(And Be the Real Deal)
Because we have been friends since we were teens, and because we were teens during the Cold War, my friend Judy and I have a long standing tradition of greeting one another with, “Hail, Comrade,” and making frequent references to Soviet-era spy terminology that are funny only to us. Even so, recent politically-motivated poisonings in the news remind me that spies were and still are a real thing, and government officials dealing with foreign representatives must spend a fair amount of time verifying identities and checking credentials on their contacts.
Paul warns Philippian believers of a similar danger–not political, but far more crucial:
Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they’re interested in is appearances—knife-happy circumcisers, I call them.”Philippians 3:2 (The Message)
Paul had put his finger on the difference between real faith in Christ and the inauthentic version: an emphasis on ritual as an end in itself. For the Philippian church, it was circumcision, but think of all the religious trappings we cling to in our day, the activities, programs, traditions, and rules that can obscure the real thing if they become an end in themselves.
It’s dangerous to emphasize ritual over reality, and we fall into that trap so easily. Fortunately, Paul anticipated our stumbling feet and provided three sure fire signs for spotting the real thing:
- Real believers worship God in the Spirit
- Real believers rejoice in Christ Jesus
- Real believers have no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3)
“This is who we are!” shouts Paul. “We are in touch with who God is so we fall on our faces. We know that Christ is our real treasure, so we have every reason to rejoice no matter what our circumstances. We embrace the hope of his righteousness, so we quit depending on our own.” This is reality, and the trappings of our faith, the rituals, are there to remind us of our authentic relationship with the living God.
So, Comrade, have you ever been tricked by an impostor, posing as a Christ-follower, but lost and leading others astray? Are you becoming skilled at spotting the real deal?
But more important than this, may I ask, gently…
Are YOU the real deal? Do you give evidence of a lively faith in your worship, your rejoicing, and your God-based confidence? I’d love to have a conversation about this with you over tea and maple scones… Can we employ the comments section below as a distant second best option?
Worshiping, Rejoicing, and Trusting,
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