Let’s Get Over Ourselves

11 10 2011

Tuesday Re-mix -

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature
God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature
of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:3-8

Arrogance is just ugly.

Whoever you are and whatever your message may be and however important that message is to me, if you deliver it with arrogance, I will not hear it.  It really is that simple…that cut and dried.  Maybe it is just me, I honestly do not know, but arrogance just so rubs me the wrong way that (despite my best efforts) I simply cannot get past it to hear the message behind it.

My bet with this blog post is that I am not alone in this perspective.

To me, there are just not very many character flaws uglier than arrogance.  I say that with a touch of self-deprecation, because I know with certainty that I am capable of this particular flaw myself.  I really, really hate it when it comes out in me, because I believe it is so very ugly when I see it in anyone else.

The more I read and listen to people outside the church about why they are not interested in being inside the church, when you start cutting through to the essence of their complaints, when you boil them all down, they mostly seem to come down to arrogance on the part of the church in one form or another.  But the interesting thing is, I don’t think we (the church) are all that in touch with our own arrogance.  So here are some areas of  “latent arrogance” on our part…arrogance to which we may be blind but which is very real to the outside world:

1.  Theologians, We: Do you believe it is possible to have a right theology and a wrong heart?  Indeed, my theology can be perfect, i.e., my interpretation of scripture can be right on the money without my having even the slightest evidence of the Spirit of God living in me.  I see it here in the blogosphere all the time…people chiming in to theological debates with such venom and vitrious, it makes me (the lawyer) blush!  Part of the problem here is that we forget the Biblical truth that “for now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror”.  We hold our theology as if we see everything perfectly clearly, thank you very much.  How can we believe we see all Spiritual truth perfectly clearly when our best source of Spiritual truth tells us that, in fact, we see it all pretty dimly for now?  For more on this issue, I love this post from Donald Miller.

2.  Insiders, We: I recently posted here on the problem of having our own “denominational vocabulary” and how that tends to disconnect us from those outside our church.  The first time I published that post, a particularly insightful comment (thank you, David!) reminded me that we are never in more danger of being arrogant than when we are feeling like an “insider” in any organization or institution, particularly including the church.  Like Peter, who was in the exclusive “inner circle” of apostles who got to see the Transfiguration, we run the risk of thinking we are something when we are not, and a humiliating correction is probably in our near future!

3.  Moralists, We: Granted, there are obviously plenty of social issues upon which even Christians do not agree, but we do agree on an awful lot, assuming a Biblical worldview.  What baffles me is that we somehow expect the rest of the world to see these issues the same way we do, and when they do not, we (arrogantly) decide they are just ignorant heathens, devoid of any redemptive value.  What’s more, we then rail against them and boycott them unless they relent and agree to act like Christians.  Frankly, some of our camps spend more time and energy trying to get non-Christians to act like Christians than we spend trying to get our own brothers/sisters to act like Christians.  Here are some important words from Paul to the Corinthian church who was dealing with moral issues of its own: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” I Corinthians 5:12-13.  Judging those outside the church is, well, arrogance.

I could go on and on, but we’re already way too long for this post.  But seriously, friends, can we just get over ourselves in these regards and begin earnestly seeking the mind of Christ in our attitudes toward others?  Oh, what a difference that might make in the world!

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Christian Peacocks and God’s Presence: Lessons in Humility

8 02 2011

Tuesday Re-mix -

Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Job 38:2-3

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness… II Corinthians 3:18

Driving to work recently, I pulled up behind a truck literally covered in bumper stickers.  I mean, there had to be 50 of them all over the truck.  Many of them were Christian.  Others were political.  Some were rather personal.  But the collective “message” was clear: this truck owner was screaming, “Look at me! Look at me!”  This truck was like the vehicular version of a peacock, with its feathers spread wide, and its pride featured front and center.  And I thought, there is something not quite right with that picture.

Do you know any professing Christians who seem to know a lot about God and the Bible and Jesus and who talk a lot about all that they know, but who just don’t seem to ring “true” for some reason?  They wax eloquently all day long about this doctrine or that doctrine, or they can impress you with their stories of “conquest” from the mission field, or they can show you the sacrifices they have made on their church’s behalf.  But when it comes right down to it, something about their attitude, something about the way they carry themselves just doesn’t add up.  They simply do not exhibit the humility which naturally comes from being in the presence of God.  And before you get too wrapped up accusing that person, let me ask you this: is it possible that person has ever been you?  You see, having that “Jesus is the Answer” bumper sticker on the back of your truck is one thing, but actually spending time walking in His presence is another thing altogether.  And the proof of the latter “thing” is humility.

Can you think of anyone in the Bible who actually entered into the presence of God and who came away arrogant?  No, you cannot.  Because it simply is not possible to stand in the presence of God, the creator of the universe, and feel all high and mighty about yourself.  In fact, I would say that Isaiah’s reaction to being in God’s presence (Isaiah 6) is fairly typical: “Woe is me! For I am a man of unclean lips and  come from a people of unclean lips.” That, my friend, is a standard response to meeting one’s maker.  The reality is, you simply cannot be spending time in the presence of God and not be humbled by the experience.

Remember our friend, Job?  After the onslaught of horrible circumstances in his life, and after doing a little “fist shaking” and asking some hard questions of God, it was time to receive counsel from God. And such counsel! God spent 4 chapters answering Job. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?… Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb… Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?… Who fathers the drops of dew?…” Job was humbled, to say the least. Suddenly, he was less inclined to be so obsessed with his own circumstances, and more inclined to “be still, and know that [God] is God.” So, as I read this account, I just cannot help but wonder if it really is possible to spend any genuine time in the presence of our God, I mean really IN HIS PRESENCE, and not have tons of humility to show for it.

In short, you show me a brother or sister who struggles with arrogance in his/her life, and I will show you someone who does not spend much time in the presence of God.

Moses came out of God’s presence with his face veiled, so as not to scare people. It was evident to all who saw him that Moses had just been in the presence of God. Isn’t it fair that we should ask ourselves, “How evident is it that I have been with God?”

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Careful How We Build

15 09 2009

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

Ozymandias

By Percy Shelley

I met a traveler from an antique land,

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown

And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,

Which yet survive stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal these words appear:

‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

OzymandiasBy the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. I Corinthians 3:10-15

Whatever your church is building right now…beautiful buildings, innovative programs, inspiring worship, exciting children’s ministries, enduring teaching… whatever you are building, be careful to build with humility as before the Lord.  One day what you are building will be tested, and then everyone will know the true heart of the builders.

© Blake Coffee

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com








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