“How horrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees! You hypocrites! You are like whitewashed graves that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead people’s bones and every kind of impurity. So on the outside you look as though you have God’s approval, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27, 28, GWV)
Next time you come to worship, look around the room. Which of those people do you know of that are struggling with pornography addiction or have struggling marriages? Which abuse their spouses or are complete slaves to money? You don’t know, do you? But then again, do they know about your sins?
We tend to cover up our sins, especially around other Christians. We don’t want them to see those things that we are not particularly proud of. But Christianity is at its core all about confessing sins and receiving forgiveness. Instead, we point to all kinds of things like familiarity with hymns, familiarity with Bible trivia, participation in church activities or meetings, having a name on a membership roster, or God’s Big Attendance Book. And we measure ourselves against other people instead of comparing our lives to that of Jesus, as if we’re good Christians as long as we jump through more hoops than average.
If we say, “We aren’t sinful” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. God is faithful and reliable. If we confess our sins, he forgives them and cleanses us from everything we’ve done wrong. (1 John 1:8, 9, GWV)
The expression is “dead orthodoxy”. It means having all of your teachings right, but not actually living the faith. Too often, we emphasize truth without actually living the truth, and for fear of offending anyone, we don’t confront sin, so it can never be confessed and forgiven. Or we point to the actions but give little credence to the internal working of the Holy Spirit to produce faith, because we can’t see it in others.
So what’s the difference between faith in action and faith in actions? Consider this statement: “Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.” Agreeing to the truth of a series of principles isn’t faith. Satan believes that truth even more than we do. And “being good” out of a sense of duty isn’t faith. That’s the same self-righteousness that Jesus’ enemies were famous for. Saving faith is coming to terms with the fact that Jesus died for you because you needed Him to. Faith holds tightly to God’s forgiveness and works to purge sinful and loveless actions and attitudes like you’d spit out a hamburger when you see the maggots in the meat. And true faith is never selfish. It finds serving others irresistible, like smiling when seeing a baby laugh, and faith gets frustrated not with the amount of sacrificial love that others need from us, but our limitations in not being able to do more.
“So how do I get that kind of faith that finds joy in self-sacrifice?” You can’t will yourself to enjoy it any more than I can decide to like eating beef tongue. Only the Holy Spirit can change your heart, but He does so through His Word. Get involved in a Bible class, and if none available work with your schedule, put one together with your friends or family or just you and your spouse. If that’s not an option for you, spend some personal time with God each day. Get a Bible in an easy-to-read translation (check with me for suggestions if you’re not sure), and start with John or Romans. I suggest following these steps:
- Read a section (from one heading to the next).
- Ask, “What is God telling me here?”
- Ask, “Because of this, what sin do I need to get out of my life?”
- Admit that sin to God and know that Jesus died to forgive that sin, so God forgives you.
- Thank God for His love, and ask for opportunities to live that change in your life.
- Repeat these steps as much as you can.
God, give everyone who reads this new life with an insatiable hunger for Your love, not only to be filled with it, but that it overflow into the lives of others, that those others see the change and say, “You’re different. What happened?”