Salvation is not, primarily, about morality. It is, essentially, about identity.
True self and false self. The me I truly am is not the me I insist on being but rather Christ Jesus by grace. Not Christ Jesus instead of me. Not me mimicking Christ Jesus who is “over there,” separate from me in my independent existence; or even in an intimate relationship with me. Rather, me as me by Him living in me, and in so doing, giving me the only authentic life I can define as life. God living in me and through me that is me living a true, substantial, life in authentic human personhood. Without separation and without confusion. So, God dwells in me, giving me life, and God unites Himself to the truly alive me as One Who is completely other than me. Wow… Now THAT is Mystery with a capital “M”.
If the evil one can confuse and delude us regarding identity he wins a victory. If the evil one can convince us that salvation is primarily about “being good” he wins a victory. If the evil one can convince us that letting go of what we are convinced is our “irreducible self” without which we will slip into non-existence instead of the reception of our authentic self and the beginning of our true life from God, he has won a victory.
The realization that all of this just might be the case; that there might be a chance that what we have so deeply held as true is, in fact, delusion, is the beginning of our salvation. Indeed, is it a place we visit over and over to further the work of consummating our salvation. It is the work of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth. The Illumining One.
18And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?” 19They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.” 20And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” 21But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, 22saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” 23And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25“For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9.18-26)
As a preliminary to detaching him from the Enemy, you wanted to detach him from himself… Of course I know that the Enemy also wants to detach men from themselves, but in a different way. Remember always, that He really likes the little vermin, and sets an absurd value on the distinctness of every one of them. When He talks of their losing their selves, He only means abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever. Hence, while He is delighted to see them sacrificing even their innocent wills to His, He hates to see them drifting away from their own nature for any other reason. And we should always encourage them to do so. The Screwtape Letters, Chapter 13, by C.S. Lewis
“It is not humility to insist on being someone that you are not. It is as much as saying that you know better than God who you are and who you ought to be. How do you expect to arrive at the end of your own journey if you take the road to another man’s city? How do you expect to reach your own perfection by leading somebody else’s life?: His sanctity will never be yours; you must have the humility to work out your own salvation in a darkness where you are absolutely alone… And so it takes heroic humility to be yourself and to be nobody but the man, or the artist, that God intended you to be. You will be made to feel that your honesty is only pride. This is a serious temptation because you can never be sure whether you are being true to your true self or only building up a defense for the false personality that is the creature of your own appetite for esteem. But the greatest humility can be learned from the anguish of keeping your balance in such a position: of continuing to be yourself without getting tough about it and asserting your false self against the false selves of other people.” The New Seeds of Contemplation, pg. 100-101, by Thomas Merton