December 13, 2010

To Live is Christ — using discernment wisely

Criticism of Christianity almost always uses the word “hypocrite.” This term comes from a word used for actors or pretenders. Those who use the word to describe Christians know that something is wrong. Even genuine believers cannot fake godliness.

Years ago I saw a video by a woman who wrote a book on evangelism. In the video, she said, “When I try to act like Jesus, all people see is me. But when I am just myself, for some strange reason, they say they see Jesus.”

Being a Christian means that Jesus lives in my heart. He is part of my life. If I try to run my life without Him, I stifle His work. If I get out of the way, He can do what needs to be done. He can even be seen in me.

I cannot try to cover up my sin. When I do that, I am faking it. If my cover-up takes the form of accusing others of the same thing that is even worse. Pretending I’m good where I’m not good is hypocrisy, but turning attention on others with the same problem is also hypocrisy. Jesus said so . . . 

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:5)
I’m aware that some Christians have more problems with finger-pointing than others because of their spiritual gifting. A spiritual gift is a particular motivation for some aspect of spiritual life. For instance, a giver likes to see material needs met. A teacher wants people to know things and think biblically. A leader wants people organized and the church making progress.

One of my gifts is called prophecy but a better word is discernment. It comes with a desire for spiritual truth and growth in others. Along with that desire is a high standard. I’m always aiming for greater likeness to Jesus in myself and in others. This is fine, but if that desire becomes self-centered or not powered by the Holy Spirit, then I start getting picky.

I’ve known others with the same spiritual gift. These are the quality control people in the church. Sometimes they are not very well liked. The gift is so focused on what should be right that those who have it forget to be nice. It is to this that Jesus speaks, but not just the need to be nice. We must also, as my devotional reading says, remove our blindfold before practicing optometry.

I cannot tell others to pray more if I’m slack myself. I cannot get uptight about worldliness if I’m caught in it myself. I cannot complain about laziness in spiritual disciplines, or any other fault that I see, if I have the same fault and am not doing anything about it.

Not only that, using discernment for finger-pointing ruins my communication with God. Oswald Chambers says it perfectly:

When we discern that people are not going on spiritually and allow the discernment to turn to criticism, we block our way to God. God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede. (My Utmost for His Highest, November 23)
Talking about the specks in the eyes of others is harmful, and often reveals that I have the same problem myself. Seeing the flaws in others and blabbing about it is not even close to what God wants. He wants me to pray to Him concerning what I see. After all, He is the only one that can forgive sin and transform lives. My blabbing does nothing but harm. 

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