Monday, June 20, 2011

External Righteousness

At church we are going through a series called ReThink (Following Jesus is simpler than you think). It has been very good and I've been specifically challenged through the messages.

Last week, the title was "Inside-Out". Aaron talked about the misconception many Christians have that as long as we behave well then we are a good Christian. Jesus taught that what was in our heart/mind was just as important, if not more, than our actions. If we are harboring negative thoughts about someone, it is just as bad as if we were voicing them for others to hear.

We are called to be internally righteous. But it's not something we can do on our own (thank God). God is the one who is able to work in us to change our sinful desires into righteous ones. Philippians 2:13 says "For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him." We need to seek God in prayer for him to change our hearts to want to please him.

Something that really struck me was when Aaron said that trying to be good on your own will either cause you to continually beat yourself up for falling short or cause you to judge others for not being as holy. I have definitely been on both sides of this.

I have been reading back through my old journals lately. In high school and college I judged people all the time for not being as externally holy. I could claim that I did not curse, drink, smoke or have sex so I thought I was doing great. But by judging others I was showing the sinfulness of my heart but did not realize it. Not that I don't still struggle with passing judgment, but I now know that it's not my place (and I recognize that I'm not perfect) so that's an improvement.

I definitely have also struggled with feeling like a failure for not living up to my own expectations of how holy I should be. I see all of these other Christians who are amazing prayer warriors, or whose compassion spurs them to do amazing things for others, and those who are so generous with their time, talents and money. I have felt like I am so far behind where I should be. Or I decide that I am going to start doing something such as memorizing scripture, set a goal, and then fail to meet it or get so far behind that it seems hopeless.

I'm not saying that it's not good to desire to grow in your faith, but what will really make me grow is drawing closer to God himself and letting him lead me. Perhaps if I focus on spending time with him in prayer and Bible study, it will help me learn more scripture or develop a more compassionate heart for others. God knows what he desires of me and what my gifts are. I should trust him to work in me rather than trying to do it on my own.

What about you? Have you ever fallen into one of the two categories above from trying to be "good" on your own?