No, not the best man I know…

No, not the best man I know… May 22, 2011

One of my favorite works of Christian literature is A Man For All Seasons. I think every Christian who appreciates excellence and beauty mixed with truth should obtain a copy of this play, based on the life and death of Thomas More. It’s written by Robert Bolt. It’s not a long read, and it’s incredibly well written. I highly recommend it if you have yet to read it. There are many great moments of dialogue, but one of the most profound things More himself wrote actually never made it into the play. He said “I never intend, God being my good Lord, to pin my soul to another man’s back, not even the best man that I know.”

Christians talk a lot, and rightly so, about the idols of the world. We look around us and see people exalting all manner of things where Jesus Christ ought rightfully to be lifted up instead. And sometimes they are other people. We call them celebrities. But I think Christians can be guilty of the very same thing. I’ve seen a secular news outlet describe one pastor as being “like a rock star,” and it disturbs me to think that perhaps many of his fans would not feel the slightest misgiving over that connotation. It is a tragic thing that many pastors in the Church today are deliberately cultivating a style of preaching and a style of “theology” designed to win over more and more such “fans.”
But the point I’d like to make today is that idolatry doesn’t have to be this obvious or this dangerous. In fact, it may start very innocently and naturally. We all have those favorite singers and preachers who seem to be strong men of God, whom we deeply respect and admire. We spend a lot of time listening to and thinking carefully about what they have to say, because we think we can just see God’s light shining through and from them.
This is where Thomas More’s words become applicable. The sad truth is that because man is fallen, we may try as hard as we can to place our trust somewhere secure, but we are not always borne out in our judgment. Does this mean we should suspect everybody and trust no one man more than another? Absolutely not. God gave us discernment and common sense for a reason, and it is a good thing to take wisdom from those leaders he has blessed. But, we must remember where our hope must ultimately lie, and it lies not with any mortal man, no, not the best man we know.
Paul Washer is a preacher I’ve been learning to respect very much lately, but he himself warns against this very kind of thing. The clip I’ll share with you today contains a lot of wisdom on the topic, and I’d encourage you to watch it through. It’s from an interview that was taped a couple years ago where he answered questions people had sent in. As a Christian, I feel convicted by the complete honesty and humility I see here. (Note: The last couple of minutes are related to a side question and aren’t as pertinent as the rest of the video, although excellent for what they do address.) My favorite part might be 11:45 to roughly 13:00, when he talks about his greatest fear as a minister.

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  • Gaithermusicaddict

    Thanks for this eye opening post sis! If there is a person who is guilty of idolising other people, it is I. I idolise Bill and Gloria Gaither so much that I lose sight of what they preach through their singing. I repent, and I pray to God that I don’t fall into the same pit again. I’ll keep my gaze fixed upon Christ, the author and finisher of my faith. Thanks once again sis YGG.

  • You’re welcome! I’m glad it blessed somebody. I’m confident that Bill and Gloria themselves would want you to keep your focus pure, and it’s a very good thing that you’re striving to do that.

  • Melissa

    Great post, YGG. I too have been guilty of a tendency to worship the messenger more than the Message, and sometimes it’s a struggle to direct my focus back to the One who truly deserves it. I think part of my problem is that I have that unfortunate human preference for the concrete (i.e. the here and now), rather than the abstract (i.e. must be taken on faith alone). Take, for instance, my favorite gospel group. They are actually accessible in a reality-based sense: I can go see them in concert, talk to/about them via blogs such as yours, be their friend on Facebook. Many other people have based their belief in their salvation on the conviction that they can get to heaven on the coat-tails of the honest and undoubting faith of their much-admired parents and grandparents. In this prove-it-to-me world we live in today, it’s harder than ever to reach into one’s innermost being and find in ourselves that childlike faith that Christ not only requests but requires — and so we hitch our buggies to those stars who so clearly have their eyes fixed far firmly than we do on the things of heaven rather than the things of earth. But the real reality is that those who we would tend to idolize must be utilized as an example of Christ-centered service, rather than merely being targeted as an end unto itself. Easier said than done, but to do any less is to jeopardize our eternal future and ultimately make a mockery of the sincere efforts of those very people we would seek to elevate to pedestal status.
    Thanks for making me do some real spiritual consideration on what would otherwise have been a more-or-less wasted Sunday afternoon!

  • You’re welcome! I know this blog is technically about southern gospel music, but I really want to carve out space for a variety of topics, especially faith. It’s good to know someone appreciates that!

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