If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself.
–James 1:26 I heard a man say a little while ago that he did not believe there was a true Christian living, because he had found out so many hypocrites. I reminded him that there could be no hypocrites if there were no genuine ones. No one would think of passing a bad sovereign if there were no sterling coin. So the fact of there being some hypocrites proves that there are some genuine characters.
Religion itself is not a vain thing, we make it into that. It then becomes useless and the useless version the reason of our deceit. This new religion is vain and false, so it requires us to hold it up. As cardboard cut outs need help to stand up, our many good acts frailly keep things together in this religion. The true signs often appear in our speech; it is there that we are able to elevate ourselves by putting others down to prove we are the better man. In this vain religion we deceive our own hearts, while not realizing how interconnected our tongues and hearts really are. Giving birth to an absolute truth -- a humble heart will not result in a vile tongue. True that with modern technology our tongue speaks using our finger tips; because of this our finger tips often echo our hearts.
A person who steals an apple does not take away from the sweetness of the apple itself. The act will not change what the apple is, but he who eats it will change from a sinful man to a sinful thief. That is what we do with religion when we turn God’s gift of forgiveness and salvation into us trying to win our salvation by our good acts, hoping that the good will outweigh the bad. We spend so much time trying to hide our sins to the point that God for some odd reason will not know them and have no need to forgive them. Our religion should reveal our sin, not hide it. We stole something that was a gift to us, at least we think we did, true religion and that a relationship with Christ cannot be stolen, earned, rewarded, or bought. It is a gift.
If my concern is only to appear religious, that I have the gift, this leaves me no time to have a relationship with Christ. Morality is not able to take us to Christianity, but one who has no morality most likely does not have God as his father. This is the struggle -- if we try to appear as something that we are not, the end result is vain religion, hypocrisy. This is one point believers and non-believers can always agree on: both despise hypocrisy, but only one is required to forgive it. As Spurgeon reminded us, there are some genuine characters who, in their walk with God, will stumble and fall. But they know that, as they sink into Grace, God is loving and this is true religion: imperfect sons and daughters who rest in the forgiven arms of Dad.
It is sad and somewhat funny that in our effort to never become a hypocrite we end up one. We start doing the things we promised never to do. When we make our first mistake we have to cover it up, and from there it has an evolution and we end up as Pretenders. But now that we find ourselves on this side, we the pretenders also hold all the reasons and excuses for doing so that our younger selves who now stand facing us would never understand.
My struggle is being able to forgive those who have hurt me. This is very selfish I know, putting myself first, but who else would? I know that I cannot even begin to understand the hurt I have caused others. But I am an expert on my own hurt. I’ve lived with it for years, and my heart has learned to walk with a limp.
As a believer I am trying to push me to the back of the line. Now up and front in my heart I hear all the hurtful things I’ve told others, and it turns out the silent words I never spoke are just as loud. My hurtful thoughts also need to be addressed. There is so much that needs to be forgiven that I reach a point where it seems impossible. My wrongful thoughts and tongue combined amount to so much wrong. It is a this moment God gently reminds me that “If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart” 1 John 3:20
The media has been in an uproar about the cyclist Lance Armstrong confessing to cheating in order to win races. Many who for years defended him are deeply hurt. I heard about one man who defended him for fourteen years said “maybe in 14 years I can forgive him”.
The Christian should be able to fully understand why mister Armstrong did what he did, for we are guilty of the same. My Christianity has been like that. I have been a pretender. I cheated in order to appear Christian, cheated to win the approval of men and God. At this moment I am Lance Armstrong. Where, where would we find ourselves without grace? In a vain religion. We will not find it in ourselves the power or reason to forgive those who have hurt us. It will be because of God by His power, His grace that we can forgive as well as ask for forgiveness to those we wronged. I heard a pastor say “in this story of forgiveness, I am Lance Armstrong”
“Surely if men’s hearts were right, short sermons would be enough”
-C.H. Spurgeon When have you been deceptive, lied or tried to cover something up? What happens when people find out your wrongs? What would have been different if you lived an open and honest life, even if it meant admitting to your mistakes when you make them?