Blind self-confidence

[Note: I wrote this entry before leaving for the Regional Family Weekend on December 29, 2006, and I had set the timestamp to delay the publishing of this entry until one day later.  Obviously I must have done something wrong, because my attempt failed.  That, or I succeeded and need to be educated as to what success in timestamp setting actually means.  Regardless, I am giving it another go!  We’ll see if I can make this appear later today (January 15, 2007)…]

[Note #2: After failing a second time, I am trying this whole “timed post publication” thing again.  Will the post be published later today (February 22, 2007) as expected?  Will I mess up the timestamp thing a third time?  Well, I suppose if you are reading this, then you know!]
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I noticed something today and thought, “Hey — this is a good chance to test the delayed posting on WordPress and to see if it will post something after I have already gone out of town!”  (Don’t we all think that sometimes?)

Anyway, what I noticed was a comment in the Living Leadership Course about blind self-confidence (from Class 3).  It hit me that this corresponded well with a concept that I have tried to communicate to others for quite some time: the lack of healthy self-doubt that is so prevalent in our age.

So very few people seem able to doubt themselves anymore.  They are so sold on their own opinions (to them: “facts”) that they cannot see (read: “are not willing to see”) those things that would normally cause them to question their conclusions.

In scripture, one example of this sort of blind self-confidence and lack of healthy self-doubt can be seen in Peter’s declaration to Christ before the crucifixion:

Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.”

Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”

But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”  And they all said likewise.

Mark 14:29-31

Now, some might be too quick to say, “Ah, but Peter did not have the Holy Spirit, yet!”  This is denying that we are still subject to the pulls of the flesh even after conversion.  Peter faced an instance of spiritual blindness much later in his life, even after conversion (cf. Galatians 2), and — if we are honest with ourselves — we have no benefit that Peter did not have.  This potential to be completely blind to our true spiritual condition is a danger that faces us all.  All the more, because such a spiritual blindness — a blind self-confidence and a lack of healthy self-doubt — will be a dominant characteristic of many in the true church (and in society) in the end times:

And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write…

“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked — I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”

Revelation 3:14, 17-18

I would dare say that Scripture gives much to indicate that the danger of this attitude of blind self-confidence, coupled with a lack of the sort of zeal that is actually useful to Christ (as opposed to a lack of any sort of zeal at all), is perhaps the greatest danger facing the Church of God in the end times.  The evidence of such attitudes is present all around us.  But we each must ask: “Is the evidence of such an attitude present within me?”

Prophecy warns all of us that there will be an enormous need for “eye salve” in the last days.  Yet, sadly, prophecy also tells us that those who need it most will be those most blind to their need.

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).  I can’t imagine a more relevant warning to our times and our people.

9 thoughts on “Blind self-confidence

  1. I have a couple of thoughts to add here, if you don’t mind. The first one concerns when we should doubt and when we should have confidence in our beliefs. I guess I’ve always phrased this concept as having “an open mind”, and yet this phrase sometimes elicits a bad connotation as almost being liberal or hippie-like. Kind of like in science or mathematics, we might ask ourselves when is something really proven versus just being a really convincing theory… If you hear the some tidbit of information repeated over and over again from a figure of authority, say like a minister, a teacher or even the media, our levels of trust or cynicism (our own level of judgment) will often dictate what we will believe in the end. Say Al Gore states he invented the Internet one day, then the next day declares that the earth indeed is warming up. Will we immediately dismiss the latter because the former was so utterly ridiculous to us or because we just don’t like him? Or will we consider the information first allowing it to completely settle into our mind, maybe even researching it further on our own, before making a full decision?

    So many “facts” in our minds are simply opinions, as you stated above, that we’re emotionally attached to. Beliefs more than facts, really. Once emotion is attached, that’s where it becomes the most “sticky” to our own identity. “You’re attacking ME, not my idea.” I get to see this a lot in my job when peer reviews are done on designs or code. We’re attempting to improve upon the quality of our software by having others take a look at for errors, and when one is pointed out, people think you’re personally attacking them. Once I saw things in that light, it became easier for me to discern real facts from my opinions. Is this suggestion/criticism/advice correct and will using it in my life improve me? Regardless of who it is coming from or how it was delivered? Sure, it’s only human to immediately assign value to information based on previous experience with that type of data or with that particular individual. But what if the opinions you’re building on are false? Generally speaking, one false premise will logically lead to another, and isn’t that what Satan wants? False prophets, false Christianity, false images of our own selves and others are built on false premises and wrong decisions based on those ideas.

    So when can we have confidence in who we are and what we believe? As always, it has to fully agree with the Word of God! When we practice His Way consistently and when it works time after time AND we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s virtually proven! And if it continues to be gray area, then let it be gray area for the time being.

    Sorry, I got off on a rant there… 🙂

  2. william henry wilson

    JHO always taught us to get pegged to reality (read ‘get rid of feelings of self-sufficiency’) in order for there to be an increasing level of Godly humility in our lives.

    This could be the antidote we need to allow God to minimize, even cure, this Blind Self-Confidence syndrome from our lives.

    ‘Tis getting close to that special season of the year!

  3. I’m going to say something here that I’ve been pointing out for years, and that we seem very slow as a Church to understand. A rant of my own, if you will…and I hope you don’t mind that either.

    What you’re describing is the “work of the flesh” that Paul calls “heresies” (KJV), “party spirit” (RSV), and so on — at its root, “opinionatedness”, or the very kind of unreasoning confidence in one’s own reasoning (parse that, if you will!) that you write about. But Mr. Smith, if that were Laodicea’s problem, or one of them, then symbolically it would be wearing dirty garments — it would not be naked. It would be cold — not lukewarm. It would be truly blind as in John 9:39-41 — not just extremely short-sighted as in 2 Peter 1:3-11 (that sort of blindness, at least, may be cured by “eye salve” as in Revelation 3:18). It would be bankrupt in faith — not merely poor in it (cf. 1 Peter 1:6-7). That kind of self-confidence is akin to self-righteousness, but in the real world that is much more Philadelphia’s problem than Laodicea’s. (That doesn’t surprise me, because Philadelphia is parallel to the Maccabees and the scribes and Pharisees. Laodicea, by contrast, is parallel to the Sadducees. The problems are parallel in both cases too.)

    Laodicea’s original Church (befitting its environment) was physically rich and spiritually poor, just as Smyrna’s Church was physically poor and spiritually rich. So it has gone with the eras. Christ is not saying that Laodicea thinks itself spiritually rich, increased with good and needing nothing; there He is speaking physically. Someone who is physically rich after this sort does not know he is spiritually poor, but neither does he think he is spiritually rich. He is simply not all that interested in spiritual things — which is one reason why he is lukewarm (zealous neither for God nor for the world), poor (in faith), blind (in the way Peter describes) and naked (doing neither great good nor great evil).

    For longer than I’ve been alive (fifty or sixty years!), the Church has been confusing Genesis 3-style “liberalism” with Revelation 3-style “Laodiceanism”. It has compounded the problem by assuming that Laodiceans by definition are lukewarm, etc., and that if they repent of the faults Christ lists, then they become something else (say, Philadelphians). Thus the present confusion between “liberal” self-confidence and “Laodicean” inertia. We confuse much else that is actually “liberal” with what Christ prophesies for Laodicea. If we’re going to help both categories, then we have to learn that a “liberal” rejects one or more points of God’s truth, while a Laodicean — unless he repents — accepts God’s truth, but half-heartedly. See the difference?

    Now in order to be self-confident in the way you’re describing, Laodicea has to make up its mind. But again, that would mean Laodicea is hot or cold — not lukewarm. One with the individual Laodicean attitude (which is analogous to the “phlegmatic temperament” in some psychological models) can indeed have proper confidence and incredible endurance once he makes up his mind. The problem is getting such a person to make up his mind in the first place!

  4. I think this fits in well with Mr. King’s sermon on self-righteousness. It seems to be a theme these days, perhaps something we need to pay attention to…

  5. Greetings, Mr. Wheeler, and thanks for your comments —

    (A) I do not mind your rant at all, and (B) I hope you will appreciate it if I plant my tongue firmly in cheek and suggest the following: If you have been pointing something out “for years” and the idea has not yet been accepted, then perhaps it is not the Church that is slow to understand… 😉

    Seriously, thanks for your opinions on the matter. I will suggest a few things that I am sure you have at least considered but are perhaps worth airing in any case.

    (1) Your division of the sixth and seventh eras of the Old Testament church, while seemingly reasonable, does not represent the only possible division. As I’m sure you are aware, Mr. John Ogwyn divided things a bit differently in his May-June 1999 Living Church News article on the matter, in which he identified those of the Maccabean revolt with Philadelphia and the Pharisees of Jesus’ time with Laodicea. Having heard him discuss it in person and in sermons, as well, I do find his division more convincing than yours for the moment, though I do like to think that I am open-minded on the matter. (Of course, who does not like to think he is open-minded?)

    (2) Identification of the attitude I am describing as a “work of the flesh” does not, in and of itself, mean that it cannot be tied to the problems & challenges of Laodicea — though given the presence of that crucial qualifier “in and of itself,” I don’t imagine that you would disagree. A great number of the problems of the churches of Revelation 2 & 3 can be tied to Paul’s “works of the flesh,” but this is to be expected — if they are, indeed, problems, whence else would they originate than from the carnal, fleshly nature?

    (3) I appreciate your observation about dirty garments as opposed to nakedness, but holding such a position dogmatically is risky, methinks. True, we do allow the Bible to interpret the Bible, and true, God does associate dirty garments with the attitudes you mention. Yet, we do not have the freedom to construct a narrow “symbology lexicon,” hand it to God, and then require Him to stick to His “script.” It is one thing to see the use of dirty garments as a symbol and use the clear use of that symbol in one place to help us understand its use in another place where the meaning is not so clear. It is, however, entirely another thing to decide that God does *not* intend to say something because He did not use the same symbol He uses elsewhere. As I know you are aware and as God’s use of leaven as a symbol readily demonstrates, the relationship between the symbols God uses and the meaning He invests in them is not necessarily a one-to-one relationship. (E.g., while self-righteousness is associated with filthy rags in Isa. 64:6, the use of filthy garments seems not so limited in Zech. 3:3-4, where it seems to indicate a more general state of iniquity.)

    (4) It seems to me that you too quickly dismiss the blindness Jesus attributes to the Pharisees and its possible relationship to the blindness of the Laodiceans. (The reference to eye salve does not necessarily imply that the comment of Peter that you cite and not Christ’s condemnation of the Pharisees is the more applicable example, and additionally I would caution against concluding that those characterizations are mutually exclusive.) You seem, as well, to assign the “wealth” and self-sufficiency claimed by the Laodiceans to a purely material wealth. True, ancient Laodicea was a place of wealth, but that does not require us to narrow Christ’s comment to exclude the possibility that he was addressing a statement concerning personal spiritual assessment. This was Mr. Ogwyn’s take (again, 5-6/99 LCN), and I’ve seen nothing substantial as of yet to eliminate that possibility.

    I could say more, but think it best in this venue to end here. It’s not my intention to shoot down what you are saying, but rather to remove the air of certainty in your conclusions. (And perhaps encourage the growth of some of that “healthy self-doubt” I was talking about while I am at it. 😉 )

    Let me just wrap up by saying that the association of these attitudes I have discussed with Laodicea, whether right or wrong, should not distract us from the fact that these attitudes are rampant in these end times and a horrible danger to God’s people. While I will very likely continue to associate these attitudes with Laodicea until I see more convincing evidence that such an association is inaccurate (though, again, I will endeavor to be open-minded, as I do not wish to fall into the very snare I am pointing out!), I will try to be mindful of the potential for such a statement of association to distract the reader from the heart of the message I am truly desirous to convey.

    (If you would like to discuss this further sometime in the not-so-near future, I would be happy to do so — please feel free to correspond with me further on the issue, but let’s do so outside of this particular venue.)

    Thanks for your consistently thoughtful input, Mr. Wheeler — your comment here was certainly no exception!

    — Wallace Smith

  6. I’d like to add one more idea to this conversation… Mr. Sena gave a wonderful sermon just before the Feast in 2005 in St. Petersburg, Florida about the inner workings of the brain. In short, we have the “knowledge center” (cerebral cortex, I think) and the “seat of emotion” (hypothalamus? I can’t recall the specific scientific names given to them, forgive me). Basically, you can believe something is true and yet never act on it. People may know that they shouldn’t smoke/drink/swear, etc., but they still do it anyway. But it is our passion, our emotional involvement in that knowledge that drives us to perform what it is we know to be true. Hopefully, that sums it up.

    That said, I stated earlier that we must somewhat detach our emotions from our beliefs and opinions in order to see clearly whether they are factual, relevant, and/or helpful. We must first weigh our thoughts against God’s word and study to prove it one way or the other without prejudice. I have recently learned to add, “Is this necessary for salvation, or just something interesting for me to think about?” Then, as Mr. Sena so clearly pointed out in his sermon, we must take what we believe to be true and put our whole self behind it. If God shows us we must do it, then we tie our emotions and our passion to it and push forward!

    I felt the need to make this distinction since I work around so many computer guys who are Trekkies, I sometimes think they’re all like Spock just making “logical” arguments all day long without a shred of conviction in what they’re saying. In other words, they’re debating just to hear themselves talk (some of you are probably thinking the same of me here. 🙂 Hey, it rubs off…). At the same time, I hear people publically and passionately state their beliefs, demonstrate, even go to jail for a cause without a shred of proof or reasoning behind their thinking, other than it’s the popular thing to say and do these days.

    In conclusion, I find it best to try and drop some of my emotional ties to my beliefs when hearing something new or contradictory to them. Then I try to add emotion back once it’s been settled that it’s something good to incorporate in my life and as Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, go do it with all my might.

  7. Thanks for your reply, Mr. Smith — they are valuable enough that I will copy them and save them in a Word document. It is very important to me to test my own ideas, and feedback of the depth you’ve given is a very good way to do that. If I’m to prove I’m right (or partly right), then the points you raise must be answered.

    Agreed, neither of us want to fal into the snare you mention (yes, I always have wanted to make sure that I’M not the one who’s slow to understand!), and after this we can discuss the subject in other forums. Meanwhile, I will appeal to your charming geekitude by demonstrating the use of my new English-Hebrew computer keyboard (through signing with my Hebrew “pen name”, Yochanan Rakkav or Johanan Rakkav):

    יוחנן רכב

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