|Self-reflection feels like a lost art. Self-motivation seems to have taken its place.|
Don’t get me wrong, we all could use encouragement from time to time. There are moments it’s appropriate to self-talk your way to courage and action. Only make sure what you tell yourself comes from a faithful source.
Too much self-motivation is candy to our souls. That makes self-reflection the leafy greens.
You can get buy on candy and, let’s say, processed foods for a while. Sometimes, a good while. Eventually, that diet catches up to your body. It impacts your health.
In Luke 11, Jesus is addressing, in his own words, an “evil generation” (Luke 11:29). What made this generation evil was their unwillingness to see the sign in front of them. Some saw Jesus’ ministry as the work of demons. Others were only impressed by his miracles.
They failed to understand that something greater than Solomon and Jonah was here. They missed the signs of what was happening. An important question we should ask is, Why did they miss it?
Let’s look at how Jesus responds.
He uses the illustration of a lamp. According to Luke, this isn’t the first time Jesus has done this. Back in Luke 8 our Lord reminds us that a light’s function is to shine. Since the light does what it does, Jesus says, “pay attention to how you listen” (Luke 8:18). Sounds strange, I know.
But watch this.
In Luke 11, the lamp still shines so that people can see the light. This time, however, Jesus tells us this: Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light.”
So, we’ve gone from letting the shining light teach us how to listen to now showing us how to see.
But what are we listening for? What does our eye have to do with anything?
Well, let’s get back to our diet. If you get serious about what you put into your body, you’ll go easy on the candy. Likewise, nurturing faithful self-reflection is a wise shift in our understanding of discipleship. The light of Christ shines to teach us more about ourselves. More, perhaps, than we would like. If all you’re looking for is motivation or self-help, you’ll miss the nourishment.
Not to overstate things, but we can get by without self-reflection, but it catches up to us. And, without it, we can miss the work of God happening right in front of us. Jesus says, “Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness.”
Did you catch that?
Consider. That’s reflection language. In this case, reflect on whether the light you have within you is God’s. Don’t kid yourself. That can be a hard conversation to have. It can be easy to fool yourself and others. But if what you’re seeing isn’t right, what shines within you won’t be either.
Thankfully, the light of Christ still shines. You won’t be able to grasp its depth, though, unless you spend time reflecting on what it’s showing you.
|Chances are, you know what it means to “preach to the choir.”|
Preachers say that from time to time. It’s when they’re teaching something familiar to the church. “I know I’m preaching to the choir,” she’ll say. She doesn’t want you to think she thinks this is anything new. How can a pastor spend all week preparing for a sermon and come up with old news? Well, it’s good news, not new news.
I’m sure Jesus repeated himself a few times. We know the apostles did in Acts. It’s only new news if it’s new to you. If it is, you’re probably not in the choir yet. And that’s okay. If I use the preaching-to-the-choir bit, I follow up with a reminder: The choir needs Jesus, too!
Let’s not forget there’s always more to learn as we walk with God. Even the familiar lessons bring us closer to rediscovering the image of God within us.
So, we learn together.
When Paul defended his ministry in Acts 26, someone told him, “Too much study is driving you mad (Acts 26:24)! The writer of Ecclesiastes warns us that “there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). There is a danger of study, we see.
Beware if your love of God doesn’t precede your desire to learn the Bible. We can learn things about God for reasons that have nothing to do with our edification. For example, don’t take pride in reciting Bible verses while moonlighting as a gossip.
Of course, none of that means we shouldn’t study or read more. Psalm 1 calls us blessed if we delight in the law and meditate on it day and night. Psalm 119–all 176 verses!–too, is an affirmation of knowing God’s wisdom. The new believer doesn’t read and learn to prepare for Bible quizzes. He does so to grow in grace and wisdom. When the preacher preaches to the choir, they need to know they should be growing in grace and wisdom, too. Maybe even more so. They’ve got new people to teach, guide and mentor!
Here’s where this is coming from. I love the book of Ephesians. It is the church’s great reminder of the cosmic love God implanted within us. That love saved us and called us.
The writer of Ephesians, traditionally considered to be the apostle Paul, says that Christ is our peace. That is, God didn’t save some people. God saved us all with the peace of Christ. Where there was once a barrier between us, the peace of Jesus has removed it. And here is the line that relates to what we’re reflecting on today: So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near (2:17).
Everyone needed to learn about God’s peace. Even the choir. Today, you and I, no matter how long we’ve been walking with God, need instruction and wisdom. May we never think we’re too advanced to not be inspired by God’s word.