A cultural ideology has infiltrated the church, and its not so much an ideology as it is a religion. It is the worship of the self. Rub a golden idol for long enough and you will see yourself looking back at you. The rise of this self-identity worship within the church seems to have a correlation to the rise in a population of fools peddling this doctrine in the world: Slut shaming, body shaming, reproductive rights, feminism, toxic masculinity, abortion, public education, the LGBTQ movement, Black Lives Matter, gay mirage, all the way down to the Enneagram. Each of these things are either the sacraments or the catechism of the new religion. Each of these things are at some level, come either toward or from self idolatry. I call them fools because God’s Word gives them the title of a fool. Not because they are intellectually inept, but because they are morally culpable for the sins against the God that they know, and have sinned against–earning them the wages of death. Psalm 14:1 says “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God.'” He is a fool precisely because of his own suppressed knowledge of God:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:18-22).
And his own conscience bears witness against him:
“For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:14-16).
This is the state of thought that is guiding this shift in the church. The shift toward individualism over against the God of heaven. And before you continue reading, let me unfurl your face for calling people these people fools who reject God. What I said in fewer words above, I will state here in a few more for you: The people who peddle this new religion, and who are self-idolaters at heart are the fools who have rejected God. There may be ignorant Christians riding on the coattails of some of these people, and they in turn influence their Christian friends. Hence the article.
This trend has been set within the broad scope of Evangelicalism, a trend that must be dealt with using the same ferocity and persuasiveness that this trend has used to establish itself within the church. And so here is my humble stab it.
Many Christians living in this generation are culturally muddled, intellectually blindfolded, and spiritually distracted. The culture in which we find ourselves has destroyed the value and function of the family, it indoctrinates its children with the State religion of Materialism (and in the universities, Hedonism) in the name of “Science,” and peddles covetousness, idolatry, and lust as virtuous via the oxymoronic obsession of “social” media. And then we wonder why we don’t know who we are. We have developed the practice of personality and spiritual gifting tests like the Enneagram and Meyers-Briggs to help us realize our true selves. They help us how to navigate the reality in which we live by enlightening the way we interact with ourselves and with others. They help us live a more fulfilling life.
In reality, our culture has flipped the biblical standard on its head. The family unit as representing the Imago Dei (image of God) in a fallen world has been replaced by State-funded destruction of the family through abortion, and rewards for single-mothers who decide to keep their baby, just so long as the father isn’t in the picture. It is this family structure that was commanded by God to bring up children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:7; Ephesians 6:4). It was God’s intention for His people, the body of Christ, to be in this world, but not of it. I do not mean this in the usual pithy sense, the way many use it to argue for pious Christian-living (not wrong of itself), but accidentally make a case for dualism. I mean it like the portion of leaven in the lump of dough is in the lump, but it is not dough, it is a different substance entirely, yet it causes the whole loaf to rise (Matthew 13:31). In it–not of it, but its effects are not monastic, they are cosmic. This is the trend in culture that I am talking about, and if shepherds like David tear apart lions by the jaws, then that is what I am here to do–tear this lie apart at the mouth–from which flows the overflow of the heart . The trend is not the use of the Enneagram or the Meyers-Briggs, spiritual gift tests, or any other. Those are only symptoms of the underlying condition, which seems in my estimation to be self-seeking rather than self-denial. If the abyss is the patterns of this world’s narcissistic views of identity, the trend is the Christian’s identity hanging from the Strong Tower that is the Lord of Glory, while its grip is failing, finger by finger.
Many Christians are desperate to discover their identity. The presupposition, however, is that a person’s identity is theirs to discover. The problem is not that Christians lack identity, but that they are rejecting the identity that God has already given them. No amount of self-discovery can tell you what God has spoken through His Word.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
While this passage lies within the context of keeping ourselves from sin, the reality still stands. Your body do not belong to you, despite what gender-professors in the universities tell us. But the Lord’s demands on you do not end at your physical substance.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me'” (Matthew 16:24).
When a man does come after Him, following Him with his cross up that hill will naturally produce in him: death, burial, and resurrection–through Jesus, in Jesus, and for Jesus.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).
This is that attitude of a Christian: self-sacrificial love for God, and self-sacrificial love for one’s neighbor. Jesus typified this with His whole being, and has called us to it as well.
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).
This is the type of life we are to live, through the example of Christ. We are not to replicate–we are not God like Him; We are not equal to God like Him; We are men, and we are fallen men. We are to imitate this attitude which was in Christ, which is not the same as replicate it. We are to imitate these attributes of Jesus that are possible for fallen creatures. We must not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped; We must become bond-servants (not of men, but of Him); We are to humble ourselves by becoming obedient to Him–even to the point of death. On the matter of becoming bond-servants: there is no need to become slaves to men in order to have this attitude which was in Christ. Jesus did not obey men, but anything He did, He did only by direction from the Father (John 5:19). We are to have this attitude, that the way we live be by obedience to God (which may be service to others). You may ask, what will we obey if we don’t hear from God personally? We have all heard from God personally: “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the world” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1-3), He is very Word God spoke to create the universe (Hebrews 1:2). And it is this very Word that God has spoken in Scripture. Jesus Christ is God’s Word made flesh (John 1:14), and He came to dot the I’s and cross the T’s (Matthew 5:18), its all about Him, its all through Him, and its all for Him–including you.
When the Father calls you to His Son, He calls all of you–every last thought (2 Corinthians 10:5). To live is Christ and to die is gain, the orientation of our being should be fixed on delighting in God through obedience. This may strike a person as antithetical to the whole idea of being “under grace” and not “under law.” Paul anticipates this by saying, “Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, We establish the Law” (Romans 3:31). To “establish” here means “to make stand.” We don’t establish the law by knocking it down, but by standing it up. The Lord Jesus says Himself, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” The Law is an expression of God’s character, and so the more we worship God, the more we will become like Him, and the more we will be able to affirm and agree with the Psalmist in Psalm 119. Otherwise, when we worship something else, or ourselves (which is often the case), the resulting consequence is not the attitude of David in Psalm 119, but of the attitude of the subjects of Psalm 135.
“The idols of the nations are but silver and gold. The work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; They have eyes, but they do not see; They have ears, but they do not hear, Nor is there any breath at all in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, yes, everyone who trusts in them” (Psalm 135:15-18).
Contrast this with the words of the Lord: “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Yes, this is speaking of the physical body, but the significance does not end at the condition of the physical body. Otherwise, the rich young ruler should not have needed to sell all his possessions in order to be saved. His possessions were the object of his worship, and no amount of Law-keeping could save him from his own identity, which was wrapped up in his love of money. Neither was Jesus a gnostic–He became a man, to remain one forever. Jesus called not just the body to come and die, but the entire self to come under submission to His rule and kingship. The gospel is in direct antithesis to even the most subtle attempts at counterfeit imitation. Personality tests don’t make the cut. The only true identity you will find is in losing your self for the sake of Christ, to make Him the object of your worship, your desires, and your delight, and you will become like what you worship–namely, Christ. Begin to think much on God, and much less on yourself. The call of the gospel is to come and die, now take up your cross and obey–He already did.
“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:5-15).