At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:25-30 (NIV- emphasis added)
As of lately I feel like I have stepped onto a mission field that remains well hidden and yet has deep impact on our society. I touched briefly on it in the last post I wrote, but I want to revisit it again. This mission field sits INSIDE the church, not my specific church (though it’s there too). The people I am referring too are the one who know enough bible scripture to be able to use it to their advantage, but not enough to understand the character of God, or what he is requesting of these people. These are people who “do” church because it’s what you do, not because it’s what you desire. These are people who have decided how they will live their lives without seeking God first and then ask for him to bless the path they have chosen. These are people who hear the sermon and feel conviction and then keep on doing what they were doing before. I have found myself in this category before and I felt as though as I had woken from a sleepy haze seeing what I had become. At first I didn’t even realize I was missing out on anything, I was going through the motions and didn’t realize it was no different to me than brushing me teeth everyday. Then I started to notice the people around me with joy that seemed to be bubbling up from deep down and I wondered why I didn’t have that. But, I wasn’t ready to change, I had told myself a lie that what I was doing and how I was feeling was only effecting myself and that that’s between me and God. I think I’m probably not alone in that thinking. And, it would be a true statement that it’s between God and us, but then when someone asks are you a Christian, and we realize our actions and words have not been a reflection of him than it begins to branch out from the privacy of just us and God.
People outside of the church are hungry. Why? Because God has placed a piece in our hearts that can only be filled by him. Without it, our bodies crave it. So people look for ways to fill it. They ask questions, they watch, they watch to see who’s happy…and I mean truly happy, not synthetic happy. They watch you, they watch me, they watch your neighbour, desperate to find someone who appears to have that missing piece and an answer to their questions. But are they finding it with God and in a church community that should feel safe and loving? No.
There’s a book out right now called UnChristian by David Kinnaman, and Gabe Lyons that shows some scary stats on how we in the church are percieved. Out of all the people questioned, the age group of 16-29 were the most skeptical and put off by “Christians”. That’s our youth, young adults, and young moms and dads. All of whom are at critical times in their lives! Out of the 440 people in that age category here’s some the stats on how they perceive Christians: 87% thought we are judgmental; 85% felt we are hypocritical; 72% thought we are out of touch of reality; and only 55% felt that this is a respectable faith with only 30% thinking that it was relevant to their lives.
I read these stats with a heavy heart. What have we done. What kind of a new “breed” are we in the church? How come people aren’t seeing us the way we think they ought to be? And yet I have realized, as I look at Matthew 11 verse 29 (see the added bold font above), that we have forgotten the character of who Jesus was. He says he is humble and gentle and gives rest. And yet, we step outside and point fingers, cast judgement, condemn, speak “Christainese” to sound righteous (my definition of Christianese- all those words and phrases we compile within our circle of church friends that make us sounds well informed among each other), and end up looking a bit like the Pharisees. But look at how Jesus speaks to people. He does it from a place of humility and love, not from pride and self gratification. I believe it is our pride that stands in the way. Simply put, our pride wants the spotlight on ourselves instead of pointing it at God. Our pride causes us to “play church” instead of admitting we are sinners. And don’t read me wrong here, I’m including myself in this group of prideful people.
We need to stop putting our pride ahead of God and take a lesson from the character of Jesus. We need to approach each other with humbleness, and gentleness and help to bring about peace to each other. We need to let go of pride and join together with each other no matter what the other person has done or looks like and offer up unconditional love and support instead of judgement and condemnation.
I made a list of what pride is and does, I pray that as you read it and feel conviction that you would bring it to God and make a decision that though you will be tempted by pride that you would choose to not act on it.
Pride makes you believe you have nothing common with someone. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)
Pride says “I have everything, what more do I need?” but fails to see the empty piece in your heart. (Revelations 3:14-21)
Pride is competitive driven. (Philippians 2:3)
Pride prevents you from seeing the hurt in the people who have been brought into your life for a reason. (Colosians 3:12-14)
Pride tempts you to tell the world of your good deeds that should have remained anonymous. (Matthew 6:1-4)
Pride convinces you that whatever the job was, that you could’ve done it better instead of cheering someone else on. (Galatians 6:3)
Pride says “there’s nothing I can do about them, I just need to focus on me”. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)
Pride is “Angers” best friend.(Romans 12:9-21)
Pride is not a product of the Holy Spirit and will not produce good fruit. (Galatians 5:22-26)
Pride lets you think you are on a pedestal, but at the core leaves you feeling defeated and worthless. (Proverbs 29:23)
Pride tells you that because you showed up at 10 am on Sunday and sung a few hymns that you have secured your place in heaven. (Matthew 7:22-27)
Pride moves the spotlight from God’s glory to your own.(Galatians 6:3)
OH my own heart aches as I look at that list. How I hurt seeing where I have fallen short myself, where I have left a bad taste in the mouth of someone seeking for that missing piece in their own hearts because of my actions and words! I plead with you this week to search your heart and to be honest with yourself at what lies buried beneath your surface. Where has pride gotten ahold of your heart? Band with me together sisters (and brothers if you are joining us too), so that we may be transformed into humble servants for God with a heart that matches that of Jesus’ gentle, humble, peaceful character.
We come to you with humble hearts. We cry out to you and ask that you deliver us from our troubles. I pray that you use these words to speak to the hearts of those who read them. I pray that your spirit be upon us as we examine our ways Father God. As we look into ourselves and see the parts that don’t align with Your word, and Your sovereign will. The parts where pride has ripped away our righteousness and dignity and masked it with a false band-aid. Reveal to us the areas we need to change, the areas where we are missing you, and that you long to work in. Help us father, to stomp out the areas of pride in our lives, to overcome them and to be humbled by them. To surrender to You God, to Your will, and let You have our way in us. I pray these things for each of the readers, in Jesus name, AMEN.