When I was in elementary school, I remember going to my school and watching a magician on the stage. He did some amazing things. He made doves come out of his hat. He made things disappear. He had this set of scarves, very colorful, that were tied together and seemed to come out of his wand forever. I remember at the end the magician asked, “Do you believe in magic?” Of course, we children shouted, “Yes!” As an adult I know it wasn’t magic, at least not the type we talk about in books and fairy tales. The magician was performing slight of hand and misdirection. He was using distance and angles to create illusions. He wasn’t doing “real” magic.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ – Matthew 7:21-23, ESV
This is an interesting rebuke from Jesus. Some folks who will have been highly regarded during their living days won’t enter into the Kingdom. They’ll point to their accolades, to what they did for Jesus, and yet He will still say He doesn’t know them. Even worse, He will call them “workers of lawlessness.” How can someone who is seemingly for the Lord be a worker of lawlessness? Or for that matter, why are we repeatedly warned against wolves in sheep’s clothing and false prophets and the like, especially as the second coming of Christ approaches? Why? Simply, because there are those who will be able to put on the show, much like the magician from my childhood, and they will be able to convince many they are workers and followers of Jesus Christ. The problem is that they are and always will be all show. There won’t be true faith, there won’t be grace, and there won’t be salvation for them.
God is not interested in facades and acts and feel-good messages. He is concerned with the truth, He is studying what’s going on in our hearts, and He wants us to speak plainly and frankly, though gently and with the purpose of edifying those around us. He wants real faith from us – not show. There are enough charlatans running around to deceive the masses. He doesn’t need those among His people doing the same. The truth is enough. Faith is enough. He is enough.
Unfortunately, we’re too much about the show. We don’t tell our fellow church members what’s really going on in our lives. As a result, they can’t pray for us earnestly because they don’t know us. We like to talk big about ministries and about offerings. Those things are important. However, they aren’t to be glorified. Only God is to be glorified. We may even brag on church numbers, on people baptized, and on new members to the church. Have you ever been part of a church that seemingly has a good amount of new members year after year yet when you look around at the services it looks roughly like the same number of people each time? In too many cases, we’ve brought people in the door, but we’ve not discipled them. We’ve not followed up to ensure their conversion is genuine. So they, too, begin the show, realize what a farce it is, and then write off the church, or at least, our church. Then, when it comes time to answer the phone poll, they will say they are Christians. However, we’ve done them great harm. For though they believe they are okay, when they face Christ they will be confronted with the truth. The ugly part of that is that we let them go to that meeting unprepared. That should leave your stomach in knots thinking about the possibility. It does mine.
We’ve got to get past all this. We can only get past it by putting away the show, the pretend selves, the “stained glass masquerade” (see the song from Casting Crowns), and focusing on faith and obedience to Jesus Christ. Real faith comes through. Real faith is what the Holy Spirit, who is here to guide us, can point to and help us see as the genuine thing. When the showmen have the stage, if we’re humble, if we’re listening, the Holy Spirit will show us the slips that reveal they aren’t who they seem to be. However, that means we’ve got to be about faith and not about show. We can’t be concerned with what other people think until we have dealt with what God thinks of us. Are we acting like His people? Are we following in the footsteps of His Son? Is He truly #1 in our lives? Do we understand He is the Creator and we are the created? Do we get that we owe Him everything because He has purchased us with the blood of His Son? Are we willing to follow through on that debt, doing all that we can not because we can ever hope to repay Him, but simply because He is worthy and deserving of our very best, all day, every day? It’s time to close down the show. It’s time to live by faith.