In my last blog, “Of Course I Read It,” which I submitted on March 18th, I promised a series of blogs describing 8 sins that have sadly become all too common in the lives of many Christians…even to the point of not thinking of them as sins anymore. This idea came to me from an article my wife, Kris, referred to me by Rachel-Claire Cockrell on iBelieve.com. Cockrell entitled her article, “8 Sins Christians are Starting to Ignore.” As a reminder, my goal is to write one blog per sin Cockrell has listed. Let’s go!
The first sin listed is a classic: Selfishness and/or Self-Righteousness. Without question, this is a nasty characteristic of human nature. Cockrell highlights how Jesus dealt with the Pharisees of His day who we know often did religious things to be seen and praised by others without sincerity or a concern for anyone other than themselves. Now I have to believe that most Christians who know anything about the New Testament almost cringe at the thought of being identified with the group that campaigned relentlessly to have Jesus killed. Surely if it’s possible we are starting to look like those knuckleheads, a change in attitude is desperately in order.
I could write for days about this ugly bunch without much effort at all. But let us remember Cockrell’s primary point–it’s not that Selfishness or Self-Righteousness are sadly popping up here and there. Rather, something much worse has happened–Christians are used to it, comfortable with it, or guilty of it…and now think little of it. Not good! We live in a culture where Hollywood celebrities, sports stars, musicians, singers, and others go out of their way to promote themselves. TV commercials tell us we are worth it and no one is as important as “you.” We are surrounded 24/7 by this now normal behavior. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were historically the “bad guys.” John the Baptist called them a “brood of vipers” if you remember. They were confident in their religion and their works. They felt their bloodline with Abraham gave them all the righteousness they would ever need. So when Jesus walked into their midst and claimed to be the Son of God, greater than Abraham, and exposed the hearts of this snotty bunch by pointing out their wicked sinfulness, it naturally didn’t fly. The bullseye was placed on Jesus early in His earthly ministry to kill Him.
Time and space do not permit me to go too deep here. We can open our New Testaments and fly right into the action of the persecution of Jesus, as well as the constant pressure placed on the apostles by the same gang. They thought they were righteous. They were concerned about themselves and their standing in society. They loved their Judaism and they loved the places of prominence it gave them. Having more than simple confidence in themselves, they literally oozed with arrogance. Jesus was a threat and so was the New Covenant He was bringing to the world.
In short, Christians recognize their need for God. Only through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross and our willingness to repent, submit, and follow him can we find forgiveness and hope. Our profession of faith demands humility. The apostle Paul stated that he would only boast in the cross of Christ…and count everything else as loss. (Galatians 6:14) The Pharisees of Jesus’ day did not “need” Him. They were ok…and they certainly weren’t sinners…or so they thought. Christianity recognizes our “need” of Christ and the Gospel message. When we boast in ourselves, our works, and portray an arrogance to the world around us then we become guilty as Cockrell has charged. If we fall into the trap of thinking it’s somehow “normal”…we are guilty as well. For years, folks outside the church have levelled charges against church goers-calling them hypocrites and accusing them of looking down on others and acting all “high and mighty.” Oddly enough, I recently thought of Ray Stevens’ “Mississippi Squirrel” song and his mention of “Sister Bertha-Better-Than-You.” (Her DNA is present today as well. Over the years of ministry I have ran into many of her siblings) See what I mean?
The Pharisees have hung around over the generations. It would seem we will always have the cocky and arrogant with us…even in our churches. But my prayer is that we will never get used to it. I hope we never stop thinking of it as sinful. May God help us to be mindful if and when we ever come across to others like this. May we always remember our righteousness comes from Christ and not ourselves. In becoming Christians we approached Christ in humility. The last thing we need to do is put humility in the closet like an old coat never to be worn again. God in His grace has come to us. We didn’t find Him…He found us. We are blessed. Let us show how much this means to us as we live for Him daily. Like Paul, let us boast in the cross of Christ. God was not fooled with the Pharisees obnoxious behavior and He won’t be fooled if we attempt it. I heard a preacher say many years ago, “A Christian peacock is an ugly sight…strutting before the world…basking in his own glory.” God help us.
Blessings and thanks Monticello! 🙂