The value of writing thoughts down continues to prove to be a valuable asset as I attempt to honestly evaluate and test myself. Over the past several years I have heard (like everyone I suppose) a collection of comments that help me know how well I’m doing by recognizing the behavior of my flesh.
Sometimes a comment or greeting is simply for fun. Like the time a student boarded a bus one day and asked me why I was still wearing my Halloween costume. I laughed, then looked in the mirror to see what he was talking about.
But sometimes a comment or greeting leaves me realizing I still do not have control of this nasty old nature. The next comments, at the end of the day, were eventually more helpful than hurtful. Not because of what was said, but because it helps me know what my flesh is up to.
Spoken to me just before someone left our church: “I wish you preached the way you write.” Any time someone leaves our church my heart pains for their departure. Usually because these people have become part of my life. We’ve laughed together, cried together, considered spiritual things together, watched their children grow up or witness spiritual growth in their lives; many experiences that tend to do a bonding work. So when someone dear like this leaves it is painful. This comment did two things that my old nature lives for; pride and offense. This kind of double whammy is difficult to see at first because it blinds both eyes. Pride blinds as quickly as an offended, defensive spirit. Both cause the soul to loose sight of reality quickly.
The skill of asking clarifying questions has been helpful in recent years.
This next conversation came from a phone call of someone looking for a church: (After the normal questions of time and location I prepare for the real questions that everyone really wants to know, like what kind of music do you use? or how long do you preach?) In the midst of the questions from the phone caller, this statement showed up, sitting in the middle of the road like a rock that fell from cliff on a blind corner while on a mountain drive. “The last time I came to your church, your sermon was boring.” The longer I live, the quicker I am able to recognize that my flesh is on the verge of completely taking over. A statement like this, if left unchecked, can cause any public speaker to consider putting on his circus hat so that never gets said about him again.
I asked the caller what she meant by ‘boring’.
Her reply, and a long drink of water I took while she explained, cooled my flesh quickly as she explained… “I guess it’s not that your sermon was boring, it’s just that it was bible based and I’m not used to that.”
I thanked her for calling and and returned to my sermon preparation, asking God to help me refrain from obeying my flesh by attempting to not be bible based in my preaching. Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think ‘bible based’ means ‘boring’ but I know this of my old nature; he likes to be entertained and appeased, he likes a good fight, and he loves to derail me from finding pleasure and joy in God.
What is the chief end of man?
Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
Sermon from Judges 19, at Eastside Baptist Church on August 19, 2013