“Guilt should drive us to the cross, but grace must lead us from it. Guilt makes us seek Christ, but gratitude should make us serve Him. Guilt should lead to confession, but without a response of love as the motive of renewed obedience, true repentance never matures.” - Bryan Chapell
“I need to start praying again before I can go back to church,” a close friend said to me while I was sitting down with them for a cup of coffee. My friend used to go to church with me every single week for almost a year before the pandemic, but once churches closed it seemed that his heart closed as well.
This idea of “cleaning myself up for church” is not uncommon. To be quite honest, it is a normal response. If I were invited to a dinner party and I knew the hosts were clean freaks, the last thing I would want to do is wear my dirty work boots into their home. When it comes to God, our thought process is even more severe. “God knows my every action, so I should start doing some good things to outweigh the bad I have done.” It seems like a fairly human response. But the God we serve is more than just a human response, He is divine.
To start, we can never clean ourselves up enough to be in the presence of God. No amount of Masses attended, acts of service, hours in prayer, or money donated can make me worthy of God’s love. Romans 3:23 makes that abundantly clear, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God” Nothing we can do will ever make us “good enough” for God.
God knows that we will never be good enough yet He still loves us. He also knows that in order to be a just God there would have to be some punishment for the wrong that was done. Just like a good father punishes his child when the child acts out, our heavenly father has to have punishment for the wrong we do in this world.
But this is where Jesus comes in.
Christ’s mission was to do more than just to give us moral teaching, more than to give us something to do for an hour on Sunday. Christ’s mission was and is to lay down his life to receive the punishment we should receive because of our sins.
“For the wage of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” - Romans 6:23
Because of the sacrifice of the cross, we can be made righteous for heaven. Our sins that hold us down, the baggage that keeps us from boarding the plane for heaven, Christ takes ownership of. On that cross, Christ is saying, “the sins that they will commit, I am paying for.”
So what should our response be? It should be worship and praise of course! “God demonstrates his own love for us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” - Romans 5:8. What amazing news! We don’t have to wash up, prepare ourselves in a certain way, or say a certain number of prayers to be in God’s presence. He loves us so much that Christ died for you knowing that you will not be perfect.
Still don’t believe it? Let’s take a look at one of my personal favorite biblical characters: Paul.
Paul had his entire life going for him. He was a scholar, a decent tent maker, and was bound to be one of the “best” Israelites of his time. Then, when Christ’s following started to get popular, his response was not to join them, it was to kill them. Paul was on his way to Damascus to kill more Christians when Christ called him out of his sin and gave him a new mission.
Paul did not then spend a year, a month, or even a week repenting trying to wash himself up. It says in Acts 9:20 that he “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.”
God knows that we are sinners, He knows that we are not perfect, yet He still loves us and that is why He sent His only Son to die on our behalf. So when we try to “wash ourselves up for Mass” we are saying with our hearts that the cross was not strong enough to save us. So, let me ask you a question:
Is Christ’s death and resurrection strong enough to save you?