The Pernicious Lie: You’re Not THAT Bad!

Is it more loving to tell someone a lie or to tell someone the truth, but hurt her feelings?  Of course, there’s more than meets he eye here, for intent often must precede content.  But, if the intent on both counts is to genuinely, sincerely love the other, what’s better?

In the latest essay our “The Pernicious Lie” series, Eunice thankfully loves us by giving the truth about ourselves in unmasking the pernicious and soul-condemning lies of compromise that we want to believe, to our peril.  Please read on with a willingness to change.  Comments welcomed! – Arthur  

Charles Spurgeon, a British Baptist preacher, once made a startling remark about mankind, “You cannot slander human nature; it is worse than words can paint it.” Harsh words.

Scripture doesn’t paint a prettier picture. Actually, Scripture uses severely vile terms to describe man. Men are “corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice.” In all of humanity, “there is none righteous, not even one…There is none who does good.” (Romans 3:10, 12)

I don’t disagree with the truth of Scripture. Looking at the world and, especially, at my own record, I am cognitively aware of the reality of sin and its presence within me. However, even with this knowledge, in my heart of hearts I question, “Uh, really? Is sin that bad? Am I really that bad?”

On the horizontal level, leading a moral life can wear the guise of sinlessness. As long as you don’t do horribly bad things, you’re okay. Just make sure you go to church on Sundays, read your Bible occasionally, and generally keep the Ten Commandments. When I evaluate myself according to that scale, I seem to be doing just fine. I can give myself a pat on the back and move on with my day.

Then, why is God making such a big fuss? What’s the big deal?

The prophet Jeremiah speaks on behalf of the Lord:

“For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)

As I let this pierce through my heart, I realize the great weight of my sin. Sin is not just simply a ‘missing of the mark’, although it includes this. Sin is worth infinite condemnation because of who it offends. John Bunyan goes further to describe sin as “the dare of God’s justice, the rape of His mercy, the jeer of His patience, the slight of His power, the contempt of His love!” Each time I disregard my mother’s words, diminish the imago dei in another person, worry about my future, or covet the talents of a close friend, I take a stab at God. His heart.

For the typical Christian, we easily play the game of blurring the lines between black and white, and make everything ‘gray.’ Drinking is fine; just make sure you don’t drink too much. Dating that person is okay; just make sure that the person goes to church. We can dabble in activities of the world; just make sure that we still maintain our Christian label. John Wesley’s mother, Susanna Wesley, with precise words described sin as “that which weakens your reasoning, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away your relish for spiritual things—in short, if anything increases the authority and power of the flesh over the spirit— that to you becomes sin, however good it is in itself.” Anything and everything that pulls you away from a closer fellowship with the Lord, Your Heavenly Father, is sin.

When the exterior—one’s looks, reputation, accomplishments, talents, personality, and self-esteem—is stripped away, every man is nothing more than a filthy, murderous, delusional harlot, seeking satisfaction and salvation from every where and anywhere else, except from God, her true Love. Under all our make-up, our bodies are temples for the indulgence of lusts and the worship of idols.

Christian brother, Christian sister, do not be deceived, “for when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” Do not think that your actions— no matter how small, insignificant, or trivial— don’t have eternal consequences.

– Eunice Im

The Pernicious Truth

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Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert!  Only read this essay all the way through if you want to know the Enemy’s plans of attack on you, and only if you want to know why you are stuck in spiritual mediocrity.  If you don’t want to know “what’s under the hood” and you want your relationship with God to remain as is, DO NOT CONTINUE READING!  You have been warned.

If you do continue reading, then please let me know your thoughts and responses are.  Thanks. – Arthur

Pernicious.  1.  Causing insidious harm or ruin; ruinous; injurious; hurtful.  2.  Deadly; fatal.  3.  Evil; wicked.

While the definition of pernicious is easy to state, it is not so easy to pinpoint in today’s postmodern mindset, where things once thought obvious no longer are.  Once you invoke terms like harm, hurtful, and evil, you invoke a moral reference point with which to measure one’s thoughts or actions by.  What is that point?  Says who?  This ultimately is a matter of truth, and truth, by definition, is exclusive.  British author GK Chesterton astutely noted that there are many angles by which you can fall, but only one angle at which you can stand straight.

Therein lies the challenge for God’s people living in an age with pluralism as its king; finding that truthful angle at which we can stand straight, and then committing and subjecting our very lives to living at that angle, the Angle of Truth.  Even the slightest tilt of the angle leads to a fall … even if that angle seems much “straighter” than other angles.  Though it is often difficult to discern a straight angle from a slight one, it IS possible, as long as all of life’s angles and options are measured against the one straight angle, the truth of God’s word.

Theologian RC Sproul describes truth as that which corresponds with reality … as perceived by God, because God’s perception of reality is never distorted.  It is perfect.  Our problems arise when we set even the slightest gaze of our eyes upon other norms and standards in addition to God’s word.  It’s what I call “Christ AND … theology,” where we look to Christ AND this, where we want Christ AND that, instead of Christ alone.  In reality, as RC says, only God’s view of life is perfect and complete.  Any addition to it (or subtraction) at all, and you’ve got that tilted angle – no matter how much Scripture you have as a base.  God alone, and Scripture alone stand straight.

To the one whose values are not clear, this is more easily deciphered in concept than it is in practice, for Satan is masterful at blurring the lines of distinction, giving you nourishment, while at the same time diminishing you in the process.

It is said that if you drop a frog into boiling water, it will jump out instantly, but if you drop it into room temperature water and very slowly bring it to a boil, it will boil to death before it has a chance to figure out it’s being boiled.  The Bible warns us that Satan will come as an angel of light (2Cor. 11:14), not fire!  He will try to imitate light.  He will promote virtual light, if you will – illuminating but only so far, enlightening but incompletely, keeping our focus on the image and the visible, leaving out of sight the infrastructure and the foundation upon which the illuminated façade is built upon.

Aaahh, that is so Satan.  He aims to keep us entertained, tickled, and warmed, keeping us at eye level with incomplete, sensory, on-the-surface truths while boiling us within, deadening our senses, and making us dependent upon our feelings and insecurities for our decision making.  Little by little, step by step, we rely less and less on the sharpness and razor-like precision of the Word of God to carve out our paths.

Satan is no dummy.  If he’s going win his battle for our souls, he’s got to somehow find ways to neutralize our strongest weapon, the Word of God.  For the non-Christian and the “flimsy” Christian, that job is easy.  Discredit the veracity of the Bible at the hands of human brilliance and seemingly empirical science, pluralistic philosophy, or just plain doses of sensual hedonism (note that sensual is referring to being led by the senses – this is not only sexual).  The classic lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. (1John 2:16)  Suck them in with pernicious lies.

But what about the serious and committed Christians; those of us who don’t fall for the obvious pernicious lies; the ones who recognize those ploys?  For that, Satan must neutralize the word of God WITH the word of God, substituting out the best for the good, fighting fire with fire.  He sucks us in with what I call … pernicious truth.  Pernicious truth?  It sounds like an oxymoron, but propositional truth that isn’t rooted in the Person of Truth is harmful, hurtful, and spiritually deadly.  It is pernicious truth.

Put on God’s lenses and you’ll see your enemy’s strategy. Make the living waters ever-so-slightly murkier.  Introduce a virtual word of God, which looks the same in content, but not in intent, and start creating micro-tears, slowly disconnecting the “strong” Christian’s biblical head from his sinful heart.  Subsume “committed” Christians to secondary “wholesome” and “harmless” forms of encouragement, edification, and entertainment.  Slowly but surely dull the razor’s edge.

When one begins to believe that things unreal are really real, we say he is going insane.  Yet, when the masses begin to believe in things that are not really real (i.e. virtual communities), we call it normal, and call it a cultural shift.  With whole-hearted thanks to God, we have His word preserved – the perfect, powerful truth –

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12).  

There’s the rub.  Are we going to go under the knife and cooperate with the Surgeon of our souls as He completes the needed surgery of sanctification, right down to the deepest parts – changing all of our thoughts, all of our attitudes, all of our actions, or are we going to play doctor and just say we did?  It’s true that most people won’t even notice, but God will … and so will Satan.

– Arthur Hsieh

The Pernicious Lie: Waxy Images

Sadly, one of the most important questions of our times is, “What does it mean to be human?”  Only a generation or two ago, that question wasn’t so difficult to answer. However, with the current mass-level assault on the uniqueness and specialness of humanity, transcendent moral values, and the Creator Himself, the broad waters are certainly murkier than they’ve ever been.  The Enemy is at work.  

In our continuing series, The Pernicious Lie, Robert helps clarify some of the smoke screen and enables us to see the real issues at hand.  Your comments are welcomed! – Arthur

            “That’s not Hercules,” Kathy said, “That looks like Tarzan in the jungle!” In the Hollywood Wax Museum there were some figures that made us wonder if they had been molded by the latest laser technology, then there were those that were authentically… fake. You could almost imagine wax dripping from what was supposed to be the face of Jackie Chan. Some statues were beyond our recognition because we didn’t know the real people they were representing—does that really look like John Wayne? I’ve never watched his movies. However realistic those images were, they could only capture a physical appearance. Though we were surprised every once in a while, not one of the wax figures stepped out of its display to greet us. A wax museum is not the place to make new friends.

While you can’t (or shouldn’t) be friends with a wax statue, you share more in common with it than you might realize. It stands as a representation of something greater than itself, its substance was molded and shaped to look the way it does now, and it rarely does its job well. We too are image bearers. We were made in the “image of God” (Gen. 1:27), to represent not a physical appearance but the character of God. That image has been marred by sin so that it is hardly recognizable in us.  I look at God’s holiness, his love, his faithfulness, his patience, and I see how often my life stands in testimony to the exact opposite characteristics. When I get impatient with my mom, or when I selfishly judge others to stroke my own pride, I’m vandalizing the image of God in me.

Praise God that there was one who came as the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), the “exact imprint of His nature” (Heb. 1:3), our perfect “high priest… who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:14-15)—Jesus. He did the impossible for us by taking the penalty for our sins and by being the perfect representation of His Father. As Christians, we have been buried with him in baptism and we have been raised with Christ in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). Now we have the double duty of representing not only our Heavenly Father but also His Son (Rom. 8:29)! God commands us to be “living sacrifices,” who fight to not be “conformed to this world” and to represent Him well by being “transformed by the renewal of [our] minds” (Rom. 12:1-2).

You see, there’s an important difference between you and our waxy friend in the museum. You are a living, breathing, moving image! A statue’s representation is only skin deep, while your imitation of Christ reaches to your actions, your thoughts, and your affections. You have much more power to represent something well—the catch is that this ability is a double-edged sword. Here’s the ugly side: the world is also trying to mold you into its image. We can become so good at looking like the world, sounding like the world, and even smelling like the world without even trying.

There is a war going on: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but…against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:24). That is why Paul exhorts us to continually put off what is earthly in us and to put on Christ (Col. 3). Our flesh, the devil, and the world are doing all that they can to shape us into their image. The only way to battle that is by fixing our eyes on Jesus and clinging to His Word. The Psalmist says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word… I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:9, 11). Only through God’s Word will fulfill our mission as “His workmanship” (Eph. 2:10).

One question I like to ask to my close friends is: “What was the hardest thing that happened to you this week?” I realized the importance of the answer to this question when one friend answered, “Nothing hard happened this week.” That same week I had been wrestling with discontent and restlessness in my heart. That struggle was hard, but it pushed me to depend on God. I realize now that, while struggling with my old nature is not fun, it’s better than the alternative because there’s a war going on. If I’m not struggling with sin in my life, then either 1) I’m dead, 2) I’ve become numb to the battle for my soul, or 3) I’ve given up and given in. But we must not give in, for our momentary struggle here on earth is “preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 7:17)—the privilege of being a pure picture of our Lord Jesus in heaven.

– Robert Chan

The Pernicious Lie: Self Esteem

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Today, we start a new chapter of essays, under the title, “The Pernicious Lie.”  We will explore the seductive, almost magnetic ways the Deceiver goads us to believe his lies about life and about ourselves; and once identified, we’ll need to actively find ways to effectively respond.  That’s what Jenny resolved to do in her own life 4 years ago, when she wrote this; and she has been succeeding at it.  Read on and be strengthened! Commennts are welcomed! – Arthur 

This past week marked my last week as a psychology student here at UCLA. After being immersed in the world of psychology at this leading institution of psychological research for 3 whole years, I must admit, if I don’t think quickly on my feet and sharply with a biblical worldview, it is easy to buy into the wisdom that modern psychology offers and to embrace the very theories and practices that dangerously distort important biblical doctrines and pervert the ministry of the Church. An example of this is the concept of self-esteem.

The psychologist, Stanley Coopersmith, describes a good, positive self-image as one’s evaluation of himself with approval because he regards himself as capable, significant, successful, and worthy. What is scary is that psychology has crossed the line and pervaded biblical teaching. But this intrusion of self-esteem teaching into Christian teaching has not been initiated by secular psychologists, but rather Christian pastors, teachers, and authors. Christian psychologist H. Norman Wright describes self-esteem as one’s sense of personal worthiness, as the feeling of “I am good.” According to television preacher Robert Schuller, “Low self-esteem is the core root of sin… and the doctrine of sin is the reason why Christians have behaved so badly for the past two thousand years.”

What lies. Is this starting to smell like a certain deceiver that we know? The ploys of Satan behind this seemingly harmless concept of self-esteem become clear when we examine these statements in the light of God’s Word. As Sandra rightly put it, the Bible is full of God’s thoughts on man, giving us an accurate image of ourselves. “There is none righteous, not even one. There is none who understands…none who seeks for God…none who does good, there is not even one” (Rom. 3:10-12). God describes the nature of fallen man in Genesis 6:5 – “Every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Wow. To teach self-confidence before God and to claim that Christ’s death enhances our sense of self-worth grossly distorts the gospel and destroys the grace of the cross. Before God, I am not good. I am a poor, miserable, totally depraved sinner in need of his undeserved mercy and forgiveness. Jesus died on the cross not because I’m valuable, but because I’m unworthy – so unworthy that only the Son of God in human flesh could redeem me.

Jonathan Edwards once said, “Of all kinds of knowledge that we can ever obtain, the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are the most important.” In my own life, I realize that all the times I try to put on that mask, that image of how I want others to see me, it is because I forget who I am in God’s eyes, as revealed in His Word. I forget that my heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. I forget that there is nothing inherent about me to boast in or to flaunt to others. I forget that I am forgiven and adopted as God’s child. I forget that I am a recipient of and eternal debtor to God’s abundant grace and mercy.

Now I do find worth and value in these truths. And sure, you can call it self-esteem. But this self-esteem is not one that denies sin. It is rooted in Christ’s victory over sin and covering of sin. Proper Christian self-esteem comes from God’s regard of me as good and beloved in Christ. It is from God’s forgiveness and acceptance of me in Christ. It is my thankful and humble reception of that verdict and esteem of God, all because of Christ.

The American church offers its people a velveteen cross, easy to bear – a soft, psychological solace for those needing confidence within. But we ought to know ourselves better than that. We sin not because we think too little of ourselves, but because we fail to think highly enough of God. May we turn our attention, energies, and concerns not to self-esteem but God-esteem. We can rest assured and rejoice, because that true confidence that our hearts and souls are longing for is made fully available to us in our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)

– Jenny Liu