I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life when I wasn’t aware of the people around me or what they thought of me. I always wanted to be good so that my parents would be proud of me and so that God would be proud of me.
I’ve lived my whole life like that, adding to the people I wanted to think well of me over the years, and always most of all wanting God to love me back, see my good behavior, forgive me when I fail, and be proud of me. The words I long to hear when I stand before the judgment seat of God are, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
Even though this may sound noble and good, there is a huge trap in that logic and a set up for failure and unhappiness. If we aren’t careful, we can create a prison cell for ourselves out of our desire to be accepted and approved by others and equate man’s approval with God’s approval. It would be easy to create the lie and try to live up to it that we can ever be good enough for God’s mercy and grace, or His love and blessings on our own. Most of us find out early in life that no matter how good we try to be, there will be people along the way who reject, criticize, and look for our faults. The people who basically don’t like themselves will always be able to find fault in others and are impossible to please.
No matter how good we might try to be, our own personal righteousness is still marred and tainted by our sinful nature and our failures along the way. Our acceptance in the eyes of God is only because of the sacrifice of His own Son in our behalf. When Jesus Christ willingly went to the cross and died for the sins of mankind, His blood covered the sins of every man, woman, and child who has ever called on His name, asked for forgiveness, and invited Him to abide in our hearts.
This one thing is what makes us acceptable in the eyes of God. We can never reach perfection on our own, although we spend a lifetime of trying to be better and nearer to God than we were the day before.
Historically, the church at large has been so consumed with dividing lines of “do” and “don’t” that control the faithful in their mindsets and behaviors that the very institutions devoted to God at times undermines people’s relationships to God. When we individually stand before God, there will not be a denomination to make us righteous, a pastor’s convictions to justify us, or an author’s lessons, or TV evangelist’s sermons to support us. One by one we will stand naked and accountable, unable to hide behind any form of self-righteousness before our Creator who knows all, sees all, and fully comprehends what we’ve hidden in our hearts.
The Church is an important factor in our relationship with God. It is the place we go for sustenance, teaching, and spiritually like-minded people along our journey through life. The church we choose to make our own should be an institution designed to spread the Good News of the gospel, minister to those in need, bring hope to the hopeless, healing to a sin sick world, and victory over the challenges of life. In this fellowship of believers we learn, grow, share, and reach out to the needs within and without those four walls.
Still, if a person seeks approval from a church more than they seek relationship with God, they are destined to never truly understand God’s love toward mankind.
Reach Judith Victoria Hensley at [email protected] or on Facebook. Check out her blog: One Step Beyond the Door.