“I stopped going to church when it gave me a guilty conscience and started to conflict with what I wanted to do.”
Those are among the saddest words that I have ever heard. They reveal such a misunderstanding of not only the purpose of the Christian church but of the purpose of human life. Both topics are too broad for this short article but the above quote grieves my heart. To those who say it, I offer these truths with a prayer that you will read, understand, and reconsider.
First of all, the church is commanded by God to tell people the gospel, which is the good news: “Jesus Christ died for their sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) That is very good news, definitely not intended to send people running, but to fill them with joy.
Secondly, the reason Christ had to die for our sin is that we are sinful people. Sin isn’t only the “big” transgressions, murder, adultery, stealing. Sin is simply doing what we want to do instead of what God wants us to do. And sin violates the laws of God - not the laws of a church. While some”churches” do not teach God’s law, but replaces it with human philosophies and traditions, there are those churches that teach the truth of God’s Word. They are essentially speaking for Almighty God, who is not in the business of trapping people into a miserable lifestyle or sending them on an unresolvable guilt-trip. Instead, “God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world: but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17)
Most of the world hasn’t the slightest idea that anyone needs saving. The gospel has the effect of revealing that to us. The Son of God came and died for our sin. That clearly spells out the severity of the need . . . we must need saving since the remedy was so drastic.
Thirdly, God, in His wisdom, built into us a faculty called guilt so we could recognize our plight, so we could receive that good news. He doesn’t intend that we plug our ears, cover our eyes, and run away. Would anyone avoid surgery for a malignant tumor just because they couldn’t bear the anticipated pain? Hardly! Yet sin affects more than our bodily condition, it affects our eternal destiny. The initial pain of diagnosis is worth the joy of the remedy.
Lastly, the reason Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world is that He didn’t have to . . . it is condemned already. Verses 18-20 say this: “He that believes on Him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For everyone that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds be exposed.”
There is a choice: Hiding selfishness and walking away to do our own thing, or letting it be exposed (yes, it hurts) and be forgiven. Choosing to push aside guilt to feel good may be rewarding for a little while, but anguish, darkness, and eternal separation from God awaits those who reject the good news. A stinging conscience is a small thing compared to eternal regret.