August 12, 2005 Matthew

Lessons in Righteousness

Swiss Cherry Trees

My time in Switzerland came to an end. I made a great many friends and had lots of fun. The whole year, nonetheless, provided me with a lot of hard trials and changes in heart.

I remember forming a standing prayer request between me and a brother from Oregon, Paul Root, who was one of my roommates. We were looking at the life of George Whitefield (1700s) and were captivated by the power of his ministry and life. It was around August 2004, just a couple months before God surprisingly enabled me to travel to Africa.
Something about the fear of the Lord that George Whitefield described intrigued us. And it became our dedicated prayer for some time before I left: a revelation of the fear of God.

This last year wasn’t at all what I would have expected in answer to that prayer. But perhaps somehow it is.

In one sermon, Whitefield said self-righteousness was the last idol rooted out of the heart, and that we have contracted from the fall a devilish pride that would have us glory in our own salvations. He explained how we go about trying to establish a righteousness of our own, refusing to wholly submit to that righteousness which is of God through Jesus Christ.

The Lord our righteousness. Jeremiah 23:6

Through a lady who is a missionary to Afghanistan on furlough, I was given an interesting and unique word after she spent time praying for me regarding my ‘Swiss dilemmas’. Basically, it amounted to me not being careful with something dangerous.

For me, I don’t want live like that: in self-righteousness, pride, blaming others for my problems. I made that decision long ago and have always sought to walk humbly before God in it. But that doesn’t take away the idol. For many, to be Christ-like means ‘have no weaknesses’ and if there are some, you must hide them. For Paul it meant boasting–gladly–in his weaknesses. And there, I believe, is a serious stumbling block for so many of us. We’re too pent up in our own self-esteem. We’re so attached to this world that we’re afraid of what others might think of us and so constantly adapting and changing the presentation of ourselves.

This last year has been the hardest in the last five years for me in learning the fear of the Lord. Do I increase that the Lord may increase? No, I must decrease that the Lord may increase. I became small, God became magnified–not in himself for He was never small–but in my small and futile mind. My joy is not in myself or I would be sorely disappointed. My joy is in God. The bigger He gets in my heart and mind, the better. The more gladly I will boast of my weaknesses because His power is made perfect in weakness.

I have always tried to lean on God’s acceptance of me and not man’s. It’s never easy. Reputation among people is important, yet at the same time, it’s below us and shouldn’t dictate the outcome of our lives. Rejection from them is nothing. Christ himself was rejected by men. Even God forsook him. Can you imagine that? But Christ had no weaknesses. No, he was despised because he shed the light on the darkness within people.

But boy, does rejection suck.