As the Spirit “disillusions” us, it can be a painful and difficult process. For those who allow the Spirit to reveal the truth to them, there is a painful time of disillusionment. They find that they are not who they thought they were. Their Christian life is not where they thought it was, and their daily walk has nothing to do with taking up their cross and following Jesus.
But there are those who are willing to face up to the truth about the world, the flesh and the devil. Hardest of all, they are prepared to face up to the truth about themselves. They forget what is past, and they press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of them. But that is not the end of the process. Just as they begin to feel that they are growing in the Spirit, that they are learning deeper things and moving in the maturity God has called them to, disillusionment sets in! They look around at their life, and something seems wrong. For all their learning and growing, their Bible reading and prayer, life is getting harder, not easier. Prayers are not being answered as they once were. Work and family are not going well, maybe, in fact, crashing into crisis. They thought that their deeper commitment to the Lord would lead to greater power to serve, greater joy in overcoming trials and temptations. In fact, they really thought it would lead to an end to trials and temptations like this.
Spiritual warfare was something they could face with a measure of satisfaction, as ‘mature’ Christians, ‘prayer warriors’ that they are. But the problems they now face, the crisis which threatens to overwhelm them, is something they have prayed about many times, something they had trusted God to save them from, or to bring them through. But their strength is ebbing, their patience is fast disappearing, and they have no joy in the trials. They are disillusioned. They thought God would move in their circumstances, but it now seems that it is God himself who is causing the trouble in the first place! What is happening?
God is destroying another serious illusion which afflicts so many of us. It is the lie that, if we commit ourselves to Jesus, and seek maturity and spiritual growth, then we will move into greater power and effectiveness in ministry and witness. But there is no such quid pro quo; God is not obliged to give us anything in return for our lives. The ultimate revelation of all for Christians is that God is GOD ALMIGHTY, Creator of everything that is. We have no claim on him in ourselves. As a loving Father, he has to face us with the disillusioning fact that we deserve hell, and nothing else. We have to understand what it really means when we read that ‘it is all of grace…so no-one can boast’. We never graduate to a place as Christians where we are no longer dependant entirely on grace. We never attain a position where we have a right to grace and mercy…never! No matter how long we have served God, we are still as needy as when we were the deepest-dyed sinners in creation.
This is disillusioning, it is not what we thought, what we wanted to believe, was the case. Like Job, we have to come to accept that we will not always be given answers to why God treats us as He does. We must stand in faith, knowing that he loves us, and is training us in righteousness. But this truth also sets us free. Because it is only then that we begin to understand how amazing grace really is, how astounding it is that the Almighty God loves me! The illusion is that God is simply a loving, forgiving Lord, and, because we are so loveable, He cannot bring himself to condemn us. What a lie! So, in love, the Holy Spirit brings us to a place where we cannot deny our unworthiness any longer. We are faced with a holy and majestic God, and, in comparison, we appear in our true identity. It isn’t a pretty sight.
We are so easily led into spiritual pride. Just getting saved makes some people so arrogant that they parade through life waving their Bible at unbelievers, demanding that they live up to a standard that only God’s grace makes possible. And Jesus looks at them and says: ‘Pharisees!’ But as we grow in Christ, the temptation is still there. We think, ‘I am getting much more spiritual these days; I am understanding so much more, so many deep things’. C. S. Lewis once said that the worst thing about humility was that, once you realise you had it, it’s gone!
This pride takes a great deal of breaking. It is hard, painful and humiliating. It is disillusioning to us, making us admit things about ourselves that we really don’t want to know. It is easier, far easier, to resist the intrusion of the Holy Spirit in our cosy world of religious righteousness. But such unreal illusions lead to an unreal life where we have to pretend that we are something we are not. We think we’re wine, when really we’re just water. In the twelfth chapter of Romans, Paul makes it very clear that there are two ways to see things: God’s way and the way the world does.
If we see things the same as the rest of world, then we know we are wrong. Its that simple. No, we’re not the Christians we thought we were, but God is not surprised by that: he knew it all along. So allow him to bring you to the truth through disillusionment. You will come to see things as he does. You will see yourself as you are: and then have even greater joy and surprise at knowing how much God loves you.