I believe we’re living in a time when God is stripping off the layers of centuries of religion in order to reveal the stunning beauty of Christ and the good news of the gospel that brings great joy.
It’s like the house my wife and I live in. It was build in 1930. When we started to do some remodeling, there was worn-out and rather ugly blue indoor-outdoor carpeting on the kitchen and hallway floors that was installed in the 1970s. Under this carpeting was black linoleum tile that was probably installed in the 1950s. This tile was glued down with something that looked like tar but was as hard as cement.
After ripping out the carpeting, scraping, chipping, and sanding off the linoleum layer, underneath all of that, a beautiful oak floor was revealed in all its glory.
This is what I believe Jesus is doing with His house—His body, the church. He’s peeling back the centuries of layers of man-made religion so that the beautiful, stunning, and breathtaking truth about Jesus Christ can be unveiled for all to see. And the exciting thing is, He’s inviting you and me to participate in the renovation process.
I was reading the following passage in Colossians the other day and it got me thinking about this. Again, As I’ve said before, I’m going through the New Testament this time with the Passion Translation (TPT). You can read it in your own translation if you want, but this particular rendering brings out some interesting points:
5 Walk in the wisdom of God as you live before the unbelievers, and make it your duty to make him known. 6 Let every word you speak be drenched with grace and tempered with truth and clarity. For then you will be prepared to give a respectful answer to anyone who asks about your faith. (Col.4:5-6 TPT)
First, we see that we’re to walk in the wisdom of God as we live before unbelievers. So, it matters how we live. It also means that we need to have an ongoing relationship with Jesus so we know how to walk in His wisdom. We must, first and foremost, know Christ experientially, not just know about Him from studying a book.
Second, it’s our duty to make Him known. How do we do this? By getting in people’s faces? Not according to this context. If we’re following Jesus we should start to look and act like Him, right? This means that people should see a progressive transformation of our lives as we follow Christ.
I wrote about this in my post “To Know God is to Love Others.” If we’ve actually encountered Christ, our lives will be more gracious and kind and we’ll begin to exhibit all the fruits of the Spirit (Gal.5:22-23). Jesus said we will know a tree by its fruit (Matt.7:17-20), so we’re not fooling anybody. For instance, if I say I love God but hate some people then I’m a liar (1 John 4:8,20).
Third, the words we actually use should be “drenched with grace ….” Grace means that we treat others the same way we would want to be treated (Matt.7:12). So, how would you want to be talked to if the roles were reversed?
It’s also tempered by “…truth and clarity.” Jesus Christ is the truth about us and His clear purpose is restore us to Himself so we can become our authentic selves, fully human, as God intended.
29-30 God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored.We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. (Rom.8:29 MSG *)
Finally, we’re to give a “respectful answer to anyone who asks.” Two things here: first, our tone is not demeaning, dishonoring, or condescending…it’s respectful. We respect people’s opinions and how they respond to us. Second, notice that we’re answering their question, not pushing some canned pitch in their face!
Here’s how Peter said it:
15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Pet.3:15 NIV*)
Here, again, we see that they’re asking us and our response is with gentleness and respect. The point is, if we’re modeling Jesus in our relationships, then there will come a time when people will ask us about why we are the way we are.
Conversely, if they see us chasing after the same things as them, weighed down by the same worries, responding ungraciously and living selfishly and small-minded without any sense of greater purpose, then there would be no reason for them to be curious at all. We’re just like everyone else they know.
Clever arguments don’t win people to Christ, transformed hearts and lives do. We must learn to model how Jesus reached people, and His method was “show, then tell.”
If we’re going to peel back the layers of religion it must start with letting Jesus peel back the counterfeit layers in us. Just a thought….