It has occurred to me that the difficulties most folks have in their "faith walk", even the recurring difficulty which I experience in trusting God, and watch others go through constantly, may be generated from an underlying sense of what is now known as "entitlement". This is an unhealthy, but pervasive belief structure, that has come to rest like an uneasy fog on this nation, over the last several decades. It began, I believe, with the sentiment that "somehow we are responsible to give our children more than we had". Which began, reasonably enough, after the extreme lack of the depression years. But it was insidiously anti-scriptural, subtly ungrateful, and entirely self or flesh motivated! And, spiritually, this seed of an idea, of somehow "deserving more", reached an unhealthy climax in the religious realm, with the "name it and claim it", or, hyper-"faith" message, in the seventies. And has now invaded all "post-modern" thinking - overtly or covertly.
As it happened, I came into the "Charismatic" realms of spiritual belief structures about that same time as the "hyper-faith" message was gaining strength. At that time I was a relatively poor, very practical, ex-Baptist - ex-college young adult. My honest immediate impression of that whole scene - which was inaccurately labeled the "Faith Movement" - prompted me to label that brand of teaching - "The Doctrine of the Spoiled-Brat"! I could see right away that what was being encouraged as "acts of faith" (such as writing bad checks while expecting God to cover them, and other ridiculous forms of what Yeshua called "Tempting God") were little more than illogical presumption, and that the motivation was self-oriented (or demon-influenced) and not Holy Spirit driven at all! Though it somehow escaped the notice of those more steeped in that doctrinal obsession.
Now days the rhetoric used to describe that particular self-orientation is known as "Entitlement issues", which means that those thus afflicted are thinking that someone "owes them a living", that they somehow deserve to "play while others pay" - be it God, government, or parents - Etc.! Of course there are varying degrees to this affliction. And in many folk, such as myself, it can be so subtle that it has not been detected or properly diagnosed - and yet it profoundly affects our ability, and willingness, to trust God! If left untreated, this mental illness eliminates gratitude and substitutes "attitude"! It is one of the enemy's most effective strategies - following "divide and conquer" routine. In fact it may well have become the main method by which he "divides", by which he successfully "cuts sheep out from the flock", since entitlement will never submit to any accountability... it is something to ponder.
But it could not be so effective without our help! We have thrown open the door for this deception - with enthusiasm! Think about this - we have almost completely lost the idea of "dying to the flesh"! We don't get it! We don't WANT to get it! In fact, we have almost lost the ability, the nerve, or even the right to differentiate between what is "flesh" ("or natural inclination"; the Hebrew expression for this is "Yetzer Harah", meaning "evil inclination" - which God calls "profane" or "sin" and plainly labeled as unacceptable) - as compared to what is Spirituallyacceptable to God (or "Holy/clean"). Anyone who attempts to do so is immediately labeled as "INTOLERANT"! Which has become the unpardonable sin - in fact in more liberal realms it is the only thing defined as sin, currently.
So, to say that "I must decrease, so that HE (The Anointed One) can increase" is all very well, as a concept. But to expect folks to go through the actual processes which are required to accomplish that reality is not reasonable - when those processes are ignored, watered down or even stoutly rebuked in most "spiritual" or religious teaching! These processes are, after all, more excruciating than we bargained for, or signed on for anyway! So much for "counting the cost" - we are rarely told that there IS a cost! So, somewhere along the way those who claim to be in authority have lowered the standard to accommodate the flesh - with its varied sin-tendencies, and have refused to uphold the standard that would eliminate it! Therefore the concept of "Dying to the flesh" is definitely a departure from the popular rhetoric! And as for the cost - Jesus took care of all that, right? That is what we are told! Then why did He tell those following to count the cost? What cost was He talking about? Hmmm. Exactly!
The problem of entitlement that infects our society at large, and each individual in some way or another, renders this process (of dying to the flesh so that we may follow the Spirit) nearly impossible - because any hint of depriving the flesh is the absolute enemy of any entitlement belief structures! Beliefs which support only the rights and options of the fleshly/natural individual! Not only does this infection of total self-orientation afflict society at large - the church has become eaten alive by doctrines encouraging self-exaltation! "ME decreasing" does not sound or look anything like becoming the "Head & Not the Tail" - and other like "fluff'n'stuff" that we have had thrust at us since the seventies! More and more, the message of transformation has been watered down to a position of social acceptability, and in recent years has been down-graded - again - to mere "political correctness" - which frankly - ironically - is one of the most hypocritical, intolerant, dogmas of our time!
While I do believe that we should expect to walk in His Authority eventually, and I do believe in our "being the Head and NOT the tail" from a spiritual perspective - I am saying that we have missed the point of those teachings - which was how we are to become enabled to take that firmly spiritual stance without being moved off it every five minutes! Also I am concerned that what Spiritual Authority, Spiritual Success, Spiritual Blessing - Etc. - and other "reward" oriented concepts should look like in our physical realm has been grossly misrepresented! We must know His definition of "success", "blessing", and "Authority". Plus His prerequisites for those things! He lends His Authority only to HIS methods! And we have failed to embrace His methods because we are too protective of the flesh!
We are all too eager to hear the "Rule and Reign" messages, the "victory in Christ" messages, the "overcoming the enemy" messages! But the problem I see is that we have become a bit fuzzy on what it is that we must "overcome" and "get victory over"?! We have lost or ignored the fact that we can never hope to obtain a military victory - even in the spiritual realms - over a formidable foe - when we can not even rule over our own flesh! We have come to placate the flesh like young parents placate their bratty offspring in the market place! We are its willing slaves! But the Word is clear that we can not logically serve two masters! Especially not two masters that are in complete juxtaposition to each other! How can we possibly serve two entities that are at war with each other? We have a saying, "If He is not LORD of all, then He is NOT LORD at all." Catchy. And True! But unfortunately it is a profound mockery of how we live! We are rarely pressed to choose! We are often rather pressed to "pay into the corporate fund", thereby accomplishing the "building of the Kingdom", so that those in charge can then "expand the Kingdom" on our behalf! Where is that found in Scripture!?
But we are not prepared, or required, to die to the flesh - and it is plain that if we will not die with Him, then we will not live with Him, much less rule with Him! We are not instructed in how this is done, what it takes, what it will cost us, what it will mean to our daily lives! And so when the "pains" that accompany such "dying to the flesh" begin to come we are taken utterly by surprise! We become disoriented, and often abandon the LORD out of confusion, disenchantment, and shaken trust! Much like young mothers who ooh and ah at all the new baby things while lovingly preparing the "nursery" for the new arrival (while forgetting the "process" that must come in order to get the baby from where it is, to the bed she is so lovingly preparing). And then she often feels betrayed, alarmed and unprepared when the "pains" of the delivery process begin!
In the same way, we forget what must transpire before we are "delivered" from the sin-nature of the flesh and fit to rule and reign with Him! We have utterly rejected the idea of Holiness! It has become an affront to us! We are offended by the very idea! It has come to be a dirty word! Ironic isn't it? That what God has deemed clean, we have despised as worse than filth! We use words like "legalism",restrictive, judgmentalism, division, exclusivity, etc. And, of course, all religion can be those things! And it is a real danger that we must watch out for. But we have really thrown the baby out with the bath water, and used that potential danger as an excuse to avoid the death of the flesh process! Obedience to Truth, and accountability to His standard is NOT necessarily legalism! Though it has become a foregone conclusion that it must be!
We have focused so much on the crown that we have come to despise the cross that earns it! We want victory without having to win the war!!! In fact, we have come to focus so much on what we've been taught to embrace as "the end result" - the "Glory" - that the "daily grind" of the "in between", inevitable, process takes us by storm, triggers a shock response, and more often than not devastates our faith! It shakes us to our very foundations! It rattles our closet full of skeletons (of past fears, abuses, offenses, and false teachings), making them walk about, terrorizing us, embarrassing us, and thereby pulling our focus off the Lord, and His goals for us - and instead of turning to His Word and His Spirit for the help we need to successfully navigate these necessary - if surprising - processes, we bail out, tune out, trip out and flip out! We will do anything but "die-out"!
The process of "dying to self", so that God can have preeminence in our lives - body, soul and spirit - is so foreign to what we've been told to expect, so foreign to what we've come to imagine for ourselves! It is so seemingly opposite from what we thought that being "the head and not the tail" should look like - that when opportunities that would enable our "dying to the flesh" finally begin, we often fall into despair! We receive the usually accompanying discouraging accusations of "having missed the boat" altogether, and condemnation suffocates our trust! We think to ourselves, "Surely we have epic failed!"; "Surely it is all up!; Surely this will not end as we were led to believe at all!" And, if we mistake the processes as the end result, how could we think otherwise?
But this is simply not so! It is only an illusion brought about by our natural and spiritual entitlement issues, which are fueled by the enemy of our souls to keep us chasing our tails until he can lead us off the path altogether! In the Word we are warned against this, it is called "deception". We are exhorted to stay alert to this game and told how to avoid it. But of course "avoiding it" involves staying in God's processes of denying the flesh, so much as to die to its whining. Staying free of deception involves a commitment to His Truth - a dedication to being willingly transformed by His Word! That is - choosing the cleansing process that eradicates sin, by choosing HIS definition of righteousness over our own ideas about it - etc. Choosing His power to walk away from sin! Instead of using what has mistakenly been called "Grace" to camouflage it!
The problem of entitlement has come about, of course, because first of all the flesh is somewhat resistant to information concerning its inevitable demise! And secondly, the "powers that be" have not been responsible to keep that information at the forefront, "because it discourages the customers" -er - "followers". The problem has been, or has become, that we have been in collusion against the processes which make us Holy, Faithful, and able to walk in God's Blessing, Favor and Authority! And in doing so, we/they have "aided and abetted" the natural, fallen nature of the human, and have experientially exalted it to the place of god - in that we serve it, humor it, and cater to it incessantly!
What is there of "us decreasing, so that He may increase", in that? Nothing! This why our corporate, and often our individual "faith" is anemic and our "spiritual authority" is practically non-existent, and our "results" are pathetic, almost non-existent - practically and statistically! It is why the youth of our land are turning away from the pathetic fraud, also known as "Church" in droves - they still have eyes that see and ears that hear - and they have despaired of finding God in that venue! It is why we oldsters - who have ran the whole gamut - are now scratching our heads wondering where is all the "prosperity" we were promised for our indentured slavery? Wondering where is all the healing - that they said belonged to us? Wondering where all the "influence" went - that was supposed to bring the heathens to Jesus"?! We actually can't figure out why there aren't more people turning to God, staying married, or spiritually thriving?!
Well, I believe that it is because Church is now big business, with more effort put into organizing meetings than seeking God! Because it has become more about serving ourselves than serving God. It has become more about making the flesh comfortable than relieving it of its throne! It has become more about controlling the people than teaching them to walk in authority! It has personified the definition of "foolish" in Scripture - "ever learning, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth"! Why? Because the knowledge that has been obtained is never quite put to any use! Some sins are complained about, some are painted a different color, some are simply ignored as "harmless", but none are consistently treated as the deadly plague that it is! None is seen as the bane of our existence and marked for execution on the cross prepared for it!
We do not need to sit on our self-made thrones attempting to "judge the nations" just yet! We've acted prematurely, handing down edicts of "entitlement", "murderer", "sexual-deviant", or whatever - when our flesh is still ruling our lives and calling the shots - as much as any of those we look down our Pharisaic noses at! Perhaps we've managed to keep our own "uncleanness" or "indiscretions" hidden, but not to God! He will NOT "Bless our Mess"! He is never going to sanction what He has called unholy! He will never accept and over-look what He has called sin! Get over it! Sin has been judged!
Messiah has come to give us the victory over sin, not to hand out rewards to the one who was the most creative at disguising it! He has made a way to overcome sin, and He still requires us to become Holy and to meet God's righteous standards! There was a cross involved for Him, and there will be one for all who follow Him! And none of them are lined with velvet! It may not be as public, as humiliating or as physically painful as was His own - but what if it is? How badly do we want our "eternal security"? I am not proposing a "works oriented" belief structure here, however, there is the work of obedience, the work of righteousness, that we are expected to participate in - and work is not a dirty word (except to those blinded by entitlement issues)!
In order to say that we are following Him, and not be lying, then we must choose the path He walked! We can not make it up as we go! He already has a system, we do not need to invent one! We are each responsible to die to the flesh so that we may live to the Spirit! And there is no way around that process! It may look different for each one, there is certainly no magic formula! And we can be sure that it is much easier said than done, especially in today's sacrifice-resistant society! But it will include some form of dying to our flesh! It has to!
Thanks to our Passover Lamb - who has given His all to make it possible for us to give ours - it can be done! We really "can do all things through the Anointed Yeshua, who strengthens us"! And if we are to have the approval of His heavenly Father, it must be done. It is time to embrace the cross, despise the loss, and decide who's boss! Anointed or Entitled? It is time to choose, but if you choose to be "Anointed" be ready to die for it. Thankfully, however, it is one of the few things that is actually "to die for"!