On December 28, 2014 I did something incredibly frightening. I preached my first sermon. It wasn’t the speaking publicly in front of 475 people that scared me. It was really more about who those people were. Like I said that morning, I grew up in the church, that church, FBC Ellisville. Therefore, the people in the pews were the people responsible for my understanding and passion for the Word of God – my Sunday School teachers as a child, youth, and (one could argue) adult. Talk about student becoming the teacher. Anyway, here are a few extended thoughts on the topic that I wasn’t able to get to in the shorty thirty minutes allotted. (And it was thirty on the nose!)
The main truth in my message was that our focus should constantly be on the Holy Spirit, which gives life. That is instead of the flesh, the things of this world in which we’re typically seeking purpose and leads to certain death.
While I referenced Paul’s definition of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21, one should not discount the power of the flesh as only those things that we perceive as negative such as sexual immorality, jealousy, fits of anger, etc. No, the flesh can also be present in our self-righteous attempts at finding holiness and justification within ourselves.
I can speak from personal experience about the church getting in the way of the Church getting in the way of the Head of the Church – Christ. Over the last twenty-nine years as I’ve attended FBC Ellisville, I’ve donated time, money, blood, sweat, and tears (quite literally). At some point the pride I have in those things steals my focus and I find myself having certain expectations about privileges that should be afforded me. It looks much more like a two-way contract rather than a one-way covenant. Some might call it arrogance. Rather than being a servant, I become a slave to the service.
Do you know what happens then? It becomes about me. And when I don’t get my way, or things don’t meet my expectations, I get frustrated.
You see, even when my mind is set on things that any sane person would consider good and helpful, even seemingly on Christ, when the motivation and purpose returns to my benefit, then my mind is set on the things of the flesh.
My answer to God’s calling on my life was “consider how much I can do with a little time, money, blood, sweat, and tears!” Rather than, “God, I’m willing to sacrifice the time, money, blood, sweat, and tears to do whatever it is you need me to do.” It’s a very subtle difference in the here and now, but the eternal consequences could be significant.
So, where is your focus? Why are you doing what you’re doing? Is it so you can feel better about yourself? So others can know how great you really are? Or are you honestly allowing the Spirit to guide you every step of the way?