I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil... Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent.
If religion is one thing, then faith is another. Outsiders don't know the difference. If 'Faith without works is dead' (James 2:20), then so are works without faith. Without a doubt, outsiders do
know the difference.
Born in 1955, I was a baby-boomer in a socially prominent family. My fighter-pilot dad didn't thrive in civilian life. Although my mom put on a nice show, we stayed in debt. But in some parts of the South, a good name means more than good credit.
So we attended an Episcopal church with elegant people in a lovely place.** For me, it was form without substance and words without meaning. We breathed airs of superiority. As a girl seeking truth and justice, it was a foul odor. So I left.
When I was 19, my older brother led me to Buddhism. It seemed to make sense. But soon enough, I discovered an uncomfortable similarity to my childhood church: 'We're right and everybody else is wrong.' So I left.
For the next 30 years, I prayed to God, worked like crazy, hit my limits and crashed. As a 51-year-old burnout, I finally met Jesus. At 59, I'm a contrite Christian. My life is radically changed, and I'm eternally grateful.
But an unsettling air permeates some of today's churches, even churches with people of faith. It smells familiar: 'We're right and everybody else is wrong.' To outsiders, self-righteousness is hard to inhale.***
Even more, is it 'The Aroma of Christ' (2 Corinthians 2:15)?
' 'For My Hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,' declares the Lord. 'But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My Word' ' (Isaiah 66:2).
Born-again believers could argue, 'We're made righteous by the Blood of Jesus.' I agree. But in the eyes of men, humility, compassion and a willingness to reveal personal struggles are good calling cards for Christ.
Showing off our sufficiency is a less effective message than showing off our insufficiency. Jesus put it this way: 'I can of Myself do nothing' (John 5:30).
To Be Continued...
* Letter to the Loveless Church in Ephesus: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation+2%3A1-7&version=NKJV
* Short article on the Letter to Ephesus: http://www.gotquestions.org/church-in-Ephesus.html (Please note the last paragraph, especially.)
** Trinity Episcopal Cathedral is an historic church located next door to the SC statehouse: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity_Episcopal_Cathedral_(Columbia,_South_Carolina)
*** 'I have spread out My Hands all day long to a rebellious people,
Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts,
A people who continually provoke Me to My Face...
Who say, 'Keep to yourself, do not come near me,
For I am holier than you!'
These are smoke in My Nostrils,
A fire that burns all the day' (Isaiah 65:2-3,5).
P.S. To read the other devotions in this series, please see the Outsiders series.