1-3 - The Best of Us is a Mess
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Grace or Works?
Judged by What Standards?
For the perfectionist Galatians 3:10-12 is a very scary passage because it makes it very clear that if we want to judge ourselves by the law by trying to be perfect that's fine by God, but that's the standard which he will hold us to. This puts us on very shakey ground because, as I, you and God know, we will never be perfect (Romans 3:23 and 1st John 1:8), no matter how hard we try. By this standard God would have no choice but to find us guilty of sin. This is a very difficult way for someone, especially one who is working very hard at living a perfect Christian life, to live because when someone points the finger at one of the inevitable areas of their life where they fall short of Jesus' standard they attempt to defend their position with excuses and justifications. They have to because the alternative would be to admit to being imperfect and therefore incapable of going to Heaven.
God, as always, has a better plan - the way of faith. The law was never there so we could qualify as righteous, it was there so that we could realise how sinful we are. Without a standard to judge our lives by we could mistakenly think our way of living is okay. He knows we are sinful and so offers us a solution. All we have to believe is that when we fall he will catch us. How good is that? Everytime we sin God will say, that's fine, you're still okay. But he wants us to believe that. If we don't believe that and we try to work our way to Heaven he can't help us.
It's the Motivation that Counts
The Widow's Mite
Cain and Abel
We are not saved by doing righteous works, but those rightoeus works save us from being overcome by a sinful way of life.
How can a loving God send us to Hell?
This is great news to the "sinner", but the "righteous" don't like this plan so much because it puts those who have done the worst of crimes on the same level as those who have led a reletavely blameless life. This upset the Jews when Romans was written and is upsetting the modern day church goer even now.
It is a horrible disease that all mankind has thinking he is better than everyone else. We all suffer from this pride. At it's worst it can seem to the one infected with arrogance that he is the only one who is not infected. Everyone else is wrong, but he or she is okay. My conviction is that God hates pride so much because it leads mankind to say they know better than God. God is a fool in the eyes of arrogant man, and man is very sick in the eyes of God.
Our social values state that murder is worse than pride, rape worse than greed and theft is worse than idolitary. We need to adjust our outlook and see that pride, greed and idolitary are all crimes that God punished by death.
The pew warmer may not see himself as evil but god knows what goes on in his heart (Matthew 7:11) and that without a relationship with him he is doomed.
From he who has been given much, much will be expected
The Gentiles, who did not have a history of being trained by God in the same way as the Jews, were given more slack, but they were still expected to place their faith firmly in God.
So How Does God Want us to Live?
How Has This Changed Me?
I have tried to make sure my motivation for doing things is right, the last thing I want Jesus to say to me is "sin is crouching at your door Mike". In particular my relationship with God and my relationships with others have benefitted from my increased convition to give my heart, rather than just my energies, in everything I do. I think this is helping me become more obedient, softer hearted, a better listener and kinder. All areas I can only change with God's help.
|1 Romans, The Heart Set Free, Gordon Ferguson, DPI 2001|