Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Self-Justification

So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. Job 32:2

Job was a good man, but Job was not perfect. Job had his sin, of which he eventually repented (Job 42:6). That sin was that he "was righteous in his own eyes" and "justified himself rather than God."

Many people behave as if one religion is just as good as another. The Bible certainly does not agree. Large portions of the Bible are devoted to condemning false religions, and this would not be the case if all religions were equal.
Much religion is a form of self-justification. Many highly religious people practice their religion not because they want to honor God but because they want to seek honor for themselves. This is true of religious people in general, and it is true of many who call themselves Christians.

What is the goal of our faith? What is the purpose of our Bible study? What is the aim of our worship? Are we trying to draw near to God? Are we seeking to praise his glory? Or are we seeking to justify ourselves?

"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:10-14

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bearing Fruit

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit." (John 15:1-2, ESV)

What does it mean to bear fruit? Many Christians mistakenly think that, to bear fruit, they must bring others to Christ. Evangelism is important. We all need to be doing what we can to bring others to Christ. But evangelism is not fruit bearing. A new Christian is a new branch on the vine, not fruit on one of the branches. We ought to bring others to Christ, but, the Lord is not going to sever us from the vine for failing to bring others to Christ.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:22-24, ESV)

Fruit is seen in our lives as our lives are transformed into the image of Christ. As the ugly works of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21) are replaced with the fruit of the Spirit, then we are fruitful branches. Such fruit bearing is not an optional extra for those Christians who desire it. Such fruit bearing is expected of all. Jesus is saying that those who are not producing such fruit will be pruned off of the vine. Even those who do produce such fruit will be further pruned so that they may produce more fruit.

For too long, too many Christians have sought salvation from the consequences of their sin, instead of truly seeking salvation from their sins. Too many Christians are content to be fruitless branches, church members but not really disciples.

Does that describe you? If so, do not despair. Repent, but do not despair. The Lord can transform us, if we are willing to be transformed and made fruitful. It is a painful, but glorious, process.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Third Party Apologies

At least twice in my life I have received a third party apology. I did not accept either of them. In Nigeria, a father came to plead concerning his twenty-five year old son. "Forgive the boy for my sake," he said. I could not. A school board member once asked that I forgive wrongdoing by the school superintendent. I could not.

In neither of these cases could I forgive the wrong, because in neither of these cases had the wrongdoer admitted wrong. It is impossible to forgive a wrong that has not been repented of or confessed. When we overlook an unrepentant wrong we are not forgiving the wrong, we are condoning the wrong.

Now if the boy had come with his father, admitted his wrong, and then the father had spoken, that would have been fine. If the superintendent had admitted his wrong and then the school board member had asked that the wrong be overlooked, that would have been excellent. But a third party apology is no apology at all.

A third party can mediate for us, but a third party cannot confess or repent for us, even if that third party is named Jesus. We must confess our wrongdoing or there can be no forgiveness. Jesus is eager to be our mediator, but apart from an admission of guilt on our part, not even he can serve as our mediator.

No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:3, ESV
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted
. Luke 18:13-14, ESV

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:9-10, ESV