(llustration of the pancake mix…just as pancake mix has to be mixed just right for the right consistency, so the Christian. You cannot make pancake mix the night ahead and put in the refrigerator, because it will get to thick, have to get it just right. One recipe I had called for exactly 30 stirs..., ). The right feel, the right sense of goodness, the right sense of humility and confidence. Earlier this week
I posted the need for consistency on Facebook and asked for responses. One person looked ahead to the next chapter and the need for grace-- all God, I agree, yet God allows us to choose our attitudes.
Candi… “how important it was for our children to be the kind of christian we are on sundays ALL week.”
Esther: “Consistent teachers would be nice...I don't like the inconsistent ones...they make life miserable.” -- it’s a practical, practical, practical need for people to know. Claudette: “Our walk is a consistent testimony, Ready Boots,,,Start Walking ! Da Da da dunt, Da da da dunt !!”
As a Christian consistency means a commitment to living the life you profess. The world doesn’t need to see Christians that are perfect, but rather, a Christian willing to constantly be adjusting, learning, like the pancake mix that sits getting thicker, so a little water is added... There is a reason the bible refers to Christians as disciples of Christ, never graduating. One of the silliest degrees in all of our educational system is a Master of Divinity – “I have one of those” – but reality is that I have Mastered nothing and have so much to learn...
Rom. 2:17 has to make you smile, not because it’s a good verse, but because we all know this happens way too much. Brag. The biggest, the best, the most people, the best program… Is there anything worse than a smug Christian? Paul writes these words to the Jewish Christians at Rome to push them into a healthier attitude. They are prideful. They think that the pancake batter is a perfect consistency, but it got thick, you have to keep working at it…. The Christians at Rome are in for a rude awakening. They believe they’ve found the formula for success in the church, and bottled their criteria of what it means to be a Christian. a world class athlete makes it to the top, he has to keep working in the off-season, harder than anyone else, how often have I heard the announcers report on the Star basketball player that arrived earlier to practice and left later than anybody else….
A Christian is constantly sifted. I appreciate this quote: Pride is the dandelion of the soul. Its root goes deep; only a little left behind sprouts again. Its seeds lodge in the tiniest encouraging cracks. And it flourishes in good soil: The danger of pride is that it feeds on goodness. -- David Rhodes. Pride flourishes in good soil: The danger of pride is that it feeds on goodness. Achieve any success in any sport, any discipline, any achievement, and pride is waiting to take root. Pride is when you make it more about you than the one whom you are serving; taking far more credit than what you deserve. For the Romans, they thought they’d figured out this Christian thing, they had standards and they were the standard bearers, look at me, become like me, rise to my level. What they achieved was good, but pride shifted the focus to themselves. This scripture is a warning for the church, Seeds of Hope, individual Christians…
The temptation of pride never goes away. The mountain climber that thinks he has superior strength and judgment reaches a bit too far for the next handhold, and slips. And pride wins, a false security, a false assessment, and others are shut out. The preacher that thinks he has the formula figured out and can wow the crowd with eloquent speech, and preaches a dog of a sermon. The church that is successful in a program tries to bottle the steps to success, write a book, and suddenly God is on the backburner and the purpose is lost to pride.
Romans 2:17-21…17 Now you, if you call yourself a [Christian]; if you rely on the [Bible] and brag about your relationship to God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the [Bible]; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the [Bible] the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?
The Lord needs teachers, guides, instructors, leaders…but he wants people who are also committed to growing, learning, being taught…. I’ve heard it said that the best math teachers not the ones who got A’s and had an easy time of it, but the teachers who got C’s, and struggled, and understand what the students are going through, teachers who are trying to learn themselves, and understand, and improve. The World needs Christians who are real, who don’t have all the answers, but who will struggle alongside those who are struggling, ordinary men and women and young people and children serving God.
The scripture continues: You who preach against stealing, do you steal? Some people think Paul is summarizing a few of the ten commandments: are you fully keeping the ten commandments yourself? That could be. But he says stealing: you cannot tell others to not steal in a pious way, if you, yourself are breaking the law. I talked too much on my cell phone while driving. It’s wrong. You should not do that, but neither should I. I try not to steal time from my wife and children… I think we as a church follow the copyright laws for music… the Lord knows we are impure in our practices, the point is not that we have to be perfect to serve God, but we have to admit our sins and be willing to learn, and to walk together to learn better ways. Go ahead when you see me and ask me if I talk on the cell phone while driving, I want to stop. I need to quit being lazy. The world needs consistent Christians, and sometimes I get lazy and stagnant and thick, and the pancake mix needs more stirring.
I’ve always liked the story: the mother that came to Ghandi with her child and complained that her boy ate too much sugar. Ghandi told her to come back in a month. The day came and she approached the great leader with her son, and Ghandi said, “Don’t eat so much sugar.” The mother was not happy, and said, “Why didn’t you tell my son that a month ago?” Ghandi replied, “Ma’am, a month ago I ate too much sugar, too.” 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You know the Bible, the secret thoughts of the heart… the Lord wants Christians in the community who are striving to become more and more like him. Examine your heart constantly. Seek to live consistently so that what you teach you live. Don’t brag about what you have accomplished, how great your program. Strive to be consistent by making ourselves open to God’s continuous stirring of our hearts.
You who abhor idols, do you rob [the church]? I try to go the extra mile, give a little bit more than I receive. I’m not really sure everything Paul has in mind here.
23 You who boast in the [Bible], do you dishonor God by breaking the [Bible]? A question of consistency, the world needs honest Christians, Christians who are committing their imperfections to the Lord, Christians who themselves are seeking God and learning the way of holiness. Live what you know to be true in the Bible.
24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the [non-Christian world] because of you.” So true. A smug church/Christian is not a good witness, because the world sees something they don’t want to be. Smug politicians are tolerated. Parents that think they know it all are suspect. The world wonders about teachers that are full of themselves and what happened to serving the students. Boastful people are not needed. Pride is always a pitfall, waiting to ensnare and diminish the work of God. May we always keep in perspective that we are in need of God like everyone else. I want people to follow my example not for what I have attained-- I want to be surrounded by people who far surpass anything I have done or become -- but to follow my example to seek the Lord Jesus Christ – we can do that together...
The rest of this scripture is more about the call to be consistent, the importance of the inward as far more important than outward appearance. Paul does not condemn outward signs, he only emphasizes the inward change of heart is of most importance. I went with the conventional paraphrase of baptism where Paul said circumcision, but I could have gone with any discipline: going to church, reading the bible, prayer, fasting, and so many more. The point is not that prayer, church attendance, reading the bible does anything for us in an automatic way, but rather, spiritual disciplines open us up to hear from God so we can have a good and right relationship with him. Wearing a cross is meaningless by itself -- whenever you see somebody with a cross on their neck, if you get a chance, ask them what it means to them. That’s what’s more important. It’s not the outward, but the inward that matters. How easy it is for baptism, going to church, wearing a cross to be a mere formality, but God cares about a true transformation, consistent Christian living. Prideful Christians are not needed, for the world rightly does not want that sort of Christian example, the world needs consistent Christians, who are continuously going to God to be stirred by his spirit and transformed more and more into his likeness.
One last comment from the last line of this scripture: Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. Speaking to Christian people desiring to serve God in the community. What motivates you? Who are you trying to impress? If the goal is to not embarrass yourself, you’ve got the wrong goal, if the goal is to be accepted then you are misguided. May we be motivated to be recognized by the audience of one: Jesus Christ. That’s what I read in this scripture. I will fail people, and while I don’t like it, that’s ok. I will NOT even be noticed by most of the community, we are all sidetracked by our own problems. But it’s good and right to ask God what he thinks – you are his servant. Make decisions based on his guidance, what will be honoring to him. “What do you want of me, Lord?” is an excellent question.
The good athlete does not perform for the crowd, he listens to his coach. The follower of God seeking to be a consistent witness does not live to impress the people of the community, but to be accepted by God. A person can fail in the eyes of the world and be praised by God. God is the audience of one, the only one whose opinion matters. That means I don’t have to be understood by the world, I don’t have to be popular, that must not be our motivation. Our motivation is to be obedient to the one who has given us life, a mission, a calling, a place of service. I know there are many in our community who are unconventional, who do not fit the Church’s vision of what a Christian is supposed to look like, but God is pleased. I don’t have to approve of others who are serving God in order for them to have a legitimate place of service. We must welcome wholeheartedly others who are unlike us, for God will use them in ways that he isn’t using us.
Consistent Christians, that’s what the world needs. Consistency like the pancake mix, needing constant attention, constant stirring, shunning the temptation of pride and living to be accepted by the audience of one. May you be the sort of Christian that is vulnerable enough that others will want to walk beside you seeking the same relationship with God, but faithful enough that God praises you. Amen.