Tuned To An Out-of-Key Piano

Posted: May 11, 2010 by Josiah Batten in Christian living, Reform, The Church
Tags: , ,

Yesterday my mother was helping my little sister tune a guitar. I know very little about tuning instruments. I know there are knobs you twist on the top of a guitar, but beyond that I’m pretty useless. There’s also a key, not a literal key. But a key that sort of sets the standard for how the instrument should sound. The key tells us what A, B, C, D, etc… as individual notes ought to sound like. It could be another instrument that we know is well-tuned. But to be more accurate we could use some sort of digital key that always produces the same sound, because other instruments can get out of tune. If you try to tune your instrument according to one that is out of tune you’ll just standardize the out-of-key sound, you won’t actually get rid of it. As it turns out, my mother was using a piano to help tune the guitar. But our piano is really out of tune.

In the spiritual classic The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer utilizes this analogy in discussing unity in the Church. If we as Christians try to constantly tune ourselves to one another, we risk being off-key in any area in which our friends are off-key. We may try to achieve unity by more and more fellowship, but there’s the risk that in doing so we’ll simply risk conformity. Conformity isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s a great thing as long as we’re conforming to the right standards. The thing is we can’t rely 100% on others to live by the right standard.

The solution is quite simple: We have to be tuned to God, not to each other. This isn’t to say we can’t learn from each other, nor is it to advocate a rugged individualistic Christianity. It’s simply to say that true unity is most effectively achieved when all of us as individual believers decide to pursue God and tune ourselves to Him rather then to just tune ourselves to each other.

Consider that in tuning to each other we’ll inevitably have differences of opinion and preference. It’s a recipe for disunity. But in tuning to God we have no option of having a different opinion, He’s right and we can either align ourselves with Him or be wrong. But in that case there is no room for opinion or subjective preference.

God doesn’t give us the option of loving one another. It is something we must do, to not do it would be to walk in disobedience to our Lord and Savior. Likewise gossip is a matter in which our opinion doesn’t matter. We’ll either live up to God’s standard, or we won’t; but in either case let’s not come with some false pretense of it simply being a matter of opinion.

Dear Friends, I am bold when I say these things because I know you have seen my life. You have seen my failures as well as my successes. I don’t say this with any air of superiority, I say it as one who fights in this same battle every single day.

I believe one of the great dangers facing us today is a willingness to affirm sound doctrine mentally, but to ignore it practically. The Bible is the inerrant and inspired Word of God, our sole guide for faith and practice. Mentally I think most of my readers will agree with that. But what about practically? Is the Bible really our sole guide for practice when it comes to loving people we find personally annoying? We claim to want unity in our fellowships, but we’re unwilling to get over our trifling disagreements and grudges. How can God take our prayers for “unity” seriously under such circumstances? We claim we want to “be real”, but we constantly put on a grand cinematic display of religiosity not matched in any theater in America. We want to “be real”, but we won’t align ourselves with God in Who the very nature of reality is rooted. My good friend, AZ, has frequently pointed out to me that the cry to be real is a cry for God, because God is reality!

I’ll admit I find it very odd that when I talk to someone individually about these things there will be unanimous consensus, but when we get into groups everything falls apart. It becomes very apparent that we weren’t really serious about seeking God. But in the heart I know I was serious, and I know those I talk to were as well. What happened? We tried to tune ourselves with the wrong key.

In Acts 19:13-20 we read about people who were sorcerers that have come to believe in Christ. In obedience to God they bring their scrolls of sorcery and burn them, completely ridding themselves of the evil thing. The scrolls they burned totaled about 137 years worth of an individual’s wages in that day. Given a yearly salary of $30,000, that means they burned what we would value as $4,110,000 worth of scrolls.

I can’t help but think a similar demonstration of sacrifice might help us in the present day. Granted, we don’t have sorcery books (I hope!). But most of us have something that keeps us occupied enough to keep us away from God; or we have a favorite activity that consumes enough time so that we’re not focused on eternal purposes; or when we get together with friends we just suppress our desire to engage in truly spiritual things, and we do so in the name of “fellowship.”

It’s such an easy trap to fall into. I fall into it frequently, and based on my conversations I think most of my readers will admit they do too. But the fact that it’s mutually committed doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable, and we’ve got to tune ourselves to God and not each other if we really desire to see any improvement in this regard.

I’m not entirely sure where this is going to lead. Personally, I think over this summer I’m going to be kissing video games goodbye. I’ll have to attack other things as I see them.

With love,
Josiah

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