Four ways teaching Christians to embrace “I’m the worst sinner I know” is harming the church

SermonTitleSome background of the teaching

When CJ Mahaney began proclaiming “I’m the worst sinner I know” somewhere around the late 1990s, it certainly wasn’t the first time this teaching had been promoted. But from what I could find, this was when it began to go mainstream.

Mahaney himself claimed it regularly, often even as a way of introducing himself when he would stand up to speak. “I’m CJ Mahaney, and I’m the worst sinner I know.”

But it isn’t only Mahaney who is supposed to be the worst sinner he knows. Each one of us Continue reading

What hypocrisy is and what it isn’t and why that’s important: a lesson from Tullian Tchividjian

Hypocrisy. Presenting oneself one way (perceived as good) in public while actively living a different way (definitely bad) in private. Sort of like this:

hypocrisy-evil-with-mask-from-unholy-charade

hypocrisy: evil with a Superman mask, from the cover photo for “Unholy Charade,” photo credit Stephanie Council

And of course the problem of hypocrisy is made far worse if the hypocrite isn’t just presenting himself as good but is also admonishing others to walk in a certain way— the way he walks.

Isn’t that why Jesus reserved His harshest words for the Continue reading

What kind of help do you need?

As far as I can see, there are two kinds of help. One is assistance. One is deliverance.

When you call out for help with a task that needs three hands, you already have two of the hands you need, so you’re asking for assistance.

But when you call out for help because you’re in a burning building and can’t get out, you’re crying for Continue reading

Replying to one who says Christians should have no rights

I didn’t know, back when I passively accepted some of these false teachings—it didn’t even occur to me what the grim outworking, the rotten fruit, would be. But now . . . I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it in the lives of people I love.

In some Christian circles people are taught, “When you get angry, it’s because you thought you had rights, and you thought those rights were violated, but that just shows your pride and self-centeredness. Everything you have belongs to God, so if you’re unhappy, you’re claiming a right you should have given up, Continue reading

Letter to an abuse survivor friend

It’s been two years (only two years!) since the Lord began regularly bringing sexual abuse survivors into my life, and my heart hurts.

I was scrolling back through some of my correspondence to retrieve some information, and I came across a letter I wrote to a friend, early on, when it was all still new to me.

And what I wrote two years ago Continue reading

What does it mean to be spiritually dead and alive?

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

When a young friend of mine became discouraged about the smallness of her love for God, I asked her, “Before you were saved, how much did it bother you that you didn’t love God?” Continue reading

A New Year Filled with Hope

I hope things will be different. . . . I hope he’ll start being kinder. . . . I hope she’ll come back to her husband and children. . . . I hope the economy won’t collapse. . . . I hope Jesus will return this year. . . . I hope my abuser will be brought to justice. . . . I hope they’ll repent and acknowledge their sin. . . .

Have you ever noticed that the way we talk about hope in ordinary conversation is very different from the way the Bible describes “hope”? Continue reading

What is repentance, really?

Jesus cried out, “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

A couple of years ago I posted on Facebook a question about the Greek word translated “repentance.” (It’s metanoia and its variants.) Yes, I admit, it took me a long time to get back to all the links and ideas people sent me, but here I am again, studying repentance.

It’s because three things happened at about the same time. First, I was praying for pastors and other Christian leaders (the ones who have treated and counseled sexual abuse victims as if they were pariahs) to repent about their wrongdoing. Second, I’ve been praying for revival for a long time, and in the context of that, having a discussion with a Christian leader about whether or not repentance is necessary for salvation. Third, I’ve been studying II Corinthians, where Paul talks about repentance in chapter 7.

I always used to hear repentance being taught as a change of mind. That very sterile, academic definition vaguely dissatisfied me. It seemed to accompany the academic, intellectual acceptance of Christ embodied in the “sinner’s prayer.” Continue reading