Holiness, not Grace

A quote from Fred Stoeker in the book Every Man’s Battle:

I was asking, “How far can I go and still be considered a Christian?” What I should have been asking is, “How holy can I be?”

Wow, that comment just lit up inside my head. That describes me to a tee. I once even made the comment to some friends in a Bible study that I wanted to be seen as the Christian who knew the most about binge drinking. I was trying to walk the line…to be as far on the outside of the Christian mainstream as I could get. I told myself it was because I was embracing the doctrine of Grace. I told myself that my mainstream Christian friends with all of their rules they try to live by were like the Pharasees in Jesus’ time: trying to legislate holiness so that by following rules they could try to earn God’s love. I saw my drinking, swearing, irreverent lifestyle as the thing Jesus was trying to teach people: don’t follow the rules, just love God and He’ll be gracious enough to forgive your sins.

But that’s not true. The law-abiders wheren’t being Pharasees: I was. The point of the Pharasee’s rules wasn’t to help them to be righteous but to allow them to have the appearance of righteousness while their hearts stayed cold and unloving and far from God. That’s what I was doing with the concept of grace: using it to justify staying as far from God as I possibly could. I had no desire to do what God wanted; I just created a doctrine that let me do whatever I wanted.

Wow. I need to work on this.