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Don’t Believe Your Own Publicity

I wrote this article two years ago that has a reflective tone to it. May God use it in our lives to wake us up at the beginning of a new season:

One of the things that concerns me most about having a blog is that it allows me to paint to the world a picture of myself. Most of the time, I will admit, I don’t really think about that. I just get on and write. But, for a variety of reasons, there is a tendency to write things that portray me in a favorable way. It would not be wise, of course, to tell you about every sin and temptation I struggle with. And to be fair, it is not as though I am actually deliberately trying to make you think I am better than I am. I just want to help myself think things through, and in the process help a few of my readers. Reading of my failures would not help anyone. The biggest danger, however, would be if I start to think of myself in such a positive light.

But the truth is that it’s not just blogging. Every time we open our mouths, or write anything, we are portraying something to those watching. Of course we need to be wise about what we say. It is foolish to simply vomit up every sin and failure we commit. I am not a great fan of the wallowing in the gutter of some of the “confessional” type of posts or talks you sometimes see.

There is a fine line however between such wisdom and making ourselves look better than we really are. The truth is that we even con ourselves, sometimes. Every now and then God plans a situation that provides an open window into our heart and we suddenly realise how wicked and deceitful our own selves remain. Even after years of God working on them. Even after all our study of his word. Even after prayer. Even after repentance.

I am not of course talking about our identity, since we have been MADE righteous in God. But I am talking about the persistant battle we all face against sin. The more I have been thinking about sin recently the more I think that at its root is independence, pride and selfishness. Those are the very things our society teaches us are important to our wellbeing! We sin because we think we know better than God. We sin because we like our own comfort. We sin because we want something and don’t get it. We sin because we elevate our personal preferances into absolutes, and fail to recognise that others perspectives are held just as dearly as our own, and dare I say it they may even be right and us wrong.

For me one specific such opening of a window happened over the summer of 2009. Oh, I can make excuses for myself, and say that I was emotionally exhausted. For sure, I was. But that exhaustion was caused itself by a sinful belief that I can do more than I should, and a wilful refusal to factor in proper breaks and rest times into my daily and weekly schedule. And, in any case, such an exhaustion does not give me the excuse to sin. For wisdom’s sake I am not going to go into all the details of what transpired. Suffice it to say that whilst it wasn’t pretty, it was not what I would in my pride normally view as a ‘major’ sin.

More important than the actual sin, however, has been the effect on my own opinion of myself. I think I had begun to relax a little in my fight against my own sin. This has caused me to wake up. I need to be much more aware of my own weakness, and sinful tendencies that whilst improving over the years, have not done so as quickly as I would like. My self-centeredness sometimes leads to irritability. Or, as the Bible would put it my pride leads to anger.

The whole experience reminded me once again of my own weakness. I am not as strong as I sometimes think I am. I cannot do everything I would like to do. I cannot even do everything that it would be helpful for me to do. I will have to choose who to let down. I have to say “enough!” more often. I have to watch my heart and keep it in check. I have to watch for things that make my self control more difficult. I have to pray more. But most of all, I have to keep coming back to the God who delights in taking weak people like you and me and using us for his great purposes.

He is not interested in using those who think they are strong or wise. Don’t ever believe your own publicity. Don’t even fully believe the publicity of others. Every single so-called “great man of God” has their own struggles. The fact that they do not share them in detail with us all is in most cases not because they want to look better than they are. We are foolish if we forget that there are secret struggles that it is entirely appropriate should stay secret. It takes great wisdom to know how much of those struggles to share with others. A forum like this is not the place for me to bear my soul fully. I thank God that I have just such a place in the man I love to call my pastor, Tope Koleoso and in others on the leadership team of Jubilee Church.

Trust me when I say that every Christian faces their own challenges at times, and that every Christian needs a place to receive wisdom from others and help. Don’t put your full confidence in any blogger, preacher or author. Put your confidence in God. And pray for those who are in prominent positions in your church, and/or in the wider Christian community. Every Christian needs your prayers more than you could ever imagine. If I understood that better, I am sure that I would pray more than I do.

The conclusion of this summers reflection is really simply this- Lord teach ME to pray. Prayer really is where this battle is won. For in prayer I acknowledge that I am dependent on God and need his help, I acknowledge that he is God and that I am not, and that therefore I have no right to be proud since I have nothing that did not come from him, and I focus on the needs not just of myself but of others.

I enjoy very much following my pastor’s tweets. He wrote a very interesting one over the summer. He began “Augustus Ceaser met Rome a city of wood & left it a city of marble.” I thought he would continue by speaking of building the church or something similar. But rather than numbers, or even “spiritual maturity” Tope chose to end the tweet by stressing the vital role of a pastor in teaching his people to pray: “Great is the pastor who changes his people from being prayerless to prayerful.”

This article was first published at AdrianWarnock.com.

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