Do I Really Want to Know?
Publicly, we almost always encourage others to “tell us the truth.” What we are trying to promote is our open mind and the willingness to be confronted by those things that others see in us. We say that we welcome the truth even if unpleasant.
Until the truth is actually unpleasant. And hurts our feelings because it hits a little bit close to home. And causes us to rethink our open-mind policy.
Though there is a certain ease in maintaining surface level relationships, conversations and social networks, it turns into a kind of prison. Jesus spoke bluntly to those who did not want to hear the truth in John 8:31-32 where he says “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” When we no longer have to hide the things co-habiting our souls we are truly set free. When someone speaks the truth to us—however unpleasant— and it is the key to opening the cell door, they have done us one of the great benevolent acts that can be done. They have loved us.
Will you as a disciple encourage the same searching and revelation on the part of God? Are you willing to let the Holy Spirit root around in your soul, opening boxes and nudging aside secret compartments so that he can bring the truth to the surface? No matter how uncomfortable and even painful it might be? In the psalmists words, inviting God to reveal our myriad hidden secrets is the key to freedom. We’re unable to walk the narrow path unguided and in the dark. We must have one who has gone this way before to lead us and show us where the stepping stones are. We need to the lamp of God’s Word to bathe the path in light.
Even if what he digs up is unpleasant. Even if our feelings are hurt because the things we believed to be hidden are suddenly brought to light.
Because ultimately, life with God is better than life without God. Because life with our rough edges revealed is better than a life consumed with masking and hiding them.
Will you invite God to search you and know your heart?
The end of one year and the initial days of a new one often find churchgoers hearing a new vision for the church over the coming year. Some pastors will place the imprimatur of God on their statements, saying “God has directed us in this direction” while others will be less humble in their choice of pronouns, suggesting ‘I’ or ‘We’ view this direction as the way forward for the body. All well and good, whichever attribution is selected. Charisma or at least enthusiasm in the voice can deliver the message effectively.
As long as no one looks back.
If the pastor is delivering an annual vision for the upcoming year shouldn’t it be preceded by a review of the results of the previous vision. How did it turn out? Have we arrived at the destination you pointed us toward? What went wrong? If I am hiking through the forest on a trail that was previously mapped out for me and someone comes up to tell me he sees a new way to reach our destination, shouldn’t I ask how he arrived at my location? God is consistent. He has set things in motion and the story has remained the same as far back as we have kept track. Looking back to see where we’ve been should be the first action before a step is taken.
Vision casting is risky. Vision casting in the Church is riskier. To say that the Lord has given a new vision for this year or this pastor or this incarnation of His church should always be more than an impression. To say that He has forgotten the old vision in favor of the new should always cause us to stop and ask if we were faithful to the last one.
Wesley’s sermon ‘Salvation by Faith’ opens like this:
All the blessings which God hath bestowed upon man, are of his mere grace, bounty, or favor; his free, undeserved favor, favor altogether undeserved; man having no claim to the least of his mercies. It was free grace that “formed man of dust of the ground, and breathed into him a living soul”, and stamped on that soul the image of God, and “put all things under his feet”. The same free grace continues to us, at this day, life and breath, and all things. For there is nothing we are, or have, or do, which can deserve the least thing at God’s hand. “All our works, thou, oh God, has wrought in us.” These, therefore, are so many more instances of free mercy; and, whatever righteousness may be found in man, this is also the gift of God….
If then sinful men find favor with God, it is “grace upon grace”…Grace is the source, faith is the condition, of salvation.
It’s tough to argue with the Bible, or Wesley’s exegesis.