Broken, Lesson 8: Worship of Self

Narcissus (610x352)These are a series of lessons adapted from Jonathan Fisk’s book, Broken.  All are encouraged buy Broken to get the full content in the book.

 

Never follow a rule to justify yourself. Seriously

The 7th rule every Christian should break as often as possible is this: The worship of yourself.

 

Seven Degrees of You

In the earlier lessons of this series, we’ve explored various spiritual lies, each one unique, yet each one based on the same undercurrent.  From the godlike qualities of reason to searching for gods in religiosity, from the temptress of Mysticism to her offspring, Pragmatism, we have peered into our terrible addiction to sinning.  We have analyzed our inbred habit of taking God’s creation and misusing it in the worst possible way: to justify ourselves.  In so doing, we have mapped out six faulty rules of a fake Christianity:

Name

Idol

Rule

Mysticism

Emotion

You can find God in   your heart

Moralism

Vocation

You can find God in   what you do

Rationalism

Reason

You can find God in   your mind

Prosperity

Material Things

You can find God in   the world

Spirituality

Religiosity

You can find God in   the ideal church program or church

Lawlessness

Freedom

You can find God in   God’s absence

Do you now see it?  The final “Christian” rule every Christian should break as often as possible completes the pattern.  Lurking within the other lies, it is the same assumption, the same rule Satan first invented, the rule that first caused the fall.  It is the rule that kept Lucifer fighting on, even after he found himself hurled headlong like flaming lightning.  It is the rule that gave him the inner strength to cast his eyes upward from the depths of hell with the vow to rise somehow, someway, by his own self-made efforts.  Its name and its idol are the same: It is you.  But it’s more: It’s also the deception that somehow, someway, “You can find God.”

The Ever-Lie: The belief that you find God.  The bogus “Christian” rule behind all other bogus “Christian” rules, then, is nothing more than worship of yourself.

It is preached everywhere.  “You be the judge.”  “You make the call.”  “Your heart, your hands, your mind, your stuff, your willingness, your belief.”

-       Discuss: Trace how all the rules so far are only different “spices” or “flavors” of the same, single “rule.”

 

Death is Always Earned

Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We don’t just do sin.  We are fused with it.  That means we are born without original righteousness, inherited from our first parents.  The true fear of God and pure trust in Him as God do not naturally flow from our hearts.  In fact, it’s the opposite.

Even the infant, from his first moment, is full of selfish passions and the inclination to believe he is the most-significant person in the world.  This is not an action that the baby commits.  This is an innate disease, the disease that is the primal cause of every death.

Are infants sinners?  Yes.  How do you know?  Because infants die.

-       What does this truth testify about the “age of accountability?”

 

This inheritance is truly sin.  The Church Fathers called it “concupiscence,” and it is more truly sin than any of the actual sins you commit in your entire life.  It is the cause of all those other sins.  So horrific, so terrible is this sickness that it has no natural cure.  It is the true contagion, a doomsday scenario, a virus so vicious the only way to cure it is to purge everything and anything corrupted by it.

Concupiscence: The inherited disorientation of mankind, an innate tendency to desire what is evil rather than what is good.

Bizarrely, learning about this concupiscence of our nature is some of the most helpful news Christianity has to offer.  For when you believe what the Scriptures say about your sin that “None is righteous … no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:10-11), you can at last begin to understand why life is the way it is, and why you do what you do.

This is a God-given knowledge of sin, a revelation His Spirit sends to jump-start our awareness of a need for saving faith by jump-starting our awareness of a need to be saved.  We cannot know the extent of what Christ has done without first recognizing the full reality of the malady to which He is the antidote.

When the Christian honestly assesses what is going on with his heart according to the Word of God, he finds that he doubts both the goodness and the wrath of God.  We are bored by God’s Word.  We are angered by the fact that God does not rescue us from the curse of this world immediately.  We consider God’s allowance of afflictions a hateful thing.  We abhor God’s willingness to let wicked men prosper and good men suffer.  We daily are stirred up by rage, lust, desire for glory, hunger for wealth, and countless other things like these.

Read Romans 3:10b-18

-       How does this text helps explain all that we see and experience as wrong in the world?

 

Devout Christian faith does not hide from this sad fact of concupiscence.  With St. Paul, we confess it because the depth of our sin is equal to the depth of Christ’s love. So we recognize such sinfulness to be present in every person, including you, not so we may embrace it, but so we may believe Christ has paid for our sins in full.

Read Luke 7:36-47

-       How does understanding the depth of our sin help us love God all the more?

 

Now Another Righteousness

The true value of a Christian is not what you do, but who you are in Jesus.  The source of this goodness is always the one true God and who He says you are in relation to Him.

In the Garden of Eden, God created Adam and Eve perfectly good before they ever did anything.  They were not good because of works, but because that was how God made them, how He spoke them into being.  They were crafted by His voice, breathed into with His life, called the identity of His own image.  Their goodness was first God’s identification of them as good.  All the other good that they would ever do, even in a perfect world–the good of loving each other, being fruitful, and caring for creation perfectly–all of this flowed first from that original, passively received goodness.

-       Discuss: If Adam and Eve’s goodness was given to them by God, what does this mean for us?

 

Their vain jump into the fall turned all of this on its head.  It wasn’t just that Adam and Eve ate some apple that was off-limits.  It was that they believed by eating this pear they would themselves become the source of their own newer, better goodness.  “You will be like God,” the serpent said (Genesis 3: 5).  It is as if he said, “You will be good apart from God.  Knowing good and evil, you will identify yourselves as the good you make yourselves to be.”  Just like that, with an attempt to be actively good on their own, they tried to justify what was already straight and in so doing bent it beyond recognition.  Thinking the lesser good could make a better good than the best good (itself given freely!), they curved the eyes made for looking outward back in on themselves.

And we have been broken in this self-absorbed, self-deification ever since.

Counterfeit Christianity always teaches the worship of yourself.  It is the essence of wickedness to believe wickedness can become goodness.  That is why fallen man’s natural religion is always a quest to lift himself off the earth and into heaven.  That’s about as effective as trying to fly by pulling on your own bootstraps.  The more you yank, the harder you squeeze your eyes shut to tap the strength within, the less you can see how the total failure of what you are doing is rooted in your false belief that you can do it.  It is kind of like a beggar who is dressed in filthy rags but is convinced that with enough stitching and cleaning he can make those rags into a robe fit for a king.

In the same way, even the best human goodness, even goodness untainted by the wickedness of sin, still would not restore us to the original, perfect goodness.  No active goodness of ours could ever do that because the perfect goodness we lost was never active from the beginning.  It was passive.  It was received.  It was a gift from the start.  If it is ever to exist for us again, it must be a gift once more.  Having self-identified ourselves with our sin in our fall, we must hear a word from outside of us, a word of God that reidentifies us with Him anew.

Read Romans 3:21-28

-       What does this passage teach about “another kind of righteousness” than the one the world is always seeking through “you”?

 

Faith Looks Outside of You

Read 1 John 1:1-3

-       That which John was making known in these verses came from inside or outside the readers of the epistle?

 

-       Discuss the implication of this in our lives as Christians.

 

The object of Christian faith is not faith.  That’s because salvation by grace through faith is not salvation through faith in faith.  The object of Christian faith is Jesus–the person, work, and words of Jesus.  He is the Jesus who was born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, and testified to as a miracle worker by secular historians.  He is the Jesus, who was crucified by a real-as-you-or-me Roman governor, buried in a sealed tomb, and then, three days later, seen alive and in perfect health.  He is the Jesus, who, still bearing the scars and still claiming to be the heir to the Hebrew King David’s throne forever, was seen after His resurrection, not just privately, but by over 500 who heard Him.  This is how the Christian faith was born: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. It’s a fact.

With the heart unchained from looking for God within, in total freedom, you can now look with mercy on the sinner beside you.  With your mind unshackled from searching for God, in total freedom, you can now find yourself learning the wisdom of creation, all of which can teach you how to aid your ailing neighbors and communities.  With your hands made aware of the coming resurrection, in total freedom, you can now find yourself putting aside the pain and the weight that so quickly entangles.  You can, instead, move at the impulse of love for your neighbor, no longer wanting to repay evil for evil but filled with wanting to overcome evil with good.

Best of all, you will know that none of it gains you anything.  After all, it is all already given: promised in Jesus.

It’s true that sin will not go away, at least on this side of heaven.  The Christian life is not the experience of victory.  The rules these lessons have urged you to break will not stop tempting you, deceiving you, or stop hacking and slashing at your faith.  But none of that can stop Jesus.  He is the Christ, and you are His Christian, which means it is His work to regenerate you, to feed your faith, and to restore your sight, so you see things for what they are.  This is faith, not to change the world, but to call a thing what it is and to believe that what it is has been made perfect in Jesus.

 

Is There Anybody in There?

Revelation 3: 20: Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me.

Jesus knocks at the door, not with a list of demands, not with a better business model or a new style of worship music, but with Himself.  “Hey, you, look here.  I’m alive, and I’m alive for you.  Be still, and know that I am God. I got you.”  This is the one hope for Christianity in America: Jesus.  He must preach to us again.  He must tell us His Gospel.  He must spiritualize us with His sanctifying forgiveness.

So long as there is yet one Christian who believes this, who knows Jesus was crucified but also is risen and coming again to make good on His promises, then the game is anything but up.  “For the sake of ten faithful men, will You not spare the city?” Abraham once asked Yahweh as he pleaded for the salvation of horrific Sodom and Gomorrah.  God’s answer then is His answer still: Jesus.  “Yes, for the sake of one righteous Man, I will spare the world.” Believe it.

Jesus is the rule every Christian must believe, not a law but a promise.  Jesus is the rule that inverts the pattern, turns the galaxy on its head, reverses the shadows with cries of “Let there be light!”

All the reasons you cannot find God in your heart or hands or the world or churchology are because Jesus is the promise that God finds you.  He’s done it before.  He’s doing it right now.  And He’s going to keep it up forever.  With glorious weakness, He smashes the backward self-heroism of satanic religion by whispering: “I’ve nailed it all to the cross.  So let go of your bootstraps!  You cannot fly like that.  It is better to be a doorkeeper in the house of God than to throw in your lot with the wicked.”

Jesus abandoned heaven itself to preach and do this freedom for the life of the world.  The only possible way not to receive this promise is to straight up refuse to believe it.  Thank God you’re too weak to do that any longer.  Thank God you’re Broken in the best possible manner.  Thank God Jesus Christ justifies the ungodly–even, and especially, you.  Thank God.