Recently, a young man asked my opinion regarding the set-out of an accounting spreadsheet that he had done. As I was making several suggestions that he needed to fix, I began to sense that I had offended him. After I had finished with my suggestions, I decided to face the uncomfortable atmosphere and ask him what the issue was. Both he and I knew that something wasn’t right. Even though nothing was being said with our mouths, it was certainly being said with his spirit. I could feel the blame and guilt. When I feel that, I go to God and ask Him what just went down, check my spirit that I haven’t been proud myself, and from that position I realise that I’m up against a demonic spirit.
On the outside, this young man presents as courteous, helpful, respectful, sporty and well-balanced in his character. However, I discovered in the course of the conversation that he has developed these qualities for the specific purpose of being liked and well thought of by his fellow humans. These outside characteristics are learned behaviour for selfish reasons. His true inner character is hidden until you bring a correction or an opinion that opposes his, and all of a sudden he feels inferior or stupid, and starts blaming the other person for upsetting his feelings.
Value and favour
Over the years I’ve learnt that behind everyone’s façade is a striving for personal value and favour so that they feel worthwhile amongst their peers and other humans around them. Value is defined as worth and importance, and favour means ‘luck falling my way’. From favour we get the word favourite and favouritism. In our human makeup, everyone wants to be the favourite and feel valued, and everyone dislikes and envies anyone who is more favoured than themselves. This is the pride of our inner hearts that was inherited from the Garden of Eden, and along with that inheritance is the automatic blame we shift onto anyone that hurts our feelings or makes us feel bad.
We strive for this value and favour by being more educated, more successful, more sporty and whatever we can do that will put us higher up the totem pole than our competitors. Sadly, what pride doesn’t realise is that personal value is actually valueless, and what pride doesn’t realise is that pride is a serious fracture of the heart; it just regards it as a minor issue that everyone suffers and it’s not that significant if you’re good.
In reality, this young man had really come to me to present his spreadsheet for the purpose of being accoladed for his work. He had presented it expecting to be told he was clever and when it became clear that his work had several flaws, his spirit began to argue with me and declare that “you don’t understand”. Instead of being able to appreciate my suggestions, he became defensive with explanations as to why he had done it a certain way.
His defensiveness was really just bossing and telling me how I was supposed to behave in order to make him feel valued, and that’s also what everyone will ignorantly and blindly do to God if they approach His throne of Grace without their pride exposed.
Coupled with this defensiveness will be their argument for fairness (‘you’re not being fair to me’) followed by reactionary moodiness, and thus will be exposed the real motive of a person’s spirit.
What was really happening?
The real spiritual thing that was taking place was that God was giving this young man an opportunity to see his pride and the demon that was occupying him because of it. When you’re super good and defensive of your feelings, and you’re too proud to feel silly, you can’t find God until you see your pride, and what you fail to appreciate is that pride is the channel that gives demons licence over you. Be as good as you like, it won’t solve the demonic occupation.
That’s why God instructs us to forgive and repent. It’s o so we feel better with ourselves; it to break the stronghold of demons over us, Matthew 18:21-35.
I asked him how was he dealing with the bad feelings he was having? He said he put them under the carpet and pretended they weren’t there, but I informed him that what he was really doing was dumping his emotions on me. If you let your feelings get hurt you’ll always blame the person who hurt you, and you’ll dump these feelings on the person you’re blaming, so you don’t feel bad.
God calls this bearing your cross. If you genuinely follow Christ, you’ll suffer like Christ; obviously not to the same extent but certainly in the same manner. Jesus was crucified and everybody dumped all their guff on Him. He was totally innocent and by God’s will and plan, got the sin of everyone dumped on Him. This is what Paul means when he says, I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me, Galatians 2:20. Importantly, it’s not faith in; it’s faith “of“.
The favour chase
I find it no coincidence that the modern church is also chasing and promoting God’s favour; it’s made up of people who believe in value and favour. The modern church system has decided to call this period in history the age of grace. Grace means unmerited and unearned favour from God. The modern Christian expects God to pour out His blessings on me because I’m special and He loves me and will give me what I need and want.
No one’s calling out for His mercy; everyone simply believes they’re good and deserving of His favour. The problem is you can’t get His favour without first getting His mercy and you can’t get His mercy without first seeing your pride.
The Pharisee and the tax-collector
In Luke 18:9, Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector. The Pharisee is just like this young man. Doing everything right and thinks he’s a Christian, but can’t see that he’s full of himself and actually just praying to himself and desperately in need of God’s mercy. On the other hand, the publican can see it and cries out for it and consequently, comes under God’s grace.
What’s the difference between Mercy and Grace?
Mercy is different to grace. Mercy means diminished punishment. It means God won’t punish me as much as I deserve. Mercy refers to punishment, grace refers to blessings. This young man couldn’t see that he deserved any punishment; he could only see that his goodness warranted God’s blessings. So many Christians today are in the same boat. Adam and Eve didn’t cry out to God for His mercy, they’d got used to His favour, were too afraid to expose their pride; in fact, too proud to say they were wrong, and consequently, missed the boat.
The bottom line
This young man secretly lived to be his brother. From his selfish point of view, his brother was more favoured, more liked and had it all. The foundation for his whole life was covetousness and until he comes face-to-face with his pride of covetousness and his fracture of the 10th commandment and sees his real inner sin like the tax-collector, he’ll continue to use his goodness to protect his pride. I suggested to him that God can’t find you if you are your brother; He’s looking for you.
This man desperately needs God’s mercy, but he’s solely focussed on chasing His grace. He wants the favour to prove he’s better than his brother. This is the Cain syndrome.
The Cain syndrome
Cain hated his brother, Abel, because God favoured him more. I suspect he felt that Adam favoured Abel more, too. He didn’t seek mercy for his sin; rather, he told God that he needed more protection and favour. His pride caused him to miss the boat even though he talked with God. He was focussed on favour and missed the mercy, because the underlying reason was covetousness.
The two thieves on the cross are clear examples of mercy and grace. One thief challenged Christ and told Him what He should do to solve his problem. He was demanding Jesus’ favour and missed the boat even though he was face-to-face with Christ. The other thief simply said ‘remember me when you come into Your kingdom’. He saw his sin and sought God’s mercy and thus accessed the heavenly kingdom.
If you’re serious above God then He will remove anything that is propping up your pride so you get every chance to find Him. If you really want to find God eventually you’ll have to sacrifice anything that props up your pride; whether that be your career, money, or worldly position. There’s a price for salvation, and although it’s free because you can’t earn it or deserve it, it’s not free.
Pastor Greg Hayworth