By Dr. James C. Denison
President, the Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, Texas
May 11, 2010
Topic: true godliness
Duct-taping a beast
In Gulfport, Mississippi, trappers have captured an 800-pound alligator. You can watch them catch the 12 foot, nine-inch creature on CNN. They used a forklift to take the beast out of the water, but first they duct-taped its jaws shut. Why? The commentator explains: “While gators exert enormous pressure clamping down, it takes very little pressure to keep those giant jaws shut.” If only that were true for the rest of us.
Today’s Newsweek website tells us that Gordon Brown might still be Britain’s Prime Minister if it weren’t for the fact that he is “thin-skinned, tantrum-prone, and woefully short on the charisma that endeared the public to Tony Blair.” His description of a voter as a “bigoted woman,” caught on a live microphone during the last days of campaigning, was probably his final undoing.
When was the last time you said something you wish you hadn’t? Or didn’t say something you wish you had? James didn’t mince words: “the tongue…is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. . . . No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:6-7).
Even harder to tame than the tongue is the attitude which is often unspoken but nonetheless dangerous. Yesterday a very dear friend reminded me of T. S. Eliot’s maxim, “The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right thing for the wrong reason.” On those all-too-uncommon occasions when I say what I should, my words don’t count if they don’t express my heart. Aristotle was right: “What is a crime for a person to do, is a crime for a person to think.”
Here’s the good news: the Holy Spirit stands ready to shape our thoughts, words, and actions according to our Father’s will for his children. What is that will? “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:29). The Spirit has the power to make me more like the Son to the glory of the Father.
But I must cooperate. Oswald Chambers reminded me yesterday that “we are in danger of forgetting that we cannot do what God does, and that God will not do what we can do” (My Utmost For His Highest, May 10 reading). The Holy Spirit will make my thoughts and words and actions as godly as I want them to be and no more. He wants me to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), but I must agree.
The God of the universe can tape my jaws shut, but only with my permission. So I choose to begin this Tuesday by submitting my mind, words, and actions to my King. Will you join me?