Recently I was at a meeting with some leaders from the LGBTIQ political lobby.
It was suggested by someone that people from the LGBTIQ community should not feel unwelcome to enter a church.
“Oh, forget it!” Said one of the leaders.
“Because nobody wants to walk into a building and be told that there is something seriously wrong with them.”
At this point I interjected: “Oh, but there is something wrong with them.”
The atmosphere somewhat electrified at that point. In all my experience of pregnant pauses, the one that followed my comment wins the prize for the most tense.
But after pausing, I explained myself.
“There is something catastrophically wrong with each of us. I believe that about myself. That is why I am a Christian. The only answer is the cross of Jesus Christ.”
This short conversation unearthed a very important point. It is the fundamental dividing line between two ways of thinking.
The one says truth is my truth. It says I am good. It says I am beautiful. It binds me to self.
The other says truth is God’s truth. I am bad and, yes, ugly. But in God is goodness and beauty. It frees me from self.
The first way of thinking is overtaking our culture. It has crept into our institutions, our social life, and sadly our churches.
If you turn to the cutting edge of progressive thinking – the ambassadors and activists who are turning our culture upside-down – you will see it there in its most naked form.
I spent some time browsing materials from Project Rockit, Safe Schools, and some other similar programs active in Australian schools.
The overwhelming theme? Be who you are. You are beautiful. Embrace yourself. Discover yourself. Reach within to find your true identity and express it. You are worthy, valid, appreciated, loved, special, important. The only person you have to answer to is yourself.
Mostly those are direct quotes.
It is the gospel of self.
This is a most seductive message. It is a gospel that the human heart is immediately attracted to. It holds incredible promise, tickles our pride, and sounds as gratifying as anything ever could.
My concern at this juncture is that many Christians might not see the issue. It seems probable that this thinking has become so prevalent that many in the church can no longer identify what’s wrong with it.
So, let’s compare and contrast. What did Jesus say about the “inner self” which we so cherish?
“What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” [Mark 7:20-23].
The human person receives only one compliment in scripture.
And it is before the fall.
Other than being originally made in the image of God I cannot find one example of a genuine compliment that relates to human nature.
But this is what I do find: Dead in trespasses and in sins. Children of wrath. Reprobate minds. Hearts deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Efforts at ‘righteousness’ compared to menstrual cloths. Sons of disobedience. Unthankful. Approvers of evil. Stubbornly rebellious. Fallen…
The Apostle Paul says, “in my flesh dwells no good thing.”
I could fill a couple of A4 pages. Almost every page of the Bible has a few more.
My goodness, don’t we cling to that one compliment? Don’t we make it mean a great deal? We look past the weight of scripture and focus in on a pre-fall condition without due regard to what we are really taught about the “true self” as we find it in ourselves today.
Paul effectively says in Romans 1 that this is the hallmark of a godless culture. The worship and the serving of the self – the “creature rather than the Creator.”
It is out of this posture that we give license to practice whatever our heart desires. These days we call it our “identity.”
But then the words of Jesus ring out – “for from within, out of the heart of man… All these evil things come from within and they defile a person”
We are really dealing with two answers to the basic question, “Who am I?” And they could not be more opposed.
They could not lead to more diametrically opposite destinations.
They shape our thinking about everything in radically different ways.
The Apostle Paul calls them “the truth” and “the lie” [Rom 1:25]. The basic feature of the lie is to worship and serve creature (self). The basic feature of the truth is to worship and serve God.
In its fullest expression, embracing the lie leads a person on a pathway to hatred of God. They will suppress the truth about Him. They will not see fit to acknowledge Him. They will be made foolish in their thinking because of their denial of Him. They will be ungrateful to God. They will be “given over” by God to “do what ought not to be done” – ie whatever they like. Read Romans 1 yourself. It’s not pretty.
But I find myself grieved and concerned, not just for those who follow “the lie” and know it. I find myself just as concerned about the steady creep of features of “the lie” into Christian thinking.
We are a little too comfortable with the basic ideas of self-worth, being ‘beautiful’, discovering identity, our own empowerment, the value of our inner selves, and so forth.
All of these things are strands of an idea so opposed to the gospel that Paul places it in direct contrast and calls it “the lie.”
This sort of talk primes a child to hear the false gospels of our culture and embrace them. Ideas we hotly campaign against and condemn, but which our children are seduced by… Because we unwittingly prepared the way all along.
Real discernment is needed on this front as we raise our children, run our families, contribute to our churches, and think about ourselves. To get it wrong, especially in the minds of kids, could be the most fatal of errors.
As I have been writing, Ephesians 2 has come to my mind. That chapter perhaps holds the antidote. It reminds us of our two greatest sins and calls us to remedy them… thinking too highly of ourselves, and therefore not thinking highly enough of God. I do believe that to be perhaps the greatest failing of us all.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [Ephesians 2:1-7]
The true gospel says it wasn’t anything in us. It had everything to do with God in whom is all the beauty, goodness, and truth – or, better still, rich mercy, great love, rich grace, and kindness, we so longed for, though we looked for it in the wrong place.
Let’s better discern the difference between the truth and the lie.