June, 2010 – Raleigh, North Carolina
Catherine and I volunteered to house sit for Catherine’s uncle who was taking his wife on an anniversary trip to California. Our new baby girl Ellie was just 6 weeks old at the time and I was scheduled to preach a sermon in a church that coming Fathers day. My uncle who is an elder at his church had asked me to preach because both he and the pastor were out of town.
When he first asked me to preach, I felt how Hurley must have felt when Jack Shepherd told him that he believed in him. That reference may be lost on some of you but to the others of you, you know what I’m talking about.
I prayed a great deal about the sermon. I had shared a handful of sermons before, and some of them didn’t go so well. So needless to say I was worried.
“God, this could go a hundred different directions. What would you have me share?” I prayed.
His answer came the day before I was to preach. I woke up that morning inexplicably thinking about fool’s gold. I thought about the time when, as a boy at church camp, the leaders would make a treasure hunt for rocks painted gold. My mind wandered for a while about all the things I knew or ever heard about fool’s gold.
Later that day I was walking down a trail in a park and saw that the trail ended about 30 feet ahead of me at a street. I was about to turn around and then I “heard” a whisper in my heart say, ‘just walk to the end’. And so I did. As I got to the end of the trail something reflecting the suns light caught my eye on the ground. I stooped and picked up a small piece of fool’s gold.
“Ok God, you have my attention. What are you trying to say to me?”
Immediately he spoke to my heart, “This represents your self-righteousness and your hands are full of it.”
I knew in my heart that my hands were indeed full of fool’s gold. I knew also that God wanted to give me his pure gold (his righteousness) and that in order to receive his gold I needed to dump my hands of what it held. (There was another part of me that dismissed his words. “He must be talking figuratively or something. Surely he couldn’t mean me?” Don’t we have an amazing capacity to justify ourselves?)
A Scripture came to mind in that moment. Something Jesus said to one of the churches in Revelation.
That night I didn’t sleep much. I walked a path outside my uncle’s house for hours and prayed. I stayed up late into the night reading the Bible, and writing notes.
Just the previous week I had met with my pastor. I was terrified about the meeting actually. I was worried about the state of my heart. I didn’t want him to find out who I really was, and what I was really like. But I also wanted to be completely transparent because I knew this was the path to freedom.
So I told him, “I often pose and posture myself to appear far better than I truly am.” I gave him permission to call me out if he ever saw me playing the hypocrite.
In that moment it felt to me like that scene in Spiderman when he was trying to pull the evil black slime off of him. I was a slippery little devil and I knew it. Exposing the truth of who I was felt like nailing jello to the wall. So, best as I could, I told him exactly where I was at and what I was dealing with. And he prayed with me.
Self-righteousness is a poser, it is the hypocrite. This is the proverbial black slime that clings to the fiber of our very being and corrupts us. We hold up our little pieces of fool’s gold and say, “look how shiny I am.” And the more time we spend polishing up our fool’s gold, the harder it is to empty our hands. Self-righteousness is entirely impossible to remove on our own. Jesus must remove it for us. Thank God he does.
Jesus lovingly corrects us. For our good he tells us what’s wrong and provides the cure. His correction is gentle and merciful and perfect. He corrects because he loves. His correction takes us off the path of destruction and puts us on the path to life. Thank God for his correction.
That Sunday I shared from my heart about all of this and then read this Scripture from Revelation:
(Please don’t “check out” as you read this like I often do because you’ve heard it a thousand times, but try hearing it for the first time.)
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is a message from the one who is the Amen – the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation:
“I know all the things that you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.
“So I advise you to buy gold from me – gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.
“I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 3:14-22 NLT)
A few observations:
Gold is representing something of worth or worthiness. Untold spiritual riches of eternal value are ours through faith in Christ. He is the pure gold that has been refined in the fire.
Apparently Jesus seems to think that it is no small victory to turn from our indifference. And isn’t it awesome to think that we could share a meal together as friends with Jesus? How I want that!
Please take a moment to pray with me if you want that too!
Jesus, we want that deep abiding friendship with you! We open the door to you. Come in right now Jesus! Thank you for loving us. Thank you for wanting to be our friend. Thank you for extending your invitation to us. We accept your invitation and repent of our indifference. Give us your gold, we empty our hands of our fools gold and trust only in your righteousness. May we never again have our confidence anywhere else but in you alone!
- The Scales (66in66.wordpress.com)