describe the way evil works in our
world today; it will be made world-wide in that day. But this
is the way evil is working here on our Peninsula right now.
Notice five things are stated: First, its origin is Satan, at work behind the scenes. As Paul says in Ephesians, "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and wicked spirits in high places, the rulers of the darkness of this world," (Ephesians 6:12).
Second, Satan gains a following with counterfeit miracles. We have seen in recent days a revival of interest in healing miracles. Some of them are real (because, if there are some counterfeit, there are also some real) but many of them will be counterfeit. They claim to show God's hand at work, but they are either psychologically or demoniacally inspired. There needs to be great care exercised in this area.
Third, Satan employs various forms of deceptive evil; things that offer what seems good but which are ultimately destructive. We have already listed a number of these -- drugs, alcohol, perverted forms of sexuality, gambling, adulterous affairs, etc. These are always made to look like something wonderful, they seem to offer much, but the end result is pain, heartache and destruction.
Fourth, this approach makes its appeal to those who "refuse to love the truth," who have no time for the Scriptures, who refuse to judge themselves and will not listen to anyone who, even lovingly, tries to point out that what they are doing is wrong. Such people have set their feet upon a downward slant that will end in destruction.
Fifth, this opens the door for the ultimate delusion: They will believe what Scripture calls "the lie." The RSV puts this too lightly: "make them believe what is false." Literally, it is "the lie." The lie that has been propagated from the very beginning; the lie that was found in the Garden of Eden and has been in the world ever since. It is the lie that says, "You can be God in your own world. Really! You can run your own life. You can do whatever you want." That is "the lie," and that is what people everywhere today are believing. That, says the apostle, will become a world-wide condition under the influence of this evil person who is called the "Man of lawlessness." It is humanism, the worship of man, in its ultimate form. (Ray Stedman)
Often, when answering email from people who insist that their way is an alternate way to know God (bypassing Jesus), I think of Paul's single-hearted devotion and service to the one true God and to one true Lord.
For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. However, there is not in everyone that knowledge" (1 Corinthians 8:5-7)
Psalm 82 is also a refreshing reminder to me of Who is really in charge:
God stands in the congregation of the mighty;
He judges among the gods.
How long will you judge unjustly,
And show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Defend the poor and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Deliver the poor and needy;
Free them from the hand of the wicked.
They do not know, nor do they understand;
They walk about in darkness;
All the foundations of the earth are unstable.
I said, "You are gods,
And all of you are children of the Most High.
But you shall die like men,
And fall like one of the princes."
Arise, O God, judge the earth;
For You shall inherit all nations.
Notes on Romans with quote from James Boice
On Human Pride by Ray Stedman
Expository Sermons on Genesis by Ray Stedman
The Fire Next Time, (2 Thessalonians 1), by Ray Stedman
The Man who Claims to be God, by Ray Stedman
Stand Firm, by Ray Stedman, (2 Thessalonians 2-3)
Mad Man or God-Man, by Ray Stedman, (John 10 and Psalm 82)
Bible Classes: I am thoroughly enjoying teaching through what Ray Stedman called "the clean pages of the Bible," at my home church, PBC, on Sunday mornings. We finished Ezekiel and are now near the end of Daniel. Notes and mp3 audio files are on my web site. My men's group, the Wednesday Brothers of Thunder (a "leaderless" core group) is launching into Luke's gospel now. Every other Thursday I am with the Prodigal Project folks in the Haight-Ashbury teaching Romans. Saturday mornings our class in the Crusade House at San Jose State University is continuing in John's gospel. (6/15/2004.)
Recent Additions: New articles on my web site are added regularly--near the top of my home page.
Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, That
it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear.
2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
3 For your hands are defiled with blood, And
your fingers with iniquity;
Your lips have spoken lies, Your tongue has muttered perversity.
4 No one calls for justice, Nor does any plead for truth.
They trust in empty words and speak lies;
They conceive evil and bring forth iniquity.
5 They hatch vipers' eggs and weave the spider's
web; He who eats of their eggs dies,
And from that which is crushed a viper breaks out.
6 Their webs will not become garments, Nor will they cover themselves with their works;
Their works are works of iniquity, And the act of violence is in their hands.
7 Their feet run to evil, And they make haste
to shed innocent blood;
Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity;
Wasting and destruction are in their paths.
8 The way of peace they have not known, And
there is no justice in their ways;
They have made themselves crooked paths; Whoever takes that way shall not know peace.
9 Therefore justice is far from us, Nor does
righteousness overtake us;
We look for light, but there is darkness! For brightness, but we walk in blackness!
10 We grope for the wall like the blind, And we grope as if we had no eyes;
We stumble at noonday as at twilight; We are as dead men in desolate places.
11 We all growl like bears, And moan sadly
We look for justice, but there is none; For salvation, but it is far from us.
12 For our transgressions are multiplied before You, And our sins testify against us;
For our transgressions are with us, And as for our iniquities, we know them:
13 In transgressing and lying against the LORD,
And departing from our God, Speaking oppression and revolt,
Conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.
14 Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands afar off;
For truth is fallen in the street, And equity cannot enter.
15 So truth fails, And he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.
16 Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased
Him That there was no justice.
He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor;
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.
17 For He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing,
And was clad with zeal as a cloak.
18 According to their deeds, accordingly He
Fury to His adversaries, Recompense to His enemies;
The coastlands He will fully repay.
19 So shall they fear The name of the LORD
from the west,
And His glory from the rising of the sun;
When the enemy comes in like a flood,
The Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him.
20 "The Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob," Says the LORD.
21 "As for Me," says the LORD, "this
is My covenant with them:
My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth,
nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants' descendants,"
says the LORD, "from this time and forevermore."
Simon Peter is known for his legendary faux pas. He said things he shouldn’t have said. And he openly denied the Lord not once, not twice, but three times.
But, Peter took steps that led to his fall, which we can learn from and avoid. Let’s put ourselves in Peter’s sandals for a moment. We’re just hanging out with Jesus in the Upper Room, and He seems very serious, very intense.
Then He turns to you and uses your name twice before He says, “Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you” (Luke 22:31–32 NLT).
Now, that would cause me to worry. The Devil can only be in one place at one time, but the Devil himself came looking for Peter.
However, Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you” (verse 33 NLT).
Jesus told him, “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me” (verse 34 NLT).
This brings us to Peter’s first step down. This particular attitude is at the very root of it all when anyone stumbles or when anyone falls away from the faith. Regardless of the particular sin they’re involved in, it always starts with self-confidence.
When we think, “I'll never do that,” we’re trusting in ourselves instead of trusting in God. The Bible says, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 NLT).
We should be aware of our weakness, vulnerability, and propensity to do the wrong thing. We can easily give into temptation if we’re not careful.
The moment that we think we know it all, we probably know a lot less than we think we know. A wise Christian, a growing Christian, will realize there is always so much to learn.
Web Archive for newsletters
Originated 6/15/04. Updated 5/21/21