Monday, October 14, 2019

Normal Is Just A Setting On A Dryer

"Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.” – Matthew 23:24-26

A Christian author, Patsy Clairmont, wrote a book some years ago with that title.  Another author who wrote about the idea of “Normal” was Watchman Nee, “The Normal Christian Life”. You don’t hear much about him anymore or his books.  Watchman Nee established churches throughout China and held many conferences to train Bible students and church workers. Following the Communist Revolution, Nee was persecuted and imprisoned for his faith and spent the last twenty years of his life in prison. Does that sound “normal” to you?

When you think about Christians and what they should look like and how they should behave – what a “normal Christian” looks like, what do you see in your mind’s eye?  Is it someone who looks like you? They like the same worship style, the same clothes, well … the same.  When you are in church – what do you think when someone is not dressed the same as you? I am not talking about indecent clothes, but maybe not what you would consider appropriate for church.  The pastor of the church we are attending showed up in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops to preach, to make that point in his sermon yesterday.  Were people offended by his choice of clothes? Would you be?

I suppose living and serving in Haiti is what helped me gain some perspective on this question. I have seen people come to worship under tarps and lean-to’s.  They sit on logs or stand for the service.  They wear the clothes they have. They come before the Throne of Grace with humble and contrite hearts. It is one thing to dress a certain way  in defiance toward other people (like parents or for the shock value)  – that in itself is sin – there is nothing humble or contrite about that. But clothes are not the defining factor of someone’s spiritual condition or their acceptability to God.

People used to call the clothes they wore to church their “Sunday-best” or “Sunday-go-to-meetin’” clothes.  They wanted to present their best to God – which was supposed to be a reflection of presenting their lives and hearts to Him – but that part was eventually lost and it became an issue of the “outside of the cup” and what we look like to other people – and God? Not so much. That is our inclination – wanting to impress others and wanting to judge people who are not like us. The odd thing is that those same people may very well be judging us because we are not like them.  Crazy isn’t it?

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” – Psalm 63:4

And it is not just about clothing.  Have you ever been in a church where they did not lift their hands up? I think for fear they might be judged as charismatic or Pentecostal.  The only one allowed to lift a hand might be the pastor when he prays – but maybe not even then.  I remember being in a service and a guest was saying “Speak – speak so” during the pastor’s sermon. He was agreeing with the truth being spoken.  Apparently the guest did not know that you are not supposed to speak during the sermon (but today it is OK if you surf the web or answer texts on your cell phone!) Well maybe an Amen now and again is suitable, just no shouting or pew jumping!

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’.” – Luke 7:33-34

Something the pastor pointed out, the Pharisees and religious leaders rejected John the Baptist for not doing one thing and rejected Jesus for doing the things that John did not do.  In order to be acceptable, John and Jesus  had to be like the Pharisees.  If you do not abide by the traditions established by men – then you must be wrong. Listen – people don’t like it when you don’t embrace their definition of “right”. I did not say God’s definition – but man’s slightly or greatly modified version.  Don’t be so quick to judge. 

Man’s traditions and rules of behavior are like a heavy burden placed on your shoulders that you must bear in your own strength. Rather than using traditions as a measure of what is right – use your spiritual discernment by the Spirit in you and the light of the Word of God and then demonstrate the same grace and mercy that God showed to you toward others. God’s laws are fulfilled in Jesus and the Spirit gives us the ability to live our new life. 

Come to Me [Jesus], all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

Think about it!

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