How real is our individual faiths? Are there any superficial decorations upon our faith? There is a passage in Zephaniah, speaking of the judgment of Nineveh, which speaks of this. It says,
"And He will stretch out His hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness. And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds: for He shall uncover the cedar work." [Zeph 2:13-14]
Notice what The LORD says. He is going to “uncover the cedar work.” It literally means He is going to make naked the cedar work. The fancy decorations upon the cedar beams of a building: God is going to rip those right off.
Though God speaks to Nineveh, I think we must also ask ourselves a question: Is there anything superficial to our faith that can be ripped off? If it can be ripped off, it was never real to begin with. Just vain decoration. Just like the Pharisees, who “all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments.” [Mt 23:5] The Pharisees had a lot of decoration. They worked hard at it. But it was all for show: there was no real depth. And if we do the same, those decorations will be ripped off one day. The cedar beams of our faith will be made naked.
Another passage speaks about this as well. In Isaiah we read about the daughters of Zion who decorated themselves with much jewelry. With “tinkling ornaments” and with “chains, and the bracelets…the rings, and nose jewels” and the list goes on. But The LORD has a tough word for them:
"And it shall come to pass, that instead of a sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness, and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty." [Isa 3:24]
The daughters of Zion decorated themselves with idolatrous jewelry and with fancy things. They were very careful to look good, and to look good with the world’s ornaments. But their faith was awful. Similar to the Laodecians, of whom Jesus says, “…thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” [Rev 3:17]
We have to focus on what matters: on the heart. As Peter says,
"Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." [1 Pe 3:3-4]
We must seek to renew our inward man. It does not matter about the decorations we put on spiritually. What matters is the condition of our heart. One day, everything will be laid bare. Jesus says, “for there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.” [Mk 4:22] So let us seek to have a pure heart because God “desires truth in the inward parts.” Take example from Jezebel, who though “she painted her face, and tired her head” her true self could not be hidden, and she was thrown down from the window “and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses: and he trode her under foot.” [2 Ki 9:30-33] Let us take warning from these passages; we ought to inspect carefully our faith, because one of these days our works “shall be revealed by fire” and we want it to abide so that we “shall receive a reward.” [1 Cor 3:13-14]