If a person who belongs to Christ feels that they are more than what they appear to be, It’s worth reminding them that they are more than what they appear to be. This, cannot be said of course to a person who thinks more highly of himself than he should, without qualification, but this feeling of being more than what we appear to be is real. It’s real because outwardly we are wasting away whereas inwardly we are being renewed every day. Since we live with our thoughts, they had better be the right ones, and in most cases, most of the time, our thoughts have a big influence over us. The best way to take care of oneself is self-denial, the best way for a person’s personality to be fully developed is by self-denial. In other words, there are other ways a person can develop, but the question remains, what will they become? Self-denial is God’s way for us to personally develop the self.
Isolation and the safe place
The late PT Forsyth observed that since “personality does not come into this world ready made, but it has a history and growth. Education is not merely training it is its creation.” In other words, Christianity is the chief creator of personality if it’s going to be fully developed. We are “…but persons in the making,” said PT Forsyth, therefore if it is true that our personality will be created by social influences and isolation means arrested development, then the only safe place is in Christ and with those who are in the kingdom of God.
Arrested Development and Isolation
This observation (isolation means the arrested development of personality) by Forsyth allows us to see that personality is always developing in one direction or the other. We know that since people become like what they worship, what they worship (love first and foremost, as seen in priorities) matters in regards to the development of a person. Jesus prayed to the father that we would be sanctified in the truth and that His word is truth, and Jesus is speaking here of the life long process of moral purity. We learn from Romans chapter one that the suppression of truth is a moral issue, not an intellectual one and therefore we can anticipate where the challenges will be found in isolation.
The influence of social conformity
Those who belong to the kingdom of God and who pursue the things of God will produce the kind of environment that develops a person in the way that they are to develop. Whereas the world cannot offer such a community, but this doesn’t mean that the community does offer will not produce a type of people, it will. People, whether they realise it or not fall into tribes, though tribes have no particular head they do have their leaders. Tribal behaviour can be seen in the recent riots, it is when people share a common burden, interest and desire for change who then follow each other because they recognise that alone they cannot do it by themself. Therefore people will quickly find their tribes if indeed they seek connection with others who share the same interests as themselves. It is a community of people built on the common desires of individuals, whereas the church is the community of the people of God, who find their identity in God and who pursue self-denial as the way to mature as a person and pursue burdens.
PT Forsyth’s basic observation is that those who begin to understand themselves and the world without beginning with the word will seek to address personal weaknesses by learning to understand without fulfilling their need of trusting and obeying the word of God. In other words, it matters where a person begins when it comes to personal change, for this will determine where they are likely to end up, how they will change over time and why such a person if they do not begin with the word, can never really be sure about anything. The way forward is by beginning with the word, then we can understand the world and ourselves.
Isolation and Self-denial
As I have stated, isolation can bring many things in our lives to the surface. When we are left alone with our thoughts, they had better be the right ones and being around people can keep us from thinking the wrong things matters. However, the way to address such issues is by self-denial for this is God’s way and this way is able to take care of (consistent with the rest of scripture) thoughts, feelings, desires and actions, and this is not the denial of our personality it is rather its development in Christ. For those who follow Christ must deny themselves and take up their cross. A Christian can not walk in the flesh and remain unaffected by it, we have been given the Spirit so that we can keep in step with Him. Therefore, isolation from each other is not isolation from the triune God of scripture and because of this we will always be with God and God will always be at work in us and His grace will always be sufficient whatever situation we find ourselves in.