In my sermon yesterday at New Life, I preached on “Listening to the Small Screen” out of Colossians 3:9-14. God calls us out of living a “pretend life” that accumulates as layers over us as a result of our families of origin and our culture. To find love, value, and worth, we often become people God never intended. Part of the gift of salvation in Christ is a deliverance from our false selves into our true selves in Christ, living out our unique “sealed orders” from Him. Paul calls us “not to lie to one another” (Col. 3:9) which can be translated, “Don’t be false with one another.” The following is the brief assessment I shared during the message. The degree to which we are living out of our false, or pretend, self exists on a continuum that ranges from mild to severe. We are all in process, including myself. Use the simple assessment. Read more.
The false self is pretending, consciously or unconsciously, to be somebody you are not. Defensive and superficial, it severely limits our relationships and our effective witness for Christ. The following is a brief inventory to determine how much of a mask, or false self, you are wearing: I sometimes say “yes” when I really prefer to say “no.” I often need to be approved by others to feel good about myself. I often remain silent in order to avoid conflict. When I make mistakes, I feel like a failure. At times, I compromise my own values and principles to avoid looking weak or foolish. My self-image soars with complements and is crushed by criticism. I do for others, at times, what they can and should do for themselves. I am fearful and reluctant to take risks. I often go along with what others want rather than “rock the boat.” I compare myself a lot. Read more.
Pete Scazzero (EHS) and Pastor Rich Villodas (Lead Pastor, New Life Fellowship) speak about a recent leadership conference held at New Life Fellowship led by Dr. Robert Mullholland.
Bob Mulholland Jr. was a professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary for most of his adult life. His life work included a study on the “false self” as the primary hindrance that keeps us from loving union with Jesus (i.e. abiding/remaining in Him, John 15:5). He described his findings in The Deeper Journey: The Spirituality of Discovering Your True Self (IVP). I called him last week to talk about this theme in preparation for my sermon on John 5:17-19. We talked about how, like an archeological tell, deeper and deeper layers of our false self must be shed over the years. His list includes: Fear– vs. trust Protectiveness – fear of disclosure. Possessiveness – vs. letting go. Manipulation – attempting to manipulate those around me, or God, to my agenda. Destructiveness –using others. Self-promotion Indulgence – even in excessive religious practices. Distinction/judgmentalism He notes how the religious false self is the most insidious. Read more.
Henri Nouwen writes in The Way of the Heart that “solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self.” He explores how we can fashion our own desert where we can withdraw (since we are not in a monastery), shake off our compulsions, and cultivate a life in the presence of the Jesus. “Solitude,” he writes, “is not simply a means to an end. Solitude is its own end. It is the place where Christ remodels us in his own image and frees us.” Nouwen notes that since our secular culture does not offer us spiritual disciplines, we have to cultivate our own. “We are responsible for our own solitude,” he argues. I believe the baby step to begin the pathway to this kind of transforming solitude is Sabbath-keeping. I have yet to find a detour around this. Read more.
When I asked my PhD friend to reflect, after over 30 years of therapy with high-powered executives and pastors, why leaders have such a difficult time stopping and being still. He laughed. “Pete,” he replied with a smile, “They are terrified. They can’t stop. Their self is so tied into achievement, into their doing and work, they are afraid they will die if they stop.” This Isenheim Altarpiece painted by Matthias Grünewald some time between 1512 and 1516 captures the intense struggle to die to the false self. We see ugly demons trying to torment Anthony of Athanasius to leave the place of solitude with Jesus. Each of us needs to fashion our own desert where we can withdraw and allow the gentle touch of Jesus free us. The shape of the discipline of solitude will look different for each of us. But one thing is sure — a fruitful life can only flow out. Read more.