My parents were very particular about what my sister and I listened to on the radio and watched on TV. Daddy has always believed that the movies and television shows we watch; the magazines we read; the sites we visit on the Internet; and the music we listen to all have an impact on our lives, either positive or negative. Needless to say, during my teenage years in the Eighties, my daddy’s comfort limited me to tuning in to Christian, country, or doo wop classics from the Fifties!
In 1955, a group called “The Platters” released a popular song entitled, “The Great Pretender.” The first verse goes:
Oh-oh, yes I’m the great pretender
Pretending that I’m doing well
My need is such I pretend too much
I’m lonely but no one can tell
In this age of “movable masks,” all of us have probably been guilty at some point of pretending. Sadly, authenticity is under attack as social media often has us desiring more to put our best face forward when, in reality, we all have problems and many vainly attempt to erect a facade behind which to hide them.
Tony Evans shares about a bodybuilder who was visiting a tribe in Africa. The chief was blown away by his guest’s chiseled physique and asked him, “What do you do with all those muscles?” The man replied, “Well, it’s probably easier to show you than explain.”
Immediately, the bodybuilder went into all these different routines showcasing his triceps, biceps, obliques, quadriceps and back. He just stood in the same place changing poses. After the presentation, the tribal chief exclaimed, “Wow! That’s impressive. But I have a second question. What else do you do with all those muscles?” The bodybuilder thought for a moment and then admitted, “Well, that’s pretty much it. I work out to pose.” Shaking his head in dismay, the chieftain said, “What a waste. What a waste.”
I wonder how many of us Christians are like this bodybuilder? How many of us are only “working out” to pose? We attend church, try to keep the 10 Commandments, go to Bible study, certainly pray, and we may have even been baptized. But doing all this does not make us a Christian. We work out spiritually to look good in the eyes of others. We’re merely posers. However, the One who can see our hearts is not impressed.
Daddy tells the story of how he grew up hearing about what a great Christian boy he was. He had perfect Sunday school attendance and never thought of skipping a sermon. He recounts, “So many people told me I was a Christian, I thought I was. I had a whole lot of church and religion in my head, but I needed a Savior in my heart.”
One of the most sobering passages of Scripture to me is Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus states:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name and in Your name drive out demons and in Your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!'”
In the first eight days of this New Year, I’ve already attended two funerals. I believe eulogies have a way of shaking up pretense in the pews and opening our hearts, eyes, and minds to where our focus should be.
Life is not about who’s looking at us, but unto Whom we’re looking. Jesus sees us how we are and loves us anyway, but He doesn’t leave us unchanged. A genuine encounter with Christ produces a longing to cling to Him, take Him at His Word, and trust His power to transform our pretending to real, fruitful living.