Two Extremes: The Guilty & The Self-Righteous
I spent nearly twenty years in Christian radio broadcasting, which allowed me a somewhat unique view of the Christian church as a whole. Within all of those many denominations representing thousands upon thousands of different doctrines, I was blessed to meet people with a wide array of backgrounds, and from all walks of life. Regardless of their theology, I was fascinated with the passion many of these people had for Jesus Christ, and the love they showed to others. Sometimes we may think certain church denominations are light years away from the true gospel message, but I came to realize there were still many within those religious labels who had a sincere desire to experience God in their daily lives.
Having said that, there is a common theme found within “Christianity Incorporated,” and it’s a sad state of affairs. We often find two extremes within the church and unfortunately, it is the fabric of the culture. These two extremes are:
- Guilt and condemnation.
These two components are on the opposite end of the spiritual spectrum. Churches are filled with people who seem to wallow around in the thick, muddy pond of guilt for their failures and shortcomings, unaware of God’s permanent forgiveness through the blood of Christ which was shed once, for all. Much of it is based upon what they have been taught—a mishmash of legalistic tenets which dilutes the finished work of Christ by trying to place redemptive responsibility or progressive sanctification back onto the church member. At the very least, they’ll receive warnings and threats that the status of their relationship with God is negatively being affected if they aren’t staying on the course of the vaguely defined “straight and narrow.”
In the condemnation camp, the pupil hasn’t been taught or clearly understood they have a new identity with the gift of God’s righteousness and holiness indwelling them; instead they’ve only heard they are a lousy sinner who should work harder at keeping the commandments written in stone, along with whatever additions and amendments have been included within their church statement. Examples include: pray more; sacrifice more; do more; commit more; give your all—especially your money. These victims will work at trying to follow a written code, which was identified by the Apostle Paul as the ministry of death and condemnation, rather than abiding in the ministry of the Spirit who dwells within. What’s even more disheartening is that the people who are trapped inside of this bondage of guilt are often the ones doing the most! But they soon discover it’s still never going to be enough. It leaves them feeling unworthy and wondering where they stand with God. They begin asking questions: Am I still saved? Does God really love me? Have I fallen from grace?
At the same time, there are those who have persuaded themselves they are living in a way that has kept them in God’s good favor through lifestyle changes, reducing their sin count, and (in their minds) improving their behavior to a higher level of morality. Having these things occur in one’s life is not a bad thing at all, but it is a problem when we begin to believe it is what allows us to experience or maintain God’s acceptance and blessings. Behavioral changes do not set you apart, only the blood of Jesus had the power to fully and completely sanctify, and that is a finished work. It will be beneficial to know the difference between being sanctified and being sanctimonious. Quite often, it is the self-righteous bunch that will warn about the dangers of excessive grace, and that teaching and proclaiming too much of it will give people a “license to sin.” This hollow grace warning from well-meaning believers is not from God’s Spirit, but from a source of deep darkness. Understand this: If grace has even the slightest chance of causing sin to increase, we should throw it out altogether and remove it completely. Of course, this means we would have to fully eliminate Jesus from the picture as well, because grace was realized through Him.
Regardless of how good we think we’re living the Christian life, our position and relationship with God is always based upon His unconditional love and what Jesus did on our behalf. You see, God’s standard is (and will always be) perfection. We can all agree to admit we continue falling short of that, regardless of what has changed with our behavior improvements. However, perfection has been found in us, not as the result of changes we’ve made in our lives, but because we’re in Christ, who is our life and our perfection. We have nothing to boast about … nothing … except to boast in the Lord and what He has done to bring us forgiveness, righteousness, holiness, sanctification, peace and so much more. These things belong to us “because as He is, so also are we in this world” (see 1 John 4:17).
Avoid jumping aboard the guilt train by understanding there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Why? Because He removed the ministry of condemnation found in the law that came through Moses, and He accomplished for us what that old law was unable to do … give us life (see Romans 8).
On the flip side, stay away from the attitude the Pharisees had by thinking they performed in a way that elevated them to a higher spiritual stature. It’s about the gift of God’s righteousness in you. “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). In Christ, we’ve been freed from law and delivered into grace. There is no balance between these two extremes.
For more on the teachings of Jesus from a New Covenant perspective, and avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Find It Here On Amazon