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Conquering Delusion


I have a friend who thinks he is one of the two witnesses, spoken of in The Revelation. Come to think of it, over the years, I have had several friends who thought they were one of the two witnesses. It is hard to say how many others have entertained the thought of being such a person, without coming right out and saying so. As we have said elsewhere, there is nothing wrong with aspiring to such a ministry. But it takes more than high aspirations to actually attain such "greatness".

Jesus said that anyone who wants to be great must be willing to become a servant, the way that he became the Suffering Servant of God. There are so many different ways that this could be applied in the lives of each of us.

Our aspirations may not go so far as to desire to be one of the two great Endtime Prophets, but there is in each one of us at least a small hankering to do something worthwhile with our lives, to be able to influence other people, to be respected, remembered, and maybe even revered by at least someone.

But in each of these cases, our true greatness will be a reflection of our ability to let go of all desire for greatness.

There are the obvious mental cases who are so totally obsessed with their own self-importance that others can only feel pity for them. They usually do not have enough discipline (or honesty) to follow through on any of their highly vaunted claims. Even when their credentials are resoundingly exposed for the counterfeits that they are (for example, when they predict a disaster that fails to occur), they merely increase their self-deception, by telling themselves that their humiliation is 'persecution'. They live for little more than the day when the world will recognise their greatness. There is no other cause which holds them together more than that.

Obviously, very few of us are that badly deceived. But there are infinite stages of spiritual deception which progress gradually toward full-blown clinically assessed delusions of grandeur. Even the clinically deluded pick up a few pointers along the way. They learn how to give the impression that they are not claiming greatness for themselves (at the same time that they leave an overwhelming trail of clues aimed at tweaking others to 'discover' just how great the deluded person is). They learn to flatter, to lavish gifts on others, to fast, pray, or perform other acts of religious discipline, to put themselves down, to admit weaknesses, etc. But the end goal is always the same, and that is for others to discover how great they are.

There is no simple line where we can say that delusion has ceased and genuine prophetic ability has begun. And the reason for this is that there is truth and error at every stage of spiritual development. Over the years we have encountered quite a few delusional people who have responded positively to the truth in what we teach. They have often been a greater source of encouragement than the many respected and popular pastors, prophets, and teachers of the institutional church.

Of course, what we would like to do is to get these delusional people to learn a few good lessons from people who are a bit more 'sane' in the eyes of the world, as long as they can do that without following the bad examples that abound in the system.

Sanity may represent little more than well-disciplined delusion. Who knows how many secret Napoleons have occupied the Oval Office at the White House, or held positions of power in other world governments! If the truth were known, we probably all think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. If we hide our delusions sufficiently, we gain recognition from others who probably harbour similar delusions about their own importance.

Yet if we would be truly great, and not just deluded about our own greatness, then we need to zero in on love and honesty, and leave greatness to take care of itself. We discovered years ago that even attempts to achieve humility tended to generate greater self-awareness, as we became obsessed with just how humble we were becoming. What delusion! But if/when we ever get so busy just trying to follow Jesus, and if/when we ever get to the place where we want only to have more and more of his perfect truth, and his perfect love, then we will be moving into realms of greatness that we could never have achieved while looking for ways to either become great or to become humble (presumably for the purpose of becoming great).

With John the Baptist, we will begin to recognise that we are just "voices in the wilderness". (John 1:19-23) We will want only that Jesus might increase, and we will appreciate the need for ourselves to "decrease" in order for that to happen. (John 3:30) Jesus said of John that he was one of the Two Witnesses (i.e. Elijah) for his age. (Luke 7:27) And yet John never knew it!

John's credibility comes from an endorsement by Jesus Christ himself. John had an awareness of the great responsibility that he had as the messenger preparing people for the coming of Jesus, and he worked at carrying out his task well. But his emphasis was on being a faithful servant in obedience to the instructions that God had given him. It was not necessary for him to even have a clear understanding himself of how he had been referred to in Old Testament prophecies; and it was much less necessary for him to make anyone else aware of that.

When we have done all that Jesus has instructed us to do, we should say merely that we are "unprofitable servants" who have done (at best) only what we were expected to do. (Luke 17:10) No need for accolades or rewards just for carrying out orders. If we will faithfully do that, we will be much closer to greatness than all those who feel the general public needs a little prompting to remind them about how great the 'messenger' is.

(See also Insanity.)

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