Washing Feet

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

John 13:1-5

Jesus’s response to the knowledge that the Father had put all things under his power was to take the posture of a house servant and wash the disciples’ feet. In our culture, power often leads people to exalt themselves or to being exalted by others. Yet, with the knowledge of His supreme power at the forefront of this mind, Jesus goes low.

Jesus models for us a different kind of leadership. Jesus described this kind of Kingdom leadership when He taught the disciples, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many“(Mark 10:43-45).

This kind of leadership can only happen when we are secure in who we are. If we don’t know who we are in Christ, if we aren’t aware of the power and authority given to us as children of God, we’ll never be able to go this low. We’ll still be striving to prove ourselves. Or, we’ll be tempted to fight for our “rights.” Only when we see the fullness of our inheritance in Christ can we be strong enough and secure enough to wash the feet of those around us.

We can give ourselves way if we know there is always more in the Kingdom. When we posture ourselves to be continually receiving from the Lord, we can continually give things away. We can give love because we are loved. We can give grace because we daily live in a waterfall of grace. We can give away our resources knowing that God always has more for us. We can go low because we trust that it is the Father who lifts us up.

You see, it wasn’t that Jesus had to try to forget that “the Father had put all things under his power.” He didn’t have to try to put His own power out of His mind in order to be a servant. He wasn’t trying to be less than He was in order to achieve humility. It was the opposite. It was Jesus’s awareness of His immense power that allowed Him to take the low place and wash His disciples’ feet. It wasn’t a self-deprecating, false humility. It was real, authentic humility.

It was love.

God’s Special Possession

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:9-10

If you are a follower of Christ I want to encourage you today that you are a member of a chosen people. You are a part of a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession. You are adopted into the family of God. You are a part of a Kingdom that is not of this world but that has started breaking out in our world. Now, you are the people of God. Now you live in grace and have received God’s mercy. You are a beloved child of God, a co-heir with Christ of this glorious inheritance in the Kingdom of God.

It is so easy to forget these truths. This is particularly true if we see life through the warped lens of rejection. If at a very young age we were rejected by friends or family, it can be particularly difficult to see the world clearly. We begin to see everything colored by rejection. Because we were once truly rejected, we now see rejection everywhere we look even when it’s not there.

A person who looks through the lens of rejection struggles to receive feedback because they assume they are being personally rejected. This kind of person can struggle to show grace to people around them, assuming that every mistake someone else makes is somehow about them being rejected. If someone forgets an appointment it suddenly means the worst case scenario; it means the friend intentionally avoided them. Everything that can appear as a small slight becomes a major issue.

When a person looks through the warped lens of rejection long enough, they will find themselves hosting the spirit of rejection in their lives. The whole assignment of a demonic spirit of rejection is to make sure the person either is rejected or at least feels rejected as often as possible. A spirit of rejection will tempt a person to fold in on themselves in despair and depression. Or, it will tempt a person to lash out and reject others before they can be rejected again.

No matter how many times you tell a person with a spirit of rejection that they are accepted, loved, treasured, safe, welcomed, etc., they struggle to believe it. They usually have been listening to the lies that they are rejected for so many years, they struggle to believe the truth. This is when they must hear from the Lord and not just from people.

They need to be set free from a spirit of rejection not only through deliverance prayer but through a rebuilding of the truth. They need to be saturated in the truth of the Bible and discover how God sees them in order to tear down the lies that they so readily believe. It has to be more than just encouraging words. Nice words alone won’t breakthrough. It has to be encounters with Lord–truth encounters and power encounters.

Do you struggle with rejection? With feeling rejected all the time by most of the people around you? It could be that you are believing a lie. It could be that the rejection you experienced when you were young has warped the way you see the world. Maybe people aren’t rejecting you even when you feel rejected. Your feelings are lying to you, and the enemy is lying to you. Maybe it’s time to discover what God says about you and how He feels about you. Maybe it’s time to saturate your thinking with the Word of God.

Who We’re Becoming

“All of us experience ‘dysphoria’ between who we are and who God created us to be. The answer to resolving this dysphoria cannot be found by looking within yourself or to others for approval; it can only be found by uniting yourself to Christ.”

Becket Cook (author of A Change of Affection: A Gay Man’s Incredible Story of Redemption)

Becket Cook had a radical conversion to Christ. You can read more of his own story here. I’ll give you just a little bit of it in his own words. Cook writes:

With a highly successful career as a production designer in the fashion world, I lived as a fully engaged gay man in Hollywood. I had many boyfriends over the years; attended Pride Parades in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York; and marched in innumerable rallies for gay-marriage equality. My identity as a gay man was immutable, or so I thought.

But in 2009 I experienced something extraordinary: I had a radical encounter with Jesus Christ while attending an evangelical church in Hollywood for the first time (I was invited by a stranger I met at a coffee shop the week before). I walked into the church a gay atheist and walked out two hours later a born-again Christian, in love with Jesus. I was stunned by this reversal. Since then, I no longer identify as gay but rather choose to be celibate because I believe God’s plan and purpose—revealed in the Bible—is authoritative, true, and good. 

Surrendering my sexuality hasn’t been easy. I still struggle with vestiges of same-sex attraction, but denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Jesus is an honor. Any struggles I experience pale in comparison to the joy of a personal relationship with the one who created me and gives my life meaning. My identity is no longer in my sexuality; it’s in Jesus. 

Becket Cook from “Why Hollywood Praises Elliot Page (and Blacklists Me)”

What struck me about Cook’s life-story was how we can all relate to it. We all experience a gap between who we were created to be and who we are now. As followers of Christ, we all feel that gap at various times in various ways. The answer is not to “look within yourself” to find the answer to this gap but to look to Christ and find our identity in Him. The answer is not to look to others for approval or, worse, to demand that others approve. The answer is to surrender yet again to Jesus.

I have found that growth in the Christian life feels like two of yourselves running around a track. The version of yourself out in front is who you were created to be in Christ. The one behind is who you are today in your daily actions. There are moments where your present self seems to catch up to who you were created to be. That gap gets smaller and smaller. And just as you think you are about to catch yourself on the straightaway, Jesus has you round the turn. When you look up from the turn you realize the gap is now even larger than it was before. What just happened?

This moment feels like failure, but it is actually a step of growth. You’ve entered a new chapter. You’ve turned a page. You are now mature enough to handle Jesus showing you another layer that needs to mature. He couldn’t show it to you all at once. If He showed you the full distance between both versions of yourself, it would be crushing. Instead, He lets us grow in one area and in one season. He lets us approach who we were created to be. Then, as the gap shrinks, He reveals a new layer, a new chapter of growth that must happen for us to become who we were meant to be.

If we aren’t aware of the nature of this process, we might get discouraged. We might throw our hands up and abandon our pursuit of who we were created to be in Christ. We might stop running our race, sit down, and start to “look within” to find ourselves. This, unfortunately, is when the enemy pounces on us with deception and confusion. This is when people get all tangled up in false identities, thinking they are something they are not.

It is a truly humbling experience to grow and grow and grow only to have God reveal an area that is still immature, still unchanged by the character of Christ. But even in the humbling, the Holy Spirit is transforming us from the inside out. We will one day catch ourselves on that track. But it won’t be until we are perfectly glorified in eternity. Until then, our job is to keep running the race marked out for us. Every time the gap that was closing suddenly widens, we need not be discouraged. We need, instead, to see it as a new chapter, a new invitation to become all that God has intended us to be.

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:10-14

Enneagram Problems

The Enneagram is the popular personality test these days. And like most other personality tests promising to giving you insight into yourself, it taps into people’s favorite topic–themselves. I believe personality tests are a valuable tool for self-discovery. I’ve read a few books on the Enneagram and have personally used the Enneagram as a self-diagnostic tool and a tool to help others. I did this for a while until I started to notice some problems that kept emerging with its use. Then, when I discovered its roots, I stopped engaging with the Enneagram altogether.

Problem #1: The Enneagram is rooted in occult theory, occult practice, and Gnostic theology. If you aren’t convinced of this, I recommend this well researched article written by a Catholic priest from Loyola University of Chicago. Self-discovery tools rooted in the occult, like the Enneagram, can be very dangerous. They can end up being a dressed up version of a horoscope. Once someone is convinced they are a particular number on the Enneagram, their whole world gets viewed through that lens (like one’s horoscope). Then self-fulfilling prophecies and confirmation bias abound.

Problem #2: While some personality tests can give insight into human nature, the Enneagram has no science behind it. So at best, the insight we gain about human nature is observational. The Myers-Briggs gives us 16 types; the Enneagram gives us 9 types. Why nine? What study revealed nine? When the complexity of human nature emerges and people don’t really fully fit their number, wings are introduced. Then when a number and a wing feels to constraining, more subsets are introduced. This goes on and on and on with an endless list of subsets, basically nullifying the distinction of the original number. (Anyone who has tried the Enneagram has experienced this phenomenon.)

Problem #3: Even if a personality test can give some limited insight into human nature, it can’t tell you who you were created to be in Christ. You are not your old self. As a follower of Jesus, you are a new creation. You’ve been give a new nature. You’ve been reborn with the Spirit of the Living God dwelling within you. Before Christ, you may have tended toward sin, but in Christ your new nature tends toward holiness. The Holy Spirit is the only One who has been assigned the task of guiding you into truth.

Problem #4: Self-discovery does not set you free! This is the Gnostic idea that if we just gain more mystical insight and knowledge then we can transcend into a higher level of being. This Gnostic idea was rejected by the early church and is found deeply embedded in all things New Age, self-help and occult. It is at the very root of the Enneagram. Again, I can’t stress this enough, our identity is not a number; it’s not a type. It’s not found in a personality test. Our identity is who Jesus says we are. We are in Christ and He is in us. Our freedom is found in Him alone. He speaks to us about who we really are in Christ, and the Holy Spirit then empowers us to live that new identity.

Problem #5: Misdiagnosis of others and wrong self-diagnosis abounds with the Enneagram. Have you ever had someone tell you, “Oh, you are definitely this number!” and they were completely off? Or have you ever had someone tell you what Enneagram number they are and you knew they were way off? This is rampant with the Enneagram, probably because there is no science backing it. It is 100% observational, and people see what they want to see. What happens when the doctor gets the diagnosis wrong? The treatment will be wrong. If the diagnostic process of the Enneagram is so often incorrect, the subsequent matching response will also be wrong. This just leads to more confusion and less freedom.

I could keep listing problems with the Enneagram, but I’m sure I’ve already offended those who value its insight. I’ll conclude then with this. If you have valued the Enneagram, then I just encourage you not to put too much of yourself into it. Treat it like one personality test among many. Or better still, treat it the way you would a fortune cookie or a horoscope. But please, do not invest your life in this thing. Learn about its roots in the occult before you continue with it. And after learning about its roots, if you still want to use it as a tool, go for it. But please do so with a measure of caution.

Overcoming Shame

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Genesis 3:7-12

Have you ever noticed that humanity swings from shame and guilt about sin to pride and blame about the same sin? We see it start all the way back in the Garden of Eden, and it is still happening today.

Here’s the pattern:

  1. We sin.
  2. We feel guilt about sin. Instead of surrendering to conviction and repentance, shame begins to tell us we are our sin. Shame makes us want to hide.
  3. Then we reach a breaking point with shame and we realize we can’t hide anymore.
  4. Instead of repenting, we pridefully embrace our sin (essentially agreeing with shame that we are our sin) Instead of hiding, we are proud of it. We stop calling it sin. We call it our identity.
  5. We blame others for making us feel ashamed in the first place.

This is the pattern we see with Adam in the Garden. As a pastor I have seen this pattern play out over and over again in every possible sin you can image. Can you see it? Let me give an example. Promiscuity:

  1. We sleep around.
  2. We feel guilt about our sin. But instead of surrendering to conviction and repentance, shame begins to tell us we are our sin. We begin to believe we are promiscuous. That is who we are. Shame makes us want to hide.
  3. Then we reach a breaking point with shame and we realize we can’t hide anymore.
  4. Instead of repenting, we pridefully embrace our sin (essentially agreeing with shame that we are our sin) Instead of hiding, we are proud of it. We stop calling it sin. We call it our identity but with a new name. We call it sexual freedom.
  5. We blame others for making us feel ashamed in the first place. We attack the purity culture and anyone that would disagree with a lifestyle of multiple sexual partners. We call them oppressive and repressive.

We see this same pattern in the LGBTQ community. We see this same pattern with those who battle addiction. I’ve seen men do this when they get caught in infidelity. Over and over again, humanity seems to do the same thing in response to shame.

But the problem is that changing the definition of sin in order to identify with it doesn’t get rid of shame; it partners with shame. Pridefully embracing our sin so as to not feel ashamed anymore is like putting a hard cast over an infected wound. We think we are throwing off the shackles of shame, but really we are just burying it under a thick layer of pride.

You see, shame and pride are both saying the same thing. They are saying, “You are your sin.” Shame calls sin what it really is whereas pride gives sin a new, friendly name. But both declare the same thing, “You are this thing and you will never be anything else.”

This is not how we throw off the shackles of shame! We were never meant to live in shame. We are not our sin! That is not who we are, it is something we’ve done. It is no longer our identity.

To truly get free from shame, we need to repent of our sin and embrace who God says that we are in Christ. We need to hear His words of love and affirmation for us even while we embrace His words of conviction about our sin. When we call sin what it really is, when we name it and reject it as a part of our identity, and when we receive our true identity in Christ, shame has no place to plant its evil roots in our life.

Paul explains it like this:

Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Embracing your sin as your identity will not get rid of shame. It simply covers it with pride. Just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that,” the same is true of shame. Pride cannot drive out shame; only finding your identity in Christ can do that. Repentance opens us up to receive the perfect love of the Father and hear Him speak to us about who we really are in His eyes.