I know this guy who drives me nuts. He is one of the most judgmental people I have ever met. He seems to have an opinion on most everything. He’s well read on the Bible and uses that knowledge like a weapon. He constantly critiques the pastor, begrudges the way the church runs its ministries and basically condemns others for their ignorance. The worst thing of all is that THIS guy is….me.
I am a legalist.
I’m not proud of it. In fact, I’m ashamed to even admit it, but no matter how I look at it I can’t change the fact that I am self-righteous. If you’ve read through the gospels it is very clear that Jesus made sure to respond to sinners like me for our lack of understanding. In his famous sermon on the mount, Jesus says this about judging others:
7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
One thing I’ve noticed about my self-righteousness is that it is rarely introspective. It always seems easier to judge others and see their flaws. God has been humbling me lately. I have recognized this lack of self reflection and the plank is indeed large. In this time of self reflection, I feel the Lord has revealed two things to think about when dealing with self-righteousness.
Does it bring glory to God? When I complain and judge others is God being glorified. If not, then who is? If it’s myself or my personal beliefs then I need to reevaluate the situation. This part involves a lot of prayer and reading the Word to see what God really thinks about it.
What are you doing about it? It’s one thing to sit in my high box like Statler and Waldorf making these judgments on others, but what does that accomplish. Even if my opinions are “right,” what good are they doing anyone? What if the things I see lacking at the church, are the things that God wants me to fill at the church? And If I never do anything but complain, I can only blame myself. It’s kind of like that political saying, “If you didn’t vote, you can’t complain.”
The best news of all is that my sin is not greater than God’s grace. God still loves me, even when I think I can do things without him. Thankfully I can recognize where I have strayed and be turned back around. In the grand scheme of things, we are all sinners and can never save ourselves. Yet, God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not sent his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17).
There are times when a verse or a section of the Bible just speak to you. I’m especially fond of that moment when you read something and it really sticks out to you and then you go to church or listen to a podcast and they talk about that same verse. It’s like God is telling you to really focus on what He’s telling you in that moment. This psalm has been sticking out to me for about a month now. I think the part that really hits home for me is that whoever wrote this was in a rough spot but had such hope. They knew to trust in God because He would be their answer. May we all trust in God through the hard times.
If you turn on the television right now chances are you’ll run across a reality show. They’ve come into popularity over the last decade or so because of two distinct reasons. The first is low production value and the second is because these shows make you feel better about yourself. When you watch these shows it becomes real easy to think to yourself, “At least I’m not as bad as so-and-so.” You marvel at the crazy/stupid/selfish/egotistical things these people do and it makes you feel like a “good” person.
It can become very easy to think that there is some standard of “goodness” that you can reach to essentially save yourself. We love settings standards for ourselves. If you want to have a six pack, just do these exercises and eat this food. Want a successful business, just follow these 10 steps and you’ll succeed. It comes at no surprise that we want to be handed some to-do list to achieve eternal life. Even in the times of Jesus, one rich ruler came up to him and asked “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus responded, “Why do you call me good? No one is good–except God alone (Luke 18:18-19).
Right away Jesus nips the question in the bud by setting a standard for goodness so great that no one could fulfill it but God. Later Jesus tells this rich young man to follow the commandments, sell everything he has and follow him. The man is disappointed by this response because of his wealth. Jesus then tells the man, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:24-25).”
This leaves us with one big question, who then can be saved? Jesus replies, “What is impossible with men is possible with God (Luke 18:27).”
That’s the good news. Regardless if we are some crazy reality tv star or an upright citizen in the community we can all be humbled by the fact that our efforts will add up to nothing. Yet we have a God that is SO good and SO loving that He will do the impossible for us. All we have to do is follow him. So next time you’re watching that show with the crazy people doing stupid things and you’re about to think about how much better you are then them, just give thanks that God loves them and thankfully, loves you too.
In some ways I think this is one of the hardest biblical truths to grasp. In every aspect of human life we praise the man who gets the job done through hard work. We praise the man who trains and runs a marathon, or started at the bottom and worked their way to the top. Yet salvation works on a different level. No amount of good deeds, self control, or hard work will ever amount to anything. You can try and try and try some more and the things you’ve done on this earth will amount to a hill of beans. As Jesus put it, no one is good but God alone (Luke 18:19).
Then along comes Jesus, sent by God, with a golden ticket. He says that if you want salvation all you have to do is except this ticket, a ticket of grace. He did all the work, he paid the price and yet he’s willing to just give it to us. I’m constantly humbled by this. Mainly because I get so wrapped up in changing myself I forget the truth. Then I fail. Then God pulls me back and says, “Stop trying to earn your place. Accept what I’ve done for you. Then go and share the good news with others.”
This does not mean that we don’t go on to do good works. In the very next verse, Ephesians 2:10, we are told that we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works. The difference is that I’m not doing the good works for myself to prove that I am worthy of salvation. Instead I do them as an expression of love for the grace given to me.
This is my prayer for us today, that we could humbly accept this gift and praise God for doing what we could not do on our own. Then go out and express this faith in love.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.