Me Myself and I

Me Myself and I

Beyoncé’s hit song ‘Me Myself and I’ musically is a masterpiece. From the looped guitar riff to the bass guitar runs and I’ve not even made a start on the vocals…

But the song’s lyrics very early on presented me with a predicament. How does one guard themselves against self-deception? A quick look at scripture, church history and our world today shows we live in a world that vies for our attention and opinions constantly. If you are reading this the likelihood is your social media that brought you here. It can almost feel like living with the radio on. All the time. With the stations changing constantly. As a Christian how do we faithfully turn the volume down?

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A ‘tactic’ that we are often told to employ when we feel the encapsulating noise of the radio is to force the volume down. We throw the radio out of the window (but it still plays). We try to break it but soon find out it is unbreakable. We try and put stickers over the speakers but the voices are still clear. Like Beyoncé said ‘My Myself and I it’s all I got in the end it’s what I found out… I know I’ll never disappoint myself.’ While watching Love Island this summer I was intrigued at the constant emphasis to ‘go with your gut…’ (Curtis knows that one went wrong lol)

 ‘You’re born alone you’ll die alone’, ‘There’s no bunk beds in the grave,’ ‘Don’t let anyone change you,’ are all phrases that help us turn the volume down by reminding us of our responsibilities. But my friend Victor once told me ‘Where one belief will save you at a certain stage of life in another it will kill you.’ Backing yourself and yourself only puts you in a position of ultra-determination of your life. Changing the motto to ‘Me Myself and God’ also is not the solution. While it shouts piety, in truth it’s rooted in a deep misunderstanding and often is where self-deception begins. 

Self-deception starts with listening to yourself more. 

Self-deception is the belief in a false idea where opportunities to pursue truth have been neglected, turned down or rejected. While speaking to a Mormon I was intrigued at the deep beliefs he had. His faith in Mormon beliefs was unshakable. Often my faith can feel flabby and prone to wandering. But a theme that I picked up on was the tragedy of listening to yourself and voices and messages and people that affirm you and yourself and those who agree with you. The truth is self-deceived Christians don’t know that they are deceived.

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Christians should run to the strong tower that guards us when we feel the noise is too much (Proverbs 18:10). Note it is the tower that defends us, guards us and keeps us. Not us. And in that strong tower, the Lord often instructs us to go out again into the noise and join with others to amplify his station which broadcasts the good news (Matthew 28:16-20). The God that teaches us that we are to lean into other believers in times of trouble wants us to fellowship with other believers (Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 10:24-25, Acts 2:42, Jude 23). It is God that reveals to us that in our original nature we are wrong about him (Ephesians 2, Romans 5, Romans 1). We are in rebellion to the perfect one(Romans 5:3) and as such prove ourselves to be foolish (Romans 1:22, Proverbs 28:26). The poor in spirit who recognise their lack of holiness and lack of wisdom are the ones he pours out his spirit and wisdom (Matthew 5:3, James 1:5,14). To be a Christian, you have to repent and accept that you were in rebellion to God and as such foolish. Every time you confess your sins while saying the Lord’s prayer you ask for forgiveness, for being wrong. Our desires can change as our hearts have transformed from those of stone to those of flesh(Ezekiel 36:26). But what does this mean? Isn’t flesh a negative word in the bible? So does this constant examination still apply in the life of the regenerate? 

Yes (Self-deceived people don’t know they are deceived) 

Depression is something I have waged war with since I was 10 years old. But even as one who struggles with this many who also share this struggle know deep down at the heart of depression is a heart that listens to itself far too much. In my seasons with depression, I have often seen the world for what it truly is. Broken, fallen, and sinful. However, the station playing the good news of hope was muffled for one reason or another.

Frequently when I have faced seasons of spiritual depression people have, with very good intentions, told me subtly or explicitly to listen to myself more. Far too often depression is believed to be as a result of low self-confidence (In most cases this isn’t true but that’s a separate conversation) the world tells us we need to manufacture confidence in ourselves. Achieve more, do more, be seen more, it shouts.   

‘Focus on yourself’ , ‘Put yourself first’ and the like a such, as said above, at times are ‘salvific’, but in seasons of depression it is a rabbit hole that can in tragic cases lead to death (RIP Jarrid Wilson and other CHRISTIANS who have died in ‘sin’ yet will rise in Christ because of His finished work). 

The issue when I struggled with depression wasn’t that I listened to myself too much. The issue was that my beliefs were misordered. Through biblical counselling, I was taught the importance of looking up and out rather than in and in. Upwards to the hope that God alone can give. Out to a world in which I should serve rather than be served. In times of struggle, we can often look to people to our into us, serve us, accommodate for us yet the word commands us to live lives, not for ourselves and count others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4). 

Your voice was, is and will always be the first in line when it comes to your decision making. It’s the loudest. The clearest. The most frequent. While my war has often been with depression every Christian’s war is with pride. Pride that is overt in the form of boasting or pride that comes from false humility believing us to be more deserving of what we have (Click here for more https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-do-i-kill-my-pride). A pride that places ourselves at the centre of our lives. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). A pride that denies the true response of ‘Lord let this cup pass but if not your will be done.’ (Matthew 26) A pride that ignores the call in Lord’s prayer of may your will be done. (Matthew 6). This advice is in direct opposition to the philosophy of the world. Why would you not put your voice first in line if you’re not at the centre of your world? As mentioned the belief that it’s ‘Me Myself And God’ while it sounds pious fails. Often scriptural promises are given to Christians as a collective. Christians need teachers to teach them how to study God’s word (Proverbs 4:2, 1 Tim 4:14). Christians need other Christians to exhort them. This comes often comes in all shapes and sizes. 

No (Christian freedom) 

Christians are called to persevere and hold fast to the true anchor. So this means holding on to the fact that regenerate people have a new nature fundamentally. A new heart means the ability for a clear conscience. Christians disagree on a lot. Imagine being a church member in Hong Kong right now. Where the Christian church is comprised of police officers, gov officials and protestors on two opposing sides. Christians in America, the U.K and the like feel the same. Civil war feels imminent. Yet Christian freedom is essential to the gospel. Christian freedom prevents the slippery road to legalism which in itself threatens the gospel by adding our subclauses. Christian freedom allows us to love unconditionally. As such because of our blood-bought freedom when we make certain decisions we can make them free of the constraints of doubt or constant external affirmation. A Christian mind, to quote Alaister Begg is not a mind trained to only think on Christian things but to think of everything through a Christian lens. So while often advice in the world has strands of truth, Christians should and must filter everything through the lens of the gospel to prevent following what ‘sounds right’ or is ‘partially right. ’

Because our voices are the loudest our mistakes, failures, and decisions are not usually because we listened to someone else. Rather it’s often because we trusted ourselves too much! Advice and counsel should primarily come through our friends and family. However, God often uses all sorts of people to speak truth to us. The old church member can be advised and encouraged in the world by the new convert. The newly converted apostle Paul rightly exhorted the apostle peter. The man who saw Christ in all his glory at the transfiguration. Pride says I will only listen to my friends and those who I feel comfortable enough to challenge. Humility recognises good counsel and truth comes from an array of sources, sometimes even from people we dislike. So while this is separate to the belief in ‘betting on yourself’ it is challenging the idea of trusting in yourself. To trust in Christ means to eliminate trust in self. This isn’t just in regards to sexual purity as it is often presented but also thoughts and fundamental beliefs that we hold to no matter how strongly we believe in them. Our trust in self is the root of self-deception. Our personal opinions alter over time. By virtue of change it means that we accept that we got things wrong or mistook our former opinions to be true. Whats not to say thats the case now. (As in right now, like now now on something you ‘know you’re right on’)

And so the point is that aim of the Christian is not to put our hands over our ears but rather to filter the voice. Not through a lens of what ‘sounds right’ but through a Godly lens of the word, biblical fellowship, and prayer. Listening to yourself ‘sounds right’ but misses out on the truth that often we don’t know ourselves as much as we know. We have hearts that no man can understand and as such our desires must be on the constant filter mode. We should constantly be adjusting the frequency of what voices we take in knowing that ultimately the perfect frequency is the one of God of which vertebrates through our friends, family and neighbours who come in all different shapes and sizes. 

The Culture Shock Diaries #004

The Culture Shock Diaries #004

Shame, Shame, Shame

Everyone has to tackle shame in one way or another but the gospel truly deals with our shame in a way that the world can not.

Mary Willson’s workshop on shame and discussing this issue this with a few spiritually older and mature men was especially helpful in forming and working through the importance of processing shame in a biblical and gospel centred fashion.

My biggest struggle with sin comes in the form of dealing with the shame of failing or ‘losing face’. This always involves falling short of a standard sometimes biblical but often man centred. At times this has led me to deep deep despair. Even of life itself at times. Sometimes this would even promote further cyclical failings as I tried, unsuccessfully, to right my wrongs on my terms and not biblical terms (Sometimes the best thing you can do is do nothing). Many of us place and create standards for ourselves but often these can be “unrealistic and crippling” in the words of Mary Willson.

Mary discussed how her ‘unrealistic model’ was aiming to be the person who could ‘remember everyone’s names’ with ease. For me, it was being the friend you could always call on. Moving abroad forces you to face your shortcomings in one way or another usually quicker than if you had been in your comfort zone. For me failing to answer a friend’s phone call felt like a major major failure. Even when one would call me in the middle of the night (time difference issues) I would answer in fear of losing face. Failing to live up to my own standard created in me false justifications. Failing to answer meant I could mean missing a distress call, a sickness alert, a death. Failing to answer meant failing to care for those nearest and dearest which meant failing to love my neighbour as myself.

As you can see, man-centred, unrealistic standards, often lead to quiet idols which we start to equate with our level of piousness. For me, this led to increasing fear and isolation and me feeling isolated when I subconsciously pinned my standards onto others and they failed to meet my created standard.

The gospel answers this call to shame. Our feelings of shame point to the cross. They point to how we truly are fragile beings. Reset by David Murray reminded me of this principle again. We cannot do anything and everything. We have limitations. We are designed to sleep, eat and rest. Total reliability cannot be expected of any of us.

I will leave you with 5 bible focused ways that may help you deal with shame. But the real answer to all feelings of shame (self-inflicted or man inflicted) is the same. The gospel.

  1. Come out of hiding – Bring what we want to hide into the light starting with God and ending with those that are relevant (Close friends and mentors and sometimes medical professionals. To me this looked like talking to old friends and speaking with elders at my church and wise older men)
  2. Put your feelings of shame to work – Identify the feelings of your shame – Are they God honouring or self-created unrealistic standards? Have you failed on an exam you worked hard on? Or do you feel shame for lying to others about the poor grade?
  3. If your shame comes from failing biblically, repent and trust in God’s full acceptance of you in Christ – God is scandalously patient with us. He initiates salvation. He finishes it. We play no part in it, yet often we act as if it is our responsibility to work for it and not work it out with his spirit working through us (Phil 2:12-13). This requires, constant daily, work. Focus on the means of grace.
  4. If your shame comes from failing in the eyes of others turn that shame away from man centred approval and towards God – God has a way of turning our man felt shame away from man’s criticism towards God’s word. Fix and deal with any effects of your shame primarily vertically with God but then horizontally with others. In the words of an elder at my church, he told me of how often ‘time is needed’ when he has broken his wife’s trust. While it is uncomfortable being reminded of the effects of your sin, use this to fix your eyes again on how gracious God is in forgiving and reconciling you to himself. This should trump any feelings of guilt/lack of reconciliation with others.
  5. Set Christ as your model for honour – ‘https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+34%3A4-5&version=ESV’
The Culture Shock Diaries #002

The Culture Shock Diaries #002

When Will You Come for Your Daughters and Sons?

Kim Burrell
When – Kirk Franklin, Kim Burrell, Lalah Hathaway

One of the biggest lessons my time in China has taught me has been the meaning of living as an exile”. An exile is “one removed from his or her homeland for a reason.

As a Christian while the Glory of God is on display to us all around us (Romans 1:20), so too are reminders of how fallen and decrepit and broken this world is. Death, illness and hope deferred are all daily reminders of the sadness that a life on earth is accompanied with.

And this is why Solomon reminds us that is better to go to a funeral than a feast. Good times are signs of God’s glory. Bad times are signs of our perpetual thirst for his grace. A thirst that will only be fulfilled when Christ returns. But the question that is left is what about now?

Life as an exile on earth is first a recognition of where home lies (Heaven), and then a desire to live appropriately for the given season. Moving from the U.K. to China for me meant leaving behind friends, family, comforts, dreams and many more things. It meant leaving behind everything that I knew and that was precious to me. But it also afforded me an opportunity. A chance to strip away everything my faith had relied on before, and be met face to face with myself and my depravity and thus my ever increasing need for a saviour (This is coming in #003).

Being black in Asia carries extreme perpetual reminders of how far from home (England) I am. I don’t have an oven, I’m stared at perpetually, I can’t read everything I see (Which for a know-it-all can be quite distressing). At times I have found it much easier to sit indoors than face the fanfare, pictures, and whispers that may come from me taking a stroll around the block. But this, while a painful lesson to learn like all afflictions, it points to much bigger narrative.

Daniel is the clearest biblical display of what being a model exile looks like. For lack of time I can’t go into his story today but the bible project has a great video him which you can check out here.

The ‘pain’ of exile in China has reminded me of the real pain that I should feel about being removed from heaven. At times, I have let this feeling of isolation speak to me too me too much. I have desired at times to go home on my own terms. I have also gone the other way, desiring to feel my void of emptiness my the pleasures of the world and through human relationships. But like all idols they crack under the pressure of a weight they were not meant to carry. I have had to learn to rely on God more than I have ever ‘needed’ (I say needed as I have always needed him).

David Murray’s Reset has been of great help to me. I initially started reading it to help a friend who mentioned they had anxiety. Unfortunately for me and my ego I realised it was I who was in desperate need of the book instead. He talks about how he was hospitalised through stress, not once but twice. I will talk on this book much more once I have finished reading it but for all my fellow exiles what is important to remember that in all our trails and afflictions on earth (2 Cor 1:3-7), we are truly called respond like Job.

A) He knows where we are ‘But he knows the way that I take’ (Job 23:10a)

B) He knows what he is doing ‘When he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.’ (Job 23:10b)

The Culture Shock Diaries #001

The Culture Shock Diaries #001

千里之行,始於足下 – A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

I have been in China for nearly 8 months. I am currently going through what many expats call ‘culture shock’ or a crisis of feeling stressed and upset about being in the Middle Kingdom and away from home. For me, this seems to have been slightly delayed (Usually this comes 4-6 months in), but this may be due to returning to the U.K. for a month in my time here. ( I am currently in the irritability phase of the picture above. Even as I write this I have steamy eyes.)

This Blog and my Vlog have been extremely neglected (I will explain later why), however, today in the midst of my despair, I feel it important to follow the Chinese proverb above. One step at a time, one post at a time working towards finishing this long race on earth (2 Tim 4:7).

I want to focus this Blog and my Vlog more on my faith. Tim Challies daily blog has been of great help to me and I feel that being a Christian, Black, Student, Londoner (and what ever label that is applicable) in the PRC has given me some unique lessons, that I would love to share that may help others veer clear of some mistakes I made. I doubt I can reach Tim’s level of consistency, but I will never know unless I try.

Blessings, Peace and Love

Akwasi Appiah