Up until I was nearly through high school, I wanted to be a taxidermist. Growing up in my father’s shop brought me into frequent contact with a variety of animals and I was privileged to see the nicest bucks, the largest fish, western mammals, and even African game.
Although I helped my father with every aspect of the business and did a little of all of it, I discovered I was not an artist. Anyone can do taxidermy work, but to make animals look alive, it takes true artistic skill and my father was the best. Regrettably, I was not nor were my brothers and so none of us ended up taking over his business.
Thankfully, I have many animals dad mounted and they still look as lifelike as they did the day he finished them. But they are not living. Even the best taxidermist returns dead animals to their customers.
This reality reminds me of something Paul wrote to a young preacher. In 2 Timothy 3:5, Paul foretells a time when people will be selfish, brutal, greedy, slanderous, and lacking self-control. Along with other sins, he concludes by saying they will have a form of godliness but will deny God’s power.
That last line is what reminds me of the taxidermy business. When taxidermists mount most any specimen, they commonly use a “form.” These manikins were once made from building paper but are now almost exclusively of polyurethane. I made thousands of these head forms as a teenager.
When a deer head is mounted, a form of the appropriate size and position is chosen and then the antlers are set on it to match the way they were on the living buck. The taxidermist then models the eyebrows with clay and sets the glass eyes.
The hide is then stretched over that foam form and properly positioned. Once the artist is satisfied, he or she attaches it with paste, staples, and needle and thread. The ears are set, the lips are tucked, and then it must dry for several weeks before finishing touches.
But all that work still only produces a life-like specimen. There is no life within it whatsoever. It has a form of life but there is no power. It has glass eyes but it cannot see. It has ears but cannot hear. It has a mouth but cannot chew.
Sadly, that describes some religious institutions. They may have once been fully alive, but either apathy, neglect, or outright false teaching killed them and all that remains is a lifeless form. Jesus diagnosed the Ephesian Church in Revelation 2:4 as having lost its first love.
Some Christian institutions and pastors teach that Biblical miracles were not really miracles and explain them away. Some even say that Jesus was not born of a virgin, did not live a sinless life, and did not rise from the dead. These teachings may appear godly but deny God’s power and produce churches that look more like taxidermy shops than zoos. The difference between the two is life!
Becoming more personal, when we refuse to love our spouses, neighbors, and even our enemies because it’s just too hard, we have a form of godliness but deny His Power. When we excuse our lust, greed, anger, gossip, or sexual sin by saying we were born that way, we’re denying that God is powerful enough to transform us.
We were all born with sinful desires, sinful tendencies and sinful attitudes. We inherited our sinful nature from Adam. We can’t resist sin by ourselves, which is why God gives His Holy Spirit to empower Christians to do so! But we have to let Him!
We need to be not just mounted onto some lifeless form, but to be born again! If you never have, invite God to give you true new life through His Son Jesus that you might be fully alive! Blessings, George