Today I am going to string together three personal stories under the heading above, to try to present the point that we tend to see the world through a filter. This filter, different for each of us, helps us to "take the world as it is," when, if we look past it, the world may be nothing like it.
First story, which I have told in comments over the last couple of weeks, came from a broadcast I heard on the way home one morning. It was taken from a Charles Swindoll cruise, and the speakers were a husband and wife duo who write and speak on marital relations and God's needed pre-eminence in them. And the husband was speaking of a critical juncture in their marriage, ten years in. Now, I had to stop and get gas, so I missed the lead in, but I could do a quick fill in: It was their tenth anniversary; they had had a disagreement during the celebration, and were out on a drive trying to work it out. At the point I entered in again, they had stopped, and she had made an accusation that had stung him to his core. He said that in her words, he could hear Christ saying to him that he needed to repent "of his relationship". Not with her, but his relationship with God. That relationship had gone wrong, and was making their relationship suffer- not a good thing when one is a pastor. She said that she exacerbated the problem by "waiting on him to get it straight", in such a way that "He became my idol". The crux of the problem came , though, in his next words: "I realized that the ONLY time I was in the Word anymore was when I was working on a sermon."
Wow. In effect he had degraded his Bible from a tool to open a conversation with the Almighty down to a "source material" book for speeches. Somehow, my flow of thought from the point of "if that can happen to a pastor" then led me to a conclusion about my own relationship with God. One of the reasons you don't see me do a Sunday Message every week is for that very reason. I learned teaching Sunday school that the best lessons are taught by God to you first, confirmed in the Bible second, prayed over third. I can't just say, "Well this is what I read this week", if I didn't ask God to apply it to me. So as I thought of the consequences of the man's statement to me, I ended up asking myself a very pertinent question on my own relationship with God:
When I ask God to remove the sin in my life, what am I really asking- to actually remove the sin nature driving me to the sin, or am I asking God to "polish the turd," make it acceptable to Him, so that I can go on committing it, just with forgiveness a "phone call away"? How honest were my prayers of repentance, after all?
A question I suspect we are all dealing with to one point or another. But now step back a bit to see what is really happening here. In one case, you have a pastor who by all outside indications is doing things right- he reads his Bible, gives good solid sermons, tends well to the day to day life of his congregation. But his marriage was on the verge of falling apart because of the discrepancy between what he saw through his "filter" and reality. Myself, also, acting the same way, supposedly taking my sin to God for removal, and instead just allowing myself to see it with "a new paint job." Now I'm going to give you a more general, but more scary example.
The other morning I was going into work listening to the pastor whose program is on at that time. He is a good teacher, though sometimes I think he loses himself in that he has a very richly blessed church, and loses sight of what a poor schmuck goes through. Not the point, but in his usual spiel at the beginning trying to convince listeners to become a monthly monetary supporter of the ministry, he mentioned how faith based non-profits are coming under increasing attack by liberal politicians. True as far as it goes, but also through the filter. Take off the glasses for a second and take a wider look.
Yes, liberals lead the "attack against Christianity." But how many conservative politicians do anything substantive to fend these attacks off, other than what is expedient TO THEM? I'm not saying that none do, and I'm not saying that there aren't some true men of faith on BOTH sides debating the related issues.
But think on this. The "liberal attack" is led by lobbyists such as our good friends at the Freedom From Religion Busybody Association. That means, militant atheists. But when the end times come, atheists will be not such a factor. Think about it, what good to Satan is a world that DOESN'T worship? The AntiChrist will be building a system built around not an atheist system, but the Church Corrupt, led by the False Prophet, and designed to replace God worship with AntiChrist worship. This will be an institutionalized, government run religious system- and that would sound more conservative than liberal, would it not? Isn't it the battle we fight today, to keep religion IN institutions, in the government, in the spotlight?
When you take off the filters, you see atheism isn't the enemy. They are a laughable, feeble distraction from the REAL endgame. We waste our time in battle with them- a sin I am quite guilty of- and every battle we fight, every victory we win, just builds the bastion for our TRUE enemy.
I helped elect a pro-life candidate. I ate at Chik-Fil-A. I signed a petition to keep the Ten Commandments on the courthouse lawn. Guess what? BIG DEAL. Did I read my Bible today, and try to listen to what God was telling me? Did I post a link on Facebook about the terrible things that ISIS is doing, and not pray for the Syrian refugees, the persecuted Christians, the children being seduced into that life? I bought fifty Bibles for the Chinese- but did I pray that they would bring them closer to God? I have given those Bibles, and I appreciate that the organization sent me the names of four Chinese Christians that benefited by them, to pray for. I may not have faces to go with the names, and I certainly couldn't pronounce them on my best day, but I can pray for them. I don't even need their names for that.
The filters are how we are able to do some little thing, pat ourselves on the back for a job less than half done, and say, "What a good boy am I." Or look at the world and say, "at least our side is doing something," when all we are doing is leaving grain on the hardpack of the road for the birds to eat. I have often said, fight the battles that count. But to fight them, you've got to take the filters off and FIND them.