Last week I was humbled. I have recently started lifting weights again and last Tuesday we maxed out on bench and incline (that means I tested how much I could lift.) Last time I lifted I had gotten my max up to 315 on bench, something I was quite proud of. In the past I have had lapses between lifting and rarely had I lost more than 25-30 pounds on my max. So as I sat down to max again I figured that maybe I’d dropped to 275-285 and so I loaded up 250 thinking I would push that out of the way quite easily but I didn’t want to be TOO arrogant. I lifted it off the rack and I got a tad worried because it was heavy. As I lowered it to my chest my concern grew because this was REALLY heavy. At the point the bar hit my chest the concern gave way to resignation, I was NOT getting this bar back up. At the end of the night my max was 225…I had lost almost 100 pounds off of my last max. ONE HUNDRED POUNDS!!!!!!!! I was crest fallen.
There is a saying I have said, that I’m not entirely sure I didn’t come up with myself, “Be humble or be humbled.” Its how I like to think I approach life. I know that God’s power is shown in my weakness, “…my power is made perfect in weakness,” I Corinthians 12:9. I also know that its hard for God to use me if I don’t approach the tasks given me with humility, AND if I ask Him to do what He needs to do to use me, that will generally start with humbling. That humbling can be self imposed or God imposed, and doing it myself is a much more pleasant experience. But if I am unwilling or unable to humble myself to the level that is useful, I can count on God to do it for me.
I said all that to say this, I have seen a startling arrogance with in the fellowship I claim. Many claim to be familiar enough with God to speak His mind for Him. They seem to know with great alacrity things that please and displease Him that I currently do not see in what He left us. I wish I could limit this to a rare few but to my recollection this is something that I have heard throughout my life. The range of topics is quite expansive, from clothing that should be worn to what exactly constitutes “orderly worship.”
This great certainty troubles me because it gives a false sense of safety that I don’t believe we are given in scripture. I fear that pursuit of truth has become a pursuit of correctness so that we can have a concrete defense of our own actions. I see this breeding an entitlement attitude when it comes to our relationship with God. “I KNOW that what I am doing is right and therefor God MUST accept it.” There has to be a reason Paul told the Philippian church to, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” Phillipans 2:12
If you are looking for concrete answers to what exactly you have to do to please God, I fear my answer won’t help. I don’t know. I can’t give you any definites. Anyone that says that can is either lying (which I won’t rule out entirely but I would suggest that those people are few and far between) or is severely misguided themselves. I don’t know if this has come from the current faith culture wanting to have the guy up front tell them what they can do so they can do it and never have to do any study for themselves, or if it has arisen from a prideful mindset of ministers, wanting to have all the answers so people value them more. I dare say it is a combination of the two.
The fact of the matter is that there aren’t as many black and white issues in scripture as we would like. To be honest I wish there were because it would make things a lot easier. Maybe there wouldn’t be as many divisions among the people claiming to be family. Maybe we wouldn’t be fighting each other over things like styles of music, clapping, apparel, number of cups to use, kitchens, Sunday school, gender roles, and a myriad of other things we have used to divide ourselves. Each party believes that what they are doing is pleasing to God and what those who don’t agree with them is not. It would have been a lot easier if God had written an order of worship, job descriptions for each service we were to do, building plans for what pleases Him (Which by the way the only time he did that was when he described his tent, even the temple David designed was David’s design not God’s. I wonder if it had a kitchen), and what exactly He wants us to wear. But he didn’t. All we have is, “ Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin,” Romans 14:19-22.
I think that the flaw comes from a misconception about worship. When I stop to think about it it’s amazing to me how much like the Israelites in Jesus’ time we actually are. We rely on people that have degree’s in ministry and Masters of Divinity (what an arrogant name for a degree, and no the irony is not lost on me that I am soon to start the process of acquiring one of them) to tell us what pleases God. Instead of what animals and in what number we need to offer, we tell them how the Spirit will express Himself acceptably. Instead of what incense should we burn, we tell people what kind of praise is acceptable. Instead of how far can we travel from our home and still be within the law, we tell people what the can wear to our “worship service” and still be pleasing to God. The problem with all of this is in Hebrews we are told that all of those things were only facades pointing to what is available today. What “new order” are our “matter(s) of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations,” (Hebrews 9:10) pointing towards?
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will,” Romans 12:1-2. Worship is not something you do on Sunday Morning, Sunday Night, Wednesday Night, and on the occasions of special Gospel Meetings. Worship is something you ARE not something you DO. If God has given your body a talent, using that talent is worship. If you are an exceptional electrician, you don’t need to fix the lights down at the church building to use your talent for worship. By simply being the kind of electrician Jesus would have been, doing your job so that when people see you work and see your work it will point to something bigger than yourself, and yes that is possible, you worship God. I believe that every act of worship has its appropriate place to be performed,and just as preaching to a light switch on the evils of not doing its job would do no more good to get it to work properly than would trying to encourage a congregation by wiring their eyes to light up when they blinked (something I wouldn’t turn down if possible provided I could pick the color. OOOOOO or be able to change the color!)
“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other,” I Corinthians 12L21-25. Your ministers are no more important than you are, and look at this verse a little closer. Usually we think that this is talking about all the people that work behind the scenes. What if Paul was talking about ministers when he was talking about the parts treated with “special modesty?” I mean who has more exposure in the world you or your ministers? I know that the people I attend services with interact with a TON more lost people than I do. Maybe I as a minister am the unpresentable part. Maybe I’m the part that God gave greater honor to because I’m one of the parts who’s function lacks it.
To all my family, stop treating your ministers as something special, we don’t need it and to be honest it makes life really lonely. There is nothing about what we do that makes us more special than you because we get up in front of you and share what we have learned for the week. Minister’s stop acting like what you do is more important than the man who empties portajohns, its not. God has given us the abilities we have because they are what we need to be in relationship with Him. Maybe He gave us speaking abilities and a desire to study His word not because we are not stronger than the people we serve, but because without them we wouldn’t seek a relationship with him at all. It’s time for us to stop speaking for God, and start sharing what we learned not what we already know.
Be Humble or Be Humbled.