Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Discipline of Delusion

“For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12, NASB).
“I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not” (Isaiah 66:4, KJV).

The idea behind this piece and the specific title of this article comes from my study and admiration of Oswald Chambers.  His wife Biddy compiled much of Oswald’s wisdom in a devotional entitled “My Utmost for His Highest;” the entry for July 30th was titled “The Discipline of Disillusionment” (2000, p. 806). 

The discipline God uses to perfect the image of His Son in us is as myriad as circumstance; the most profound and elemental circumstance, however, is that of being saints who sin and fall much like sinners.  Until we learn to habitually walk in our sainthood we stumble, fall and generally fail often; the disillusionment that follows this experience must be corrected properly if we are to be ultimately successful.  But disillusionment might just as certainly correct misconceptions as lead to further disillusionment and eventual delusion.  Too often disillusionment becomes the seedbed of delusion; and delusion is insidious because the process of disillusionment ought to have exposed the underlying bedrock of reality and uprooted any attempt to save ourselves.  Despair over ourselves and our dilemma is a normal and healthy realization as long as we do not also despair over God’s ability to save us from ourselves.  Delusion is flowered disillusionment, or said another way, an entrenched illusion.  Disillusionment makes everything fuzzy; delusion snaps it back into focus—but in an abbreviated and false way.  Here—to begin—is a portion of Oswald’s July 30th entry (2000, p. 806):  
Disillusionment means that there are no more false judgments in life. To be undeceived by disillusionment may leave us cynical and unkindly severe in our judgment of others, but the disillusionment which comes from God brings us to the place where we see men and women as they really are, and yet there is no cynicism, we have no stinging, bitter things to say. Many of the cruel things in life spring from the fact that we suffer from illusions. We are not true to one another as facts; we are true only to our ideas of one another. Everything is either delightful and fine, or mean and dastardly, according to our idea.  The refusal to be disillusioned is the cause of much of the suffering in human life. It works in this way—if we love a human being and do not love God, we demand of him every perfection and every rectitude, and when we do not get it we become cruel and vindictive; we are demanding of a human being what he or she cannot give. There is only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Why Our Lord is apparently so severe regarding every human relationship is because He knows that every relationship not based on loyalty to Himself will end in disaster. Our Lord trusted no man, yet He was never suspicious, never bitter. Our Lord’s confidence in God and in what His grace could do for any man was so perfect that He despaired of no one. If our trust is placed in human beings, we shall end in despairing of everyone.
Delusion is like Alzheimer’s: the ones that have it are unaware that they have it and the weight of the responsibility of their persons ends up laying on others.  The only difference is that those that suffer from Alzheimer’s are innocent and to be pitied, whereas the deluded are those that have spurned the Truth and are to be rebuked.  If we maintain a false image of God even in the light of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary we will eventually be given over to our caricatured version of god.  There will be no deliverance from this monstrosity of your own making “till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing;” we will reach the limit of our imagination and it will invoke insufferable malaise (Matthew 5:26, partial).
“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work…the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:7and 9 parts, 10, NASB).
“To the faithful you show yourself faithful;
    to those with integrity you show integrity.
  To the pure you show yourself pure,
    but to the wicked you show yourself hostile.
  You rescue the humble,
    but you humiliate the proud” (Psalm
-27, NLT).
It should not surprise us that we often struggle long and hard to understand God and Scripture; what should surprise us, and even disturb us, however, is finding an evil and unbelieving heart in our bosom long after our conversion.  A reprobate is one that is “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7, partial). Unfortunately, many of us must yet drink the cup of suffering down to the dregs before obtuseness is removed from our disposition; our stubborn refusal to obey truth opens our hearts to entrenched delusion and an illusory walk with God. God is gracious and patient, however, and bears long with us, carrying and comforting us well beyond the measure of deserved or actual justice. 
Apostasy and reprobation are both forms of a callused conscience that will dull the mind and desensitize the heart; those that become thus are without excuse—enough light has been given to have changed them.  The fact that Christ does not change them is bound up in their own misconceptions of who He is; their projection of some preconceived and unalterably held belief cements their intractableness.  But entrenched impurity that stubbornly refuses to be extracted by the agency of truth will eventually permeate the entire disposition and will become that one’s signature characterization.  Men and truth were designed to synchronize and consubstantiate down to a molecular level, but men must be impelled to bend toward truth and not expect that truth should bend toward them.  Scripture is inerrant, not us, or even our view of it; we must ever humbly submit to God’s word and expect it to reprove and correct us often.  Unless we presuppose that we are inherently incorrect—both factually and dispositionally—we will never allow God to use Scripture to reprove, teach, correct or train us in righteousness.
It is supposed that one will tire of eating the fruit of their own way; this is God’s method and is the discipline of delusion.  The never flinching back or “hinder parts” of God absorbs every blow administered to it by our ignorant and feeble strikes of the assertion of our persons and our unbending mindsets.  He never yields, however, and never will; it is obligatory upon us alone to change our minds and attitudes (the very definition of repentance).  It is also further hoped that we would rather seek His face than assert our own person anyways.  Remember, the Lord turns away from sin, not towards it; if His “hinder parts” are what we constantly run up against, we would do well to question ourselves rather than God.  “To the wicked you show yourself hostile” and to the stubbornly unrelenting You turn Your back (Psalm , partial).  If our experience is one of never seeing His face, of poor growth in this Way, then we ought to judge ourselves rather than God, other people or other constructs of Truth and theology.  It is obvious that we are mistaken, misshapen and misaligned when His face is never seen; we, indeed, “miss” the mark and every point of instruction when we fail to know Him via the expression of His visage.  He desires to lead us with His eye upon us, but He will lead us with railing rebukes and harsh circumstances if we remain stubborn and hardly moved.
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7, KJV).
Now judgment is not judgment unto condemnation for His people, nevertheless, He will eradicate all sin with judgment unto victory.  The agency of judgment is no different in both applications except to the degree of its administration.  Any enlightened Christian could hardly object to suffering after being shown their true character; this is of no small significance but is greatly lacking in the experience of many today.  Too many Christians say “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” without understanding that it is first a positional statement before it becomes an experiential one (Romans 8:1).  This is not to take away the importance of declaring something before one can live it; that concept has its place, but it must ever live within the reality that is the tension between an actual and a hoped for experience.  The sin resident within our natural bodies is that element of sin that we must mortify on a regular basis by the Spirit; when we fail to do this –as we so often do while we are learning to walk in the Spirit –we touch that which is unclean and become ceremoniously impure and consequently unfit to stand but condemned before God.  When we indulge the flesh we become temporarily separated from God and we correctly feel condemned.  The action of indulging our flesh is, indeed, condemned by God, though the person the action sprang from is not yet condemned.  If their action becomes habitual and ultimately defines their character, however, the life of Christ will have been displaced; this condemnation is justifiable and is an utter and final condemnation.  Indeed, “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires…” (1 Peter 2:9-10, partial, emphasis mine, NASB).
Of course, this is even too harsh for me; I write this trembling and fearing deeply.  I will not, however, water down what I believe it is saying nor dampen its impact to acquiesce my own conscience.  I know the miracle of the new creation in me and have had some success in living by its rule; my overall experience, however, has been regrettably more carnal than spiritual.  Nevertheless, I soldier on; I must embrace things too wonderful for me and too harsh for my tender sensibilities.  I must also be willing to readjust my preconceptions about life and theology.  As Oswald Chambers (2000, p. 62) once said:
The theological view ought to be constantly examined; if we put it in the place of God we become invincibly ignorant, that is, we won’t accept any other point of view, and the invincible ignorance of fanaticism leads to delusions for which we alone are to blame. The fundamental things are not the things which can be proved logically in practical life.  Watch where you are inclined to be invincibly ignorant, and you will find your point of view causes you to break down in the most vital thing. An accepted view of God has caused many a man to fail at the critical moment, it has kept him from being the kind of man he ought to be, and only when he abandons his view of God for God Himself, does he become the right kind of man.
How often, indeed, do we find ourselves “invincibly ignorant?” Adamant and dogmatic over something too close to us to view properly, we ignorantly assert our ridiculously truncated perspective without apologies. We are the god of all that exits our mouth; but as the psalmist once said, “May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that speaks great things; who have said, ‘With our tongue we will prevail; our lips are our own; who is lord over us?” (Psalm 12:3-4). The discipline of delusion is the love of God expressing the wisdom of a Father that knows best; He understands when to feed or starve his son’s desires and appetites.  He often sees fit to feed a son’s delusion with more delusion; the pleasure this son finds in wickedness God hopes to eradicate by feeding until satiated beyond the bounds of appreciation. Once again, it is a form of judgment; whether unto victory or condemnation remains to be seen.
Having now scared the hell out of myself and my audience (and I suppose that is a good thing), let us not forget His lovingkindness.  “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way” (Hebrews 6:9).
Chambers, O. (2000). The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers. Grand Rapid,
            MI: Discovery House Publishers.