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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Since I'm not Good Enough, Let Me Boast in the Lord

I can think back over the past week and recall a million things I failed to do in the past week--unfulfilled promises, duties that others were relying on me to discharge, neglectfulness and selfishness.  Frankly, if the world depended on me being perfect, it would fall apart very quickly.  We should all be glad it doesn't!

Too often I've put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect so that other people around me will see the example and follow it. I'm not saying that setting a good example is bad, or that being obedient to the Lord and on good terms with your fellow man is something we shouldn't pursue. The problem is the notion that my own good behavior can somehow transform those around me, as if by being righteous, I can save the world.

The problem with this thinking is fairly easy to see.  I can't save even myself by being righteous. If the world relied on me to save it, it would be completely lost.

So why should I try to obey God and hold myself to a strict standard of righteousness? Obedience is a form of worship and submission to God, acknowledging His authority to make the rules that govern my behavior, and testifying before Him that I believe that His way is good. The more I obey now, the less confession and repentance has to come, later on (1 Samuel 15: 22). In short, my obedience is focused on God, and is part of my personal relationship with Him. It is not about other people in the first place.

Now, it is important to teach righteousness to others, and if you do so, you should hold yourself strictly to the standards you teach.  This may seem to contradict my previous statements, but it doesn't.  Parents and others in authority have a responsibility to teach (and yes, to model) righteousness and obedience for those in their care.  However, the child or follower's salvation is between them and God; they cannot be saved by someone other than Christ (John 14: 6), even if that person seems to be absolutely perfect in every way.

Ultimately, modeling what is right is a personal act of obedience to God, by carrying out the extra responsibilities God has put upon us.  It is no different than the act of obedience in obscurity.

So, where does that leave me?  First of all, I feel relief that I don't have to save the world, because Jesus did.  When I'm doing my best and still I see others around me disobeying God, I realize it is wrong to condemn myself and say I have failed to save their souls or that I have condemned them to destruction by my own inadequacies.  They only need one Savior.  The reason why I obey is not to save, but to submit to what I have been taught.

Secondly, I can put my sins and failures in proper perspective now, as things that come between me and God, and not between God and others.  When I sin, I need to repent, or I will be punished.  If my sins discourage others in obeying God, I do hope they will be strong enough in their faith to obey without me (and despite me).  Their obedience is their own responsibility, as mine is my own.  The same God who can help me repent and turn from sin can help those around me as well.

Lastly,  when I boast about deeds of righteousness and obedience, I know that I can boast in the Lord rather than myself, and never be ashamed of it or have to admit I've gone too far (1 Corinthians 1: 30, 31).  I have failed in being good enough, wise enough, truthful enough, and perfect enough, but Christ has not.  Don't look to me for an example; look to Him!  I cannot save the world or even one person in it, yet He has.  Don't depend on me; depend on Him!  In that, I can rest.