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From Chris's Heart

October 2007
Opposing the Lie (Part 2)
by Nick Harris
As I wrote in the September edition of the Roar, soon after Adam and Eve fell into sin after believing “the lie” of the serpent, the lie that they would be as God and eating of the forbidden fruit, they were overcome by a deep sense of shame and worthlessness. The double tragedy is they passed that condition of shame to all those who succeeded them, and now a state of toxic shame hangs over the entire human family, including you and me.

The human race has tried to overcome these feelings in a variety of ways. One of these ways has been by entertaining sinful religious pride; this sin is the pathetic attempt some people make to restore a sense of self-worth by elevating themselves over other people. Those who use this tactic will only feel okay about themselves as long as they have others around them whose actions make them feel superior. These religious people attempt to push their feelings of worthlessness off on these morally inferior others.

Another way religious people attempt to overcome these feelings of worthlessness is to seek self-worth outside of themselves---to find worth in significant other persons who will give them the approval and validation they need. Some people will go to any extreme to get that approval. These persons desperately need others to need them.

This attempt is orchestrated by none other than Eden’s serpent. In II Corinthians 4:4, Paul indicates that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who believe not.” The god of this world is, of course, none other than Satan, and the most common tool he uses to blind people is through the practice of religion.

The Greek word Paul uses which is translated as “blinded” is the verb whose root means “to fill with smoke.” When a room fills with smoke it renders a person unable to see. Such a condition leads to confusion (in this condition one does not know where to go).

However, another derivative of this same verb means, “to puff up.” They think of themselves as being more important than they are. They are deceived about themselves.

So, if a person is blinded by smoke and all puffed up at the same time, that person is left in a confused state. Yet, all the while, their pride which is produced by their condition of sin causes them to say, “I can handle my sinful condition; I can be good enough to earn God’s approval.”

That belief has confused and baffled the human race from the beginning of time. The minds of men, their abilities to reason have been deranged and they cannot think straight. That is the state produced by the condition of sin.

Remember, those people to whom Jesus spoke in John 8, those who took issue with Him again and again, were some of the most religious people who ever lived. They were enmeshed in the scriptures. They fasted every Wednesday and Friday. They prayed faithfully three times a day. Every time the community of Israel gathered at the synagogue these people were present.

Just about everyone in Israel considered the people to be the epitome of godliness, but Jesus called these religious people “slaves.” The response of these people to this charge was predictable. They responded, “You are wrong---we are not slaves to anybody.” They were insulted by the very suggestion.

However, Jesus did not retract His words. He even said to these people, “You are not only slaves; you are of your father, the devil.” Naturally, these words really antagonized these people. They shouted back at Jesus, “You are crazy; God is our Father, not Satan---how dare you say such a thing?” And Jesus responded, “I dare to say it, because it’s true.”

Now, before we accuse Jesus of extreme dogmatism, we must understand what He was saying to these ultra-religious people. He was saying, “When you people speak of your relationship to God, you believe that your responses are rooted in the truth; but they are not. They are rooted in Satan’s lie; as a result, it is not God who you worship, it is Eden’s serpent.”

It is no wonder that these people were so confused. They had spent their lives believing “the lie” to be true and “the truth” to be a lie. Because of that erroneous belief system they had spent their entire lives trying as hard as they could to be good enough for God. They had constantly tried to do more and more good things, because deep down inside they sensed that no matter how many good things they had done, they had not reached the place where God would accept them; nor would they ever.

That religious attitude and outlook has continued into the twenty-first century. Many Christians today try as hard as they can, then compare themselves with other Christians. They look at the behaviors of other believers and when they contrast their behaviors with the behaviors of these other Christians, they say, “Well, I may not be very good, but at least I’m as good, or better, as they are.” Sometimes, they can even say this with some degree of honesty. They are better than a lot of professing Christians.”

However, when I hear a person say this, I know that this person is suffering from a sense of worthlessness, and I know that this feeling pervades their lives. Therefore, it comforts these people to say, “Well, at least, I’m not as worthless as they are.”

Once again, this attitude and belief reveals that these people have believed “the lie.” And once again, what is “the lie?” “The lie” is this: that it is possible to be good enough for God, independently of God, if we just try hard enough to please Him.

Some religious people even go so far as to say, “If I can make myself feel badly enough about this condition of worthlessness from which I suffer, then I may eventually begin to feel good about myself.”

I have known these kinds of people all my life. I have watched them go to the altar week after week and sob and weep and cry out to God, “Oh, God, what a worm am I.” Somehow they have concluded that this will make them better, but it does not.

Most people who are deeply religious share one thing in common: they are intensely afraid of their potential wickedness. Since they are struggling to be good enough for God by what they do, any hint of wickedness within themselves terrifies them. They are terrified by the thought of divine punishment. This fear crushes them.

As a pastor for over three decades, and having preached in churches around the world, I have found that a majority of people in a local church do not really love one another. Instead, I find hateful, vicious, gossiping people who are constantly stabbing one another in the back.

Why is this the case? The reason is simple. These people have owned “the lie.” They have come to the conclusion that everyone in the church should be morally perfect. Of course, none of them are perfect, and they know it, but they believe that they have hidden themselves behind their fig leaves so completely that no one else can see their flaws.

So, it is a relief to them when they see those around them failing in their various quests for perfection, and they are quick to point-out the failures of others. They are all ready to expose one another at a moments notice.

On the other hand, what kinds of failures do these people notice first? The apostle Paul makes it clear: it is the failures they have already sensed in themselves. They despise these personal flaws. They detest them so much that when they see them in others they try to punish these corrupted others. This is the case because they sense they should also be being punished.

This judgmental tendency is what stands behind much of the spousal battery and child abuse in our world today. Many of these abusers happen to be very religious people. They are tormented and despise themselves for their relational failings and feel that they should be punished. They fear that punishment so take their frustrations out on members of their families.

To be continued in the November Roar.

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