Monday, June 21, 2010


Lie number two.. "They did it..I should do it also to be truly spiritual."

Back in the days of my hero worship one of the things I grappled with was a mistaken idea of what spirituality was all about. My heroes all had certain strengths that were observable to everyone. That's basically WHY they became my heroes. It was those strengths that made them what they were to my immature way of thinking. Added to that was the belief that if I could somehow do what was so obvious in them then the REAL spirituality for which I longed would be realized.

Take for example Peter Lord. I love Peter and Johnnie, his wife. I had the Privilege of pastoring two of his children when they were in seminary at SWBTS in Fort Worth. I've preached in conferences with Peter, Jack Taylor, Jim Hylton and others who, along with myself, started a magazine called "Fulness" in the late seventies and early eighties which was used of God to reach Southern Baptists with the needed truths of the work of the Holy Spirit in a believers life on a daily basis.

Peter had a unique style of personal devotions that he practiced for years arising at 4:00am in the morning and meeting the Lord. He wrote that formula down in book form and called it the 2959 plan of meeting with God. It was good. The name comes from spending 29 minutes and 59 seconds [2959] in a devotional time each morning before breakfast. [2959 grabs you better than saying 30 minutes] It was used of the Lord in many lives. I got introduced to it around 1970 and it may have been that back then it was just his teaching with the book coming later if I remember correctly.

Now for the problem. None with Peter or his plan. Both are unique gifts from God to the Body of Christ. The problem lay with me. It was two-fold. At that time I was NOT a morning person at all. I didn't even like talking to my wife, much less God, before coffee and breakfast. You think I'm kidding? Ask her. I knew it was the right thing to do, after all Peter did it, but I was NEVER successful in it. What does one do?

I never said I did the 2959 plan to anyone. That would be a lie. But I carried the book with my bible. On retreats I would use it as an example of what people were to do in order to be properly disciplined in the things of the Spirit. I brought Peter in to teach it to all the church folks.

So you ask what's the problem!! I never honestly said I DIDN'T do it. Somehow to say "it wasn't for me" would be tarnishing the glow of a hero and a spiritual man who made it his ministry to assist others in meeting with God. So I kept hiding reality and played a little game of spirituality. [This is all a bit embarassing for me's the truth]

Understand that Peter did not believe that if I didn't do his plan I was less a spiritual man than I could be. That was my private belief system. He would have certainly been shocked, I'm sure, had he found out I held him in esteem as I did anyway. But now multiply this one illustration by many-fold with the "spiritual" men I knew and admired but couldn't do what they so obviously did well to become godly men and you'll catch a glimpse of a sense of falseness that I lived with well into the decade of the seventies.

But remember I said the problem was two-fold. Here is the second fold and the REAL problem. What they did [or did not do] had nothing to do with their being spiritual men anyway. I just didn't somehow believe that. I had accepted the lie that it's what you DO that makes you a spiritual person. But the truth is all believers are spiritual men and women by virtue of the Holy Spirit having done His work of wooing, winning, redeeming and indwelling us. I AM a spiritual being and Christian..SO ARE YOU. [1 Corinthians 2:12-16]

Certain methods are good tools for some, helping them grow up a bit, but may NOT be such a good tool for others at all. It is true that we're all growing in our journey with Jesus in life, but that growth is unique. And it's even OK to admit someone else's method ISN'T for you. In fact, find your own if you wish. Celebrate with others theirs, but NEVER measure spirituality by what you or they do whether it's church attendance, bible reading on a regular basis, performing a 2959plan for a month without fail or preaching sermons every Sunday for a year. You can do ALL THOSE and not even be a genuine Christian. By the same token, our spirituality isn't what we REFRAIN from doing either.

Genuine spirituality is recognizing who you are by the grace of God in Christ. Forgiven, loved, accepted, indwelt, sealed, doted on [New mercies every morning] and when you fail He lavishes upon you His ABUNDANT GRACE as the Father He truly is to you. Of course He disciplines [trains] you when necessary but even that is out of the overflow of His abundant grace and mercy. Then,you can live your life learning to forgive, love, accept, and even lavish grace on people around you because you are this spiritual being He indwells and is being Himself through your unique personality.

While you're going about living life, it might be good to read your bible some, attend church with some kind of regularity, have seasons of prayer if you choose, though real prayer is a lot like breathing, it just happens when you know whose you are and know He's with you intimately.

In fact, enjoy ALL of life. It's all yours anyway according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23. But for goodness sake..celebrate being yourself. He's already got someone like them. [Whoever your heroes are.]


Bob Cleveland said...

Wow. Wish I'd said that.

I bought a lot of the "formulas" early on, but learned pretty quickly that I'd rather follow God's instructions than man's conclusions.

The only guy I ever really wanted to emulate was a Sunday School teacher who'd just open the Bible and teach it. Man, I loved to hear him teach (late 60's/early 70's).

Chris Ryan said...

After the "Purpose Driven Life" craze, I thought I had learned this lesson.

Of course, like all good lessons, it was one I had to learn over. And it is one I will probably have to learn again.

But my inability to remember it doesn't make it any less true. Thanks for a much needed reminder.

Becky Dietz said...

Paul, I had to laugh. I remember a pastor coming to FBC Borger 20 years ago teaching his method of getting up at 4 a.m. and praying for an hour. He didn't just teach it---he pushed it. Quite angrily, in fact. Later, we'd gone to dinner with John & Marilyn K. and I remember Marilyn saying, "I know why he's so mad---he gets up way too early!!" We all cracked up!

Aussie John said...


Oh,yes!(with red cheeks)

"Genuine spirituality is recognizing who you are by the grace of God in Christ. Forgiven, loved, accepted, indwelt, sealed, doted on [New mercies every morning] and when you fail He lavishes you with His ABUNDANT GRACE like the Father He truly is to you. Of course He disciplines [trains] you when necessary but even that in out of His abundant grace and mercy. Then, live your life learning to forgive, love, accept, and even lavish grace on people around you because you are this spiritual being He indwells and is being Himself through your unique personality.


Paul Burleson said...


You have said it. I've heard you say it in more ways than I can count.


You've brought up an interesting point. All the lessons we learn generally have to be relearned don't they! I guess how often depends on how deeply that particular lie runs in our lives. With some lessons I feel I'm still in Kindergarten.


I heard that guy His sermon was entitled "No bible no breakfast."

I'm just kidding, although I DID hear a message preached entitled that one time, pushing the same measurement of spirituality. Oh well...

Aussie J,

Now you are sharing the embarassment I was feeling writing and remembering this kind of childish stuff. [With red cheeks.] ;)

Aussie John said...


Brother, I am blessed to be embarrassed in your company.

My embarrassment came quite a few years ago when I woke up to the fact that the systematic theology to which I adhered, even though utterly Biblical on matters soteriological, on everything else, we were training up the first of Abraham's sons ("Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the freewoman").

A visit to a conference in the N.E. of the USA, which I mentioned some time previously,showed me in living color, a picture of what the tradition to which I belonged had been doing to our congregations, and why so many so-called traditional Sunday meetings, are nothing more than religious clubs.

Like you, "I had accepted the lie that it's what you DO that makes you a spiritual person." Of course, the answer is what you supplied, "But the truth is all believers are spiritual men and women by virtue of the Holy Spirit having done His work of wooing, winning, redeeming and indwelling us. I AM a spiritual being and Christian..SO ARE YOU. [1 Corinthians 2:12-16]"

I pray that the Holy Spirit will be poured out on the many who are still in that bondage to tradition, formulas, head honchos, pyramid structures of "YES" men, and "what we've always done", allowing them to become children of "the freewoman".

Rodney Sprayberry said...

I discovered in my own journey as a believer not truly knowing who I was in Christ left in me a gaping chasm of self-awareness. Funny thing…when there is uncertainty in identity there is no option left but to become” a great pretender.” You know there is a deficit in between what is and what “should” be. You are acutely aware of shortcomings so you pretend, hide, copy (hero worship), over-compensate, or medicate

Augustine spoke of a God shaped void in each of us and most of the believers I know interpret that in terms of non-believers who need Jesus but IMHO, I think that hole…that hunger…that void is God’s way of leading us to embrace Him as our source of sufficiency, meaning, and acceptance through Him alone.

Louis L’Amour would often put words in the mouths of his characters that said something to the effect of “It is a difficult thing to live with awareness.” I think I know what he means.

Self-awareness (saturated in the Grace of God) is an amazing thing. Living life (and doing ministry) out of that self-awareness is a liberating thing. Getting there is the difficult part because in the words of C.S. Lewis, “We are far too easily pleased.”

There are other issues of course. First of all that journey rarely occurs on a straight and smooth road. Secondly, (Sorry of the fairy tale plug!) acknowledging that the emperor has no clothes (and everyone else is also running around naked) is quite disconcerting for any of us to admit. Third, (Now the movie plug!) the Matrix is all we know (and many times what we have been taught) and the decision to take the red pill leads through what feels like death but is the only pathway to life.

However, I believe the biggest hindrance to reaching that place with God and self is in a strange sense…a twisted form of pride. Psychologists call it grandiosity. It occurs in two ways.

Concerning inadequacy…
I really do not believe that God loves me (the real me not the fake me). I really do not believe that God can use me (the real me not the pretend me). Because MY mistakes are too big…MY sins are too entrenched... MY heart is too hard… MY background is too messed up….MY effort is not enough…the list goes on and on.

Concerning self-sufficiency…
MY efforts are enough. MY choices determine destiny. MY strengths... MY knowledge… MY power or control… and so on.

In other words, MY inadequacy or MY self-sufficiency (rather than Grace of sufficiency in Christ) become the (seemingly) most influential/controlling aspect of life. But, when the awareness of the deficit is acknowledged (with grace applied) and the sufficiency of Christ is embraced something changes. Maybe that is when the truth of Romans 12 really occurs. God redeems (transforms) my unique individuality (warts and all) for His purposes…life… Body function… service to the World.

Paul Burleson said...


A very very insightful comment. Thanks you.

From the "FWIW" department..I own every book written by Louis L’Amour and have read them all..most of them mulptiple times.

Paul Burleson said...

Make that "thank" and "multiple."

Rodney Sprayberry said...

I have a quick question since I am late to the party concerning your first post on hero worship.

There seems to be a distinction drawn in several comments about the difference between worship and honor, respect, and mentorship and rightly so

There is also in this post a recognition that believers should embrace our individuality an uniqueness.

Though I think I know where you would go with this, I thought I would ask.

What do you do with...

I Corinthians 4:16
Hebrews 6:12 and 13:7
I Thessalonians 1:6 and 2:14

Paul Burleson said...


I am of the opinion that believers ARE to follow/obey/remember ANYONE who has been gifted and anointed to exercise their gift for the good of all. [Men and women]

Several things the language always seems to indicates to me as I study the passages you mentioned and others...

1. It is to be with an eye on their behavior [conversion which means 'way they walk..not talk.'] There is never to be blind obedience to anyone. That is exactly the problem with hero worship. It NEVER evaluates the behavior of their hero with a critical [discerning] eye.

2. It is always an internal choice of any believer to follow after evaluation. [The language itself indicates this using hupotasso generally.] If there is, in fact, PRESSURE on others to obey/follow from the one who is the leader, it automatically is to be discerned by a keen-spirited eye as not being Spirit led leadership.

3. It is to be a receiving of a leader or an anointed one as a gift from God. Paul told the Corinthians just that so no one [anointed leader] is EVER to be elevated as greater/better than the other leaders.

4. It is true that leaders are never spoken about in the singular in the leadership of the church. Leaders spoken about in the plural however.

5. It is true that leaders in teaching the Word ARE to receive a double honor. [Because the Word is so important for the growth of the whole body.

6. Finally, all leaders are to see themselves as a servant not a boss to the body. There is ONLY one HEAD and we know who that is.

Rodney, I really believe when someone else is leading in a gifted way [In the church I pastor] I'm to follow them as they are to follow me when I minister as a gifted pastor. I truly am to be a servant/ leader. But so is EVERY member of the body in their giftedness.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

I wonder what would happen if churches (all relationships for that matter) really embraced this concept?
Maybe that is some of what Paul is getting at in Ephesians 5 when he says to submit one to another....

Paul Burleson said...


You've pointed out what I believe to be the very BASIC problem in modern day church-life today. We are, in fact, more cultural than Christian. What would it look like indeed!! It would be radical to both the religious [Even SBC religion] and non-religious.

Barbara Phillips said...

Brother Paul, Thanks for that. Several years ago I came to that same conclusion, and of course I am still coming to that conclusion everyday. Thank you Jesus for revealing the TRUTH to me several years ago and for you Brother Paul for reminding me of it.

Paul Burleson said...


If I'm thinking correctly, this is your first time to comment on vtmbottomline. If so, I hope it won't be your last.

Facebook friends and now co-conspirators in commenting on blogs. Let's keep both going strong. ;)