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Jon talked eloquently about truth vs. deception yesterday and why it’s important to replace lies with truth. Scripture teaches us to live in transparency and authenticity, but sometimes we take credit for that when we do. Thankfully, we eventually come to learn that humility isn’t the fruit of self-effort, but of surrendering to the will and ways of God.
Thomas Merton, the great 20th century contemplative, said, "Humility is being, in the presence of others, exactly the person we are before God." Wow. That’s a whole new level, don’t you think? Intentionally or unintentionally, I believe Merton was describing true freedom. Being truly free is desiring to always reflect Jesus in our attitudes and actions. It's living to celebrate Him, not ourselves, and when we embrace that challenge, a million other things no longer trouble or enslave us. When we play to an audience of One, we’re not burdened with making a “great impression,” nor do we spend hours obsessing about our appearance, career, clothes, money, knowledge, or lack thereof. We cease fretting over our considerable internal and external blemishes, and we relax in the freedom to just be real… and dear friend, real is good!
Wouldn't you love to live beyond comparison, scorekeeping, and the desire for approval? Hey, choose the life Merton advocated! In the process, you’ll become humble, but you won’t really notice it, and it won’t really matter. Humble people don’t think about themselves much; in fact, they usually don’t think about themselves at all! The self-absorbed life loses its luster; indeed, any desire for it seems so incongruent as to be thoroughly disgusting.
Who’s the most Christlike person you know? I’ll bet they’re humble and not at all obsessed with how they’re perceived. Indeed, most humble people (like my wife) just don’t swim in those waters; they swim in the ocean of selflessness. We see Jesus most clearly through people like that. You know something? Maybe the greatest of all freedoms… is simply the freedom to be nothing at all.Share Tweet
For some people, freedom means the right to do something; for others, it means the right not to. I particularly like that second category. Often, the greater part of wisdom in life is knowing what not to do.
There was a lot of alcoholism in my extended family as I grew up. People I deeply cared for left a trail of heartache in their wake because they were “free” to abuse liquor. As a teenager, most of my friends drank and did drugs. Some of them criticized me for abstaining. I just said, "You haven't seen what I've seen.”
This month marks my 41st year in ministry. Along the way, I've watched many people (including ministers) become slaves to alcohol. None of them expected it, not one. Thankfully, after a long walk through hell and back, some found healing, along with a newfound freedom not to drink. One friend just celebrated 20 years of sobriety and still attends A.A. meetings twice a week. He's a wonderful human being, and I'm immensely proud of him.
I find it interesting that alcohol is the only drug on earth that society expects us to apologize for not using. Advertisers work hard to suggest that anyone who's even remotely cool will have a Bud Light in his/her hand. The pressure is palpable. As for me, I’m thankful for the freedom to abstain. Drinking just doesn't seem to me to be a healthy choice for my life.
So, what's this got to do with you? Perhaps nothing, yet if learning more about my story helps you make different choices as you live out your story, then these brief moments together might have some value. Whatever choices you make in life, I hope they'll be your choices, regardless of what others say or think. I happen to believe that's not a bad way to live. In fact, for me, it’s freedom… and I like it a lot.
You will know the truth... - John 8:32 (NLT)
I once heard apologist Lee Strobel tell a story about how things can get lost in translation. He told about a friend who got on a website that translates English text into French, German, Spanish, or something else. He typed in the song, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” First he translated it into German, then back to English, only to be surprised by the results.
You know the song: Take me out to the ballgame. Take me out to the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack. I don't care if I ever get back. Let me root, root, root for the home team. If they don't win, it's a shame. For it's one, two, three strikes you're out at the old ballgame.
Well, something did get lost in the process. The results reminded him, in his own words, “of a militant Arnold Schwarzenegger.” Here’s what came through: Execute me to the ball play. Execute me with the masses. Buy me certain groundnuts and crackerstackfusig. I'm not interested if I never receive back. Let me root, root, root for the main team. If they do not win, it is dishonor. For there are one, two, three impacts on you at the old ball play.
It’s not uncommon these days for things to get lost in translation—especially spiritual things, especially truth. Jesus once defined Himself as “the Truth” and, if you think about it, His entire life was probably the clearest and best translation ever. But along the way, countless millions of us have reinterpreted what He meant. Philip Yancey once addressed the subject in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew. You should read it sometime. It’s excellent.
How do you translate Jesus? How do others perceive Him in and through you? Do our lives sometimes present a caricature of who He really is? Friends, we can’t really reflect Him clearly until we know Him deeply. Do you? Here’s your marching orders: Translate Him well. Someone in your world is depending on it. Please don’t disappoint them.Share Tweet
...you will be free indeed. - John 8:36 (NIV)
Did you learn about the Tooth Fairy as a child? Santa Claus? The Easter Bunny? Were you taught that you should always wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident? Yep, me too. All of us grow up believing certain things, many of which are myths. As adults, we learn other myths: “If you’re sincere, it doesn’t matter what you believe,” or, “You have your truth, I have mine.” But sincerity, or even conviction, doesn’t make something true. Ultimately, what we believe is a choice, hopefully based on fact and reason. I read an article recently suggesting that it’s patently unreasonable to make moral judgments. I chuckled when I read that because the statement itself was a moral judgment! The truth is that we can’t live, or raise children, or navigate through life without moral judgments (i.e. knowing right from wrong); it’s essential to our humanity.
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime attorney, is now serving a three-year prison sentence for his crimes. A reporter recently asked him, “If you could go back to your ‘old’ self before all this happened, what would you say to that self?” His answer was striking. He replied, “I would say to my old self, ‘What were you thinking? You knew better.’”
When I was a boy, my mom said that a lot… “You know better.” Not, “You believe better,” or, “You feel better.” She always said, “You know better.” Michael Cohen and my mom were right… which means, there are absolutes; instinctively, we all know that’s true.
I suspect that most people are comfortable around Jesus until He starts to change how they live. A.W. Tozer said, “Much of our difficulty in life stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly.”
Here’s an absolute for you, friends: Truth is a person—Jesus. We don’t have to go searching for Him, we only need receive Him, because if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.Share Tweet