False Self Syndrome
What is False Self Syndrome? In an article entitled "Deceived" we identified a condition that we called "false self-syndrome." In this article, I propose to define this condition and make some preliminary observations concerning its causes and its cures.
What then is false-self syndrome? Put simply it is a condition that makes sufferers think that they are independent selves. When full-blown, the condition leaves its victims in such a highly deluded state that they actually believe themselves capable of living the Christian life. This condition persists because of what one might call Artificial Independence, that is, the illusion that we are independent self-operating persons. We are not, yet man in his vanity believes that he is a moral free agent. However, the truth is that he is not, nor ever will be, neutral as Romans 6:15-18 clearly demonstrates:
When we were lost we were slaves to sin? Now that we are saved we are slaves to righteousness
What is startling is that well-intentioned ministers inciting their members to live for God are spreading this virus in churches. How ironic that as these men and women earnestly seeks to live a holy life their very ambition is unwittingly causing them to sin. Attempting to live the Christian life is sin for the sum of all sin is self-reliance.
Pseudo-independence is the perennial problem of man, regardless of whether he is lost or saved. I n the case of the lost man, the symptoms are obvious; the false self manifests itself in forms of self-reliance and use of others to achieve his own ends. However, in the case of the saved man the symptoms are harder to detect, buried as they are beneath the plausible veneer of works-righteousness. Nonetheless, regardless of outward appearances, he too is reliant upon himself to live his life. However, because he apparently does it all in the name of God he is greatly admired by the church and is seen as a paragon of selfless living. The religious man has a disagreeable tendency to ascribe to the former the name the lost man the title "unrighteous" however, the formers ready riposte is to brand his accuser as being "self-righteous." These descriptions are of course valid and are descriptive of the false self. What neither of them define is the true or real self which as we have suggested elsewhere is to be found in Christ-righteousness and Christ-righteousness is Jesus through self not "Self" less Jesus. It is this that Jesus alluded to [Matthew 13:34-35] and Paul explained [Col 1:27] - the hidden secret: namely that for the redeemed man separation is an illusion. [J 15:5] We are no longer wrong persons, false flesh people but now we are right persons, true Spirit people.
False-Self Syndrome is a universal problem, bridging the divide between lost and saved. Experientially the lost/saved divide is not anything like as wide as one might suspect. Whilst their destinations and aspirations are different, their modus operandi is the same -"self." The only difference is that one is unashamedly self-living-for-self, where the other unabashed self-righteously, is self-living for God. Both groups put their confidence in the flesh [self] and both groups must see this confidence shipwrecked if they are to make spiritual progress. There is so often a disturbing smugness among those who "have religion" borne of cultivating a righteousness that comes from the law [Phil3: 9]. However, true righteousness is that which comes not from the law but through THE FAITH of Jesus [Phil 3:9]
Christ Righteousness: Faith in God, Phil 3:9; Gal 2:20 [faith of God] = Christ righteousness. His faith in Himself manifested in you Mk 11:24
Self-Righteousness Faith in self and what we can do for God - a false righteousness that comes through the law [Phil 3:9]
What is Righteousness?
So far, we have spoken about three types of "righteousness" but it is worth pausing to ask the question, "What is righteousness?" In essence to be righteous is to have attained right-standing with God or to be justified. Of the New Testament writers, Paul in particular places a tremendous emphasis on how righteousness is attained [and maintained [Col 2:6]. In the negative sense it cannot be attained or maintained through the law [Gal 2:16; Gal: 2:21; Tit 3:4-5] Righteousness comes from Christ alone [1 Cor 1:30; Romans 3:19-28; Romans 10:1-4] We have received the free gift of righteousness [Romans 5:17]. Thus we may assert a precious truth of our mystical union with the Lord, namely, that by faith we are made righteous not simply right with God but the righteousness of God [2 Cor 5:21]. The Christian life is not something that you cultivate it is something that you contain for the Christ life is the life of Christ expressing itself through human agencies -His living His life in us for each other
In view of this, Paul is only too willing to jettison any notion of self-confidence, counting all that he had accumulated on account of the flesh to be as rubbish" for the surpassing knowledge of knowing Jesus. The same "prize" awaits all those who exchange self-confidence, [that is confidence in the flesh] for Christ-confidence and the new self.
Diagnosing the Condition
The only cure for both parties is for both parties to be brought face to face with their utter bankruptcy. Until and unless we are as convinced of our inability to live the Christian life as we are of our inability to save ourselves we will never be free of this delusional condition and able to experientially live in the power of His ability [Col 1:29; Phil 2:11-13]. Therefore, recognition of your inability is the key to experiencing His ability. Man, saved or lost, must become conscious of his total inadequacy. Each one must have his Job moment and recognize his parlous condition.
Perhaps it would be appropriate for us to ask ourselves at this juncture whether we have any of the symptoms of this condition. A few simple diagnostic questions ought to be sufficient:
Do you have a tendency toward self-reliance? Are you self-consciousness? Are you sin-consciousness? Are you law-consciousness? Are you right and wrong consciousness? Are you good and bad consciousness? Is your self worth based on what other people think of you?
Is There a Cure?
Most of us, without fear of being branded hypochondriacs can recognise some or even all of the above. The question then is, can anything be done about it? Is there a cure? To that we answer emphatically "Yes there is." However, candidly one must also admit that God's prescription can taste rather unpleasant.
We must first see that the root problem is sin and we must see that the root of sin is independence. Much of the trouble with our modern day discipleship is that it is pre-occupied with sin and sinning, whereas discipleship is concerned with the invasion of life, not the intrusion of sin.
Moreover, if, as we suggest, the core problem is the independent self then the remedy is to know the Christ-dependent-self. The remedy gives rise to the core strategy, which is to convince us of our total need of Him. This He does by exposing us to the futility of self. It is imperative then that we fail and fail spectacularly in our attempts to live the Christian life. Failure and disillusionment create in us "a godly grief that leads to repentance that leads to salvation, without regret." [2 Cor 7:10] Once persuaded of our total inadequacy we are ready to be introduced to The Person who is our adequacy and "infinite supply."
The Divine Antidote
Many Christians have suffered shipwreck believing that the saying "God will not give you more than you can bear" is Biblical, it is not. In fact, it is profoundly unbiblical. In fact, God is committed to giving you more than you can bear. Think back over your own life. Consider for a moment the things that managed to halt the otherwise relentless progress of yourself life, are they not:
Disillusionment with the meaninglessness of life ?Suffering Problems that are bigger than our ability to solve them ?And of course in the case of the self-righteous an inability to keep God's Law
Peter called it a "strange life" urging us not to be dismayed, as we are refined in the furnace. The Psalmist called it the Valley of Baca [Ps 84] and made it a spring. James counselled us to "Count it all joy" [Jas 1:1] Paul told us to "rejoice in our sufferings" [Romans 5:2]. These were men who saw through .they saw the core problem - self and did not yield to the need for relief at any cost or self-protection at any price. They embraced it seeing in the midst the author and perfecter and finisher of their faith as he applied the sandpaper of suffering & the Law to their lives to reveal Himself in them - the real self and raise them up to the third dimension where He is seated in heavenly realms.
1. Suffering: "Only fools don't suffer gladly"
The perennial question of the "separationist" is this - "Why do the righteous suffer?" Many have supposed that the book of Job seeks to answer that question. However, that is not the question that is posed by Job's story. The question asked in that extraordinary tale is not "Why do the righteous suffer?" but "Why do the righteous serve God?" see articles " God's Not Deaf ".
What was Satan, the father of the independent separated self's cynical answer to that question? - "Does Job fear God for nothing?" [Job 1:10] "He fears you," argued Satan "because you bless him." In other words, he serves you because there is something in it for Job. Remove the blessing and Job will curse you and embrace the self-life. What follows is forty-two agonizing chapters in which he sees the loss of all things. Moreover, Job has to endure the maddening self-righteousness of his "comforters" which finally incites him to demand an audience with God to question His integrity in His dealing with him. The story finally culminates in his coming to union "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you and therefore I despise myself." [Job 42:5-6]
Herein lies the key to God's dealings with us. We must draw back from our tendency to see evil and the devil's purposes advancing against us. The Devil is God's devil; he can only accomplish God's purposes [Gen 50:24]. Seeing God in our circumstances requires an ability to see through our circumstances. We must become fixed in the conviction that all things work together for good for those who love God" [Roms 8:28] and see that the apparently negative "all-things" are the tools of the divine trade useful for conforming us into His image and likeness" [Roms 8:29]
What is Suffering?
By definition, suffering means to experience something we consider "bad." Typically, we might tend to associate suffering with evil and almost invariably; we regard it as something to be rebuked. In the illusory life, it is to be avoided at all costs. With delightful economy Norman Grubb defines suffering as "what we don't like." However, as we have seen when men and women come to know union they are able to speak of suffering in radically different and to the "separationists" perverse terms. None more so than Paul, who, if one did not understand union might be forgiven for thinking he was a fanatic: "For it has been granted to you for the sake of Christ that you should only believe in Him, but also suffer for His sake." [Phil 1:29]
However, as we see this is the way of the cross. So why does God allow suffering to come in to our lives, when it appears to be such an unwelcome intruder? Paul explains the conundrum for us in his most intimate of letters to his beloved Corinthian church [2 Cor 2:8-10]. Providing them with a shocking insight he describes his "terrible afflictions" confiding in them that he and his companions were "utterly burdened" so much so that Paul admits that he "despaired of life itself." Why? What possible benefit could there be to Paul, God, or the advance of the Gospel in this suffering? What are we to conclude - is God perverse? Is He capricious? No, he is not, then, what is the point. Paul explains.. But this was to make us not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead."
Later in the same correspondence, he reiterates the point when he discloses to the church his "thorn" [2 Cor 12:7] it is to much regret that voluminous amounts have been written on the identity of the "thorn." However, if Paul had wanted us to know what it was he would have told us; instead he wanted to draw our attention to why it was: "So to keep me from being too elated because of the surpassing revelations, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness."
We could develop this theme but it is sufficient for the scope of this article to make that immutable point - suffering exposes self-reliance.
2. The Law: "Indecent Exposure"
So then we see the core strategy of suffering employed as an antidote to the core problem self-reliance. Now we will see how the same objective is achieved by the imposition of the Law.
To the self-righteous what follows will almost inevitably seem virtually blasphemous. However, we maintain that the Lord God gave us the Law not in order for us to keep it and therefore live and not die, but in order that we would fail miserably to keep it; see ourselves as dead and find life. The purpose of the Law is to help the self-reliant man recognize his need of Christ.
Thus, it has an application in the lives of both the unrighteous and the self-righteous, but never the Christ righteous.
"The law was a tutor to lead us to Christ."Gal 3:24. It is apparent from the writings of Paul that the law is for the self-reliant man whether he is of the unrighteous or self-righteous variety.
Romans 3:19, Romans 4:15, Romans 5:13, 1 Tim 1:8-10
It is ironic that the "separationist" views the law [or worse still the Sermon on the Mount] as a "credit-score" in the eyes of God. He believes that adherence to the law will make him a right person - it will not. Moreover, its stated purpose is in fact precisely the opposite; the law was designed to expose us as wrong persons by bringing to our consciousness knowledge of sin.
Romans 3:20, Romans 5:20, Romans 7:7, Gal 3:19, Gal 3:23-24
It is sufficient for the moment to say that God did not give us the law because He thought we could keep it. He neither needed us to nor expected us to. On the contrary, He knew that we would not keep it because He knew that we could not keep it. Moreover, far from preventing man from sinning the law actually incites him to sin [Romans 7:8-9], creating in him a desperation that begs the question, "How can it be that "the good that I want [and have vowed] to do, I cannot do? Worse, the very thing that he disdained the unrighteous man for doing, this he also does. Through a tumultuous struggle, he comes at length to the end of himself. Broken and defeated there is no place else for him to go."Who [not what he has exhausted all the what's and how- to's] wretched man that I am WHO can save me - Then, the great cloud burst of assurance comes. "Thanks be to God, for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death for what the law could not do weakened as it was by the sinful nature God DID!" [Roms 8:1-2]
Purpose of the Law
The purpose of the law was to reveal God's standard of holiness, not ours and to expose to us our total need of Him.
"For through the law I died to the law so that I might live to God." Gal 2:19
The alternative to living to God is, inevitably, living to self. The word to is both directional and indicative of the source, which we live in reference to. So even the pious, religious man who ostensibly seems to be the model Christian citizen is living in sin as long as he has not died to the law.
Paul uses the same formula in Romans 6:10, "The death He died He died TO sin, [as an indwelling principle and governing authority] once, for all; but the life He lives He lives TO God. [As an indwelling principle and governing authority]. So you also must consider yourselves dead TO sin but alive TO God in Christ." We must see that a person cannot live to God and live to the Law simultaneously. In order to no longer be sin conscious you must no longer be law conscious.
Thus, God medicates the condition known as False Self Syndrome by prescribing "Gos-pills [to steal a phrase] of both suffering and the law. We may well ask how long do we need to remain on this course of medication - To which I must reluctantly answer that that entirely depends on the individual. It takes as long as it takes until we finally see not only whose, but who we are. It takes as long as it takes us to no longer be self-conscious but to become "Christ in me conscious. " Until that which is mortal (soulish) is swallowed up by that which is life (new life, Spirit) 2 Cor 5:4
In summary we can identify three types of righteousness that are exposed by suffering & the Law:
1. The unrighteousness of man
2. The self-righteousness of man.
3. The righteousness of God
Or to put it another way:
1. Unrighteousness: Disregarding God's ?standard of righteousness
2. Self-righteousness: Imitating God's standard of righteousness
3. The righteousness of God: Christ
In coming to union man passes through four often traumatic but indispensable phases of consciousness & unconsciousness.
In the corporate world, these phases are parralled in a matrix known as "The four Levels of competence". Competence is a most helpful word to describe the goal of discipleship, which is the process of making "safe sons." To be competent is to have the ability and authority to do what is required.
1. Unconsciously incompetent: We don't know what we don't know.
2. Consciously incompetent: We know what we don't know.
3. Consciously competent: We know what we know.
4. Unconsciously competent We don't know what we do know - we have become ONE with it.
In our matrix I have introduced a 5th dimension which I intend to unpack in an article entitled "Convicted". It is here at the 5th dimension that the believer will discover the true extent of his authority in Christ. For the moment, it is sufficient for us to provide a viable definition of union life - our becoming One with Him [Jn17:23]. We have become mixed with and now live a blended life. No longer self, sin or anything else conscious we are Christo-centric Love conscious; conscious and sensitized only to NEED, not as before, ours but now the needs of others. As adopted sons we have become adapted sons - true sons of God and have been elevated into the 3rd dimension life; the life of the Royal Priest. Freed from the false-self, perfect love having cast out fear a new self-confidence emerges, not a confidence in self but a confidence in the new self - the joined self. Able at last to accept myself without inhibition or apology standing with Paul and say, "by the grace of God I am what I am." [1 Cor 15:10]
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