Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Arrogance, Sin, and Self-Centered Individualism; The Path to Loneliness

Sin is alienating in its natural state.  It will not share the spotlight with anyone or anything else.  When we embrace sin, in any form, we are creating a space between us and others...and ultimately God.  The choice to sin is rooted in a false perception that whatever this particular behavior is will show our "independence" and freedom from being told what to do.  This lie we tell ourselves also convinces us that WE are the ones in control.  Sinning is the active manifestation of a heart that wants to prove to itself that it really is in the drivers seat of life. 

Let me use an extreme example to illustrate this falsehood of "being in control"....

A young man wants to be independent from the oppressive and old fashioned rules of his parents/school/boss so he decides to try cocaine.  While there probably was not a moment where this young man thought, "I'll show them who is really in charge by doing coke!", at the very heart of this choice is this subconscious rebellion.  At first the experience feels liberating, power creating, and exciting.  So he does it again...and again....and again.   Before long(if not immediately as in some cases) this young man is hooked.  Who is really making choices in the addicts life?  The addiction...NOT the addict.  The desire to prove "independence" actually leads to debilitating DEPENDANCE. 

Addicts don't have many friends.  They can only be with people who are at the same place as them.  Addicted and destructive.  And those relationships only last as long as they are the "same place".  When the other person either can support, justify, or, participate in the addiction you can be with them.  When, for any reason, they no longer support your particular behavior, the relationships ends.  Addicts do not want to spend time with people who are not addicts(creates a sense of guilt), or, people who are worse addicts then themselves(so they can self-righteously judge how bad THEY are).  Relationships get narrowed down to only those who are exactly as messed up as you.

If you have ever watched the show, "Intervention"(about confronting addicts) there are a few common statements and mindsets that the addicts exhibit. 

1)  They don't have a problem(unless talking about their problem will get them something)

2)  It is in someway someone else's fault; parents, friends, boss, spouse

3)  Whatever problem they might have could simply be solved by the people in their life being more supportive. 

4)  They are fiercely protective of their "independence".  The thing that makes them the most angry is how they perceive everyone trying to "control" them.  As if they are currently the ones in control.....

In Malachi 3, starting in verse 13 God calls out Israel for this very sort of heart attitude and behavior.  After spending a big chunk of the book detailing how horrible Israel's sin has been, He points out that they are sitting around blaming God for their choices.  Their argument is basically, what's the point of being good, 1) You can't tell us what to do, and, 2) It's not like you are going to do anything about it anyways.....Bad people are clearly having all the fun, we are tired of all these boring rules.

In verse 16 we get an interesting juxtaposition from the words and attitude from verse 13.  "Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other".  The language and paragraph structure would make the case that those described in verse 16(God fearers) were part of the bunch of people complaining to God in verse 13.  But with a very important difference....

While their initial response(seemingly) was to go along with everyone else's sinful attitude, they moved past that and THEN(used to indicate a progression of the timeline to show that it is directly following the previous event) talked amongst themselves.  The passage doesn't give any specifics about what they did talk about, but it does have an interesting statement.  God noticed this behavior and their names were written in the scroll of remembrance and God would keep them as His.

So what's the big difference and deal here?  How does just 'talk amongst yourselves" lead to being God's?!?!

The key difference between the sin of verse 13(speaking out against God and embracing sin) is that the people described in verse 16 took that temptation to follow everyone else to selfish sin, moved past it, and found God fearing friends to talk through their struggle and have it be shaped by God's truth, not personal desires. 

The path of sin is one where we remove ourselves from fellowship.  We want to be mad and self-righteous about our behavior.  To blame everyone and everything else.  The only people we want around are those who are going to agree with us.  Anything else is offensive and annoying. 

The path of healing and righteousness is through God centered truth that is encouraged and challenged by those in your life.  It requires laying down self-centeredness and, together, seeking God centered truth.  This leads to deeper fellowship and friendship because the whole premise of the relationship is built upon not individual desires, but Godly desires.  Since it isn't about us in the first place, it creates a space where we can also be about others. 

Today we tell people that the only way to be a good friend to someone else is by accepting them just as they are.  Which becomes translated as, "Celebrate whatever they do, and, never say anything negative about their choices......"  The only people in Malachi that are shown in fellowship(friendship) with each other are those who are talking about God's truth together.  Everyone else in Malachi is just presented as selfishly complaining to God and ignoring their sin.....NEVER with someone else...just alone....

You and I need friends who do not accept and encourage sin.  Those are the friendships that lead to loneliness.  When we are encouraged to be selfish, we are ultimately going to be selfish...and friendless.  True friendship are those who will not accept sin in your life, but will stand right with you no matter how dirty it might be and talk to you about God's truth. 

Tired of being lonely.  Stop looking for people who don't love you enough to speak truth.   


Start asking yourself, are the people in your life really friends, or, are they "enemies"

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