Saturday, May 9, 2009

Monday Morning Devotions

Prov. 29:25. "The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe." (NKJV)

Those of us who name Jesus as Lord can remember a time when what determined our happiness was the good opinion of others. We obsessed over our appearance and sought to join groups that we felt granted us social acceptance. We acted according to group standards, seeking group approval. Often we mistreated others, or gossiped about them behind their back, to be considered one of the group. In my case , engaging in gossip increased my own importance in my own eyes. We could have cared less about the consequences to others; we only thought about our own standing in the eyes of others. Also, we spent too much money entertaining our friends so that we would not be discarded by those who valued us for what we could do for them. And in the end, all our efforts to remain in good standing made us unhappy.

How liberating it was to realize that the only one whose approval mattered was God's. All the pressure to gain worldly acceptance disappeared when we made Jesus Lord of our lives. We knew that when the world disapproved of us and mistreated us for Christ's sake, we knew we had our reward in Heaven.

But has the fear of man been fully cast out of us who name Jesus as Lord? Or are we now trying to gain the approval of a new set of friends, our brothers and sisters in Christ? We might not mind telling anyone how we were before we became Christians, yet how many of us now pretend to have reached a level of spirituality that we have not really attained? How many of us wear a smile that masks our true state. We hide our disobedience and our sorrows. We attempt ministry to others when we ourselves are empty. Occasionally our true state is revealed when we treat someone wrongly or retaliate when we are mistreated. We excuse ourselves by telling ourselves and others "I was just not myself when I did or said that." The the truth is, yes, we are always ourselves in such moments. We are who we are without the power of the Holy Spirit operating in our lives. David wore a mask before his subjects and before God until his sin with Bathsheba was discovered. His fear of being revealed as less than holy ensnared him as he tried to cover up his actions. However, when his sin was revealed, he did not excuse himself. He did not say "I was strong in the Lord when I suddenly fell into this temptation." No. He not only confessed his sin, but he commanded that his confession, what we know as Psalm 51, be read in the Temple for all to hear. He was declaring before all God's people that this portrait of himself was indeed his true self without God reigning in his life. Can not we be as transparent as David? This is a faith issue. We are afraid to confess our sins before our brothers and sisters for fear we will be judged. But do we not have enough faith in God that He will have transformed others in the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit? Instead of presenting a picture of false self- sufficiency in the Church, can't we acknowledge to one another that we cannot be the people of God without each other? Perhaps our personal problems would not reach crises stage if we were transparent before our brethren. It takes just as much effort to appear spiritual before the Church as it does to gain the approval of the world. The effort to appear spiritual is just as exhausting and leads to greater unhappiness in the end when we realize that we failed to live in the grace of God who has made it so abundantly available to us. We claim to trust Jesus. Then let us be transparent before our brothers and sisters, and see how God uses His Church to bring forgiveness, restoration and healing to us.

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