The False Self: Distorting Our View of God
I wonder a lot; in fact, I probably think too much about stuff sometimes. Lately, I’ve been thinking about some of the ripple effects of what it means to “deny one’s self” according to the imperative given to us by Jesus (see the Gospel of Luke chapter fourteen). Actually, I’m thinking about what not denying self means; specifically, what it means to the person who wants to associate themselves with Jesus, but not fully commit themselves to His Way.
Today I was thinking about theodicy (defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil), this especially in the light of recent events taking place in Aurora, Colorado. As I’ve pondered the idea of why and how something so tragic could happen, I’ve also considered the angry comments, rants, and accusations of so many people expressing their hurt and outrage over the internet. It seems that there are almost as many different perceptions of who God is or is not as there are people… and I wonder why this is so.
I have become more and more convinced that so much of who we are as people, so much of what we know AND so much of what we believe is controlled by our ego—our relationships, our vocations, our worldview, our philosophy, our theology, and so much more—all and everything, influenced and even controlled by the fallen and broken persona that is “self.” This is the same “self” Jesus mandated his followers must deny and crucify before they could become his disciples. If we fail to deny self, we encounter a serious, if not insurmountable problem. If we attempt to follow Jesus without first denying “self,” all of life, our hopes, and our view of God are seen through the brokenness of our confused and false self; ultimately, this is a broken view…and a wrong view. Any perception or perceived understanding of God through the un-crucified self is a false understanding and results in an idolatrous view of God.
Without the purity of God’s purging truth we are unaware of the lies we hold as our version of reality. The Apostle Paul writes that we understand in part…we see through the glass dimly. This, I believe, is understood with the assumption that he writes to people who have assumedly begun the path of self-denial. If this is true for those who have agreed to live a life of self-denial, how much less do people know who have decided to hold on to self? The heart of the false self is full of deceit and misguided beliefs; it only knows what it knows. While this misguided false self may have noble intentions, it’s not following Truth… it can’t because it is ruled by itself. Thus, Jesus implores us: “Deny your self…” Denial of self is the first step toward clarity and whole truth. We cannot hope for understanding until we deny ourselves—the false and broken self—and allow God, the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit to re-form us into the identity that is the true self, the self that was first formed in the image and likeness of God.
I do not have the answers to all the questions regarding theodicy, evil, persecution, injustice, oppression, and other issues of suffering. I do know that having a proper view of God and Spirit guided path through life are what I need to navigate a world with unresolved questions. A right view of God is the only hope I have when faced with pain and suffering I cannot provide answers or give reason for. A god of my own making doesn’t provide me with the comfort my heart needs and a god of my own making is what I get when I fail to deny self.
Icrucified. I. Crucified. Galatians 2:20