Read His Words Before Ours!
I flipped the turn signal with my index finger, groaning inwardly as my mini-van slowed to a stop. The intersection was crowded and the number of vehicles ahead of me were a surefire indication that I would be late. I turned on the radio and glanced out the passenger window.
There he was again.
Dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, the man held his poster board sign high for all to see:
“REPENT, THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND!”
His clothes were tidy and clean. His hair was combed. His lips were a straight line as he stared solemnly ahead. He didn’t utter a word, but his shouting seemed audible nonetheless.
I grimaced as I read the words again. Ducking my head, I breathed a sigh of relief as the light turned green and the line progressed. I caught one last glimpse of him in my rearview mirror and wondered at my surprisingly negative reaction. I didn’t disagree with the words on his sign. The same words were in my Bible, too…but in this instance, the method of delivery left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. There was truth printed on his sign, but my heart recoiled at what I perceived as a lack of grace.
We can all remember a time when we felt something similar. Perhaps we overheard someone deliver a harsh rebuke to a friend who didn’t yet know Jesus…and our stomach dropped as our eyes welled with compassion. Perhaps we witnessed a friend issue a side-eye toward the scruffily-dressed visitor in the pew beside us…and a flash of protective anger lit our spirit for a moment.
Or maybe it was us.
Maybe we responded to a lost, hurting friend who asked for advice…by pointing out their sin.
Maybe we posted or shared a harsh rant about our neighbor, or the state of the world, or our political opinion…never realizing that we were alienating the very people we have been charged to love. Maybe in our effort to share Jesus, we failed to remember that we can not claim responsibility for changing ourselves…or that we are incapable of sparking conviction in another.
Try as we might to correct our thinking or forsake our old nature on our own, there is nothing we can do to change ourselves, short of accepting Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to change our hearts and minds.
We simply cannot do it.
It will never happen.
Where our nature is to accuse, to condemn, and to judge, His nature is to convict hearts, to portray righteousness, and to depict judgment.
Jesus’s words on this are clear. “And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.” John 16:8, NLT (emphasis mine)
He…not us. Never us.
When we would say, “I AM RIGHT AND YOU ARE WRONG,” or “CHANGE YOUR WAYS”, He would say to us, “Oh Beloved, that’s not for you to say.” When we find ourselves accusing or judging, we must step back and consider our hearts. Are we listening to Holy Spirit in that moment? Are we seeking ways to love boldly and with grace?
Sometimes, we forget that Jesus didn’t clean the world of sin before He came to us.
He saw us in our sin, in our filth, in our despair and He said,
I see her.
Every wrinkle, every blemish, every scar.
And I’m going anyway.
Whether she chooses me or not, whether she opens her heart to me or not.
No matter her sin, no matter her shame.
I love her anyway.
I will live and die for her anyway.
Sometimes, in our misguided efforts to prove our holiness, we become afraid that by loving well we will get a little dirt on us.
It is far less messy to talk about change and instruct others than it is to actually live it. Thankfully, in Jesus, we have a beautiful model of living and loving others in this world while not being of it. We must each pause to examine our motives to make sure we are operating from a posture of humility and grace, pointing others to the true Source of our change: the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, just as I recoiled from my friend with the sign, those He has placed in our path will recoil from us in our lack of authenticity.
Holy Spirit, help us to recognize when we lose sight of your power to change us and this world. You are the only One capable of convicting hearts, of portraying righteousness and of depicting judgment. You are powerful and real and we give You full authority in our hearts, minds, lips and fingertips. Help us to recognize when You are speaking to us and give us a yearning to love others in the way you desire.
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