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The False Self

Posted on June 27th, 2013

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 (see the Pharisees). I asked him what it cost him personally to do this kind of research and writing on such a painful topic. He chuckled. I thought to myself,  “Who has the time to monitor these kind of deep, interior movements of our hearts amidst the great noise and distractions shouting at us every day?” Then I realized, “What other option do I have?”

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