My friend said the other day regarding a friend of his, "He is the real deal." Now I like that! Maybe it is because I want to be just that. The real deal. I long to be that. I long for that. What if becoming the real deal was more important to us than anything else? What if we had a passion for becoming a real deal Christ-follower or a real deal church?
When I think of the real deal, here is what I find attractive:
1. The real deal is God-centered. I mean this both in terms of what we profess and what we practice. (Both of these are critical.) Get around this group of people and you are going to hear about God and see God-likeness in their practice. As you begin to pick up on their theology (what they believe and as a result practice), it should become evident that this group of people bathes themselves in the things of God.
Far too often churches get so caught up with how to keep the institution running (buildings, budgets, personnel, etc.) that God gets pushed to the edges. Men and women may spend hours in meetings where God is barely mentioned and where there may be little or no prayer.
2. The real deal is authentic. The real deal is where a person can be who she or he really is in Christ. I read a book many years ago in which the author basically asked, "If I tell you who I really am, will you love me anyway?" I can relate to that question. Can you? I can honestly say I want to follow Christ. However, I get angry. I get depressed. At times I find myself really struggling. I still battle with temptation and sin. At times, I disappoint my self and more importantly, God.
The real deal is where I can gather with people, just like me, who need and give encouragement for the week. Maybe that happens in a Sunday morning assembly. Maybe that happens in a small group of people who meet in a home each week. Maybe that happens as a few friends gather for coffee on Tuesday mornings. The point is, it needs to happen somewhere.
Far too often churches are places where we just don’t tell the truth about what we are thinking, feeling, or about the way we are experiencing life. Consequently, many Christians feel cut off and alone. The temptation becomes to either pretend or to become arrogant.
A person may become a pretender. On the outside, she/he may appear to be doing great. Secretly, she is having an affair. Or, he is into pornography on the Internet. Yet, the Sunday morning smile is still there. (There is a problem…)
Others begin to believe that they are really doing well. They see no real sin problem in their lives. Of course, neither do they have a real passion for God either. No, they are just good church members. The real deal is far more than this.
3. The real deal is lean. The real deal is all about focusing on the most important, the essence, and the essential. I used to watch my mother take a lemon and then put it on top of a dish that looked like an upside down lemon. She would then press down on the lemon and all of the juice would drain out. (She would then make the most wonderful lemon icebox pie!)
If I take my Bible and then squeeze out the essence, the most important, and the essential, what will I have? If we do that as a church, what will we have? How much attention do these matters get in our churches. (Or in my own preaching/teaching?)
Far too often, we waste time and energy talking about things that may not matter that much while we spend very little time on what Jesus seemed to be so concerned with. That should tell us something.