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Monday, September 12, 2011

Being Godly Is More than Looking Godly

Sometimes we are very careful to look good during religious observances. We make sure that each usher takes the offering with coordination. We make sure that each person being baptized is dressed appropriately, We make sure that the deacons serve communion with military precision. We spend very little time making sure that our hearts are right.

Jesus points the Pharisees often because their outward actions indicated that their hearts belonged to God but their hearts were simply not right. They always had self-promoting motives behind their "godly" actions.

This is what turns off so many people who do not come to church. They know too many people who have made themselves important in their churches who reek of corruption. They see the preachers caught in scandals, the deacons who look down their noses at sinners and the "good" church members who gossip about everyone at their churches. They believe this is typical of all those who go to church and decide that they simply don't want to be like that.

It isn't that they dislike Jesus though. They like what they have learned about Him but their view of church is tainted by the "looking good" corruption they see in church.

One problem we seem to have is failing to admit that we are not perfect. Acting as if you are perfect should be a sure sign of hiding something. Our best response to confess our sins, admit that we have clay feet and earnestly seek to be completely honest in our presentations of who we are. We should strive to present a character of virtue. It may have some flaws but it is always seeking correction and improvement.

Last night I baptized a young lady who is eight years old. I asked her if she was excited about being baptized. She said, "I'm not perfect." That was one of the most precious statements I had ever heard. She knew that her baptism was not a presentation of perfection. It was a statement of doing what is right. Her heart was right. I smiled as I thought how right her statement was. I can't help believing that Jesus smiled too.

Luke 16:14-15 (NIV)
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.


Anthony Chia said...

Amen to your young lady of 8 years old's "I'm not perfect". Nowadays, it is NOT uncommon to hear preachers (these are the ones I called overly grace preachers) telling people, “You are completely righteous and perfect and have the full mind of Christ the moment you accepted Jesus into your life”. I am one who is against forming faith doctrines and theologies solely based on experience, but the overall counsel of the Word and our experience do tell us that our righteousness and perfection in Christ Jesus is NOT the same as we are righteous and perfect, practically (godly living).

The general mouthing that we are righteous and perfect and have the full mind of Christ is NOT only pointless, it is stumbling. It NOT only gives the believers a false sense of superiority and righteousness which do him no good; and it fosters greater gap between the expectation of non-believers and the reality they see in the lives of believers or the church. Like Ps Prentis said it, outsiders are NOT wanting to come to the church. This is partly because they heard the bragging of the overly grace preachers and believers, of how righteous and perfect, Christ Jesus had made them, but it is NOT being matched with the reality portrayed in their lives and in church. Such teaching just reinforces the misunderstanding that some of us are trying hard to enlighten the non-believers that we, believers, are NOT perfect, but is on a journey of living out the righteousness-capable (or enabled) state that we have been given or transformed into, on entry into salvation; meaning we are learning to grow in righteousness in practice, and that some of us are slower in learning, some are faster, but all are to grow in righteousness and Christ-likeness. In this journey, we support one another, we help one another, we attempt to edify one another, and spur one another, we forgive one another in our failures, and we act in love for one another.

I know some people do need to hear grace messages more, but over-emphasis of right standing to the extent of thumbing down, right living isn't going to help the general body of Christ; it only foster short-circuiting the proper walk of a believer; it is easy-believism, and a false portrayal of the living desired by God, that all there is to a Christian life, is we accept Jesus as our Savior, FULLSTOP; Teachings that say the end and means of giving our life over to Jesus, is to JUST bask in grace, is dubious.

While it is true that we need grace all the time, but we are definitely NOT to just bask in grace. Rather, we are to do good works by and in grace, we are to bear fruit by and in grace. By and in the grace of God, we are to live out our state - righteousness-capable or enabled state.

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Anthony Chia said...

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And we are to be authentic. There is no falsehood in God, and so there are to be no falsehoods in us, believers too. If you think, in part, because of the influence from the skewed teaching of the overly grace preachers that you are righteous and perfect, immediately and forever, as of your own, and in part, you are NOT resisting the pride of sinful nature in you, that you would automatically "flow" out as being righteous and perfect in your ways, from day one (from salvation), you obviously would want to camouflage your imperfection, and you cannot be authentic. Not being authentic is to deceive ourselves and to deceive others, and you also stumble other brethrens and those outside, the non-believers.

You are NOT weird because you are NOT sensing you are NOT perfect or righteous all the time; you are NOT the odd ones; the overly grace teachers, they are WRONG. There is NOT anything particularly wrong with you; you are to be authentic, with your imperfections and all, but you are to grow in righteousness and in perfection. Until you recognise that, and recognise that you need the grace of God, in your attempts, you are going to continue with the same posture of the Pharisees of old, just appear righteous and perfect, regardless! Another way of putting it, you are deceitfully or dishonestly shrewd, appearing to be doing all the right things, but your actions and words do NOT match up with your heart or conscience.

But Scripture said that the issues of life flow from the heart, so how can I say that your actions and words do NOT match up with your heart or conscience? The overly grace preachers would tell you are NOT to listen to your conscience; they claim the Holy Spirit does NOT convict a believer of unrighteousness or sins or potentially sinful situations. If you believe in that, and you numb your conscience or harden your heart, when the Holy Spirit indeed pricks you there, sure, after a few more times, of course, you can claim your actions and words match up to your heart or conscience, because your heart or conscience has become darkened and disobedient to the Holy Spirit.

Of course, there is also the truth that we are NOT perfect, and we should NOT demand perfection from others (and ourselves, too - we only work towards perfection). We, to be a perfectionist, is, I believe, NOT what God is happy about; rather we are to excel in what we do. To be excellent is to be the best we can be, given the circumstances, and in this regard, motive and our heart condition are most important, as far as God is concerned. For example, at times, to make an exception or compromise, is the most excellent thing to do, even though it will make a "thing" less perfect!