20 Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins. — Eccel. 7:20 NIV
We all fall, but we don’t stay fallen. I am encouraged by Paul whose claim to be the “chief of sinners” could be contested by some of us in today’s society. He clearly knew who he was, Whose he was and where he was on his journey. He lets us know that he is not there yet, but he is on his way and he is determined to arrive there.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. — Phil. 3:12-14 NIV
”Forgetting what is behind” is the example Paul sets for us. That is a hard thing for humans to do. But, if we don’t practice that, then satan will use those memories of our failures to condemn us and make us feel unworthy to approach God and ask for His forgiveness. If we allow this to continue, we will soon become beaten down with guilt. Condemnation is from the devil, conviction is from the Holy Spirit. Rebuke satan and his condemnation. Accept the conviction of the Holy Spirit and ask for His forgiveness. Accept that forgiveness and “press on toward the goal to win the prize”.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. – 1 John 1:8-10 NIV
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous
A child of God is anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. When we do that, our sins are forgiven and we become a new creation. We are filled with God’s light and where there is light, there can be no darkness. Does this mean that if we sin or fail that we are no longer God’s children? Not at all, each of us will fail at times. The question is not about a single sin, but a lifestyle of sin. If our salvation experience does not change our lifestyle then we need to question whether it was a real life-changing event or merely an emotional experience that we had. Don’t be deceived, God is faithful and just. Getting saved is a rational, logical experience. There may be emotions and feelings involved, but the true experience is a decision that we make to trust our souls and our future to Jesus. If we have done this, then there will be changes in our lifestyle. Some immediately, some as we mature in our walk with Christ. Our lives will bear the fruit of the Spirit.
4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit – Titus 3: 4-5 NIV
It is because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, that God has given us His Holy Spirit to abide in us. The Holy Spirit’s role is to teach us and guide us “into all truth”. He is also the earnest that seals us so that we can be assured of everlasting life with Jesus. Therefore, because of that, we can be secure in our salvation. Knowing this, we can focus on leading a Holy lifestyle and setting an example for others to follow. We need to stay away from foolish and frivolous arguments. This is not a call to separate ourselves from sinners. We need to associate with them (being careful not to fall into temptations ourselves) and build bridges with them so we can witness to them. We must embrace the value of every human, though, sometimes we will not be able to embrace their values. Seize every opportunity to witness to the unbelievers.
The Old Testament circumcision was of the flesh as an outward symbol of a covenant relationship with God. Our circumcision is of the spirit removing our sinful nature and replacing it with God’s Holy Spirit. Our hearts and desires were changed and God wrote His Name upon our hearts. Our baptism is the outward symbol of being buried with Christ and raised again to a new life.
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”-2 Cor. 5:17” Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” – Eph. 4:24
We were spiritually dead in our sinful nature but now all things are made new. We are new creatures:
“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”-Romans 6:4
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
Let’s be sure to always remember that salvation is a free gift from God. There are no “good deeds” that will save you. It is not that we believe there is one God that saves us. Every religion has their own god, but none of them have Jesus Christ or any one else that gave their life for their redemption. James is saying that faith alone might be enough to scare a person or a demon(demons tremble) but it won’t save you. Abraham lived a long time before Jesus died and was resurrected, so he didn’t have the choice we have today. Therefore, God in His great mercy counted his actions as righteous. Abraham and the others from the Old Testament did not receive everything God had planned for them at that time. Their total salvation and perfection had to wait until Jesus was resurrected and we all join Him in heaven and we will receive our rewards at the same time. There, we will be totally saved and we will worship Jesus forever.
These three requirements seem fairly simple. When we read them, we probably think that we already do these. And perhaps, to some extent, we do. Justice and kindness are things that we do naturally, right? What about the thoughts and the words that we speak when others are not around, are they just and kind? When someone wrongs you, are your thoughts of mercy or revenge? When you see others being mistreated, are you willing to get involved, regardless of the personal cost (Think of the Good Samaritan)? Walk humbly is the really tough one. Are we humble enough to give of our resources, of ourselves, of our abundance and of our time to help others? Even to the point of dying for them? And, if we do these things, are they to show others how righteous we are? Every good gift comes down from the Father above. When we share those gifts with others, we are laying up rewards in heaven. Walk humbly with our God? Help me to do that, Jesus!
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
In Psalms 10-13, David seems to be more focused on those who are bent on doing evil than what God has done for him. He questions God about why those people seem to be more successful than the righteous. It is a question that many, if not all, of us have asked at sometime or other. Why are bad things happening to good people while the bad people seem to be receiving blessings? God doesn’t seem to answer David directly, but rather allows David to arrive at his own conclusion. David never gives up on God, even though he questions why God allows such things and why they continue for so long. He also questions whether God can hear his prayers or not. When we are going through those rough patches, it is encouraging to know that we are not the only ones to wonder where God is and what He is up to. Because David is a man “after God’s own heart”, he arrives at the right conclusion. God is exactly where He is supposed to be doing exactly what He should be doing. He always has been, He is and He always will be there watching over us and doing what is best for us even though at times, it doesn’t “feel” like it. Those are the times we have to ignore “feelings” and stand firm on the knowledge that God is always with us and we are never alone. Those are the times that God allows so that we know whether or not our head knowledge has become heart knowledge. If what we know in our heads has taken root in our hearts, then we will pass the test when God examines us. Should we fail, God has no qualms about having us take the test again and again until we pass it.
As small tots and children, we were taught prayers word for word. There were prayers to say before the meals we ate and prayers to say before we went to bed at night. These are wonderful experiences and great memories. But just as we moved from the “Dick and Jane” books, there comes a time when our prayers should become more personal. We are still presenting the same issues to God but now instead of rote memory, they should be from a heart that understands and knows that God not only hears our prayers but He answers them. Most of us may have had more faith that God would answer our prayers then than we do now. Those were prayers from innocent hearts and minds. Now, we have a lifetime of sins and doubts to overcome. But God is still the same God we prayed to when we were children and we must approach Him with that same childlike faith. We must become as little children in the Kingdom of God. Part of that process is to understand that all of our sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus. God sees each of us as the righteousness of Christ. So, when we pray let us believe that we are righteous people, that God hears our prayers and that our prayers do have great power. Not because of us, but because of Jesus and His work that He finished at the cross. We can know that our prayers have great power because Jesus is at the right hand of the Father praying with us and the Holy Spirit is praying through us and for us.
We are all familiar with Job’s story and all the things he had suffered at the hands of satan. God had allowed this to happen even though God considered Job a righteous man. Remember that God pointed Job out to satan and asked him “have you considered my servant Job?” Reading through the book of Job brings up a lot of questions. It also shows us that sometimes good friends can give us some bad advice. God wasn’t happy about the advice Job’s three friends had given him. It is good to get advice from Godly people, but sometimes God wants to speak to us directly and wants us to lean on Him and Him alone. There are mysteries that only He can solve and situations that only He understands. There are lessons that only God can teach us. God considered Job a righteous man but that doesn’t mean that Job didn’t sin. After all, there has only been one perfect man to ever walk this earth. Perhaps Job sinned in that he was always the one that offered sacrifices after the lengthy parties that his sons threw at their homes. Job1:1-5 We are not told whether or not he taught this practice to his kids, only that he always did it for them. Which begs the question. are we actively teaching our kids how to walk with integrity before God? Are we praying with them or just praying for them? When situations arise, are we doing all the praying and sacrificing or are we teaching them that the whole family prays, ask for God’s forgiveness and sacrifices together?
12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” — Matt. 9:12, 13 NLT
This statement by Jesus is in answer to the Pharisees who were complaining about Jesus and His disciples eating with sinners. Jesus had just called Matthew to come and follow Him. Matthew had invited Jesus and His disciples to his home to have dinner with him and some other tax collecters and disreputable sinners. The Pharisess had referred to the group as scum (verse 11). Jesus knew that the Pharisees would not accept Him and His teachings because they thought they were righteous already. With whom do we spend our time outside the church building? Do we, as the disciples of Jesus, spend all of our time with other Christians or do we seek the lost and minister to them? Do we have a missionary mentality or is it “We four and no more”? Jesus was sent to seek and to save the lost. Because He did that, He was rejected, offended, persecuted and eventually hung on a cross. He commanded us to do the same and gave us the authoirty to do just that. When we do that, we stand the chance of being rejected, offended and criticized for “eating with scum”? Suffering these things puts us in the same group with Jesus and God is pleased with us. Which is better, to live a lifestyle that pleases God and lay up eternal rewards or to live a lifestyle that pleases men gainng worldly rewards but losing our own souls?
20 Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you.
21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. — 1 Peter 2:20,21 NLT