I was the perfect hypocrite. I read the Bible every day, prayed for half an hour in tongues and half an hour in English, fasted one day a week, tithed, evangelized, and went to every service in my church.
Like many others who do all these things, I judged people. I compared them with myself and almost always believed that I was better. I was very proud- and one sign of pride is a bad temper.
I had a terrible one, and I’m ashamed to say that I took it out on the people around me.
A little girl prayed once, “God, please make the bad people good and the good people nice.”
I thought that reading the Bible, praying and going to church would help me become a better person, that they would take away my selfishness and anger.
They didn’t, though.
This is totally understandable. Who prayed more than the Pharisees? Who fasted more than them or knew the Scriptures more? Nobody. In spite of their overt ‘devotion’, they were the ones who received the most severe chewing-out from Jesus. On one occasion He said to them “Woe unto you, Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over justice and the love of God: these you ought to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”1
Prayer, fasting and going to church did not make me better. I was guilty of being faithful in some things and very deficient in others; important things like justice and love.
Back then I treated my sin problem in a very legalistic way. I fought to overcome it and in so doing guaranteed failure. The only one that could make me better was Jesus.
These days I still pray, fast and go to church, but not because I’m hoping they’ll make me a better person. I do them because they help me get closer to Jesus.
In 1771, an Englishman named John Berridge wrote a letter to John Newton (the author of “Amazing Grace”). He told him we have to submit ourselves to the righteousness of Christ and that it is not our righteousness but Christ ’s that is going to save us.
Not long ago, one of my best friends asked me, “We know we have to be holy, but how do we become holy? Is it by striving or by resting?” The answer, of course, is through rest- or as John Berridge said, by submission to Christ’s righteousness.
There is no other remedy for sin. Jesus is my righteousness and I have to submit to Him.2 He is my justification, sanctification and redemption. There is no hope outside of Him.3
When I see selfishness and bad temper lift their ugly heads in me, I remember a song “In the Light” by DC Talk, a famous Christian band from last century: “What’s going on inside me? I despise my own behavior. This only serves to confirm my suspicions that I am still a man in need of a Savior.”
1- Luke 11:42 2- Romans 6:19 3- 1 Timothy 1:1