Appearance is Everything

We live in a world where most of us make judgements with less than all of the facts. After all, it’s almost impossible to have all of the facts. The problem is that we often don’t even have enough facts but that doesn’t stop us from reaching certain conclusions.

Mary Poppins addressed our penchant for quick assumptions when she sang; A cover is nice, but a cover is not the book. Her point is that you can’t judge people by their looks – there’s more to them than you see on the outside.  There’s some truth to her downhome philosophy. Too often we pass judgment on people based solely on external, even trivial things.

A cover is not the book.

But there are times when we need to pay attention to appearance. Not our physical appearance (although it would help if some people did!) but our spiritual appearance. People make judgements on the authenticity of your spiritual life by how your life appears to them.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 says abstain from every kind of evil. Some of the older translations say abstain from all appearance of evil.  The original word can mean either kind or appearance. There’s really not much difference between the two. Appearing to do evil is one kind of evil. One translation is more general the other is more specific.

Regardless of which translation you prefer, the concept of how we as Christians appear to other people is important. That’s one reason there is an emphasis in the Bible on holiness. Because we are to be holy and we are to appear to be holy.

When people look at us they shouldn’t have to wonder if we are holy or not. They shouldn’t have to think about the rightness or wrongness of our actions.

It’s entirely appropriate in evaluating our actions to ask the question, How does this appear to my neighbor? Do they think that I’m lying? Do they think that I’m cheating my employer? Do they think that I’m committing adultery?

They may jump to the wrong conclusions because they don’t have all of the facts, but that’s really our problem, not theirs. We have to make sure that whatever facts they have, however limited, are in line with the Word of God.

What exactly do people think when they look at me? What does the appearance of my life tell them?

What they think is often determined by what they see. And even if they don’t see it all – or if they see it inaccurately, the burden falls on us.

Appearance is everything.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

We Are Them

I don’t know who first coined the phrase we have met the enemy and he is us. I first remember reading it in the comic strip Pogo, written by cartoonist Walt Kelly, featuring a group of animal characters who lived in the Okefenokkee Swamp.

Intended to be both humorous and convicting, it exposed the truth that we are often what we despise and criticize.

Protests aside, we are Patrick Crusius and Connor Betts.

At least in God’s eyes. And His opinion is the only one that really counts.

Two passages illustrate the point.

You have heard that it was said to those of old; You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28).

Lust is not just a dirty thought – it’s adultery in God’s book.

Whoever hates his brother is a murderer (1 John 3:15).

Hate is not just anger – it’s murder according to God.

If people could see our hearts, they would find out that some of us (many?) are serial adulterers and serial murderers.

And those are the Christians.

Another passage puts us in even deeper. James 2:10 says Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumbles in one point, he is guilty of all. So you haven’t committed mass murder but you’ve lied, or gossiped, or stolen, or ____________ (fill in the blank).

That makes you a lawbreaker and as guilty as Patrick or Connor.

There’s no room for self-righteousness here. We all stand guilty of heinous crimes.

If you don’t like what I’m saying – I don’t either. I see myself as a law-abiding citizen. On top of that, I’m think I’m OK with God.

But I’m not and neither are you. Not in God’s kingdom anyway.

You might be a law-abiding citizen as far as the laws of this country are concerned but you’re not as far as God is concerned. At the Supreme Court of the Universe you would be found a serial sinner.

And that’s why Jesus came so we, each of us, can find forgiveness. If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Forgiven yes. That’s grace.

But we still sinned. We still committed adultery. We still murdered.

We would all be justifiably outraged if Patrick Crusius told the judge he was sorry – he confessed his sin; he asked for forgiveness, and the judge let him go because he was remorseful.

I know that the analogy breaks down (our sin was put on Jesus), but my point is, that is often how we treat our sin. It’s easy to confess our serial adultery (lust); our serial murders (hate) and walk away as if nothing happened.

Because, after all, we confessed it.

Why don’t we feel the same outrage over our sin as we do over their sin?

It’s not that Patrick Crusius and Connor Betts are us. It’s that we are them.

There is no difference between their sin and my sin. Without Jesus, were we to stand before God we would be equally guilty.

And that’s the sobering reality.

My point is that we are outraged by what happened in El Paso and Dayton, but we treat our sin differently. It’s not so bad.

But it is.

We need to be as outraged about our sin as we are about their sin.

It just depends on the perspective – and it’s God’s perspective that counts, not ours.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve