|Vol. 12 No. 12 December 2010||
It’s that time of the year when perhaps we will be hearing the song with the title of this article as the lyrics to one of the lines in the song. It’s a lot of fun when we are playing make believe with the young ones in our families. Children delight in the world of fantasy, nursery rhymes, stories and fairy tales. They can listen for hours as their imaginations become their reality in a sense.
Unfortunately, some adults have that childlike mentality when they begin to give any real thought to their relationship with God. They feel that as long as they have their list of righteous deeds and moral goodness that they check from time to time, they can “remind” God about it, and all is well. They want God to “check” their list, which in their minds assures them when they die they will be saved because all good people go to heaven.
They fail to understand that God already knows all of us are naughty by nature and “nice” is not even a Bible word. They have never understood that when a person obeys the Gospel, he or she has been saved for good works, not by good works. First Timothy 6:17-18 says, “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share.”
The elder brother of Luke 15:11-32 mistakenly thought that his list of righteous deeds and moral goodness somehow obligated his father, and he should have been recognized for all that he was. He was angry when he was told about the celebration taking place because his younger brother had come home. His father tried to get him to come in and join the festivities. His response in verse 29 was, “…‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.’” When the curtain comes down on that scene, the elder brother is outside because in his mind his list of righteous deeds and moral goodness had been totally disregarded.
Jesus speaks in a parable in Luke 18:9-14 about some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others. The passage states that a Pharisee and a tax collector went up to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee enumerated to God the virtuous life he was living from his vantage point. He thanked God that he was not like other men. It should be noted that Jesus said this Pharisee prayed with himself. Such was his deplorable self-righteous and judgmental attitude. He said he was not an extortioner, or unjust, or an adulterer or even as the tax collector; he fasted twice a week and gave tithes of all that he possessed. Jesus points out the Pharisee’s list of righteous deeds and moral goodness did not justify him because “…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14b).
In Luke 17:5-10, Jesus speaks of the relationship between a master and his servant. He states in verses 9-10, “Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” How many of us have done all?! So much for our futile lists of righteous deeds and moral goodness.
For justification before God, the only lists with which we need to concern ourselves are the ones He has made. The reason our lists count for nothing is spelled out in Isaiah 64:6 in graphic language as to what our so-called “righteousness” looks like in God’s sight. “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousness is like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Isaiah lets us know our lists of righteous deeds and moral goodness are not only unclean but also filthy! They are not even garments – they are rags!!
With that word picture in our minds, we need to understand what God’s definition of righteousness and unrighteousness is. Romans 1:18-32 gives a most extensive list of sins that are condemning. We know this because in verse 32 Paul says those “who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” It will surprise some of us to know various behaviors and attitudes we hardly give a second thought made one of God’s many lists of unrighteousness. Along with the vile sin of all brands of sexual immorality are also listed those who are full of envy, whisperers, backbiters, proud, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving and unmerciful. Did we get God’s meaning here?
Romans 3:10-12 is heart pricking! “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.’”
Another of God’s lists of unacceptable behaviors and attitudes is found in Galatians 5:19-21. “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Still another of God’s lists of unacceptable behaviors and attitudes is identified in 1 Timothy 1:8-11. “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.”
It should be noted that if some were beginning to feel like their little “petty sin” didn’t make any of God’s lists, they need to read again Galatians 5:21 which ends with the phrase, “and the like” and I Timothy 1:11 which ends with the phase, “and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.”
If these passages and others were not enough to get our attention, God has yet another list of unacceptable behaviors and attitudes for us to digest in Revelation 21:8. “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
In view of these startling biblical truths of the futileness of our personal goodness and morality not being enough to justify us before God, what is the answer? Note the words of Paul in Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Jesus said in John 14:6, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus Christ is the answer and He has the answer to all of our wretchedness!
A good place to begin finding out what is on one of God’s many lists for justification is revealed in Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7, which is commonly known as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The behaviors and attitudes in these three chapters alone Christians are to exhibit will keep those of us who are sincere and obedient to the Word of God challenged all of our lives! For the purpose of this article, four additional passages are cited that list God’s expectations of those who have been saved and are living to glorify and honor Him.
Matthew 25:31-46 is the judgment scene as depicted by our Lord. Jesus says in verses 31-32, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory… All the nations will be gathered before Him…” Jesus goes on to say that a division will take place between two groups of people. Some will be on the right, the others on the left. He then addresses a list of deeds done and not done while those people lived on earth. He mentions several needs that He had: being hungry, being thirsty, being a stranger, being naked, being sick and being in prison. He will say to the ones on the right that they met those needs while those on the left did not. It would behoove every one of us to fulfill the needs listed through the lives of others because He ends by saying, “‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’” (Matthew 25:40b).
Romans 12:9-21 is another of God’s lists that we must obey as His children. Loving without hypocrisy, abhorring what is evil, clinging to what is good, being kindly affectionate to one another, not lagging in diligence, rejoicing in hope, repaying no one evil for evil and on and on are listed the behaviors and attitudes that are acceptable and expected by God from His own.
Ephesians 4:31-32 commands, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Christians make His mind their mind.
Colossians 3:12-14 states, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” Christianity is a daily, lifelong, life-changing involvement.
God has set us apart for His sacred use as we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. Walking worthy of the higher calling of God is the most demanding commitment we will ever choose to undertake! Obedience to His lists of righteous deeds and moral goodness for kingdom living are the only ones He will recognize in the end. Revelation 22:14 proclaims, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.”