Removing the Veneer – October 2014

naturalA veneer is a thin, decorative layer of material put over a less desirable object to cover up its defects, so it can pretend to be something it is not.

Often, God’s professed people are merely that, professed, without a genuine conversion of the heart. God said, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8, 9).

There is no value in pretended Christianity. In fact, it does more harm than good. “An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour” (Proverbs 11:9). Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

One day a young man came to Jesus, “…running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:17-22).

This young man had a form of godliness, but was missing a very essential ingredient: the love of God in his heart. He wanted to be a Christian, and even strictly adhered to all the rules, but without God in his heart, his life was merely a profession. He had viewed his relationship with God as obedience to a list of dos and don’ts. He could check off the list, “1) I didn’t worship false gods today, 2) I didn’t bow down to idols, 3) I didn’t take the name of God in vain, 4) I didn’t break the Sabbath, 5) I did not dishonor my parents, 6) I didn’t kill anyone today, 7) I didn’t commit adultery, 8) I didn’t steal from anyone, 9) I didn’t tell a lie, 10) I didn’t lust after my neighbor’s belongings. I must be okay.” Was he really? No! His heart was still corrupt, lacking God’s love.

Jesus told him, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” In another place Jesus explained this, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). In this three-step process for the rich young ruler, Jesus replaced “deny himself” with “sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor…” Jesus was asking him to give up the ambitions of his old life to accept the new life of Christ.

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In another place Jesus said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26, 27). Jesus here replaced, “deny himself” with “hate… his own life…” To truly experience being born again, you must come to the place where you realize your utter inability to live a meaningful life on your own, and depend upon the only source of goodness that comes from outside of yourself.

The rich young ruler thought that if he could force himself to follow the written law, he would have a place in heaven. But Jesus pointed out his real necessity of having a heart transplant and having the law written in his heart. This does not come about by memorizing the written law. That will help you to see what a Christian should live like, but it will not make you a Christian. This can only happen when Christ dwells in your heart by faith, and then, “…greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). This will give you a transformation from the inside out instead of from the outside in.

This will not “make void the law through faith,” but “establish the law” (Romans 3:31). “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:2-4).

Seeking Greatness

There is a natural law of the carnal mind to seek to exalt and justify itself. When Adam was confronted about his sin, he blamed God for giving him a woman who convinced him to eat of the forbidden fruit. Eve blamed the serpent, and this blame game has been played over and over again by every child of Adam.

The natural man seeks to puff himself up. “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?” (Proverbs 20:6). Most men will tell stories in such a way to make themselves look good. When you hear the story from another perspective you often get a very different picture of events. this makes a judge’s job very difficult. Faithful and honest men are hard to find.

Jesus told a story, “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14).

The Pharisee was sure to mention all the good things he had done and, to make himself look even better, he compared himself to a despised tax collector. He was certain that he had a secure place in heaven, but in reality he was corrupt in heart, as demonstrated by his desire to boost his own ego. “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips” (Proverbs 27:2).

The natural, evil tendency to exalt yourself was not absent from the disciples. “And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest” (Luke 22:24). “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).

This was a hard blow to their power struggles for trying to be the greatest, yet this desire for supremacy stayed with the disciples all the way up to Christ’s death. One of Jesus’ last acts of love was designed to quench this unholy spirit of contention. At the last supper, the disciples refrained from doing the servant job of washing feet, but then their Master, Jesus Christ, took a towel and a basin of water and began to wash the disciples’ feet. It was hard for them to fathom greatness in humility, but that is how true greatness is manifested. King David said, “…thy gentleness hath made me great” (Psalms 18:35).

Contentions

The struggle for supremacy did not cease at the death of Christ. In fact, it is very much alive today in God’s church. The Bible tells us an important lesson. “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom” (Proverbs 13:10). Contentions only come as a result of pride. Remove the pride, and the contentions will cease. “Cast out the scorner [arrogant boaster], and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease” (Proverbs 22:10).

Pride is the first on the list of seven things that God hates: “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19).

These evil practices should be past-tense for Christians. Paul wrote, “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:3-7). We used to be “deceived, … hateful, and hating one another.” Is this past-tense for you?

The Pharisees pretended to be so pious and holy, so zealous of the law of God that the slightest perceived infraction would bring down their wrath. Of these “holy” men, Jesus said, “But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham” (John 8:40). These religious leaders outwardly appeared righteous, but inside, their thoughts were plotting to kill the Son of God.

Friends, are we any different today? How is your thought life? Do you have evil thoughts in your heart while appearing righteous on the outside? These are serious questions that each of us must answer honestly.

A Need for Change

Your thought life and emotions are hard to change, impossible for you on your own. Changing the things you once loved into things you hate, and the things you once hated into things you love is a supernatural event. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23). An evil-hearted man cannot become good by conforming his outward actions to meet the requirements of the law.

Jesus asked, “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” (Matthew 6:27). Job said, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one” (Job 14:4). This is “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). Outward adherence to rules can only go so far, and cannot reach the heart.

Jesus taught a deeper meaning of the law when He said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:21, 22). He also said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27, 28).

Here is a difficult one for many: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43).

If you hate someone, can you by taking thought, love them? Can you change your inward feelings by meditation or other human methods? You may be able to make an apparent change, but if you have an evil heart, no amount of cover up is going to change that. Evil will come out one way or another. Jesus said it well, when He said, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

My children have learned a language called “Arp.” It is a modification of the English language to where the sound, “arp” is said once or more in every word. I have a hard time enjoying the sound of this language. Quite frankly, it has been irritating for me to hear. But I have realized that my dislike of this language is unreasonable. I cannot change my feelings towards it, but I have prayed to God to give me His Spirit to be longsuffering and kind, and He has changed me. I have had similar experiences with other deep-rooted emotions that cannot change on their own.

The promises that changed my life in this regard are: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith” (Galatians 5:22). “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

This is a powerful chain of verses that God has used to change my life on several monumental occasions, and I am sure He can do it for you too. God has given these promises for a reason. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4).

John made an astounding statement: “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 John 3:14). John says that a good indicator of entering into life is when our innermost emotions are changed. When “…the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5), then we can be sure that we have passed from death to life.

Conclusion

Let us not be content with an outward form of godliness without the internal power of God in our hearts to transform us (Matthew 23:25-28). I pray “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith…” (Ephesians 3:16, 17).

Jesus is coming soon to bring us to heaven to live with Him forever. For this to happen, we must be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). This transformation will continue “…until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19). “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). We will be like Him because He will live His life in us. “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (Romans 16:20).

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