August 25, 2015

Self-righteousness is dangerous

Isaiah 50:1–51:23, Luke 20:1–40, Job 11:12–20

After being told this week essentially that I must save myself, I’ve noticed the readings for each day address the folly of trying to do so. Salvation is by grace through faith, not about what I am or can do because then I would boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9). I was saved from the penalty of sin when Jesus came into my life.

The Word of God also says, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7). This means that I’m also saved from the power of sin by the work of the Lord Jesus and by relying on Him. Without Him, I can do nothing, as He makes clear in John 15.

Isaiah offers this bit of encouragement. He says, “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.” (Isaiah 50:10–11)

If I were not saved and trusting the Lord and was in the darkness of sin, these verses apply to me. However, they also apply to believers who are in a situation where all seems dark. This happens. It might be because of sin, but it can also be a time of testing (like Job) when God’s presence seems missing and the light of salvation becomes dim. In that case, He says here to trust God anyway, not making my own “light” by trying to figure out my problems and needs apart from Him. If I walk by any light I create, I will not have the peace of God but be in torment.

Experience also shows me that this is true. If I reason or use human wisdom without insight from the Lord, or if I am rationalizing and supposing with no reference to what God says, the answers do not satisfy, nor do they bring His light to me.

One of Job’s comforters seemed to be doing this human wisdom thing. Job was suffering without any obvious cause. His ‘friends’ accused him saying it must be some hidden sin. One of them gave the following advice . . .

“If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him. If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear. You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security.” (Job 11:13–18)

Essentially, he is saying, “Save yourself because if you do what I say, you will create some light in your life and be secure.” There is nothing more discouraging to a person who is struggling with unknown elements, lack of light from God, and pain besides, to hear words like that. It is like saying, “Pull up your bootstraps” to the chronically ill, or “Cheer up and be happy” to someone suffering from clinical depression. Such ‘comfort’ is actually cruel.

Not only that, it rejects the truth of who we are and who Jesus is. I am a sinner and utterly unable to save myself. Yes, Jesus is in my life and I can do all things through Him, but I cannot operate apart from Him and create my own answers to any problems or predicaments. I cannot create my own burning torch and walk by its light and then expect to lie down in peace.

Jesus is the Savior. He saves from the penalty of sin (God’s eternal wrath) and the power of sin — both through the power of faith. I am saved by trusting Him, not trusting my own devices or efforts. Human wisdom is not only folly but dangerous . . .

Jesus told a parable to the people about a man who sent his son to his tenants, but they rejected him as they had rejected and killed every servant he’d sent prior to that. Obviously He was referring to God sending His prophets and then His Son. After finishing the parable, Jesus looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Luke 20:17–18)

My efforts to produce ‘light’ will not will not only fail, but they are glaring symptoms of trusting myself and rejecting my Savior, sheer folly indeed!

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