I love going to the gym as much as my schedule permits. The gym is my happy place. I put on some music and spend an hour trying to push my body. One thing that bothers me at the gym is when people sit at machines and do not exercise. The last time I was at the gym, I was exercising on the elliptical machine and peered out to see a handful of people sitting on the weight machines with cell phones in hand. The people sat at the machines the entire time I was on the elliptical machine. I became curious as to why the people would even come to the gym if they were not going to work out.
The people who sat at the machines could tell people that they went to the gym. Perhaps some of the group checked in at the gym on Facebook. Perhaps some of the group will tell friends or family that they were at the gym. They will even tell themselves they were at the gym. But to be at the gym and to actually work out at the gym are two different things. Anyone can go to the gym, but not everyone uses the gym equipment. People can see the check in on Facebook and believe their friend is getting buff, and in the end, their friend was scrolling their Facebook newsfeed. To the blind eye, it appears the person is getting fit; reality says something different.
This same façade is true in the life of a “Christian.” There are many people who claim to be Christians but when outsiders observe their lives, they are not seeing Jesus. There are people who attend church on a regular basis and people who do good deeds, who unfortunately do not know Jesus. These people may know of Jesus, but they never had the blessing of enjoying the presence of God in their lives because they were too busy trying to show everyone they had everything in order, too proud to lean into God, or too blinded by their own façade that they missed the grace so freely poured out. It is sad how many people still today think that they must try to earn their place in heaven.
We are each on a journey. We all need Jesus. Let us not sit at the machines pretending to be Christians. Instead, may our eyes be fixed on Jesus. May our words and our deeds point to Him. May we stop trying to cling to the title of Christian, and instead invest our time in following Jesus by responding to the great commands to love God and love others. Love is not a façade. It’s honest. It’s real. It’s vulnerable. It’s messy. It’s certainly not easy. Love God. Love others.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31 [NIV]
In Revelation we read about the church in Sardis. The church was spiritually dead. The Message calls them “stone-dead.” They looked alive. They had a reputation for vigor. But they were like the whitewashed tombs Jesus spoke about when referring to the Pharisees. From the outside it looked great but it was a façade and God is not fooled.
You might look like you have it all together. You might tithe, serve at the local soup kitchen, attend Sunday service. You might look like you are being a “good Christian.” But God sees the heart—He sees your heart. He can see right through the work and know if you are doing it because you have a heart for Him and His people or if you are doing it to keep up with the Joneses or to appear righteous.
There was a clear warning to the people of Sardis. Jesus told them to wake up, repent and strengthen what remained in them. Today I pray that you are not a stone-dead worker. May God reveal to you the areas within you that are not alive and may you repent if your eyes are opened to these things. Never aim for a false reputation. Never build up a façade life. There is no point to a dead worker.
“Write this to Sardis, to the Angel of the church. The One holding the Seven Spirits of God in one hand, a firm grip on the Seven Stars with the other, speaks: ‘I see right through your work. You have a reputation for vigor and zest, but you’re dead, stone-dead.’” – Revelation 3:1 [MSG]