Monday, November 2, 2009

The Habits of This Highly Effective (but Lost) Church Lay Leader - A Series: Dressing for Success (Week One)

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." - John 4:23

Last week, we introduced a ten-week series on being the kind of worshipper the Father is seeking. If you are just joining us, you may read that introductory post here:

Since I have now made myself entirely vulnerable to the world wide web by sharing some of my most in-most thoughts from my days before my genuine Surrender to Christ, I have to admit that the idea of going deeper in the weeks ahead is a little scary to say the least. I am not so much concerned of what you may think of me for sharing this, as I am more about pleasing the Father than I am about pleasing you guys these days (more on that later.) I certainly don't want to give some of you ideas for being your local church's pest, either! (Although, I have to admit that I am not sure I ever lost that title... even after genuine Surrender. God is still working on me... Amen?!? )

So, here we are. And I guess you're probably wondering what in the world I am going to tell you about my thoughts relative to "Dressing for Success (Putting on the Sunday Game Face...)" Well, the first thought that crossed my mind was the thing that I was the most guilty of before becoming a Christ-follower.

Are you ready for this???

Phoniness. As we'd say in the South, I was made of pure-i-o-d phoney baloney! I was guilty of wearing the plastic mask of religion inside and outside the church house whenever it comes to talking about religious topics or being around "religious people." I was always concerned about "appearances." There was more of a real desire to impress people and to please them than to be real, and please God. So my junk stayed hidden.... at least I thought it was... and I went to great efforts to keep it hidden from the folks in those Christian circles. I didn't want them to get the wrong impression of me.

Sunday after Sunday, my little plastic mask went on. And the games that came with my little mask were played. You would have thought it was Halloween every single Sunday. I was a master at showmanship! And hidden behind that mask of religion was a monster that I had created to near perfection! Most days, I thought I managed to score points on the God-scale in my mind. After all, I had been in the church most of my life. I knew the drill. And I had been there nearly every time the door was open. I had learned what worked and what made my pastors and my teachers proud. (And I was the biggest "Church staff groupie" you ever saw!) I could speak the language of Zion with the best of them. I knew the Bible. I had memorized scripture. I was also in all sorts of leadership roles in not only my local church, but for our denomination, as well. I knew the stuff! And I knew it well. Bottom line... I WAS THERE TO PLEASE EVERYONE BUT GOD. But I didn't know JESUS. And that was the biggest displeasure where God was concerned.

The truth is that even with all of the things that you would think that would make me be a genuine follower of Christ, I would have gotten it. But there was this other side of me that had some really seriously rotten issues with sin. Seriously habitual sin. And while I won't get into the gory details of all of that, I will say that I could just about justify (to myself) everything that I did with, "But God, it's me... Can't you cut me some slack here?" I was so steeped in religion and religious tradition, that I took no ownership of my own human condition.... I couldn't bring myself to believe that I could sin... or that I might be lost. And yet, the stench of my sin was growing stronger each time I put on the church mask and showed up on Sunday morning and took my place in the choir or orchestra or Sunday School class.... I could tell you all about my church... I loved that place. But I couldn't tell you about my Jesus or anything specific HE had done in my life. There were no specific changes that had taken place in me that I could definitely say happened because of the relationship I had with God. I could tell you plenty about my church, and even a lot about my denomination. But nothing about Jesus changing me.

Several years ago, I was in a Church Training Class, when I learned the passage in Ephesians 6 regarding "Putting on the Full Armor of God." I knew each piece - the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, the shield of faith, and the feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. I probably have those out of order. But I am not really going to point out those to you so much as I am going to ask you to take a look at the list. You have probably read this list before...

Do you notice something missing in light of the previous paragraphs?

Right! There's no mask of religion in the list!

In fact, Jesus scorned the religious folks of His day over and over. He called them, "Hypocrites."
That word, "Hypocrite" comes from the Greek word, "uJpovkrisi", which means, "stage-playing or acting." In the Old Testament, there is no Hebrew word for Hypocrite, but it is implied, as a way of conflict between life and insincere worship.

So, how do we drop the mask? If we're to be the kind of worshippers that the Father seeks, then there are some things that need to happen:

Genuine Surrender needs to take place before God...and then you need to admit that before His people. This takes a lot of courage. Especially if you have been in the church for a long time. Believe me. I know what that's like. It was rough, having to stand before a congregation that had actually voted to send me to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to become a Singles minister and only to come back later and tell them, "Guys, I just now became a believer." Not an easy task. But I decided that it wasn't them that I needed to please. It was God Whom I needed to please from henceforth. And I had to let the chips fall as they may.

As long as you remain hidden behind the masks, you will never have the kind of heart that God is looking for as a worshipper. This is the very first step in having a relationship with Jesus. And honestly, only you and God know what kind of relationship you have together. Sometimes I think it's a good thing that others can't know our hearts. But I also know that those who are genuine in their relationship with Jesus usually have a strong desire to please HIM alone.... and not so much about pleasing others... They generally let the chips fall where they may. And if we happen to please the others by pleasing God, that's great and fine. But the ultimate purpose is to please God. No one else will do.

I think the Apostle Paul is a pretty good example to follow when it comes to talking about the having courage when it comes to the getting real part of Surrender. Remember before Paul had his encounter with Christ on the Road to Damascus, he had been a persecuter of the Church and had been torturing Christians. Can you imagine the response of those believers toward him when they found out that he had a real encounter with the Lord??? Can you imagine the fear of the folks who discipled him??? I am sure that they finally relaxed after they read his writings... After all, the truth came out of him when he was jailed and beaten and left for dead... He was REAL.

We can see some evidence of this when Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, Chapter 13 and gave some really great truths for Christian living. He summed up the chapter in verse 14 with, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires."

Again in Colossians 2:12-17, Paul wrote, "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Paul had gotten it. Question is: have you???? Are you real??? Was your own surrender genuine??? And have you announced that before God's people? Or do you still wear the masks, Sunday after Sunday, hoping and praying that no one finds out who you really are? Truth is, God knows who you are. And He loved you enough to not allow you to stay that way....

Will you bow the knee in Genuine Surrender???

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