there is a strange feeling of power connected with putting on a crisp, white cotton shirt (more so if it has french cuffs). the feeling gets really intense when you finish it off with a power tie. wrap the whole thing in a charcoal grey wool suit, and…wow! i am somebody!
i know it sounds weird, but white shirt feeling is similar to the one i was seeking when i planted a church. i wanted to lead a big church. i wanted people to admire me. i thought if i could be successful (whatever that means) as a pastor, then i would feel affirmed and empowered.
funny thing…the whole time i was chasing my personal dream, i justified my pride by telling myself i was doing what god wanted me to do. i could rattle off a list of reasons for my frenetic activity, all of them righteous and all of them clichés. “it is god’s desire for his church to grow,” i would argue. “if we get more people in the building, then more people will hear the gospel.”
i’m not saying that these arguments have no merit, i’m just saying that my motivations were misguided.
last night, as i was running my arm into the sleeve of that freshly starched white shirt, i was again startled and repulsed by my capacity for selfishness. frankly, i am in love with that feeling–the feeling of being somebody special. of being influential. of being in control.
the dangers of those types of feelings in the heart of a church leader are obvious and deadly. but are all believers vulnerable to those types of feelings? could we genuinely believe we are serving god when, instead, we are serving self?
our spiritual enemy does not try to attract us with unattractive temptations. he knows what bait we like and he knows how to present it. james said it this way:
but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. (james 1:14)
that tells me that there is a “hook” inside me…an evil desire. it is part of my nature, and the devil knows what it is (or, in my case, he knows what they are). what we have to understand is that the enemy’s pressure is very subtle. the temptation will seem harmless (like feeling good about yourself when you get dressed up), but don’t kid yourself, it’s a hook. if the enemy gets his hands on it, he will destroy you.
so what’s the solution? to never attend a formal gathering?
the solution is radical submission. ruthless reliance. i have to admit to myself (and we should also admit to a trustworthy other) that i am vulnerable. unless and until i own my weakness, i remain devil bait.
and so do you. no matter how well-dressed you are.