We tell ourselves and others that we really love and trust God, but we really love and trust ourselves more. ♦
There’s an intriguing story in the New Testament’s Book of Acts about a man named Cornelius who had a supernatural encounter with God. He was a devout man, a Roman soldier in fact, who “feared God” (honored/believed) along with his whole family, contributed money to the poor, and constantly prayed. (Acts 10).
In many ways he’s a lot like many of us.
The Good Little Christian
Many Christians have wonderful intentions and live even pious lives. We go to church. We’re pretty nice people and friendly neighbors. We give money to our favorite charities and to our church, when we attend. We’ll even submit a good size check once in a while.
We read the Bible once in a while. And we pray. We pray for our friends, family, and job situations. We pray for money, for safety. We pray for things to work out well for us.
And then we thank God for the good things that happen. We get over the things that go wrong, sometimes just thinking that we’re lucky to be alive and have what we have. It’s like we don’t want to push our luck with God. Wouldn’t want to get on His bad side, would we?
We live well. And we cope. It’s all good. God is in His heaven and all is right with our world. Nothing wrong with that, right?
A Pious Fraud?
Wrong. Actually what kind of life is this anyway? Looks good, sounds good, seems good. But it’s an empty shell of a life with nice trimmings that show well.
We tell ourselves we love and trust God, but we really love and trust ourselves more.
Oswald Chambers in his daily devotion, My Utmost for His Highest, cracks down pretty hard on the good Christian life that holds back and gives anything short of full 100% surrender to the supremacy of the Lord Jesus. He points out that the Lord does not force us to follow rules, though He makes His standards very clear. And if my relationship with Him is that of love, I will do what He says without hesitation. If I hesitate, it is because I love someone else in competition with Him; namely, myself. Chambers notes that Jesus Christ will not help me obey Him, I must obey Him by choice. When I obey Him, then I fulfill my spiritual destiny.
Sounds pretty heavy.
The supporting verse is John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In all circumstances if my first allegiance is to Christ, then I will discover that my obedience translates to others being blessed, perhaps even thousands. Obedience in the human soul devoted to Christ always translates to creative good coming from God and His larger purposes in the Kingdom.
Because God is playing out a plan. We can be window dressing for it or we can be active participants.
Chambers points out that the few, the humbled, the truly devoted, have crossed over to life beyond mere Christian pious motions, to the real deal – life at the disposal of God.
And that’s a breakthrough. Anything short of that is “pious fraud.”
In Acts 10 Cornelius merely humbly shows up for duty. God gave him a vision – yes, a vision, a supernatural encounter at 3:00 in the afternoon with an angel who gave him specific instruction to locate and connect with the apostle Peter in the coastal town of Joppa, a day’s journey away.
He had no idea what was going on, but he obeyed and sent 3 men with a message for Peter. Cornelius was even given the location of the home that Peter was staying at. (Yes, God can do Anything. Even give us special directions.) The instructions were to bring Peter back to Caesarea to meet with Cornelius.
Unbeknownst to Cornelius, at the same time, Peter was having his own puzzling supernatural encounter with God. He too had a mid-day vision. But his was a strange one of various foods, even non-Kosher items, descending on a sheet displayed before him. In his vision, God told him to “Rise, kill and eat” the foods forbidden by Jewish law.
Upon encountering Cornelius, Peter surmised what God was doing. He was breaking down social and ethnic barriers in the new Church. God showed him that he should ”not call any man common or unclean” (even a Gentile Roman) – “that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that fears/honors Him, and lives righteously, is acceptable to Him. He is Lord of all.” (Acts 10:34-36)
This marked the beginning of the Jews and the Gentiles (non-Jews) becoming unified in The New Way. This new Christian Church, made up of Christ-followers, had no longer any social barriers or ethnic customs to adhere to. The Old Law was fulfilled and complete. The New Covenant was for All the nations, all people, Jews and Gentiles.
God had a plan and used obedient people to execute the plan. They were obedient subjects to the King who has perspective and purposes beyond our comprehension.
A Case Study
Over this past year I had a young man’s name pop into my mind while I was praying. Not a vision, not audible words, but the simple, distinct thought of this person’s name. I did not even know him that well. The strong notion I received in prayer was that I should hire this young man as an assistant on one of my business consulting projects. By the way, this would cost me money out of my own pocket and I was confident that this junior person would add little value to the project. The available project had not even come up yet. I asked God to make it clear how, where, and when to involve this person.
Within a month a project came up, ironically across the country in this person’s home town. At the same time he had been praying for a financial boost and the impossible dream that he and his wife could ever return to their hometown, particularly with their second child on the way.
Long story short: he traveled and worked the project with me. God led him to an uncanny interview with a global philanthropic organization based in his hometown. He has since joined that firm and has become connected with some of the wealthiest people in the world with access to funds and ideas of innovation that have God’s fingerprints all over them.
My friend, Ryan Derfler, and I both are fast learning that we best not orchestrate our own human plans. We merely surrender daily – all in, 100% – and pray for God’s guiding direction as obedient pawns in His larger plan.
It’s a better way to live. It’s the real deal.
Are you living a life of pious fraud or the real deal?
“I have been crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” – Galatians 2:20