Mirror, Mirror!

How honest is your mirror? Has it ever lied to you?

Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

Sometimes when we look at the way some people leave their houses, we might think their mirror has not given them an accurate picture of how they look. In those cases, though, it’s usually the mental picture that is faulty, not the mirror’s reflection.

Often our own mental picture of ourselves is different than reality.

“Here’s some good news: if you’re like most people, you’re way above average—at almost everything. Psychologists call this the state of ‘illusory superiority.’ (It’s also called ‘The Lake Wobegone Effect,’ from Garrison Keillor’s fictional Minnesota town where ‘all the children are above average.’) It simply means that we tend to inflate our positive qualities and abilities, especially in comparison to other people.
“Numerous research studies have revealed this tendency to overestimate ourselves. For instance, when researches asked a million high school students how well they got along with their peers, none of the students rated themselves below average. As a matter of fact, 60 percent of students believed they were in the top 10 percent; 25 percent rated themselves in the top one percent. You’d think college professors might have more self-insight, but they were just as biased about their abilities. Two percent rated themselves below average; 10 percent were average and 63 [percent] were above average; while 25 percent rated themselves as truly exceptional.

“Of course this is statistically impossible. One researcher summarized the data this way: ‘It’s the great contradiction: the average person believes he is a better person than the average person.’ Christian psychologist Mark McMinn contends that the ‘Lake Wobegone Effect’ reveals our pride. He writes, ‘One of the clearest conclusions of social science research is that we are proud. We think better of ourselves than we really are, we see our faults in faint black and white rather than in vivid color, and we assume the worst in others while assuming the best in ourselves.’”1

The church of Laodicea, in Revelation, seems to have much the same problem. John the Revelator was told to write to them and tell them, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked…” Revelation 3:17

The Laodeceans hadn’t looked in a mirror in a while, had they? Oh, wait, that describes us, doesn’t it? Ouch!

“The Laodicean message must be proclaimed with power; for now it is especially applicable. Now, more than ever before, are seen pride, worldly ambition, self-exaltation, double-dealing, hypocrisy, and deception. Many are speaking great swelling words of vanity, saying, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.’ Yet they are miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” E.G. White, The Review and Herald, September 25, 1900.

Wow, “miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” – not a flattering spiritual picture, is it? How in the world did we end up so confused, so far off the mark?

I believe that it’s mostly human nature (meaning our sinful nature) to get to a point where we feel like we’ve “made it” and want to just maintain the status quo from that point on. The problem is, there is no such thing, as spiritually “making it.” The moment we stop learning, seeking and expanding our relationship with Jesus, we immediately start sliding away. There are no spiritual plateaus.

Meanwhile, we also have to battle against western society’s constant message that we’re all good enough, just the way we are, that spiritual growth (in the Christian sense, anyway) is a waste of time.

An article in USA Today tells about something called “spiritual apathy” that is spreading across America. People who fit the description of being spiritually apathetic aren’t atheists, “They simply shrug off God, religion, heaven, or the ever-trendy search-for-meaning and/or purpose. Their attitude could be summed up as ‘So what?'”

The author of this article, Cathy Lynn Grossman, offers these statistics to prove her point. (Hold onto your seat, they’re pretty disturbing!)

“44 percent of respondents told a Baylor University study that they spend no time seeking ‘eternal wisdom,’ and 19 percent said, ‘It’s useless to search for meaning.’
“46 percent of respondents told LifeWay Research that they never wonder if they will go to heaven.
“28 percent told LifeWay that ‘it’s not a major priority in my life to find deeper purpose.’
“18 percent denied that God has a purpose or plan for everyone.
“One professor of religion concluded, “The real dirty secret of religiosity in America is that there are so many people for whom spiritual interest, thinking about ultimate questions, is minimal.’”2

Seems like Laodicea could be a synonym for everybody’s favorite descriptor, “post-modern” or even “post-post-modern” (actually heard someone use that the other day. Time to think of a new term!)

So, once we’ve taken that dreaded look in our spiritual mirrors and realize we’ve been lying to ourselves, what can we do? How can we find our way back to where we need to be?

Well, the message to the Laodicean church was harsh, but it wasn’t without hope.

“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:18-21

Well, that’s a relief! Everything we need to fix our miserable, poor, blind, and naked situation, we can get from Jesus. In fact, He’s the only One who can help us. All we have to do is open the door of our hearts to His gentle knock and invite Him into our lives.

Which sounds like a better place to end up? Miserable, poor, blind, and naked? Or sitting on Jesus’ throne with Him, holding His fire-refined gold, healed from our blindness by His eye salve, and clothed in His white garments?

Let’s all keep an honest eye on our spiritual mirrors. I don’t want to have a skewed picture of where my relationship with Jesus is, do you?

“Therefore, be zealous and repent.”

Who’s with me?

  1. “Study: Self-Images Often Erroneously Inflate,” ABC News (11-9-05); Mark McMinn, Why Sin Matters (Tyndale, 2004), pp. 69-71
  2. Cathy Lynn Grossman, “For many, ‘Losing My Religion’ isn’t just a song; It’s life,” USA Today (12-25-11)


Mirror, Mirror! — 9 Comments

  1. Self suficient. Therefore no need of Christ. That's our problem. Thus blinded we do not recognise our truely pitiful state. Jesus does. So he tells us and He invites us to accept His diagnosis and remedy. Let's let Him into our hearts!

  2. Reading this it makes me wonder; what about the one that knows his/her real position, and thinks he/she will never get it right?
    I look in the mirror, and sometimes, I ask 'why me, Lord, why am I alive and all my school age friends dead?'
    I know what I am, and I am not in the top 10% by any description. More like the BOTTOM 10%, maybe even 1%.
    I grew up in the 50's and 60's, served my country in the last 3 years of the 60's. My area of that generation had lots of questions but very few answers.
    Maybe that's why I asked Him that.

  3. Amen......well said. May we not run from the truth but embrace it as The Holy Spirit convicts our hearts daily....#itsmeoLordstandingintheneedofprayer

  4. Amen!!!! I am with you, Lillianne! Like you said, the problem is we’re no longer honest with ourselves. We’re probably the most complacent, self-sufficient, lukewarm, self-deceived and proud believers in Church history. Plus, our church is more of a social club than a house of prayer and worship. You would be surprised how many believers engage in mind-numbing activities like sitting through a two or three hour secular movie (yuck!) and yet get all restless and yawn when a sermon is over half an hour. Paul warns us 1 Cor. 10:12, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

  5. The longer I live the more I realize that I need Him more than ever before. The fifties and sixties definitely were a time of discovery that I really needed help from above. My service in Vietnam intensified my awareness of need for the Lord's help. After forty-eight years of following Him, I know more than ever before that the only way I to make it is by His grace, and mercy.

  6. It's significant that it is the "True Witness" that counsels Laodicea. He does not lie and makes no mistakes. His appeal is that of someone who cares more deeply than can be expressed, almost desperate. His offer to share His throne is His best offer, yet to most it seems unattractive, because they cannot see the attractiveness of the One who offers this eternal gift. Our self-inflicted blindness(sinful choices) eclipses His absolute glory.

    Think of those men who dug up Peter's roof that evening to get their friend to see Jesus, while Laodicea ignores the persistent knocking as Jesus comes to them, looking for them, inviting them. Why? Their faith is too weak to go looking for Him. How is this happening with all that we know?!

    Speaking of plateaus Lillianne, I once stood at the base of the Grizzly Giant in Sequoia as the ranger pointed out it is still growing at the rate of 6 inches a year. A 2,000+ year old tree is still growing?! Then it hit me, it must keep growing or it will die. Living means growing, and not growing is the sign of having died. So it must be with us...for eternity.

    • Thank you for your comment Robert. It's so true, if we stop growing spiritually, we start dying spiritually. Walking with Jesus is like walking on a treadmill... The moment we stop walking, we immediately start sliding backwards.

  7. Not only does this sound like God's people in the last days but also the United States...We who live here have not experienced need in ways that most countries have and we tend to act as though we are above all others..."watch and be awake for you know not when the thieves will come and rob you of what you have" Matt. 24:43-44 (paraphrased). Just as we do not know when our Lord will return we know by the signs all around us..how lukewarm we are!!! Not just as a church but as a country and world. Technology has rob us of our time and gain has given way to blindness of our true identity. We are poor, blind, naked, wretched and in need, God have mercy on us and praise God He does. May we all find comfort in knowing we have not be abandoned but adopted, we are not terminal but healing in His arms, we are not left to struggle alone for He has promised to be with us "always even unto the end of the age." 1 Cor. 13 states "we see in a mirror dimly but then we will see everything perfectly" until that day may we continue to grow in our relationship with our loving, heavenly Father and Lord Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit.

  8. Lilliane, I found these statistics astounding:

    As a matter of fact, 60 percent of students believed they were in the top 10 percent; 25 percent rated themselves in the top one percent. You’d think college professors might have more self-insight, but they were just as biased about their abilities. Two percent rated themselves below average; 10 percent were average and 63 [percent] were above average; while 25 percent rated themselves as truly exceptional.

    With these statistics in mind and the fact that we are told that we cannot trust our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9), what are the chances that we are evaluating ourselves correctly?

    We may not admit it, but don't we often compare ourselves with others and think that maybe we're just a little more "Christian" than they? Compared to Xxxx (another church), we are doing pretty good... I hear it in my church, and while I don't say such a thing (I know better), I'm afraid that my deceitful heart tries to make me believe it.

    We cannot trust our own judgment on the matter. We must accept the verdict of the "true witness" - that we members of God's last church are, indeed, in a Laodicean condition. Fortunately the message to Laodicea (Rev 3:14-22) includes a hopeful offer: We can come to Christ, and He will "sell" us all we need to change our condition. All we have to bring Him is our sinful, polluted hearts.


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