Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. (NIV Galatians 6:15)
In 1997 Charles Lewis Jr. and Gary Fields founded Tapout, a mixed martial arts (MMA) focused sportswear company. By 2007, Tapout was the largest distributer of MMA merchandise in the world. I wasn’t very surprised to learn this since, around that time, I recall seeing a lot of people wearing shirts or hats with “Tapout” written across them. Some wore them to support the growing sport of MMA, some wore them because they were fashionable at the time, and then there was that special group that wore them because they thought others might associate them with MMA fighters. (How sad for that last group).
I don’t know a whole lot about professional fighting, but I am quite certain that, for professional fighters, the shirt you wear means nothing. What counts is how your training transforms you into the fighter you want to be. It’s about intentional transformation.
There are many areas of life where we may find that we are mistaken about what counts. For instance, when I was in high school, I remember thinking that how others perceived me was what counted. Of course, it doesn’t take too long after graduation to realize that it really meant nothing. Some think that what counts in life is how much money you make; but a fool can win the lottery and become instantly rich. Money is not the measure of success any more than a Tapout shirt is the measure of your fighting ability. In general, we often struggle with putting reality in perspective and judging what really counts.
The Church is not immune to this tendency. Christians can often put focus on the wrong aspects and become mistaken about what counts. There are some who would say that what counts is that you said a prayer and got baptized so that you could be “saved”. Of course, there is no such thing found in the Bible.
There are some who would say that following a system of sacraments and prayers are what count to God. If that were the case, then Jesus would never have had issue with the Pharisees.
It absolutely breaks my heart when a Christian believes that what counts is winning the legal right to impose Christian morality upon people. This shows only how unlike Jesus we want to be while still wearing His merchandise.
For pastors, it is common to believe that what counts is how many are in your flock. The use of numbers and popularity to judge success in ministry is like believing a Tapout shirt will make you tough. Not only is it delusional, but it’s liable to get you, and others, hurt.
Paul says that both legalism and liberalism are irrelevant—they simply don’t matter. What counts, according to Paul, is that we become a new creation. Your walk with God must result in the death of your old self, and the resurrection of a new creation, modeled after Christ (Ephesians 2:22-24). God does not seek minions to join His club; God desires to transform us to give us a new life in His image. This new life is what counts because it allows us to be in His presence—the way we were created to be; and it causes us to become a source of hope and encouragement to others.
True Christianity is about a real transformation. Are you being transformed into the image of Jesus, or are you seeking other goals in your faith?
If everything about your life is not turned upside down and transformed by your faith in God, then you have missed what really counts. You are wearing a shirt that says Tapout, but you are not becoming a real fighter. Neither God, nor the world, needs poser Christians.
Grafted by His Grace,
Pastor Raul Granillo