Ellisville church of Christ
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The Act
Phil Burmeister
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I do not know anyone who likes it when they do something wrong. The consequences often result in some form of punishment. What did you think of the last time you saw someone getting punished? You were probably thankful it wasn't you. In truth many times we deserve the same because we are no different than the person being punished.
Turn to Matthew 23:25-28. In this chapter Jesus was giving the scribes and Pharisees a serious tongue lashing. I don't think we put ourselves in the place of the scribes and Pharisees often enough. These religious types sure could put on a performance with the best of them. We are often no different than they are. We often give Oscar caliber performances whenever we meet on the church stage. Every actor dreams of winning an Oscar for their performances. This is not the reward we should be seeking as Christians, however if we were rewarded for our performances we often put on at church, as much as I hate to say it, my mantel would probably be full of them. That is what scares me the most about putting on the act. It is so easy to keep the outside real nice and pretty but just like Jesus could see right through the religious types of his day, He also sees right through our performances.
Not only does God see right through us, the world often sees right through it as well. I don't think that it bothers the world that we sin. I think it bothers the world that we act like we don't. We are often indifferent or angry throughout the week or even on our way to church or a church function. When our "church friends" aren't watching, we may be struggling spiritually causing us to fall short. On the other hand, we may be wailing about others, gossiping, mean, just plain sinful without even a care. As soon as we pull up and exit our vehicle we put on those smiles like the homecoming queen in the parade. On Sunday we are a Saint, on Monday we ain't. It is no wonder why it is so hard to teach the word to those who need it most, when we often put on these performances for the world to see.
Why do we put on these performances? Obviously it is what Satan wants. The saddest part about it is we are at the one place where honesty should be encouraged, where our shortcomings ought to be accepted, a place where we can say without fear of judgement or ridicule, "I am struggling, I hurt, I need help." I don't know why, but for some reason the opposite happens more often than not. Consider this common conversation that happens every week. These two people may be struggling or in pain but you would never know it.
"How are you doing Joe?"
(Great, how are you?)
"Good. It's great to see you."
This is such common occurrence and most of us have so much on our plates we don't really care. So what do we do put on the smile and give the courteous response.
As soon as the person walks away we breathe a sigh of relief, hoping they didn't see the act. We are just as thankful they didn't dump any problems on us. I am not advocating dumping all our problems on everyone we meet. However, there is nothing wrong with being transparent with our brothers and sisters if things aren't peachy. We all have struggles in our lives. The biggest problem is the world makes us think something is wrong with us if we are hurting or in need. If I am struggling, I must be doing something wrong spiritually. What is wrong with me? Shouldn't God meet all our needs? The fact that God created us with a desire to be together tells me that part of his plan is for us to be helped by other members of His body. "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."(Hebrews 10:24-25)
If we can't lean on each other who can we lean on? Unfortunately, many of us take our place in the seats every week but would never dream of being transparent within the group. We may have tried a time or two to be transparent and show how we may feel about certain things only to be burnt by gossip or harsh judgement. We have concluded that it is essential to be here but it is not safe. We may have heard brothers and sisters that we see as a "strong Christian" look down or criticize a "weaker Christian" that may have a different viewpoint on any number of things. One only has to read Romans 14:1-15:13 to see how these types of situations should be handled. All too often we tend to judge as if we have no shortcomings or that our way is the only way. We must remember Jesus's words, the next time someone has the courage to drop the act and become transparent. Turn to Matthew 7:1-6. We do know that some judging is required, however the point here is we need to avoid harsh criticism and fault-finding.
The following are the lyrics to a song that hit the nail on the head. Allow me to interject at certain points.
Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today, feeling so small
Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they'll soon discover
That I don't belong

I have felt that way so many times. If my walk were exposed right now I would be excommunicated. I am so dry any spark would set my anger or emotions aflame. Would I dare to confess that? I honestly don't know, but I will think about it much harder now.
So I tuck it all away,
like everything's okay
If I make them all believe it,
maybe I'll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me
the way that I see them
There you have it. I know I have played that stupid game. Maybe I will believe it too if I just ignore it and tuck it all away.

Is there anyone who's been there
Are there any hands to raise am I the only one who's traded
In the altar for a stage
The performance is convincing and we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart
But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be

Satan wants us to think we will be rejected if we dare to let others see the truth behind the person. Perhaps some may reject us but God will not. I want to be willing to take a chance to be real. I want to be authentic and see where that leads. You can't find authenticity with a painted grin and phony replies.
Would your arms be open
Or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus
Be enough to make you stay

That is probably the biggest giant we face. If we let people really know us would they stay or would they turn and walk away.
Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation's open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain on our stained glass masquerade

In conclusion, it can be very painful cleaning out our closets. We will never experience God the way He desires if we are unwilling to do that. Can we trust Jesus enough to close the curtain on our performance? Can we trust Him enough to be authentic, not needy and demanding, just honest and real? There is so much more available to us in the body of Christ if we can overcome our fear and drop the act. It can only benefit the group if they see the love of Jesus pouring out on those that may be struggling instead of just seeing the same old act. So what would the point of being a Sunday Christian be anyway? What would it get you - some imaginary award only you know about? If we really believe this is all real, we need to drop the act, stop the judgement and pursue it seven days a week.

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