Eroding our gods
When I fail to honor and value a person from whom I hope to receive fulfillment, I am actually debilitating my own ability to feel valuable and fulfilled. Thus I set myself up for my own destruction as my ability for pleasure diminishes even while my thirst for it increases.
There are many examples of this that could be explored. But the end of this path is the experience of hell itself where one is overwhelmed with intense desire for satisfaction only to find that they have themselves destroyed their own ability to experience it. This process of self-destruction happens over time during which selfishness and exploitation of others erodes the heart, diminishes capacity for love and hardens the soul. This hardening of the heart leads toward this tragic condition that becomes the reality all find themselves in who choose the good-bad Tree of Knowledge over the Tree of Life.
Exploitation is the very process by which one destroys the very design built into them by the Creator through which eternal life can be embraced. Once there is complete loss of this capacity to receive and pass on love, one is left with only total isolation, loneliness, fear and potential frustration for eternity. With no hope to ever experience satisfaction again for anything added to the knowledge that it is no longer possible to blame anyone other than one's self for their condition, the only option left is to beg God to take back the gift of life He originally gave and to embrace eternal non-existence rather than the torture of living in frustrating emptiness with the glory of love all around while unable to enjoy it.
If we became more aware of this vital truth we might have more disincentive toward sin. Sin itself is what erodes and destroys our ability to be loved and to love. Selfishness has within it the seeds that produce hardness of heart, a condition that if properly understood would be terrifying to anyone with any sense of sanity. Our current problem is that the deception of sin has so blinded our minds to this potential condition that even though we are still salvageable we have little interest in availing ourselves of the remedy provided to heal and repair us.
What destroys my capacity for thriving or has power to increase it?
When I view another person as an object to use to make myself feel temporarily better, I am in the mode of eroding my own capacity to thrive within the circuit of love designed by God. This circuit of love is the only way I can become more alive and be connected to the sole Source of life. This circuit offers me the option to love and serve and enhance others rather than exploit, devalue and destroy.
Selfishness blinds me to the reality of how destructive it really is to being. Selfishness creates an illusion that I can feel more alive or find satisfaction by wresting life away from others in some way. We don't usually think of it in these terms as it would become repulsive more readily. The deception of sin will not tolerate letting us to think that clearly. But the truth is that selfishness is self-destruction while sincerely assuming we can use others to make us feel more alive and find satisfaction.
Everyone is born with primordial desires to live and thrive and increase. Death is a foreign concept in God's creation that was designed only for life as represented in the symbol of the Tree of Life. God is the only source of all life and He designed a circuit of life in which every creature can perfectly function as long as they live in harmony with the principle of agape love.
Satan's counterfeit system threw us out of harmony with the circuit of life causing us to think we can function in reverse to our original design without resulting in damage. But the reality is that this is impossible. Yet because Satan also has blinded our ability to perceive reality, we intuitively assume this is not only possible but are driven in that direction by nature. Yet this naturalness is not from our created design but rather the deformed nature that infects all the fallen beings born since Adam.
Every fallen human being is now born with a predisposition to be selfish, that innate self-destructive tendency that tends toward death. We cannot help being born in this fatal condition, but God has designed a way of escape for all who are willing to humble themselves to embrace the truth. Jesus came as a divine infusion of the love that was lost to counteract and repair all the damage that selfishness and sin wreaked in the human heart. At the same time God also respects our freedom to reject His healing provision if we refuse to accept His love. But He will not rest His efforts to draw us into His healing provision as long as there is any trace of hope left and there is the slightest capacity within still in tack that might be used to awaken repentance of the heart.
So back to the original observation at the beginning. Natural sin/selfishness in my heart is my tendency or proclivity to want to exploit others, objects or situations to gain some sort of perceived life or pleasure for me while remaining outside the circuit of love/life as designed by God. Only in this circuit can I experience true satisfaction, life-giving pleasure and an ability to thrive as I exercise my will to stay in harmony with the underlying principles of agape love. Every other choice leads away from love and life just as going any direction from the North pole is to go South.
But unlike being stuck in one spot on the North pole with no option to go anywhere without going South, living in harmony with the principles of love upon which life was designed to function is to discover the utmost potential and freedom, not restrictions of freedom as our fallen nature asserts. To be restored into harmony with the natural principles of life upon which we live in harmony with the universe, we find our true potential for infinite growth, pleasure, fulfillment and deepest satisfaction. By allowing God's healing Spirit to reverse our thinking from selfishness to other-centeredness we find greater fulfillment and satisfaction – the very opposite of what our selfishness leads us to assume.
Sin has so warped our perceptions of reality that in general everything our fallen nature assumes is true is often opposite to real truth. Thus our fallen nature leads us to believe we must take in order to have instead of the truth that in passing along generously what we have received, that very choice releases inherent life into our own being causing us to thrive.
Selfishness blinds us to the truth that only in giving can we thrive. Selfishness reverses the life-giving flow we were designed to enjoy thinking we have to get life for ourselves rather than accepting it free of all coercion. We are blinded to the inseparable nature of truths that if properly understood would refute the assertions of the enemy leading us clamor for life instead of resting in the flow of the River of Life. Some of these truths include the reality that grace and truth are one and the same, not competing concepts. Justice and mercy are actually one and the same, not competing ideals. Agape, other-focused, serving love actually opens the way to experience love, not a threat of depleting us of life as we innately may assume.
Sin also leads us to ignore parts of truth that then permits sin to retain its deceptive power over us. We believe that if we give to others we will suffer loss ourselves. This can be true if we are living outside the circuit of life as God designed it. But God wants to liberate us from Satan's counterfeit system where we take from others to satisfy ourselves. He wants to bring us into harmony with the life-giving circuit of His design in which we receive life and love in abundance so we have more than enough to enhance and bless and satisfy others.
Yet all of this seems illogical so long as we cling to the logic of selfishness which tells us there is not enough to go around so we must make sure we have more than enough for ourself before we grudgingly release anything to someone else. God's generous love circuit appears illogical in our selfishness which is why we must be given a new heart, a different mind and a generous spirit before truth makes any sense to us.
In our fallen system of thinking the underlying assumption about life is that I am responsible to make sure I have enough of what I want for myself before considering the needs or desires of others. This concept has a fatal flaw, for it blinds us to the nature of the circuit of life as originally designed. By inserting the selfish factor into the function of this circuit we pay more attention to our own desires than the needs of others. In turn this virus of selfishness works to infect those around us causing increasing isolation, suspicion and disconnect from the very circuit designed for our provision. In essence this describes the system of unbelief about God's generosity, kindness and faithfulness which is what fuels all our fears and compels us to seek for alternative sources to provide us life and love.
One reason the very first instruction from God given in the Ten Words on Mt. Sinai was to not have any other gods before Him was to address this very problem. The inherent purpose of any god of any kind is to be for us a source of something we need or desire. Whether it be basic provisions required for continued existence, for protection, pleasure or whatever, a god is the source we rely on to bring us the things we want but cannot produce ourselves yet we feel are needed for living.
With this understanding of the true meaning of a god, it becomes easier to see the reason why God wants us to know why He is the only One who has everything we need. All other sources for life and provision are secondary by nature, and although God has arranged for many avenues and channels through which to bring life and love and blessing into our lives, we must remain cognizant that everything originates with Him. In order to live in harmony with this circuit of provision for us we need to make knowing Him our highest priority and return directly to Him our praise and appreciation for His generosity and goodness and life. Thus we may stay properly oriented to live and thrive in the circuit of life and love and provision that will bring true satisfaction, joy and peace.
Sin has so distorted our awareness of this truth that we often perceive God as a threat to our existence rather than the source of life and provision and love. As long as I feel God is in any way a threat to my happiness or existence I will be driven to seek alternative ways or sources to get what I intuitively think I must have in order to thrive and stay alive. Because of this I can elevate all kinds of experiences, people or imagined deities to a higher priority than trusting that God is faithful to provide all of my needs.
In this perverted mentality I will believe that I have to discover on my own resources required to keep me alive or give me pleasure and satisfaction. I become tempted to exploit resources in order to get what I want for myself rather than resting in the circuit of life provided by God that can bring me all I need. I will manipulate, deceive, exploit and take by force from others in order to supplement what I feel I must have. This system inherently is debilitating to everything and everyone around me, yet it deceives me into believing it is necessary for my survival. Thus belief in the notion of survival of the fittest becomes the fundamental paradigm by which I perceive reality rather than trusting in a loving Father who always provides more than enough for everyone generously and graciously.
Jesus came to challenge this deeply entrenched paradigm. He revealed that trust in God's desire to provide everything we need and more frees us to participate joyfully in the circuit of life and delivers us from all our fears. This is the kind of rest spoken of in Hebrews 4 where we are alerted to the fact that we still have not embraced the kind of rest symbolized by the seventh-day Sabbath of creation. We have confused the meaning of the weekly Sabbath as well as the design for the circuit of life because we are so confused by our fallen nature that blinds us to God's love. This has been our reality ever since our first parents corrupted the gene pool from which we born.
Before Adam and Eve embraced this counterfeit system of living under Satan's lies about God, they lived happily in selfless passionate love for each other and all around them. But infection of Satan's insinuations about God caused them to begin looking out for themselves first at any potential expense to those around them. Thus Adam flips from grabbing that fruit from Eve to join in her condition because he loves her so much he can't imagine life without her, to offering her as the first potential human sacrifice to a perceived offended deity coming to impose the penalty of death for disobeying His orders. “She made me do it! If someone is going to be killed, don't kill me – take her!”
This bizarre distortion of thinking and perception about God and reality constitutes the real issue of sin that has displayed itself in myriads of ways ever since. We now all look for excuses to blame someone else for the results of our selfish choices that bring problems to our existence or that make us feel ashamed or afraid. We all react similarly to the way our first parents acted as soon as that operating system took over their brains causing them to see God as a threat instead of selfishness. From that point on we have been trapped in brains that look for other gods to fix the enormous vacuum left when we lost the only God who could fill that emptiness and satisfy our deepest longings for love and life.
Now we are stuck with hearts that malfunction while thinking it is the only way we can live. Fear that God will hurt or shame or restrict our access to life leads us to do similar things to our first parents. Inherently we cannot help but reflect the nature of whatever god we imagine is in charge of us. We were created as images of God to reflect Him and that inherent design can never be altered. The of our malfunction lies in our distortions about the kind of God above us and all those distortions are revealed most clearly in the way we relate to others around us, especially our enemies.
We now live with the legacy of the confusion caused by the conflicting ideas found symbolically in the Tree our first parents chose over the Tree of Life that kept us connected in His circuit of life. We now naturally tend to exploit others just as we were exploited by the diabolical prince of this world. We now reflect his evil selfish nature instead of the selfless, loving servant God revealed by Jesus.
So for example, when one finds themselves looking lustfully at a woman imagining how much pleasure they might be able to derive from having her under their control, they are simply revealing the same spirit of exploitation that was used against vulnerable humanity by the first great exploiter Satan. When a woman in turn views someone as a threat and schemes to set them up to expose them publicly in order to shame, humiliate or punish them, she indulges in the same spirit of exploitation that infected our first parents in the Garden.
This is not some theological diversion to get us off the hook and avoid personal responsibility. Rather it is the fundamental reason for our condition that would be inescapable were it not for the supernatural intervention of God in the rescue provided for us in Jesus. I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? (Romans 7:23-24). Without the remedy of divine nature – agape love itself – infused into humanity and providing a new nature now available to everyone through Jesus our Messiah, there would be no escape from our fallen selfish passions that drive all of us toward self-destruction.
Any form of exploitation of any kind is the result of the infection originally caused by Lucifer. Exploitation is the essence of sin and is the most potent threat to the perfect system of God's creation designed for complete vulnerability and yet safe as long as all are willing to trust His heart and live in love. Within that pure and holy environment where all are willing to be transparent and vulnerable, pure joy and life and love can thrive. All live in harmony with the great circuit of love upon which the entire universe was designed to operate perfectly. All receive life, love and provision in order to process it and pass it along to others while at the same time directing praise and gratitude to the One who is the Source of all provision. This is the wonderful system of vulnerability where true happiness thrives; and this is the design that was exploited by the great deceiver and rebel, first in heaven and later on earth. This is the very vulnerability of God that His greatest and most brilliant angel thought to exploit which has wreaked havoc throughout the universe with the infection of sin.
These two competing systems vying for control of the universe: vulnerable love that produces joy or selfish exploitation which induces death, are the only two options there are. If we choose to continue in selfishness we will continue to engage in exploitation in various ways. But doing so erodes and diminishes our own capacity to live in God's family where vulnerability is fully embraced. On the other hand, if we choose to believe that God is the only source of all life and that He can be trusted to work everything together for good in the long run; if we choose to believe He is trustworthy enough to finish His plan to heal us from all selfishness, pain and death, then we can enter the path of restoration into harmony with God's original design and begin the healing process to for recovery from all the damage sin has brought to our minds and hearts and lives.
We do need to be aware that when we choose life as God designed it for us, we instantly set ourselves up for conflict with the spirits of all those remaining under the influence of the exploitive kingdom of darkness and we become targets for the exploitation they naturally practice. Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12) To embrace Christ's kingdom puts us at odds with the kingdom of darkness and enrages the evil one. But though we will certainly suffer like Christ did for similar reasons, we must learn to respond by letting the mind of Christ be in us who focused His attention on joy whenever exploitation attempted to destroy His trust in His Father. (see Philippians 2 and Hebrews 12.)
Unavoidably our internal concept of God shapes all of our relationships, which is why it is so vital that we first begin to grasp a better appreciation of the real truth about the kind of God in charge of the universe before much of anything else has much effector for our recovery. As long as we cling to beliefs that God is vindictive, punishing, cruel or in any other way uses the false principles of darkness and death, we set ourselves up to reflect a false god in our own lives.
Our greatest need is to believe the plain truth that God is only light and love and truth and in Him is not the slightest bit of darkness, selfishness or deception. God is only life-giving and any belief short of this fails to set us fully free from the lying insinuations about Him that fuels the sin in our lives. Thus at the center of deliverance from sin is not effort to reform our behavior but rather a radical correction of our perceptions of the nature of the God who is at the center of all power.
To be set free to live in love and freedom I must come to see God as one who embraces vulnerability while choosing to love freely even through any amount of exploitation brought against Him. Avoidance of vulnerability is not the answer for escaping the problem of sin; embracing the God who embraces vulnerability and defeats it through forgiveness and love is the only effective answer. By immersing myself in the truth about this God who loves me unconditionally I am then transformed to begin reflecting His perfect love. I cannot escape the tenacious selfishness that controls me by trying to suppress or overcome it through resisting it; rather I am cured of selfishness only as I focus my attention resolutely on all the evidence of God's passionate and faithful love until that image of Him finally begins to emerge spontaneously from the healed mirror of my own soul.
Living in the love circuit where I receive in order to give means that instead of seeing others as resources to exploit to enrich myself, I see them as damaged but precious children of God needing the same salvaging and healing that I need. Now all the world becomes the family I see God drawing back into wholeness instead of competition for limited resources. As I embrace the God who is limitless in His love and ability to provide more than I could ever use, I can find the courage to share like Jesus taught and live in the freedom that only comes when fear is evaporated from a heart filled with His love.
As that love then flows through my healing heart to others it can awaken strong desires in them to experience similar healing and freedom. I can then become a source of life, hope and blessing instead of a threat to exploit them for my own cravings. God then is glorified and all who live trusting in His love can be glorified with Him. This was the prayer of Jesus in the upper room found in John 14-17 and is to be fulfilled more fully in our time. This is what John saw that he described in his wonderful letters near the end of the New Testament. And this is the life we can embrace here and now.