June 14, 2015

Being True to Yourself

I have the luxury of frequent, honest conversations with God about my struggles, motives, and agendas.   I know that God has a greater understanding of my psyche than I do and I need to tap into what He knows about me.  So I climb up on His examining table often and request, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:  And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting"  (Psalm 139:23-24). Upon request, He hasn’t stopped uncovering the muck buried deeper beneath the previously unearthed terrain.

I have discovered one philosophy which I feel causes many Christians to stumble.  It is the misconception that being true to yourself is a virtue.  The motive behind it is in praise of honesty but it does believers more harm than good because our natures gravitate toward sin. We are not naturally inclined toward goodness, peace, or selflessness.  Our sinful sides delight in falling prey to temptation because temptation ushers in excitement, thrills, and the rush of living life on a high.  Anything which draws your attention away from that which you would prefer to attend to is working against you, be it as innocent as a daily Starbucks fix or as dark as the secret beckoning of a pornography addiction.  I am not saying that every single craving we have is a sin but I am trying to convey how easily the urges which are sinful and damaging camouflage themselves as natural and therefore declare immunity from reprimand.  Without inviting God to scrutinize all our inclinations for latent harms, we will never develop a sense of discernment and foster self-discipline where it really matters.     

I feel strongly that living authentically, honestly, and consistently is the only way to keep your feet surely planted on the path of God’s will.  I would never compromise the importance of those prominent character traits.  But it takes so much more than being true to yourself to be your best self.  Limiting our personal initiatives to “being true to yourself” cuts us off miles short of where God wants to take us.

Jesus didn’t die so that I could live out my life being true to myself.  He died for me so that His death would serve as my death, not only figuratively but tangibly as I in turn become His hands and feet on Earth.  So where does that leave my true self? 
It leaves my true self, dead.
"So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want." ~ Galatians 5:16-17.
Where does it say that the desires of the flesh die when you become a Christian?  On the contrary, it introduces a rift between your true self (your flesh) and that which is contrary to your true self, the Spirit.  Do you see that the Spirit is written in capital letters here?  That is because the person of God enters the premises of your heart to confront your true self.  He objects to what your true self asks you to perform and He aids you in carrying out actions contrary to those which come naturally.  

This conflict of conscience is essential evidence of spiritual health.  It reveals that the Holy Spirit is alive within you working to prevail over your true self which has previously operated undeterred.  This legitimate conflict doesn’t go away as long as our souls reside inside bodies of flesh.  Jesus’ body could be battered, but His spirit, His love, and goodwill would not break.  Walking after the Spirit will feel like punishment to your flesh too. The more you cooperate with the Holy Spirit battling against your true self, the more victories you will experience, spiritual fruits will bloom, and your legacy will grow.

Watchman Nee wrote in his book, The Spiritual Man, “The flesh is most defiled (2 Peter 2:10:22); God accordingly does not attempt to change it.  There is no method of deliverance other than to put it to death.  Even the precious blood of Jesus cannot cleanse the flesh.  We find in the Bible how His blood washes our sin but never washes our flesh.  It must be crucified (Gal 5:24).  The Holy Spirit cannot reform the flesh . . . His abiding in the believer is not for the purpose of improving, but for warring against the flesh (Gal 5:17) . . . Indeed, we should never attempt to repair the flesh in order to make it cooperate with the Spirit of God.  The flesh is ordained to death.  Only by consigning the flesh to the cross may we be liberated from being enslaved permanently by it.”

When you asked Jesus to come into your heart, did you experience being crucified with Him?  Take a moment to think on it now.  You can see Jesus strung up on the cross in pain, but can you see yourself up there with Him?  Have you ever died to your true self?  

Further explanation may aid your consideration:

"The acts of the flesh are obvious:  sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."  ~ Galatians 5:19-21

“To ascertain whether one is of the flesh, he need but inquire of himself if he is doing any of these works of the flesh.  It is of course unnecessary for him to commit all in the list in order to be carnal.  Were he to do merely one of them he would establish himself beyond doubt as being fleshly. . . All nonetheless are fruits from the same tree . . .  for how could he do any one of them if the flesh had relinquished its rule already?” Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man.

Honesty is a virtue without question, but does being true to yourself ever manifest in any of the above listed behaviors?   If so, then being true to yourself is not honorable or God-glorifying.  Have you considered that such a self does not deserve your loyalty?  Perhaps greater blessing would spring forth from defying your true self! 

There is one truth that our fallen, human experience understands well and defends as truth.  Alternatively, there is the person of Jesus who is The Truth (John 14:6) who patiently allows us to construct realities of our own choosing.  He knows that our personal truths will disappear in a breath.  We would be wise to conform our personal realities to what reality will look like then. 

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