Faith is Not a Good Idea

Jim grew up in church and still believes most of what he learned there, but his life doesn’t look like you might expect. He cusses, drinks more than he should, has been known to sleep around on occasion, and hasn’t gone to church (or read the Bible) in well over a decade. But overall, he’s a good guy who tries to look after his friends as best he can. When Jim hears coworkers talking about religion, he often jumps in to offer the “Christian perspective.” He considers himself a Christian (although he’s quick to admit “I’m a bad Christian”).

While friends like Jim don’t really care what label you give them, it’s worth our time to figure out what’s going on when religious ideas seems to get confused as faith.

Sears Tower

Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

What is Faith?
The Bible defines faith this way,

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV)

Faith isn’t simply a “good idea.” It’s assurance and conviction in what is unseen. The visible is interpreted through the lens of the unseen – faith shapes life.

  • Because God is holy – I live my life to worship and honor him
  • Because God is merciful and gracious – I am accepted because of his provision, not my performance
  • Because God is the judge – I live according to his law
  • Because God is faithful – I will trust him even in the midst of suffering
  • Because the Bible is God’s Word – I will read it, understand it to the best of my ability, and obey it as the very word of God

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Self-Righteousness

Self Righteousness… does anyone like it?  You know the type… those who walk around like they’re holier than thou, judging everyone else for not being as godly as they are.  That’s basically the stereotype that every Christian needs to fight against (see the above image!).

But here’s the thing… you can’t be a Christian and be self-righteous.

Self-Righteousness says:

  • “I am better than you are.”
  • “I am good enough to be acceptable to God.”
  • “You can’t judge me, only what I believe matters.”
  • “You need to do and believe what I do and believe, because I’m the one who’s right.”

Those are things no Christian can say.  If you are a Christian and you say those things, then you have not understood the Gospel.  (Yes, I realize the irony here. Before you accuse me of being self-righteous, please finish reading this post.)

As Christians, we completely rely on Jesus’ righteousness, not our own.  The only thing my righteousness earns for me is judgment (Romans 3:23-24, 6:23).  The Gospel shouts, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

The ironic thing about accusations of “Self-Righteousness” is that every religion other than Christian actually teaches self-righteousness.  I know that’s a huge claim to make, and I’m willing to be proven wrong in the comment section below, but I do think it’s true.  Only Christianity teaches that we are acceptable to God because of someone else’s righteousness; other religions and philosophies teach that you are required to improve yourself before God in order to “attain righteousness.”

When we build our understanding of “truth” on our own interpretations or opinions then aren’t we defending our own self-righteousness by saying that we are the ultimate knower and determiner or what is real?  Instead, when we rely on what God has revealed through the Holy Scriptures and we seek to understand what God has spoken and how the Scriptures still speak today (2 Timothy 3:16-17), then we are again relying on the righteousness of the God who speaks rather than on ourselves.

Ultimately, Christians, we must remember that we are not self-righteous… we fully rely on the righteousness of Jesus.  Let us live in such humble and faith-full way that the righteousness of Jesus would shine through us, and give glory to our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).

I don’t want anyone else to be more like me!  I want them to be more like Jesus… because I want to be more like him too.

(note: this post originally was published on my ministry’s blog here as “Thinking About Self-Righteousness”)