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PASTOR’S CORNER: Outward signs do not impress God

Not long after accepting God’s call to ministry, I bought a gold cross, suspended it from a gold chain and have worn it around my neck ever since. I suspect that literally millions of saints within the body of Christ have done the exact same thing.

I recently asked myself the “why” question; why do I, and probably most of them, wear our crosses 24/7?

I can’t speak for others, but for me, when I regress and remember my mindset way back then, I know the answer to the question. I was excited about God’s call on my life and I saw the cross as a message that God had allowed me to become a member of his family. Recently, another question popped into my mind; for whom was the message intended?

It certainly wasn’t meant for God, he already knows the answer. The only other alternative was man himself. As time passed, I began to observe that professing Christians go to great lengths to impress one another of our spirituality and our membership in God’s family. I’m sure you’ve seen, as I have, the gigantic gold and platinum crosses dangling from chains.

Then there’s the wearing of What Would Jesus Do bracelets. Others verbalize their claims to “godliness” by their constant use of “spiritual” expressions in casual conversation. Still others brag about their “credentials,” or demand to be addressed by their titles, earned or not. These are the things men applaud — God is not impressed with outward signs of spirituality.

Paul addresses this issue of outward signs in Romans 2:25-29 where, in verses 28 and 29, he concludes by teaching us that the outward signs we are discussing have no bearing on, nor offer any evidence of, one’s spiritual condition; one’s relationship with God; or one’s membership in God’s family. These verses teach us the true test of one’s spiritual condition.

Paul calls it the “circumcision of the heart,” whether we have allowed the spirit to cut away sinful desires from the heart, evidenced by one’s godly behavior in daily life and not by the presence or absence of crosses hanging around our necks. So then, if my cross sends no message of my spiritual condition, why should I wear it? What is its purpose?

The answer is for each of us to figure out individually. Here’s my answer: my cross serves as a constant reminder of who I am in Christ, eloquently stated in the following quote: “It’s not in the flash of the style that you hone, or all the degrees you’ve compiled; The Savior is looking for servants who own the warm, willing heart of a child.” (by Mr. Gustafson)

P.S. I’m sure you haven’t been counting, but I have. This is the 48th article I’ve written for the Wave which, if my math is correct, translates into four years of contributing to the column. I mention this to offer thanks to all the Wave personnel who cause the articles to appear. I am grateful for the opportunity.

And, most importantly, thank you all who take the time to read the column each month. I pray they have been a blessing to you. Now, don’t see this as a farewell P.S. It’s not. God willing, many more articles will appear in The Wave in the months to come. God bless you all.

Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church, Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in South Los Angeles.Pastor’s Corner is a religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture in life today. The column will appear monthly in The Wave and on its website,