Matters of Faith: A Bootleg Transformation

By: Rev. J. Loren Russell

Romans 2:24
For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.

Have you ever thought about the church and what it really is? We know that it’s a place where like-minded believers regularly gather. We know that it’s a building made of brick and mortar. We know that worship, praise, singing, teaching, preaching, and study takes place in the building. When the COVID pandemic forced us to suspend our gathering in the physical building, we discovered that we could gather, worship, praise, sing, teach, preach, and study from a virtual platform.

Paul writes in Romans 2:24 that “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” So, the question that ran through my mind was not where or how we gather, but “is the church a place of transformation?” Transformation doesn’t happen just because like-minded people come together. It does not happen just because people worship, praise, sing, teach, preach, or study from the Word of God. Transformation is a significant change from what was, to what is!

Many of the Christians in Rome were Jews who had converted to Christianity. They knew the Law of Moses and boasted about it in the places where they gathered. They prided themselves for leading those who were blind, and being a light to those who were in darkness. They gave instruction to the foolish and taught those who were new believers. Paul recognized all those wonderful things, then asks, (from The Message Bible Translation) “While you are guiding others, who is going to guide you? While preaching “Don’t steal!” are you going to rob people blind? Who would suspect you? The same with adultery. The same with idolatry. You can get by with almost anything if you front it with eloquent talk about God and his law” (vv. 21-23).

If Paul is right in his assessment in the text, there was not much change in the people then, and I would argue there is not much change in our people now. The transformation exhibited by these Christians was not authentic transformation. In fact, the change took them from a place of obedience (to the Law) to exploitation of the people. Instead of leading people in the way of transformation, they were ushering them to damnation. As professing believers, they were the worst enemy of the Gospel and the honor of God by their sinful acts.

Their transformation was illegitimate, bogus, fraudulent, just bootleg! You can tell they were bootleggers because you can see, in Paul’s writing, the hypocrisy of their behavior and their words. If the believers can see it, so can those on the outside who are looking in. Many of those in the church today have the same bootleg transformation, and those on the outside blaspheme the name of God because of them. The Message Bible translates verse 24 as “It’s because of you Jews that the outsiders’ frown on God,” shows it’s an old problem that isn’t going to go away.”

Authentic transformation requires that you love others the way that the Lord loves you. Many people resist transformation and are afraid to discover how much love they have to give. Always remember that you are being watched. Be sensitive to the fact that how you live makes those on the outside honor or curse God. Bootleg transformation gives birth to bootleg believers.

Be Blessed!

Rev. J. Loren Russell is President/CEO of The JLR Company and The J. Loren R Consulting, LLC for Church Financial Strategy & Consulting, an associate minister at both Goodwill and The Greater Universal Baptist Churches in the Bronx, creator & host of “Matters of Faith – The Radio Show” Mondays 8:00 – 10:00 PM on Facebook LIVE and author of Matters of Faith: The Book (eBook available at Smashwords).

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