One sunny morning, while Milo took me for a walk, God spoke. In His quiet, inimitable way God said, “Many of my people are paper Christians.” I stopped. Milo stopped. The crickets chirped and the soft breeze wafted by. A thunderbolt had just exploded out of nowhere into my brain and stopped me cold. God looks at those He calls His own and calls them, “paper Christians”?
I had to dig through the memory vaults to understand where God was taking me.
Many years ago, I was employed as an adult technical trainer at a computer technology training firm. When I first started I knew very little about computers. After a good deal of educating myself and practical experience, I rose through the ranks. By 1995, I was one of the few advanced technical trainers at PBSC, Edmonton. They required me to pass many tests in my journey to become properly certified. One such prized certification was called the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, or MCSE.
Microsoft introduced this program to accredit those with the required technical knowledge. The MCSE program involved a number of technical courses; and then written exams to prove that the student had the proper knowledge. Once students passed their exams, they could then use the coveted title of MCSE after their names. At the time, the MCSE certification was a guarantor of a great income. I gained that certification early on and from there built a program at the training company I worked for in order to train others.
At first, the students enrolled in the MCSE program were already proficient technical people. These people just needed the certification to prove to future employers that they had the requisite skills to manage and deal with technical server infrastructures. As time passed, however, I saw a gradual decline in the quality of students, and their skill levels. Many of these students just wanted the MCSE certification to get a lucrative job. They passed the tests, but lacked real world technical experience. The students had head knowledge; but lacked practical skill. They were so ill-equipped that I had one employer tell me he would not allow even one of these MCSE graduates into his server room.
Wanda and I called these students, “paper MCSEs”. Great on paper, useless in life.
Where is faith?
On my walk I thought back to those MCSE students. They had no foundation because they had no practical experience. They had placed the goal above the journey thus missing out on a great opportunity. Now here God was equating a practical lesson I had from my past, into the broader world of Christians. I was stunned at the connection. God was saying that the value a believer has is not in what the believer knows; but the depth of faith experience they have acquired.
- How many believers today think the journey of spiritual maturity, into becoming an adult son of God, is worth taking; when they can just call themselves a Christian with no apparent cost?
- How many take the name of Christ, and will also take on His character?
- How many will lay aside all that they have, to gain the experiential faith as a follower of Jesus?
We suspect not many, and now understand why God calls His people “paper Christians”. They may have all types of knowledge and facts, but how practical is their knowledge? Do they know what it is like to trust God for their daily food and shelter, their concern for family and friends, or protection from violent people or situations?
In meeting many “paper Christians” over the years, we now realize these people really don’t know Jesus, and their faith is worthless.
This revelation that God sees many of His own as mere paper cut outs is gravely disturbing. Our family has paid a very high price to walk in a journey of uncompromising faith. The wisdom we have gained has not come from books, but from the deep well of personal experience, and an intimate relationship with Jesus. We have sacrificed everything to follow Him, but He is worth all that we gave. The believer that follows Jesus in faith will gain a quality of character that cannot be forged.
Instead of returning to God His due, for what He has done for them, these “paper Christians” are content to sit on their ‘certifications’ and claim they follow Him. They are woefully unprepared for the dark days ahead.
In Isaiah 5:1-7 and in Matthew 21:33-41 God uses two parables about a vineyard, to help us understand the folly of being a “paper Christian”. He uses the picture of a vineyard that has been planted and cared for by the Master. In both parables, the fruit the Master required from the vines does not come forth. The consequence was that God destroyed the vineyard, because it produced no good fruit.
Please understand the seriousness of this picture. God is looking for the fruit of faith, the quality of character, in us, that reflects Jesus. Nothing less than this standard will do. Knowledge, titles, or achievements, are not the fruit He wants or expects. The only fruit He will accept as good, is the fruit of complete faith in Him.
God does not want or need “paper Christians”. What God is looking for is the good fruit of practical, experiential faith lived out daily in our lives.
What will you choose?
There are many believers in this world that are “paper Christians”. They believe they only have to say Jesus’ name, and they will have a heavenly reward. How is it with you? Today is the day when you can begin the real journey of faith that goes beyond books, scholars, teachers, and religion. A journey that will take you into a living, vibrant relationship with a God who is passionately in love with you. This will bring an end to ‘self’, and give you a testimony of experiential uncompromising faith. The process will move you from a one-dimensional cutout to a person who lives their faith daily. This is your opportunity to move beyond “paper Christianity.” Will you go?
Homer and Wanda