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Illusions of Grandeur

Illusions

   Illusionists can create situations where it is hard to tell what is reality and what is fake. With the use of sleight of hand, mirrors, and other techniques he convinces you that what you know is not real has happened. All of us have probably been spellbound by watching a skilled illusionist perform tricks where people disappear, seem to be cut in half, and many other feats. We can be easily fooled by hidden compartments, well timed distractions, very theatrical presentations, and because the hand is quicker than the eye.

     Something that concerns me greatly is, are there things in our churches and our lives that can create an illusion of spiritual health?  There are scriptures that have always haunted me concerning this possibility. Matt. 7 tells us that a person can have the illusion that they know God but the reality is that they have never known Him.  Rev. 3 teaches that a church can have the illusion that they are rich and in need of nothing yet they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. Warren Weirsbe said, “To the public the Ephesian church was successful; to Christ, it had fallen.”

     Here are some things that can give a church the illusion that they are spiritually healthy:

  • Building and facilities: While having a location is a blessing, it can also cause us to focus on the wrong thing. Churches are meeting in movie theaters, schools, and under bridges reminding us that it’s not about the place but about what takes place when we worship. We have always said that the church is not brick and mortar but people.
  • Bells and whistles: Technology is great and there are many advancements that are a blessing to our services. The temptation could be to place too much emphasis on perfection and the production. The Bible reminds us that we can have the illusion of godliness but deny the power thereof.
  • Programs and activities: If we are not careful, we equate busyness with spiritual health. We must never allow activity to become a cheap substitute for our adoration of God. Jesus made it very clear that Mary had the right priority over her sister, Martha, in choosing to sit at Jesus’ feet.

Individual believers can also think they are spiritually healthy when they are not. Here are some mistakes we make that can give the illusion of spiritual health:

  • Comparing ourselves to others: There is often someone we compare ourselves to thinking we are more faithful, more dedicated, and more spiritual. The standard is not to be like others, nor better than others. The biblical challenge is to live, look, and love like Jesus. Jesus told Peter not to worry about John but focus on his own service and life.
  • Faithfulness: Never missing services and always attending everything does not guarantee you are spiritually healthy.  It is easy to go through the motions while developing the habit of being faithful, which is a good habit, but not having a close intimate relationship with the Lord.  15:8 says, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”
  • Longevity: We can think that because we have been a believer 20, 30, or 40 years that we are spiritually healthy.  It is not so much the quantity of time but rather the quality of time in following Christ.  We can have the illusion that we are spiritually healthy because we have been a believer a long time!

     Psalms 51:16-17 says, “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”  Remember, God looks at the heart and is more interested in why we do what we do than He is in what we do!  God is into motives and it is very possible to serve Him and give the illusion of being spiritually healthy while our hearts are far from Him. 

     Healthy churches and healthy Christians examine their hearts and their motives in order to serve the Lord so that He is honored and glorified!  They are very careful to not allow anything to give the illusion that they are spiritually healthy.  Proverbs 16:2 says, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits (motives).”