Cross Points 8.29.21

Hollow or Holy

Have you ever looked closely at a hollow tree?  Oddly, they can sometimes continue to have signs of life, with leaves and color.  But a storm may knock it down and you see the problem: inside its empty.  
Hollow trees can illustrate many things.  Maybe it is a businessman who has all the signs of success, but he has no interest in spiritual things and he has an empty soul.  Maybe it is a beautiful woman who wins competitions and has an important job, but cheats to win and undercuts her associates.  Maybe it is a successful looking church using smart marketing techniques with a dynamic preacher, but with time you discover little love and no selfless ministry, it’s all about numbers and money and prestige.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).  There’s an interesting phrase in Paul’s sentence: the “elemental spiritual forces of this world.”  There is a spiritual force in this world that is not of God.  We hear so much about people being “spiritual,” but we must be careful not to allow that word to substitute for the way of God in the Bible.  Ungodly spiritual forces can capture you through hollow and deceptive philosophies, so just being “spiritual” does not mean you are following Christ in faith.  
Hollow philosophies might include things popular in our society today.  Godless evolution of mankind is widely accepted as true while belief in God-driven creation is ridiculed.  Immoral sexual behavior (both heterosexual and homosexual) is celebrated by Hollywood in movies, TV, and media, while proponents of conservative family values are pictured as outdated.  False religions and moral perversions are embraced under the banner of tolerance, while the exclusiveness of Christianity is portrayed as narrow-minded.  Many trees have color, but inside they are hollow.  
Here’s the problem.  Hollow philosophies will not be defeated by hollow churches and hollow Christians.  Comfortable buildings with all the trappings of technology and artful design cannot make up for a lack of integrity and the absence of Christian character and sacrifice.  To love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength requires solid biblical teaching and intentional discipleship.  When people truly see that, they either accept it, or they walk a path of peril to their potential destruction.  But they at least see a real picture of Christianity.  Our job is to live holy lives, so they do (and so our faith is real).
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…you were ransomed from the futile ways…not with perishable things…but with the precious blood of Christ.”  (I Peter 1:14-19)
Hollow or holy tree?  “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees.  Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:9) Take that warning seriously.  God seeks to save the lost but takes no pleasure in people who call themselves Christian while living lives that portray a lifestyle that is anything but Christian.  

Cross Point: Be a real Christian of substance.  Honor Christ as Lord and walk in his holy way.
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