As a Christian, do you ever feel like the world is staring you down, just waiting for you to make a mistake so they can say something derogatory about you or the faith? Do you ever feel this pressure to be perfect in everything you do? Sometimes it seems like if we aren’t always happy and positive, mildly-tempered, avoiding cursing, drinking, worldly-entertainment, or any other plethora of sinful things, then we are the first to be judged—not just by those who are outside of the faith, but those within.
If you’ve followed this blog, then you might know that I believe in righteousness. I believe in holiness. But, I do not believe in self-righteousness or an ability to rise above our natural sinful desires on our own. I believe that through Jesus and his Spirit, we are promised a new nature that is free from the desires of the flesh, so the good things we do are given by God and a natural result of the faith – meaning we are naturally drawn to doing good instead of evil; the way we handle situations is changed at the core of our being. These things are not actions we must perform, but rather, outward showings of an inward spiritual change.
Jesus said, “first clean the inside of the cup so the outside may be clean also.”
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
This is something I’ve thought about for several months, because as a Christian and someone who writes about the Christian life, I have also dealt with this pressure to perform issue. Especially as someone who believes that we should not settle for any sin, and yet, continues to still struggles with sin, this often feels like a problem. I think about what Paul the Apostle wrote to Timothy about the way in which ministers should conduct themselves, and I think about how I fall short of these things at times. Not to mention being a woman in ministry, but I’m not getting into that struggle right now.
What is the solution? What is the solution for all of us who struggle with doing the things we know Christians should not do? For me, I’ve come to terms with two things.
One, I’m going to continue in the faith. I’m going to keep seeking the things promised through salvation in Jesus Christ, and I’m going to continue doing the work I need to do while trusting that the Lord is using all things for his purposes. The things I struggle with are certainly lessons for me, and they can benefit others too when applied appropriately.
Two, I am not going to be fake. Though at times I feel like my faults, even the “small” ones, seem to stick out more because of this ministry, I also know there is value in being approachable—in being human. So, I might drop a curse word when I’m mad, say something that’s not so nice, eat a little too much, or talk about some worldly concern or desire. Are these things I want to do? No, but instead of trying to perform all the time, it’s much simpler (and much more conducive to my inner peace), to just be me and trust that who I am will continue to change into conformity with Jesus over time.
Jesus Will Give You Your Heart’s Desire—For Good or Evil
There’s a third component to this also. What is it we want to perform? True, we do not want to be fake but then again, there is something good that can be said about this struggle to perform as a Christian: the things we want to perform are the righteousness of God. It’s good when we want to do good according to Christian values. However, attaining this righteousness is often impeded by two problems: conflicting desires and lack of proper faith.
Though we often want to do what is right, unfortunately most of us also still want to perform things of this world, and these things conflict—and often the worldly desire wins.
I’m going to pick on myself here. I have struggled with the desire to be somebody with purpose. Though this can be used for good, if my spiritual alignment is off, I can slip into something very ungodly. I can slip into things of pride, vanity, and pleasing man over God. I can lose my integrity and fall away from the things that caused me to seek Jesus in the first place: a desire for seeking the truth.
In this regard, there is potential for an evil desire that will lead to further spiritual infirmity rather than freedom. I’ve seen how this problem rules over many in ministry, and sometimes they are given over to vain ideas and instead of growing disciples of Christ, they establish their own kingdom and heap disciples unto themselves. Instead of teaching truths, they teach vain ideas. Instead of preaching righteousness, they preach things people want to hear.
The same is true for all of us. If we place any care of this world above Jesus, we are often given that thing we covet and we become enslaved by it. For example, if we desire money, then the deceitfulness of riches will be our focus, usually choking the Spirit of God right out of us. These are examples of wicked desires that grow and rule us.
When we do not believe that Jesus not only died to forgive sins, but to give us a new nature, our faith does not always withstand the sin struggle, and we often fall into hypocrisy or lose the faith entirely.
I have a temper. I know that all good things in me come from God and I should be patient with everyone. My desire is to be someone who brings peace and helps others grow in the things of God, but an angry person rarely does this. There are times when my natural temperament is not conducive to performing the righteousness I believe in, but I have faith that the Lord will heal this issue in his perfect time and way. So, there will be times when I do well and times when I do not, and until the Lord relieves me of this problem fully, all I can do is have faith and keep seeking. That’s an example of a good desire that is impeded by a spiritual infirmity.
When our desire is to do good but our natural state makes that impossible, continued faith in Jesus will lead to the righteous desire we seek. In the other instance, when our desire is wickedness, that spiritual state will only grow. We are told that Jesus will grant us the desires of our heart. When the things we seek after are alighted with the things of God, we are given those things according to the timing and will of God. When the things we seek after are wickedness, we are given those things too—and they will rule over us. When this happens, our forced or fake performances are overtaken with fault, and instead of being examples of Christ, we are revealed to be hypocrites.
Hypocrisy vs Spiritual Infirmity
Often, I think we appear to be hypocritical when in reality, we are struggling with a spiritual infirmity that conflicts with our desire to do good. We are not really hypocrites, because our desire is for good. We just have not been given the ability to perform that good without fail. In this, it helps tremendously to know that Jesus will heal us from all sin and that God sees us for the faith in Jesus we hold.
Consider my anger problem. Though I struggle, my desire is aligned with a peaceful nature and I have faith that Jesus will perform this in me. So, his blood covers me and to God, I am a peaceful person. This aspect of the nature of God is imputed to me, but through continued faith, the change will come about also. Through this process of faith, imputation and actual change of heart, I will not be a hypocrite—either in the eyes of God or in this world once I am fully healed.
However, if I start to justify my sin in anger or judge others for their tempers while God is dealing patiently with me, then I am a hypocrite—and I might find myself under God’s wrath instead of His mercy. If I lose faith that Jesus will perform this righteousness in me, then I do not have the faith of Abraham, and my sin might not be replaced by imputed righteousness.
Judgment of the Heart Belongs to Jesus
Hypocrisy is one of the biggest problems in the Christian world. Sometimes this comes down to some wicked desires that only grow, like doing things to be seen of men as the Pharisees did. We might put on a show of godliness, then when tried our wolf claws come out, so to speak.
As Christians, we cannot know which someone is going through: whether they are a wolf in sheep’s clothing or someone who is struggling to perform the righteousness of God they believe in. So, we need to be very careful in judging others in this regard. Judgment of the heart belongs to Jesus only. The best thing we can do is ask him to search our own hearts and help us seek him more earnestly. We really need to be careful in judging the sins of others. We do not know what they are going through. For example, we might see someone lose their temper, act out, curse, become drunk, or perform some other sin–but do we see them sobbing behind closed doors because of shame while pleading to God for freedom? Probably not.
Wrapping This Up
In conclusion, there are a few things I hope readers will get from this. God will grant us our heart’s desire. If you want to be pleasing to Him, He makes a way through the blood of Jesus Christ. He will deliver us from all sin and iniquity in his own time and way. We should not allow our sinful sickness to keep us from continuing in this faith. Otherwise, we might find ourselves making excuse for sin, then we begin heading down a path of our consciences being seared and we are given over to greater wickedness. We quickly become hypocrites when we take that route.
Lastly, we do not know what people are going through. The world will judge us harshly if we carry the name of Christ. Often, this might be because they see us doing one thing while we profess another. Only God knows the heart alignment there. We do not like being judged in this regard, so we should be very careful in passing these judgments on others.
As Christians, I think we often go through these things. We read about the laws of the kingdom of God and we feel this pressure to perform. This pressure often leads to forced performances of our own power rather than the power of Jesus in us, and we often become hypocrites. However, if we continue in the faith and seek the promises of salvation, we will go from pressure to perform and hypocrisy to healing—and we will be greater examples of Jesus in this world.