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BONFIRE OF THE SPIRITUAL SUNDAY BEST

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One of the things I admire most about Jesus is that he’s real. I don’t mean “real” as in not fictional, but real as in genuine. He didn’t put on an act when he taught in the synagogues or explained scripture to his disciples in private. He was always the same Jesus, speaking from the heart. No BS. Not like the Pharisees and Sadducees who put on special airs along with their special robes and who were always trying to trip Jesus up. But Jesus never fell for their tricks because God informed his every word and move, and you can never trip up God.

I was in a small church several years ago. I’d passed by it on my bike a few times and then one day decided to go in. The sign outside said “Ye must be born again”, so I figured this was a congregation that understood the necessity for spiritual rebirth. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The preacher was absent-minded and uninspired, and the dozen or so parishioners scattered among the mostly empty pews sat slumped in their seats, a few of them checking their wrist-watches every few minutes. I sat at the back, a stranger among strangers, feeling no connection with these people who were supposed to be my “brethren”.

When the service ended, the pastor invited us to stay behind for prayers. I was game. So were about a half-dozen others. One by one, they took their turn praying – that is to say, they stood gazing at the ceiling, spreading their hands just so, palms upward – and started in with the “thee’s” and “thou’s” until I couldn’t take it anymore and left mid-prayer.

This is a huge problem in Christianity today – the lack of authenticity. People think they need to be someone else when they come before God, so they put on what they think is their spiritual Sunday best and out come the special stances and special hand positions, followed soon afterward by the thee’s  and thou’s, and to tell you the truth, God just looks the other way.

God hears your heart. I don’t mean the pounding of it; I mean the thoughts in it. At that dead church service all those years ago, God heard the people checking the time. He heard their boredom. He didn’t hear the petitions that went along with the countless thee’s and thou’s. He heard what was really in people’s hearts. In mine, he heard frustration. How can you build a church with people who don’t even want to be there?

Jesus’ voice remains constant across the scriptures, from the first time we hear him at age 12, teaching the elders in the temple, to his final words before he ascended to God. The same voice, the same message: constant, authentic, him (or better said, God speaking through him).

We, as born-again Christians, need to be authentic. We need to burn off whatever spiritual Sunday best we think we have to put on when we talk about God and Jesus and when we talk to God and Jesus. We need to be as real with people who are Christians as we are with those who are not Christians. The minute we put on our spiritual Sunday best, we lose people. We become like the Sadducees and Pharisees who knew all the right words but still didn’t speak with the authority Jesus spoke with because God was not in their words. If God is not in your words, you’re wasting your time.

And time is not something we have a lot of.


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