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Monday, 31 October 2011

Vanity and the Ego

King Solomon wrote a truth. All is vanity. Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, 12-18. What does this mean? Vanity is defined as something that has no substance, meaninglessness, worthlessness, emptiness, and futility. All is vanity because everything in this life is temporary. God has subjected us to vanity in hope of salvation. Romans 8:20-24.

Vanity of money and possessions. Solomon wrote that one who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor one who loves abundance with its income, and what a severe affliction and vanity it is. Read Ecclesiastes 5:10 and 6:1-2. Life is not defined by things or possessions. To the person who did everything to keep Christ’s commandments and desired to know how to gain eternal life, Jesus told him to sell all he had, give to the poor, and have treasure in heaven. Mark 10:21- 23, 28-30.

We stray due to our ego. Paul teaches us to not think too highly of ourselves. Romans 12:3. The ego, which we each possess, and which is the false sense of who we think we are, is a master at causing us to think better of ourselves than we should. It persuades us to resist the path of righteousness and deters us from doing right. We are convinced with good intentions to become better people, better helpers, better servants of Jesus Christ, and teachers of God’s word. But with no conscious invitation, our ego entices us or discourages us to stray. It keeps us slightly askew from the straight road that we intended to walk. Thoughts affect our choices and those choices adversely affect our minds and thoughts, which continues the vicious cycle of negativity that the ego loves to keep us in. We become discouraged, scornful of our own actions, and contemptible to ourselves. The apostle Paul struggled with these types of thoughts and decisions. Romans 7:17-25. When we allow our ego to control us, the more diligently we try to be perfect the more onerous the task and the further from perfection we get. Good intentions are then transformed into vain actions.

We suffer due to our ego. To minimize suffering, Jesus teaches us to become humble, to be one with him, and to strive for salvation. Our destiny is to obtain salvation through him. 1 Thessalonians 5:9, Philippians 2:12. Suffering is common to all of humanity and can be seen as the perceived pain of non-acceptance. Suffering can drive us deep within ourselves to learn from and be humbled by it. Much suffering originates within our own selves through thoughts, which rise to our surface and transform into words and actions that negatively affect our own selves and the people around us. Suffering is fed in large part by our active ego as it attempts to separate us from our Creator and His Son.

Our selfish identity is rooted in ego. Mankind is never satisfied. Ecclesiastes 1:8, 4:8, and Proverbs 27:20. Our selfish false sense of self is conditioned by our thoughts and the influences of the reality around us, which we call the world. From birth we are conditioned with the concepts of "I", "me", "mine", and so on. We set expectations for ourselves and the people around us based on these concepts, and when our expectations fail we succumb to distress and suffering. In the midst of our thoughts, we forget to realize that we can control them. As the pride of our ego binds us in a "pity me" mode, our thoughts derive our actions. For example, we struggle to attain or to be recognized or pampered only to find that those expectations disappoint us. We counterbalance this perceived negative mode with choices such as acting out, sulking, taking drugs or alcohol, or shopping. When we use these methods to magnify or enhance ourselves and retain our identity, the ego thrives. Attractions can become attachments, which can become obsessions. The end result is suffering. In capitalistic countries where the measure of "success" is defined by gaining more, such as purchasing "things", vanity becomes obvious. The need to gain more cannot be quenched when we live in our ego because there is never enough to satisfy it. Contentment comes not through gain, but through realigning ourselves with our Creator and His Son and realizing our connection with them. To do this, we must consciously constrain our ego. Otherwise, just going through the motions of life but not really living, is vanity. Pray for help to keep from vanity as the prophet did. Proverbs 30:8-9.

Our ego makes us think we are right.
"If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know." 1 Corinthians 8:2, New American Standard Bible. Embrace humility. Romans 11:19-21, 1 Corinthians 10:12;2, Peter 3:17. Each of us identifies with and is conditioned
by our experiences. Children cry when their toys are taken away. They identify with the toy, believe it to be theirs, and attempt to exert their "right" to claim it. Teenagers rebel at constructive criticism, and in their quest for independence believe to be "right" in almost everything. Adults make critical decisions based on the conditioning of their past experiences. They judge others because they think they are "right", wage wars in their need to be "right", and so on. They claim to know "right" from wrong but do not demonstrate it. Although we might be "right" in certain cases, does it really matter if it generates strife within your own self and among others? The Bible instructs us to bear up when we suffer unjustly and to endure it to find favor with God. 1 Peter 2:19-20.

Live beyond the ego and surrender to Jesus Christ. Paul said in Galatians 2:20, "...it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me..." (NASB) Become one with Jesus Christ. Take on his baptism, his suffering, his death. Romans 6:1-7. The choices we make often compound our sin or the original problem that arose from within us. The solution also comes from within. To surrender ourselves to Jesus Christ, we must let go of thought patterns, renounce our stances on certain subjects, and acknowledge and control our ego. This surrender is a personal pivot point that enables the control of our lives to be worked by the higher power that is infinitely greater than we ourselves. Yield to him. Abandon your way for his way and escape the vanity and insanity of this world. John 14:6.

End suffering. Be humble and remember King Solomon’s words that all is vanity. Examine yourself. 2 Corinthians 13:5. Do not be enslaved to an ego- centered mind that overcomes you with vain ideas and desires. 2 Peter 2:17-1 9. Examine whether your ideas, or your need to be "right", or your possessions, make you feel successful or superior. Do not hold on to them at the expense of your salvation. Eternal Salvation in Jesus Christ will end all suffering. This salvation comes not by the works that your ego believes will save you, but by the grace of Almighty God Jehovah through His son Jesus Christ, Acts 15:11, Ephesians 2:5, 8, and 2 Timothy 1:8-9.

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