Lack of accurate self-perception is a common problem.
Have you ever met the proverbial King who has no clothes? He’s a clueless person who thinks he’s all that and more while everyone else feels awkwardly embarrassed for him. We want to say, “Put some clothes on please, you’re embarrassing yourself and others!”
A church without clothes
What about a clueless church that has no clothes? Jesus said to just such a church, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
What would it take for them to reconnect with the reality that they were “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked”?
They could experience deeply meaningful fellowship with their Savior if only they would hear his voice and open the door. He would come in and eat with them (Revelation 3:20).
What exactly did Jesus mean when he said, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see”? (Revelation 3:18). Look once again to Jesus as the true and only source of all things.
Making the guest list
There is a related lesson to this when one reflects on the guest list of banquets Jesus attends. It includes “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind” (Luke 14:13). It might also include “a woman in a town who lived a sinful life” (Luke 7:37).
On one occasion when Jesus was in the home of a prominent pharisee and He said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, …. invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14).
Guest list: “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.”
How does this parallel the members of the Church Jesus rebuked? Would they make the guest list? They thought they were on the cutting edge. They thought that their church was the place to be for the rich and wealthy. How shocked they would be to learn that they didn’t make the guest list!
So Jesus exposed their delusional state of self-confidence by telling them that in reality they are “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” If only they knew it. True joy and freedom await those who snap out of the delusional state of self-righteous stupidity and embrace the hard truth of being “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
Imagine how shocking it must have been to hear the Lord Jesus say to self-righteous religious leaders, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matthew 21:31).
Danger in forgetting
It seems clear that they were “shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins” (II Peter 1:9). There is a great danger in forgetting the day when you “stood at a distance and would not even look up to heaven, but beat your chest praying, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’?” (Luke 18:13). This was the day of our salvation; the day we “went home justified before God” (Luke 18:14).
How is it that we drift from such honest repentance to a place where we say to ourselves, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing’?” (Revelation 3:17).
Delusional self-confidence leads to….
These Church members were not much different than the pharisees who opposed Jesus. Delusional self-confidence based on self-accomplishment is not far removed from self-righteousness. It’s an insidiously deadly poison that can be hard to detect when it spreads in our hearts. It turns us into dangerous and unsafe people. This kind of church will feel very unsafe to the poor in spirit. They will notice they are being watched and measured by standards they cannot meet.
We are watching you
While Jesus was in the house of the prominent Pharisee, as always, “he was being carefully watched” (Luke 14:1). Self-righteous people watch others. They don’t watch out for others, they watch them. They look for the failures of others so they can consider themselves righteous and view others with contempt.
Self-righteous people maintain their inflated egos by feasting on the sins of others. They are social cannibals. They fortify their sense of superiority and even coat it with spiritual tones when they thank God that they are not like other people (robbers, evildoers, adulterers, to name a few). It’s risky to be near these people because they are carefully watching you and ready to put you in their pot.
They are kings without clothes; clouds without rain; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead (Jude 12). When they make converts, they become “twice as much a child of hell as they are” (Matthew 23:15). For them God has reserved “the blackest darkness” of His judgment forever (Jude 12).
If we surveyed the church our Lord rebuked, I imagine they considered themselves very devoted to Christ. They were unaware that He stood outside their door knocking. To protect yourself from this danger, consider 10 daily habits.
Ten daily reminders
- Remind yourself daily of God’s undeserved gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).
- Encounter God daily based on Hebrews 4:12 and Hebrews 4:16.
- Distrust yourself enough to trust in the Lord with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5-7).
- Keep short accounts with God about sin (I John 1:9-2:2).
- Walk closely with those who walk with God (Psalm 1:1-3).
- Pursue wisdom by learning Scripture because “the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).
- Humble yourself before God and then humble yourself again (Matthew 18:1-5;1 Peter 5:5-6).
- Be connected with a local Church and serve God’s people (Ephesians 4:11-16; Hebrews 3:12-13; 13:7,17).
- Don’t live in a Christian huddle — live as salt to the earth and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-16).
- Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40).
Search me O God
Pray often, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24).