Living for the Audience of One

What does it mean to live for an audience of one? Part two of my look at The Call by Os Guinness.

In “Episode 31 – What does it mean to be called?” we looked at the first part of Os Guinness’ book, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God’s Purpose For Your Life. The main point is there is not calling without a caller, and that caller is God. It follows naturally that if the One who calls us is God, then we should live in a way that honors Him above all else.

“A life lived listening to the decisive call of God is a life lived before one audience that trumps all others—the Audience of One.”

Os Guinness, The Call

Have you ever been in a conversation and added a comment that seemed innocent at the time, but later you felt convicted about it? I’ve done it more than a few times. I’ll drop a little comment in, and later think, “Why did I say that?” Maybe I felt insecure in that moment and needed to let the others know that I’m special, too.

And what about defending ourselves? Especially when we feel we’ve been unjustly accused or insulted. There’s a need to save face, to defend ourselves, and maybe even to belittle the other person. It’s easy enough on social media. I can find a source somewhere to back up my side of the story, and it often provides an added swipe or two at the opposition. Right or wrong, the flavor and intensity of my response may indicate my focus has shifted away from the Caller.

Audience of One

One danger in today’s world is that we are so connected and easily distracted. And at the same time we are more anonymous than ever. No longer tied to each other in physical community, our personal relationships are often based on what we choose to show to others, not what they see of us in real time, in real life. This can be a great temptation, as we can do or see whatever we want because we can’t be seen or held accountable. Who’s watching? Who will know? The message today seems we can do whatever we want.

Remember Joseph in the bible? His brothers sold him and he became a slave in Egypt. Then, God gave him favor and he was promoted until he was in charge of Potiphar’s household. Joseph was handsome, and Potiphor’s wife made advances. This was a woman used to getting whatever she wanted, yet Joseph refused. But what did he say? Listen to his words.

“No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”

Joseph, Genesis 39:9

Joseph is responsible for Potiphar’s household. He’s been trusted with everything. But he says “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” Joseph’s audience is God. He lives for God. He carries his responsibilities in a way that honors God. He respects Potiphar, but he understands if he does what this woman wants, it’s God he must answer to.

And what happens? The woman lies; she falsely accuses Joseph and Potiphar throws him in prison. That’s in Genesis 39, if you want to read it. But you can see Joseph’s mindset. He knew who his audience was. The audience of One.

You may also like:  Chickening IN: From Fear to Courageous Faith, with JJ Gutierrez

Conceit and Pride

One of the refreshing things about The Call is that Guinness addresses the distortions and dangers of calling. The reverse side of calling, he says, is conceit. Truth can be distorted, and the most effective lie begins with a sliver of truth.

The closeness between calling and conceit is easy to see. After all, to be called is to hear God whisper three things to you in a hundred intimate ways—“You are chosen; you are gifted; you are special.” Let those three things sink in for longer than the first precious moments and you will inevitably hear another voice, honeyed and smooth: “Yes, you really are chosen . . . gifted . . . special.”

Os Guinness, The Call

If we let that second, subversive whisper take hold, we elevate and deceive ourselves. Above others, and even above God, the very One who calls us. This conceit isn’t limited to individuals. Groups and even nations can follow this distorted, malicious whisper. It is the very nobility of calling, Guinness says that makes us vulnerable to pride: “The twisting of our highest aspirations will be twice as evil as the twisting of our lowest.”

The twisting of our highest aspirations will be twice as evil as the twisting of our lowest. - Os Guinness, The Call

Again, we who are called are vulnerable to pride even as we claim the audience of one. Why? Because the audience of one is not God, but ourselves! It is possible to think so highly of ourselves that we look down on others so that we do not care what they think. If the Audience of One is us, we’re in a dangerous place.

The Remedy

What is the remedy for pride? It is grace. When we understand, through grace – that we are called only because of God’s grace. It is not something we’ve earned or purchased for ourselves. We are unable to call ourselves. God does it, It is by his grace alone. When we understand that – not only in the head but also in the heart – then we know enough to be on guard.

When our focus is on the crowd, the Caller’s face gets hard to see. His voice can be drowned out in the melee. Not only when we get caught up in disagreements, but also when we perform. How much time and energy do we spend churning out memes and polls and quotes and questions, merely out of fear our social feed will fall into oblivion? Who is this performance for? We can look to Jesus for the answer– he went off by himself and called his disciples to come away from the crowds for times of rest and quiet instruction. In our busy lives, are we too important to step away for awhile and meet with the one who calls us? To seek His face and wonder at His majesty? To let Him teach us how to be what He has called us to be?

Action Steps

  1. Read Matthew 6:1-4. Why does Jesus require that our good deeds be done in secret? 
  2. Let’s take time each day to offer our callings back to God. If we allow Him time and space to examine our heart’s motives, we’ll be less vulnerable to the subtle changes that lead us off course. 

Did you get Part One? What Does it Mean to be Called?

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