Authentic Spirituality: Pure and Undefiled Religion
Because of the bright lights behind me, the golf balls themselves appeared to be glowing that night as they flew through the air. I couldn't avoid hearing a loud voice over the clicking of clubs hitting golf balls. I'd seen him there before and we'd talked golf. Tonight his balding head reflected the lights of the driving range nearly the same way the golf balls did in flight. But it wasn't his shiny head that was annoying me, it was his foul mouth.
It seemed he couldn't describe any event without using profane adjectives. He walked from one person to another telling golf stories, casting himself as the hero. Finally, a few feet away, his attention focused on me. "Are you still knocking the *%#* outta the ball?" he asked. I forced a smile, "I'm hitting pretty good," I said hoping he would just keep walking. He didn't. Instead he began telling me why he chose to be at the driving range even though his wife wanted to spend time with him. Using filthy language, he told me men should "stand up" to their wives and do "whatever they wanted to do."
Growing tired of his nonsense, I decided it was time to get rid of him. I waited until he finished lecturing about husbands and wives before saying, "I work for a Christian marriage ministry." I hit 3 golf balls during the awkward silence that followed.
Open Mouth, Insert Foot
"Ya know, people come to me for marriage help all the time," he began. "Why it was just the other day that..." His previous stories of his heroism shifted from haughty to holy. He told me about his church and that he encouraged new members to make friends with visitors. He told me about couples he counseled in his church. He told me that nothing mattered without Jesus. "Sometimes the best time to minister to others is while golfing," he said. At this point the awkward silence made it's re-entrance. I think we both felt the hypocrisy in his words. He politely closed with small talk and walked away. I returned to hitting golf balls into the black sky.
It's not a difficult application. James 3:10-12 says, "Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water."
The Best Sermon is?
We should always strive to live spiritually authentic lives. What we are in private and what we are in public should be similar. We can't expect the world to give credit to our testimonies of faith while we are both witnesses of Christ and puppets of profanity.
Authentic spirituality doesn't happen over night. Just like physical strength, spiritual strength takes exercise and time. Our walk with Christ is not defined by rare strokes of spiritual brilliance; consistent effort and prayer define it.
Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:2 & 5, "Proclaim the message: be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching."
"As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully."
As Christians, we are held to high standards. We represent Christ. We represent His Church. Though we are not perfect, the Bible says that we should be "imitators of God" (Ephesians 5:1). The journey is long and the goal is a lofty one, but the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to challenge us to it.
Are you up for the challenge? It begins by imitating Jesus.
Lee Wilson is on staff at Family Dynamics Institute. Family Dynamics attempts to prevent marriage problems by helping couples who are already in troubled marriages and by teaching those in good marriages to prevent major issues before they happen. Lee combats marriage problems from another angle with his web site for Christian singles by helping them find compatibility in possible marriage candidates. Lee hopes that his efforts will help to decrease the divorce rate around the world. Lee also runs a web publication for Christians called Grace-Centered Magazine that includes a Christian message forum.
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