Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Righteousness Isn't That Bad...Is It?

Hello Friends! I am so sorry it’s been so long. For a couple of weeks I had a really hard time adjusting to my children being gone, then for a week I was sick and last week my computer was sick. Thank goodness the Apple repairmen were able to get her running like new! With God’s help I will get back on the right track, with the blog and several other things in my life.

So…Finally, let’s finish Luke 15. I know you have been waiting to see what God has in store for us. So am I…time to get started.

Please re-read Luke 15 to help refresh your memory.
We will be focusing on Luke 15:25-32

I have to admit, I really wish Jesus would have stopped with verse 24. I think that would have made a perfectly happy ending to the parable. That would have worked out fine had Jesus been speaking to a crowd filled with only tax collectors and sinners. Take a look back at verse 2 “And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled,”(ESV) from this verse it is obvious there is also a group of Pharisees and scribes listening. Actually, most of the time there was a group of Pharisees following and listening to Jesus. Now understand, they were not there to learn from Him, they were there to find fault in His teaching, but Jesus, being God in the flesh, always took advantage of a teachable moment. I love that! He could have stopped the parable with the younger son’s return to the father, the restored relationship between the two and the huge celebration, which all is a picture of a rebellious person seeing their need for God’s grace, through His sacrifice of His son Jesus on the cross, that person’s confession of sins before God and God forgiving those sins and welcoming him or her into His arms. Then He rejoices when that one has come home! Because our Gracious God doesn’t want anyone to leave this earth without a relationship with Him, as
2 Peter 3:9 says ”The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”(NIV) He continues on with the parable.

At this point Jesus moves His focus from the tax collectors and sinners in the crowd to the Pharisees and Scribes. If you will remember from earlier (Yes…Much earlier, dig waaay back in your memory, or flip back to a previous blog), we differentiated between the two groups by saying the tax collectors and sinners were the blatant sinners, and the Pharisees and Scribes were the moral people of the day. They were hiding their sins behind their good works. Throughout this study Rodney gave the two groups interesting titles, Tax Collectors and Sinners-Too Bad For God’s Grace, Scribes and Pharisees-Too Good For God’s Grace. Here is an interesting thought. They both feel they are beyond grace. The Pharisees have this attitude of self-righteousness. They feel as though they are the only ones that are “religious”. They follow the law, they go to the temple, they worship God, they know the Bible….What? Ok, so maybe they know the law and what the prophets have taught.

In all the years I have been taught the story of the Prodigal Son, I have never paid a lot of attention to the older brother. Except for the fact that he threw a fit over the party when the younger brother came home. Honestly, I thought, “Get over it, can’t you be happy your brother came home? Now move on.” That was the end of it…Until Now. Now I’m realizing the true feelings, motives, and implications of a heart like the older brother. Let me tell you, it’s not a good thing.

Let’s start by defining Self-Righteousness-Relating to God based on my performance for God. It’s thinking I can earn God’s blessing through good behavior, earning His Grace by my good living, that I can be right with God because of my righteousness, and that God’s mercy is dependent on my morality.

If you have spent any time in church, you will reject that you think or believe that. I know you will, because I do. Come on, let’s get real with ourselves. Is that how we live? We know that we are saved by grace, but we live as though we must stay saved by works. God is continually teaching me that His grace didn’t stop at salvation. Right now one of the things I am working on is changing my thinking from common thoughts like: “God helps those who help themselves.” to, God helps those who know they are helpless without Him! You may not even realize it, but that first thought is self-righteousness. This is what God says about my righteousness in
Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.(KJV) Let me tell you when Isaiah refers to a filthy rag he is not just talking about a rag you clean with. I will simply tell you what Rodney told us it was and move on. But you need to know, because you need to know the disgust of our righteousness in God’s eyes. He is referring to a menstrual cloth. Jesus died for my self-righteousness, yet I, like the older brother in Luke 15 seem to think I can earn His blessing, mercy, grace, love, or whatever by being good enough. GET OVER IT ANGIE! YOU WILL NEVER MEASURE UP!

Now take a look at Luke 15:28b “So his father went out and pleaded with him.” I don’t need to measure up. Because, just like with the younger brother, the father once again shows us God’s amazing grace.
 He also RUNS to the older son
He entreats the older son
He gets on His knees
If the older son will, all he has to do is submit to Jesus

The following are a few questions from Jerry Bridges, author of several books including “The Pursuit of Holiness”. I believe that is where these questions and the quote to follow came from. If I am wrong, I apologize. Rodney shared this with us and I did not totally catch the reference.

These questions expose self-righteousness:
Do you tend to live by a list of dos and don’ts?
Is it difficult for you to respect those whose standards aren’t as high as yours?
Do you assume that practicing spiritual disciplines should result in God’s blessing?
Do you feel you’re better than most other people?
Has it been a long time since you identified a sin and repented of it?
Do you resent it when others point out your “spiritual blind spots”?
Do you readily recognize the sins of others but not your own?
Do you have the sense that God owes you a good life?
Do you get angry when difficulties and suffering come into your life?
Do you seldom think of the cross?

“If you found yourself answering yes to at least half these questions, it’s likely you’re living under a stronghold of self-righteousness toward God. You need to see this for what it really is-a hideous enemy disguised as a satisfying glory. It will let you down and leave you hanging. Its satisfaction is as short-lived as an ice cube in the blazing sun; its glory has all the appeal of a well-dressed corpse. And at the end of the day this fact remains: no amount of personal performance will ever gain the approval of a holy God.”

May God Bless You All!

Living in Grace,

If you are interested in listening to any of the messages on Luke 15 by Rodney Hobbs, Pastor of Stonegate Church, Midlothian, TX. Please listen to the podcast at Luke 15-Part 5 The Prodigal Son, The Self-Righteous 

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