Day 19, Prompt: NOTICE
(as in, notice I gave up on writing only for 5 minutes?)
My daughter developed a bad habit since we have moved to the foreign field. She sucks on her bottom lip until a raw, red ring appears on her chin. And then she chews some more.
She does it while she is watching TV, riding in the car, doing schoolwork, playing, and even when she is sleeping! I feel like I have said, “Baby, stop sucking/chewing your lip” at least 65 times a day for the past few months. Finally, it seems, she has broken the habit.
I have a bad habit too; I am a skin picker. Any time of the day, especially if I am anxious or concentrated on something, you can find me pinching and poking invisible blemishes on my face until scabs appear. I don’t notice I’m picking until my husband gently smacks my hand away from my face.
Oh, and guess what else! I’m a fairly regular lip chewer myself, yet I never realized this until I was refereeing my daughter’s daily habits.
So it is with sin. It’s easy to pick up on what ways others are failing in their service to the Lord. It’s simple to see the lack of fruits in a believer’s life and maybe even question the status of his salvation. We may even think we can judge a heart’s condition from a person’s words and actions.
Yes, the Bible says we will know believers by their fruits. But how often do I magnify the rotten parts of the branch without glimpsing the healthy bits budding blooms? At the same time I am squinting at the secret sins of others, I miss the major symptoms of sin in my own life.
You would think that big ol’ beam in my eye would hurt a little more, right? I may not notice the pain, but I will see the ways it hurts my ministry. Maybe after it’s too late.
Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye (Matthew 7:2-5).
In our zeal to see others’ lives changed by Christ, it can be tempting to focus on the sin rather than the Savior. Christians have earned derogatory terms like “Bible Thumpers,” “Holy Rollers,” and others I’m not comfortable typing out by failing to love others according to the Golden Rule.
While I may not be picketing soldiers’ funerals or rejoicing in a homosexual taken from this world too soon, if I am open to the Holy Spirit’s conviction in my life, I can notice ways that my gospel proclamation is hindered by my judgment of others.
In 1 Peter 3, we see instead the power of guarding our own ways to influence the hearts of others:
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear (1 Peter 3:1-2).
The wife of a lost man is not instructed here to nag her husband about his sinful state in order to change him. She is instead challenged to submit to him, love and serve him. To live a glowing gospel testimony in her home for the good of the gospel message.
I am not advocating solely practicing lifestyle evangelism. What I want to promote and practice is living a life of repentance as I share the message of the Cross.
And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: (1 Peter 1:17).
Living in fear in my home and in my work proclaiming the gospel message means being careful not to tread over the hearts of those to whom I witness. This includes my children, members of my community, and those to whom we formally minister through our church-planting efforts.
It is God who judges hearts and opens the doors to heaven. The only job I am given is to love others and faithfully tell of the gospel of His sacrificial death and the Good News of His resurrection. It is above my pay-grade to change the spiritual condition of others. I leave that responsibility with the Holy Spirit where it belongs.
I am promised the Word of God will not return void. I trust that as I carefully handle its truths and surrender the heart-changing job to the only One who can witness the inner workings of man, I will see lives changed.
In my daily surrender to Jesus, I can be certain mine will. I can’t be the hands of Jesus if I am a hypocrite.
Are your evangelistic efforts hindered by a critical attitude?
What bad habits need to be dealt with so you may be a gracious gospel messenger?
Talk to be in the comment section!