Friday, July 31, 2015

You Can't Be A "Good Christian."

As Christians, we are told, "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16 ESV)

We are also told, "let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel." (Philippians 1:27 ESV)

A life of integrity. 

Glorify God with your life. Be pure of Heart and mind. Modest and kind. Humble. 

Humble... Yup. 

I want to tell you a story... A story about a joyful little girl who grew up in the ministry. A PK (pastor's kid). Some people hear that backstory and immediately respond, "Aw... what a perfect life to grow up in - good influences, good family, good atmosphere. Talk about training up a child in the way they should go!" While others cringe. 

Either way, this little, joyful girl loved being a PK. She loved everything about church. It was fun and the people were nice. Everyone knew and loved her. 

But it was easy when she was little. 

Everyone expects little children to misbehave sometimes. It was allowed. 

But something changed as she grew older. 

Having grown up in church, she knew a lot of scripture. She only wore modest clothing. She didn't cuss. And she only watched family-friendly movies, and of course, only listened to Christian music. 

She was glorifying God with her life. 

Hmm... all the right ingredients. Right?

But oh! What a burden. The whole world was a stage, and she knew her lines. Whether or not the world was watching, she felt eyes on her. And slowly but surely, she became afraid of making a mistake. She had to be perfect. She had to be a good pastor's kid. She had to be an example. Glorify God... right?

Then it happened... 

She messed up. One mistake... then two... maybe three. Thank goodness, no one saw. The facade wasn't broken. No one knew. But in that moment of failure... she felt the weight and the fear of someday, letting down God. What would happen if she failed to glorify him with her life? Was she still a Christian if she couldn't uphold the statutes of a Christian life?

No... that would make her a failure. 

Failures couldn't represent the Gospel. Failures were sinners... and sinners weren't Christians, they were separate. 

The little girl was terrified. 

So... She put on a smile and tried to keep up her God-glorifying life... but this time, she carried around a small, little train of thought... would she mess up in public? Would they call her a hypocrite?

The fear was crippling at times. No longer was it just about her Christian life... but everything else too. Anything new was frightening... what if she failed... trying something new? She couldn't fail! Not in front of others. 

But you want to know something?

It's impossible to be perfect. 

And most people have failed at something... even something they're good at. How could anyone even relate to perfect if no one has ever managed it? Perfection is impossible to find. Not in ourselves... and certainly not in others. 

Yet we hold ourselves to this standard... why?

I think it's because we are VERY aware of God's holiness. So we try and wash ourselves clean, hoping that he'll find us acceptable. That others will look at our lives and say, "I want to be like that," and join us in our impossible quest. 

But even if we got within a hairsbreadth of perfect, it still wouldn't be enough. 

it's not enough. We're not good enough. 

You're not good enough. And you never will be. 

No amount of seclusion from the world and its idols. No wardrobe of modest clothing or itunes library of Christian music will ever suffice. ITS NOT GOOD ENOUGH. 

Jesus is good enough. His perfect, PERFECT blood is enough. 

So, dear Christian, why do you keep trying to add to what Jesus has already purified?

With Him... and ONLY WITH HIM. Are you good enough to be in God's presence. 

When God looks at you, He sees His beloved son, and His grace and love abounds to us. 

This is not to say we should go on sinning, "Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:1-4 ESV). 

Sin is like poison. It's no good to you - and certainly no good for anyone else. It's that selfish, instant-gratification, that's leads to temporary pleasure. The only lasting pleasure and joy to be found is in Christ. 

BUT. It's impossible to live a life that glorifies God on your own. In fact, if you were to live a holy life on your own strength... that wouldn't bring God any glory at all. 

You know what does bring God glory?

When the most unlikely, broken, sinner of sinners does impossible things. Of course a "good person" (if there is such a thing) will do good deeds. But when a "bad person" does good things... well that's a miracle. Only through God is such a thing possible. 

He's in the business of loving the ones who don't deserve it and using them for His glory. 

Rahab - a prostitute - is in the family line of Jesus

King David - an adulterer and murderer - (also in the family line of Jesus) is remember as a Man after God's own heart

Joseph (techicolor coat guy) - was prideful and arrogant - but he saved his family from famine

Mary - pregnant teenager - was picked to raise God's own son. 

Paul - Christian killer - became one the the most well known missionaries of the early church. 

God likes to use the least likely of people for his work. 

So don't for a minute think your failures could ever separate you from the love of God. 
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 ESV
Something I've realized... You don't have to clean yourself up before you approach God's throne. Jesus has to do that for you. 

Remember that scene in "Voyage of the Dawn Treader?" That CS Lewis book. (Comes after the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Prince Caspian). That one. Anywho. The Pevensies' cousin, Eustace Clarence Scrubb (and he almost deserved the name) is turned into a dragon while on "Dragon Island" and after he grows tired of being one, he tries to shredd the scales from his body. But layer after layer, he can't dig deep enough. So Aslan (the great lion) intervenes. His claws go deep. A thick layer is peeled back, bearing the boy clean and returned to his human state (and a better version, might I add). 

It is only with God's intervention that we can live lives that honor him. And you know what? The fact that you're not perfect? It's relatable. People understand weakness. It's the common plight. 

And believe it or not... God's power is made perfect in our weakness. 
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)
So stop trying to uphold God's perfection on your own two shoulders. That doesn't bring him any glory. Sinners upholding God's standards? That's just downright awesome. Sometimes they stumble, sometimes they fall, but Jesus picks them right back up again, dusts them off, and says, "I still love you. You still have worth to me." 

And isn't that just amazing?

I'm not sufficient in and of myself, but with God? He's all-sufficient. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13). 

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