One of the things that I love about the Bible is that it contains the stories of real people. By real people, I don’t mean that they really existed (which is still true, despite what some say). What I mean by real is that their stories are not sugar-coated. Their lives are described with all of their flaws, failings, disappointments, and tragedies. Even the heroes of the Bible, except One, are flawed.
As I have studied the Bible and observed church history, I have noticed an interesting thing about the human race. We are intent on making ourselves the center of attention. Look at the religions of the world. All of them are about what we have to do in order to earn the favor of some god, earn our way into heaven, or earn a better status in the next life. It is about adhering to rituals and rules and tipping the balance in favor of our good works. We operate under the premise that it is up to us to make sure that it happens.
In the Bible, God provides us with continual examples of people who lived their lives based on this same misunderstanding. Yes, God desires obedience from His people. However, He desires that this obedience flow out of a trust and love for Him. As we seek Him, He works in us and through us to produce good works and He transforms our lives by His Word and the work of His Spirit (Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 13:20-21; Philippians 2:13).
We need to remember that we will never be made righteous by any effort of our own. This is produced through the power of God through faith Jesus Christ alone (Romans 3:21-26). There is no place for boasting or holding up our own good works before God (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). The Pharisees tried to demonstrate their own righteousness amongst the Jewish people. They went to great lengths to observe the minutest detail of laws and rituals. Yet, Jesus called them white-washed tombs (Matthew 23:27-28). On the outside, they appeared righteous, but Jesus said that on the inside they were full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
God is never fooled. He sees through everything we say or do and straight into our hearts. He knows the thoughts we think and the words we will say before we even say them (Psalm 139:1-12). Therefore, why do we, as human beings, consistently try to fool God or earn His favor? In the end, I think it is the sin of pride. It is based on the premise that we are good enough on our own. We don’t need God’s help. We will do it our way. We are the center of the universe and can manage our own lives, thank you.
Time after time in Scripture, people made the same mistakes. Even devoted followers of Christ made these mistakes. That’s why I love the Bible. Because there is hope for me. How many times in the New Testament do we see Jesus correcting His disciples? How many rebukes and challenges are contained within the letters of the apostles? Even the apostles themselves had to be corrected. No one was exempt. We all fail. At times, we all think more highly of ourselves than we should. We cease to pursue Christ out of love and devotion, and default back to going through the motions, performing ritualistic activities, and looking good on the outside.
We work so hard. And yet, Jesus said to come to Him for what? Rest (Matthew 11:28-30). What do we need to rest from? We need to rest from laboring under the burden of trying to prove our worth to God. We need to rest from the burden of earning something from God that we could never earn. God has already demonstrated that He loves us beyond our ability to comprehend. He sent Jesus Christ to pay the most horrible debt and penalty imaginable because He valued and loved us (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:1).
God’s standard is too high. His holiness requires holiness from all who come to Him. Perfection. And in His marvelous grace, He bestows perfection on us through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). He gives us what we could never obtain on our own, as a free gift to all who will call on the name of Christ. God opposes the proud. He does not help those who help themselves. But for those who humble themselves before God, He will raise them up, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:5-7).
It is not about us. It was never about us. Before the absolute perfection of God, what could we offer? Yet, He does ask us to offer Him something. Ourselves. And as we give Him our lives and receive the gift of His forgiveness through Jesus Christ, God transforms our lives from the inside out. It may not always be pretty. We might not always get it right. But you know what? Neither did those who loved and followed Him in the Bible. This gives us hope. This spurs us on to continue in the race to which we have been called to run (Philippians 3:12-14; Hebrews 12:1-2). We run the race because the hope of glory awaits us at the finish line. Then, our eyes will behold the very One Who longed for us to know Him. Because only in Him, will we find our greatest joy.
Together for His glory…