By Lewis Willis
It would have been difficult to have listened to the news over the last few weeks without knowing something about the pop duo Milli Vanilli. In 1989 they won a Grammy for Best New Artist. They were so popular that they sold 7 million albums. An instant success! Newsweek (11/26/90) said they “boasted they were better than Elvis.” Now we know that they did not sing a single note on their hit record. They lip-synced the whole thing. To see them perform, you would think they were singing, when, in reality, they were only moving their lips as someone else sang. Their world came crashing down on them when this was known. I rather suspect it has affected the entire pop music scene. Are there other groups like them out there?
Obviously, I’m not terribly interested in Milli Vanilli, or any other pop group for that matter. However, I think there is a good lesson to be learned from this incident that has its application in religion. It seems to me that much of today’s religion is of the Milli Vanilli variety. People seem to be going through the motions, and lip-syncing a religion which they profess to be the religion of Christ.
For instance, many folks put on a major production about how much they love Jesus Christ. Theirs is a mighty devotion to him in every way. If you don’t think so, just ask them. They undertake mighty programs to convince the world that they are serving God. Their marketing scheme is so effective that they raise literally millions and billions of dollars (2 Pet. 2:3). Some even receive religious “Grammys” for their performance. However, a careful examination reveals that the commandments of Jesus are ignored in these performances. They teach the false doctrines of salvation by faith only (Jas. 2:24), the impossibility of apostasy (Gal. 5:4), that baptism is unnecessary to salvation (Mk. 16:16), that God approves observance of religious holidays like Christmas and Easter (Gal. 4:10-11), while ignoring the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7), etc. It’s a great performance but it is a religious phony. Jesus gave commandments concerning these things but those commandments are being ignored! Still, these religious Milli Vanilli’s want us to believe that they love the Lord. Jesus said, “Ifye love me, keep my commandments. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he is it that loveth me. . . If a man love me, he will keep my words. . . He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings” (Jn. 14:15,21,23,24).
Any “do as you please, make your own rules as you go” religion is as counterfeit as Milli Vanilli. Furthermore, it is as vain, empty and deceptive as they were. Jesus said it like this, “But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men ” (Matt. 15:9). Every religion which has drawn up its own creed, manual, confession of faith or catechism is “Milli Vanilli” in concept and fact.
Well, what about us? I’m talking about the Church of Christ. Do we have any Milli Vanilli influences and practices among us? If you were to ask the people who have their names in the membership directories of various congregations, “Are you a Christian?”, you would likely get an affirmative answer. “Yes I am! ” However, when you observe the life of a congregation you have to wonder. It is not uncommon in most churches to see a decline of approximately 1/3 in the number of people who assemble from Sunday morning to Sunday evening. It becomes increasingly difficult to get some members to do anything except come on Sunday morning. The work of the church struggles along because you seldom see any increase in the contribution. Many manifestations of indifference and apathy exist among us unfortunately.
These “Milli Vanilli Christians” profess that they know God and that God knows them. They lip-sync a “Sunday morning only” religion but they are caught up in the allurements of the world, they are openly disobedient and they have no time for the work Christians are supposed to do. These act the part, but it is only an act. Paul said of these kind of folks, “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Tit. 1:16).
Such indifference, though unconfessed, shall one day be exposed, just like the pop singers were exposed. To the church at Laodicea, Jesus said, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou were cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15-16). Such Christians are trying to act out a saving religion without doing what the Lord said. He referred to such people by quoting from the prophesy of Isaiah, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matt. 15:8). For awhile you might lip-sync a record and make big bucks. However, lip-syncing religion will not pay at the judgment – there will be no big, desirable reward. There will be a reward alright, but not the one we want.
A few weeks ago the world of Milli Vanilli came crashing down because of the deception they had wrought. Could we learn a lesson from them? Indeed, we can. If the religion we practice is not true to the book of God, and if we are not genuine and loyal in our practices of that religion, we will know a fate far worse than Milli Vanilli. We will loose our souls when we stand before God in judgment.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 12, p. 372
June 20, 1991