Self-Confidence Dethroned (#619)

Wayne fills Brad in on his recent trip to Florida and North Carolina.  One of the amazing observations Wayne had was the number of young people standing on the cusp of a new journey. Seeing through the illusion of religious obligation, they are hungry to find a different way of walking with Jesus that leads to life. That leads the guys into a discussion about the mistaken process Christianity almost universally embraces: If we can just define the right expectations God has of us from Scripture and do our best to live up to them every day, we will live a victorious Christian life. That system, however, has a faulty linchpin—our own human effort—and will disappoint us every time. How do we lose confidence in our own abilities and learn how to let Jesus live his life through us? They finish with a letter about whether learning to follow God is more like enjoying a playground or learning to walk a tightrope.

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20 Comments

  1. And to ask a lot of people what does it mean to be saved or what difference does it make, or some other question on faith and how it influences what they do or how they think, all one gets oftentimes is a canned response that is dutifully parroted back. It’s not very convincing and people can see through it. Instead of getting a response that reflects interaction with where the Spirit is moving in their life and the world, you instead get the sense the person has memorized and rehearsed their lines well. They’re often even spoken with an air of accomplishment, like they’ve answered the test questions accurately, when the person they’re conversing with is looking for an authentic expression of the person’s journey with Christ, not textbook responses.

  2. I have been saying years now that God wants to bring us to the end ourselves. In His mercy, He uses every mechanism and method to bring us to that place where we depend completely on Him. Perhaps that explains suffering and difficulty? Or failure, or depression or heart ache. Is so much of the pain we feel simply fruit of our self-confidence and self effort? We really have little to no control over most of it. In the end we find we can only rest in His arms and trust Him to do what is best for us. And that is a good place and what He intended, I think.

    Self-confidence and self-reliance is the essence of original sin, so in this redemptive process it is completely Him and completely not us. This is hard to learn. Contrary to human thinking. His ways are not our ways.

    I think the hardest part of living in Him is learning to trust that He really is who He says He is, and that what He says is true. This is the “walking by faith” part. Labouring to enter our rest. I am cautious with the word “faith” because it has been misused so much by “faith” preachers, but I think there is a quiet confidence that exists when we reach that point of knowing and then live from that knowing.

    I began a process of working through the names of God (his character) to understand who He is. When I started this I realize some of His characteristics have already been realized in me in many ways:

    Jehovah Shamah (The Lord is There/Present) is something I know much better now than I did 15 years ago. Jehovah Jireh has become much more relevant in the last few years, and something I live daily. I watch His miraculous provision each and every day with increased confidence that He knows tomorrow and what I need. Jehovah Roi, my shepherd, is a characteristic that I now have confidence in. I know He loves me and will lead and guide me. I expect it. Jehovah Tsidkenu, our righteousness, is clear to me now. He is my righteousness, my obedience, my faithfulness. It is all Christ. There is nothing I can bring to the table. Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is Peace, is something that continues to be learned and received. Understanding that he calls us from a heavy burden into rest, helps me understand the futility of self-effort.

    There are a few more I could mention, but Jehovah Rapha, my healer, is something that He is putting on my heart at the moment. I am really wrestling with this one because I am uncertain what that means in my life … now. I feel a stretching and a straining, a pushing and a pulling, a wrestling with God as healer. Do I believe He is who He says He is? I have health issues, how does it apply to me here, now, and to those around me.

    I am certain there is something He is teaching me here, so it will be interesting to see where this leads. This wrestling is part of the process of learning who He is. I am not discouraged by it but have learned that this is what He wants me to come to know. Him.

    So, if you don’t understand something or you don’t know what to do, or you do not have the ability…. maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s His responsibility.

    • John L and Pat: thank you for sharing your insights with us. I have some comments I’m working on, but before I listen to the podcast again, I want to respond to what I have read from you two. (and continue responses from previous podcast comments)

      Pat asked, “what does it mean to be saved” and John said, “God wants to bring us to the end of ourselves.” I am coming to see that these two concepts are very closely related. I am going through a process where some experiences are coming to an end, and I am losing parts of myself. This is a pruning process that God is doing so that he can BE, to me, more of what I need; more of The Person I need. So that I can begin to see him AS HE IS, and come to know him as he is. I won’t see him as a Father until I know that I am his child.

      The key word that came to me, just today, was IDENTITY. The parts of me that are coming to an end are things that I have identified with, or terms that I have used to identify myself as. I am not being robbed of my identity, but my old identity, the fake identity that I have created, God is purging from me so that he might establish my true identity in me: “child of God.” That’s the only identity that counts for anything.

      Am I willing to risk losing the “Craig” I have created, so that I might gain Christ’s? When I identify with Jesus, my old identity dies, and I am resurrected with him into my true identity. So when I identify with Jesus, I become a “child of God,” like he is. “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his NAME.” Identity, identity, identity…

      So, then, what am I really saved from? My own identity that I have fabricated over a lifetime. Isn’t that the same thing as “the end of myself?” The realization that there is nothing in my old identity of any value or any strength. It is nothing more than dust in the wind. Even then, I must know, for sure, that he loves me, that he’s got my back, or I will not have the wherewithal to let go.

      • Hi Craig. I like your thoughts on identity.

        I received a clear understanding from the Lord at one time during a period of deep self hatred that He had chosen certain of His own characteristics and packaged them up together into a unique individual, me! And He was particularly excited and “tickled” by what he had created. I believe this is true for all of humanity, since we are all created in the image of God, but sin has distorted and covered us inside and out.

        When we talk about losing ourselves, we are talking about the identity WE have created but not the essence of who God has created, which is ultimately a reflection of Himself.

        I have come to think that the journey towards maturity and experienced freedom is not so much “constructing or building” towards something but “deconstructing” the things we have added in our attempts to “be” someone. We ARE now new creations (the inside in new), but we are still shedding elements of the flesh that we carry. Its kind of like the cloths wrapping Lazarus after he was raised from the dead. We need to be freed from them to live well. Once our fleshly bodies are transformed when Jesus comes, the process is fully complete, but until then we wrestle with the tatters that still cling to us in places.

        • Hey, John: the ‘me’ that is real and true and God-created has been there since my beginnings. The true ‘me’ gets obscured to the point that I can’t even see my own. The obscurity begins as I attempt to live in my own perceived power (self-centered), which becomes self-confidence and then self-righteousness. As Dirty Harry said, “You are a legend in your own mind!” I really need to be saved from that fabrication that I have been calling ‘me.’

          In order to rescue me from myself, God has to peel the layers off the onion; untangle the knotted mess I have taken a lifetime to create. This is a demolition process, pure and simple. In hindsight insight, I see that I have always been special to God, and that he has been attempting, ever since I was very young, to deconstruct the ‘me’ that I have been creating. I have been resisting his ‘Love Process’ until recently.

          My greatest resistance was this: the ‘me’ that I created looked pretty good. He had a good mind, was intelligent, morally upright, caring, altruistic even, independent, etc… The fruit looked delicious, but there was poison inside. The ‘me’ that I created was actually angry, arrogant, self-centered, competitive, aggressive, etc.. inside. You get my drift? When I saw this, for real, I realized that the true struggle is not between good and evil, but rather between God’s true goodness and my fake goodness. It is my own counterfeit goodness that his Love must tear down! The poison must be sucked out!

          This is the transformation that Father’s Love does in his own miraculous way. This is how we are rebuilt into the image of his Son. We can resist until the day we die, if we want to. I am blessed that Mercy brought my resistance to an end. For me, his Love became so overwhelming that I couldn’t help but give in!

          The good thing is that Father is not in a hurry. His Love for me gives me the strength to let go of a piece each day. As I let go, I can grab on to whatever he has for me. Not my righteousness, but his Righteousness. He must increase, I must decrease. The true ‘me,’ Father’s creation, is emerging from the rubble! I am finally beginning to see the ‘me’ he always intended me to be.

          • Sounds like we are on a very similar journey. “Press on” in that labour towards rest. 🙂

    • I’m glad there is still some activity in this thread. I’ve listened to this podcast a number of times because there are so many nuggets in it. Starting with the title: Self-Confidence Dethroned! These nuggets shed some light on church denominations, and tribes, and political parties, and hate groups, and moral codes!

      Because we are self-righteous, each of us is fixated on our own personal moral code. We tend to connect with others who appear to have a moral code similar to ours. Childhood friends that “play well together.” Marriage: seriously, would you marry someone if you knew they were an ax-murderer? We also congregate, or church-up with those whose belief system is similar enough so that we can agree enough to sit in the same pew. We are self-justified by finding another person who interprets the moral code the same way we do.

      Because we are self-righteous, we assume that Jesus came to blaze a trail of moral perfection for us to follow; that the goal is to achieve moral high ground within our lifetime, and that because Jesus did it, we can too. Well seriously, how are we doing with that? In my whole lifetime, I’ve never met anyone who even appeared to come close. So we compare ourselves with others while we readjust our own line in the sand.

      Because we are self-righteous, our own moral code is nebulous at best. It shifts with the wind and the sand and the hurt that we experienced most recently. Like someone said, “I have kept the whole law since I was a child!” Reply: “sell all you have and give it away and follow me.” He couldn’t do it; he went away sorrowful. Our moral code is just a fabrication of our own awareness, as fickle as we are. And we are imprisoned by it, even though it is not real.

      What if Jesus came to set us free from our moral code and the self-righteousness that created it? What if Jesus came to transcend that whole knowledge of good & evil paradigm? What if he really came to conquer the life of broken humanity from embryo through resurrection? What if his life established The Way that we can follow to be re-created in his image, as God intended for us from before the foundation of the world?

      As I observe the anguish caused by two moral codes clashing, my heart hurts. I’m pretty sure God’s heart hurts, too. I’m not sure that our moral codes are an issue to him. Because he came to redeem those who are stuck under their moral codes, so that they might receive adoption as children of God. The only way we’ll get there is by having our self-righteousness dethroned.

  3. Thanks John L and Craig, appreciate reading your thoughts here. My own process is carrying much pain interspersed with moments of “cracks of light”. Coming to the end of ourselves feels like “death”…because it is! It’s a process that I heard described as “compressed, compressed, compressed and then coming into light”. Blessings

  4. In response to the former Mennonite woman, I can identify with her. I used to walk with a need for a prophet to validate my purpose. If I heard right, she is hearing God speaking to her, it just isn’t what she thinks she needed to hear. If God is speaking to you about anything, THAT is what you need to hear now. Let go of expectations (He’s not interested in meeting them), instead, rest in the God who is the author and finisher of your faith. Let Him write your book, your privilege is to trust and walk along side of Him. As we grow in relationship with Jesus, our purpose unfolds.

  5. Man…the wisdom on display here is so awesome, especially the comments! John L. sounds like Pappa to me. The totality of your sharing is so resonating with where He has me now. I only thought I understood all of that 10 – 20 years ago. I must have made Him laugh a thousands times over. So much better to rest, than try and work yourself into where you have been told or even think you need to be. Thanks guys!

  6. Near the end of this talk you commented about people hearing from God, and the frustration that they have, because it is not happening. I know that there is no formula to follow with Him only a relationship, but for me, God first had to teach me to listen and not wait for my desired answer. Be still in your mind and actions and listen, He will communicate with you. Now, the exchange is daily, because I KNOW He is life itself and I TRUST Him to led me wherever it is He wants me to be.

  7. Just curious if you’d consider doing or have already done an episode directed toward those who are currently paid clergy or who are chaplains at military chapels. We are the latter and have only 4 years left till my husband retires. I know you are not saying all church is bad and over the years we have indeed found life outside the church building. My husband has been a chaplain for several years but it has always been in the context of working in administration within the military. This summer the Navy is transferring him to his last station which will be a chapel. A military chapel does not have the trappings of a budget or “elder board” as there are no funds to raise so that frees us in many ways. It would be so encouraging to hear your thoughts on how we can remain true to who God has called us to be in that setting and perhaps redeem these last 4 years of his naval career. Thank you for your ministry.

    • Hi Nancy. No, I’m sure we haven’t done one like that, and anything we might say would be purely speculative since neither Brad nor I have ever served as a military chaplain. Though I’ve met some in my travels, I’d be at a loss as to what we’d say that could be helpful to you. But first, let me thank both of you for your military service and the cost it has meant for you.And I certainly don’t think he needs to redeem that career in any way. I have met military chaplains and know prison chaplains, and isn’t it just a matter of living your live in Jesus openly with others, and when you get the opportunity to go deeper with someone you do. I think this is far more about relationships than it is the program, but the program can create those opportunities for friendship. So I’d say enjoy your last four years, look to love people as freely as you are able with the constrains of your position and the rules that govern your chaplain service. There’s no doubt God can work in and among those restrictions with great power and joy….

  8. (I’m not sure if I’m following good etiquette here since this post is not in response to this particular podcast episode. Perhaps I should rather join the Yahoo group – but being a busy person who prefers to avoid yet-more-screen-time while out of the office I’m only intending to dip my toe in here, and would like to avoid the possible mail flood that might involve. I hope no-one minds)

    I’ve recently listened (again?) to the Transformations series and am challenged afresh on some of my paradigms. Whilst I once walked in a marvellous freedom truly knowing God’s love I drifted back into performance. It’s now some seven years that I have been trying to clamber back out of that hole – and recently I’m noticing that the bible is often where I get snagged. I find verses that reinforce the perfect love of Papa – but then reading in context I find the familiar aftertaste of performance.

    I’d really like to find consistency in at least the words of Jesus in regard to the place of performance. One such “snag” for me is the implied sequencing in John 14:21: “The one who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will reveal myself to him”. If our love is in response to God’s love being encountered in our lives then Jesus seems to have put things in the wrong order here. No matter which translation I read Jesus here appears to be telling his friends that God’s love will be in response to them evidencing their love for God. I’m no Greek scholar but with the limited resources I have the verb translated “will be loved by” does indeed appear to be in some future tense. (I was hoping to discover that the verb might better be translated “will be being loved by ..”)

    In my heart there seems to be an inclination toward concluding that God must indeed be the endearing loving Father that intends for me to only abide in his love, and that my “good deeds” will only truly flow out of his love in me. Its also a logical conclusion. But I find myself struggling with the bible. Why does Jesus say this in the midst upper room discourse, where he is essentially trying to tell his apostles that the new covenant is no longer about their performance? Is there some “extra level” of love that God reserves for those that “get it”?

    A similar snag is in regard to the sheep and the goats. Why does Jesus – the ambassador of God’s love – state that one day the King will tell some of his creations to “Depart from me into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil …”? While waiting for God’s love to become a reality in me I would conclude that I am one of those goats – since Wayne explains that the good deeds of the sheep are in response to God’s love being known to them.

    It seems easier to believe in the our God as the most endearingly loving peson in the universe if I don’t read the bible. But of course I can’t accept that as being what the God of the universe intends. And I also hear that Wayne and Brad and plenty of others are able to love the bible and read it avidly. I’d love to hear from others how they make sense of all this!

    • This is how proof-texting ourselves through Scripture instead of reading it as a story has tripped us up. Before John 14, Jesus said in John 13 that loving others the way we’ve been loved by him is the new command. He loves us first, then we live out that love with others. If that is true then what he says about love and commands in John 14 and 15 has the context to be understood. But even that begins with “in that day you will know you are in me and I am in you.” So the Scripture you quote here is not him saying, “We will love you when you keep our commands,” but rather, “You know the one who knows and follows me has found our love.” Love is where it all begins. It is in learning to live in his love and share it with others, that we are able to fulfill all God’s desires for us.

      As far as the sheep and goats, would it be loving of Jesus not to warn us of the implications of going our own way? I think people tend to see him as the destroyer of those who haven’t responded to his love, but it is sin and death that are the destroyers and he is trying to save us from them. It’s not about qualifying by our good deeds; it is a warning that a self-indulgent lifestyle is a destructive one, and learning to love leads to life. I don’t think this is as much about “salvation”, as it is an invitation into a different way of loving that only love can win in us.

      For many, Christianity has become a religion of good deeds, instead of a relationship in which transformation is possible. I understand why these passages are difficult to understand, but that’s why we can’t take them out of the context of the whole story and ignore the other passages of his great love for us and that we are “powerless” in sin. He is the Savior. He rescues us.

    • Andy: thank you for your comments and questions. I have also listened to the Transitions series many times, so I will refer to them in my comments. All the concentration on performance puts ‘be good’ front and center in our consciousness, whether we are religious or not. Paul seems to say that ‘good works’ are not the things we do, but instead are “good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” As if they are originated, established and created by God in the first place, as an environment for us to walk in. It seems to me that anything that is truly, genuinely ‘good’ must come from God, because it cannot come from anywhere else.

      One thing that I have misunderstood for years is the tree of knowledge. The reality of that tree is death, “in the day that you eat of it,” as God warned. But note that there is both evil AND GOOD in that tree, along with the belief that we can tell the difference between good & evil. We also assume that we can discern their genuineness. But, “man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” and “out of the abundance of the heart….” It took me a long time to realize that I am incapable of assessing genuine goodness. For that matter, I am incapable of acting out genuine goodness, either. I think I am in control, but truly I am powerless.

      In Transitions, Wayne suggests that we “ask God to make himself real,” and not to expect anything immediate. “…over time…it may take days, months, years.” Mine took years, that in hindsight I understand as preparation of my heart. (Missing much of the story), one day I was sitting in a pickup truck, overwhelmed by a Presence of Love. I just sat there and soaked it in. “… I will love him, and will reveal myself to him.” (Missing much more of the story) The Presence has never left me. I have never been more sure of anything in my life. I began to hear in my heart “realizations” I call them, because they are so much broader than anything I have gotten from scripture. (I have written much of these down, but I am never finished… ) A big one: “I am not who you think I am!”

      As God’s love for me penetrated my hard heart, I began to realize that instead of “being rooted and grounded in love,” my heart was actually rooted and grounded in something very dark. There was an agenda and aggression and arrogance behind everything I did. Throughout my life, I had become a master of counterfeit good works. I could not see this until Father’s mercy and light very lovingly exposed it. My only hope was a heart transplant! (leaving out much detail….)

      Another realization: “Be present with Me!” The Presence has never left me, but proximity is up to me. The closer I get to the light, the less darkness can survive. As I walk in his presence, or ‘be present,’ I know him, how deeply he loves me, I can be honest and exposed and healed. It is hard to believe that it is this simple. “We love him because he FIRST loved us!” He made a believer out of me. And I can walk in those good works that he prepared for me to walk in since before the world began.

      [[In response to your last paragraph about the bible: for me, the reality of The Presence and the realizations that came to me overshadowed the bible for a while. I had been interpreting it through a ‘lens of shame.’ [Transitions] The expansion of “I am not who you think I am!” dismantled a lot of preconceptions I had that actually kept me from seeing his reality. (the preparation of heart I spoke of) When I realize something now, I find it in scripture in a place where I had misinterpreted it before. My biggest obstacle to seeing God as he is has been my own mind and all its twists, as well as the system I believed. The reality of God turns out to be ‘all about’ something far greater than anything I could have imagined. Certainly greater than the things we fight over, that WE think are issues.]]

  9. Wayne, Craig, thanks both for taking the time to respond to my questions here. I really appreciate it. I particularly appreciate you taking the time to share your story with me Craig (albeit an abridged version). Similarly my own stumbling into God’s love seven years ago was so compelling and pervasive that even today my residual image of Jesus is still the kind loving King who graciously rescues the woman caught in adultery (amongst many other wonderful evidences of his gentle kindness). Although I don’t always walk in the continual awareness of his wonderful presence and love I nevertheless do still meet up with Him in a reassuring way from time to time. I’m in no doubt as to who He is. To quote Wayne from this episode “How can He not be the most endearing person in the universe?”

    As I have been re-reading my way through the gospels – and recently John’s upper room discourse – there’s a clear grain in the majority of the gospel text that bears this out. I’m just a bit confused as to what to do with each of these scriptural “knots” I come across – those sentences or so which just seem to cut across this grain. In the past I chose to simply categorise each of them as “I don’t quite understand that yet – God will show me if and when I need to know” but I feel that Jesus now wants me to do more than ignore them – my reaction to them is evidence that there’s something I still don’t quite get about Him yet. Probably something significant – and freeing.

    I don’t assume that the answer here is some biblical exegesis or doctrinal dogma adjustment. I believe I can get to a place – like others are at – where I can read the bible without tripping over a sentence that leaves me wondering if I got God all wrong. Its usually at those points that I find that my sense of His presence drops (of course He never leaves – but my confidence abates). If John could pen those words then I’d like to know Jesus as John did!

    • Hi Andy

      I know exactly what you mean, and for a period of time I stopped reading my Bible because I also found myself feeling complete inadequacy and condemnation when I read certain verses.

      One of the reasons this occurs I think, based on my experience, is that we read scripture without begin aware of the difference between old and new covenants. We impose old covenant teaching upon ourselves after the cross.

      I came across a some books and authors over the years, that reminded me of the need to clearly delineation between the 2 covenants. The law vs life in Christ. Some of these authors have been accused of Hyper Grace, but after reading them I found this not to be true. Andrew Farley’s God Without Religion is an excellent resource and easy to read. “Stop Trying to Fix Yourself” is another book to work past some of those “knots”.

      When I now read my Bible, and feel those same accusations, or “knots” as you call them, I remind myself as to the context. Is it old or new covenant scripture. Am I approaching this from the context of my effort (old) or God doing it in me (new). Old covenant is about us doing enough to attain acceptability before God, and the new covenant is about what God has done for us.

      The old Testament is primarily old covenant though points to the New Covenant. The New Testament is primarily New Covenant, especially the Epistles. However a reader needs to read the gospels carefully because they are pre-cross. There are places in the gospels where Jesus heaps the law on the audience to prove to them that they are incapable of fulfilling the law. If we take those scriptures out of context they become a heavy burden. Jesus fulfilled the law, we cannot.

      I suggest you might consider doing some reading on the differences between the 2 covenants, you will begin to read scripture differently, and begin to understand its purpose. I know it really helped me.

    • Andy: the most important part of my story is, “I just sat there and soaked it in.” What I realize now, looking back on it, is that it was the first time in my life that I allowed God’s Presence to minister to ME! I didn’t know that God prepared my being, made my being still enough, to let the Vine feed me. I couldn’t help but, “let it be done to me, according to your Word!” (the Word is a Person) I was in desperate need of The Presence–for healing, for love, for comfort, for living bread, for living water. That, to me, is the essence of John’s gospel, his letters, and even Revelation. A genuine, undistorted relational reality with The Presence.

      Undistorted. It is hard to explain this, but my mind, my conclusions, my belief system, my study, my interpretations of bible are all obstacles to a genuine relational reality with God. “I am not who you think I am!” informs my heart. Truth, the Person, ministers to my heart. My heart hears the reality of the gospel. The Comforter teaches my heart all things. Understanding comes as my heart sits with The Understander of all things. Then my heart reality informs the rest of my being, including my twisted mind. [New heart, renewed mind.]

      My point is this: as you come to know the Spirit who wrote the book through men, you will comprehend the intentions of the book. Your heart will know. As you said, “If John could pen those words then I’d like to know Jesus as John did!” Focus on knowing him. He wants more than anything, to make himself known, and present.

  10. Thank you for this podcast. I have been listening to you for over 10 years. When I left the church setting in 2003, it was with much of the same angst that many listeners share. But the journey from 2003 to 2014 was so needed. To be able to relate to God in a way that is always taught but never experienced within church has been so helpful. In 2014 I went back to the same church community and started rebuilding relationships but differently. The religious cage had been opened and I do not intend on allowing others to place me back in there. Church is no longer my God and I delight in living a free life within the system. It is my field where love is transformative to others as my life causes them to seek answers to the doubts that have existed within their hearts. There is a role for the church as scripture says “it is to reveal the manifold wisdom of God.” I don’t believe this is through programs but a heart that freely loves. This is my journey and not a pattern for others to follow. I just know change cannot happen from running from the problem but sometimes one must take a hiatus and connect with God in a way that others see God differently.

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