Stop pretending

Quit your worship charades. I can’t stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings— meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening. And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody. Go home and wash up. Clean up your act. Sweep your lives clean of your evil doings so I don’t have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless. (Isaiah 1:16-17)

Charades is a game in which you have to act out titles to songs, movies, or events. The team has to guess what you are trying to act out in a limited amount of time. If you are successful in your "acting", your team is able to guess the thing you portray. If not, the other team has a chance to "steal" the points by answering themselves. Charades is a fun game, but when we begin to live life like it was a game of charades, we are simply giving a "pretense" of living one way, while we are really acting another. As kids, we'd "pretend" to be soldiers, parents, cops, and even robbers. We'd act out our imagination's creation. It was a fun time as kids, but when our imagination is what guides us into adulthood, we can find we are living by "pretense" rather than much substance. The problem with this is that without substance, we really don't have much of a foundation upon which to build a reliable and trustworthy life.

God is a holy God and as such, he cannot allow sin to remain "unchecked" - it must be dealt with. We have our own "free-will", so we are "free" to choose to live obediently to the will of God, or we can choose our own direction in life. The choice is ours - God will not override our choices. Whenever we choose to live by our own directives, we run into this issue of compromise and eventually drift into sinful deeds. Those deeds require God's judgment - for sin must be judged. This is the truth proclaimed throughout scripture - hence, Christ had to come as the perfect sacrifice for our sin - his blood shed on our behalf brought an acceptable "covering" for our sin. Where there is a sin nature, there will be sin's activity. God's plan is for us to submit our will to his, lessening the desire to pursue this sinful activity.

This sin nature and desire to do our own thing in life is revealed in some of the "charades" we engage in. If you look closely at this passage, there is this "laundry list" of "activities", "actions", and "aspirations" we attempt, but which fall short of accomplishing what the blood of Jesus accomplishes. All our conferences, religious meetings, church attendance, and the like are nice, but they don't accomplish our salvation - they don't cover our sin and they don't change our sin nature. They are "religious pursuits" - activities designed to make us "think" we are moving in the right direction, but they are simply a "pretense" of the real deal! God's response to the religious pursuits is to remind us of how far short we are still falling of living right! He responds, "You still are tearing people to pieces..." In other words, saying one thing, but doing another. Church attendance alone doesn't make people "good" - it makes them "religious"!

We need a life-change to occur, and this happens through recognition of our need. It is time for us to recognize our "hands are dirty". We need to "clean up our act", but we are powerless to do it alone. We need to "say no" to wrong in our lives and begin to pursue the things God declares to be profitable. We pursue all manner of things in this life we view as "profitable", but in the end the actual "return" on those things is quite minimal. The call - repentance. Come to a place of recognizing "our best" is not good enough. Lay down the "pretense" of religion and come into a place of practicing the things God says are important in life. But...don't do it in a vacuum. We need Jesus in the right place in our lives, or all these actions of "good" are simply just hollow actions. Too many times we get focused on the actions of "doing good" and forget that we need to have "good" at the center of our being FIRST. The only way to have "good" in the center of our being is to welcome Christ into that place. When we do this, we find our actions take on new meaning - they aren't religious pursuits, but extensions of his grace and love through us. Anything less is just a charade! Pretense is not what God desires - he wants connection. We have no chance of getting this "right" until we make that connection. Just sayin!

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