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Private Practices, Public Power

1 · 06 · 23

When I was younger, I could not see the correlation between privacy and power; I thought I would have all the energy and wisdom I needed when I needed it. I wasn’t until I got a little older, mostly through failure, that I took my private time, and what I did with it, more seriously.

Why Is Our Private Time So Important?

In psychology (as well as many other disciplines) there is what is called the iceberg theory. If you’ve ever blurted out something that caught you off guard and later asked, “where did that come from?” you see the iceberg principle in effect. What was seen was the “tip of the iceberg”. What wasn’t seen was all the things beneath the surface that led up to that moment.

This principle is true in faith. What we see in others is what others want us to see, the ten percent. What we don’t see is how where they are investing the other 90% of their time.

I believe the 90% of what we do in the shadows produces the 10% of what others will see.

“All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” –Blaise Pascal (1600’s)

Our private time is a way to balance the demands between our private and pubic lives. What we do when no one is watching is what comes out when everyone is watching, for good or for evil.

There are people who don’t like to be alone or alone with their thoughts for mental health reasons, but I think the vast majority of us do not like to be alone because there are no distractions, we are forced to face bigger questions like

“Why am I here?”

“What is my purpose?”

“Is there a God?”

“And if there is a God, what does he want from me”

In our private time, or alone time, the truth becomes much clearer and we’re not fans of that because we’re exposed, yes only to ourselves and God, but the purpose of truth is not to shame us but to humble us and to bring us to repentance and a course correction in our lives.

The Leaven of the Sadducees

How many times have you see someone exposed, online or in the news, for saying something publicly that was not true privately. In an in-consequential internet incident (that seems to happen every five seconds, followed by an apology video,the self-proclaimed “Liver King” said that eating raw organs and meats was why he as so jacked. It was revealed, and he eventually admitted, that he was taking steroids.

His goal, as is the goal of everyone steeped in lies and hypocrisy, is to sell something that does not work or is not true.

The question, we must ask ourselves is, ‘Does my private life and pubic life coincide or are they vastly different? If so, what I trying to sell?”

If private time is for anything, it is to recognize the bad actor trying to get out.

Combating Hypocrisy

Jesus says plainly, in Luke 12: 1,2, that hypocrisy is the leaven of the Pharisees.

 zumé – leaven (spreading influence)

Beware the spreading influence of the Pharisees

the word hypocrite, hypokritḗs, in the Greek means,

like a performer acting under a mask

Hypocrites are those whose profession does not match their practice.

Greek performers would wear masks to heighten their performance and we are all equally guilty of donning the mask to make sure everyone is happy, people like us and is buying what we’re selling.

Our private time is think time, prayer time, mediation time an opportunity to bring two selves together into one and that one self into Christ.

Jesus calls out the Pharisees in a list of Woes in Matthew 23

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.”

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.

They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues  and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

Jesus calls out the Pharisees not on bad theology but on practices.

Jesus offers 7 Woes to the Pharisees in Matthew 23

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’

How Do You Handle A Hypocrite?

Consider who Jesus is directing these woes to; he is speaking to the ones who make the rules, not the ones who follow them.

Everyone, is a hypocrite at one point or another. We all have our moments. You will see it in churches, the people you share this home with, but they are not the ones making rules and forcing you to uphold them or else. They, like you, are fellow travelers.

Consider the man born blind. His parents were afraid of the Pharisees, afraid they would excommunicate them if they said anything good about Jesus, even if they knew Jesus healed their son. That’s why they said,

“ask him yourself, he is of age”

How do you handle the hypocrite? If they are one of you, you love them. You try to bring them around, gently. Often times our dual nature comes out because we’ve lost direction and we are afraid, afraid of being cast out of the community, for some, the only community they have ever known.

If it’s those in power, attempting to pull the wool over your eyes, you vote them out or stop supporting their ministry. You call it out as Jesus did.

Maximizing Your Private Time

Private should not be for self-loathing or to do as the midivil monks would do and beat themselves with whips trying to purge themselves of their sin.

I believe private time is a chance to capture the duality of our nature, good and evil, flesh and spirit, etc. and catch the hypocrite and the liar in each of us that is trying to wiggle itself into our public lives.

If you have something called a devotion time, that’s awesome! Devotions are typically 15-30 minutes of spiritual activity such as reading the bible, prayer, journaling, etc. I’m not here to tell you how to have your devotion time, only how to maximize it.

Instead of using the “check the box”method of devotions,

scratching the surface

  • read this verse or chapter (but not too much)
  • pray this prayer (but not too long)
  • write in my journal (but no too personal)

examine going deeper

  • examining your hearts in light of the scripture (to produce change)
  • listening for the Holy Spirit in prayer (for comfort and conviction)
  • responding to the Holy Spirit’s leading

I am not saying YOUR devotion time or private time has to look anything like this, what I am saying is that, if you are a Christian, you can’t afford to trivialize what you do in your private time as it will, eventually, play out publicly.

Where’s the power?

Many Christians see private time, devotion time and even church time as a way to “power up” their spiritual lives. I agree that there is the power of joy and love that we experience in our spiritual practices, but what allows us to publicly display this joy and love to others?

The popular narrative of gaining power in public through private practices sounds like you should be able to attack hell with a water pistol. I would submit that humility, not confidence (or hubris) is the real power gained in private.

How was Jesus able to endure so much punishment at the hands of his enemies, Philippians tells us,

rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[a] of a servant,
being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,

Philippians 2:7-9

It was Jesus’ humility that allowed him to wash the feet of his disciple and to suffer the indignities of the cross. It was the confidence his Father gave him from the time he was baptized to the Garden of Gethsemane and all the other times Jesus chose solitude over the crowds or even his small group of disciples.

Consider your private time, humbling time. Once you’ve sat down, prayed, read and allowed the Holy Spirit to search your heart (Psalm 139:23,24), allow humility to wash over you.

The real power I hope you experience in your private time is not the power that you can do something but the humility to embrace that you can’t do anything without Christ. God is your strength and hope and not yourself. Without him we can nothing.

Practice: Draw It Out

Draw an iceberg on a piece of paper. Show the 10% others see and the 90% others do not see.

Make a list, above the surface, of what you want others to see (yes, you can answer Jesus)

Now, below the surface, make a list of private practices that are producing what you want others to see.

Are you happy with the what lies below the surface? What changes might you need to make?

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