21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant (Colossians 1:21-23, italics mine).
Satan’s goal is to move the church away from the gospel of reconciliation, to get us to believe that we have not been made holy and without blemish—that we’ve not been reconciled. If he can seduce us into believing anything less than the gospel (if he can get us to believe, for example, that at our core we’re 75% holy and 53% without fault), then we, the people of the gospel, won’t believe the good news. Instead, we’ll believe that God’s gift of righteousness and holiness and redemption (and all the other incredible gifts we’ve received through Christ) have either not been given to us or have been sullied and perhaps taken from us. Now what do we do? Moved away from the gospel, we will no longer be free from accusation. We’ll take a pounding (“You idiot! You’re so stupid!”), and it will hurt.
So to stop the pain, we’ll cover up. We won’t live by faith and we won’t trust God. But because our days and lives go on, we’ll turn on our personal image projection system. After all, now there’s work to be done. In a terribly twisted way, we’ll believe that we have to earn what has been and will always be a gift. Then we’ll measure ourselves and others by how we’re looking, and by how we’re really getting ourselves together now. Really.
This is the primary misery plaguing the church. We’re horribly cheated when we go for the image we can perform instead of the revival of faith and grace that the church is to assist us with.
To see if you’ve been affected, I want to ask you a question: If people suddenly knew that you sometimes got sloppy drunk, were in an affair, were lately looking at pornography, or were about to have an abortion, who would you be most afraid of meeting: a roomful of Christians from your church, or a room full of people you didn’t know?
If you responded, “I’d be most afraid of a roomful of Christians,” you have something in common with me and 90% of the people who have previously answered the question. Think for a moment what that means. The implications are devastating. We’re a church that doesn’t like or trust each other—not really. How can we have fellowship on the grand scale befitting the church if we don’t know what we have in common?
Since God’s revelation about my own cover-up, the most difficult people for me to be around have been Christians. Not rookie Christians and not those recently born anew, but some of the veteran and leader types, those who shepherd the flock. They often don’t see the church for who it has already become in Christ (having been reconciled), so they work to make something of it, to push it somewhere, and to make something happen—a bigger church. That means the members have to know what to do, how to look, how to reach out, how to love, how to obey, how to fight, and how to win. WIN!
But because these leaders don’t know who they already are (new creations), the projection way of life remains, and their hearts are left bound up, blocked from view, and blocked from life. Their only hope is God and His reconcilers.
If we don’t help convince new believers who they now are, and if we don’t prove to them that they may walk among us without fear, safe and welcome because they’re actually part of us, then we’ve left them in the tangle of the grave clothes of their previous way of life—a way of living that was dead. Even as we tell everyone in Christ to run because they’re free, no one really will be. Everyone will be impaired because everyone will be stumbling over the grave clothes we’ve not removed.
This is why church is mostly boring, given enough time. We’re not truly impressed, and we’re not actually engaged with one another. Imagine a sanctuary filled with mummies, and you’ve about got the picture. This is what happens to believers when they’re still wearing their own grave clothes, when they don’t know they are truly dazzling, new creations in Christ, with new life and a new way of living. It doesn’t matter whether they’re new or longtime Christians. When they’re not relieved of living as they once did because they’ve been made new, they cannot help “falling away” or “backsliding.”
However, God “has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19), and I’m deeply thankful for the sons and daughters of God who are noticing the urging of the Spirit toward assisting others.
(Excerpted from my book, “God’s Astounding Opinion of You,” chapter 14: “Stripping Mummies—Finding Freedom and Life Outside the Tomb.” For more information about the book and my ministry, go to http://lifecourse.org and click on Ralph’s Book. You’ll find my book at bookstores everywhere, as well as in eBook format at amazon.com, christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, and more.)