Month 9:8, Week 1:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5940:244 AM|
2Exodus 3/40, Yovel - Year 50/50
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 7 December 2016
Futile Religion X
A Question of Proper Identity
Continued from Part 9
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and Mishpachah Lev-Tsiyon and may the grace or undeserved loving-kindness of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) be with you all today. In spite of the world still being in upheaval following the American Presidential Election, Brexit and now a rejection of the EU system by Italy, and in spite of this interim between presidencies probably being one of the most dangerous and critical times in world history, I have been nudged by the Ruach (Spirit) to complete the Futile Religion series of sermons which we began last May.
SUMMARY & REVIEW OF PARTS 1-9
As it's been three months almost since I addressed this subject, I think it might be worth spending a little time summarising to remind ourselves of what the goal of this instruction is about. In essence, what we are looking at are the issues or causes that prevent our spiritual growth resulting in frustration. Why aren't we experiencing the abundant life? Why are we experiencing defeat when we should be walking in victory as "more than conquerors" (Rom.8:37, NIV)? Why are there persistent conflicts in our relationships? Why are we still clinging on to habitual sinful practices? Why do we stubbornly persist in error when the emet (truth) has been made plain to us? Why are we procrastinating when we know what we're supposed to be doing? Why the passion for the impure and spiritually debilitating when it is to holiness and freedom in Yah'shua (Jesus) that we are called? The list could go on, couldn't it?
1. Dictating the Conversation
Our fundamental problem with Yah'shua (Jesus) when we have to report all of these negative things, as we looked in the first part, is that we're trying to dictate the conversation with Him and make Him agree to our own agenda. It doesn't work. It never works. Yahweh doesn't do things our way, He does things His way. And so the vast majority of believers wonder why they don't get anywhere. They're ignorant, blind and deaf. And so sinful behaviour is rationalised and all the while we are trying to force Yahweh to do things our way. He won't. Period. Why? Because He knows what's best and we don't. Simple.
2. Confusing the Two Edenic Trees
In the second part we saw how easy it is to confuse the two trees in the Garden of Eden - the Tree of Chayim (Life) (Yah'shua) and the Tree of Death or the Knowledgle of Good and Evil (Satan). The difference is that between Trusting and Knowing, Belief and Unbelief, and you will recall that the Tree of Death has two parts which is where the confusion comes from. In order to be in Yah'shua (Jesus) it doesn't matter how much you know about Him - however useful knowledge about the emet (truth) is - what matters is how much you trust Him. Salvation and right-relationship is predicated upon emunah (faith), not gnosis (knowing). These three diagrams may help you remember what we discovered and concluded:
3. Not as Expected
In the third part we looked at the unexpected and tried to understand why things rarely turn out as we hope or expect and yet we saw how Yahweh's mercy is in the midst of it all. Our challenge is to remember the tov (good) Yahweh has unmistakably done to us while we find out why we are in the Outer Court when we are supposed to be in the Tabernacle. It is so easy to wander out of the light because of an unwillingness to walk in and through difficult places for the purpose of either purification or witness.
4. Salvation Power & Joy
In the fourth part we looked at how to maintain salvation-present in power and simcha (joy) and how not to permit ourselves to slip into darkness and depression. That 'how' is simply maintaining dependency on Yah'shua (Jesus) and resisting alternative saviours which is the road to idolatry.
5. Digging the Idols Out From Their Hiding Places
We dissected idolatry and examined it in depth in Part 5 and put an emphasis on digging out their secret hiding places in our hearts. Believers are no less expert at idolatry than unbelievers! We looked at the spirit of rejection and the impact of absent fathers on the spiritual development of the child.
6. The Damaged Image of Fatherhood
In Part 6 we saw how the dysfunctionality that results from having a damaged image of fatherhood leads to false perceptions of Elohim (God) and how this leads to atheism. We went to great lengths to emphasise the need for the salvation of the whole person and not just the mind. In short, we need our Heavenly Father in order to be whole.
7. Faith is Not a Quantity
In Part 7 we made the important discovery that emunah (faith) is not a quantity. Our faith life is not a question of shades of grey but black and white - we either believe something or we don't. And if we're not sure, we don't actually believe yet. We understood that emunah (faith) is not an emotion but a straight choice, a question of will. We choose to believe or not and then act accordingly.
8. Listening and Growing
We took this further in Part 8 and discussed the importance of taking time to listen actively to the Ruach (Spirit) and how, through repeated acts of emunah (faith) we can grow in confidence and security in Elohim (God).
9. The Self-Life & Submission
Finally, in Part 9, from where we take up our story again, we took an even more radical look at the self-life and its radical but simple solution in finally submitting properly to Yahweh. Indeed we concluded that the Tree of Death, which is the Tree of the Knowledge (Gnosis) of Good and Evil is, in actual fact, nothing more or less than the Tree of Self and did so by considering how the beattitudes would look like seen from the perspective of selfishness so that we could see the contrast with the ones Yah'shua (Jesus) taught in the Sermon on the Mount.
What is Your Identity?
So I want to dive into today's theme today by asking you rhetorically what you believe your identity to be. I am not looking for a theological answer because we can easily hide behind theology and religion, and I know you know the answer. I am asking for a spiritual response. Who am I? Who are you?
The Impression You Want to Leave Behind
To help you along the way, I would like you to imagine that you have entered a room full of people and that your fondest desire is to leave them with an impression of who you are. Your hope is that after they all go home that they will all say nice things about you. What would you like them to say about you?
What We Want to Hear About Ourselves
Here are some of the things that most human beings would like others to say about them having met them: caring, kind, helpful, cheerful, a good spouse, a good parent, intelligent, successful, attractive, witty ... and spiritual, of course. Most people, believers especially, would like to be viewed by others in these or similar terms.
Up For Auction
Now if you were to auction yourself off by using the words which you hope and think others will confirm you as being, how much money would you make? Probably, if you're doing your own assessment, you'd conclude that you'd make a tidy sum. Most would. Because what we're claiming is what we have is worth or value. You would like to be regarded as a person possessing great value.
The other day my wife recommended that I listen to a short video of Lisa Bevere, wife of the the well-known pentecostal preacher John Bevere (whose book and video series, The Bait of Satan we love so much). She related an incident in which she claims Yahweh told her that He does not love His children equally. "But you have to love us all the same!" she cried out in disbelief, to which she got the answer, "I don't: 'same' would mean one of you is replacable; 'equal' would mean My love could somehow be measured, and My love is immeasurable. I don't love my children equally - I love them uniquely."
A Unique Representation and Representative
I share this as important background to what I want to share this morning. We are loved uniquely, and that means, differently, but in a way that cannot be measured. If something is unique, it is a sole representative of itself. My youngest daughter gave me a painting of one of our dogs the other day. It is unique, the sole representative of itself, and a photocopy or photograph of it would not be the 'real thing'. You as an individual are unique, even if you have a twin who looks practically identical outwardly. When Messiah is in you, you represent Him uniquely - nobody else can represent Him in the way you do.
The Unduplicatable You & the Lie of Rivalry
A unique person or thing is a prototype and not something scheduled for mass production. There isn't more than one uniquely, spiritually regenerated 'you'. That means you are without rival. There is no rival for your place in Yahweh's heart in this world or even in eternity. The Light of Messiah shines uniquely through you. It follows, then, that rivalry, along with jealousy, is a poison in the Body of Messiah - it is the spirit of murder based on a lie, and that lie is conviction that someone may outshine you.
The Futility of Competing With Others
No. When everyone is walking surrendered in Messiah, there are no rivals and there is no cause for jealousy, because each and every believer can praise Yahweh for every other unique believer knowing that everyone is a precious gem in His crown shining in a different but equally beautiful way. So don't compare and contrast with others - it is utterly futile, resting on the false assumption that we are all somehow the same and have to compete with one another.
Rivalry in Marriage
You have an identity and a calling in Messiah without rival. Rivalry only exists when you are outside Messiah and worshipping yourself by partaking of the Tree of Self - the Tree of Death - the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. A parent in Messiah likewise loves his or her children uniquely without showing favouritism. The same is true in plural marriage because a true husband will be a husband in Messiah and will view every wife as uniquely special and lovable. That is why the Torah forbids a man from marrying a second wife with the purpose of creating rivalry:
Mitzvah and Allegory
"You shall not take (marry) a woman as a rival to her sister" (Lev.18:18, NRSV)
Sisters are, of course, usually very close so unless the relationship between them is good, and unless the husband is willing to treat them as uniquely special, he is forbidden from doing so in this mitavah (commandment). Now translate this to the Body of Messiah which is an allegory of plural marriage. The spiritually regenerated, who have Messiah living in them, ought to be close, but for that to happen, they must not fall into the trap and lie of believing that Yah'shua (Jesus) loves one part of His Bride more than the other. He doesn't, for He loves them uniquely and completely in their uniqueness.
Jacob, Leah, Rachel and the Overcoming
Jacob, who married two sisters, Leah and Rachel, failed in this respect, didn't he? The result let to a competition for his affection with each wife trying to outdo the other in getting pregnant and having children. They were rivals in marriage whereas before they were married there is no evidence that they ever were rivals to one another. Jacob was a carnal husband to begin with and it took adversity to burn that fleshy nature out of him at Peniel by the River Jabbok when he wrestled with the malak (angel) and overcame that disposition (Gen.32:22-32). He conquered the flesh, the reason he was renamed Yisra'el (Israel) which means 'God strives', and the only justification any of us has in calling ourselves by that same name.
Petty Rivalries Between the Saints
Our ability to love others as unique creations of the Father is therefore a function and sign of overcoming the fallen, carnal, fleshy Adamic nature. Until that is accomplished, there is going to be rivalry in the Body of Messiah between the various allegorical 'wives' - that's us, male and female. The petty rivalries and jealousies that we see between the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) in some congregations is a shocking disgrace. It represents a failure to recognise the emet (truth) that we are all cherished and loved uniquely by Elohim (God) and that that is a true definition of fairness from the heavenly perspective.
Biblical Equality and Secular Socialism
Secular socialism's solution is to make everyone the same, a grey mass of indistinction and ugliness, and in the process erode all the distinctives of individuality and even gender. Yahweh's solution is to make everyone uniquely different in the gender of His sovereign and loving choice as something to be celebrated rather than feared. Equality, in the Besorah (Gospel) perspective, is having "equal concern for each other" (1 Cor.12:25, NIV) irrespective of calling, position, maturity, gender or uniqueness. Equality in the Biblical sense is very different from the way the world currently views it. Equality in material things is by free will, not compulsion:
"Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: 'He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little'" (2 Cor.8:13-15, NIV).
This conveniently brings me to what I wanted to talk about today. I suggested earlier that you try and auction yourself and ascribe a value to yourself. So what is your actual worth? What is your value, not as Yahweh sees you but as you see yourself and how you would want others to see you? That's the question I am now asking.
Now what I want you to do, in order to bring perspective into this little exercise, is this. In your mind's eye, what I would like to ask you to do, is draw two concentric circles - a small circle in the middle and a wider circle outside. In the outer circle I want you to mentally write all those positive things about yourself that you want others to see (the blue circle). Then in the centre red circle, I want you to mentally write a description of yourself at your very worst moment.
Things Making for Your Worst Moment
Now you're probably wondering why I have asked you to put your worst moment character traits in the centre. The reason for this is that what you are at your worst moment is who you actually are. It's your true condition. When nothing has gone right - your child is sick, problems are arising in interpersonal relationships, someone is attacking your character, a great embarrassment has occurred, you have failed Yahweh, finances are lacking, or you've just lost your job, how would you describe yourself?
Reactions to Worst Moment Scenarios
I can think of a number of words that you might use against yourself to fit a typical condition - angry, vindictive, a slanderer, a failure, a phony, carnal, stupid, ugly, depressed, a terrible parent, a terrible spouse. Can you think of worse? People in the very worst moments can also become proud, arrogant, self-reliant and withdrawn from the support of others. We all do it, don't we?
Back to the Auction
If I took this person to that imaginary auction, how much money do you think I'd get? My guess is this person would return unsold for no one would want someone so worthless. Remember we're talking about ordinary run-of-the-mill people here. Would you want to be married to the person I just described? Would you want him or her as your parent? How would you like to have him working for you as your employee?
A Touch of Frost
My wife and I have been watching a British detective series called A Touch of Frost. Some of you may know that I love detective stories not just because I love to solve mysteries but especially because I like to see the dynamics of personal relationships at work. The great thing about Detective Inspector Frost is that he has a different Detective Sergeant to assist him in practically episode so you get all kinds of interesting sparks as the characters either dovetail or crash. They always find a unique equilibrium in the end which is what makes them so fascinating. You soon learn what is valuable in terms of character traits where two people have to work closely together and depend on each other.
Impressions and Success Suits
Now here we come to a brutal realisation, an unpleasant truth, and it's this: it is pretty obvious, if you are honest and not 'playing spiritual', that no one would accept or love us if we were all the things we have described ourselves as being in our worst moments. This realisation is very uncomfortable indeed. Why? Because acceptance and ahavah (love) are our deepest needs. Therefore, in order to milk love and acceptance out of others, what we tend to do as raw human beings-in-the-flesh, is to run to an imaginary sewing machine to make what Michael Wells called a 'success suit' that looks exactly like the impression we hope to make on others. Then we put the suit on and button it up to the top so that no one can see what is really underneath it.
The Stress of Living Two Lives
The result of this behaviour is that our relationships with others become somewhat stressed because we're trying to be someone we're not (hopefully) yet. One the one hand, we ask them to come near and give us love and acceptance on the merits of our 'success suits', and yet on the other hand we push them away for fear that if they get too close, they may see and reject the real person covered up, the one that comes out in worst moment scenarios.
Pretending to be a Kangaroo
Suppose I could convince you that you are a kangaroo. How long could you manage to hop? Five, ten minutes, maybe fifteen if you're young? After you have hopped for a while, what would you be ready to do? Stand up! Your whole body would be aching from jumping and attempting to be what you are not.
The Two Personas
When you are living in your 'success suit', you are merely hopping. You feel that you must hop because you are afraid that the people you are trying to impress would never accept you otherwise. So you get up in the morning, 'put on your success suit, and begin to hop throughout the day, putting on your show to impress everyone. By the time it's evening and you get home from work, or whatever it is you have been doing during the day around those you've been trying to impress, what are you ready to do? Stand up, rip off that uncomfortable suit that has been suffocating you all day, and be what you really are at core! I guess that's why I like to see how people are when they're really ill for usually the partient is far too tired to make the effort to wear a 'success suit' and what you see is the real man or woman.
That Common Dysfunction
Now this is the dysfunction you commonly find with society and with believers who are not being real and honest about themselves. The world, or your church or assembly, has the benefit of knowing you in your 'success suit' while you hop, but your family and your loved ones reap the consequences of knowing the real you when you take that suit off. They're the ones who have to bear the brunt because most wouldn't dare to reveal their true selves to those they're trying to impress, and most of your friends and work colleagues would never take the abuse when you're at your worst.
Let me illustrate how this kangaroo 'hopping' mechanism works. I want you to imagine an alcoholic who says he has gone 'dry' and is trying to give alcohol up for good. He tells everyone that he is not an addict anymore (the 'success suit') but at his core he still is. There he is sitting in his living room craving for alcohol when the thought enters his mind, 'I think I will go to the liquor store this evening.' Then the struggle begins. 'No, I will not go', he says, 'I'm a believer and I have promised Yahweh and my family I will quit for good.' In the evening he gets into his car and repeats, 'I will not go,' as he drives down to the liquor store. He stops in the parking lot, and says to himself, 'I will not go in.' Standing outside the door, the argument continues. 'I will not go in.' He goes in, thinking to himself, 'I won't stay.' Once he picks up a bottle, the struggle is over. He has arrived at his core. You see, his assumed identity - what he believed he really was - was that of a degenerate hypocrite, and all his refusals were mere kangaroo hopping.
Coming to Terms
This story might not be about alcohol. It might be about pornography, gluttony, or any addiction that is of the flesh. Now I am quite sure that at least some of you, when I told you earlier, that you are what you are at your worst moments, were indignant and in denial. You probably rationalised, 'That's not the real me so it's not my core.' It doesn't matter how you try to word it because any time you try to cover up something with a 'success suit' is proof of who you really are. Coming to terms with that - acknowledging it, confessing it, and asking Yahweh to help you overcome it - is the first step to recovery and the freedom to be who you are IN MESSIAH...and those last two words are very much key, as we shall see.
Let me give you further proof of what I am saying and that is how people control us through this identity. For example, a man is attracted to a woman, or vice versa, because she continues to affirm that his 'success suit' is the real him. He is manipulated and contorted through all her positive affirmations and statements that allow him - all be it briefly - to believe the lie that he is something different from what he feels. So the man marries the woman, and after a few months of marriage she realises that she can also control by hinting that his true identity is what he fears he is at his worst. He is now being controlled by negative statements. However, at the same, his secretary at work is telling him how wonderful his 'success suit' is. Who would the man rather be with? Perhaps he leaves his wife and marries his secretary, and after a few months she begins to control through confirming what he is afraid he is. But he need not worry - a new secretary is praising his 'success suit', and so the cycle continues.
If you want an extreme example, look at the life of the loser of the last American Presidential Election. The 'success suit' projected and portrayed by the media and her followers was so radically different from who she really was 'behind the scenes' when her real self was displayed in all its ugliness. She's not alone. This is a condition of the whole human race. And you know what the Scriptures teach about this:
Responding to Negative Evaluation
"On the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness" (Matt.23:28, NIV).
"Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit [and] hypocrisy..." (1 Peter 2:1, NIV).
More proof. If he did not believe that what he is at his worst moment is his true condition, he would not be upset and angry when someone hints at that being the case. How a person responds to negative evaluation is a sure test of who he believes he is. If when told he is a failure someone reacts in anger, it is because he believes he is a failure. People in the business of covering up their true identities hang on every word and event, and manifest great hostility when anything confirms their fear of who they really are.
The Power of Past Events
Past events affect most areas of our life, filtering down into the present. Our attitudes to one another are heavily influenced by past experience, the bad as well as the good. We expect certain behaviours of one another and react accordingly when they are not forthcoming, expectations acquired from the past. If we are to deny the self, and hand over toqef (authority) to Yah'shua (Jesus) so that He can fully live in us, self must be denied so that we can pinpoint the identity-shaping messages of the past that are still influencing and defining us, so that we can be free of them.
Sending Identity Messages
We are constantly sending our identity messages to one another. Some are quite obvious while others are not. Some involve the use of words, some none at all. Let me give you an example. I might say right out that I don't like you which can't easily be misunderstood; or I might simply walk away saying nothing. Either way, I am able to communicate how I feel. As you are given these messages, not only do you have lying emotions and thoughts to contend with, but also the Enemy, who will take every message and distort it and make sure you interpret it in the worst possible way.
Parents and Misunderstood Identity Messages
Parents are often accused of giving their children negative identity messages that were never intended. The Enemy seizes the opportunity and, in a voice that sounds like the parents, tells them something other than what was meant. You'd be surprised how the littlest of things can lead to huge problems. One girl remembered her father pushing her off his lap and then, ten years later, 'realised' that her father no longer loved her. And yet the real reason he pushed her off his lap was because he was late for work. The Enemy used the situation to tell the girl a lie which she believed. She believed she had been rejected and the whole incident, twisted and amplified, grew out of all proportion over time. That is the power resident within a lie, and why lies are so dangerous.
Our Emotional Grids
We have, as it were, a complex grid of emotions, built up over a lifetime, that acts as a kind of screen door existing between us and the rest of the world. When something is said, it hits this screen of emotion and takes a flip, causing us to hear what might not have been said at all. This in turn can cause big misunderstandings and upsets. We don't understand why what we have said, innocuous to us, upsets the person so badly as our words hit that emotional grid. This can lead us to think there is something wrong with us or, when we have figured out we are not guilty of any attack or accusation that bounces back at us, we may conclude that the person is simply mean. But it's rarely that simple. To be a minister you have to be a bit of a psychologist and understand what's going on. And to do that, you need to get to know the person well and be tuned into revelation being sent to you by the Ruach (Spirit).
The Evil Power of Negative Words
Negative words are powerful and at times very destructive. You know, I'm sure, the warning of the apostle James:
The Fault-Finding Father
"The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell" (James 3:6, NIV).
There was a woman whose mother died when she was 13 and it fell upon her to cook for and take care of her father and younger siblings. Every night she would do her very best to cook the best meal she could for her father but without exception he would find fault with the meal. He would always end with the unkind words, 'You'll never be a good wife if you don't learn how to cook.'
This girl grew up hearing these same words practically every night. When she was 20 she married and three months later she decided to give her husband a surprise with some fresh biscuits. He took one bite and, without any malace or criticism aforethought, suggested a little extra sugar would have made them perfect. The woman stomped out of the house, saying she was leaving for good and he could find another wife that could cook! Now the husband was, as you can imagine, dumbfounded, staring at the half-eaten biscuit and thinking, 'I should have eaten it just like it was!' All he said was that the biscuits needed a little more sugar, but what did his wife hear? The words of her husband bounced off that emotional grid, that door between her and the outside world, and all she heard were the words of her cruel father, 'You'll never be a good wife if you don't learn how to cook.'
A Dark Echo From the Past
This is what happens when we reason through the grid of emotion. To anyone else, the husband's words would have been taken as helpful advice, but to this woman, it was a dark echo from the past suddenly brought back to life. This is what I mean when I say that the emotional grid in our soul is patterned by the messages received over a lifetime and which continues to confirm what they are feeling, even if those feelings were birthed by lies. Once an identity is developed, we automatically scan our environment for signals to verify it.
Different Responses to the Same Accusation
Now if you grew up in a loving home and received lots of positive affirmation from your parents, you would think nothing of a boss at work telling you you were stupid because you made a mistake. The words would pass by like water off a duck's back. Such a person has a positive identity. Indeed, you would conclude that your boss was mentally deficient and shrug it off. But if you grew up believing you were mentally deficient because you received the constantly reinforced message that you were stupid, you might, in such a job environment, find your worst fear being vindicated, and believe you are stupid.
The Rebellious Teen
There are so many scenarios like this that you meet in the world. A teen who receives the idea that he is not valuable or of any worth may set about testing this hypothesis by rebelling and staying out all night. How the parents react becomes critical to his mental and emotional development. If the parents say nothing, or worse, say something cruel like 'it would have been better if you had never been born', the teen will believe that what he suspected was true. This can result in more defiance and even open doors for the enemy to tempt in the area of suicide, for the teen will be convinced that he has no worth.
The Importance of Being Wanted
One of the worst messages a child can receive from his parents is that they are not needed or wanted. Such a message can easily be received during divorce. A child cannot understand the complexities of divorce, he can only assume the obvious: 'It's not important to Dad (or Mum) that he (or she) be with me.'
Observing Parents' Priorities
A message of worth is given to the child as he observes what the parents give their time to. If, when the phone rings, the father drops everything and answers it, then the person on the phone, the child concludes, must have value. However, if Dad never takes the time to talk to the child, the little one can only conclude that he does not have importance. If the mother is working to support the family, that is one thing, but if she is working to buy more material objects and to get away from the children, that is quite another issue. The children who have had to sacrifice time with their parents while these pursue material gain will often despise and refuse to take care of tangibles. Why? Because material goods are seen as their competitors for the parents' attention.
Stealing Away Attention
This is actually a problem that pastors' children often have. If the father is so absorbed with the ministry that he has little time for his children, they may come to view religion in the same way as the pursuit of material things, and come to view 'God' as a competitor. It happens. I write a great deal, as you all know, and sometimes I get the complaint that I love my computer more than my family. And sometimes I forget. It isn't easy being married to a writer or being the children of a writer. Husbands who waste time watching sport on TV, reading the newspaper, or working, may be OK for a while until these things consume him and steal the attention his wife needs. Before long she may come to the conclusion that things are more important than she is. And doubtless I am sure you can liekwise think of things wives like to do that steal the attention a husband might need.
Identity Destruction Through Molestation
Two things in particular can mess up a woman's identity. One is a father who stopped showing affection and the other is molestation. In either case the message is sent that she is not loved. The latter is, without exception, an abomination; the former may be the result of many things. There are many adult women who may be 10 year-olds inside still desperate for love from an absent or indifferent father. Withholding affection sends a strong message.
My Boarding School Trauma
Boys are no different. In my case, I believed a lie. I believed, because I was sent to boarding school thousands of miles away on the other side of the planet from where we lived for one year at a time, that my parents didn't love me any more. It tore me apart. My mother and I didn't talk this out until she was in her 90's and I in my 50's and she was shocked to hear how I felt about it. But hearing her tell me that it broke her heart to send me away helped heal a part of my emotional grid. It turns out that my parents really had no choice since where we lived there was no English education available beyond a certain age. Being shipped abroad was such a lonely exile, one that forced me to reshape my feelings just to survive.
Parents Who Do Too Little or Too Much
We are so fragile, in fact, that we can be damaged in so many different ways. I'm frankly amazed that we even make it. We are like poppies being blown about by a strong wind and having our petals ripped away. I certainly don't believe it is possible pass through this life totally unscathed. A child receives identity messages from the parent who not only may do too little but who also does too much! If the father never helps with a child's projects, he is saying the child is not worthy of his time. If, on the other hand, every time the young one works on a project the impatient father takes the screwdriver out of his hand to 'do it right', the child is being told that he is incompetent. If a daughter must make her bed, but repeatedly finds mother in the room remaking it, soon the daughter will believe she can't do things right.
Balanced Emotional Development
Balanced and healthy emotional development requires both patience and acceptance of imperfection. Children whose parents do everything for them tend to lack skills with which to make decisions. Such children can end up making very poor choices, they can become procrastinators when faced with alternatives until forced to impulsively resolve the matter. Most hasty decisions have negative outcomes which can make children wait even longer before making the next determination, thus pushing them into an ever-tightening spiral of bad decision-making.
Releasing Control, Intelligent Direction
It is a mark of wisdom and maturity in parents when they insist that older children make their own decisions but give reasons for their choice. More often than not a child challenged to think through the pro's and con's will avoid making a bad decision. When we feel we must control everything our children do, we can leave them with the silent message that they are too stupid to make a decision.
The Pathology of Exalting Only One Child's Success
One of the worst things a parent can do is talk about the son or daughter who is such a great success in terms of position, achievement, wealth, and so on, that the other siblings feel the pressure to emulate them so that anything less is viewed asw failure. Then the other children are reminded every time the eminent child is acclaimed.
A Black Sheep in the Family
I had an employee in Oxford who worked for me as a teacher in my private school. He was the black sheep of his family. His father had been a distinguished surgeon and his brothers had become successful professionals. This man was constantly reminded of his failure which had made him so depressed that he was given a lobotomy by his father. This made him an epileptic, compounding his sense of failure and impauring his ability to function in ordinary life. He had no qualifications because he never felt up to the mark. I could see that he had teaching ability so I gave him a job as a teacher of English to foreign students. He threw his energy into his work and was much respected by his students. I encouraged him to go to the Oxford Polytechnic College, as it was then, and get a Batcheolor's Degree, even though he was in his 50's, and though he didn't need the qualification, the accomplishment restored his sense of self-worth. He retired a far happier man then when I had first met him. The damage done to this 'black sheep' of the family was, I like to think, repaired.
Not Forcing a Career
I would like to think that all of my children know that I don't expect them to be 'professionals'. rather, I want them to know that all work is honourable and good, and that we must pursue our careers as Yahweh has gifted us and according to our own choices. I refuse to force any of them down a path they feel uncertain about, remembering a friend of my late father who was forced by his own father to be an Engineer even though he did not want to be one. When he was in his 70s he went back to university and studied to be an architecht, what he had always wanted to do.
The Lie of a Negative Identity
So you see, we receive all sorts of messages which we believe as we grow up, some good and some bad, and these conspire together to weave an identity matrix. The bad ones cause great emotional damage and these result in negative behaviours when we are at our worst. These emotions may include feelings of worthlessness, inferiority, depression, not being wanted, stupidity, failure, ugliness, guilt and self-hate. Then every mistake we make begins to prove to us that not only do we feel this way about ourselves, but we come to believe the lie that this is actually what we are.
Examples of 'Success Suits' and Being Free of the Self-Life
Our attempts - our 'success suits' - to cover identity, take on many forms, including such things as titles, professions, church work, dress, possessions, being an ideal parent or spouse, intellectualism, self-abasement (yes, believe it or not, we can glory in this too), talents, or supporting particular social of political stands. All of these are efforts to keep hidden what we fear is true. In short, we hate ourselves! Frustration in life will come from any events that prove we are the very things we have tried so hard not to be. The use of idols is merely an extension of that dark, hated thing called 'self-life'. All attempts to deny it have failed. But how do we become free of the self-life? That is the big question.
The Problem Circle
Let me remind you of the earlier diagram we created consisting of two rings. In the outer ring was the 'success suit' we wear and the middle one is the identity that arises from worst moments. We are going to expand and rearrange that diagram now by creating a new one with three concentric circles. What I would like you to do mentally now it to label the outer most circle with that one problem or sin that continues to overwhelm and defeat you time and time again. We are going to call this the Problem Circle. Let's use an earlier illustration and put 'alcohol' for example.
The Alcoholic Illustration
Society has invented all sorts of solutions to the alcohol problem. The Americans made it illegal between the world wars ('Prohibition') and it's illegal in Moslem countries that practice Sharia law. Another approach is to give people medicines that make them ill when they drink alcohol so that they come to be revolted by it. A third solution is to lock people up so they can't get alcohol at all. All kinds of organisations, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), do good work in helping people stop drinking, because alcoholism destroys the lives of the alcoholics and their families. Alcohol addiction is something terrible and is ruled over by demonic powers. Almost without exception, the alcoholic is what he is because he has an identity problem. He is a mess inside.
How Alcohol Controls
There are two ways to be controlled by alcohol. One is the compulsion to get it, and the other is the need to stay away from it. In either case, the alcohol becomes the entire focus of the person's life. It's the same with narcotic drugs and pornography. When the problem is seen as alcohol only, and the man stops drinking, he becomes a sober mess instead of a drunken mess. The problem is not the problem. I repeat - the problem (alcohol dependency) is not the problem. This, to remind you, is the Problem Circle in our diagram.
The Event Circle and Rebellion
Let's move to the second ring or circle in our diagram. This I want you to mentally label the Event Circle. What has taken place to cause this person to drink? It could actually be something very small and insignificant. However, something occurred to cause this person to become angry and rebellious. Now hear this, because this is a key truth: IN ORDER TO HAVE A PROBLEM WE MUST REBEL AGAINST ELOHIM (GOD). The second key truth is this: THE ONLY THING THAT WILL JUSTIFY REBELLION IS ANGER.
Two Important Key Truths
Let me repeat those two key truths again because unless you have a handle on them you will not understand anything I have been talking about so far or what I am about to share with you:
Opening the Doors to Deliverance
- 1. In order to have a problem we must rebel against Elohim (God); and
- 2. The only thing that will justify rebellion is anger.
Remember these pairs of words - problem/rebellion and justification/anger. These two, once recognised and understood, fling open the doors to deliverance in Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
The Teenage Rebel Example
An illustration will help you understand. Teenager asks mother if he can go to an all-night party. Mother says no. The boy commences to pick a fight with mother until she says something that makes him angry. He then stomps off to the party, feeling perfectly justified in his rebellion. (KEY: If he had not got angry he would not have felt justified). Next morning, mother asks, 'Why did you go against my wishes?' The boy responds, 'Because you made me angry.' We have now arrived at the point where in the boy's mind, the lie has been believed that it was the mother's fault that he rebelled! That is what anger does. It twists everything round, turns everything upside down, which is why you can never reason with it. If you are on the receiving end of this kind of behaviour, it is no fun whatsoever.
The Adultery Example
Let me give you another example so that you understand the mechanism here. A man decides to commit adultery with someone at work. He knows that such an act is not good for his marriage, his children, the office or his own spiritual health. He cannot justify the behaviour. So what does he do? He goes home and picks a fight with his wife until she says something that offends him, and he gets angry. Once he is angry he feels perfectly justified in driving to the other woman's house. Here, then, is a vitally important key: the greater the rebellion in our lives, the more hostility we must generate to feel good about it.
The Seething Luciferic Energy of Dark Anger
Again: the greater the rebellion in our lives, the more hostility we must generate to feel good about it. You will see this behaviour repeated again and again in an unfailing pattern. It's a give-away though the one consumed by the hostility is blinded because the anger is demonic. And that's why he feels justified. There is an energising dark power in this hostility. It is the same power Satan felt when he rebelled and it is what still drives him today. Whenever you see this kind of anger, you know exactly where is it coming from and why it is being used. It is the way we justify rebellion.
Anger Smothers Conscience
So it is with the believer who is rebelling against Elohim (God). Why do you think so many atheists are angry with Yahweh? It is because they are under the control of a spiritual power. The rebel must bring himself to a point of anger before he can justify his rebellion, and the greater the rebellion, the greater the need for anger. Why? Because this is the only way to smother conscience. It is the only way to hide guilt without repenting. The result is always BONDAGE and the key to deliverance is the realisation and acceptance that this is the cause.
The Job Reprimand
OK, back to our alcoholism problem. What was the event that caused this problem? I'll give you an actual case study. This person and two other workers were taken into the boss' office and scolded for not being productive enough on the job. As the man thought about this reprimand throughout the day, he became angry and found himself drunk that evening. So we might say that the event is the real problem, and to solve the difficulty with drinking the man should leave his job and find a new one, thereby changing his circumstances.
The Men Who Didn't Turn to Alcohol
What about the other two men? Why were they called into the office with the man who turned to drink, receive the same scolding, yet they didn't get drunk the following evening? What was the difference between this two and the other man?
The Identity Circle
To answer that question, we must now return to our mental diagram of three concentric circles which has 'Problem' in the outer ring and 'Event' in the middle ring, and we must label the centre circle. What are we going to write in it? We are going to write 'IDENTITY'. You see, there was something in this man's identity not present in the identities of the other two, something that allows certain events to control him. If we were to write in this circle what this man believes he is at his worst moments, we would notice that whenever an occurrence seems to attest to this, the man will become angry, rebel, and cope by turning to one of his old idols from the past. In other words, whenever an experience undresses him by removing his 'success suit', the man will become angry and drink.
The Naked Priest
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you have been caught off-guard undressed? You all know that if a cohen (priest) fell asleep while on duty in the temple under the Old Covenant, he was ordered to strip naked, his clothes were burned, and he had to find his way home completely naked. Can you perhaps better understand why Yahweh demanded this punishment?
Reactions to Being Stripped Naked
A well-adjusted man would be ashamed, repent and hopefully not repeat the indiscretion again, but someone with major issues (and therefore not qualified to be a minister before Yahweh) might react in one of several ways. Either way the person returning home is going to be under a lot of stress for fear of being seen and riddiculed or even arrested for indecent exposure. How might such a person cope with the stress of going home naked? He might get drunk and lose his inhibitions. Or he might opt to take drugs and actually enjoy being rid of the confines of his clothing. Or he might get depressed and tell himself, 'Well, I never deserved clothes anyway.' Maybe he would hide behind every bush to remove himself from the eyes of others, or maybe yell and scream, causing anyone who might look at him to run away in fear and so not see him.
Identifying the Problem
The point is this: whenever an event takes place that proves you are the very thing you have worked so hard not to be, you will become angry, rebel, and devlop some way of coping with the nakedness that comes from having your 'success suit' removed. So from this we can come to this conclusion:
Some Reasons for Marriage Failure
- 1. The problem is not the problem;
- 2. The event is not the problem; but
- 3. Your identity at your worst is the problem
One of the reasons so many marriages fail nowadays is because the spouses are in rebellion against Yahweh. They are often attracted to each other for the wrong reasons. Typically, modern man falls in lust with the outer life of his or her mate, so after a short term of marriage, because the 'success suit' has worn off from being around each other so much, the husband or wife (or both) will begin to tear away at the mate's inner life, finding it quite disgusting, and yet at the same time expect the spouse, after an emotional beating, to give his or her outer life sex without reservation.
The Desire For Complete Love
A marriage partner wants us to love his or her whole person, which, depending on the amount of past damage done to the inner life, may be quite impossible. Some have inner lives that are truly unlovable; they know it, and if we confirm it to them we must pay a price - they will withdraw or explode to punish us for our observations. The important thing to remember in all of this, though, is that Yahweh possesses an answer for every such dilemma.
The Two Cups of Stress
Please bear with me, I know this has been a long address, but every part of this revelation is important, and most especially the last part. I want you to imagine two cups that represent two different individuals, boys A and B. Both cups are the same size and hold a specific amount of water, but rather than fill these cups with water, we are going to fill them with STRESS. When these cups are full and more gets added, they will simply spill over.
Different Backgrounds and Stresses
Boy A begins his life at an adoption agency, and therefore is feeling unwanted, which causes his cup to be 50 per cent full of stress. Boy B, however, has had very little happen to his life to cause him any distress. Their first grade teacher could not tell any difference in the amount of anxiety that the two boys had, because neither of them had reached 100 per cent yet. In high school, boys A and B are told by their respective girlfriends that they are going to date other boys. That causes Boy B's pressure level to go up 5 per cent; however, because Boy A is already feeling unwanted at 50 per cent, what is a 5 per cent event for Boy B is a 20 per cent event for Boy A, and his tension goes to 70 per cent.
Add Marriage Stress
Both boys decide to get married after finishing school. Marriage adds 25 per cent stress to anyone's life no matter how well-adjusted they are; therefore Boy B goes to 30 per cent, but Boy A goes to 95 per cent. Someone just ran out of room to handle much difficulty.
Life is full of 6 per cent events, which are not constant, but come and go. These include things such as running out of petrol (gas), spilling a drink, the children breaking a window, the neighbour complaining about the dog, the mice eating up the seats of your car, or whatever.
The Two Punctures Illustration
Imagine I am standing on my front porch and opposite are the two homes of Boys A and B. The doors to their garages are opening at the same time and it soon becomes evident that a tyre on each of the cars is flat - a 6 per cent event for each - yet their responses are completely different. Boy A begins to shout, scream, curse, blame his wife for not checking the air in the tyres, and starts beating the car with whatever is close by. Boy B, on the other hand, begins to whistle and decides that it might be fun to get his hands dirty; he is grateful that his wife wasn't driving the car when the puncture occurred. The problem is not the flat tyre, but the amount of stress carried over from the past and the acquired disposition from it.
The Problem is Not the Problem
The big deception that many people have is the false belief that the 6 per cent event is the real problem. If my husband treated me better, if I had a better job, if the children behaved, it my parents would apologise, if I owned a new car - then all would be well, we think to ourselves. But would this be true? No. These are, as I have already said, only the branches that reveal the root-rot, which is the inner life that has taken on an identity which it hates, which controls, and which must remain hidden from others.
The Pornography Example
How would you describe a man who is addicted to pornography and spends his evenings immersed in all manner of sexual perversion? I imagine you would call him a degenerate deviant who is quite sick. If you had a greater understanding, though, you might say that his past which drives him is what is disgusting, corrupt and depraved. That is not to excuse his behaviour, for Yahweh will most certainly judge that. But I am pretty sure that were you to own his past, you might not be doing nearly as well as he is. What if he had been repeatedly sexually molested by his father or an uncle at a very young age? You might then agree that his past is a tragedy and that if he could have had another past, he might instead be driven to Yah'shua (Jesus) and to a Christian/Messianic congegation instead of to a porno house or to the dark side of the internet.
Controlled by Identity
Our root problem is that the inner life's identity controls us. If we could destroy this identity of what we are at our worst and replace it with a new one, then daily events would not have power over us. We would have no need to become angry and rebellious, coping with our various idols. And that is what we are going to look at next week, Yah willing.
Thank you for your patience in what has been a much longer-than-usual sermon but I felt that getting the whole picture of what a false identity in one sitting was very important. I invite you to run over the online version of this sermon so that the main points sink in. You will find these emboldened or underlined. May our Heavenly Father encourage and equip you in your personal journey of overcoming any false identity you may have come to acquire and believe so that you may discover the real you which is unique and of infinite worth, is my prayer in Yah'shua's Name. Amen.
Continued in Part 11
 Michael Wells, Sidetracked in the Wilderness (Devotional Life Press, Littleton, CO: 1991)