Getting Past the Right Answers - Becoming Honest with Ourselves

People who have been churchgoers for a while know the right answers to say so that we can look like we are totally committed to Jesus, but when it comes to actually living out the right answers, we fail more often than not.

For instance, we say that we believe in the power of prayer, but when was the last time that we spent thirty minutes in prayer?

We say that we believe that the Scriptures are the inspired word of God, but when was the last time we seriously studied them?

We say that we believe that following Jesus is the best life that anyone could possibly live, but when was the last time that we shared the gospel with someone?

We say that we value living life together in Christian community, but when was the last time that we sacrificed, whether financially or with our time, for our community?

We say that we trust God, but when was the last time we despaired and doubted?

What we do shows what we really believe.  The right answers are easy.  Too easy.  But living out the radical call of the gospel in our lives is difficult.

Paul wrote in his letter to Colossae, "Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Colossians 3:9-10 (ESV)

I heard Craig Groeschel give a sermon the other week where he said, "I'm guessing that some of you know someone who has told a lie so many times that they start to believe the lie is true."  Then he went on to ask, "How many of you would honestly say, that for you that battling with self-deception is a significant problem?  You're really, really deceived about a lot of things?"  Only a few people raised their hands.  Then he asked, "How many of you know someone else who is really self-deceived?"  The hands then raised from nearly everyone.  He told them to look around and ask, "Do we have a statistical problem?"  The problem is that we can notice the self-deception in other people while we consider the self-deception in ourselves justified.

Why is it so hard to be honest with ourselves?  Do we not like who really are?  Are we embarrassed about our failures?  Paul said to not lie to one another, but I think we really need to stop lying to ourselves.  We need to put on that new self, allow the knowledge that we become enlightened with to transform us, but we can never do that if we keep telling ourselves that the old, out-of-style clothes that we are still wearing are still in.

We have developed an immunity due to familiarity with the Gospel that should transform us.  As churchgoers, we have developed, what I consider, sermon immunity.  It means that we can listen to a sermon, think it is great or awful, and go home and not do a thing about.  We have learned how to listen to a message and remain immune to any change.

This has become easier because we have become more and more inundated with knowledge.  Wikileaks just leaked 251,287 State Department documents.  It was said back in 1989 that a weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than the average person in 17th-century England was likely to come across in a lifetime (Information Anxiety).  Around 1,000 books are published internationally every day and the total of all printed knowledge doubles every 5 years.  More information is estimated to have been produced in the last 30 years than in the previous 5,000 (The Reuters Guide to Good Information).  Information is everywhere.  If we have any question about any historical event, we can just Google it and have the answer.  But allowing the right knowledge to transform us is more important than just knowing some information, being able to wow your friends with trivia, or passing a test.

What Paul wants us to do is really believe in the depths of our being.  To allow our beliefs to wash through our body and come out in the way we live.  For a belief that is kept in the head and not expressed in the hands and feet is not a true belief.  It's just us deceiving ourselves.  And if we won't be the hands and feet of Jesus' head, who will be? 

James wrote:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.  James 1:22-27 (ESV).
Let's stop lying.  We have places to go and new clothes to put on to get us there.