Some years ago in Nashville, TN, my parents knew a preacher who received a Saturday night phone call from a woman who wanted to be baptized. She had been attending church and wanted to become a Christian. She also happened to be staying in a motel in a bad part of town. The preacher, thinking more about the woman’s soul than anything else, went to the motel and baptized her.
Later, the preacher wondered what would have happened if anyone had seen him go to the motel room of a woman late on a Saturday night. And in a part of town he and the members of the congregation would not ordinarily visit, no less. To be honest, visiting a seedy motel in order to baptize the woman wouldn’t have sounded like a plausible excuse. While it was indeed the truth, it could be very easy to make assumptions if a person didn’t have all the details.
Assumptions can be disastrous when they are divorced from the truth. There are several assumptions we might be to make about ourselves, almost on a daily basis. One is that we are our own authority. We live in a society where autonomy and freedom are prized, and nearly worshiped. But the God of the Universe is the ultimate authority. We see that the authority of Jesus is recognized during his ministry on earth (Matthew 8:5-9). We see that even Jesus recognizes the authority of the Father (cf. John 19:11). This makes it especially important to recognize God’s plans for us as well as the church, especially when it comes to worship.
The second assumption we make is that we aren’t all that important. Human relationships are full of uncertainty, and this can and does extend to our relationship with God. Maybe it is the result of a low self-esteem, or just poor treatment by others in general. But God makes it unmistakably clear that humanity is important to him (Genesis 1:26, 31). He enters into a covenant with his people and expresses his wish that they remain faithful and enjoy life as a result (Deuteronomy 30:19).
The third assumption we have is that God is distant. Some of this is our own fault. We allow a myriad of concerns and activities to crowd our schedule so that there is little time for Bible study or prayer. In his book The Case for Faith, Lee Stroebel interviews Sir John Marks Templeton, a billionaire investor who established the Templeton Prize. The prize is awarded annually to one person who has worked to bring together science and religion. Templeton was a member of the Presbyterian church who later left the faith. When Stroebel’s interview turned to discussing Jesus, Templeton admitted, “I miss him!” And then he wept. But it was Templeton who moved, not God. We have to be careful that we do not go and do likewise.
In the case of each of these three assumptions, there is a deficiency in how we view God. When we assume that we are the authority, we put ourselves above God. When we assume that we aren’t important to God, we show that we don’t trust his promises. When we assume that he is distant, we are denying his clear professions of love and concern for his people. Our job is not only to avoid these potential pitfalls, but help others to the same.
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