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Oct 31, 2009

Unlikely Messengers

From the earliest days of my childhood I have memories of my five brothers and sisters and me piled in the back of our station wagon in the dead of summer, driving to church. We were coached on how to behave and how not to behave. All lessons in church etiquette had been drilled into our heads about a thousand times. Our church training pretty muchshh consisted of, “Sit there and shut up, don’t fidget, don’t giggle, stay awake, look interested, and leave your brother alone.” Being quiet in church was everything. If parents could show the world that they had mastered the art of keeping their children quiet during the sermon, they would be considered leading examples in the parent world.

I think the mentality of being on your best behavior has bled its way into the deepest parts of our religion. For most of my Christian life, I beat myself to death trying to be a good example for God. I micro managed my actions and reactions to people and situations because I was terrified of inadvertently causing someone to not get the message of the Gospel. I was taught that I was to be a living example of that message and until I was living it successfully; it would not catch the attention of anyone. Its validity would be drained of its power if it was not reflected in my life at all times. 

When I got to the point where I realized that my mistakes outnumbered my successes, I found myself faking it for the benefit of the message. It felt wrong, but I rationalized that it was okay because at least I’ll be shedding a good light on the message when people see the smile on my face and the love in my eyes. In a very short time, I had learned to act a mecertain way and portray what needed to be portrayed in order to convince people this message was powerful and life changing. All the while I internally beat myself up because I was preaching a message and not being a good example of it at the same time. I spent more time apologizing to God for not being an authentic representative of Him than I did actually talking with Him. 

Finally, I came to a point in my life where I just stopped everything and asked God why He would pick me to spread this truth when He knew ahead of time that I was the worst possible representative of it. I actually quit trying to be on my best behavior. I gave up. I made the conscious decision to just focus on the message and deliver it like I was told. In spite of all the encouragement from others to monitor my behavior in an effort to prove the message, I just delivered it the best I could and left well enough alone.

Most of us have been taught that our actions or inactions are what draw people to Christ. We’ve tried our best not to cuss at work when we get frustrated because we don’t want to “blow our witness” to the others. We decline invitations to meet up with friends at happy hour for drinks, thinking to ourselves that some kind of Gospel power will penetrate their hearts when they notice that we don’t drink. If we take a stand for what is right while all our unsaved friends are watching, they will secretly think to themselves, “I want what he or she has” and they’ll be drawn to Christ.

My opinion of this today is that it’s nothing but arrogant hogwash. 

I always hesitate to discuss this because inevitably there will be someone who will hear the exact opposite of what I’m trying to say. It’s like when I say that drinking alcohol is not a sin. It’s amazing how many people hear, “God doesn’t mind if you get smashed.” The religious-minded person is sure to hear only what their heart desires. 

My question is this: does our behavior really add to or take away from the message ofmessagetruth? Does our behavior make receiving the message of truth more or less difficult for people? Is the truth of the message compromised if we don’t adequately represent it? Do we “win people to Jesus” by our abstinence from sin? Is our “witness” really a changed life or modified and moral behavior? Is that what compels people to swallow this message?

If you really consider the mentality that most of us have been raised in, it is amazingly arrogant. To even think that our behavior adds to or subtracts from the message is downright silly. At the very least it shows a personal lack of understanding and revelation of the message itself. It reminds me of the Christians who feel it is their job to guard the truth and stand up for the Bible. If they knew the truth and had experienced it on any level, they would see how absurd such a thought is. It’s like asking a hamster to guard hamstera lion. It doesn’t need guarding. It stands on its own. To think that we add to its authenticity one little bit by our actions is ridiculous. 

I always found it interesting how God would choose the worse possible representative to deliver His messages. He did this all throughout the Bible. God never seemed to worry about how the messenger behaved, as long as he delivered the message. Many times it was as if God had hand picked a messenger that would deliver the message in a way that people would be least likely to receive it. It was as if God were saying, “If there is anything that can stand in your way from you receiving truth, I will stand it there.” God’s choice in messengers seemed to suggest that He was testing the hearer of the message to make absolutely sure the message was in their heart and not just something they agreed to out of peer pressure or ignorance. God put "crazy" between the people and the truth to make absolutley certain that people wanted the message more then they did anything else.

God had some of His prophets acting like lunatics on a regular basis. They were offensivecrazy to people around them almost every time they delivered a message. Some of them actually hated the people they were delivering the message to and they didn’t want them to receive it. Jonah was angry when the Ninevites took heed and repented because he wanted God to kill them all. Even John the Baptist was a crazy man who lived in the wilderness. He was a person that people would be least likely to listen to. How ironic that God would choose a homeless, smelly, screaming guy from the desert to prepare the way of the Lord. 

I am not talking about the tone in which the message is delivered. The tone IS the message. I’m talking about the behavior or the “sin record” of the one delivering the message. 

I have come to the conclusion that the message I preach can stand quite well on its own. Those who recognize it would have recognized it if I had delivered it in a foreign language while high on L.S.D. I don’t know of one place in the Bible where God was at all concerned with the speaking ability or communication skills of the messenger. He never looked for men or women who were sinless or who had a good reputation in the community. Today we act like our life must reflect the message, and if it doesn’t do so in every way, we will have negated the truth of the message. That responsibility is more than any human being can bear. 

I sometimes feel that because of our modern day manipulative view of “messenger etiquette” we have found a way to deliver the message in such a soothing and shrewd delivermanner that anyone would be enticed. Like a dog whistle, we’ve given it a pitch that all humanity is drawn to, so that the masses can receive it. It has become a science of psychology that entices the carnal senses of the listener. Unfortunately, they aren’t really receiving the message. They just fell victim to an expert delivery by a brilliantly trained closer. Their stay will only last as long as the sweetness of the delivery lasts. The moment the messenger fails or acts human, these people lose their faith and disappear. 

Pastors spend their every waking hour tending to a flock of sheep who were enticed by the neatly trimmed presentation, the flawless spiritual temperament, and the soothing sound of the messenger's voice, but never recognized the voice of the message itself. Our modern day mass market mindset relies on the ability of the messenger, rather then the message itself. It’s not the voice of the message they hear; it’s the voice of the messenger. It’s not Christ they see; it’s an actor playing a role. In the end we have a generation of Christians who aren’t even sure what the message of the gospel is. 

This is precisely why people today judge the truth of a message by the person delivering it. If the messenger sins or misbehaves in any way, people get nervous and uneasy. They no longer know what to believe. Everything rests on the shoulders of their pastor. He or she must be perfect or else everything they say will be discarded and burned. This is a very sad picture of where many of us are today. Many well-meaning people decide to keep their mouths closed because they don’t feel they are worthy to deliver the message of God.himThey are waiting for a time in their life when they sin less and love more. 

The message that we believe in is NOT an “IT.” The message is a HIM. If this is true, it stands to reason that nothing we do in our lives will make Him any more or less powerful. He IS the truth. He is the truth if Billy Graham tells you about Him or if Charles Manson tells you about Him. When we take it upon ourselves to prove any part of the message to the world we are denying its truth and authenticity from the get-go. The notion that we have to prove any of this is pure faithlessness.

 

Darin Hufford


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Comments

  1. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    A close friend of mind just emailed me worried that I wrote this article because I was about to make a huge announcement that I had sinned in a big way. Nothing could be further from the truth. I thought that was pretty funny. I seriously wrote this because I feel that people put too much pressure on themselves and they spend more time condemning themselves for not being perfect and to little time just believing in the message they stand for. I really want to free people up from this way of thinking.

  2. Gravatar
    Silas

    An excellent and important article Darin! Someone's "sin record" here in rural Virginia IS EVERYTHING to the fundamental Christians born and raised around here. Perhaps that's why half the community spends a majority of it's time 'shunning' the other half of the local townspeople. Not to mention news that a local pastor fell into sin with a young woman travels faster than greased lightening...good topic!

  3. Gravatar
    vincent

    hey thanks for that! i was visiting my parents and i am still ashamed i hate the message of my church ... i am still ashamed to admit i am struggling with the people i lifted sooooo high ... i wonder how long it will be before i can just bloody admit i am disgusted by the way people ACT ... since i have become an Oscar winning actor material myself!!!!

  4. Gravatar
    out of the fog

    Hey Darin, thanks again for your gifted way of expressing His truth. I am realizing slowly now how the freedom we have in Christ is just being and knowing Him, rather than spending all of our time and energy in self condemnation for not being perfect. I still struggle with thinking I have to pay God back for such a wonderful gift, but it is just more brainwashing to be reversed. It is no longer a heart struggle.

  5. Gravatar
    Al Newberry

    How about this: Hey, if God can love THAT guy, He must be pretty amazing.

  6. Gravatar
    Alison Defreitas

    Thank again, Darin, for telling the truth in its all its simplicity. And for being so real.

  7. Gravatar
    lionwoman

    OK Darin, out with it, what did you do? ;-D Seriously, your remark about parents who had mastered the art of keeping children quiet in 'church' brings back a whole stack of memories... ugh...

  8. Gravatar
    debsfree

    It is all about forgiveness and it can't happen until we first forgive ourselves. That means every single time that memory trys to put you down, even 70x7.
    On a few different occasions I had been told that I was too hard on myself. One true friend told me to be kind to myself. These many years later I have taken Christ's and thier advice and highly recommend it.
    Peace to all.

  9. Gravatar
    Don Every

    "When we take it upon ourselves to prove any part of the message to the world we are denying its truth and authenticity from the get-go."

    I'm trying to get a grasp on this Darin. I understand you are against our trying to build elaborate structures to 'support' God's truth but actually obscure Him with our personalities.
    May I compare this with the times when we are filled with the Spirit of God and He shines right out of us, so people see His nature, not mine and all I have to do is flow with the Spirit, loving the Father and the people (and me!). Is this closer to what Father needs of us?

    I ask this becaue I am learning God all over again, after sixty-two years of learning someone else!

    Thanks for the blog(s) Darin, they mean a lot.

  10. Gravatar
    Sandra Cleveland

    I have just heard about your book "The misunderstood God" last thursday and your web site today. all I can say is wow. I read your message you wrote today and all I can say is amen. I am 66 yrs old and started this journey last Oct. a year ago. we are never to old to learn of God's love and His freedom. I have been hard working Bible carring, legalis since I was 20 yrs old, when I got saved. NOW I am learing to walk in God's love and His freedom. WOW Thank you and wonderful others like. In His love ,Sandra By the way Craig and Lori Peterson told me about your book and gave me a copy. Can't wait to read it.

  11. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Don I'm not sure I understand your question here. Can you rephrase it for me? I'm a little slow:-)

  12. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Sandra, thank you so much for this. How exciting life is. I'm so happy for you. It feels like it's the first time you actually met Him. Feel free to email me personally if you would like to be friends. I answer all my own emails and I would love to be your friend. darinhufford@cox.net

  13. Gravatar
    myso

    Wow! This is amazing - all these precious people from the old generations comming hear, using internet, posting comments, feeling the same unity. Could it be that His Spirit is with us, uniting us in this beauty? Generations that would normally have probably very little in common.

  14. Gravatar
    Kevin

    Darin
    You should have really messed with your friend. Told him that you had been having an affair with a midget. We know how you like midgets :)

  15. Gravatar
    Kevin

    Don, if I may speak for Darin, I think I would explain that quote by saying that our need to prove the message or try to explain it will actually do more harm than good. The salt loses its saltiness, if you will. The message can't be told, only heard. Him who has ears let him hear. I too have had these times where my zeal gets in the way, I want to see a friend set free and I try to explain that they need not feel condemned. But they can't hear that, they don't hear me speaking freedom but rather disappointment. So they in turn work harder. They beleive in their self-righteouseness. The feel as if God is pleased in their striving. So I just got to love them where they are.

  16. Gravatar
    TLC

    I think the behavior issue is similar to that of the literal meaning of the Bible. People get so focused on the details that they forget to look at the overall picture. Just like Bible mis-users can twist a few words into a totally incorrect meaning, you can micromanage your behavior and drive yourself (and others!) crazy with your nitpicking.

    My family is in the midst of a whopping feud now, and I am happy to say I have NOTHING to apologize for: no screaming, cursing, lying, backstabbing, or other wrongdoing. But my behavior doesn't seem to carry much weight. It sure hasn't stopped my mom from lying about my brother and me so she can be RIGHT.

    I think the EARS of your heart have to be open to the message, or you'll never hear it -- no matter how it's presented.

  17. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    I believe there are many times where people can see the character and presence of God in our eyes. Even His glory can shine through our eyes when we are loving others. I've had many people tell me that they can actually see Christ in me when I talk to them. When we take this godly manifestation of his presence through us, and present it as proof of the message we are delivering; we begin a slow path of painful destruction. The message we deliver does NOT hinge on God being seen clearly through us.

  18. Gravatar
    Bob Greaves

    If the message cannot come through while we are exactly who we really are then the message is worthless.

  19. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Yes Bob. And I think that many people have become experts in PRESENTING God through animated theatrics rather than just delivering the truth.

  20. Gravatar
    Fani

    Isn't the question whether we have indeed recieved the message and what the effect of one receiving the message is? When you recieve the religious etiquette is that recieving the message or recieving a shadow of the message?

  21. Gravatar
    David Backus

    Romans chapter 7 displays this beautifully. One thing I love about the apostle Paul is that he is brutally honest, warts and all, and he doesn't care who knows it. He will state that he was the chief of sinners. He goes through a play by play depiction of his battle with the sin nature in Romans 7. I suppose if being well behaved made you more qualified, Paul shouldn't have ever had a single letter in the Bible!

  22. Gravatar
    Kate

    An interesting thing about what happens when we are connected with our own hearts is that people will see that in our eyes. An experiment was done with newborns. A blind fold was put on mom while mom smiled at the newborn. Newborn had no smiling reaction. Blindfold taken off mom's eyes and mom smiled again and guess who smiled back. I can look at some of my school pictures and see the forced smile with my eyes that held pain in them. It really is amazing what we can see when we look eye to eye.

  23. Gravatar
    Jason

    There is a great joy, peace, and freedom that comes to a person when that person comes to see, understand, and know that the gospel is so much more than words coming out of a person's mouth. The gospel is also so much more than the actions that we present for all the world to see. The gospel is Jesus Christ; and His story, life, and present word/Spirit/power explain and justify itself. The gospel has always been most powerful coming from weak, uneducated, counter-cultural people because it is simply Christ alone that allows people to see and understand the gospel. we are vessels; it is the gospel (namely Christ) that draws men to awareness/repentance. We do little to to nothing in winning people to Christ; it is Christ through-and through.

  24. Gravatar
    gary

    Just a very humble comment. I enjoyed listening to Darren on the God journey. I enjoy the God journey everyweek. I agree with a lot of things I hear. But I see Darren, Brad, and Wayne kind of becoming like the people they disagree with. When listening to all 3 of you, I don't hear any humblness, it's like there is no possibility on some issues you may be wrong. I know that's not your hearts, but it sure sounds that way sometimes. Blessings, looking forward to reading your book, I have already ordered it. fyi-this comment has nothing to do with this blog posting or really that one God Journey episode.

  25. Gravatar
    Darin hufford

    Gary, in the days of the institution people knew to not act like they KNEW the truth without a doubt because no one knew anything for sure. It changed from week to week. Sometimes it would change several times in one sermon. You were considered arrogant if you claimed to know anything for sure because all that we knew was something someone else told us. Admitting to that was what we called, "teachable" in the old days. The difference between then and now is that I have actually met the Father now. It's no more arrogant to speak like I know Him then it is for you to speak your own name boldly, knowing it's your name. If we all subscribed to this way of thinking, Jesus, Paul, Peter, John and all the other NT writers were arrogant too. It's just not so.

  26. Gravatar
    David Backus

    There are those who think they know the truth, and those who do. I have been accused of being smug and told that I am not necessarily always right. If I am wrong, I know Father will correct me with no problem. However, when i am right, I know it. People have a hard time with those of us who know we are right. We do come off as arrogant, I agree, but 2 + 2 will always equal 4 regardless of who says it.

  27. Gravatar
    Jim K

    I'm getting to be an 'older' reader too. What an encouragement it is for me to see the 'Kevins' and 'Jasons' answering our comments! Thanks guys!

  28. Gravatar
    Cheri B

    I am a 42 yr old mother of 3,raised in a drug, alcohol, and violently abusive family I took on the filthy garment and wore it with all the shame it demanded, I wish I could report that I have shed it completely, I cant, I can however say that because of people like you Daren, and your relationship with our friend Jesus that now when I give in to the cravings I no longer turn away from him, I turn to him. I lost my eldest daughter a few years back to a heroin overdose, she was 16. The young man who injected her is in prison, I look forward to the day when us three embrace each other in heaven wrapped in love and forgiveness, my younger gay brother has been diagnosed with H.I.V., he'll be there too. I know a lot of other 'crazy' people with heaven as home I love. Because he loves.

  29. Gravatar
    Becky

    12 years ago I attended a 'missions' college. The funny thing was that before i went to that college I would find myself probing people - asking them what their purpose was on this planet (sometimes whilst at work, sometimes whilst a little bit tipsy at the pub) While I was at the missions college I started to get paranoid that I might start speaking heresy. I started feeling really inadequate and insecure about 'my ability'. I also began to wonder what Jesus truly did. I contemplated leaving college cause I couldn't act. It was too great a burden and I'd been stripped of simplicity, so I was confused. Ha ha, it was then that I saw what Jesus had truly done for me (everything). It was like I 'became' a missionary to the missions college. I didn't last much longer there :)

  30. Gravatar
    Liz

    Thanks Cheri for a little of your story. Even those of us who don't appear 'crazy' really are deep down. We are all deeply loved though and that's all that matters.

  31. Gravatar
    xmar

    Great post. I spend a lot of time telling people not to confuse Christianity with Christians. Too often the church is like a hospital, full of sick people needing healing all trying to create a sterile environment while spreading their diseases among themselves, waiting for one over-worked doctor to tend to their needs.

  32. Gravatar
    Shaun

    Darin,
    I just learned about you from listening to the God Journey. I really enjoyed both podcasts that you were on with them.
    I think you are dead on with the post. I know my actions Have little to do with what is going on inside of me and that is the real change that Christ brings to our lives. It's when I do the wrong thing and I realize that I am wrong or when my heart or reaction has suddenly changed and I can't explain why I feel differently, I just do.Truly our outward actions can't take away or add to the validity of the Gospel. Thanks for sharing this and I ma so glad that I am finding more and more people who are on this same journey. It's pretty cool actually being free.


    Cheri,
    Thanks for commenting,
    I believe our struggle & weakness is the weight of our individual story

  33. Gravatar
    Kevin

    For the longest time, our church did not have a regular children's program meaning that the little kids were expected to endure 1 hour of worship and announcements before they could go to a class. To be frank, I didn't give a crap, I just let my kids run around and carry on like well like little kids. Yeah, I know, I could have got the children's service going myself, but some other people owned that....

  34. Gravatar
    Kevin

    I loved your analogy of a hamster guarding a lion.

  35. Gravatar
    Vivienne

    Darrin, while I agree that we don't have to try to be perfect while presenting the message, I disagree that people won't judge the truth of a message by the person delivering it. I was told that my grandfather refused to become a Christian because he had two employees who claimed to be Christians who were not very good workers. He remained a devout Buddhist his whole life. Also, Gandhi reportedly decided not to become a Christian because the racist South African church turned him away from their doors. So our sin can turn other non-Christians off to the gospel message. However, as you have said, if we show a heart that is actively loving God and people despite our imperfections, love will cover over a multitude of our sins and will draw others to the gospel message.

  36. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    I honestly think people use that as an excuse. If the actions of others get in the way of a person seeing truth; that person never knew truth to begin with. If you know spanish and you're looking for someone who speaks spanish it won't matter if they're drunk, or sober, fat or skinny, screaming or whispering, happy or sad. You'll recognize truth the moment you hear it because it's already in you. Jesus ALWAYS put the responsibility of the message being received on the hearer of the message; not the deliverer. I do think it sucks how bad Christians present Christ don't get me wrong. I think a lot of people won't even listen to the message in order to hear the truth because of that. I agree with you on that point.

  37. Gravatar
    jenny

    Yes, you don't hear about people refusing to enjoy the football because hypocrites go there, or even refusing to be athiests because they met bad athiests.

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