“If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any, then I know nothing of Calvary’s love.” – Amy Carmichael
You close your Bible and thank God for how He spoke through His Word. You open your social media account to share that verse. As you begin typing, a thought hits you, “How can you share this with that struggle?”
You’re preparing a sermon or lesson. However, the passage hits a chord with you. It speaks on the sin you have fallen into time and time again. You know there will be individuals in attendance who have kept you accountable, and have seen you fall, and seen the many times you repented. Then the thought hit you, “What are they going to think of me when I preach this passage?”
At church people are sharing testimonies. It is your turn at the mic. As you step up to share how God is working in your life a thought hits you, “They all know what I did last weekend, and now I’m sharing this? They all must think I’m a fraud.”
I feel like a fraud. It is a thought we all have faced at one time or another. We see our spiritual life, and we see the sin in our life. We can count how many times we have fallen, and how many times we have asked for forgiveness. And when it comes to speaking about Christ, we feel like a fraud. In fact, we may have had some people say to us, “And you call yourself a Christian?”
The Lie of an Image
At the root of feeling like a fraud is the idea that we have not attained a certain image for our Christian life. We see those around us who come across as perfect, as ones not falling into sin, and those who must be mature Christians. We look at passages like I Timothy 3:2, read the phrase “above reproach,” and think we could never attain that with our struggles. We have a desire to be in ministry, but know our image does not include “above reproach.”
However, this is a lie. We would agree that all Christians are not perfect. But, don’t we act and treat others like we believe we should put forth an image of being perfect? Even if we say “above reproach” does not mean being perfect, we qualify it with saying, “It means no one has something to grab onto or something to use against your character.” This is a subtle way of saying, “You need to be perfect.”
Everyone has something that can be thrown at them. I John 1:8 states that if we claim or even act as if we do not have sin in our lives, then the truth is not in us. The idea that unless we conform to an image in order to share Christ is a lie.
I would like to look at two people in the Gospels that show us that God does not want an image. He wants sinners bearing His image.
But Didn’t She Sleep With?
It was a hot day. Jesus sent the disciples into a town for food. As He sat in the blazing sun on the hot bricks of a well, a woman came to the well. Jesus could see her eyes focused on the ground; attempting to not make eye contact with anyone. Her whole body language showed the weight of shame she received from the people in her community.
“Would you please give me a drink?” After some conversation, Jesus revealed to the woman what she knew to be true. She had many men in her life, and was sleeping with a man who was not her husband. She was even probably called whore or slut by people in the town. They knew what she was like, she knew what she was like, and Jesus knew.
But John 4:1-32 does not end with this reveal. Instead, Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah offering living water that would gush into a geyser of living water inside of her. No longer did she have to find satisfaction in dipping into the various wells of sexual encounters. The Messiah gave her a new life.
What happened next? She went into her town telling people to come and see the man who told her all about herself (John 4:28-30). She didn’t care that the people knew her as the woman who passed herself around. She cared that they came to see the Messiah. And what happened because of her testimony? John 4:39-42 gives us the answer. The people believed her testimony, and because of her they were led to meet the savior of the world.
The woman at the well, with her past, became one of the first missionaries showing people the Messiah who would give them living water.
And He Calls Himself a Leader of the Church?
He traveled with Jesus. He sat under his teachings. He witnessed the blind receiving sight, the lame walking, and the dead raised. He even saw Jesus’ glory as Jesus was transfigured on the mountain. Even at the last supper, he promised Jesus he would never abandon him.
Peter was one of Jesus’ closest disciples. Yes, he stuck his foot in his mouth a lot. But, was he above reproach? In Matthew 26:69-75 we see a dark side of Peter. As Jesus was being tried in order to execute him, Peter was in the courtyard wanting to hear what would happen. His promise of not abandoning his Lord and the one he called, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:13-16),” stood firm in his mind.
Yet, a servant girl change everything. “You were with Jesus, weren’t you?” Peter quickly looked around, maybe even tried to silence the girl, but couldn’t. People were already staring. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” Peter denied his association with Jesus. Two more times, others claimed Peter was a follower of Jesus. Each time, Peter denied Jesus in order to prove he was not associated with the man accused. The rooster crowed, and Peter remembered Jesus’ predication, and probably began eating his promise of not abandoning Jesus. Peter ran away weeping.
The story does end there. John 21:15-19 shows us the heart of Jesus. Jesus forgave Peter and restored him. In fact it wasn’t just a forgive and forget moment. Jesus called Peter to feed his sheep or feed the church. Peter, the one who publicly denied Jesus, was called to be a leader in the church. In fact, Peter goes on to write two books of the New Testament highlighting our hope in Christ. Yet, the church would have known about his denial. The book of Matthew was written in the late 50’s AD. The two books Peter wrote are dated to the early 60’s AD. Therefore, he could not hide from the people he ministered to his public denial of their savior.
Being Christ’s Image Bearer
Peter and the woman at the well were not perfect. In fact, the people who knew them could have easily said, “How can he be a pastor? He publicly denied Jesus,” or “How can she be talking about Jesus? Her bed had an open vacancy sign over it.”
How could they talk about Jesus? Because it was not about having their own image. It was about bearing or wearing Christ’s image. II Corinthians 5:21 states that Jesus took our image, our sin, our identity on himself in order that we could bear his righteous image. Ephesians 4:24 says we are to put on the likeness of God or the image of Christ. We are not to put on self-righteousness or an image of perfection. Instead, we are wear the identity of Jesus. Romans 3:23-26 demonstrates that it is not our image of perfection that does anything whether in salvation or progressive sanctification. Our righteousness is only from Jesus. Our image is the image of Jesus. He knows we struggle with sin. He knows we are not perfect. But in our imperfect words and actions, Jesus has freely given to us the ability to wear his image.
Even as I write this post, I can feel the thought, “My readers must think me a fraud. Those who know me know I’m not perfect. How can I be writing this when I know my own struggles?” It is a thought that can be turned into an opportunity. It is not an image I have to put on. Jesus is my perfection. Jesus is my image. Do I show Jesus like I should? No. But, I do not have to worry about what people think or what they say about me. I am just like the woman at the well and Peter. I have sinned, and people know how I’ve sinned. But I have a God who through the riches of his mercy and grace made me alive in Christ in order to do what he has called me to do (Ephesians 2:1-10).
The scars of the past and the scars of the present can be reminders of how much a fraud we can feel when we speak about Jesus. But, let the scars of the past and the present remind you of His scars that forgave you, cleansed you, freed you, justified you, and called you to a new purpose (I Corinthians 6:9-11; II Corinthians 5:17-21).
Others who call you a fraud have a low view of God. They do not see how God has forgiven you, loves you, and is using your story to show Jesus to the world. You do not have to worry about creating an image, because Jesus wants you to bear his image as he transforms your life, your mind, and your heart to be more like him each day, and step by step.
Waking up to a new sunrise
Looking back from the other side
I can see now with open eyes
Darkest water and deepest pain
I wouldn’t trade it for anything
‘Cause my brokenness brought me to You
And these wounds are a story You’ll useSo I’m thankful for the scars
‘Cause without them I wouldn’t know Your heart
And I know they’ll always tell of who You are
So forever I am thankful for the scars
– “Scars” by I am They
(Listen to the song here)