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The Great Fake

February 28, 2011

Have you ever been lost in praise and worship, just singing it out with reckless abandon?  I was recently and a funny thing happened…I heard myself.  My reverie was done.  It was enough to make angels double over while plugging their ears.  It’s almost impossible to worship after hearing yourself that far off key.  Who can keep squalling when you know the lady in front of you is going to be turning around in about two songs to meet and greet you?  You’ll know that she knows that you sound like a cow.  Since I couldn’t sing anymore I had to worship quietly and began to think.  That can be a terrible distraction in church, that thinking.  I’m standing there with my arms bent at the elbow and palms upturned while I pray a mumbled prayer under my breath.  I do all that while I think about writing this.  The fact that I can lift my hands in prayer while I think about anything but worshiping God is what I’m thinking about.  As I stand there “worshiping” I’m thinking how deceptive our appearance and words can be. A couple of things had happened earlier in the morning to set my mind down this path.

During our pre-service prayer meeting I was not being very animated.  I was praying, sure enough, but wasn’t screaming or anything.  One of the ladies came in and started praying pretty loud.  She told us to “Come on, you need to stir up the Spirit within you!”  I assume she meant Spirit and not spirit, but either way, why?  I’m not sure that we should be stirring up the Spirit within us.  Timothy is asked in 1 Timothy chapter 1 to stir up the gift of God with him, but that’s a far different thing.  I don’t want to stir up, or work up anything.  I can.  In fact, I can stir it up with the best of them, but I hate to.  I hate trying to stir up emotion or fervency.  Isn’t that what she asked me to do?  She asked me to be emotional.  I can be in the Spirit without being emotional or loud.  For me, stirring up emotion in prayer makes me angry and tired and steals my peace.  I read a story once of a basketball player who got angry and slammed his head against the goal post.  He slumped to the floor with a broken neck.  That’s how I feel when I try to stir things up.  I feel that at any moment my soul is going to slump to the floor with a broken neck.  I cannot recall one instance in my life where I worked up the Spirit and witnessed some lasting change.  My change moments have come in the quiet when God dealt with me and not me with Him.

At the end of our pre-service prayer we were singing a song.  One lady wasn’t singing so the one who told us to stir up the Spirit asked her to sing with us.  She wasn’t rude or anything, she was encouraging.  But about two seconds later the lady doing the asking was texting.  I’m not saying that she was being a jerk.  The problem isn’t even whether or not she was being a jerk.  The problem is that she was “being” anything.  That is one of our many problems in the Church today.  So many of us are more preoccupied with “being” something than just following of Jesus.

This is ingrained in our culture of church.  Pastor and writers are constantly hammering us with the idea that we can be better, that we should be better.  We’ve got so many 5 step books and sermons out there on how to be better that it’s branded in our conscience.  But the effect is the opposite of what is intended, I think.  The intent is to tell people they can do better, but the result is to tell people they are not good.  This is just one glaring example.  Another example is what I heard the other day.  A globally known speaker to youth spoke at my church.  His topic was sex and sex addiction.  That’s a much needed topic of conversation in today’s world, but this guy brought more guilt than grace.  His point was that if you look at pornography or have sex before marriage you are gross.  He went so far as to compare those who do these things to zombies.  I wanted to pull up Matt Chandler’s “Jesus Wants the Rose” sermon on youtube and take it to him.  I’m getting off topic, but the point is that this kind of preaching doesn’t reach to the root of the problem.  It causes people to avoid the problem and appear good.  It’s so ingrained and some are so good at it that we take it as gospel.  It’s not.

One last example and I’ll bring it home.  I saw a quote from A.W. Tozer that say’s this, “Go to church once a week and nobody pays attention.  Worship God seven days a week and you become strange.”  Says who?  I don’t know where this comes from but most would just accept it, get motivated and start acting like a Pharisee.  I don’t know, maybe it’s just me but I think it’s wrong headed thinking.  I guess people most often reference 1 Peter 2:9 to support this.  It’s the “a peculiar people” verse.  Being peculiar does not mean weird.  And it sure doesn’t mean being different for the sake of being different.  We are going to be different from the world if we are truly born of the Spirit, but not because we look different or even act different.  We are going to be different because we live for something other than ourselves.  The whole of 1 Peter 2:9 goes like this, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”  This chapter does go on to talk about keeping a good appearance before unbelievers.  The interesting thing is that the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to speak of doing and not of being when keeping a good appearance.  The summation of verse 12 is this we are to do good deeds so that God will be glorified.

James 2:17 speaks of faith being dead if it has no accompanying works.  We often translate this, because of our experience, to mean that we’ve got to do stuff since we’re Christians.  We may not mean that we have to do stuff to earn our salvation, but we often do it under the assumption that we must in order to maintain our salvation.  So we dress a certain way, talk a certain way, pray a certain way, and end up fall out of the narrow way.  We get tired of the charade.  It’s not that we’re lying.  To lie about something there has to be some forethought.  We have been deceived, through ignorance I hope.  Still, we’ve been fed a line that says these works are somehow related to how we look or how we personally go about revealing God’s excellencies.  What James is saying is that we do not earn, or keep, our salvation through works, but we earn our works through salvation.  It is not something that we can work up from the outside in.  It is something that is born of the Spirit from the inside out.

Let’s go back to 1 Peter 1:9.  We are called out of darkness into marvelous light.  In Galatians 3 Paul called people foolish who would think that somehow they could make themselves worthy of salvation.  1 Corinthians 5:17-18 says that if we’re in Christ (saved) we are a new creation.  Old things have passed away and new things have come.  All of these new things are from God.  That means that my desire to walk with God and pray in the evenings is from Him.  It means that my desire to write and speak of Him is from Him.  I am a new creation made by God.  I can be who He regenerated me to be.  If I don’t want to shout during pre-service prayer because I’m in different place at that moment, than I won’t.  If I don’t want to sing anymore in praise and worship because God is dealing with me about something than I’ll be still and listen.  We were made into what God wanted us to be.  It’s this person that He wants to tell the world of His excellencies, not who we think we should be.  To me, trying to be good and who I think I’m supposed to be is darkness.  If you have this urge to paint your face and play the drums while singing “Amazing Grace” with a top hat on your head it could be that God wanted to see and hear that.  That’s a little strange but you get my point.  You may have some crazy idea that pops in your head from time to time that you keep pushing back down.  “That can’t be from God because songs are supposed to be about Jesus”, or “That idea for a book can’t be from God because it’s not evangelistic enough.”

We spend so much time being who we’re supposed to be that we don’t do any doing.  It’s the doing that God cares about.  Our goal should be to know Christ and Him crucified and not to know how we should dress on Sunday morning.  Just be who you are, seek God, and do what you feel inside because God probably put it there.  Probably is a big word, a very big word.  I say probably because I don’t know if you have fully surrendered your will to Christ and it’s not for me to judge.  If Christ is not your savior, your center, than you can’t be sure about anything.  That’s one reason why Paul says in 2 Corinthians to “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail the test?”  If you can honestly say that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, that you have placed all that you are in His hands, then you can stop worrying about how you’re “being”.

We as a Church have got to stop deceiving ourselves that our outward actions or appearance has everything to do with our inward reality.  There would be far less division and strife if we were as concerned with what we were doing for Christ then what we looked like to others.  Pray as you pray, worship as you worship and let your work be born from who you are in Christ.

So much of what we see in the Church is a great big fake out.  It’s the worst kind of Jesus juke.  We are forcing ourselves and others to behave in a way that is unnatural even for ourselves.  The Church is a beautiful thing and our churches are beautiful are a beautiful representation of the Church, but we can do better.  Let’s not dishonor them by forcing them into an arbitrary mold.  Don’t you think we’d be more effective by letting Christians be who they were re-born to be?  Am I the only one that feels this way?  Have you ever heard yourself sing off key?






From → Preachy Thoughts

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