A Revelatory Drive!

I was out driving the other day and a most striking thing happened. It actually happens a great deal, but for some reason, probably the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, the situation spoke to me rather powerfully.

I was driving through a non-dual-carriageway section of road through the beautiful forest that surrounds where I live. The sun was shining (doesn’t happen quite so much here as this other thing I’m going to describe) and, as usual when driving on my own, I had my music on full blast. (Some wonderful old 70’s classics if I remember correctly! You know, that whole Bubble-Gum music thing!) In other words, I was as happy as Larry and having a total blast; and because that rather long stretch of road has a 40 mile an hour speed limit I was driving – yes, you’ve guessed – at a sedate 40 miles an hour.

I then noticed that the gentleman driving the car behind me was not having the same great day that I was. In fact, from his waving arms and quite un-mistakeably less than polite gesticulations – all clearly visible in my rear view mirror – he was having an extremely bad one. And it was very clear why! He was angry because he was wanting to go faster than 40 miles an hour, but couldn’t because I wasn’t going faster than 40 miles an hour and because he couldn’t, for a few miles, get passed me. I was quite clearly the cause of some considerable disquiet in his life. But let’s just think about this a bit and ask some questions as to why I was driving at 40 miles an hour and causing someone such great distress.

Was I, for instance, driving at 40 miles an hour in order to be offensive? Well, no! I was driving at 40 miles an hour because that is the speed limit on that particular stretch of road, and because it is my understanding that God’s Word teaches that we should obey the governing authorities. Might it have been because I am a self-righteous person who just wants to show everyone how well I obey the law, and who wants to oppress anyone who doesn’t see things my way? Again, no! It was because that’s the speed limit on that stretch of road! So could it be that I am just a rather unpleasant individual who takes pleasure in upsetting people? Er…this is getting boring…no! It was just because I believe I should drive that section of road at 40 miles an hour irrespective of what others think of me for doing so or how it makes them feel.

It might also be worth asking whether it might be the case or not that I have got the speed limit wrong myself on that stretch of road, and that it might be 60 miles an hour and not 40 miles an hour. after all, should such be the case then one could, I suppose – but it would still be a stretch – say that this guy then at least had a point. Doing 40 in a 60 area for some distance when it’s difficult to overtake is, arguably, a bit annoying. But my answer here is simply this: Having lived in this area for over 50 years all told, I am pretty sure that I have repeatedly seen the signs that set the speed limit of that stretch of road at 40 miles an hour.  I could, of course, be wrong. (I could be wrong about absolutely anything!) My eyes may well be deceiving me. So if anyone thinks that might be the case, and has a beef with me for driving the road at 40 miles an hour instead of 60 miles an hour, then all I ask is that they show me the evidence. Just prove to me that I am wrong! Show me the sign that has the number 60 on it and not 40! I would then be more than happy to acknowledge that I have been getting it wrong all this time, being then free to drive that stretch of road at 60 miles an hour knowing that I am within the law in so doing.

So what it boils down to is this: I made someone extremely angry because my right-doing got in the way of their desire to do wrong. For absolutely no other reason than that I was doing the right thing, someone who had been doing the wrong thing (speeding), but who had been stopped in their tracks and forced to slow down and do the right thing because I was in now front of them, got angry with me and wasn’t holding back showing it. I wonder if you can see where I’m going with this!

I cannot tell you how many times Christians have gotten angry at me for no other reason than that I simply believe, teach, live and practise things that God’s Word seems to pretty clearly teach which, for whatever reason, they don’t happen to like. I have, for example, had Christians get angry with me again and again because I believe that wives should submit to their husbands – just as I believe that husbands should love their wives to the moon and back – and that women should not be in a leadership function in the church, or do teaching to the gathered body of saints. I have also had Christians get angry with me, again and again, because I believe, teach and practise that churches should be small, home-based and non-hierarchical. I have even had brothers and sisters in the Lord get angry with me, and on a good many occasions too, simply because I make clear that I believe all Christians should go purely by God’s Word and not in any way by extra-biblical man-made traditions which go against it.

But of course the very worst of the anger happens when one has, through whatever means, become a focal point of sin being revealed in believers lives. I have been slandered to the ends of the earth and back for trying to encourage believers with whom I have had to do to be honest about such sins in their lives as greed, immorality, resentment, slander, un-forgiveness, dishonesty, lying, hatred…and so the list could go on! When put like this it is easy to see how – just as with someone who wants to break the law regarding speeding, but who finds someone getting in their way – simply doing right can cause Christians who are doing wrong to get angry, just as the same right-living causes believers who are living wrong to be convicted of their sin. The anger and resentment is because they aren’t willing to come clean and simply put their hands up, be honest and repent.

And to any who do find themselves angered by what I teach (and not just me of course, it could be anyone), or what I practise, or even perhaps anything I have ever said to you personally, then I simply say this! Just show me the road sign that says the speed limit is 60 miles an hour and not 40 miles an hour, and I will change my driving accordingly. In other words, if you think I am wrong – and about absolutely anything too – then just show me that I’m wrong from scripture. Don’t get angry and skulk off into the shadows to do the whole bad-mouthing thing about me to others behind my back, or directly sound off at me in anger! Let’s talk! Let’s reason together, just like the Lord wants to do with us! Let’s open the Bible together and ask prayerfully, “What saith the scriptures?”

One last thing! Having established that I was driving at 40 miles an hour the other day simply because it’s what the law of the land says, and not because I wanted to upset the guy behind me, or because I want to do anything to upset or anger anyone, so too with what I believe, teach, live and practise. I can assure you that I have never wanted to upset anyone. Neither have I ever desired to make anything harder for anyone than need be. Yet I have been accused by other Christians of living how I live, and teaching what I teach, and saying what I say from every vile motive they seem to be able to think of. But of course the reality is that they are just angry and resentful because sin has been exposed in their lives to which they don’t want to admit. That guy in the car behind me the other day was having a veritable fit, and I have no doubt that he was calling me every unpleasant name under the sun. But not because I was doing anything wrong, but precisely because I was doing right. I had simply, though quite un-desiringly and inadvertently, become a stumbling block to him in his wrongdoing.

Christian, the next time you find yourself angry with someone and doing that whole “How dare they say that to me! They offended me!” thing, just ponder that the odds are that it is most probably evidence that you are being convicted by the Holy Spirit of something in your life which you don’t want to recognise and own up to. In your desire to avoid the message you just want to shoot the messenger. In order to deny and wriggle out of the sin that is being revealed in you, and in order to try to justify yourself in both your own eyes and eyes of others, you are seeking to discredit the person God is using to convict you. You can then tell yourself that you don’t have to listen to someone who is so discreditable and wrong.

Just remember though that the Pharisees did this to the Lord Jesus all the time!

 

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The Christians biggest problem!

The more years I spend with the Lord the more struck I am by how few of the many believers I have had to do with understand how sinful and wretched they are. Oh yes, they realised at the point of their conversion that they needed forgiveness so as to make it to Heaven, but what I’m talking about here isn’t that initial conviction of sin when coming to know the Lord in the first place, but rather that increasing awareness and growing knowledge, day by day, week by week, year by year, of not merely the sins of which we have been guilty, but the all-pervading sinfulness of who we are in and of ourselves.

For myself I came to know the Lord as a result of a deep conviction of sin quite out of the blue and immediately cried out to be forgiven, truly desiring to follow the Lord in utter earnestness. It was a deep and genuine conviction of sin, of that there is no doubt, and it caused me to be completely undone before both Heaven and earth, but as years of discipleship passed I began to realise more and more that it had been merely the tip of an almost infinite iceberg. I came to see more and more clearly that my biggest ongoing problem as a disciple of the Lord wasn’t merely my sins, but rather my sheer unbridled sinfulness!

But don’t think for one moment that I’m talking about a Christian life lived in some kind of unremitting self-condemnation! Heavens no! Quite the contrary, in fact! Jesus made the point in regards to a woman of dubious reputation that to be forgiven much is to precisely love much! (Luke 7:36-50) And of course that is the key! The more one realises one’s utter sinfulness and depravity of both heart and will, the more one drinks in the sheer wonder of the Lord’s grace and love that took Him to the cross to die for it all. The more sinful I realise I am the more I appreciate His grace, forgiveness and acceptance, and the more I experience the unbounded love my Father in Heaven has for me. I cannot tell you how sad I am for the sinfulness of who I am, and that the Lord of glory had to suffer so greatly because of it; but neither can I tell you how happy I am that not only does such condition not come between us, it is actually the very means He uses to keep me hanging on to Him for dear life, and to keep me living closely to Him in ongoing repentance and trust.

The single greatest factor that accounts for the weakness and sheer worldliness of modern western Christianity is simply this: that so few believers understand and realise just how sinful and wicked they are! They conduct their discipleship in blissful ignorance of, and blindness to, the endless swathes of sin and self in their lives which the Holy Spirit wishes to deliver them from, but to which they hardly give a second thought, or judge themselves concerning. Selfishness, pride, materialism, presumption, resentment, un-forgiveness, slander, unkindness, dishonesty….and so the list could go on! I have known so many believers down the years for whom such things remain second nature, yet who reject entirely any thought that such is the nature of their character, let alone showing willingness to be honest and to actually come clean and repent. Not for them one of the most important prayers in the whole of scripture through which King David cried out to the Lord, “Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)

The more we truly taste of our sinfulness, and allow the Holy Spirit to search us and reveal all that is in us which isn’t of Him, the less we will even desire to be unkind, or cruel, or dishonest, or greedy for gain, and for the simple reason that to know how infinitely much we have been forgiven leads to the inevitable increase of love for both the Lord and our fellow man. As surely as night follows day, he who is forgiven much will love much. Yet the converse is equally true! And the reason so many believers are so unloving (and I’m talking here about real love, not just the ‘nicey-nicey–never-doing-anything-that-could-possibly-upset-anyone’ version) is because they haven’t been forgiven very much because they don’t think they’re sinful enough to particularly warrant it.

Show me a man who sorrows daily before the Lord for his sinfulness and I will show you a peaceful and contented man who lives close to Him and who can therefore be trusted in every possible way. And should this make the reader aware of any lack in their lives regarding this, then let me suggest that you get before the Lord and ask Him to truly show you the sin He wishes to deal with in you. I guarantee you some very difficult times indeed if you do, but I guarantee you too a walk with the Lord you never even guessed was on offer!