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Tell me if you can relate to this:

I wake up on a Sunday morning to preach at a church I’d never been to before, but which has a reputation as being very grounded in the Word, and filled with incredible, godly people. On mornings I preach, I usually arise with a mix of excitement/trepidation, and take hour-long showers (during which time I preach the sermon twice to my soap bar). I have a certain knack for preaching, and have seen wonderful fruit result.

But on this particular Sunday morning, I awake with dread. Dread because I’d sinned the previous night. Not an inadvertent, careless sin, but a premeditated, planned, and despicable sin. I knew exactly what I was doing when I’d started doing it, yet ploughed on anyway, relentlessly. So I awake this Sunday morning and lie in bed, loathing myself. Any other Sunday, I would feel wretched enough to not even attend church, let alone preach; but because I have made a commitment to the church, I grit my teeth, put on my suit, my eyes staring back at me in the mirror dark as black ice.

I am feeling like the complete phony as I pull into the church parking lot, the total hypocrite. But that’s not the worst. I stare down at my sermon notes, and it’s like some other person wrote it. I don’t believe a word of it, it seems like religious baloney. When I walk into church, I am greeted by a few people. It’s my first time as a guest speaker at the church, and I know the importance of making a good first impression. And can I tell you something? I’m good at the game. I can flash smiles with the best of them, charm them silly; I know how to give off the aura of godliness/friendliness/humbleness.

And I like the people I meet. Suddenly, I want to preach. But not with a godly motivation, but rather with the basest and most callow of motivations – I want to dazzle them, impress them, make them think the world of me. And so during the worship, I’m getting excited, heart-beating faster, eyes beginning to shine. Then comes the time. I stand up, walk to the pulpit. I open in prayer, start my sermon.

I am brilliant. My delivery is perfect: my voice trembles at just the right time, my eyes glimmer with tears just so, my cadence is rock solid. I can see the people sitting before me hanging on my every word: I own them. I know just how to work them, and before long their eyes are wetter than mine, their hearts pounding faster and harder than mine. When it is over, when I am sitting back in my car with the fat honorarium in hand, I am gloating with the public adulation, bloated with the incessant praise which came my way afterwards.

Am I despicable? Am I an absolute charlatan? Or am I just like any other pastor prone to the sinful tenancies of the flesh? And before you castigate me too much, put down your whip and hear this: how many of you have preached with sin hanging over your head like a dark cloud, how many of you have preached with a sinful motivation, how many of you have preached while having a profound disconnect with the material you cognitively know is biblical?

Am I worse than most? or just a normal guy having a particularly bad Sunday?


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