Original Artwork: $30 AUD ($25 USD), Graphite on Paper, 43 cm x 36 cm (17″ x 14″)
True Christianity is having a loving, personal Relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning death on the cross. False Christianity is practicing a Religion about Jesus while lacking a Relationship with Jesus. It often emphasizes an outward adherence to rules, obedience to rituals and/or mental assent to a body of doctrines instead of a living faith in the actual Person of Jesus Christ. We must always hold true to our first love, Jesus Christ, and forsake all the earthly treasures Religion offers us.
“The word of the LORD came to me [Jeremiah the prophet] ‘Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem:
“‘I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them,’” declares the LORD. Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, all you clans of the house of Israel.
This is what the LORD says:
‘What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. They did not ask, “Where is the LORD who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?” I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable. The priests did not ask, “Where is the LORD?” Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols. “Therefore I bring charges against you again,” declares the LORD.
“And I will bring charges against your children’s children. Cross over to the coasts of Kittim and look, send to Kedar and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this” Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the LORD. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water…””
When we first meet Jesus and experience the reality of eternal forgiveness and reconciliation with God we are enraptured with love for Christ. As a Bride with a single eye and a pure, devoted heart for her Bridegroom, he overtakes our entire world. Everything we do, all that we live for, all that we are is for the single purpose of worshiping him. This is real, pure, raw, true Christianity. It is no religion to us but, instead, a living, breathing Relationship with the Living God. We spend many secret moments and hours with our Lord, drinking in his Presence and coming to know him and love him more deeply.
How our Lord Jesus aches for these times with us too! This is the desire of HIS heart!
But for some of us, somewhere along the journey we allow ourselves to get sidetracked. Sometimes the culprit is that gigantic and very confusing world of Christendom. We observe many things going on in Christendom that shock us because we know they are not right and pure in God’s eyes. Our initial sensitivity to such things is very keen because we are so accustomed to what is pure, true and godly from spending so much intimate time with Jesus. As we wander through what the world labels “Christianity” we feel oddly alone, like we don’t fit in anywhere…
Therefore some of us begin to compromise our pure, single-hearted, bridal devotion to Christ in order to fit in with the crowd…
But my dear brothers and sisters, compromise becomes the very rock we perish upon.
The little, sinister hooks of the acceptance from men, praise of men, pride, prestige, authority, money, power, making a name for ourselves and all of the other lusts of the heart of man start to get a grip in our hearts. Like Eve, we rationalize our temptations (Genesis 3:6, 2 Corinthians 11:2-4, James 1:13-16), and then eventually our own deceitful hearts begin to justify our impure motives and actions (Jeremiah 17:9, Proverbs 21:2). We can also get influenced, caught up and entangled in other men’s sins (1 Timothy 5:22, Galatians 6:1).
As we continue down the course of compromise and become more and more ensnared in our hearts, the beautiful, bridal love we once had for Jesus wanes and is replaced with a love for idols and the desires of man and the world. The desire for acceptance among the other people at church begins to compete against our desire to spend intimate, alone time with Jesus.
As we continue to ‘rise in the ranks’ of the church (so to speak) sometimes we slowly begin to seek the glory of our own names and church names instead of seeking the Lord’s renown (Isaiah 26:8). The desire for a bigger ministry, a well-known name, a bigger church building and better facilities replaces the desire to build up God’s actual church, the people. Some of us begin to covet positions of leadership, authority and influence, and we slowly begin to live for the satisfaction of the honor and praise of men instead of the praise of God.
As we continue down this horrid track of compromise, we soon become the fulfilment of Matthew 24:27-28:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
The beautiful, fragrant garden of our hearts (Song of Songs 4:12 -5:1), which we once reserved for the pleasure of Christ alone, has slowly turned into a garbage dump for everything vile and unclean. Outwardly, we might be able to maintain the appearance of being a “good Christian” and may even be looked up to by others for awhile, but inwardly we cannot escape the rotten, evil, stinking smell of our impure thoughts and motives.
Worship leader and songwriter Jason Upton captures this haunting predicament of our modern, Western church and utters the following prophetic cry in his song, “Glory Come Down”:
The church is sick in need of God alone
People, we must seek his face
If we’ll turn from our unrighteousness
He’ll forgive our evil ways
So may the eyes of God be on us here
Lord, revive us by your grace
Holy Spirit be forever near
Saturate us in this place
The church is desperately sick in need of God alone.
Worldliness has infiltrated the church. We have also added many extraneous things to what was intended to just simply be a pure, relationship with God.
We need to forsake all of these other competing desires and things and seek God alone, for he alone is who we need.
While not all of us will descend this deeply into compromise, many of us will still feel an ache in our hearts as we read this following Scripture:
“These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have not grown weary.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first…”
Do you remember your first love?
Do you remember the days of your youth, when as a bride you loved Jesus more than anyone and anything and were devoted to him above all others?
The Lord remembers (Jeremiah 2:2).
“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:8-10)
The idea for this drawing came to me while I was deep in personal worship. God’s wonderful presence was near to me. When we are in this place of being so close to him, everything else on earth is like rubbish (Philippians 3:8). His holy presence illumined areas in my own heart where I had let ‘little’ loves, idols, wrong motives and impure desires to begin to usurp my pure, bridal love for Jesus. In the light of God’s presence, I realized how completely worthless ALL of these things were in comparison to God, and I was revolted by them. I immediately repented and forsook them and wholeheartedly returned to Jesus.
When I look back, I realized that each one of these things gained initial entrance into my heart through my tiniest deviation from purity, and not some door I had flung wide open to wantonness. When my heart had drifted off course by only one degree, another love was able to drive in the thin end of the wedge between Christ and me. Over time, it worked with leverage to gain more and more access into my heart. Sometimes it was a thought I had not taken into captivity to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) or a natural (not sinful) desire which I had not surrendered to God.
In my drawing the Bride (believers) is forsaking a counterfeit Jesus (a lover of power, authority, fame and all of the other lusts of worldly man within the church), whom she was walking with. But as she was walking along, the voice of her true Lover, the real Jesus, captured her attention. As soon as she turned around and set her eyes upon him again, she ended her love affair with all other loves aside from him.
Listen to a very powerful song for all of us who earnestly desire to follow JESUS and NOT the ways of men in the church:
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