As I walked past the jewelry counter, I saw the sparkle of what I thought were diamonds. Even from a couple of feet away I could not tell that they were not real. Bending over to look I realized that I was looking at ‘beautiful cubic zirconia’ – fakes! Faux ‘diamonds’ have many of the qualities of a genuine gem but the critical thing, value, is not there. The ultimate test is pressure. A real diamond is many times more durable than a man-made one. Are you a genuine Christian? Let’s be specific, the reference is not to being a ‘Church-ian,’ nor is it about simple morality. It is about receiving God’s grace by faith and loving Jesus Christ in a way that makes Him the Center of our life. It is possible to settle for a fake religion, an experience that looks very much like a genuine faith. But, when pressure is applied, the real disciple will stand, while those who are frauds will fold!
The Word contrasts faux religion with genuine faith in this passage.
“If with Christ you’ve put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it? “Don’t touch this! Don’t taste that! Don’t go near this!” Do you think things that are here today and gone tomorrow are worth that kind of attention? Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they’re just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important.
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.” (Colossians 2:20-3:2, The Message)
Religion is all about ‘me.’ Christianity is all about Him! As that passage explains, a person who is taken by a fraudulent religion will work hard at piety. They will create all kinds of prohibitions in an attempt to keep sin in check. But without the reality of the Spirit, without the resurrection power of Christ, all they have is a system of behavior modification. Dallas Willard calls this fake religion ‘the Gospel of Sin Management.’ –The Divine Conspiracy
The focus is constantly on keeping Self from leading us to greed, lust, or selfishness. The heart’s desire does not really change, it is simply put on a leash, often a tether of fear! The implied motivation is ‘if you want God to treat you well, you better be good!’ Or, it is ‘if you want to be respected as real Christian, you must always look good.’ Such religiosity is an exercise in missing the point!
A genuine conversion experience is exactly that, an infusion of a quality of life that begins a transformation that starts at the core of our being. We read this promise: “All of us who have had that veil (the spiritual blindness of religion, my comment) removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NLT) The restraint on sinful behavior comes from an inner quality of life, not from externally imposed controls. An observer often cannot tell the difference.
The fake and the real appear the same. But, apply some pressure and the person who is working hard at ‘being good,’ will crack! The real disciple will stand; indeed, he will flourish for the pressure will squeeze the sweet fragrance of Christ’s life from him.
Many well-meaning people work hard at trying to act like a Christian. Truth is, you can only be what you are! Apart from being born of God, given a new nature by the Holy Spirit, there is no possibility of knowing the joy of the Lord. But, when we are possessed by Him, when we invite Him to become our Life and our Lord, the evidence of His life in us grows as surely as an apple tree produces apples. “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Galatians 5:16, NIV) “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV)
In the presence of a holy God,
There’s new meaning now to grace;
You took all my sins upon Yourself,
I can only stand amazed.
And I cry holy, holy, holy God,
How awesome is Your name,
Holy, holy, holy God,
How majestic is Your reign;
And I am changed
In the presence of a holy God.
In The Presence
Integrity Music, Inc. / Integrity Music, Inc.
© 1989 Integrity’s Praise! Music (c/o Integrity Music, Inc.) / PDI Praise
(Admin. by Integrity’s Praise! Music)
CCLI License No. 810055