Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. (2 Thessalonians 2:4-5)
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.( 2 Timothy 3:1-6)
One of the problems that will lead directly into the Delusion, and render most people utterly unable to recognize it or resist it, is the fairly recent approach to ‘the SELF’ , which our modern society has embraced.
Jesus taught plainly that the disciple who would follow him , must “deny self, take up a cross and follow him“. Christians have known and taught this for centuries , as basic Christianity.
Christians through the centuries may have misunderstood or over emphasized the renunciation of the Self, such as in the extreme asceticism of the Monks and mystics, but there was a general understanding that the SELF was a large part of our trouble and certainly was not to be exalted and esteemed.
What would the real Christian teaching about Self be? What does it really mean to deny self?
I believe that in it’s simplest form, self denial is saying “No” to self. It starts by accepting the gospel evaluation, that we are sinners, badly ruined by the fall, and certainly not the good people we imagined ourselves to be. The Christian life begins by a self renunciation. If there be a “sinner prayer” it is also a self renunciation, “LORD, I am a sinner in need of mercy, I believe Jesus died for my sins and rose again, please save me and take over my life”.
This saying “no ” to self permeates the Christian life, for example as we “renew our minds” by the Word, we have to say no to our own understanding, and accept the Divine Revelation. As we progress, we must constantly renounce our own righteousness and goodness, and confess “Not I but Christ”. In dealings with others, we are to esteem others better than ourselves, put others first, and serve rather than seek to be served.
But the last century, which saw the dawn of Psychology, is called “the century of the SELF”. Self Love and self seeking became acceptable through the teachings of humanistic Psychology, throughout our society. Love of Self and self esteem were sen and taught as personal virtues worth cultivating, eventually even infiltrating the churches, and usurping the former insistence upon self denial.
The True Church and self indulgence are at odds with each other. Truth itself is authoritative and makes demands of us that we conform to it. Christian teaching on morality and ethics is also at war with the modern culture of self gratification, and self glorification.
But there are a good number of modern innovators in Evangelicalism as well as in the mainstream churches and in Catholicism, who have been working on a re-interpretation of Christianity which is more palatable because it allows people to preserve their own autonomy.
There is a tremendous crisis in authority in our day too, because true submission to authority is an act of self denial and humility. But there will be no honoring of parents, or pastors or any other authority, in the day of self love, because no one can be above anyone else in any sphere. One man’s opinion is as good as another’s, who is that Pastor to tell me what the Bible says ? We now make God in our own image, and try to seek him on our own terms.
Supposedly now, one can be Christian and be gay, or a fornicator, or you name the sinful self identification. We can all worship God according our tastes, and worship is our personal experience rather than the adoration of the thrice holy God.
The Word of God is being re-interpretted along these lines as well, troublingly. Get ready for the new “Gay” Bible interpretations coming out, which will show us that the church has been wrong all along about homosexuality, and other forms of deviancy. Theologians and apostate pastors are lining up to get on the “right side of history” and to take the side of Sodom in the culture wars.
All of the old certainties are under assault, our final conflict and testing is rushing upon us.
There is a church growth movement which has exploded since the 1970s even in Evangelical and Charismatic churches, employing marketing principles to fill a new kind of “consumer” religion, a church which offers an “experience” and which caters to the tastes of the “target” market of “the unchurched”. In some cases polls have literally been conducted asking people what they would prefer in a church, or what they would not have./
Subtley this “SELFist” trend has transformed church culture, making congregations into consumers, or shoppers, seeking for the most beneficial programs, or the “best worship experience” or perhaps the most dynamic services to attend on the basis of entertainment value.
People’s tastes are being catered to in the name of God!
Thus there is very little utility in actually insisting upon repentance, the horror of sin, the everlasting reward or judgment, and even the Prophetic plan of God . Because this upsets people, and perhaps humbles them, the new kind of Selfist churches instinctively avoid such subjects, knowing people may leave the churches which they have carefully built to cater to them.
This is how the warnings of the Self obsession of the last days are being fulfilled.
The AntiChrist will merely be a man of his times. He “Opposes… all that is called God”. In the new world, SELF is supreme. AntiChrist will be admired because he is the embodiment of the principle of SELF above God.
He is against “…all that is worshipped” in the true sense.
There is a “Worship” revolution going on in churches. Sanctuaries are being painted black, or dark colors , young, breathless musicians are leading thousands in worship services across the nation. Never has the “worship genre” been more popular in music.
But Lester Ruth, a professor of worship at Asbury seminary did a study on the top 72 songs over 15 years sung in Evangelical churches to examine them for content, asking “What is the object of Our Worship?” Here is what He found according to Christianity today,
Dr. Ruth examined the seventy-two top contemporary songs over a fifteen-year period of time with his primary question being, “Are these songs rooted in the Triune nature and activity of God?” His conclusions are alarming: “None of the songs in the corpus of seventy-two explicitly refer to the Trinity or the Triune nature of God. … Only three songs refer to or name all three persons of the Trinity.” While Jesus is named in thirty-two of the songs, the Holy Spirit is named in only two songs. “With so few of the songs naming or worshiping all three persons of the Trinity, it is therefore not surprising to find little remembrance of Triune activity in the corpus.” This results in a “de-emphasis on commemorating God’s saving activity.”
True Worship and adoration of the Triune God, in Spirit and in truth, goes against the supremacy of SELF, it is not self exalting, it is in fact humility. We need to worship and were made to worship; to adore, and to prostrate and admire that which is above us. But only the worship of the only true God is elevating to us. All other worship, whether it be a sports team, a political party or an ideal, is destructive and corrosive to the soul.
AntiChrist denigrates the true worship of God, but will instead convincingly demand the worship of himself, and perhaps of mankind. People are being set up for it, by the self revolution, the false worship, the usurpation of the church by the consumer church, and in countless other ways.
The final act of apostate worship won’t even seem like worship to the deluded ones.
There is a deeper teaching on the SELF which this passage warns of that we will go into next…