As human beings subject to the flesh that clothes and houses our bodies and souls there are more than enough opportunities for us to “work” on ourselves. Male and female alike, though as a girl I can vouch that every girl does this, looks at themselves and about all we see are our flaws. Slight flab there, not quite the chiseled jaw line here; that kind of thing. I believe it would be the same with our souls, if we could look at them in a mirror. We would notice only the many imperfections, both slight and obvious.
Paul the Apostle, a righteous fellow who recognized how very flawed he himself was, encouraged believers to “work out” their own salvation with fear and trembling. He certainly wasn't hinting that we are responsible for saving ourselves, but only that the gift of salvation would be an intimate and personal journey, not exactly the same for each of us.
This weeks dilemma that we will consider is how we might respond to the biblical instruction that we are to "Be Holy even as God is Holy" (Leviticus 11:45 & I Peter 1:16) while realizing that we cannot ever attain that state in and of ourselves. We cannot work for it, earn it or make it happen no matter what we do, so God graciously provided an absolute solution. Through the work accomplished on the Cross where Jesus freely sacrificed Himself for us, we can be clothed in the righteousness of Christ Jesus.
When we rest in, recognize and accept that truth then our energies and efforts will be freed to move forward doing the activities God has instructed us to do because our focus isn't wasted on trying to do for ourselves that which God has already done. These include to:
- feed the hungry
- clothe the naked
- visit those in prison
- remember the orphans and the widows
I think of it as similar to the story in the Old Testament when God told the Israelites “I place before you Life and Death”. (Deuteronomy 30:15 – 19) I think He made it so they could see the goodness, light and joy of life. They could also see the darkness, misery and emptiness in Death. On top of all that God GAVE them the right answer. CHOOSE LIFE. Yet still some chose DEATH! (Oh why do we do that?!?)
I see so many people in the Church who read that we are freely clothed in the righteousness of Christ. They read and hear about the effortless joy of choosing to trust and believe and REST in the peace of being clothed in the righteousness of Christ Jesus. Yet even though we can see the exhaustion that results from constant activity we still tend to strive uselessly and hopelessly to clothe ourselves in righteousness thorugh our works. Even though we are taught clearly that our own righteousness will NEVER be anything but filthy rags. We see it, yet we cannot seem to help but attempt on our own to gain that which God has already freely given us.
James 2: 14-26 offers a marvelous solution with understanding, bringing out the importance of faith while acknowledging the necessity of actual actions being taken. It isn't enough to talk about the things that need to be done. And it doesn't make sense to do things without really understanding the how and why of them. Blending and balancing the two leads to making what may be the finest choice you ever make.
God does such a fine job and needs no help from us, so lean back into His loving arms and let Him clothe you in righteousness. Then you get the joy of fulfilling His plan and purpose for your life. Simple. Joyful. Peaceful. Isn't that grand?