We Tend to Pretend

I make a lot of homemade soups …
Take the carcus of a turkey or chicken – boil it – let it cool – pick out all the bones and pieces that you can’t eat o0r don’t want to eat
I work hard doing this and it can be a long and messy task
Then it is done and ready to go – “all” the bones are out
Add: vegetables and spices
Cook – cool – ready to eat
Perfection … I mean great and seriously healthy soup

Inevitably in the large pot of soup there will 3 or 4 very small bones you need to be aware of
Ones I missed when picking out the bones
Careful that you don’t munch down on one or swallow one
So, not perfect but still darn good homemade soup
Tastes good and is good for you – simply not 100% perfect
The same can be said about the Christian life….
We have the Holy Spirit living in us
We have experienced the grace and mercy of God
We are totally forgiven and set free
But, we are certainly not perfect and so WE TEND TO PRETEND
For some reason – we can’t be totally real
Imperfections (bones) can’t show or be known
We meet another believer
We come together to fellowship and worship
We connect with non-believers
When asked how we are doing
When asked how things are going
“Things are good, thanks”
“Fine, thank you”
“Just great”
We come across like we have ‘got it all together’ even when we most certainly don’t
With believers and with non-believers
It is interesting….
We no longer come dressed in our “Sunday best” as we did years ago
But, we still come with our Christian masks
A Christian veneer – keeping our guard up
Refusing to be real
Unable to be real
Afraid to be real
Not sure we want to share what is happening
Not sure if we will be truly accepted if…
It is as if we think that as believers we need to have it all together – perfect
We need to remember that “perfect negates grace”
If you are perfect then you don’t need God’s grace in your life
The irony is:
The notion of church today is ‘come as you are,’ but often the ones who come the most come as they aren’t
Few places tempt us to wear a mask and not be real more than coming to church
This becomes an issue for many reasons … The #1 reason being:
Today – people are looking for and longing for something that is real, authentic, transparent, vulnerable
We can’t afford to be fake in church – But still WE TEND TO PRETEND
We have all done it
It has not worked well for us
There needs to be a change
People today need to see and understand that Jesus really will “bear our burdens” not simply judge us for having them
And they will come to that understanding and realization through the way that we treat them and treat each other
A side note in line with this – from a blog I wrote the other day….
We have heard it said, “Hate the sin, love the sinner”
That definitely does not work in practice as we end up hating both
So, we need to remove the word “hate” from our vocabulary as believers
I recommend: “Love the sinner, not the sin”
To truly share fellowship with one another
And to influence those who don’t yet know the Lord
We need to be as real as possible and remove all the masks and the plastic fellowship
“Alcoholics Anonymous” grows and works because people are real
When we wear a mask we are hiding our weaknesses because we think we need to be strong
We end up living on fumes – no longer empowered by the Spirit or encouraged by believers
We forfeit the help we could receive when others “bear one another’s burdens”
We lose hope and often end up alone and in despair
I really appreciate Paul the apostle more and more these days as I read his writings (the epistles) and see him as a real person – fresh insights into who he was
I would consider him fairly close to God
I mean: I’d be happy just to get a glimpse of the second heaven, and this brother was invited and entered the third heaven
Yet, Paul knew that God’s power is seen, received, and perfected (experienced) in weakness
He writes:
2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
The Passion Translation: “But he answered me, ‘My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.’ So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.”
Paul wrote that he would “boast all the more gladly…”
Not because he was proud of his weaknesses BUT because he was confident in God’s powerful response to them
Often when we ask for prayer
We associate more with our weaknesses – focus more on our weaknesses – than with God’s strength and power
That is seriously regretful
The reality is there is no such thing as a strong Christian or a perfect Christian
Just weak Christians relying on a strong God!
So, here is my point:
There are no perfect Christians
So stop pretending to have it all together
So stop hiding the imperfections and the issues you are facing
It is unfortunate that we have churches today where we cannot admit that we are not perfect.
That we have issues.
That we are struggling.
That everything is not alright.
The reality is there’s no such thing as a perfect Christian.
The reality is there is no such thing as a strong Christian.
Just weak Christians relying on a strong God.
And, because weakness and trouble seem to indicate to others that we are not living right or, heaven forbid, we have sin in our lives
We wear a mask and talk and relate in such a way that the message others receive from us is that things are great even when they are not.
We are not called to have it all together
We are not called to be perfect
We are called to pursue perfection – to chase perfection
This is what the righteous do – what we do – we seek God … He is perfection
As we seek Him we will inevitable fall…
Proverbs 24:16 states that “the righteous fall seven times.”
Not once.
Not twice.
Not three times.
Not four times.
Not five times.
Not six times.
The righteous fall seven times.
Remember, we are not talking about the wicked.
We are talking about the people who are getting it right (the righteous)
They still fall over and over again.
But by God’s grace, we don’t stay in our failure.
The verse in context says, “though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.”
We all fall.
The Spirit just doesn’t want us to stay there.
But, when we hide our moments of failure, we are also hiding our moments of grace.
We are not calling upon the Spirit to lift us up, dust us off, and encourage us to try again.
Being a Christian is not about being morally perfect and constantly having all the right answers.
It is about daring to be real and no longer pretending that everything is great.
Being a believer means not settling for our “Sunday best face” but being real, transparent, and vulnerable … both her in church an dout there in the community
Being a believer means not being a fake – because that is hypocritical.
And, Jesus was not a fan of the hypocrites of His day.
They were called the Pharisees, the religious leaders and teachers.
Remember, even if we can fool the people, we can’t fool God.
He knows our heart
He knows what you are thinking
He knows what you are going through
So, to receive His grace we need to dare to be real and never settle for fake
One of the reasons I love the Bible so much is that it is full of people who love God but are deeply flawed and make huge mistakes
The disciples
Pick a major figure of the Bible, other than Jesus, and you can find multiple examples of them sinning and making massive mistakes
The righteous (us) are made righteous by God’s grace
And we continue to pursue righteousness – Jesus, who is God’s righteousness – even in our failures and sin
So here is what we need to know….
That you can fail and still be seen as righteous in the sight of God
That as a believer, you can mess up big-time and still be welcome in the Church
That being a Christian is not about being morally perfect and constantly having all the right answers as you live a life that is properly put together without any cracks
I have come to learn that understanding God’s grace depends on whether we have been conditioned to run and hide when we sin, like Adam and Eve did
Or to run straight to the Father when we sin, like David did.
We can either cover ourselves in shame or run to the Lord and say, “Search me, God, and know my heart” (Psalm 139:23).
When David messed up bad, he wrote these words to God.
“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight…”
(Psalm 51:1-4a NIV)
David understood, on the deepest level, that he could always come to God, no matter how deep or awful his sin.
It’s crucial we get this, because we need God in order to please God.
We’re like a child needing to borrow money from his dad so he can buy his dad a present.
Our hearts can’t change for God unless they’re changed by God.
It’s quite a paradox.
The Man you are sinning against is the Man you’re asking for help so you won’t continue to sin against Him.
And He’s patient with us. He’s so patient with us.
But Jesus goes even further to make this point clear in the Gospels.
He says that if someone sins against us, we should forgive them not just seven times but seventy times seven.
God does even better than that
You know what the difference is between a righteous person and a sinner?
One banks on forgiveness found in the cross, and the other doesn’t.
Christians are not better than anyone else.
We’re just forgiven.
We didn’t achieve salvation.
We received grace.
So, the question is, why are we constantly putting on a mask and acting like we’re perfect.
Why are we afraid to be real?
Or, at least, acting like we got things together; life is working for us. We’re good?
It doesn’t help us, and it definitely won’t help the church reach those who do not know Jesus.
People today need real, not fake.
Being something you’re not is exhausting.
No one wins.
You know the truth.
God knows the truth.
Your family probably also knows the truth.
So, why not just bank on His grace?
Rely on Him to be your strength in a time of weakness.
Here is what I have learned over the decades of ministering ….
Be confident in who you are, and comfortable with who you’re not.
As believers, we’ve been freed from trying to keep up with the Joneses.
It’s hard enough to keep up with Jesus.
Why exhaust ourselves trying to serve two masters?
So, let me sum up with the main points I have been making…
We tend to pretend – so, let’s make this a safe place so we can stop doing that
Perfect negates grace
Perfection is a disease, not a virtue
Dare to be real, and never settle for fake
Our hearts can’t change for God unless they’re changed by God
We need God in order to please God
God is looking for progress, not perfection
People today need real, not fake
Be confident in who you are, and comfortable with who you’re not