Where Image Is Everything

19 11 2013

How would you finish this sentence:

You’re a good Christian if…

This was the question put to us by the leaders of our Overcoming Obstacles to Intimacy With God study. The responses were interesting. Here are a few of them:

You’re a good Christian if you…

read your Bible

pray

go to church

don’t drink, dance, smoke, or chew

don’t cuss

don’t watch “R” movies

only listen to Christian music

are always nice

“have it all together”

The one thing these answers have in common is that they are all focused on a person’s image.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not against these things. In fact, without some of them (like time spent in the Word and talking with God on a regular basis), spiritual growth is impossible. However, I want to look beyond the surface and examine the why.

Lists like the one above were referred to as a “bounded set” – you know, the “(xyz)” in an algebraic equation. If you think about it, there’s a set for just about any group of people who gather on a regular basis:

Homes have one.

Every aspect of society has one.

The workplace has one.

Extended families have one.

Even bars have one!

There are certain behaviors that are expected, others that are tolerated, and some that simply will not be put up with.

Is this a bad thing?

In many cases, no. The laws of our land, for instance are there to help maintain order. Without rules at home, life would be chaotic.

“So what’s the big deal?” you may be wondering.

Again, the focus is on behavior, not the condition of the heart. 

Here’s what Jesus had to say about this matter:

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

“You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish so that the outside of it may become clean also.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

“Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:25-28)

(Are you still here?)

So much for “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” eh?

The point He was trying to make is that other men look at our outward appearance…

…God sees beneath the skin right down to our motives.

I get the feeling that our “good Christian” images don’t impress Him.

We each know what’s going on under our own hood; however, no one wants to pop their’s first and let others see the greasy mess inside!

Instead we put on our “Christian” mask and attend the weekly “play” on Sundays.

I’m hitting this one kind of hard because it is absolutely deadly to an intimate relationship with God.

After all, Who’s the One with the Big Black Rule Book?

Or so we believe.

We are certain that the stakes are high. Acceptance and approval are on the line.

“If I tell you who I am

and you reject me

what else have I to offer you?

In Philippians 3, Paul gives us a rundown of his credentials, but then he states:

“But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I considered everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for Whose sake I have lost all things.

“I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (vs. 7-11)

Tomorrow we will consider how a “Christian” bounded set can hinder – or even prevent – intimacy with God.

**********

We’re discussing the Obstacles to Intimacy with God. If you missed the beginning, it’s here:  C’mon In… (The posts between these two are on this topic as well. 🙂 )

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18 responses

24 11 2013
Julie Garro

I’m glad you wrote this. I think many still think it’s about behavior rather than the condition of their heart that causes the proper behavior. Great post.

24 11 2013
lessonsbyheart

Count me among them. It’s hard to break out of this mindset – especially if this is what we were taught when we first came to Christ. Sadly, for many years I was among those who laid this burden on others.

\o/

22 11 2013
Anonymous

I’ve always thought that motives are crucial to our Christian walk. God knows our hearts. He knows when we are trying to do things under our own steam… or under His. I know that when I am doing something under His steam I could do it forever without getting tired one bit. He energy is endless. But when I’m trying to do the thing under my own power only, then I wear out. I’m talking about Loving my fellow humans. This is the thing I’ve been doing lately. Loving… and loving… and loving… infinitely.

22 11 2013
lessonsbyheart

If you think about it, manipulating is not all that different from witchcraft. We conjure, and weave our schemes, using words and actions in order to get what we want. That’s scary to me!

\o/

19 11 2013
rmnixondeceased

Reblogged this on Dead Citizen's Rights Society.

19 11 2013
thenakedtruth2

Well the first thing that comes to mind is:

‘Your a good christian…………..if…………..you instinctively realize you are a rotten christian.’

You know, taking the low road. ‘In me dwelleth no good thing,’ ‘chief of sinners,’ ‘a vessel that is empty,’ Ok, now I may be useful, once I get my self out of the way.

20 11 2013
lessonsbyheart

So true! When we live by man’s rules and traditions we get a sense of entitlement. When once we realize that it’s all grace – that we have earned nothing by our “good” behavior – then God has something to work with.

Have a blessed day, and thanks for taking the time to read. 🙂

\o/

19 11 2013
TeachX3

I can tell you one thing, if that “You’re a good Christian if…” response list determined if I was a ‘good’ Christian or not, I’d be in trouble! HE is Good, I am forgiven, His Grace is Full and so am I. Great post sister!

Galatians 1

10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

20 11 2013
lessonsbyheart

Hey! You took today’s verse right off the page – before I got a chance to type it! 🙂

Thanks for stopping by, sis!

\o/

19 11 2013
Citizen Tom

Reblogged this on Citizen Tom and commented:
It is an odd thought. God knows the contents of each heart. He knows our thoughts, even the fact we are considering the fact of His knowing our thoughts.

</p
And who is God? He is the only one whose knowledge of us can make an eternal difference. And He is the only one who does truly know each of us.

If we cannot impress God, why do we need to worry about impressing anyone? Would it not be great if we could make ourselves stop trying?

How do we stop trying? I suspect that has a lot to do with striving for humility, putting obedience to God first. Instead of worry about impressing others, we seek to be obedient. We put the thought of what God wants from us first in our mind.

19 11 2013
Kari Anne Dorstad

Getting over that image thing is my goal. I do it more then i realize. My identity is what i am in Christ. No matter how i look or how many highlights in my bible.

19 11 2013
lessonsbyheart

I think we all do this to one extent or another.

Hey – are you feeling better?

\o/

19 11 2013
nopew

How painful to read…
This is what drove my wife and I out of religion (not Jesus, formalized religion). People put on a front of holiness, but when it came to justice and holiness they ran, hid or abused. Time after time and again. The small group we gather with now don’t have to wear masks (though I’m sure they get put on once in awhile, as humans retreat to), and so we meet in the name of Jesus, not form and expectation.
So yes, this was painful to be reminded of a career devoted to serving Jesus destroyed and ended by those who wanted to look like defenders of culture, territory, turf, but not the Realm of God.
Yes, I have learned to pray for them, and want God’s best for them, but I can’t reside in that emptiness and power over others environment.
Peace

19 11 2013
lessonsbyheart

You already know that we are in agreement on formalized religion…and Jesus!! 🙂

Although we attend a local church, we have a small group meeting in our home as well. That’s where we are free to be real, and where ministry to one another happens.

Blessings to you and yours this day!

\o/

19 11 2013
Valerie Rutledge

Needed to read that story from Matthew today. I don’t want to be so consumed by the exterior that I neglect what matters most. Appearances are just that, they are not an accurate depiction of who I am and the same can be said for others. My inside needs work and this post reminded me of that, so thanks, as always.

19 11 2013
lessonsbyheart

Had a long talk with Abba last night, too. It’s easy to slip into caring only about how I appear to others…such a shallow way to live, isn’t it?

Have a blessed day, sweet one!

\o/

19 11 2013
Tanya M.

Love this message! I wore a Christian mask (still do sometimes) for a long time before I truly learned what that meant. And I didn’t change anything until I realized that was the thing that hindered my intimacy with God. Looks like I missed the beginning of this discussion. Can’t wait to go back and read it!

19 11 2013
lessonsbyheart

Thanks for your comment, Tanya. For me the mask is the hardest thing to let go. It feels like walking around in the nude. 🙂

\o/

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