I’m continually amazed by how age effects my perception of life in general, and life in the church in particular. It’s striking the number of conversations I’m having that begin with the phrase, “If I’d have know then what I know now …”
We all go through the experience of realizing that things that we have believed to be true, just aren’t … and that can be very painful to us. I’ve seen several close friends go through this over the years and become extremely bitter and angry, and the word I’ve used to describe their state of mind is “disillusionment.” We always speak of it in negative terms … “poor Bubba, he has become so disillusioned.” But I’m not sure it’s always a bad thing.
The World of Illusion
I’d like to begin by defining the word “illusion.” A dictionary definition of this word tells us that an illusion is “something that deceives by producing a false or misleading impression of reality. The state or condition of being deceived, misapprehension.”
Revelation 12:9 tells us that the world of illusion is where Satan lives. Deception is his comfort zone, and when he can keep us under a cloud of illusion he is very pleased with where we are at, because he’s the one who “deceives the whole world.”
And when we live in that state, brethren, we are in danger. It is not safe to think something is reality when it really isn’t, but many human beings live very comfortably with illusions every day, and in fact cherish them. Satan loves to have things this way.
So a loving God has to put us through a painful process to help us out of that state of deceit … and in effect, God has to “disillusion” us. The dictionary definition for “disillusion” says, “to free from or deprive of illusion, belief, idealism, … a freeing, or being freed from illusion or false conviction. To destroy the false, but pleasant beliefs held by a person.” So disillusionment is coming to realize that the illusions that we’ve bought into are false, and in so doing, we come to see reality as it is.
In reality, disillusionment is a good thing, depending on how we react to it. So the question for us becomes, “How should a Christian react to disillusionment?” I’d like to illustrate a proper reaction to disillusionment by using the example of the apostle Paul (formerly named Saul).
Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. (Acts 8:1-3)
This follows right after Stephen was martyred, and our introduction to Saul says that he consented to Stephen’s death. Now just look at the attitude behind these actions. Saul “knew” he was one of God’s chosen people … in fact, he was one of the leaders in doing the”work of God” as he perceived it at that time. But the thing he didn’t realize at this point was that his entire life, and all he believed was an illusion
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. (Acts 9:1-9)
So how did Paul react to this disillusionment? Did he go out and start a blog on the Internet just to complain about the Pharisees? Start railing against his old teacher Gamaliel, and the evils of Gamalielism? Dabble in Hinduism, Scientology, or some new age religious philosophy? No, he spent 3 days fasting until God sent Ananias to him.
And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. So when he had received food, he was strengthened.
Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 9:17-22)
In John 8:32, Jesus Christ said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Verse 36 adds, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” That’s what happened to Saul/Paul. Jesus Christ freed him from illusion, and He will do the same for each of us throughout our lives. Brethren, let’s thank God for disillusionment!