Not until we have become humble and teachable, standing in awe of God’s holiness and sovereignty… acknowledging our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts, and willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom become ours.
Good Friday is the mirror held up by Jesus so that we can see ourselves in all our stark reality, and then it turns us to that cross and to his eyes, and we hear these words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” That’s us! And so we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. We see in that cross a love so amazing, so divine that it loves us even when we turn away from it, or spurn it, or crucify it. There is no faith in Jesus without understanding that on the cross, we see into the heart of God and find it filled with mercy for the sinner, whoever he or she may be.
One of the most difficult defilements of the spirit to deal with is the critical spirit. A critical spirit has its root in pride. Because of the ‘plank’ of pride in our own eye we are not capable of dealing with the ‘speck’ of need in someone else. We are often like the Pharisee who, completely unconscious of his own need prayed “God, I thank you that I am not like other men” (Luke 18:11). We are quick to see – and to speak of – the faults of others, but slow to see our own needs. How sweetly we relish the opportunity to speak critically of someone else – even when we are unsure of the facts. We forge that “a man who stirs up dissension among brothers” by criticizing one to another is one of the “six thing which the Lord hates” (Proverbs 6:16-19)
I remember hearing a preacher once claim the miracle of a good parking spot. As in, she taught a church full of people how to pray for a good parking spot, how to claim it, and how to rejoice when it came. My side eye at this cannot be overestimated. If your greatest notion of suffering is having to walk a few more rows to the Target, then I think we can safely say you’ve lost the plot.
I cannot tell you how many times I have been saved from deception just by stepping aside and asking the Lord to confirm His voice. We receive a lot of thoughts in our brain—some experts claim it is upwards of fifty thousand per day. If we take the time to step back and ask the Lord if a thought, feeling or impression is His, we will receive His guidance to clarify which way we should go. If you are confused, ask God to give you His gift of discernment. We should also read the Bible, as His Word is our ultimate source of truth. (1 John 4:2-3)
Sadly, I have seen many people who claim to represent Jesus, but in actuality, they’re misrepresenting Him. Some do it out of misguided religious zeal. Some do it purely out of ignorance; they mean well but are uninformed about who God really is. Others misrepresent Him out of heretical and dangerous theology. Whatever the reason, the fact remains: there are and will always be poor representations of Jesus in this world. The truth is, we need to see Him differently so we can represent Him accurately. Jesus doesn’t need to change anything; we do. He doesn’t need to become “more” good; He already is good.
The New Testament insists that we put Jesus at the centre of the picture and work outwards from there. The minute we find ourselves looking at the world around us and jumping to conclusions about God and what he might be doing, but without looking carefully at Jesus, we are in serious danger of forcing through an ‘interpretation’ which might look attractive – it might seem quite ‘spiritual’ and awe-inspiring – but which actually screens Jesus out of the picture. As the old saying has it, if he is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all.
Because the human mind has two compartments, the practical and the ideal, people are able to live comfortably with their dreamy, romantic conception of Jesus while paying no attention whatsoever to His words. It is this neat division between the fanciful and the real that enables countless thousands of persons to say “Lord, Lord” in all sincerity while living every moment in flat defiance of His authority.