Desperate for employment, a depression-era farmer applied at a passing circus. At the circus office door he made an impassioned plea. “I’ll do anything.”
At this the manager’s eyes lit up. “You’re hired,” he fairly shouted, embracing the shocked farmer. “I need a new gorilla. The old one has died, and we cannot afford to import one. We have skinned old Kong out, and I need someone to wear the suit and do the gorilla act.”
All reluctance dissolved at the mention of a sizable salary. Pride gave way to necessity, and the farmer’s new career was launched. As it turned out, the wheat farmer turned ape-man rather enjoyed it. His act was dramatic and crowd pleasing. He would swing out over the lion’s cage on a rope and rain bananas on the enraged beast below. The rope was carefully measured, however, and any actual danger seemed minimal.
At a kiddie matinee in Oklahoma, a miscalculation brought catastrophe, and the farmer in the gorilla suit tumbled into the lion’s cage. The lion leapt upon him immediately, and placing a massive paw on the “gorilla’s” shoulders, he began to roar in his face.
“Help!” the farmer screamed. “Help me! Someone please save me!”
“Shut up you fool!” the lion whispered in his ear. “You’ll get us both fired.”
Unhappily, a great deal of what passes for true Christianity is nothing more than monkey-suit religion. The calamitous condition of the contemporary church is that she has a pretty fair idea of what a Christian looks like. Granted, the view may be informed by local or cultural differences, but the fact remains that a portrait of a proper “Christian” has achieved something of a universal consensus. The
primitive church at, say, Ephesus, in the first century A.D., had no such luxury. No definitions of “churchmanship,” or a clear picture of Christianity in action, had come into focus. The longing for holiness among new converts quickly began to refine cultures and reshape lives. New believers wanted to move away from Roman decadence and find higher ground, but they had little idea what a new lifestyle might look like.
The early church bloomed wildly, often without the benefit of proper clergy or church growth experts. The primitive churches sprang to life in the white heat of revival. Later, when wolves came upon them with the impossible burdens of law, the precious innocence of early faith gave way to hard rules. Despair is the poisonous by-product when revival power is replaced by legalistic holiness.
In Colossians 1:27, Paul dealt with one great fundamental issue: How do I live as a Christian? What does it even mean to live a holy life? What is the secret of true holiness?
“The secret,” Paul said, “is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
On the surface it may not appear much of a secret. The implications, however, are magnificent. The secret of holiness, hidden from Moses and Abraham, and now revealed in the church, is not some move or strength to obey the law. It is not some hidden pathway of meditation or a mystical experience revealed only to a hyper-spiritual elite. The secret is simply the indwelling fullness of Christ in earthen vessels.
“Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
What a glorious promise! We act differently when our hopes, longings, and aspirations reveal who is within. As Stephen fell, bloodied and broken, beneath the stones of hatred and prejudice, he spoke the words of Jesus and had the countenance of an angel. The real Stephen, stripped of all facade, was most clearly revealed in pain, humiliation, and death. What had been said of him, that he was full of faith and the Holy Spirit, proved true.
by Dr. Mark Rutland
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