“There are five gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian, and some will never read the first four.” ~ Gypsy Smith
The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.
I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it. ~ Philippians 3:7-11
Have you ever lied to yourself?
Have you ever convinced yourself that what you’re doing isn’t really wrong, but, in fact, it’s right and needed? Maybe you actually think that humanity owes you an applause because what you do is so wonderful, but in hindsight it was straight from hell and motivated by your narcissistic heart?
This is me, and I’m starting to realize that I have done this for approximately fifteen years in my walk with Christ.
Quick Backstory: I was fourteen when my Christianity chapter began. My parents started dragging me to church, overnight it seemed, as they started to put their marriage back together. I was always open to Jesus and the Bible growing up, but being forced to wake up early every Sunday (mind you I slept twelve hours a night at this age!) and miss my basketball games so that I could sit in a building and listen to old people talk or sing was not desirable.
This was my initiation to church, and it was tough.
One thing kept drawing me back though; it was learning about the Bible, and hence God, for the very first time. This introduced another first in my life – an enjoyment of learning. Up to this point, school was a major drag. I hated the reading, memorizing, writing…it was all sour milk to me.
But that was about to change!
Learning about God, purpose, and origins was so different than math! Truth quickly became my addiction and apologetics (the art of defending the Christian faith) was my playground as proverbial light bulbs started to illuminate. Philosophy, logic, reason, world religions, and debate coupled with the Bible all became my food and drink, the sustenance for my spiritual life.
This obsession, however, slowly started killing my walk and hurting those around me. I am still in a reassessment phase of life, rebalancing the scales of Bible, apologetics, and theology.
* Warning: Be wary of your obsessions, especially if you’re religious. It can be a fine line between what you like and what you think God wills. Paradox: People who live to bring God’s will to earth very rarely are motived by love and humility. (see Mt. 22:34-40; Gal. 5:14) *
It wasn’t too long after this new norm of attending church that I found out about spiritual gifts. (Romans 12 specifically) I was so excited as this sparked an exploration of my own personality and purpose.
I realized that I was a ‘teacher’ and so truth, doctrine, and purity were now all that mattered. This turned my addiction into a calling; it was now the reason I existed!
As the years progressed, I began to shift my focus from outside the church with all the philosophy and world religion pursuits to inside the church. This introduced me to a lovely circus called theology.
Now, I love the study of God, but the way people do theology has shown me some things: many Christians have WAY too much time on their hands and callousness on their hearts.
“Preach the Gospel. Use words if necessary,” comes to mind. Let the plain things be the main things. People are dying and they need life! How do we forget this?!
Unfortunately, an obsession over anything, even the “truth”, is very dangerous. For me, my new Trinity had become God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Bible.
Idolatry ensued as I began to worship the Word of God instead of the God of the Word. And loving the Word of God does NOT always lead to a love for the Person of God. It was about me, not Him. No relationship, just religion, control, and condemnation.
Even though God made me in His image, I tried to return the favor. (see Jn. 5:39-47)
So, what were just personality flaws and sins quickly evolved into spiritual abuses. Fueled by a pride that declared my superiority over others, I began to exercise these flaws in the name of Jesus, becoming truly dangerous.
Don’t get me wrong. Pursuing the truth, loving God, seeking His will, attempting to bring Him glory and purify His church are all good, necessary things.
But an obsession of truth has baggage, for instance, the obsession over error! And of course, this obsession over error was conveniently only an external problem to me because I “had it together.” If only more people were like me!
When you live like this though, I have found that Christianity simply is reduced to winning arguments and behavior modification. And when you live to be a thought tyrant and behavior nazi, you do no one any good!
TRUTH + GRACE = JESUS (John 1:17)
In my experience, the absence of truth is not really the problem, although certainly many are ignorant of the order salutis, and that can bother me from time to time. But let’s be honest, as fun as that discussion could be, WE HAVE BIGGER FISH TO FRY!
The problem, I believe, is the suppression of the truth in a person’s life.
I seriously thought that just loving people was reserved for the lazy and the weak. And I thought that I “loved” people, like when I would make them cry due to their ignorance! I figured, if you can’t accept the truth I bring, then you’re in a bad place with Jesus.
All of a sudden, when you play the religion game, you make yourself the ‘mediator’ for the true Mediator, but you don’t really mediate, you just instigate and interrogate.
What a contrast to what the apostle Paul writes here in Philippians 3! This prestigious, religious nut admits that in all of his “right” works he was wrong! What he once considered “gain” (his ethnicity, power, prestige, accomplishments, religious benchmarks, tangible obedience, all that he could gloat in) was now his LOSS for Christ’s sake. They are trash, waste, dung!
The scale has been tipped upside down and what we have accomplished, the boxes we can check, the spiritual medals and awards we decorate our walls with no longer bear any weight! Jesus is not interested in what we can take credit for or how sufficient we are in of ourselves!
Remember, Paul is rebuking people who were forcing Christian converts to first become Jews through the rite of circumcision. Circumcision was an external, ceremonial act of cleansing.
HOW LONG, CHURCH, WILL WE NOT RECOGNIZE THAT OUR CEREMONIAL CLEANSINGS, PERFORMED BY US FOR HIM, DO NOTHING TO MAKE US RIGHT WITH GOD!
It’s the exact opposite when we come to Christ; we accept (rather than perform) the cleansing performed by Him for us! This is the faith that has always imputed righteousness to sinful humanity.
Self-righteousness (law-keeping) is the greatest enemy to experiencing intimacy with our savior! It’s counterfeit righteousness!
A list of rules is NOT the gospel and does not make us right with God. Instead, it makes us, a church, a list of rules, a tradition, a creed, etc. our own savior! Keeping rules for rules’s sake proves you don’t trust Christ. Righteousness is not earned, it is imparted through the currency of faith (not good deeds)!
Both Jesus and I cannot sit upon the throne as king over my heart. Only one can receive worship, honor, and praise. Everything we could ever gain, accomplish, or prove doesn’t compare to knowing He whose image we bear. Knowing our Lord, His death and resurrection, far exceeds knowing how good or accomplished we are.
Our self-made credentials are a heavy weight to bear; they keep us from moving to Christ and restrict us from embracing Him. It’s all Him and none of us! Our savior is kept at a distance when we project a self-made sufficiency.
To my fellow marginalized millennials, I (and I think I can speak for Jesus as well) am beyond words so sorry that places like Westboro Baptist Church exist, and more than that, that such smug arrogance seeps beyond the city limits of Topeka, KS.
Nothing compares to Christ, but Christians are NOT better than anyone else!
If you have ever encountered spiritual abuse, please know that this was NOT Jesus who perpetrated such hatred, coldness, ignorance and disrespect. It was fraudulent behavior, reflective of the perpetrator’s heart only.
To my fellow Pharisees, those who trust in external accomplishments, your ceremonial “circumcised” cleanliness, and who want to bring others under this same yoke of slavery, please remember that excrement stinks. (Isa. 64:6a; Phil. 3:8)
I worked for years at Costco during college cleaning the restrooms, and there are no words for what I saw! All that to say, don’t get caught cleaning a toilet with holes in your gloves.
Good works are filth to our faith if they are coupled with bad methods or motives. The only approved motive is love, and the only approved method is humility.
God bess you, millennials. Let me know what you think.
I love the song below. Particularly, it challenges a presupposition that I have had for years regarding God’s love for us as it relates to our growth and change. Many theologians teach that it is God’s love alone that changes us, but I’ve come to believe this is only the beginning. Many of whom God loves will never receive it and hence it is no benefit to them. But once the recipient engages their heart in response to this love, they will never be the same!
* The problem isn’t a breakdown in law enforcement, it’s a breakdown in us Christians giving up control and yielding to the Spirit’s ways. *
I’ll never be the same.
I’m caught inside the memories, the promises are yesterdays and I belong to you.
I just can’t walk away, ’cause after loving you
I can never be the same.