One of the biggest misconceptions about Christianity is that it is a second chance at life.
Of course this could be because we preach that it’s a second chance at life.
But the truth is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not one which gives people a second chance at life. Rather it is one that ends their life.
The message of the gospel is not God saying- “OK, you’ve really messed up but don’t worry, here’s another shot.”
No, the message of the gospel is God saying – “You can’t do this… why don’t you let Me take over for you.”
The evolution of the message
It’s easy to see how we got ourselves here – we love self-righteousness. It’s something we all love to do, to earn our own righteous standing before God.
The Apostles founded the church on a solid message of Grace. Yet, we somehow spent over a thousand years preaching works to get right with God and earn the forgiveness of Jesus! I mean… talk about self-righteous!
The reformation was about killing our works-based gospel and re-establishing the gospel of grace. And yet, we still see throughout evangelical christianity today a message that promotes self-righteousness.
Sure, we spout “I’m a sinner saved by grace”, “I didn’t earn my salvation, it’s all by the grace of God” etc. etc. But listen to what is preached from most pulpits every week. Look at the way most Christians live their lives. When we do that, we are often faced with a stark contrast.
You see we still preach and walk out self-righteousness.
We teach that it is only by the grace of God that we are forgiven. But then we spend our whole time preaching not about the grace of God but rather the works of the believer.
We focus on what the believer should do to “work out their salvation.”
What’s the problem?
The problem is that there is a process of discovering all that Christ has done in us and wishes to do through us.
He has made us perfect and spotless in Him and we have become a carrier of the fullness of God! We are totally transformed in Him.
Yet – I don’t know about you but I don’t feel it (or look like it) a lot of the time!
(Side note: In case you think you do act perfectly just ask your spouse for confirmation ;) )
The problem is not that there is a process of discovery and walking out that reality though.
The problem is the way we interpret that fact.
We have two options when faced with this truth. We can either:
a) Focus on the fact that we aren’t yet perfect in every way and focus on trying to change that.
b) Focus on what Jesus says about us, who He is in us and who He is able to be through us.
One is Biblical and the other is religious – in fact it’s no different from any other religions. (psst… option b is the good one!)
When it’s put down so bluntly as above you’d think there is only one clear winner.
But it’s not that simple – you see one satisfies our desire to earn our own righteousness. So we often tend to gravitate towards it.
Sure we’ve had to give up the earning our salvation by our own works. That sticks out like a sore thumb these days (pesky reformation!)
Luckily – we do seem to be able to find plenty of churches in Christianity that allow us to work our butts off to work out our salvation. Not only do they put up with it, they encourage and promote it!
So what’s the solution?
Now hear me right, as I said above there is a clear need to discover who we are in Christ and walk that out. We have become a vessel of righteousness and a conduit of the Holy Spirit which brings forth good fruit. I’m not promoting sin or sinfulness – nor am I saying we should become lackadaisical.
However, we must remember what brings about change.
Real, lasting change is not brought about by us.
It is something that Jesus brings about!
We have to trust that Jesus Christ is working in and through us. It is by resting in Him and abiding in Him, as a branch does in a vine, that we bear good fruit.
Do we need to change in our daily conduct? Yes, undoubtably.
Should we be trying to bring that change about in our own efforts? Most certainly not.
We need to change the message we are proclaiming
The church is great at preaching the forgiveness, love and grace of God until you get in the door. But we are far too keen to move onto the “meaty” topics of working out salvation and following God’s law.
We have to change the message we are promoting to those in the faith. Christian maturity is not about becoming more holy! It’s about becoming more convinced of who we are and who God is.
The message of the gospel is not an opportunity for a fresh start to try and satisfy our ego and earn our own righteousness.
Rather it is a cry out to all – “We can’t become righteous by our own efforts – Let’s rely entirely on Jesus! Not just as the entry requirement but for every step of the journey.”