Want to be a Good Christian?
What You Must Do [Not]
I have had a few conversations recently with friends and co-workers on the subject of mentoring and discipleship. Quite honestly, those two words make me nervous. They conjure up images of two people sitting at a table, one with a Bible staring intently into the face of the person without the Bible. The all-knowing mentor proceeds to tell the unsuspecting disciple all the things necessary for living the Christian life.
Have you experienced this for yourself—on one side or the other? I have, and I cringe when I recall the uncomfortable and ridiculous task of mentoring a young woman at a church we belonged to several years ago. This young woman was seemingly in need of mentoring by an older woman. Her repetitive display of a bit too much cleavage landed her on the pastor’s list of people who needed someone to come alongside them and provide “instruction.” Looking back on those meetings, I am certain I did more damage than good. I studiously poured over scripture that spoke of modesty and dress and what being a godly woman looked like—inside and out. I then carefully educated her on all the ways she could become Christ-like by following a prescribed course of action.
This past month I have had opportunities to talk with a variety of people. It has been in the midst of these conversations that I have thought about that young woman. I met with a divorced mom of two adult young men living at home, a husband and father in the midst of marital strain, a young single woman searching for answers about her future and a married mom who just discovered pornography on her teen son’s phone. I sat and listened—my heart aching as I heard of all the struggle, regret, and pain. It would be so easy to provide a list of things they must do to recover, move forward and heal. Surely, there must be some finely tuned process that would assure their progress toward a repaired marriage, more obedience and better-behaved children.
What You Must Know
I have walked through my own share of difficulties in my marriage and in parenting and I have found that the only refreshing and life changing news is this—“Your sins are forgiven.” There are cosmic implications in that tiny but powerful statement! It implies that there is One who can forgive me of my sins. It speaks to the One who knows all of my sin—the good, the bad and the ugly—and forgives me of all of it. It whispers the truth that “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Ps 103:12).
What do weary and guilt-ridden sinner-saints need to hear? What is the one thing we can reassure them with? Their sins are forgiven. To the mom who is self-condemned and feeling like a failure because her son has turned to drugs again, Jesus says, Your sins are forgiven. To the struggling father and husband who sees no hope in a marriage that is on the verge of crumbling altogether Jesus says, Your sins are forgiven. To the young woman who struggles to know that God has a purpose and a plan for her life Jesus says, Your sins are forgiven. And yes, even to the woman who is running a way from a difficult marriage, running away from a community who loves her because of the fear and guilt that judgmental eyes provoke—Jesus says, Your sins are forgiven. These dear ones just like you and just like me do not need to hear about all the ways they have strayed from God. They do not need to hear that their attempts to be a better wife or a better mom or dad have failed. They know that. I know that in my own life—the failure that I am.
Here is the good news. Jesus died for failures. He died for us, sinners. And his death brought our forgiveness. Finally and fully. Your sins are forgiven.
What Is Right Christian Behavior?
If I had another shot at spending time with that young woman, that’s what I would tell her. That’s what she needs to know most. All the other Christian how-to’s are crap. Sorry…they just are. All the ways we try to get people to do what we think is “right” Christian behavior is self-righteousness. Here is right Christian behavior: fall on your knees and thank God for Jesus who by His power saves you from yourself by forgiving you of your sins. By His death you live. By His sacrifice you are free. By His blood your guilt and shame is removed…over and over and over again. Do you get it? You are forgiven of everything you have done, are doing and will do!
Bless The Lord, Oh My Soul!
When you are in doubt or confusion about what to believe, turn to these words of refreshment: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy” (Ps 103:2-4). When you are consumed with guilt or shame and when you need comfort and assurance, preach the gospel to yourself. Be reminded afresh that Jesus has died for you and because of His sacrifice your sins are forgiven.
Lori Harding is the Director of Care Ministries and Women’s Support at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she leads small groups and Bible studies, counseling, and speaks to women of all ages. She writes a monthly column in Good News Florida and blogs at lorileighharding.blogspot.com.