November 14, 2011

Double-mindedness, guilt trips, and glory

We met a Chinese woman yesterday who did very well practicing her English. She told us that she didn’t like people who wear a mask. “You cannot tell what they are thinking. I like to be straight, to say what I think, to be who I am without hiding.”

People have many ways of wearing masks. Some youth show one side of themselves to their family, another to friends. Many politicians and others in public service have earned reputations as mask-wearers. One young woman told me that she felt she had to put on a happy face while in church for that is what everyone expects.

God doesn’t expect that. He asks that we be transparent and honest in all our dealings. The Bible is filled with examples of those that were not. One extreme were some priests in the Old Testament. 

I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests, those who bow down on the roofs to the host of the heavens, those who bow down and swear to the LORD and yet swear by Milcom, those who have turned back from following the LORD, who do not seek the LORD or inquire of him. (Zephaniah 1:4–6)
These religious leaders claimed to follow Jehovah yet bowed at the same time to Milcom, an Ammonite idol. They played both sides of the fence in their efforts to keep everyone happy. As Spurgeon says, their duplicity was abominable in God’s sight and He hated their hypocrisy.

Spurgeon also points out that an idolater who distinctly gives himself to his false god at least has one sin less than the one who brings his idolatry into the temple of the Lord. Faking it by having one foot in the world and sinful living and the other in the church with a false declaration of commitment to Jesus Christ is subject to great judgment. In common daily life, a double-minded person is not well-received, but in religion he is loathsome.

The penalty in these verses is being cut off from God. This is extreme, yet how can God spare anyone who knows what is right, says they believe it, even professes to follow it, but actually loves evil, and gives it first place in his heart and life?

It is easy to point fingers. I also need to be watchful against double-mindedness. Last night someone was talking about their ministry with their neighbors. The descriptions were lengthy and I found myself being polite rather than interested, wanting to go home rather than listening. My demeanor did not match my heart — and this is the beginning of double-mindedness.

Sometimes I must simply say what I think instead of wear a mask, yet that can be hurtful. More often, I need to confess my bad attitude to God and ask Him to change the way I think. Far kinder to genuinely care about others than to confess to them that I don’t, or worse, to pretend that I do.

Spurgeon says to have one foot on the land of truth, and another on the sea of falsehood will involve a terrible fall and a total ruin. He is right. Living for Christ means all or nothing. God fills the whole universe. There is no room for another God, whether it is my own fleshy desires, worldly distractions, or idols that I allow to reign in my heart. Does my salvation rest alone on Jesus Christ crucified? Do I live alone for Him? Is my heart fully set on kingdom matters? Or do I have split dedication? Or even worse, a pretense about what is important?

Lord, a man we know complains that most of the New Testament should not be in the Bible because it sends people on a guilt trip. Such an idea is heartbreaking. If we are guilty, You want us to know so You can give us victory over our sin and set us free from guilt and from its power. No one can be happy-happy-happy all the time. Who are we to expect never to feel guilt? You use all of life to transform us into the image of Your Son. Obviously we are not there yet, and obviously we need to know what is wrong with us before we can bring it to You to be purged from our lives. We need guilt to be healed.

Questions like those You raise this morning may take me on a guilt trip but the destination is not horrible. If I confess my sin You are faithful and just to forgive my sin and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. If I don’t try to fake it and am open with You about my guilt, then You make sure that the end of the trip is not condemnation but grand and glorious.

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