Academy awards are given to recognize excellence in the motion picture industry. The best in broadway theatre and stage arts are given the prized ‘Tony Award.’ When I think of great actors, I have to gloss over the Hollywood elite of today who are aided by special effects and technological advances. Names synonymous with great acting are the classics like Bogart, Cagney, Robinson, Gable, Bergman, and Hepburn. These iconic actors and actresses are famous for their ability to make us forget they are simply playing the part of some character. When we watch them…..in the moment, they become the good guy or the gangster. It took me less then a minute to dislike Scarlet O’hara because Vivien Leigh portrayed her spoiled entitled character so well. I found myself rooting for ‘soldier’ played by Bogart because Edward G. Robinson did such a great job becoming the notorious gangster ‘Johnny Rocco’ and it was easy forget he was just acting.
What do the great actors of film have to do with last days Christianity? Quite a lot because we are living in a day when it’s not easy to differentiate between the true followers of Jesus and those who are simply Christian actors. I don’t know what motivates one to be a pretender instead of the real thing. One thing is certain: Churchianity isn’t Christianity.
Before I continue please let me tell you that I’m not down on the church. In fact, I love the fellowship I attend because there are so many who love the Lord there……that is the church. Our body of believers, individual and corporately plus believers worldwide make up the church that makes anyone who belongs to Jesus part of the same family. When I use the term: churchianity, I have a very distinct way of life in mind…..much different than biblical Christianity. It is a word synonymous with pseudo Christianity…..someone who loudly wears the Christian label, but is simply a convincing actor.
I have two primary reasons for writing this article. First is to put out a loving warning to you. I want to remind you that there are some who attend our church, small group, Bible study, and everyday functions who are not the real deal. This matters because….these are the times when teaching, belief, and conversation may be introduced that either inadvertently or by design….takes our focus off the word of God and puts the focus on ‘what we think.’
1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
As true believers it is vital that we set the direction of the conversation and direct it squarely on the Bible. It may be necessary to correct or reprove someone who seeks to the focus off of the Bible and onto the prevailing thinking of the culture. When we do this, our motive should always be restoration.
2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
The other reason for this article is this: All of us (myself included) have to check our own heart motives. We never want to get caught up in the game of playing Christian for our own glory, reputation, and man pleasing. We need to keep our motives pure and make our walk all about God and bringing glory to Him……not ourselves. Thinking about heart motives…..it is true that some people have very wrong reasons for calling themselves ‘Christian.’ Perhaps they desire the praise of man. They are busy bees in church and very active in every outreach program. That can be a very good thing and as believers, we should be people who are moved by love to serve. The problem always comes down to motive. If they are driven by the attention, affirmation, and applause of man they receive, then their motive for serving isn’t God’s glory but their own.
Is it possible to ‘play the part’ of Christian for it’s fringe benefits? I think the answer is a strong yes. It just might help us get the handsome guy or pretty lady who is a real believer. Being an actor may fool people into believing you are trustworthy when you know the real you. We may even become so self deluded in our ‘acting’ that we may think we have God fooled. We might be so accustomed to hearing the cheers of man and patting ourselves on the back so much that we start believing we are the real deal. What a sad and eternally dangerous game to play.
Our heart motive must be making much of God and nothing of ourselves.
Matthew 6:2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Is it possible to be immersed and surrounded by ‘religious activity’ and not be saved? The answer unfortunately is yes. The rulers, elders, and leadership in Jesus’ day were certainly in this group. They are a prime example of being so immersed by form, function, and religious tradition…..that they were blind to the truth. They were confronted with the truth when John the Baptist came on the scene and then Jesus’ ministry could not go unnoticed…..unless you were blinded by ‘a form of godliness.’ If Jesus isn’t the very center of your life, then all of your religious activities make you an actor living in the realm of churchianity….not Christianity.
Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
This is a sad part to play because in the end when every deed is before the eyes of the Lord for judgement…..it would be tragic to hear, “Depart from me you worker of lawlessness….I never knew you.” On the surface it may be difficult to tell who is a Christian from those actors in ‘churchianity. But upon closer inspection the differences are stark by comparison. The Bible makes it clear that we are known by our fruit. This fruit becomes evident in the routine of everyday life. The type of fruit we produce depends on what spirit is guiding us. If we submit to God’s will then the fruit of the Holy Spirit is all over our life. On the other hand, if we are driven by reputation, praise, stature, and selfishness, then it is the spirit of this world that drives us.
I have witnessed two extremes over the years: One extreme is the person who is into externals and wearing their faith out loud.
I’m not talking about being so fired up for the Lord that you take your Bible to school & work to read or being so full of God’s joy and presence that people know you are different by your actions, attitude, and kindness….because that is simply outward evidence and fruit of a real relationship with the Lord.
The extreme I’m referring to is someone who plays the ‘part’ of Christian, but in reality may not be truly converted. Oh yes, they are full of christian platitudes, church activities, and may even carry a Bible with them. But the reality is that these people are merely actors who for reasons I don’t understand. They want to be in and around Christianity, but never become a true Christian.
The second extreme I’ve witnessed is the person who isn’t an actor. This person is the one who’s life is marked by true godliness. They are people of true joy and peace. They come in all ages and personality types. Some are fired up for the Lord inside and out. They share the gospel with almost everybody they come in contact with. This enthusiasm is bolstered by fasting, prayer, and immersion into the word of God. Some of these folks are quiet types but inside they are taking the war to the enemy in the prayer closet. The bottom line is that the people in this extreme are 100% authentic followers of Jesus. There are no actors here, only disciples. Are they perfect people? Absolutely not but they all have one thing as a defining characteristic. Everyone of them realized the desperate condition of their heart before a holy God and they all cried out to His Son for salvation. The way they live now is simply an outflow of the spirit if God living inside and a daily surrender to His will. Far from being a stage production, …..it is the evidence of true Christianity.
Jude 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
When it comes to people we come in contact with that are playing the part of Christian. The most loving thing we can do is admonish them with truth from God’s word in hope of restoration. It would be a beautiful thing if they exchange pseudo Christianity for the real thing. On the other hand, if the person has the life pattern of being unyielding and undermining the gospel with strange or ‘new’ teaching that isn’t supported in the Bible…..they may sway or confuse those who are new and young in the faith with this false teaching. In this case, the person is a tool of the enemy. They need a strong rebuke and disassociation for a time. Continue to pray for the Spirit’s conviction….they may come to the knowledge of the truth one day and fellowship may be restored.
These are days when hyper faith, prosperity gospel, christianese social clubs are doubling as authentic Christianity. This religious activity masquerading as Christianity is just that……religious activity. In these dark days we need to be salt and light, not players on a religious stage. Let’s keep our lives focussed on living for the Lord and His glory as the end result.
All for Him,