Growing up a churchboy, you find yourself constantly imprisoned by numerous scriptures that have been hammered into your head to ensure your behavior reflects Christ . . . forgive or you will not be forgiven (Matthew 6:15) , don’t be weary in well doing (Galatian 6:9), don’t be a stumblingblock (1 Corinthians 8:9-10), could you not pray for an hour (Matthew 26:40), if you don’t love others, you don’t love me (1 John 4:20), what did you do for the least of these (Matthew 25:40), be not conformed to the world (Romans 12:2) . . . on and on the list could go of how a Christian should and is supposed to act. After all, our body is God’s temple and we must glorify Him in our body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) because we are all aware that at the end of time, God is going to project the video tape of our life on a big screen so he can judge us for everything we said, did, and even thought . . . (never found the scripture reference that referred to God’s movie room!)
Perhaps one of the greatest of these that made sure the handcuffs of behavior are tightened fully is found in James 1:22-25:
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
Not only did I keep myself locked up by ensuring I was a doer and not only a hearer, I did my part in teaching this scripture and ensuring others stayed locked up as well. The last thing I wanted was to look in the mirror and see my hair sticking up and out of place and walk away like I was perfectly groomed. (Yes, I did help coauthor several mini-skits on the book of James that included that exact illustration!) So, I did. I refused to just hear only. I did, and then I did some more, and then did even more after that, and even did more after that. I did things for the sake of doing them. I did them to please others. I did them out of obligation, and begrudgingly, because I was not going to be just a hearer. I did things that make no sense to a rational, logical mind, but to the churchboy made perfect sense even if they weren’t in scripture. . . you must wear a white shirt with that tie because white represents purity, you must wear a tie on stage in case someone comes in the door and will not accept you without one, not only will you not even think about drinking alcohol, you can’t go to any restaurant that serves it or and you can’t even consider beer commercials humorous! What a wonderful life the churchboy lives!!! (Please note: all references mentioned and the above verse are intentionally shown in the King James Version . . . for that is the “official” version and the only one the churchboy is permitted to read!)
Looking back now, I wonder how much sooner my churchboy chains could have been broken if only I had not overlooked two words from verse 25 in James 1. See if you can catch them: “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” Did you see them? Of. Liberty. Liberty? Churchboys know nothing of liberty. All they know is condemnation, rules, regulations, and do’s and don’ts . . . there is no liberty there, especially if you are always concerned with doing, and, not only doing, making sure everyone else knows you are doing. (For more on this liberty and why we have it, see Celebrating Freedom.)
Thanks to the wonder of Facebook and social media, I was reminded yesterday of a post I shared four years. Due to the liberty and freedom that I was just beginning to experience and discover, I was seeing new things in scriptures I had read for years. As I mentioned earlier, I knew my body was God’s temple and I should glorify God in my body, but I never made the connection to another verse written earlier in 1 Corinthians in chapter 3, verse 16:
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
If my body is God’s temple then that means God dwells in me!! That would seem to be as elementary a statement as saying 2 + 2 = 4, but until that day four years ago, my spirit had never learned the mathematics behind it. The real “light-bulb” moment of all this came as we sang a worship song that Sunday morning that I had sung for years and was taken from the NIV translation of Psalm 84:1:
How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!
God’s dwelling place is lovely . . . wait a minute . . . aren’t I God’s dwelling place according to 1 Corinthians? So, I’m lovely? That is humbling! One thing a churchboy never considered himself was lovely, but God does.
Now, what do you see when you look in God’s mirror? Let’s look at the scriptures above taken from The Message:
James 1:22-25: Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.
I Corinthians 3:16: You realize, don’t you, that you are the temple of God, and God himself is present in you?
Psalm 84:1: What a beautiful home, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
As a recovering churchboy, I now see that all those things mentioned above that once imprisoned me are a delight to do and are only possible once I have looked into God’s mirror, seen that He lives in me, and realize he considers me lovely . . . and, according to the verses listed below, it’s through nothing that I have done or could possibly ever do on my own:
Ephesians 2:8-10: “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
I pray today you see yourself in God’s mirror and realize how lovely you are to Him as well because of Jesus.