Free from sin. I am freer today than before. Not that I sin any less. I am still the same sinner-saved-by-grace that I was before. I’m just now not bound by the guilt and shame.
Guilt and shame is what many Christians struggle with. For some, it’s everyday. For others, it’s when they’re reminded of their past; and others, it’s when their cover has been blown.
I was raised to believe that appearance was very important. I grew up in a Chinese church. In many of these East Asian churches, appearance is of utmost importance. It is important in one’s status and respect. If one’s cover is suddenly blown, it can be a very tragic situation because one’s respect plummets. One can get kicked out of the board, responsibilities as a Sunday school teacher removed, etc. Some of you might know what I mean. Even if you didn’t grow-up in a Chinese church but was raised in a more fundamentalist/evangelical church, you may identify with this.
Some people I have had heart-to-heart conversations with knew exactly what I was talking about. However, they would tread carefully and never let their guard down. Failing to maintain their appearance meant losing their social status in the congregation. This might be true for many Christians out there today. The result: one ends up leaving the congregation and switching churches due to loss of reputation.
I had believed a false belief that obeying the law could someone earn me spiritual merit-points before God. And if it didn’t then it could some how earn me merit points within the congregation. At the time, it was good enough motivation for me to act or appear more holy and righteous. However, deep inside, I knew my own thoughts, desires, and hidden things were less than pure in God’s sight.
If one were to admit to these sinful thoughts, it would be too much to disclose to one’s own congregation members. What would the pastor or elders think?! It’s easy for me to see this now because I’ve distanced myself from this self-righteous and hypocritical church culture.
This type of self-righteousness is exactly the reason why some people don’t want to go anywhere near a church. They say the church is full of hypocrites… and it’s true. If “worldly people” were to ever step foot into a church, they would have to change their thoughts and behavior, and have a time-limit to start putting on a show that they are worthy of Christ’s righteousness. Behavior is a sign of how Christ has changed them (or is it really how they have changed their own behavior or how well they hide their sins?). Whoops. I hope the truth doesn’t hurt too much. Well, if I can’t meet the biblical-standard of that congregation, then I better not even attend church. That’s how most normal people think anyway. This is why churches have emptied-out and are full of white-haired elderly people. Not that this is bad, but truth is, where are the young people and young families in the church?
Over time and in a study of theology, the good news of the truth slowly sunk-in and was revealed to me. I had blinders on for decades because the church had failed to teach the truth about the gospel. It knew the gospel but it didn’t really see it clearly. I’m not bashing the church. Entire denominations can fail to see things from different perspectives because it’s always been their ethos and culture. There is not a hidden agenda–just blinders that keep us from seeing the truth from another angle.
I had finally learned that appearance was not useful in God’s sight. Keeping an appearance would only make me feel better about myself because I believed that I had succeeded that day without committing a “big sin.” For “good” Christians out there who can identify with this type of moralism and religiosity–whether Catholic or Evangelical, it can be very hard work. Why so? Because one has to “put on a show” to look good. In the church, we have a lot of good actors. We become very good at looking good. We even try to do good things, good deeds, and appear to walk-the-talk. We value the respect we receive from other fellow congregation members for not being “big sinners.”
The down-side is: eventually we get worn-down. It’s not easy to put on a false appearance 24-hours a day. Eventually, several things happen. We might just give up, throw in the towel and call it quits with Church, or we become so guilt-ridden that it tears us apart inside and we stop going to church or stop telling people we are Christian or are “religious.” It’s safer to tell people that we’re not religious. It leaves us room to still believe inside but not act Christian outwardly. But is this a victorious Christian life that the Apostle Paul describes? No! Absolutely not. This type of Christianity is merely “Church-ianity”. It’s fake, a false replica and plastic. It’s what Jesus taught against and labelled as hypocrisy. It’s what Paul called the Church on when they tried to use circumcision as a proof of a true believer.
God can set us free from having to fulfill what church-ianity tells us are the mandatory requirements of having to be, and do, good. Doing good can never make a person a “better Christian.” Being a better Christian can only come through faith. By believing the blood of Jesus continually cleanses and sanctifies us is the only thing that makes us holy and righteous before God–even though we might fail to appear holy.
God has set me free from sin. I’m continually being sanctified. This revelation has drawn me closer to God. Truth is, God was, and is always pleased with me–just because I am a child of God, and not because of what I do. I am now ever more convinced that God loves me and it compels me to abide closer to God. This unconditional love and mercy of God makes me desire to do better and live life worthy of Christ’s calling.
Believing in this good news is what makes a Christian spiritually mature. Spiritual maturity is NOT how holy and righteous a person appears in front of others. It corresponds only with one’s degree of faith in believing this profound truth. Amen?