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In walking with God we have come to accept that He often breaks into our thoughts in unexpected ways. Sometimes He gives us a quiet confirmation; and at other times His words are like lightning on a clear blue day. Recently God gave me (Homer) such a revelation, that it stopped me in my tracks as I walked our dog, Milo. I was stunned by His gentle, but firm, bluntness as He revealed how He sees His people. It was a profound warning that we cannot ignore nor keep to ourselves.

To begin, we need to go back deep into my past to explain how we got here. Many years ago, I was employed as a trainer of adults in the area of computer technology. I first had to learn many things about computers and software before I could convey any knowledge to my students. As such, I had to study a great deal and spent many hours in the books. However, learning just for learning sake has never been appealing to me. I did not want to know just the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of computers; but the ‘why’. My innate curiosity drove me to learn more and more about computer software; and how it worked. I spent countless hours putting my knowledge to practical use; broadening my experience by working with the technology I needed to teach others about. Eventually, my relentless study and practice yielded valuable results.

As I progressed in my experience and practice with computers, I was quickly promoted within the company I worked for. After a time, I became the head instructor; and my students, and coworkers, looked to me for technical expertise. They knew my knowledge of software extended far beyond the book; because of my practical experience. My boss even tasked me with building and maintaining the server infrastructure for our office. Eventually, I also earned many certifications to prove to others that I had acquired the skill and knowledge to teach; and at a very high level.

Now the computer world changed rapidly in the 90’s. There was more and more of a demand for people skilled in the software I was teaching. Because of this demand, Microsoft introduced something called the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer program; which would 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. It did not take long for training companies like ours to begin offering MCSE programs; where students could take all the courses and exams in a 6 to 8-week period. As lead instructor, I was responsible for making the MCSE program happen in our location.

At first, the students, that enrolled in the MCSE program, were already highly skilled technical people. These people just needed the certification; to prove to future employers that they had the requisite skills to manage and deal with highly technical server infrastructures. As time passed, however, I began to observe a gradual decline in the quality of students; and their skill levels. It became apparent, that many of these students just wanted the MCSE certification to get a lucrative job. Unfortunately for the employers, after taking the courses and exams, these low quality students were not ready to touch any critical technology. One employer told us that he would not allow even one of these graduates into his server room. The reason was that these students had the certification; but no practical experience. They had head knowledge; but not practical knowledge. All they could do was recite the key facts the trainers taught them to recite. Wanda and I came to term these people ‘paper MCSE’s’. The whole MCSE program gradually became devalued because of these people; and I left the training world soon after.

Moving on, I had forgotten all about this episode in my life; until a few days ago. As I was browsing through the Internet, I happened to stumble across a disturbing video about plagiarism; and how it is rampant in the educational system. I thought to myself that many of these students see the attaining of a degree of some sort, more important than the practical, experiential knowledge; related to their area of study. They see the degree as more important than the means they took to achieve it. Morals seem to be of no consequence these days; as long as you have your degree. This reminded me of those students I encountered in the MCSE program; they wanted the certificate without the work of practical experience.

It is stunning to think how many people believe today, that they can just stuff their heads full of facts and figures; and then imagine that they are somehow of value to others. The concept of mass production and mass consumption, has deeply infected all levels of education. Somehow, as a society, mankind has come to believe that it is only rote learning that matters. Quality has been shunted aside for quantity. Yet, as we observe, we cannot see how the quantity of the graduates of schools and colleges today, has added to the quality of life as we know it. In fact, we could argue that higher education is having an increasingly negative impact on society. Something is terribly wrong with the way we are taught to learn.

As I pondered this thought during my walk, God spoke; and in His quiet, inimitable, way said, “This is how many believers think today. They have become paper Christians.” I immediately thought back to those MCSE students, who had their paper certification, but were really quite useless. They had no foundation; because they had no practical experience. They had placed the goal above the journey; and so missed 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 the sum total of what that person knows; but the depth of faith experience they have acquired.

How many believers today really think that the journey of maturity, into a fully adult son of God, is worth taking; when they can just call themselves a Christian with no apparent cost? How many around you take the name of Christ; yet are actually willing to take on His character as well? How many are willing to lay aside all that they have; to gain the experiential faith, as a follower of Jesus? I suspect not many; and I understand now, why God calls His people ‘paper Christians’. Sure they have all types of knowledge and facts; but how practical is what they know? Do they really 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 have come to realize that these people really do not know Jesus; and consequently do not have faith.

The revelation God gave me stunned both Wanda and myself. Having paid a very high price by walking in faith, our wisdom has not come from books or the head; but from the deep well of personal experience, and an intimate relationship with Jesus. It has cost us everything to follow Him; but He is worth all that we gave. In the end the believer that follows Jesus in faith, gains a quality of character that cannot be duplicated or forged. There is simply no equal to living a life of faith; and the reward of relationship it brings.

‘Paper Christians’, however, lack the depth of maturity that come from practical experiences of faith. They are woefully unprepared for what is ahead. ‘Paper Christians’ sacrifice the experience of faith for the knowledge of faith. ‘Paper Christians’ choose titles over character. ‘Paper Christians’ desire ease and comfort over patient endurance. The expedience their ‘self’ lusts for, has deceived them into thinking that they can ‘cheat’ God; and not give Him the quality He looks for. These people are blinded by their own selfishness. Instead of returning to God His due, for what He has done for them, they are content to sit on their ‘certifications’ and claim they follow Him. God, however, has something to say to these people.

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 carefully planted and cared for by the Master. Unfortunately, in both parables, the fruit the Master required from the vines does not come forth. The consequence was that the vineyard was destroyed; 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 in our lives.

There are many believers in this world that are ‘paper Christians’. There are many that believe that 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 that real journey of faith that goes beyond the books, scholars, teachers, and religion. This journey will bring an end to ‘self’; and form His character in you. It will cost you everything; but He is worth everything. This is your opportunity to move beyond ‘paper Christianity.’ What will you choose?


Homer and Wanda