In the half-a-year since my last post, I have continued to walk with Him, and have been spared much self-exaltation by the input of people in my life who keep me grounded in Gospel reality. Getting Covid, being in a time of some “transition” in my life, and also experiencing relational abundance that I have long desired has recently brought me to an all-too-familiar temptation of self-aggrandizement and self-righteousness. I am sure others struggle with this too, but for me it looks like having pretend conversations with people that make me feel good about myself. This bad habit has led me into temptations of more practical natures such as indulging in lusts of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life that leads to treating others carelessly and unlovingly. This most recent time, I recognized I was turning inwards on myself, trying to assuage feelings of sadness and by journaling, I marked the pathway out.
I believe God has given us tools to manage and combat the sin in our internal world that arises from within all us. If you would like to follow me, I will show you the path from self-pleasing thoughts, to God-pleasing thoughts. The person who spends his time pouring over his own private treasures of achievements and accolades, and bases his view of himself upon them is a very poor man who has little experience of the Love of God in his life. And it is the Love of God that our hearts are truly seeking.
Here is the way back to God if you have fallen or some later day fall into this trap.
- Repent, looking to the Lord. The most terrible thing about pride is it gets our eyes off of God and places them onto ourselves or that thing in which we take pride. The first step to any right orientation of the heart is the re-placing of the sight upon the face of Jesus in the Scripture. Seeking His face, His grace, His love, His truth. Without this, one is trying to find his way out of a room blind.
- Confess the fantasies and my pride in them. Let’s say I had a fantasy of someone who I thought didn’t like me very much. This person in the fantasy is in danger, and I save their life. If I was to rehearse this fantasy often so that my heart got used to a feeling of superiority over their appreciation, when I engage with that person in real life, it has happened that I find myself dissatisfied with the reality of the exchange at the heart level. It is a fantasy that my heart has wanted to believe to be true, because my heart wants to accumulate more worth to itself. It becomes a lie when I choose to desire that reality over the reality God has given me to live in the Gospel. In other words, when I indulge my heart in good feelings over a fantasy of people’s praise, I base my heart on my own imagination and I become puffed up and I “lose connection with the head.” (Colossians 2:19) This sets me up for the same failure of any member of the body that is powerlessly disconnected from the brain. I say all of this because it may not be immediately obvious what is wrong with fantisy. To imagine it is not necessarily wrong if it’s not in violation of God’s moral will, but the way the heart takes the fantasy and uses it to ascribe worth to itself: this is the wrong. The only true standard of worth that the heart should take pleasure and delight in, is conformity to the image of Christ Jesus. And so, I lay out the fantasy before God, and acknowledge my pride in that self-created smokescreen. This is because “In all your ways acknowledge God, He’ll make your path straight.” (Proverbs 3:6) God can only straighten us out, if we are willing to be straight with Him.
- Take each fantasy and feeling and self-thought captive to the obedience of Christ. This is where we can use our imagination against our pride. Jesus said, “Take up your cross daily, and follow me.” So, ever Christian has a tool to put to death their old life, and to remind them of their present life, and the promise of their future life. The Cross is this very tool. It is that which a Christian carries with them, until the time God has appointed them to set it up and give their life as a representation of Christ. It is the very thing that separates Christians from non-Christians, and it is a stage of Christian development that not every Christian attains, but this is how the Cross can be the answer to any sin struggle. In this case, what I like to do is use my imagination to picture my Cross. It’s usually laying down on the rocks in a dark-cloudy place. I see my fantasy stretched out on the cross, and take a hammer in my hand and nail the fantasy to the cross for it to die. I usually incorporate a tangible bodily action like swinging my hand with a make believe hammer in it, because fantasy touches reality through our emotion’s impact on our bodies. The reverse is also true. Reality touches fantasy through our bodily actions impact on our emotions. And so, when I take a fantasy, let’s say pictured as my idea about the way a person should feel appreciative toward me, and I nail it, it’s not like I am wishing evil upon that person. It is my acknowledging that this thought of them is unworthy of them, and must be dealt with. Not only this, but it is unworthy of Christ. And the Cross is the Gate by which anything inside us or outside of us can be given to God as a sacrifice. If God wishes our heart, or our imagination about something to be spared, then He can resurrect it for His glory by the leading of the Holy Spirit. Once this step is taken, I find that there is an emotional response like loss or a sadness over the fantasy given up, but this is where the heart must take the next step.
- Thank God for the good things that remain. Whenever I have done this, I have found that God gives me great clarity about the things that are of Him vs the things that are of me. The things that remain still alive after all is nailed to the Cross are things are of God, and therefore worthy of giving Him thanks. The things that are of me are temporary, but the things that are of God are eternal. And when I thank God, I anchor my heart’s sight upon the Lord, by recognizing God’s goodness in the things that are from Him, through Him, and to Him. (Romans 11:36). To Him be the glory forever.
- Worship, delight, and rejoice in Him. O the joy of leaving behind the worthless and vain things of our own heart-idolatry! Our hearts grow so unhappy simply because we are so determined to want anything and everything short of God Himself. But when our eyes are on God, we feel based on His truth, His gospel, His love, then we have an overflowing cup of eternal joy that will spread to every area of our life. This eternality of Joy is the secret on the other side of the Cross a Christian carries. The source of every dissatisfaction in a believer’s life, is anything un-crucified, or un-surrendered to his or her new Master. But in obedience and submission to Him, a human being finds his purpose fulfilled, and all his life is as it should be until he hear those precious words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)
May you and I find our deepest delight in the One whom our hearts were designed to worship.