What Seems Right?

Screenshot (1441)My Musings – In the movie Hondo (one of my favorites), John Wayne plays a scout for the U.S. Calvary in the old west.  A man with a clear sense of what is right, honest, and just and having little tolerance for what is wrong, deceitful or unjust.  There are many memorable lines in the movie, but one in particular stands out to me.  “A man ought to do what he thinks is right.”

Unfortunately, what we think is right is not always the best guide.  In a society where right is relative, the truth is tentative and justice is just “if”, what we think might not always be the best guide.  Sad that it has come to this.  But when we think about it for awhile, it really has been like that since the garden.  The forbidden “fruit” seemed so right, but was so wrong.

For a long time now, what has seemed right to man is, if the “good” in one’s life outweighs the “bad,” then things should work out okay for the afterlife.  But in many cases, what was once considered “bad” is now considered okay or depends on the circumstances.  So what standard should one use for determining if the “good” outweighs the “bad?”  Is it a different standard for different people depending when they lived and the standards that seemed right then?  Is it a different standard for different people depending on what seems right to them?

The reality is that there is only one standard.  We are all playing in God’s “sandbox” and He made the rules.  What’s more, the rules never change.  What was right, truthful and just in the garden is right, truthful and just today.  What was wrong, deceitful and unjust when God handed down the laws, are still wrong, deceitful and unjust today.  We couldn’t keep one rule in the garden and we can’t keep a multitude of laws now.  In fact, breaking one law, even the most “insignificant,” is the same as breaking all of them, even the most “egregious.”  How could that possibly work out for the “good” outweighing the “bad?”

The reality is they never could.  They were never intended to. There is “no one who does good, no not one.”  No matter what seems right to man, it will always lead to death.  What then is the answer?  It has always been about grace, extended to man only through Jesus Christ.

My Advice – Go for the grace.  You’ll never have to wonder if your “good” was good enough.  You’ll never have to worry if Christ’s good was good enough.  If it wasn’t He would never have risen from the grave.  But He conquered the grave, He conquered death.  As a result, He can offer life to all who will believe and receive.  Now that seems right to me.

 

The Sanctioned Position

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My Musings – The “sanctioned position” is “to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”  But only for those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ.  For those who have not, getting old is indeed better than the alternative.

My Advice – If you have not put your faith in Christ you can.  It is open to all who will believe and receive.  But “now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation,” for we never know if we will ever have another opportunity.  For we certainly do not want to be absent from the body without Jesus present in our heart.

If you have put your faith in Christ, do not get too comfortable being “at home in the body.”  For the things of this world can distract us, causing us to drift “away from the Lord.” We do not want Him to be displeased with our walk. Rather “we should make it our goal to please Him.

 

Adding To Your Faith

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My Musings – Yesterday’s musings, referencing the Apostle Paul, stood for the doctrine that salvation was by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  Any effort (on our part) to add to this would be futile.  In today’s text, the Apostle Peter is saying that we should make every effort (work) to add to our faith the listed qualities.  That these efforts (on our part) would be effective and productive.

Surely this is a huge contradiction between these two giants of Christianity?  Not at all.  Paul was speaking about what results in salvation (grace).  Peter was speaking about what results from salvation (good works/qualities).  Grace is the cause of salvation, good works/qualities are the effect of salvation.  Salvation is an event, developing these qualities is a process (in increasing measure).  One can have good works/qualities without being saved, but no one can be saved without developing good works/qualities.  There is no effort of our own that can gain us salvation.  But once we have gained it, we should make every effort to add to it. And yet, here’s the deal.  Even though you are putting effort into it to grow your faith, it is the work of the Holy Spirit transforming you into Christ-likeness that gives the increase.

My Advice – You cannot grow it, if you don’t got it.  Get it today.  It’s free.  By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Another Gospel

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My Musings – This text requires a bit of explaining.  Paul was speaking against the “Judaizers.”  These were people who were attempting to burden the Gentile believers with Jewish laws and customs in addition to the free gift of grace.  Paul, the same man who wrote the “love chapter” and instructed his followers (to the extent that it depended upon them) to be a peace with all people, has very strong words for anyone attempting to turn others “to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all.

It’s as if they are saying that what Christ did on the cross was not good enough.  Not of sufficient value to save us, without adding our own efforts or religious practices. Elsewhere (Galatians 5), Paul states that doing so (adding to grace) results in Christ being of no value at all.  Why?  Because trusting in ourselves, even if partially, means we are not really trusting in Christ at all.

My Advice – Relying on a safety net, putting “confidence in the flesh,” means that our confidence (faith) in God’s saving grace is not absolute.  If it is not absolute, it is no faith at all.  You do the math.  Adding to grace is, in reality, subtracting from it.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on October 27, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

 

Called Out Of Darkness

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My Musings – “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  (Yogi Berra).  It certainly isn’t.  Hopelessly lost and separated from our Creator, with no hope for reconciliation by our own efforts.  Facing an eternity apart from God in Hell.  No Exit. His righteousness demanded it.  That was our future.

Where there was no hope, God provided hope.  Where there was no way, God provided a way.  The possibility of being reunited with our Creator because He made it possible for us to be a new creation through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  His grace satisfied His righteousness.  The opportunity to spend eternity reunited with God in Heaven.  This can be our future.

My Advice – Which future do we want?  This should be an obvious choice.  Yet so many stumble over it.  Yes, Jesus is the only way, because His sacrifice was the only possible way to satisfy God’s righteousness.  But whoever calls on His name will be saved.  He’s calling us out of darkness.  Will we respond?

Only One Flavor

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My Musings – “I wish I had an answer to that, because I’m tired of answering that question.”  This is a quote from Yogi Berra, a baseball player of a bygone era who was famous for his nonsensical comments that, upon reflection, made a lot of sense after all.

After nearly 2,000 years, it seems that everyone should know the answer to the question, “what must I do to be saved?”  Yet many continue to believe that salvation has more than one “flavor.”

Religion – “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Isaiah 29:13, NIV 1978).  Religion is an external observance that does not lead to a transformed. But a heart that is transformed by a personal encounter with Christ, is a spiritual act of worship, a religious expression that demonstrates that our heart has been changed  (Romans 12:1 –2). Religion is not the answer to the question, but it should be a result of the answer.

Obey God’s Laws – “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10, NIV 1978).  We could not obey one simple command in the Garden, much less the ten on the tablets.  But even nine out of ten would be insufficient. But an encounter with Jesus will set us free from the bondage of sin (John 8:32-34).  Obedience to the law is not the answer to the question, but it should be a result of the answer.

Doing Good Works – “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalms 14:3, NIV 1978).  Goodness is measured by God’s unchanging standards, not relative to society’s ever-changing standards. But the light of Christ reflected in our transformed lives, can point the way for others (Matthew 5:16). Good works are not the answer to the question, but they should be a result of the answer.

Grace Through Faith In Christ Alone –  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves [religion, laws, good works], it is the gift of God – – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV 1978). When you know the real answer to the question, you never get tired of answering.

My Advice – If salvation was dependent upon religion, obeying the law, or good works, how could we ever be sure that we were religious enough, we had not broken the wrong (one) rule, or we had done enough good deeds (the good you ought to do but do not do, that is sin to you)?  It should be a relief to know that our salvation does not depend upon the depth of our desires (never deep enough) or the degree of our efforts (never high enough), but on God’s mercy (inexhaustible).  “It [salvation] does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Romans 9:16, NIV 1978).  Forget your desires.  Give up on your efforts. Appeal to God’s mercy.  You’ll never get tired of His answer.

In Sickness and in Health

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My Musings – Norman Rockwell is my favorite artist.  Some claim that he was not a “real” artist, but rather an illustrator.  Whatever you call him, he was able to capture the human condition, tug at the heartstrings and nearly write a novel, all with one simple painting.  Like the above painting of a young patient and seasoned physician.

Jesus used the analogy of the doctor patient relationship, to the sinner Savior relationship.  We are all sick (sinners) with a terminal illness (“the wages of sin is death“).

Some deny that they are sick and insist that they have no need of a doctor or a cure.  Denial does not change the underlying facts, or the ultimate consequences if left untreated.  Only Jesus can offer the cure.

Some realize that something is not right, but are not sure they have the right physician or that the physician has the right “credentials.”  Jesus’ credentials were validated by the resurrection.  Yet some still reject His treatment.  If they seek any treatment at all, they seek it elsewhere, all of whom are charlatans and imposters who are practicing “medicine” without a license.

Others know that they are sick and in need of the cure that only the “Great Physician” can provide.  They readily seek and receive the cure.  No deductibles, no co-pays, no denials for lack of insurance.

My Advice – There are none who are healthy, none who are righteous.  If you think you are, a check-up is in order.