Op-Ed for Thursday, November 13 (’14)
It’s 7:00 Sunday morning and the alarm is beeping: it’s time to wake up, brew coffee, and get ready to worship the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with my brothers.
It’s 7:30 and I’m reading the text we will study in Sunday school to make sure that my talking points are correct, my theology is sound, and my attitude is right before entering the doors of my local church.
It’s 8:30 as my family and I make our way to church to hear the gospel proclaimed, but more importantly, to show my Christian brothers and sisters how good of a Christian I am.
It’s 9:00 as I arrive, slap a smile on the ol’ mug, and take my seat to await the study of Scripture and prove to everyone how much I know and how holy I am because of all the wonderful deeds I have accomplished last week.
I engage the text with my church family, I cite quotes from dead theologians validating the amount of time I studied. I ask questions and use buzzwords to evoke a response. Why am I doing this again?
It’s 10:30 Sunday night and I’m laying on my couch rehashing the motives behind my statements earlier in the day. What does the text really mean to me? Am I applying these principles to my life? Do I want to prove my intellectual understanding more than I want to honor God? Am I simply living this way one day a week to impress my church that I’m not as sinful as I know I am?
Sadly, I am guilty of this. I am guilty of conjuring up a faux sense of righteousness so as to cover the ugliness I battle during the week. My heart falls heavy as I wrestle with this sense of pride, worthiness, superiority, and humble brag. This, Christians, is not right, and even as I write these words my conscience is poking around inside of me, prodding me to examine the motive I have behind writing what I am writing. The struggle is real.
Too many times I have tried to cover up my sinfulness in order to present myself as the good Christian I yearn to be in front of the members of my church. I fall into the dangerous keep-up-with-the-Jones’s mentality.
Let’s be real, would Mr. Smith truly look at me the same way if I told him about the lustful, hateful, envious thoughts that swim through my brain everyday? Would Mrs. Copper trust me with responsibility if she understood the slothfulness and lethargy I carry around? Would the church be offended if they found out about the drug habit I had before I was saved, the strip club visits, the all night drunk fests, the criminal record? Should I care what they think of me? The answer is, of course, I should, but not at the expense of honesty and transparency.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.
Churches are filled with sinners given grace by God for no other reason than it was God’s good pleasure to do so. More times than not, however, we can elevate the folks that attend our church buildings to a position of godliness that we feel we should be “keeping up with”. This is an attack from the enemy.
We know there is “now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). This fact doesn’t stop us, of course, (at least not me anyway) and week in and week out I carry with me a slight air of arrogance and holier-than-thou attitude into the pews, and every Sunday night I repent. I suppose God is working on me, but I want to encourage those who struggle with the same issues. I want to let you know how incredibly important it is to lay yourself bare before the church, to let yourself be exposed as the sinner that you are, and confide in your church family about the sins that you struggle with on an everyday day basis. This is how they pray for you, encourage you, and hold you accountable. This is the epitome of the Body Life: that we, broken sinners saved by Gods glorious grace, gather in order to strengthen each other through the preaching of Scripture and the sacraments.
What good does my study of theology do me if that knowledge doesn’t manifest itself in my everyday life? What good does fellowship do without actual fellowship? Why do we paint a caricature of ourselves in front of our church family and reveal the buried desires of our hearts to the unbelieving world? Shouldn’t this be reversed? Should not we lay ourselves bare and leave ourselves vulnerable in front of God’s people more so than with our unbelieving friends?
Yes we should.
We should realize that these people whom we are doing life with are sinners saved by grace, just like us, and that in order to grow in holiness we have no other option than to portray ourselves as we are. Anything less would be manipulative and counterproductive.
The men and women we share the church halls with are our confidants: people God has providentially placed in our lives in order to most glorify Himself, and that is not something we, as Christians, should take lightly. This is not a sprint to the finish line of Christian intellectualism. This is a marathon we run with each other, encouraging each other along the way and resting assured that we share the same blessed hope at the completion of the run!
This Sunday, when the alarm goes off and we ready our families for worship with the saints, keep this in mind: we are God’s people, and He is our God (Revelation 21:2b). We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, not our good deeds or the amount of theological insight we have (even though that is vitally important). Open yourself to Christ’s Bride, let them see you in all of the ugliness that you are, every defect that is you. This is who you are: you are at the same time justified and a sinner and in order for our church family to act like a true family, they must know this.