Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 2
A friend of mine was just voted in as the new president of a Bible
school in the Midwest. When I think of that school, I think of one of the most embarrassing things I did to appear impressive: I lied as I preached to them. I was supposed to speak to students who wanted to start a church, and because we’d just started ours in a very difficult spot in Detroit, they wanted me to talk about it. I not only wanted to speak about it, I wanted to be impressive. I rounded up the numbers—not so bad that they would be suspect, but enough that I would look awesome. As I was speaking, God told me, You just lied. Repent. I mentally responded, Absolutely. When I get back to the hotel. But God said that I needed to fess up right there. I can only anoint truth, He said. When you embellish, then your story no longer has Me in it.
God cannot be part of anything that is not truthful.
I went through all of this just so I could look impressive. How inauthentic I was being!
One of the most amazing stories about authenticity is about former first lady Betty Ford. While her husband, Gerald, was president, she admitted that she was addicted to prescription drugs and that she was an alcoholic. That took a lot of courage to be that transparent—especially being the first lady of the United States. But as a result of her honesty, she got help and then was able to start helping many other people through her Betty Ford Center. All because she said no to be inauthentic.
I like this anonymous seventeenth-century nun’s prayer:
“Lord, thou knowest me better than I know myself that I am growing older and will some day be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience. I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a saint—some of them are so hard to live with—but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.
No one lived a better Christian life than the apostle Paul. He was authentic. He was real. I love Paul’s honesty to the Corinthians. He was not trying to impress them. He was redirecting them to the One they should be impressed with:
You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified. I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it—and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5, MSG)
Paul was saying, “I was telling you the truth about me so you would fall in love not with your pastor but with your Savior.”
Make sure they are impressed with the Savior not the one talking about the Savior. As A. J. Gossip is attributed as saying, “You can’t come across clever and have Jesus wonderful at the same time.” Sobering words from a nineteenth-century preacher for those who teach God’s Word.
The humility of Paul is mind-boggling. Listen to what he says in these three verses:
“I am the least of the apostles.”
(1 Corinthians 15:9; written AD 54)
“I am the very least of all the saints.”
(Ephesians 3:8; written AD 62)
“I am the foremost of sinners.”
(1 Timothy 1:15; written AD 63)
He moves from apostles to saints to sinners. And the only time he is the top of the list is for the sinner’s part. Paul gets more and more honest about himself as he gets older. We pretend more as adults. Paul went the opposite way.
A. W. Tozer put it this way; “A Pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself, but a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself.”
When you come vulnerable, you take away people’s ammunition against you. They are not saying anything about you that you haven’t already said about yourself.