It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. That may or may not be true. Sometimes imitation can be good. I am thankful for some imitations such as “generics” (medication, food, etc.) because they usually imitate the real product well for a fraction of the cost. Sometimes, however, imitation is not good. As any respectable cop will tell you, there is a vast difference between an authentic one hundred dollar bill and an imitation.
We shall see this morning in Luke 13:10-17 the difference between authentic Christianity and a cheap imitation. Any imitation of Christianity must be avoided. The reason is because even though it may look like the real thing; it robs a person of the promised love, joy, and peace that comes from true authentic Christianity and knowing Jesus. Let us look at our text, examining these three areas (love, joy, and peace) through the actions of Jesus and the ruler of the synagogue.
Love: Authentic vs. Imitation
True authentic Christianity comes through faith in Jesus Christ and results in love. This love is shown to everyone everywhere. Jesus models the love of authentic Christianity with His love for the “woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years” (11). As soon as He saw her, “He called her over and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your disability’” (12). Notice the compassion, mercy, and grace Jesus showed to this woman in freeing her from her bondage. Love is the fruit of authentic Christianity.
Contrast Jesus’ love for the disabled woman with the apathy the ruler of the synagogue displayed. When the ruler saw that Jesus healed the woman, he was “indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath” (14). The ruler did not rejoice and glorify God for all the glorious things that were done by Jesus; instead, he got angry. While the ruler professed belief in the Lord, his actions revealed that he did not have the love of the Lord working in his life. He had settled for a cheap imitation of true faith and the result was bitterness, envy, hatred, and an appallingly lack of genuine love for others.
Joy: Authentic vs. Imitation
True authentic Christianity comes through faith in Jesus Christ and results in joy. This joy is present in every situation and is not dependant on eternal circumstances because it is rooted in Christ Jesus. Jesus models the joy of authentic Christianity with the joy He produces in the hearts of His followers. When Jesus healed the disabled woman, her response was: “she glorified God” (13). When those who followed Jesus saw the miraculous healing, they “rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by Him” (17). Joy is the fruit of authentic Christianity.
Contrast the joy of Jesus’ followers with the anger of “all His adversaries” (17). When a person rejects authentic Christianity and settles for its cheap imitation, they find it hard to rejoice in the grace of God because they have exchanged grace for works. If you try to earn God’s favor by works, you begin comparing yourself to others to see how you measure up. The result is that you seek to bring others down in order to elevate yourself. The fruit of a cheap imitation is bitterness and hatred.
Peace: Authentic vs. Imitation
True authentic Christianity comes through faith in Jesus Christ and results in peace. When you place your faith in the Creator of the universe (Col 1:16), the One who walks on water (Matt 14:25), calms the raging sea (Mark 4:39), feeds 5,000 (Matt 14:20), and raises people from the dead (John 11:43); you will have peace. Jesus demonstrates His power to bring peace in the healing of the disabled woman. He proclaimed peace when He said “ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (16). If you are united to Christ by faith you will have peace.
Contrast this peace of Christ with the anger of the ruler of the synagogue. This ruler of the synagogue was caught up in a legalistic religious system that took God’s commands in the Old Testament and added many more commandments and prohibitions that God never gave. If peace comes through authentic Christianity then anxiety describes its cheap imitation. You cannot have peace if you seek to earn God’s favor through your works because it is impossible.
Beware of cheap imitations! It is not just true of cheap imitation merchandise but also of the Christian faith. Authentic Christianity results in such things like love, joy, and peace. Cheap imitation Christianity results in hatred, jealously, and anxiety.
As we reflect on this sermon, ask yourself the following questions to see whether or not you have authentic Christianity or a cheap imitation:
- Do you think Christianity doesn’t work because you find it hard to love others? If so, you may have a cheap imitation that fails to bring you genuine love because you have not truly surrendered your life to God.
- Do you think Christianity is doing what you don’t want to do in order to make God happy? If so, you may have a cheap imitation. True Christianity is doing what you want to do because you love God and want to obey Him.
- Do you think Christianity doesn’t work because it fails to deliver in its promise of peace? If so, you need to examine whether or not you have peace with God that results in a transformed heart. You may have a cheap imitation that fails to deliver peace because you desire the things of this world.