I am a Christian Failure!

I have a confession.  I am a failure as a Christian and a pastor.  Now I’m not looking for sympathy or encouraging words because as I will reveal, being a failure is not a bad thing!  As I consider my failure at being a Christian and a pastor I am actually comforted and encouraged.

First, I better tell you how I am a failure.  Not long ago I was driving when someone pulled in front of me and made me slam on my brakes.  That just ticked me off!  This rude, obnoxious person doesn’t even know that I’m mad.  So I honked my horn just to demonstrate my frustration.  A few days later I came to a yield sign and pulled out right in front of a vehicle who had to slam on their brakes for me.  Somehow I didn’t see them, and for some reason the very thing that was an atrocity when it happened to me was now not as bad because it’s me at fault.

I’m a Christian Pastor, but in that moment of frustration I wasn’t very Christ-like.  I definitely was not loving that driver like Jesus does. And trust me, this is not the first time nor will it be the last time I fail at being Christ-like.  I have the knowledge of how a Christian should act, but still I fail miserably.

I’m a failure as a pastor.  If you have spent any time in Sunday school or church you, no doubt also have an idea how a Christian should act.  The subliminal message we receive in church is that the person I am, that God created, is flawed, not good enough, and needs to change.  We are given the standard of what Christian living looks like, and if you are like me, we fail.

The standards of today’s Christianity kills individual personality. If I am to be measured by the pre-supposed Christian moral standards, I am failure.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am full of personality.  I’m ok with that!  And do you know what?  Jesus is ok with that!  As I study the Scriptures and see how Jesus pastored His disciples I see something very different than what is taught today.

Jesus picked 12 guys with different personalities to follow Him for 31/2 years.  I asked myself the question, did Jesus ever tell them to change their God-given personalities?  Their thoughts changed, their desires changed, and yes their lives changed, but their personalities continued to shine through.

Peter and John are perfect examples of contrasting personalities.  Peter was always the first guy to speak and act.  Peter jumped out of a boat in stormy waters.  Peter cut off a man’s ear defending Jesus.  Peter was also the one who preached on the day of Pentecost and 3000 people became Believers.

John on the other hand was quite different. He was the one in the background supporting and cheering you on.  He was always calm and the peacemaker. The only message John could only write was the abundance of God’s love for you.

As I read the accounts of Peter, John, Phillip, Paul, James, and others I am encouraged.  I don’t have to look like every other Christian.  It’s ok to be who I am with the personality God gave me. I don’t have to change, and even if I wanted to, I can’t.  Is there space for a misfit like me?

Today, I’m fully aware that you might identify as the person who does not fit the Christian mold.  You’ve found it impossible to be the person the preacher says you ought to be, and you’re tired of trying to be something you’re not.  I’m here to give you a breath of fresh air and encourage you that it’s ok.  It’s ok to be you!  Christ living in us changes us, of course, but God’s love, flows out of you through the character and personality He also gave you.

Instead of giving up because you cannot change, rejoice in the person God made you.  You are valuable, not because your personality has changed, but because you are unique and unlike everyone else.  If God values your uniqueness, then it is your uniqueness that you should embrace.  And through your uniqueness show the love of God in you.

In light of this, I’m encouraged in my failure at Christianity.  If I could do it on my own I would have no need for Jesus and His strength in my life.  Being a Christian failure is not a negative, but a positive.  For in all things, Christ now becomes my strength. Man cannot define who I ought to be.  My identity is in who Jesus made me to be.

Will you join me in celebrating your failure at being a Christian?  It’s the most refreshing peace of mind ever!

Kevin Shiach

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Stop Throwing Stones!

A little over seven years ago I experienced a complete shift in my Christian life.  Although I knew about the Grace of God, I began a journey to really understand God’s Grace.  I once believed that God could not look at sin, but now know that is not true.  Consider the first thing God did when Adam and Eve sinned.  Did He withdraw Himself or did He come to them? God did not withdraw Himself; it was man who hid from God.  When Jesus, who was God, came to earth who did He hang out with?  The sinners!  How could God hang out with sinners if He can’t stand to be around sin?  I have learned that God’s view of man has never changed, but rather there was a change in man’s perspective toward God. Adam was the one who was afraid.  Adam’s perspective of God had changed. Instead of looking forward to visiting with God, Adam was now afraid.   If only Adam knew how much he was loved.  Unfortunately, there are Believers today who teach that people need to fear God instead of telling people how much they are loved.

The reality is that God really, really loves us and He always has.  The truth is that God loved us before Jesus came to earth.  When Jesus came to earth, His primary goal was not to restore us to God, but to change our minds about who God is and what His character is like.  Think about this: the only people who were afraid of Jesus were the religious.  The prostitutes and sinners weren’t afraid of Him, little children definitely were not afraid of Him.  I think that should say something to us.  The religious preach “be afraid”, but the real message of the Gospel is that God is – LOVE!

It is no secret that one of the things that ticks me off the most is Christians who are always pointing out sin.  They want you to feel guilty and condemned enough that you will turn from your wicked ways and give your life to Christ.  My mom taught me a valuable lesson about this.  She said look at your pointing finger and remember that you have three pointing back at you.  Those words are inspirational!

The religious scribes and Pharisees should have taken my mother’s advice.  They are pointing the finger at a woman caught in adultery and bring her to Jesus.  “The Law commands us to stone such women; what do you say?” they asked Jesus.  At first Jesus ignores them.  This question is not worthy of a response, but they persistently keep nattering at Jesus.  Finally, Jesus responds that the one who is without sin can cast the first stone.  Oh, these religious men wanted to throw stones at her that day, but one by one they turned and walked away.

Throwing stones is a picture of throwing the Law at the offender. Every time you threw a stone you threw the guilt and condemnation of the Law at the person.  Each stone represented their sin and the person would die under guilt and condemnation.  The person being stoned would see the guilt being thrown at him and try and protect himself from the stones, but there was no escape.

What Jesus did for this woman caught in adultery was amazing!  He protected her from the stones.  He protected her from the Law.  Jesus extended love and grace, where the religious leaders brought condemnation and fear.  Did you get that?  Jesus desires for you to experience His love, and not fear.

Jesus gave us a perfect example of the message we need to demonstrate.  That instead of throwing the stones of guilt and condemnation, we would rather show love and extend grace.  That’s the example I want to follow.  I know a lot of Believers will not agree and over-react, but isn’t that exactly how the religious leaders of Jesus’ day reacted to Jesus?  It doesn’t take courage to throw stones of condemnation.  It takes courage to do as Jesus did, face the condemners, take the side of the guilty and say, “I don’t condemn you.”

 

 

I Can’t Believe It’s This Easy :)

I Can’t Believe It’s This Easy

I’m not going to lie to you.  I’m always looking for an easier way to do things.  It doesn’t matter what it is if someone shows me an easier way than what I am currently doing, and it produces the same results, I’m going to change my ways.  Now admittedly there are many times that the easy way out just doesn’t cut it.  It takes hard work to produce quality results.

Then there are times when I get ambitious to fix something that I don’t know anything about and someone assures me – it’s easy.  They LIED!  Frustrated, three and a half hours later I’m finally finished a fifteen minute job.  The easier way would have been if someone else had done it, someone who really knew what they were doing.

It took some time for me to figure out that I was doing the same thing in my Spiritual journey.  Every time I looked at my life I would always find something else that needed fixing.  I could always rely on a spiritual advisor who would assure me that with Jesus it would be easy – THEY LIED!  The more I worked on fixing myself, the more frustrated I would get, and just when you think you have one problem area licked, another mess would always show up.  It would be way easier if someone who knew what they were doing would fix me.

I lived in condemnation.  I thought I had to count the cost to be a disciple of Jesus.  I thought I had to pick up and carry my cross to be a true Christian.  What a relief when I found out I was doing my spiritual life the hard way, but there is an easier way!  What a relief when I found out I don’t have to count the cost or pick up and carry my cross to be a disciple of Jesus.

Jesus spoke these words, “Come, all of you who are carrying your heavy loads, and I will give you REST. . . . . .  My yoke is EASY, my burden is LIGHT.”  What a release!  There are many preachers who are preaching a self-righteous Christianity, and you know what?  That is not the Gospel of Jesus!  They are constantly telling you to look at yourself and how you behave.  What’s worse is they are constantly looking at you and telling you how to behave.  They have made following Jesus difficult, wearisome, a great burden, and life is filled with guilt and condemnation.  

As for me, I refuse to live that way any longer.  I am no longer self-absorbed with me and my short-comings and failures, which there are many.  I have learned to shift my focus off of me and onto Jesus.  I have learned that there is someone who really knows what He’s doing to fix what’s wrong.  I have learned that following Jesus is easy, the burden is light, and there is rest.

Now I have the joy of sharing this great news with others.  Oh, there is plenty of opposition.  But when I found renewed joy in life and freedom in living without condemnation, I can never go back to the religious lifestyle I once lived.  Do you know what surprises me the most?  I am really drawn to Jesus and love Him more now more than ever.  I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S THIS EASY!

So! You think God forgives you because you confess your Sin?

Aside

So! You think God forgives you because you confess your sin?

You have already been forgiven! Even those who do not believe in Christ Jesus have already been forgiven. We do not confess our transgressions to get God’s forgiveness. We confess our transgressions to remind ourselves that God has already forgiven!

 I posted this statement on Facebook and I believe it with all my heart.  I’m not asking you to agree, I’m not being ambiguous, in fact, I believe if we share this truth with new Christians it will help them and not harm them.  I believe the root of the discourse is our misunderstanding of the word “Repent”.  Many Christians believe that to repent means to “ask forgiveness for sin”.  That is not what the word repent means at all.  The word “Repent” simply means, “change your mind”, or “think differently”.  The word repent very little if anything to do with saying I’m sorry for my sin.

Also, when reading most of the New Testament we must remember that we are reading letters written to a particular group of people.  In other words, we are reading someone else’s mail.

Who is John writing to?  Christians, living in a religious environment, most likely Jewish Believers.  When we look at chapter 1 it is very similar in message to Romans 1through 3 which is challenging these Believers that they are not made righteous by living in obedience to the Law.  The Law stated that if you sinned you would have to go and give a sin offering everytime you sinned.  That is the mindset of the people John is writing to.  They have been conditioned all their life that in order to clear their conscience of sin, they must do something.  They must give a sin offering.

But by the cross of Jesus, all this has changed.  We live under a better covenant.  1 John 1 is convincing these Believers that what they do does not make them righteous, but what they believe makes them righteous.  Confession of sin is not a requirement for God to forgive you, you were forgiven, but it sure is beneficial to me to remind myself that God has already forgiven me.  I don’t live in fear of God, because I have been forgiven.

Let’s take a closer look at 1 John 1:7-9:

The very first thing Johns writes is: “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from ALL sin”.  The Greek word for “cleanses” is the word – katherizo – and it means to purge.  Purge in the Webster’s means: to cause something to leave the body.  It is interesting that before John makes the statement of “confessing our sin”, he has already told them that sin has left their body.

That seems to contradict verse 8 & 10, where John writes that if we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us.  I have written how John was instructing these Jewish Believers that the Law is what makes you a sinner.  However, John is leading them from Law to Grace.

In 1 John 2:1, John states his purpose for writing this letter.  He now says, everything I just wrote, including 1 John 1:7-10, is so that you will not sin.  But it gets even better!  John tells them that if they do sin, they have a person working on their behalf declaring them “NOT GUILTY”, an advocate.   This same person, Jesus, is also the propitiation for our sins.

STOP!!!  STOP!!!  Do you know that another word for propitiation is expiate?  Expiate means “extinguish the guilt made by another; obsolete and put an end to”.  What did Jesus put an end to and make obsolete?  SIN!!  Jesus extinguishes our guilt, but not only ours, but also the guilt of the WHOLE WORLD!!!  That is not taught in most churches now is it?  That the world is not guilty of sin before God.

Now look at the rest of 1 John.  Chapter 2:12 “your sins have been forgiven”.  That’s past tense.  It’s already done.  It is finished!  Do you still sin?  1 John 3:6 says, “No one who abides in Him sins” and verse 9 “and he CANNOT sin”.  If you cannot sin, what are you confessing?

Does confession have any benefits?  Yes!  But not for forgiveness.  Confession convinces my heart that I have been forgiven.  1 John 3:20 “whatever my heart condemns me”.  What condemns me?  My own heart, NOT GOD!!  The rest of the verse says, “God is GREATER than our heart.”  My heart needs convincing that I stand, right now, forgiven.  The old saying is true, confession is good for my soul.  But confession does not give me salvation.

John even breaks down what the commandment of Jesus is.  1 John 3:23, “we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another”.  That’s it!!  That’s all your responsibility!

How about 1 John 4?  What does it have to say?  In verse 10, Jesus put an end to (propitiation) our sins.  One of my favourite verses, 1 John 4:17, “as HE (Jesus) IS, so ARE WE”.  Where are we like Jesus?  “IN THIS WORLD”  WOW!!

John is taking these believers on a journey.  He is taking them from Law to Grace.  Under the Law, we are all sinners.  Under Grace, we have all been forgiven.

2 Peter 1:9 – “we have forgotten that we are purged (made free) from sin.