Oswald Chambers wrote:
There are times when it seems as if God watches to see if we will give Him even small gifts of surrender, just to show how genuine our love is for Him. To be surrendered to God is of more value than our personal holiness. Concern over our personal holiness causes us to focus our eyes on ourselves, and we become overly concerned about the way we walk and talk and look, out of fear of offending God. “. . . but perfect love casts out fear . . .” once we are surrendered to God ( 1 John 4:18 ). We should quit asking ourselves, “Am I of any use?” and accept the truth that we really are not of much use to Him. The issue is never of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself. Once we are totally surrendered to God, He will work through us all the time. (My Utmost for His Highest, Feb. 21)
This is a book I’m really looking forward to reading. It’s by Mark Salomon, the lead singer of the classic and influential Christian punk band The Crucified, who set the stage for other bands like The Blamed and Officer Negative, and 90 Pound Wuss. In the mid 90s, he started the Christian rock band Stavesacre, which was originally signed to Tooth and Nail, but now they’re on Nitro records (as in The Offspring).
This is a guy I admire. He shaves his head, and he has a tattoo in Hebrew on his bicep. The first time I ever saw him–it must have been in 1995–Stavesacre was playing a show in Orange County, and they started out with a beautiful, feedback-driven song called “Minus”, which is called that because only three members of the band participate (it is an instrumental and Mark is just a singer). Normally, you’d think the guy would either be waiting backstage, or dancing around like a drunken lunatic, but Mark was standing there in the middle of the stage, with his back to the audience, his arms raised in worship, and his eyes on the cross on the front wall of the church fellowship hall. The sight definitely made a lasting impression on me.
The other day, Relevant Magazine e-mailed me a chapter from the book, and I think it ties in directly with what Chambers was saying about the difference between visible holiness (to be seen by men) and extravagant devotion. Here’s a teaser:
Be it for the praise of other Christians, or just to get them off your back, the desire to have people praise your progress in the faith can be just as vain as the need to be seen as a success by your peers, or society, or any of those other forms of “acceptable” ego-stroking. Since the very essence of God’s grace is that He has given us unmerited mercy in return for our wickedness, ego should have nothing to do with our growth as Christians. I believe that taking pride in driving a better car or having a nicer house than your neighbor is no less a matter of pride as the desire to hear other Christians praise your so-called godliness. While it’s good to encourage others by maturing in your faith, just as the spiritual maturity of those around us is encouraging, it’s also easy to get off track. I’m talking about that need for a spiritual “Atta-boy!” or a better seat in church on Sunday, or the always dangerous acceptance into that inner circle of “church staff.” (No, I don’t think that the position of a church staff member is evil. I just know that if Christianity is treated like a social club, it often has the same entanglements as one. From someone who spent half of his life growing up in churches, I can say it happens, and more often than you might think.)