In this month’s issue of Lausanne World Pulse, author Nina Gunter asks the hard question, “Is heart impurity threatening our lives?” Drawing a parallel between having a healthy heart physically and having a healthy heart spiritually, she reminds us that God has provided the remedy for spiritual “heart problems”—his Holy Spirit.
In urging us to live a life of purity and holiness, Gunter, a general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene, says that in order to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, we must first be cleansed. If we expect to live and serve in power, Gunter says, “One cannot have the enablement of power without the purity of heart….Only when our hearts are pure can we participate in the holy life of God. Only then do we bear the holy marks of God in us.”
What are you doing to keep your heart and mind pure before the Lord—to combat temptations before they become barriers in your relationship with Christ? Do you have an accountability group or communicate your struggles regularly to your spouse or someone close? If sexual temptation or internet pornography is an issue, are you confronting the temptation head-on and putting hedges of protection around your life? Are you using technology tools to block those television channels or internet web pages?
Perhaps you, like me, struggle with pride or easily drift into self-reliance and work in your own power rather than the power of the Holy Spirit. My background is in broadcast news, and in that capacity and through other ministry-related endeavors, I’ve had the opportunity to interview many leaders—both secular and Christian. Several years ago, I heard someone say about a leader, “Well, he obviously believes all his press releases!” What did he mean? Obviously, that leader was living with an inflated sense of self-worth and importance, an inflated opinion that we sometimes see in press releases touting all manner of amazing (and seemingly impossible) feats by people and products.
I’m always amazed at the differences between the public and private personas of people. Seeing leaders on stage or on television can be much different than rubbing shoulders with them at a meeting in the melting heat of the tropics. In person, the once quaffed, cleaned, and pressed leader can look a little sweaty, wrinkled, and a few pounds heavier. We may be a bit disappointed that the person didn’t live up to our expectations on the outside, and we also may be a bit secretly glad because we knew the person couldn’t be all “that” good. But what really counts is, Is he or she who God has called him or her to be—on the inside? And more importantly, are we who God has called us to be?
Are we real? Are we authentic? Are we getting close enough to share our warts and wrinkles with each other? Or do we cover and curl and dye and scent our way to a level of “perfection” that makes real, trusting, authentic relationships with others unobtainable? As leaders, do we express our fears? Or do we instead put on our best outward face, while inside we continue to struggle? By creating these barriers, by going it alone and hiding inside our cocoons of safety, we lose so much—our opportunity to witness to our oneness in Christ, our opportunity to support each other in ministry, our joy in celebrating the successes of others.
Taking that one step further, author Michael Oh warns that there is also a danger of leaders “being fruitful without being pure.” Oh, president of Christ Bible Seminary in Japan, says by isolating themselves from accountability, leaders may instead be judged on their “numeric success” (such as congregation size and attention by the media), instead of on long-term sustainable results. He exhorts us,
“(to) humble ourselves before God and before his people…give proper focus and attention to our purity and holiness…understand and live our lives and do our ministries with properly desperate dependence upon Christ, and…return to the power and the beauty of the gospel, (then) not only will the Lord bless with personal and ministry fruit, it will be fruit that will endure and bring his name great glory for eternity.”
As you read through this issue, I hope you’ll be renewed in your commitment to have “clean hands and a pure heart.” As a result, may we be able to share our lives together so that we can pray for one another, encourage one another, exhort one another, challenge one another, and live out our lives in Christ in real and close companionship that is pleasing and honoring to the Lord.
And, oh yeah, the next time we meet, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be the one with gray hair!