Embracing Grace: Grim Christian Tales

A 365 Day Devotional Journal

Day 28

Scripture: Philippians 2, 4:4-9; 2 Timothy 2-3; Matthew 24:7-13; Luke 18:8-14; Philippians 2:12; Matthew 11:27-29.

Photo public domain.

We live in the day of mass counterfeit, where global society has joined as one to celebrate the triumph of the “enhanced” new world (you know who you are.) Oh, to go back to the days when it was for the good of humanity that we concentrated on such things as prosthetics or mechanical hearts. Oh, for the days when our greatest concern was dealing with a few currency counterfeiters. The list now is beyond endless. We like to couch them in pleasant sounding words, such as man-made, genuine imitation, reproduction, generic, enhanced, modified, or cloned, but honestly, who are we fooling?

Certainly not ourselves.

Today, I looked up the word “counterfeit” using www.thesaurus.com, and you will never guess what the first synonym listed was.

Hollywood.1

Apropos, is it not, that Hollywood has become synonymous with counterfeit? It is laughable, really.

Not one to miss a good investment, the country of China jumped on the bogus bandwagon years ago. In 1986, they opened the Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park, a theme park eerily reminiscent of Disneyland. According to an article on Wikipedia2, they were exposed in 2007 for copyright infringement of cartoon characters from Japan and the United States. Denying any wrongdoing, they instead claimed the characters were based on those from Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

For them to admit wrong would open Pandora’s Box for us all.

I had been using a hardback study Bible for over twelve years when last summer I decided it was high time to get a new leather study Bible. My previous one, two Bibles ago, had for the second time broken loose from its binding, so it was tucked away in my desk for safe keeping but limited use. I must be addicted to books or something, because just the prospect of hunting out a new study Bible was exhilarating… in the beginning.

You can imagine my frustration upon discovering the trend today is toward making the outside of the Bible more elegant than the usefulness of its interior. After going through some of the more popular study Bibles at our local Christian bookstore, I still had not found what I considered to be a great, let alone good study Bible. This is not a criticism of publishers, for they merely sell what the public demands. I could, however, purchase one in any color of the rainbow, in leather, leatherette, a nice soft binding reminiscent of suede, paperback, or the old hardback standbys. Then, if I wanted, I could pick out a color coordinating cover, messenger bag, or purse specifically made to showcase my beautiful new Bible.

Strangely disappointed, I ended up settling for a simple translation that a favorite Bible teacher endorsed, with the hopes that online reference materials and my trusty, old Bible with its broken binding would fill in the gap when I needed something more. I even wrote the publisher of my favorite study Bible (now no longer in print), and requested a reprint in a different translation, my current favorite. While I received a courteous reply, the answer was basically “no.”

My conclusion at the end of the day was that the Christian today is more interested in what is displayed on the exterior than with what is stored within.

We see this emphasis borne out in nearly every commercial on T.V., by fashion trends, enhanced body parts (no explanation necessary), purely cosmetic dentistry, the emphasis on the young, euthanasia of the old and infirmed. We even see it in the way business is run in church.

Supersize is our motto, bigger and better, or newer and more fashionable.

Only two references came up when I ran a search for the word “ungrateful” in the Bible the other day. These same two words in another version are translated “unthankful.” They mean essentially the same thing. The first one is found in Luke 6:34-36, where Jesus is quoted as saying that God is kind to ungrateful and evil men. The second one is in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited,  lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.”3

I think a fallacy the church as a whole is guilty of is the mistaken idea that this detail of what last days men will be like somehow excludes the church. We like to couch our ideas of God and the Christian life into comfortable words and insulate ourselves from the probing Truth of the two-edged sword, the Word. We are the forgiven, the called, the holy. Not to do so would leave us hanging without explanation as to why we do not live a holy life.

Wait, did I say holy? Scratch that thought.

We are no more set apart than the guy living on the street. That is what holy means, set apart. If we as a group were truly holy, we would be different from the world, and for the most part, we are not. Why don’t I bring it up close and personal…

I figure prominently on the who’s who list of the guilty-as-charged.

When placed side by side, the above listed negative attributes of men in the last days are antagonistic to the fruit of the Spirit because each is an antonym. Being the curious and possibly insane person that I am, I wondered just how well they fit this assumption. To my surprise, they all fit, some of them numerous times, especially when considering synonyms to the original words which by definition slant them one way or the other. The list is not by any means exhaustive, but this is what I found:

Fruit of the Spirit Antonyms Found in 2 Timothy 3:1-5

  1. Love ~ antonym of: lovers of self, lovers of money, haters of good, arrogant [proud, conceited], lovers of pleasure [hedonistic]
  2. Joy ~ antonym of: ungrateful [thankless, rude]
  3. Peace ~ antonym of: haters of good [fighter, person who starts fights, warmonger]
  4. Patience ~ antonym of : irreconcilable [intolerant, agitated]
  5. Kindness ~ antonym of: reviler [mean, faultfinder, belittler], ungrateful [cruel], unholy [unkind], unloving [unkind, harsh, heartless], irreconcilable [unfriendly, caustic], brutal [merciless, ruthless, rude], treacherous [ruthless, snide, critical], reckless [inconsiderate, rude, obstinate]
  6. Goodness ~ antonym of: disobedient [bad, contrary, perverse], unholy [evil, ungodly], irreconcilable [twisted, averse, warring], malicious gossips [evil-minded or wicked slander], brutal [barbarous, cruel, wicked, bad], haters of good, treacherous [false, deceitful, evil, wicked, corrupt, bad], holding to a form of godliness [counterfeit, deceitful]
  7. Faithfulness ~ antonym of: treacherous [disloyal, unfaithful]
  8. Gentleness ~ antonym of: boastful [arrogant], arrogant [conceited], brutal [feral, coarse, crude, rough], reckless [aggressive, neurotic, temperamental], arrogant [proud, counterfeit, insincere, pretentious], treacherous [violent]
  9. Self-control ~ antonym of: without self-control [excess, indulgent, imbalance]

Upon compiling this list and studying the defining nuances listed within the brackets, my sobering conclusion was that Iwas guilty of them all, maybe not today, but certainly within my lifetime.

No wonder the world is falling apart.

How do I reach the unsaved when I know I am no better than they? They already hold the belief that true Christians don’t exist because they have seen the hypocrisy in the church; they have seen the counterfeit displays. I have hope, though because God gave us the answer two thousand years ago, in the words of Jesus.

“Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat 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 everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”4

Synonyms for gentleness, a fruit of the Spirit are: kindness [a fruit of the Spirit], charity [love, a fruit of the Spirit], mercy, compassion, meekness, obedience, fairness, grace, forbearance, justness, favor, forgiveness, purity, chastity, honor, righteousness. I could go on, but you get the idea. All these are attributes of God. I was looking for humility on the list but did not find it, but take note of the two words in italics, meekness and obedience, which both are also synonyms of humility, and you then are able to link the above scripture with the fruit of the Spirit.

So then, gentleness [humility] is not only the way to be made right with God, but it also is the way to reach the lost, when coupled with love.

Jesus said these days would come.

“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”5

When we walk this path together, working out our salvation with fear and trembling,6 striving only to let our gentleness be known to all, then the end time harvest will come, for the Lord is near.

Read: Philippians 2, 4:4-9; 2 Timothy 2-3; Matthew 24:7-13; Luke 18:8-14; Philippians 2:12; Matthew 11:27-29. Journal your private thoughts.

Jesus, you promised if I come to you that you will give me rest. Place Your yoke on me, that I may learn of You, for You are gentle and lowly in heart. Thank you for promising rest for my soul when I do this.7 May Your forbearance be evident in my life, for the honor of the Father, and for Your kingdom, amen.

_____________________

1“counterfeit.” Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition. Philip Lief Group 2009. 04 Mar. 2011. <Thesaurus.com http://thesaurus.com/browse/counterfeit?__utma=1.1781486189.1299206534.1299261920.1299272297.4&__utmb=1.4.10.1299272297&__utmc=1&__utmx=-&__utmz=1.1299206534.1.1.utmcsr=dictionary.reference.com|utmccn=(referral)|utmcmd=referral|utmcct=/cite.html&__utmv=-&__utmk=198410031>.
2Information Retrieved from    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beijing_Shijingshan_Amusement_Park.
32 Timothy 3:1-5. Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
4Luke 18:8b-14. Bold italics mine. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
5Matthew 24:7-13. bold italics mine. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
6Philippians 2:12.
7Matthew 11:28-30
Copyright ©  2011, Érin Elise
Copyright © 1986 – 2016, Great Awakening Project, LLC. All rights reserved.  Applies to all text and images on this website unless specifically noted otherwise herein.
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One Response to Embracing Grace: Grim Christian Tales

  1. Facelift says:

    Thanks for your insight for the great written piece. I am glad I have taken the time to read this.