Now any veneer—any front that I put up will hinder that reflection of the image of God. Professionalism will hinder it. Anything that I add to the reflection of God will hinder that reflection of God. Ministry must involve no clever tricks. As Paul says, “no hocus-pocus.” There must be no dishonest manipulation of the Word of God. Paul could say, “I am what I am by the grace of God.” He never would say, “I am what I am by the training of Gamaliel.” Or, “I am what I am because I have prestige.” Paul summed up all that which he was by natural heritage and said. “I count the whole thing a heap of garbage. I’m just plain Paul, by the grace of God” [Phil 3:8].
You couldn’t see anything in Paul’s life that wasn’t either the recipient of, or the expression of, the grace of God. We’ve painted him up, added robes, made him wonderful and well-trained; but you never can bring Paul to the confession of anything other than the grace of God. He’s just frank and open.
I’m convinced more and more that one of the surest signs that God is working in us is that He is pressing us to be completely honest! All the profes-sionalism has to go. Sometimes when we pray we’re not quite honest. We pray with the intent that another will be impressed and recognize that we really know how to pray. We display our activities that So and So will receive some impression which we inwardly know is not quite true. We want him to get the best picture—to see the good side of us. So we’ve got a good side and a bad side. The only one who sees the bad side is our wife or husband, and sometimes the children! We surely wouldn’t want anybody else in the church to see that dark side.
You know what happens when God breaks us down to complete honesty? First of all, it is a terribly embarrassing thing when others begin to find out that we are not really what we have pretended to be.
When the Lord begins to do this deep unveiling in one, and then another, and finally several together, it often seems to be the breakdown of everything. But, eventually, you come to realize that it is the beginning of everything. You can’t go forward with God until there is this frankness, this openness, transparency and honesty. So God must break you down until you are willing to be utterly exposed.
The Lord wants to get me exposed until I am willing that you know exactly how I act on the job, how I act behind the closed walls of my home, how I act under pressure with my children—because, it is the same way I act in the church. Finally I realize I am to get off “my little stage” and quit acting. Every hour of every day in every place there must be a transparent seeing of “me.”
You know, if this should really happen in the churches in this land today, most of them would fall to pieces. What a shock we would get—and what a shock we would be to others around us. For example, here is someone whom the church considers to be the most agreeable person around. Outsiders do not know what goes on at home, but his children do and his wife does. Many seem to question why his wife and children do not draw closer to the Lord. Why do they seem so cool and unresponsive to spiritual things? The reason is quite obvious when you get beyond the outer veneer. They have seen through the sham—the unreality. Wife and children are unmoved because father has not been inwardly moved—to live in real honesty. So God must devote His time to stripping away all our pious superficiality. He must get us down where we’re just plain Joe —without any glossy varnish; just plain Mary—without any bright, artificial makeup.
Perhaps you have been impressed by your winsome preacher—his effectiveness in the meeting, but wonder at his complete failure as a husband or father. You see him as seemingly responsible in the pulpit, but everybody knows he doesn’t handle responsibility well at home or on the job. Or—maybe nobody knows about these failures, yet inwardly he does; and he secretly despises this sham and hypocrisy. For all of this God has just one answer: complete exposure!
This complete honesty—so imperative in spiritual ministry—is not something you have on Sunday. It’s not something you have just in the prayer closet. It is not something outward, for God requires “truth in the inward parts.” Once you begin to walk in complete honesty, you find out what a necessary and beautiful thing it really is. And what a relief not to have robes to wear around all day! The farce is gone; you are living an open life—transparent before others all the day long. No longer are you afraid to be unveiled—for now you have nothing to hide or cover.
Again and again in the meetings in Santa Fe, Argentina we’ve prayed: “Lord, take away all pretension; just let us be unpretentious.” Often it takes a pretty long while to work all that pattern of deception, strategy, maneuvering and artificiality out of us. But the Lord is working Why? So He can see Himself!
And now let us consider the second essential in spiritual ministry. Verse seven speaks of this priceless Treasure we hold, so to speak, in a common earthen jar. What a shock to our ego. We are just a common clay pot, not even a pretty earthenware jar. Surely not an antique! But look at what we have in this clay pot—a priceless Treasure: the Lord Jesus, Himself.
Oh, this is something! Think! We have Him—this priceless Treasure in a common earthenware jar. And the reason becomes so clear: we are to show that the splendid power within (the jar) belongs to God; it is not of us.
Paul explains: “We are handicapped on all sides, but we are never frustrated” [v.8]. Yes, if there is anything that frustrates people, it is handicaps. Listen—as the talk often goes something like this: Well, you know Sister So and So. She’s just wonderful; but me, I’ve got three children. What can I do? I’m so handicapped. They just drag me—wear me to a frazzle! It’s more than I can handle. And so the handicaps seem to eclipse all else—and the little clay pot forgets about the Treasure within.
Part 3 of 5. http://www.OrvilleSwindoll.com