February 15, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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When you take a look at the world today, much of what goes on is based on image. How things look dictate a lot of how we live our lives. What the weather looks like determines what we wear, where we go, and what we do. What a person looks like often causes us to make a  quick, all-inclusive judgment as to the person’s demeanor, their lifestyle, and possibly even their childhood. A large majority of the items that we buy today are bought based on their image. Ad companies try to make everything from clothes to cars to cigarettes more appealing by giving them an image that will draw people in, regardless of whether the product is really as good as they say it is (which is seldom the case). Movies, TV shows, magazines, and music are all given a special image that the producers hope will cause millions of people to part with either time or money for that product. They strive to make each image unique so that it “stands out” from the rest of the products.

In a country like America, this has even extended into the church. In the American church, it is all about image. Several large churches and denominations have actual brands and marketing strategies like a business in an attempt to draw people into their pews. There are churches that are all about the social gospel and getting out into the community to “do the things that Jesus did” and “reach out” to help those in need. They substitute good deeds for the true gospel and make an effort to tug at the heart strings in order to fill their churches. There are others who embrace doctrines that have no basis in scripture or outright deny some of the tenets of true Christianity in order to make themselves feel good and justify their opposition to scripture. Look around the country and you’ll find everything from “black” churches to homosexual churches (no…unfortunately I’m not kidding). There are churches that actually ask non-believers whether or not they like what the church is doing and then adjust their entire church to suit the non-believers. Then there are the prosperity preachers. They are the flamboyant, well dressed, loudly spoken men and women who talk all about how God has always wanted His people “blessed” and that it should be something that every believer in God experiences on a daily basis. They talk about this including everything from health to money to material things…oh yeah…and the gospel…Of course, they never seem to notice that their image is destroyed when we see one of them wearing glasses or talking about not having the money that they say God promised them.

A recent case in point is Kenneth Copeland. According to an article on Christian Post, Copeland announced in 2006 that he would begin a ministry called Angel Flight 44. This was in the wake of hurricane Katrina and how much help was needed. Copeland has a number of planes and this new ministry was started to fly necessities to areas hit by disaster. The article says that one of the men that helped create the idea of the ministry has accused Copeland of not starting the ministry and keeping the money collected to help Haiti for himself. Copeland’s spokesman said that they did use the money to buy a plane for the ministry but the plane had serious structural concerns and the money collected was spent on repairs. The question of the ministry isn’t my point here. Instead it’s about the image that Copeland generates about himself, his ministry, and his “god”. He has four private planes and I would feel safe in saying that none of them have “structural concerns”. After all, he has to have four of them to get around the world quickly to preach his false gospel. Not only that, they claim that they don’t have the funds to fix the plane or buy new ones. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this the same man who talks about money as being something that believers should be rolling in? Can’t he just “speak it into existence” like the “little god” that he is? This is a false image and a false prophet/teacher. But, there are so many millions around the world who have bought into this image…and it’s sad.

God’s people have always had a problem with image. Adam and Eve sinned against God and brought sin into the world because of image. The fruit looked desirable to Eve and the lust of the eyes took over. Ever since then, man has had a problem with image. The Israelites came out of Egypt and worshipped a golden calf because that is the image they thought represented God. This image got three thousand of them killed (Exodus 32:28) and would have gotten them all killed had not Moses interceded for them. Image caused the people to admire Saul as the first king of Israel because he was “head and shoulders above the rest”. Image caused forty-two young men to be killed by two female bears because they mocked Elisha the prophet (2 Kings 2:23-24). Image caused both Israel and Judah to constantly ignore the warnings given to them by the prophets about the coming judgment and captivity if they didn’t turn from their sins. Image caused Nebuchadnezzar to puff himself up and be cursed by God to spend seven years of his life living like an animal (Daniel 4).

Image has caused the greatest tragedies of mankind, but there is none greater than the fact that image has caused so many to miss Christ. When Jesus was born, it was to lowly peasants in a little town in Israel. The King of Kings wasn’t born to royalty in a palace. He was as one of us and “had no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him” (Isaiah 53:2). Israel expected a warrior-king to lead them to victory against Rome and restore their earthly kingdom to its rightful place. Because of image, they missed (and continue to miss) the Messiah and the gift of salvation that He offers. Because of image the Israelites not only didn’t recognize their Messiah, they mocked Him, cursed Him, spit on Him, and crucified Him.  Today in America it’s no different. Man hides behind his intellectualism, his idolatrous view of God, or his pagan mirages and denies the One True God and His gracious Son.

Image has caused damage in the church as well. Believers see other brethren and their position, prestige, or money and become jealous. They gripe and complain about a brother or sister in the nicest of ways but with the same result as if they would have stabbed them in the back with a poisoned dagger. Others strive so much to generate an image that will get them accepted by certain denominations, groups, or individuals that they are willing to drop everything that used to have any value to them. Bridges are burned and walls are erected in order to “clean up their image” or remove the things that will hinder their acceptance. Image is what causes churches to build gigantic buildings that cost thousands of dollars a month to operate; crystalline monoliths whose very transparency belies the darkness of a different gospel and its dangers. Image has torn apart families, friends, and ministries. It has caused churches to topple under the weight of selfishness, sin, and shattered lives.

As Christians, the only image that we should be worried about is the image of Christ that each of us presents, both to the world and to our brethren. If we are more concerned about our image in the eyes of men (believers or not) then we cannot be focused on God and His glory. If our image is more important to us than God’s glory then we have the wrong image in focus. Whose image is most important to you?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  At Ease Tees

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