The previous posts in this series focused on:
Behavior cycles and Identity — Understanding how we the interactions between our identity, experiences, and behavior.
Identity Part 1 — Foundations of how we identify with certain values and tenants of this life and how they affect us and what we should look for instead.
Identity Part 2 — Understanding rebellion against what our Identity should be in Christ.
Identity Part 3 — Internal and external aspects of identity, the differences, and the recalibration of their facets.
Identity Part 4 — Understanding that loving God -> loving yourself -> loving others, and that to truly understand the responsibility of others you have to love yourself.
Today I’ll be discussing the roots and heresies that develop out of a wrong sense of identity.
Roots of identity in Christ — we become what we behold
Undering the roots of where our identity comes from is easy. To understand this, we need to understand how this concept works in the Scriptures.
Exodus 33:7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp. 8 And it came about, whenever Moses went out to the tent, that all the people would arise and stand, each at the entrance of his tent, and gaze after Moses until he entered the tent. 9 Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and [e]the Lord would speak with Moses. 10 When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. 11 Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When [f]Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.
Moses speaks to God face to face which is pretty much unheard of because typically beholding the face of God would mean certain death. However, that’s not the point here. The benefits of knowing God face to face are different than that of seeing what He has done.
Psalms 103:7 He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel.
David makes the same distinction here when prophetically talking about Moses. All of Israel knows His acts — the miracles, the signs, the wonders, and deeds — but Moses knew God’s ways in His character, nature, and His identity.
We finally see the fulfillment of this come to pass in the New Testament in John 15 as Jesus speaks of our relationship with Himself and the Father:
John 15:12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another.
Likewise, Paul in 2 Corinthians 3 and 4 reveals the same truth to us, albeit in a way we can better understand:
2 Corinthians 3:12 Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, 13 and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil [e]remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
The most important part to realize here is a fact that I have only realized over the summer of this year — when I read the Scriptures I am looking at God’s unveiled face to us. Thus, when I am looking at God’s unveiled face, I want to see my reflection become like His reflection. Therefore, I need to challenge the beliefs and values that I hold dear to myself and put off any that are unrighteous, and instead take up His mantle of grace, mercy, and love instead.
Heresies of identity — the personal Jesus
The major probem that the vast majority of “christians” (or rather churchians) have when they read their Bible is they look through the lens of themselves. When they do this, they are not being conformed into God’s image but rather they are conforming the image of God to themselves. In other words, they look for the truth of what they see within themselves to be what is “right,” and they use the Scriptures as a justification unto themselves. They become the “truth” and God backs up what they say.
This is the most clear way to see what the “personal Jesus” or “personal God” is about. When something challenges their world view and they become uncomfortable, instead of examining themselves to see if there is anything wrong they look to externally justify their beliefs through whatever means necessary.
For feminists this is exemplified in holding up the “worst” parts of masculinity and using it as a blanket attack against men. Likewise, for seeing what the “ceiling” is for men in the fortune 500 and applying it as a blanket statement towards the vast majority of men who work blue collar jobs. In marriage both in society and and churchianity, whatever the other spouse did wrong is given as a reason for exiting the marriage. Whatever the person doing the divorce did wrong is inconsequential. Both God and others are abandoned at the expense of personal happiness.
The Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit become personal accesories that people go to when they are feeling down to lift up their spirits. The fact that God loves them means that their view of themselves is justified. The reason why this view is pervasive is because it is simply a half truth. Yes, the Father loves us even before we loved Him. However, He loves us so that we can become more like Him and desire to become His disciples.
The feeling of love that we receive from the Father is a true manifestation of His Spirit in us; however, the “feeling of love” becomes the truth rather than the Truth of “His love.” When feeling loved becomes the truth, you have people chasing the feeling of love in the world. This means that unhappiness is an indicator of a lack of truth, and in this deception the feeling of unhappiness is used to justify divorce, pride, lust, gluttony, wrath, envy, sloth, greed and all manner of evil.
Beholding the Truth
Thus, we must understand that the attributes of Him are the Truth to us. His love is truth. His mercy is truth. His grace is truth. His kindness is truth.
You can see this throughout the beautitudes in the wording that Jesus uses.
3 “[b]Blessed are the [c]poor in spirit, for (hoti) theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for (hoti) they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the [d]gentle, for (hoti) they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for (hoti) they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for (hoti) they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for (hoti) they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for (hoti) they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for (hoti) theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
G3754 — ὅτι — hoti — hot’-ee
Neuter of G3748 as conjugation; demonstrative that (sometimes redundant); causatively because: – as concerning that, as though, because (that), for (that), how (that), (in) that, though, why.
Those who seek after truth with ‘causitively because’ or ‘demonstratively’ obtain either here on earth or as an inheritance that by which they seek. In other words, beholding the Scriptures, seeking Him in prayer, meditating on Him and His word, and the like is what will transform us to be like Him.
We can see this demonstrated all throughout the passage of 1 John 4:
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for (hoti) love is from God; and everyone who loves is [a]born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for(hoti) God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested [b]in us, that (hoti) God has sent His [c]only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that (hoti) we loved God, but that(hoti) He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that (hoti) we abide in Him and He in us, because (hoti) He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that (hoti) the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has [d]for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because (hoti) as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because (hoti) fear [e]involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because (hoti) He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
For as much as we understand the love of God, that is how much we love others.
If we don’t understand the nature of God, then we don’t reflect God. Thus, all of the things we do as Christians to have a personal relationship with God is to become more like Him, so that we reflect Him in our actions with others. This is all summed up in verse 19 — We love because He first loved us.
To the extent that we know the love of God we can demonstrate it to others.
This is nice to know, but why is it important?
Let’s take a look at a scenario or two that most of us recognize as familiar in the manosphere. I would say the vast majority of men that end up reading this blog have had “beta” fathers or absent fathers. Thus, most fathers don’t teach their sons about women or how to become a man anymore. That’s one of the major problems we see in society with the lack of masculine men coming up.
Because we are impressionable as children and we look up to our fathers, the way that our father acts is one of the ways that we acknolwedge how our heavenly Father is because we aren’t taught otherwise. Thus, if your father was a workaholic who never had time for you, then you may think of your heavenly Father as not having a lot of time for you or that He would be too busy to talk to you and understand you. If you had a father that was an authoritarian who focused on the rules and kept everyone in fear of him lest they be punished, then the majority of children under such a father will also think of their heavenly Father as that way.
This is one of the ways in which our past experiences interfere with our knowledge of who God is and how we view the actions of others.
If my father was a hypocrite to me saying that you should do what I say and not what I do then my impression of God and of others will be that of hypocrites. I will think that everyone is being deceptive, or trying to get their own way, or trying to hold me back, or doing things out of selfish gain. I will see the God of the Old Testament and of the New Testament and think: ‘Wow this “God” is inconsistent because He was vindicitive and violent in the OT and now He is trying to be loving? What a joke.’
This is always magnified in any type of conflict. In conflict, our own personal biases become magnified to the extent that we relate what we are feeling and thinking through the lens of past behavior and experience. Knowing this is why I have come to personally calm myself down and not blame others. I attempt to understand why another person is feeling that way, and examine myself to see if I had any fault in the matter.
Another instance of this is “battered woman syndrome.” As I alluded to in other posts, there is a innate reciprocality in personality types. A man who is physically violent will often be attracted to a woman who he can hit, and a woman who accepts physical violence will be attracted to a man who likes to hit women. The same is true of women who hit men and the men who accept it.
When you take these battered women out of the physical violent situation, there is a very high likelihood that they will end up in that situation again. Thus, you can see that the issue itself is not the violent man. The violent man she is with is just a symptom. The actual issue is within the woman herself. However, the difficult part about treating women like this is that they have internalized physical violence against them as part of their identity. Helping someone rewrite their identity is extremely difficult and even the best psychologists cannot do it well. The person themselves must want to change.
As I noted in behavior cycles and identity, these types of situations are reaffirming. There is an extensive psychological component in the vast majority of everything we see “wrong” with society that needs to be overcome. For example, obesity, resistance to exercise, chronic sleep deprivation, battered women, unmasculine men, masculine women, and various treatable diseases. While some people have the “willpower” to stop themselves, the psychological components via reward centers of the brain ‘trap’ people into realities of their own making. Breaking this is often extremely difficult. However, the power of Christ is one of the definite ways that this can be accomplished seen from first hand experience of others.
If you think you are all alone you will most likely end up all alone. If you think that people are out to get you then you will see all people as out to get you. If you hate exercise and never want to do it then you never will. Opening up the mind is one of the most difficult things to do because it is hard to look outside of past experiences and behaviors. This is the nature of the difficulty of changing the mind and changing the man.
Fixing these types of issues
The primary identity that God makes Himself known as in the New Testament is as a Father. The primary attribute that God imbues to us is Love. None of us have a fully understanding of the Father’s Love because our earthly fathers could never display the full extent of the Father’s Love to us.
Thus, to some degree we have to understand that we need to forgive our fathers for what they didn’t teach us about the Father and His love. And we also need to understand that we need to give them grace and mercy because they are human like us. This will grab hold of the expectations and contrary views of things that we hold against our fathers and to love and understand them. Likewise, the same impressions that we had of our earthly fathers we need to know that our heavenly Father is so much more than we understand. This is why we seek after His kingdom and His righteousness.
This is the way to approach transforming the situations you are in that are not of God. I have struggled extensively with loneliness when I was a teenager, and it was only in the past couple years that I truly started to understand that loneliness is only of your own making. Even though God is always there and we can talk to Him and any time, I was in a prison of my own loneliness because I felt like I was lonely and it was self reinforcing. My body language told everyone that I was lonely and pushed people away.
If you’ve never realized that you hold everything to the standard of your experiences and the past behaviors of others this should be an epiphany moment for you.
When I realized this was the case for me over the summer, I started to take every one of my experiences and thoughts about others captive to Christ. It’s very easy for us as human beings to focus on the negative. If someone did something bad or mean to me from my perception, I could think that they were being intentionally mean to me. However, what I’ve realized is that most people, even non-Christians, are rarely trying trying to be intentionally mean, deceptive, or underhanded. Rather, my perception was colored my other things in my past, and I projected my feelings and experiences onto them. This is why communication is so difficult. It’s very easy to assume things in the midst of emotions and conflict.
For me it meant going back in my past to every one of my negative experiences and taking them all to Christ. This requires two parts:
- Confessing things that we have done wrong to Christ.
- Confessing things that others have done to us to Christ.
Most Christians have done most of the first thing. However, talking with various people in my fellowship during the summer and fall I’ve found that most Christians have not done the second. It is the things that others have done to us that color our perceptions the most on how people interact with us. Thus, releasing all of those things to God allows us to move past them and interact lovingly with those who may even be our enemies.
If you need a quick guideline, the easy way to handle these things as a Christian is to take everything against our source of Truth: God and His Scriptures. Additionally, this is what one of the specific areas of meditation is about — focusing on God’s Truth to replace the lies in our lives.
It is important to realize these Truths that we become what we behold. I mentioned in Identity Part 2 — Subtle Rebellion and Identity Part 3 — Internal and external: when we take external experiences and internalize them as how things are this is often false. As I noted in this article, the Truth is from God and that is the only source we should be taking externally to internally to transform us from the outside in. All other transformation occurs from internal to external.
- God’s Truth — Scriptures, prayer, meditation, fasting, etc — filtered through the lens of the Holy Spirit to build an internal unshakable foundation.
- External -> Internal — anything other than God’s truth is from the world and should not be internalized as Truth otherwise you have to do some deep cleaning to be rid of those lies. This is reactive type of thinking and action and leads to destructive tendencies.
- Internal -> External — this is how God wants us to interact with the world. We are being proactive in our responsibility for our relationship with God and with others.
- Past experiences and behaviors — we need to understand that what is in our past should not reflect on how we view and interact with the Father and others. The Father can overcome this with His truth, but we need to acknowledge such things before Him and accept His grace, mercy, and healing from it.
We need to take our past experiences and behaviors that color our perceptions of God and of others to Christ to crucify on the cross. Then we need to replace them with His Truth in our lives that leads us to be proactive and responsible with them.
This is essentially what “taking off the old” and “putting on the new” is all about.