By Bill Randles
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.( 2 Timothy 3:1-6)
One of the problems that will lead directly into the Delusion and render most people utterly unable to recognize it or resist it is the fairly recent approach to “the SELF,” which our modern society has embraced.
Jesus instructed those who would follow Him to deny self, take up his cross, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).
Christians throughout the centuries may have misunderstood or over emphasized the renunciation of the Self, such as in the extreme asceticism of the Monks and mystics, but there was a general understanding that the SELF was a large part of our trouble and certainly was not to be exalted and esteemed.
What would the real Christian teaching about Self be? What does it really mean to deny self?
I believe that in its simplest form, self-denial is saying “No” to self. It starts by accepting the Gospel evaluation—that we are sinners, badly ruined by the fall, and certainly not the good people we imagined ourselves to be. The Christian life begins by a self-renunciation. If there be a “sinner’s prayer,” it is also a self-renunciation: “LORD, I am a sinner in need of mercy. I believe Jesus died for my sins and rose again; please save me and take over my life.”
This saying “no ” to self permeates the Christian life; for example, as we “renew our minds” by the Word, we have to say no to our own understanding and accept the Divine Revelation. As we progress, we must constantly renounce our own righteousness and goodness and confess “Not I but Christ.” In dealings with others, we are to esteem others better than ourselves, put others first, and serve rather than seek to be served.
But the last century, which saw the dawn of psychology is called “the century of the SELF.” Self-love and self-seeking became acceptable through the teachings of humanistic psychology throughout our society. Love of self and self-esteem were taught as personal virtues worth cultivating, eventually even infiltrating the churches and usurping the former insistence upon self-denial.
The True Church and self-indulgence are at odds with each other. Truth itself is authoritative and makes demands of us that we conform to it. Christian teaching on morality and ethics is also at war with the modern culture of self-gratification, and self-glorification.
But there are a good number of modern innovators in evangelicalism, as well as in the mainstream churches and in Catholicism, who have been working on a re-interpretation of Christianity which is more palatable because it allows people to preserve their own autonomy.
There is a tremendous crisis in authority in our day too because true submission to authority is an act of self-denial and humility. But there will be no honoring of parents or pastors or any other authority in the day of self-love because no one can be above anyone else in any sphere. We now make God in our own image and try to seek Him on our own terms.
Supposedly, now, one can be Christian and be gay, or a fornicator, or you name the sinful self-identification. We can all worship God according to our tastes; and worship is our personal experience rather than the adoration of the thrice holy God.
The Word of God is being re-interpreted along these lines as well, troublingly. Get ready for the new “Gay” Bible interpretations coming out, which will show us that the church has been wrong all along about homosexuality and other forms of deviancy. Theologians and apostate pastors are lining up to get on the “right side of history” and to take the side of Sodom in the culture wars.
All of the old certainties are under assault, our final conflict and testing is rushing upon us.
There is a church-growth movement which has exploded since the 1970s in mainstream churches as well as in evangelical and charismatic churches, employing marketing principles to fill a new kind of “consumer” religion, a church which offers an “experience” and which caters to the tastes of the “target” market of the “unchurched.” In some cases, polls have literally been conducted asking people what they would prefer in a church or what they would not have.
Subtly, this “SELFist” trend has transformed church culture, making congregations into consumers or shoppers, seeking for the most beneficial programs or the “best worship experience” or perhaps the most dynamic services to attend on the basis of entertainment value.
People’s tastes are being catered to in the name of God!
Thus, there is very little utility in actually insisting upon repentance, the horror of sin, the everlasting reward or judgment, and even the Prophetic plan of God. Because this upsets people, and perhaps humbles them, the new kind of Selfist churches instinctively avoid such subjects, knowing people may leave the churches which they have carefully built to cater to them.
This is how the warnings of the self-obsession of the last days are being fulfilled.
The Anti-Christ will merely be a man of his times. He “opposeth . . . all that is called God.” In the new world, SELF is supreme; Anti-Christ will be admired because he is the embodiment of the principle of SELF above God.
He is against all “that is worshipped” in the true sense.
There is a “Worship” revolution going on in churches. Sanctuaries are being painted black or dark colors; young, breathless musicians are leading thousands in worship services across the nation. Never has the “worship genre” been more popular in music.
However, true worship and adoration of the Triune God in Spirit and in truth goes against the supremacy of SELF; it is not self-exalting; it is, in fact, humility. We need to worship and were made to worship, to adore, and to prostrate and admire that which is above us. But only the worship of the only true God is elevating to us. All other worship, whether it be a sports team, a political party, or an ideal is destructive and corrosive to the soul.
Anti-Christ will denigrate the true worship of God but will instead convincingly demand the worship of himself and perhaps of mankind. People are being set up for it by the Self revolution, the false worship, the usurpation of the church by the consumer church, and in countless other ways.
Truly does Scripture itself warn us, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
(From Bill Randles’ blog; used with permission. Photo from bigstockphoto.com; used with permission.)