Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. This was a phrase I heard a lot growing up. I was taught that it’s about the choices you make – how you live your life surrendered to Jesus.
But if we’re being totally honest, the church is full of hypocrites – people who claim God as their Savior but never their Lord. We want to be rescued. We want to be saved. But don’t tell us what to do or how to live our lives.
The church is full of hypocrites. And unfortunately… sometimes I am one of them.
I’m finally beginning to grasp the understanding that Christianity isn’t about our actions. Growing up, I thought that going to church, reading my Bible, and praying would make me a better Christian – like somehow I was earning brownie points with God. Yes, a “good Christian” does all of these things and more, but that isn’t what makes them a good Christian.
It’s all about the heart.
“Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.” – Psalm 50:14-15 (NLT)
Without the right heart, our efforts to please God are done in vain. In Psalm 50, we are given a glimpse into God’s heart. He longs for us to desire Him. He wants to be our God, to rescue us from evil, to protect us from harm, and to grant us His salvation.
Our Father longs for us to be obedient to Him because it is what’s best for us. And above all else, He wants our hearts to be for Him. God doesn’t want blind obedience and ritualistic religion. It’s empty and pointless if the heart is not involved.
But God says to the wicked: “Why bother reciting my decrees and pretending to obey my covenant? For you refuse my discipline and treat my words like trash.” – Psalm 50:16-17 (NLT)
Psalm 50 goes on to list several characteristics of “the wicked.”
When you see thieves, you approve of them, and you spend your time with adulterers. Your mouth is filled with wickedness, and your tongue is full of lies. You sit around and slander your brother—your own mother’s son. – Psalm 50:18-20 (NLT)
If I am completely honest, I’m a hypocrite. I confess Christianity, yet I am guilty of just about everything on that list. If you’ve ever told a lie or insulted someone, you’re as guilty as I am.
Is it even possible to be a “good Christian”?
I know that I’m not alone in this. It’s so easy to go through the motions of being a Christian, yet live for ourselves.
We can know the truth in our heads, but God is after our hearts.
But there is hope! God wants us to repent of our sin, and allow Him to renew our hearts and minds. In Psalm 51, David asks God to give him a heart that longs to obey Him (Psalms 51:12).
I am so thankful that God gives us the strength we need to be obedient to Him.
David was a hypocrite too, but he understood how patient and loving God is with us. He knew that he needed God to renew his heart, and he was willing to let God change him from the inside out.
Am I willing to let God transform my heart?
You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. – Psalm 51:16-17 (NLT)
By the world’s standard, we are all hypocrites. We say we are Christians and claim to have surrendered to God, but we are a work in progress. We are learning how to live righteously. Just as a baby learns to walk and falls down many times in the process, we are going to fall down sometimes as we are growing in the faith.
But when God looks at us, we are not hypocrites. We have been declared righteous in Christ Jesus, and He will complete in us what He started on the day we surrendered our lives to Him.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.