Enough Already!

“The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” Luke 8:38-39

I knew I’d feel inadequate, but once they slapped the Journeyman mic on me and the congregation sauntered in, the word inadequate became inadequate. Over my head, crazy, off my rocker—those shot through my mind a time or two.

Yes, I had notes. Yes, I’d practiced. Yes, I’d taken public speaking courses. But none of those really prepares you to face a congregation on Sunday morning. Nothing gets you ready to reach into Scripture and yank out the good stuff. You’re dealing with potent material here, the kind of thing you don’t want to get wrong. And out there are the faces of those who may never come back through the door of a church again.

No pressure.

And that’s how my first sermon started. Actually, I don’t remember much of it. It just kind of started and then ended. If there weren’t a recording, I don’t think I’d even know what I said. But, alas, said recording does exist (no chance of being linked here), and the final verdict is… let’s just say mixed. At least no one left, and given the size of the church, I would have noticed.

In many ways, I felt like that formerly demon-possessed man whom Jesus told to go tell it on the mountain. Jesus didn’t give him much in the way of lessons or practice. He just sent the man home to talk about God healing him. And as far as we know, the man went and did just that. Since it made it in the gospel accounts, I’m chalking that up as a success. All the man needed to know was that Jesus healed him, and—boom—he started sharing the good news.

Too many times, I’ve been shut down by the notion that I need to know more before I can say more. I can’t tell this person about Christ because I haven’t finished my study on Galatians. I can’t share how God changed me because I only spent 15 minutes in prayer this morning. I can’t start a small group in my house because I’m not the perfect husband or dad.

It’s hard for me to say, “Enough already.” I know enough already to preach a sermon, even if I’ll keep learning and growing for years. I know enough already to share that God wrenched me out of depression, even if I don’t know how to answer every question about the Bible. I know enough already to share my home, even if I’m still working on keeping my smart phone off during family time.

After all, I know enough to know that Christ is the one who does the saving, not my faulty words.

I’m a Hypocrite

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:5

The college me would call the current me a hypocrite. That’s what I did back then. Anyone claiming to be a Christian automatically earned that prestigious title. I could judge, after all, because I sat in my lofty seat in the college library and weighed such grave matters in my head and in my poetry. My pencil could strike down any Christ-follower with a witty rhyme. I knew they were all fake.

So, I had a lot to learn about love. But I was right about the hypocrisy thing. The current me is, in fact, a hypocrite.

Jesus warned us not to be like the hypocrites, those who put on a show but don’t let the show touch their hearts. And when I’m honest, that’s exactly what I do sometimes. My worship becomes a series of movements, a tentative toe-tap into the spiritual waters. All the while, my mind has drifted off to my bank account, my schedule, and my Instagram feed.

That type of worship isn’t worship. It’s a show put on for my own gratification, one that makes me feel better about doing the “Christian thing.” In those moments, I’m exactly what my college self accused me of.

Hypocrite.

Thankfully, Jesus warned me about all this ahead of time. When my body and mind get out of sync, when my devotion becomes a demonstration, His warnings inevitably hit me in the chin. Matthew 6 cues up on my audio Bible, His admonitions pop up on someone’s blog, or I just catch myself in the act. That’s when I see just how much I’m simply going through the motions.

Unlike my college self, who judged to feel superior, God unmasks hypocrisy because He wants me to get real. His gentle (and not-so-gentle) nudges snap me out of my one-man show.