March 7, 2014

Deuteronomy 9:4 After the LORD your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you.

I’ve heard several messages over the years on the central point of this passage, that when God does good things for us we aren’t to think it’s because we’re extra good, but I can’t recall ever hearing a message on the corollary, that those who are displaced are bad, as it says here. The thing of it is, mankind is fallen, and we are all capable of unspeakable evil. Jesus was very clear on this point in Luke 13:1-5 in responding to news of people’s calamities: without repentance, we’re all worthy of such. It interests me that books are written with titles like Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, because the Bible is clear that “there is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:12, quoting Psalm 14:4 and elsewhere) The amazing thing is that we haven’t all been zapped! That is the mystery of God’s grace and love. It’s not that we are to live on edge, wondering when our sins are going to catch up with us, but rather that we are to live in grateful praise to such a gracious God. 1 John 3:6 and following is often badly misunderstood, because it has been mistranslated as, “No one who sins has either seen Christ or known Him.” That’s where the Greek verb tenses become drastically important. As the NIV rightly (for once) puts it, it should be, “No one who continues in sin has either seen Christ or known Him.” It’s not a matter of sinless perfection, it’s a matter of repentance. John himself was very clear on this point in the very same letter. (1 John 1:8-10)

When I was in seminary I had a bumper sticker on my car that said, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” That actually led to some evangelism once when a gas station attendant said to me, “Not perfect, huh?” I am to strive for perfection and teach others to do likewise, (Matthew 5:48) but I am never to be condemnatory, of myself or others. It’s kind of like the instructions on a bottle of shampoo: “lather, rinse, repeat,” except that it’s “repent, believe, repeat.” I am constantly dealing with people who wallow in self pity, wailing “Why me?” All I can say is, “Why not?” When we think we deserve better than we get, for any reason other than the grace of God, then we are missing the point. I’m not talking about those who are the victims of abuse. In such cases, the feeling that “I deserve this” is a big part of the problem. I’ve got to be careful what I say to whom, and how, or my words will do real damage. However, there are times when I need to be as blunt as Jesus was, and I should not retreat from that.

Father, once again I’m in territory that is beyond my wisdom. That’s a pretty regular occurrence! Help me rely on You fully, listening carefully and not running or spouting off on my own, so that the lies of the enemy may be destroyed by Your truth, spoken in Your love, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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