[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]
I love the beauty of wood. The providential symphony of rich textures. The divinely choreographed grains. The celestial concert of variegated colors. What a privilege for the woodworker to take a solid chunk of this great material and turn it into a work of art, to sculpt from the palette of the Creator! What a pleasure it is for me to gaze upon furniture or cabinets that are demonstrations of God’s incredible creativity in the measure of wood.
Unfortunately the demand upon this beautiful resource has made these materials more and more scarce, and thus they are used more seldom. The solution has been to take a thin sheet, a veneer of this attractive wood and laminate it over a much less expensive base layer. The end result is a product, which on the surface appears to have the integrity of this valuable material through and through when it is in fact, only a façade.
Sadly, when moisture, severe elements or stress are introduced this layer fails, only to reveal the truer character of the object.
I have a strong concern as I apply this concept to many in the visible church. On the surface some appear to be followers of God, professors of faith in Christ, but…under the surface they are base material; there has not been deep genuine conversion – true repentance. These people are superficial “followers” of Christ.
The concern here is that their life does not bear witness to any sort of authenticity, depth, or passion. Christ addresses this chronic condition in Mark 7:6: “And He said to them, ‘Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: “THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.”’”
He is drawing from Isaiah 29:13 written some 700 years before. “Then the Lord said,
‘Because this people draw near with their words
And honor Me with their lip service,
But they remove their hearts far from Me,
And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.’”
May I suggest that God and Christ are identifying those who are “parroting” conversion? They utilize the right words, and maybe even some of the right actions like going to church, helping out etc. but down inside, deep down inside they are not truly regenerate. Their words are superficial “rote” words insincerely falling from the lips in order to deceive; when they in no way represent the heart- they are faking it!
Can I say “Ouch!”? These people are veneers who are not authentic followers of Christ, but “splinter” groups. This hypocrisy, pretending to follow and honor God is not new to the human race!
The reality is that there are those who profess Christ who are indeed regenerate believers. Yes, failing, yes, human, yes, in the process of sanctification, but at the core they have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation. And there are those whose “faith” uses Christian words but do not honor God with their hearts as well, “nominal” Christianity. In other words, one is genuine, the other superficially cultural. Can I say “Ouch” again?
I think Paul has this in mind when he cautions the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test?”
What horrifying words these may be if we are to take them to heart!
Are we willing to look deep down? Can we with full integrity identify ourselves as genuine devoted followers of Christ? Do your words authentically identify your heart? Is Christ in you? Do you pass the test?
If not, that veneer may peel back under the most difficult of circumstances.
I dare say that our culture has made it a little too easy to claim to be a Christian. Our churches too may be guilty of conceding genuine conversion when it is at best, suspect. We would do well to obey the words of the apostle and examine ourselves, do a deep thorough inventory of our hearts as our eternity rests in true, authentic, genuine and sincere faith in the work and person of Christ.
This is one test we want to pass with flying colors.