Synthetic Reality

Following my recent series of posts on Words that Control Us I am now extending the concept to the matter of synthetic reality.

A set of words can invoke a sense of reality in our minds and even bind us as surely as if we were in chains of iron.  Yet that reality is synthetic.  It is synthesised from something other than reality and takes on tangible form in our thinking.

Consider Titles of Office.  One person is called a manager and another is called a janitor.  But they were both born naked and will take nothing out of this world.  The titles describe their responsibilities, but those titles also convey as sense of status and importance, and even a sense of the worthiness of the bearer.

Artificial Persons

Consider artificial persons.  A corporation is only a piece of paper with a name on it.  If no living man or woman turned up to sell or invest their energy into the corporation it would be powerless.  Yet many of us think of corporations as more powerful than the whole community put together.

Imagine having to fight a global, multi-national corporation, or the World Bank, or whatever.  The thought is a disturbing one, because we think of that entity as having great power.  But the entity is actually a fiction.  It is something that was made up in someone’s mind and then put on a piece of paper.  If all the employees went home it would lie dormant.

Immersion in Fantasy

Ps Chris Ong recently prompted my cogitations along these lines in a sermon about how people get carried away with pure fantasy.  People immerse themselves in books, movies, games, virtual realities and fanciful ideas with great zeal these days.

Yet the fantasy world was simply made up in the mind of a writer who created mental images that delight us.  There is no true substance or worth in the fantasy world, except to distract and entertain.

Think of such popular fictional realities as Narnia, Helms Deep and the Shire, made popular by recent movies of people’s fictional writings.  Or consider the new world of blue avatars that has now become part of western mythology.

However, no matter how compelling that world is, and how much we can immerse ourselves in it, or in books about it, or in books about books about it, it has no substance.  It is as shallow as a dream that passes or an imagination that dances in the mind but has no bearing on anything.

TV Ads

I am not a consumer of commercial television and so I was interested to see some recent television commercials in which absolutely fantastic worlds or animated (but real looking) transformations take place.  It seems that the world has become addicted to the super-real, “nothing like this has been seen before” imagery.

However, while synthetic reality has become ubiquitous today, people who know how to encounter and deal with the “real” world are possibly fewer, as people become distracted with the worlds of fantasy.

A top gamer, or one who reads commentaries on the commentaries of someone else’s imaginary world, or one who escapes to the false worlds created in books and movies, cannot build their real world experience on such things.

An Old Problem

Synthetic reality is not new.  Notions of a hero, alter ego identity through which people have vicarious experiences (movie stars, sports heroes, rich and famous) is not new.  Identification with a sports team, star personality, powerful corporate entity, etc gives people a sense of vicarious virtue that is synthetic.

The Illusion of Image

And consider the world’s addiction to “image”.  Image is also a synthetic reality.  The notion is that by improving the image, by style, fashion, plastic surgery, attitude, etc, one can change the reality of who they are.

The statement was made of American Christians that they have as many problems as Christians in any other place, but have learned to slick up their image.  That improved image, of personal presentation, body language, power dressing, etc, masks insecurities, shame, fear, guilt, pride, emptiness, etc, that may be more apparent in other, less dressed up cultures.  But the reality is not different, despite the synthetic reality being projected.

Vain Imagination

Illusions in the mind can be vain imagination, and that can all be a “stronghold” in the mind that is a high thing exalting itself against God and truth.  It can also be a lie that seduces and entraps you with imaginary chains that work as powerfully as real ones.

Illusions of grandeur, fantasies about who and what you are, escape from reality, retreat from real interaction through escapist preoccupations, day dreaming, prejudicial labelling, preconceived notions of what is and what can be, fascination with image, addiction to worldly values, these are all elements of a vain imagination.

In the Mind

The Apostle Paul identified the root of this problem two thousand years ago.  The problem is in the mind, but it’s not merely a mental problem.  Thoughts in our head take on spiritual power that enslaves us.

Paul advised that we need spiritual weapons, not human techniques, to pull down “strongholds” in our mind.  We know the strongholds are in our mind because Paul then lists three descriptions of what makes up the strongholds, and the list includes “imaginations” and “thought”.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:  (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds😉  Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” 2Corinthians 10:3-5

Taking Thought

Those who preach metaphysics suggest that natural man has the power to change his thoughts and thus change their life.  They even base this claim on the Bible, quoting such verses as “as a man thinks so is he”.

But don’t be deceived by the Mind Worship delusions.  They are a vain imagination.

Look again at what Paul said.  The weapons we need to deal with the issues in our mind are not “carnal”.  That means they are not of flesh and blood.  You are not capable of breaking the strongholds in your mind by natural means, including by trying to guide your thoughts.

You need supernatural weapons to pull down those strongholds, and destroy those imaginations and thoughts that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God.

And remember the words of Christ when He said, “Who by taking thought can add one inch to his height?”

“Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?” Matthew 6:27

Don’t fall into mind worship of give your life to chanting mantras about how you are getting better and better every day.  That stuff is fleshly.  It is “carnal”.  And carnal weapons don’t work on strongholds in the mind.

Rely on Truth

One of the spiritual weapons at our disposal is Truth.  Truth sets people free.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32

Now, once again, don’t be fooled by people who say that if you read their book you will know the truth.  Truth is not just some supposedly factual information.  Truth is a person.  Jesus Christ identified Himself by the name “Truth”.

“Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.” John 14:6

When you allow the truth of God’s Word and the truth about who Jesus is, as revealed in the first four books of the New Testament (the Gospels), you will be releasing the power of truth into your life to pull down strongholds in your mind.

The Matrix Allegory

In the first Matrix movie we see a chap named Neo learn how to live outside the illusions forced upon his mind by others.  Christians immediately saw in that story an allegory for the freedom we have in Christ to be able to live free from the lies of Satan, the deceptions of the world and the deceitfulness of sin.

And we see that allegory also hinted at in Alice in Wonderland, where Alice rejects the beliefs and impositions of Wonderland and will not let them dictate who and what she is.

The Bible puts it as resisting the devil.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

Your Reality

Who is dictating your reality?  Do you choose to believe whatever you think best indulges your self will?  Or do others force a perception of the world and how you fit into it onto your life?

Have you been deceived?  If you were deceived how would you even know?  Have you ever been set free from a wrong idea?  If not how do you know how to discern truth from lie?

Are the labels used to identify you accurate or are they chains to tie you down?

What does God say about you?  His Word is truth and what the Bible says about you is something you really should pay attention to.

Are you living in vain imagination?  Have fantasy thoughts seduced you and drawn you away from living in the real world where you can actually achieve real benefit as God created you to?

You may not have thought about these issues before, so get onto it right now!

God’s Thoughts – Faith Building

Westerners are quite struck on the idea of being logical and understanding things. We probably worship our minds and put more stock in our thoughts than we should. God’s thoughts are vastly superior to ours. That’s a positive encouragement for each of us to think God’s thoughts and to put our thoughts in their place.

Isaiah 55:8,9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Now let’s share a faith building thought with you. Do you have some good thoughts for yourself and your future? Do you have some good thoughts for how you would like things to work out? Can you think some pretty positive thoughts about your potential and future? Well, God’s thoughts are higher than your thoughts. God can conceive things far better than you would ever imagine.

Link that to the statement by Jeremiah the prophet, about God’s thoughts. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

God thinks good thoughts for you, and God’s thoughts are vastly higher and better than yours. In view of that, what are God’s thoughts toward you, your ministry, your family, your future, your talents, and so on? You would be wise to seek and understand God’s thoughts for you, rather than to pursue your own. Remember God’s thoughts are vastly better than yours, and they are thoughts of good things for your life.

Renewing the Mind

Don’t be conformed to the world but be transformed by having your mind renewed. Romans 12:2

We each need a complete overhaul in our thinking. That’s not just to deal with the “evil” things in our minds, but to change the very basis by which we think. Transformation does not come by tidying up our thoughts, cataloguing them differently, adding some new ones or finding Bible references to give authority to our opinions. The ‘renewed’ mind is not an ‘educated’ mind, a Biblically literate mind or a re-enculturated mind. It is a ‘new’ mind.

One of the challenges we face in allowing God to deal with our thinking is that we have faith in our own opinions, thoughts and conclusions. Solomon pointed out that people think they are right – “Every way of man is right in his own eyes” Proverbs 21:2, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes” Proverbs 16:2.

Because we have a high regard for our own mind and thoughts we tend to be protective of long-held beliefs and cherished opinions. We elevate these thoughts as a worthy platform for the rest of our life. Albert Einstein made fun of this tendency when he said, “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen“.

Attitudes, then, are closely linked to our thoughts. That’s why a “check-up from the neck up” (as Zig Ziglar likes to put it) should really be heart surgery. Oh, there I go again, mentioning the “heart“. Well, this is not the last time, so get used to it. You will never achieve a renewed mind without a transformed heart at the same time.

Have You Been Scandalised?

One of the sad events of human experience is that of being offended by someone. Many happy friendships and processes have been damaged or destroyed due to people taking offence.

The Bible refers to offences in several places. Solomon points out that a brother who is offended is harder to win back than a fortified city (Prov 18:19). Jesus said that a person is blessed if they resist being offended (Matt 11:6).

The Bible word for “offended” actually means “scandalized” and it has important significance. The “scandalon” which the word refers to is a small stick or similar trip lever for a larger trap. In other words, an offence is a trip-stick. If you don’t respond properly to the offence trigger, a much bigger thing will fall on you and cage you in. That bigger thing is not the offence itself, but your reaction to the offence.

While it is an ugly experience to be offended, let down, hurt, disappointed, discouraged and even outraged by what others do, our reactions are the related process which is even more critical to our life and happiness.

We are not who we are because of what others have done or said to us, but because of how we responded to what they did and said. Our reactions, responses, choices, conclusions, justifications and words are where the REAL IMPACT is.

Jesus made that plain when he spoke about what “comes out of a man” as the thing that DEFILES the man (Mark 7:20). When we react we are ensnared by our chosen response. And that response often comes so naturally to us we do not even think we made a choice. We will even conclude that the offender MADE US react that way. But that is not true. Two people will experience the same offence and yet respond differently. It is not the offence that is at fault, but the heart of the responder.

That does not mean we should seek to offend people. It is a sin to cause a child to sin or lose heart and faith. We will give account for our every word. But remember that Jesus offended people, yet he was sinless. So don’t be too quick to blame the offender when you feel upset.

Your reactions expose YOU, not the offender. Your responses and what comes out of you expose your HEART. And your Heart is the Heart of the Matter. If you become bitter, resentful, unforgiving or if you cut the other person off, reject them from your group of friends, etc, you are not only at fault, you are CAUGHT IN THE TRAP!

You are DEFILED! Despite your self-righteous condemnation of others and your righteous indignation at what they did or represent, you are the one carrying the evil. You are the one with an evil heart.

This truth impacts families, where children feel offended by their parents. It impacts churches where leaders resent members who frustrate them. It impacts society where people set long-term prejudices toward neighbours, bosses and political leaders. A society full of enslaved people is a sad society to be in. A parent, teacher, pastor, leader or friend who is Scandalised will impact you by their bad heart attitude. If you are Scandalised you will offend others and impact society, from your place of being trapped by the offence.

That’s why the HEART is the Heart of the Matter. Your heart, self-righteous and aroused as it may be, is critically important to your on-going life and happiness. If you harbour resentment, unforgiveness, anger, prejudice, hurt, reaction, an offence, or any similar reaction to others your heart has been corrupted. And the evil of your own heart has been exposed by God. God has allowed you the opportunity to reveal what is REALLY in your heart, and you have proven to God that you are evil-hearted.

That is why FORGIVENESS is so powerful. Forgiveness is a choice of the will to over-rule the evil of our heart and to give grace.

That is why a child needs to Give their Heart to their Father – to overcome the heart tendency to resent his failings (and that is how children qualify for the blessings that come on those who honour parents).

That is why God commands a blessing on brothers who dwell in unity – since they each have to overcome the evil of their hearts to do so.

I have observed that many more people are scandalized than I would have thought. Some lovely, Christian people, some godly leaders, and others who I hold in high regard have been tested with offence and have become scandalized. Instead of quickly dealing with their heart responses I have seen people opt for justification of their position. I have seen people break fellowship, cut off others and even begin campaigning against fellow Christians.

None of us is perfect and I am certainly aware of my own vulnerabilities. I present this observation about offences in the hope that at least some will see what is happening in their heart and will step into the light and into the freedom Christ has won for us.

DISCLAIMER: Without detracting from all I have said, I need to point out that there are evil people and that it is appropriate to deal with them appropriately. I am not advocating that we go soft on evil people or that we should forgive every offender and throw away our judicial system or the fear of God. In such cases, however, our response to another person’s evil needs to be based on Righteousness, Truth, the Fear of God, Biblical Standards and God’s Leading. If our heart gets involved, with hatred, resentment, victimization, or all the other evils which an outraged heart could come up with, then we are out of order, even if the other is also evil.

“My Life is MINE!” – A warning to youth

Have you been told, “It’s Your Life!” Well, don’t be fooled by that idea. Yes, you have a free will. You can make your own bed and you will have to lie on it. But that doesn’t make you your own property, nor your life your own life.

Part of the destruction of young lives is to disconnect them from real meaning and purpose. A clever way to do that is to suggest, “It’s your life, so do with it as you please!” If a person feels ownership of their life they think they are not as accountable for it. They only have to answer to themselves. “It’s my life, so I can waste it if I want to!”

At the same time they are disconnected from real meaning, purpose and fruitfulness, because they go off chasing butterflies rather than connecting with bigger things.

You are not your own! God owns you. God created you for His purposes. You are on the planet for divine reasons, and you are not supposed to miss them or mess them up. And what’s more, you impact others and must give account for that as well. If you cause someone else to stumble you will be dealt with severely by God. If you undermine someone else’s destiny and divine calling your will have to answer to God. If you marry someone and entangle them in your own life-wasting activities you will be held accountable for that.

Your life is not your own. You are not here to do as you please. You are a fully responsible person and you will be judged for ETERNITY for the things you do and say. There are HUGE consequences to your life. You will even have to account for every idle word you speak, let alone those big arguments, or those obvious times when you hurt others. Even your THOUGHTS are laid bare before God.

To make matters worse, God is watching your actions, words and intentions and will give you what you deserve based on what He sees. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, seeing what both the good and evil people do. God rewards those who trust in Him and he curses those who trust in themselves or who live life by man’s wisdom and standards.

The only thing you own is your will. But even there, you have no power to do anything but love God and be blessed or defy God and be cursed. You have no power over your life or the outcomes of anything you do. God holds you in His hand. God can bring you sunshine or rain. God will give you what you deserve – almost!

The good news is that God is patient and loving toward you, and will not give you everything you deserve as soon as you deserve it. He is patient with you, waiting for you to repent and get rid of the garbage in your life.

Give up your foolish self-focused ideas. Get into reality. You are a created being, put on the planet by the Living God, for His eternal purposes. God has an amazing destiny for you, but He requires you to trust Him, in faith and to go His ways, no matter how hard that turns out to be. God allows you to cop out, run away, rebel and be eaten up with foolishness. It’s your life to destroy if you are stupid enough to do so. But in reality it’s not your life to do with as you please. Your life is God’s life, created for His pleasure and purposes.

Get smart. Humble yourself before God and make Him Lord of your whole existence. He will put you through the ringer, giving you some touch challenges, to sort out the men from the boys, but the end result of going God’s way is incredibly beyond anything else you can ever hope to do with your days.

Your life is His Life – so yield it to Him.