I recently ran across a very sad post on social media in which it was stated, more-or-less, that the person who posted it no longer prays for the same reason that Christians should no longer attend church: namely, that this person feels to do so is an act of hypocrisy.
I find it sad on a number of levels, but a chief reason it has this effect on me is the hopelessness inherent to that perspective. It basically states that, because I am imperfect, because I struggle with sinful thoughts and compulsions, and because I say or do things that I should not do, I should not seek to connect with God and it assumes that God is not seeking to connect with me. In other words, because it is incomprehensible to me that God has NOT given upon me, I see no reason why I shouldn’t give up on God.
I do not know this individual personally so I cannot say what experiences, disappointments, betrayals and failures have fed this conclusion, but I do know that it is in error because it does not take into account what God actually says and what Jesus historically did for liars, thieves, murderers, adulterers, and any other kind of sinner one can name.
The rebuttal to such tragically mistaken ideas about God is that one does not pray because he or she is without sin. One does not attend church because he or she does not struggle with sin. On the contrary, it is because we recognize the reality of an innate struggle in the human heart against impulses of fear, pride, lust, anger and hate and it is a lost cause except for God’s grace.
On our own, we cannot be holy enough to reach God. This is the very reason that Jesus came to earth: to live as one of us – yet without sin (see Hebrews 4:15), to die as a sacrifice on our behalf because we cannot save ourselves (see Hebrews 2:17), and to grant us a tangible hope through our sharing in His resurrection from the dead (see 1 Peter 1:3).
So we pray… in spite of our sin, trusting in the grace of God shown to us in Jesus Christ. We attend church… in spite of our sin, learning little by little to love others as He has loved us. We worship, serve, and follow Him… in spite of our sin, growing day-by-day into a maturity that we never fully reach until either our bodies finally fail us and we go to heaven, or Jesus returns and receives us to Himself.
We are not perfect. But that is why Jesus came. This is the good news: that God would put onto Jesus all of our condemnation, forgive us even though we are horribly wretched and depraved, and give to us the assurance of heaven with Him forever. Praise Him!
I sat last week with a man who in anger stated that one day he would be sitting in hell with the people who had hurt him. Somehow this seemed to him a consolation for all he had suffered.
I answered him, “You don’t have to sit in hell with anyone. God can and will forgive your sin and give you the hope of heaven with Himself if you’ll turn to Him, away from your sin, and follow Him.”
He said, “But you don’t know all the things I have done in my life.”
“No, I don’t,” I replied. “But I don’t have to. God knows and He gave such a perfect sacrifice in His Son Jesus that even your sin can be forgiven. Don’t insult Him by refusing His gift.”
“God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:4-10 ESV).
Copyright © 2021, Thom Mollohan.
Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 25 years, is the author of Led by Grace, The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at email@example.com. Viewpoints expressed are the work of the author.