by Jeff Hagan
(Tacoma, WA)

Right at the start I want to let you know I am going to be making a confession. Before I get to it, let me provide a basic idea of where I'm going with this.

I'm assuming I got your attention. When you say you are going to make a confession it causes others to perk up their ears. Let me pose a question if I may: Are you getting a lot better then you use to be? Or, to state it another way, with all of the teaching and preaching you have listened to over the years in regards to obedience, sanctification, and holy living, how is that working out in your life? Most of us at the start of our faith journey go through a honeymoon phase and when that happens we notice some big changes for the better – but after that, did you get significantly better?

Even if your are basically a good, law abiding citizen, involved in your church, don't commit those “major” sins we all know about (at least not in front of anyone), and put much effort in to being good, if you are painfully honest with yourself you must admit that you really aren't getting much better. Most likely you often feel convicted and when your preacher touches on an area that strikes a chord with you I imagine you cringe inside. I don't doubt you have a strong desire to get better. I'm sure you actually do want to love your spouse and children more, have more compassion for people, be nicer and gentler, be more dedicated to Christ, more bold in sharing the gospel, give more to help support your church and other ministries, etc. But baggage comes with all of this as well.

Pointing the Finger
I've got a sneaky suspicion that most of us, actually I'd bet all of us, have been reprimanded, preached “at,” judged, corrected, and maybe even disciplined by people who were committing the exact same sins and actions that caught grasp of us. But what these types are doing in their attempt to make us feel guilty is simply trying to deflect. They want to make sure the spotlight is off of them and pointed elsewhere. They are trying to divert any focus on themselves.

Unfortunately, there are many people out there whose method of operation is manipulating others. And some are quite good at it. They know that in reality most of us are not really getting much better, and it's an easy crossover from having that information and using that information to manipulate. Self-righteousness and the power it can cause one to feel can become quite addictive and easily gained by making accusations against others. Trust me, I know about this. I went through a stage where I did a bit of this myself. Not so much for any kind of power, but certainly in an attempt to try and make myself appear “better” on the outside than I am on the inside. I also served for six years as an Associate Pastor under a Senior Pastor who displayed power and manipulation on a regular basis.

Steve Brown makes an excellent point in his book A Scandalous Freedom:

“When Paul talks bout the abolition of the law in the book of Romans, he gives us a very powerful way to get better, because he knew that getting better wasn't the point. Our relationship with God is the point, and that is a place where we ought to be obsessive. When I am obsessed with being better instead of being consumed with God's love and grace, I become prideful if I can pull it off and self-centered if I can't.”(1)

The biggest reason we don't get better is our very obsession of not getting better. There is a more sure fire way of getting better then simply trying harder. Sanctification starts to become real in sincere believers who don't obsess about their own sanctification. We aren't going to see any kind of holiness in us until we care more about Jesus than about being holy.

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