Published May 14, 2013

Paul's Epistle...

I've written before about my fascination with the old "Hogan's Heroes" TV show that aired in the late 1960s and early 1970s. (It's still rerunning in syndication.) But that interest recently led me to wonder where the outdoor scenes for that program were filmed.

It turns out the program's outdoor scenes were shot on a movie lot in Culver City, California, which had also been the location for filming "Gone With The Wind," the original "King Kong" movie, TV's "Andy Griffith Show" ("Mayberry" outdoor sets), "The Untouchables" and many other classic productions. Even some early-years "Star Trek" exteriors were shot there. (Some of the Hogan street scenes "in town" actually reused some of the original "Gone With The Wind" streets from their Atlanta, Georgia, town set — "redressed" with signage in German, of course.)

Alas, the site no longer exists. Today it's an industrial park – and all those classic sets, some from as early as the 1920s, were bulldozed long ago.

Nevertheless, I was intrigued by photos of those street scenes. The buildings – some as high as four stories – looked like solid, classic brick-and-mortar buildings. You could easily imagine people working and living in these stores, offices, apartment buildings and homes.

But it was all fake. Photos taken from overhead or from behind these "buildings" clearly showed that, no matter how solid they looked to the movie camera, they were nothing but false fronts. No actual substance.

One Hollywood insider once said that Hollywood is "full of facades – gussied-up exteriors with nothing behind them." That's an interesting way to characterize what Hollywood creates – and, for that matter, many of its people.

But the problem we face today is that not only are there false facades in Hollywood, there are false facades in the church, too. These are the people who outwardly profess Christianity – but there's no substance behind those false fronts. They put on a wonderful show. But that's all it is. Inwardly, they still cling to their sinful ways — and don't seem to have a problem with it.

Unfortunately, these "false-facade Christians" provide ample evidence to non-Christians that the church is really full of hypocrites. "Hypocrite" comes from a Greek word meaning "an actor, one who wears a mask." In other words, they want to appear to be something (or someone) they are not. Even Mark Twain is said to have become bitter toward the church because he saw many professing Christians who owned slaves, abused them, used foul language (Exodus 20:7, James 1:6) and were dishonest – after speaking piously in church on Sunday.

In the past few months alone, three pastors in the Orlando, Florida, area – from different churches – have stepped down after admitting to adulterous relationships. And Orlando isn't the only place where such things are happening. Last July a Maryland pastor was convicted of taking millions of dollars in church funds. A federal prosecutor said this pastor "lived a life of fraud and deception." Is it any wonder the world shouts "hypocrite!" in times like this when even church leaders put up a false facade of presumed righteousness?

Jesus had a description for such people: " are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (Matt. 23:27-28). Clearly, these were not comments of approval.

Paul counseled, "...stop evaluating Christians by what the world thinks about them or by what they seem to be like on the outside..." explaining that when "someone becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!" (2 Cor. 5:16-17, LB paraphrase). Is there truly undeniable evidence of that "new life?" We need to consider that – not only for ourselves but also for those around us.

Photos of that Culver City movie lot, taken in later years soon before it was demolished, show that the facades had deteriorated to such an extent that sunlight now streamed through rotten holes in what had looked like solid brick walls. False walls and partial roofs were rotting and caving in. Storms had come against them and exposed them for what they really were in the first place – phonies. All appearance. No substance.

That's the case with the false facades people put up – trying to appear to be something they aren't. Eventually some sort of storm — physical, emotional, financial, what have you — will come against them and their true nature will become apparent to all. Their "facade" will crumble.

These are challenging times.

These are times when we must beware of phonies in the church — even in the pulpit.
These are times when self-identified "Christians" who are merely "facades," lacking substance, will collapse and willingly yield to the world's sinful ways.
These are times when the unholy spirit of compromise and "tolerance" will overtake those who are mere facades, even if they actually know better.
These are times when Christians need to be built up – "edified" (1 Thess. 5:11) – through solid, uncompromising Bible-based preaching and teaching.
These are times when Christians need to be complete, solid, stand-strong edifices, full of Christ-honoring integrity, built firmly on the "chief cornerstone" (Matt. 21:42) — not just phony facades.

- Paul

Comments on this?

Copyright 2013 Heil Enterprises. All rights reserved.

Return to the Archives Index page for more recent columns.