So in the Christian league of Christians are you nearer the top or the bottom? How tired are you at being simply the best and above all better than all the rest? Exhausted?
How many rules of life do you keep? How’s the diet? How many miles have you run today? C’mon I am typing this at 7.30am surely you have been out running, walking, keeping fit?!!
If my Christianity is about keeping to the rules then all that will lead to is finding myself in a place where I feel ultra-good about myself or in my case feel utterly worthless!
If I succeed I will not have encountered grace because I wouldn’t need it and if I fail I will have so focused on the duties I will have been blinded to the Divine.
I have never met a joyful legalist only prisoners.
I want to turn the table upside down. I used to think a spiritual mature church were members who were committed to the spiritual disciplines of prayer, bible study, witnessing etc. I don’t think that is an indicator of spiritual maturity anymore. The proof of your maturity is not in disciplines or the beatitude check-list. But it is in the awareness of your own impurity, that you cannot fulfil the laws and everybody’s personal lists of acceptability, but you need Him and you need a community that will hold you accountable and ask you the hard questions. I think this is spiritual maturity.
Here are some words from Jesus on this matter:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5 v 17-20)
Grace is hard to understand. People often say you can’t be accepted by God through grace alone, but I don’t see how else it would work.
How can only those who are good be accepted by God? Where do we draw the line? Is it so long as you’ve not murdered someone or stolen something, or is it about never telling a lie, or so long as you’ve not sworn? Where is the cut-off point?
I can easily categorise what I regard as absolute evil, and then the other end of the spectrum say something is a sin, which is not great to do, but it’s not the worst thing ever. A sliding scale of acts. We all have them. Let me give an example by posing a question: As a man if I look at a woman lustfully is that better or worse than if I look at a man lustfully?
If I go to Africa as a Pastor and have a glass of wine it would be an abomination but in Europe it is acceptable. Which Pastor is nearer to God?
The Bible says compared to the perfection of God all our good works are like dirty rags, so we don’t really stand a chance at earning acceptance.
Unless we have to have a righteousness which is way above the Pharisees and all their law keeping.
Unless our righteousness is internal we’ve no hope.
It’s not externality, it’s not like the Pharisees: how long your beard is; how long the gown you wear is; the colour of it; what you do on the Sabbath day; whether you trail a chair across the ground and it constitutes ploughing; whether you lift wood; whether you speak; whether you do other things that were prohibited on the Sabbath day and certain parts of it.
It is nothing to do with externalities the Lord Jesus Christ is saying, but He is saying it is something deep within your soul – it is something internal.
They always accused Him of destroying the law: ‘He’s not saying what the law said’. Jesus is still not saying what the law says nor what any Key Performance Indicator says. He is still saying this:
‘I have not come to take the law away, but the law is lacking, the law is not the finish. I have come to finish it, to fill up that glass, to be the purpose of the law.
I, myself as I stand before you, Jesus Christ the Son of God, am the fulfilment of it’.
To be better than the best is to acknowledge you need a Saviour and you need friends who will walk with you. This is what the Church was always meant to be.