Hollow Deception: Are You Susceptible?

HOLLOW. It’s a term that conveys a sense of emptiness. I remember, when I was a kid, my parents bought me a large chocolate Easter bunny. I was excited as I bit into the ears (don’t we all?) only to be met with instant disappointment. While expected a thick chunk of milk chocolate, I was met with a thin layer of cheap chocolate and a mouthful of hollow center. While that may not be the best example of gratitude toward a free gift, it is a prime example of how unexpected hollowness makes one feel. Oftentimes, those suffering from depression will liken their low points as a feeling of hollowness. Not only does being hollow represent emptiness, but it also can imply a state of deadness. For instance, think of a dry tree in the woods that has been hollowed out over the years. It is completely dead, bears no fruit, and yet remains standing alone in the woods.

5 Say to all the people of the land and to the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years, was it actually for Me that you fasted? When you eat and drink, do you not eat for yourselves and do you not drink for yourselves?

Zechariah 7:5-6, NASB

In the above example, we see rigid fasting and acts of worship. However, they were empty. They were hollow. Far from being an acceptable form of worship, later in the chapter, we see that God did not hear them. He had spoken His law to them and they received it not. Similarly, God did not receive what they brought to the table. It was not true worship meant for Him. Everything they did was for themselves. As Matthew Henry puts it in his commentary, “There was the form of duty, but no life, or soul, or power in it. Holy exercises are to be done to God, looking to his word as our rule, and his glory as our end, seeking to please him and obtain his favour; but self was the centre of all their actions.”

Is “hollow” a term you would use to describe your spiritual life? Is your worship hollow? I think it’s safe to say we’ve all felt hollow at times. From my own personal experience, I’ve found myself simply reciting lyrics to a worship song. I’ve found myself tuning out during a sermon. I’ve found myself silently hoping the worship leader wouldn’t ask everyone to stand for the next song. While it may be the case, I don’t think I’m alone in this. There are times in my life where I just don’t feel like it. What is it? Exactly! “It” is literally anything having to do with worship. In those moments, I just don’t feel like it. So, what makes me any different than the casual atheist who is only at church because his parents want him there? While there is no remorse among the atheist, by the grace of God, I am convicted of this every time “it” sneaks up. Our bodies are temples. While the unbeliever’s temple is hollow, void of any real god (Psalm 115:4-7), believers have the indwelling of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). It’s the Spirit who drives us to worship in joyful faith (Galatians 5:25). It’s also the Spirit who convicts when we may lapse into the draw of the flesh (John 6:18). While there is no hope in the life of the atheist, we have a great hope (2 Corinthians 3:12).

There may come times where we feel hollow. It’s during these times that we must rest in the promises of God, trust the prompting of the Spirit, and put our belief into practice. I’m convinced we fall into these moments when we begin to think of God as an academic topic, and worship becomes another action that we’re supposed to do. However, God is no mere topic for a textbook. He is a great and mighty God (Isaiah 9:6). He is the Creator of all things (Colossians 1:16) and is worthy of all praise (Psalm 145:3) and glory (Psalm 115:1). If you are currently in a place where worship is a struggle, let this serve as an encouragement. We not only owe it to God, but He has given us the joyful privilege of doing so. He has called us out of darkness and into the light that we may proclaim his excellencies (1 Peter 2:9).

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 6:1, NASB

On the flip side of feeling hollow, there is the equal danger of being hollow while feeling fulfilled. This comes in the form of self-righteousness and pride. People tend to desire acceptance and approval among their peers. This is a natural desire for us. Recognizing this can greatly help avoid falling into the trap of merely appearing holy. After all, we’re warned that pride goes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18). It would be a bitter irony to go from feeling hollow while being filled, to feeling filled while being filled, to feeling filled while being hollow, only to go to feeling hollow while being hollow.

As you work out your faith with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), remember who it is that is worthy of glory and honor and power (Revelation 4:11). Enjoin yourself to the church in fellowship with the saints (Hebrews 10:25), submitting to the teaching of your elders (Hebrews 13:17), and abide in Christ (John 15:4), lest you be taken captive by empty and hollow deceit (Colossians 2:8).

~ Travis W. Rogers

You’re Doing It Wrong

THEOLOGY. What’s the first thought that comes to your mind? Is it boredom? Perhaps a few examples of division through doctrine? Then again, maybe your first thought was passion. Where does theology rank in your life’s desires? For far too many, it’s simply a word which never even comes to the surface. Many Christians choose to leave it in the background while focusing on simply loving Jesus. Is this an acceptable norm or is there a hidden danger? I would dare say the latter. My reasoning isn’t overly complicated. If you don’t understand the God of the Bible, along with His beautifully righteous attributes, how can we ever hope to properly worship Him? 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” As a living example, Scripture speaks of the Bereans who examined the Scriptures daily to see if the teachings they had heard were true (Acts 17:11).

It seems as if those who choose to stand for the truth are met with the bitter distaste of the surrounding crowd. Sadly, this crowd can oftentimes involve more self-proclaimed Christians than unbelievers. It almost seems as if the

mantra of the modern church should be “To love is divine. To doctrine is to divide.” Why are so many avidly against the thought of having a proper theological perspective? Are they really against the notion of knowing Scripture? I’m convinced this isn’t necessarily the case. I believe there are many well-meaning Christians out there who just don’t take well to controversy. Should we crucify them for it? Absolutely not! Just as not all take well to stress in the workplace, not all take well to heated discussions and standing in the face of error. One need look no further than Aaron in Exodus 32. Moses had entrusted the camp unto Aaron and, while Moses was gone, he built a golden calf. In verse 22, we see Aaron readily admitting the act was evil. I’m convinced that he knew exactly what he was doing but that he did it anyway due to buckling under the pressure of having the entire camp coming down on him. For another example, we can look to Peter. He denied Christ three times out of fear. Scripture is filled with examples of men who have caved under pressure. Just as it happened then, it continues today. I don’t believe everyone has the innate ability to stand tall under pressure or even the threat that it may come. Please note I’m not advocating for a complete lack of discernment or accountability in those who falter. After all, Matthew 18 prescribes how to do just that in an effort to restore a brother or sister. My point is that, while exercising discernment and accountability, ensure you’re also coupling it with grace and understanding.

Just as there are those who try to avoid the stress of potential arguments, there are also those who simply do not agree with contention. With all the disagreements that abound in any given topic known to man, why add even more? Can’t we just love Jesus, grow in our relationship with him, and let our

actions speak louder than our words? Won’t bickering among the brethren just lead to unbelievers thinking we don’t know what we’re talking about? While these are very valid points, I think they miss the bigger picture. It’s true that there are many pointless debates that would probably serve well as private discussions rather than public spectacles. However, this doesn’t mean that all disagreements should remain silent. Imagine if Martin Luther had chosen to forgo nailing his 95 Thesis to the door of Wittenberg. Certainly there are times to discuss and discuss loudly if need be. I’m convinced that, if the topic at hand is one that could deprecate the name of Christ, it deserves to be addressed. That being said, we must remain aware of how we are conducting ourselves in the presence of believers and unbelievers alike. The truth divides but we don’t need to let our pride amplify this fact. There’s a difference between standing firm in the truth and being stubborn as a mule.

Going back to the beginning, it is vital that we have a proper understanding of God. This can only be accomplished by reading the Scriptures. Once we have this knowledge, we have a responsibility to take care of it (2 Timothy 2:15). Sometimes, this will be in the form of facing opposition. Other times, it will be in the form of worship. Still other times, it may present itself in yet another manner. There are a multitude of potential ways we could be presented with an opportunity to guard the truth. This is why we must be ready at all times (2 Timothy 4:2).

So the latest debates on abortion may not be your thing. Maybe you don’t really care about the difference between credobaptist vs. paedobaptist or amillennialism, premillennialism, & postmillennialism. While all of these can be wonderful discussions to partake in, they are all worthless if God’s attributes and His redeeming gospel are left out. When I say theology, it is my hope that your first thoughts be of God’s sovereignty, love, righteousness, glory, etc. Out of this knowledge, all else will come in time. Out of this knowledge, one can build their very foundation as a Christian. If we don’t know God, we can never know God’s will for our lives. So, how do we know God? It’s easy! He’s given us His revealed Word so that we may understand that which was previously a mystery (Ephesians 3:4). If your primary motive for studying theology is to win the argument, know it all, or anything other than to better worship your Father in Heaven above, you’re doing it wrong.

~Travis W. Rogers

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