I have really struggled to write a blog post over the last week.
I started and then abandoned several ideas. I even revisited part-written entries that I had saved for a future date, but nothing clicked.
It’s not that any of these themes weren’t good. It is just that they lacked an important ingredient, the one thing I am determined to never leave out of anything that I write.
They lacked sincerity.
And that is because even though I have some helpful things to say about decluttering and simplifying life, renewing my thoughts and knowing God better, those subjects are not what I am really thinking about today.
Do you remember my positive New Year attitude? Well, it has run dry in record time. I am disappointed and worn out. I am desperate for God’s answers but wobbly in the waiting. My coffee is cold, the computer is waiting, and worry is my wallpaper.
It is uncomfortable, but it is real. And isn’t that where we should always start?
In fact, aren’t honesty and sincerity the starting points for everything good God wants to do in our lives?
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, we see Him give the Sermon on the Mount. It is the most exhaustive, comprehensive teaching about what being a follower of Jesus should look like. We are taught how to behave in marriage and in society. We are given examples of effective prayer and fasting and we are shown a radical lifestyle of forgiveness and generosity, all of which serves to make us effective witnesses in the world.
But look at the way the sermon starts.
Jesus starts with what we often call the Beatitudes. Look closely at these familiar verses. See how they are challenging us to be something before we do something.
The beautiful blessings promised here are for those who have allowed the Holy Spirit to work mercy and meekness and spiritual hunger into their souls, not those who know how to just look super-spiritual.
It is the pure in heart, not the impressive or the accomplished, who will see God. In God’s Kingdom, it is always all about the heart and good works are the beautiful by-product.
Being comes before doing every time. Otherwise we run the risk of hypocrisy.
It is so much easier to just act kind, rather than to be honest about the unkindness in my heart. It is painless to accept an apology from someone I have no intention of forgiving.
Christian platitudes cost me nothing and giving advice is a cinch. Sharing out of my own difficulties feels far riskier.
But honesty is the key to everything.
Because there is no help available to me in my struggles if I pretend I don’t have any.
It is so easy to play church. Becoming like Jesus is much harder to fake.
Jesus ends this epic sermon with the parable of the wise and foolish builders. Just in case we are inclined to be too cerebral about following Jesus or to tend towards too much navel-gazing, He reminds us that the proof of a changed heart is always obedient action.
It is not in what I talk about, tweet or quote. It isn’t in what books I read or what knowledge I accumulate. My opnionated dinner discussions or social media rants prove nothing about who I really am.
The proof is how I respond to the good things I hear, read and study. All the wonderful sermons I hear, the podcasts, the myriad of Christian books I read, the blogs, and the Bible studies only strengthen my life if I put in to practice what I have heard. Otherwise, I am just a know-it-all standing on sand.
There is a much better way, a building-on-rock way.
Jesus wants to work forgiveness in my heart so I can forgive.
He wants to give me the gift of strong faith so I can pray truthful, faith-filled prayers for myself and others.
He wants to make me less offendable so I can love people who are different than me, not just pretend.
He wants to give me a love for His Word so I read it because I want to.
He wants me to make me more like Jesus every day, but to always give me the grace to be honest when I am not.
He wants to meet me where I am today, not where I wish I was. He wants to touch where I am hurting and restore hope. He wants to hear my honest heart-cry and speak to my soul. He wants to sit with me and then put me back on my feet. He wants to love me as I am and make me hungry to be much more.
He wants my service to Him to always come from sincerity and my Christianity to be real, not just uplifting verses on a coffee cup.
If I can resist the temptation for the knock-off version, I can have authentic faith this year. If I will dare to be real about who I am and why I need Jesus, I can have testimonies of the power of God, not just theories.
Honesty empowers me to trade skin-deep resolutions for heart-deep changes that lead me to victory.