Twice each year I undertake the Herculean task of cleaning the storage shed. It takes an entire Saturday and involves nostalgic, logistical and utilitarian precision. I have eight hours to unpack the geological column of our family history, triage the flotsam and jetsam to see what stays and what goes, clean out the remote corners of the shed, then pack it back with tetris-like precision. Some things are easy. High-school yearbooks and “special-things” stay. Broken gardening vessels and punctured swimming floaties go. But the perpetual members of the “on-the-fence” club are the old VBS craft projects. They will not be used as décor, nor do they have any functional use. Yet their value in nostalgia is worth its weight in gold. Most prized among these are the family of “tin men.”
Like those pictured above, these creations were forged through the ambition of old-school VBS craft leaders and the patient endurance of the saints and children who assembled them. They were meant to illustrate a very important truth, that the only hope for tin men is to receive a new heart. Just as our only hope is to receive a new heart through faith in Jesus. But they inadvertently stand witness to something else – to Christians whose outward profession declares orthodoxy, while their outward life-style professes heterodoxy. Like tin men, many pious churchgoers have no new heart. They know the songs, they recite the creeds, they pray the prayers, they fill the positions and the pews, but the testimony of their lives is at odds with the testimony of their lips. Their confidence is not in the object of their faith, but the operation of their faith. C. S. Lewis, described such men as “men without chests.” He writes.
We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise…. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.
When God gives us a new heart, He gives also gives us new desires — desires to delight in His Law and to imitate His holiness. Law and holiness are not the root of God’s grace in our lives, but they are always the fruit of it. If we have no concern for God’s law or holiness, this is a warning sign that we are Christians without chests, spiritual tin men. And tin men are in grave danger for a man without a heart is dead.
Spiritual tin men have great confidence, but their confidence is always a false confidence. Jeremiah speaks to the spiritual tin men of his day calling them to “amend their ways.” The were quite religious and loved all the ritual and activity, confident that their hope was in “the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” But their lives showed that they had no concern for the Lord of the Temple, or his Law or His Holiness – sure evidence that they were men without chests.
Is your religion a grateful response to a gracious God? Is your life animated by a new heart whose rhythm is in sync with God’s pace-making heart? Does your life on Wednesday line up with your profession on Sunday? Or is your ritual, profession, and religious activity a cover-up for what is really under the hood – or rather what is not under the hood? The Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz rightly understood his condition.
When a man’s an empty kettle
He should be on his mettle
And yet I’m torn apart
Just because I’m presumin’
That I could be kind of human
If I only had a heart. – The Tin Man
Are you a spiritual tin man? Are you trusting in externals, in ritual, in your works, but lacking a new heart? The beautiful truth of Jeremiah 7 is that amidst the prophet’s razor-sharp diagnosis, he offers the only sure remedy.
Join us this Sunday, August 18 as we consider the dangers of heartless Christianity and the only remedy for its terminal condition. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.