I saw a story the other day that was a real hoot. When I read it, I laughed so loud and hard that people came from all over the house just to make sure I was alright! Check this out:
“Police in Radnor, Pennsylvania, interrogated a suspect by placing a metal colander on his head and connecting it with wires to a photocopy machine. The message “He’s lying” was placed in the copier, and police pressed the copy button each time they thought the suspect wasn’t telling the truth. Believing the “lie detector” was working, the suspect confessed.”
I don’t know what it was that struck me the hardest—the fact that this happened in Pennsylvania (my home state), instead of Mayberry, NC, or the fact that the suspect was dumb enough to fall for it, or the fact that the cops were dumb enough to try it.
As dumb as that story seems, it pales in comparison to the way some people acquire their faith. Some folks think that they’re Christians because they’re not Jewish, or because they’re Americans. Others think that they’re Christians because they grew up in the church—they just sort of appropriated their Christianity by osmosis. Then there’s always the guy (or gal) who goes to church every single Sunday, and thinks that they are, therefore, certainly Christian. And, like the suspect in the story above, they have been deceived.
If you proposed to them that just because Mom or Dad was a medical doctor that they should receive an automatic M.D. based on their parentage, they’d think you were nuts. If you suggested that they were qualified medical specialists because they visit a friend in the hospital once in a while, they’d wonder what you’ve been smoking. And if you suggested that they should have an R.N. certificate because they sit in the hallway of the hospital for an hour each week, they’d probably refer you to their uncle the Psychiatrist. But, when it comes to a relationship with God—“well, that’s different.” They miss the whole root of Christianity. Being a Christian isn’t something you do, it’s someone you are. Just as the son of the famous surgeon has to get his own medical degrees, experience, and skills, so likewise each of us must have our own personal relationship with God. We can’t rely on someone else’s faith, we MUST have our very own.
Even among true believers there is a tendency to live our faith vicariously. The person who listens to their Pastor or Teacher preach or teach, but never follows up with their own independent study of scripture is a good example. Put these folks in a tight squeeze and you’ll find out that they probably don’t know for sure what they believe, or why they believe it. That’s a dangerous place to be, as it opens you up to all sorts of false teaching. These folks just follow whatever sounds good to them. Another prime example is the person who feeds off of others experiences. They see a brother or sister in Christ who has had a powerful and dynamic experience in their relationship with Christ, observe the emotions that are a natural outgrowth of such a dynamic experience, and then try to replicate the experience by replicating the emotions. It’s like the difference between actually DRIVING a powerful sports car and just sitting behind the wheel playing with the shift lever and going “VAARROOOOMMMMM!” while pushing yourself into the seat. It captures just a little of the real experience, but there’s no substitute for the real thing.
To be sure, experiencing the presence of God, and the Spirit of God moving through you does trigger emotional reactions. BUT, try as we may, we simply cannot cause the Spirit of God to move through us by whipping up our emotions. Yet, people try to do it all the time. It’s the stuff that shallow, chronically immature believers feed on regularly. Picture those guys in Pennsylvania, with a metal colander with wires attached to a photocopier. Their gullible suspect fell for it, but any lawyer worth a quarter an hour could get that confession thrown out of court, because the means of extracting it were phony. There’s not a judge in the land who could accept that evidence with a straight face. Likewise, God doesn’t accept our fleshly, whipped-up emotions as Worship. It might look good on the outside, but God looks beyond the surface and sees the heart, where true Worship takes place.
Is your faith in Christ real, or is it fake? Is it really yours, or is it a cheap knock-off of someone else’s? Are you living on someone else’s experience, or have you had your own, personal experience of God’s love, grace, and power?
There’s no substitute for the REAL thing!