September 8, 1992
Art was slightly red-faced when he told about a customer who entered his place of business. It was a young man with a red moustache and beard, someone he did not recognize. It was only after asking how he could help him that Art realized it was his own son! The boy had worked in the forestry industry for the summer and returned with unexpected changes to his appearance. Art said, “At least this proves I’m not infallible!”
Most of us cannot imagine being unable to recognize our children but it could happen. Sometimes, if all we ever see them wear is jeans and sneakers, putting on a suit or a grad gown could be enough to do it, or a costume and make-up for a drama play. And if they began acting differently than their usual selves, it would add to the disguise. If they are young, fooling us would be a funny game. Art’s older son maybe wanted to play a trick on dad, but I doubt he would have enjoyed the joke if dad never caught on.
Art later pointed out that God cannot be fooled — He always knows His kids, in spite of the fact that some have been known to wear disguises as if they didn’t want other people to know they are Christians. As for those who pretend to belong to His family but really do not, God also sees through their cover-up.
First, God’s true children sometimes do wear disguises such as when we fall into sin and can get so covered with “mud” we appear on the outside like any other sinner. That disguise may fool other people but God knows what is under the mess. He exhorts us to “put off, concerning our former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” and calls us to “be renewed in the spirit of our mind” and “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” In other words, take off the disguises and demonstrate who we really are.
Another form of cover-up goes on when we fear ridicule or persecution. Again, we pretend we fit in this world, maybe hang around sinners, not completely falling into their behavior but not being particularly godly either. Abraham’s nephew, Lot, was one of these. He lived in Sodom and while he did not participate in their sins, neither did he confront what they were doing or get out of their company. Fortunately God knows “those who are His” and sent two angels to drag Lot out before raining fire and brimstone in judgment on those who lived so wickedly in his home town.
Those who observe the outer “costume” or behavior of Christians-in-disguise are justified in calling us imposters and hypocrites. Even though God knows who are His children, He also warns against such hypocrisy and disguises. We must demonstrate what we are, not cover it up.
Of course God considers the worst disguise that of those who pretend to be Christians and are not. Even though He can see right through their pretense, so many people cannot and are therefore deceived and led astray. Outwardly these pretenders say the right words and even do all kinds of religious deeds but inwardly they are “ravenous wolves” who have no care for the family of God. They have selfish motives for feigning godliness.
One day God will strip away all disguises. Those who have battled with sin will find that the “solid foundation of God stands — having this seal: The Lord knows those who are His.” But those who have posed as righteous without depending on the righteousness of Christ will hear Him say, “Depart from me... I never knew you.”
Art knows a change in appearance did not change the identity of his son. In the same way, no matter what kind of false face people might wear, it does not change the inner person. And because God knows who are His, no one who fakes it will be able to wear a disguise forever.