You say you don't want to go to a church because it's filled with hypocrites?
Uh-oh! You've misplaced your faith. It happens often, and people
don't realize that's what they've done. I didn't. It was only
when the new paster at the church I attended (before I moved) gave a great
sermon about misplaced faith that I realized both what I had done and what
a common problem it is.
What did God inspire (remember--breathe into) the Bible writers concerning this?
1) It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. Psalm 118.8 [NASB]
2) Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever... Psalm 146.3-6 [NASB]
3) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God Ephesians 2.8 [NASB]
So, God warned us not to have faith in man, because faith belongs to God. Men will die--faith shouldn't die with them but remain in the living God. When people are the barrier keeping you from church, the problem is not them, it's you. Well, it's your misplaced faith. And it was mine for a while. When I was in high school I got mad at some of my friends who scolded me for leaving after Sunday School and missing the sermon. I told myself that they were ones to talk, since I had seen them do things or heard them say things that I didn't consider very Christian--so if that's what they wanted me to be a part of, they could just forget it. My faith, without my realizing it, was in them and the examples they set rather than in God. I was putting a burden on them and myself that no mere mortal can live up to--perfection.
When your faith is in God you face the fact that you, too, don't get everything right. A Christian's outward actions are very important because other people, Christian and pagan alike (you realize--you're either one or the other), are watching you. Some of them are misplacing their faith, putting it in you instead of God, which means that if you mess up--and you will because you're a human--their faith is shaken. It shouldn't be that way, but it is (still dealing with those pesky humans!).
I've lost my temper badly, not righteously; I've told inappropriate jokes; I've said bad words--in more than one language: in short, I've messed up. Unless you're perfect (therefore, unless you are God) you've done some of the same things. I really hope I didn't do those things in front of someone who was looking to me at that exact moment as their personification of what a Christian is and does. If they were, then I caused their faith to be a bit wounded, because I didn't realize their faith had been misplaced in me.
We are surrounded by our fellow mortals, so it's hard not to put some faith in them. People even tell you, "Have faith in me." Usually, some time, some way, you'll be disappointed by a person you trust. And if that person is mistakenly, probably unknowingly, carrying your faith, then you are in for an even greater disappointment. We need to learn to separate our spiritual faith from the things of this world, especially from each other. We're not perfect, and we can't be perfect in this mundane existence. What we can do is try our best to follow Christ's example of love and to put our faith in God. He's the only one who won't break promises, who's capable of loving us enough to not only forgive but to forget our sins, and the only one who can save us from ourselves, the world and the sins of the world.
So, what exactly did GOD mean by "forgiveness"?
It's a bit different from man's idea! We forgive (or say we do),
but we never actually forget when someone has wronged us. To test
this, just get into an argument with somebody. Unless everyone in
the argument has been trained to argue without placing blame or bringing
up the past, someone, at some time during the argument, will say, "Yeah,
but remember when you.....?" The old wrong, supposedly forgiven,
is suddenly back full-force. Humans have such a difficult time fully
forgiving each other. Luckily for us, God is not so cavalier.
When he says we are forgiven, WE ARE FORGIVEN. Entirely and eternally!
He removes our sins and casts them aside, and does not bring them up again.
How do I know?
1) As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103.12 [NASB]
Indeed, all of Psalm 103 is wonderfully uplifting because it is a psalm of praise and love for God, celebrating His great love for us. Verse 12 reveals the central truth of God's way of dealing with His children. He forgives us! Why does he do this (since our actions certainly don't always seem forgiveable--especially to each other!)? Knowing we will wonder, God tells us why.
2) "I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins." Isaiah 43.25 [NASB]
He forgives us because He wants to! And that is a great thing, because we humans can't stop reminding (and not forgiving) each other of our transgressions. God wipes out our sins. Those sins are gone. The word used for "wipes out" also means "erases" and "destroys". So thank God that He has a Divine plan for us and that He makes all the decisions and judgments and that man has nothing to do with it! God can, does, and will forgive us--of ALL our sins. Humans try to rationalize sin to build up their own sense of self: I didn't murder anyone! I haven't taken other gods. But have you sped down the road at 60mph, 70mph, well above the marked speed limit? Have you gossiped? Well sure you have; therefore, you have sinned. Mankind and man-made law make distinctions between sins--we call them transgressions or infractions of the law--and the extent of punishment meted out for those sins. That is limited to earth. God allows us to judge, on earth, the mundane sins of our fellow man, but He reserves for Himself the right to judge our spiritual selves. Some believers try to restrict God to these human emotions and judgments: they try to logically understand and explain God. That cannot be done, because logic is a human brain activity, not a spiritual one. Which brings me to my favorite quotation about God by a man, and then to God's own statements about our ability to understand Him.
3) "We do too narrowly define the power of God, restraining it to our capacities." --Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici (For any purists, I've modernized the spelling, since that was first published in 1642.)
And what does God have to say about the same idea?
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