Beauty that is more than skin-deep

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Ours is a world that values image, isn’t it?  An entrepreneur creates a website that really ‘wows’ thinking that it will build his business. But, if he does not do the work of delivering the service that snazzy website promises, his business will not succeed. Who among us has not tried, somewhere and at some time, to create an image, to look better on the outside that we feel on the inside?  Business Insider magazine reported that ‘puffing’ up resumes is a common practice today – including things like embellished titles for past jobs or false academic credentials. Why? It is an attempt to look better, to attract attention. What happens? If that person lands the job, he is constantly at risk of being exposed as a fraud.

Are you trying to live the Christian life by building an image? Are you copying the words and adopting the mannerisms of some admired believer, even though you do not have their experience or their knowledge?  Don’t do it. God knows you, loves you, and wants to lead you to a life in Him that is real.

Authentic Christianity includes the ugly as well as the beautiful! We do not have to wallow in our failures and imperfections, but if we hope to become an overcomer, we will have to deal with who we are, not just who we would like to be. John, the beloved disciple, reminds us of the power of confession. “If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if you do sin, there is someone to plead for you before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who pleases God completely.” (1 John 1:8-2:1, NLT)

Where we read ‘confess’ the original New Testament, written in Koine Greek, has a word (homologeo) that literally translated means ‘to say the same word.’  The way to God’s forgiveness and to wholeness of spirit is not image-building. God asks us to say the same thing about who we are as HE does. Got a terrible temper? Admit it; let God forgive you and grow in patience. Do you hate somebody? Don’t cover malice with ‘nice words.’  Face yourself and admit your hatred to God and let the Spirit lead you to love. Do you struggle with fear or doubt?  Tell the Lord about it, instead of trying to hide it with quotes and slogans. Let Him teach you to walk in faith.

The process of growth into godliness, authentic Christian living, is not always a pretty one. It is, however, a hopeful one because it is not a self-improvement project; it is a Spirit renewal.  Some will tell you that you should pray only upbeat prayers, that you should paste a smile on your face, always be ‘up,’ and say the “faith” words even if you do not believe them. What a lie.

God does amazing transformations but only where we are willing to deal with issues of sin, the angst of doubts, and the flaws in us without trying to cover them up with the cosmetics of religion.  Jesus reminds us to go beyond just ‘looking good,’ which is hypocrisy, to really be good. “Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give a gift to someone in need, don’t shout about it as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I assure you, they have received all the reward they will ever get.” Matthew 6:1-2, NLT

Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, written to a church that loved ‘looking good’ and putting on a show of their ‘spiritual gifts,’ told them God wanted reality, a heart-deep devotion. It was hard for him to preach the Truth – which sometimes is not so attractive- to people who had been dazzled by ‘super apostles’ who had come through town with their magic show religion, their boastful words, and their empty promises. He reminds that church – and us- that the Treasure is not us; it is the Spirit IN us! “For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made us understand that this light is the brightness of the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. But this precious treasure—this light and power that now shine within us—is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:6-10, NLT

I love that passage! “Pressed… perplexed… hunted down…!”  He is so real! He says that he is authentic so that God’s power can show through him, making him more than he could possibly be naturally. Are you ready to wash off the make-up, admit the flaws are there, and let the real beauty of Jesus be created in your soul? Let’s discover the lasting beauty that comes from a genuine, ongoing intimacy with the Spirit of God that transforms our hearts.

Here is a word from the Word. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-4:1, NIV)
______________

Abba, speak to us in the depths of our soul, of Your love.
Assure us that even as You know us as we truly are,
You love us more than any other.
Free us from pride, from fear, that would tempt us to build an image.

Instead, may we live openly,
desperately depending on Your power, Your love, Your Spirit in us.

In this, Jesus, may others see the reality and desire to know You, too.
As you bless us, teach us to be a blessing to others.
Let those rivers of living water spill over from us to refresh that world in which we live,

Amen.

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