Psalms: 71 & 74
OT: Jer. 4:9-10, 19-28
NT: Rom. 2:12-24
Gospel: John 5:19-29
Christians seem to be held to a higher standard than other people, and rightfully so. Often times we, Christians, try to lower the standard by saying things like, “We’re still sinful. We aren’t perfect and we won’t be perfect.” While that’s true, the reality is that we as followers of Jesus ought be different. Our lives should look different from people who do not follow Jesus. The kicker is that the world knows this. They know this because we have loudly told them how they ought to live. As a result, they expect us to live up to our standards.
Or maybe not so much.
Check out what Paul writes in his letter to the Romans,
For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:12-24, ESV)
First, notice that Paul says that those who don’t know about God will be judged by their own conscience. There is something about simply being created in the image of God that we find within ourselves some remnant of God’s law within us. Many people ask about the “noble savage” who has never heard the gospel. Paul answers that question here by saying that, “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”
What about those of who do know God? I think we can find a parallel in this passage with the one who calls himself a “Jew.” We, like them, claim to know the Scriptures and rely on them. We boast in God, claiming to know his will and “approve what is excellent.” We believe ourselves to be lights in the darkness, instructors of fools, and embodying the truth. Do we not? Yet, so often we fail and we fail big. This failure leads to the blaspheming of God “among the Gentiles.” Paul argues that those who have the Scriptures and know God are held to a higher standard. Our lives must reflect the reality of our knowledge and relationship with God.
But, we are going to fail. We are going to be imperfect. We are not going to perfectly represent God all the time. So, how do we handle this? First, we don’t make excuses. We don’t simply write off our failure as, “well I’m not perfect.” No, we own our failure to live up to our calling and we seek forgiveness.
Second, we engage the world with humility. This means that we admit our weaknesses and imperfections, up front. We must recognize that, “but by the grace of God go I.”
Finally, we must work on our character and integrity. There is no excuse to not try hard to follow Jesus more closely and to seek to develop within our lives a greater depth of character. As we grow in maturity our lives ought to more closely resemble Jesus life. We are called to copy him. Less and less should we look like hypocrites. More and more we should be able to back up our words with action. This requires hard work, diligence, and perseverance.
Christian, are you up to the task?