The Evangelical Church has become what we always despised in others: we are obsessed with sin and not with God. We have made the gospel safe by adding our own disclaimer.
The typical Christian today knows well an unwritten law: that one must never so much as hint at a success in his Christian life without making sure to make known how sinful and flawed he is. In doing so he dishonors not himself but his God.
There are those Christians who are always ready and waiting to talk about their favorite topic: their own self-made righteousness. This person is simply bursting as he hopes you will ask something that will give him the chance to tell you how he is God’s favorite, but since you will not ask he’ll just go ahead and tell you anyway. This person’s God is himself and there is no greater heresy for the self-righteous person than to admit to sin – for that would dishonor his god.
But even should this man come to find himself a sinner he will still learn a terrible habit which probably no one will correct in him.
The self-righteous person must not admit to sin or his god is impugned. The person who claims his righteousness comes from God must not admit to holiness or his God will be impugned, for he feels that he robs God of glory if he does so.Ask a Christian who has discovered he is a sinner to talk about his failures and he is in his element, you have him on a topic at which he is particularly adept. But ask him about his successes and everything within him twists and turns trying to return to the territory he feels is not so heretical: a discussion of his sin.
What both do not know is that their god is themselves and their lord is sin.
Mewling, fevered, downcast Christians who cannot look God in the eye without pausing to scourge themselves are gravely mistaken if they think they are giving glory to God.
It is the more grounded Christian who knows God does not play favorites or give gold stars for good behavior. But the one who refuses to admit freely that God is changing his life denies the power of the gospel. When we are able to talk about our lives with Jesus Christ only in terms of our sin we are saying that there is no life in Him. We are saying that in the end, this gospel doesn’t really work and we are back to being nice people. Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” We might glorify God a little when we know him to be better than we are. We glorify him much more when we are like him.
There is a great outcry against the claims of Christianity to be the one right way and that Jesus Christ is the one true God. How could one religion have the arrogance to say that it is the only right way and that it has a monopoly on truth?
Something that must be understood is that truth must be exclusive. If it doesn’t claim to exclude falsehoods it cannot claim to be true. So all statements of truth are exclusive statements. Because of this each religion is making a claim to exclusive truth. Some are more willing to try to include (or really to co-opt) others but even they do so within the parameters of what they say is true. But no belief system can be a belief if it’s designed to not be believed. That would be a bit silly.
I think one would also find it rather uncomfortable. Nobody wants to live in a land without borders. You see, if Jesus might be admired but is not making claims at the expense of other claims then we cannot even bother to trust him. If we say that there must be another “way” we automatically beg the question: another way to what, exactly? At that point we cannot even say what the goal is anymore. That is because goals that are not exclusive will never be reached. And what about Christ’s claim of love? Would we prefer a non-exclusive love? Would we like it better if Jesus loved not only goodness but also evil? Or that he makes promises we can trust but they are not exclusive? You cannot be satisfied by a belief with which you are merely shacking up.
But the offer of Christ is not exclusive. The gospel is not only for those of the right ethnicity or the right gender. It is not for the healthy and strong or the intelligent or wealthy. You do not have to be good enough for Christ, if anything you might have to be bad enough.
In our world we have “exclusive” clubs making the word synonymous with luxury and elitism. Places are said to be better because of the people they keep out: those who not good enough. The kingdom of heaven could understandably make the same claim. In fact, no institution of man really has the right to call itself great because it keeps out other men. Only the realm of God in all its holiness can do something like that. But God did not choose that way. He made a place that was magnificent not because of whom it kept out but because of who gets to come in.
Of course not all are accepted and this is one of the aspects of the kingdom which many are offended by. But it does not exclude because of who you are; it excludes those who cling to who they are… shall we say “exclusively”.
The truth of Christ is exclusive; the offer of Christ is not.