Jump Start # 2035
Romans 2:21 “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal?”
It was a most strange phone call and request. Someone called wanting a friend to be baptized. That’s always exciting news. In the course of talking, it was revealed that the caller was no longer walking with the Lord. He did not feel worthy to baptize since he wasn’t right with the Lord. I asked, “What’s keeping you from getting back with the Lord?” A long, sad story about family, divorce and complicated issues followed. Then came the sobering truth, “I know I am lost. I won’t go to Heaven, but I’m trying to help others.”
How odd? How strange? I want to save others, but I, myself, won’t do what is right? It’s hard to tell others about the value of worshipping the Lord when one doesn’t worship. Our actions speak much louder than our words do. Why should someone listen to the words of someone who isn’t willing to put the Lord first. Their example shows that when at the intersection of what is hard in life, and a choice must be made between following the Lord or doing what is convenient, your example and your words, show what you have chosen.
Paul’s words to the Romans echo so true to us today. Our words sound hollow and empty when we are not willing to do what we are telling others. Preaching is easy. Living the message is what’s difficult. Standing behind a pulpit and telling others what they ought to do is much easier than showing others what to do by your godly example.
There are several layers of application:
First, in the home. Mom and dad can preach all they want about language, but what choice words do we use when upset? We can tell our kids not to watch shows that are indecent, but once they are in bed, do we watch similar shows? Practice what you preach. Kids can read inconsistencies. They can see that you tell them what to do, but then you get to do whatever you want. That’s not the way it ought to be. We must follow Christ. We don’t get to do whatever we want. We have denied ourselves, taken up our crosses and followed Him. We make it our ambition to please Him. You are setting examples in your home. Practice what you preach.
Second, in the church. Elders are to be examples to the flock. Flawless they are not, but they ought to do what they say. Preachers need to listen to their own sermons. It’s easy to find a passage about hospitality, forgiveness or being busy in the kingdom, and tell others that’s what they need to do. But are we out there setting the example for others to see. Do they see us busy? Do members ask, “I wonder what the preacher does all week, or is it obvious by your example?” There should not be expectations for some that are not there for others. The kids of preachers and elders ought to behave themselves, as well as, the kids of all the members. Young people can really set the tone for a congregation. Enthusiastic, joyful, smiling and helpful, they can put a smile on an old gump’s face. They can get others to sing out, by their example. They can be a spark plug that becomes just what we need.
Do you practice what we sing? We sing, “Bless be the tie,” about our fellowship. But is there that one person that we still refuse to talk to? We sing, “Oh, how I love Jesus,” but if the games on, I won’t be at services. Are we doing what we are singing about? You who teach another, do you not teach yourself?
Third, in our personal lives, it’s hard to help someone when we are in need of help ourselves. It’s hard to remove that speck from a brother’s eye, when there is a log sticking out of our eyes. Specks need to be removed. They irritate, bother and make things difficult to see. However, the logs in our eyes prevent us from being of much help. We don’t go to a broke family member for advice about saving money. We don’t go to an overweight co-worker for advice about diets. We don’t go to a non-Christian for advice about living for Jesus. Those things are obvious. So, when it comes to needing help with marriage, who are you going to ask? The single guy? The newlyweds? The guy who is divorced? On, the couple that has been married for decades and shows all the signs of a strong, healthy relationship? You want to grow in the Lord. Who do you ask? The person who barely comes on Sunday? Some website you find on Google? One of the elders, who has demonstrated decades of devotion, teaching and experience in the Lord?
Those of us that preach and teach realize that the toes that we step on the most are our own. Our words echo not just through our ears, but through our hearts. The words that we teach will either pull us away from temptation or they will close our hearts and we live the life of a hypocrite. Some have done that. It shocks the congregation, but long before the truth came out, there was distance being made between what they were saying and what they were doing. They were not believing what they were telling others.
The words of that phone call stayed with me for a long time. “I know I’m lost.” Why won’t you do something about it? It’s not like having a terminal disease and nothing more can be done. He didn’t have to be lost. He held his eternity in his hands. He had the opportunity to turn the course of his life. The choices for him were too great to make.
You that teach, do you not teach yourself? Solemn words. Words that we do well to dwell upon. Words that can make a difference in our lives. The first pupil, the first student, the first person in the pew, is ourselves. If we can’t change ourselves, how will we change others? If our words do not move us, they will never move others. It begins with self.