Friday, September 02, 2005
A lot of folks will tell you, "I'd never consider becoming a Christian because the church is so full of hypocrites." To a point, I can sympathize with such a sentiment. Hypocrisy is one of the most odious sins. What is more appalling than a man or woman who claims to be "holy" when in reality they are anything but holy! Who in his right mind would want to associate with such people?
On the other hand, however terrible the sin of hypocrisy may be, it is not the only sin that's appalling in the sight of God. God is altogether holy, meaning that He is perfectly pure and set apart from sinful, fallen humanity. On account of His perfect holiness, He hates sin in all its countless forms: not only sins such as hypocrisy or murder, but also "smaller" sins such as lying, cheating, and covetousness, as well as other sins that are often winked at nowadays, such as all manner of sexual immorality (both heterosexual and homosexual). For a summary of the sins God hates, check out the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. As you read, note well that all of these commandments are to be obeyed out of love towards God and your neighbor. That is, you and I are not only to obey the letter of the law, but we must also obey it cheerfully and willingly, out of a sincere desire to please God alone.
If we were to think about God's Law honestly, we'd all have to admit that we don't come remotely close to obeying it. You see, it's not just the hypocrites and murderers who have a problem with God: we all do. Yes, every last man, woman, boy and girl who has ever lived since the fall of Adam, including Yours Truly, is a sinner in the sight of God. We are sinners by nature from birth, and thus we all eventually fall into a life of sin. This is not to say that we don't sometimes do some things that are good and right. We do indeed, but if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we tend to do the right thing for selfish reasons: fear of punishment, for instance, or perhaps because it makes us feel good. In other words, even when our actions are right, our motives are wrong.
In spite of these facts, all of which can be readily confirmed by an honest reading of the Bible, many people continue to persist in believing the fantasy that because I'm not as bad as this or that person--e.g., "I've never murdered anyone"--that I am in good standing with God and that I need not fear his judgment. My friend, nothing could be farther from the truth, for God requires nothing less than absolute perfection from every one of us. That is, the only way God would let any one of us into Heaven is if we never sinned, whether in action or motive.
Lest you think that I write this as someone who's never sinned or thinks of himself as being better than other folks, I need to tell you that I am just as bad a sinner as anyone else. In fact, my besetting sin has been one of the worst of all: self-righteousness. Sadly, I spent many years of my life either disregarding God or thinking that if He existed that He would no doubt allow me into heaven because I was much more righteous than many of those who claim to be Christians. Thus, if I seem to point the finger at you, please don't be unduly offended, because I am also pointing my finger at myself. I, too, thought that being better than someone else, such as being less of a hypocrite than someone else, was enough to give me a clean slate.
So far, I suppose I've painted a rather bleak picture: all of us are sinners who fall woefully short of satisfying God's requirement of perfect obedience. Bleak indeed! In fact, I would argue that if we rightly understand our true standing before God, all of our pride would be stripped away from us and we'd be left despairing of any attempt to please God by doing good deeds.
So what then? God is holy, and I'm anything but, so what hope is there for me? It depends. On one hand, if I persist in trusting in my own personal goodness, I will face God's eternal wrath in the end, thus making my eventual, inevitable death the most fearful thing imaginable, but on the other hand, if I could find mercy in God's sight through an Advocate who did indeed live a perfect, sinless life and who died for sinners like you and me, then and only then could I enjoy peace with God and eternal life. Thank God that there is such an Advocate--the Lord Jesus Christ--and that all who forsake trusting in their own goodness, repent of their sins, and trust instead only in His perfect righteousness will escape God's righteous wrath and enjoy life forevermore.
My friend, I urge you to search the Scriptures for yourself and see whether indeed what I've written here is so. Whatever you do, don't let the hypocrisy of professing Christians such as the televangelists I mentioned earlier hinder you from turning to Christ. In the end, God will judge every man, woman, and child according to his or her own sins, and many will find that blaming the hypocrisy of others offers them no excuse and no protection from God's wrath. Therefore, if you have thus far trusted in your own goodness, I urge you and plead with you to turn to Christ!