Let me say this right at the outset of this post – I like Instagram.
I mean I really like it.
I use it all the time.
I wanted to get that off my chest now so that you don’t think that what’s coming next is just an anti-instagram rant.
So I’m an Instagram fan, but I probably need to confess that the real reason I like Instagram goes no deeper than this:
Instagram makes crappy photos look awesome!
It really does!!!
Come on, if you use Instagram (or other similar photo-sharing social media apps) you know what I’m on about – you take an average photo, but then after whacking a filter on it and tweaking the contrast a bit what you end up with is a fantastic looking photograph…that bears hardly any resemblance to the original!
You know it’s true, but I guess the question is why am I blogging about it? And the answer is simply this – we do the same thing with our lives all the time!
We used to refer to our tendency to pretend that we’re better/smarter/nicer/sexier/more impressive (delete as appropriate) than we really are as “wearing masks”. Perhaps today a more culturally relevant phrase would be “choosing a filter”!
We’re all guilty of it – whether it’s embellishing a CV, exaggerating stories of past exploits, making out that we know more than we actually do, pretending that we know famous people that we actually don’t, disguising our blemishes behind make-up or even photoshopping that selfie we just posted…we all have a vast array of filters that we use to cover our crappiness (or even just plain averageness) and make ourselves appear more awesome than we truly are!
Sadly, this isn’t something that only happens outside of the church – Christians are just as guilty of this as anyone. Indeed, if I’m being honest I probably have more filters when it comes to my faith than I do for the other areas of my life. Whether it’s the classic tendency to try to “impress” other Christians by looking more godly and acting more spiritual than I really am, or worse still, my ridiculous attempts to “impress” God Himself with my piety, my zeal and my good works. In both cases, I’m guilty of appalling fakeness. Of applying filters to my faith that create a false reality and fail to reveal the truth that actually, I’m not that impressive. In fact I’m crushingly ordinary, weak, broken and sinful.
And so are you!
So what hope is there for us? Are we trapped in this superficial world of fakeness and filters? Of pretending that we’re not as crappy as we know we really are, and more awesome than we know we ever could be? Is it possible to live an authentic life as a follower of Jesus with #nofilter?
I believe that it is, and I believe that they key to filter-free faith is to both perceive and project our lives through the lens of the gospel.
1. See yourself as God sees you
Our filters don’t work with God – he sees us exactly as we are, as He told the prophet Samuel in no uncertain terms in 1 Samuel 16 v 7:
“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
God sees us filter-free. He sees into the darkest recesses of our hearts – all the filth, all the fear, all the sin, all the clutter, all the pain and all the guilt. Literally nothing is hidden from His gaze. That’s a terrifying thought isn’t it? I reckon that’s why so many of the religious mask-wearing Pharisees hated Jesus so much – he saw straight through their filters and their fake facades and saw the true condition of their hearts, and told them exactly what He saw:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23 v 27-28)
And yet although seeing the ‘truth’ about us, Jesus demonstrates the liberating grace of God in loving us despite our imperfections, coming for us in our sickness, seeking us in our brokenness, calling us to come as we are and dying for us while we were yet sinners. He didn’t expect us to either cover over or clean up our mess, but rather He came to deal with it on our behalf. To die a substitutionary death on the cross, becoming our unrighteouness in order that He might make us the righteousness of God. So now, when God looks at me (and you if you have trusted Jesus to save you) He doesn’t see all the crap we’re guilty of. No, all that He sees now is the awesomeness of Jesus!
God sees us through the lens of the finished work of Jesus. #nofilter
2. Live life as God sees you
The beauty of the gospel is that it doesn’t only mean that when God sees me He sees the awesomeness of Jesus, but also that it sets me free from the pressure of needing to try to impress anyone else! I mean, if God loves me, adopts me, accepts me, forgives me and declares me righteous, why should I give a stuff what anyone else thinks of me?
But the trouble is…I still do!
And so do you.
We still want to be impressive. Still want others to think that we’re awesome. Which, let’s be honest, is crazy, cos surely our transformed lives should now be more about wanting others to impressed by Jesus and to think that He’s awesome, right? So how can we get on with living Christ-magnifying lives that are filter-free? Here’s a few thoughts:
- Never move away from the cross, because that’s where you will always most clearly see yourself as God sees you.
- Read Romans 12 A LOT and don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought.
- Live for the “well done good and faithful servant” of Jesus, rather than the hollow praise of man.
- Pray that God would make you humble, godly, content and ‘real’.
- Ask God to renew your mind and to help you to live in the liberating reality that Jesus is awesome, and you’re not, but that’s OK!
- Confess your sin quickly, but delight in the truth that your failures today don’t change the eternal reality that you are awesomely righteous in Jesus.
- Spend time with Christians whose filter-free faith you wish to emulate.
- Give other Christians who you love and trust the licence to speak into your life and help you to see when you’ve applied filters.
I’m sure that there are many other thoughts and things that I could have mentioned (feel free to post any other ideas that you might wish to add in the comments section below).
In conclusion, let me say this – we don’t need better filters, we need stronger faith in the finished work of Jesus. So let’s rejoice in the gospel – that we have a God who sees us as we truly are and still chooses to save us by His grace.
And may we, by His grace, learn to live lives of radical, filter free faith that emphatically commend the gospel to the Instagram generation!