Imagine the following newspaper headlines: A cold-infected mother of a sick 4 year-old pressured to stay at church until the evening church business meeting so that she can support her pastor’s agenda!
Grandparents torn away from their grandchildren as their pastor encourages their estranged daughter, a single mom, to run away from home and start a new life elsewhere!
Lady criticized for wearing pants in church: “No one would ever know you are a Christian by looking at you!”
Church member punched by his pastor at board meeting for opposing the pastor’s proposal!
Members hushed to silence, as speaking in tongues is not mentioned in the Church Manual!
Fantastic? Never happen, right?
Wrong! These may not be true headlines, but they are true incidents that I have personally witnessed in church!
Legalism: trying to save oneself through one’s own effort. Where does it lead?
To disharmony, to put downs, to depression, to bondage, and finally, to doubting one’s salvation! Why? Because our own “good deeds” never seem to measure up (“I sure hope I am saved!”)!
Where is love in all of this? Where is Jesus promoted in all of this? Is this Christianity, or is it a man-made religion?
“For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.” (Gal 5:6 The Message)
Many preach salvation by faith but live work-based lives. Beware of these false shepherds! They are living an outrageous lie! No wonder Jesus hated such hypocrites!
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matt 23:27-28 NIV)
Religion has become an illicit lover to anyone who has become distracted from what really matters: Jesus! Followers of Christ build others up! They care for them! They don’t tear them down! They don’t criticize and they don’t destroy! They have one motto: To love God, as well as others to the fullest of their capacity!
“Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.” (James 1:27 The Message)
True fellowship with Jesus leads us to encouraging others, to affirming them, to loving them!
“He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thess 5:10-11 NIV)
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19 NIV)
Followers of the Christ do not believe in their own efforts. They believe in Jesus’ efforts! He is the One who paid the ultimate price for our souls! He is the only One worthy of praise! He is the One who is our example! Our puny efforts cannot add an inch to what He is offering us: salvation to the fullest!
“It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Rom 9:16 NIV)
“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3:5 NIV)
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9 NIV)
May we learn to give credit where credit is due. Let’s learn to stop following our own selfish efforts and to start pursuing Jesus’ example, always thanking Him for His immeasurable sacrifice! He is the One who made it possible! Adding our tiny efforts is an insult to God! He did it all!
“I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for – will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (John 10:9-10 The Message)
“But it feels so good when I add my own efforts to the mix.”
Maybe, but then why do you doubt your own salvation?
(To access the entire “Addictive Lovers of our Life” devotional series, please click here.)