I no longer subscribe to the version of Christianity that I grew up with.
I’m sure that’s a scary statement to hear from someone who has been a believer for many years. Honestly, it’s a scary statement to make. But it’s the truth. By God’s sweet grace, I have 100% walked away from my religious upbringing. I’m done. In walking away from all of that, I’m boldly and firmly walking by faith in the righteousness of Jesus alone because I have seen that it’s all that I have.
“Well, that still sounds like you’re subscribing to the same thing.” Let me assure you, it makes all of the difference in the world. For many years I said that I believed that it was Jesus’ work for me alone that saved me. However, my life was all about my effort to become good. I needed to look good in front of all of you. I believed that if you saw me being good that you would say, “Oh, there is something different about her! I wonder what it is?” And then I could give you my spiel about how you too could repent of your sins, trust in Jesus, and then start acting better than everyone else around you. I believed that it was my goodness alone that would draw you to Jesus. I just needed to get you to see it.
Here is how I went about that:
I believed that if I drank tea while you drank beer, you’d see your need for Jesus.
I believed if I didn’t listen to secular music, and showed a discomfort while you blared “Eminem” you’d see your need for Jesus.
I believed if I dressed modestly you’d see your need for Jesus.
I believed if I waited to have sex until I was married (even if only on a technicality) you’d see your need for Jesus.
I believed if I threw my TV in the street, pretended to be oblivious to “Celebrity news” while you watched every episode of “Desperate Housewives” you’d see your need for Jesus.
I believed if you saw me serving my husband and being “submissive” by bringing him food at gatherings, you’d see your need for Jesus.
I believed if you saw me discipline my children when they behaved badly, you would see your need for Jesus.
I believed if you never heard me cuss you’d see your need for Jesus.
I believed if I ran my home like a well-oiled machine, with meal planning and scheduled laundry days (I handmade my own laundry soap, btw), you’d see your need for Jesus.
I believed if you saw me (via social media) having tea parties with my kids because I’m a good, attentive mother, you’d see your need for Jesus.
I believed if I appeared strong in the midst of trials, while you fell apart in them, you’d see your need for Jesus.
Here’s the thing. I believed that YOU needed Jesus. I believed that the way that you would see your need for Jesus is to see how bad you are against the backdrop of how good I am. I would like to set the record straight and say this, THAT IS NOT THE GOSPEL. That is not Christianity. That is moral-ism.
The bible is pretty clear about the condition of all mankind, “None is righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10) I have no righteousness of my own to parade around. The only thing that I bring to the table is my deep unrighteousness. No matter how much I try on the outside to look like I have it all together, my heart still rages. I get angry, prideful, lustful, discontent, judgmental….the list goes on and on.
Some would accuse me at this point of trying to boast of my sinfulness. They would say that is wrong. The Apostle Paul would argue that point by saying this: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor. 12:9) I’m not trading in parading my goodness for parading my badness. What I am doing is being honest. I’m telling you that what the bible says about me is true. I am a wretch. Just like you. And the truth is that the message of Christianity isn’t YOU need Jesus so you can be good like me. The message of Christianity is that WE need Jesus because no matter how hard we try, we can’t possibly be good to the extent that God requires us to be, which is perfect.
Romans 3:23 says that “All fall short of the glory of God.” That word “fall” means we are continually falling. I fall short. You fall short. Just because I am a Christian doesn’t mean that I no longer fall short of God’s standard of perfection. Romans 3:24 goes on to say, “and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Martin Luther said that Christians are “Simul justus et peccator” which means we are simultaneously just and sinner. I am a sinner AND I am just (right) before God. Because I trust by faith in the work of Jesus’ perfection on my behalf. I will never come to a point in my life where I don’t need to depend on that. I will always need Jesus. The Christian life is not about my own goodness. It is about the fact that Christ was good for me and he loves me despite the fact that I am not good. It is that unconditional love that he keeps pouring out on me every time that I fail that makes me long to be good. It makes me want to be pleasing to Him. So I ask him to help me be what he already declares me to be. He is faithful to answer that prayer, over the course of my life. There is some changing that takes place, sure. But it’s the kind of change that is from the heart. It isn’t by my following a list of silly rules. It’s a change that can’t be explained by human effort. It’s God’s work alone.
So here’s what I’m not going to do anymore. I’m not going to try and prove to you that I’m better than you. Because that’s silly. And also it’s a lie. I’m not better than you. You and I are the same. Both sinners. Both need Jesus. All I am going to do is live honestly. I’m going to tell you where I fail. I’m probably going to even let you see me fail. And then I’m going to tell you how much Jesus loves me anyway. Because that’s the truth. That’s the gospel. Jesus loves sinners. He ate with the tax collectors. He touched lepers. He drew water with prostitutes. He draws near to those of us who are broken and sinful that the “good people” of his day shunned. He welcomes us. He forgives us. He heals us. He loves us.There is no better news than that. And sure, the tax collectors, the lepers, and the prostitutes are all different after their encounter with Jesus. That kind of crazy love has an effect on it’s objects. Though, that’s the kicker. It’s Jesus’ love that changes us truly, it’s not that we effort to appear changed to the world.
So yeah, I’m done with the moralistic American brand of counterfeit Christianity that I’ve been served over the years and that I’ve tried to convince you of. I’m finished with the silly games of my make believe goodness. True, biblical Christianity is a beautiful, amazing thing. It’s Jesus who died for us because we failed to be good. But the good news is that in Christ I am loved beyond what I can even comprehend. And it’s that truth that I want to live in and share with you for the rest of my life.