Imagine a military-dressed individual showing up to the graduation ceremony at basic training and sneaking onto the field during the administering of the oath.
He stands at the back of the formation, raises his right hand, and repeats the familiar sentences, “I… do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States….” The next day he shows up to the installation, but is stopped at the gate and denied entrance. Why? He is in uniform and took the oath of office. He may even have knowledge about the military and a desire to be part of something great.
What’s the problem?
He is an imposter. He looks like a military member, and knows about the military, but he is not a military member. There is a difference between doing military type things and being a military member. The principle of “being before doing” clarifies an important aspect of identity: a person cannot officially and rightfully “do” military things without first “being” a military member. Wearing the uniform does not make anyone a military member, and in fact impersonating the military is against the law. Instead, you become a military member by making a legally binding commitment to the nation, and then you do military things as an outflow of that commitment. This is similar to Christianity. A person can do many Christian things without being legally committed to Christ. He or she can attend church, read the Bible, say prayers, and even lead a Bible study without “being a Christian.”
There is a difference between doing military type things and being a military member.
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:13-27, New King James Version), Jesus warned of this very thing. He presented a scenario where religious people asked him, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” His response is harsh: “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” Ouch! How do we avoid this catastrophe?
In the same passage of Scripture, Jesus gives us a picture of how to avoid this judgment. He tells us to be a tree that bears good fruit. This sounds like a thing we must do, but if we look closer there is something deeper at work. A tree can only produce good fruit if the tree is truly good and healthy. In Matthew 12:33-37, Jesus uses the same tree illustration to make the point that the nature of our hearts (good or bad) determines our outward actions. How do we change our hearts and thus our nature? Simply put, we can’t. Paul elaborates in Ephesians 2:1-10 by telling us that we are dead in our sins (like a bad tree), and will therefore will always produce bad works (or fruit). We will always be imposters. The solution is to come in faith to God and make a legally binding commitment to Him (i.e., confession), so He can change our hearts (and thus our true nature and identity). Now we can officially and rightfully do Christian things.
The military imposter will most likely run at the first sign of danger. The cost to him is not worth the respect and honor he may receive in the short term. You made a commitment to be a military member, regardless of the cost. You said “yes” and signed on the dotted line. Have you done that with God or are you playing imposter?