What are you really like inside? The character you display outwardly must be more than "special effects."
Jeff and Susie, newly wed and very much in love, sit by the ocean gazing into each other's eyes. In the background a gorgeous sunset lights up the sky. What a beautiful picture! What a fake! Oh, Jeff and Susie are real, and their love for each other is real. But Jeff is sitting on a pile of blocks — Susie on a low stool — in the Ambassador College Photo Studios in Pasadena. The ocean side park bench is made out of some old floorboards a staff photographer arranged on two low stands. And the "sunset"? A 35-mm. slide projected on the wall. The photographer used a long focal lens to compact the distance, increasing the illusion of reality. Then he arranged the light to show Jeff and Susie in silhouette, and calculated the exposure. The result? A fake that only an expert could tell was not the real thing. Only in the movie and photography profession, they don't call it a fake. It is known as a "special effect" — an elaborate form of make-believe. We have all seen some incredible special effects created on the cinema and TV screen and wondered, "How did they do that?" Today, creating special effects is a highly skilled profession.
A job for experts
Some techniques are well known — "tons" of foam rubber rocks that crash down on the hero as he rides through the canyon, or a brawl in the saloon as cowboys hit each other over the head with balsa chairs. But did you realize that the river of molten lava that threatens to engulf the heroine is actually oatmeal mixed with gray paint — or that the delicious looking ice cream in the commercial is really creamed potato (the real stuff would melt under the hot studio lights)? By painting scenes on glass, special-effects artists can produce what are known as mattes, which mask out unwanted parts of a scene. In this way a city skyline can be removed to give a modern scene a 19th-century look or, by adding a skyline, project it far into the future. And who hasn't heard of the studio towns with streets of solid-looking buildings that are only 18-inch-thick facades? By using laser and computer technology today's special effects are becoming ever more sophisticated, as spacemen soar through the galaxies battling legions of aliens and a never-ending array of monsters. The skill of special- effects experts continues to astonish us. But maybe it shouldn't, because most of us have spent life-times creating some impressive special effects of our own.
You — a special-effects artist
You see, a special effect is a deception or make-believe created to give an impression of reality. In building our personalities we have all resorted to some "special effects" to disguise unwanted scenes and make others look like something they are not. When people look at you, what do they see? What you are really like? Or what you want them to see? Most of us have a facade or image that is not the real us. Maybe you like people to think you are the sporty type, or maybe the debonair and sophisticated man or woman about town. Or perhaps you like to appear a cool, macho man. Or a dear little old lady who couldn't hurt a fly. Whatever it is, you have learned to talk, act and perhaps even dress according to an image you want to portray. In fact, you may have become so good at your special effect that even you are deceived. Perhaps even you can't remember what the real you is like. In one way or another you have become a skilled special-effects artist. What's so bad about that? Nothing, if this life is to be like a movie, just a time to pretend. But your life is not meant to be used like that. It is not a frivolous game of make-believe. If you are a Christian, your life has a vital purpose, and it must be used for that purpose. Your life must be used to build character — character like Jesus Christ had — so that one day you, too, can become a born child of God. A Christian life, therefore, is serious business. It is time to face reality. There is no room for the pretense, false fronts and special effects that we have so carefully built to obscure the truth.
The real danger of make-believe
God has promised to help rebuild us until we have holy, righteous character. But He must build on a solid foundation. He wants to deal with the real you, whatever that may be. His goal is to help you become "a perfect man" with "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13) — not just a convincing look-alike. There is nothing particularly wrong in using special effects in the film industry. They have to. Otherwise things just wouldn't look right. But have you noticed how people who spend all their lives in a make-believe world become so accustomed to sham and falseness that they no longer seem to be able to distinguish real from false, or right from wrong? Many actors and movie stars actually pride themselves on their cosmopolitan, tolerant, modern approach to adultery, fornication, perversions, drunkenness and other vices condemned by God's laws. Even whole cities have become well known for their permissive, freewheeling life-styles. The ancient city of Corinth was like that. Corinth was a seaport, and because of its position had become rich through trade. The people of many nations mingled freely, and the city had become a byword for the liberal approach to life. "To corinthianize" had become a synonym for a life-style of debauchery. This attitude permeated Corinthian society and had even affected the members of the Church of God that the apostle Paul had raised up there. They had become so liberal in their thinking that when a member became involved in an incestuous relationship with his mother (or it might have been his stepmother), the other members weren't shocked — they seemed even to be proud of the situation. Paul wrote those brethren a stern letter. He was horrified that God's chosen people in Corinth had become so tolerant of a situation that would have appalled normal, decent, unconverted people elsewhere. He wrote: "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles — that a man has his father's wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you" (I Corinthians 5:1-2). Paul confronted them with their tolerant attitude toward a serious sin. He commanded the Corinthians to disfellowship or excommunicate the erring member until such time as he learned a lesson and repented. This was not just a fit of prudishness on Paul's part. He knew that if this lackadaisical approach to immorality continued, it would not be long before the entire church was affected. Today we might say, "One rotten apple can spoil the whole bunch." Paul used another analogy, one that was readily understood by the Corinthians: "Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (verses 6-7).
Leaven and sin
Paul used the simple analogy of the action of a leavening agent in bread making to show the effect of sin in the Christian life. When a leavening agent (usually yeast) is mixed with dough, it begins to react. The lump of dough expands to many times its original size. The leavening agent literally puffs up the lump of dough with gas. This is what gives bread its light, soft consistency. It isn't really like that — it is a special effect — a make-believe. Bread dough baked without leaven is hard and fiat, more like a crust or cracker than the familiar loaf. The Corinthian church would have known exactly what Paul meant. Once a year, in the first month of the year according to the biblical calendar (approximating spring in the Northern Hemisphere today), God commanded a festival to be observed. It was called the Days of Unleavened Bread. You can read it described in Leviticus 23:6. The Days of Unleavened Bread lasted for seven days. The first and last days were Holy Days to be observed as Sabbaths. And on each of the seven days when the people ate bread, they were supposed to eat unleavened bread — bread baked without .special effects. Moreover, they were told to literally put out of their homes all leavening agents and all products that contained leaven, according to the commandment in Exodus 12:18-20. Jesus Christ observed this Festival when He was on earth (Mark 14:12, Luke 22:7), and so did the early Christian Church. It is obvious that the Corinthian church was keeping, or was about to keep, these Days of Unleavened Bread when Paul wrote the letter, since he wrote: "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (I Corinthians 5:8). In later centuries, however, this and other festivals and Holy Days commanded by God were replaced by holidays of human invention. So today, not many professing Christians have even heard of the Days of Unleavened Bread, and even fewer actually observe them. This should not be. God commanded that these days be observed by His people forever (Exodus 12:17). Jesus nowhere said we should not keep them. Quite the contrary (Matthew 5:17-19). Jesus warned against replacing God's commandments with human ideas (Mark 7:7).
Why unleavened bread today?
Now all this should make us think. Not only does God want us to be aware of the Days of Unleavened Bread, but He also expects us to keep them. Why? Leaven is used frequently in the Bible as a type or analogy of sin. There is, of course, nothing wrong with using leaven or leavened products the other 51 weeks of the year. It is only an analogy of sin. But it is an effective one. Just as leaven acts on a lump of dough, puffing it up and distorting it out of all proportion, so does sin act with an individual. God cannot work with a character that is puffed up and distorted. Jesus said to be careful about pretending to be something you are not (Luke 12:1). Don't masquerade as a righteous, God-fearing person while still clinging to your sins. In other words, avoid sham, fake, spiritual special effects in your life. That was the charge that Paul leveled at his Corinthian brethren. Stop pretending to be God's Church while tolerating sin in your midst, he thundered. If the incestuous member persists in his reprehensible behavior, put him out before he contaminates the rest of you. Face the truth. Don't be hypocrites — be sincere. The Corinthians understood Paul's stern warning, because they had gone through the act of putting all leavened products out of their homes, searching even for hidden scraps and crumbs that may have fallen into cracks and crevices. They had begun to eat unleavened bread — hard, chewy crusts baked without any special effects. Now Paul was teaching them the spiritual point: The leaven was a type of their sins, sins that had to be located and gotten rid of. The bread baked without special effects was a type of the solid, genuine, bedrock character and attitude that God can build on. "You desire truth in the inward parts," wrote David (Psalm 51:6) — not just an outward show. The Corinthians got the point, and this story has a happy ending. They did what Paul commanded. The man repented of his sins, and Paul instructed that he be restored to full fellowship (II Corinthians 2:6-8). One day we may well meet these Corinthians in the Kingdom of God. God doesn't waste our time. He instituted the Days of Unleavened Bread as an annual reminder of the need to put sin out of our lives and become genuine so that He can build perfect character in us. The physical aspects of these days — the literal putting out of leaven and eating unleavened bread — are designed to help us grasp the spiritual significance. The Days of Unleavened Bread in 1985 are from April 6 to April 12, with April 6 and April 12 being the Holy Days to be observed as Sabbaths. The Worldwide Church of God offers, free, a color calendar showing the Days of Unleavened Bread and all of God's other true festivals and Holy Days for 1985-1986. You may have a copy of this calendar by mailing the envelope in this issue or by writing to our address nearest you. We also offer, free, a booklet entitled Pagan Holidays - or God's Holy Days - Which? It explains the annual festivals ordained by God and reveals the shocking truth behind the holidays most observe today.