Christian, using my powers of perception I have discovered your secret feelings about church. Really. I know the emotions about your church experience that you hide away, afraid for anyone else to see. I know what you feel because I feel it too. In fact, I embarrassingly admit that I often still feel these things.
When you go to church you feel uncomfortable and out of place, like you don’t belong there. You want to be there. You want to fit in. You want to enjoy the experience and have an experience with God, but these other feelings well up to the top of your emotions and prevent your hopes from being realized, thus, ruining everything.
There are three things you feel.
You feel guilty
You feel unworthy
You feel inadequate
Now, if there is unrepentant sin in your life then feelings of guilt, unworthiness, and inadequacy should be normal until you have confessed that sin(s) and dealt with it properly through genuine repentance. But if you have no openly defiant sin in your life that you know about, if your conscience is clean in terms of intentional sin, then these feelings of guilt, unworthiness, and inadequacy are not coming from God. It’s one thing to recognize our unworthiness to come before God in a general sense. That’s a valid feeling as we recognize our sinful nature. But we also recognize God’s forgiving nature and such feelings should melt away as we enter his presence in worship.
Allow me to give you three things to help you rid yourself of improper guilt, unworthiness, and inadequacy.
Guilt. First, we are all guilty of sin before God, intentional and unintentional. When we recognize our general guilt and confess it, we should experience God’s forgiveness. Remember the word which says to us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
Once you’ve confessed, then move on mentally from the feeling of guilt. It will begin to melt away as you focus your attention on God’s guiltlessness and grace in extending free forgiveness. We may be guilty, but we are not without justification.
Unworthiness. Second, we are all unworthy to come before God in worship. In this general sense, recognizing our sin, we also have to recognize God’s declaration of imputed righteousness to us (Romans 4:11, 22). We are now worthy to appear before God because he has not counted our sin against us. We are worthy to approach the throne because Christ’s righteousness has been given to us freely. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). We may be unworthy, but we are not worthless.
Inadequate. Third, yes, we are inadequate to come before God. What could simple man come before the eternal God with in order to gain his favoring attention? Nothing at all. Just like Queen Esther appeared before the king trusting only on his grace to prevent the sentence of death, so too we come before God inadequate to gain his favor. But he gives us his favor anyway because of this nature: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” (Exodus 34:6). We may be inadequate, but we are not useless.
I know your secret feelings about church. I still struggle with them myself, from time to time. But as we reorient our focus off of ourselves and onto the God of love, through Christ, we can have a full and rich experience of knowing his love firsthand.