Church of God, New World Ministries

The Danger Of Make-Believe

What are you really like inside? The character you display outwardly must be more than special effects.

By using laser and computer technology today’s special effects are becoming ever more sophisticated, as spacemen soar through the galaxies battling legions of aliens and a never-ending array of monsters. The skill of special effects experts continues to astonish us.

But maybe it shouldn’t, because most of us have spent a lifetime creating some impressive special effects of our own. You see, a special effect is a deception or make-believe created to give an impression of reality. In building our personalities we have all resorted to some “special effects” to disguise unwanted scenes and make us look like something we are not.

Most of us have a façade or image that is not the real us. Maybe you like people to think you are the sporty type, or maybe the debonair and sophisticated man or woman about town. Or perhaps you like to appear a cool, macho man. Or, a dear little old lady who would not hurt a fly. Whatever it is, you have learned to talk, act and perhaps even dress according to an image you want to portray.

In fact, you may have become so good at your special effect that even you are deceived. Perhaps even you can’t remember what the real you is like. In one way or another you have become a skilled special-effects artist.

What is so bad about that? Nothing, if this life is to be like as movie, just a time to pretend. But your life is not meant to be used like that. It is not a frivolous game of make-believe.

If you are a Christian, your life has a vital purpose, and it must be used for that purpose. Your life must be used to build character, character like Jesus Christ had so that one day you, too, can become a born child of God. A Christian life, therefore, is a serious business. It is time to face reality, and to remove the false fronts and special effects that we have so carefully built to obscure the truth.

God has promised to help rebuild us until we have holy, righteous character. But He must build on a solid foundation. He wants to deal with the real you, whatever that may be. His goal is to help you become “a perfect man” with “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13) - not just a convincing look-alike.

There is nothing particularly wrong in using special effects in the movie industry. They have to. Otherwise things just would not look right. But have you noticed how people who spend all their lives in a make-believe world become so accustomed to sham and falseness that they no longer seem to be able to distinguish real from false, or right from wrong?

Many actors and actresses actually pride themselves on their cosmopolitan, tolerant, modern approach to adultery, fornication, perversions, drunkenness and other vices condemned by God’s laws. Even whole cities have become well known for their permissive, freewheeling life-styles. For instance,

The ancient city of Corinth was like that. Corinth was a seaport, and because of its position had become rich through trade. The people of many nations mingled freely, and the city had become a byword for the liberal approach to life. “To corinthianize” had become a synonym for a lift-style of debauchery.

This attitude permeated Corinthian society and had even affected the members of the Church of God that the apostle Paul had raised up there. They had become so liberal in their thinking that when a member became involved in an incestuous relationship with his mother (or it might have been his stepmother), the other members weren’t shocked, they seemed even to be proud of the situation.

Paul wrote those brethren a stern letter. He was horrified that God’s chosen people in Corinth had become so tolerant of a situation that would have appalled normal, decent, unconverted people elsewhere. The Apostle Paul wrote: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles, that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you” (I Cor. 5:1-2).

Paul confronted them with their tolerant attitude toward a serious sin. He commanded the Corinthians to disfellowship the erring member until such time as he learned a lesson and repented. This was not just a fit of prudishness on Paul’s part. He knew that if this lackadaisical approach to immorality continued, it would not be long before the entire church was affected.

Today we might say, “One rotten apple can spoil the entire bunch.” Paul used another analogy, one that was readily understood by the Corinthians. “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (vs. 6-7). Paul used the simple analogy of the action of a leavening agent in bread making to show the effect of sin in the Christian life.

When a leavening agent (usually yeast) is mixed with dough, it begins to react. The lump of dough expands to many times its original size. The leavening agent literally puffs up the lump of dough with gas. This is what gives bread its light, soft consistency. It isn’t really like that; it is a special effect, a make-believe. Bread dough baked without leaven is hard and flat, more like a crust or cracker than the familiar loaf.

The Corinthian church would have known exactly what Paul meant. Once a year in the first month of the year according to the biblical calendar (approximately spring in the Northern Hemisphere today), God commanded a festival to be observed. It was called the Days of Unleavened Bread. You can read it described in Lev. 23:6.

The Days of Unleavened Bread lasted for seven days. The first and last days were Holy Days to be observed as Sabbaths. And on each of the seven days when the people ate bread, they were supposed to eat unleavened bread, bread baked without special effects. Moreover, they were told to literally put out of their homes all leavening agents and all products that contained leaven, according to the commandment in Exodus 12:18-20.

Christ observed this Festival when He was on this earth (Mark 14:12, Luke 22:7), and so did the early Christian Church. It is obvious that the Corinthian church was keeping, or was about to keep, these Days of Unleavened Bread when Paul wrote the letter, since he wrote: “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (I Cor. 5:8).

In later centuries, however, this and other festivals and Holy Days commanded by God were replaced by holidays of human invention. So today, not many professing Christians have even heard of the Days of Unleavened Bread, and even fewer actually observe them. This should not be. God commanded that these days be observed by His people forever (Ex. 12:17). Jesus nowhere said we should not keep them. Quite the contrary (Matt. 5:17-19). Jesus warned against replacing God’s commandments with human ideas (Mark 7:7).

Now all this should make us think. Not only does God want us to be aware of these days, but He also expects us to keep them. Why?

Leaven is used frequently in the Bible as a type of sin. There is, of course, nothing wrong with using leaven or leavened products the other 51 weeks of the year. It is only an analogy of sin. But it is an effective one.

Just as leaven acts on a lump of dough, puffing it up and distorting it out of all proportion, so does sin act with an individual. God can’t work with character that is puffed up and distorted.

Christ said to be careful about pretending to be something you are not (Luke 12:1).Don’t masquerade as a righteous, God-fearing person while still clinging to your sins. In other words, avoid sham, fake, spiritual special effects in your life.

That was the charge that Paul leveled at his Corinthian brethren. Stop pretending to be God’s Church while tolerating sin in your midst. If the incestuous member persists in his reprehensible behavior, put him out before he contaminates the rest of you. Face the truth. Don’t be hypocrites, be sincere.

The Corinthians understood Paul’s stern warning, because they had gone through the act of putting all leavened products out of their homes, searching even for hidden scraps and crumbs that may have fallen into cracks and crevices. They had begun to eat unleavened bread, hard, chewy crusts baked without any special effects.

Paul was teaching them the spiritual point: The leaven was a type of their sins, sins that had to be located and gotten rid of. The bread baked without special effects was a type of the solid, genuine, bedrock character and attitude that God can build on.

“You desire truth in the inward parts,” wrote David (Ps. 51:6) – not just an outward show.

The Corinthians got the point, and this story has a happy ending. They did what Paul commanded. The man repented of his sins, and Paul instructed that he be restored to full fellowship (II Cor. 2:6-8). One day we may well meet these Corinthians in the Kingdom of God.

God does not waste our time. He instituted the Days of Unleavened Bread as an annual reminder of the need to put sin out of our lives and become genuine so that He can build perfect character in us. The physical aspects of these days, the literal putting out of leaven and eating unleavened bread are designed to help us grasp the spiritual significance.

To many, the days God commanded men to observe, are foolishness. They would rather replace the commanded assemblies of God with Traditions of men. If you would like to know more about God’s Plan for mankind enroll today in our Mini-Correspondence Course. Learn the true Plan of God for mankind, not some make-believe ideas foisted on modern Christianity through the traditions of men.

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