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I recently attended an event with Christ-followers from all over the nation and from many different Evangelical traditions. This has been an annual outing for me for a good portion of the last decade. It’s a gathering of leaders to spend time together in community having fun with one another and to help further their own leadership within their spheres of influence.

Typically, in a group of Kingdom-minded leaders this large, there’s destined to be several people who are unknowingly bound up by the Spirit of Religion. In this instance, the Religious Spirit was that of Self-Deprecation and, for some context and clarity, when I use this term I’m defaulting to how the dictionary describes it as follows:

Deprecation—express disproval of; being usable but disregarded as obsolete and best avoided.

Which means that the Spirit present at this event was one of “express self-disapproval” and “self-regarded as obsolete and best avoided.”  Notice for a moment that inherent in the definition is the idea that the subject is actually usable (able or fit; worthy) but disregarded due to obsolescence for some reason.

In this instance, it’s self-inflicted.

I know this Spirit well because I’ve found myself Agreeing with this Spirit in the past. It’s sole intent is to convince us that we’re “less than” who God says we are and somehow “unworthy” of His grace and love. Ultimately, it’s goal is to have us willingly forfeit any true intimacy with God as His sons and replace it with adjunct servitude orphaned from God as a slave.

Which brings me to the phrase, “righteous wretch.”

Righteous—morally right or justifiable; virtuous.
Wretch—unfortunate or unhappy person; despicable or contemptible.

This was written on a hat of one of the guys who attended this event. He wore the hat everyday and carried himself with a false humility often associated with this Self-Deprecating Spirit which tries to convince us to make much of Christ and not ourselves. All the while, we proceed to tell others all about how we aren’t worthy and we’re just a worm compared to Christ’s sacrifice… which, ironically, draws attention to ourselves.

The Pharisees did this well.
Because that’s how religion works.
But Jesus came to reveal something bigger to us.

Jesus claimed, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19

This form of religiosity smacks of oppression and advocates a particular kind of blindness all the while deflecting the favor of God. Why? Because we’re often so consumed with focusing on the Darkness that we neglect the Light surrounding us and inhabiting us. Said another way, we glorify our Former Self over the New Self and feel more comfortable with who we say we are rather than who God says we are.

Why does this matter?
What’s at stake?
The ownership of our core, True Identity.

Think about that for a minute…
What if God were actually right?
What if what He says about us is true?
What if we really are now His sons?
Co-heirs with Christ?
A royal priesthood?
A new creation?
Pure and holy?
Blameless and free?

That feels… dangerous.
And yet, it’s true… all of it.

This unnerves the Self-Deprecating Spirit which thrives on scarcity and enslavement isolating us from our deepest True Self. Think about that. If God’s sons were free—really free—then we might actually do what Jesus says will happen to anyone surrendered to The Spirit: change the world, one heart at a time. And we would do this together, as brothers.

So, to keep men passive, busy, and isolated, the Self-Deprecating Spirit whispers tantalizing morsels of religion coated in false-humilities looking to attach its message to any heart that will Agree with it.

This is why strong community with men is essential. We are to reflect back to one another the Glory we see in one another calling forth the truth of who we are. This, in turn, makes the Shadow language of Religiosity distasteful to the man who is emboldened with the truth of how God sees him and prepares him to live free from his True Identity as an Image Bearer of God.

Try this: next time you’re with a group of men and before you do anything, call forth the good and brilliant things you see in the men around you. Do this one guy at a time with each man contributing to the truth telling. Try it for two minutes then switch to a new man “in the hot seat.”  I guarantee you, this will have profound impact on your group and will make a huge difference in your own life as well.


Blog post by Dave Hackbarth, one of our Braveheart Intensive facilitators, and a Life Coach and Martial Artist.  Check out Dave’s website here.