Please God alone

ThinkerMy greatest struggle in being part of the church has been when leaders possessed a certitude about how things should be done that borders on presumption.

If I have learned one thing about humanity, it is that we are all inherently flawed. I have ample evidence in myself and others of the depravity of man. We are broken and that brokenness affects everything that we touch. As a result, we should have a healthy distrust of ourselves and a confidence in God alone.

If we are flawed, we must assume that those who initiated what we now call tradition were similarly flawed and therefore the traditions are flawed. We should constantly acknowledge that our idea of how church should be conducted may not be according to God’s plan. Jesus tells us:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1, ESV)

I had previously written about this verse in a post entitled Righteousness before men, In the previous post, I identified pride as the reason that we try to appear holier than we are. The provided antidote is humility. In this post, I would like to examine the results and practical implications of our desire to look cleaner than we are.

Somewhere in between complete denial of our dysfunction and a wallowing in it is an appropriate response. Not everyone I meet at church or at work needs to know all of my struggles. Wisdom is required to know what is appropriate to share and when it should be shared. But we must admit that there is something inside us that seeks to present ourselves as better than we are. We are all hypocritical to some extent.

This hypocrisy can works itself out in a variety of ways. First, we can be overly concerned with what other people think of us. This can influence who we associate with and where we go. Our Enemy wants nothing more that to have all Christians think that non-believers are not to be associated with. This will prevent them from hearing the Good News.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”” (Romans 10:14–15, ESV)

Thus, we limit our usefulness to God when we are too concerned about our reputation. Jesus was criticized as being a friend to sinners, perhaps we would do well to be the same.

Secondly, our pride and hypocrisy can manifest itself in our thinking that our efforts are essential for the work of God to continue. God may choose to use us in a particular situation, but when we feel that it is entirely up to us to accomplish God’s purpose, we have ceased to be truly useful to God.

It is one thing to be responsive to the prompting of God to accomplish a certain task. It is entirely another thing to take something on just because we think it needs to be done. How many church programs are begun and continued by man’s effort and produce little or no fruit of eternal value? How many people enter “vocational” ministry feeling pressured to do something for God that God has not prompted them to do? How many of our traditions and doctrinal litmus tests inhibit rather than promote our usefulness to God?

The “King James Only” crowd comes to mind as an egregiously negative example. In their pride in using the “correct” version of the Bible, they are limiting their ability to minister to their community. We are to make the Bible more understandable, not less. I grew up with the KJV and still have to work hard to get the meaning when I read it; how would someone with no exposure to 17th Century English get anything at all out of it?

The point of this post is to remind myself and others that our fallenness taints everything that we do. If we are to be confident, it should be confidence in the providence of God rather than in our ability to sort things out. We should be responsive to the prompting of God rather than certain of our own assessment of how to proceed. We should spend more time in prayer seeking God’s opinion and less time figuring out what is best.

Rather than play to the crowd around us, we should seek to please God alone.