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Do Not Praise Yourself

June 27th, 2019

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth—a stranger, and not your own lips. (Psalm 27:2)

Our mouths are meant to praise the Lord; our tongues to honor Him and point others to Him. Second only to that is speech given to lift up our fellow man — both male and female — and to affirm and encourage, to teach and instruct, and to rebuke and help restore. Even a rebuke given in love is a positive thing, and can lead to growth.

James 3:9-10: “With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this should not be!”

Ephesians 5:19-20: “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

But Not for Ourselves

But speech is not given to us to call attention to ourselves, to beat on our own chests and boast about how great we are. We show our character by our deeds, not by our words. We show our wisdom by kind and gracious words to and about others, not by boasting.

James 3:13: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good conduct, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

1 John 3:20-21: “If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And we have this commandment from Him: Whoever loves God must love his brother as well.”

The Danger of Boasting

1 Corinthians 5:6: “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?”

When we boast about ourselves, we cease to boast about God, or to be considerate and complimentary towards others. We will have started down that slippery path of self-exaltation, which will become our real goal, and we will justify any action that makes us look good by comparison. We will criticize others — fairly or unfairly — not because there is something to be learned from their mistakes, but just so we will look better. We will be and do the opposite of the scriptural command: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (James 1:19).

When we boast about ourselves we will be blind to God’s greatness, and, by our selfishness, apathetic to our brother’s or sister’s abilities or needs. We will have dangerously cut ourselves off from further growth as Christians and as professional or social people. We will also be insensitive to our brother’s situation. Some servants may face opposition in their ministry or be called to a difficult and unresponsive place of service and have little observable results to show for their service, and we may have had a relatively easy and fruitful one. Yet they may have demonstrated more true faithfulness in their spiritually cold climate than we have in our spiritually warm one. God warns us:

1 Cor 4:5: “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” 

A Fair Assessment of Ourselves   

There is nothing wrong with a fair and honest reporting of our experiences and even what God has done through us in our service. The Bible records the sharing of results of the gospel as positive things, encouraging the believers, for examples:

Acts 14:27: “When they arrived, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them, and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.”

Acts 15:12: “The whole assembly fell silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul describing the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.”

But all such reporting should remain as objective and self-effacing and humble as possible, pointing to the power and grace of God, and not to ourselves. It should plant a desire in the hearts of the hearers to be used of God. We should not impress others with how great we have been but with how great God is, how great the needs in the world are, and how God can use them. Notice this example of Paul speaking of Epaphras’ ministry among the Colossians, how he put the emphasis on the power of the gospel itself, and not on Epaphras’ personality or talents.

Colossians 1:6-8: “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood the grace of God. You learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also informed us of your love in the Spirit.”

So let another praise you, not you yourself. 

 

 

Authenticity in the Faith, Daily Devotions

Commending Ourselves

June 26th, 2018

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:3-10 NIV)

To the title of this devotional someone would object: “But should we even be concerned with commending ourselves to others?” After all, Paul wrote, “For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends” (2 Cor.10:18). First, we should notice that this verse comes from the same letter of Paul – 2 Corinthians – as the passage above, and, in fact, uses the same Greek word: sunistemi, meaning “commend” or “approve” or “demonstrate.” It is the same word as used in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrated his love to us in this, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

We should not seek to commend ourselves to others in a way that we appear to be something that we are not, or something that we are not by the grace of God. As Paul also wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, “By the grace of God, I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10). Even though much of what he had become was through his own hard work, he was quick to explain this: “I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 cor. 15:10). God had supplied the motivation, the daily power and strength in his life, and the capacity for learning and knowledge. This was so clear to Paul that he could not take any credit for anything in his life – it was all by the grace and unearned favor of God.

But as Christians we still need to know who is who, what level of maturity is someone at in his life, how committed is he, and so on. We need to know this not to judge one another, or to compete with one another, but to see who is sincere and who is not, who we should entrust with leadership and who is not yet ready for it.

Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit, gave us a set of simple standards to use, the same standards that he used. Look at the list above: endurance, hardships, beatings and imprisonments, hard work, purity, going without, yet maintaining truthful speech. Though he was misunderstood, he responded in love and grace, letting God commend him. We see in these words a beautiful picture of a mature and loving man of God. And this is how we commend ourselves to one another, also. Not by boastings, or posturing, or by putting others down, but by sincere commitment to God and love for people, and by letting God commend us.

As a first year missionary, I was asked to lead in the scripture reading for our annual mission meeting in the Philippines, just before our main speakers shared from their hearts. That year we had Dr Baker james Cauthen and his wife, Eloise, as our speakers. Dr Cauthen was the Executive Secretary of the Foreign Mission Board (that became the International Mission Board) of Southern Baptists from 1954 to 1979. At that time they had already begun formal retirement but continued to serve as God gave them strength and opportunities to do so. Dr Cauthen passed away just a few years later.

They had served long overseas in China in the 1930’s and 40’s, and had faced many hardships. Under his leadership, the missionary force increased from 908 to also 3,000. They were great souls. As a young missionary, just thirty years old, I knew my job was to read the scripture and just sit down. What could I possibly say that would be on the same level as what they had shared? I managed to say that I had appreciated greatly their teaching, and then got out of the way quickly.

They commended themselves to us as deep, mature, sacrificial, loving, and mature believers. They had great gifts fo leadership, but they would say like Paul, “By the grace of God we are what we are.” They impressed us with their humility and dependence on the Lord, with their compassion for us, and with a lifetime of service. Have you been in the presence of people like this? Can you become someone like this?

Of course, shallow people will always admire the least important things about us. They will be impressed by positions, talents, knowledge, and power. Though we should love all and let God do with them what he wills, it is also true that the shallow people are not always worth our time or energy. But the people worth investing in will be impressed not by the surface things, but by commitment and endurance of hardship, by humility and genuine love. This is how we are to commend ourselves to one another – for then surely it is God who had sustained us.

Authenticity in the Faith, Daily Devotions, Dealing with Difficulties