Appearances 5

Romans 6:12-13

Last year we had a strange car parked in our driveway. When my wife and I asked about it we discovered the car belonged to a friend of one of our children. He wanted to park it in our driveway because someone was “after him” and he didn’t want the car to be found in his own driveway.

We put a stop to that. We were not about to be embroiled in the turmoils and troubles of someone else.

In his letter to the Romans Paul gives some advice on how to behave. What should we do about sin? Rather than committing sin, where should our focus be?

Leaving someone’s car parked in our driveway required no effort on our part. And truly it was no sacrifice. But what was at issue was that we were not about to offer our property to be used in unwholesome behavior.

The same is true of our very bodies and our actions. We are to shun sin, remove it from our lives. We are not to allow ourselves or our actions to be instruments of unwholesome behavior. Instead, we are to focus our bodies, our actions and our lives on being instruments of God’s goodness.

To do this we need to avoid the trap of only pretending to be good. We need to avoid going through the motions and appearances of holy and righteous behavior. Being a Christian requires more than looking like a Christian. Following Jesus means that we truly have a heart for mercy, justice and love.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you offer yourself as an instrument of God’s righteousness?

Appearances 4

Acts 5:1-5

Several years back one of our members brought in a “Ma and Pa Kettle” film so we could use a clip from it. In the brief scene the collection plate is passed in church and the Kettle children flick the bottom of the plate to make the sound of a coin dropping. But at the end of the pew the plate is empty. They made a show of giving but gave nothing.

This account from the early church is during a time when the faithful shared their possessions and means with one another. What did Ananias and Sapphira do? What was Peter’s comment? Who was sinned against?

Ananias and his wife have indeed presented a gift. They did give something. The offering plate was not empty. Looking at the words of Peter – “wasn’t the money at your disposal” – shows us that it was entirely up to the two of them what amount was presented. Yet a sin was committed.

The sin was not in the amount of the gift. The sin was not that God was cheated out of money due to him. The money was at the disposal of Ananaias and Sapphira and they could do with it what they pleased. What then is the sin?

The sin must be that Ananias and Sapphira were being false in the appearance of their giving. It must be that their contribution was intended to be seen as a very generous donation, a donation of all the money, when in fact it was only a partial gift.

The sin is that Ananias and Sapphira were trying to lie to God and to the faithful brothers and sisters in their community of believers. Their insides were not as clean as the outside. They were not being sincere and true in their faith.

Sometimes believers in our own faith community can be just as insincere. There can be times when we “perform” at church or in worship or in the community so that others might be impressed with how holy we are, when in fact our intentions are not true and Godly.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Is there a part of your faith life that should be more sincere?

Appearances 3

1 Corinthians 4:5

“Just wait ‘til your father comes home!” That is an old expression that many are familiar with. Mothers exasperated with the behavior of their children or upset about an event that took place during the day would remind the children that when the father returned then the whole matter would find resolution.

It isn’t so much that a mother is unable to deal with the children, and the expression could just as easily apply to waiting for the mother to return. The idea is that when both parents are together then the family is whole and any issues can be dealt with together.

In 1 Corinthians Paul offers us some advice on waiting for our heavenly Father. What should we not do? What will God do?

Our frustration with false appearances can be great. We may feel very exasperated with people we encounter who give a good presentation of holy and righteous living, when in fact they are not as holy and Godly as they should be.

But we are not to be the ones who judge them. It is not up to us to ferret out all those who are not living the way they should or whose hearts are not where their behavior would indicate.

It is the work of God to reveal the true and faithful. But this is also a warning to us. We should examine our own intentions, our own inner being, to see if we are truly faithful and merciful. Or are we simply presenting a fa├žade of goodness when inside we are thinking and feeling the wrong things?

All will be made clear when we stand before our Lord. All will come to light in the presence of God.

We may be able to put on a good show, to act holy, to dress holy, to go through the motions of holy living. But God knows our hearts and He knows our true nature and intentions. We should examine ourselves to be certain we are not neglecting the justice and love of God, no matter what our behavior says.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Is there anything hidden in your own darkness that you need to bring to light and change?

Appearances 2

Luke 11:43

I find it very disturbing at times when I realize how much many of the church leaders in our denomination behave like the Pharisees Jesus criticized. Our annual conference is coming soon – a weeklong gathering of pastors and leaders to hash out the business of the church. And there are so many who will flaunt the fact that they are clergy, in the way they act, in the way they dress, in the way they speak to others.

As part of the six woes Jesus points out to the Pharisees and leaders at dinner, there is a problem with their social behavior. What do they do wrong? Is it the behavior or the attitude, or both, which is wrong?

There is a bit of prestige and privilege in being a member of the clergy. Spiritual needs and our relationship with God are a high priority, which is why most clergy are given preferential treatment in hospitals, being permitted access to areas normally off limits.

There are other benefits in other areas of society as well, but they are primarily there to help the clergy person do his or her job. It is not a series of rewards. Yet, so many religious leaders let their position go to their heads and they act arrogant.

But those who are not in the clergy can do the same. Christian laity can also lord it over people that they “know God.” They are forgiven. They are good people. Their attitudes can be very aloof and judgmental.

But we are not here to be lifted up over other people. In fact, we are called to serve one another. In John 13 Jesus washes the disciples’ feet to show how we should act.

In John 13:14 Jesus says, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.”

DAILY CHALLENGE: Which “seat” in God’s kingdom will you occupy?

Appearances 1

Luke 11:37-42

I recall many years ago when I took part in a religious convention in Nashville, Tennessee. There were thousands of us, all leaders from various churches around the country, gathered together for three days to learn how to do ministry better. On the last day I noticed, as we all hurried to get inside the building (it was getting late and it was cold outside) we were walking right past a homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk in below-freezing weather.

We all looked good. We all were at the right place to be better Christians. But we passed up an opportunity for any of us – all of us – to help a homeless person.

Jesus has been invited to a Pharisee’s home. What causes Jesus to make his comments? What criticism is Jesus presenting? What should these religious leaders do?

As Christians there is often a “uniform” we put on. We might tote a large Bible, wear a cross lapel pin, have a “fish” (Ichthus) magnet on our car, or wear a t-shirt with a Bible passage printed on it. We may walk proudly into our place of worship. We may shop only at Bible bookstores. We may have a bumper-sticker that reads “My boss is a Galilean carpenter.”

All of these may give the appearance that we are holy people. But often times we fall into the routine of the Pharisee. We look good on the outside, but inside we are no better than anyone else.

By presenting us with the “woes” Jesus lists in Luke 11, we are also indirectly presented with the positives of how we should act. As verse 41 points out, we need to give from the inside. We need to be willing to give of our heart and soul, and not superficial, safe, risk-free offerings.

We should continue to be dedicated to our Lord – tote the Bible, attend church – but we also need to be certain we do not overlook justice and mercy among our fellow human beings. We must show the love of God that comes from our heart, and not make a show of pretend love.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you make your inside as clean as your outside?