I think about vanilla extract. All my life, I was perfectly fine with the imitation because I didn't know the taste of the real thing. But a few years ago, my sister-in-law brought me a bottle of actual vanilla from Costa Rica. Oh. My. What a difference in taste, smell, and potency! Surprisingly, I could use much less of it than the imitation because a little went a long way. The imitation did not come close to measuring up to the original.
Reading the book, "Beautiful Outlaw", by John Eldredge, has opened my eyes to the way that Christians have become counterfeit representations of Christ. We have convinced ourselves, like the Pharisees, that as long as we look the part and act the part (on Sunday mornings), we are the genuine real deal. "What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness." (Matt. 23:27-28). Ouch! That hurts!
Eldredge surmises that we are not true copies of Christ because we don't really know Him. We have conjured up an image of Him that is so far from the truth. It scares us to try to get to know Him better because then we would actually have to live like Him - and we don't want to. Instead we draw from our limited knowledge and Sunday school answers to dress ourselves in the appropriate fashion. Carving out religion rather than relationship.
This is why the world is shocked to see the genuine article. Someone who truly lives out what they believe. It is the reason that Tim Tebow has undergone such scrutiny. We simply cannot fathom someone who points to Christ through their actions because it is so rare.
I'm thankful that there are many people in my life who do genuinely follow Christ. Their presence is refreshing in a sea of counterfeits. I got to be with one of them this past weekend and I came away with my faith rejuvenated. Convicted to be more "real" myself. I have written about Pastor Nall before. He's no imitation. He's the real deal. His church held a 25th anniversary celebration for him and it was evident that his congregation loves him. Not because of his gift in the pulpit, though he certainly does preach with conviction. Not because of his ability to organize and delegate in the church, though he is always thoroughly prepared. Not because of his prayer ministry, though that man can bring the heavens down with his words. His congregation, which includes people all over the world, loves him because his life is a true, accurate, pure picture of His Master. People see straight through him....to Jesus.
By the way, this is not his normal church attire!
As I learn more about this Man, Jesus, I find Him to be so much more than I was ever taught in Sunday School. As Eldredge says in his book, the Jesus of the Bible is playful, witty, fierce, humble, generous, honest, cunning, beautiful, and true. If you do not know Him to be those things, chances are, you are following after a cheap imitation. You do not need to read John Eldredge's book to know these things about Jesus, you simply need to seek Him. The Gospels are a great place to start. Once we find Christ, then we can begin to be more like Him. But this is only possible with His help. Eldredge puts it this way, "Jesus was simply stating a fact of nature when He said, 'Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it.' (Matt. 16:25). Grab for life and it falls through your fingers like sand; give your life away to God, and you will be a person His life can fill. If you want the real deal, if you want to experience the lush, generous, unquenchable, unstoppable life of Jesus in you and through you, then surrender your self-determination. LORD Jesus, I give my life to you today, to live Your life. The more you give the parts of your life over to Jesus, the more His life is able to invade yours. The relief alone is worth the price."
LORD Jesus, I give my life to you today, to live Your life. I want to be the real thing.