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Humility, part 5: Who is the “man of sin?”

May 21, 2013

We have seen how humility is one of the chief requirements of God for man. It is a requirement for entry into the kingdom of heaven. Previously, we were discussing how humility has its rewards. A humble national leader will result in God blessing the nation.

Conversely, a national leader who refuses to humble himself before God will result in judgment and calamity upon the nation. Thus, we need to pray for our leaders. Here are several other NT passages which promise reward to believers for humility.

James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

Let us move on now to look at humility exemplified. Naturally, Jesus is the Pattern Son, our premier example of all the virtues. He is the only person I know of who can say: Look at me; I am humble, and not lose His humility in saying so. …Which is exactly what He said in Matthew 11…

Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly [i.e., humble] in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Jesus gave us the parable of the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18 as an example of pride versus humility. I expect that most Christians are familiar with it; but if not, I encourage you to take a few moments to read and ponder it.

Instead, let us go to Matthew 15 where there is an incident recorded which we may not recognize immediately as humility exemplified. Remember where the woman of Canaan came to Jesus and asked him to cure her daughter? The apostles said in effect: Lord, get rid of her; she’s a pest. Then Jesus explained to her:

Matthew 15:24…I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.

26 But he answered and said, It is not meet [appropriate] to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs [literally, little dogs].

27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the [little] dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.

28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

You see, this woman recognized her place. Jesus was in effect saying to her that he came to bring bread to the Israelites, not to the Canaanites, so it would not be appropriate to take that bread (spiritual food) and give it to them.

If my saying that offends you, then read it again and you tell me how else it could be interpreted and still retain the sense of what Jesus was saying. That is exactly what He was telling her. Then notice, she humbly acknowledged her place as a non-Israelite, and that she was therefore not to be given the same amount of spiritual truth from him as were the Israelites, but she pointed out that even the little doggies get the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.

Notice that. She is calling Jesus her master! She acknowledges Jesus as her Lord! Jesus then heals her daughter from a distance, mind you, and commends her for her faith. Faith is also one of the major virtues, and remember how at the outset I stated that to be pleasing to God, all the other virtues must flow through humility?

Supposing this woman had the same amount of faith, but did not have humility in her request. Supposing she had said: Look, Jesus, I know you were sent only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel and that I am not an Israelite, but so what? I’ve got faith! I believe that you have the power to heal my daughter, and so I demand that you do it.

If this had been that woman’s attitude, do you think the Savior would have been inclined to respond in the same way and heal her daughter? But this woman’s faith flowed through her humility. Now, let me set forth a challenge: Can we who believe we are descended from these lost sheep of the House of Israel be humble enough to learn a lesson from a Canaanite? Namely, to bathe all our prayers and supplications in humility?

A wise man once said “Humility is the genuine proof of Christian virtue. Without it we keep all our defects; and they are only crusted over by pride, which conceals them from others, and often from ourselves.”

Next, I want to talk about self-esteem and to help us to avoid the pitfall of false humility. Speaking of self-esteem, it reminds me of a notice in a church bulletin, which announced that next Thursday would be the weekly meeting at the church of the Low Self Esteem Support Group, and the announcement added, “Remember to use the back door.”

In the past 30 years or so, there has been a lot of talk and a lot of books written about the importance of self-esteem. Some of it is valid and a lot of it is just plain psycho-babble nonsense. The Bible counsels moderation in all things, and I think this applies to the area of self-esteem as well. There must be a balance between no self-esteem and inordinately high self-esteem. Paul counsels this:

Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

The general idea there is not open to question: we are not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to. Simple enough! But the question is: how highly ought we to think of ourselves? Nor real high, but pretty high? Or real low? Just how high ought we to think of ourselves? Well, the answer is right there, but it is perhaps obscured by the word KJV’s use of the word “soberly.” How highly ought we to think of ourselves? Paul says we are to think soberly.

Today, that word is used almost exclusively in reference to drunkenness. If you’re not drunk, then you are sober. But we suspect that Paul is not really talking about intoxication here at all, so when we examine the Greek it becomes clear. The word given as sober there is G4993 in Strong’s: sophroneo {so-fron-eh’-o} for which one of the meanings given in my lexicon is “1b1) to put a moderate estimate upon one’s self…”

In other words, it’s like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Don’t think too highly of yourself. Don’t think too lowly of yourself. Think of yourself just right: have a modest or moderate opinion of yourself. This means it is an honest estimate of yourself.

I think Mr. Tryon Edwards put it well when he said: “True humility is not an abject, groveling, self-despising spirit; it is but a right estimate of ourselves as God sees us.”

Being humble does not require us to be dishonest about ourselves by disparaging ourselves when we know it is not true. That is false humility. I can understand it being done jokingly, of course. But when someone seriously puts them self down, denying their God-given talents, intelligence, skills, or abilities; that can be just as spiritually destructive as haughtiness.

Additionally, true humility does not obligate a person to treat himself with contempt in his words or actions. Doing that is, in effect, despising the grace of God. Plus, it often comes across as phoniness. It is often transparent also. Many people will see through that type of self-deprecating attitude or behavior and realize that it is in reality a pitiful plea for praise by that person.

False humility is being hypercritical of self. This can manifest itself in many ways. Sometimes adolescents go through a phase where they think they are just about the ugliest or skinniest or fattest or clumsiest or dumbest person in school, if not on God’s green earth altogether. They usually get over it, but pity the person who does not grow out of that self-pitying, self-despising attitude.

It also might be carried over into adulthood in numerous other forms. I want to give you an illustration of that. It may apply to many of you, but I don’t ever want to embarrass anybody with illustrations I use, so I am speaking of myself here.

And I am not going to give specifics, but I have done some very rotten things in my life. And it is not false humility for me to say that about myself, because it is true. Was Paul a phony apostle when he said he was the chief of sinners; was he putting on false humility? No, because he had committed some very serious offenses.

The point I am getting at is that sometimes, some of us have difficulty in forgiving ourselves for our past failures. Perhaps we are learning to forgive others; even those who have hurt us most deeply. That is a real challenge. But for some of us, it is an even greater challenge to forgive our selves. I speak from experience, it seems to be so-o-o difficult.

But I think I understand the root problem in that type of situation: it is a paradox again! Because it gives evidence of a most paradoxical combination of both very low self-esteem and very high self-esteem. How so? Well, as for low self-esteem

[In a WHIMPERING tone] “I feel so terrible about myself because of my past failures. I am just a rotten, no good, ugly, stupid, lazy scumbag of a human being. I don’t think I can ever forgive myself for what I did. It’s just too awful!” … No self-esteem, right?

But at the same time, this is combined with inordinately high self-esteem. How so? Well, because as a Christian I know and I believe that however terrible my sins have been, that

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

So I know that God, who is my Creator, has forgiven me. So who on earth do I think that I am that I can withhold forgiveness from myself when the sovereign King of the universe has already forgiven me! Is that not close to the epitome of arrogant pride? Talk about high self-esteem, that is off the charts!

You see, in reality, the two ends of self-esteem are two manifestations of the same root cause: pride. The original sin in all creation. Pride! No self-esteem is usually wounded pride. It’s the self-pity. In the street vernacular, it’s the attitude that “I was such a neat guy; I was such a cool dude; now I really blew it!”

Or in the Christian vernacular, it’s the attitude that “I was doing so well spiritually; I was making such spiritual progress; how could I have done such a thing! How could I have fallen so low?!” Do you see how that is nothing more than wounded pride?

Then, on the other extreme, by refusing to forgive myself when God has forgiven me is a case of me placing myself above God! What arrogant pride! Now in connection with this, let’s go to 2 Thessalonians 2.

There is a passage there which is a favorite of all the futurist prophecy preachers. As you may know, I used to adhere to that eschatology, and I understand how they interpret this and other passages to be talking about some future, one-world government dictator, who is going to be THE antichrist, except here, they say, he is called the Man of Sin.

Well, we are not going to elaborate further on that nonsense in this essay. I reject the notion of a singular antichrist, …except that perhaps there is an application of this passage in the singular antichrist sense. It has nothing to do with futurism though; THE antichrist is present now. Let’s read it. Now if you’ve been inculcated with futurist doctrine, try to erase those interpretations from your mind for now and try to see this with no preconceived interpretation. Paul says:

2 Thessalonians 2:2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

3 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;

Alright, Paul says don’t get troubled, the day of Christ is not going to be here until first there is an apostasy, (which means a falling away from the truth), and that man of sin is revealed. He is the son of perdition.

Now I am not saying that what I am about to explain to you is the only application of this passage, but I believe it is one of perhaps several valid levels of understanding. This is personal, you see. What is the day of Christ? The day of Christ is bad news for the wicked and good news for the believers. The day of Christ is the day of translation to immortality (for the overcomers first).

But Paul said that was not going to happen until first, there is an apostasy. That can be seen historically in any number of ways. There is no question that false doctrine was being widely taught even before the deaths of the original apostles. But who is this man of sin?

I say it is me! And it is you!—as long as we have a certain mindset. The mindset that we are in charge of ourselves. That man of sin is the son of perdition. In other words, that man, that mindset has to be destroyed before you or I can enter into immortality. How is this man of sin destroyed? By the fire which is the Word of God.

When we properly understand the sovereignty of God, we realize our place, just like the Canaanite woman recognized her place. By family ancestry, we might be Israelites, but we are not God. Yet, by the doctrine of man’s alleged free will, what are we doing? To answer that, I am going to personalize verse 4 as I read it.

2 Thessalonians 2:4 who [We] oppose and exalt [our self] himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he [ I ]as God sit in the temple of God, showing himself myself that I am God.

What temple is being spoken about here? The futurists keep looking to the false state of Israel over there in the Middle East, and they keep talking about a temple that the Jews are going to build, and then how this one world government dictator is going to arise and make a treaty with the Jews and then break it after three and a half years, and then go set himself up in that temple and demand to be worshiped as God. Well, the Jews may try to build a temple some day. It doesn’t matter one whit if they do or if they do not.

God is not interested in physical temple buildings of wood and stone anymore. The true temple is the corporate body and the individual bodies of Christian believers. The throne in the temple is right here between our ears and/or in our hearts. The throne is our mind; it is where the orders of the king come from. The question is, who sits on the throne in your temple?

Thus when Paul talks about the man of sin setting himself up in the temple of God and being worshiped as God, showing that he is God; my dear brothers and sisters, this is talking about you or me, or any believer who has this blasphemous notion that our will can override God’s will. That puts us above God, doesn’t it? And perhaps not even aware of it, we end up worshiping our self as God, because I am the one who has the final say, my free will makes the final decision. Blasphemous! –I say…

And I know blasphemous is a strong word, but it is the truth. Blasphemy is attributing to man the things that belong to God. I say that God is totally sovereign; He does not play second fiddle to me and my so-called free will. If He is not totally sovereign, He is not sovereign at all.

Many churches preach about some character called Satan or Lucifer. Well, for our purposes here, I don’t care what your concept of Satan is, but just notice what the Bible records about his sin.

Isaiah 14: 12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

You see, even “Lucifer” in his sinful pride wanted to be like, or be equal to God. But we with our free will demand that we are above God! We could compare that to the other passage which many declare is a description of Satan, although the word clearly tells us who it is talking about, in this case, the prince of Tyre. Notice here the similarity to Paul’s phrases in 2 Thessalonians which we just read.

Ezekiel 28:1 The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,

2 Son of man, say unto the prince of Tyrus, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas; yet thou art a man, and not God, though thou set thine heart as the heart of God:

Whether the Man of Sin is Lucifer or you and me, pride is the root of all sin. The corresponding opposite is the virtue or fruit of humility. God requires us to walk humbly before him. That means that we acknowledge our place. We throw down the Man of Sin inside the temple of our minds and hearts. That is pleasing to God. Well, so much for some future “man of sin.” I hope you will give that some serious thought. (To be continued.) __________________________________________________________

For an in-depth analysis and further discussion of man’s so-called “free” will, obtain my book, Sacred Secrets of the Sovereignty of God, 352 pages, $20 + $4 shipping.

Category: Teaching