The Emperor’s New Clothes

Painting of Andersen, 1836, by Christian Albre...

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We’re all familiar with Hans Christian Andersen’s legendary tale The Emperor’s New Clothes. It’s the story of the vain and self-absorbed ruler who spends all his time and treasure on looking good. Two con-men decide to take advantage of the Emperor’s vanity by convincing him that they can make him a fabulous new suit out of cloth so fine and light that anyone who was unfit for their office or uncommonly stupid would be unable to even see it. The two scoundrels spend hours locked away in a room supposedly sewing the new suit. The curious Emperor sends underlings to check on the progress. The two ‘tailors’  show the new clothes being worked on to the underlings, none of whom want to be called incompetent or uncommonly stupid. All agree that the completed suit is marvelous to look at. Finally the completed new suit is delivered to  the emperor, who puts it on and goes for a stroll so that all of his subjects can admire his glorious new suit. The Emperor’s subjects  realize that it would definitely be politically incorrect to admit being unable to see the new suit so everyone expresses their admiration of the Emperor and his new clothes. Everyone of course except for one little child who exclaimed, “The Emperor’s naked!”.  Everyone else then started shouting out “He’s naked! He’s naked!”. The Emperor finally comprehended that he had been hoodwinked, but he was so full of pride that he could not admit the truth and continued on with the procession.

Many leaders in the American church today are like this vain and foolish emperor in H.C. Andersen’s story. They rule over their congregants with an iron fist, demanding unquestioning loyalty and obedience. They are overly impressed with themselves and the pursuit of their own fame, wealth, and glory. They make wild extravagant claims about themselves and their ‘anointing’. They are experts at whipping the emotions of their hearers into a frenzy. They promise miracles of every kind but very few ever actually occur. “Do you need a miracle in your life?” they scream. “Then just come up to the altar and let Jesus heal your job, your marriage, and your crappy personality!” They’ll pull bible verses out of context and teach their followers that if they repeat the verses often enough – like some pagan incantation – and believe hard enough, then God will fulfill every selfish desire they’ve ever had. Provided of course enough money is ‘sowed into the ministry’. The amazing thing is that when God doesn’t give them what they want, the people hear: “You didn’t have enough faith.” or “You didn’t confess the Word enough.”  or “You didn’t sow enough money ….  to get your ‘miracle”. Do you notice the onus for failure is always on the people, never the preacher or the falsehood of the message he preaches.   The cycle repeats leaving a trail of broken and disheartened people.

Everyone in their circle of influence goes along with what the church emperor says. No one wants to admit that there is no substance or truth to the message and face being labeled spiritually incompetent or uncommonly stupid. But in reality even a little child can see the foolishness and deception being practiced. Indeed anyone who is willing to compare what the bible says versus what the religious emperor says will – like the little child in the story – proclaim “He’s naked! He’s naked!”

In Matthew 18:2,3,4 (ESV) And calling to him (Jesus) a child, he put him in the midst of them 3and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

So do not be taken in by a lot of slick talking. Check what you hear with what God says in the bible. Don’t be fooled into trying to make the bible say what you want it to say. Remember the apostle Paul’s word to the Corinthians – For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. 1 Corinthians 4:20 (NLT) and 1 Corinthians 2:3 I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. 

You see, by the power of  the Holy Spirit a real man of God speaks little but accomplishes much. A false man of God speaks much but accomplishes little.


Warning Stones

After the recent earthquake here in Virginia I remembered a NYT article I read last April: Tsunami warnings, written in stone, saved some.

The article tells of an old stone marker in Japan, that was set at the point of the farthest reach of a tidal wave that hit Japan 600 years ago. The people at this village have always obeyed this warning from their ancestors and so they survived the latest tsunami.

The article goes on to say that these kinds of stones are common throughout Japan, many as far as 3 miles inland. Some of the locals have faithfully obeyed them through the generations. In other areas these ancient warnings have been ignored. It was considered inconvenient to have to commute so far to their fishing boats. I’m sure that many were enticed to live within the danger zone because of the beauty as well as the availability of prime coastal property.

In some areas the stones have been neglected over time: The carved writing has weathered away. The stones have been covered with vegetation. The people couldn’t be bothered to keep up or heed these warnings. When the wave came, they died.

Are We Ignoring Our Ancient Stones?

I am convinced that yes, we American Christians are largely ignoring the ancient stones – or landmarks as the bible calls them – that God has given to us. In Proverbs 22:28 (ESV) – it says ‘Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.’ Instead of hearing about the Jesus who came to free us from our sins, a ‘new’ gospel is preached that teaches that Jesus came to free us to sin. Repentance has become old fashioned and obsolete. We want a God who will allow us to continue to live for ourselves and give us material wealth and health. We are guilty of idolatry because  we have fashioned a god by our own hands. Instead of preaching the Jesus Christ who was crucified, who died for us, and was raised to life by the power of God – the Christ who accepts all who humbly repent and call on Him – we have fashioned a new age politically correct religion which lacks the power to save and is certainly no gospel at all.

So what exactly are our landmarks? What warnings have been ‘carved in stone’ for us that are going unheeded? It’s spelled out plainly in the  Bible. Both testaments together show the fullness of God’s nature. It shows us that from even before the beginning of time, God had a plan to rescue us. It’s full of examples of how people pleased him and walked with him, and how they displeased him and sometimes paid the price for that lack of faith and obedience.  

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:11 (ESV) “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” The context refers to the Children of Israel that were led out of Egypt by Moses. It warns us that the things that happened to them – how they rebelled, murmured, and complained; and how they were judged by the Lord and severely punished was to warn and instruct us not to act the way they did. Check it out for yourself. Read the 10 th chapter of 1 Corinthians.

The only way to heaven is by faith in Christ alone, but both the New and Old Testaments make it abundantly clear that we were created to walk with God. He is holy and doesn’t tolerate sin. We were created to live closely with Him, to hear Him, speak with Him, love Him, trust Him, please Him, and obey Him.

Simply put: pay attention to the ‘warning stones’, the landmarks God has given. Don’t ignore them or allow them to fade with time. Your life depends on it. Don’t allow yourself to be deceived into thinking that just because ‘the wave’ has never reached where you are now, that it never will.

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