This is a blog post I did for seminary. This is based on the book Real Christian: Bearing the Marks of Authentic Faith.
Are you real? When I talk about real I am talking about your Christian walk. Todd Wilson discusses what a Christian looks like to the unbeliever. He says that to an unbeliever a Christian looks like a bigot, homophobic, or hypocritical. Wow, this is a sobering fact but it all comes down to an image problem. The image of Christians is not good because sometimes Christians do not change their ways. Christians are not seen as real and authentic, this turns people away from the church and ultimately Christ. In order to combat this Christians and the church need to understand what it means to be real and authentic. Wilson discusses how to be real and shows the characteristics of someone who is a real Christian, but realness must start with a change in one’s heart.
One cannot have a changed heart unless they turn completely away from their sin. Wilson poses this question, “savior of sin, or savior from sin?” It comes down to a fact of contrition. When you answer this question as having a savior of sin, you are still making room for sin in your life. You ask for forgiveness and then continue on in sin. This is why so many outside the church sees Christians as being hypocritical. If you are truly remorseful of your sin you are going to do what you can to eliminate the sin in your life. When you do this you can say that Jesus is your savior from sin. Jesus did not die in order to forgive us so we can continue, but so that we could be set free from the bondage of sin.
Think about the sins that you have committed, and possibly are still committing. Hopefully these sins are not as heinous as murder or adultery like the sins David committed. David committed sins against many people, Bathsheba, Uriah, the people in his court, and God. It seems unlikely that there could be any sins worse than what David committed, but there is. The most grievous sin that one can commit is to not find the grace of God. God can and will use your sin to break you.
In Psalm 51 David was broken. David was at the point that he knew he had sinned and in doing so he had damaged his relationship with God. This is where we are at when we allow sin to creep into our lives and it goes unchecked. Sin is a pattern. It starts with one little sin and then if we allow it to continue we get farther and farther away from God. We get to the point that we do not even realize that we are sinning and then one day God will bring you to your knees. When you realize that what you have done is wrong and seek forgiveness this is when contrition appears.
Wilson gives several examples of emotions that appear to be contrition but are really not. The first example is the fear of punishment. The fear of punishment means that one is afraid of the consequences and not the fear of displeasing the Lord. The next example is regret. When you regret something you usually regret the consequences. When you have contrition you regret the action yourself, it affects your heart and not just your thoughts. The third example is embarrassment. Embarrassment deals with your pride. Contrition keeps you from the sin. The last example is guilt. Guilt is what one feels when they have done wrong, but this is different from contrition. One can feel guilt with our feeling remorseful.
Only when we feel contrition in our hearts can we see a way out of sin and thus become real. The emotions listed above are temporal. No one has to live with these emotions forever. Through Jesus we are shown mercy and then we can experience hope. Going back to Psalm 51 we see that David is seeking a way out of his guilt and embarrassment. He is seeking God’s mercy on his life. David was experiencing contrition and we see that he has had a change of heart. This is a natural byproduct of contrition.
I started this blog with the question are you real? Have you been brought to the point where you have had a change of heart over your sin? To experience contrition and be a real Christian one must grieve over sin because it is sin. You cannot grieve over sin because it has caused you shame or guilt, but that it is a violation of God’s law. A real Christian is going to move away from sin in their lives because of their love for God and not because of what other people think about their actions.
Wilson, Todd. Real Christian: Bearing the Marks of Authentic Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014.