Got your attention, didn’t I? True confessions always do.
While the nature of my reveal is far from salacious, it is dangerous. Here goes:
“I’m a pretty good person.”
“Seriously? That’s it? Big deal.” If that’s your response then read on, friend. The truth in this case is a life-or-death matter. You see, this lie creates some eternity-sized problems.
Compared to What?
The first problem is the standard I’m using to measure. Whenever I judge myself to be a pretty good person it’s because I am looking at others and judging them to be “less than” me.
We tend to judge others’ weaknesses where we are strong.
We tend to judge others by their actions, while we want to be judged by our good intentions.
After all, I rationalize, I’ve never committed murder. I go to church on Sundays and Bible study on Thursdays. And I really try to do the right thing in this life.
But this is the warped perspective of a pride-filled sinner, not the holy view of a righteous God. Sin is rebellion against God. Actions are the symptom; the disease is a heart problem. For that reason God looks right past these outward signs into our hearts.
God knows that yes, I attend church on Sundays, but he also sees when I spew green venom on my family trying to get to there on time. He knows that I can spend more time checking out fall fashions in the communion line than offering thanks for the gift I’m about to receive. And he has heard me mentally critique the sermon like it’s my job. So is that really the gold standard for keeping the Sabbath holy?
When you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?
Here’s another problem. I like to compare myself to the world, preferably hedonistic Hollywood. But those in “the world” by definition don’t know Jesus yet; I do. And I have attended enough Bible studies to know the law and God’s standard of righteousness.
God holds each of us accountable to the truth we have been given.
You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
A Rebel’s Heart
You’ve heard a fish doesn’t know it’s wet? Because it has only ever lived in water.
Well, that’s how I sometimes view my relationship with God; I don’t remember not knowing him, even though our relationship has evolved over the course of my life.
Yet sometimes, rather than feel grateful for this gift of faith, I hunger for the delight and ecstasy of diving into the water for the first time, the chance to relish wetness in the way you do when you are parched.
The risk of being raised knowing Jesus is taking this sacred gift for granted. And the result is being surprised by sin.
I backstroke along, confident in my ability to swim and my knowledge of the right path…until I tumble over a waterfall and the world falls out from under me.
I am not sure I have experienced deeper grief than when confronted by an area of sin to which I was blind. It evokes the guttural heart cry of Isaiah:
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
There is no one who is righteous; not even one.
If this is the truth — I am not a pretty good person, but a woefully sinful one — then I am hopeless; humanity is doomed.
And yet isn’t Christianity good news?
Fortunately the greatest truth ever told has the power to dispel my lie:
For only when you recognize your sinfulness, your complete inability to “be good” (even when you want to be) will you yearn to fully submerse yourself in the Living Waters (John 4), to be washed clean and covered by the righteousness found only in Jesus:.
And that makes for one happy little fish.