The noise, the crowd, the pushing of elbows and the proclamations of special deals and amazing offers! All this can be part of the energy of a street market as different stall holders compete for our money!
Without wishing to cast a slur on all the hard working and honest vendors. how many of us have ever bought an item that did not live up to what was claimed about it on market day?
Or will any of us admit to being duped by advertising and making a later regretted purchase? I still remember to this day a jazz album I saw promoted on TV. I ordered it. Well… let’s say there was room for improvement! Enough said, except to show my age and confess it was a cassette tape!
How easy it can also be to buy into a form of Christianity that seems so genuine, sincere and vibrant and yet is it really? As one early believer put it in the Bible, can we end up with a form of godliness but be denying its power? (see 2 Timothy 3:5). Such power is God’s power available through Christ. Power to transform, to shape, to enable us to live for Him and know His leading.
But Christianity is not a quick fix – there is a journey involved including our willingness to surrender to God’s power at work in us. Part of that surrender is a call to be real. God isn’t fooled – He knows exactly where we are at. May be we can fool others though or believe that we can! So all too often we can slip into performance mode – ‘image management’ as the writer John Eldredge suggests in his book ‘Beautiful Outlaw’.
We can know the right words to say, even the ‘spiritual’ actions to take. Our prayers may sound like we have an intimate hotline to heaven and Bible verses may slip readily off our lips. But are we being real? Well God knows, He really does. But do we?
May be for us all at times it can seem less painful or less demanding to ignore realities which would seek to pierce the bubble of the fiction we can build around us. Perhaps we deny questions that might cause us to admit we do not know it all, don’t have it altogether and may be even that we struggle with aspects of faith and life.
So where to go with this? What do I mean by ‘Genuine followers only please!’
Well firstly don’t over-analyse the title!
Secondly by genuine I don’t mean we have to some how ‘prove’ we have got it altogether or have some how reached ‘super-christian’ status (whatever that would be anyway!)
Rather can I suggest that genuine followers are those who recognise their need of the Lord’s grace, both to come to know Him and to live out following Him. ‘It is by grace you have been saved’ (Ephesians 2:10) wrote the same man who penned about having a form of godliness but denying its power. He (you know him as Paul) was also inspired by the Lord to write of the call to ‘live in the grace of Christ’ (Galatians1:6)
Grace is not some vague nice idea – it cost Jesus everything. And it should impact the way we treat others. Perhaps you heard President Obama’s speech at the Charleston funerals – he spoke about the need of us all to experience God’s grace and applied that into the realities of racial tensions and other challenges in US society.
Don’t get sidetracked now on how you view the US president – think about grace, that is God’s favour that we cannot earn. How can we live with grace towards others around us? Genuine followers don’t live in ivory towers cut off from the world around them.
Such grace enabled the community of that Methodist church in Charleston to express forgiveness towards the man who committed the atrocity, even as they walk through their shock and grieving.
Let’s all guard against playing religious games! It is good news to know Christ but that does not shield us from the challenges of life. And for sure, He did not die on the cross so we would be bound up in some kind of pretend Christian faith or irrelevant religiosity. To quote Christ himself – ‘you will know the truth and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32).
John wrote that ‘grace and truth came through Christ Jesus’ (John 1:17). Genuine followers seek to embrace both in their lives. And we need the Lord’s help so that we express both to others. Grace without truth isn’t really God’s favour but turns him into something like a powerless warm and fuzzy Santa figure! Truth without grace just becomes judgmentalism and legalism!
It is possible to live out both with His Holy Spirit’s help in our lives.
Before signing off, let me also ask – are there areas in your life where it seems you are bound up rather than free? Can you be real with God about this?
To stop that sounding too spiritual, part of being real before Him can be in telling some other people. Who can you speak to? It is part of the risk of being genuine. It can be painful but that does not mean it can’t be liberating too.
May you and I know His grace and truth in every area of our lives that we might be genuine followers after Him. For His honour, for our health and for the sake of others around us who have had enough of empty promises or hyped up religion.
Thanks for reading.