by:  Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Have you ever heard of projection? Projection is when we take the stuff we don’t like about ourselves and start believing others feel the same way. Let’s say I’m self-conscious over putting on a couple of pounds. Because I have an issue with the way I look, I start thinking my husband no longer finds me attractive. My projected feelings now have the potential to damage our relationship and affect intimacy. But not only do we project our insecurities onto others, but we also project them onto God.

God’s not moody. He doesn’t withdraw his affections or gives the silent treatment as a form of punishment. That’s our style. God is trustworthy and keeps His word. Not us! God’s not disappointed in us. But we sure are! And when we project our feelings and shortcomings onto God, we are having a relationship with a capricious, legalistic version of ourselves we think of as god. We create a Great Pharisee in the Sky.

The Great Pharisee in the Sky is difficult to please and judgy. He nitpicks and points out all the issues we hate most about ourselves. That’s because it’s us, judging us, and projecting our disgust and disappointment with ourselves onto God. As a therapist, I know how damaging this can be for a believer’s relationship with their loving Heavenly Father, who thinks way better of us than they do ourselves.

Sadly, I find most believers liked themselves better before they became believers! Pre-conversion, who cares about irreverent talk and negative thoughts? But post-salvation, people become ashamed when they fail to meet the standards of their self-imposed rules. God does not measure us based on our big sin list. He’s measuring Jesus. And Jesus performed that list flawlessly. But people forget that and become self-loathing over their junk.

God didn’t give you His one and only Son so you could get saved and think less of yourself. He gave you His Son so you could think of yourself less. In other words, the purpose of the gospel is to get us off our own minds so we can think about Jesus. When we keep our minds on Jesus, some pretty nifty stuff begins to happen.

There’s a spiritual principle that says we become what we behold. The Bible tells us when we behold the glory of Jesus, we are transformed into His image. If I become what I behold, what happens when all I behold is myself, with all my faults and shortcomings? That’s right, I just get more of me. Then there’s more of my mistakes to behold. It becomes a never-ending pattern of yuck. All the while, I think my self-loathing and fruitless attempts at self-improvement is pleasing God. It’s not. Nothing that begins with the word “self” is pleasing to God. He sent Jesus to free us from the tyrannical demands of self.

Next time you are praying and feel like God is disappointed in you or punishing you because you missed Sunday School or snoozed past your quiet time, ask yourself who you are really praying to. It might just be the Great Pharisee in the Sky!

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