What Should We Be Taught In Church?
“So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons (and daughters) of God through faith in Christ Jesus”
Galatians 3:24-26, my note added
It’s Sunday! All throughout the country people will be going to church today! Maybe not so much where I live, because there is ice all over the roads this time of year, unless you are more saved than other Christians, you are staying home! And for those of you who didn’t catch my humor, I’m joking about being “more saved.” You can’t be. It’s impossible.
Either you are saved, or you’re not. There is no in-between, and there are not different levels of salvation–though some might want you to think that.
I recently wrote a Facebook post about my grandma; about how she took on the role of being our caregiver growing up. I told how she lived a life of extreme servitude, how she showed unconditional love to everyone, and how she gave all she had to make the lives of others better. With it, I posted a nice picture of her smiling warmly.
Grandma didn’t do any of these selfless acts to put others in debt to her, but simply because she exuded Christ on the deepest level possible. She did what she did, all while pointing to Jesus and telling everyone how much He loved them.
Grandma didn’t hold her help over their heads while barking at them, “Repent! Sinner!” She didn’t use guilt or fear, or tell people they were going to hell if they didn’t change their lives. She never told anyone to stop being a backslider because they’ll burn in the hottest place of hell if they didn’t. She never told anyone they were getting what they deserved because of their sin, or that they were justly being punished by God for their poor choices. No way…and why not? Because that’s not the truth, and she knew it.
Instead, she told everyone about how much God loves them and how He has a good plan for their lives, if they will just step into it.
I didn’t expect this to happen, but that post about Grandma went viral. Thousands of people liked it, shared it, and commented on it. One lady even posted under Grandma’s picture, “She is the true definition of what a Christian should look like.” And I understand what this nice woman is trying to say, but she is wrong.
A Christian is a Christian at heart–on the inside, in their spirit–that’s what makes someone a Christian. There is not a particular look or style on the outside, which achieves a person’s membership of Christendom. But instead, it is what their spiritual DNA looks like. And the only way we can make our genetic spiritual make-up any different, permanently, is by God’s free gift of salvation by grace through faith in what Jesus has done for us (see Ephesians 2:8,9).
It doesn’t matter what we look like on the outside, it matters what we look like on the inside. We gotta get things in order here. It’s not about our wardrobes or behaviors, but about our love and radiance of Jesus. It is our new heart which makes us who we truly are! (See Hebrews 8:10, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
And we get this new heart freely, which makes us a new creation, freely.
Just like an oak tree will always be an oak tree, no matter if it is thrown into the river and becomes driftwood, or, if a master wood-worker chisels a beautiful desk out of it–at its core, that oak tree will always be an oak tree.
Same with us Christians. The difficulties of life, the unfair choices of others which affect us negatively, as well as our own poor choices, can beat us up and make us look like we aren’t Christian, but we still are. The word Christian is a noun, not a verb. Nothing can change who we are in our spirits, once we believe in Jesus’ blood as the truth for our sin! Not even ourselves! (See Galatians 2:20, 2 Timothy 2:13).
Becoming a Christian is a one-time event. Yes, once. The Cross actually worked! (See Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 7:24, 25, Romans 6:10, 1 Peter 3:18). The new agreement between the Father and the Son came into effect when Jesus died (not when He was born), and you and I are simply the beneficiaries (see Hebrews 8:13). We didn’t create this agreement, we can’t add to it, and we can’t sustain it. Our actions have nothing to do with this contract between the Father and Jesus Christ, instead, we open up our hands and simply receive it. This is the only way we are saved. This is how we become heirs of Jesus’ inheritance! WOW! (See Romans 8:17, Colossians 1:12, Hebrews 7:18-26).
This will upset those who are constantly pestered by a religious spirit. They’ll say “No! There is more to it!” Friend, I’m sorry, but there is not. Jesus finished everything (John 19:30), and now, we are all equal no matter what, the very first time we believed He has forgiven us (see Galatians 3:28).
So just why is it, that us Christians–us believers in Christ’s forgiveness–see other Christians as dirty driftwood? That is, if they don’t polish up their lives, or if they aren’t doing a bunch of good things?
It’s because of what we’ve been taught in church. Incorrect teaching.
So many of us can personally testify to this. You walk into church, looking for something to make your life better, but instead you walk out feeling judged, holding a new “churchy to-do list” in your heart, thinking, “I gotta do this in order to be better.” You were looking for a new sense of peace, but instead, you get a handed a behavioral-improvement program syllabus. “You gotta become a member!” “You gotta PROVE you belong through a LIFESTYLE change and REPENTANCE!”
Do this! Don’t do that! Stay away from THEM. Judge non-church members rightly! Straighten up! Die daily! You’re a dirty sinner! God isn’t here to help you achieve your dreams! Confess every sin, or you ain’t forgiven of ALL them–and do this every day! Be godly! Be HOLY!
We get told, “The wicked are taking over the world and we gotta TAKE IT BACK! We gotta make them SEE how God ain’t putting up with this sin any longer!” “DO MORE! LIVE RIGHT! REPENT! Make the WORLD repent!”
You walk out of church thinking, “MAN! I feel terrible! This planet is going to hell in a hand-basket! I don’t stand a chance!” Or worse, you begin to think that you are better than the world! Some Christians think that if you don’t walk out of the church doors feeling beat to crap, it wasn’t a good sermon. Some even believe if the pastor doesn’t point out how bad everyone is—not just Christians—and what all we gotta do to make those dirty sinners, ear-ticklers, and rotten people, “REPENT OF THEIR SINS!”–then they just can’t enjoy their fried chicken afterwards.
It’s disgusting. We gotta flip the script. We gotta refocus our teachings. Overall, what we are being taught in church, has to change. We gotta start making God look good, loving, encouraging, and with His arms open wide for everyone who will place their faith in Jesus as their Savior.
The religious Christians will say, “Yeah, YOU’RE RIGHT! But they gotta REPENT! Their faith ain’t real without TRUE repentance!”
Really? What is your definition of true repentance? Being like you? Nobody wants that. That’s why so many people won’t go to church, and why when they leave their church, they don’t come back. The love of Christ was not shown–instead, religion was.
There are people who will actually go to hell because they look at someone who barks out this type of teaching (turning repentance of incorrect attitudes and actions into a law) and they will not even give Jesus a chance because they don’t want anything to do with what that legalistic person has got. They know they can’t be perfect, and after experiencing this type of teaching, they think they can’t be transparent either, about their struggles in life–so they won’t even try. It’s sad.
The false-advertising of Jesus’ “conditional love” is ruining many lives, as well as many after-lives. Religious Christians are setting up a goal for others to strive for, which they aren’t even achieving themselves. And if they think they actually are, that their “level” of repentance has tipped the scales of God’s judgment and favor over in their direction…then…this is sad to say, but they don’t really even know Jesus, themselves. That is, if they honestly believe their repentance of wrong thinking and actions has earned them anything, including salvation.
All that is required to be saved, to become a Christian, to have our DNA swapped with Jesus, is repentance of….drumroll……..Un-belief! We have to stop NOT believing that Jesus has saved us completely. (See Romans 10:9, John 6:29).
I can already hear the angry rebuttal now, “REALLY MATT?! You better be scared of hell, yourself! You are lying to all these people! You are giving them a license to sin! WE GOTTA REPENT OF ALL OUR SINS! EVERY DAY!”
Well, I can say this: I’m not afraid. You can’t scare me. I know who I am, and I know what Jesus has done for me. I don’t have to be afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. And because of what Jesus has done for me, I know that I won’t be punished, any longer (see 1 John 4:18).
Friend, people are sinning just fine without a license–you, me, everyone. It is when we understand the sinless Spirit in us, Christ Himself, that we sin a whole lot less, and for the right reasons.
And if you honestly think this way–that you must keep track of your repentance level–you, yourself, are in turmoil, or absolute naiveté. I know because I’ve been there; thinking I could possibly “repent” of every single sin–even the sins of omission–always trying to keep track of each sin, so I could be sure to repent of it, and then being anxious and petrified of the punishment God would send my way if I didn’t repent of each and every one!
I repented until my repenter was broken! This was all I focused on–not Jesus, but repentance of my mistakes.
And then I tried to force other people to repent like me–and nearly ruined my life trying. I became self-righteous, frustrated, and furious.
Further, because of the incorrect teaching of, “CHANGE! OR ELSE YOU’RE DISQUALIFIED!” the devil had me convinced God wouldn’t take care of me, or answer my prayers. I was constantly flinching. Unless my life immediately changed, in every single way; and unless my “lack of sin” and so-called “good works” far outweighed my “small” Christian faults, I wasn’t really saved.
Lies. All lies. Satan wanted me to think that I had to earn God’s love, and worse, that I had to work to keep His love, and make others do the same. All that is required to be saved from hell, to become a child of God, to not have to abide by any law of the Old Testament or any modern-day church law, is to repent of my non-belief in Jesus as my “good enough.”
I didn’t get this teaching in church for a long time. Instead, I ended up being taught this by the Holy Spirit as I sought Him out each and every day–not by being spoon-fed lies, weekly.
Before I had this supernatural epiphany, my life was absolutely miserable as a Christian. I kept trying hard to quit drinking, and failed. I kept trying hard to stop having such a bad temper, and failed. I kept trying hard to quit flirting with other women who were not my wife, and failed. I kept trying hard to put down the video game controller and spend time with my kids, and failed. I kept trying hard to watch every single word I said because my mouth was so foul….and failed.
I kept trying to be good enough, I kept trying to “LIVE RIGHT!” as the church people yelled at me each week…and failed. Failed. Failed. Failed…
I kept failing because I was focused on the wrong thing–myself. I needed to stop focusing on my faults, and begin focusing on my perfection, which was Christ in me. I needed to start focusing on my Who, and stop focusing on my do–because it’s done. (See John 19:30).
This is why I left the church I was at and found another, and why many, many more people are leaving their churches each week as well. They can’t live up to the incorrect teaching.
This is also why so many Christians live double-lives. Rather than be transparent about their struggles, they hide them, or keep battling them privately because they know if they bring them out into the open, they will be shamed. Jesus, on the other hand, wants us to relax in His righteousness–not our own. (See Philippians 4:13, James 5:16, Matthew 11:28,29).
When we are focused on the truth of the gospel, we don’t have anything to be ashamed of.
This is the authenticity of Christianity that will finally set you free! Realizing that no amount of behavior/attitude change (definition of religious Christian repentance), will make you right with God–only your relationship with Jesus will. And no amount of water (physical baptism) can wash away your sins.
True repentance is understanding who God has freely made you, in spirit. True repentance is understanding you’ve been seated in heavenly places with Christ! (See Ephesians 2:6).
The supernatural locomotive pulling every other cart of Christianity behind it, is Belief In Jesus. This is the horse in front of the cart. Behavior and thinking repentance, water baptism, and good works, are all towed behind. Those things are not the how we are saved, but the because we are saved.
True repentance is finally understanding that you are not condemned any longer! (See Romans 8:1). It’s finally realizing the truth that you are a child of God, saved by grace through faith! (See Galatians 3:26, Ephesians 2:8,9).
So yes, we repent, we change everything because we don’t have to, and, because we know that we can’t make Jesus leave us alone no matter our behavior. We repent, we change, because we love Jesus. Everything we now do, is based on our love for Him. Nothing more, nothing less.
This is why Jesus said, “If you love me, you’ll keep my commands” (John 14:15). This is also why Jesus said to Peter three times, “Peter, do you love me?” “Peter, do you love me?” “Peter, do you love me?” and each time Peter said, “You know I do!” (See John 21).
It’s not about a have to anymore, it’s about a want to. It’s about a loving relationship. This is what we need to learn in church, which is Who we really are at our core. We need to be told how good we are because of Jesus in us! We need to show others a relaxing relationship, not more rules or a strenuous job-criteria. And more than anything we need to begin to show the lost who Jesus really is, how we’ve not earned a thing, that it’s all been free from the beginning of our faith in Him–and that they can have Him too, for free, as well.
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, thank you. Thank you for making me just like Jesus in spirit, perfect in your eyes. Now, give me the strength to gracefully live Him out, through my flesh and soul. Thank you for loving me so much that you would give me access to you for free, by my simple faith in Him! You are such a good God! I love you! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. For those who have been beat into the ground by incorrect church teaching, help them to realize who they truly are in Christ. Begin to renew their minds by them understanding your unconditional love for them, through Jesus. And for those who might be on the opposite end of that spectrum, those who have strived so hard to be good, that now, they’ve become self-righteous, bitter, cold, and extremely judgmental towards everyone who isn’t exactly like them–renew their minds as well. Give them rest. Give them peace. In Jesus’ name, I bring all of this to you, amen.
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