I am not a fan of extremists, especially when it comes to the overly religious type. One of my favorite Proverbs of Solomon is found in Ecclesiastes, chapter seven. "Do not be overly righteous, neither be overly wise— why destroy yourself? Do not be overly wicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.”
Can you actually be “overly righteous?” Well I suppose that depends on how you define the term. I am made perfect in the absolute forgiveness I have received by grace through faith in Jesus. (Complete righteousness!) You can’t have too much of that. But there are definitely too many “self-righteous Christians,” who pass judgment on others who don’t live up to their “godly standards.” I agree with the guy who observed, “No matter what battle you’re fighting, there will be people on your side of the conflict that you wish were fighting for the other side. That’s how I feel when it comes to some who call themselves Christian. I am not a big fan of the puritan ethic and those who live life with their spiritual noses in the air. Overly pious people make me nervous. That’s only fair I suppose, because I’m pretty sure the things I say and do make them more than a little uncomfortable, too.
I believe God made life to be enjoyed. God is not a killjoy. He instills joy. He made us to laugh, enjoy food and drink, recreation and sexuality within the limits of His design. I know Christians who are so uptight, other Christians are uncomfortable around them. I prefer the opposite perspective, “Christians who live their lives with so much joy uptight Christians doubt their salvation.” I’m most comfortable with that kind of Christian.
The 16th century reformer Martin Luther urged Christians to, “Sin boldly!” He wasn’t condoning lawless and indecent behavior, He was merely saying, “Take the perfection God provides through faith seriously and don’t fret over your shortfalls and certainly not over the shortfalls of others. After all, in God’s sight you are made perfect. It is His gift to you, not something you achieve through good behavior.”
Don’t misunderstand, the Lord nor I, am encouraging vulgarity, drunkenness, and illicit behavior gone wild. But I’m never surprised by it, nor easily offended by it. I prefer to enjoy and live in the real world, rather than the plastic world of the self-righteous, finger-wagging, head-shaking, narrow-minded,Bible-thumping Christians who aren’t happy unless they are unhappy. These are the same self-righteous kinds of people who blasted Jesus saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!” The apostle Paul said it was our duty to embrace sinners without embracing their sinful lifestyle. “When I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— I didn’t mean at all the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world!” (1 Corinthians 5)
No wonder the song, “Just As I Am,” has such universal appeal to sinners and saints alike. Like Paul we can all say, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” To God be the glory. My imperfection is a testament to His grace.
Can you live with sinners and not become a sinner yourself? It is not only possible, it is required if you are to be a witness to people living outside God’s saving grace. The night before Jesus was crucified He prayed for the Lord to protect His disciples IN THE WORLD. “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one… As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17) We are to live in the world without letting the world live in us. A word of caution, “You must be careful to know who is influencing whom.” There is a corresponding Scripture that warns, “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15)
So be a Christian, but not a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N !! …If you know what I mean. “Do not be overly righteous, neither be overly wise— why destroy yourself?”
It’s like golf (Isn’t everything?). I take the game seriously, but not so seriously I can’t enjoy it. I worry about those guys who get so upset with their game they almost always leave the course angry and depressed. Why bother to play if it only makes you mad? Why embrace Christianity if it robs you of joy? How can you claim to love Jesus, if you can’t love sinners? How can you call Him your Savior if you refuse to acknowledge your own sinfulness?
You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are fleeting.
- What does it mean that God is not a killjoy?
- Do you find your faith more restricting or more freeing?
- What does the Bible mean when it says, “For freedom Christ has set you free?”
Who annoys you most?
A. Christians who sit in judgment of others.
B. Nonbelievers who do not embrace your faith.
C. Both equally.
Take the survey and leave a thought of explanation with shared insight for the benefit of others.
If you were unable to attend services last weekend and would like to listen to the message, visit our homepage at stjstl.net and click on Media at the top right of the web page. Growing Deeper, a Bible study, written to accompany the message series is also available to download.
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Lord, I am far from perfect. I have been judgmental at times, and complicit in behavior that was beneath my status as Your child too. Help me every day and every way to be more and more like You. Help me to welcome sinners and share meals with them. Help me be equally gracious to self-righteous Christians who think they are doing Your will even when they drive people from the faith by their behavior. You walked this earth and understand how difficult it is to be in the world and not OF THE WORLD. Help me find the balance. I pray by grace, through faith in Your redeeming love; Amen.
You're never too old to come and play with us at Cave Quest Vacation Bible School. Okay, so play may mean volunteer, but we promise that you'll have fun, too!
Red Cross Blood Drive is this Monday, April 4 from 3-7pm in Cornerstone. We welcome walk-ins.
First and Third: Breakdown STL returns to STJ on Sunday, April 17 at 6:30pm in Cornerstone.