Read Romans 8
Pride is nasty business. It comes just before destruction, Proverbs says. It’s what got Lucifer kicked out of heaven. I’m still thinking about this from the Pharisee post a few days ago. Pride was the root issue that caused their troubles. But perhaps a more contextually appropriate word would be self-righteous.
Righteous is one of those words we toss about in church. It means perfection is all. That’s probably the reason we don’t throw that word around in church. People would run scared if you phrased I Peter 6:11 “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue perfection, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” How is that even possible?
In the book of Job, one of his kind-hearted (or not) friends asks the question this way: “Dominion and awe belong to God; he establishes order in the heights of heaven. Can his forces be numbered? Upon whom does his light not rise? How then can a man be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure? If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is but a maggot a son of man, who is only a worm!" (Job 25)
In Genesis, we learn that Abraham “believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness” (15:6). Note he “believed God,” not “believed in God.” Because he believed, he obeyed. Obedience, in the Old Testement, equaled perfection in God’s eyes.
The Pharisees pursed perfection through strict obedience to the letter of God’s law. This practice was, in fact, their life’s work. They felt they had earned God’s favor and so could (and should) everyone else. The Torah (or the Old Testament books of the law) was clear on the subject. Pre-Jesus, there was no salvation except through the law.
When Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice, all that changed. His blood permanently covers over the blame of those who believe him. Jesus’ willing offering of his life is the avenue God uses to offer Grace (getting something you don’t deserve-eternal life) and Mercy (not getting something you do deserve-punishment).
I accepted the free gift of God’s grace when I was a very little girl. As a grown up, far removed from the innocent child was when I asked Jesus into my heart, I get caught up in earning the right to keep my gift. Like the Pharisees, I endeavor to follow the letter of the law to be in right standing before God. Obviously we should not get so carried away by grace that we forget obedience entirely. But the motivation needs to be considered. Are we obeying in order to earn our salvation or because we believe God and therefore love him, because he first loved us?
We can put on a righteous show, like the Pharisees, all we want, but our righteous acts are “like filthy rags,” according to Isaiah 64:6. It’s one thing to know truth in your head. Intellectually we know that God is love. We know we are forgiven and blameless in his sight. But we rather than live forgiven, we tend to feel guilty about or pasts and feel unworthy of the love he offers. We forget to move the acceptance of the gift of grace out of our heads and into our hearts.
We should instead be living under the protection of his righteousness. “Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:9)
When we sin, we hurt people, and there are natural consequences that often follow. That’s bad. But we must choose whether we will live according to the guilt or rejoice all the more in what we were saved from.
I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.