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BEING NATURAL IS SO MUCH EASIER THAN PRETENDING WE ARE SOMEONE ELSE

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

31 OCTOBER 1993

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Matthew 23:4-7
Romans 1:18-23
1 Thessalonians 2:7-13

Today is the 31st of October, and if I asked you what is significant about this day, I suppose that most of you would tell me that it is Halloween.

It is a day of dressing up and pretending that we are someone else.

Most of the things about Halloween represent the dark side of both life and death, a fact to which we seem to pay little attention.

But there is something else significant about today. Do you know what that is?

It's Reformation Day, the day that Martin Luther nailed his 99 points of reform upon the church door.

It was a day of moving out of the darkness and into the light.

It was the day when all people were encouraged to take back the gifts God Himself gave us; things that the Church hierarchy had locked up for themselves, so that their leaders would seem like something special.

That's just about what Jesus said about the Temple leaders in Matthew 23:4-7.

4. "And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.

5. "But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments.

Phylacteries are small boxes containing Scripture texts worn for religious purposes.

6. "And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues,

7. and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi.

These men dressed themselves up in the costumes of priests and ministers, and they played at being someone they were not.

Many of the church leaders in Martin Luther's day did the same thing, and not wanting anyone to know what they knew, they kept an air of mystery around the ways of God.

Martin Luther exposed what they did, and said that all people – both priests and laity – are equal in the eyes of God.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that I prefer not to wear the robe of the office I hold, and I tell you to call me Frank.

I do this because I don't want you to see me as anyone other than Frank, for that's who I am.

If you also see me as Frank your pastor, then you're seeing me as I should be seen, without pretending to be something, or someone, I'm not.

But, this also places a whole lot more responsibility upon me, for I must live the life I am supposed to, because there is no costume to hide behind.

If you don't see me this way, then I shouldn't be your pastor.

I am the same as you before God; I only serve in the pastoral office, just as each of you serve in some office or another; and we should all remember that we are serving in the office of Christian.

And here again, being a Christian is, for far too many people, unfortunately, just the same as wearing a Halloween costume: something they pretend to be on Sunday morning.

But because it is not their natural state of being, we soon see their true character. Their Christian masks come off.

We cannot really be a Jew or a Christian by wearing a mask.

We cannot change what is inside by covering ourselves with a costume.

So, if we are really who we say we are, then others will know it simply by our naturalness.

This is what Paul was reminding the Thessalonians about: first of all about what they saw in him and those with him, and secondly about what he saw in them.

Let’s take a look at 1 Thessalonians 2:7-13.

7. But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.

This gentleness with a mother-like love and compassion is something that simply can't be faked for any length of time.

This is an office that only a natural person can hold.

Paul continues –

8. Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.

9. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

10. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers;

11. just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children,

12. so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

It is my responsibility to set the example first, and then for you, so that everyone sees us for who we really are; and I pray that they will see us as Christians, true Christians, as Jesus Himself intended us to be.

Some of you may think that I am crazy when I say to you that animals have souls and spirits just as we do.

But we were taught differently, because far too many others either didn't care, or were wearing the garments of someone they really were not.

It is only our pride that won't let us accept the truth that God created both humans and air-breathing animals the same way, and with the same characteristics of body, soul, and spirit.

It is our pride that won't let us accept this close and responsible relationship.

It is our pride that won't let us accept that we must treat the animals God created with the same love and compassion we are to exhibit to each other.

God wants us to see this; that we learn love and compassion.

He wants us to do this, not only from observing the animals and each other, but from observing all of creation.

Do you remember what we are told in Romans 1:18-23 about those who pretend to be someone they're not?

18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

19. because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

Do not we, too, also really know the truth about godliness and righteousness?

Of course we do!

It is the natural state of things with God.

When we try to suppress this natural state of peace and love, for any reason, we are in essence being someone other than the person God made us to be.

20. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

21. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

22. Professing to be wise, they became fools,

23. and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

No part of the creation is God; it is there only to point us to God.

When we dress up any portion of God's creation to look like God, we are in for a fall.

Now, we don't think of ourselves as making a golden calf and bowing down to it, do we?

But there are many people who worship the gold.

And there are many people who worship other people and set them up as gods.

There is even a recent bumper sticker that says, "Rush is God".

And other people worship land and their homes and other possessions.

We have dressed them up to look like God.

How much better we all would be if we were just natural with each other; not trying to out-do the other person, or trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Dress as yourself, and allow everyone and everything else to be dressed as they are meant to be.

Simply be honest with ourselves and others.

The Thessalonians accepted the word of God naturally, for it made sense.

Note what Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 –

13. And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God's message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

The Thessalonians believed with a natural innocence, and that brought joy to Paul's soul.

They knew that there was something wrong with their pagan beliefs, and inside they sought the truth.

They didn't fight against the truth, as many do to protect some pretense or to save face; in other words, they didn't try to keep their masks on.

They no longer had to be unnatural people.

They could finally be themselves, and express what was really on their minds and in their hearts.

They finally could live in the truth.

And Paul rejoiced with them.

The light of God's glory burst forth as the dawning of a new day.

And this same light is shining forth for each and every one of us.

Let's live in it, naturally, being the person God made us to be.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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