What Sinners Know

It always makes me sad when a non-Christian knows more about Christianity than a Christian does.

I remember there was a debate when I was in college: Ron Jeremy vs Craig Gross. For those of you who don’t know, Ron Jeremy is a former porn star. Craig Gross is the founder of the (awkwardly-named) Triple-X church, a ministry that combats pornography and reaches out to those trapped in its clutches, be they people viewing porn or people making it.

Obviously, the debate was about pornography, but during the debate, Ron Jeremy said two very important things. The first was “You would be more welcome at one of my meetings than I would be at one of yours.” Craig Gross admitted that was the sad truth. Craig and his team will often meet up at pornography conventions to speak to people about Jesus, and he says that they’re surprisingly welcome.

But would you let a porn star walk into your church? Most would say “Of course not!” That, of course, is the wrong answer for a Christian. Porn stars need Jesus, too. Church is the best place to find Him.

That was profound enough, but then Ron Jeremy said something that stunned me. He was admitting that he had respect for Craig Gross because, “You don’t stand outside and preach; you go to the problem. That’s what Jesus did and I can respect that.”

Whoa. Ron Jeremy understands Jesus.

Now you may say, “He just planned that speech. He looked up some stuff in the Bible to make himself sound good.” Maybe he did, maybe not, I don’t know. That’s not the point. The point was he was right. Whether he really knew this or he was just loading ammo for an attack, a porn star understood Jesus better than most Christians.

We Christians (myself included) love to think that we’re somehow smarter/more aware than the sinful crowd. We think that all we do is good and all “those people” do is bad. 

Jesus hated this.

It was a frequent problem in his day. The pharisees and scribes (read: religious folk) were so stuck on their own righteousness that they rejected and hated Jesus, who was the very God they were so proud to serve.

That’s why Jesus said a lot of funny things in his ministry. In Matthew 5:46, Jesus said, “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the [non-believers] do the same?” Jesus was saying, “You think you’re so good because you love those who are easy to love, those who love you back. But the non-believers do that, too. How are you any different?”

Here’s another parable from Luke 18:9-14. I’ll paraphrase. It says that Jesus was talking to the religious folks who were proud of themselves. He told the story of two men who went to pray: a religious man and an sinner. The religious man thanked God for, get this, making him such a great person. He said he thanked God that he was so righteous, that he did all these great things and that he was nothing like the sinners.

But then the sinner came and said “God, forgive me, I’m a sinner!” The Bible says he stood a long ways off from the temple, that he wouldn’t even raise his eyes to heaven because he was so ashamed of himself. Jesus said that this man, the sinner, was justified (read: saved) and the religious man was not.

Now, the religious man had not lied. He really did all those good things and he was not a murderer, a thief, an extortionist, or anything like that. But he was proud. If there’s one sin God detests, it’s pride.

I’ll give one last example and make my case: the Good Samaritan parable from Luke 10: 25-37. A man was walking along a road when thieves beat him severely, robbed him, and left him to die. A priest came by, but ignored the man and kept walking. Another religious man walked by, but also did not stop. Then a Samaritan stopped, took the man to safety, and told the caretaker, “Send me the Bill.”  This one is uber-famous, but the phrase “Good Samaritan” has been diluted over the years. We seem to think of the Good Samaritan as someone who helps someone else in need. It’s actually much more powerful than this.

The Jews HATED Samaritans. They were the evildoers, a sinful nation that had once been part of Israel, but turned against them. Someone relayed the story this way: a man’s tire burst on the highway and left him stranded. A pastor drove by, but he was in a hurry to make it to church on time, so he didn’t stop. A bishop also approached, but he just didn’t have the time, he had to get to his congregation, so he drove by.

Then an atheist approached, saw the man, stopped, and not only helped the man to the repair shop, but paid the bill. The story is different now, isn’t it? And yet, it translates the exact same way as Jesus told it. Jesus was one to ruffle feathers.

What’s my point? My point is this: Leviticus 11:44 says “I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy, for I am holy.” The words “consecrate” and “holy” can both be translated to “set apart.” God was talking to his followers at this time.

Let this phrase sink in: we are called to be set apart from the rest of the world. 

We pride ourselves on being special, but we are no better than those who don’t follow Jesus. You give to the poor? Big deal, so do corrupt corporations! You love your children? So what? The atheist down the road does that, too! You support equal rights? So do the homosexuals! What makes you different from them?

There’s nothing wrong with donating to the poor, loving children, or anything like that. The problem is our hearts. When we puff ourselves up with pride because of all the “good Christian things” we’ve done, it makes God sick. As Christians, we think we are special, but Jesus calls us out on the lie.

But the Bible says Christians are special! It says we are bought and freed and saved and no longer like the world! True, but when we put too much value on ourselves, we’re doing exactly what the rest of the world is doing: ignoring Jesus in the equation. We are set apart by the blood of Jesus, but too frequently, we return to our old crowd.

What makes a Christian holy is nothing in him/herself. The Bible clearly states that no one is righteous no, not one (Romans 3:10). Only God is holy, so for us to be holy, he must be living in us. That’s what the blood of Jesus gave us: the Holy Spirit. It is he who is holy, and only when he works through us are we holy.

So the next time you do “something Christian,” never say you’re a good person. Instead, say that “Jesus is working in me.” Humble yourself, exalt Jesus. Acknowledge his work in you and ascribe its worth to him. After all, ascribing worth is the literal definition of Worship.

Sinners know how to do good things. Even Jesus said that. So don’t be proud of your good works or your connections or your “specialness.” Set your eyes instead on being different, being holy, being like God.

I leave you with the words of Paul in Galatians 6:14, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our lord, Jesus Christ.”

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