#Write31Days – Post 9 – False Spirituality

spotlight

The lights come on, the camera is rolling, there is beautiful music being played, voices fill the air with their melodic song, and then the speaker delivers a powerful message.  We leave from that place invigorated and inspired to change our ways, to pray more and read the Bible every day.  We agree to hold each other accountable, to volunteer more, and to give more as we become better stewards.  Our lives are so affected and changed that each week we will invite more and more people to hear this person, this godly and spiritual gift from heaven.

This may go on for weeks, months, years and even decades.  Then it happens, one day we turn on the news and that gift is being splashed across the screen.  The person we held in such high regard has been accused or even arrested, or has stepped forward to admit and unexpected truth.  We try to deny it, but ultimately the truth always comes out.  We have to face the fact that this person, whom we held in such high regard, was nothing but a phony.

When I was a child, I remember watching television with my grandmother on Sundays.  There was one particular show she would watch, where a beautiful woman would come on stage… she would sing with such beauty and emotion that tears would stream down her face.  Her husband would then take the stage and preach a message that was convicting and life changing.  They were inspiring people, until the day his fraud was exposed.  People who had supported their ministry were devastated, and many became like me… a hardened skeptic.  I don’t fall for “shows” anymore, and I have learned to watch for the signs of hypocrisy and being disingenuous.

There are people who are REALLY good at faking it.  They may appear to have it all together, the perfect husband, kids and home.  They can spout out bible verses, speak in glorious ways that make them sound learned and wise, they pray out loud using fancy words and phrases, and they know the right lingo that will create an illusion of being holy and righteous.

Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

Luke 12:3

Sometimes I will see right through a person, from the start.  Yet there are other times where it isn’t quite that obvious.  I may be suspicious, but without any evidence.  Or, the person might be really good at hiding their true self.  Humans are incapable of hiding truth for that long though, eventually we begin to see signs that things are not quite how they are being presented.  Then over time, particularly as the person becomes more comfortable with you – or confident in their ability to deceive – they truth beings to come to surface.  We can see through the facade.

The man who acts like a loving and caring father out in public, but verbally abuses his children or wife.

The pastor who gets caught in an affair or misusing tithes and church funds.

The woman who comes off as a sweet and kind woman at church, but in her home she screams and treats her family like they are nothing.

The ministry leader who prays for spiritual purity in the youth, while he is grooming certain students to be abused.

I am not talking about the person who gets caught up in a singular bad decision, where they lost good sense because of the temptation in front of them.  We are all sinners and have the capability of atrocious things.  I am talking about the person who is consistently and purposefully this way.  They put on a good show for others (and maybe they think it’s impressing God) but in their heart they are truly not changed, in their homes they are the exact opposite of what they preach or teach.

These are people who have a false spirituality.  They know all of the right words, all of the traditions, and how to present themselves in a way that sells their best characteristics.  But inside they are corrupt, manipulative, and deceitful.

Would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart.

Psalm 44:21

God knows the heart, and He will shine light on the darkness.

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

Luke8:17

These are people who will even try and garner your sympathies as they wallow in their own sin, but it’s just for show.  They are not really interested in changing themselves, they just want to make sure you can’t speak against them.  It’s a guardrail that they put up to protect themselves.  It allows them to speak their truth (sometimes harshly) by tagging on a “I am not perfect” clause as they critique you.  They will claim deliverance from this or that sin, so that after they have torn you down … they can build you back up in as their own image bearer.

People with false spirituality are not trying to make you look Christ-like… hardly!  What they are trying to do is to mold you to look more like they do, they are doing it for the glory.  They shout “LOOK AT ME!  Look at what I have done.  Come, be just like ME!”… and God is not part of that equation.

So, how do we spot “false spirituality” –

  • Pray for Discernment – ask God to give you the wisdom and the knowledge to see through those who are frauds.

  • Pray for Transparency – pray that God will reveal their hidden truths to you, or the public as a whole.

  • Be Observant & Listen – you will begin to notice things that don’t feel quite right, or they will say something that will cause you take pause.  The more you are around them, the more frequently this will happen.

  • Look to Others – let me be clear, I am NOT advising you to gossip about a person.  What I am saying is see how others act around them.  Are there people who seem to have modeled themselves to be just like this person?  That’s a clue.  Just as much on the other side, do you notice that the wise people in your church or community are avoiding them like the plague!  That’s a clue too.

  • Who Do They Credit – when there is blessing or praise to be given, who does this person credit the glory to?  If they are constantly looking for the pat on the back, the attention, the credit, the glory … be careful.  “Look at what I did…” is just as bad as “Thank you Lord for allowing me this success….”.  In both cases, this is a person who is working in their own strength, on their own agenda. 

No one is going to be perfect, and if you are not careful you can discount just about anyone from being in your life because they are failing or sinful SOMEWHERE.   A genuine person isn’t going to put on the act of spiritual superiority, they are more interested in trying to address their own sin issues than trying to solve everyone else’s.

I recall a woman I was speaking with was sharing a ministry vision, she wanted to create a website where Christians could essential log their community service hours.  She wanted the world to see the good that Christians are doing, so they would see that we are not hypocrites and that we are actively striving to make a better world.

In theory, that sounds good.  But is that biblical? Is that actually a ministry?

Not really.

It was just another way to get a pat on the back for doing a good job.  It was another way of saying “hey, look at me and what I do!”  It didn’t allow God to get the credit, it was a place where instead each person would be able to get the credit they felt they deserved.

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:2-4

This is also an great example of “false spirituality” because it gives an appearance of godliness.  When we boast about ourselves and our accomplishments for God, we are actually boasting only of ourselves.  If we truly wanted God to have all the glory, we would leave our names out of it entirely.  We are warned that as the days draw closer to Christ’s return, false spirituality is going to be on the rise as much (if not more) than sin and decay in the world.  When we encounter false spirituality, we must flee from it so that we are not corrupted by it.

But know this:  Difficult times will come in the last days.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of godliness but denying its power.  Avoid these people!

For among them are those who worm their way into households and capture idle women burdened down with sins, led along by a variety of passions, always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of truth.

2 Timothy 3:1-7

 

Advertisements

Oh Captain, My Captain. Robin Williams.

This has been a rough evening, for me, upon learning the news of Robin William’s death.  In my youthful desires to be an actress, Robin Williams would hold a very strong position in pushing that dream forward.  He was a performer that I admired.  I thought he was incredibly talented, funny, quick witted.  His range of characters gave me hope that as an actress I didn’t have to be pigeon holed in as a comedic or dramatic performer.  I could be both, equally good … as the role would require me.  I loved how his genuine connection to his characters would come through the screen.  I was envious of the fact that he had little inhibitions, he didn’t care about being embarrassed by making a fool of himself.  I have watched some of his best comedy acts over his life, and I never laughed harder than when Robin Williams was laughing at his own jokes.

In college, one of the first things I was taught was that acting was “the art of lying”.  The idea behind that statement is that a good, a truly GOOD, actor would be able to cause you to suspend your beliefs.  Meaning, you would believe that people singing a song in the middle of a fight it totally normal… that you could be transported to ancient egypt…. or that Peter Pan could really fly.  You would watch the screen and not think of the actor who was playing the role, but truly see the character first. It was true and honest connection, authentic emotions and pure delivery.

Robin Williams was capable of just that.  You would not see Robin Williams on the screen…. you were watching Mork, Jack, Peter, Mrs. Doubtfire.. even Genie.  He, for a brief moment, was that new person.  And you believed it, totally.

Some of the most talented artists have been the most tormented.  We mourn their death because they had an ability to touch us in a different way than even a “good” artist.  These truly gifted people pay a price for all that they give to entertain others.    We can hold these people to high esteem, follow their careers and lives, and still never fully understand the storm that brews inside of them.

Great actors, usually embrace their roles with such heart and vigor because they allow them  to put on a mask.  I know how this feels, to put on that mask & escape into a role.  We can be anyone other than who we were born.  We can escape our unhappy, unfulfilled, damaged lives for a fraction of time.  That character can be anyone and anything, without limitation, that we could never be.  And, we can rest in the safety of knowing when we are done, no matter how hard the role was… we can put that script away, put that character to bed.

Then, there are those who can’t.  The actors that allow themselves to connect with a character to the point that it becomes part of you.  You can’t shake it.  This happened with Heath Ledger, in his role of The Joker in the Batman franchise.   In conversations and interviews, Heath admitted that the role was so disturbing that he had to seek professional counseling over it.  It was on the medications prescribed by his doctor, that Heath would overdose.  Another great talent, lost.

Not that long ago, we lost Phillip Seymour Hoffman to overdose.  Another great talent, lost.  Suffering from a life time of addiction, struggling to be sober.  Overcome and overwhelmed by the expectations put upon him.  He wouldn’t be the only actor to succumb to the pressure and struggle that the truly gifted artists are burdened with.  Leave us too long in our own reality and the world gets to us… deeply.

And now, we mourn the loss of Robin Williams…  and there is shock and sadness.  Heartbroken.  Surprise.   No one knew the man who had the greatest smile, purest laugh and immeasurable talent battled against depression.  Even those who knew his struggle with sobriety, would have been surprised that while he was making us cry with laughter… he was crying himself to sleep.

Despite my greatest desires to one day make it to Hollywood or Broadway, God didn’t take me down that road.  I can’t help but thank God for saving me from myself, from a life that seems like it has everything to offer but leaves the truly greats empty and hollow.   Robin Williams leaves behind a family, who will not be able to understand how it came to this.  He leaves scores of fans and his own peers grieving and wounded.  But, there are also going to be those who get it.   Those greats who have already passed, too soon… too young; and those who are struggling right now in silence, alone.

What does that have to do with you and me?  Everything.    Because we encounter these great actors every day in our lives, on Sunday’s at church and in the grocery store.  The woman who seems to have it all together.  The lady who tells you that everything is “just fine” with a beautiful smile on her face.  The man who says that “recovery is going great”.  The husband and wife putting on a happily ever after display for the kids.  Or, even that person who looks you in the eyes and with out a tell tale sign otherwise says “the test results look good, the doctor is very optimistic”.

Every day we encounter people who are suffering in silence, putting on a good show for the benefit of others, and falling apart when no one is looking.

Some of the greatest actors in the world, have never graced a screen or stepped foot on a stage.  You walk among them, every day.

Pray for them.  Even though you don’t know them by name or what their exact problems are, God does.

Make yourself approachable.  In time, they may start to open up to you.  You can’t force it, but you can be open to it.

And, if the truth is that YOU are the one putting on the act….

You don’t have to play that role anymore.  Be honest with yourself, those who love you, and those who are in a position to help you.  Fight against allowing the despair to push you to a point of no return.

To a family I have never met, I give nothing but my love and prayers.  Robin Williams was and is one of my greatest inspirations, favorite performers to watch and talented beyond measure.  May he rest in peace, and may God be your comforter at this time.