How would you finish this sentence:
You’re a good Christian if…
This was the question put to us by the leaders of our Overcoming Obstacles to Intimacy With God study. The responses were interesting. Here are a few of them:
You’re a good Christian if you…
read your Bible
go to church
don’t drink, dance, smoke, or chew
don’t watch “R” movies
only listen to Christian music
are always nice
“have it all together”
The one thing these answers have in common is that they are all focused on a person’s image.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not against these things. In fact, without some of them (like time spent in the Word and talking with God on a regular basis), spiritual growth is impossible. However, I want to look beyond the surface and examine the why.
Lists like the one above were referred to as a “bounded set” – you know, the “(xyz)” in an algebraic equation. If you think about it, there’s a set for just about any group of people who gather on a regular basis:
Homes have one.
Every aspect of society has one.
The workplace has one.
Extended families have one.
Even bars have one!
There are certain behaviors that are expected, others that are tolerated, and some that simply will not be put up with.
Is this a bad thing?
In many cases, no. The laws of our land, for instance are there to help maintain order. Without rules at home, life would be chaotic.
“So what’s the big deal?” you may be wondering.
Again, the focus is on behavior, not the condition of the heart.
Here’s what Jesus had to say about this matter:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, bur inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.
“You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish so that the outside of it may become clean also.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
“Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:25-28)
(Are you still here?)
So much for “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” eh?
The point He was trying to make is that other men look at our outward appearance…
…God sees beneath the skin right down to our motives.
I get the feeling that our “good Christian” images don’t impress Him.
We each know what’s going on under our own hood; however, no one wants to pop their’s first and let others see the greasy mess inside!
Instead we put on our “Christian” mask and attend the weekly “play” on Sundays.
I’m hitting this one kind of hard because it is absolutely deadly to an intimate relationship with God.
After all, Who’s the One with the Big Black Rule Book?
Or so we believe.
We are certain that the stakes are high. Acceptance and approval are on the line.
“If I tell you who I am
and you reject me
what else have I to offer you?
In Philippians 3, Paul gives us a rundown of his credentials, but then he states:
“But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I considered everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for Whose sake I have lost all things.
“I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (vs. 7-11)
Tomorrow we will consider how a “Christian” bounded set can hinder – or even prevent – intimacy with God.
We’re discussing the Obstacles to Intimacy with God. If you missed the beginning, it’s here: C’mon In… (The posts between these two are on this topic as well. 🙂 )