Every single year, man, I thank God that I was not born one day earlier. Thank you Lord that I was not born on April Fools. Thinking through it, I just think that would be terrible. “Your birthday presents are in the other room.” “Really?” “Nope! April Fools.” Nothing seems fun in that. Thank you, mom, for holding me in one more day.
I am thankful that I am born the day after April Fools for another reason: it serves to remind me how I have told people one thing but really it is a load of crap. I say, “here are the presents!,” but in reality theres nothing there. So thinking back on this falsities (don’t get me wrong, I love April Fools) it just brings me back to High School. To be straight, I was a stuck up, self-righteous tool. And so if you are a friend from high school, today, I want to issue my formal apology.
Socially awkward (and if you knew me you’re like “yes you were!”). Not sure who I was. What I believed. Who my friends were. How I should act. High school marks one of the places where I was seriously searching. One of the places I found my identity was church. Church was always a place where I found my niche. I was good at church. I was good at knowing what to say, how to answer questions, and how to impress. I got accolades from moms and dads who wished their kids were as moral as me. And man I loved it. I ate it up.
To be more impressive I followed the “list.” I followed the external pressures placed on me to not drink, smoke, cuss, sleep around, be the good kid, and the list goes on. I followed this spoken and unspoken list religiously. I was moral and I was good at it. As a result when walking around school I would stick my nose in the air and think I am so much better than ______ because I dont do what ______ does.
So what had I become? I was the Morality Police. I strictly and religiously policed my morality while ‘observing’ other people’s morality (or lack thereof) to boost my confidence.
Because I was so moral and everyone else did not measure up to my definition of morality, this led to some serious self-righteousness. And worse yet, when I allowed myself to give into secret sin, I buried it because if I allowed people to know about it, it would ruin my “credibility.” It was a gross and futile action under the guise of Jesus.
So this is my apology. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. If you knew me in high school and felt that I judged you, I did. And I was incredibly incredibly wrong for doing so.
I judged out of gross self-righteousness.
I propped up my own ego and used Christ to make much of myself.
And worst of all,
I blatantly ignored the Gospel which I claimed to profess.
And so this is what I want to tell you: that is not Jesus. That is not the church. The Jesus of the Bible is not the Morality Police. The true Gospel is inspiring, soul moving, glorious, restorative, and redemptive.
But this religious moral behavior is what I lived in. Day in and day out I sought to please God with how moral I was. As if I could walk up to God when I died and say, “God, here is my list. I followed it to the letter. Now let me in.” I used my ‘good’ deeds to make much of myself. I propped myself up. It was wicked.
The summer after I graduated High School God directly showed me, through a good friend, how grossly moral I was, and how my relationship with Jesus was not a relationship at all but that I used Him as ammunition in my morality gun. God did not, in that moment say, “good job. I’m pleased. Thank you for being so moral.” Rather God said, “You think you’re living for me but you’re not. You are living for yourself but tacking my name on it to make you feel better.” And then He showed me the Gospel.
And this is the Gospel: the Gospel, the good news, is that my morality is no longer needed in fact the Bible teaches that God doesn’t want it. God sees our good/best/brilliant works as filthy rags/polluted garment/bloody tampon (yup it’s that disgusting: Is. 64:4). He does not want it. He does not want you or I to clean our lives up on our own. He accepts us before all of that.
Did you catch that? Because this is revolutionary.
God accepted me before I even loved Jesus and never was a result of how good I was for Him.
I am accepted not because I secured it for myself but because Jesus secured it for me. He substituted Himself for me, so that I could have His goodness (goodness and morality are not synonymous).
The Gospel is God saying, “I know you are broken, you think you can earn it, you’re hurting, you used Jesus to beat people up, you judged, you are self-righteous, you pretend you have it all together. I know all of that. I know ALL of that and more and I still accept you. I still bring you in. I still love you. You may not understand and we will help work on your life together but I am with you always.”
And this is the change in me. The Gospel ignites! The rest of my life will be about passionately, unapologetically, living in and preaching this Gospel.
My desires have entirely shifted. My desires have shifted more drastically than Charlie Sheen’s sanity (#tigerblood, #winning) to the point where I now ferociously make war against my sin because I have no desire to dabble or participate in what is the antithesis of God. Fundamentally, I am fed up with being too easily pleased with living in sin because I have seen what is eternally beautiful. Sin is no longer attractive! Instead of relying on myself to fill my joy (which never actually filled it), I now rely on Christ and His cross and His acceptance and pardoning of me.
I’m not perfect, nor will I ever claim to be. My self-righteousness and obsession with morality still rears its ugly head in me. I am continually, through the Gospel, putting those to death. So nope, I’m not perfect. But Jesus is now my treasure. My treasure does not lie in my own morality or self-righteousness.
At one time I used Jesus to make much of myself, now Jesus has so changed me so that He graciously uses me to make much of Himself.
To bring this home and wrap up: this Gospel is for you. You. Individually. Sitting there this second reading this. This Gospel is for you. This is a Gospel of redemption, reconciliation and though Christians (like myself) represent this Gospel poorly, how graciously glorious is God that He would still save us?! It attests to the goodness of God. If you’re a Christian grow in this Gospel, let it marinate in your bones so that its like a ire and cant be contained. We need a reminder of this every single day. If you’re a non-Christian, explore this, test it. The Gospel is deep and grander and more fulfilling and more joy giving than you can imagine. It allows us to experience the fullness of life. When Jesus is your treasure, when the Gospel is at the center the morality inclination fades and is replaced with true freedom.