Friday, June 15, 2007

Eight Ways to Be a Bad Christian...The Grand Finale!!!

For several Wednesdays, we've been studying "Ways to Be a Bad Christian," as we looked at the words of Christ in Matthew 23. My previous posts on this subject can be found here, here, and here. Feel free to catch up, or go back and refresh your memory! Here's the next one in that list...

7. Focus on outward appearance at the expense of inward integrity.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness."--Matt. 23:25-28

Rather, Jesus says, "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him."--Matt. 12:34-35

Numerous times, Jesus says it is what is on the inside, not the outside, that makes a man clean or unclean. Yet, for some reason, this escapes the Pharisees. To them, "image is everything." And Jesus simply says that looks are deceiving. The Pharisees were, in reality, no different than anybody else. But they wanted everybody else to think that they were more righteous and more religious. Jesus tells them that they should be worried about impressing God, not people.

Do people view us that way sometimes? Do we ever tend to give off the impression that we are better than those around us? Maybe not necessarily intentionally...but still...does it happen? Our minister shared w/us about speaking with a woman who is new to our church, only been coming around for a couple of months. He said he was afraid he heard a little bit of that in her voice, although she didn't say it. She seemed to think that we "had it all together," more so than she did. Do we act in such a way that we want people to think that we do have it all together, when in reality, we are struggling just like everyone else??? I think one way to remedy this problem is to just be more willing to share our struggles with each other. I saw a perfect example of this Sunday night at our church, when, after the sermon, a man got up and shared his testimony with us. He spoke of how God had helped him overcome an alcohol addiction. Our minister's comment on Wednesday night was "I can almost guarantee you that he was not the only one in that room who had struggled with an addiction to alcohol. But very few people would be willing to share something like that." However, when we are willing to share, it benefits everyone. I admit that I, as a listener, was almost moved to tears listening to him Sunday night (and I'm not one to cry often) just getting to listen to Him talk about the Lord touching his life. Very uplifting. Those who know they can share their struggles without fear of judgement will know that they can then find strength in their family of believers. And then we don't appear to outsiders that we "have it all together. " Everyone benefits. We must keep in mind the words of Ps. 34:18 and be willing to have a broken heart and a crushed spirit at times.

And finally......

The last in our series of "Eight Ways to Be a Bad Christian......

Drumroll, please......

8. Insist on being easy on yourself and hard on others.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!"--Matt. 23:29-31

Rather, Jesus says, "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."--Matt. 7:2

Do we often times criticize others who are guilty of the same things that we are guilty of ??? One guy in our class brought up an interesting point; he said that in studying human psychology, it is observed that we tend to judge others by their actions while judging ourselves by our circumstances. It would be beneficial if we could all admit, like Paul, that "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." (Rom. 7:15)

Chuck told another story, this one about his son. He said earlier that afternoon he got a call from his son, a newly licensed driver, who had been pulled over for speeding and changing lanes often. He said, "I was ready to go home and tell him he ought not be driving like a fool! But then I thought that on they way there, maybe I ought not drive like a fool. Where did he learn that behavior?"

In this particular way, and really, in the whole "Eight Ways" I think the key is consistency. Are we willing to be honest with ourselves and make necessary changes to be pleasing to God? And are we helping others to be pleasing to God as well? Do we love the Lord and love our neighbors as ourselves?

I think those might be a few ways to be good Christians...

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