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Being Honest with Ourselves...

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Being Honest with Ourselves

The Practice of Inner Transparency...

The following entry discusses the nature of repentance. It's my hope that this will encourage you to "return to the LORD and listen to His Voice" (Deut. 30:2).

Why do we have such difficulty being genuinely honest with ourselves? Despite the fact that we may profess that we are "sinners saved by grace," we often make excuses for our failures, rationalizing that we are not "that bad," and therefore we postpone genuine teshuvah (repentance) and trifle with our spiritual lives. We do this because we feel an almost irresistible need to justify ourselves, to "save face" by pretending that we are not "incurably sick," or by attempting to find something about us that makes feel valuable and worthy. As H.L. Mencken once wittingly noted, "the 'truth' that survives is simply the lie that is pleasantest to believe."

With regard to others, however, we often pretend that we are someone else because we crave their approval and we estimate our worth in terms of their acceptance... This "living for others" causes us to conceal or deny who we really are because we are afraid of rejection. Eventually, however, the practice of such pretense may confound the "outer version" of who we are with the "inner version," leading to exhaustion, resentment, and bitterness over our need for acceptance. The process of self-deception may be worsened if we join an organized religion, where we experience the peer pressure of the group regarding how we are to live before God. We adopt a creed and a set of religious practices - not from a sense of personal conviction - but rather because of our need for the group's approval of us. There is grave danger in all of this, since we run the risk of "living for others" in the name of serving God.... We learn to cover up our problems, to maintain a veneer of respectability, to pretend that everything is okay, to stuff our feelings, and to ultimately justify ourselves. We refrain from confessing our struggles so we will not appear to be weak.

The LORD, however, wants us to have truth in the "inward being" (Psalm 51:6), though that truth will cost us something, namely whatever worldly gains we might find through self-deception... Opening our hearts to divine examination eventually means colliding with the world of men and their conspiracies, since the godly man no longer abides their presence (Psalm 1:1-2). The Apostle Paul said there was an exclusive disjunction between seeking the approval of men and of the approval of God: "Do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of the Messiah (Gal. 1:10). Likewise we are told not to deceive ourselves (lit., "reason around" the truth, from παραλογίζομαι, from παρά, "around, beside" and λογίζομαι, "to reason") by merely hearing the truth of Scripture and not living it (James 1:22). God is not interested in "lip service" any more than he desires heartless sacrifice (Isa. 29:13; Hos. 6:6; Matt. 15:9). "Let your love be genuine (ἀνυπόκριτος, without a "mask" put on), abhor what is evil; cling to what is good (Rom. 12:9). God abhors those who pretend to know Him but who are really spiritual impostors (Matt. 7:21-23; 25:11-12; Luke 6:46).

Yeshua warned, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (Luke 12:1)." But what is hypocrisy? The word comes from the Greek prefix ὑπὸ (under) combined with the verb κρίνω (to judge), and hence refers to the inability to come to a decision and exercise genuine conviction. It is a state of being "double minded," duplicitous, and insincere... Later the word connoted playing a part, "putting on a show," feigning righteousness, acting with insincerity, reusing "canned answers" or repeating the party line.  Hypocrisy is therefore a form of self-deception.  It is institutionalized prejudice dressed up as religion; it is counterfeit thinking that cheats the truth; it is ethnocentric nonsense that despises others as unworthy, inferior, etc.  The "leaven of the Pharisees" is like old sourdough added to the community -- it "puffs people up" and is therefore based on human pride.

Tragically (and paradoxically) many people can talk themselves into believing something without really believing it, and that is perhaps the most dangerous thing of all (Matt. 7:22-23). On the other hand, some people can talk themselves into believing (or accepting) something that they know is untrue (or morally wrong), and that self-deception leads to inner fragmentation, chaos, and dissolution of character.  A "double-minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8). The word translated "double-minded" is dipsuchos (δίψυχος), a word formed from δίς, "twice" and ψυχή, "soul." The word describes the spiritual condition of having "two souls" that both want different things at once -- a state of inner contradiction and ambivalence. Consciously or not, double-minded people attempt to look at two different things at once. They seek their end in a world of finite things – in "good fortune," in personal honor, in worldly entertainment, or other immediacies of the passing day. Such a cross-eyed approach leads to disorientation and spiritual destruction. A divided house cannot stand.

William James once said that a great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices... "We like to continue to believe what we have been accustomed to accept as true, and the resentment aroused when doubt is cast on any of our assumptions leads us to seek every manner of excuse for clinging to them. The result is that most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do." (J. H. Robinson). "Reason," then, is often used as a tool to justify our desires, rather than being a means of discerning the truth...

There is a midrash about a dialog between Adam and God after Adam's banishment from the Garden of Eden. Adam feared that all humans would later blame him for their mortality, but God replied, "Don't worry about the others. From now on, each soul will be responsible for giving account of his or her life. Each person is required to write his or her own 'Book of Life.' On the Day of Judgment, I simply ratify what has been written." Socrates was surely correct when he said that the unexamined life is not worth living, since we must perform cheshbon ha-nefesh, an "accounting of the soul," every day in our walk with God. Examine yourselves (πειράζετε) to see whether your faith is genuine (2 Cor. 13:5). What are your private thoughts and hidden desires?

יְהוָה מִי־יָגוּר בְּאָהֳלֶךָ
 מִי־יִשְׁכּן בְּהַר קָדְשֶׁךָ
 הוֹלֵךְ תָּמִים וּפעֵל צֶדֶק
 וְדבֵר אֱמֶת בִּלְבָבוֹ

Adonai · mi · ya·gur · be·a·ho·le·kha
mi · yish·kon · be·har · kod·she·kha
ho·lekh · ta·mim · u·fo·el · tze·dek
ve·do·ver · e·met · bil·va·vo

"O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth within his heart."

(Psalm 15:1-2)


Note that the word tamim, translated "blamelessly," might better be rendered "perfectly," that is, complete in all its parts; where no part is missing. The person who walks perfectly, then, means one who is wholehearted in their faith and trust.... Note that this person does what is right – that is, practices tzedakah and performs good deeds; he uses the "good eye" to bless others. Speaking truth "within the heart" is critical since it implies that the person is sincere, honest, without ulterior motives, and so on... He is a "true" person with a heart that can be trusted. The phrase also implies the person is free from self-deception or the need to pretend to be something he isn't.

There is the "lawful use of the law" (1 Tim. 1:8-11). One of the reasons God revealed the Ten Commandments was because it was His way of saying "I know who you really are, I see you..." This is why the people drew back in terror, since God saw their inner condition, exposed it, shined the light of His truth upon it. You have the impulse to be faithless, to worship the moment, to cheat, to lie, to lust, to kill, and so on. If you think you can keep the Ten Commandments, it is unlikely you have dared to examine your own inner impulses. If you take the time to do so, you will see these things are there (Matt. 15:19)....

Thank the LORD our God that there is real healing for our inner dividedness, ambivalence, and double-mindedness, but that healing demands rigorous honesty. As Kierkegaard rightly observed: "No person is saved except by grace; but there is one sin that makes grace impossible, and that is dishonesty; and there is one thing God must forever and unconditionally require, and that is honesty." Therefore we are instructed to confess our faults one to another, and pray for one another, that we may be healed (James 5:16). May the LORD our God help each of us to be wholehearted in our devotion to Him. Amen.

Quick Postscript:

Above I said that the law reveals both the holy character of God as well as our inner condition of heart, since its imperatives imply the need for obedience. This is the entry point, if you will, because the assumption that the "flesh" can justify itself through its own inner determination must be shattered and broken as were the first tables of stone... It is only after confession and the acceptance of our great need for divine deliverance are we given new hearts to serve God -- no longer as fearful slaves, but as His redeemed children. The genuinely redeemed soul is a "new creation" that inhabits a new realm or "order" of reality (2 Cor. 5:16-17; Gal. 6:15). There is new wine put into new wineskins... Asking a regenerated soul to observe the written law is like asking a post graduate student to go back and take kindergarten classes again. You can review the ordinances, rules, customs, and so on, but ultimately this God wants the inward heart. In other words, "Torah" means something far more than merely the mishpatim, chukkot, and shoftim (laws, decrees, and judgments) revealed in the lawcode revealed to Moses. There is Torat Yeshua, the "yoke" of His teaching that brings you before the Throne of Grace, before the heavenly kapporet, and empowers you to walk according to the law of love by the power of the Holy Spirit. The New Covenant provides both the Source for keeping the inner meaning of the Torah - as well as its true End - in Yeshua, the First and the Last, who is forever the Living Torah....

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