We all know the language. We all talk about how we "can't earn God's love" and he saved us through grace. We say it, we know it, but if we search deep down in our hearts, do we really believe it?
As the book "Gospel Centered-Life" would say: we're all secretly pretending or performing.
We're pretending that we're not really as bad as we seem.
Or we're performing to try and seem better than we really are.
And neither of these are for the LORD . . . they're for others.
Why are Christians in a constant game of compare and contrast?
Because we’re secretly all Pharisees. We've all added on our own "laws" to what makes a good Christian, or a better Christian. We're all a lot like the disciples who argued with each other about "who is the greatest (Luke 9:46)". Secretly, we're all too worried about what others think and not consumed by who God is and what He's done.
"We have all constructed certain rules or laws that we live by, believing that if we keep them, we are more “right” before God. It is then only a small step before we start judging other people based on their performance regarding these rules or laws." (Gospel Centered Life)
You may be thinking . . . no, not me. I don’t have secret laws I live by. I am in Christ, I know I’m saved by grace! But search deep down, and think . . . do you compare yourself to others? Do you feel “proud” when you’ve studied the bible 5 days in a row and your friend hasn’t even opened the Word once this week? Are you a better Christian because you love and serve the poor daily, not just once in awhile? Are you more spiritual because you don't watch that tv show or read those books? Are you more “holy” because you have a consistent prayer time unlike your brother who “prays in his car on his way to work”. What a heathen. (*These are all examples from other people’s lives, not ever stuff I’ve thought in my own.)
But if you're honest and willing to examine your own heart, do you seek "righteousness" somewhere other than the cross?
JOB RIGHTEOUSNESS: I’m a hard worker, so God will reward me.
FAMILY RIGHTEOUSNESS: Because I “do things right” as a parent, I’m more
godly than parents who can’t control their kids.
THEOLOGICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS: I have good theology. God prefers me over those who have bad theology.
INTELLECTUAL RIGHTEOUSNESS: I am better read, more articulate, and more culturally savvy than others, which obviously makes me superior.
SCHEDULE RIGHTEOUSNESS: I am self-disciplined and rigorous in my time management, which makes me more mature than others.
FLEXIBILITY RIGHTEOUSNESS: In a world that’s busy, I’m flexible and relaxed. I always make time for others. Shame on those who don’t!
MERCY RIGHTEOUSNESS: I care about the poor and disadvantaged the way everyone else should.
LEGALISTIC RIGHTEOUSNESS: I don’t drink, smoke, or chew, or date girls who do. Too many Christians just aren’t concerned about holiness these days.
FINANCIAL RIGHTEOUSNESS: I manage money wisely and stay out of debt. I’m not like those materialistic Christians who can’t control their spending.
POLITICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS: If you really love God, you’ll vote for my candidate.
TOLERANCE RIGHTEOUSNESS: I am open-minded and charitable toward those who don’t agree with me. In fact, I’m a lot like Jesus that way!"
(Gospel Centered Life by World Harvest Mission, Lesson 2)
Honestly, until I came across this list in the book, I probably would have said "no" too. I have realized that I too have constructed laws in which I compare myself to others.
And I hate it.
This is a battle. Daily. To be consumed with Christ and His goodness, not me and my own. Or worse, me and my brothers and sisters. This is no way to live. And it's certainly no way to live as Christians who have been bought with a price and freed form this kind of life!
Are you willing to fight against pretending and performing? Comparing and contrasting?
Are you willing to be consumed with Christ and gaze on his goodness rather than consumed with self and comparison to others?
"Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:2-3)
"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1)