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by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa

October, 2013

A couple of months ago, there was an interesting animal in a Chinese zoo, located in the People’s Park of Luohe, in the central province of Henan. A lady named Liu had taken her son to the zoo to show him the different sounds the animals made. Everything was going well until her son told her the “African lion” was barking. Sure enough, the “lion” was a dog, specifically a Tibetan Mastiff, a large, long-haired breed. The zoo’s real lion was unavailable and a zoo employee had replaced it with his dog, after teasing the dog’s hair to look like a lion’s mane. The fake “lion” wasn’t the only substitute; there were rodents displayed as snakes, a white fox as a leopard, and another dog as a wolf. Zoo patrons understandably complained that they had been cheated and misled.

Mastiffs are truly huge, fierce looking dogs and the Tibetan breed is similar in color to a lion. But, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, dogs are not lions and a dog disguised as a lion is still a dog.

What about us? Are we genuine? Are we the real thing or do we just look like the real thing? Peter wrote, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:6-7 ESV). Our response to trials—or even the normal aggravations of everyday life—can tell those around us whether our faith is genuine or not.

Paul wrote this to the church at Philippi about his young friend Timothy: “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. They all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy's proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.” (Phil. 2:20-22 ESV). Genuineness is not only Timothy’s hallmark but the hallmark of all Christians. He cared about Paul, the people of Philippi, and all God’s people. Paul wrote to Timothy that in the last days, there would be people who would have “. . . the appearance of godliness, but [deny] its power.” (2 Tim. 3:5a ESV).

Later in his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote, “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, . . . For we . . . worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh . . .” (vs. 3:2a, 3b ESV). Obviously, I like the verse about looking out for “the dogs” because it fits with the story of the fake zoo lion. But beyond that, dogs were considered unclean in Biblical times. It’s not a stretch to say that Paul would also regard opponents of Christianity as unclean. We should also worship in Spirit, glory in Christ, and not trust in our own righteousness, so that we will be clean in God’s sight, washed in Christ’s blood.

What about us? You and me? Are we true or false? Genuine or fake? Are we lions for the Lord or dogs for the devil? Can others hear us roaring or barking? Are we seeking our interests or Christ’s? Does our testimony have true power or is it merely a form of righteousness? Is our confidence in ourselves or in Christ? Peter gives seven characteristics of Christians: Faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, affection, and love (2 Pet. 1:5-7). These are the qualities we should possess, the qualities the Holy Spirit should be promoting in our lives and in the lives of all Christians. I freely confess that I don’t have them all, and that some are more difficult and challenging than others, but the Holy Spirit is working within me to develop them. I pray that my testimony and yours are based on the saving power of Christ.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:3-8 ESV.)

Copyright © 2013 by David Phelps