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What's Under Your Hood?
by J Patrick Bowman
7/19/2019 / Church Life
Ladies, you’ve heard the admonition accessorize, accessorize, accessorize! The advertisers and merchants cry out for your attention to their latest bags, purses, shoes, jewelry, nail wraps, hairpieces, hair colors, fake tattoos, real tattoos, completely redesigned body parts and it’s sad to say in the day we live, they call out to men for the very same things. OK… putting that last statement aside, men are no less susceptible to their ways of accessorizing. Belts, hats, beard beads and bling, watches, sunglasses, and more; it seems that everything is now a fashion statement.
We do it with our vehicles, as well. Custom wheels, custom exhaust, chrome and pinstriping, GPS, satellite radio, and sound systems that rival what we have in our homes. And speaking of home, we do it there, too. We go for a theme and search high and low, or in my case, the thrift stores, for just the right accessory to complete just the right look.
And speaking of “the look”, it amazed me in my years as a landscape designer, how over-accessorized some people’s yards could be. A whole flock of concrete deer. Simon, Theodore, and Alvin, the chipmunks, in resin splendor, were lurking under every tree and beside every shrub. Plus every conceivable elf, fairy, gnome, kitten with a yarn ball, and “rover” in every size and type. And then there was my favorite…..the pink flamingos. Oh, it still makes me shudder to think about it. One of the most unique landscape accessories I was asked to include in a landscape plan was for an older Korean couple that wanted an in-ground vault so they could cure their kimchi. Yes, we like to accessorize.
It’s an ancient behavior. It started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sewed together fig leaves to try and cover up their sin. Of course, it didn’t work and God sacrificed lambs and covered them with skins. Hebrews 9:22 makes it plain that without blood there is no forgiveness.
My concern is that we, in this age, have taken on Adam and Eve’s behavior, and have imported our accessorizing into our relationship with God. We pile on all the religious bling in word and deed and rely on those accessories to make ourselves acceptable to God and others.
In Revelation 3, in talking to the church at Laodicea, Jesus called out their accessorizing, telling them in verses 17-18, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” Just as Adam and Eve tried with fig leaves, the church at Laodicea tried with their brand of bling. The trouble with relying on accessories is that they never really cover up the true essence of what a person is in their heart. Jesus counseled them to get rid of the cheap knockoffs they were hiding behind and seek Him for the real thing.
I once heard the story of a recent high school graduate who was driving around town one day and passed a used car lot. On the lot was the shiniest, most beautiful car this young man had ever seen. It had bright red paint, shiny chrome wheels, leather interior, every gage, and gadget imaginable, and best of all had a monthly payment plan that he could afford, although just barely. So he traded in the plain-Jane basic sedan that had gotten him all through high school and still ran fine. Boy, was he excited for his friends to see him in that new ride. He did little more than kick the tires before signing the “as is” contract and driving off the lot. He got a lot of looks from his friends, alright…especially when two weeks later the engine blew up and left him stranded on main street with a tow truck hooking up to that gorgeous looking car that was going nowhere.
If we are relying on the many accessories of “Churchianity” to cover up the inadequacies of our Christianity, we may be able to pull it off for a while. We might even get looks of admiration from our fellow church members because we wear the right style, worship the right way, don’t rock the holy boat, and fit in with flair. But eventually, a crisis will come that will test what our walk with Christ is really about. Soon enough we, and everyone around us will see what’s really under our hood.
We might be able to hide our wretchedness, our spiritual poverty, our blindness, and our nakedness from others with the external accessories of playing church, but we can’t hide from God. Accessories are harmful when we use them to cover up what needs to be exposed. A beautiful painting of a serene mountain scene on a freshly painted living room wall may look wonderful, but if it’s only covering the hole we punched in the wall during our last angry outburst, it’s only a façade. It’s only hiding what is. Remember Adam and Eve hid from God in the trees of the Garden while they fashioned their fig aprons. I often wonder what would have happened had they faced God naked and ashamed and asked for His forgiveness.
King David gives us instruction about not hiding from God in Psalm 32:
“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.
For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.
I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.
Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.
I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.
Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.
Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.”
Yes, the shiny red car may look good, and we may, too, for a while. But, the truth is, a genuine plain-Jane sedan walk with God, if we keep up on the maintenance, will get us where we need to go. Add a few accessories, if you will. But remember, it’s what’s under the hood that counts.
Rev. J. Patrick Bowman is an ordained Christian minister, author, and educator. He lives and ministers from The Dalles, OR in the midst of the scenic Columbia River Gorge. He is "Papa Pat" to his grandkids and to whoever the Lord may send his way. Learn more at revjpbowman.com or www.gorgefaith.org
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