I don’t know about you, but generally speaking, I’ve always been a rule follower. This doesn’t mean that I was never in trouble, but I was one of those kids that felt so bad when I did get into trouble that I punished myself with the guilt of my wrong doing. For me, that guilt has always been the worst feeling I could imagine.
I know that guilt affects everyone in the sense that we all deal with it. Some are devastated by it, some are indifferent, and some ignore it all together. Whether it be the guilt of decisions you are making now, or guilt of something that you did years ago, it is a safe bet that everyone has dealt with, or ignored completely, guilt in some way or another.
Here is an ugly truth I have observed in my time in church world: far too often, churches proclaim certain laws of the Bible, or those that they deem the most important, and not sin as a whole. They have played on the guilt of people and used that to get them to fix those behaviors, and if they do, then mission accomplished. These sins/ behaviors generally include, but are not limited to: don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t sleep around, don’t get tattoos, don’t cuss, and you better have perfect church attendance (which means never missing ANY type of service). If someone follows that list, then they’ve made it; they are now holy.
But this isn’t the whole picture of christianity…
For the sake of some form of disclaimer, before I continue, I want to say that I love the church and have dedicated my life to serving the church. Jesus died for it, so I know Jesus loves the church. I am merely pointing out what I see in order to help people take their next step. I also think the above list is full of things that are good practices. I just do not believe they are the extent of someone’s relationship with Jesus.
And that’s the thing: too many people are satisfied with looking good, as opposed to living the life Jesus has for you. If church attendance and following a list of rules is what sets you apart, you’re missing the point. Francis Chan says it this way:
“Too many Christians are content with appearing to be a bit more moral than the people around them. But the difference between a true Christian and a non-Christian is not about subtle moral distinctions; it’s the difference between being alive and being dead!”
That’s supposed to be the attractive thing about followers of Jesus to those who are not. It’s not the subtle, “there is something different about you… you don’t cuss.” It’s the joy, kindness, compassion and overall abundant life that draws people in.
Following Jesus is not about following a list of rules and changing your behavior. Following Jesus is about changing your heart.
This is about allowing God to change you from the inside out and mold you into the image of Jesus himself. When we see ourselves, we are to look more like Christ than ourselves. That’s the difference. Jesus isn’t worried about changed behaviors, He is focused on changed hearts.
This doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want either. I believe that changed behavior is a result of a changed heart. However, if it is just your behavior changing to look good, you’re missing the point. Stop behaving. Start living the abundant life the Bible promises. Start allowing Jesus to change your heart. When Jesus gets ahold of your heart, you’ll want to follow Him. Allow him to move in your life and change you from the inside out. You won’t be merely following the rules… You’ll be made new.
Trust the process. Take your next step. Now is your moment.
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