Friday, April 8, 2016

The problem with Christianity

The problem with Christianity
as far as I can tell
is this:

Christianity requires repentance.

Yes, to be a Christian, you must repent.  To repent is to admit that you have been doing something wrong, and that you need to change your direction.  To repent is to tell God that you are sorry that you have been demanding your own way and criticizing His way.

To repent is to come to the place where you understand and admit that you do not, yourself, have the right to define right from wrong, to judge the goodness of the Lord, or to insist on an agenda of your own choosing.

To repent is to humble yourself, to let go of your prideful attitudes, to admit that God knows more than a mere mortal, to let God be God--the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe, to accept your place under His hand.

Yes, this is the problem with Christianity, because this is not what we want to do.

We do not want to be wrong; we want to be right.

We do not want to take God's direction for our lives.  Like two-year-olds, we shout out, "I can do it by myself!"  Like two-year-olds, we are often incapable of making good decisions without guidance, but like two-year-olds, we spit and shake our fists at the One who has already done everything to help us.

Pride entwines our hearts and chokes out repentance.

Pride is much more insidious than we realize.  We all know people who appear prideful:  They dress in expensive clothing and brag loudly about their accomplishments, their awards, their salaries, their vacations.  They smile patronizingly at those they consider beneath them (which is everyone).  They act as though they are doing you a huge favor if they acknowledge your presence, lower themselves to have a conversation with you or take time to attend your event.  These are the most transparently prideful among us, and we may think that we are not prideful if we are not like them, but we could be very mistaken.

There is a second tier of pridefulness.  These people can spot pride fifty miles away.  They sniff it out like bloodhounds and stalk their quarry until they corner it, at which time they chew it to bloody bits.  The problem is, all the time they are tracking other people's pride, their own pride is welling up inside of them like a putrid spring.  It takes one to know one, as the saying goes.  Of course they are prideful; how else would they have the arrogant courage to critique the pride of those around them?  More's the pity, because although they mistakenly believe that they are rooting out pride in others, they are actually inciting their victims to build thick walls around their lives that seal in pride and create an environment where it will fester and swell.

This is the third tier of pridefulness: those who have been hurt by other prideful people, and thus respond with their own brand of pride:  "Who are you to say that to me?"  and  "I have the right to do what I want to do.  Not you, not anybody, not even God can tell me how I have to live!"  These people may not feel good about themselves at all.  They may be plagued by low self-esteem, depression and even despair.  But they grab on to one thing and will not let go:  "I am the captain of my own soul!"  (They even have literature to back them up.)

How then does the human soul have any hope at all?

How can anybody ever become a Christian?

Only by grace.

The grace of God brings us to a place where we understand that we need Him, that there are deep fissures in our souls that only He can heal.  Sometimes it requires very painful trials to bring us to this understanding.  These painful trials are also grace, because they are the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

John 16:8 tells us that God sends the Holy Spirit into the world to convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment.

Because Jesus died, the Holy Spirit is now loosed in the world, comforting and empowering believers, and also opening the eyes of people who do not yet believe, enabling them to see what is true and to learn to hate sin and love righteousness.  Learning to hate sin and love righteousness, this is repentance.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  This is the work of God.

"No one can come to me unless the Father draws him," Jesus said in John 6:44.

The problem with Christianity is that humanity is contaminated with crippling pride from the very beginning.  We are all prideful.  We are all stained with this sin of wanting our own way, convinced that we ourselves know the best way.

~Isaiah 53:6 (ESV)
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.


There you have it: the problem, and the solution.

We are prideful, but Jesus came to us in humility.
We wanted our own way, but Jesus prayed, "Father, Your will be done." 
We cannot come to Jesus because we are dead in our sins,
     but Jesus came to us and died in our place.
We cannot reach out to the Lord, but He reaches out to us and draws us to Himself.
His gift.
His grace.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. 
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
~Ephesians 2:8 (ESV)

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